|« Prev||2. Second thing. That God the Father must needs…||Next »|
2. Second thing. That God the Father must needs be, and is, the author of this reconciliation.
1. That God must needs be the author of this work. Reconciliation in all the parts and degrees of it, in all the model and frame of it, is his act. The first invention of this way, the first proposition, the last execution and acceptation, owns him for the author. To him we must needs owe the contrivance, declaration, and accomplishment. If God be the first cause in all things, he is the first cause in the highest of his works. Nothing comes to pass in time but what was decreed in eternity, If anything were done which he did not first know, he were not infinitely wise; if anything were done which he did not first will, positively or permissively, he were not infinitely supreme and powerful. All things are wrought by his counsel, which is the act of his understanding; all things are wrought by his will, which is the act of his sovereignty, Eph. i. 11. By God in Scripture sometimes is meant the Father, by way of eminency, because he is the fountain of the Deity: Eph. i. 3, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
(1.) No creature could be the original author of this work.
[1.] All human nature could not first invent it. The whole wisdom of Moses and the Jewish nation in the wilderness could not find a remedy against the bitings of the fiery serpents, which indeed were so venomous that they were absolutely mortal. And if they were the presteres, as the Greeks call them, which word signifies the same that the Hebrew does, burning serpents, no remedy was found against their venom for many ages after. In the time of the Romans' flourishing, the poison suddenly inflamed the blood, puffed up the skin, disfigured the countenance, deprived them of the shape of men, with the benefit of life; an exact representation of the misery of man by the fall. No remedy could be found in nature against this evil in the figure, no more can any against the evil represented by it; neither the languishing law of nature, nor the sickly philosophy of the heathens, could ever find a cure. The reconciliation of God to man was too stupendous a work for the joint wit and wisdom of man to arrive at. Man was so plunged in the sink of lapsed nature, that he knew not how to desire it; so amiable were his dreams of happiness in his rebellion, that he had no mind to cherish any thoughts of it. He was so furious in his unjust war against God, that he had no will to accept of any such motion. The world was filled with all unrighteousness, and men were 'haters of God,' Rom. i. 29, 30. By all their wisdom they knew him not, 1 Cor. i. 21. No mind to know God, no will to be at peace with him. Had the wisdom of the world been sensible of their deplorable condition, could it have contrived a way for the glorifying his mercy without invading the rights of his justice, they might have dreamt of a pardon from his mercy as the supreme governor. But how would the contentment of his justice, as eminent a perfection in God as that of his mercy, and the stability of his truth in his threatening, have insuperably puzzled them? The difficulty lay not upon the point of mercy; every day's sun, and every seasonable shower were rich discoveries of this. But there was no direction in the other case, to be read in the whole manuscript of nature. The heavens declare the glory of God as creator, not as reconciler; they discovered his glory, not any way of entrance into it. Had they had thoughts of accomplishing it by a surety between God and them, where could they have pitched upon one worthy of God's acceptance? If they could have found out and proposed one, what tie was there upon God to accept any other offer for the offenders but to exact it of their own persons? What man could have thought of such an extensive love as the reconciliation, not of one or two particular men, but of the world, by so strange a means as the death of God's own Son? We read, indeed, of some one or two of the heathen philosophers that declared an impossibility of the world's reformation without God's taking flesh, but none imagined anything of the death of the Son of God; no, not the Jews, but here and there one of their rabbis, long before his coming. Oh the immense grace of God, to discover that to us in his gospel, which all the wisdom of fallen nature might have fruitlessly studied to eternity! As no man can frame an universal law, accommodated to the several states and tempers of all the men in the world, and to those notions of fit and just in the minds of men, but God, who knows what he has engraved upon men's minds; so none but God can know how to find a way of redemption that may answer the glory of all his attributes, and the pressing urgency of men's necessities.
[2.] But might not the unblemished wisdom of angels, out of pity to mankind, have found out a way of reconcilement? They knew much more of God than man; they knew the wonders of his goodness, yet had seen many of their own order drop into hell under his wrath. They might know that the devils, a stronger nature, could not satisfy God for their offence, much less man, the weaker nature. They would never have stood gazing upon it with astonishment when it was revealed, had it been so obvious to their clear and comprehensive reasons. The greatest learning they have in it is by the church: Eph. iii. 10, 'To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God.' Objectively, not efficienter. It was a mystery hid in God, and only in him; not an angel seems to have had any thoughts of it till the revelation of it was made to the church. Now, not before; all the angels in heaven were ignorant of it, and probably understood not the meaning of the first promise in paradise till the coming of Christ in the flesh. Yea, after the revelation, those intelligent spirits have not a perfect knowledge of the whole scope of the gospel state, for, 1 Peter i. 12, they 'desire to look into' those things they could never be inventors of, or consulters in, that which they did not understand. Well, then, angels and men may admire it when revealed, but not before imagine it; they may applaud it, but never contrive it. Which of them could presume to nourish such a thought, that the Father should call out his eternal Son to be a temporary sufferer, to veil his divinity with the rags of an afflicted humanity? What, then, was impossible to the approved wisdom of men and angels, must only be ascribed to the wisdom and grace of God.
