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How the Wisdom of God appears in the Manner and Circumstances of obtaining the Good intended.
We now come to take notice of some wonderful circum- ̈ stances of the attainment of our good, hereby; which shews the great wisdom of this contrivance.
1. So hath God contrived in this way, that a sinful creature should become not guilty; and that he who has no righteousness of his own, should become righteous. These things, if they had been proposed, would have appeared contradictions to any but the divine understanding.
If it had been proposed to any created intelligence, to find out a way in which a sinful creature should not be a guilty creature, how impossible would it have been judged, that there should be any way at all. It would doubtless have been judged impossible but that he who has committed sin, must stand guilty of the sin he has committed; and if sin necessarily obliges to punishment, it must oblige him who has committed it. If punishment and sin be inseparable, then that punishment and the sinner are inseparable. If the law denounces death to the person who is guilty of sin, and if it be impossible, that the law should not take place, then he who has committed sin must die. Thus any created understanding would have thought.
And if it had been proposed, that there should be some way found out, wherein man might be righteous without fulfilling righteousness himself: so that he might reasonably and properly be looked upon and accepted as a righteous person, and adjuged to the reward of righteousness, and yet have no righteousness of his own, but the contrary-that he should be righteous by the righteousness of the law, by a perfect righteousness, and yet have broken the law and done nothing else but break it-this doubtless would have been looked upon as impossible and contradictious.
But yet the wisdom of God has truly accomplished each of these things. He hath accomplished that men though sinners, should be without guilt, in that he hath found out a way that the threatenings of the law should truly and properly be fulfilled, and punishment be executed on sin, and yet not on the sinner. The sufferings of Christ answer the demands of the law, with respect to the sins of those who believe in him; and justice is truly satisfied thereby. And the law is fulfilled and answered by the obedience of Christ, so that his righteousness should properly be our righteousness. Though not performed
by us, yet it is properly and reasonably accepted for us, as much as if we had performed it ourselves. Divine wisdom has so contrived, that such an interchanging of sin and righteousness should be consistent, and most agreeable with reason, with the law, and God's holy attributes. For Jesus Christ has so united himself to us, and us to him, as to make himself ours, our head. The love of Christ to the elect is so great, that God the Father looks upon it proper and suitable to account Christ and the elect as one; and accordingly to account what Christ does and suffers, as if they did and suffered it.-That love of Christ which is so great as to render him willing to put himself in the stead of the elect, and to bear the misery that they deserved, does, in the Father's account, so unite Christ and the elect, that they may be looked upon as legally one
2. It shews wonderful wisdom that our good should be procured by such seemingly unlikely and opposite means, as the humiliation of the Son of God. When Christ was about to undertake that great work of redemption, he did not take that method that any creature-wisdom would have thought the most proper. Creature-wisdom would have determined that in order to his effectually and more gloriously accomplishing such a great work, he should rather have been exalted higher, if it had been possible, rather than humbled so low.-Earthly kings and princes, when they are about to engage in any great and difficult work, will put on their strength, and will appear in all their majesty and power, that they may be successful.— But when Christ was about to perform the great work of redeeming a lost world, the wisdom of God took an opposite method, and determined that he should be humbled and abased to a mean state, and appear in low circumstances. He did not deck himself with glory, but laid it aside. He emptied himself. Phil. ii. 6, 7, 8. Being in the form of God-he made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.-Creature-wisdom would have thought that Christ, in order to perform this great work, should deck himself with all his strength; but divine wisdom determined, that he should be made weak, or put on the infirmities of human nature.
And why did divine wisdom determine that he should become thus weak? It was that he might be subject to want, and to suffering, and to the power and malice of his enemies. But then what advantage could it be to him in this work, to be subject to the power and malice of his enemies? It was the very design on which he came into the world, to overcome his enemies. Who would have thought that this was the way to overthrow them, that he should become weak and feeble, and
for that very end that he might be subject to their power and malice. But this is the very means by which God determined, that Christ should prevail against his enemies, even that he should be subject to their power, that they might prevail against him, so as to put him to disgrace, and pain, and death, What other but divine wisdom could ever have determined, that this was the way to be taken in order to being successful in the work of our redemption! This would have appeared to creature-wisdom the most direct course to be frustrated that could be devised. But it was indeed the way to glorious success, and the only way. The foolishness of God is wiser than men. 1 Cor. i. 25. God has brought strength out of weakness, glory out of ignominy and reproach. Christ's shame and reproach are the only means by which a way is made to our eternal honour.
