This book, though it consists of three parts, apparently distinct and separate from each other, hath nevertheless a unity in itself which entitles it to be regarded as one work. The first part treats of the work of Christ in the flesh; the second, of the publication and propagation of the same good work amongst men; and the third, of the present aspect and condition, and the immediate prospects, of that portion of the world which hath received the preaching of the Gospel of the incarnate Word;—the first being doctrinal, the second ecclesiastical and practical, the third national and prophetical. Upon each of these three several parts, I have a word or two to say, by way of preface.
The Sermons on the Incarnation were intended to open that mystery after a dogmatical, and not a controversial, method; as being designed for the instruction of the church committed to my ministerial and pastoral care, of whom I knew not that any one entertained a doubt upon that great head of Christian faith. To open the subject in all its bearings, and to connect it with the other great heads of divine doctrine, especially with the doctrine of the Trinity; and to shew the several offices of the Divine persons, in the great work of making the Word flesh; this truly was the good purpose with which I undertook and completed the four sermons upon the Origin, the End, the Act, and the Fruit of the Incarnation. When I had completed this office of my ministry, and, by the request of my flock, had consented to the publication of these and the other discourses contained in this book; and when the printing of them had all but, or altogether, concluded; there arose, I say not by what influence of Satan, a great outcry against the doctrine which, with all orthodox churches, I hold and maintain concerning the person of Christ: the doctrine I mean of his human nature, that it was manhood fallen, which he took up into his Divine person, in order to prove the grace and the might of Godhead in redeeming it; or, to use the words of our Scottish Confession, that his flesh was, in its proper nature, mortal and corruptible, but received immortality and incorruption from the Holy Ghost. The stir which was made in divers quarters, both of this and my native land, about this matter, as if it were neither the orthodox doctrine of the church, nor a doctrine according to godliness, shewed me, who am convinced of both, that it was necessary to take controversial weapons in my hand, and contend earnestly for the faith as it was once delivered to the saints. I perceived now, that the dogmatical method which I had adopted for the behoof of my own believing flock, would not be sufficient when publishing to a wavering, gainsaying, or unbelieving people; and therefore it seemed to me most profitable to delay the publication until I should have composed something fitted to re-establish men’s minds upon this great fundamental doctrine of the church,—which having done I resolved to insert the same as two other sermons the one upon the method of the incarnation, and the other upon the relations of the Creator and the creature, as these are shewn out in the light of the Incarnation, And for this timeous interruption by evil tongues; I desire to give thanks to God, inasmuch as I have been enabled thereby not only to expound, but to defend the faith, that the Son of God came in the flesh.
I would not add another word upon this subject were it not that I know how ready the ear of this generation is to take up an evil report, and now much it doth prejudice a man to be even suspected of a great vital error in his faith. Therefore to set myself straight with honest-hearted men, who may have been poisoned by malicious slander, I will state, in a few words, what is the exact matter in dispute between us and these gainsayers of the truth.
The point at issue is simply this; Whether Christ’s flesh had the grace of sinlessness and incorruption from its proper nature, or from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. I say the latter. I assert, that in its proper nature it was as the flesh of his mother, but, by virtue of the Holy Ghost’s quickening and inhabiting of it, it was preserved sinless and incorruptible. This work of the Holy Ghost, I further assert, was done in consequence of the Son’s humbling himself to be made flesh. The Son said, ” I come: ” the Father said, “I prepare thee a body to come in:” and the Holy Ghost prepared that body out of the Virgin s substance. And so, by the threefold acting of the Trinity, was the Christ constituted a Divine and a human nature, Joined in personal union for ever. This I hold to have been the orthodox faith of the Christian church in all ages: it is the doctrine of the Scottish Church, expressed in these words of the Twenty-first Article: “As the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which of its own nature was mortal and incorruptible, life and immortality” &c. And, moreover, I assert, that the opposite of this doctrine, which affirmeth Christ’s flesh to have been in itself immortal and incorruptible, or in any way diverse from this flesh of mine, without respect had to the Holy Ghost, is a pestilent heresy, which coming in will root out atonement, redemption, regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and the human nature of Christ altogether. Now, I glory that God hath accounted me worthy to appear in the field of this ancient controversy, which I hold to be the foundation-stone of the edifice of orthodox truth. With all this I hold the human will of Christ to have been perfectly holy, and to have acted, spoken, or wished nothing but in perfect harmony with the will of the Godhead; which, to distinguish it from the creature will, he calleth the will of the Father: for that there were two wills in Christ, the one the absolute will of the Godhead, the other the limited will of the manhood, the church hath ever maintained as resolutely as that there were two natures. These two wills, I maintain, were always concentric or harmonious with each other, and the work achieved by the Godhead through the Incarnation of Christ was neither less nor more than this, to bring the will of the creature, which had erred from the Divine will, back again to be harmonious with the Divine will and there to fix it forever. This is the redemption, this is the at-one-ment, which was wrought in Christ to redeem the will of a creature from the oppression of sin, and bring it to be at one with the will of the Creator. All divinity, all Divine operation, all God’s purpose from the beginning to the ending of time, and throughout eternal ages, resteth upon this one truth, that every acting of the human nature of Christ was responsive to, and harmonious with, the actings of the Divine will of the Godhead. What a calumny it is then, what a hideous lie to represent us as making Christ unholy and sinful because we maintain that he took his humanity completely and wholly from the substance; from the sinful substance, of the fallen creatures which he came to redeem! He was passive, every sinful suggestion which the world through the flesh can hand up unto the will; he was liable to every sinful suggestion which Satan through the mind can hand up to the will and with all such suggestions and temptations I believe him beyond all others to have been assailed, but, further went they not. He gave them no inlet, he went not to seek them, he gave them no quarter but with power Divine rejected and repulsed them all; and so, from his conception unto his resurrection, his whole life was a series of active triumphings over sin in the flesh, Satan in the world, and spiritual wickednesses in high places.—If now, after this honest and true statement of the issue, anyone will advance to the perusal of this treatise on the Incarnation with a prejudice against the orthodox truth, or against me its expounder, be the guilt of the breach of charity his own head; may God deal with him better than he deserves.
With respect to the second part of this book which, from the text of the Parable of the Sower, doth open the various forms of prejudice and opposition which the truth as it is in Jesus hath to encounter from the world, together with the nature of that soil which God prepareth for it in those parts where he purposeth it should take root, I have, in the way of preface, to observe, that I have spoken with all boldness concerning the obstacles and resistances which the natural man preferreth to the preaching of the grace and truth as it is in Jesus Christ;—the forms, to wit, of fidelity, the forms of instability, the forms of worldly prepossession. And I have specially enlarged upon that soil of an honest heart in which alone the seed of the word taketh root. In all which compass of discourse I will be found, I fear, to have wounded the self-esteem of every sect and party in the church; but not, as I judge, to have wounded the unity of the Holy Spirit, or sinned against the holy catholic church, and the communion of the saints. My great preservative against the sectarian and schismatic spirit, I have found to be the right discernment of the unity of the church, and the right discernment of the forms of Apostasy in the church.—it hath pleased God to set forth all truth by the positive and the negative method. Sin is the negative of righteousness, and all forms of righteousness have their opposite forms of sin. Again, the devil, as a person, is the negative, or opposite, of Christ as a person; who came to destroy the devil and his works. Aad again, the Apostasy is the negative of the true church, or what our fathers called the Satan’s synagogue is the negative of Christ’s church. As believers we receive the truth as it is in Jesus, and we reject the evil as it is in the world, and in the wicked one. Again, as baptised men, we join ourselves to the true church and lift up a protestation against the Apostasy in the church. We join the right hand of fellowship, the church of Christ, while with the left hand we cut asunder all fellowship with the Apostasy. If, therefore, anyone can discern the Apostasy, which is the negative, he doth in the same also discern the church, which is the positive, just as man cannot discern sin, without at the same time discern righteousness. Now I have exercised much to discern the Apostasy and to hold with it no communion or fellowship of any kind. This Apostasy I perceive to be twofold; that of the sense, and that of the mind—the former constituted into the form by the Papacy, the latter constituting itself into the form by the Socinianism and Neology of the Protestant churches. These two bodies, the Papacy and the Infidelity among the Protestants, being the two forms of apostasy the Church doth stand separated from, calling unto everyone in these two cities for flee out of them for their life. These are virtually excommunicated from the church and are to be treated as excommunicated persons, whom we would fain restore to the body of Christ, but may not until they have repented of their errors; and when they do so repent, and satisfy the rulers of the church, we receive without any public recantation, which I regard as rather a super-addition upon the ancient and true discipline in this respect. So much of severity is due unto the preservation of the unity of the body of Christ; and this being done in the true spirit of love and faithfulness, We will come by natural course, as it were, to recognise all others as brethren indeed, without respect to the varieties of their several modes of government and worship. For example, the Church of Scotland and the Church of England may not excommunicate each other, or hold each other excommunicated, unless the one is prepared to love the other to be a limb of the Apostasy. No matter how we may differ and disagree in many respects, we may not stand out of communion with each other on lower ground than that of Apostasy; for excommunication is the only ordinance by which you can mark off an apostate, and for no lesser end ought it to be used. Therefore I regard the present standing of these two Churches to one another, to be one of the sorest wounds to Christian charity, to the unity of Christ’s body, and one of the most heinous offences to the great Head of the Church, which it is possible to commit, and I do devoutly pray it might be removed. In like manner When the Dissenters in England, and the Seceders in Scotland, came so far as to interdict the receiving of the sacraments in the several churches from which they have seceded for the testimony of a pure discipline, they were betrayed into a sin far greater than the good which they aimed at, and did in fact excommunicate these churches, which may not be done save unto the Apostasy. There is no let or hindrance against particular bodies, or rather members, forming themselves in the one body of the church for a more high, holy, and heavenly testimony and life, than they see around them, provided always they do not passover to the extreme of causing schism and division, in the churchy by excommunicating those who are not apostate, and therefore not rightly under the discipline of excommunication: and such I perceive to have been the practice both of the the Jewish Church, and of the Christian church in primitive times; yea, even until the Inquisition; and I may say of the Protestant church at the Reformation. And though it is not now the practice of any church, which have all, more or less, given way to the spirit of schism, yet is it the true idea of Christian communion, and that to which every member of Christ should seek to conform himself and that to which I have sought to conform my thoughts in the composition of the whole, but expecially the second part of this book: so that if I have offended against the particular and partial views of individuals, and sects, and even churches, I trust I have not offended in any things certainly I have not wittingly offended in any thing, against our common Head, and our common Spirit.