(2.) God the Father must needs be the principal in this business.
[1.] The order of the Trinity requires it. There is an order in the operation as well as the subsistence of the three persons. As the Son is from the Father in order of subsistence, so the actions of the Son are from the Father in order of motion and direction. The Son is sent by the Father, not only as man, but as God; for the Spirit, that has only a divine nature, is said to be sent by the Father and the Son. The persons are all equal: Philip. ii. 6, Christ 'thought it no robbery to be equal with God,' yet one operation is appropriated to the Father, another to the Son, another to the Holy Ghost, in regard of order; and the Father, as he is the fountain of the Deity, is the fountain of all divine operation. As the sun is the fountain of its beams, so it is the fountain of all the operation of its beams. All things are of the Father, by the Son. He 'created all things by Jesus Christ,' Eph. iii. 9. He reconciled us unto himself by Christ, 2 Cor. v. 18. All things of the Father as the fountain, by the Son as the medium. There is a priority of order in the divine paternity upon the account of generation, and this order is observed in the divine institutions. Baptism is first in the name of the Father, then of the Son, then of the Holy Ghost, Mat. xxviii. 19. Now, it is most congruous, that as the Father was the original of our Saviour's person, so he should be of his office; as he was God of his substance, so he should be mediator of his will, the Father first sets the copy, after which the Son writes. John v. 19, 'The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do, for what things soever he does, those also does the Son likewise.' All operations begin first from the Father; this place the ancient fathers understood of Christ as the second person, not as mediator. If the first motion come from Christ, the order of working in the Trinity would be inverted; the Father would then do what he sees the Son do; the Son would be the director, the preceder, and the Father the follower; the Son would go before in proposal, and the Father follow after in consent. God would not then be the God of order in heaven. Besides, the love of the Father would not then be the principal cause of our redemption, upon which the Scripture everywhere places it, but the love of the Son. Nay, if the authority of constituting the mediator were not in the Father by way of order, there could be little or no testimony of his love since the fall of man. To imagine, therefore, any other root of our redemption, is to contradict the order in the trinity. But this is agreeable to our conceptions of things, as far as we can apprehend such mysteries. The Father from himself, Christ from the Father, the Spirit from both, so the Father contrives this, and is pleased with it, as being the most exact model of his love, wisdom, and justice, and the highest act of love he could show to his Son. The Son consents to it, and is pleased with it, as being the highest act of love he could show to his Father, and to men, in being their reconciler, and to angels in being their head. The Spirit is pleased with gifting him, as being the greatest demonstration of his power to gift Christ for so great a work, therefore the Spirit is said to 'rest upon him,' Isa. xi. 2. Not only noting the continuance of the Spirit on him, but the satisfaction the Spirit should have in his employment, as much in gifting Christ for it, as Christ in undertaking and managing the work.
[2.] If the Father were not principal in it, the undertaking a reconciliation could not of itself be valid.
First, There had been an injury to the Father in undertaking it without his full consent at least. The Father is the principal party injured, and was therefore to be consulted with in that which concerned his own right. He is also the governor of the world. It is not convenient that a public work should be undertaken in a nation without the consent of the chief magistrate, who may else make it frustrate. When princes of equal dignity are at war, none undertakes the composing of the quarrel, till both parties accept of the mediation. But here is the supreme Lord of the world and ungrateful rebels at variance; the chief governor unjustly wronged. Now, every man would judge it a presumption for any to offer terms of peace to his enemies, and undertake the satisfaction of himself without his own consent in the case.
Secondly, The Father could only by right appoint the terms upon which, and the way whereby, this reconciliation should be made. The Father being the law-maker could only dispense with his law, and judge that satisfaction was fit for the vindication of it. The law ran in that strain, that the party sinning should die. Had the letter of the law been exacted, every man had been a stranger to salvation; the right, therefore, of waiving the letter of the law, while he maintained the reason and substance of it, belonged to the Father. As the supreme Governor, too, he could only transfer the punishment from the offending party to another that was willing to stand under the penalty in his stead. Since creation is appropriated to the Father, and sin entered upon the world immediately after the creation, it was God as a creator was principally injured. The first sin struck more immediately at the Father, as creator; unbelief at the second person, the Redeemer; and a despitefull contempt of Christ, after the manifestation of him by the Spirit, and the motions pressing upon men, is called the sin against the Holy Ghost. Christ intimates this when he says, 'They have both hated me and my Father;' i. e. me now, as well as my Father before. Non they show a particular hatred to me by unbelief, as well as they have done to my Father formerly by idolatry. The Father, therefore, only had the right to appoint the way of reconciliation according to his good pleasure; since he was chiefly dishonoured, he is fittest to prescribe the method which he judges most convenient for the restitution of his honour. As all his attributes were wronged by sin, so it was fit all his attributes should be glorified in reconciliation of his enemies. It was not fit that glory he is so jealous of should be entrusted in any hands but by his own will; and his prescribing all the ways of vindicating and illustrating it, and the glorifying of himself, was his end in appointing Christ to this work: Isa. xlix. 3, 'Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified;' and the glory of God seems to be a name whereby Christ is called: Isa. lx. 1, 'The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' Since, therefore, a greater glory was his end in redemption than barely in creation, he had as much a right to be principal in the miracle of restoration as in that of creation.
