The End of the Mystery of the Incarnation is the Glory of God
John 13.31: And God is glorified in the Son of Man
Part 1: By manifestation
The incarnation of the Son of God, by which the glory of the Son of man was procured, is the grandest mystery into which angels or the sons of men can inquire. If you regard the eternity of its purpose so constantly declared to have been before the foundation of the world, before the world began, the Incarnation stands before us as one of the original projects (if I may so speak) of the Creator s mind, in order to the completion of that mighty work of creation which he was about to undertake; not an expedient to meet an accident, but an original intention, more ancient than creation itself, and to which the creation of being, and the permission of sin, were but, as it were, the necessary preparations. If you regard the awful mystery of the manifestation of this purpose, that the eternal Word of God, the uncreated substance of the eternal essence, did take into consubstantial and eternal union with himself the substance of fallen Adam, or, I may say, the very substance of the fallen earth, even the dust of the ground, to be united with it to redeem and glorify it, and for ever and ever to be manifest therein to all the universe of God; it transcendeth all utterance, and passeth all comprehension; so very great is the mystery of God manifest in the flesh. Or, thirdly, if you regard the profound humiliation and most exquisite suffering in body and in spirit, which that Man endured, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, while the Word was made flesh and tabernacled amongst us; this endurance and humiliation, as we shall endeavour to set forth in our next discourse, is beyond all comprehension. Or it fourthly, you regard the exaltation far above all principality and power, and every name that is named in heaven or on earth, into which the Son of man, the woman’s Seed, the glorified dust of the ground, hath ascended up on high; for ever and for ever, to manifest in himself, and in his church, in like manner humbled, and in like manner to be glorified, the manifold riches of the grace and glory of God: I say, in whatever respect you consider the work of the Incarnation, in its purpose, in its manifestation, or in its completion, it is without all controversy, the mighty power and work of God; undertaken and undergone for far higher ends than are commonly discoursed of; for far higher ends than the redemption of the elect church, who, I may say, are but the lively stones with which God buildeth up the work: but the work itself is no less than the manifestation of his own glory, and the eternal blessedness of all his obedient and dutiful creatures. Where- fore our Lord, contemplating in the text, and in various other passages of Scripture, the great crisis and turning point of this mighty work, his death, burial, and descent into hell, by which the lowest depth was sounded, and the foundation of the eternal glory laid upon the unremovable rock beneath the waters of sin, which are to be baled out; he ever speaketh of it as if it had been the commencement of his Father’s glory, saying, “Now is my Father glorified;” “I have glorified thee upon the earth;” “Father, glorify thy name;” and other such expressions, which surely signify to us that the glory of the eternal Godhead was in some remarkable way to receive increase and enlargement from the work, in the accomplishment of which Christ was travailing. It is of this subject,—the glory accruing unto the Father, or invisible God, from the work of the incarnation and death of Christ, that we are now to discourse, and for which, dear brethren, we have sought to prepare ourselves with much meditation, converse, and prayer these several weeks; and we do now publicly ask your prayers, that in times of such spiritual famine, the Lord would be pleased, for your sakes, and for the sake of his church, to give us good store of wholesome and nourishing “food, to the enlargement, enlivening, and edification of our souls, in the common faith.”
To this great subject of the glory which was brought unto the invisible God from the incarnation of the Eternal Word, we would make our way by reverently inquiring from the Scriptures, in order to find in how far, and in what manner, the Holy Spirit connecteth these two things, the Incarnation and the Glory of God, with one another. And we begin with the song which the multitude of the heavenly host sung over the birth of the child in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good-will to the children of men.”
This song of the Nativity, which is after the nature of a prophecy, embraceth the consequences of that birth under three heads, of which the first and noblest is, “Glory to God in the highest;” that is, not in the highest degree merely, but in the highest places and regions of being;—in the highest places, as distinguished from the inferior earth, upon which is pronounced the benediction of peace; and in the highest regions of being, as distinguished from the children of men, unto whom the rich inheritance of God’s good pleasure is bequeathed. But into the regions of hell or of the pit, where the fallen and reprobate spirits have their place, this prophecy of the Nativity entereth not; because they had no right nor inheritance of hope therein, but on the other hand, an inheritance of fearful expectation and fiery judgment. This word, “highest,” is commonly used of God,—”He shall be called the Son of the Highest;” and in ascriptions of praise to God,— “Hosannah in the highest;” and in the passage before us it doth certainly denote that in the supereminent dignities of being, in the utmost elevations of created intelligence, and in the chief manifestations of Gods power and strength, there was to come a glory, an exceeding great glory, from the birth of the Son of the virgin. And that great gathering of the heavenly host to look upon the scene, their earnest zeal to celebrate the act with ascriptions of praise, doth manifest that they were interested in no ordinary degree in that which then began to be accomplished upon the earth. And moreover, because it is revealed that the angels desire to look into the mystery of the Incarnation, as it unfoldeth its first fruits in the redemption of the church; and that they are diligently employed in ministering unto those who shall be heirs of salvation; and that when God shall the second time bring the Only Begotten into the world, he shall say, Let all the angels of God worship him: and above all, because it is one constituent part of the mystery of godliness, that “God was seen of angels,” we conclude that the relation of all the heavenly intelligences towards the Godhead is in some way dependent upon, and hath in some way been greatly affected by, the incarnation of the Son of God; that there hath been opened to them something of which they stood in eager expectation, and some glory of the invisible Godhead discovered, whereby their blessedness hath been greatly enhanced; a new defence cast around the habitations of their being, and a new spirit inspired into their services, on account of which they sing first in order and in dignity, “Glory to God in the highest.”
But a still higher view of this subject will present itself, if we take into consideration another passage of this same Evangelist, where it is recorded in the 19th chapter, that as he descended the Mount of Olives, to enter Jerusalem, the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and to praise God for all the mighty works which they had seen; saying, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” Here is connected with the coming of Christ our King, not only peace on earth, but peace in heaven; of which, I think, the best interpretation is to be found in the 19th chapter of the Apocalypse; where it is revealed that, after the man child which is to rule the earth with a rod of iron had been caught up to God and his throne, there was war in heaven, which resulted in Satan’s being cast unto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him: wherefore they sung, “Rejoice, ye heavens, and they that dwell in them; for the accuser of the brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” This suggesteth to us a still higher sense of the words of Paul, in the Epistle to the Colossians, commented upon in the preceding sermon, where it is written of the person and office of Christ, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” From these and many other passages, it is manifest that the reconciliation and peace which flow from our Lord’s incarnation have a wider, a much wider, application than to the earth only; and in some way, which we are hereafter to inquire into, do affect the heavens also and the dwellers therein; though certainly they affect not the angels which kept not their first estate, nor the reprobate spirits of men, as the Universalists dream, whose doctrine I abhor and detest, and shall ever labour to expose. But, besides this peace in heaven, there is added in the passage now under consideration, “Glory in the highest:” “peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” Whence we gather that “the highest” is a region above the heavens, the dwelling place and abode of I know not what order of beings; if indeed it be the dwelling place of any created order, and not the immediate habitation of the Divinity; of whom though it be true that he is every where present, yet it is also true that in the holy Scriptures he is revealed to possess one place by peculiar property, and to fill it with most glorious effulgency. “Thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place;” where the word in the Hebrew is the same which is usually rendered in the Greek by the word which we translate “highest.” The same truth, of a peculiar abode of the glory of God, is gathered from the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is said, “When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.” And in Timothy it is said, “That God dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, neither can see.” Besides, throughout all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the appellative which God is most frequently known by, is this very word, “the Highest.” From which premises, I am very much inclined to conclude, that this glory in the highest, which is added to peace in heaven, hath no lower reference than to the Divinity Himself, whose essential and everlasting glory was to be illustrated and manifested in some marvellous manner, by the incarnation of his only begotten Son. Let us, for the present, rest in this information, without opening the manner how, until we have obtained more light from the examination of other Scriptures.
It is not likely that the heavenly host would have ascribed such a marvellous property to the birth of Messiah, as that it should glorify God in the highest, and still less likely is it that his disciples should do so, unless the same had been revealed and written of Messiah in the holy Prophets, to which therefore I would go back and search for the light which they afford us upon this great subject. And I begin with a passage in the 49th chapter of Isaiah, where it is thus written: “The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft: in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” That he speaketh here, of Messiah, the true Israel, or Prince of God, and not of the literal Israel, or Jacob, is manifest not only from the grandeur of the expressions, but also from the words which follow, wherein Messiah complaineth of his ineffectual mission to his brethren. “Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God” To this sorrowful complaint his Father thus maketh answer, assuring him of the certainty that all which was covenanted for should, in due time, be fulfilled. “And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength:” and so on through the whole of the chapter, which is a dialogue between Messiah and the Father concerning the fruitlessness of his first mission, which was past, and the fruitfulness of his second mission, which was to come.—From this word of the Holy Spirit we learn two things: first, that in this child called from the womb the glory of God was, in some mysterious way, wrapped up; and that the heavenly host were only speaking the language of Divine prophecy when they sung over his birth, “Glory to God in the highest.” “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” We may see also why, in this passage, he hath given to him the name of Israel, or Prince of God, as being “spoken to him upon his ascension and sitting down at the right hand of God, when he was appointed both Christ and Lord. Jacob, being left alone of all his kindred, wrestled with the Lord until the breaking of the day, and was not prevailed against, wherefore he was called no more Jacob but Israel; “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Even so Jesus, being left alone, wrestled, I may say, with God, from the time that he said upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” during all the night of the hour and power of darkness, until the breaking of the morning of his resurrection; or it may be through all the night of the rejection of Jacob, until the morning of their restoration and the resurrection of the saints; after which he is properly entitled to the name of Israel, which God accordingly bestoweth upon him in this dialogue which is holden upon his ascension, in pledge of his reintroduction into the world, with power and great glory: “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”—We learn, secondly from this passage concerning the glory of God, which came from the incarnation of Christ, that though in the investiture it was given him at his ascent into glory, in its manifestation it is reserved for a period still future: because upon his ascension, and during his intercession, he is represented as complaining that the glorious object of his commission had been frustrated; and in consolation is assured that, in the mean time, he shall be given as a light unto the Gentiles; and after describing the honour which thence should come unto his name, the Prophet proceedeth: “Sing, O heaven; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” After which cometh the glory of the people Israel, which the aged Simeon also knew was to be preceded by the light of the Gentiles. The short space allowed for the measure of a discourse in these niggard times, doth not suffer me to confirm this from the other prophets.
