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ON THE PASSION OF OUR BLESSED
PHILIPPIANS, CHAP. II.-VERSE 8.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
WHEN, in consequence of the original apostacy from God, which did banish us from paradise, and by continued rebellions against him, inevitable to our corrupt and impotent nature; mankind had forfeited the amity of God, (the chief of all goods, the fountain of all happiness,) and had incurred his displeasure; (the greatest of all evils, the foundation of all misery :)
When poor man having deserted his natural Lord and Protector, 'other lords had got dominion over him,' so that he was captivated by the foul, malicious, cruel spirits, and enslaved to his own vain mind, to vile lusts, to wild passions :
When, according to an eternal rule of justice, that sin deserveth punishment, and by an express law, wherein death was enacted to the transgressors of God's command, the root of our stock, and consequently all its branches, stood adjudged to utter destruction:
When, according to St. Paul's expressions, all the world was become guilty before God, (or, subjected to God's judgment:) all men (Jews and Gentiles) were under sin, under condemnation, under the curse; all men were concluded into disobedience, and shut up together (as close prisoners) under
sin; all men had sinned, and come short of the glory of God: death had passed over all, because all had sinned:
When for us, being plunged into so wretched a condition, no visible remedy did appear, no possible redress could be obtained here below: (for what means could we have of recovering God's favor, who were apt perpetually to contract new debts and guilts, but not able to discharge any old scores? What capacity of mind or will had we to entertain mercy, who were no less stubbornly perverse and obdurate in our crimes, than ignorant or infirm? How could we be reconciled unto heaven, who had an innate antipathy to God and goodness? [Sin, according to our natural state, and secluding evangelical grace, reigning in our mortal bodies, no good thing dwelling in us;' there being a predominant law in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin;' a main ingredient of our old man, being a 'carnal mind,' which is enmity to God, and cannot submit to his law;' we being 'alienated from the life of God by the blindness of our hearts,' and 'enemies in our own minds by wicked works :'] How could we revive to any good hope, who were 'dead in trespasses and sins,' God having withdrawn his quickening spirit? How at least could we for one moment stand upright in God's sight, on the natural terms, excluding all sin, and exacting perfect obedience ?)
When this, I say, was our forlorn and desperate case, then Almighty God, out of his infinite goodness, was pleased to look on us (as he sometime did on Jerusalem, lying polluted in her blood') with an eye of pity and mercy, so as graciously to design a redemption for us out of all that woful distress: and no sooner by his incomprehensible wisdom did he forsee we should lose ourselves, than by his immense grace he did conclude to restore us.
But how could this happy design well be compassed? How, in consistence with the glory, with the justice, with the truth of God, could such enemies be reconciled, such offenders be pardoned, such wretches be saved? Would the omnipotent Majesty, so affronted, design to treat with his rebels immediately, without an intercessor or advocate? Would the sovereign Governor of the world suffer thus notoriously his right to be
violated, his authority to be slighted, his honor to be trampled on, without some notable vindication or satisfaction? Would the great Patron of justice relax the terms of it, or ever permit a gross breach thereof to pass with impunity? Would the immutable God of truth expose his veracity or his constancy to suspicion, by so reversing that peremptory sentence of death on sinners, that it should not in a sort eminently be accomplished? Would the most righteous and most holy God let slip an opportunity so advantageous for demonstrating his perfect love of innocence, and abhorrence of iniquity? Could we therefore well be cleared from our guilt without an expiation, or reinstated in freedom without a ransom, or exempted from condemnation without some punishment?
No: God was so pleased to prosecute his designs of goodness and mercy, as thereby nowise to impair or obscure, but rather to advance and illustrate the glories of his sovereign dignity, of his severe justice, of his immaculate holiness, of his unchangeable steadiness in word and purpose. He accordingly would be sued to for peace and mercy: nor would he grant them absolutely, without due compensations for the wrongs he had sustained; yet so, that his goodness did find us a Mediator, and furnish us with means to satisfy him. He would not condescend to a simple remission of our debts; yet so, that, saving his right and honor, he did stoop lower for an effectual abolition of them. He would make good his word, not to let our trespasses go unpunished; yet so, that by our punishment we might receive advantage. He would manifest his detestation of wickedness in a way more illustrious than if he had persecuted it down to hell, and irreversibly doomed it to endless torment.
