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should be made our eternal righteousness; that descending to the grave, he should bring up the lost world to life and immortality, is so incredible to our narrow understandings, that he saves us and astonishes us at once. And in nothing is it more visible, that the thoughts of God are far above our thoughts, and his ways above our ways, as heaven is above the earth, Isa. iv. 8. It is a secret in physic to compound the most noble remedies of things destructive to nature, and thereby make one death victorious over another; but that eternal life should spring from death, glory from ignominý, blessedness from a curse, is so repugnant to human sense, that to render the belief of it easy, it was foretold by many prophecies, that when it came to pass, it might be looked on as the effect of God's eternal counsel. The apostle tells us, that Christ crucified was “ to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness," 1 Cor. i. 23. ' The grand sophies of the world esteemed it absurd and unreasonable to believe, that he who was exposed to sufferings, could save others: but those who are called, discover that the doctrine of salvation, by the cross of Christ, which the world counted folly, is the great “wisdom of God,” and most convenient for his end.
A double reason is given of this method.
(1.) Because the heathen world did not find and own God in the way of nature. “ For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe," 1 Cor. i. 21. The frame of the world is called the wisdom of God; the name of the cause is given to the effect in regard the divine wisdom so clearly discovered there, as if it had taken a visible form, and presented itself to the view of men. But those who professed themselves wise, did not acknowledge the Creator; for some conceited the world to be eternal, others that it was the product of chance, and became guilty of the most absolute contradiction to reason ; for who can believe that one who is blind from his birth, and by consequence perfectly ignorant of all colours and of the art of painting, should take a bundle of pencils into his hand, and dipping them in colours mixed and corrupted, paint a great battle with that perfection in the design, propriety in the colours, distinction in the habits and countenances, as if it were not represented, but present to the spectators ? Who ever saw a temple, or palace, or any regular building, spring from the stony bowels of a mountain ? Yet some famous philo
sophers “ became thus vain in their imaginations,” fancying that the world proceeded from the casual concourse of atoms: and the rest of them neglected to know God so far as they might, and to honour him so far as they knew, Rom. i. 21. They debased the Deity by unworthy conceptions of his nature, and by performing such acts of worship, as were not fit for a rational spirit to offer, nor for the pure majesty of heaven to receive. Besides they ascribed his name, attributes, and honour to creatures. Not only the lights of heaven, and the secret powers which they supposed did govern them ; not only kings, and great men who were, by their au thority, raised above others, but the most despicable things in nature, beasts and birds, were the objects of their adoration.
They changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things;" a sin so foul, that it betrayed them to brutish blindness, and to the most infamous lusts natural and unnatural, Rom. i. 23. Now since the most clear and open discovery of God's wisdom was ineffectual to reclaim the world, he was pleased to change his method. They neglected him appearing in his majesty, and he now comes clothed with infirmities. And since by natural light they would not see God the Creator, he is imperceptible to the light of nature as Redeemer the discovery of him depends on revelation. The wisdom of God in making the world is evident to every eye, but the gospel is “wisdom in a mystery,” 1 Cor. ii. 7. The Deity was conspicuous in the creation, but concealed under a veil of flesh when he wrought our redemption. He was more easily discovered when invisible, than when visible. He created the world by power, but restored it by sufferings.
(2.) That the honour of all might solely redound to him. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen ; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are ; that no flesh should glory in his presence,” I Cor. i. 27, 29. Thus Moses, the redeemer of Israel, was an infant exposed to the mercy of the waters, drawn forth from an ark of bulrushes, and not employed whilst he lived in the splendour of the court, but when banished as a criminal, and deprived of all power. And our Redeemer took not on him the nature of
angels equal to Satan in power, but took part of flesh and blood, the more signally to triumph over that proud spirit in the human nature which was inferior to his, and had been vanquished by him in paradise: therefore he did not immediately exercise omnipotent power to destroy him, but managed our weakness and infirmity to foil the roaring lion. He did not enter into the combat in the glory of his Deity, but disguised under the human nature which was subject to mortality. And thus the devil is overcome in the same manner as he first got the victory; for as the whole race of man was captivated by him in Adam the representative, so believers are victorious over him as the tempter and tormentor, by the conquest that Christ their representative obtained in the wilderness and on the cross. - And as our ruin was effected by the subtilty of Satan, so our recovery is wrought by the wisdom of God, who “taketh the wise in their own craftiness,” 1 Cor. iii. 19. The devil excited Judas by avarice, the Jews by malice, and Pilate from reason of state to accomplish the death of Christ; and he then seemed to be victorious. Now what was more honourable to the Prince of our salvation, than the turning of the enemy's point upon his own breast, and by dying, to overcome him that had the power of death ? Heb. ii. 14. This was signified in the first promise of the gospel, where the salvation of man is inclosed in the curse of the serpent, that is the devil clothed with that figure ; “ It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” Gen. iii. 15; that is, the Son of God should, by suffering in our flesh, overcome the enemy of mankind and rescue innumerable captives from his tyranny: here the events are most contrary to the probability of their cause. And what is more worthy, of God, than to obtain his ends in such a manner, as the glory of all may be “in solidum," ascribed to him?
