By Jonathan Edwards
The Wisdom Of God, Displayed In The Way Of Salvation
Dated March 1733. Six sermons.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
Subject: The wisdom appearing in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ is far above the wisdom of the angels.
The apostle is speaking in the context of the glorious doctrine of the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ; and how it was in a great measure kept hid in the past ages of the world. It was a mystery that before they did not understand, but now it was in a glorious manner brought to light (verse 3-5). - 'By revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets, by the spirit.' And (verse 8, 9) 'Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.'
And the apostle in the text informs us that what Christ had accomplished towards his church, the work of redemption, had not only in a great measure unveiled the mystery to the church in this world, but God had more clearly and fully opened it to the understanding even of the angels themselves, and that this was one end of God in it, to discover the glory of his wisdom to the angels. 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.'
One end of revealing God's counsels concerning the work of redemption, is making known God's wisdom. It is called manifold wisdom because of the manifold glorious ends that are attained by it. The excellent designs, hereby accomplished, are very manifold. The wisdom of God in this is of vast extent. The contrivance is so manifold that one may spend an eternity in discovering more of the excellent ends and designs accomplished by it, and the multitude and vast variety of things that are, by divine contrivance, brought to conspire to the bringing about those ends.
We may observe to whom it is that God would manifest this his wisdom, by revealing the mystery of our redemption; - and they are not only men, but the angels. 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known - the manifold wisdom of God.' The angels are often called principalities and powers because of the exalted dignity of their nature. The angels excel in strength and wisdom. Those who are the wise men of the earth are called princes in the style of the apostle. 1 Cor. 2:6, 'Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world' - verse 8, 'Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.' So the angels are called principalities for their great wisdom. They may also be so called for the honor God has put upon them, in employing them as his ministers and instruments, wherewith he governs the world, and therefore are called thrones, dominions, and principalities, and powers, Col. 1:16.
They are called principalities and powers in heavenly places, as distinguishing them from those that are in places of earthy power and dignity. The offices or places of dignity and power that the angels sustain, are not earthly, but heavenly. They are places of honor and power in the heavenly city and the heavenly kingdom.
One end of God in revealing his design or contrivance for redemption, as he has so fully and gloriously done by Jesus Christ, is that the angels in heaven may behold the glory of his wisdom by it. Though they are such bright intelligencies, and do always behold the face of God the Father, and know so much; yet here is matter of instruction for them. Here they may see more of the diving wisdom than ever they had seen before. It was a new discovery of the wisdom of God to them.
The time when this display of the wisdom of God was especially made to the angels is when Christ introduced the gospel-dispensation, implied in those words, 'To the intent that now unto the principalities,' etc. When Christ came into the world and died, and actually performed the work of redemption - when he had fully and plainly revealed the counsels of God concerning it; and accordingly introduced the evangelical dispensation, and erected the gospel-church - then the angels understood more of the mystery of man's redemption, and the manifold designs and counsels of divine wisdom, then ever they had done before.
In the foregoing verse the apostle, after speaking of revealing this wisdom of God to man, 'And to make all men see, what is the fellowship of this mystery,' etc. speaks of this mystery as a thing from the beginning kept hid till now, 'The mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God - that now,' etc. In this verse he mentions another end, viz. that he may, at the same time, make the angels also see God's wisdom in his glorious scheme of redemption. - 'Now at this time,' implies that it was before a mystery kept hid from them in comparison of what it is now. And here is room enough for the angels to discover more and more to all eternity of the wisdom of God in this work.
Observe the medium by which the angels come by this knowledge, viz. the church - 'That now unto principalities - might be known by the church,' - i.e. by the things they see done in the church, or towards the church. and by what they see concerning the church. So has it pleased the sovereign God, that the angels should have the most glorious discoveries of divine wisdom by his doings towards his church, a sort of beings much inferior to themselves. It has pleased God to put this honor upon us.
The wisdom appearing in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ is far above the wisdom of the angels. For here it is mentioned as one end of God in revealing the contrivance of our salvation, that the angels thereby might see and know how great and manifold the wisdom of God is, to hold forth the divine wisdom to the angels' view and admiration. But why is it so, if this wisdom be not higher than their own wisdom? It never would have been mentioned as one end of revealing the contrivance of redemption, that the angels might see how manifold God's wisdom is, if all the wisdom to be seen in it was no greater than their own. It is mentioned as a wisdom such as they had never seen before, not in God, much less in themselves. That now might be known how manifold the wisdom of God is, now, four thousand years since the creation. - In all that time the angels had always beheld the face of God, and had been studying God's works of creation. Yet they never, till that day, had seen anything like that; never knew how manifold God's wisdom is, as now they knew it by the church.
Wonderful things done, by which salvation is procured.
