The Wisdom of God
The Wisdom Of God, Displayed In The Way Of Salvation
Dated March 1733
Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
Subject: The wisdom appearing in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ is far above the wisdom of the angels.
The apostle is speaking in the context of the glorious doctrine of the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ; and how it was in a great measure kept hid in the past ages of the world. It was a mystery that before they did not understand, but now it was in a glorious manner brought to light (verse 3-5). By revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets, by the spirit. And (verse 8, 9) Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.
And the apostle in the text informs us that what Christ had accomplished towards his church, the work of redemption, had not only in a great measure unveiled the mystery to the church in this world, but God had more clearly and fully opened it to the understanding even of the angels themselves, and that this was one end of God in it, to discover the glory of his wisdom to the angels. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. One end of revealing Gods counsels concerning the work of redemption, is making known Gods wisdom. It is called manifold wisdom because of the manifold glorious ends that are attained by it. The excellent designs, hereby accomplished, are very manifold. The wisdom of God in this is of vast extent. The contrivance is so manifold that one may spend an eternity in discovering more of the excellent ends and designs accomplished by it, and the multitude and vast variety of things that are, by divine contrivance, brought to conspire to the bringing about those ends.
We may observe to whom it is that God would manifest this his wisdom, by revealing the mystery of our redemption; and they are not only men, but the angels. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known the manifold wisdom of God. The angels are often called principalities and powers because of the exalted dignity of their nature. The angels excel in strength and wisdom. Those who are the wise men of the earth are called princes in the style of the apostle. 1 Cor. 2:6, Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world verse 8, Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. So the angels are called principalities for their great wisdom. They may also be so called for the honor God has put upon them, in employing them as his ministers and instruments, wherewith he governs the world, and therefore are called thrones, dominions, and principalities, and powers, Col. 1:16.
They are called principalities and powers in heavenly places, as distinguishing them from those that are in places of earthy power and dignity. The offices or places of dignity and power that the angels sustain, are not earthly, but heavenly. They are places of honor and power in the heavenly city and the heavenly kingdom.
One end of God in revealing his design or contrivance for redemption, as he has so fully and gloriously done by Jesus Christ, is that the angels in heaven may behold the glory of his wisdom by it. Though they are such bright intelligencies, and do always behold the face of God the Father, and know so much; yet here is matter of instruction for them. Here they may see more of the diving wisdom than ever they had seen before. It was a new discovery of the wisdom of God to them.
The time when this display of the wisdom of God was especially made to the angels is when Christ introduced the gospel-dispensation, implied in those words, To the intent that now unto the principalities, etc. When Christ came into the world and died, and actually performed the work of redemption when he had fully and plainly revealed the counsels of God concerning it; and accordingly introduced the evangelical dispensation, and erected the gospel-church then the angels understood more of the mystery of mans redemption, and the manifold designs and counsels of divine wisdom, then ever they had done before.
In the foregoing verse the apostle, after speaking of revealing this wisdom of God to man, And to make all men see, what is the fellowship of this mystery, etc. speaks of this mystery as a thing from the beginning kept hid till now, The mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God that now, etc. In this verse he mentions another end, viz. that he may, at the same time, make the angels also see Gods wisdom in his glorious scheme of redemption. Now at this time, implies that it was before a mystery kept hid from them in comparison of what it is now. And here is room enough for the angels to discover more and more to all eternity of the wisdom of God in this work.
Observe the medium by which the angels come by this knowledge, viz. the church That now unto principalities might be known by the church, i.e. by the things they see done in the church, or towards the church. and by what they see concerning the church. So has it pleased the sovereign God, that the angels should have the most glorious discoveries of divine wisdom by his doings towards his church, a sort of beings much inferior to themselves. It has pleased God to put this honor upon us.
The wisdom appearing in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ is far above the wisdom of the angels. For here it is mentioned as one end of God in revealing the contrivance of our salvation, that the angels thereby might see and know how great and manifold the wisdom of God is, to hold forth the divine wisdom to the angels view and admiration. But why is it so, if this wisdom be not higher than their own wisdom? It never would have been mentioned as one end of revealing the contrivance of redemption, that the angels might see how manifold Gods wisdom is, if all the wisdom to be seen in it was no greater than their own. It is mentioned as a wisdom such as they had never seen before, not in God, much less in themselves. That now might be known how manifold the wisdom of God is, now, four thousand years since the creation. In all that time the angels had always beheld the face of God, and had been studying Gods works of creation. Yet they never, till that day, had seen anything like that; never knew how manifold Gods wisdom is, as now they knew it by the church.
Wonderful things done, by which salvation is procured.
SUCH is the choice of the person chosen to be our redeemer, the substituting of him in our room, his incarnation his life his death and exaltation. And,
I. We will consider the choice of the person to be our redeemer. When God designed the redemption of mankind, his great wisdom appears in that he pitched upon his own, his only-begotten, Son, to be the person to perform the work. He was a redeemer of Gods own choosing, and therefore he is called in Scripture, Gods elect (Isa. 42:1). The wisdom of choosing this person to be the redeemer, appears in his being every way a fit person for this undertaking. It was necessary that the person that is the redeemer should be a divine person. None but a divine person was sufficient for this great work. The work is infinitely unequal to any creature. It was requisite that the redeemer of sinners should be himself infinitely holy. None could take away the infinite evil of sin, but one that infinitely far from and contrary to sin himself. Christ is a fit person upon this account.
It was requisite that the person, in order to be sufficient for this undertaking, should be one of infinite dignity and worthiness, that he might be capable of meriting infinite blessings. The Son of God is a fit person on this account. It was necessary, that he should be a person of infinite power and wisdom. For this work is so difficult that it requires such an one. Christ is a fit person also upon this account. It was requisite that he should be a person infinitely dear to God the father, in order to give an infinite value to his transactions in the Fathers esteem, and that the Fathers love to him might balance the offense and provocation by our sins. Christ is a fit person upon this account. Therefore called the beloved (Eph. 1:6), He has made us accepted in the beloved.
It was requisite, that the person should be one that could act in this as of his own absolute right: one that, in himself, is not a servant or subject. Because, if he is one that cannot act of his own right, he cannot merit anything. He that is a servant, and that can do no more than he is bound to do, cannot merit. And then he that has nothing that is absolutely his own, cannot pay any price to redeem another. Upon this account Christ is a fit person. And none but a divine person can be fit. And he must be a person also of infinite mercy and love. For no other person but such an one would undertake a work so difficult, for a creature so unworthy as man. Upon this account also Christ is a fit person. It was requisite that he should be a person of unchangeable perfect truth and faithfulness. Otherwise he would not be fit to be depended on by us in so great an affair. Christ is also a fit person upon this account.
The wisdom of God in choosing his eternal Son, appears, not only in that he is a fit person; but in that he was the only fit person of all persons, whether created or uncreated. No created person, neither man nor angel, was fit for this undertaking. For we have just now shown that he must be a person of infinite holiness dignity power wisdom, infinitely dear to God of infinite love and mercy; and one that may act of his own absolute right. But no creature, how excellent soever, has any one of these qualifications. There are three uncreated persons of the Trinity, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And Christ alone of these was a suitable person for a redeemer. It was not meet, that the redeemer should be God the Father. Because he, in the divine economy of the persons of the Trinity, was the person that holds the rights of the God-head, and so was the person offended, whose justice required satisfaction; and was to be appeased by a mediator. It was not meet it should be the Holy Ghost, for in being mediator between the Father and the saints, he is in some sense so between the Father and the Spirit. The saints, in all their spiritual transactions with God, act by the Spirit; or rather, it is the Spirit of God that acts in them. They are the temples of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit dwelling in them is their principle of action, in all their transactings with God. But in these spiritual transactings with God, they act by a mediator. These spiritual and holy exercises cannot be acceptable, or avail anything with God, as from a fallen creature, but by a mediator. Therefore Christ, in being mediator between the Father and the saints, may be said to be mediator between the Father and the Holy Spirit, that acts in the saints. And therefore it was meet, that the mediator should not be either the Father or the Spirit, but a middle person between them both. It is the Spirit in the saints, that seeks the blessing of God, by faith and prayer, and, as the apostle says, with groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26) Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered. The Spirit in the saints seeks divine blessings of God by and through a mediator. And therefore that mediator must not be the Spirit, but another person.
It shows a divine wisdom, to know that he was a fit person. No other but one of divine wisdom could have known it. None but one of infinite wisdom could have thought of him to be a redeemer of sinners. For he, as he is God, is one of the persons offended by sin, against whom man by his sin had rebelled. Who but God infinitely wise could ever have thought of him to be a redeemer of sinners; against whom they had sinned, to whom they were enemies, and of whom they deserved infinitely ill? Who would ever have thought of him as one that should set his heart upon man, and exercise infinite love and pity to him and exhibit infinite wisdom, power, and merit in redeeming him? We proceed,
II. To consider the substituting of this person in our room. After choosing the person to be our redeemer, the next step of divine wisdom is, to contrive the way how he should perform this work. If God had declared who the person was that should do this work and had gone no further, no creature could have thought which way this person could have performed the work. If God had told them that his own Son must be the redeemer, and that he alone was a fit person for the work, and that he was a person every way fit and sufficient for it, but had proposed to them to contrive a way how this fit and sufficient person should proceed, we may well suppose that all created understandings would have been utterly at a loss.
The first thing necessary to be done is that this Son of God should become our representative and surety. And so be substituted in the sinners room. But who of created intelligences would have thought of any such thing as the eternal and infinitely beloved Son of God being substituted in the room of sinners? his standing in stead of a sinner, a rebel, an object of the wrath of God? Who would have thought of a person of infinite glory representing sinful worms, that had made themselves by sin infinitely provoking and abominable?
For if the Son of God be substituted in the sinners room, then his sin must be charged upon him. He will thereby take the guilt of the sinner upon himself. He must be subject to the same law that man was, both as to the commands, and threatenings. But who would have thought of any such thing concerning the Son of God? But we proceed,
III. To consider the incarnation Of Jesus Christ. The next step of divine wisdom in contriving how Christ should perform the work of redeeming sinners, was in determining his incarnation. Suppose God had revealed his counsels thus far to created understandings, that his own Son was the person chosen for this work, that he had substituted him in the sinners obligations and guilt on himself and had revealed no more, but had left the rest to them to find out. It is no way probable that even then they could ever have thought of a way, whereby this person might actually have performed the work of redemption. For if the Son of God be substituted in the sinners stead, then he takes the sinners obligations on himself. For instance, he must take the obligation the sinner is under to perform perfect obedience to the divine law. But it is not probable, that any creature could have conceived how that could be possible. How should a person who is the eternal JEHOVAH, become a servant, be under law, and perform obedience even to the law of man?
And again, if the Son of God be substituted in the sinners stead, then he comes under the sinners obligation to suffer the punishment which mans sin had deserved. And who could have thought that to be possible? For how should a divine person, who is essentially, unchangeably, and infinitely happy, suffer pain and torment? And how should he who is the object of Gods infinitely dear love, suffer the wrath of his Father? It is not to be supposed, that created wisdom ever would have found out a way how to have got over these difficulties. But divine wisdom has found out a way, viz. by the incarnation of the Son of God. That the Word should be made flesh, that he might be both God and man, in one person. What created understanding could have conceived that such a thing was possible? Yet these things could never be proved to be impossible. This distinction duly considered will show the futility of many Socinian objections.
