The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory
by John Flavel
The sixth excellent Saying of Christ upon the Cross
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said,
It is finished. And he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit." John 19:30
It is finished. This is the sixth remarkable world of our
Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, uttered as a triumphant shout when he saw
the glorious issue of all his sufferings now at hand.
It is but one word in the original; but in that one word
is contained the sum of all joy; the very spirit of all divine consolation.
The ancient Greeks reckoned it their excellency to speak much in a little:
"to give a sea of matter in a drop of language." What they only sought, is
here found. I find some variety, (and indeed variety rather than
contrariety), among expositors about the relation of these words. Some are
of opinion, that the antecedent is the legal types and ceremonies; and so
make this to be the meaning; It is finished: that is, all the types and
prefigurations that shadowed forth the redemption of souls, by the blood of
Christ, are now fulfilled and accomplished. And, doubtless, as this is
itself a truth, so it is such a truth as may not be excluded, as foreign to
the true scope and sense of this place. And though it be objected, that many
types and prefigurations remained at this time unsatisfied, even all that
looked to the actual death at Christ, his continuance in the state of the
dead, and his resurrection; yet it is easily removed, "by considering that
they are said to be finished, because they were just finishing, or ready to
be finished: and it is as if Christ had said, I am now putting the last hand
to it", a few moments of time more will complete and finish it. I have the
sum now in my hand, which will fully satisfy and pay God the whole debt.
It is now but bow the head, and the work is done, and all
the types therein fulfilled. So that this cannot exclude the fulfilling of
the types in the death of Christ, from their just claim to the sense of this
place. But yet, thought we cannot here exclude this sense, we cannot allow
it to be the whole or principal sense: for lo! a far greater truth is
contained herein, even the finishing or completing of the whole design and
project of our redemption, and therein of all the types that prefigured it.
Both these judicious Calvin conjoins, making the completing of redemption
the principal; and the fulfilling of all the types the collateral and less
principal sense of it.
Yet it must be observed, when we say, Christ finished
redemption-work by his death, the meaning is not that his death alone did
finish it; for his abode in the grave, resurrection, and ascension, had all
of them their joint influence therein; but these being shortly to follow,
all are included in the scope of this place. According then to the principal
scope of the place, we observe,
DOCTRINE. That Jesus Christ has perfected and completely
finished the great work of redemption, committed to him by God the Father.
To this great truth the apostle gives a full testimony,
Heb. 10:14 "By one offering he has perfected forever them that are
sanctified." And to the same purpose speaks Christ, John 17:4. "I have
glorified you on earth! I have finished the work you gave me to do."
Concerning this work, and the finishing thereof by Jesus Christ upon the
cross, we shall enquire what this work was; how Christ finished it; and what
evidence can be produced for the finishing of it.
First, What was the work which Christ finished by his
It was the fulfilling the whole law of God in our room,
and for our redemption, as a sponsor or surety for us. The law is a glorious
thing; the holiness of God, that fiery attribute, is engraved or stamped
upon every part of it; Deut. 33:2. "From his right hand went a fiery law."
The jealousy of the Lord watched over every point and tittle of it, for his
dreadful and glorious name was upon it; it cursed everyone that continued
noe in all things contained therein, Gal. 3:10. Two things, therefore, were
necessarily required in him that should perfectly fulfill it, and both found
in our Surety, and in him only, namely, a subjective and effective
First, A subjective perfection. He that wanted this,
could never say, It is finished. Perfect working always follows a perfect
Being. That he might therefore finish this great work of obedience, and
therein the glorious design of our redemption; lo! in what shining and
perfect holiness was he produced! Luke 1:35. "That holy thing that shall be
born of you, shall be called the Son of God." And indeed, "such an
High-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from
sinners," Heb. 7:26. So that the law could have no exception against his
person; nay, it was never so honored since its first promulgation, as it was
by having such a perfect and excellent person as Christ to stand at its bar,
and give it due reparation.