SUCH is the choice of the person chosen to be our redeemer, - the substituting of him in our room, - his incarnation - his life - his death - and exaltation. And,
I. We will consider the choice of the person to be our redeemer. When God designed the redemption of mankind, his great wisdom appears in that he pitched upon his own, his only-begotten, Son, to be the person to perform the work. He was a redeemer of God's own choosing, and therefore he is called in Scripture, God's elect (Isa. 42:1). The wisdom of choosing this person to be the redeemer, appears in his being every way a fit person for this undertaking. It was necessary that the person that is the redeemer should be a divine person. - None but a divine person was sufficient for this great work. The work is infinitely unequal to any creature. It was requisite that the redeemer of sinners should be himself infinitely holy. None could take away the infinite evil of sin, but one that infinitely far from and contrary to sin himself. Christ is a fit person upon this account.
It was requisite that the person, in order to be sufficient for this undertaking, should be one of infinite dignity and worthiness, that he might be capable of meriting infinite blessings. The Son of God is a fit person on this account. It was necessary, that he should be a person of infinite power and wisdom. For this work is so difficult that it requires such an one. Christ is a fit person also upon this account. It was requisite that he should be a person infinitely dear to God the father, in order to give an infinite value to his transactions in the Father's esteem, and that the Father's love to him might balance the offense and provocation by our sins. Christ is a fit person upon this account. Therefore called the beloved (Eph. 1:6), He has made us accepted in the beloved.
It was requisite, that the person should be one that could act in this as of his own absolute right: one that, in himself, is not a servant or subject. Because, if he is one that cannot act of his own right, he cannot merit anything. He that is a servant, and that can do no more than he is bound to do, cannot merit. And then he that has nothing that is absolutely his own, cannot pay any price to redeem another. Upon this account Christ is a fit person. And none but a divine person can be fit. - And he must be a person also of infinite mercy and love. For no other person but such an one would undertake a work so difficult, for a creature so unworthy as man. Upon this account also Christ is a fit person. - It was requisite that he should be a person of unchangeable perfect truth and faithfulness. Otherwise he would not be fit to be depended on by us in so great an affair. Christ is also a fit person upon this account.
The wisdom of God in choosing his eternal Son, appears, not only in that he is a fit person; but in that he was the only fit person of all persons, whether created or uncreated. No created person, neither man nor angel, was fit for this undertaking. For we have just now shown that he must be a person of infinite holiness - dignity - power - wisdom, infinitely dear to God - of infinite love and mercy; and one that may act of his own absolute right. But no creature, how excellent soever, has any one of these qualifications. - There are three uncreated persons of the Trinity, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And Christ alone of these was a suitable person for a redeemer. It was not meet, that the redeemer should be God the Father. Because he, in the divine economy of the persons of the Trinity, was the person that holds the rights of the God-head, and so was the person offended, whose justice required satisfaction; and was to be appeased by a mediator. It was not meet it should be the Holy Ghost, for in being mediator between the Father and the saints, he is in some sense so between the Father and the Spirit. The saints, in all their spiritual transactions with God, act by the Spirit; or rather, it is the Spirit of God that acts in them. They are the temples of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit dwelling in them is their principle of action, in all their transactings with God. But in these spiritual transactings with God, they act by a mediator. These spiritual and holy exercises cannot be acceptable, or avail anything with God, as from a fallen creature, but by a mediator. Therefore Christ, in being mediator between the Father and the saints, may be said to be mediator between the Father and the Holy Spirit, that acts in the saints. And therefore it was meet, that the mediator should not be either the Father or the Spirit, but a middle person between them both. It is the Spirit in the saints, that seeks the blessing of God, by faith and prayer, and, as the apostle says, with groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26) 'Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered.' The Spirit in the saints seeks divine blessings of God by and through a mediator. And therefore that mediator must not be the Spirit, but another person.
It shows a divine wisdom, to know that he was a fit person. No other but one of divine wisdom could have known it. None but one of infinite wisdom could have thought of him to be a redeemer of sinners. For he, as he is God, is one of the persons offended by sin, against whom man by his sin had rebelled. Who but God infinitely wise could ever have thought of him to be a redeemer of sinners; against whom they had sinned, to whom they were enemies, and of whom they deserved infinitely ill? Who would ever have thought of him as one that should set his heart upon man, and exercise infinite love and pity to him and exhibit infinite wisdom, power, and merit in redeeming him? We proceed,
II. To consider the substituting of this person in our room. After choosing the person to be our redeemer, the next step of divine wisdom is, to contrive the way how he should perform this work. If God had declared who the person was that should do this work and had gone no further, no creature could have thought which way this person could have performed the work. If God had told them that his own Son must be the redeemer, and that he alone was a fit person for the work, and that he was a person every way fit and sufficient for it, - but had proposed to them to contrive a way how this fit and sufficient person should proceed, - we may well suppose that all created understandings would have been utterly at a loss.
The first thing necessary to be done is that this Son of God should become our representative and surety. And so be substituted in the sinner's room. But who of created intelligences would have thought of any such thing as the eternal and infinitely beloved Son of God being substituted in the room of sinners? his standing in stead of a sinner, a rebel, an object of the wrath of God? Who would have thought of a person of infinite glory representing sinful worms, that had made themselves by sin infinitely provoking and abominable?