And if God had revealed to them that it was possible and even that it should be, but left them to find out how it should be, we may well suppose that they would all have been puzzled and confounded to conceive of a way for so uniting a man to the eternal Son of God, that they should be but one person, that one who is truly a man in all respects, should indeed be the very same Son of God that was with God from all eternity. This is a great mystery to us. Hereby, a person that is infinite, omnipotent, and unchangeable, is become, in a sense, a finite, a feeble man, a man subject to our sinless infirmities, passions, and calamities! The great God, the sovereign of heaven and earth, is thus become a worm of the dust. (Psa. 22:6) I am a worm, and no man. He that is eternal and self-existent, and all-sufficient, now is come to stand in need of food and clothing. He becomes poor, has not where to lay his head; stands in need of the charity of men, and is maintained by it! It is far above us, to conceive how it is done. It is a great wonder and mystery to us. But it was no mystery to divine wisdom.
IV. The next thing to be considered is the life of Christ in this world. The wisdom of God appears in the circumstances of his life and in the work and business of his life.
First, the circumstances of his life. If God had revealed that his own Son should be incarnate, and should live in this world in the human nature, and it had been left to men to determine what circumstances of life would have been most suitable for him, human wisdom would have determined, that he should appear in the world in a most magnificent manner, with very extraordinary outward ensigns of honor, authority, and power, far above any of the kings of the earth. That here he should reign in great visible pomp and splendor over all nations. And thus it was that mens wisdom did determine, before Christ came. The wise, the great men among the Jews, scribes and Pharisees, who are called Princes of this world, did expect the Messiah would thus appear. But the wisdom of God chose quite otherwise. It chose that when the Son of God became man, he should begin his life in a stable, for many years dwell obscurely in a family of low degree in the world, and be in low outward circumstances, that he should be poor, and not have where to lay his head, that he should be maintained by the charity of some of his disciples, that he should Grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground, (Isa. 53:2). That he should not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets, (Isa. 42:2). That he should come to Zion in a lowly manner, riding on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. That he should be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
And now the divine determination in this matter is made known, we may safely conclude that it is far the most suitable, and that it would not have been at all suitable for God, when he was manifest in flesh, to appear with earthly pomp, wealth, and grandeur. No! these things are infinitely too mean and despicable for the Son of God to show as if he affected or esteemed them. Men, if they had this way proposed to them, would have been ready to condemn it, as foolish and very unsuitable for the Son of God. But the foolishness of God is wiser than men, (1 Cor. 1:25). And God hath brought to nought the wisdom of this world, and the princes of this world, (1 Cor. 2:6). Christ, by thus appearing in mean and low outward circumstances in the world, has poured contempt upon all worldly wealth and glory, and has taught us to despise it. And if it becomes mean men to despise them, how much more did it become the Son of God! And then Christ hereby has taught us to be lowly in heart. If he who was infinitely high and great, was thus lowly, how lowly should we be, who are indeed so vile!
Second, the wisdom of God appears in the work and business of the life of Christ. Particularly , that he should perfectly obey the law of God, under such great temptations, that he should have conflicts with, and overcome, for us, in a way of obedience, the powers of earth and hell, that he should be subject to, not only the moral law, but the ceremonial also, that heavy yoke of bondage. Christ went through the time of his public ministry, in delivering to us divine instructions and doctrines. The wisdom of God appears in giving us such a one to be our prophet and teacher, who is a divine person, who in himself the very wisdom and Word of God; and was from all eternity in the bosom of the Father. His word is of greater authority and weight than if delivered by the mouth of an ordinary prophet. And how wisely ordered that the same should be our teacher and Redeemer, in order that his relations and offices, as Redeemer, might the more sweeten and endear his instructions to us. We are ready to give heed to what is said by those who are dear to us. Our love to their persons makes us to delight in their discourse. It is therefore wisely ordered, that he who has done so much to endear himself to us, should be appointed our great prophet, to deliver to us divine doctrines.
V. The next thing to be considered is the death of Christ. This is a means of salvation for poor sinners, that no other but divine wisdom would have pitched upon. And when revealed, it was doubtless greatly to the surprise of all the hosts of heaven, and they never will cease to wonder at it. How astonishing is it, that a person who is blessed forever, and is infinitely and essentially happy, should endure the greatest sufferings that ever were endured on earth! That a person who is the supreme Lord and judge of the world, should be arraigned, and should stand at the judgment-seat of mortal worms, and then be condemned. That a person who is the living God, and the fountain of life, should be put to death. That a person who created the world, and gives life to all his creatures, should be put to death by his own creatures. That a person of infinite majesty and glory, and so the object of love, praises, and adorations of angels, should be mocked and spit upon by the vilest of men. That a person, infinitely good, and who is love itself, should suffer the greatest cruelty. That a person who is infinitely beloved of the Father, should be put to inexpressible anguish under his own Fathers wrath. That he who is King of heaven, who has heaven for his throne, and the earth for his footstool, should be buried in the prison of the grave. How wonderful is this! And yet this is the way that Gods wisdom has fixed upon, as the way of sinners salvation, as neither unsuitable nor dishonorable to Christ.
VI. The last thing done to procure salvation for sinners is Christs exaltation. Divine wisdom saw it needful, or most expedient, that the same person who died upon the cross, should sit at his right hand, on his own throne, as supreme Governor of the world, and should have particularly the absolute disposal of all things relating to mans salvation, and should be the judge of the world. This was needful, because it was requisite that the same person who purchased salvation, should have the bestowing of it. For it is not fit, that God should at all transact with the fallen creature in a way of mercy, but by a mediator. And this is exceedingly for the strengthening of the faith and comfort of the saints, that he who has endured so much to purchase salvation for them, has all things in heaven and in delivered unto him, that he might bestow eternal life on them for whom he purchased it. And that the same person that loved them so greatly as to shed his precious blood for them, was to be their final judge.
This then was another thing full of wonders, that he who was man as well as God, he who was a servant, and died like a malefactor; should be made the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, angels and men, the absolute disposer of eternal life and death, the supreme judge of all created intelligent beings, for eternity: and should have committed to him all the governing power of God the Father. And that, not only as God, but as God-man, not exclusive of the human nature.
As it is wonderful, that a person who is truly divine should be humbled so as to become a servant, and to suffer as a malefactor, so it is in like manner wonderful that he who is God-man, not exclusive of the manhood, should be exalted to the power and honor of the great God of heaven and earth. But such wonders as these has infinite wisdom contrived, and accomplished in order to our salvation.
In this way of salvation God is greatly glorified.
GOD has greatly glorified himself in the work of creation and providence. All his works praise him, and his glory shines brightly from them all. But as some stars differ from others in glory, so the glory of God shines brighter in some of his works than in others. And amongst all these, the work of redemption is like the sun in his strength. The glory of the author is abundantly the most resplendent in this work.
I. Each attribute of God is glorified in the work or redemption. How God has exceedingly glorified his wisdom, may more fully appear before we have done with this subject. But more particularly,
First, God has exceedingly glorified his power in this work. It shows the great and inconceivable power of God to unite natures so infinitely different, as the divine and human nature, in one person. If God can make one who is truly God, and one that is truly man, the self-same person, what is it that he cannot do? This is a greater and more marvelous work than creation.
The power of God most gloriously appears in mans being actually saved and redeemed in this way. In his being bought out of a state of sin and misery, into a conformity to God, and at last to the full and perfect enjoyment of God. This is a more glorious demonstration of divine power, than creating things out of nothing, upon two accounts. One is, the effect is greater and more excellent. To produce the new creature is a more glorious effect, than merely to produce a creature. Making a holy creature, a creature in the spiritual image of God, in the image of the divine excellencies, and a partaker of the divine nature is a greater effect than merely to give being. And therefore as the effect is greater, it is a more glorious manifestation of power.
And then, in this effect of the actual redemption of sinners, the term from which, is more distant from the term to which, than in the work of creation. The term from which, in the work of creation, is nothing, and the term to which, is being. But the term from which, in the work of redemption, is a state infinitely worse than nothing; and the term to which, a holy and a happy being, a state infinitely better than mere being. The terms in the production of the last are much more remote from one another, than in the first.
And then the production of this last effect is a more glorious manifestation of power than the work of creation, the terms are very distant as nothing is very remote from being yet there is no opposition to the creating power of God. But in redemption, the divine power meets with and overcomes great opposition. There is great opposition in a state of sin to a state of grace. Mens lusts and corruptions are exceedingly opposite to grace and holiness, and greatly resist the production of the effect. But this opposition is completely overcome in actual redemption.
Besides, there is the great opposition from Satan. The power of God is very glorious in this work because it therein conquers the strongest and most powerful enemies. Power never appears more illustrious than in conquering. Jesus Christ, in this work, conquers and triumphs over thousands of devils, strong and mighty spirits, uniting all their strength against him. Luke 11:21, When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace, but when a stronger than he shall overcome him, he taketh from his all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil. Col. 2:15, And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross.
Second, the justice of God is exceedingly glorified in this work. God is so strictly and immutably just, that he would not spare his beloved Son when he took upon him the guilt of mens sins, and was substituted in the room of sinners. He would not abate him the least mite of that debt which justice demanded. Justice should take place, though it cost his infinitely dear Son his precious blood, and his enduring such extraordinary reproach, and pain, and death in its most dreadful form.
Third, the holiness of God is also exceedingly glorious in this work. Never did God so manifest his hatred of sin as in the death and sufferings of his only-begotten Son. Hereby he showed himself unappeasable to sin, and that it was impossible for him to be at peace with it.
Fourth, God has also exceedingly glorified his truth in this way, both in his threatenings and promises. Herein is fulfilled the threatenings of the law, wherein God said, In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. God showed hereby, that not only heaven and earth should pass away, but, which is more, that the blood of him who is the eternal Jehovah should be spilt, rather than one jot or tittle of his word should fail, till all be fulfilled.
Fifth, and lastly, God has exceedingly glorified his mercy and love in this work. The mercy of God was an attribute never seen before in its exercises, till it was seen in this work of redemption, or the fruits of it. The goodness of God appeared towards the angels in giving them being and blessedness. It appeared glorious towards man in his primitive state, a state of holiness and happiness. But now God has shown that he can find in his heart to love sinners, who deserve his infinite hatred. And not only has he shown that he can love them, but love them so as to give them more and do greater things for them than ever he did for the holy angels, that never sinned nor offended their Creator. He loved sinful men so as to give them a greater gift than ever he gave the angels; so as to give his own Son, and not only to give him to be their possession and enjoyment, but to give him to be their sacrifice. And herein he has done more for them than if he had given them all the visible world; yea, more than if he had given them all the angels, and all heaven besides. God has loved them so, that hereby he purchased for them deliverance from eternal misery, and the possession of immortal glory.
II. Each person of the Trinity is exceedingly glorified in this work. Herein the work of redemption is distinguished from all the other works of God. The attributes of God are glorious in his other works. But the three persons of the Trinity are distinctly glorified in no work as in this of redemption. In this work every distinct person has his distinct parts and offices assigned him. Each one has his particular and distinct concern in it, agreeable to their distinct, personal properties, relations, and economical offices. The redeemed have an equal concern with and dependence upon each person, in this affair, and owe equal honor and praise to each of them.
The Father appoints and provides the Redeemer, and accepts the price of redemption. The Son is the Redeemer and the price. He redeems by offering up himself. The Holy Ghost immediately communicates to us the thing purchased. Yea, and he is the good purchased. The sum of what Christ purchased for us is holiness and happiness. But the Holy Ghost is the great principle both of all holiness and happiness. The Holy Ghost is the sum of all that Christ purchased for men. Gal. 3:13, 14, He was made a curse for us, that we might receive the promise of The Spirit, through faith.