Thirdly, The Father was not obliged, nor could be obliged by any to entertain any thoughts of a reconciliation. He might, without any prejudice to his goodness, have demolished this defiled world, and by his power reared another wherein to show forth the glory of his immense perfections; he might have made good the law upon the person of every sinner, much less was he bound to accept of any surety; he might have exacted the satisfaction at the hands of the criminal before he would have been reconciled. Being sovereign, it was at his liberty whether he would be appeased or no towards rebels. If he was willing to be appeased, he might have chosen whether he would have admitted of any surety to stand in their place. When Reuben offered Jacob his two sons as a pledge for Benjamin, Gen. xlii. 37, Jacob was not bound to receive this offer, but at his liberty whether he would take them or no. Nor was Naboth bound to part with his vineyard for a better than his own upon Ahab's offer, 1 Kings xxi. 2, 3. No man is bound to part with his propriety in his goods, or his right over his prisoner; but if a price be agreed upon, he is then bound by the rules of commutative justice to set the prisoner at liberty.
Fourthly, Therefore if the Son of God himself had been incarnate, and died for the world without the Father's call and mission, the Father was not obliged to accept it as the price of our redemption. For all things without a call are of themselves invalid, and depend only upon the will of the person to whom they are related for their acceptation. God's institution confers validity upon any things. Could the brazen serpent ever have cured the bitings of the fiery ones had not God fixed it as a remedy?
Three things go to the establishing the reconciliation: 1. The dignity of the person reconciling; 2. The valuableness of the satisfaction he offers; 3. The call of the person injured, or the acceptation of it.
The two first makes the merit sufficient, the third only makes it accepted. Had Christ endured all the torments of the cross, the acceptation of him for us might not have been, had not the Father's constitution of him for that purpose preceded his undertaking. Though the death of Christ had an intrinsic value, and therefore was in itself acceptable, yet the consent of the Father only made it accepted; he 'made us accepted' in Christ, Eph. i. 6; therefore our acceptation depends first upon the acceptation of Christ. The strength, therefore, of it in Scripture is put upon God's well-pleasedness with him, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And upon God's call of him, Eph. i. 9, it was his will, the 'good pleasure of his will', and 'purposed in himself;' it rose up in his own heart and mind. Though the satisfaction of Christ derives not its virtue of meriting from the grace of God, yet it derives its acceptation from the grace of God. The grace of God, and the merit of Christ, relate to one another as the cause and the effect, the antecedent and the consequent. The merit of Christ is the cause of our actual favour with God, but the merit of Christ is not the first spring of it; for it is subordinate to the general grace of God, which orders it as a means of that reconciliation which he purposed in himself. In short, it is like this case: when a man desires the goods of another, and offers him as much as they are worth, and more, though what he offers has an intrinsic value to compensate the possessor for those goods, whether the person accept of that offer or no, yet the acceptation of it depends purely upon his will, and the sum has no validity to purchase what is desired without the will of the present possessor.
First, If the Father had been obliged to receive any satisfaction, it must be from the person offending. No obligation can be conceived incumbent upon him to receive it from a person wholly innocent, though it were of infinite value, because none can transfer over the right of another but he whose right it is.