For if the Son of God be substituted in the sinner's room, then his sin must be charged upon him. He will thereby take the guilt of the sinner upon himself. He must be subject to the same law that man was, both as to the commands, and threatenings. But who would have thought of any such thing concerning the Son of God? But we proceed,
III. To consider the incarnation Of Jesus Christ. The next step of divine wisdom in contriving how Christ should perform the work of redeeming sinners, was in determining his incarnation. Suppose God had revealed his counsels thus far to created understandings, that his own Son was the person chosen for this work, that he had substituted him in the sinner's obligations and guilt on himself - and had revealed no more, but had left the rest to them to find out. It is no way probable that even then they could ever have thought of a way, whereby this person might actually have performed the work of redemption. For if the Son of God be substituted in the sinner's stead, then he takes the sinners' 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. - How 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 possible? 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 has found out a way, viz. 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 show 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. (Psa. 22:6) 'I am a worm, and no man.' He that is eternal and self-existent, 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.
IV. 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.
First, 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, human wisdom would have determined, that he should appear in the world in a most magnificent manner, with very extraordinary outward ensigns of honor, 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 are called 'Princes of this world,' did expect 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 'Grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground,' (Isa. 53:2). 'That he should not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets,' (Isa. 42:2). 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 flesh, to appear with earthly pomp, wealth, and grandeur. No! these things are infinitely too mean and despicable for the Son of God to show as if he affected or esteemed them. Men, if they 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. 1:25). 'And God hath brought to nought the wisdom of this world, and the princes of this world,' (1 Cor. 2:6). 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 has taught us to be lowly in heart. If he who was infinitely high and great, was thus lowly, how lowly should we be, who are indeed so vile!
Second, 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 hell, 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 a one to be our prophet and teacher, who is a divine person, who in himself the very 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 himself to us, should be appointed our great prophet, to deliver to us divine doctrines.
V. 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. How astonishing is it, that a person who is blessed forever, 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 his creatures, should be put to death by his own creatures. That a person of infinite majesty and glory, and so the object of 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 has 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 has fixed upon, as the way of sinner's salvation, as neither unsuitable nor dishonorable to Christ.
VI. 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 strengthening of the faith and comfort of the saints, that he who has endured so much to purchase salvation for them, has all things in heaven and in 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 all 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 humbled 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 honor of the great God of heaven and earth. But such wonders as these 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 abundantly the most resplendent in this work.
I. Each attribute of God is glorified in the work or redemption. How God has exceedingly glorified his wisdom, may more fully appear before we have done with this subject. But more particularly,
First, God has exceedingly glorified his power in this work. - It shows 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 is a greater and more marvelous work than creation.
The power of God most gloriously appears in man's being actually saved and redeemed in this way. In his being bought 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 more remote from one another, than in the first.
And then the production of this last effect is a more glorious manifestation of power than the work of creation, the terms are very distant - as nothing is very remote from being - yet there is no 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 the production of the effect. But this opposition is completely overcome in actual redemption.
Besides, there is the 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. Jesus Christ, in this work, conquers and triumphs over thousands of devils, strong and mighty spirits, uniting all their strength against him. Luke 11:21, '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 his all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoil.' Col. 2:15, 'And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in the cross.'
Second, the justice of God is exceedingly glorified in this work. God is so strictly and immutably just, that he would not spare his beloved Son when he took upon him the guilt of men's sins, and was substituted in the room of sinners. He would not abate him the least mite of that debt which justice demanded. Justice should take place, though it cost his infinitely dear Son his precious blood, and his enduring such extraordinary reproach, and pain, and death in its most dreadful form.
Third, the holiness of God is also exceedingly glorious in this work. Never did God so manifest his hatred of sin as in the death and sufferings of his only-begotten Son. Hereby he showed himself unappeasable to sin, and that it was impossible for him to be at peace with it.
Fourth, God has also exceedingly glorified his truth in this way, both in his threatenings and promises. Herein is fulfilled the threatenings of the law, wherein God said, 'In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.' God showed hereby, that not only heaven and earth should pass away, but, which is more, that the blood of him who is the eternal Jehovah should be spilt, rather than one jot or tittle of his word should fail, till all be fulfilled.
Fifth, and lastly, God has exceedingly glorified his mercy and love in this work. The mercy of God was an attribute never seen before in its exercises, till it was seen in this work of redemption, or the fruits of it. The goodness of God appeared towards the angels in giving them being and blessedness. It appeared glorious towards man in his primitive state, a state of holiness and happiness. But now God has shown that he can find in his heart to love sinners, who deserve his infinite hatred. And not only has he shown that he can love them, but love them so as to give them more and do greater things for them than ever he did for the holy angels, that never sinned nor offended their Creator. He loved sinful men so as to give them a greater gift than ever he gave the angels; so as to give his own Son, and not only to give him to be their possession and enjoyment, but to give him to be their sacrifice. And herein he has done more for them than if he had given them all the visible world; yea, more than if he had given them all the angels, and all heaven besides. God has loved them so, that hereby he purchased for them deliverance from eternal misery, and the possession of immortal glory.