The blessedness of the redeemed consists in partaking of Christs fullness, which consists in partaking of that Spirit, which is given not by measure unto him. This is the oil that was poured upon the head of the church, which ran down to the members of his body, to the skirts of his garment. Thus we have an equal concern with and dependence upon each of the persons of the Trinity, distinctly; upon the Father, as he provides the Redeemer, and the person of whom the purchase is made, the Son as the purchaser, and the price, the Holy Ghost, as the good purchased.
The good attained by salvation is wonderfully various and exceeding great.
HERE we may distinctly consider the variety and the greatness of the good procured for men.
I. The good procured by salvation is wonderfully various. Here are all sorts of good procured for fallen man, that he does or can really need, or is capable of. The wisdom of God appears in the way of salvation, in that it is most worthy of an infinitely wise God, because every way perfect and sufficient. We, in our fallen state, are most necessitous creatures, full of wants: but they are here all answered. Every sort of good is here procured, whatever would really contribute to our happiness, and even many things that we could not have thought of, had not Christ purchased them for us, and revealed them to us. Every demand of our circumstances, and craving of our natures, is here exactly answered. For instance,
First, we stand in need of peace with God. We had provoked God to anger, his wrath abode upon us, and we needed to have it appeased. This is done for us in this way of salvation. For Christ, by shedding his blood, has fully satisfied justice, and appeased Gods wrath, for all that shall believe in him. By the sentence of the law we were condemned to hell. And we needed to have our sins pardoned that we might be delivered from hell. But in this work, pardon of sin and deliverance from hell, is fully purchased for us.
Second, we needed not only to have Gods wrath appeased and our sins pardoned, but we needed to have the favor of God. To have God, not only not our enemy, but our friend. Now Gods favor is purchased for us by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Third, we needed not only to be delivered from hell, but to have some satisfying happiness bestowed. Man has a natural craving and thirst after happiness. And [he] will thirst and crave, till his capacity is filled. And his capacity is of vast extent. And nothing but an infinite good can fill and satisfy his desires. But, notwithstanding, provision is made in this way of salvation to answer those needed, there is a satisfying happiness purchased for us, that which is fully answerable to the capacity and cravings our souls.
Here is food procured to answer all the appetites and faculties of our souls. God has made the soul of man of a spiritual nature. And therefore he needs a corresponding happiness, some spiritual object, in the enjoyment of which he may be happy. Christ has purchased the enjoyment of God, who is the great and original Spirit, as the portion of our souls. And he has purchased the Spirit of God to come and dwell in us as an eternal principle of happiness.
God has made man a rational, intelligent creature. And man needs some good that shall be a suitable object of his understanding for him to contemplate, wherein he may have full and sufficient exercise for his capacious faculties, in their utmost extent. Here is an object that is great and noble, and worthy of the exercise of the noblest faculties of the rational soul. God himself should be theirs, for them forever to behold and contemplate. His glorious perfections and works are most worthy objects. And there is room enough for improving them, and still to exercise their faculties to all eternity. What object can be more worthy to exercise the understanding of a rational soul, than the glories of the Divine Being, with which the heavenly intelligences, and even the infinite understanding of God himself is entertained.
Our souls need some good that shall be a suitable object of the will and affections, a suitable object for the choice, the acquiescence, the love, and the joy of the rational soul. Provision is made for this also in this way of salvation. There is an infinitely excellent Being offered to be chosen, to be rested in, to be loved, to be rejoiced in, by us, even God himself, who is infinitely lovely, the fountain of all good; a fountain that can never be exhausted, where we can be in no danger of going to excess in our love and joy. And here we may be assured ever to find our joy and delight in enjoyments answerable to our love and desires.
Fourth, there is all possible enjoyment of this object procured in this way of salvation. When persons entirely set their love upon another, they naturally desire to see that person. Merely to hear of the person, does not satisfy love. So here is provision made that we should see God, the object of our supreme love. Not only that we should hear and read of him in his word, but that we should see him with a spiritual eye here. And not only so, but that we should have the satisfaction of seeing God face to face hereafter. This is promised Mat. 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. It is promised that we shall not see God, as through a glass darkly, as we do now, but face to face, 1 Cor. 13:12. That we shall see Christ as He is, 1 John 3:2.
We naturally desire not only to see those whom we love, but to converse with them. Provision is made for this also, that we should have spiritual conversation with God while in this world, and that we should be hereafter admitted to converse with Christ in the most intimate manner possible. Provision is made in this way of salvation, that we should converse with God much more intimately than otherwise it would have been possible for us. For now Christ is incarnate, is in our nature. He is become one of us, whereby we are under advantages for an immensely more free and intimate converse with him, than could have been, if he had remained only in the divine nature, and so in a nature infinitely distant from us. We naturally desire not only to converse with those whom we greatly love, but to dwell with them. Provision, through Christ, is made for this. It is purchased and provided that we should dwell with God in his own house in heaven, which is called our Fathers house. To dwell forever in Gods presence, and at his right hand.
We naturally desire to have a right in that person whom we greatly love. Provision is made, in this way of salvation, that we should have a right in God; a right to Him. This is the promise of the covenant of grace, That he will be our God. God, with all his glorious perfections and attributes, with all his power and wisdom, and with all his majesty and glory, will be ours. So that we may call him our inheritance, and the portion of our souls. What we can humbly claim by faith, having this portion made over to us by a firm instrument, by a covenant ordered in all things and sure. And we may also hereby claim a right to Jesus Christ. Love desires that the right should be mutual. The lover desires, not only to have a right to the beloved, but that the beloved should also have a right to him. He desires to be his beloveds, as well as his beloved should be his. Provision is also made for this, in this wise method of salvation, that God should have a special propriety in the redeemed, that they should be in a distinguishing manner his, that they should be his peculiar people. We are told that God sets apart the godly for himself, Psa. 4:3. They are called Gods jewels. The spouse speaks it with great satisfaction and rejoicing. Song 2:16, My beloved is mine, and I am His.
Love desires to stand in some near relation to the beloved. Provision is made by Christ, that we should stand in the nearest possible relation to God, that he should be our Father, and we should be his children. We are often instructed in the Holy Scriptures, that God is the Father of believers, and that they are his family. And not only so, but they stand in the nearest relation to Christ Jesus. There is the closest union possible. The souls of believers are married to Christ. The church is the bride, the Lambs wife. Yea, there is yet a nearer similitude. Believers are as the very members of Christ, and of his flesh and of his bones, Eph. 5:30. Yea, this is not near enough yet, but they are one spirit, 1 Cor. 6:17.
Love naturally inclines to a conformity to the beloved. To have those excellencies, upon the account of which he is beloved, copied in himself. Provision is made in this way of salvation, that we may be conformed to God; that we shall be transformed into the same image. 2 Cor. 3:18, We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image form glory to glory. And that hereafter we shall see him as he is, and be like him.
It is the natural desire of love to do something for the beloved, either for his pleasure or honor. Provision is made for this also, in this way of salvation, that we should be made instruments of glorifying God, and promoting his kingdom here, and of glorifying him to all eternity.
Fifth, in this way of salvation, provision is made for our having every sort of good that man naturally craves, as honor, wealth, and pleasure. Here is provision made that we should be brought to the highest honor. This is what God has promised, that those that honor him, he will honor. And that true Christians shall be kings and priest unto God. Christ promised, that as his Father has appointed unto him a kingdom, so he will appoint unto them, that they may eat and drink at his table in his kingdom. He has promised to crown them with a crown of glory, and that they shall sit with him in his throne. That he will confess their names before his Father, and before his angels. That he will give them a new name; and that they shall walk with him in white.
Christ has also purchased for them the greatest wealth. All those that are in Christ are rich. They are now rich. They have the best riches, being rich in faith, and the graces of the Spirit of God. They have gold tried in the fire. They have durable riches and righteousness. They have treasure in heaven, where neither thief approaches, nor moth corrupts. An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away. They are possessors of all things.
Christ has also purchased pleasure for them, pleasures that are immensely preferable to all the pleasures of sense, most exquisitely sweet, and satisfying. He has purchased for them fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore at Gods right hand. And they shall drink of the river of Gods pleasure.
Sixth, Christ has purchased all needed good both for soul and body. While we are here, we stand in need of these earthly thing. And of these Christ has purchased all that are best for us. He has purchased for the body that God should feed and clothe us. Mat. 6:26, How much more shall he feed you, O ye of little faith! How much more shall he clothe you! Christ has purchased, that God should take care of us, and provide what is needed of these things, as a father provides for his children. 1 Pet. 5:7, Casting your care upon him, for he careth for you.
Seventh, Christ has purchased good that is suitable for his people in all conditions. There is, in this way of salvation, respect had to, and provision made for, all circumstances that they can be in. Here is provision made, for a time of affliction for a time of poverty and pinching want for a time of bereavement and mourning for spiritual darkness for a day of temptation for a time of persecution and for a time of death. Here is such a provision made that is sufficient to carry a person above death, and all it terrors, and to give him a complete triumph over that king of terrors. Here is enough to sweeten the grave, and make it cease to seem desirable, and in its near approach to be not terrible but joyful.
Eighth, there is provision made in this way of salvation for the life and blessedness of soul and body to all eternity. Christ has purchased, that we should be delivered from a state of temporal death, as well as spiritual and eternal. The bodies of the saints shall be raised to life. He has purchased all manner of perfection for the body of which it is capable. It shall be raised a spiritual body in incorruption and glory, and be made like Christs glorious body, to shine as the sun in the kingdom of his Father, and to exist in a glorified state in union with the soul to all eternity.
Ninth, but man in his fallen state still needs something else in order to his happiness, that these fore-mentioned blessings should be purchased for him, viz.. he needs to be qualified for the possession and enjoyment of them. In order to our having a title to these blessings of the covenant of grace (so that we can scripturally claim an interest in them), there is a certain condition must be performed by us. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and accept of him as offered in the gospel for a Savior. But, as we cannot do this of ourselves, Christ has purchased this also for all the elect. He has purchased, that they shall have faith given them, whereby they shall be (actively) united to Christ, and so have a (pleadable) title to his benefits.
But still something further is necessary for man, in order to his coming to the actual possession of the inheritance. A man, as soon as he has believed, has a title to the inheritance. But in order to come to the actual possession of it, he must persevere in a way of holiness. There is not only a gate that must be entered, but there is a narrow way that must be traveled before we can arrive at heavenly blessedness. And that is a way of universal and persevering holiness. But men, after they have believed, cannot persevere in a way of holiness of themselves. But there is sufficient provision made for this also, in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. The matter of a saints perseverance is sufficiently secured by the purchase that Christ has made.
But still there is something else needful in order to qualify a person for the actual entering upon the enjoyments and employments of a glorified estate, viz. that he should be made perfectly holy; that all remainders of sin should be taken away. For there cannot any sin enter into heaven. No soul must go into the glorious presence of God, with the least degree of the filth of sin. But there is provision made. For Christ has purchased that all sin shall be taken away out of the hearts of believers at death, and that they should be made perfectly holy, whereby they shall be fully and perfectly qualified to enter upon the pleasures and enjoyments of the new Jerusalem.
II. To consider the good attained for us by this way of salvation, as exceeding great.
There is not only every sort of good we need, but of every sort in that degree, so as to answer the extent of our capacity, and the greatest stretch of our desires, and indeed of our conceptions. They are not only greater than our conceptions are here, but also greater than ever they could be, were it not that Gods relation, and our own experience, will teach us. They are greater than the tongue of angels can declare, the deliverance that we have in it is exceeding great. It is deliverance from guilt, from sin itself, from the anger of God, and from the miseries of hell.