Now, for the third part of these discourses, which treat especially of the national and political relations of the Church, and of God’s providence unto Christendom, I shall endeavour to embody in a few words the substance of what I have set forth in these seven Occasional Discourse—Infidelity and superstition are the two generative and assimilating principles around which the materials of evil are gathering themselves. Long did superstition ride paramount over Christendom; but since the Reformation, and chiefly by means of the Reformation, infidelity hath grown in the church, until it is now in a state to try its strength against the ancient fortresses of superstition. The conflict between these two principles wrought all the havoc of the late revolutionary wars; and there is a pause which for twelve years hath permitted the wasted competitors for Christendom to renew their strength. This pause hath not been without restless commotions, of which the speedy suppression sheweth that the time is not yet: but far distant it cannot lie; and when it comes, we know that infidelity, under a great and mighty ruler, shall prevail over the papal kingdoms of Europe; and the pope, with all his clergy, shall bend unto the stream, and suffer themselves to be carried along with it. How it is to stand with Britain in this crisis, I confess I see not clearly. She is full of the elements of strife ; she is marked with the signs of change; but still she hath an orthodox church, which, if preserved from the Pharisaical spirit, may be for a salt to preserve her.—In the first, third, fifth, and seventh discourses I have endeavoured to represent the condition of our land; but still, I confess, I see not whether we shall come for a season under the power of infidelity or not. While things have been ripening, and are ripening for this great and fearful change of Christendom, from superstition to infidelity, over the fair region of the western Roman empire, the Lord hath been busy setting in array against each other the two great powers of the Greek and the Mohammedan superstition. To this act of the great drama, which for many years hath been proceeding, and now hasting to consummation, I have directed the attention of the church in the fourth discourse. My judgment is at this time when I write, that the great northern power will be permitted to prevail so far as to bring most righteous und most heavy chastisement upon the Turkish power for its blasphemies against Christ, its cruelties of old inflicted upon Christendom and its present most licentious, avaricious, cruel oppression of its subjects. How far this chastisement will extend I take not upon me to say, further than that the Greek empire or kingdom will arise again into distinctness, and the Turkish kingdom come under such a subjections or vassalage, or influence unto the power of the north, as Persia is at present: so that the Euphrates kingdom of the Turk,—which, for its territory and its symbols; is, I think, the representative of the old Assyrian, or Babylonian,—and the Persian kingdom, and the Grecian kingdom, shall continue to be together in existence; and yet to exist under the awe, influence, and authority of the great northern kingdom. And so soon as this condition of things shall have been brought to pass in the East, the great drama of Divine Providence, will, I judge, shift its place into the West, and the infidel power be revealed above the Papal power. This conclusion I arrive at partly from Daniel’s vision of the four beasts; where it is said, That during and after, the ten-horned papal beast hath been entirely consumed with fiery judgments, the other three beasts are still preserved for a season and a time though their dominion be taken away. If, then, the Turk, who hath possessed Euphrates, Ninevah or Babylonian for seven centuries, be the Assyrian or Babylonian power, and Persia stand for itself, and Greece now struggling into a separate being, stand likewise for itself, then these three kingdoms are to continue in being, and to behold the fiery vengeance poured out upon the Roman Apostasy, when it shall have become Infidel. When, therefore, the drama shall so shift its scene back again to the West, and the Infidel power shall, by another mighty revolution, the earthquake of the seventh vial, organise the ten kingdoms once more under the eighth head, which is also the seventh; how shall this towering monarch, last king of Rome—last ruler of the mystical Babylon—be brought low, and his dominions wasted with the fiery wrath of God? This is the question which I have sought to answer in the sixth discourse, wherein I shew that this great Infidel prince and personal Antichrist, in whom the Apostasy of the West is consummated, shall be brought low by the marshal array of the Ten Tribes of Israel, long lost to human knowledge; but who shall then, under the immediate guidance of Messiah the man of war, whether personally or providentially, come up like Cyrus and his sanctified ones of old, to overwhelm this Belshazzar, last king of Babylon, who hath ignominiously planted the tabernacles of his palace, in the glorious holy mountain; and so deliver the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, suffering captivity within Babylon’s mystical hold. That this achievement of the Ten Tribes shall not be without the countenance of the king of the North, we know from Daniel, who makes tidings out of the North, as well as the East, to trouble the wilful, lawless king; and from the Apocalypse, which, besides preparing the way for the kings of the East, under the sixth vial, doth, under the seventh, bring the whole dominion of the Infidel power under, the hideous judgment of the northern hail every hailstone of the weight of a talent. And from other parts of Scripture, I am inclined to conclude, that the land covering or sheltering with wings even the ships of Tarshish, which is Britain, shall bear some part in helping forward this mighty march of the Ten Tribes of Israel: and to this end, as I judge, it is that God hath, as it were, divided the sway of all the East between the great northern king and the nation covering with wings, because in the East these tribes will be found, and from the East they will proceeds. Now it is after the suppression, and in the supression of the Infidel Roman kingdom, that the ten tribe deliverers, and the two tribes delivered will sit down in peace in their own land;—not brought thither through conversion, but by the tide of God’s mighty providence; to the end, first of terrible chastisement, and then of conversion. Thus then, we have the Roman kingdom under judgment, the Jewish tribes restored, and the three beasts, Turkey, Persia, and Greece, under the wing of the great northern power, and waiting the time of God. And now it is, as I deem, that the last act of the drama, the winding up of the whole proceedeth, which is that invasion of Gog the prince of Ross (Russ),Meshec (Mosc), and Tubal (Tobol), with his great confederacy, including Persia and all the northern kingdoms of the Gothic and Sclavonic families, as hath been shewn in the work.of Granville Penn upon the prophecy of Gog. Then will it be seen for what end such power hath been slowy accumulated by God into the hands of the great northern power when, moved by the desire of spoil, he shall come up against the tribes of Israel dwelling in unwalled villages, in an unfortified and secure condition. Then it is that the sons of Zion and the sons of Greece are stirred op against one another; when the confederate nations come trooping under the banner of Gog prince of Ross, Meshec, and Tubal: and then shall the Greek superstition receive its judgment; and then shall the three remaining kingdoms be all destroyed; and then shall the tribes of Israel, in the terrible conflict against the confederated nations, be brought into those awful straits described in all the Prophets, and especially in the last chapter of Zechariah, when two thirds of them shall perish, when Jerusalem shall be taken; and then, as I judge, shall be the great making bare of the arm of the Lord, and revelation of his righteous judgment upon all the forms of Apostasy, Greek, Mohanmiedan, Infidel, and wrecks of the Roman. But whether Britain shall be preserved from that fearful confederacy, and be employed by God for purposes of grace and mercy I cannot find grounds for deciding, though I most devoutly wish and pray it might be so. If it would please God to turn the attention of our governors to the subjects treated of in the third and seventh discourses, and the attention of the church to the subjects treated of in the first and fifth discourses, we might indeed hope that the time for favour is not yet expired.—I have done my feeble part, as an individual minister of the church, and subject of the kingdom. However they may revile me, my purposes are both pious and honourable, and my guides—my only guides—are God’s Word and Spirit. If I have offended Him in what I have written, then indeed I have offended; but if I have prevailed, through grace, to open any portion of his blessed truth unto his beloved church, then am I honoured indeed, and may well abide the scorn, and the scoff, and the falsehood, and the malediction of those ignorant and unstable men, who seal up the prophecy, and wrest the other Scriptures unto their own destruction.
I commend my book unto thy patronage, O thou Enlightener of every man who cometh into the world ! I submit my work unto the review and censure of that righteous judgment which shall yet be holden upon all the works of all men; and meanwhile unto thee, O Holy Spirit, whose minister I am, I offer these various thoughts and counsels, that thou mayest use them for the sake of the faithful in Christ Jesus, whom I love in my heart, and for whom I desire patiently to bear all pains and travails of this mortal estate. And, O Father of my spirit, I fervently pray unto thee, that thou wouldest in thy great mercy forgive whatever, in these and all my writings, may be in- harmonious with thy only holy mind, or derogatory from the honour and glory of thine only begotten Son, or vexatious and hindersome to the work of the Holy Spirit, remembering not the sins of thy servant, neither suffering them to make the least of thy little ones to offend. Amen and Amen.
Dedication: To my Flock and Congregation
Dearly beloved in the Lord,
These Sermons on the Incarnation and the most orthodox and wholesome doctrine therein set forth, you received with all acceptation; and the Elders whom God hath set over you made choice of them to stand first in these volumes, which I now publish for the edification of the body of Christ. To you, therefore, over whom the Lord hath made us overseers, I do offer these fruits of my meditation and ministry on your behalf; and I entreat you, in the name of Jesus Christ, whose act of surpassing love they are intended to unfold, that you would receive them with favour and affection from the hand of your Pastor and Teacher, who loveth you much. I cannot refrain, dearly beloved, from expressing to you all the growing attachment which I feel towards you, because of your patient hearing of the whole testimony of God, and your observance of his holy ordinances, and reverence for the persons of us who administer the same; and I entreat you, in the several stations appointed to you of God, to be faithful witnesses for Christ until his coming: standing fast together in faith and love and a good conscience, may your loins girt and your lamps burning, as those who wait for his appearing.
May the great Bishop and Shepherd of your soul feed you with the bread of life all the days of your earthly pilgrimage, and receive you at length unto his kingdom and glory. Your affectionate and dutiful Pastor,
EDWARD IRVING. Nov. 10, 1828.
Sermon 1: That the Beginning and Origin of the Mystery that the Eternal Word should take unto himself a body, is the holy will and good pleasure of God
PSALM XL. 6—8. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Dearly beloved brethren, on this day which we have set apart for shewing forth the Lord’s death by the sacrament of the supper, I consider it to be due unto his honour, and a right acknowledgment of our faith, that we should begin to meditate, and to set forth in order, the great work of his incarnation, and the benefits which flow thence into our souls; to the end that, when God beholdeth us to be of one mind and spirit to honour and glorify his Son, he may be well pleased in us, and make himself known to us in the breaking of bread. And may the Holy Spirit, who receiveth of the things of Christ to shew them unto us, at this time so anoint us all with his holy unction of truth, that we may be able to search into the deep things of God, and to present them for the edification of the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all.
The immediate cause of the Incarnation, was the fall of man and the consequent invasion of sin and subjection of all earthly things to the prince of darkness. I say that this was the Immediate cause, or, as we may say, the occasion of it: for, if man had not fallen, there would never have been upon this earth any such event as the Incarnation, whereof the first fruit is to recover that which Adam lost, and, at the least, to reinstate mankind and their habitation in that condition wherein they were created. This fall of man was also the formal cause of the Incarnation; that is to say, what gave to the purpose of God its outward form and character, requiring his Son to take upon him the nature of man, and not of angels, to be under the law, and to bear the curse of death, as it is written (Heb. ii. 14, 15), “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” But, if we would ascend to the first cause of this great act of the Godhead, we must seek it in God himself, who worketh all things after the pleasure of his own will, and to the praise of his own glory. The fall of man was not an accident which fell out against the disposition and to the hindrance of God’s universal and all-including scheme of creation, and providence, and grace: but though the will of man was free—that is, under his own single control, and not in bondage of a stronger as now it is,—yet was the act of his disobedience both known and foreseen, and permitted of God, though not in such a way as to overrule, or constrain, or in any way to bias his mind to evil, but all the contrary. And as it was foreseen, so was it provided for; and as it was permitted, so was it overruled for the greater glory and honour of the most holy and righteous God, and for the total and eternal extinction and abolition of the active power of sin. Therefore is it most necessary to reach to a higher and more remote source than the fall, or even the creation of our first parents, in order to attain unto the great and first cause of the mystery of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And the rule is general, that we must wholly disentangle every spiritual subject from the conditions of space and time, which are only the forms of its manifestation, ere we can arrive at its proper bearings, or handle it in a way profitable to the spiritual life.
Accordingly, it is written concerning this mystery of the incarnation, in various parts of Scripture; that it came not within the coasts of time, but had its origin before the foundation of the world. In the beginning of his Gospel, the testimony of John is given to this effect: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world :” concerning which Lamb he testifies, in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, ver. 8, that he was ”slain from the foundation of the world;” “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”—But lest any one should say that this doth carry the offering of Christ only to, and not beyond, the foundation of the world, I have Christ’s testimony concerning himself in the seventeenth chapter of John: ” Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” And lest this should be interpreted of the Father’s love to him, anterior to, and independent on, his mediatorial office (although it is, to my mind, nothing less than an absurdity and contradiction to imagine that the Father can contemplate his Son otherwise than in the fulness of all his offices, there being no application of time to the Godhead), I have to shew you a passage in the First Epistle of Peter, which places the sacrifice of the Lamb, yea, and the fore-ordination and appointment of it, before the foundation of the world: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” In which idea that the Apostles were rooted and grounded, you cannot read one of their Epistles without perceiving; where you shall find that it is not in the fall of man they date the origin of our redemption, but in the eternal counsel of God, which he purposed in himself before the world began, as it is written (2 Tim. i. 9), ” Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christy who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” In which passage, that which is seen and temporal with respect to the Messiah, is regarded merely as the manifestation of that purpose which the Godhead had purposed in himself before the world was, before any world was; all good purposes being ever present with him, and the execution of them all ever seen in the fulness of THE WORD, contemplated in Him as their great architect, and fabricator, and upholder. But the full development of this doctrine is to be found written in the Epistle to the Ephesians; of which Paul himself doth witness the great depth, saying, that when we read it, we may understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ. If you read with me, at the third verse of the first chapter you will find, that the Apostle carries us out of place; at ver. 4, out of time; at ver. 6, out of the present age; and at ver. 6, out of all external cause : at ver. 7, he rehearseth the act of its revelation in time; and in verses 8, 9, lo, consummates the act: in ver. 11, he takes in the personal interest in, and in ver. 12, he shews the end, of the purpose.