Secondly, Had not the Father fully agreed to this, I do not see how Christ could have made a compensation by his sufferings. Had he assumed a body, and laid down that body, and courted death, had that been justifiable without a call? The humanity of Christ was a creature, and therefore obliged by the law of nature, as creatures are, to preserve itself. All men are bound to do so, unless God calls them to lay down their lives, who is the supreme Lord of life and death. Suppose our Saviour might have laid down his life intentionally as a compensation for us, what could he have undergone in his humanity but a temporal death? Was it not more we were to suffer? Was not the wrath of God due to our souls? The soul was the chief offender, the soul then ought to be the principal sufferer. If God therefore had not appointed Christ for those ends, the wrath of God could not have been inflicted upon the soul of Christ, for who should have inflicted it? Had it been just with God to have loaded a person with his wrath, who was innocent from any actual or imputed crime both in his own person and transferred from others? His mere bodily sufferings could not have been a recompense for the sin of the soul. The order of things fairly lies thus: man being unable to satisfy God for himself, nor any creature being sufficient to satisfy God for them, the Father calls the Son to take upon him the human nature, and by satisfying his justice for sin, restore us to happiness. The Father's call, and his own voluntary consent, make him capable of having our sins transferred upon him, and bearing them in his own body on the tree. And Christ lays it upon the commandment received from his Father, together with his own free consent: John x. 18, 'I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father.' He had an authority to lay down his life, he had also a promise of restoration of it by his resurrection. And to this end he had received, not only an invitation, but a command, which gave him full authority to die, and a ground also to plead the validity of it, for the ends designed by it. Therefore had he not received such a command, he had had no authority to lay down his life; no more than Abraham had authority to sacrifice Isaac of his own head, neither could he have challenged any acceptance of it for man at the hands of God.
Thirdly, The Scripture does ground the merit of Christ upon the grace of God. It is called the 'gift of God,' and 'the gift by grace, which by Christ has abounded to many,' Rom. v. 16, 16, &c. Some bring this place to prove the absolute efficiency of Christ's merit, had he laid down his life without the appointment of the Father, because, as the sin of Adam had demerit enough to condemn the world, so the righteousness of Christ had merit enough to save the world. But the question is, whence this merit did arise? It did arise personally from Christ himself and the dignity of his person; but as to the acceptation, from the Father, which the apostle resolves in this place in telling us; it is the grace of God, and the gift of God, because if Christ's death had a natural power of merit without any precursory agreement between the Father and the Son, it could not be said then to be the grace of God, for God could not but in a way of justice accept it. There is a double merit, absolute, and ex pacto or covenanted merit,óabsolute when any good is done to a person, which in the very deed itself obliges him for whose good it is done to the benefactor which does it, as generation and education are the acts whereby parents merit of their children. So that, whether children will or no, upon that very account that they are begotten and brought up they owe everything to their parents so creation being the work of God, the good of the creature, for that very cause every creature, especially rational, is obliged to God, and God by this act does merit all adoration, obedience, and respect from his creature. Covenanted merit is a work done which does not in its own nature oblige, but by virtue of some preceding compact and agreement between the person meriting and that person of whom he does merit. As when a king proposes a reward to those that run a race, let men run never so well, they have no right to demand a reward but upon such a declaration of the prince; and supposing that edict and declaration, he that runs has a right to the reward promised and appointed by the king, but no right to a reward in general. The whole right does rise, not from the race simply considered, but as it respects the declaration and order of the prince. If we speak of a covenant merit, Christ did fully merit at the hands of God eternal salvation, for he fully performed what was agreed upon; but if we speak of absolute merit, neither Christ nor any creature could merit anything at the hands of God, or render God obliged to them by a natural right, no more than any man that runs a race can oblige a king by his swiftness. As the merit of Christ regards us, it is absolute, for Christ by his very undertaking (supposing he had not had any agreement with the Father) to deliver us, and appease the wrath of God against us, he had absolutely merited of us all love and observance, yea, though he had failed in it; but he had not merited of God anything for us, by any undoubted right, but as it respects that agreement between the Father and the Son. Ps. xvi. 2, 'My goodness extends not unto thee, but to the saints which are in the earth.' Christ did not add anything to God, whereby he might absolutely merit of him; but to the saints he did, whereby they are for ever obliged to him. Christ did not merit anything for us at the hands of God but as mediator, and to this office he was predestinated by God, and therefore he merited nothing but by that decree. What he did was from the office of mediator or priest; and because he was so, therefore he merited. As when any officers are appointed by the king, whatsoever they act by virtue of their office has its foundation in, and force from, the royal authority. His faithfulness whereby he merited has its validity from the appointment of him in his offices by God, who, Heb. iii. 2, was 'faithful to him that appointed him.' There had been no honour accruing to him, and consequently nothing challenged by him, unless he had been called of God: Heb. v. 4, 'No man takes this honour unto himself but he that is called of God.' Christ himself owns the Father to be the foundation and stability of all the salvation he wrought: Ps. lxxxix. 27, 'He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation; also I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth.' This is taken from 2 Sam. vii. 14, and cited, Heb. i. 6, as belonging to Christ, to prove his dignity above the angels. 'The rock of my salvation,' the strength and foundation of the salvation I have wrought for men, or alluding to the rock from whence the waters flowed to the Israelites in the wilderness; either way our Saviour owns his Father as the stability of it. This salvation, i.e. not personal but mediatory salvation.
Thirdly, As it could not have been valid had not the Father been principal in it, so it must needs be principally from him, because it had not been for his honour that it should principally have come from another hand. It was not expedient that we should be redeemed by any but God, both as to the medium of our redemption and the grand author and contriver of it. As God created us for happiness, so we by our own fault revolted from him. To be restored to that happiness from which we fell is a greater good than simply to be created, because it is more deplorable to lie under the intolerable vengeance of an infinite God, than to lie in the depth of nothing. Since therefore man's happiness does consist in a blessed immortality, how much more would man be obliged to him who restores him to his lost happiness, than to him who created him in a state wherein he might fall to imperfection and misery! Being God has given us life, if another should bring us to a better life, without his interesting himself in it, how much more of tender melting bowels would he discover in conferring upon us that which is more magnificent! And we should be indebted to him for the greater, to the former for the less. If it were so honourable a thing for his goodness to create us by himself, it is no less honourable to interest himself in our restoration. It had been no honour to him to have his work restored to beauty and perfection by any other skill and directions rather than his own. It is as much for the honour of the Father to appoint a head for the restoring the world, as he did a head for the increase of it. By that one man which he appointed, the root of mankind, a blot came upon the world; it were not honourable for him to have another head stand up for reinvesting man in a nobler happiness without his appointment.
Considering that in this work there is a discovery of the dearest love and profoundest wisdom, therefore the Father, the principal person in the Deity, must needs be the principal author and director, otherwise the principal glory of these perfections would not belong to the principal person.
Love. If the first motion came not from him, it would represent him a hard master, negligent of the good of his creature, without bowels, and only won by the importunities of his Son to have pity towards us. It would represent him only with thunders and the Son with bowels; the greatest honour would redound to the Son, and the Son would deserve more honour than the Father, whereas the honour upon the account of mediation is equally due to both: John v. 23, 'That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.' The Father is to be honoured for the greatness of his love, in committing his right of judging to the Son. As the Son is to be honoured for undertaking, so the Father is to be honoured for sending him. 'He that honours not the Son, honours not the Father which has sent him.' The sending Christ is the ground of the honour due to the Father in the work of redemption. If the Father were not then the chief author, the honour of this love of Christ would not redound to him; it would not be 'to the praise of the glory of his grace,' as Eph. i. 6, but to the praise of the glory of the grace of the Son. Herein is the love of the Father, that he was placable, desirous to be at peace, orders his Son to procure it upon such honourable terms for himself, and secure in the issue for the creature, that he might communicate his goodness through a mediation to the polluted and rebellious world. The love of the Father in this dispensation is as great in moving it, as the love of Christ was in consenting. Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son was a type of this. Christ's death was prefigured in Isaac, the Father's willingness represented in Abraham.
Wisdom. As goodness was the motive of this reconciliation, so wisdom was the director. The Father would not be principal in the greatest and highest notes of wisdom that ever sounded in the ears of men; the highest act of wisdom would originally flow from the Son, not from the Father. In this business he is known to be the only wise God, which attribute Paul celebrates with an emphasis: 1 Tim. i. 17, 'Now unto the King eternal, &c., the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever,' after he had spoken of salvation by Christ. No less than the wisdom of God could invent it. A punishment was due to lapsed man, that justice might not be defrauded; an infinite punishment the creature could not bear; the honour of God could not be fully vindicated in that way. Man justly owed a satisfaction, but could not pay it; nor without that satisfaction could be acquitted by justice from the obligation to an eternal curse. What but infinite wisdom could contrive a way for man's deliverance, whereby justice might have the highest right, and mercy the greatest applause; that the enmity between God and the creature might be totally demolished, never to break out again; the security of the creature established never to be unravelled any more! The wisdom of God must then be the arbitrator in this great affair, to compose all seeming contradictions, and appoint means fully proportioned to the ends intended. His love would not leave the world to perish, nor his justice leave sin without punishment. The one did not consist with his merciful goodness, nor the other with the honour of his law and the immutability of his sentence. There is a way therefore found in the treasures of his wisdom to procure peace to the sinner with honour to himself; to reconcile the sinner without impunity for the sin; to satisfy both the cries of his justice and the yearnings of his bowels: the one in the punishment of sin in a surety, the other in pardoning sin in our persons. That God might be appeased, and that man might have wherewith to appease him, there is given to the human nature a new man, greater than a man, which might satisfy for man, and have that in himself which might exceed all the debt man owed to God. This is such a manifold wisdom which must spring from the Father, and to whom the honour of it is due, as being the eternal purpose which he purposed in Jesus Christ our Lord, Eph. iii. 10, 11. This being therefore the highest act of wisdom, must originally arise from the Father, the principal person in the Deity, the fountain of all decrees, and therefore of those wherein the choicest wisdom of the Deity sparkles. How could it be the praise of the glory of his grace, Eph. i. 6, if he had not concerned himself in the whole undertaking? It is hereby that title of the Father of Glory belongs to him, as he is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ as Mediator, Eph. i. 17; herein shines the glory of his paternity.