How great is the good conferred! The objective good in the infinite God, and the glorious Redeemer, Jesus Christ. How great is the love of the Father, and the Son! And how near the relation between them and the true believer! How close the union, how intimate the communion, and ultimately how clear will be the vision in glory!
There are great communications made to the believing soul on earth, but how much greater in heaven! Then their conformity to God will be perfect, their enjoyment of him will be full, their honor great and unsullied, and the glory of body and soul ineffable. The riches of the Christian are immense. All things are included in his treasure. Pleasures unspeakably and inconceivably great await him, rivers of delight, fullness of joy; and all of infinite duration.
The benefit procured for us, is doubly infinite. Our deliverance is an infinite benefit, because the evil we are delivered from in infinite. And the positive good bestowed is eternal, viz. the full enjoyment of all those blessings merited.
How angels are benefited by the salvation of men.
SO has the wisdom of God contrived this affair, that the benefit of what he has done therein should be so extensive, as to reach the elect angels. It is for men that the work of redemption is wrought out. And yet the benefit of the things done in this work is not confined to them, though all that is properly called redemption, or included in it, is confined to men. The angels cannot partake in this, having never fallen. Yet they have great indirect benefit by it. God has so wisely ordered, that what has been done in this directly and especially for men, should redound to the exceeding benefit of all intelligent creatures who are in favor with God. The benefit of it is so diffusive as to reach heaven itself. So great and manifold is the good attained in this work, that those glorious spirits who are so much above us, and were so highly exalted in happiness before, yet should receive great addition hereby. I will show how in some particulars.
I. The angels hereby see a great and wonderful manifestation of the glory of God. The happiness of angels as well as of men consists very much in beholding the glory of God. The excellency of the Divine Being is a most delightful subject of contemplation to the saints on earth, but much more to the angels in heaven. The more holy any being is, the more sweet and delightful will it be to him to behold the glory and beauty of the Supreme Being. Therefore the beholding of the glory of God must be ravishing to the holy angels of God who are perfect in holiness, and never had their minds leavened with sin. The manifestations of the glory of God, are as it were the food that satisfies the angels. They live thereon. It is their greatest happiness.
It is without doubt much of their employment to behold the glory of God appearing in his works. Therefore this work of redemption greatly contributes to their happiness and delight, as the glory of God is so exceedingly manifested by it. For what is done, is done, in the sight of the angels, as is evident by many passages of Holy Scripture. And they behold the glory of God appearing herein with entertainment and delight, as it is manifest by 1 Pet. 1:12, Which things the angels desire to look into.
The angels have this advantage, that now they may behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, where it shines with a peculiar luster and brightness. 1 Tim. 3:16, Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels. Perhaps all Gods attributes are more gloriously manifested in this work than in any other that ever the angels saw. There is certainly a fuller manifestation of some of his attributes than ever they saw before, as is evident by the text. And especially, it is so with respect to the mercy of God, that sweet and endearing attribute of the divine nature. The angels of heaven never saw so much grace manifested before, as in the work of redemption, nor in any measure equal to it. How full of joy does it fill the hearts of the angels, to see such a boundless and bottomless ocean of love and grace in their God. And therefore with what rejoicing do all the angels praise Christ for his being slain! Rev. 5:11, 12, And I beheld and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
II. They have this benefit by it, that hereby Jesus Christ, God-man, is become their head. God, subsisting in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was the king of angels, and would have been, if it had not been for our redemption. But it was owing to what is done in this work, that Jesus Christ as God-man, becomes the head of the angels. Christ is now not only the head of angels simply as God, but as God-man. Col. 2:10, And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power. Eph. 1:20-22, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him on his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church.
This is a part of the exaltation and glory of Christ which God confers on him as his reward. And not only so, but it is greatly to the angels benefit. It is Gods manner in his dealings with his elect creatures, in the same works wherein he glorifies himself, or his Son, greatly to benefit them. The same dealings of his that are most for his glory, shall be most for their good. That Christ, God-man, should be made the head of the angels, is greatly to their benefit several ways.
First, because they become hereby more nearly related to so glorious a person, the Son of God, than otherwise they would have. The angels esteem it a great honor done them to be related to such a person as Jesus Christ, God-man, who is an infinitely honorable person.
The angels, by Christ becoming their head, are with the saints gathered together in one in Christ, Eph. 1:10. They by virtue hereof, though Christ be not their Redeemer as he is ours, have a right and propriety in this glorious person, as well as we. He is theirs. Though not their Savior, yet he is their head of government, and head of influence.
Second, again, this is greatly to their benefit, as they are under advantages for a far more intimate converse with God. The divine nature is at an infinite distance from the nature of angels, as well as from the nature of man. This distance forbids a familiarity and intimacy of intercourse. It is therefore a great advantage to the angels that God has come to them in a created nature, and in that nature has become their head, so that their intercourse and enjoyment may be more intimate. They are invited by the similar qualifications of the created nature, with which the Son of God is invested.
Third, it is for the benefit of the angels, as hereby the elect of mankind are gathered into their society. Christ, by the work of redemption, gathers in the elect of mankind to join the angels of heaven. Eph. 1:10, That in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him. Men are brought in to join with the angels in their work of praising God, to partake with them of their enjoyments. The angels greatly rejoice at this. They rejoice when but one person is gathered in, as Christ teaches us. Luke 15:10, Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. The heavenly society is made more complete by this accession of the saints to it. They contribute to the happiness of each other. The angels rejoice that others are added to join them and assist them in praising God. And thus the vacancy by the fall of angels is filled up.
Fourth, it tends to make the angels to prize their happiness the more when they see how much it cost to purchase the same happiness for man. Though they knew so much, yet they are not incapable of being taught more and more the worth of their own happiness. For when they saw how much it cost to purchase the same happiness for man, even the precious blood of the Son of God, this tended to give them a great sense of the infinite value of their happiness. They never saw such a testimony of the value of the eternal enjoyment of God before.
Thus we have shown, how the wisdom of God appears in the work of redemption in the good ends attained thereby, with respect to God, men, and good angels.
But are there any good ends obtained with respect to bad angels, Gods grand enemies? Undoubtedly there are, as may appear from the few following considerations. Satan and his angels rebelled against God in heaven, and proudly presumed to try their strength with his. And when God by his almighty power overcame the strength of Satan, and sent him like lightning from heaven to hell with all his army, Satan still hoped to get the victory by subtlety. Though he could not overcome by power, yet he hoped to succeed by craft. And so by his subtlety to disappoint God of his end in creating this lower world. God therefore has shown his great wisdom in overthrowing Satans design. He has disappointed the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise. He has carried their counsel headlong.
1. Satan thought to have disappointed God of his glory, which he designed in creation this lower world, and to make mankind be for his own glory, in setting up himself god over them. Now Christ, by what he has done in the work of redemption, has overthrown Satan, and utterly frustrated him as to this end. God is exceedingly glorified in the elect, to the surprise of angels and devils. God by redemption has all the glory that he intended, and more than either men, angels, or devils imagined that God intended. God might have glorified his justice in the destruction of all mankind. But it was Gods design in creation the world, to glorify his goodness and love. And not only to be glorified eventually, but to be served and glorified actually by men. Satan intended to frustrate God of this end. But, by the redemption of Jesus Christ, his design is confounded.
2. Another design of the devil was to gratify his envy in the utter destruction of mankind. But, by the redemption of Jesus Christ, this malicious design of Satan is crossed, because all the elect are brought to their designed happiness, which is much greater than ever Satan thought it was in Gods heart to bestow on man. And though some of mankind are left to be miserable, yet that does not answer Satans end. For this also is ordered for Gods glory. No more are left miserable than God saw meet to glorify his justice upon.
One end why God suffered Satan to do what he did in procuring the fall of man was that his Son might be glorified in conquering that strong, subtle, and proud spirit, and triumphing over him. How glorious does Christ Jesus appear in baffling and triumphing over this proud king of darkness, and all the haughty confederate rulers of hell. How glorious a sight is it to see the meek and patient Lamb of God leading that proud, malicious, and mighty enemy in triumph! What songs does this cause in heaven! It was a glorious sight in Israel, who came out with timbrels and with dances, and sang, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. But how much more glorious to see the Son of David, the Son of God, carrying the head of the spiritual Goliath, the champion of the armies of hell, in triumph to the heavenly Jerusalem! It is with a principal view to this, that Christ is called, the Lord of hosts, or armies, and a man of war, Exo. 15:3. And Psa. 24:8, Who is this king of glory! The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
In this way of salvation wonderful glory redounds to God, as to the effect of divine wisdom.
I. BY this contrivance for our redemption, Gods greatest dishonor is made an occasion of his greatest glory. Sin is a thing by which God is greatly dishonored. The nature of its principle is enmity against God, and contempt of him. And man, by his rebellion, has greatly dishonored God. But this dishonor, by the contrivance of our redemption, is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of Gods glory that ever was. Sin, the greatest evil, is made an occasion of the greatest good. It is the nature of a principle of sin that it seeks to dethrone God. But this is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of Gods royal majesty and glory that ever was. By sin, man has slighted and despised God, but this is made an occasion of his appearing the more greatly honorable. Sin casts contempt upon the authority and law of God. But this, by the contrivance of our redemption, is made the occasion of the greatest honour done to that same authority, and to that very law. It was a greater honor to the law of God that Christ was subject to it, and obeyed it, than if all mankind had obeyed it. It was greater honor to Gods authority that Christ showed such great respect, and such entire subjection to it, than the perfect obedience of all the angels in heaven. Man by his sin showed his enmity against the holiness of God. But this is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of Gods holiness. The holiness of God never appeared to so great a degree, as when God executed vengeance upon his own dear Son.
II. So has the wisdom of God contrived that those attributes are glorified in mans salvation, whose glory seemed to require his destruction. When man had fallen, several attributes of God seemed to require his destruction. The justice of God requires that sin be punished as it deserves. But it deserves no less than eternal destruction. God proclaims it as a part of glory of his nature that he will in no wise clear the guilty, Exo. 34:7. The holiness of God seemed to require mans destruction. For God by his holiness infinitely hates sin. This seemed to require therefore that God should manifest a proportionable hatred of the sinner. And that he should be forever an enemy unto him. The truth of God seemed also to require mans destruction. For eternal death was what God had threatened for sin, one jot or tittle of which threatening cannot by any means pass away. But yet so has God contrived, that those very attributes not only allow of mans redemption, and are not inconsistent with it, but they are glorified in it. Even vindictive justice is glorified in the death and sufferings of Christ. The holiness of God, or his holy hatred of sin, that seemed to require mans damnation, is seen in Christs dying for sinners. So herein also is manifested and glorified the truth of God, in the threatenings of the law.
III. Yea, it is so ordered now that the glory of these attributes requires the salvation of those that believe. The justice of God that required mans damnation, and seemed inconsistent with his salvation, now as much requires the salvation of those that believe in Christ, as ever before it required their damnation. Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, so that he may in justice demand it, on account of what his surety has done. For Christ has satisfied justice fully for his sin. It is but a piece of justice, that the creditor should release the debtor, when he has fully paid the debt. And again, the believer may demand eternal life, because it has been merited by Christ, by a merit of condignity. So is it contrived, that justice that seemed to require mans destruction, now requires his salvation.
So the truth of God that seemed to require mans damnation, now requires his salvation. At the same time that the threatening of the law stands good, there is a promise of eternal life to many who have broken the law. They both stand good at the same time. And the truth of God requires that both should be fulfilled. How much soever they seemed to clash, yet so is the matter contrived in this way of salvation, that both are fulfilled and do not interfere one with another.
