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SECT. VIII. Superiority of this Wisdom to that of Angels. 359
"that Satan entered into Judas, and tempted him to betray him." Luke xxii. 3. And Christ speaks of his sufferings as being the effects of the power of darkness, Luke xxii. 53. When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. But Satan hereby overthrows his own kingdom. Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. And this was the very thing that did it, viz. the blood and death of Christ. The cross was the devil's own weapon; and with this weapon he was overthrown: As David cut off Goliath's bead with his own sword.
Christ thus making Satan a means of his own confusion was typified of old by Samson's getting honey out of the carcass of the lion. There is more implied in Samson's riddle, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness, than ever the Philistines explained. It was verified by Christ in a far more glorious manner. enemies and ours are taken in the pit which they themselves have digged: and their own soul is taken in the net which they have laid. Thus we have shewn, in some measure, the wisdom of this way of salvation by Jesus Christ.
The Superiority of this Wisdom to that of the Angels.
THE wisdom of this contrivance appears to have been above the wisdom of the angels by the following things.
1. It appears that the angels did not fully comprehend the contrivance, till they saw it accomplished. They knew that man was to be redeemed, long before Christ came into the world: but yet they did not fully comprehend it until they saw it. This is evident by the expression in the text. That now might be known unto the principalities-the manifold wisdom of God; i. e. Now the work is actually accomplished by Jesus Christ. Which implies that it was now new to them.-If they understood no more of it now, than they had all along, the apostle would never have expressed himself so; for he is speaking of it as a mystery, in a measure kept hid until
Now it is to be considered, that the angels had four thou sand years to contemplate this affair; and they did not want inclination and desire to understand and look into it, as the scripture teaches us. They had also a great deal to put them upon an attentive contemplation of it. For when it was made known that God had such a design, it must appear a new and wonderful thing to them. They had seen their fellow-angels
destroyed without mercy; and this redeeming of the fallen sinful creature, was quite a new thing. It must needs be astonishing to them, when God had revealed this design of mercy to them presently after the fall: and had given an intimation of it, in saying, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." They knew that God had such a design; for they were, from the beginning, ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those that were the heirs of salvation.— They were present at the institution of the typical dispensation, that was so full of shadows of gospel truth. Psalm Ixix. 17.
The angels contemplating the contrivance of our redemption was typified by the posture of the cherubims over the mercy-seat, which was the lid of the ark. These emblems were made bending down towards the ark and mercy-seat.This is what the apostle Peter is thought to have some reference to, 1 Peter i. 12. Yet the angels, though for four thou sand years they had been studying this contrivance, did not fully comprehend it till they saw it accomplished. This shews that the wisdom of it was far above theirs; for if they could not fully comprehend it after it had been revealed that there was such a design-and after much of it had already been made known in the Old Testament-how much less could they have found it out of themselves.
Consider for what end this wisdom of God was made known unto the angels, viz. that they might admire and prize it. It was made known to them, that they might see how manifold, how great and glorious it is; that they might see the unspeakable" depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God," as the apostle expresses it, Rom. xi. 33.——It was manifested to them that they might see the glory of God in it, and how great and wonderful the mystery was. 1 Tim. iii. 16. Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels. Now if the wisdom of it were not far above their own understandings, this would not be shewn them for the express purpose that they might admire and praise God for it.
2. It appears to be above the wisdom of the angels, because they are still contemplating it; and endeavouring to sce more and more of it. Indeed there is room for their faculties to employ themselves to all eternity. It is evident from 1 Pet. i. 11, 12, that they are still employing themselves in endeavouring to see more and more of God's wisdom appearing in the work of redemption, Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel
unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. They still desire to look into it, after they have seen it accomplished. They do not so perfectly comprehend all the wisdom that is to be seen in it; but they are contemplating, looking into it, that they may see more and more; but there will still be room enough in this work to employ the angelical understandings.
The Subject Improved.
I. HENCE We may learn the blindness of the world, that the wisdom appearing in the work of redemption is no more admired in it. God has revealed this his glorious design and contrivance to the world; sends forth his gospel, and causes it to be preached abroad, in order to declare to the world that his infinite wisdom has been engaged for man's salvation. But how little is it regarded! There are some who have their eyes opened to behold the wondrous things of the gospel, who see the glory of God in, and admire the wisdom of it. But the greater part are wholly blind to it. They see nothing in all this that is any way glorious and wonderful. Though the angels account it worthy of their most engaged and deep contemplation; yet the greater part of men take little notice of it. It is all a dull story, and dead letter to many of them. They cannot see any thing in it above the wisdom of men. Yea, the gospel to many seems foolishness.
