No Going to Christ Prior to Legal Union With Christ, by John Cotton

John Cotton writes: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth. And how can we be good trees, before we be engrafted into Christ? We must look for it in Aristotle, for it is not revealed in the gospel of Christ?”

p43, A Faire and Easy Way to Heaven, William Stoever, 1978

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7 Comments on “No Going to Christ Prior to Legal Union With Christ, by John Cotton”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Should we be assuming that “union with Christ” means regeneration and that union/regeneration precedes justification?

    1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and a time gap between that change and the hearing of the gospel.

    2. We need to define “in Christ” in terms of justification. Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change of regeneration or birth but legally a change of state before God. To be in Christ in this way is to be justified.

    Union with Christ is justification, legal union with Christ and His work and His benefits. Immediately after this legal change, the sheep are born again and believe the gospel, but “union” does not precede justification, because union IS justification.

    3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of faith. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to regenerate and change the person. God changes the person because God has justified the person. The change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of justification, but it is never the reason for God justifying.

    Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

    Roman 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?”

    As long we define union as regeneration and judge saved and lost by regeneration, we will be tempted to ignore the gospel of justification and judge by morality and immorality.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    We do Not need to know we have been justified or regenerated before we believe.

    Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

    “It is objected, ‘Though it be not necessary for a sinner to know that he is born again, before he believe in Jesus Christ, yet regeneration must precede faith. For the heart of a sinner being naturally in a state of enmity to the Divine Character, he will never turn to God, while in that situation, for pardon and acceptance.’ In answer to which, the following particulars are proposed for consideration.

    Before this objection can be justly considered as valid, it must be evinced, not only, that regeneration precedes faith; but also, that it is
    necessary to authorise a sinner’s reliance on Jesus Christ: than which, few sentiments are more foreign from the genuine gospel.

    [Theory:] Regeneration must precede faith. This, though assumed as a certain fact, may be justly doubted: for the page of inspiration does not warrant our supposing, that any one is born of God, before he believe in Jesus Christ; or, that regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit, without the word of grace. For we are taught, by the sacred writers, to consider the word of truth, with regard to adults, as the means of regeneration, and of many other happy effects.

    They teach, for instance, That it is the instrument of enlightening the mind, of awakening the conscience, and of softening the heart.

    “The entrance of thy word giveth light” — Psalm 119:130.
    “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live” — John 5:25.

    “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” –
    John 6:63.

    “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

    “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

    “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” — 1 Peter 1:23.

    That they only, who believe in Christ, are the children of God.

    “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” — John 1:12.

    “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” — Galatians
    3:26.

    “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord
    Jesus Christ” — 2 Thesssalonians 2:14.

    “He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit” — Matthew 13:23.

    “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” — John 15:3.

    “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” — John 17:17.

    “That they also might be sanctified through the truth” — John 17:19.

    “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

    “The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and brings forth fruit” — Colossians 1:5, 6.

    “The word of God, which effectually works in you that believe” — 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

    “The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth” — Romans 1:16.

    “The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

    “The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

    page 122:
    Thus it is, I conceive, with regard to regeneration, faith in Christ, and
    justification before God. For, to consider any man as born of God, but not as a child of God; as a child of God, but not as believing in Jesus Christ; as believing in Jesus Christ, but not as justified; or as justified, but not as an heir of immortal felicity; is, either to the last degree absurd, or manifestly contrary to the apostolic doctrine.

    Consequently, as they are the ungodly whom the Spirit regenerates by the truth, so persons of that character are warranted to believe in Jesus.”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way, explains that “John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a condition in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work?”

    “Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.”

  4. MARK MCCULLEY Says:

    Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Moo’s essay in the Carson f (Understanding the Times)—Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight, p 35-41). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God ( eg, making justification the product of union with Christ; see Michael Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, Westminster John Knox, 2007, p 147) CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification=stemming from our union with Christ.”

    mark: No way! so they don’t deny election or legal atonement or legal imputation, but in the end they continue to make “actual justification” the result of “union” which is for them a “faith-union”. They still get faith first (and not God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness) in the “real justification” . Calling Christ’s death (and resurrection?) not only “the legal payment” but the “first justification” doesn’t change the fact that they start by saying there is no order of application and then turn around and make the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith first in the order of application.

    Reply

  5. markmcculley Says:

    John Cotton—they do not deny magistrates, nor predestination, nor original, sin, nor maintain free-will in conversion, nor apostacy from grace ; but only deny the lawful use of the baptism of children, because it wanteth a word of commandment and example, from the Scripture. And I am bound in christian love to believe, that they who yield so far, do it out of conscience, as following the example of the apostle, who professed of himself and his followers, We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. But yet I believe withal, that it is not out of love to the truth that Satan yieldeth so much, but rather out of another ground, and for a worse end. He knoweth that now, by the good hand of God, they are set upon purity and reformation; and now to plead against the baptism of children upon any of those Arminian and Popish grounds, as those above named, Satan knoweth they would be rejected. He now pleadeth no other arguments in these times of reformation, than may be urged from a main principle of reformation, to wit, That no duty of God’s worship, nor any ordinance of religion, is to be administered in his church, but such as hath a just warrant from the word of God. And by urging this argument against the baptism of children, Satan transformeth himself into an angel of light.”*