At the very time that God uttered the threatening, In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, and at the time that Adam had first eaten the forbidden fruit, there was then an existing promise, that many thousands of Adams race should obtain eternal life. This promise was made to Jesus Christ before the world was. What a difficulty and inconsistency did there seem to be here? But it was no difficulty to the wisdom of God that the promise and the threatening should be both fully accomplished to the glory of Gods truth in each of them. Psa. 25:10, Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
IV. Those very attributes which seemed to require mans destruction are more glorious in his salvation than they would have been in his destruction. The revenging justice of God is a great deal more manifested in the death of Christ than it would have been if all mankind had been sufferers to all eternity. If man had remained under the guilt and imputation of sin, the justice of God would not have had such a trial as it had, when his own Son was under the imputation of sin. If all mankind had stood guilty, and justice had called for vengeance upon them, that would not have been such a trial of the inflexibleness and unchangeableness of the justice of God, as when his own Son, who was the object of his infinite love, and in whom he infinitely delighted, stood with the imputation of guilt upon him.
This was the greatest trial that could be, to manifest whether Gods justice was perfect and unchangeable, or not. Whether God was so just that he would not upon any account abate of what justice required. And whether God would have any respect to persons in judgment.
So the majesty of God appears much more in the sufferings of Christ than it would have done in the eternal sufferings of all mankind. The majesty of a prince appears greater in the just punishment of great personages under the guilt of treason, than of inferior persons. The sufferings of Christ have this advantage over the eternal sufferings of the wicked, for impressing upon the minds of the spectators a sense of the dread majesty of God, and his infinite hatred of sin; viz. that the eternal sufferings of the wicked never will be seen actually accomplished, and finished, whereas they have seen that which is equivalent to those eternal sufferings actually fulfilled and finished in the sufferings of Christ.
V. Such is the wisdom of salvation, that the more any of the elect have dishonored God, the more is God glorified in this redemption. Such wonders as these are accomplished by the wisdom of this way of salvation. Such things as these, if they had been proposed to any created intelligence, would have seemed strange and unaccountable paradoxes, till the counsels of divine wisdom concerning the matter were unfolded.
So sufficient is this way of salvation, that it is not inconsistent with any of Gods attributes to save the chief of sinners. However great a sinner any one has been, yet God can, if he pleased, save without any injury to the glory of any one attribute. And not only so, but the more sinful any one has been, the more does God glorify himself in his salvation. The more does he glorify his power, that he can redeem one in whom sin so abounds, and of whom Satan has such strong possession. The greater triumph has Christ over his grand adversary, in redeeming and setting at liberty from his bondage those that were his greatest vassals. The more does the sufficiency of Christ appear, in that it is sufficient for such vile wretches.
The more is the sovereignty and boundless extent of the mercy of God manifested, in that it is sufficient to redeem those that are undeserving. Rom. 5:20, Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
How the wisdom of God appears in the manner and circumstances of obtaining the good intended.
WE now come to take notice of some wonderful circumstances of the attainment of our good, hereby; which shows the great wisdom of the contrivance.
I. So has God contrived in this way, that a sinful creature should become not guilty; and that he who has no righteousness of his own, should become righteous. These things, if they had been proposed, would have appeared contradictious to any but the divine understanding.
If it had been proposed to any created intelligence, to find out a way in which a sinful creature should not be a guilty creature, how impossible would it have been judged, that there should be any way at all. It would doubtless have been judged impossible but that he who has committed sin, must stand guilty of the sin he has committed. And if sin necessarily obliges to punishment, it must oblige him who has committed it. If punishment and sin be inseparable, then that punishment, and the sinner are inseparable. If the law denounces death to the person who is guilty of sin, and if it be impossible that the law should not take place, then he who has committed sin must die. Thus any created understanding would have thought.
And if it had been proposed that here should be some way found out, wherein man might be righteous without fulfilling righteousness himself, so that he might reasonably and properly be looked upon and accepted as a righteous person, and adjudged to the reward of righteousness, and yet have no righteousness, and yet have broken the law, and done nothing else but break it this doubtless would have been looked upon as impossible and contradictious.
But yet the wisdom of God has truly accomplished each of these things. He has accomplished that men, though sinners, should be without guilt, in that he has found out a way that the threatenings of the law should truly and properly be fulfilled, and punishment be executed on sin, and yet not on the sinner. The sufferings of Christ answer the demands of the law, with respect to the sins of those who believe in him. And justice is truly satisfied thereby. And the law is fulfilled and answered by the obedience of Christ, so that his righteousness should properly be our righteousness. Though not performed by us, yet it is properly and reasonably accepted for us, as much as if we had performed it ourselves. Divine wisdom has so contrived, that such an interchanging of sin and righteousness should be consistent, and most agreeable with reason, with the law, and Gods holy attributes. For Jesus Christ has so united himself to us, and us to him, as to make himself ours, our head. The love of Christ to the elect is so great, that God the Father looks upon it proper and suitable to account Christ and the elect as one; and accordingly to account what Christ does and suffers, as if they did and suffered it. That love of Christ which is so great as to render him willing to put himself in the stead of the elect, and to bear the misery that they deserved, does, in the Fathers account, so unite Christ and the elect, that they may be looked upon as legally one.
II. It shows wonderful wisdom that our good should be procured by such seemingly unlikely and opposite means, as the humiliation of the Son of God. When Christ was about to undertake that great work of redemption, he did not take the method that any creature wisdom would have thought as the most proper. Creature wisdom would have determined that in order to his effectually and more gloriously accomplishing such a great work, he should rather have been exalted higher, if it had been possible, rather than humbled so low. Earthly kings and princes, when they are about to engage in any great and difficult work, will put on their strength, an will appear in all their majesty and power, that they may be successful. But when Christ was about to perform the great work of redeeming a lost world, the wisdom of God took an opposite method, and determined that he should be humbled and abased to a mean state, and appear in low circumstances. He did not deck himself with glory, but laid it aside. He emptied himself. Phil. 2:6, 7, 8, Being in the form of God he made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Creature wisdom would have thought that Christ, in order to perform this great work, should deck himself with all his strength. But divine wisdom determined that he should be made weak, or put on the infirmities of human nature.
And why did divine wisdom determine that he should become thus weak? It was that he might be subject to want, and to suffering, and to the power and malice of his enemies. But then what advantage could it be to him in this work, to be subject to the power and malice of his enemies? It was the very design on which he came into the world, to overcome his enemies.
Who would have thought that this was the way to overthrow them, that he should become weak and feeble, and for that very end that he might be subject to their power and malice. But this is the very means by which God determined that Christ should prevail against his enemies, even that he should be subject to their power, that they might prevail against him, so as to put him to disgrace, and pain, and death.
What other but divine wisdom could ever have determined, that this was the way to be taken in order to being successful in the work of our redemption. This would have appeared to creature wisdom the most direct course to be frustrated that could be devised. But it was indeed the way to glorious success, and the only way. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, 1 Cor. 1:25. God has brought strength out of weakness, glory out of ignominy and reproach. Christs shame and reproach are the only means by which a way is made to our eternal honor.
The wisdom of God has made Christs humiliation the means of our exaltation. His coming down from heaven is that which brings us to heaven. The wisdom of God has made life the fruit of death. The death of Christ was the only means by which we could have eternal life. The death of a person who was God, was the only way by which we could come to have life in God. Here favor is made to arise out of wrath; our acceptance into Gods favor out of Gods wrath upon his own Son. A blessing rises out of curse; our everlasting blessedness, from Christ being made a curse for us. Our righteousness is made to rise out Christs imputed guilt. He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God, 2 Cor. 5:21. By such wonderful means has the wisdom of God procured our salvation.
III. Our sin and misery, by this contrivance, are made an occasion of our greater blessedness. This is a very wonderful thing. It would have been a very wonderful thing if we had been merely restored from sin and misery, to be as we were before. But it was a much more wonderful thing that we should be brought to a higher blessedness than ever, and that our sin and misery should be the occasion of it, and should make way for it.
First, it was wonderful that sin should be made the occasion of our greater blessedness. For sin deserves misery. By our sin we had deserved to be everlastingly miserable. But this is so turned by divine wisdom, that it is made an occasion of our being more happy. It was a strange thing that sin should be the occasion of anything else but misery. But divine wisdom has found out a way whereby the sinner might not only escape being miserable, but that he should be happier than before he sinned, yea than he would have been if he had never sinned at all. And this sin and unworthiness of his are the occasion of this greater blessedness.
Second, it was a wonderful thing that mans own misery should be an occasion of his greater happiness. For happiness and misery are contraries. And mans misery was very great. He was under the wrath and curse of God, and condemned to everlasting burning. But the sin and misery of man, by this contrivance, are made an occasion of his being more happy, not only than he was before the fall, but than he would have been if he never had fallen.
Our first parents, if they had stood and persevered in perfect obedience, till God had given them the fruit of the tree of life as a seal of their reward, would probably have been advanced to higher happiness. For they before were but in a state probation for their reward. And it is not to be supposed but that their happiness was to have been greater after they had persisted in obedience, and had actually received the reward, than it was while they were in a state of trial for it. But by the redemption of Christ, the sin and misery of the elect are made an occasion of their being brought to a higher happiness than mankind would have had if they had persisted in obedience till they had received the reward. For,
1. Man is hereby brought to a greater and nearer union with God. If man had never fallen, God would have remained mans friend. He would have enjoyed Gods favor, and so would have been the object of Christs favor, as he would have had the favor of all the persons of the Trinity. But now Christ becoming our surety and Savior, and having taken on him our nature, occasions between Christ and us an union of a quite different kind, and a nearer relation than otherwise would have been. The fall is the occasion of Christs becoming our head, and the church his body. And believers are become his brethren, and spouse, in a manner that otherwise would not have been. And by our union with Christ we have a greater union with the natural Son of God. Gal. 4:4-6, When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. And therefore Christ has taught us, in all our addresses to God, to call him our Father, in like manner as he calls him Father John 20:17, Go tell my brethren, behold I ascend to my Father, and your Father.
This is one of the wonderful things brought about by the work of redemption, that thereby our separation from God is made an occasion of a greater union than was before, or otherwise would have been. When we fell, there was dreadful separation made betwixt God and us, but this is made an occasion of a greater union. John 17:20-23, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.
2. Man now has greater manifestations of the glory and love of God than otherwise he would have had. In the manifestations of these two things, mans happiness principally consists. Now, man by the work of redemption, has greater manifestation of both, than otherwise he would have had. We have already spoken particularly of the glory of God, and what advantages even the angels have by the discoveries of it in this work. But if they have such advantages, much more will man who is far more directly concerned in this affair than they. Here are immediately greater displays of the love of God, than man had before he fell: or, as we may well suppose, than he would have had, if he had never fallen. God now manifests his love to his people by sending his Son into the world to die for them. There never would have been any such testimony of the love of God, if man had not fallen.
Christ manifests his love, by coming into the world, and laying down his life. This is the greatest testimony of divine love that can be conceived. Now surely the greater discoveries Gods people have of his love to them, the more occasion will they have to rejoice in that love. Here will be a delightful theme for the saints to contemplate to all eternity, which they never could have had, if man never had fallen, viz. the dying love of Christ. They will have occasion now to sing that song forever. Rev. 1:5,6, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to whom be glory and dominion for ever. Amen.
3. Man now has greater motives offered him to love God than otherwise he ever would have had. Mans happiness consists in mutual love between God and man, in seeing Gods love to him, and in reciprocally loving God. And the more he sees of Gods love to him, and the more he loves God, the more happy must he be. His love to God is as necessary in order to his happiness, as the seeing of Gods love to him. For he can have no joy in beholding Gods love to him, any otherwise than as he loves God. This make the saints prize Gods love to them. For they love him. If they did not love God, to see his love to them would not make them happy. But the more any person loves another, the more will he be delighted in the manifestations of that others love. There is provision therefore made for both in the work of redemption. There are greater manifestations of the love of God to us, than there would have been if man had not fallen. And also there are greater motives to love him than otherwise there would have been. There are greater obligations to love him, for God has done more for us to win our love. Christ has died for us.
Again, man is now brought to a more universal and immediate and sensible dependence on God, than otherwise he would have been. All his happiness is now of him, through him, in him. If man had not fallen, he would have had all his happiness of God by his own righteousness. But now it is by the righteousness of Christ. He would have had all his holiness of God, but not so sensibly, because then he would have been holy from the beginning, as soon as he received his being. But now, he is first sinful and universally corrupt, and afterwards is made holy. If man had held his integrity misery would have been a stranger to him. And therefore happiness would not have been so sensible a derivation from God, as it is now, when man looks to God from the deeps of distress, cries repeatedly to him, and waits upon him. He is convinced by abundant experience, that he has no place of resort but God, who is graciously pleased, in consequence of mans earnest and persevering suit, to appear to his relief, to take him out of the miry clay and horrible pit, set him upon a rock, establish his goings, and put a new song into his mouth. By mans having thus a more immediate, universal, and sensible dependence, God does more entirely secure mans undivided respect. There is a greater motive for man to make God his all in all, to love him rejoice in him as his only portion.
4. By the contrivance for our salvation, mans sin and misery are but an occasion of his being brought to a more full and free converse with and enjoyment of God than otherwise would have been. For as we have observed already, the union is greater; and the greater the union, the more full the communion, and intimate the intercourse. Christ is come down to man in his own nature. And hereby he may converse with Christ more intimately, than the infinite distance of the divine nature would allow. This advantage is more than what the angels have. For Christ is not only in a created nature, but he is in mans own nature. We have also advantages for a more full enjoyment of God. By Christs incarnation, the saints may see God with their bodily eyes, as well as by an intellectual view. The saints, after the day of judgment, will consist of both body and soul. They will have outward as well as spiritual sight. It is now ordered by divine wisdom, that God himself, or a divine person, should be the principal entertainment of both these kinds of sight, spiritual and corporal. And the saints in heaven shall not only have an intellectual sight of God, but they shall see a divine person as they see one another; not only spiritually, but outwardly. The body of Jesus Christ will appear with that transcendent visible majesty and beauty, which is exceedingly expressive of the divine majesty, beauty, and glory. The body of Christ shall appear with the glory of God upon it, as Christ tells us. Mat. 16:27, The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father. Thus to see God will be a great happiness to the saints. Job comforted himself that he should see God with his bodily eyes. Job 19:26, And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
5. Mans sin and misery is made an occasion of his greater happiness, as he has now a greater relish of happiness, by reason of his knowledge of both. In order to happiness, there must be two things, viz. union to a proper object and a relish of the object. Mans misery is made an occasion of increasing both these by the work of redemption. We have shown already, that the union is increased, and so is the relish too, by the knowledge man now has of evil. These contraries, good and evil, heighten the sense of one another. The forbidden tree was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of evil, because by it we came to the experience of evil. Of good, because we should never have known so well what good was, if it had not been for that tree. We are taught the value of good, by our knowledge of its contrary, evil. This teaches us to prize good, and makes us the more to relish and rejoice in it. The saints know something what a state of sin and alienation from God is. They know something what the anger of God is, and what it is to be in danger of hell. And this makes them the more exceedingly to rejoice in the favor and in the enjoyment of God.
Take two persons; one who never knew what evil was, but was happy from the first moment of his being, having the favor of God, and numerous tokens of it; another who is in a very doleful and undone condition. Let there be bestowed upon these two persons the same blessings, [subjectively,] the same good things. And let them be objectively in the same glorious circumstances, and which will rejoice most? Doubtless he that was brought to this happiness out of a miserable and doleful state. So the saints in heaven will forever the more rejoice in God, and in the enjoyment of his love, for their being brought to it out of a most lamentable state and condition.
Some wonderful circumstances of the overthrow of Satan.
THE wisdom of God greatly and remarkably appears in so exceedingly baffling and compounding all the subtlety of the old serpent. Power never appears so conspicuous as when opposed and conquering opposition. The same may be said of wisdom. It never appears so brightly, and with such advantage, as when opposed by the subtlety of some very crafty enemy, and in baffling and confounding that subtlety. The devil is exceeding subtle. The subtlety of the serpent is emblematical of his, Gen. 3:1. He was once one of the brightest intelligences of heaven, and one of the brightest, if not the very brightest, of all. And all the devils were once morning stars, of a glorious brightness of understanding. They still have the same faculties, though they ceased to be influenced and guided by the Holy Spirit of God. And so their heavenly wisdom is turned into hellish craft and subtlety. God in the work of redemption has wondrously baffled the utmost craft of the devils, and though they are all combined to frustrate Gods designs of glory to himself, and goodness to men. The wisdom of God appears very glorious herein. For,
I. Consider the weak and seemingly despicable means and weapons that God employs to overthrow Satan. Christ poured the greater contempt upon Satan in the victory that he obtained over him, by reason of the means of his preparing himself for it, and the weapons he has used. Christ chooses to encounter Satan in the human nature, in a poor, frail, afflicted state. He did as David did. David when going against the Philistine refused Sauls armor, a helmet of brass, a coat of mail, and his sword. No, he puts them all off. Goliath comes mightily armed against David, with a helmet of brass upon his head, a coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels of brass, greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders, a spear, whose staff was like a weavers beam, and the spears head weighing six hundred shekels of iron. And besides all this, he had one bearing a shield before him. But David takes nothing but a staff in his hand, and a shepherds bag and a sling, and he goes against the Philistine. So the weapons that Christ made use of were his poverty, afflictions and reproaches, sufferings and death. His principal weapon was his cross, the instrument of his own reproachful death. These were seemingly weak and despicable instruments to wield against such a giant as Satan. And doubtless the devil disdained them as much as Goliath did Davids staves and sling. But with such weapons as these has Christ in a human, weak, mortal nature overthrown and baffled all the craft of hell.
Such disgrace and contempt has Christ poured upon Satan. David had a more glorious victory over Goliath for his conquering him with such mean instruments; and Samson over the Philistines, for killing so many of them with such a despicable weapon as the jaw-bone of an ass. It is spoken of in Scripture as a glorious triumph of Christ over the devil, that he should overcome him by such a despicable weapon as his cross. Col. 2:14, 15, Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross: and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. God shows his great and infinite wisdom in taking this method, to confound the wisdom and subtlety of his enemies. He hereby shows how easily he can do it, and that he infinitely wiser than they. 1 Cor. 1:27-29, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty: and the base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are.
II. God has thereby confounded Satan with his own weapons. It is so contrived in the work of redemption, that our grand enemy should be made a means of his own confusion. And that, by those very things whereby he endeavors to rob God of his glory, and to destroy mankind, he is made an instrument of frustrating his own designs. His most subtle and powerful endeavors for accomplishing his designs are made a means of confounding them, and of promoting the contrary. Of this, I will mention but two instances.
First, his procuring mans fall is made an occasion of the contrary to what he designed. Indeed he has hereby procured the ruin of multitudes of mankind, which he aimed at. But in this he does not frustrate Gods design from all eternity to glorify himself. And the misery of multitudes of mankind will prove no content to him, but will enhance his own misery.
What Satan did in tempting man to fall is made an occasion of the contrary to what he intended, in that it gave occasion for God to glorify himself the more; and giveth occasion for the elect being brought to higher happiness.
The happy state of man was envied by Satan. That man who was of earthly original should be advance to such honors, when he who was originally of a so much more noble nature should be cast down to such disgrace, his pride could not bear. How then would Satan triumph, when he had brought him down!
The devil tempted our first parents with this, that if they would eat of the forbidden fruit, they should be a gods. It was a lie in Satans mouth. For he aimed at nothing else but to fool man out of his happiness, and make him his own slave and vassal, with a blinded expectation of being like a god. But little did Satan think that God would turn it so, as to make mans fall an occasion of Gods becoming man. And so an occasion of our nature being advanced to a state of closer union to God.
By this means it comes to pass, that one in mans nature now sits at the right hand of God, invested with divine power and glory, and reigns over heaven and earth with God-like power and dominion. Thus is Satan disappointed in his subtlety. As he intended that saying, Ye shall be as gods, it was lie, to decoy and befool man. Little did he think that it would be in such manner verified by the incarnation of the Son of God. And this is the occasion also of all the elect being united to this divine person, so that they become one with Christ. Believers are as members and parts of Christ. Yea, the church is called Christ. Little did Satan think, that his telling that lie to our first parents, Ye shall be as gods, would be the occasion of their being members of Christ the Son of God.
Again, Satan is made a means of his own confusion in this: It was Satans design, in tempting man to sin, to make man his captive and slave forever; to have plagued, and triumphed over him. And this very thing is a means to bring it about, that man instead of being his vassal should be his judge. The elect, instead of being his captives, to be forever tormented and triumphed over by him, shall sit as judges to sentence him to everlasting torment. It has been the means, that one in mans nature, should be his supreme Judge. It was mans nature that Satan so envied, and sought to make a prey of. But Jesus Christ at the last day shall come in mans nature. And the devils shall be all brought to stand trembling at his bar. And he shall judge, and condemn them, and execute the wrath of God upon them. And not only shall Christ in the human nature judge the devils, but all the saints shall judge them with Christ as assessors with him in judgment. 1 Cor. 6:3, Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
Secondly, In another instance Satan is made a means of his own confusion, that is, in his procuring the death of Christ. Satan set himself to oppose Christ as soon as he appeared. He sought, by all means, to procure his ruin. He set the Jews against him. He filled the minds of the scribes and Pharisees with the most bitter persecuting malice against Christ. He sought by all means to procure his death. And that he might be put to the most ignominious death. We read that Satan entered into Judas, and tempted him to betray him, Luke 22:3. And Christ speaks of his sufferings as being the effects of the power of darkness. Luke 22:53, When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour and the power of darkness. But Satan hereby overthrows his own kingdom. Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. And this was the very thing that did it, viz. the blood and death of Christ. The cross was the devils own weapon. And with this weapon he was overthrown; as David cut off Goliaths head with his own sword.
Christ thus making Satan a means of his own confusion was typified of old by Samsons getting honey out of the carcass of the lion. There is more implied in Samsons riddle, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness, than ever the Philistines explained. It was verified by Christ in a far more glorious manner. Gods enemies and ours are taken in the pit which they themselves have dug. And their own soul is taken in the net which they have laid. Thus we have shown, in some measure, the wisdom of this way of salvation by Jesus Christ.
The superiority of this wisdom to that of the angels.
THE wisdom of this contrivance appears to have been above the wisdom of the angels by the following things.
I. It appears that the angels did not fully comprehend the contrivance, till they saw it accomplished. They knew that man was to be redeemed, long before Christ came into the world. But yet they did not fully comprehend it until they saw it. This is evident by the expression in the text. That now might be known unto the principalities–the manifold wisdom of God. i.e. Now the work is actually accomplished by Jesus Christ. Which implies that it was now new to them. If they understood no more of it now, than they had all along, the apostle would never have expressed himself so. For he is speaking of it as a mystery, in a measure kept hid until now.