II. Each person of the Trinity is exceedingly glorified in this work. Herein the work of redemption is distinguished from all the other works of God. The attributes of God are glorious in his other works. But the three persons of the Trinity are distinctly glorified in no work as in this of redemption. In this work every distinct person has his distinct parts and offices assigned him. Each one has his particular and distinct concern in it, agreeable to their distinct, personal properties, relations, and economical offices. The redeemed have an equal concern with and dependence upon each person, in this affair, and owe equal honor and praise to each of them.
The Father appoints and provides the Redeemer, and accepts the price of redemption. The Son is the Redeemer and the price. He redeems by offering up himself. The Holy Ghost immediately communicates to us the thing purchased. Yea, and he is the good purchased. The sum of what Christ purchased for us is holiness and happiness. But the Holy Ghost is the great principle both of all holiness and happiness. The Holy Ghost is the sum of all that Christ purchased for men. Gal. 3:13, 14, 'He was made a curse for us, that we might receive the promise of The Spirit, through faith.'
The blessedness of the redeemed consists in partaking of Christ's fullness, which consists in partaking of that Spirit, which is given not by measure unto him. This is the oil that was poured upon the head of the church, which ran down to the members of his body, to the skirts of his garment. Thus we have an equal concern with and dependence upon each of the persons of the Trinity, distinctly; upon the Father, as he provides the Redeemer, and the person of whom the purchase is made, - the Son as the purchaser, and the price, - the Holy Ghost, as the good purchased.
The good attained by salvation is wonderfully various and exceeding great.
HERE we may distinctly consider - the variety - and the greatness - of the good procured for men.
I. The good procured by salvation is wonderfully various. Here are all sorts of good procured for fallen man, that he does or can really need, or is capable of. The wisdom of God appears in the way of salvation, in that it is most worthy of an infinitely wise God, because every way perfect and sufficient. We, in our fallen state, are most necessitous creatures, full of wants: but they are here all answered. Every sort of good is here procured, whatever would really contribute to our happiness, and even many things that we could not have thought of, had not Christ purchased them for us, and revealed them to us. Every demand of our circumstances, and craving of our natures, is here exactly answered. For instance,
First, we stand in need of peace with God. We had provoked God to anger, his wrath abode upon us, and we needed to have it appeased. This is done for us in this way of salvation. For Christ, by shedding his blood, has fully satisfied justice, and appeased God's wrath, for all that shall believe in him. By the sentence of the law we were condemned to hell. And we needed to have our sins pardoned that we might be delivered from hell. But in this work, pardon of sin and deliverance from hell, is fully purchased for us.
Second, we needed not only to have God's wrath appeased and our sins pardoned, but we needed to have the favor of God. To have God, not only not our enemy, but our friend. Now God's favor is purchased for us by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Third, we needed not only to be delivered from hell, but to have some satisfying happiness bestowed. Man has a natural craving and thirst after happiness. And [he] will thirst and crave, till his capacity is filled. And his capacity is of vast extent. And nothing but an infinite good can fill and satisfy his desires. But, notwithstanding, provision is made in this way of salvation to answer those needed, there is a satisfying happiness purchased for us, that which is fully answerable to the capacity and cravings our souls.
Here is food procured to answer all the appetites and faculties of our souls. God has made the soul of man of a spiritual nature. And therefore he needs a corresponding happiness, some spiritual object, in the enjoyment of which he may be happy. Christ has purchased the enjoyment of God, who is the great and original Spirit, as the portion of our souls. And he has purchased the Spirit of God to come and dwell in us as an eternal principle of happiness.
God has made man a rational, intelligent creature. And man needs some good that shall be a suitable object of his understanding for him to contemplate, wherein he may have full and sufficient exercise for his capacious faculties, in their utmost extent. Here is an object that is great and noble, and worthy of the exercise of the noblest faculties of the rational soul. - God himself should be theirs, for them forever to behold and contemplate. His glorious perfections and works are most worthy objects. And there is room enough for improving them, and still to exercise their faculties to all eternity. - What object can be more worthy to exercise the understanding of a rational soul, than the glories of the Divine Being, with which the heavenly intelligences, and even the infinite understanding of God himself is entertained.
Our souls need some good that shall be a suitable object of the will and affections, a suitable object for the choice, the acquiescence, the love, and the joy of the rational soul. Provision is made for this also in this way of salvation. There is an infinitely excellent Being offered to be chosen, to be rested in, to be loved, to be rejoiced in, by us, even God himself, who is infinitely lovely, the fountain of all good; a fountain that can never be exhausted, where we can be in no danger of going to excess in our love and joy. And here we may be assured ever to find our joy and delight in enjoyments answerable to our love and desires.
Fourth, there is all possible enjoyment of this object procured in this way of salvation. When persons entirely set their love upon another, they naturally desire to see that person. Merely to hear of the person, does not satisfy love. So here is provision made that we should see God, the object of our supreme love. Not only that we should hear and read of him in his word, but that we should see him with a spiritual eye here. And not only so, but that we should have the satisfaction of seeing God face to face hereafter. This is promised Mat. 5:8, 'Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.' It is promised that we shall not see God, as through a glass darkly, as we do now, but face to face, 1 Cor. 13:12. That we shall see Christ as He is, 1 John 3:2.