7. The divine wisdom appears in laying the design of the gospel in such a manner, as to provide for the comfort and promote the holiness of man.
(1.) This is God's signature upon all heavenly doctrines, which distinguishes them from carnal inventions—they have a direct tendency to promote his glory and the real benefit of the rational creature. Thus the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, is most fit as to reconcile God to man by securing his honour, so to reconcile man to God by encouraging his hope. Till this be effected, he can never be happy in communion with God; for that is nothing else but the reciprocal
exercise of love between God and the soul. Now nothing can represent God as amiable to a guilty creature, but his inclination to pardon. Whilst there are apprehensions of inexorable severity, there will be hard thoughts burning in the breast against God: till the soul is released from terrors, it can never truly love him. To extinguish our hatred, he must conquer our fears, and this he hath done by giving us the most undoubted and convincing evidence of his affectionsby contracting the most intimate alliance with mankind. In this God is not only lovely, but love, 1 John iv. 8, 9; and his love is not only visible to our understandings, but to our senses. The divine nature in Christ is joined to the human in a union that is not typical or temporary, but real and permanent. “The Word was made flesh,” John i. 14. and “ in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” Col. ii. 9. Now as love is an affection of union, so the strictest union is an evidence of the greatest love. The Son of God "took the seed of Abraham,” the original element of our nature, that our interest in him might be more clear and certain, Heb. ii. 16. He stooped from the height of his glory to our low embraces, that we might with more confidence lay hold on his mercy.-By providing complete satisfaction to offended justice. The guilty, convinced creature is restless and inquisitive after a way to escape
" the wrath to come;" for being under the apprehension that God is an incensed judge, it is very sensible of the greatness and nearness of the danger, there being nothing between it and eternal torments but a thin. veil of flesh. Now an abundant satisfaction is made, that most effectually expiates and abolishes the guilt of sin. That is a temporary act, but of infinite evil, being committed against an infinite object; the death of Christ was a temporary passion, but of infinite value, in respect of the subject: the honour of the law is fully repaired, so that God is justly merciful, and dispenses pardon to the glory of his righteousness. He hath set forth his Son“ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus," Rom. iii. 25, 26. And what stronger security can be given, that God is ready to pardon man, upon his accepting the terms of the gospel, than the giving of his Son to be our atonement? If the stream swell so high as to overflow the banks, will it stop in a descending valley? Hath he, with so dear an expense, satisfied his justice, and will he deny his
mercy to relenting and returning sinners? This argument is powerful enough to overcome the most obstinate infidelity. -By the unspeakable gift of his Son, he assures our hopes of heaven, which is a reward so great and glorious, that our guilty hearts are apt to suspect we shall never enjoy it. We are secure of his faithfulness, having his infallible promise; and of his goodness, having such a pledge in our hands; as the apostle argues, Rom. viii. 32; “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?” Will he give us the tree of life, and not permit us to eat of its fruit? Is it conceivable, that having laid the foundation of our happiness in the death of his Son, an act to which his tender affection seemed so repugnant, that he will not perform the rest, which he can do by the mere signification of his will? It is an excellent encouragement St. Austin propounds from hence; “Securus esto accepturum te vitam ipsius, qui pignus habes mortis ipsius,” &c. Be assured thou shalt partake of his life, who hast the pledge of it in his death. He hath performed more than he promised. It is more incredible that the Eternal should die, than that a mortal creature should live for ever.
In short; since no mortal eye can discover the heavenly glory to convince us of the reality of the invisible state, and to support our departing souls in their passage through the dark and terrible valley, our Saviour rose from the grave, ascended in our nature to heaven, and is the model of our happiness: he is at the right hand of God to dispense life and immortality to all that believe on him. And what can be more comfortable to us, than the assurance of that blessedness, which, as it eclipses all the glory of the world, so it, makes death itself desirable in order to the enjoyment of it ?
(2.) As the comfort, so the holiness of man is most promoted in this way of our redemption. Suppose we had been recovered upon easier terms, the evil of sin would have been lessened in our esteem, and the mercy that saves us, had not appeared so great. We are apt to judge of the danger of a disease from the difficulty of its cure; hunger is reputed a small trouble, (although if it be not satisfied it will prove deadly) because a small price will procure what may remove it. He that falls into a pit and is drawn forth by an easy pull of the hand, doth not think himself greatly obliged to the person that helped him, though if he had remained there, he must have perished. But when the Son of God