The doctrine, therefore, concerning the incarnation, upon which the primitive church was founded by the Apostles, and to which the Reformers brought us back, and from which we are fast swerving again, is this,—That it is a great purpose of the Divine will which God was minded from all eternity to make known unto his creatures, for their greater information,, delight, and blessedness; to make known, I say, to all his intelligent creatures, the grace and mercy, the forgiveness and love which he beareth towards those who love the honour of his Son, and believe in the word of his testimony. In order that thereby his children, comprehending more fully the beauty and loveliness of the Divine Majesty, might desire him the more, and cleave unto him with an entire fidelity. Which aspect, if I may so speak, of the Divine character, could never be beheld by a creature unfallen; forasmuch as grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, do necessarily presuppose and require guilt, and offence, and hatefulness, for the objects upon which to put themselves forth, as necessarily as the power, and wisdom, and order, and harmony of creation require a chaos, and confusion, and darkness which they may adorn, and order, and bless. And as God did not at once command the created world to come forth as we now behold it, but first permitted a chaos which was without form and void, in order that by successive acts of wisdom and goodness, he might order it into beauty and light; so also did he permit that in the moral part of his works, there should be a rebellion, and darkness, and disobedience, in order that by successive acts of compelling grace, he might lead out the harmony and unity of all his chosen, ”against the dispensation of the fulness of the times when he shall gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in the heavens and which are on the earth.” And in thus proceeding, he doth manifest the grace or favour which he beareth even to sinners who honour his Son, giving his Son thereby a very great exaltation before the heavenly host, when they perceive that for his sake the Father of all can forgive sin. This, then, you will bear in mind that the incarnation of his Son is the way by which God revealeth that more tender aspect of his being, called grace—that part of the Divine substance which could not otherwise have been made known. And therefore the Gospel is called a mystery, because it was long hid to all, and is yet in a great measure hid unto all, being still only in the act and progress of unfolding itself. Abraham had a distant prospect of it, and Moses had a material model of it, the Psalmist a royal foretaste of it, and the Prophets a national manifestation of it, which yet themselves understood not, though they believed; and our Lord verified Abraham’s distant view, substantiated Moses’s shadow, answered part of the predictions of the Psalms and the Prophets, prepared the way of the Spirit to open the mystery more perfectly to the Apostles, and promised that he would come again to manifest, clear up, and accomplish what still lay shrouded in the mystery: and this we look for him to accomplish against the dispensation of the fulness of the times. And to this agree the words of the Apostle, when speaking of the insight which had been given unto him, as you find in Eph. 3. 4-6: “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; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.” And further, in verses 8-11 ; “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 hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers m heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Upon which word ”now,” I remark, that we, that the principalities and powers in heavenly places, that all created beings, shall have no other revelation than we now possess in the church concerning the manifold wisdom of God; though, as it opens more and more, and is by the Lion of the tribe of Judah unsealed more and more, it shall be more and more discovered what treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Jesus Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, according as we find it written in the 7th verse of the 2nd chap, of the same Epistle; ”That in the ages to come be might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.”
Take this, therefore, my beloved brethren, for the true principle of the work of the Incarnation, that it was a purpose which God purposed in himself, to make known by Jesus Christ, and by all who shall honour and cleave to him, the riches of his grace and mercy to the chief of sinners. And taking this for the true account of the matter, be comforted and strengthened and edified, in knowing that there is nothing accidental nor circumstantial in the work of your redemption, but that it is complete in him in whom ye believe and trust;—that as the men are carried safe who cleave unto the life-boat, while the men that rashly commit themselves to the billows are dashed to pieces; or, to keep to the sacred emblem, as the souls who believed Noah and took refuge in the ark were saved, while all the rest perished, so you have nothing to fear if ye cleave to Christ, and resign yourselves to the shelter of his brooding wings. Oh, our fathers knew the comfort of this doctrine of the unconditional, uncircumstantial, unaccidental, the substantial, eternal, and unchangeable election in Christ Jesus; and, receiving it, they grew into his similitude, and were strengthened to do works worthy of his holiness: but we have confounded the security of the Divine purpose which includeth the church, and embraceth every spirit which believeth in Jesus, and which is the argument for believing in him, that we may be so kept in safety for ever; this have we confounded by looking continually at the varieties of the moods and frames of the natural man, and changing conditions of the visible church, which have no more to do with the constancy of that purpose in which we are wrapped up with Jesus, than this changing atmosphere, and cloudy canopy over our heads, hath to do with the fixed stars of heaven, and the constant light and heat of the glorious sun.
So much have I to say in the general way which one topic of a discourse can contain, concerning the first and great cause of the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : and now I pray you to observe these two things, which naturally flow from what hath been said:—
First, In order that God might not be the cause of sin, and so all ideas of good and evil become confounded, it was proper, as from his own essential goodness it was necessary, that every creature which his finger framed should be made perfect in its kind, fit to shadow forth some portion of the Creator’s worthiness, and to execute some part of his all-consistent and all-gracious will. Wherefore, every creature being framed obedient to a good law and blessed in the obedience of the same; it must follow that if any creature fall from its primitive condition and frame of righteousness, it must do so by positive transgression of that ordinance under which it was placed by its Creator, and therein held by strong obligations and inducements, yet by no means so strong as to preclude a fall, which were infallibility itself and unchangeableness—a state of being which pertaineth, as I conceive, at present to God only, but unto which all the redeemed are working their way, with all those heavenly and earthly things which, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, are in Christ Jesus to be gathered together into one. I mean to say, that we have no tidings, nor records, nor, as I think, ideas of any unchangeable but the one unchangeable, the I AM, and therefore we ought not to wonder that angels and mankind should fall, or impute their fall unto God the Creator, because he had foreseen the occurrence thereof, and taken measures that there should thence redound glory to himself in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will to the children of men, new faithfulness and delight to the morning stars and the angels of God. The fall of the creatures therefore involveth guilt, and that of the deepest die, if indeed there be deeper and deeper dies of guilt; which, though it be a true idea to a creature already in a fallen state, is not so, as I take it, to a creature who hath not fallen, in whom any insurrection of the will, or disobedience of the act, doth constitute the very essence and substance of sin, which may afterwards be varied by particular accidents, but cannot, as I take it, be changed in its essence. Now, brethren, when guilt had been incurred, as it appeareth that it must occur in the fall of any creature, how is that creature to be delivered from under the state of guilt? How is the Almighty in shewing forth his love and mercy to the unfallen, and revealing that other aspect of himself, to approach this guilty creature who hath flown off to wander in the evil and erroneous maze of an independent will. This is the question which ignorance and presumption and wickedness findeth no question, but resolveth into God’s indiscriminate mercy; but which wisdom, and righteousness, and modesty, findeth the mystery of mysteries, the perplexity of perplexities;—insomuch, that the very wisest of the heathen did say, he believed God would, in the time he judged best, send forth some one from himself to teach mankind that mystery of mysteries, how a holy God could pardon sin. If it can be done, it can be declared, but the difficulty lieth all in the accomplishment of it. For it would ill answer either the end of the Creator or the wellbeing of his creatures, that he should make known that new and tenderer aspect of his character, which is grace, at the expense and obliteration of that other, which is righteousness. This would make the Father of lights to be a changing and revolving light; where- as he is the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Besides, it is in virtue of his holiness that sin is sin; for if you take away the holiness of God, all distinction is for ever confounded: and seeing the sinning creature is the evidence and token of his holiness, if that sinning creature were to be pardoned by a single act of love, love would have strangled holiness; or there would be a reign, now of holiness, then of love, and no one could say when there might be another shift from love to holiness: and therefore, such an arbitrary redemption, even if possible, would be no redemption ‘to be depended on.
Wherefore, in the love, the holiness must shine forth, as the light of the sun shineth forth in company with his heat. The new manifestation of Jehovah’s being must illustrate the old, not cast it into the shade. The new knowledge must be the old waxed more clear and manifest; no extinction nor obliteration thereof. And therefore I observe,
Secondly, That seeing, not to drive all order within the universe into confusion, and all integrity into distraction, and put all righteousness to shame, there must be with the Divine Power a faculty of preserving holiness, and of forgiving sin, I am at my wits end to know how: here I stand nonplussed, my faculty of reason serving me not a jot. If I could conceive of sin as an accidental thing, which an accidental punishment could remove out of the way, I were in no strait nor dilemma; for in that case, after we have suffered a while God may remain satisfied. But what a base notion of God this is; as if there were any proportion between the guilt of sin, and so much pain and punishment, in the mind of the Most Holy! That notion of the Universalists would dethrone my God at once from all my reverence, and set him lower than myself; forasmuch as I would despise myself for wreaking oat so much punishment upon him who had offended me, and, without more ado taking him by the hand as if he were cleansed. Not but that pain and penalty will and must ever attend on sin, but that an age and an age of ages of pain and punishment will never, never wipe away sin. Sin is an alienation of the will; it is a spiritual act against a Spirit, against the good and gracious Father of spirits; and the root of its punishment is in the will; the strength of its bondage, the yoke of its thraldom, is upon the will; and it is only the recovery and restoration of the will, in its own act, which can put us again even on good terms with ourselves, much more with the gracious God whom we had offended. But what is to bring back the will of a spirit which of its own accord hath swerved away, which did not choose to stand when all was in its flavour? what, I say, is to bring it back again when its whole bent is gone the other way, with all the malicious powers of darkness overloading and overbearing it? Tell me how this is to come to pass, and you shall be my prophet and priest and king. For verily to do this pertaineth only to Him who is my Prophet, and Priest, and King.
Conceiving thus of sin as an eternal and unchangeable, an original condition of the will, which no punishment can alter, which all the accidents within the coasts of time cannot alter, I stand at that pass over which nothing can carry me but Almighty Power; and I may say, with reverence, that not even power almighty of itself can deliver me. Almighty power cannot reconcile this contradiction, that holiness should be preserved, and the creatures who have offended holiness, be, by a bare act of will reinstated. We stand here upon the brink of a chasm, over which, with reverence be it spoken, even Almighty power cannot convey us without some further revelation than that of his. omnipotence. The unity of the Godhead availeth us not here, where our reason refuseth to move forward without the revelation of more persons than one in the Godhead; from which the revelation of the mystery cometh.
Therefore the divine evangelist beginneth by declaring the eternal Divinity of the Word, saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” and, after dilating upon his uncreated essence, upon his divine works in the times of old, when the heavens and the earth were created by him, and life and light were bestowed by him and of him, he addeth, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.” John comprehended the mystery at which I declared, a little ago, that human reason must stand for ever nonplussed, and which no knowledge of God’s unity can ever resolve. Therefore, after declaring the eternal Godhead of the Word, and at the same time intimating the mystery of his personal distinctness, by saying, not merely that he was God, but also that he was with God, he proceeds to declare his incarnation,—”He became flesh ;” and the end of it, —for the purpose of revealing to us that grace of God to the sinful, and truth to those with whom he had entered into covenant, which could never have been known if we had not fallen, and would never have been known had the Son not been willing and free to take upon himself the remedy of our condition. Oh, what volumes are contained in these words, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” Grace; that is, the knowledge of the love and mercy which is in God, of the whole mystery of good-will and peace which is in the Gospel; the condescension of the holiest to the most unholy, his holiness unsullied by the condescension, yea, made infinitely more bright; the condescension of the Almighty to the weakest; all that is included in the word Father, Redeemer, Saviour; a mystery into which the angels desire to look, and which the Apostle who had profited the largest therein, could only admire with silent admiration, saying, ”Oh, the height and the depth and the length and the breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus! it passeth knowledge.” Truth; that is, the fulfilment of all promise, the keeping of all covenant, the answer of all expectation, which had been given since the world began, and the assurance of all faith, which might be rested thereon until the world should end. This grace and truth came, not by the word but by the Word Incarnate by Jesus Christ; that is, Jah the Saviour and anointed one. For it was in the act of becoming flesh that all grace and all truth was embodied. His name, Jesus Christ, importeth it. His name. The Word, importeth only his Divine essence and separate personality from all eternity.