And now I proceed to the Gospels, to examine what more guidance they will give us to the full and right apprehension of this subject, the glory of God procured by the incarnation of his Son. In the narrative of the raising of Lazarus, recorded in the 11th chapter of John, we find our Lord thus answering the message of his sickness: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” And being come to the place of the sepulchre, he further saith, ” Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” This glory of God, therefore, for which Lazarus’s sickness and death was ordained, consisteth in something which Martha should see if she believed; that is, it consisted in the mighty work of raising Lazarus from the dead. And that other miracles were manifestations of the same glory is further evident from that which the Lord answered of the blind man: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” So also he is said “to have manifested forth his glory” in the marriage supper of Cana, when he changed the water into wine. We may conclude, therefore, in general, that the glory of God was shewn forth in the mighty acts of Christ, which he did during the days of his flesh; because, as I have oft explained to you, they were but the foreshewings and forerunners and first-fruits of that glorious power which he is to exercise over the whole world, in the time of his kingdom. This in general of all his works; but I cannot here pass an observation upon these three works in particular; of which, and of no others, is this manner of expression used. Our observation is, that they are every one of them emblematical and prophetical; the marriage supper of Cana, typical of the marriage supper of the Lamb with his church, when this dispensation of water shall be changed into the dispensation of wine. For this present is as much the dispensation of water, signified in baptism, its initiatory sacrament, as the former was the dispensation of flesh and blood, signified in circumcision, its initiatory sacrament, and its other fleshly ordinances. Yet as the former dispensation, though of blood, had in it the rudiments of the present dispensation in its divers washings, so hath this dispensation, though of water, present in the cup, the rudiments of that richer and more joyful dispensation. Whence we say over the cup, in the holy supper, “This is the new covenant in my blood,” of which new covenant we have only the earnest in the work of the Spirit. And this is the reason, as I judge, why it is said particularly of that miracle, that he manifested forth his glory, because it was a discovering of that glory which should be manifested when he shall drink wine new with his disciples in his kingdom. Concerning the second of these works, which is that of the man born blind, who witnessed such a good confession before the Sanhedrim of the nation, I consider it as an emblem of the future conversion of the Jewish Church, upon whose dark eye the Lord did first cast another film as of clay and spittle, so that they are now doubly blinded: first, the natural blindness of the heart; and secondly, the blindness which came from their rejection of Christ. But they shall at length wash in the Pool of Siloam, which is the emblem of the Spirit that that is to be poured out upon the house of Israel and Judah; and they shall then see: and now shall they be called upon to stand a fiery ordeal and proof, like that of the blind man, and, like him, be rejected and suffer many things for his sake, whom they heretofore pierced, and now do mourn over with a great lamentation. And having suffered excommunication from the synagogue of those who still adhere to Moses, they shall then see the Lord, to whose veiled Divinity they were blind at their former meeting; and now he shall reveal himself to them at once, without disguise, as the Son of God, and they shall fall down and worship him. In this sense it is that I judge “the works of God were manifested” in this man born blind. And so judge I also of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead; and of his two sisters, Mary and Martha; that they represent the glorious resurrection of the saints, by which the two sister churches of the Gentiles and the Jews shall be made glad, at a time when they are brought under the deepest waters of sorrow: the one the heart-broken sorrow of her that will not be comforted, but steals forth to weep alone and in silence—which is the sorrow that shall then pierce the heart of the Jewish Church: the other, the affliction and grief of a bustling active spirit, such as now pervadeth the Gentile Church, who is a perfect Martha; being ” troubled about many things,” and who shall, before the coming of the Lord, be impeded, disconcerted, and driven back, and in her straits shall cry aloud for comfort. And both shall be comforted in the coming of Christ with all his risen saints.
Let no one mock at our making the miracles of the Lord emblematical, when those done by the hand of Moses were remarkably so. If the miraculous preservation by the passover prefigured our salvation by the sacrifice of Christ; and the passing through the red sea, the baptism of water; and the smiting of the rock, the flowing of the Spirit from Christ’s smitten body; and the manna, the spiritual nourishment of Christ’s body, exhibited in the holy supper; and the change of the manna for the flesh of quails, which brought leanness into the souls of the people, figure, as I judge, the changing of the bread into flesh by the monstrous doctrine of transubstantiation, which brought on, and, more than every thing else, doth continue, the leanness of the Papists; why should we not look for the same emblematical signification in the Lord’s miracles, especially in those three, which are separated from all the rest, as having a more immediate relation to that glory, which is not yet made manifest, but which was foreshewn by glimpses through these the acts of his mighty power upon the earth. But whether you may go along with us in this interpretation or not, one thing is manifest from these three several instances, that the glory which Christ brought to his Father consisteth in the manifestation of things, in the doing of works, in mighty achievements of power, and manifestations of goodness; and not in mere abstract revelations to the mind, —that is, not in doctrines or ideas merely, but in acts and deeds, whereof ideas are the laws, and doctrines the prophetic declarations. This I count a very important remark, which will help us greatly in the sequel.
For further light upon this subject of the glory which Christ brought unto the Father, we must carefully examine another passage recorded in the 12th chapter of this Gospel: That certain Greeks, who were come up to Jerusalem to worship at the feast, being much impressed in their minds with the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, came to Philip and desired him, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.” Thereupon Jesus opened to these Greeks a strain of discoursing exactly similar to that which he held with Nicodemus, saying, —” The time is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” Having thus spoken to these in signification of the cross they would have to bear if they gave ear to that suggestion of the Spirit which had brought them into his presence; what a self-denial of the present life they must be prepared for, and what a reward would abide them in the resurrection of the just; he is burdened and oppressed with the weight and load of his spirit, and thus uttereth it in the hearing of them all: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” He rejecteth this form of petition, and will not use it. Then he chooseth another, saying, “Father, glorify thy name.” Which petition was no sooner uttered than, as heretofore, to confirm the Jews, so now to confirm the Greeks, “there came a voice from Heaven, I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” And that the proper end of such a mighty and marvellous voice might not be mistaken by these Greeks, it is added, “that when, of the people who stood by and heard it, some said, It thundered; and other, An angel spake to him, Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes;” that is, to confirm your faith, and shew you that I am the true Messiah, the sent of God, whom God thus confesseth in the hearing of you all. And thus I reckon that for these Greeks, (whom, with all the commentators, I judge to have been pious heathens who worshipped the one God, and came up to adore him at Jerusalem, in the court of the Gentiles,)—for these unproselytised, uncircumcised, unbaptized Greeks did the Lord, in the very last act of his ministry, obtain from Heaven this most signal attestation of his Divinity, as he had obtained the same for the Jews in the very first act and beginning of his ministry.—And now for the bearing which it hath upon the subject of the glory which he brought unto God: He calleth upon God to glorify his own name; and is answered by God, that he “both had glorified it and would glorify it again.” And first, what is meant by the petition, “Father, glorify thy name?” This question will be best answered by quoting a part of his own intercessory prayer: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” From this passage we gather, that Christ manifested the name of the Father by setting forth every word as proceeding from the Father’s will, and every act as the demonstration of his power; testifying of him always, and always doing his will: wherefore he is called “the true and the faithful Witness :” wherefore also he saith, “I have a work to work which ye know not of: my work is to do the will of him that sent me.” And to the same purpose he saith, in the same intercessory prayer, and in immediate connexion with the above, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished which thou gavest me to do.” Then follows, with only an ejaculation intervening, “I have manifested thy name.” The manifesting the name of God, therefore, I consider to be the manifesting the essence, or power, or nature of God, which Christ had done by every action of his life: and now, therefore, at the close of that life he prays his Father to glorify his name: that is, to sustain and confirm the testimony which he had given, and to make it glorious. Christ had glorified his Father’s name on the earth; but withal it still lacked another more transcendent glory, which he prayeth for, and which can in no way be said to have commenced until his resurrection. To this prayer of the Son of man the Father maketh answer, “I have both glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” To what this former glorification referreth I know not, except it be to the mount of transfiguration, which is continually referred to in the Scriptures, as the manifestation of Christ’s glory; and on which occasion, besides the voice which was spoken to him at Bethabara, in the hearing of the Jews, and now in the hearing of these Greeks, there was given unto his most confidential disciples, a complete emblem and type of that glory which shall be manifested when he shall come again in majesty and might. This second glorification which is promised, was entered to on the day of the ascension, and shall be revealed unto the world in the dispensation of the fulness of the times. In this passage, therefore, we gain, as it were, a response from the throne of the Eternal himself, declaring in what way his name was glorified in Christ, and in what way it is to be glorified again; namely, by the consummation of that glory which was typified upon mount Tabor.
Your time will not permit me to follow out this inquiry any further at present; which yet hath been sufficient to give us more definite ideas concerning that glory of God which proceedeth from the incarnation of Christ, and to teach us where it is to be sought,—namely,
First, In the highest origin of being, which is the very essence of the Godhead itself, whereof I believe that the most glorious manifestation will be found to be in the God-man throughout all eternity.—This is what Christ had in his view, when he said, “Now is my Father glorified;” as if the glory which had accrued from all the past, was not worthy to be compared with that which was now to come. In the same sense the Prophets always saw first the sufferings and then the glory which should follow. In the same sense St. Paul saith, “The light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out a far more exceeding even an eternal weight of glory.” “And being justified by faith we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” This, doubtless, is the end of the promise, and the fulfilment of the desires of the saints; of which nothing is present, nor seen as yet, otherwise it were no longer hoped for. At present we hold it by faith, which is “the substance of things hoped for;” and it is called “the riches of the glory of Christ’s inheritance in the saints;” when the earth is said to be “filled with the glory of God, even as the waters cover the channels of the sea.”
But, besides this, we have seen another part of the glory, which is to be sought for in the work which Christ finished upon the cross: “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” This, in its first sense, is applicable to his incarnation merely, or the days of his flesh; but it also virtually includeth all the previous work of which his life on earth was the accomplishment. For the whole progression of promises and signs, of types and symbols, which had been from the beginning of the world, was the work of Christ upon the earth. These were the elements out of which his incarnation as it were did grow, and his incarnation took them up into itself. All the earthly forms which Messiah took by the Spirit before his advent, moulding this thing and that thing to shadow forth some part and portion of his power, or of his sufferings, do come legitimately into view, when we consider the glory which Christ brought unto God upon the earth. And in this sense it is, that any of us who believe in him, do glorify God in eating, in drinking, and in whatsoever we do, we do all to the glory of God, when we do all in in Christ Jesus, seeking not our own will, but the will of him that sent us. In this sense we are said to glorify God, by our life and by our death, by our afflictions and by our joys; and this is the glory of the Cross. Wherefore, we are said to be “to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” And again, we are said to be “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” But this, whether regarded in Christ or in his church, is a glory that needeth to be glorified,—is in truth only the shadow of the glory which shall be revealed in him, and in us.
Having thus examined the subject of ” God glorified in Christ,” and shewn from Scripture the two parts whereof it consisteth, we proceed in this discourse to open the first, which is contained in these words, ” Glory to God in the highest,” from which we would endeavour to set forth the glory which God himself hath derived from the Son of man; or, in other words, the glory which the Godhead hath derived from his creature man, above and beyond all other creatures; on account of which he hath smelt such a sweet savour of manhood as to have taken the nature of man into fellowship with his own nature, and will exhibit his glorious Divinity in the visible substance of manhood, through the endless ages of eternity. For this is what is implied in the words, “God is glorified in the Son of man: “where of the point is not, that he is glorified in the Divinity of the Eternal Word, but in the humanity of his incarnate Son; in the Son of man, not in the Son of God. We are now reverently to inquire how this cometh to pass: and may the Lord help our meditations, and give power unto our discourse.
