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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,
1. 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 God’s own choosing, and therefore he is called in Scripture, God’s elect, (Isa. lxii. 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 was 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 Father’s esteem, and that the Father’s love to him might balance the offence and provocation by our sins. Christ is a fit person upon this account. Therefore called the beloved, (Eph. i. 6.) He hath 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 any thing. 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, 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 Godhead, 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 their spiritual transactings with God, they act by a mediator. These spiritual and holy exercises cannot be acceptable, or avail any thing 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. viii. 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,
2. 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 sinner’s 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 sinner’s 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,
3. 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 sinner’s room, and appointed him to take the sinner’s 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 sinner’s 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 sinner’s stead, then he comes under the sinner’s obligation to suffer the punishment which man’s 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 God’s 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 hath 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. (Psal. xxii. 6.) “I am a worm, and no man.” He that is eternal and self-existent, is by this union born of a woman! He who is the great original Spirit, is clothed with flesh and blood like one of us! He who is independent, self-sufficient, and all-sufficient, now is come to stand in need of food and clothing: he becomes poor, 143143 Matt. viii. 20. “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.
4. 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.
(1.) 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 honour, authority, and power, far above any of the kings of the earth: that here he should reign in great visible pomp and splendour over all nations.—And thus it was that men’s wisdom did determine, before Christ came. The wise, the great men among the Jews, scribes and Pharisees, who are called “Princes of this world, 144144 1 Cor. ii. 6. ” did expect that 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. liii. 2.) “That he should not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets,” (Isa. xlii. 2.) That he should come to Zion in a lowly manner, “riding on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 145145 Matt. xxi. 5. ”—“That he should be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. 146146 Isa. liii. 3. ”
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. i. 25.) “And God hath brought to nought the wisdom of this world, and the princes of this world,” (1 Cor. ii. 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 hath 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!
(2.) 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 doctrine. The wisdom of God appears in giving us such an one to be our prophet and teacher, who is a divine person: who is 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 doctrine.
5. 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 for ever, 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 the 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 Father’s wrath. That he who is King of heaven, who hath 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 God’s wisdom hath fixed upon, as the way of sinners’ salvation; as neither unsuitable nor dishonourable to Christ.
6. The last thing done to procure salvation for sinners, is Christ’s 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 man’s 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 hath endured so much to purchase salvation for them, has all things in heaven and in earth 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 honour of the great God of heaven and earth. But such wonders as these has infinite wisdom contrived, and accomplished in order to our salvation.
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