« VorigeDoorgaan »
ther, should make his appearance in this lower world, the abode of guilty creatures, under manifest tokens of their Creator's displeasure ! that he should not only enter on the scene in the weakness of infancy, but with every circumftance of meanness and baseness! How often must they have been put to a stand, what to think of the severity and persecution, the contempt and opposition which he met with from those very finners whom, he came to save!
But above all, how must they have been at a loss to comprehend his being exposed, not only to the contempt of man, but to the wrath of God! For “ it pleased the. « Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief.” What must have been the surprise of that minister of providence, who was sent “ from heaven to strengthen” him, when he found him under an inexpressible agony of suffering, making supplication with strong crying and tears, saying, “ Father; if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" And what created spirit is able to reach the unfathomable mean. ing of his complaint upon the crofs, “My God, my God; “ why hast thou forsaken me?” In the sufferings of an ins nocent person in the room of the guilty, in the sufferings of the well-beloved Son of God from his Father's hand, there is such an unsearchable depth, as no finite understanding is able to comprehend. At first view it seems to, contradict the rectitude and holiness of the divine nature ; but on a nearer inspection, there is such a striking discovery of wis, dom, holiness, justice, and mercy, that angels desire with a holy curiosity to contemplate and adore it.
3. As inmediately founded upon the former, another circumstance in the plan of redemption through Christ, which will afford matter of wonder to the celestial spirits, is the free justification of finners, and their acceptance with God, through the imputed righteousness of Christ. If it appears astonishing, that God, who distributes favor and punishment with the molt perfect equity, should punish the innocent, it appears, cqually fo, that he should Thew favor to the guilty i that he should forgive their sins, accept their persons, and visit them with his loving-kindness, and all this for the merit and obedience of another, What! (may it be faid), is he not unchangeably holy? Is he not of purer eyes than to behold iniquity? Are we not assured that evil cannot dwell with him, nor finners stand in his presence? How shall he receive into his favor these offending rebels ? how shall he take into his bofom such polluted wretches? And what can be the meaning of imputation? Can personal worth be transferred? Can he commit so great an error, as to view them with compla: çency for the merit of another?
Must not this appear a new and extraordinary plan to the angels, who, by personal and perfect obedience, retain the favor of their Creator, and who had been hitherto strangers to the influence and intercession of a mediator ? who had feen no such thing take place when their brethren had sinned? Heb. ii. 16, “ For verily he took not on him " the nature of angels, but he took on him the feed of " Abraham. The holy angels, not inclined to say, as more presumptuous men too often do, Let us continue
in sin, that grace may abound,” will rather say, " Let f us step aside, and see this great fight," They will then see, that there is no way more proper for maintaining the dignity of the divine government: nay, that it is tlie only way by which those who have been finners can be receiv. ed into favor, They will see and confess, that there is no circumstance whatever that tends more to level the pride of the sinners heart, and bring him to universal submission, and absolute subjection to the sovereignty of God. I am persuaded incleed, that even angels who never finned, have more of tubmission to the divine sovereignty, and de pendence on the absolute grace of their Creator, than many are apt to imagine ; yet furely our world is the great theatre of divine grace. The same infinite benignity which shews itself in heaven in favor to the worthy, is displayed on earth, to the astonishment of heaven itself, in mercy to the guilty. - Suffer me, my brethren, to embrace this opportunity of observing, that nothing is more groundless than the accu. fation of men of corrupt minds, against the doctrine of di, vine grace, as encouraging to fin. It hath the very contrary effect, and that on these two accounts.