We naturally desire not only to see those whom we love, but to converse with them. Provision is made for this also, that we should have spiritual conversation with God while in this world, and that we should be hereafter admitted to converse with Christ in the most intimate manner possible. Provision is made in this way of salvation, that we should converse with God much more intimately than otherwise it would have been possible for us. For now Christ is incarnate, is in our nature. He is become one of us, whereby we are under advantages for an immensely more free and intimate converse with him, than could have been, if he had remained only in the divine nature, and so in a nature infinitely distant from us. - We naturally desire not only to converse with those whom we greatly love, but to dwell with them. Provision, through Christ, is made for this. It is purchased and provided that we should dwell with God in his own house in heaven, which is called our Father's house. - To dwell forever in God's presence, and at his right hand.
We naturally desire to have a right in that person whom we greatly love. Provision is made, in this way of salvation, that we should have a right in God; a right to Him. This is the promise of the covenant of grace, 'That he will be our God.' God, with all his glorious perfections and attributes, with all his power and wisdom, and with all his majesty and glory, will be ours. So that we may call him our inheritance, and the portion of our souls. What we can humbly claim by faith, having this portion made over to us by a firm instrument, by a covenant ordered in all things and sure. - And we may also hereby claim a right to Jesus Christ. Love desires that the right should be mutual. The lover desires, not only to have a right to the beloved, but that the beloved should also have a right to him. He desires to be his beloved's, as well as his beloved should be his. Provision is also made for this, in this wise method of salvation, that God should have a special propriety in the redeemed, that they should be in a distinguishing manner his, that they should be his peculiar people. We are told that God sets apart the godly for himself, Psa. 4:3. They are called God's jewels. The spouse speaks it with great satisfaction and rejoicing. Song 2:16, 'My beloved is mine, and I am His.'
Love desires to stand in some near relation to the beloved. Provision is made by Christ, that we should stand in the nearest possible relation to God, that he should be our Father, and we should be his children. We are often instructed in the Holy Scriptures, that God is the Father of believers, and that they are his family. - And not only so, but they stand in the nearest relation to Christ Jesus. There is the closest union possible. The souls of believers are married to Christ. The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. Yea, there is yet a nearer similitude. Believers are as the very members of Christ, and of his flesh and of his bones, Eph. 5:30. Yea, this is not near enough yet, but they are one spirit, 1 Cor. 6:17.
Love naturally inclines to a conformity to the beloved. To have those excellencies, upon the account of which he is beloved, copied in himself. Provision is made in this way of salvation, that we may be conformed to God; that we shall be transformed into the same image. 2 Cor. 3:18, 'We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image form glory to glory.' - And that hereafter we shall see him as he is, and be like him.
It is the natural desire of love to do something for the beloved, either for his pleasure or honor. Provision is made for this also, in this way of salvation, that we should be made instruments of glorifying God, and promoting his kingdom here, and of glorifying him to all eternity.
Fifth, in this way of salvation, provision is made for our having every sort of good that man naturally craves, as honor, wealth, and pleasure. - Here is provision made that we should be brought to the highest honor. This is what God has promised, that those that honor him, he will honor. And that true Christians shall be kings and priest unto God. - Christ promised, that as his Father has appointed unto him a kingdom, so he will appoint unto them, that they may eat and drink at his table in his kingdom. He has promised to crown them with a crown of glory, and that they shall sit with him in his throne. That he will confess their names before his Father, and before his angels. That he will give them a new name; and that they shall walk with him in white.
Christ has also purchased for them the greatest wealth. All those that are in Christ are rich. They are now rich. They have the best riches, being rich in faith, and the graces of the Spirit of God. They have gold tried in the fire. They have durable riches and righteousness. They have treasure in heaven, where neither thief approaches, nor moth corrupts. An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away. They are possessors of all things.
Christ has also purchased pleasure for them, pleasures that are immensely preferable to all the pleasures of sense, most exquisitely sweet, and satisfying. He has purchased for them fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore at God's right hand. And they shall drink of the river of God's pleasure.
Sixth, Christ has purchased all needed good both for soul and body. While we are here, we stand in need of these earthly thing. And of these Christ has purchased all that are best for us. He has purchased for the body that God should feed and clothe us. Mat. 6:26, 'How much more shall he feed you, O ye of little faith!' How much more shall he clothe you! Christ has purchased, that God should take care of us, and provide what is needed of these things, as a father provides for his children. 1 Pet. 5:7, 'Casting your care upon him, for he careth for you.'