2. God the Father is the principal author of this reconciliation.
(1.) The particular style God assumes in the New Testament manifests it. A title not known in the Old Testament, often in the New, Eph. i. 3, Eph. iii. 14, 1 Pet. i. 3. In the Old Testament he was called the God of Israel; and immediately before the discovery of Christ in the flesh, Zacharias blesses him under that tide: Luke i. 68, 'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.' And God in a solemn manner entitles himself 'the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.' This was to be his name for ever, and his memorial to all generations, Exod. iii. 15, because he was a God settling his covenant with them, and promising the Messiah out of their loins; therefore when he was to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage according to his promise to Abraham, he entitles himself thus, that their fathers might respect him in that promise, and among them he was chiefly known by this title, and that of 'their God that brought them out of the land of Egypt,' and sometimes 'the Lord which created heaven and earth.' But when the mystery of redemption, hid in God from ages and generations, was drawn out of his treasury, he appears upon the stage in another garb, with a new title, when the spiritual redemption, whereof all their other deliverances were as types, was wrought. He declares himself in a new style as 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' because the seed promised, upon which account he was called the God of Abraham, was now come, and the covenant of redemption was fully settled with him and in him; and so he is called the God of Christ, Eph. i. 17. [1.] Not in regard of the divine nature, for so Christ is God equal with the Father, Philip. ii. 6; but in regard of his human nature, as he was a creature, and subject to God as a creature. [2.] In regard of his mediatory office, in which respect he is his Father's ambassador, sent with a commission, acting according to instructions received from him. In this regard he often owns that he acted by his Father's authority, that his Father was greater than himself. [3.] In regard of the covenant between them: in this respect chiefly he is said to be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he is said to be the God in a special manner to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 7, as being in covenant with him. Christ was in covenant with God several ways: under the legal covenant, having subjected himself to it, and covenanted to fulfil the conditions of it; in the covenant of redemption, wherein it was promised him to have a seed, and to be the mediator and foundation of the covenant of grace, the confirmer of it by his death, and interpreter of it, and advocate for the fulfilling the terms of it, though he was not properly in that under the covenant of grace himself. And as he is thus the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the 'Father of mercies,' and 'God of all comfort to us,' 2 Cor. i. 3. And as he stands in this relation, all spiritual blessings flow from him to us, Eph. i. 3; he is therefore the principal person to be considered in the work of reconciliation, not only as the party to whom we are reconciled, but the party by whom the whole plot and model of our reconciliation was laid, which is effected by the Son, and applied by the Spirit.
(2.) All the spiritual blessings we have by Christ spring from the Father. Surely, then, reconciliation and redemption, which are none of the meanest blessings, indeed the visible foundation of all the rest, arising immediately from election, the secret foundation, and which are indeed the end which electing love aimed at, these are the corner stone upon which all the rest are built. What communications could we have from a God implacable? a God not reconciled? Therefore to God the Father the apostle ascribes all: Eph. i. 8, 'blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.' If all, then this; none are excepted, pardon of sin, endowment with righteousness, adoption of sons, infusions of grace, participation of the divine nature; whatsoever blessings deserve the title of spiritual own the Father as the first fountain. He adds, 'in heavenly places,' as our translation, or 'heavenly things,' as others; both amount to the same, all the blessings which respect our heavenly state. The Father was the authoritative actor in all that Christ did: John xiv. 10, 'The Father that dwells in me, he does the works.' As the power of a prince resides in the ambassador for the performance of those actions to which he is designed. Whatsoever Christ purchased of the Father, he purchased by the will of the Father, that he might communicate himself to us with honour to all his glorious perfections. The Old Testament also ascribes this to the principal person in the Deity: Hosea i. 7, 'I will save them by the Lord their God,' or Jehovah their God; or, as the Chaldee, 'I will redeem them by the word of the Lord.' He is therefore frequently called 'the God of peace,' because he is full of thoughts of peace, and is the fountain of our peace in Christ; as he is called the God of holiness, because there is nothing he thinks, nothing he does, nothing he speaks, but is holy, and is the fountain of all holiness to his creatures. All that which we have by Christ is said to be 'the mystery of his will, purposed in himself, according to his good pleasure,' Eph i. 9. What was the object of this purpose? All those spiritual blessings the apostle had numbered up before, which he resolved himself to complete and communicate to us by Christ. As all the motions in the world depend upon the motion of the primum mobile, so all our blessings upon the motion of God's love. In the communication of those blessings the Father has a particular hand; it is not said only that Christ is 'made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,' but made all those to us of God, 2 Cor. i. 80. And the apostle distinguishes the Father from the Son by this character, 'The Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things,' 1 Cor. viii. 6. The Father is the first cause, first mover, first contriver of all spiritual mercies for us: 'of him are all things.' Christ, the only means appointed by the Father to work those things for us, and communicate them to us; therefore it is said, 'by him are all things.' Therefore the whole work of redemption is often in the Old Testament called God's salvation, and in the New Testament called 'the will of the Father;' and Christ all along owns it: 'As my Father has commanded me, so I do.' Even those blessings which follow upon the death of Christ are the issues of the grace of God; 'the riches of his grace' is the first cause of forgiveness, Eph. i. 7; the freeness of his grace, of our justification: Rom. iii. 24, 'Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ.' Yet those are the meritorious fruits of Christ's death, much more are the counsels, contrivances, and resolves about this, the acts of his free grace.