(1.) It is so mortifying to human pride, that the power of lin must be broken at least, before it can be truly and cordially, received. There is not so difficult a duty in the whole compass of the moral law, as an unfeigned de. nial of our own righteousness and strength, and being will. ing to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, To receive forgiveness as mere mercy to those who hacl deserved to perish, without any complaint either against the strictness of the law, or the severity of the sanction, is not fo easy as many seem to imagine, and what no man is brougłt to but by the Holy Ghost
(2.) As the finner must be really subjected to God the Creator, before he can lay hold of his mercy through Christ the Redeemer; so it is plain, that the most effectual measures are taken to continue and perpetuate this subjection. It is plain, that the infinite unmerited love of God to his soul, is the most powerful and operative principle of obedience that can dwell in the human heart: 2 Cor. v. 14, 15, “For the love of Christ constraineth “ us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then $6 were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which « live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but “'unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Such confidence has the famie apostle in the strength of this principle, he bids defiance to all trials and opposition : Rom. viii. 35. “ Who shall separate us from the love of " Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or “ famine, or’ nakedness, or peril, or sword ?" And again, ver. 38, 39. “ For I ain persuaded that neither death, nor "life, nor angels, or principalities, nor powers, nor things " present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor “ any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the “ love of God, which is in Christ Jefus our Lord.” These great principles of sanctification are new to the angels, When therefore they see the holiness of God shining in the free justification of finners through Christ, it will add new force and new meaning to that fong of praise which they are represented as singing, Rev. iv. 8. " And they "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord
God almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”
4. In the last place, Another circumstance in the myf, tery of the gospel which will be matter of wonder to the angels, is the application of redemption, or the manner and means of translating finners" from darkness to light,” and “ from the power of Satan unto God.” Before the plan of divine grace with regard to fallen man was opened to them, they had seen no examples of finners, but the fal. len angels. · From their irreversible sentence, and blafpheming rage in their torment, those who remained in their happy state, would be apt to conclude, that there, could be no recovery for a creature who had once depart. ed from his integrity at all. But when they learned something of the divine purpose for the falvation of fallen man, especially the amazing and unspeakable grace that appeared in the appointment of the Mediator, and the universal unlimited offer of falvation in his name, what would be the effect? I dare fay, they would certainly conclude, that it would be received with the highest transports of joy, by all those unhappy criminals who were lying under the curse of a broken law. Accordingly the angel, in his message to the shepherds, calls it good tidings of great joy to all people,
What then must have been their additional furprise, when they heard the prophet saying, Ifa, liii. 1. “ Who
hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of 4 the Lord revealed ?" when they saw that this gracious, Saviour was “ despised and rejected of men ?” when they observed fo many turn a deaf ear to the most importunate calls of the gospel ? when they found them cavilling them. felves out of eternal happinefs, and advancing their own blinded and bewildered reason in contempt of the infinite wisdom of God? What must those holy angels, who aro filled with gratitude for creating goodness, think of thofe heirs of hell, who pour conteinpt upon redeeming love? I cannot touch upon every thing that rises here to our view, but I am persuaded that the administration of the covenant of grace is as full of niyftery to the celestial spirits, as any part of the pian. Instead of every sinner humbly im, ploring reconciliation with an offended God, our, Redeem. er, as a Sovereign Lord, as the Prince of Peace, first con. quers those as enemies, whom he afterwards cherishes a su friends. He is endued with all power for this great work; and the Pfalmist gives a beautiful description of its influ. ence and effect, Pfal. xlv, 3, 4, 5. “Gird thy sword ups “ on thy thigh, O most mighty į with thy glory and thy “ majelty; and in thy majesty ride prosperously, becauie .“ of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and tly right " hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are « sharp in the heart of the king's enemies whereby the ti people fall under thee.” He hath sent forth his Holy Spirit as an almighty agent, to reconcile sinners unto God. Is there not also a depth of divine sovereignty to be seen in the choice of the vessels of mercy? The apostle Paul in the midst of the fury of persecuting zeal, Mary Magdalene from the midst of the flames of unclean lufi, Zaccheus from the heart hardening crimes of covetousness and oppression, and many others of the chief of sinners, have been made the trophies of divine grace, and may say, in the words of their great example the apostle Paul, I Tim. i. Iš. “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of “ all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to to save sinners, of whom I am chief." * It deserves also particular notice, that faith itself is said to be the operation and the gift of God: Eph. ii. 8. “ For " by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of “ yourselves : it is the gift of God.” And indeed the change in general which constitutes the new nature, is considered as a birth or creation from above; John i. 13. " Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the < flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” It appears plainly, from many express declarations of scripture, from, the power necessary to overcome their obstinacy, and from the seat of the disease itself, which lies in the will, that finners, while they continue fo, instead of desiring, resist their recovery. What a subject of contemplation presents itself to the angels here! What an unknown view is given them of the infinite evil and malignity of fin! What a humbling sense of created weakness! What a lesson of Caution for their after conduct! It hath been conjectured, not without apparent reason, and some countenance from fcripture, that the great purpose which the human system is