Now, brethren, from this separate personality of the Word is derived the resolution of the great mystery, “how God can be just and the justifier of the ungodly;” and from this point we must begin to speak in the language of the Trinity: for no one can speak of the redemption but in that language, as may be seen in the eighteenth verse, which, after having spoken of the grace and truth that is in Jesus Christ, the Evangelist thus begins, “No one hath seen God at any time;” but he cannot conclude it in the language of Unity, and is forced to add, “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.” The Father’s holiness of will remaineth unaltered; he remaineth the unchangeable enemy and implacable destroyer of sin. His holiness continueth, like a fire, to consume the transgressor now as when sin first entered into the world. But man’s transgression did not reach to, or in any Way affect, the relation between the Father and the Son, between whom no creature intermeddleth, or can in any wise intermeddle. This is secret, deep, and unsearchable; and the joys of it are not to be apprehended by created minds, nor discoursed of by human tongues; therefore was it possible, within the depths of the Divine nature, for the Father to forego the delight which he had with his Son in his own bosom, and to permit him to come forth on the ministry of redemption, in order that, after suffering for a while, he might return again with the honour of redemption added to the honour of creation and providence. In this, I say, there is no impeachment of the holiness of God, while there in a great manifestation of his love, in not sparing his only begotten Son, but giving him up to the death for us all. Nay, but there is a great manifestation and illustration of his holiness likewise, if, when his dear Son, his Beloved before all ages, took upon himself our nature, his holiness should pursue him as man, as flesh, with what awful severity it pursueth sinful flesh; if, when he was found within the accursed realm and blighted barren region of sin, the most direful scourges thereof should seize him, and smite him, and cleave to him even as unto others; if, against him, the law should stand up in all its offended majesty, and measure him without abatement at every point; and if satan also and the powers of darkness, and if death also and the grave, and if hell also and its legions, should combine against Him, even as against any other of the children. Which being truly fulfilled in the manifestation, as every one of you, communicants, is this day to testify, the holiness of God was, in a most marvellous way, illustrated in the midst of his love; yea, and over his love. Yes, I will say over his love; for holiness is the column of the Divine majesty and power, the root and trunk of that tree, of which goodness and wisdom, mercy and love, are the various branches, flowers, and fruits. Which holiness, I say, is more illustrated and honoured in the incarnation of Jesus Christ than it would have been in the destruction of a thousand worlds, fallen, forsaken, and abandoned because of sin. So that, on the part of the Father, unchangeableness is preserved, hatred of sin is preserved, the stability of righteousness is preserved, while love, and grace, and mercy find their proper manifestation toward sinful men.
Let us now turn and consider how this great act affects the condition of the Son; for ignorant men take upon them to scoff at this great work of the Incarnation as if it were a substitution of the innocent instead of the guilty, against all reason and justice, and to the subversion of all reason and justice in the breasts of men. Thus they speak in ignorance, not understanding what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But firsts I pray you to observe, that there was no necessity, to speak after the manner of men, obliging God to find an atonement for sin;—which is manifest from the condition of the angels who kept not their first estate, and are reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Their case was passed by, while ours was chosen for the manifestation of grace and truth: which is, therefore, devoutly to be contemplated as an act of sovereignty in the midst of mercy; for there must be sovereignty in all God’s acts, else he were no longer gracious; and it is to be ascribed to no other cause than his own electing love, which is an ultimate fact and principle that cannot be passed beyond. It needed to be shewn that God could punish sin unchangeably; or, in other words, that the proper nature of sin is to propagate and increase itself for ever. There must be a monument of all the Divine attributes, and this of the fallen angels is the monument of his unextinguishable hatred of sin. The earth shall be redeemed, and the spirits of just men shall be made perfect, who shall thenceforward be the monument to all the universe of grace. And where is the monument of God’s justice and severity against sin for the universal host to contemplate? Hell with her prince of darkness, her rebel angels, and all reprobate men, shall be that monument for ever and ever. “They shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men who have transgreased against me; for their worm dieth not, neither shall their fire be quenched,” It is thus that every attribute of God shall have its proper manifestation or be realised in some object which his creatures may behold and admire.
Bearing this in mind, that the great object of the Incarnation whereof we discourse, is to bring into visible manifestation and real being the monument of God’s grace and mercy and that the Father worketh nothing but by the Son, it is clear that it properly became Him, who created angels and men, and all things, and thereby gave the demonstration of God’s creative attributes of power, wisdom, goodness, &c.,—Him who is at last to judge all things; and by constituting hell, to give the demonstration of God’s attributes of justice and holiness, abhonrence of sin, &c.; that same one it did become to give the intermediate demonatration of God’s mercy, and grace, and forgiveness in recovering, redeeming, and regenerating the earth, and in constituting its blessedness for ever. And besides these three great demonstrations of the Godhead, creation, redemption, and judgment, no others are known unto me.
Now, with respect to the part which the Son bore in this great covenant, made and sealed before the foundation of the world, I pray you to remember that I observed above, that the essence of sin is spiritual, in the will; and that the inward darkness and trouble, the outward suffering and sorrow, are only the consequences, and I may say the accidents, which cleave unto a will or spirit which hath cast off the authority of God, and become a law unto itself: therefore the work which the Son had to perform was to redeem the will of man from its bondage to sin and satan ; or rather, I should say, from the curse of God, declared in paradise against transgression. Which deliverance to accomplish, he must come into the very condition of that which he would redeem; become flesh, and take up into himself the very conditions of a human will, or human spirit; that is, become very man, and himself wrestle therein against flesh and blood—against principalities—against powers—against the rulers of the darkness of this world—against spiritual wickednesses in high places. If it pleased him to undertake this, no one will say that he was hindered from undertaking it. If he had love strong enough to make the sacrifice, there was no unrighteousness, there was no dishonour—unless mercy, and love, and grace be a dishonour. For the suffering which it caused him; first, the hiding of the light of the Divinity; secondly, the being subject unto a law, being himself both the Lawgiver and the Law; thirdly, the encountering his own creatures, and being under their continual malice and persecution; fourthly, the presence and very close communion in which he dwelt with all manner of sin, touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, feeling it, and being in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin; lastly, the undergoing of death and burial;—these things, which I cannot now handle particularly, are but the outward accidents and apparent attendants of that humiliation into human nature which he underwent. The merit of the act lay not in these outward visible things, nor is by them to be appreciated: even as the heinousness of sin is not thus to be measured, but standeth in the reprobate will; so the righteousness of Christ is to be appreciated by the willingness with which he undertook humanity, and underwent the fiery proof; and if you would have apparent proofs of that willingness, they are to be found in the meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, and forgivenness with which he endured it.
And that this is the highest view of the Lord’s work, the reasoning of St. Paul upon the fortieth Psalm doth verify. Verse 6: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required.” He rejects the Jewish, or rather the ceremonial, form of the work, even as I have endeavoured to raise your views above it, to the higher view of it which is contained in the following verses. Verses 7, 8 : ” Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart;”—in which the true end of his advent or incarnation is declared to be to do the will of God, and to have his law written on his heart; or to give the example of a man who, as man, should overcome all the enemies of man, and re-obtain the possession of that dominion of man which had been lost in the fall. Now let us observe St. Paul’s reasoning upon this text. Heb. x. 8, 9 : “Above, when he said, Sacrifice and offerings, and burnt-offerings, and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God, He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” It is in the active obedience of Christ, in the perfect submission and obedience which he yielded, in the doing without any failure all the will of God, that he became the Author of salvation to all them that believe. The suffering which he came under was, as it were, but the putting of that will to proof; and the well-pleasing in the sight of God was the enduring of the fiery proof, and the continual declaration of, ” Yet not my will, but thine be done.” Hence it is, that, in the Gospel of John, the Lord’s whole discourse is but as it were one acknowledgment of his Father’s will, and obedience to his Father’s commandment; or, as it is written in that same Psalm (verses 9, 10), “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great Congregation.” And, brethren, it is by the will of God that we are sanctified still, as St. Paul reasoneth, and as St. John confirmeth; “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor , of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God.” (John 1. 11-13.)
I consider it, therefore, to be rather a low view of the Redeemer’s work, to contemplate it so much in the sense of acute bodily suffering, or to enlarge upon it under the idea of a price or bargain, which is a carnal similitude, suitable and proper to the former carnal dispensation, and which should, as much as possible, be taken away for the more spiritual idea of our sanctification by the full and perfect obedience which Christ rendered unto the will of God: thereby purchasing back, and procuring for as many as believe in him, their justification and sanctification by the Holy Spirit, which is their conformity to the will of God, and reliance on his eternal purpose. For whosoever is brought into conformity with the will of God is thereby included in his purpose. It was a great act of power in the Son—a demonstration of his almighty power, to take up flesh and strengthen it against all the powers of hell—to take up flesh and purify it against all the powers of sin and corruption. But no one will say it was impossible, for it hath been accomplished: and no one will say that there was any violation of the principles of eternal holiness and justice, for the Son to do what was within his power, or for the Father to suffer him to do it. With respect to the communication of the gift to others, we do not now entreat: at present we are considering only of the purchase of the gift; and this, as hath been said, was by his obedience and perfect fulfilment of God’s most holy law, which had been offended by our first parents and by all their posterity. And it was the offended law, or, in other words, God’s unalterable immitigable holiness, which perpetuated the punishment. If any one of Adam’s children could have stood up and kept the law, he would, in virtue of his own innocency, have lived in it, and known neither suffering nor death. The man, Christ Jesus, did this, and, in virtue of his work, now liveth, it being impossible that he should be holden of death. By which life of obedience, the law stood honoured: it was proved to be holy, it was proved to be just, it was proved to be good; and it was satisfied. I may say the holiness of God’s law was never manifested upon the earth till now, because it was never kept. In the idea, it was holy; but never in the reality, till Christ said, “Father I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” The justice of the law might well be doubted, and its cruelty believed, at least its disproportion to human conditions: forasmuch as every man had smarted and suffered under it, and no one been able to attain unto the keeping of it. It might have been supposed the law of a tyrannical, or arbitrary, or even a malicious being, inasmuch as it had punished all and acquitted none. This was a great, a very great apparent stigma, which the perfect obedience of Christ in human flesh removed, proving unequivocally that it was made for flesh, and would have blessed humanity, had its gracious intention and adaptation not been crossed and prevented by the fall of our first parents, and the consequent apostasy of the will of man, and its alienation from every thing which is holy, and just, and good; for the goodness of the law, that is, its kindness and bountifulness, and fruits of blessedness, were all contradicted by the fact of such long and universal misery as had been upon the earth. The Divine purpose in creating human nature, and putting it under his holy, just, and good law, seemed to be wholly frustrated; the very end of creation seemed defeated; there was no glory of God redounding from it, but glory to the enemy of God: the world had gone into chaos; and the great achievement was, out of the chaos to bring something more perfect than before. To justify the ancient constitution of law and government under which the world was established at first ; to retrieve, to do more than retrieve, the honour of the Creator,—to make it glorious. This was the first end for which Christ gave himself to become man from the foundation of the world. To this agreeth the reasoning of the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (14. 31.) ”That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (8.4.) “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (10. 4.) “For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse: for it is written. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Gal, 3. 10.) “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (4. 4, 6.)
