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Son of God be substituted in the sinner's stead, then he takes the sinner's 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.-llow 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 po:sible! 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 bath found out a way, riz. 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 shew 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, “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. VOL. V.
(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, buman 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 splendor 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 were called “ Princes of this world," 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 6 Grow up as a tender plant, and as a root ont 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.”_" 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 the flesh, to appear with carthly pomp, wealth and grandeur. No! these things are infinitely too mean, and despicable, for the Son of God to shew as if he affected or esteemed them. Men, if they had 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 nonght 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 bigh 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 bell: 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 an one to be our prophet and teacher, who is a divine person : who is bimself the yery 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 bimself to us, should be appointed our great prophet, to deliver to us divine doctrines.
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. llow 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 bis 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 strengtbening 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 oll 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 bumbled, 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 those 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 abun lantly the most resplendent in this work.
1. Each attribute of God is glorified in the work of redemption. How God has exceedingly glorified his wisdom, may more fully appear before we have done with this subject, But more particularly,
1. God hath exceedingly glorified his power in this work. -It shews 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
a greater and more marvellous work than creation.
The power of God most gloriously appears in man's being actually saved and redeemed in this way. In his being brought 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 inore remote from one another, than in the first.
And then the procluction of this last effect, is a more glorious manifestation of power, than the work of creation ; because, though in creation, the terms are very distant-as nothing is very remote from being--yet there is no opposition. Nothing makes any 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. Men's lusts and corruptions are exceedingly opposite to grace and holiness; and greatly resist
production of the effect. But this opposition is completely overcome in actual redemption.
Besides, there is 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. Jisus Christ, in this work, conquers and triumphs over thousands of devils, strong and mighty spirits, uniting all their strength against him. Luke xi. 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 him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil, Col. ii. 15. And having spoiled principalities - and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross.