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would have contrived a way how he should suffer, since the divine nature cannot suffer!
Who would have thought of any such thing as God becoming man; two natures and but one person! These things are exceedingly out of the way of human thought and contrivance. It is most unreasonable to think that the world, who, till the gospel enlightened them, were so blind about the nature of God and divine things, shoud contrive such a way that should prove thus to answer all ends; every way to suit what the case required; most glorious to God, and answerable to all man's necessities. Every thing is so fully provided for, and no absurdity to be found in the whole affair, but all speaking forth the most perfect wisdom. That there should be no infringement upon holiness or justice; nothing dishonourable to the majesty of God; no encouragement to sin, all possible motives to holiness all manner of happiness provided; and Satan so confounded and entirely overthrown, how truly wonderful!
And if we suppose that all this notwithstanding was the invention of men, whose invention should it be? Who should be pitched upon as the most likely to invent it? It was not the invention of the Jews; for they were the most bitter enemies to it. The wise men among them, when they first heard of it, conceived malice against it, and persecuted all that held this doctrine. It was not the invention of the Heathen; for they knew nothing about it till the apostles preached it to them; and it appeared a very foolish doctrine to the wise men among them. The doctrine of Christ crucified was not only to the Jews a stumbling-block, but also to the Greeks foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23. Besides, it was contrary to all their notions about a Deity, and they knew nothing about the fall of man, and the like, till the gospel revealed it to them.
It was not the invention of the apostles; for the apostles, of themselves, were no way capable of any such learned contrivance. They were poor fishermen and publicans, an obscure and illiterate sort of men, till they were extraordinarily taught. They were all surprised when they first heard of it. When they heard that Christ must die for sinners, they were offended at it: and it was a long while before they were brought fully to receive it.
There is but one way left; and that is, to suppose that Christ was a mere man, a very subtile crafty man, and that he invented it all: but this is as unreasonable as the rest; for it would have been all against himself, to invent a way of salvation by his own crucifixion, a most tormenting and ignominious death.
III. How great a sin they are guilty of who despise and reject this way of salvation! When God has manifested such
unsearchable riches of wisdom; when all the persons of the Trinity have as it were held a consultation from all eternity in providing a way of salvation for us sinful miserable worms;— a way that should be sufficient and every way suitable for us; a way that should be in all things complete, whereby. we might have not only full pardon of all our sins, and deliverance from hell; but also full blessedness in heaven for ever: -how must God needs be provoked, when after all, men reject this way of salvation!
When salvation comes to be preached, and is offered to them in this way; when they are invited to accept of its benefits, and yet they despise and refuse it, they thus practically deny it to be a wise way, and call this wisdom of God foolishness.How provoking must it be, when such a poor creature as man shall rise up, and find fault with that wisdom which is so far above the wisdom of angels! This is one thing wherein consists the heinousness of the sin of unbelief, that it implies a rejecting and depising of divine wisdom in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ.-Unbelief finds fault with the wisdom of God in the choice of the person, for performing this work. It dislikes the person of Christ. It sees no form nor comeliness in him, nor beauty wherefore it should desire him,
That person whom the wisdom of God looked upon as the fittest person of any, the only fit person, is despised and rejected by unbelief.-Men, through unbelief, find fault with the salvation itself that Christ has purchased: they do not like to be saved as Christ would save. They do not like to be made holy, and to have such a happiness as is to be had in God for a portion.
It may not be amiss here to mention two or three ways whereby persons are guilty of a provoking contempt of the wisdom of God in the way of salvation.
1. They are guilty of a provoking contempt, who live in a careless neglect of their salvation; they who are secure in their sins, and are not much concerned about either salvation or damnation. This is practically charging God with folly. -Its language is, that all is in vain, and to no purpose; that God hath contrived and consulted for our salvation, when there was no need of it. They are well enough as they are. They do not see any great necessity of a Saviour. They like that state they are in, and do not much desire to be delivered out of it. They do not thank him for all his consultation and contrivance, and think he might have spared his cost. God has greatly minded that which they do not think worth minding; and has contrived abundantly for that which they do not trouble their heads about.
2. They are guilty of a provoking contempt of the wisdom of this way of salvation, who go about to contrive
ways of their own. They who are not content with salvation by the righteousness of Christ, which God has provided, are for contriving some way of being saved by their own righteousness. These find fault with the wisdom of God's way, and set up their own wisdom in opposition to it. How greatly must God be provoked by such conduct.
3. Those that entertain discouraged and despairing apprehensions about their salvation, cast contempt on the wisdom of God. They think that because they have been such great sinners, God will not be willing to pardon them; Christ will not be willing to accept of them. They fear that Christ, in the invitations of the gospel, does not mean such wicked creatures as they are; that because they have committed so much sin, they have sinned beyond the reach of mercy. They think it is in vain for them to seek for salvation. These cast contempt on the wisdom of God in the way of salvation, as though it were not all-sufficient:-as though the wisdom of God had not found out a way that was sufficient for the salvasion of great sinners.
The Misery of Unbelievers.
UNBELIEVERS have no portion in this matter. There is a most glorious way of salvation, but you, who are unbelievers, have no interest in it. The wisdom of God hath been gloriously employed for the deliverance of men from a miserable, doleful state; but you are never the better for it, because you reject it. If you continue in that state, this wisdom will do you no good.
Christ is a glorious person; every way fit to be a Saviour of sinners; a person who has power sufficient, wisdom sufficient, merit sufficient, and love sufficient for perfecting this work. And he is the only fit person: but you have no right in him; you can lay claim to no benefit by his power, wisdom, love, or merits.-This wisdom of God hath found out a way whereby this Saviour might satisfy justice, and fulfil the law for us; a way whereby he might be capable of suffering for us; but you have no lot in the incarnation, death, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
The wisdom of God hath contrived a way of salvation that there should be procured for us perfect and everlasting happiness. Here is that happiness procured which is most suitable to our nature, and answerable to the salvation of our souls. Here is a most glorious portion, viz. the Divine Being himself, with his glorious perfections. Here it is purchased,
that we should see God face to face;-that we should converse and dwell with God in his own glorious habitation;-that we should be the children, of God, and be conformed to him. Here are the highest honours, the most abundant riches, the most substantial satisfying pleasures for evermore. Here we have prepared all needed good, both for the souls and bodies of sinners; all needed earthly good things, while here; and glory, for both body and soul hereafter, for ever.
But you are never the better for all this. You have no lot, nor portion in any of it. Notwithstanding all this rich provision, you remain in the same miserable state and condition, in which you came into the world. Though the provision of the gospel be so full, yet your poor soul remains in a famishing, perishing state. You remain dead in trespasses and sins; under the dominion of Satan; in a condemned state, having the wrath of God abiding on you, and being daily exposed to the dreadful effects of it in hell. Notwithstanding all this provision, you remain wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked. O that you might turn to God through Jesus Christ, be numbered among his disciples and faithful followers, and so be intitled to their privileges! They have an interest in this glorious Saviour, and are intitled to all the ineffable blessedness of his kingdom, so far as their capacities will admit; but you remain without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, having no well-grounded hope, and without God in the world. Further consider a few things.
First. It argues the great misery of sinners, that the wisdom of God should be exercised to such a degree in order to find out a way to deliver them from it. Their case surely was most deplorable, since it required infinite wisdom to find out a way for their deliverance. The wisdom of angels was not sufficient: nothing but divine wisdom could reach and remedy their case. And all the persons of the Trinity did enter into a consultation about it. If man's misery were not very great, divine wisdom would not have been exercised for his deliverance from it. God would not contrive and do things so wonderful in a trivial affair. If the salvation of a sinner were not a great salvation, from an exceeding great misery, it is not to be supposed, that God's wisdom should be more signalized in this affair than in any other whatever.
But so it is; this contrivance seems to be spoken of in scripture as the master-piece of divine wisdom. This work of redemption is represented as most wonderful, and spoken of in scripture in the most exalted manner of any work of God.Doubtless therefore salvation is a great thing; and consequently the misery that sinners are saved from, is a great and unspeakable misery. Now this is the misery that you are all
in, who remain in a natural condition. This is the condemnation you lie under. This is the wrath of God that abides upon you. The wisdom of God knew it to be a very doleful thing for a person to be in a natural state, and therefore did so exercise itself to deliver miserable sinners out of it. But this is the state that many among us do yet remain in.
Secondly. Consider, that if you continue in the state you are in, you will be so far from being the better for this contrivance, that you will be much more miserable for it. The justice and wisdom of the way of salvation will be your condemnation. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. John iii. 19. If you continue in that state you are now in, it would have been better for you, if Christ had never died for sinners; if God had left all mankind to perish, as he did the fallen angels. Your punishment then would have been light in comparison of what it will be now. You will have greater sins by far to answer for; and all your sins will be abundantly the more aggravated.
Since I have been upon this subject, I have observed, that the work of redemption is an occasion of the elect being brought to greater happiness than man could have had, if he had not fallen. And it is also true as to reprobates, that it will be an occasion of their having greater misery than they would have had, if there had been no redemption. 2 Cor. ii. 15. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one we are a savour of death unto death; and to the other we are a savour of life unto life. If you perish at last, you will be the more miserable for the benefits of the gospel being so glorious, and that because your crime in rejecting and despising them will be the more heinous. Heb. ii. 3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?
Thirdly. Whilst you continue an unbeliever, the more you hear of this way of salvation, your condition will become the more miserable. The longer you sit under the preaching of the gospel, the more doleful does your case grow. Your guilt continually increases. For your refusals of the gospel, and your rejections of this way of salvation, are so much the oftener repeated. Every time you hear the gospel preached, you are guilty of a renewed rejection of it, the guilt of which therefore you will have lying upon you. And the more you hear of the suitableness and glory of this way, the greater is your guilt who still continue to reject it. Every new illustra tion of the wisdom and grace of God in redemption, adds to your guilt. Matt. xxiii. 37. Q Jerusalem, Jerusalem-how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!