Seventh, Christ has purchased good that is suitable for his people in all conditions. There is, in this way of salvation, respect had to, and provision made for, all circumstances that they can be in. Here is provision made, for a time of affliction - for a time of poverty and pinching want - for a time of bereavement and mourning - for spiritual darkness - for a day of temptation - for a time of persecution - and for a time of death. Here is such a provision made that is sufficient to carry a person above death, and all it terrors, and to give him a complete triumph over that king of terrors. Here is enough to sweeten the grave, and make it cease to seem desirable, and in its near approach to be not terrible but joyful.
Eighth, there is provision made in this way of salvation for the life and blessedness of soul and body to all eternity. Christ has purchased, that we should be delivered from a state of temporal death, as well as spiritual and eternal. The bodies of the saints shall be raised to life. He has purchased all manner of perfection for the body of which it is capable. It shall be raised a spiritual body in incorruption and glory, and be made like Christ's glorious body, to shine as the sun in the kingdom of his Father, and to exist in a glorified state in union with the soul to all eternity.
Ninth, but man in his fallen state still needs something else in order to his happiness, that these fore-mentioned blessings should be purchased for him, viz.. he needs to be qualified for the possession and enjoyment of them. In order to our having a title to these blessings of the covenant of grace (so that we can scripturally claim an interest in them), there is a certain condition must be performed by us. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and accept of him as offered in the gospel for a Savior. But, as we cannot do this of ourselves, Christ has purchased this also for all the elect. He has purchased, that they shall have faith given them, whereby they shall be (actively) united to Christ, and so have a (pleadable) title to his benefits.
But still something further is necessary for man, in order to his coming to the actual possession of the inheritance. A man, as soon as he has believed, has a title to the inheritance. But in order to come to the actual possession of it, he must persevere in a way of holiness. There is not only a gate that must be entered, but there is a narrow way that must be traveled before we can arrive at heavenly blessedness. And that is a way of universal and persevering holiness. But men, after they have believed, cannot persevere in a way of holiness of themselves. But there is sufficient provision made for this also, in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. The matter of a saint's perseverance is sufficiently secured by the purchase that Christ has made.
But still there is something else needful in order to qualify a person for the actual entering upon the enjoyments and employments of a glorified estate, viz. that he should be made perfectly holy; that all remainders of sin should be taken away. For there cannot any sin enter into heaven. No soul must go into the glorious presence of God, with the least degree of the filth of sin. But there is provision made. For Christ has purchased that all sin shall be taken away out of the hearts of believers at death, and that they should be made perfectly holy, whereby they shall be fully and perfectly qualified to enter upon the pleasures and enjoyments of the new Jerusalem.
II. To consider the good attained for us by this way of salvation, as exceeding great.
There is not only every sort of good we need, but of every sort in that degree, so as to answer the extent of our capacity, and the greatest stretch of our desires, and indeed of our conceptions. They are not only greater than our conceptions are here, but also greater than ever they could be, were it not that God's relation, and our own experience, will teach us. They are greater than the tongue of angels can declare, the deliverance that we have in it is exceeding great. It is deliverance from guilt, from sin itself, from the anger of God, and from the miseries of hell.
How great is the good conferred! The objective good in the infinite God, and the glorious Redeemer, Jesus Christ. How great is the love of the Father, and the Son! And how near the relation between them and the true believer! How close the union, how intimate the communion, and ultimately how clear will be the vision in glory!
There are great communications made to the believing soul on earth, but how much greater in heaven! Then their conformity to God will be perfect, their enjoyment of him will be full, their honor great and unsullied, and the glory of body and soul ineffable. The riches of the Christian are immense. All things are included in his treasure. Pleasures unspeakably and inconceivably great await him, rivers of delight, fullness of joy; and all of infinite duration.
The benefit procured for us, is doubly infinite. Our deliverance is an infinite benefit, because the evil we are delivered from in infinite. And the positive good bestowed is eternal, viz. the full enjoyment of all those blessings merited.
How angels are benefited by the salvation of men.
SO has the wisdom of God contrived this affair, that the benefit of what he has done therein should be so extensive, as to reach the elect angels. It is for men that the work of redemption is wrought out. And yet the benefit of the things done in this work is not confined to them, though all that is properly called redemption, or included in it, is confined to men. The angels cannot partake in this, having never fallen. Yet they have great indirect benefit by it. - God has so wisely ordered, that what has been done in this directly and especially for men, should redound to the exceeding benefit of all intelligent creatures who are in favor with God. The benefit of it is so diffusive as to reach heaven itself. So great and manifold is the good attained in this work, that those glorious spirits who are so much above us, and were so highly exalted in happiness before, yet should receive great addition hereby. - I will show how in some particulars.
I. The angels hereby see a great and wonderful manifestation of the glory of God. The happiness of angels as well as of men consists very much in beholding the glory of God. The excellency of the Divine Being is a most delightful subject of contemplation to the saints on earth, but much more to the angels in heaven. The more holy any being is, the more sweet and delightful will it be to him to behold the glory and beauty of the Supreme Being. - Therefore the beholding of the glory of God must be ravishing to the holy angels of God who are perfect in holiness, and never had their minds leavened with sin. The manifestations of the glory of God, are as it were the food that satisfies the angels. They live thereon. It is their greatest happiness.
It is without doubt much of their employment to behold the glory of God appearing in his works. Therefore this work of redemption greatly contributes to their happiness and delight, as the glory of God is so exceedingly manifested by it. For what is done, is done, in the sight of the angels, as is evident by many passages of Holy Scripture. And they behold the glory of God appearing herein with entertainment and delight, as it is manifest by 1 Pet. 1:12, 'Which things the angels desire to look into.'
The angels have this advantage, that now they may behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, where it shines with a peculiar luster and brightness. 1 Tim. 3:16, 'Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels.' Perhaps all God's attributes are more gloriously manifested in this work than in any other that ever the angels saw. There is certainly a fuller manifestation of some of his attributes than ever they saw before, as is evident by the text. And especially, it is so with respect to the mercy of God, that sweet and endearing attribute of the divine nature. The angels of heaven never saw so much grace manifested before, as in the work of redemption, nor in any measure equal to it. How full of joy does it fill the hearts of the angels, to see such a boundless and bottomless ocean of love and grace in their God. And therefore with what rejoicing do all the angels praise Christ for his being slain! Rev. 5:11, 12, 'And I beheld and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.'
II. They have this benefit by it, that hereby Jesus Christ, God-man, is become their head. God, subsisting in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was the king of angels, and would have been, if it had not been for our redemption. But it was owing to what is done in this work, that Jesus Christ as God-man, becomes the head of the angels. Christ is now not only the head of angels simply as God, but as God-man. Col. 2:10, 'And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power.' Eph. 1:20-22, 'Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him on his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church.'
This is a part of the exaltation and glory of Christ which God confers on him as his reward. And not only so, but it is greatly to the angels' benefit. It is God's manner in his dealings with his elect creatures, in the same works wherein he glorifies himself, or his Son, greatly to benefit them. The same dealings of his that are most for his glory, shall be most for their good. - That Christ, God-man, should be made the head of the angels, is greatly to their benefit several ways.
First, because they become hereby more nearly related to so glorious a person, the Son of God, than otherwise they would have. The angels esteem it a great honor done them to be related to such a person as Jesus Christ, God-man, who is an infinitely honorable person.
The angels, by Christ becoming their head, are with the saints gathered together in one in Christ, Eph. 1:10. They by virtue hereof, though Christ be not their Redeemer as he is ours, have a right and propriety in this glorious person, as well as we. He is theirs. Though not their Savior, yet he is their head of government, and head of influence.
Second, again, this is greatly to their benefit, as they are under advantages for a far more intimate converse with God. The divine nature is at an infinite distance from the nature of angels, as well as from the nature of man. This distance forbids a familiarity and intimacy of intercourse. - It is therefore a great advantage to the angels that God has come to them in a created nature, and in that nature has become their head, so that their intercourse and enjoyment may be more intimate. They are invited by the similar qualifications of the created nature, with which the Son of God is invested.
Third, it is for the benefit of the angels, as hereby the elect of mankind are gathered into their society. Christ, by the work of redemption, gathers in the elect of mankind to join the angels of heaven. Eph. 1:10, 'That in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.' Men are brought in to join with the angels in their work of praising God, to partake with them of their enjoyments. The angels greatly rejoice at this. They rejoice when but one person is gathered in, as Christ teaches us. Luke 15:10, 'Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' The heavenly society is made more complete by this accession of the saints to it. They contribute to the happiness of each other. The angels rejoice that others are added to join them and assist them in praising God. - And thus the vacancy by the fall of angels is filled up.
Fourth, it tends to make the angels to prize their happiness the more when they see how much it cost to purchase the same happiness for man. Though they knew so much, yet they are not incapable of being taught more and more the worth of their own happiness. For when they saw how much it cost to purchase the same happiness for man, even the precious blood of the Son of God, this tended to give them a great sense of the infinite value of their happiness. They never saw such a testimony of the value of the eternal enjoyment of God before.
Thus we have shown, how the wisdom of God appears in the work of redemption in the good ends attained thereby, with respect to God, men, and good angels.
But are there any good ends obtained with respect to bad angels, God's grand enemies? Undoubtedly there are, as may appear from the few following considerations. Satan and his angels rebelled against God in heaven, and proudly presumed to try their strength with his. And when God by his almighty power overcame the strength of Satan, and sent him like lightning from heaven to hell with all his army, Satan still hoped to get the victory by subtlety. Though he could not overcome by power, yet he hoped to succeed by craft. And so by his subtlety to disappoint God of his end in creating this lower world. - God therefore has shown his great wisdom in overthrowing Satan's design. He has disappointed the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise. He has carried their counsel headlong.
1. Satan thought to have disappointed God of his glory, which he designed in creation this lower world, and to make mankind be for his own glory, in setting up himself god over them. Now Christ, by what he has done in the work of redemption, has overthrown Satan, and utterly frustrated him as to this end. God is exceedingly glorified in the elect, to the surprise of angels and devils. God by redemption has all the glory that he intended, and more than either men, angels, or devils imagined that God intended. God might have glorified his justice in the destruction of all mankind. But it was God's design in creation the world, to glorify his goodness and love. And not only to be glorified eventually, but to be served and glorified actually by men. Satan intended to frustrate God of this end. But, by the redemption of Jesus Christ, his design is confounded.