Secondly, There must be also an effective perfection, or
a perfection of working and obeying, before it could be said, It is
finished. This Christ had; for he continued in all things written in the
law, to do them: He fulfilled all righteousness, as it behaved him to do,
Mat. 3:15. He did all that was required to be done, and suffered all that
was requisite to be suffered; he did and suffered all that was commanded or
threatened, in such perfection of obedience, both active and passive, that
the pure eye of divine justice could not find a flaw in it; and so finished
the work his Father gave him to do; and this work finished by our Lord Jesus
Christ was both a necessary, difficult, and precious work.
First, It was a necessary work which Christ finished upon
the cross; necessary, upon a threefold account.
Opus necessarium ex parts Patris; It was necessary on the
Father' account: I do not mean that God was under any necessity, from his
nature, of redeeming us this or any other way; for our redemption is opus
liberi concilii, an act of the free counsel of God; but when God had once
decreed and determined to redeem and save poor sinners by Jesus Christ, then
it became necessary that the counsel of God should be fulfilled; Acts 4:28.
"To do whatever your hand and counsel had before determined to be done."
Secondly, Ex parte Filii. It was necessary with respect
to Christ, upon the account of that precious compact that was between the
Father and him about it. Therefore it is said by Christ himself, Luke 22:22.
"Truly the Son of man goes as it was determined," that is as it was fore
agreed and covenanted; under the necessity of fulfilling his engagement to
the Father, he came into the world; and being come, he still minds his
engagement, John 9:3. "I must work the works of him that sent me."
Thirdly, Ex parte nostri. Yes, and it was no less
necessary upon our account that this work should be finished; for, had not
Christ finished this work, sin had quickly finished all our lives, comforts,
and hopes. Without the finishing this work, not a son or daughter of Adam
could ever have seen the face of God. Therefore it is said, John 3:14, 15.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so [must] the Son of man
be lifted up; that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life." On all these accounts the finishing of this work was
Secondly, As it was necessary this work should be
finished, so the finishing of it was exceeding difficult: It cost many a
cry, many groan, and many a tear, before Christ could say, It is finished.
All the angels in heaven were not able, by their united strength, to lift
that burden one inch from the ground, which Christ bare upon his shoulders,
yes, and bare it away. But how heavy a burden this was, may in part appear
by his agony in the garden, and the bitter outcries he made upon the cross,
which in their proper places have been opened.
Thirdly, and lastly, It was a most precious work which
Christ finished by his death; that work was dispatched and finished in few
hours, which will be the matter of everlasting songs and triumphs to the
angels and saints to all eternity. O it was a precious work! The mercies
that now flow out of this fountain, namely, justification, sanctification,
adoption, etc. are not to be valued; besides the endless happiness and glory
of the world to come, which cannot enter into the heart of man to conceive.
If the angels sang when the foundation-stone was laid, what shouts, what
triumphs shall there be among the saints, when this voice is heard, It is
Secondly, Let us next inform ourselves how, and in what
manner Jesus Christ finished this glorious work; and if you search the
scriptures upon that account, you will find that he finished it obediently,
freely, diligently, and fully.
First, This blessed work was finished by Jesus Christ
most obediently, Phil. 2:8. "He became obedient to death, even the death of
the cross." "His obedience was the obedience of a servant, though not
servile obedience." So it was foretold of him, before he touched this work,
Isa. 1. 5. "The Lord God has opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious,
neither turned away back;" that is My Father told me the very worst of it;
he told me what hard and heavy things I must undergo, if ever I finished
this design of redemption; and I was not rebellious, that is I heartily
submitted to, and accepted all those difficulties; for there is a Meiosis in
the words; I was content to stoop to the hardest and most ignominious part
of it, rather than not finish it.
Secondly, As Christ finished it obediently, so he
finished it freely. Freedom and obedience in acting are not at all opposite
to, or exclusive of each other. Moses' mother nursed him in obedience to the
command of Pharaoh's daughter, yet most freely with respect to her own
delight and contentment in that work. So it is said of Christ, and that by
his own mouth, John 10:17, 18. "Therefore does my Father love me, because I
lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I
lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take
it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father." He liked the
work for the end's sake. When he had a prospect of it from eternity, then
were his delights with the sons of men: then he rejoiced in the habitable
parts of the earth, Prov. 8:30, 31. And when he came into the world about
it, with what a full and free consent did his heart echo to the voice of his
Father calling him to it; just as you shall sometimes hear an echo answering
your voice two or three times over, Psalm. 40. "Lo, I come: I delight to do
your will: your law is within my heart." He finished the work freely.