Though the light that shines in the world be so exceeding glorious, yet how few are there that do see it. The glory of God's wisdom in this work is surpassing the brightness of the sun but so blind is the world that it sees nothing. It does not know that the Sun of righteousness shines. Thus it has been in all ages, and wherever the gospel has been preached; ministers of the word of God in all ages have had occasion to say, Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? Thus the prophets were sent to many with that errand, Isa. vi. 9, 10. Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not: and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
When Christ that glorious prophet came, and more fully revealed the counsels of God concerning our redemption, how many were then blind! how much did Christ complain of them! How blind were the scribes and Pharisees, the most noted sect of men among the Jews for wisdom; they beheld no
glory in that gospel which Christ preached unto them; which gave him occasion to call them fools and blind, Matt. xxiii. 17.-So it was again in the apostles' times. In all places where they preached, some believed, and some believed not, Acts xxviii. 24. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed, chap. xiii. 48. The election obtained it, but the rest were blinded, Rom. xi. 7. And so it is still in those places where the gospel is preached. There are a few who see the glory of the gospel. God has a small
number whose eyes he opens, who are called out of darkness into marvellous light, and who have an understanding to see the wisdom and fitness of the way of life. But how many are there who sit under the preaching of the gospel all their days, and yet never see any divine wisdom or glory in it! To their dying day they are unaffected with it. When they hear it, they see nothing to attract their attention, much less excite any admiration. To preach the gospel to them will serve very well to lull them asleep; but produces very little other effect upon them. This shews the exceeding wickedness of the heart of man. How affecting the thought, that infinite wisdom should be set on work, so as to surprise the angels, and to entertain them from age to age; and that to men, though so plainly set before them, it should appear foolishness! I Cor. i. 18. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.
II. This is a great confirmation of the truth of the gospel. The gospel stands in no need of external evidences of its truth and divinity. It carries its own light and evidence with it. There is that in its nature that sufficiently distinguishes it, to those who are spiritually enlightened, from all the effects of human invention. There are evident appearances of the divine perfections; the stamp of divine glory, of which this of the divine wisdom is not the least part.
There is as much in the gospel to shew that it is no work of men, as there is in the sun in the firmament. As persons of mature reason who look upon the sun, and consider the nature of it, its wonderful height, its course, its brightness and heat, may know that it is no work of man; so, if the gospel be duly considered, if the true nature of it be seen, it may be known that it is no work of man, and that it must be from God. And if the wisdom appearing in the gospel be duly considered, it will be seen as much to excel all human wisdom, as the sun's light excels the light of fires of our own kindling.The contrivance of our salvation is of such a nature that no one can rationally conclude that man had any hand in it. The nature of the contrivance is such, so out of the way of all human thoughts, so different from all human inventions; so much more sublime, excellent and worthy, that it does
not savour at all of the craft or subtilty of man; it savours of God only.
If any are ready to think man might have found out such a way of salvation for sinners-so honourable to God, to his holiness and authority-they do not well consider the scantiness of human understanding. Mankind were of a poor capacity for any such undertaking; for, till the gospel enlightened the world, they had but miserable notions of what was honourable to God. They could have but poor notions of what way would be suitable to the divine perfections; for they were woefully in the dark about these divine perfections themselves, till the gospel came abroad in the world. They had strange notions about a Deity. Most of them thought there were many gods. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things, Rom. i. 23. They attributed vices to God. Even the philosophers, their wisest men, entertained but imperfect notions of the supreme Being. How then should men find out a way so glorious and honourable to God, and agreeable to his perfections, who had not wisdom enough to get any tolerable notions of God, till the gospel was revealed to them. They groped in the dark. Their notions shewed the infinite insufficiency of man's blind understanding for any such undertaking, as the contriving of a way of salvation every way honourable to God, and suitable to the needs of a fallen' creature.
But since the gospel has told what God's counsels are, and how he has contrived a way for our salvation, men are ready to despise it, and foolishly to exalt their own understanding; and to imagine they could have found out as good a way themselves. When, alas! men, of themselves, had no notion of what was honourable to God, and suitable for a divine Being. They did not so much as think of the necessity of God's law being answered, and justice satisfied. And if they had, how dreadfully would they have been puzzled, to have found out the way how! Who would have thought of a trinity of persons in the godhead; and that one should sustain the rights of the godhead; and another should be the Mediator; and another should make application of redemption! Who would have thought of such a thing as three distinct persons, and yet but one God! All the same Being, and yet three persons! Who would have thought of this, in order to have found out a way for satisfying justice! Who would have thought of a way for answering the law that threatened eternal death, without the sinner's suffering eternal death! And who would have thought of any such thing as a divine person suffering the wrath of God! And if they had; who