Now it is to be considered that the angels had four thousand years to contemplate this affair. And they did not want inclination and desire to understand and look into it, as the Scripture teaches us. They had also a great deal to put them upon an attentive contemplation of it. For when it was made known that God had such a design, it must appear a new and wonderful thing to them. They had seen their fellow-angels destroyed without mercy. And this redeeming of the fallen sinful creature was quite a new thing. It must needs be astonishing to them, when God had revealed this design of mercy to them presently after the fall. And had given an intimation of it, in saying, The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpents head. They knew that God had such a design. For they were, from the beginning, ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those that were the heirs of salvation. They were present at the institution of the typical dispensation, that was so full of shadows of gospel-truth, Psa. 69:17.
The angels contemplating the contrivance of our redemption was typified by the posture of the cherubim over the mercy-seat, which was the lid of the ark. These emblems were made bending down towards the ark and mercy-seat. This is what the apostle Peter is thought to have some reference to, 1 Pet. 1:12. Yet the angels, though for four thousand years they had been studying this contrivance, did not fully comprehend it till they saw it accomplished. This shows that the wisdom of it was far above theirs. For if they could not fully comprehend it after it had been revealed that there was such a design and after much of it had already been made known in the Old Testament how much less could they have found it out of themselves.
Consider for what end this wisdom of God was made known unto the angels, viz. that they might admire and prize it. It was made known to them, that they might see how manifold, how great and glorious, it is; that they might see the unspeakable depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, as the apostle expresses it, Rom. 11:33. It was manifested to them that they might see the glory of God in it, and how great and wonderful the mystery was. 1 Tim. 3:16, Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels. Now if the wisdom of it were not far above their own understandings, this would not be shown them for the express purpose that they might admire and praise God for it.
2. It appears to be above the wisdom of the angels because they are still contemplating it, and endeavoring to see more and more of it. Indeed there is room for their faculties to employ themselves to all eternity. It is evident, from 1 Peter 1:12, that they are still employing themselves in endeavoring to see more and more of Gods wisdom appearing in the work of redemption, Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. They still desire to look into it, after they have seen it accomplished. They do not so perfectly comprehend all the wisdom that is to be seen in it. But they are contemplating, looking into it, that they may see more and more. But there will still be room enough in this work to employ the angelical understandings.
The subject improved
I. HENCE we may learn the blindness of the world that the wisdom appearing the work of redemption is no more admired in it. God has revealed this his glorious design and contrivance to the world, sends forth his gospel, and causes it to be preached abroad, in order to declare to the world that his infinite wisdom has been engaged for mans salvation. But how little is it regarded! There are some who have their eyes opened to behold the wondrous things of the gospel, who see the glory of God in, and admire the wisdom of it. But the greater part are wholly blind to it. They see nothing in all this that is any way glorious and wonderful. Though the angels account it worthy of their most engaged and deep contemplation; yet the greater part of men take little notice of it. It is all a dull story and dead letter to many of them. They cannot see anything in it above the wisdom of men. Yea, the gospel to many seems foolishness.
Though the light that shines in the world be so exceeding glorious, yet how few are there that do see it. The glory of Gods wisdom in this work is surpassing the brightness of the sun. But so blind is the world that it sees nothing. It does not know that the Son of righteousness shines. Thus it has been in all ages, and wherever the gospel has been preached, ministers of the Word of God in all ages have had occasion to say, Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Thus the prophets were sent to many with that errand. Isa. 6:9, 10, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
When Christ that glorious prophet came, and more fully revealed the counsels of God concerning our redemption, how many were then blind! How much did Christ complain of them! How blind were the scribes and Pharisees, the most noted sect of men among the Jews for wisdom. They beheld no glory in that gospel which Christ preached unto them, which gave him occasion to call them fools and blind, Mat. 23:17. So it was again in the apostles times. In all places where they preached, some believed, and some believed not, Acts 28:24. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed, chap. 13:48. The election obtained, but the rest were blinded, Rom. 11:7. And so it is still in those places where the gospel is preached. There are a few who see the glory of the gospel. God has a small number whose eyes he opens, who are called out of darkness into marvelous light, and who have an understanding to see the wisdom and fitness of the way of life. But how many are there who sit under the preaching of the gospel all their days, yet never see any divine wisdom or glory in it! To their dying day they are unaffected with it. When they hear it, they see nothing to attract their attention, much less excite any admiration. To preach the gospel to them will serve very well to lull them asleep, but produces very little other effect upon them. This shows the exceeding wickedness of the heart of man. How affecting the thought, that infinite wisdom should be set on work, so as to surprise the angels, and to entertain them from age to age: and that to men, though so plainly set before them, it should appear foolishness! 1 Cor. 1:18, The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.
II. This is a great confirmation of the truth of the gospel. The gospel stands in no need of external evidences of its truth and divinity. It carries its own light and evidence with it. There is that in its nature that sufficiently distinguishes it, to those who are spiritually enlightened, from all the effects of human invention. There are evident appearances of the divine perfections, the stamp of divine glory, of which this of the divine wisdom is not the least part.
There is as much in the gospel to show that it is no work of men, as there is in the sun in the firmament. As persons of mature reason who look upon the sun, and consider the nature of it, its wonderful height, its course, its brightness and heat, may know that it is no work of man. So, if the gospel be duly considered, if the true nature of it be seen, it may be known that it is no work of man, and that it must be form God. And if the wisdom appearing in the gospel be duly considered, it will be seen as much to excel all human wisdom, as the suns light excels the light of fires of our own kindling. The contrivance of our salvation is of such a nature that no one can rationally conclude that man had any hand in it. The nature of the contrivance is such, so out of the way of all human thoughts, so different from all human inventions, so much more sublime, excellent, and worthy, that it does not savor at all of the craft or subtlety of man. It savors of God only.
If any are ready to think man might have found out such a way of salvation for sinners so honorable to God, to his holiness and authority they do not well consider the scantiness of human understanding. Mankind were of a poor capacity for any such undertaking. For, till the gospel enlightened the world, they had but miserable notions of what was honorable to God. They could have but poor notions of what way would be suitable to the divine perfections. For they were woefully in the dark about these divine perfections themselves, till the gospel came abroad in the world. They had strange notions about a Deity. Most of them thought there were many gods. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things, Rom. 1:23. They attributed vices to God. Even the philosophers, their wisest men entertained but imperfect notions of the Supreme Being. How then should men find out a way so glorious and honorable to God, and agreeable to his perfection, who had no wisdom enough to get any tolerable notions of God, till the gospel was revealed to them. They groped in the dark. Their notions showed the infinite insufficiency of mans blind understanding for any such undertaking, as the contriving of a way of salvation every way honorable to God, and suitable to the needs of a fallen creature.
But since the gospel has told what Gods counsels are, and how he has contrived a way for our salvation, men are ready to despise it, and foolishly to exalt their own understanding, and to imagine they could have found out as good a way themselves. When, alas! men, of themselves, had no notion of what was honorable to God, and suitable for a Divine Being. They did not so much as think of the necessity of Gods law being answered, and justice satisfied. And if they had, how dreadfully would they have been puzzled to have found out the way how! Who would have thought of a trinity of persons in the Godhead, and that one should sustain the rights of the Godhead, and another should be the Mediator, and another should make application of redemption? Who would have thought of such a thing as three distinct persons, and yet but one God? All the same Being, and yet three persons! Who would have thought of this, in order to have found out a way for satisfying justice? Who would have thought of a way for answering the law that threatened eternal death, without the sinners suffering eternal death? And who would have thought of any such thing as a divine person suffering the wrath of God? And if they had who would have contrived a way how he should suffer, since the divine nature cannot suffer?
Who would have thought of any such thing as God becoming man, two natures and but one person? These things are exceedingly out of the way of human thought and contrivance. It is most unreasonable to think that the world, who, till the gospel enlightened them, were so blind about the nature of God and divine things, should contrive such a way that should prove thus to answer all ends, every way to suit what the case required, most glorious to God, and answerable to all mans necessities. Everything is so fully provided for, and no absurdity to be found in the whole affair, but all speaking forth the most perfect wisdom. That there should be no infringement upon holiness or justice, nothing dishonorable to the majesty of God, no encouragement to sin, all possible motives to holiness, all manner of happiness provided, and Satan so confounded and entirely overthrown. How truly wonderful!
And if we suppose that all this notwithstanding was the invention of men, whose invention should it be? Who should be pitched upon as the most likely to invent it? It was not the invention of the Jews. For they were the most bitter enemies to it. The wise men among them, when they first heard of it, conceived malice against it, till the apostles preached it to them. And it appeared a very foolish doctrine to the wise men among them. The doctrine of Christ crucified was not only to the Jews a stumbling-block, but also to the Greeks foolishness, 1 Cor. 1:23. Besides, it was contrary to all their notions about a Deity, and they knew nothing about the fall of man, and the like, till the gospel revealed it to them.
It was not the invention of the apostles. For the apostles, of themselves, were no way capable of any such learned contrivance. They were poor fishermen and publicans, an obscure and illiterate sort of men, till they were extra-ordinarily taught. They were all surprised when they first heard of it. When they heard that Christ must die for sinners, they were offended at it. And it was a long while before they were brought fully to receive it.
There is but one way left. And that is, to suppose, that Christ was a mere man, a very subtle crafty man, and that he invented it all. But this is as unreasonable as the rest. For it would have been all against himself, to invent a way of salvation by his own crucifixion, a most tormenting and ignominious death.
III. How great a sin they are guilty of who despise and reject this way of salvation! When God has manifested such unsearchable riches of wisdom, when all the persons of the Trinity have as it were held a consultation from all eternity in providing a way of salvation for us sinful miserable worms a way that should be sufficient and every way suitable for us a way that should be in all things complete, whereby we might have not only full pardon of all our sins, and deliverance from hell, but also full blessedness in heaven forever, How must God needs be provoked, when after all, men reject this way of salvation!
When salvation comes to be preached, and is offered to them in this way, when they are invited to accept of its benefits, and yet they despise and refuse it, they thus practically deny it to be a wise way, and call this wisdom of God foolishness. How provoking it must be when such a poor creature as man shall rise up and find fault with that wisdom which is so far above the wisdom of angels! This is one thing wherein consists the heinousness of the sin of unbelief, that it implies a rejecting and despising of divine wisdom in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. Unbelief finds fault with the wisdom of God in the choice of the person, for performing this work. It dislikes the person of Christ. It sees no form nor comeliness in him, nor beauty wherefore it should desire him.
That person whom the wisdom of God looked upon as the fittest person of any, the only fit person, is despised and rejected by unbelief. Men, through unbelief, find fault with the salvation itself that Christ has purchased. They do not like to be saved as Christ would save. They do not like to be made holy, and to have such a happiness as is to be had in God for a portion.
It may not be amiss here to mention two or three ways whereby persons are guilty of a provoking contempt of the wisdom of God in the way of salvation.
First, they are guilty of a provoking contempt, who live in a careless neglect of their salvation. They who are secure in their sins, and are not much concerned about either salvation or damnation. This is practically charging God with folly. Its language is, that all is in vain, and to no purpose, that God has contrived and consulted for our salvation, when there was no need of it. They are well enough as they are. They do not see any great necessity of a Savior. They like that state they are in, and do not much desire to be delivered out of it. They do not thank him for all his consultation and contrivance, and think he might have spared his cost. God has greatly minded that, which they do not think worth minding, and has contrived abundantly for that which they do not trouble their heads about.