(3.) The order and foundation of election discovers it. God chose men in Christ, Eph. i. 4, which election is there ascribed to the Father. This was an act of love in the Father, which in no wise falls under the merit of Christ. Some things Christ merited, as our reconciliation, justification, &c.; some things were purely the acts of God's love, without any merit of Christ, as election, and the incarnation of Christ, Christ did not merit election, for he was the first fruit of it; nor God's purpose of reconciliation, nor his own mission into the world. Election, then, being the proper act of the Father, all those means which were ordered for the accomplishing the ends of election are of the Father's appointment, for under election does fall both the manner and order of that which is to be done, therefore Christ also, who is the only means of' our redemption; and Christ himself tells us that the love of the Father did precede his mission, John iii. 16; it did therefore precede his designation. And Peter expressly asserts it: 1 Peter i. 19, 20, 'Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest in these last times for you.' For you relates not only to the manifestation in the latter times, but to the foreordination of him before the foundation of the world. Christ was first elected as head and mediator, and as the cornerstone to bear up the whole building; for the act of the Father's election in Christ supposes him first chosen to this mediatory work, and to be the head of the elect part of the world. After this election of Christ, others were predestinated to be conformed to this image of his: Rom. viii. 29, 'Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren;' i. e. to Christ as mediator, and taking human nature; not to Christ barely considered as God, for, as God, Christ is nowhere said to be the first-born among many brethren. This conformity being specially intended in election, Christ was in the intention of the Father the first exemplar and copy of it. One foot of the compass of grace stood in Christ as the centre, while the other walked about the circumference, pointing out one here and another there, to draw a line, as it were, between every one of those points and Christ. The Father, then, being the prime cause of the election of some out of the mass of mankind, was the prime cause of the election of Christ to bring them to the enjoyment of that to which they were elected. It is likely that God, in founding an everlasting kingdom, should consult about the members before he did about the head. Christ was registered at the top of the book of election, and his members after him. It is called, therefore, 'the book of the Lamb;' Christ was the title and chief subject-matter of the book. He was first chosen as the well-head of grace and glory, then others chosen on whom, from, and through him those should be conferred; for he has chosen us in him, that we should be holy, therefore he chose Christ as the spring to convey this holiness to his elect. The elect were given by the Father to Christ as mediator. Christ therefore was set up as mediator by the Father's pleasure; his office was settled by the Father before the gift was bestowed upon him.
(4.) The creation of the world, which is ascribed to the Father, was principally intended by him for this end: 'All things were created by him and for him,' Col. iii. 16. Christ was the means whereby God created all things, and the end for which they were created, that he might be head of the elect kingdom which God intended to establish by him, and discover the perfections of God in an illustrious manner, and therefore God willed Christ then as the head of all his works. It was from eternity decreed by God to create a world, to communicate himself to his creature, and to have a number of elect to praise him; therefore he resolved to create man, and endue him with such faculties, yet mutable. He knew that everything would work if it were created in this or that state and condition. He knew the devil would be envious of man's happiness; he knew what temptation would assault man, and the full strength of that temptation, to what degree it would arise, and that man would sink under his temptation, apostatise from him, engulf himself and the whole human race in misery, and give him thereby an occasion to lay open his wisdom, goodness, mercy, and justice; for God sees all things distinctly in their true causes, and therefore cannot but know the event of them. Upon this foreknowledge God appointed a remedy for man, wherein to manifest his perfections in a transcendent manner. And indeed God willed the creation, and upon that the permission of sin, that he might take occasion from thence to communicate himself to man in the most excellent manner; for he that works wisely does not only work from foreknowledge, but from a previous intention; as when God would make Joseph a prince in Egypt, and use to that end the envy and ill-will of his brothers, it is not to be thought that God only, after the foresight of their sin, did will to make Joseph a prince, but, on the contrary, he would advance Joseph to a prince-like state; and therefore did permit his brothers' sin, to use their evil to a good end. We find all the providences of God concurring since the foundation of the world, to the bringing forth Christ the head of it; therefore, the first will of God in the creation was the advancement of his Son, and founding an everlasting kingdom under him, because in all wise disposals of things, even by men, the execution of things answers the intention, and those things which are last in execution are first in intention. And the Scripture does clearly evidence this, for it speaks of 'a promise of eternal life given to those that believe before the world began,' Titus i. 1. He does not say the decree, but the promise. This promise was then made by the Father to Christ, for the constituting this mediatory kingdom; he is therefore, by this promise, settled by the Father as head of the creation, and the author of reconciliation; for it is made to him as the head of the believing world, and as the feoffee in that for them, for it concerns eternal life. To us, says he, i. e. to those that believe; and this promise was nothing else but that word which is now manifested through preaching, ver. 3. The whole gospel is built upon this promise, and is nothing else but the manifestation and result of that negotiation between them before the beginning of the world. The gospel is nothing else but this piece of gold beaten into lead. We cannot rightly understand the gospel till we understand this transaction, because the gospel is nothing else but the explication of this first promise of God to Christ. Now these great acts of election and creation being the acts principally of the Father, and done for the glory of Christ, and the completing under him an eternal kingdom, it will follow, that the Father was also principal in all the designs of Christ, and in what he did. All things are for the elect, the elect for Christ, Christ for God. The glory of God stands at the top, as the chief end of all: 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23, 'All are yours, you are Christ's, and Christ is God's'. They were all created for Christ as the immediate end, for God as the ultimate end, and therefore now ruled and governed by Christ; and at last the kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father, that God may be all in all, 1 Cor. xv. 24.