Observe, then, first of all, my dearly beloved brethren, that the eternal power and Godhead of Jehovah neither doth, nor can, suffer any the least change or alteration, increase or diminution, but is essentially one and the same, yesterday, today, and for ever; as it is written, “every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” He is the source and the fountain of all existence, from whom every thing hath its being, according to the law of its being, which by him is decreed and appointed so as that it can never pass over or beyond it; but whereas other fountains are fed from their own streams, and all other causes sustained and reacted upon by their own effects, returning, as it were, for ever into the circle of that law under which they were formed; it is not so with the great original Former and First Cause of all things, who receiveth no help nor nourishment of his strength from any, or all, of the things which he hath created and made, being the self-existent, all-originating will, which, within itself, hath an all-perfect comprehension of nil things which have been. which are, and which are yet to be. Wherefore, in such passages as our text, wherein glory is said to have accrued unto God from the Son of man, it cannot be meant that the eternal and unchangeable Majesty of Heaven received any right or property in any thing which before he had not possessed; but that by the peril and travail of that same great enterprise of his Son against the powers and potentates of evil, there did come forth into manifestation, that is, into the region of creation and of knowledge, some form of the Divine nature and feature of the Divine excellency, some secret of the Divine counsels and everlasting monument of the Divine power, which heretofore was undiscovered and undiscoverable, and to the creatures all the same as if it had not been. For, dear brethren, if you will but cut the cords and rise a little above the artificial structures which we raise upon the ground of God’s clear and unobstructive word, you will at once perceive that, from the beginning, every thing which hath been done by the Godhead, in the work of creation or of providence, or of regeneration, is but a discovering or revealing of that which was from all eternity beheld by God in his own Son, who is the express image of the person of God, in whom, as in a glass, he contemplateth all things, and beholdeth them as realities ere yet to any creature they have a being, ere yet there was a creature to whom they might be manifested. This is the mystery of the Son’s eternal and essential Divinity in the bosom of the Father, that in him the Father beholdeth all things, all purposes, all possibilities, all realities, and in him enjoys them all with full and perfect fruition, ere ever they are, and while they are growing into outward being; yea and into him shall recapitulate them all again, after they have run through their appointed transitions. Not that the things which are created shall ever again cease to be; for they were seen from eternity in the Son’s fulness, and therefore must last for ever: nor that they shall be only as they were from everlasting, in the being of the Son; but that they shall hereafter be outwardly existing, even as lie, the Head of them all, shall be outwardly existing: they shall stand fast for ever in him, united in him, and by him preserved and protected from all encroachment and change; and by him led and directed in the worship and obedience of the Most High God. And herein also consisteth the mystery of the Holy Ghost, that by his operation all things which from eternity have their reality in the Son become manifested in time and place, and are sustained in their outward manifestation; yea, even the Son himself, became outwardly manifest in manhood by the power of the Holy Ghost, and by his power was exalted from the grave to his present super-eminency. It is the mighty working of the Holy Spirit which is conducting all things through the same perilous voyage of outward and separate existence, to reconduct them back again into a condition of outward stability and unchanging reality, such as by the Father from all eternity they were really and substantially seen in the person of his own Son, in the eternal Word, and all-perfect image of himself. The only change or alteration, therefore, consisteth in revelation or in manifestation: there is nothing which hath not been eternally known to, and present in, the Son; even the possibility of sin itself, which is, as it were, the chaotic basis out of which the manifestation of holiness and righteousness cometh. These remarks I throw out for the use of those who are of a higher mood; and delight to arise into the true mystery of the doctrine of the Trinity, and to understand the higher and more precious portions of the word of God.
But the same truth may be rendered more simple, and obvious to the meanest capacity, in the following way. If we could suppose any thing to be added to God which was not in him nor pertained to him from everlasting, we must suppose that before such addition he was incomplete, or is now more than complete. If we could suppose any thing to be recovered which was lost, or to be remembered which was forgotten, or to be reassumed which was rejected, to be reformed which was amiss, or to be changed which needed change, we must suppose mutation, or deviation, or disappointment in Him who is the rock of ages and refuge of all distressed things, the stability and support of all being, the eternal and unchangeable I AM, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. So that, when words of this import and signification are applied in the holy Scriptures unto our God, as that he repenteth, and removeth, and restoreth, and reformeth that which he hath already constituted and done, they are but significant of the changes which the mutable universe, and we a part of it, are passing through in this our outward and separate voyage, until we shall be safely brought back and reconstituted in unchangeable union to the Lord Jesus our Head. They are the words of human language, proper to express that imperfect and unstable condition in which all things at present are, and shall continue to be, until the days of restitution; and being applied to God, they express not any change in Him, but in us who behold Him. As we speak of the risings, and the settings, and the revolutions of the sun, though he abideth steadfast in the heavens, or hath but a motion which to the eye is imperceptible; as we speak of his being clouded and obscured and eclipsed, though he shineth with a constant brightness; and as we speak of the irregularities of the heavenly motions, and the unsettledness of all sublunary things, though it be certain they do all obey a constant and invariable law, which neither is nor can be changed save by the good will and pleasure of God; speaking in all these instances in accommodation to the appearances which offer themselves to the sense, and against the realities which we discover by the reason: so speaketh God in holy Scripture concerning himself, accommodating his word to that language which is necessary to man’s present condition, and presenting himself as full of repentance towards him that repenteth, pure to the pure, and iroward to the froward, and upright to the upright; yet is it most certain that within, and under, this popular form of speech, there is also in his word a deeper revelation concerning the oneness and unchangeableness of his being, concerning the harmony of all his operations, and the great end of all his works; into which revelation of his steadfast and constant being he is ever seeking to draw men out of the changes and fluctuations in which he findeth them, and to which he doth assimilate and accommodate himself, in the first instance, by the only language which they are able to understand. As any discreet man, who would teach astronomy to unlettered and ignorant people, must begin from the appearances of the heavens, and employ a language conformed thereto, until he shall have ascended with his disciples into the great principles of things; of the heaven’s rest, and the earth’s rotation; of the sun’s central place, and the earth’s revolution, and the regular motions of all the planets; after which, he employeth another language derived from the facts, and not from the appearances: so the teacher of Divine truth must proceed, as indeed the Holy Spirit in the declaration of Divine truth hath proceeded, beginning by the use of the popular language of God’s repentance and changeableness towards us as we change towards him, which is the Arminianism of Divine truth, mistaken by all the Methodists and the great body of our Evangelicals for the whole of it; but truly it is only the popular accommodation thereof, in order to lead the people into the true principles of God’s unchangeableness, and the eternal sacrifice of his Son, of the eternal constitution of the church and election of all saints in him, of their perseverance, their assurance and certain glory, with all other the higher truths of the mystery of godliness, which are The Truth, and alone entitled to the name of The Truth; discarded though they be at present as high Calvinism, and even decried as soul-destroying Antinomianism; yea, and all the subsidiary and subordinate language of entreaty and promise and condition, is only adopted for the purpose of introducing our waywardness to the knowledge of His counsels, which are one in their purpose and regular in their progression, all leading to the one glorious end of manifesting unto his creatures the wonders of his eternal being, and securing them in the blessedness of the same. This manifestation of himself is the one end of creation, and of redemption, and of restitution; and I may also add, it is the one end of the permission of sin in the world, of an apostasy in the church, and of reprobation through eternity,—I say the chief and only end of all is the declaration of the essential glory of the Godhead.
Bearing these observations in mind, let us now proceed in the exposition of our doctrine, that by the Incarnation glory was brought unto God in the highest, and shew how the manifestation of the Divine glory did then, as it were, lift itself above the horizon, and begin to disperse the clouds and shadows of the night. From all that we know concerning creation, it appeareth, that before the human race was brought into being, sin had been permitted to enter, that through it the glory of the grace of God might more abundantly appear; for there are “angels which kept not their first estate;” and there are “elect angels” mentioned in the Scripture: whereby the glory of God’s creation was in a manner marred, his majesty insulted, and the bounds of his dominions sorely troubled and infested. And hitherto there was no mention of a remedy; and, I take it, there was no possibility of a remedy according to the angelic constitution of being, which being once fallen is for ever fallen. This is a mystery which I pretend not to fathom; but the fact is not the less certain that there is no redemption for the apostate angels. I am not called at present to enter into this, but would just observe in passing, that man was created a living soul, but the the angels were created spirits; “who maketh his angels spirits;” and hence it may arise, that they are not capable of any redemption; for it is continually said, that the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. Now it would seem to me, that a pure spirit in sinning, must sin against the law of its being, which, in the case of the angels, being the law of the Holy Spirit, is unpardonable. But however this may be, it is most certainly revealed that sin had been manifested, and no deliverance from it had yet been manifested; no grace, no mercy, no holiness, no glory, arising from the victory over and subjection of sin. It had broken in like a mighty tempest, and swept away a whole host of the subjects of our King: nay more, it had power to awaken insurrection in their own breasts, and in obedience to their own will to carry them away. The region of pure and mighty spirits, therefore, had become darkened; God’s glory in that work of creation obscured; and the enemy had obtained an active head, and a permitted power. And I may say that this former manifestation of God’s being had become ambiguous and equivocal in the sight of the creatures: for what may hinder another rebellion; and another? Those indeed who fell are restrained in chains of darkness, and may deter by their example; but there is no security as yet against the breeding of the same spiritual pestilence: so that, I may say, the higher creatures lay continually open and exposed, unless some hope, promise, or assurance were given them of a time when, and of a means whereby, the activity of sin was to be destroyed, and their own security secured: which assurance, though it be not expressly revealed, yet have I no doubt, from the whole bearing of revelation, the Lord had given them; and that before man was created it was known in heaven, that through this creature man, the great mystery of the Divine nature, and the great destruction of sin, were to be made manifest: yea, that it was not only known for the comfort and consolation of the elect angels, but also known among the apostasy for their terror; seeing it is written, they “believe and tremble.” Nay more, I have of times conjectured, yea, and almost believed, that the apostasy and rebellion of the angels in heaven arose against the knowledge and revelation made unto them of God’s eternal purpose to manifest his fulness in another type of being than their own: for it is continually written, that by Christ and for Christ all things were created; that is, for his possession as the Christ,—not as the Word, but as the Christ, or the God-man, which he was from all eternity, being “slain from the foundation of the world.” The promulgation of this decree in heaven, I conjecture, yea I believe, was the cause of the first apostasy. It was an apostasy against the Christ, against the truth, that the Divine fulness should become visible in another form of being than their own: otherwise why, as the Christ, should he judge the angels, if against him as the Christ they had not, in some way or other, rebelled; or why should they have the same portion with the apostasy amongst men in the lake that burneth, if they had not sinned as men have sinned; they, against the spiritual revelation of the Christ proper to them; we against the verbal and fleshly and ecclesiastical manifestation of him. And to the same effect, I believe, that the elect angels stood and do still stand in the Christ, by having received the decree when it was promulgated in heaven before the day of our creation, and having stood fast in their allegiance; so that we may say, that the most ancient form of being, was the Man-God, the Eternal Son, generated from all eternity, though not the first manifested in being, but that for which all prior manifestations did but prepare the way: and that in him all good things consist, or stand fast together, and that from him all evil things apostasize, and against him rebel; wherefore in the end all the elect shall be gathered together in him, and all the apostasy shall be cast into that passive and ineffectual condition of misery, called the second death, in the hell which he hath founded for them.—Now, brethren, think not that this is a speculation: it is the orthodox doctrine of our fathers, who, in treating of the church, or in writing out their faith concerning the church, made it to consist of elect angels and elect men, chosen together in Christ; and it is the doctrine taught in our church standards and by St. Paul in his Epistles. With the more confidence therefore, let us proceed.