But how might these things be effected? Where was there a Mediator proper and worthy to intercede for us? Who could presume to solicit and plead in our behalf? Who should dare to put himself between God and us, or offer to screen mankind from the divine wrath and vengeance? Who had so great an interest in the court of heaven, as to ingratiate such a brood of apostate enemies thereto? Who could assume the confidence to propose terms of reconciliation, or to agitate a new covenant, wherewith God might be satisfied, and
whereby we might be saved? Where, in heaven or earth, could there be found a priest fit to atone for sins so vastly numerous, so extremely heinous? And whence should a sacrifice be taken, of value sufficient to expiate for so manifold enormities, committed against the infinite Majesty of heaven? Who could find out the everlasting redemption' of innumerable souls, or lay down a competent ransom for them all? Not to say, could also purchase for them eternal life and bliss?
These are questions which would puzzle all the wit of man, yea, would gravel all the wisdom of angels to resolve: for plain it is, that no creature on earth, none in heaven, could well undertake or perform this work.
Where on earth, among the degenerate sons of Adam, could be found such a high priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners?' and how could a man, however innocent and pure as a seraphim, so perform his duty, as to do more than merit or satisfy for himself? How many lives could the life of one man serve to ransom; seeing that it is asserted of the greatest and richest among men, that none of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him.'
And how could available help in this case be expected from any of the angelical host; seeing (beside their being in nature different from us, and thence improper to merit or satisfy for us; beside their comparative meanness, and infinite distance from the majesty of God) they are but our fellow-servants, and have obligations to discharge for themselves, and cannot be solvent for more than for their own debts of gratitude and service to their infinitely-bountiful Creator; they also themselves needing a Saviour, to preserve them by his grace in their happy state?
Indeed, no creature might aspire to so august an honor, none could achieve so marvellous a work, as to redeem from infinite guilt and misery the noblest part of all the visible creation: none could presume to invade that high prerogative of God, or attempt to infringe the truth of that reiterated proclamation, 'I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour.'
Wherefore, seeing that a supereminent dignity of person was required in our Mediator, and that an immense value was to be
presented for our ransom; seeing that God saw there was no man, and wondered (or took special notice) that there was no intercessor;' it must be his arm alone that could bring salvation; none beside God himself could intermeddle therein. But how could God undertake the business? become a suitor or intercessor to his offended self? present a sacrifice, or disburse a satisfaction to his own justice? Could God alone contract and stipulate with God in our behalf? No; surely man also must concur in the transaction: some amends must issue from him, somewhat must be paid out of our stock: human will and consent must be interposed, to ratify a firm covenant with us, inducing obligation on our part. It was decent and expedient, that as man, by wilful transgression and presumptuous self-pleasing, had so highly offended, injured, and dishonored his Maker; so man also, by willing obedience, and patient submission to God's pleasure, should greatly content, right, and glorify him.
Here then did lie the stress; this was the knot, which only divine wisdom could loose. And so indeed it did in a most effectual and admirable way: for in correspondence to all the exigences of the case, (that God and man both might act their parts in saving us,) the blessed eternal Word, the only Son of God, by the good-will of his Father, did vouchsafe to intercede for us, and to undertake our redemption; in order thereto voluntarily being sent down from heaven, assuming human flesh, subjecting himself to all the infirmities of our frail nature, and to the worst inconveniences of our low condition; therein meriting God's favor to us, by a perfect obedience to the law, and satisfying God's justice by a most patient endurance of pains in our behalf; in completion of all, willingly laying down his life for the ransom of our souls, and pouring forth his blood in sacrifice for our sins.
This is that great and wonderful mystery of godliness,' (or of our holy religion,) the which St. Paul here doth express, in these words concerning our blessed Saviour; 'Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men and being found