Thus far, then, it is manifest that when the Son of God said unto the Father from all eternity, “Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea thy law is within my heart;” his object was, as is immediately added, to preach God’s righteousness in the great congregation, to declare his faith- fulness and salvation: and there can be no doubt that the holiness of God was illustrated by the Son of man, before the great congregation, as it never had been before. That the ends of creation were wondrously manifested, and the darkness, and gross darkness, began to be cleared away. This is done, however, as yet only to the great congregation; that is, to the elect church; the rest of the world remaining as dark almost as before. Bat in the fulness of the time, the manifestation shall be enlarged to all the inhabitants of the earth, and, in the end, unto all the creatures of God who are now looking upon the progress of its accomplishment. Thus much for the justification of God’s holiness for which the incarnation of his Son was the appointed way. But much yet remaineth to be said with respect to the demonstration of his grace in the forgiveness and salvation of the sinner.
Besides this origin or principle of the Incarnation, the justification of his holiness and goodness in the creation of man, which satan had succeeded in obscuring, there is another; the declaration of God’s grace and mercy in the salvation of sinners, whereby he could be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Not only had satan’s work to be undone, but out of it the defeat of satan was to be brought, and the final extirpation of his power of evil. He had withstood God’s work in the creation of man; and for so doing the Lord purposed to undo him. To make this more complete also, it is to be done by means of man; and to this end Christ became man, and submitted himself to the very condition of a sinner. He became sin for us who knew no sin. I say, Christ came into the condition of a sinner; and that too, I may say, of the chief of sinners; not having where to hide his head while he lived, and in his most ignominious death of the cross deemed less honourable than a murderer, a thief, and a seditious person. This condition of the chief of sinners He who did no sin did come into, in order to give sin and satan, death, and the grave, and hell, all advantages against him, and conquer them; and so to prove to all who should come after him, that they might be conquered. Likewise to shew that human nature, by such a sojourning in the tents of sin, was not excluded for ever from the tent and habitations of holiness; but might yet inherit the love and honour of God, as did the First-born when he rose from the dead: to shew that it was possible for God to be just, and to justify the sinner. But now the question ariseth, How could Christ who had done no sin come into the condition of one who had sinned, be made of a woman, and under the law; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; he who had done no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth? I can find no answer to this, but that our sins were imputed to him; for if they were not his own, they must be those of others. And to have punished one that was innocent with the consequences of sin, seems as much, and more, contrary to the holiness of God, than freely to pardon one who had sinned without any atonement, whereof we have shewed the most fatal and mischievous of fruits. There is no accounting in any other way for Christ’s sufferings, but by saying, that they were vicarious, that is, undergone for others; because he himself was without sin, and should have known no sorrow, nor suffering, nor death. It must either be of the nature of an atonement, or of the nature of injustice. No one can adopt the latter without subverting all things; and the former therefore, of suffering for others, the Just for the unjust, is the only one which remaineth. As it is written (Gal. 3. 13), “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” And again (1Pet. 3. 18), “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins.” And again (Rom. 3. 21-27), “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith.”
There can be no doubt, therefore, that this substitution of the innocent Lamb of God, for the guilty children of man, is a second great purpose of the Incarnation, wherein alone consisteth the manifestation of the grace. The former is the manifestation of God’s truth in the creation of man, which satan had sought to turn, and had succeeded in turning, into one universal lie. But this is the manifestation of the mercy or grace, in forgiving the believer in Jesus, notwithstanding his great sinfulness.
The question of the atonement, or substitution of our sins, to which we are now arrived, in considering the great subject of the origin of the Incarnation, doth not so much grow out of, as it is involved in, and throughout implicated with, being of the very essence of, the Incarnation; not a circumstance of its manifestation, but an original and substantial element in the idea itself. For if, as we have shewed at large, the original cause and ultimate end of the Incarnation be, in order to make known another and a tenderer aspect of the Godhead, which is his grace in the forgiveness and recovery of the fallen; and if this discovery of God’s hidden being could not, unto his intelligent creatures, be revealed, but where sin had entered and offences had abounded; it is very evident that the question, How that sin is to be forgiven, comes into the very essence of the question, and stands in the direct way of the Incarnation, which cannot come into the purpose of God until the other be first revealed to his holiness. And though it doth open the sealed door of that labyrinth, to have more than one person in the Divine substance revealed unto us; yet, as there is but one mind or will between these persons, the question still remains, How, without any change in that Holy Will, by whose unchangeable holiness the fall doth come and prepare the way for the manifestation of grace, the fallen can be forgiven, and the curse removed, and the tide of sinning stemmed, and the waters of Divine wrath abated and dried up from the surface of the ground. It cannot be by a voluntary change of will; which is the only thing of which we can say. It is impossible with God. For though it be oft said in Scripture that God repenteth and changeth, this is said to those living under that very dispensation of grace, into the possibilities of which we are now examining. The angels which kept not their first estate have no idea of any such language. They believe, but hope not. They believe and tremble. “Hope comes not to them which comes to all.” The poet should have said, which comes to all who live under the dispensation of grace, or to whom a dispensation of grace is possible. I say it is impossible for the Divine will to change once; for if it were once to change, it might change again and again; and how often, or when, or on what occasion, who could know? Especially, and above all, in the essential point of holiness and hatred of sin, which is the basis of all law, order, and blessedness. His purposes will open, and do open, and a great insight was opened into them by the Incarnation whereof we treat; but the latter end thereof must he as the beginning, harmony and consistency pervading the whole. And yet here is the world and the race of men living under the sense and certain promise of forgiveness, redemption, regeneration, restoration to God’s image, a thorough and radical extirpation of sin, an induction and eternal reign of righteousness and blessedness. And the marvel is, how this our condition of grace, mercy, and hopefulness, of faith, love, and assurance was made possible with a God who had already brought in, by his offended holiness, the mighty overthrow; and who, though he changeth not, hath brought in, by his grace, the mighty recovery. It is indeed a question; a question to engage inquiry, and wonder, and gratitude for ever and ever.
As we have seen it written in the Scriptures, that Christ was without sin, and that no guile was found in his mouth, I say, the question ariseth naturally, ”And wherefore then did he suffer; and wherefore then was he offered up to bear the sins of his church, and to bring in an everlasting salvation? Is not this to lay the sins of the guilty upon the head of the innocent?” It is. But ought this to be done? I answer, it ought not to be done by any one creature to another creature; neither hath it been done by God to any creature. Christ was not a creature, but the Creator. He was under no responsibility nor obligation, and therefore he might undertake what it pleased him to undertake agreeably to his Father’s will . The maxim, that the innocent should not suffer for the guilty, applies to human judgments, and to human creatures; and it applies also to God’s judgment of the creatures, and importeth that the innocent should in no case be compelled to suffer for the guilty, but that every one should be treated exactly according to his deeds, which is precisely the principle that Christ hath laid down for the judgment of men, ”that every one shall give an account of the deeds done in the flesh, whether they have been good or evil.” If the incarnation of Christ, and his substitution in our stead, did away with such righteous judgment, then indeed it were to be blamed; but establishing, as it doth, the honour, and the purity, and the righteousness of the Divine law, as we have shewed above, it is rather to be looked upon as the foundation-stone of the temple of justice, than as its destruction. If, again, there were any compulsion laid on Christ; which word, compulsion, I use, knowing it to be a false and absurd idea to apply that term to any of the actings of the Divine Persons, whose substance is one and the same; I say, if there were any compulsion, obliging Christ to undergo the penalty of man’s redemption, in that case also there would lie an objection. But when he announceth the preparation of his body and his advent, he thus willingly doth it: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin hast thou had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” It was to do God’s will he took the body which was prepared for him; and he further saith, ”To do thy will I take delight; thy law is within my heart.” And it is added, “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Christ once.” And if Christ pleased, if he delighted, to do the will of his Father, in taking to himself a human body and a reasonable soul, who will say there was any infraction of holiness in that, in which I can see nothing but the highest grace and condescension? This, moreover, was not an act of will, saying, Let the sinner be forgiven; but it was an act of will, saying, Let the sinner behold the greatness of the grace which resideth in the depths of the Godhead. If any one say that this also is change in God, that he should please to save the sinner whom he hath already pleased to condemn, I say to that person, he knoweth not what he saith. It is not change in God’s unalterable holiness, but a very great confirmation of it. It is no more than the opening of another volume of the book, which, while it emblazons all the rest with light, doth contain infinite matter hitherto unknown; of which the substance is the Father’s willingness to permit, and the Son’s willingness to submit to, and the Spirits willingness to effect, the Incarnation. Nor do I exclude God’s love to fallen men; of which though I make not a principle or origin, yet this much I will say concerning it, That the Lord loveth not nor desireth to punish any one, but is rather sorry and grieved that his creatures should fall under sin’s sore penalty. The punishment which ensues is from the nature of sin itself, not from the nature of God, from whom cometh down only good and perfect gifts. It is our ignorance of God, therefore, which makes us to suppose that his will is to inflict pain. His will is to protect holiness, and to promote it. There is, therefore, no impossibility, but quite the contrary, that God should desire and seek the salvation of his creatures. And the only question is, Doth the scheme which it hath pleased the Godhead to adopt, bespeak any toleration of sin or any dealing with it as if it were a trivial offence? Doth sin appear to have changed its character in his holy mind, by this new manifestation which he hath given of himself? Now the very reverse is manifest from all the premises.
Furthermore, and finally, upon that imagined offence which is done to our ideas of justice, by this doctrine of the Just suffering for the unjust, I have to observe, that, though the fall must come first in the nature of things before the redemption, and, coming first in the nature of things, must also come first in the manifestation; we are not, therefore, to suppose that that form of God’s being and attributes revealed in the redemption, which is grace, is not as necessary, and essential, and ancient a part of himself, as that other form of severity and justice which is revealed in the fall; I though the latter be anterior, both in the idea and in the manifestation. We are apt to transfer the succession of time to the Divine mind, and so to confound all things. But, truly with the Lord all things are present from the beginning, and all appearances are but the unfoldings of his mighty purpose for the manifestation of that which is with him I from the beginning. And this is most necessary, and constantly to be kept in mind, in order that we may not give to the eternal Jehovah a succession of existence. He is all in all times and in every time, as he is all in all places and in every place. And this is the reason why every substantial matter of our faith is by the Apostles traced up to before the foundation of the world; and every mystery is said to be hid in him before the world was. Bearing this in mind, to the question, Whether the scheme of vicarious suffering and imputed righteousness which we have unfolded, containeth in itself I any thing adverse to justice, we at once answer, No, but every thing prosperous to righteousness and truth. It is from eternity of the righteous and holy will of God to punish sin; and it is so still, and whosoever believeth in Jesus hath a lively and most I present sense of the heinousness of sin, and the eternal wrath which abideth on it. It is equally of the righteous and holy will of God to save the sinner, and to shew forth his goodness and mercy and forbearance in his salvation; and every believer in Christ hath a most blessed hope and assurance through grace of eternal salvation. These two forms of the holy will of God being most consistent with one another, will mutually illustrate each other when they are manifested. And accordingly we find it to be so. For the Word which revealeth the will of the Father, and in whom the Father doth objectively behold all his purposes, and is well pleased with them, doth embody in the one act of his eternal sacrifice the utmost perfection of the Father’s holiness and of the Father’s goodness; of the former, in proving that the law was holy, and not tyrannical; a right, good, and blessed constitution, for humanity in its fallen state; and so reflecting from the mirror of its purity the greatness and heinousness of our depravity. His holy life set against our wicked life, is the only adequate manifestation of our sin, or of the righteousness of God. I say not but that in the conscience there is a certain sense of right, as in the understanding there is a certain discernment of truth; but as the latter could not discover the light, so could not the former quicken the life, could not give it real form, or even ideal form, until the Lord manifested it in actual being. But in thus manifesting the holiness, he also manifested the love, and that in the most exalted and marvellous kind, as every one doth freely acknowledge; for it can be brought into comparison with, and tried by, the tests of human love. ”For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5. 7, 8.) But our Lord stateth it with a modest tenderness, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15. 13, 14) ; And, to say it all in one word, in the incarnation of Christ mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
These are the best efforts which my poor reason I can make, to open the way of doubting minds to I the comfort of this mystery; but I would do little justice to my own convictions, and shew little love to their souls, if I were to stop here, I instead of betaking myself to the law and to the testimony, to see if they speak according to this way. In the exposition of all ideas and the resolution of all questions of divine theology, I hold it to be not only profitable, but absolutely necessary, and indispensably due unto God’s wise revelation, devoutly to search his word, in order to discover whether that idea or solution be contained and much insisted upon therein; otherwise we might be spending precious time and talents upon some of those vain and profitless questions and endless disputations which profit nothing to the edifying of the soul: and after having thus ascertained that it is a great head, and, as it were, a common place in the word of God, and a frequent doctrine and lesson of the Spirit; we shalt come in the exercise of humility, and of that spiritual understanding which is given to the humble, by degrees to unravel the difficulties and perplexities which at first present themselves to our natural reason, which, because it is fallen and under the thraldom of nature, must both have the truth presented to it from God, and by his Spirit be cleansed and purified to discern it. This method I have ever followed for myself, and shall now follow for your greater edification in this doctrine of the atonement (or sin, by the blood of Christ, which I regard as the second great principle of the Incarnation, and essential to that manifestation of the grace of God, which we have laid down as its first and original intention.