The apostasy of the angels was permitted by God, or, to speak more correctly, the law of the angelic being was so constituted by God as that it could apostasize, only in preparation for the bringing in of the Christ, that perfect and all-comprehending form of being. And for this end the creature man was constituted, under a new law and condition of being, such that, if he should fall by the inroad of sin, he might rise again by the manifestation of Christ, which was, as I said above, by his being created a living soul. For though man was created in the image of God, he was not so in the same sense in which Christ is called “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” For the two Adams are drawn into contrast by the Apostle in the 15th chapter of the Corinthians, in this manner: “It is sown a natural body (or a body proper to a soul), it is raised a spiritual body (or a body proper to a spirit); there is a natural (soulish) body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul, the second Adam a life-giving Spirit. Howbeit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is of the soul: and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, so we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” In this passage we are taught that Adam was not a spiritual creature, in the sense in which we are spiritual, who are born again of the Spirit by the quickening power of the Lord Jesus Christ: nor was he a creature in the dignity into which we are adopted by faith, and unto which we shall be admitted in the day of the Lord’s manifestation. Whatever distinction there is between a soul and a spirit, and such a distinction is continually preserved in Scripture, that same distinction there is between a soul and a spirit, and such a distinction there is between the generation of Adam and the regeneration of Christ: and this distinction is declared in the passage to be equal to that which there is between the body which is sown in the grave, and the body which is raised at the resurrection. For the further illustration of this point is to be diligently observed what Paul declareth in the 2nd chapter of the same Epistle, that the natural man, or the man of the soul, which Adam in his first creation was constituted, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” From this we learn that there is in that form of being, called the soul, after which Adam was created, a natural incapacity for receiving or knowing the things which the Spirit teacheth, which are the same things which Christ revealeth; and that this is a form of being preparatory for a higher and more perfect one, which God might perhaps have given to our first parents if they had stood faithful unto him who created them. They were perfect in that kind in which they were created; according as it is written, “This only have I found, that God made “man upright;” but that kind was not of the perfectest, which yet awaited them, and to which they perhaps would have been translated, if they had not fallen. And this doth exactly agree with what is written by the Apostle Paul in another place, where, in sketching the same parallel between the first and the second Adam, he calleth the former a type of the latter: “which is the type of Him that was to come.” (Rom. 5. 14). And certainly Adam, in his creation, was the fullest type of Christ, being without sin, and invested with the sovereignty of the creatures; being planted in a paradise, and having a wife taken out of his bleeding side, who might be to him for a help, and the mother of many children, having also to contend with the serpent. But he was no more than the type,—the prophet, priest, and king of the garden of Eden, typifying the Prophet, Priest, and King of the whole creation of God: and while he stood in this condition he was not capable of receiving that knowledge of God unto which we have been brought by the manifestation of Jesus Christ. He was the perfection, and, as it were, the fountain-head, of all that knowledge which, without revelation, the soul of man is capable of: as the knowledge of nature and of natural life, the knowledge of his own being, and the knowledge of all the beings over whom he was constituted king; all natural sciences, when perfected, being but the fragments of Adam’s intuition; but into the knowledge of God he could only go so far as to acknowledge him for his Creator, and the Creator of the things which were around him. Of God’s spiritual being, I am in great doubt whether he could have any distinct apprehension or knowledge; because Paul expressly saith, that the natural man, or the man of the soul, of which Adam was the perfect form, knoweth not the things of the Spirit of God: he could not know the Father, who is known only by the Son, who was not yet come forth from the bosom of the Father; and not knowing the Son, he could not know the Spirit, whose procession succeedeth that of the Son. More than the knowledge of a Creator he could not have. His being was only, if I may so speak, preparatory to a spiritual being: wherefore the Lord God presented himself to him in some revelation proper to that state; walking, as it is said, in the garden in the cool of the day; with some attributes kindred to Adam’s nature, which delighted in the garden, and loved the cool time of the day. In like manner, Satan the tempter presented himself with like accommodation, not as a bright and powerful spirit, whirling him away whither he would, and making the round world reveal before him all its attractions, but as a serpent, one of the subject creatures; and he beguiled him with the prospect of being preferred to become as gods, knowing good and evil; whereby we perceive that Adam, in this former state of his being, was inferior to the angels, whom I understand here by the word “gods:” whereas the heirs of salvation enjoy the same as their ministers and servants. From all which I conclude, that even his knowledge of God as a Creator, was very inferior to that which we now have by the revelation of Christ Jesus. But into this subject I only open a a door of thought, without entering, lest I should be diverted from my great subject of God glorified in the Son of man, having said enough for our present purpose of shewing that man in his original creation was not the glory of God, but only the type of “the Son of man,” who was prepared in the counsels of eternity to manifest that glory; and that his creation was but a step towards the introduction of the God-man into the visible universe. In which inferior form of manhood I believe him to have been created, that when he should fall he might not utterly fall, but in falling rise through deep distress, and, by omnipotent grace, into that most excellent form of being whereof paradise saw but the goodly bud.
Nevertheless, to this new creature, the expectation of the elect, and the envy of the apostate angels, was directed; the former resting assured that in it the great desire of the heavens, and the latter being assured, or at least dreading, that in it the great terror of hell, was to be revealed. And Satan, the prince of darkness, and the ruler of the powers of darkness, having set himself to destroy this creature, did so far forth succeed in destroying him as was necessary for his own destruction: he accomplished the breach which he sought to accomplish; but he little imagined that through that breach the Eternal Light against which he warred was to stream into the visible world, and revive the hearts of the elect, against whom he wageth perpetual war. He thought that if this creature should fall, as he himself had fallen, the fall would be irretrievable, and the word of God, against which he warred, falsified for ever;—insufficient knowledge ever outwitting itself, inefficient light of falsehood always extinguished by the omnipotent light of truth.—This fall of man being accomplished, the expectation of heaven, though not defeated, was again projected forward: and the song of joy which they sung over the creation was turned into sorrow and sadness, when they saw the earth also possessed by Satan, and mankind bereaved of the image of God. But their hope and faith was not utterly defeated, any more than was that of man. For a new revelation of the promise was given, and that, I doubt not, more distinct than any hint or intimation of it which had been given before. Yet were they all again suspended upon hope; and the word of God seemed, to the eyes of the beholders, again controverted, and his purpose again contravened: and sin to have gained another advantage over holiness; another veil to be drawn over the sanctuary, and thicker clouds to envelop the dwelling place of God.
And now, thenceforward, all heaven and earth looked forward for the Man, by eminency called The Son Of Man; that is, the child for whom manhood was created, and through whom the great secret was to be revealed, and the Divine nature for ever manifested in an outward form ;—which was, as it were, the great deliverance for which the womb of all creation had longed, and made an empty and abortive effort to produce it at the birth of Adam, when things were not yet ripe for the great discovery. To see God, and to be able to name his name, had been the two great desires of heaven and earth, and, I may say, must ever be the great desire of every creature. Adam did but hear his voice as he walked in the garden; and whenever any apparition or manifestation of him was given to the Patriarchs or to the Prophets, they expected that they should instantly die, because, as they thought, they had seen God, whom no man can see and live. The cherubim are represented as veiling their faces from the greatness of his glory; and the light in which he dwelleth is said to be unapproachable, and clouds and darkness to be around him. Hence also the exclusive honour of Moses above all men, was to speak face to face with God; which could yet be no more than the beholding of the manifestation of the glorified humanity of the Lord Jesus, symbolised in the Shechinah above the mercy seat; and this, we think, was granted unto the man Moses, in order that, by this solitary exception, while the mysteriousness of the thing was no-wise weakened, the desire of attaining unto it might be rendered more intense, and the expectation of one day possessing it might be encouraged. No doubt, also, herein consisteth the Lord’s abomination of all idolatry, that by presenting a feigned likeness of himself, decked out with the lustrous glory of gold and precious stones, it doth attempt to open the great secret, and so far forth to destroy that one great glory of the human race, which is its distinction above all races of being, and the palladium of its safety, that in it, and through it, the great mystery of all creation, and desire of all creatures, is to have its accomplishment, by the manifestation of God-man in all his fulness and glory. And whereas the name or power of God is equivalent to his nature or being, while this lay hid the former also lay hid, and was considered to be an inscrutable secret; and a most daring profanation to this day is it held by the Jews to name the great name of God. And with us Christians also, who possess the name, The Lord Jesus Christ, there is yet a mystery drawn over this wonderful name, which will not be declared till the day of the second advent; of which mystery the opening ought to be a greater object of desire than it now is, for the Lord expressly promiseth it to the faithful as a special reward: “I will give him my new name.” But how can any thing connected with the second advent be desired, when the very advent itself hath ceased to be desired in this all-but-apostate church. But though that body of men, now misnamed “church,” and better named of themselves, “religious world,” hath ceased to look forward either to the manifestation of the Godhead in a visible form, or to the revelation of his full name, it hath ever, as I said, been the desire of elect angels and elect men, and the horror of reprobate angels and reprobate men: but these “Laodiceans are neither cold nor hot: I would they were either cold or hot:” and why hath it ever been the desire of the innumerable company of angels and the general assembly of the first born, whose names are written in heaven? Because it was the purpose and decree of God, promulgated from the foundation of the, world, and gradually growing into manifestation by slow degrees and manifold pangs of creation, according to the importance, the infinite and all-comprehending importance, of the issues which rested on it. For, brethren, it was, as I have said, the nucleus of the whole scheme, the great end and first beginning of all: and that which wept before was but the germination of the seed before it appears above the earth, or the preparing of the soil for the casting of the seed into the earth. And so God, and angels, and men, and devils, and whatever else existeth, all looked forward to the Man in whose outward form the Godhead was to become eternally manifest. For that in man it was to be manifest, God himself had purposed from all eternity; and the angels, no doubt, had heard the rumour of it; wherefore the morning stars sang together, and the angels of God shouted over his birth: and Satan, with his apostasy, had also heard a rumour of it, wherefore he solicited him with his wiles to forsake his allegiance: and the knowledge was kept alive, amongst the sons of men, by every revelation made to the Patriarchs and the Prophets; until, at length, in Bethlehem, in the stable of Bethlehem,— fit emblem of the world into which he was born, —the child of infinite hopes and longings, was brought into being: whereupon, instantly the heavenly host waked all their choral symphonies, and sang, “Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good-will to the children of men.”
