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is, the glory of God, as it appears in it; the lustre of divine power, wisdom, and grace, which reigns through the whole. The second is, the unspeakable interest which we have in it, from the danger escaped on the one hand, and the exalted hopes to which we are raised by it, on the other. I cannot help putting you in mind, that these two things are so inseparably joined, that none can forget or be insensible of any one of them, without in reality despising both. And as a view of the divine glory seems most immediately calculated to assist and continue a proper worshipping frame, I intend, that this shall lead the way in our meditations on this occasion. The facrament of the Lord's supper is called the Eucharist, or facrifice of praise ; and therefore very fit for adoring contemplation.
The words which I have read are the conclusion of the apostle Peter's account of the gradual unfolding of this great design of Providence; and they contain a striking and extraordinary sentiment, That the angels themselves are filled with a holy curiosity to search into the mystery of redemption. Few commentators have failed to observe, that the word here tranflated to look into, properly signifies, to stoop or bend down, and examine with the strictest at. tention. This, my brethren, gives us a very exalted view of the scheme of redemption, as a leading design in the government of God, that these pure and exalted fpi. rits, not only adore it as a part of their Creator's will, but that they are loft and swallowed up in the contemplation of it, and fee such a series of wonders, as they are not able to comprehend. If this is fo, let us no longer postpone the following reflection: How much more are we, the interested parties, called to adore and dwell on this mystery of love, on which our salvation from deserved wrath, and possession of infinite felicity to all eternity is suspended! I cannot find a more proper subject for an introduction to the sacred and solemn service of this day; and therefore I beg your attention, while I endeavor, in dependence on diyine grace, to illustrate the assertion in the text, by mentioning some particulars in the mystery of pedemption, which are probably the subject of adoring enquiry, and perhaps holy astonishment, to those celestial fpirits. Having done this, I will conclude with some improvementof the subject, for aflisting you in your prefent duty.
1. FIRST, then, we are to mention those circumstances in the mystery of redemption which are probably the subject of adoring enquiry, ,or perhaps holy altonishment, to the angels of God. The angels, though they are exalted creatures, are yet plainly of limited capacity. There are many things of which they are ignorant: Matth. xxiv. 36. “ But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not " the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” And as their employment is to be messengers and ministers of God, with some inferior agency, in theconduct of his provi. dence; so it is not to be doubted that much of their hap. piness consists in the contemplation of the nature and glory of God, as discovered in his works. They are reprefented in the book of Job as joyful witnesses of the creation and birth of this lower world: Job xxxviii. 6, 7. “ Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened ? or “ who laid the corner-stone thereof? when the morningso stars fang together, and all the sons of God shouted for “joy.” The state of the church is also represented as difcovering to them the divine wisdom: Eph. iii. 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.”.
Let us therefore consider what circumstances in the mystery of redemption may be supposed to strike them most with astonishment and wonder. This we cannot do without finding ourselves greatly interested, and called to the deepest humility, and at the same time the highest exercise of gratitude and love. And,
1. The first thing I shall mention is the incarnation of the Son of God; the union of the divine and human nature, by the Word's being made iles. This is indeed the first thing to be considered, both in order and in rank. O wonderful union indeed! Well might the apofile say, I Tim. iii. 16. “ Without controversy, great is the myitery w of godliness: Gol was manifest in the flesh, ji stified in
" the Spirit, feen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, “ believed on in the world, received up into glory.” But whạt view must the angels have of this event ? those glorious and active beings, who are thus described, Pfal. civ. 4.“ Whio maketh his angels fpirits, his ministers a flaming
fire.” Their knowledge of the nature of God, as a pure and immaculate fpirit, as the eternal, uncreated, self-exiftent Father of Spirits, and of the Son, as one with the Father, who “ thought it no robbery to be equal with God," must deeply astonish them at this marvellous humiliation ; that he should become one person with a creature, and that with a creature lower than themselves; for it is expressly said, that “ he was made a little lower than the angels.'' How astonishing, that he who is the Lord of angels, and whole distance from the highest of all created fpirits is not great only, but infinite, should become a man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul! . It is more than probable from our text, especially when compared with the context, and other passages of fcrip. ture, that this discovery was made to the angels only gradually, as it was to men. They could not but have intimations of God's purpose of mercy, which was begun and carried on immediately after the fall ; this however was done in a manner comparatively dark and obscure. There have been indeed some who seem to me to have gone a little beyond their depth; and who have supposed, that God discovered to the angels, even before the creation of man, the fall, which he forelaw, and the method by which he proposed to recover a chosen remnant, viz. the incarnation of his own Son; that the superior honor done to an inferior creature, stirred up the pride and envy of Lucifer, and his associates; and that in this consisted their guilt and apoftafy, for which they were punished with an immediate banishment from the abodes of bliss, and are now referved in chains under darkness to the day of judgment.