And here let us begin with a text which containeth the truth in questions stated in the bluntest, baldest way possible, 1Pet. 3. 18: “For Christ also hath suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust.” Here Christ is declared to have been “just;” and this not in the looser sense of that word, according to which we say in ordinary speech, a just, or honest, or upright man, but in the stricter sense according to which all men are unjust. For it is said, “Christ hath also suffered for our sins;” that is, for the sins of the church, the sins of all who will believe in his name. Now, in common language, these are the most upright, the most charitable, the most holy part of mankind, being under the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost; and yet they are called “the unjust ;” which clearly doth determine the word “unjust” to be used in the exact sense of the sanctuary as comprehending all men, and declaring their universal and original sinfulness in the sight of God. From which characteristic of all men, an exception is taken for Christ, who is called by contradistinction, “the Just.” And yet doth Peter declare that this only just one suffered for all the unjust ones who believe in his name. It is “once” suffered, that is, during the days of his flesh, when he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Which act of suffering for our sins is oft concentred in its great closing scene, the cross, as we find in the preceding chapter of this very Epistle; which, as it casts light, and brings great confirmation to that which we have now under observation, we pray you to peruse along with us, beginning at the 22d verse, and continuing to the end of the chapter. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that, we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Here first his sinlessness is declared in the most positive language, from the clearness of which no one can escape, and which no one can adopt unto himself, without continuing that asseveration of John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” But Peter is not ashamed to say of the man Jesus Christ, ”He did no sin. ” And he repeats it, “neither was guile found in his mouth;” that is, not only no actual sin, but not the shade or guise of it, no ambiguity nor lurking purpose of deceiving, no variableness nor shadow of turning: and not only so, but he could not be provoked by any means to the participation or revenge of any sin; “When he was reviled he reviled not again:” nor could by any threatening, or punishment, or indignity, or fear, be tempted even to threaten; albeit, possessed of all power and about to execute all judgment; “All judgment is given to the Son;” yet so was he bound on an errand of grace and mercy, and so wound up to perform it with all patience of the travail and gladness to pay the ransom, that ”when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself unto him that judgeth righteously.” By which frequent reiteration, and various illustration of the Lord’s sinlessness, the Apostle having prepared the way, declareth in the 34th verse, the same doctrine of vicarious suffering, or suffering in our stead, as is declared in the text under consideration, ”who his own self, ” or, as it is in the original, “which very person,” that is, this sinless one, this guileless one, “bare our sins in his own body on the tree;” in which expression is contained, not only the doctrine of vicarious suffering, which we are inquiring into, but also the manner of it,” in his own body,” concerning which body we shall speak in the sequel of these discourses. The Apostle having made this unequivocal declaration of the great doctrine of vicarious suffering, doth not leave the subject, but after pursuing on the exhortation to patience under suffering, for which he had introduced it, he recurreth to the doctrine the second time in the words of the passage under consideration: ”For Christ also hath suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,” and now addeth the great reason or cause of it, “That he might bring us to God.” Into which we shall now further reverently inquire at the Divine oracle.
“That be might bring us to God;” then we cannot come to God as we are, but are brought to him by the intervention of this great act of “the Just suffering for the unjust.”—Why not come to God as we are? Because it is written, “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee; the foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” And again: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” The reason why we cannot come to God as we are, is his holiness; which repelleth us, which repelled Adam, which repelled the angels, and will for ever repel all that are tainted of sin; and this distance from God is the fertile source of our darkness, of our doubt, of our misery: wherefore it is written, that before Christ can deliver up the kingdom unto God, even the Father, he must first put down, or rather empty out of it, ”all rule, and all authority and power, and reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet:” that is, he must make the kingdom pure and spotless before that God, even the Father will look upon it. Nay more, even before Christ himself will take his church to his embrace; that is, before he will be married to her in the age to come; before, as God, he will look upon her, whom, as man, he redeemed, he must sanctify and “cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” And to this end it is, that the dispensation of the cleansing Spirit interveneth between the dispensation of the purchase, and the dispensation of the possession. The church was purchased by the Incarnation; she is now washed by the Spirit, that He may present her to himself a glorious church, when he cometh in the divinity of the righteous Judge, or priestly King, to enter along with her, and introduce her into the vicegerency of the whole earth, as Adam was heretofore introduced into the probational state of paradise, preparatory to the vicegerency of the whole earth, which yet he had not received, but would, I deem, have received, if he had stood the proof. It is this purity of the Divine substance, dear brethren, which interposeth an eternal barrier to our coming near to God. And therefore it is said, Christ “suffered, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God;” for we shall yet be brought to God at that consummation of all things, when the last enemy, which is death, is destroyed, and the kingdom is given up to the Father. Then, when all is pure and prepared for his eye most scorching and consuming to sin, and in the sight of which the heavens are not clean, we shall be brought unto him, whom now we draw nigh to, only through the Mediator; and now the Mediator having done his office, shall be Mediator no longer, but shall reign Lord and King and visible Godhead of the universe. And those whose nature he hath for ever joined to the divine, by that great mediating act of Incarnation, shall, in the fulness of time, be his vicegerents and court of government to the whole created universe. If you inquire whether this purpose or use of the vicarious sufferings of Christ,” that he might bring us unto God,” be a common and familiar idea of the holy Scrip- tures ; I answer, it is the most common, and the most familiar idea of the holy Scriptures. Among hundreds of instances take the following:—
Col. 1. 19-23. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” that is, fulness of power as the Creator, which had just been declared above, and fulness of power as Head of the redeemed church, which is the vessel of his fulness, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all; and all fulness whatever of the Godhead which was proper to dwell in him; and for what end? “Having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself. By him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” By the “all things, whether upon the earth, whether in the heavens,” you are not to run wild and understand universal redemption of angels and men; for there are no evil angels in heaven, nor evil men, both being reserved in darkness until the judgment of the great day. It means simply all the things upon the earth, and in the firmament which the Jews called the heavens; that is, in the region where clouds and tempests, and lightning and thunder and other the most violent commotions of the elements dwell. On which account Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air,” and amongst our enemies are enumerated “spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places.” But the dwelling place of God is the heaven of heavens, or the third heavens; all the things upon the earth and the heavens which he originally created, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, are represented as at variance and in strife with God, and needing to be reconciled. And yet a few verses above they are declared to have been created both by Christ and for Christ. How then came they to be thus in opposition to God? No doubt by the invasion of sin and the present possession of Satan, the invisible power who ruleth over the darkness of this world. And how are they to be reconciled? how; the peace between all the creatures and God to be made? it is answered, “making peace by the blood of his cross.” Wherefore we conclude that his death was the reconciliation of God to the creatures, his body the peace-offering, which being offered up, dispensation of reconciliation might begin to run its course, but not till then: for it is said, “by him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace by the blood of his cross.” It is further to be observed, that Christ is not the passive victim only, through whose blood the reconciliation is brought about, but also the active minister by whom it is carried on; by him to reconcile all things, by him by whom they were created. The things in the heavens and on the earth, which fell on war with God and with one another, and which are still at war, through Adam’s disobedience, are, by the obedience of the Second Adam unto death, brought back into a state of reconciliation; and their reconciliation is proceeding according to the rate and progress approved of by that wisdom which dwelleth in Christ; wherefore the Gospel is called the ministry of reconciliation, committed unto the Apostles first, and now unto us, the ministers of the church. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5. 17-19.) Wherefore also it is called the Gospel of Peace ; “preaching peace by Jesus Christ;” and was proclaimed by the heavenly host “peace on earth,”—which language were not only unmeaning but false, if the old creation, “the all things,” the world, were not in a state of war with God, and under the sentence of wrath. This alienation, this curse, it appears, from the passage under consideration, is removed from them, and their peace made by the blood of the cross of Christ. And how doth this great peace-offering affect the souls of men? The Apostle immediately addeth, speaking to the church of the Colossians, and in them to the church of the Gentiles universally, “And you that were some time” (or heretofore) “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works hath he reconciled.” This then is the natural estate of all the men of the world; for the church, whose former state it is declared to have been, is gathered out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. And what state is this? ” alienated and enemies by disposition in wicked works;” the disposition of the mind or the will being averse and inimical from God. For that which is here translated mind, is the same which is changed by repentance; for “mind” and “repentance” are the same word in Greek compounded with a different preposition. This which requires to be changed, is by nature alienated from, and at open war with, God, and this is shewn forth and expressed in wicked works; but these works are only the evidences and fruits of the evil, and not the evil itself, which is more deeply seated in the mind alienated from, and at war with, God. This declaration of the natural state of men brings to our mind what Paul says in another Epistle (Eph. 2. 1-3) : ” And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” And what becometh of such alienated sinners, such active enemies of God and ministers of evil, as we are here described to be? Observe what follows: “Yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death.” The peace of all creatures was made through the blood of his cross, and the reconciliation of his church is made ”in the body of his flesh by means of death;” which expressions exactly agree to what we have already seen in Peter, and contain this mystery, that the body of Christ’s flesh, or his human nature, the part of him which could suffer and die, hath become by its death the reconciliation of the church, and will become the peace of the world. This is the seed which had to be cast into the ground in order to bear much fruit; the handful of corn cast out upon the top of the mountains, which is to fill the whole earth with prosperous fruit; the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. This humanity of Christ, therefore, being offered upon the cross, accomplisheth the reconciliation of the church and the future pacification of the world. With respect to the church of which at present we inquire, it is further added, here as every where, that the end of this reconciliation is “to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight.” In whose sight? In the sight of God, even the Father, who is accomplishing this great work of reconciling all things unto himself by his Son: ”who is in Christ reconciling all things to himself.” But this glorious presentation of the church hath not, neither can have place, until she is made holy unblameable and unreprovable, because evil cannot stand in the sight of God. At present the church is under the sanctifying operation of the Holy Ghost. That same Spirit will raise her body from the dead, which wrought in Christ to raise him from the dead. Then shall we have to serve him in his kingdom; for which end he did call, and choose, and sanctify her during this reign of evil, that when the fulness of times shall come for gathering together the “all things” into him, we might serve for his ministers, the hands, the feet, the tongue, the eye, the ear, and every member of that universal government which he is then to exercise over the earth: after which honourable fellowship of his glorious and active government of power, we shall, as his spouse, with all those, the children of our mutual love and care, with this earth, their purified and blessed abode, be presented to the Father, who thenceforward shall be all in all; that is, shall be manifest in his glorious Son, directly owning directly governing, directly blessing the world with all the dwellers therein for ever and ever; or, if it seem meet, advancing us to whatever power and honourable office may seem good unto himself.