I consider, therefore, brethren, that the glory which then brake, through the clouds that surround the dwelling-place of God, is no less a glory than the manifestation of his whole being and attributes, which had been rather revealed in hints that it was about to be revealed, than in any positive revelation. The creation lived in hope, and, I may say, is yet living in hope, till the hidden majesty of Christ shall be led forth most gloriously, from the temple of the tabernacle in heaven. But when Christ was born in Bethlehem, the hope of the elect angels in heaven and the saints on earth had its visible object: the end of the great scheme became manifest, the subject of the great decree was revealed. They could look upon and behold what they had long desired to look upon and behold: they knew that in this second Adam the great question was again to be brought to issue; and if he stand, that the great strife will be at an end, the great question resolved, and the great mystery opened. And the second Adam was put upon his probation as a man, having, as St. Paul saith, emptied himself of his Divinity; in whom the Divinity had of its own accord suspended itself, and by its own power kept itself continually suspended. He was man and God in one person; and during his humility the Godhead was employed in humbling or restraining itself,—which, I may say, is the highest act of a self-existent being to suspend his own activity, as it is also the highest act of grace. And thus as being man he went through the trial, out of which if he shall come unconquered, then is the mystery accomplished, and the Godhead shall be for ever manifested in an outward visible condition. Therefore the Lord said upon the eve of his last trial, in the beginning of his last discourse, “Now is my Father glorified.” And thus, brethren, you can perceive, agree ably to the idea with which we opened this head of discourse, that this glory, which the Son of man brought unto his Father, consisteth in no less than the manifestation of the fulness of the Godhead bodily, which great manifestation to distinguish into parts is difficult, but yet for the greater clearness I do it thus.—
First, The Manifestation of the Divine substance in Three Persons, or distinct subsistencies.—As to the unity of God, there never hath been any doubt in the church, and out of the church there never hath been any agreement; for though the Unitarians and Deists pretend to worship one God, it is not the one God whom we worship, but a certain idea of perfect being and infinite power which they have from their own brain, an abstraction of certain properties of man, a generalisation of certain principles of matter, “a great first cause least understood,” an all-prevailing power, and every thing or any thing but the true, self-existing, personal God. Alas! alas! for their miserable darkness and prostitution of holy truth, to call these conceptions our living and true God! But, in the church, I say, whether of the angels or of men, there never was a doubt concerning the unity of God; while there was no clear knowledge of a trinity of persons in the Divine substance. It was not until the Son came into manifestation as a man, until the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, became our Saviour, the long expected Messiah on earth, the long looked-for Christ and Lord in heaven, for whom all things were created, that the truth of the glorious Trinity became a grand and manifest truth for ever. Because so soon as the Son became manifest, he made known the Father, to whom he always referred back as the eternal Father of the Son, and in him the great originator of all things, and principal party to the eternal purpose which the Son came forth to reveal. “No man hath seen the Father at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father he hath revealed him.” By the same act also did the Spirit become manifest; for, as was said at the beginning of this discourse, Christ’s becoming outward and visible, was the act of the Spirit, he was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, he grew in wisdom by the power of the Holy Ghost, and walked by the same inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in the favour of God and man, a man under the law, yet complete before the law, and blameless; and when he passed through baptism, to become the first-begotten of the adoption, and the foundation stone of the spiritual church, he was endowed by the Holy Ghost with baptismal gifts and graces, as he had been endowed before with circumcision gifts and graces: and by the power of the Holy Ghost he went about doing all manner of miracles, and by the mighty working of the Holy Ghost was raised from the dead to sit on the right hand of the Majesty on high, when, becoming Lord and Christ, he shed down the Holy Ghost upon the church, which is his temple unto this day. So that in Christ all the glories of the Trinity were first manifested, with all their various offices, of which I cannot now speak particularly.
Secondly, The holiness of God was justified, and, I may say, for the first time manifested, in heaven and in earth by the Son of man. I say, for the first time; because into both parts of creation, celestial and terrestrial, sin had entered, and out of neither seemeth it to have been cleansed; for even in heaven among the sons of God, Satan had a certain right and prerogative, which more than once we find him exercising. And certainly on the earth the holiness of God had never been manifested or known: for though a church had been separated by special promises and privileges, and outward rites and sacraments, yet ever and aye did Satan steal in and seduce, and at length bring into open apostasy, by far the more numerous and ostensible part thereof; and holiness there was not any where, or at any time since the fall, separate or unmixed holiness, until the Son of God did come. And forasmuch as the holiness of the Creator must stand in suspense until there be some form or type of his handy-work which exhibiteth the same, and neither angels nor men were that form or type of being (for both had fallen), I do say that the holiness of God which was both known and believed, was never yet demonstrated until that new type or form of being, the second Adam, the Godman, was revealed; in whose triumphant life over sin, in whose triumphant resurrection from death and the grave, in whose triumphant defeat of Satan and all his host, the glory of God’s holiness was manifestly shewn unto angels and the sons of men, and an assurance given, that the time was at hand when it should be established triumphant over all who had ever gainsaid it. Now, brethren, this holiness of God is his true glory, as the white light is the true glory of the sun. The holiness of God is the unbroken beam of his glory, whereof mercy and justice, and sovereignty and goodness, are but, as it were, the refracted or broken parts; and as the green and the violet, and the orange and the red, and the other colours into which the rays of the sun are refracted in the rainbow, when mixed in their just proportions, do reproduce the colourless white: so reckon I that the glory of his goodness and mercy, and justice and sovereignty, concerning which, in the first instance, it is necessary to discourse unto fallen sinners, do as the soul clears from the mist and clouds, pass into one pure unbroken radiance of his holiness: so that when I say the holiness of God was first manifested in the Christ, it is all the same as to say, that the glory of his mercy, and of his justice, and of his goodness, and all his attributes, were then first displayed. For if there were no unbroken light of holiness, how could there be any varieties of that light?
Thirdly, The glory of God’s almighty power was first manifested in Christ. For till He was manifest in the flesh, God’s power stood in suspense, yea and will never be fully cleared until hell shall receive its possessors, or, I should rather say, its sufferers. For truly the tide of sin was never turned, until the Lord did come and stem, and roll it back. There was no knowing whether the darkness or the light should prevail, until the true Light appeared, which the darkness comprehended not. Then indeed the true nature of sin was discovered to be only a condition to holiness, not a thing in itself, but the state of a thing in its progress to perfection. We were sinners only that we might be sinners saved; we had fallen only that we might rise higher from our fall; and this is true of all men when as yet they were in their first head, that is, Adam. Adam’s fall was permitted and ordained, only that Adam might be exalted from the condition of a living soul into the condition of a quickened spirit. And so of each one of us who fell in him, we have been brought into an outward condition out of Adam, and stand in our present peril only that we may be brought back again and recapitulated into Christ. By which great evolution of all things from the idea in the Son, back again into the outward reality in the Son, the glorious and mighty power of God hath been displayed, and the evanescent, transient power of sin, and its weakness have been manifested, yea, its subserviency and profitableness, and I may say even necessity, to the manifestation of the Almighty power of God, in redeeming all things from the lowest, basest condition, into the most elevated and dignified and mighty. For the Christ is raised above every dignity, power and authority which is named in the universe of God: and so shall every member of Christ be for ever raised. Whence is made the most stupendous manifestation and monument of the eternal power of the Godhead. And in these three things the manifestation of the constitution of the Godhead, of the holiness of the Godhead in the government of the creation, and of the power of the Godhead in overcoming sin, I conceive the glory brought unto the Father by the Son of man doth chiefly consist. This was the glory in the Highest, which the angels sung over his birth. This was the glory of God which moved the Father to yield him up, which moved the Son to offer himself, which moved the Holy Spirit to realise and substantiate his outward and visible existence.—And here we conclude our first head of discourse, concerning the glory which accrues from the simple act, or rather from the design and purpose and nature of the Incarnation. And now we come to consider more closely the work itself, and the glory with which he glorified God by his work upon the earth. “I have glorified thy name upon the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” What was this work which was given him to do? what was the glory which he brought by his life unto his holy Father? This belongeth to the Second Part of our Discourse.
Part 2: By Action
The work which the Son of man had to do upon the earth, for the glory of God, which is the second head of method, was no less than to realise the eternal purpose of God, to bring himself into manifestation. Now, in considering wherein consisteth the glory brought unto God hereby, it hath presented itself to my mind under these three particulars.
First, He brought into existence the complete and perfect form of being which is the God-man, and for which all other beings, whether in heaven or in earth, were but the preparation, and in which they must stand as the Head through all eternity; and therein he shewed forth the glory of God, in putting the headstone upon that fabrick of creation, of which, heretofore, he had created the several parts. If his creation of the creatures was glorious, how much more glorious his own creation as the Man (“made of a woman”), the God-man, the Sovereign of them all! As the creation of man, on the sixth day, was more glorious than the creation of all the inferior animals, whose being is all a mystery, opening into, and resolved in, the being of man; so the creation of the Christ, that is, the incarnation of the eternal Word; was more glorious than the creation of angels, and of men, and of all other creatures, whose being was all a mystery and a confusion until a Head was brought in to be over them all. This is the first particular in which the Son of man brought glory to God.— The second is; by his opening the decree of election, and explaining how the elect angels of God had stood, when the rest fell, and how the election according to grace, amongst men, had been retrieved; and publishing to sinful men the Gospel of the grace of God, which cometh out of, and floweth from, the fountain of the decree of electing love. This is the aspect of his mission, so continually spoken of in the Psalms: “I will declare the decree; I will preach righteousness in the great congregation. When I shall receive the congregation I will judge righteously:” that is, he would publish and declare the tine standing of every creature who doth stand in the favour of God. And thus did he open the glory of God, which bad lain hidden in the eternal and inscrutable decree; and made it the basis of all preaching unto this day.—Thirdly, He wrestled with the enemies of God, and overthrew them; and shewed the glory of his: power and holiness in their weakness and discomfiture; and so set on foot the redemption of the bodies of the saints from the grave, and of their souls from the place of separate spirits; and of the creatures of God from darkness, and sin; which redemption he shall accomplish in the fulness of time; but, in as far as the right and title is concerned, he completed it at his resurrection from the dead.—These three particulars I shall now give all diligence to open; and I pray you to give all patient heed to the word which, for your sakes, the Lord may put into my mouth. And be not weary, I pray you, of the message of God; but take heed how ye hear.