Second, they are guilty of provoking contempt of the wisdom of this way of salvation, who go about to contrive ways of their own. They who are not content with salvation by the righteousness of Christ, which God has provided, are for contriving some way of being saved by their own righteousness. These find fault with the wisdom of Gods way, and set up their own wisdom in opposition to it. How greatly must God be provoked by such conduct!
Third, those that entertain discouraged and despairing apprehension about their salvation cast contempt on the wisdom of God. They think that because they have been such great sinners, God will not be willing to pardon them [and] Christ will not be willing to accept of them. They fear that Christ, in the invitations of the gospel, does not mean such wicked creatures as they are; that because they have committed so much sin, they have sinned beyond the reach of mercy. They think it is in vain for them to seek for salvation, as though it were not all-sufficient: as though the wisdom of God had not found out a way that was sufficient for the salvation of great sinners.
The misery of unbelievers
UNBELIEVERS have no portion in this matter. There is a most glorious way of salvation, but you, who are unbelievers, have no interest in it. The wisdom of God has been gloriously employed for the deliverance of men from a miserable, doleful state. But you are never the better for it, because you reject it. If you continue in that state, this wisdom will do you no good.
Christ is a glorious person, every way fit to be a Savior of sinners, a person who has power sufficient, wisdom sufficient, merit sufficient, and love sufficient for perfecting this work. And he is the only fit person. But you have no right in him. You can lay claim to no benefit by his power, wisdom, love, or merits. This wisdom of God has found out a way whereby this Savior might satisfy justice, and fulfill the law for us. But you have no lot in the incarnation, death, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
The wisdom of God has contrived a way of salvation that there should be procured for us perfect and everlasting happiness. Here is a most glorious portion, viz. the Divine Being himself, with his glorious perfections. Here it is purchased, that we should see God face to face that we should converse and dwell with God in his own glorious habitation that we should be the children of God, and be conformed to him. Here we have prepared all needed good, both for the souls and bodies of sinners, all needed earthly good things while here, and glory for both body and soul hereafter forever.
But you are never the better for all this. You have no lot nor portion in any of it. Notwithstanding all this rich provision, you remain in the same miserable state and condition, in which you came into the world. Though the provision of the gospel be so full, yet your poor soul remains in a famishing, perishing state. You remain dead in trespasses and sins, under the dominion of Satan, in a condemned state, having the wrath of God abiding on you, and being daily exposed to the dreadful effects of it in hell. Notwithstanding all this provision, you remain wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked. O that you might turn to God through Jesus Christ, be numbered among his disciples and faithful followers, and so be entitled to their privileges! They have an interest in this glorious Savior, and are entitled to all the ineffable blessedness of his kingdom, so far as their capacities will admit. But you remain without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, having no well-grounded hope, and without God in the world. Further consider a few things.
I. It argues the great misery of sinners that the wisdom of God should be exercised to such a degree in order to find out a way to deliver them from it. Their case surely was most deplorable, since it required infinite wisdom to find out a way for their deliverance. The wisdom of angels was not sufficient. Nothing but divine wisdom could reach and remedy their case. And all the persons of the Trinity did enter into a consultation about it. If mans misery were not very great, divine wisdom would not have been exercised for his deliverance from it. God would not contrive and do things so wonderful in a trivial affair. If the salvation of a sinner were not a great salvation, from an exceeding great misery, it is not to be supposed, that Gods wisdom should be more signalized in this affair than in any other whatever.
But so it is, this contrivance seems to be spoken of in Scripture as the master-piece of divine wisdom. This work of redemption is represented as most wonderful, and spoken of in Scripture in the most exalted manner of any work of God. Doubtless therefore salvation is a great thing. And consequently the misery that sinners are saved from is a great and unspeakable misery. Now this is the misery that you are all in, who remain in a natural condition. This is the condemnation you lie under. This is the wrath of God that abides upon you. The wisdom of God knew it to be a very doleful thing for a person to be in a natural state, and therefore did so exercise itself to deliver miserable sinners out of it. But this is the state that many among us do yet remain in.
II. Consider, that if you continue in the state you are in, you will be so far from being the better for this contrivance, that you will be much more miserable for it. The justice and wisdom of the way of salvation will be your condemnation. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19. If you continue in the state that you are now in, it would have been better for you, if Christ had never died for sinners, if God had left all mankind to perish, as he did the fallen angels. Your punishment then would have been light in comparison of what it will be now. You will have greater sins by far to answer for; and all your sins will be abundantly the more aggravated.
Since I have been upon this subject, I have observed that the work of redemption is an occasion of the elect being brought to greater happiness than man could have had, if he had not fallen. And it is also true as to reprobates, that it will be an occasion of their having greater misery that they would have had, if there had been no redemption. 2 Cor. 2:15, For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are a savour of death unto death; and to the other we are a savour of life unto life. If you perish at last, you will be the more miserable for the benefits of the gospel being so glorious, and that because your crime in rejecting and despising them will be the more heinous. Heb. 2:3, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.
III. Whilst you continue an unbeliever, the more you hear of this way of salvation, your condition will become the more miserable. The longer you sit under the preaching of the gospel, the more doleful does you case grow. Your guilt continually increases. For your refusal of the gospel, and your rejections of this way of salvation, are so much the oftener repeated. Every time you hear the gospel preached, you are guilty of renewed rejection of it, the guilt of which therefore you will have lying upon you. And the more you hear of the suitableness and glory of this way, the greater is your guilt who still continue to reject it. Every new illustration of the wisdom and grace of God in redemption adds to you guilt. Mat. 23:37, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!” What adds to your misery is, that as long as it continues, it is a growing evil.
IV. Consider the danger there is, that you will never have any lot or portion in this matter, seeing there are but few that have. Christ has told us that strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. There have been but few in all ages of the world. Many seek, and many hope that they shall obtain. There are but few that intend to be damned, while many hope that they shall some way or other find means to escape eternal misery. But after all, there are but few saved, or obtain the benefits of redemption.
Exhortation to come to Christ
I CONCLUDE with an use of exhortation to come to Christ, and accept of salvation in this way. You are invited to come to Christ, heartily to close with him, and trust in him for salvation. And if you do so, you shall have the benefit of all, as much as if the whole had been contrived for you alone. God has already contrived everything that is needful for your salvation. And there is nothing wanting but your consent. Since God has taken this matter of the redemption of sinners into his own hand, he has made thorough work of it. He has not left it for you to finish. Satisfaction is already made, righteousness is already wrought out, death and hell are already conquered. The Redeemer has already taken possession of glory, and keeps it in his hands to bestow on them who come to him. There were many difficulties in the way, but they are all removed. The Savior has already triumphed over all, and is at the right hand of God, to give eternal life to his people.
Salvation is ready brought to your door and the Savior stands, knocks, and calls that you would open to him, that he might bring it in to you. There remains nothing but your consent. All the difficulty now remaining is with your own heart. If you perish now, it must be wholly at your door. It must be because you would not come to Christ that you might have life, and because you virtually choose death rather than life. Pro. 8:36, He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. All that is now required of you is that your heart should close with Christ as a Savior. Here consider,
I. That the wisdom of God has so contrived, that he has forestalled all your objections. If you make objections against Christ and the way of salvation, they must be all unreasonable. You cannot reasonably object that your sins are of such a nature, that Gods honor will not allow of your pardon. It is true God insists upon his own honor. He is a God that will be honored, and his majesty shall be vindicated. And when sinners cast contempt upon him, his honor may be repaired by the punishment of sin without the sinners suffering, how great soever the sin be. Herein the wisdom of this way appears, that there is a sufficiency for the greatest and most heinous transgressors.
You cannot object that God the Father will not be willing to accept you, for the Mediators sake, for he has chosen his own Son to be a mediator, to cut off any such objections. So you may be sure that God will receive you if you go to him, through Christ. You cannot object that God the Father has not given sufficient assurance of salvation to believers. For the principal things, those which would have been most difficult to believe, are already fulfilled. God has already given his Son to die for us. This, before it was accomplished, was much more strange, and difficult to believe, than that he should give eternal life to sinners after Christ died for them. Rom. 8:32, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things.
There is no room to doubt but that if we accept of Christ, God will give eternal life. For he has given it already into the hands of our Savior for us. He has entrusted him with the whole affair. He has given all things into his hands, that he might give eternal life to as many as should come to him. The Father has appointed him who died for believers, to be their judge, to have the whole determination of the matter, and the disposal of the reward, in his own hand. And you cannot doubt but that Christ will be willing to bestow eternal life on them for whom he purchased it. For if he is not willing to bestow it, surely he never would have died to purchase it. Who can think that Christ would be so desirous of sinners being saved, as to undergo so much for it, and not be willing to let them have it, when he had obtained it for them. Consider,
II. The wisdom of God has contrived that there should be in the person of the Savior all manner of attractives to draw us to him. He has in him all possible excellency. He is possessed of all the beauty and glory of the God-head. So that there can be no manner of excellency, nor degree of excellency that we can devise, but what is in the person of the Savior. But yet so redundant has the wisdom of God been, in providing attractives in order that we should come to Christ, it has so ordered that there should also be all human excellencies in him. If there be anything attractive in this consideration, that Christ is one in our own nature, one of us, this is true of Christ. He is not only in the divine, but in the human nature. He is truly a man, and has all possible human excellencies. He was of a most excellent spirit, wise and holy, condescending and meek, and of a lowly, benign, and benevolent disposition. Again,
The wisdom of God has chosen a person of great love to sinners, and who should show that love in the most endearing manner possible. What more condescending love can there be, than the love of a divine person to such worms in the dust? What greater love can there be, than dying love? And what more endearing expression of love, than dying for the beloved? And the wisdom of God has so contrived, that Christ shall sustain that office which should most tend to endear him to us, and draw us to him: the office of a redeemer, a redeemer from eternal misery, and the purchaser of all happiness.
And if all this be not enough to draw us, the wisdom of God has ordered more. It has provided us a Savior that should offer himself to us in the most endearing relation. He offers to receive us as friends. To receive us to an union to himself, to become our spiritual husband and portion forever. And the wisdom of God has provided us a Savior that woos in a manner that has the greatest tendency to win our hearts. His word is most attractive. He stands at our door and knocks. He does not merely command us to receive him, but he condescends to apply himself to us in a more endearing manner. He entreats and beseeches us in his word and by his messengers.
III. The wisdom of God has contrived that there should be all manner of attractives in the benefits that Christ offers you. There are not only the excellencies of the person of Christ to draw you to him, but the desirable benefits he offers. Here is what is most suitable to the cravings of the human nature. Men when distressed and burdened, long for ease and rest. Here it is offered to us in Christ. Come unto me, says he, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Men when in fear of danger, long for safety. Here it is provided for us in Christ. God promises that he will become a shield and buckler, a strong rock and high tower to those that trust in him. Those that mourn need comfort. Christ tells us that he came to comfort those that mourn, Isa. 61:2. The blind need to have their eyes opened. The light is sweet to men. Christ offers to anoint our eyes with eye salve that we may see glorious light. He will be our sun, and the light of Gods countenance. What is more dear to men than life? Christ has purchased for men, that they should live forever. Psa. 21:4, He asked life of thee and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. How greatly is a crown prized and admired by the children of men! And Christ offers this not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible and far more glorious crown than any worn by earthly kings; a crown of glory, the luster of which shall never fade, nor decay; with an everlasting kingdom. Do men love pleasures? Here are pleasures forevermore. What could there be more to draw our hearts to Jesus Christ, and to make us willing to accept of him for our Savior, with all his unspeakable benefits?
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