    * Cotton on baptism, 1647, p. 3

    An Abridgment of Church History of New England, Isaac Backus

  6. markmcculley Says:

    We need to account for the order in Galatians 3:13-14. Redemption/ justification is the basis for the promise of the Spirit, the blessing of Abraham. As Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: “when he ascended on high, he gave gifts to men.” Every reference to “baptism with the Spirit” (including I Cor 12:13) has Christ as the one who gives the Spirit, not the Spirit as the one who gives us Christ.
    Effectual calling by God the Father does not assume that it’s the Spirit who includes us into Christ.
    It’s a reduction (not the entire truth) to say that the Holy Spirit gives us the salvation which Christ won. Even though I agree that there is no imputation and calling apart from the Spirit, I object to leaving out forensic imputation or making the legal only one of the results of some “more basic” union.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    The OPC Report on Republication mentions that they were unable to find any historical examples of “View 3: A Mixed Covenant” which it describes as “First, the moral law alone was presented to Israel, which is said to contain in substance a perfect covenant of works… The law was then issued a second time, but with moderation, promising pardon to the penitent, and thus in substance offering a covenant of grace…”

    It would appear that John Cotton’s pivotal 1636 sermon in Salem, which sparked a revival in New England, is an example of this view. He distinguishes between the covenant made at Horeb and the covenant made at Moab.

    Cotton—“The Lord doth profess unto them all that should keep Covenant, That they should Live by keeping Covenant. 18.5. And the Apostle doth Interpret the meaning of that Promise: Gal. 3.12. The Law is not of faith, but the man that doth these things shall Live in them: and this is the Promise of Life which God giveth to those that keep Covenant…

    They yield themselves to be accursed of God, if they shall not keep that Covenant; and therefore when it was pronounced, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are writ|ten in the Law to do them, all the People did say, Amen; and so their faith lay upon a curse: This is the Old Covenant that God made with his People, and is called a Covenant of Works; the Lord requireth Righteousness and Works, He Promi|seth Life to their Works… Now this was a temporal Covenant; this my Covenant they brake…

    Now for the Covenant that is Everlasting▪ we may observe therein also four acts of God towards his People… In Jesus Christ He doth give Everlasting Communion with Him. Through Christ He will take away the Stony heart, and give a heart of flesh… To those that do Apostate from it: Heb. 10.29. This Covenant is that which is spoken of, Deut. 29.1. beside the Covenant made in Mount Horeb: and to this Covenant belongeth a heavy curse: Deut. 30.17, 18. If thy heart turn away that thou wilt not bear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them, I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish

    Now, this is the nature of the comfort of an Everlasting Cove|nant, tho’ we fail in Families, and in Churches, yet if Christ be ours, the Everlasting Covenant is ours. Indeed when Moses came and saw the Israelites worshipping the golden Calf, Exod. 32.19. because he saw they had broken Covenant with God, therefore he brake the Tables of the Covenant; to shew the Lord would have no fellowship with them

    Cotton then blasted the Separatist church in Salem for making their local church covenant a covenant of works because they required members to denounce the Church of England and meet other requirements (such as moral reformation and behavior) beyond mere faith in Christ.

    Cotton—For you are much de|ceived if you think there was no speech of Christ in the Covenant of works. What were the Ce|remonies but shadows of Christ? What was the laying the hand on the head of the Sacrifice, but the laying hold upon Christ Jesus? What was the blood of the Sacrifice? Was it not the blood of Christ? And what was the Atonement by that blood? Was it not the Atonement which is by Christ? All the understanding Israelites did see that these things did point at Christ.

    Cotton–Now, if we do enter into a Covenant to keep the Or|dinances of the Law, of the Gospel, and of the Civil State, (for that was the tripartive Covenant) all this may be but a Covenant of Works. What then must we do? We must fall down before the Lord in our Spirits, and profess our selves insuf|ficient to keep any Covenant, and profess our selves unworthy that the Lord should keep any Covenant with us; as to say, Lord! who am I?

    The Separatists insisted that any true Christian must declare full separation from the Church of England because the Church of England had defiled herself by not practicing church discipline. They thereby made their separation the grounds of their cleanness and their inclusion in the church.

    Cotton–So in case the Church do tolerate these, that do defile the|selves with any Sinful Pollution, do not I make my self Unclean now by touching this Church?… You see the Church lye in Sin, you will not touch her, then you Sin against her… Will you suffer your Brother’s Ox to lye in the Mire?…: I am marvellously afraid of Separation from Churches upon any breach of duty; they who do Separate for such causes, think they are sprinkled with the water of Separation: but believe it, they are Separa|ted from Christ Jesus for ever, if they so live and so dye.

    Cotton–Therefore if you belong to Christ, He will shew you it is not the water of Separa|tion that will serve your turn, but getting Christ Jesus, and sitting closer to Him, and to your Brethren, by Admonishing and Reproving them, if you see them defiled. This will keep you clean, and your hearts clean,

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/john-cotton-proponent-of-the-mixed-covenant-view/verlasting Covenant with you that shall never be Forgotte


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