(5.) All the thoughts of God in all ages of the world were about this concern. Christ owns this in his acknowledgement to God: Ps. xl. 6, 'Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts to us-ward; they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.' Some observe that this psalm has wholly a respect to Christ, by reason of the different placing the words of the title; the name of David in the Hebrew being put before the word psalm, "ledawid mizmor", and rather to be rendered, 'To the chief musician, concerning David, a psalm,' i. e. the antitype of David, Christ being called David, Hos. iii. 5, Jer. xxx. 9. He that speaks of the innumerable thoughts or consultations of God about this, is the same person that speaks, ver. 6-8; which words are applied to Christ, Heb. x. 6-7, and those verses seem to tell us what those counsels of God which appear so admirable were, viz. about redemption by Christ. To this result did they all come, that 'Sacrifice thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me.' The infinite numberless thoughts of God centre in this one thing, of making Christ the foundation of the reconciliation intended, and exalting him thereupon. All the thoughts of God discovered to us in the Scripture refer to this; the spirit of prophecy seems to be given chiefly for the publication of this. This God spake by the mouth of all his holy prophets ever since the world began, concerning the sufferings of Christ: Acts iii. 18, 'Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has fulfilled.' Concerning also his exaltation, and the completing of his kingdom, it was spoken 'by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began,' ver. 21. This thing run so in the mind of God, that he would have all the mouths of all his prophets filled with it; and when prophecy began first to breathe in the world, it was to declare this grace of God. Not a signal prophecy revealed since the foundation of the world, but there was something of Christ in it. 'The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,' Rev. xix. 10. The prophetic Spirit which was from the beginning of the world, was a witness of Christ, what God had appointed him to do; not one prophet is excepted, Luke i. 70, Acts x. 43. And therefore the Spirit is sometimes more large in those stories or passages which were types or declarations of Christ, than in other things; as in Abel's death by Cain, when nothing is spoken of the death of the other children of Adam. How lively and largely is the story of Joseph, a type of Christ in his sufferings and advancement, represented; David's flights, and his ascent to the crown; Solomon's temple, the particular description and punctual delineation of the Jewish ceremonies, all relating to this; the story of Jonah upon record, when many other prophecies were lost, chiefly as a type of his death in the belly of the whale, and of his resurrection in being cast out upon dry land, after three days' lying in the pit. The law and the prophets appear two distinct things at the first sight, as Moses and Elias at Christ's transfiguration appeared distinct from Christ, Mat. xvii. 8, 8; but when the cloud was removed, none but Christ was seen. So law and prophets centre in him, and his reconciling expiatory death; they, as it were, disappear, and Christ appears to be the full sum and scope of them, when we lay our eyes nearer to the divine mystery. His whole undertaking was enclosed in the types, and represented by the prophets. God has discovered that all his counsels and thoughts from the beginning of the world were about this, and whenever he sent any prophetic message, it was a witness of Christ, or had some relation to him. This may give us an item how we should read the prophets with an eye to Christ, that our thoughts in reading may agree with God's thoughts in declaring. So that I think, from these put together, it appears that the Father is the principal author of our redemption; that the original of God's favour to lapsed men must spring from his own natural grace and goodness, that the death of Christ did not first dispose God to have mercy on us. The Father's love preceded the gift, and therefore preceded his resolution concerning the gift. The Scripture makes Christ's death everywhere the effect of God's love; what is the effect is not the moving cause; his first workings of mercy to us were not raised up by the death of the Redeemer.
|« Prev||2. Second thing. That God the Father must needs…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version