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I. Hence we may learn the blindness of the world, that the wisdom appearing in 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 man’s 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 any thing 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 God’s 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 Sun 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, Isaiah liii. 1. Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Thus the prophets were sent to many with that errand, Isa. vi. 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, Matt. xxiii. 17.—So it was again in the apostles’ times. In all places where they preached, some believed, and some believed not, Acts xxviii. 24. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” chap. xiii. 48. “The election obtained, but the rest were blinded,” Rom. xi. 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 marvellous 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. i. 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 from 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 sun’s 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 savour at all of the craft or subtlety of man: it savours of God only.
If any are ready to think man might have found out such a way of salvation for sinners—so honourable 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 honourable 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. i. 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 honourable to God, and agreeable to his perfections, who had not 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 man’s blind understanding for any such undertaking, as the contriving of a way of salvation every way honourable to God, and suitable to the needs of a fallen creature.
But since the gospel has told what God’s 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 honourable to God, and suitable for a Divine Being.—They did not so much as think of the necessity of God’s 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 sinner’s 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 man’s necessities. Every thing 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 he no infringement upon holiness or justice; nothing dishonourable 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, and persecuted all that held this doctrine. It was not the invention of the heathen; for they knew nothing about 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. i. 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 extraordinarily 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 for ever:—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.
1. 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 hath 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 Saviour. 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.
2. They are guilty of a 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 God’s way, and set up their own wisdom in opposition to it. How greatly must God be provoked by such conduct!
3. Those that entertain discouraged and despairing apprehensions 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; 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.—These cast contempt on the wisdom of God in the way of 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.
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