Thirdly, As he finished it freely, so he finished it
diligently; he wrought hard from the morning of his life to the end of it:
he was never idle wherever he was, but "went about doing good," Acts 10:38.
Sometimes he was so intent upon his work, that "he forget to eat bread,"
John 4:30, 31. As the life of some men is but a diversion from one trifle to
another, from one pleasure to another; so the whole life of Christ was spent
and taken up between one work and another: never was a life so filled up
with labor: the very moments of his time were all employed for God to finish
Fourthly, and lastly, He finished it completely and
fully. All that was to be done by way of impetration and meritorious
redemption is fully done; no hand can come after his; angels can add nothing
to it. "That is perfected to which nothing is wanting, and to which nothing
can be added." Such is the work Christ finished. Whatever the law demanded
is perfectly paid; whatever a sinner needs, is perfectly obtained and
purchased; nothing can be added to what Christ has done; he put the last
hand to it, when he said, It is finished. Thus you see what the work was,
and how Christ finished it.
Thirdly, In the last place, let us consider what
assurance or evidence we have that Christ has so finished redemption-work:
and if you pursue that enquiry, you will find these, among other plain
evidences of it.
First, When Christ died, redemption-work must needs be
finished, inasmuch as the blood, as well as the obedience of Christ, was of
infinite value and efficacy, sufficiently able to accomplish all the ends
for which it was shed; "and that not by divine acceptance, but upon the
account of its proper value." This effect, namely, the finishing
redemption-work meritoriously by Christ, does not exceed the power of the
cause to which we assign it, namely, the death of Christ. And if there be a
sole sufficient cause in act, what hinders but the effect should follow?
There was certainly enough in Christ's blood to satisfy the utmost demand of
justice: when that therefore is actually shed, justice is fully paid, and,
consequently, the souls for whom, and in whose names it is paid, are fully
redeemed from the curse by the merit thereof.
Secondly, It is apparent that Christ finished the work,
by the discharge or acquittance God the Father gave him, when he raised him
from the dead, and set him at his own right hand. If Christ, the sinner's
surety, be, as such, discharged by God the creditor, then the debt is fully
paid. Now Christ was justified, and cleared at his resurrection, from all
charges and demands of justice; therefore it ix said, 1 Tim. 3:16 that he
was justified in the spirit, that is openly discharged by that very act of
the Godhead, his raising him from the dead. For when the grave was opened,
and Christ arose, it was to him as the opening of the prison-doors, and
setting a surety at liberty, who was confirmed for another man's debt. To
the same sense Christ speaks of his ascension, John 16:10. "The Spirit (says
he) shall convince the world of righteousness," that is of a complete and
perfect righteousness in me, imputable to sinners for their perfect
justification. And whereby shall he convince and satisfy them that is so?
Why, by this, "Because I go to the Father, and you see me no more." There is
a great deal of force and weight in those words, "because you see me no
more:" for it amounts to this much; by this you shall be satisfied I have
fully and completely performed all righteousness, and that, by my active and
passive obedience; I have so fully satisfied God for you, as that you shall
never be charged or condemned; because, when I go to heaven, I shall abide
there in glory with nay Father, and not be sent back again, as I should, if
any thing had been omitted by me. And this the apostle gives you also in so
many plain words, Heb. 10:12, 13, 14. "After he had offered one sacrifice
for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God." And what does he infer
from that, but the very truth before us, verse 14 that "by one offering he
has perfected forever them that are sanctified?"
Thirdly, It is evident Christ has finished the work, by
the blessed effects of it upon all that believe in him: for by virtue of the
completeness of Christ's work, finished by his death, their consciences are
now rationally pacified, and their souls at death, actually received into
glory; neither of which could be, if Christ had not in this world finished
the work. If Christ had done his work imperfectly, he could not have given
rest and tranquility to the laboring and burdened souls that come to him, as
now he does, Mat. 11:28. Conscience would still be hesitating, trembling,
and unsatisfied, and had he not finished his work, he could not have had
entrance through the veil of his flesh into heaven, as all that believe in
him have, Heb. 10:19, 20. If he had but almost done that work, we had been
but almost saved, that is, certainly damned. And thus you see briefly the
evidences, that the work is finished.