l. Though there was a creation of angels, and likewise of men, before the bringing in of the Christ, or the revealing of the Man-God, it is constantly set forth in holy Scripture that, to manifest Him, and in Him to manifest himself, was the first beginning and great end of all the creation of God, for which all that went before was but the necessary preparation. For as the great idea of a master-builder discovereth not itself in the first stone which is laid, nor in the first scaffolding which is reared up, but in the progress, and often towards the completion of the work: so the system of the universal Architect, in creating being, though, from the beginning, it was beautiful, hath a unity, and design, and end, towards which it all proceeded, and without which it was altogether incomplete; to wit, the personal manifestation of himself in visible power and majesty. And as the physiologists, who study the various tribes of living things upon the earth, do tell you that the whole series of the creatures, upwards to man, are but, as it were, efforts of nature to produce the parts of which man’s body is composed; studies and mouldings of the several fragments, which in him are all sweetly and harmoniously recomposed: so do I say, that the creation of pure spirits in heaven, and upon earth of creatures made up of body and spirit, was but designing and making of the parts, and the preparations for the constituting of that Divine form of being which in Christ Jesus appeared, and in Christ Jesus shall, to eternity, abide the most glorious Head for all creatures to conform and submit themselves unto, in the worship and service of the invisible God and Father of all. In angels we have pure and unmixed spirits to give a manifestation of spirit, and of the functions of pure spirits; such as understanding, righteousness, love, &c.; but in man we have the functions of spirit made visible by being breathed into tabernacles of clay, in order therewith to make a manifestation of body also with its several properties of comprehending space, and possessing the material creation;—the first being, as it were, a part of the second; and the second but, as it were, the type of that Divine form of being which Christ was to be. For, as hath been set forth in the former head of discourse, “Adam was but the type of Him that was to come,” that is, Adam was not the perfect work, but the type or foreshewing of it; even as the tabernacle was but the type of the church which now is. And therefore the Creator said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness ;” by which word of God I understand not a likeness in respect to the moral righteousness of his Spirit merely; for this is possessed by the elect angels also; but in respect likewise to the composite and mixed character of his person, made up of body and spirit; to signify that he was the type, image, or likeness of that form of being in which God was hereafter to be revealed, and for ever manifested: and, accordingly, the Creator proceeded, after having spoken this word, to fashion him a body of the dust of the ground, and afterward to breathe into His nostrils the spirit of life, and he became a living soul. Slo when the fullness of Christ was to come, Christ, or Second Adam, had at first a body prepared for him from the woman’s substance, and a reasonable soul given unto him by the Creator, according as it is in our Catechism, “He took unto himself a human body and a reasonable soul.” To which the Son of God, the eternal Word, having joined himself in consubstantial union, He became the Son of man and the Son of God, in ” two distinct natures and one person for ever.” The Divine creature (creature as man) was composed, the end of creation accomplished, and God, the eternal and invisible God, made manifest in a person, to all creation, for ever and for ever. This is the first idea which I would impress upon your minds, as indispensable to the right conception of the glory which was brought to God by the Son of man upon the earth; and indispensable to the understanding of the holy Scriptures, in which the same is often taught, as I now proceed to shew you.
In the 3rd chapter of the Apocalypse, at the 14th verse, it is thus written: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.” Here in a message given by Christ from his own mouth to John, to be delivered by him to the Laodicean church, he calleth himself the Amen; that is, the Be it so, which I conceive to mean that he is the end of the purposes of God. For a prayer containeth the wish or purpose of the soul, and the Amen doth as it were collect it all into one, so that in saying the Amen we do concentrate the whole in one word: wherefore Christ by calling himself the Amen, doth signify that the Divine will and purpose of the great decree of God, and of all the creatures, was consummated and concentrated in one person, Himself. He nameth himself, also, The faithful and true Witness; that is, the opener of the mystery, and the revealer of the invisible God, in whom is truth, and out of whom is no truth: the only true one, as it is written: “Let God,” that is, the Word of God (for of God himself hath no one heard the voice at any time), “be true, and every man a liar.” He further nameth himself, “The Beginning of the Creation of God ;” not the beginner only, but the beginning of the creation of God. That he was the Creator, in his Divinity of the Word, is sufficiently testified in the opening of John’s Gospel; but there is a greater mystery in his being the beginning of his own work. Yet, true it is, however paradoxical it may seem, that to make Himself, that is, to make his manifest and visible form, was the first beginning, the main-spring and only end of the purpose of God, and of the Word in creating; for which the creation of a spiritual world, as hath been said, was one preparative step, and the creation of a material world another; and the combination of both in Adam was, as it were, the type, image, or resemblance. Therefore doth Christ call himself the Beginning of the Creation of God; not that from him it had its beginning (though that be most true), but that in him it had its beginning; being the first-born in the purpose and idea, and for the birth of whom, all which went before in time was but, as it were, the cradle in which to lay him, the bands with which to swathe him, the nurse to rear him, the family which was to be honoured in his birth, and the servants who should attend upon him, and the multitudes who should be blessed in him. So much, and much more, is couched in the name, “The Beginning of the Creation of God.”
The next passage to which I would direct your attention, as confirmatory of this great idea, is in the first chapter of the Colossians, at the 13th verse, where, speaking of the Son in his character of Jesus the Saviour, and of Christ the Lord of the kingdom, it is thus written: “The Father who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” This shews us that it is of the Son as man, as the sacrifice and mediation, and Lord, the Apostle speaketh, manifested in flesh, to redeem us by his blood; of whom it is immediately added, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” Now I am not ignorant how the Socinians wrest this passage to make out of it their damnable heresy, that Christ is no more than a creature; and how the orthodox, in order to deliver it out of their hand, allege, that it is only a forcible way of saying “born before every creature;” as Milton says, “The fairest of her daughters Eve;” the haste of the mind running the contrast into a comparison. But this, though an honest enough shift, is not needed by one who understandeth to discourse of the humanity as well as of the Divinity of Christ, who, as the Son of man, was a creature, as the Son of God, was the Creator of all things; and as the Christ, eternally comprehending the two natures in one, may be spoken of, and is spoken of, both as the Creator and as a creature; but, when spoken of as a creature, always presented as the object and end of all creation, in order to be the Head and Lord of all his own works. And that this is the true idea of the passage is manifest from the following verse; which is added to explain this powerful, yet enigmatical expression, “Firstborn of every creature,” and to guard against the Arianism which might be grafted thereon; “For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” To guard against the confounding of his eternal being, as the Word, with his created being as the Son of man, it is first declared that he created all things in heaven and on earth, of every rank and order and name, both spiritual and material, which is the great attribute claimed by Jehovah throughout the Old Testament; for a creature can create nothing,otherwise all distinction between Creator and creature is abolished. Then, to expound the other part of the mystery, that they were not only created by his Divine power, but for him as their great possessor and Lord in his visible humanity, it is added, “All were created by him and for him;” or rather “unto him,” who should in the end, when the work was complete, be brought in to inherit them all, in his character of Christ and Lord, of Son and Heir. Wherefore, it is immediately added, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the Head of the body the church; who is the beginning, the first-begotten from the dead,” &c.—But here he entereth upon another idea, which it is not now the time to bring forward.
These two passages explain and confirm the doctrine which we have laid down above, that creation was without a head, and, to appearance, without a plan, until Jesus Christ was brought into being that night, the angels sang their choral symphony over his birth. The glory of God in the creatures was not manifested; the whole creation seemed abortive; a mighty maze without a plan; scattered members without a head; incomplete, and incompetent to its own defence; at the mercy of an antagonist and estranging power, which was ever invading it, and with success: it seemed wavering and uncertain, both in the spiritual and in the material parts of it; it was rebellious and disobedient;—all which bespoke not disappointment nor defeat, but present incompleteness and confusion, and instability, which might be brought into fair proportion, finished beauty, and immoveable steadfastness; but certainly was not as yet arrived at that glorious consummation, and crowning point of perfectness. The physiologist knoweth what the animal creation would be without man; how unintelligible, how inglorious! And the architect knoweth what an arch were without its head key-stone; a sinking ruin, needing to be propped up and sustained on every side. And the moralist knoweth what man is without a righteous law and steadfast will. Such the Christian knoweth, or ought to know, the fabric of the universe would be without Christ, who is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, which was, and which is, and which is to come, the Almighty.” I think I need not insist upon this idea any further; and therefore do proceed to open another of a still loftier strain,–which is, how the Son of man manifested God’s glory in the opening of the decree of election, and thereon founding all preaching for ever.
2. While creation stood thus without its Head, and the parts of it were in the state of being brought together, beings had come forth from the infinite womb of the creating Word, wherein all the purposes of the Father are in eternal reality: being come forth, they were without their Lord and Guardian, and I may say it was in a manner necessary that they should come by loss and suffer change. For, if they had been in as much safety and security without a Head as with one, or in as much perfection and beauty, then where were the glory, where were the use of any Head? If, while God was invisible, the condition of the visible or invisible creation had been as profitable to his glory, or to its own blessedness, as when he should become visible, then for what end becometh he visible? Or if the creation had been perfect and sufficient while yet the Christ was unconstituted: then, why should there be a Christ at all. There cannot be two perfections, there cannot be two unchangeables, otherwise there were two gods. The infirmity of every creature must be shewn in order that the stability of Christ maybe established; the inconstancy of every spiritual, and of every material creature must be proved, in order that the only constancy and unchangeableness of the Word of God, and that Holy thing born of the Virgin Mary, might be made to appear. Yea, and if the spiritual creation had not thus been differenced from the creation of spirits, and if the material creation had not in like manner been differenced from the body of Christ, they would have become objects of idolatry to themselves, self-sufficient creatures, not knowing that they needed, nor desiring to have a Head, a Guardian, a Governor and Protector and Saviour over them. If the end of creation was the Christ, then all creation must see and feel itself incomplete without him; and so long for him, and pray for his coming, and rejoice at his coming; feeling that till he comes, there is for them nothing but ineffectual labours, and abortive attempts to bring forth. And this is the great end and purpose of sin in the creation of God, which, if you consider it well, is as essential to the fulness of the scheme, as is creation itself. Sin is the demonstration of a creature’s instability in itself, when it hath come forth from the Word in the bosom of the Father, and standeth outward, while as yet the Word, its former stability, is not outwardly revealed. It proveth, that, unless the Creator also become manifest, the creature will die and decay away, and hath the continuance of its being only for the sake of, and in the hope of, and in the desire of that manifestation. Sin is not a thing created of God, but it is a condition of the creatures demonstrative of their inferiority to the Creator, and their inability to subsist without him. Every creature is made liable to sin, yea and will continue so, until they be gathered again into their Head which is Christ. This is a great mystery, brethren, but most needful to be discoursed of and searched into, if we would understand any of the inferior mysteries which depend from it.