The wisdom of God hath made Christ's humiliation the means of our exaltation; his coming down from heaven is that which brings us to heaven. The wisdom of God hath made life the fruit of death. The death of Christ was the only means by which we could have eternal life. The death of a person who was God, was the only way by which we could come to have life in God.-Here favour is made to arise out of wrath: our acceptance into God's favour out of God's wrath upon his own Son. A blessing rises out of a curse; our everlasting blessedness, from Christ being made a curse for us. Our righteousness is made to rise out of Christ's imputed guilt. He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God, 2 Cor. v. 21. By such wonderful means hath the wisdom of God procured our salvation.
3. Our sin and misery, by this contrivance are made an occasion of our greater blessedness. This is a very wonderful thing. It would have been a very wonderful thing if we had been merely restored from sin and misery, to be as we were before; but it was a much more wonderful thing that we should be brought to a higher blessedness than ever; and that our sin and misery should be the occasion of it, and should make way for it.
(1.) It was wonderful that sin should be made the occasion of our greater blessedness; for sin deserves misery. By our sin we had deserved to be everlastingly miserable; but this is so turned by divine wisdom, that it is made an occasion of our being more happy. It was a strange thing that sin should be the occasion of any thing else but misery: but divine wisdom has found out a way whereby the sinner might not only escape being miserable, but that he should be happier than before he sinned; yea, than he would have been if he had never sinned at all. And this sin and unworthiness of his, are the occasion of this greater blessedness.
(2.) It was a wonderful thing that man's own misery should be an occasion of his greater happiness. For happiness and misery are contraries; and man's misery was very great. He was under the wrath and curse of God, and condemned to everlasting burnings.-But the sin and misery of man, by this contrivance, are made an occasion of his being more happy, not only than he was before the fall, but than he would have been, if he never had fallen.
Our first parents, if they had stood and persevered in perfect obedience, till God had given them the fruit of the tree of life as a seal of their reward, would probably have been advanced to higher happiness: for they before were but in a state of probation for their reward. And it is not to be supposed but that their happiness was to have been greater after they had persisted in obedience, and had actually received the reward, than it was while they were in a state of trial for it. But by the redemption of Christ, the sin and misery of the elect are made an occasion of their being brought to a higher happiness than mankind would have had, if they had persisted in obedience till they had received the reward.-For,
1st. Man is hereby brought to a greater and nearer union with God. If man had never fallen, God would have remained man's friend; he would have enjoyed God's favour, and so would have been the object of Christ's favour, as he would have had the favour of all the persons of the Trinity.-But now Christ becoming our surety and Saviour, and having taken on him our nature, occasions between Christ and us an union of a quite different kind, and a nearer relation than otherwise would have been. The fall is the occasion of Christ's becoming our head, and the church his body. And believers are become his brethren, and spouse, in a manner that otherwise would not have been. And by our union with Christ we have a greater union with God the Father. We are sons by virtue of our union with the natural Son of God. Gal. iv. 4-6. When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. And therefore Christ has taught us, in all our addresses to God, to call him our Father, in like manner as he calls him Father. John xx. 17. Go tell my brethren, behold I ascend to my Father, and your Father.
This is one of the wonderful things brought about by the work of redemption, that thereby our separation from God, is made an occasion of a greater union, than was before, or otherwise would have been.-When we fell, there was a dreadful separation made betwixt God and us, but this is made an occasion of a greater union. John xvii. 20-23.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.
2dly. Man now has greater manifestations of the_glory, and love of God, than otherwise he would have had. In the manifestations of these two things, man's happiness principally consists. Now man, by the work of redemption, has greater manifestation of both, than otherwise he would have had. We have already spoken particularly of the glory of God, and what advantages even the angels have by the discoveries of it in this work; but if they have such advantages, much more will man, who is far more directly concerned in this affair than they. Here are immediately greater displays of the love of God, than man had before he fell; or, as we may well suppose, than he would have had, if he had never fallen. God now manifests his love to his people, by sending his Son into the world, to die for them. There never would have been any such testimony of the love of God, if man had not fallen.
Christ manifests his love, by coming into the world, and laying down his life. This is the greatest testimony of divine love that can be conceived. Now surely the greater discoveries God's people have of his love to them, the more occasion will they have to rejoice in that love. Here will be a delightful theme for the saints to contemplate to all eternity, which they never could have had, if man never had fallen, viz. the dying love of Christ. They will have occasion now to sing that song for ever, Rev. i. 5, 6. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to whom be glory and dominion for ever, amen.
3dly. Man now has greater motives offered him to love. God than otherwise he ever would have had. Man's happiness consists in mutual love between God and man; in seeing God's love to him, and in reciprocally loving God. And the more he sees of God's love to him, and the more he loves God, the more happy must he be. His love to God is as necessary in order to his happiness, as the seeing of God's love to him; for he can have no joy in beholding God's love to him, any otherwise than as he loves God. This makes the saints prize God's love to them; for they love him. If they did not love God, to see his love to them would not make them happy, But the more any person loves another, the more will he be delighted in the manifestations of that other's love. There is