INFERENCE. 1. Has Christ perfected and completely
finished all his work for us? How sweet a relief is this to us that believe
in him against all the defects and imperfections of all the works of God,
that are wrought by us. There is nothing, finished that we do: all our
duties are imperfect duties; they come off lamely, and defectively from our
hands. It is Christ's charge against the church of Sardis, Rev. 3:2. I have
not found your works "pepleromena" perfect, or filled up before God. O there
is much impudence and vanity in the best of our duties: but here is the
grand relief, and that which answers to all the grounds of our doubts and
fears upon that account; Jesus Christ has finished all his work, though we
can finish none of ours: and so, though we be defective, poor, imperfect
creatures, in ourselves, yet, notwithstanding, we are complete in him, Col.
2:9, 10. Though we cannot perfectly obey, or fulfill one command of the law,
yet is "the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us that believe," Rom.
8:4. Christ's complete obedience being imputed to us, makes us complete, and
without fault before God.
It is true, we ought to be humbled for our defects, and
troubled for every failing in obedience; but we should not be discouraged,
though multitudes of weaknesses be upon us, and many infirmities compass us
about, in every duty we put our hand to: though we have no righteousness of
our own; yet of God, Christ is made unto us righteousness; and that
righteousness of his is infinitely better than our own: instead of our own,
we have his. O blessed be God for Christ's perfect righteousness!
INFERENCE. 2. Did Christ finish his work with his own
hand? How dangerous and dishonorable a thing is it to join anything of our
own to the righteousness of Christ, in point of justification before God.
Jesus Christ will never endure this; it reflects upon his work dishonorably;
he does not (in this case) affect social glory: not I, and my God; I, and my
Christ, did this; he will be all, or none, in your justification. If he have
finished the work, what need of our additions? And if not, to what purpose
are they? Can we finish that which Christ himself could not? But we would
fain be sharing with him in this honor, which he will never endure. Did he
finish the work by himself, and will he ever divide the glory and praise of
it with us? No, no, Christ is no half Savior. O it is an hard thing, to
bring these shroud hearts to live upon Christ for righteousness: we would
fain add our penny to make up Christ's sum. But if you would have it so, or
have nothing to do with Christ, you and your penny must perish together, Isa.
50 ult. God gives us the righteousness of Christ, as he gave manna to the
Israelites in the wilderness. It is said, Deut. 8:16. "That he fed them with
manna in the wilderness, that he might humble them." The quality of the food
was not humbling, for it was angels fools, but the manner of giving it was
so: they must live by faith upon God for it, from day to day. This was not
like other food, produced by their own labor. Certainly God takes the right
way to humble proud nature, in calling sinners wholly from their own
righteousness to Christ's for their justification.
INFERENCE. 3 .Did Christ finish his work for us: Then
there can be no doubt, but he will also finish his work "in" us. As he began
the work of our redemptions, and finished it: so he that has begun the good
work in you, will also finish it upon your souls. And at this the apostle
says, "He is confident," Phil. 1:6. Jesus Christ is not only called the
author, but also the finisher of our faith, Heb. 12:2. If he begin it, no
doubt but he will finish it. And indeed the finishing of his own work of
redemption without us, gives full evidence that he will finish his work of
sanctification within us; and that because these two works of Christ have a
respect and relation to each other; and such a relation, that the work he
finished by his own death, resurrection, and ascension, would be in vain to
us, if the work of sanctification in us should not in like manner be
finished. Therefore, as he presented a perfect sacrifice to God, and
finished redemption-work; so will he present every man perfect and complete,
for whom he offered up himself, for he will not lose the end of all his
sufferings at last. To what purpose would his meritorious impetration be,
without complete and full application? Be not therefore discouraged at the
defects and imperfections of your inherent grace: be humbled for them, but
be not dejected by them: this is Christ's work, as well as that: that work
is finished, and so will this.