We have thus ascertained that Christ’s sufferings were vicarious, and his death was reconciling of the world; and that atonement for sin is an essential part of the Divine purpose in the incarnation of his Son. Let us proceed a step farther, and consider what is revealed in Scripture concerning the communication or application of the fruits of his work unto others, for this also is an essential part of the idea of the atonement. And for this end we choose out a passage in the third chapter of the Romans, at the twenty-third verse which casts a very steady light upon this part of the subject. You observe, that it sets out by stating the great proposition of the world’s sinfulness, which the Apostle had been proving throughout the preceding chapters of that Epistle, both by the observation of the fact and by the word of God,
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” and to this great proposition he adds the natural and necessary inference that their justification must proceed from grace and not from works; from mercy, and not from desert: for if we have all sinned, our desert is death according to the constitution of the Creator, “The soul that sinneth shall die:” wherefore the Apostle addeth, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The procuring cause is Christ’s redemption of us. Redemption from what? Doubtless from the curse—that curse which passed upon all men, because that all have sinned. From the curse of the law we are redeemed by Jesus, who became a curse for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. And in this consists the grace of God; not in justifying us,—for justification, as its name imports, is an act of justice and not of grace,—but in giving us his Son, through whom we might be justified. His grace, and love, and goodness, and mercy, do all consist in the best gift of his only begotten and well-beloved Son; which if we would keep steadily in view, it would silence all scruples and remove all difficulties out of the way. There was nothing surely to hinder God from giving us his Son. It were boldness, blasphemy, and ingratitude insufferable, to say he might not give us his Son if so it pleased him. No creature will surely interfere between the Father and the Son. Well, then, he gives us his Son; and Christ being given, all that follows is holiness, is justice, is strenuous hatred of sin, and destruction of the dwellings and habitations of sinfulness, yea, even of Christ’s own flesh. Accordingly it is immediately added, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation.” This is the end for which he hath proposed him to be a propitiation; that is, a great mediation or means of reconciliation, an atonement; not a propitiator but a propitiation, and at the same time the propitiator: as he calleth himself the way, “I am the way: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” There is something, to my mind, exceedingly powerful in such expressions: “I am the Resurrection,” not the raiser of the dead; ” I am the Truth,” not the true one; “I am the life, I am the light,” not the creator of life and light,” whom God hath made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” all similar to the passage before us, “whom God hath set forth” or ” foreordained to be a propitiation.” These expressions shew me the substance of the redemption, as well as the operation, to be in him; the matter of it, as well as the workmanship; the forming of the elements out of nothing, as well as the bringing of them into order; which is all set forth in that single word, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Of him, as well, as by him and for him, are all the parts of the redemption, as well as of the original creation. Now this propitiation, which God hath set him forth to be is not inherited otherwise than by faith; “through faith;” and that a distinct act of faith “in his blood,” or upon his death. No doubt this hath reference to the blood of the sacrifice, which God allowed not to be eaten, but to be offered up as its life. “And almost every thing by the law was purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there I is no remission.” Which was an ordinance of express purpose appointed to preserve, in the church, a very sacred apprehension of the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all sin. Faith upon the sacrifice which he offered on the cross, is that by which we enter into the inheritance of the propitiation which God hath been pleased to place in him. The Apostle might have stopped here, as completing the truth, but he delights to enlarge; and, for our special teaching in this matter, he addeth, “To declare his righteousness, for the remission of sins that are past.” This gives us another view of the work of Christ not as suffering but as righteousness; that is, active obedience, which is transferable to others, and applicable for the remission of sins: “To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” I know not any language by which the doctrine of imputed righteousness could be more simply and ingenuously declared; nor do I know what more can be wanted to justify that great doctrine of the church. At the same time it is well guarded by the word “past” against all the abuses to which it might be applied for the indulgence of wickedness, or the encouragement of that blasphemous temper which saith, ”Let us sin, that grace may abound.” It is alt in all to the poor soul which is stricken with the contrition of sin, and knoweth not whither to flee, to hear of a fountain opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness: but this hath no possible indulgence for the future; being only to cleanse the perilous load from the conscience, that it may be free to believe in the Lord as “a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins;” and, so believing, to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which to depart from all sin: these two gifts, remission and repentance, being co-evil in their birth and coordinate in their progressive growth. Wherefore it is written, in the fifth chapter of this Epistle; “Therefore, as by the offence of one man judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” From which illustration we gather, that there is a certain measure and proportion between the consequences of Adam’s sin and of Christ’s righteousness; and the imputation of the same to their children. And I have no doubt that, if we could search this depth of God to the bottom, it would be found, that the same constitution of mankind which made it righteous in God to visit the sins of the father upon the children, did also make it possible to visit the righteousness of the father upon the children. The first Adam hath become an evil leaven unto his posterity; the Second Adam hath become a quickening spirit. But there is no necessity binding God to accept this propitiation which he himself hath set forth; for then we could plead a right, and would be rendered independent of grace: wherefore it is added, “through the forbearance of God,” to signify that it is an act of God’s forbearance not to visit our sins with their proper punishment, but to remit them for the sake of Christ. And hence it is our constant custom in all the churches to deprecate the wrath of God, and to entreat him to accept the offering which Christ hath made, and to give us absolution from our sins in his blood. So very wisely is this grand inference, from the first three chapters of the Romans, guarded and defended from abuse. But further still, it is added to all this; ”To declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” which brings us to the plain and categorical answer of the difficulty we proposed, declaring simply, that the only means for reconciling his justice with the justification of believing sinners, is the righteousness of Christ which was for this end declared openly unto all men. True it is, therefore, that God can be just and the justifier of the man who believeth in Jesus. And the way by which he can be so, is by the declaration of the righteousness of Christ. And that there is no other way, we know assuredly, from such passages of Scripture as these: “There is no name given among men, whereby they can be saved, but the name of Jesus.” “For if righteousness could come by the law, then is Christ dead in vain.”
Observe now how this doctrine of atonement affects the practice of holiness, whereof we have argued so strenuously that no infraction may or can take place. We are thereby comforted against the venomous and opprobrious rage of Satan, who after having brought us into sin and misery, doth darken and overcloud the conscience with a sense of sin, and would thereby shut up all avenues to the grace of God. But by Christ, our propitiation and atonement, we are assured that our sins are forgiven us, if we have faith in the blood of Jesus which cleanseth from all sin. And, therefore, in all our spiritual diseases we look unto Him as to the serpent lifted up, which is to draw all men after him, and we come unto him as the chief Physician of the soul and the body, and we believe in him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the World; whereby our souls are exceedingly comforted under the sense of past sin. And thus being comforted in Christ, our love to him aboundeth. Yet in this act of faith upon his propitiation for past sin, we forget not the grace of the Father, his forbearance and long-suffering, and that even until now and always, it is of his free will to accept the offering and acquit us, and to regard us as righteous in his sight. By the which will of the Father, we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Christ once for all. The same Divine doctrine moveth us to a continued activity and perseverance in sanctification. For this was the end of his suffering, that he might purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works, that he might bring us unto God. And he, who reposing on Christ for forgiveness of sin, is not thereby stimulated to the attainment of righteousness, doth turn the grace of God into licentiousness and trample under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith he should have been sanctified. He is likewise doing despite unto the Holy Spirit of grace; and we were safer in slighting the incarnation and atonement of the Son of man, against whom sin may be forgiven, than in slighting the work of the Spirit, against whom if we persevere in sin, it shall neither be forgiven in this world nor the world to come. The burden is thus removed from our shoulder, that we may pursue the journey of obedience with the more expedition; the encompassing weight is cast aside from our loins, that we may run the race of holiness with the move haste. We cannot be brought near to God, unless we be holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners, as was our High Priest. We are not Christ’s disciples, unless we keep all his commandments, and not otherwise shall we have the in-dwelling of the Son and of the Father; because where the Holy Ghost hath not come to regenerate, they will not come to build up, comfort, and sustain. Therefore, brethren, we who believe in the Cross of Christ, are dead unto sin, that we should live unto God. Out of this Divine doctrine of atonement cometh patience also under the sufferings which are laid upon us by the devil, the world, and the flesh; forasmuch as we know that hereunto we are called, for Christ also once suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps. This is the use which Peter maketh of the doctrine; that so we also should suffer for righteousness sake: “For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” (1Pet. 2. 19.) ” But if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” (3. 14.) And Paul is very bold in the first chapter of Colossians, saying immediately after the passage quoted above, verses 23, 34: “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” And in like manner we should bear patiently whatever we are called to endure for Christ’s sake, as suffering together with him and for the good of his church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all, according as it is written in another place, to comfort the brethren under fiery trials; “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Heb.12.1.) Without all controversy, therefore, this doctrine of atonement, while it hath its origin in God’s holiness, hath its fruits also in the promotion of holiness in all who receive it. And so we shut up the question of the origin of the Incarnation, having shewn from Scripture, and likewise from reason, so far as our light of reason can embrace the subject, that its first cause is to be found now here else but in the holy will of God.
From the passages of Scripture, which are the ground-work of the preceding remarks, it doth clearly appear, that our Lord and the Apostles never fail to take a higher view of the Incarnation than as one of the events of time, and occurrences of this fallen world; contemplating it as an act of the Godhead, done from all eternity, purposed before the foundation of the world, prearranged and foreordained in all its parts, to this very end of manifesting unto all intelligent creatures the glory of God’s holiness and grace in the salvation and forgiveness of sinful and apostate creatures; that it was not an act consequent upon the fall, though taking its form and character thence, but an eternal purpose, which God purposed in himself before the world was, to the praise of the glory of his grace. This view of the subject, notwithstanding that it is so constantly taken in Scriptures, hath grown into such disuse in the church, that it cannot be presented without much explanation, and without answering that most seductive question, What is the good of it? What is the use of it? And rather to be profitable unto your souls, dear brethren, than to indulge this common form of all ignorant gainsayers, I shall a little open the good use of these higher views.
It seemeth to me, that a pious and believing soul, which desireth, with all its might, to return back again to God, and lose its will in his most holy will, can in no way be so refreshed as in studying to know the purposes of that will, into the likeness of which it hasteth to be reduced, and longeth to be transformed: and in order to satisfy this noble desire of the renewed mind, God hath taken the veil from off the secrets of his purposes, and condescended to teach us not only by outward appearances, and manifestations of his holy providence, and gracious redemption, but also by the knowledge of the eternal principles in his Divine nature, from which they proceed, and the eternal ends of peace and blessedness whereto they minister, and wherein they shall result. And this hath he done not only in gracious condescension to our desire of knowledge, and effectual furtherance of our desire of conformity to his mind and will, but also, in great wisdom, to comfort and establish our minds in Christ Jesus, to root us and ground us in that holy truth which he hath delivered unto us, and wholly to free us from all fear of accident, and change, and circumstance; from all fear of adversity, temptation, and outward violence. There is no peace, there is no rest, there is no contentment to the soul, until it is delivered from the fear of change and fluctuation; nor is there any activity, or bravery, or steady conduct in the soul, until it feeleth itself directed, wound up, and steadfastly bent upon some great end which it knoweth to be within its reach. Now when God purposed by his Son to deliver our souls from such an oppression of the flesh and the world, and Satan as they presently labour under, in what way could they have been awakened to such a fearful, to such a fiery contest with all manner of oppressors, as by presenting to them the warrant of their final perseverance and success, bought direct from the archives of the Eternal and Almighty God, the covenant of their complete deliverance from sin, and reinvestment in righteousness, sealed in the blood of his only begotten And well-beloved Son. I do not say that this is effectual to rouse the deep sleep of all to whom it is made known; but I know that the deep sleep of no one was ever otherwise broken, or his active warfare others wise maintained. For though many indeed by something less arouse men from their lethargy; as, for example, by merely preaching the free and open Gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation; they shall never carry them forward against all hindrances to perfection, or, against all doubts, settle them in fixed assurance, otherwise than by shewing them the Divine purpose from all eternity to redeem many as shall believe on his Son. And it is the unalterable fixedness thereof which gives the believer constancy against the moody frames of the natural man, which carries him buoyant over all the billows of the adverse and tempestuous world, and gives him clear discernment through all the mists and exhalations of hell which Satan’s delusion is ever spreading over the soul. A conditional Gospel can redeem no man from this conditional state of being; it would only add another puzzling perplexity to the many which the fall hath introduced. We want a Rock to rest our weary foot upon; we want a Light in which there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, whereby to guide our uncertain course; or, to speak without a figure, we want a will unalterable and unchangeable, whose purposes are disclosed to us, according to which we may rectify all our errors and wanderings, and thereto conform ourselves with all our might. But if that will be not itself constant, if it also be conditional, or if it be not revealed and manifest, or, finally, if it bear no tender loving regard to us, or if it leave any doubt over the issue of the contest, no one will arise and gird himself to the battle. For it is no ordinary battle upon an equal footing; but it is the battle of the weak against the mighty; of one against a host; of a new-bom child against the powers of flesh and blood, against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickednesses in high places. If there be the shadow of a doubt, I say again, resting over the issue of such a contest—if its success be not assured and pledged to us by Divine power and the Almighty unchangeable will, no mortal man will ever arise and take the field; or, if he should (and some certainly do take the field without the knowledge or the faith of this eternal purpose), then mark, that he will make a poor debate with the enemy, and come to parley and to terms of accommodation, upon being permitted any salvo to his honour, which the cunning one is ever willing to proffer. Therefore it is no small matter which we are handling, but the root of the matter, the great quickening, enlivening, and conquering principle of the warfare, even the will of God for our salvation: and for our greater confirmation, let us turn together and read a passage of St. Paul, where he employs the doctrine to this very end (Rom. 8. 28). “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? As it is written. For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor 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 Jesus our Lord.”