2. Another design of the devil was to gratify his envy in the utter destruction of mankind. But, by the redemption of Jesus Christ, this malicious design of Satan is crossed, because all the elect are brought to their designed happiness, which is much greater than ever Satan thought it was in God's heart to bestow on man. And though some of mankind are left to be miserable, yet that does not answer Satan's end. For this also is ordered for God's glory. No more are left miserable than God saw meet to glorify his justice upon.
One end why God suffered Satan to do what he did in procuring the fall of man was that his Son might be glorified in conquering that strong, subtle, and proud spirit, and triumphing over him. How glorious does Christ Jesus appear in baffling and triumphing over this proud king of darkness, and all the haughty confederate rulers of hell. How glorious a sight is it to see the meek and patient Lamb of God leading that proud, malicious, and mighty enemy in triumph! What songs does this cause in heaven! It was a glorious sight in Israel, who came out with timbrels and with dances, and sang, 'Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.' But how much more glorious to see the Son of David, the Son of God, carrying the head of the spiritual Goliath, the champion of the armies of hell, in triumph to the heavenly Jerusalem! It is with a principal view to this, that Christ is called, 'the Lord of hosts, or armies, and a man of war,' Exo. 15:3. And Psa. 24:8, 'Who is this king of glory! The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.'
In this way of salvation wonderful glory redounds to God, as to the effect of divine wisdom.
I. BY this contrivance for our redemption, God's greatest dishonor is made an occasion of his greatest glory. Sin is a thing by which God is greatly dishonored. The nature of its principle is enmity against God, and contempt of him. And man, by his rebellion, has greatly dishonored God. But this dishonor, by the contrivance of our redemption, is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of God's glory that ever was. Sin, the greatest evil, is made an occasion of the greatest good. It is the nature of a principle of sin that it seeks to dethrone God. But this is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of God's royal majesty and glory that ever was. By sin, man has slighted and despised God, but this is made an occasion of his appearing the more greatly honorable. Sin casts contempt upon the authority and law of God. But this, by the contrivance of our redemption, is made the occasion of the greatest honour done to that same authority, and to that very law. It was a greater honor to the law of God that Christ was subject to it, and obeyed it, than if all mankind had obeyed it. It was greater honor to God's authority that Christ showed such great respect, and such entire subjection to it, than the perfect obedience of all the angels in heaven. Man by his sin showed his enmity against the holiness of God. But this is made an occasion of the greatest manifestation of God's holiness. The holiness of God never appeared to so great a degree, as when God executed vengeance upon his own dear Son.
II. So has the wisdom of God contrived that those attributes are glorified in man's salvation, whose glory seemed to require his destruction. When man had fallen, several attributes of God seemed to require his destruction. The justice of God requires that sin be punished as it deserves. But it deserves no less than eternal destruction. God proclaims it as a part of glory of his nature that he will in no wise clear the guilty, Exo. 34:7. The holiness of God seemed to require man's destruction. For God by his holiness infinitely hates sin. This seemed to require therefore that God should manifest a proportionable hatred of the sinner. And that he should be forever an enemy unto him. The truth of God seemed also to require man's destruction. For eternal death was what God had threatened for sin, one jot or tittle of which threatening cannot by any means pass away. But yet so has God contrived, that those very attributes not only allow of man's redemption, and are not inconsistent with it, but they are glorified in it. Even vindictive justice is glorified in the death and sufferings of Christ. The holiness of God, or his holy hatred of sin, that seemed to require man's damnation, is seen in Christ's dying for sinners. So herein also is manifested and glorified the truth of God, in the threatenings of the law.
III. Yea, it is so ordered now that the glory of these attributes requires the salvation of those that believe. The justice of God that required man's damnation, and seemed inconsistent with his salvation, now as much requires the salvation of those that believe in Christ, as ever before it required their damnation. Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, so that he may in justice demand it, on account of what his surety has done. For Christ has satisfied justice fully for his sin. It is but a piece of justice, that the creditor should release the debtor, when he has fully paid the debt. And again, the believer may demand eternal life, because it has been merited by Christ, by a merit of condignity. So is it contrived, that justice that seemed to require man's destruction, now requires his salvation.
So the truth of God that seemed to require man's damnation, now requires his salvation. At the same time that the threatening of the law stands good, there is a promise of eternal life to many who have broken the law. They both stand good at the same time. And the truth of God requires that both should be fulfilled. How much soever they seemed to clash, yet so is the matter contrived in this way of salvation, that both are fulfilled and do not interfere one with another.
At the very time that God uttered the threatening, 'In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,' and at the time that Adam had first eaten the forbidden fruit, there was then an existing promise, that many thousands of Adam's race should obtain eternal life. This promise was made to Jesus Christ before the world was. What a difficulty and inconsistency did there seem to be