INFERENCE. 4. Is Christ's work of redemption a complete
and finished work? How excellent and comfortable beyond all compare, is the
method and way of faith! Surely the way of believing is the most excellent
way in which a poor sinner can approach God, for it brings before him a
complete, entire, perfect righteousness; and this must needs be most
honorable to God, most comfortable to the soul that draws near to God. O
what a complete, finished perfect thing is the righteousness of Christ! the
searching eye of the holy and jealous God cannot find the least flaw or
defect in it. Let God or conscience look upon it; turn it every way; view it
on every side; thoroughly weigh and examine it, it will appear a pure, a
perfect piece, containing in it whatever is necessary for the reconciling of
an angry God, or pacifying of a distressed and perplexed soul. How pleasing,
therefore, and acceptable to God must be that faith, which presents so
complete and excellent an atonement to him! Hence the acting of our faith
upon Christ for righteousness, the approaches of faith to God with such an
acceptable present, is called the work of God; that is, the most grateful,
acceptable, and well pleasing work to God that a creature can perform; John
6:29. "This is the work of God, that you believe." One act of faith pleases
him more, than if you should toil all your lives at a task of obedience to
the law. As it is more for God's honor and your comfort, to pay all you owe
him at one payment, in one full sum, than to be paying by very small
degrees, and never be able to make full payment, or see the bond cancelled;
so this perfect work only produces perfect peace.
INFERENCE. 5. Did Christ work, and work out all that God
gave him to do, until he had finished his work? How necessary then is a
laborious working life to all that call themselves Christians? The life of
Christ, you sees, was a laborious life. Shall he work and we play? Shall a
zealous, active, working Christ be reproached with idle, negligent and lazy
followers? O work, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
Objection. But if Christ wrought so hard, we may sit
still. If he finished the work, nothing remains for us to do.
Solut. Nothing of that work which Christ did, remains for
you to do. It is your commendation and duty to leave all that to Christ: but
there is other work for you to do; yes, store of work lying upon your hands.
You must work as well as Christ, though not for the same ends Christ did. He
wrought hard to satisfy the law, by fulfilling all righteousness. He wrought
all his life long, to work out a righteousness to justify you before God.
This work falls to no hand but Christ's: but you must work, to obey the
commands of Christ into whose right you are come by redemption: you must
work to testify your thankfulness to Christ, for the work finished for you:
you must work, to glorify God by your obedience: let your light so shine
before men. For these, and divers other such ends and reasons, your life
must be a working life. God preserve all his people from the gross and vile
opinions of Antinomian libertines, who cry up grace and decry obedience: who
under specious pretenses of exalting a naked Christ upon the throne, do
indeed strip him naked of a great part of his glory, and vilely dethrone
him. My pen shall not English what mine eyes have read. Tell it not in Gath.
But for you, reader, be you a follower of Christ, imitate
your pattern; yes, let me persuade you, as ever you hopest to clear up your
interest in him, imitate him in such particulars as these that follow.
First, Christ began early to work for God; he took the
morning of his life, even the very beginning of it, to work for God: "How is
it (said he to his parents, when he was but a child of about twelve years
old) that you sought me? Knew you not that I must be about my Father's
business?" Reader, if the morning of your life be not gone, O devote it to
the work of God as Christ did: if it be, ply your work the closer in the
afternoon of your life. If a man have any great and necessary business to
do, it is good doing it in the morning; afterwards a hurry of business and
diversion comes on.
Secondly, As Christ began betime, so he followed his work
close: he was early up, and he wrought hard, so hard, that "he forget to eat
bread." John 4:31, 32. So zealous was he in his Father's work, that his
friends thought "that he had been beside himself," Mark 3:21. So zealous
that "the zeal of God's house eat him up." He flew like a seraphim, in a
flame of zeal, about the work of God. O be not you like snails. What
Augustus said of the young Roman, well becomes the true Christian, "whatever
he does, he does it to purpose."
Thirdly, Christ often thought upon the shortness of his
time, and wrought hard because he knew his working-time would be but little.
So you find it, John 9:4. "I must work the works of him that sent me, while
it is day; the night comes, when no man can work." O in this be like Christ:
rouse your hearts to diligence with this consideration. If a man have much
to write, and be almost come to the end of his paper, he will write close,
and thereby put much matter in a little room.