But besides this, I have to observe, that, if we fix not our continual attention upon the purpose of God in Jesus Christ as the only ground of our salvation, we will be tempted to look somewhere else; and the effect of looking any where else will be fatal. Of these false foundations of trust, I perceive two especially which mislead men. The one is, to look to the outward visible church; and the other, to look to the fruits thereof within themselves;—the former giving rise to formality, the latter to mysticism. The greater part of professors look to the outward visible church, or what I would call the manifestation of God’s purpose, instead of looking to the mind and will which are manifested therein. And the consequence is, that they are led blindly and timorously under the spirit of bondage and fear. Instead of being acted upon in their will by the Spirit of God, they are acted upon in their understanding, or in their natural feeling, or in their bodily sense by those parts of the revelation which severally address these several parts of their being. But not acknowledging the Supreme purpose and will which actuates the whole body of the revelation, their own will remains unsubdued and entire amidst all their formality of worship, and orthodoxy of faith, and practice of charity, and excitement of feeling. Of which formalists there are as many separate classes as there are different parts of the natural man to be acted upon; some of the sense merely, some of the feelings, some of the understanding: but inasmuch as the will is unrenewed, and it never can be renewed without comprehending the purposes of God (for the meaning of a renewed will is, that its purposes are in accordance with the purposes of God),—inasmuch, I say, as the will is not renewed and bears still according to nature, there must subsist in all such religionists a spirit of bondage; and I very much doubt whether there can exist in them the spirit of adoption which is not the spirit of fear but of love. Into this matter I cannot enter at length; and it has been indirectly touched upon already in what I have said concerning the submission of the will of Christ to the purposes of God, in which he delighted. There is a oneness, a simplicity of purpose in the Divine acts and revelations, which is as it were the soul and life of them; the uniformity in their variety. And so also in the life of a believer there ought to be the same oneness and simplicity of purpose, which may be the life and soul of all his obedience, and form the community of the Spirit in the variety and diversity of our gifts and graces. Now I say, that no one will obtain this common spirit of a son save by knowing and studying the will of our common Father. Otherwise our personality becomes lost and frittered away amidst an infinite variety of duties and engagements, of thoughts and opinions, and every one runneth wildly after his own natural disposition, instead of all submitting to the will of God; and the end is confusion, and sectarianism and schism, and every evil work. Of so much importance is it to have oar souls bent unto the contemplation of the purpose of God, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Besides these formalities (for I call every thing a formality in which the renewed will is not), there is another object to which spiritual divines are wont to turn the attention of believers, as die ground of consolation and assurance; namely, to the growth of grace and holiness in their own souls, or to what is commonly called Christian experience. But into this I enter not a present; for it is too large and important a matter to be dealt with slightly. Only I will say, in passing, that it is not a principle, or origin, but an effect derived from something else, and therefore not depending on itself, it is therefore not fit to rest upon. Besides, it is full of imperfection, change, and cloudy uncertainty; the light having to pass through the dark and dense medium of the flesh, which doth obscure it at times, and at times modify it, and at limes extinguish it altogether. It is looking upon the earth for the proof and assurance of the sun’s steady light, instead of looking at the sun himself. But we insist not.
Suffice it, dear brethren, to have given you a little insight into the purpose of God to justify his own holiness in the salvation of sinners by the incarnation of his Son, and likewise to have shewn you the superlative importance of this higher theology, which they commonly stigmatise by calling it Calvinism, but which is in truth the theology of the Apostles, as we proved; the theology of the Reformers, and of the Non-conformists and of every denomination of men in whom God has placed the testimony of his Son, and by whom he hath built up or repaired the walls of his church. Therefore I do, with the more confidence, entreat you, brethren, to meditate the purpose of God in sending his Son, and your own election in Jesus Christ before the world was; your election to be holy and without blame before him in love, and consequently your perseverance in holiness, and your full assurance thereof unto the end. This fulness of the decree and purpose which he hath purposed in himself before the world was, is the assurance of the church; and it is the overture which the church maketh to the sinful world. We wish you all to enter into this security: we hinder none, but invite all. Is the invitation less acceptable, because you are assured of salvation? Is the voyage less welcome because the vessel is well found, and hath a blessing of God upon her, which will make her ride out every storm? Is the house less inviting because when the winds arise, and the rains descend, and beat upon the house, it falleth not, and cannot fall, because it is built upon a rock. Finally, is the Saviour less welcome because he is a perfect Saviour, able to the very uttermost to save all who come unto him by faith? Because in his incarnation and death he included in the covenant not himself only, but all who should believe on his name and on his Father which sent him. Therefore I do invite, I do entreat, as many as hear me, by the no-condemnation, by the no- separation which is in Jesus Christ, by the safekeeping of their souls, by the assurance of their salvation, by the certain victory over every sin, by the surceasing of all fear, and the engendering of all love, and by whatever other expectations and assurances are cheerful, stable, and glorious, I do invite all to take refuge in this ark of their salvation, where alone is safety, that they perish not in the overwhelming flood of the wrath and indignation of God.
This freeness, and fulness, and perfect assurance of the purpose of God in Christ Jesus, which I set forth as the inducement and the encouragement, and the great argument for those weary and heavy laden with the world’s changes and disappointments, to lay hold upon Him and be at rest, I do present to you who are in Him, and are this day to shew forth your faith in Him, and your union with him, as your privilege and possession. You are at present in the wilderness, and have neither bread, nor water, nor any rest for the sole of your foot, nor any defence against the enemies which hang about you on all sides, save this alone, your assured faith in the new covenant, which God confirmeth with you this day in the blood of his Son. These enemies look for your faltering in this faith, in order to be upon you, and to destroy you. Doubt, and you are weak; disbelieve, and you perish. Remember ye the day of provocation in the wilderness, when the Fathers tempted and proved him; and because they had tempted him ”these ten times,” they did see what they called his breach of promise, and were not suffered to enter into the holy land, but fell every carcase of them in the wilderness. So fear ye lest a promise being left you of entering in, lest a covenant having been confirmed with you, any of you should fall short through unbelief. “For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?”
And for this end, dear brethren, have we endeavoured to lift your thoughts out of the visible world of manifestation into the spiritual world of the Divine purpose, that you might be delivered this day from all resting upon these symbols which are to be set before you, but by them ascend into the unseen realities in the heavenly places. We have taught you that the incarnation of the Eternal Word hath for its only beginning and origin the purpose of God to make known unto angels, and principalities, and men, the grace, and mercy, and love which there is in his own eternal essence; which, to bring into manifestation, he must forego for a while the love which he beareth to his own Son, and his own Son submit to become flesh, and to tabernacle upon earth, to do the will of his Father, and keep the law, and make it honourable, and fender an atonement for sin, and bring in an everlasting righteousness. Whereby the eternal harmony between the Father and the Son, and the essential holiness of the Divinity, became manifest, to the delight of all intelligent creatures: and the grace and mercy of the Godhead, which yet had not been seen, but only his unrelenting severity against the rebellious, became wondrously set forth and magnified.
Now, dearly beloved brethren, forasmuch as the Lord hath promised that he will be a mouth unto his ministers, and we besought the blessed Spirit, that he would lead us into all truth, and enable us to utter unto you that which was seasonable, we ought surely to believe that these thoughts, however weak the utterance, contain the food on which your souls are this day to feed. See then that ye meditate, and inwardly digest them. And let me now help you to one or two good uses of the same.
First, It is the will and purpose of God from all eternity, that you who are called into the church of Christ should be saved. The Father hath given you unto Christ, and none can pluck you out of the Father’s hands. Therefore be assured of your election in Christ Jesus, and of your perseverance therein unto the end . Pray in faith, all those who have the spirit of adoption. Believe that “all things are your’s, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or things present, or things to come, or life, or death; all are your’s, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” If God could prove unfaithful, you would have a reason to doubt him; if Christ could cast you off, you would have a reason to distrust him; if the covenant depended on things created and made, you might tremble in the fall and destruction of things created and made; but if it be before the foundation of the world, that ye are chosen in him; then, though the foundation of the world were to be removed, the purpose of God, that ye should be holy and without blame before him in love, is not thereby removed, or shaken, or altered, or infringed. Therefore go on your way rejoicing.
Secondly, As Christ did not his own will to glorify himself, but forewent the sovereignty, the Divine and uncreated liberty thereof, and learned obedience as a servant, boring his ears, as a willing slave, and delighting to be under the law, thereby to honour the will of God, which is holy and just and good; whereby he became the author of eternal salvation to all who believe: so we must in like manner yield ourselves to the holy will of God, and glorify not our own will, which is under the law of sin and death; but receiving the Holy Spirit into our hearts, to write therein God’s most gracious laws, we must bring forth out of a good conversation our works with meekness of wisdom, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. For in no other way can we be sanctified, but by the will of God: “by the which will we are sanctified.” It is thus, by acknowledging and bowing to the will of God, that we grow into the image of Christ, and are made partakers of the heavenly gift, and grow in the increase and fruitfulness thereof, even unto the end.
Thirdly, The sufferings which in this course of obedience you have to undergo from all quarters, arising out of ignorance, error, evil inclinations, worldly temptations, satanic and spiritual influences, with all the other fruits and consequences of a disobedient and reprobate will, are to be undergone with humility and patience, yea, with a remorse and repentance at their presence; with contrition of soul and broken-heartedness, as being the fruits of your rebellious spirit, and the continual memorials of what your Lord underwent for your redemption from them; yea, there should be a certain loathing and abhorrence of all these as the sink of abomination in which you formerly wallowed. You should not fret or grow weary and impatient before the Lord. That mood belongeth to God by right, who is the party offended; not to you, who are the offenders. Brethren, in your righteousness be patient, be not disturbed from your moderation and meekness by any inward or outward trial. Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete, wanting nothing. Be willing to be offered; in all your agonies, saying, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Present your bodies a willing sacrifice; shew that it is not an outward enforcement of the members, but an inward act of the willing mind: and remember what are the signs of willingness, meekness, patience, contentment, gladness, &c. These and many other uses are to be derived from this great act of the Father and the Son, from the great revelation of grace which hath this day been set before you, and which we pray the Lord to bless to his own glory in the church. Amen.