This at best is but mere conjecture. It seems much more probable that they learned the several parts of this great design of mercy in their gradual accomplishment. It cannot indeed be doubted, that the angels who were concerned in the ministry of providence, must have known early of the intended redemption, and the Redeemer. Yet when they are said, as in the text, to look into the things preached in the gospel, it gives reason to conclude, that the incarnation and sufferings of Christ was, with regard to them, as well as us, a mystery hid from ages and generations. Now how could those holy angels who retained their integrity, but be filled with amazement at the depth of divine councils, when they saw themselves obliged to worship a man, to worship a feeble infant, born in a stable, and lying in a manger ? when they found themselves charged with publishing the glad tidings ? as in Luke ii. IO, 11, 12, 13, 14: “ And the angel said unto them, Fear " noti for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 16.which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this “ day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the “ Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find " the babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a man “ ger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multi“ tude of the heavenly hoft, praising God, and saying, « Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodIt will towards men.”
There is one circumstance in the incarnation itself; which ought not to be omitted, because it is mentioned in scripture, and is certainly as astonishing as any, That he was not only made flesh, but fent in the likeness of sinful flesh. What so opposite to the nature of God as sin ? And what so surprising, as that the Son of God, though without fin, yet should in all respects outwardly be like to finners? that he should be born of a finner, taken for a sinner, treated as a sinner, and at last crucified with the utmost ignominy, as a more than ordinary finner? I doubt not, but those angels who looked with wonder on him in the man. ger, looked with still greater wonder on him on the cross; that the whole host of them are considering this with holy wonder still; and that it shall be the theme of eternal won. der to the innumerable company about the throne. This leads me to observe,
2. That another circumstance which must afford matter for adoring enquiry to the celestial spirits, is the substi: tution of an innocent person in the room of the guilty
and his suffering from the hand of God. When man's apostasy Was first known, I reckon we may affirni with fufficient certainty, that it could not enter into any created mind, that his recovery was possible. Many are even of opinion, that fome passages of scripture carry in them an intimation, that it had been proposed, and as it were a trial made, in the councils of heaven, among assembled angels, whether any remedy could be found for the guilt and apostasy of man; and that none was found either able or willing to stand in his room; as in that of the Psalmist, cited by the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. Xá "" 5, 6, 7. “ Wherefore when he cometh into the world,
“ he faith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but is a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt-offerings " and sacrifices for sin, thou hast had no pleasure : Then “ faid 1, Lo, I come (in the volume of thy book it is writ. “ ten of me) to do thy will, O God." And in the prophe« cies of Isaiah, chap. lix. 16. " And he saw that there was
no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; "therefore his arm brought salvation unto him, and his “ righteousness, it sustained him.”. I will not take upon me to affirm this interpretation of these passages; but the first of them, which is applied by the apostle to Christ, cet. tainly implies, that he undertook the redemption of finners when other facrifices were found ineffectual. :
Now, my brethren, let us prosecute the reflection point. ed out by the text. The angels hacl always hitherto feen innocence and holiness attended with peace and felicity, and they had seen the apostate fpirits laid under an irrever: fible fentence of condemnation. It is probable they look: ed upon it as manifestly founded on the nature of God, that he could not punish the innocent, and that he could not but punish the guilty. What astonishment then must it have given them, what new views of the boundless fovereignty and unfearchable wisdom of the Most High must it have opened to them, wher; they heard him faying, “ Deliver “ him froin going down into the pit, I have found a ran. “ fom! How must they with wonder dwell on this part of the providence of a wife, holy, just, and gracious. God, that the pure and innocent Jesus, the beloved of the Fac