Fourthly, He did much work for God in a very silent
manner: he wrought hard, but did not spoil his work, when he had wrought it,
by vain ostentation. When he had expressed his charity in his acts of mercy
and bounty to men, he would humbly seal up the glory of it, with this
charge; "see you tell no man of it", Matt. 8:4. He affected no popular air.
All the angels in heaven could not do what Christ did, and yet he called
himself a worm, for all that, Psalm. 22:6. O imitate your pattern; Work hard
for God, and let not pride blow upon it, when you have done. It is hard for
a man to do much, and not value him self for it too much.
Fifthly, Christ carried on his work for God resolvedly:
no discouragements would beat him off, though never any work met with more
from first to last. How did Scribes and Pharisees, Jews, Gentiles, yes,
devils set upon him, by persecutions, and reproaches, violent oppositions,
and subtle temptations; but yet, he goes on with his Father's work for all
that: he is deaf to all discouragements. So it was foretold of him, Isa.
42:4. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged." O that more of this spirit of
Christ were in his people: O that, in the strength of love to Christ, and
zeal for the glory of God, you will pour out your hearts in service, and,
like a river, sweep down all discouragements before you.
Sixthly, He continued working, while he continued living:
His life and labor ended together: He fainted not in his work: Nay, the
greatest work he did in this world, was his last work. O be like Christ in
this, be not weary of well doing: Give not over the work of God, while you
can move hand and tongue to promote it, and see that your last works be more
than your first. O let the motions of your soul after God be, as all natural
motions are, swiftest when nearest the center. Say not it is enough, while
there is any capacity of doing more for God. In these things, Christians, be
like your Savior.
INFERENCE. 6. Did Christ finish his work? Look to it
Christian, that you also finish your work which God has given your to do:
That you may with comfort say, when death approaches, as Christ said, John
17:4. "I have glorified you on earth, I have finished the work you gave me
to do; and now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self." Christ had a
work committed to Him, and he finished it; you have a work also committed to
you: O see that you may be able to say, it is finished when your time is so:
O work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; and, that I may
persuade you to it, I beseech you lay these considerations close to heart.
First, If your work be not done before you die, it can
never be done when you are dead. "There is no work nor knowledge, nor device
in the grave, where you go," Eccl. 9:5, 10. They that go down to the pit
cannot celebrate the name of God, Isa 38:18. Death binds up the hand from
working, any more; strikes dumb the tongue that it can speak no more; for
then the composition is dissolved. The body, which is the soul's instrument
to work by, is broken and thrown aside: the soul itself presented
immediately before the Lord, to give an account of all its works. O
therefore, seeing the night comes, when no man can work, as Christ speaks,
John 9:4. make haste and finish your work.
Secondly, If you finish not your work, as the season of
working, so the season of mercy will be over at death. Do not think, you
that have neglected Christ all your lives, you that could never be persuaded
to a laborious holy life, that ever your cries and entreaties shall prevail
with God for mercy, when your season is past: No, it is too late, "Will God
hear his cry, when troubles come upon him?" Job 27:9. The season of mercy is
then over; as the tree falls, so it lies: Then he that is holy shall be holy
still, and he that is filthy shall be filthy still. Alas, poor souls, you
come too late: "The master of the house is risen up, and the doors are
shut," Luke 19:42. The season is over: happy had it been if you had known
the day of your visitation.
Lastly, If your work be not finished when you come to
die, you can never finish your lives with comfort. He that has not fished
his stork with care, can never finish his course with joy. O what a dismal
case is that soul in, that finds itself surprised by death in an unready
posture! To lie shivering upon the brink of the grave, saying, Lord, what
will become of me! O I cannot, I dare not die! For the poor soul to shrink
back into the body, and cry, Oh, it were better for me to do any thing than
die. Why, what is the matter? Oh, I am in a Christless state and dare not go
before that awful judgment-seat. If I had in season made Christ sure, I
could then die with peace. Lord, what shall I do? How do you like this,
reader? Will this be a comfortable close! When one asked a Christian that
constantly spent six hours every day in prayer, why he did so? He answered,
Oh, I must die, I must die. Well then, look to it that you finish your work
as Christ also did his!