Therefore, I will go further, and assert, that all the creatures must have fallen into sin, both angels and men, had not God, by a special purpose, yea and decree of election, chosen some, and given them a more than creature standing, the higher standing of his own will and absolute decree, for the purposes of his own glory, and the glory of his Christ. Who are said to be chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and to be predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the pleasure of his will; and it is called the purpose of God according to election, “not of works, but of him that calleth.”But for the re-inclosure of them in Christ, by an absolute decree, I say, again, that all angels and all men, by reason of the necessary and essential infirmity of the creature, while outward with respect to the sustainingWord, must have perished by falling into sin. For though created without sin, as coming forth from the pure and spotless Word, it is not possible they should so continue, unless upheld by an express act of the Creator’s will, that, for the glory of Christ and as a part of the great plan, it should be so ordered and brought to pass. Nor let any one object to this; for it is the written truth of God, which our objecting availeth not to set aside: and while any one objecteth, he doth so far forth as he objecteth, declare himself to be a rebel against His will, and in a reprobate state. For what and though all the angels had fallen, as certainly they would, if there had not been a decree of election; what and though all men had fallen irrecoverably, as they would, if there had not been a decree of election; who could have complained? Shall the thing formed say to Him who formed it, Why hast thou formed me thus? Shall not the Creator have the power of demonstrating the instability of all things out of himself, in order that they may know their stability in himself? It is such arrogancy, it is such monstrous arrogancy, to answer against God and say, Nay, but if thou wilt create, the creature which thou createst has a right to thine own immutability; thou must make him infallible as thyself, or thou must not make him at all. And besides the arrogancy, consider also the folly of it, for how should the Creator be otherwise differenced from the creature, than by shewing that the creature is unstable, and permitting it to fall; for otherwise the creature might leap up and say, yea, must necessarily both feel and say, that he is independent on and upon a level with the Creator, if so be he hath obtained the gift of infallibility and unchangeableness in his creation. Nay, but God is wiser than to set such rivalry afloat by constituting such independent creatures.
But to ascend a little higher still, his will, his absolute will, his will not to be predetermined by any thing without itself, were also unseen, and, being unseen, were unacknowledged, if there was no creature sustained thereby against the disposition of its own being; and the condition of the other creatures whereof it is a part: and if the will of God were not to be manifested by a continuity of such instances, brethren, we should all rush headlong into Atheism. To me, it is a necessary thing, a thing it is most necessary to my loyal obedience of God’s will, to see in the Church a holy generation maintained by the Divine Will against the law of corruption, which the world underlieth; and in respect to the sinful world, which is working on in its wickedness, it is necessary for me to believe most surely, that in the good time of God that wicked order of things shall, by an act of the Divine will, be destroyed; and in respect to the heavens and the earth, whose regular and unchanged motions have made them to be worshipped in all ages, from the Chaldeans of old down to the scientific men of the nineteenth century, it is necessary for me to believe that there is a time coming when they shall, of mere will, be changed and removed like a scroll; for new heavens, and a new earth, and a new condition of men and things, which shall come into being when our glorious Head is revealed from the place of the right hand of God, where he is at present hidden. Otherwise, for want of a manifested will, we should all become Atheists. For all astronomers, who have looked upon the steady and unchanging motions of the heavens, from the time of the Chaldeans to that of the French Institute, have in the end become idolaters and worshipers of them. Why? Because they seem unchangeably fixed under the law of cause and effect, and the spirit of man acknowledgeth unchangeableness to be an attribute of God only: and to guard against this, it is revealed not only that they were created but that they are to be changed in the time of the bringing in of the Great Head of creation. So have the chemists done in these latter times, and, I may say, the physiologists, and all manner of naturalists, who have no other god than that piece of matter, the constancy of whose law of cause and effect they are observing; and thus hath science become to them a religion. And why? Because, being under the law of cause and effect, it exhibits no unaccountable changes or vicissitudes; no acts of simple will: it makes no discoveries of a will without a cause; an absolute unconditional will the cause of itself. And therein a religion is distinguished from a science, that it proceedeth out of a Will, and addresses itself to a Will. And this wretched Arminianism, by putting out of sight the absolute unconditional acts of the Divine Will in the decree of election, doth hasten to make Christian religion into a moral science; and to bring the Almighty Will under the moral law, instead of making all law to flow from his Will. Political economy is also fast becoming a religion by the same process. For men are beginning to discover in that department also, the uniformity of the laws of God’s providence over nations, perceiving the law of cause and effect in this also, they transfer to it an attribute of the Creator, for which they worship the ends of that science; and make its study their religion, and its law their God. How much more, if there had been no evil in the working of human society, nor discord or violence in the processes of creation, should we have been ready to cast the remembrance of God and the fear of him away, for the worship of the creature, or of ourselves, or of some portion of nature which we saw and felt. And truly the fall did thus proceed both in angels and in men. Feeling their own power, the law and order of their own being, they thought themselves to be a law unto themselves, and by degrees fell out of the reverence and remembrance of God; and God, in mercy, for this cause, gave to Adam an outward remembrance of duty in the forbidden tree. Therefore I say the chain must be broken, the lesson of all creation’s instability must be taught, and God’s only stable will revealed; otherwise every creature’s independency would be established, and the scheme of God to manifest himself as the only stability and sustenance of the outward world would be defeated.
Forasmuch then as the very purpose of bringing in the Christ head of all things, doth involve in it not only the possibility but the necessity of a fall in every other form of creature, in order to place a difference, and to prove that this is not the Christ, nor this, nor this, and that some more stable form of being is yet to be waited for; most necessary it is, if any created beings stand, that they should stand in a stability not pertaining to them as creatures, but in the free, sovereign, and absolute will of the Creator, That, for certain ends of his glory, they shall be made an exception to the general and universal law. Those, I say, who stand through these evil days of the infancy and imperfection of the work, (infantine and imperfect only, because it is in a train and progress towards perfection), must stand inclusively in Christ, not exclusively out of Christ, in the exceptive decree of election, not in their own creature prerogative and power. And, brethren, it is a great proof and token of the goodness of God that when there was a possibility of the creature’s falling, by coming into being, there was a possibility also of his standing by being included in the decree of election, which God had made for the ends of his own glory in the glory of Christ. For I never doubt, as I observed in the former part of my discourse, that to the angels was given the knowledge not only of their infirmity in themselves, but also of their stability in the decree of election, which was made in Christ, the first-born of every creature. For if the angels, as we have set forth, were a preparation for the bringing in of Christ, made like all other things for him, that is, with a view to him; then it is most reasonable to believe, or rather cannot otherwise be believed but that they should have been made aware thereof, and so taught how to stand in the hope of Him that was about to come: otherwise they would not have possessed the knowledge of the law of their own being, of their weakness in themselves and their strength in the decree of election: which if they did not know, we cannot conceive how they could incur guilt: but guilt we know they did incur, and from thence we infer that they both knew their frailty in themselves and their sufficiency in the decree. Indeed, had there not been such a decree of election, in the strength of which every creature that was created might have stood, that creature would not have been created for Christ, but for falling into the power of sin. But, while I assert the necessity of sin as a part of the great scheme, I wholly disallow that any creature was made for sin, but every creature for Christ; and that if it had been contented to rest its stability upon the decree of election, and wait, patiently hoping for the coming of Christ to give to it its eternal stability, then all the creatures might have stood which now are fallen. This, no doubt, the angels had made known unto them from the first; and in forgetting this, or in rebelling against it, consisteth their unpardonable transgression. And this is all confirmed by the history of the creation of man, who was made in his creature perfection before the fall, and evinced his creature weakness in that state. As yet the decree of election was not revealed to him; and the divines do rightly call this another covenant, namely, that of works. But from the time he fell, the promise of the Christ was revealed; and from this time forth the stability of mankind was declared to be, “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” And little as these Arminians think of it who raise their loud and incoherent voice against the decree of election, it is thence, and thence only, that grace and mercy and forgiveness can proceed; so that they are drinking of the streams, and speaking against the well-spring and fountain from which they all flow.
For true is the Apostle’s reasoning, that “if it be of works, then it is not of grace, otherwise work is no more work.” There are only two ways in which a creature can exist: it must either exist in its own creature-strength, which I have shewn must be frangible, yea. and fractured also; or it must stand in the decree of election,—that is, in the will of God, for the ends of that glory which creation is working out, the glory of manifesting himself in an outward being.
From these ideas concerning the entering in of sin, we derive the true doctrine concerning Christ the Redeemer of God’s elect, angels and men; for these are both included in the account of the Christian Church, given in the Hebrews: “Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the first born, whose names are written in heaven.” And they are included together in the doctrine of our church concerning this point which saith, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life.” And again, “These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed.” These, all these, have stood, are standing, and shall stand only in Christ, but for whom the former would have been involved; and the latter, being involved, would have continued in irretrievable ruin: their redemption thence being for Christ’s sake, and by virtue of their faith in Christ. Therefore also, in the picture of his coming power and majesty, which is represented to us in the Apocalypse, the angels join the ransomed from among men in the song of praise unto the Lamb, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb to receive power and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honour and glory and blessing!” And finally, as to the work which he accomplished upon earth, and by which he brought glory to God in becoming their Redeemer; I may say their redemption was but a veiled mystery, and the glory of it a clouded glory, until Christ finished the work of his humiliation, when the veil was lifted up and the clouds passed away from the face of the glory. Till then, the decree by which they stood was undeclared, or but dimly presented in its faint outline, but now the grace and mercy and love of it was fully declared. The name of God was manifested; the words which he had given unto Christ, Christ had made for ever known, and here they are unfolded in the Gospel of the New Testament. How much of love there is in that decree, beyond the goodness of creation, is manifested in God’s giving up his only begotten and well-beloved Son to the death for us all! How much of mercy is manifested in the free forgiveness of the sins of the elect who believe! How much of grace, in the fulness of the Holy Spirit coming to renew them in the image of God and righteousness and true holiness! How much of justice, in the exact obedience and extreme sufferings of the God-man! How much of holiness, in all these combined together! All which, and whatever else is manifested in the work of Christ, was seen like an object from afar, small and indistinct, yet believed and rejoiced in by all the elect of God: it remained for Christ to bring it near, and display it in all the magnificence of its Divine proportions. This opening of the promise, this fulfilling of every previous word of God, this declaring of the decree of election, and bodying forth of the goodness thereof, was the great and mighty work which Christ the Prophet performed; and in this state he left it for his church to hold up by the Holy Spirit, until he shall come again to open another volume of the book, by gathering together the scattered witnesses, and presenting them a glorious company, under their glorious Head, in the presence of his eternal Father; into which subject we enter not.
3. The manner of this work was as marvellous, as the end of it was glorious. By being created a living soul, which, Paul saith, “understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God,” there was another condition of being still left for man to come into, the region of the spiritual; for the first Adam was but the type of the Second Adam; the first man being a living soul, the second a quickening spirit. The type was broken, whose fragments we now behold in this our natural form of being; having a taste of all knowledge, save the knowledge of spiritual things; and a love of all excellency, save that of God; and making progress in all sciences, save that of theology, which we corrupt, which from time to time God doth purify, but can by no means obtain for it a seat in the world, as we behold at this day. But this breaking of the goodly type of Christ, which Adam was, did only prepare the way for the advancement of Adam, and of all who preferred to stand in the decree of election, to the higher rank of the combined material and spiritual creature, which is the form of creation’s Lord. And, in order to this preferment, Christ took of the virgin the humanity of Adam; not sinful indeed, for he came not by ordinary generation, but by the power of the Holy Ghost; yet, though not sinful, liable to all the temptations of sin to which human nature ever had been or ever could be liable: “being in the form of God, he was made in the likeness of man; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.” In that he truly died, it proveth that he truly was obnoxious to every human infirmity: in that he arose from the dead, it equally proveth that he had done no sin, for which he might see the corruption of the grave. Now, it was not an arbitrary thing that the Christ should thus be brought into the world; nor was it merely to redeem man; but to become the Lord of all, by establishing the weakness of all, and working out the stability of all. Had he been destined to be Lord of spirit only, he would have partaken of the angelic nature: but having to be the Lord of matter also, he partook of the nature of man, which is composed of both. And of this he partook not in its unfallen state, but in its fallen state, and in the fallen state of all the materialism of the world; in order that he might enter the weakness of everything, and add to it regenerating strength, become the uplifter of its state and being, and its support throughout all eternity. Therefore it is written, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for all.” And again, “Forasmuch as the children were made partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he alight destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through the fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” And again it is written, “He who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” From which passage we rightly conclude, that there redounded unto God a great glory from the humiliation of the Son of Man unto the death, beyond that which redounded from the completion of creation’s work, and the opening of the decree of election. Which glory consisteth in the extinguishing of the power of those rebellious spirits which had, by forsaking the standing of election, fallen into sin, and continued therein, fighting against God and the hope of Christ: who are exceedingly hateful in the sight of God, because they continually seek to destroy the glory of his Son, and to force themselves into a different standing from that of election, exalting their own will against the will of God. It is a vain thing to say that God loveth sinners and ungodly creatures: he extendeth mercy and grace unto them, and loveth the election for his Son’s sake; but he must cease to love his Son—that is, to love himself—when he loveth those who are rebellious against himself.
He is “angry with the wicked every day:” he cannot look upon the workers of iniquity but with detestation and abhorrence. It is one of the sayings of that wretched Arminianism, with which this land is overflowed, ‘Hate the sin, but love the sinner.’ What mean they? that sin is something by itself, and the sinner something by himself, so distinct from one another, that the one may well be hated, and the other may well be loved? They know nothing at all, and they will know nothing at all. But if they would open their ears to instruction, then might they be taught that sin is the condition of an apostate creature, the form of a rebellious will, the very being of an enemy of God and of godliness. To make the evil of which to cease, to destroy its eternal activity against God, was the cause of our Lord’s humiliation in the body and descent into hell. By which powerful and perilous ministry he did overcome and vanquish the enemy, and hath him and his dominions in his power, whenever it shall please the Father to allow him to enter in to possess them. Death and destruction have no indefeasible right in God’s creatures, but only a derived and dependent one; derived from and dependent upon sin; which Christ having resisted and overcome and cast out, did win back the waste and the wilderness of this world from the occupancy and vexation of Satan and his angels and reprobate men, who ever since have stood judged and condemned, not knowing of a day’s life, but expecting every day to be the last of their possession. And herein consisteth the third part of the glory which Christ brought unto the Father by the work which he wrought upon the earth; not only declaring his wrath against all the workers of iniquity, but manifesting that their power was broken, and their right destroyed, in his resurrection from the dead; whereby the glory of God was wondrously manifested in the discomfiture of all his enemies, and his holiness in their destruction abundantly manifested: as we shall shew at length, in our fourth discourse.
These ideas, brethren, concerning the entering in of sin, may seem to you difficult of apprehension; but it could not stir a foot in shewing the glory of the decree of election, until I should have first explained them: for, otherwise, it is but building upon the sand. Your time does not permit me to follow out this part of my subject further at present. The more is your loss, the more also is mine, and, what is more, the loss of Christ’s church, that our customs should always step in just when we have passed the porch of the sanctuary of truth, and debar us of the feast, for feasts of another kind. Let the matter then stand in its imperfection. The time may come when the saints shall again call upon their minister to lay out the foundations of their faith before them, instead of requiring them to play a tune upon their feelings, and let them begone.
And thus again, dear brethren, have I sought to lay before you some of the deep things of God, which, if you be like the rest of this evil generation, you will reject with indignation, or receive with disrelish, as not being profitable to simple and plain people; that is, to serfs and bondsmen of the Law, idiots and babes in the Gospel. But if you be men, free men, like your fathers; and are to be honoured of God, like your fathers, to upbear his falling ark; or if you be like the primitive churches, to whom Paul and the Apostles wrote their Epistles, wherein they speak continually of these things; or, finally, if you have any fellowship with the Lord, who offered that intercessory prayer of which our text is a part, you will welcome with great gladness these hints of higher and deeper discourse, and pray for me diligently, that I may be able to clear the foundations of the house from that rank growth of Arminianism and Socinianism which have obscured their massive strength and brilliant beauty. For we do live, or rather creep about, amongst the ruins of a great and majestic city, where one cradleth himself in some cave amongst the ruins, and another hath a cottage stuck up against some massy column, and others take refuge beneath the branches which grow out of a ruinous wall. That city is the majestic system of Divine Theology, which our fathers built up, and defended with great and goodly bulwarks against the roaming and marauding tribes of early heretics, the light-minded and thoughtless bandit of Arius, and the massive legions of apostate Rome: of which system, brethren, I read the outline in our Reformers’ Confession of Faith last Wednesday night, in the hearing of you all. Permit me—nay, whether permitted or not, I will preach the whole compass of that doctrine, to which I solemnly set my hand and subscribed my name that it was my faith, and should be the substance of my preaching.
And I do entreat you, my brethren and my people, to consider that word which was spoken by the Lord; This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Know God then, and know Jesus Christ. Think not that holiness, think not that life eternal, is otherwise to be obtained than in the attainment of such knowledge. For what end hath God revealed himself, but to be known, to be reverently inquired into, and faithfully accepted of all his holy ones? And know this day your standing, that it is either in the decree of God, as chosen in Jesus Christ; or it is in nature, fallen and unable to rise again. If you are thinking to stand in your creature strength, or otherwise than by the strength of God’s decree, you shall fall and fall, and err and err, unto the end. But . if you will believe this day, and behold your weakness and sinfulness—the weakness and sinfulness of every creature, save as it standeth in the decree and purpose of God—then blessed are ye; for ye will seek unto the Lord by faith, and humble yourselves before him by many prayers, and seek to know and do his will, and to hang upon it continually; and by the grace manifested in Jesus Christ you will surely be brought out of nature’s standing, into the standing of the eternal decree, whose love and mercy and grace the Lord Jesus did open unto all who truly repent and unfeignedly believe the Gospel. But reject the decree, and you reject your salvation, which can only come by receiving the decree. Therefore, the Lord grant as many as doubt to doubt no longer, and as many as believe to grow in faith and righteousness, to the praise of his glory.
This our darkness and stumbling cometh out of ignorance of the Scriptures, which in the Protestant church was never so great, I believe, as it is at this moment: and hence that impatience of every inquiry into the deep things of the mysteries of God. The Methodistical and Evangelical spirit, which is now in the world and in the church, disfavours exceedingly all research into Divine truth, all controversy for orthodox doctrine, and all abjuration of heresy and schism; being content with a certain loose persuasion, immature knowledge, and latitudinarian indifference, which they misname Charity (but its true name is Liberality). Now, brethren, I am convinced in my mind, that till we return to the spirit of the Reformation, and become patient of thought, and patient of hearing thought expressed, and patient of discerning between the evil and the good, we never shall escape out of the region of frames and feelings and perpetual fluctuations of spirit, into the region of rooted and grounded faith, assured hope, and fervent charity. I would rather the pulpit were dumb, than that it should minister excitement to mere natural feelings, to the same parts of our nature to which the playhouse and the opera do administer: but this is the state to which it is fast coming, in a good measure through the ignorance of the people to whom we speak.
And, brethren, if you will not during the week meditate and reflect upon those things which during the Sabbath I minister, the ministry will fail to be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. Wherefore, I earnestly entreat you to meditate the word of God, with all prayer and supplication of the Spirit, who leadeth into all truth; and so let us exercise ourselves together to search into the great ends of God’s glory which were accomplished by the incarnation of his Son; than which no other exercise of soul can be more profitable to prepare us for entering within the veil of the mysteries of the Fall, and witnessing the glory of God which is manifested therein. Sure I am, beloved in the Lord, that according to our patient travail in meditation and prayer, in faith and knowledge, will be our progress in grace, in wisdom, in righteousness and truth, in humility and steadfastness, in consolation and assurance; which are blessed conditions of the soul, not otherwise to be attained, nor otherwise to be preserved, save in the worship and the service of God with all the heart, with all the mind, with all the soul, and with all the strength. Be ye therefore exhorted, dearly beloved brethren, to increase in all knowledge and wisdom and spiritual understanding: and may the Spirit open the eyes of your mind, and enlighten your understanding, that you maybe able to know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints! For we are called, every one of us, to do the same offices for the glory of God which Christ did. Yea, all this which I have set forth to you concerning the Son of man, I might now turn and apply to every one of you, who have been engrafted into him by baptism to be partakers of his justice, and through faith have received the gift of the Holy Ghost; that in you, yea, in every one of you, God is to be glorified, as he was glorified in the Son of man. In you, the honour and glory of the eternal Trinity is to be shewn forth: the Father, in your doing his will, and not the will of the flesh or the will of man; the Son, by your growing up into closer and closer union with him, and shewing forth the express image of his person; the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, in which you work the work of God and hold forth the image of Christ. For to this end Christ emptied himself of, or humbled the Divinity into manhood, that he might become the very type or pattern of every Christian who should come after, and of us, dear brethren, though born in a far distant age, and amongst a cold, indifferent generation. In us, by our triumphing over sin, is the glory of the holiness of God also to be shewn forth: yea, and I may say in somewhat a more remarkable manner, forasmuch as sin hath already the possession of our mortal members, which have heretofore been the servants of sin, but are now become the servants of righteousness. Wherein also is magnified the almighty power of God, who by the Holy Spirit can work righteousness in these tabernacles of corruption, and bring a clean thing out of an unclean; beget the child of Christ in in the dead womb of nature, and raise up children of Abraham’s faith from the very stones. Whatever, therefore, the Son of man did in the days of his flesh to honour and glorify God, he expecteth us to continue and carry forward until he come again. Yea, not only expecteth it, but hath provided us with the power to fulfil it; which is our baptismal gift, when we become partakers of all the benefits of the new covenant, and enter into engagements to be wholly the Lord’s. Wherefore, as the Apostle Paul did exhort Timothy to stir up the gift of the Holy Ghost which was in him by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, so do I call upon every one of you, by faith, fervent prayer, and willing obedience, to stir up the gift that is in you by baptism. For which reason we should arise to the work of doing the will of him who hath sent us, even as Christ did when he was baptized by John; fearing nothing, dearly beloved, doubting nothing, but surely believing that he who hath called us will also justify us, will also sanctify us, will also glorify us. And if he glorify himself in us, by making us serviceable to the manifestation of his glory in the midst of a wicked generation. Wherefore I entreat you again to stir up the gift that is in you by baptism; to stir it up by faith, fervent prayer, and willing obedience. Amen.