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General use of the doctrine.
(1.) This declares the excellency of the Christian religion above any other that ever was in the world. All the philosophy and learning in the world can never acquaint us with these mysteries. In the gospel we see the face of God unveiled, whereas with natural light we can but feel or grope after him Acts xvii. 27. He is not far front us by the light of nature, but in a cloud not barefaced; but the light of the glory of God shires forth in the face of Christ. How does this way of the gospel shame all other religions, all other notices of God! It resolves the question, which nonplusses the natural learning of the world, and gives light to the impossibilities of reason. No other knowledge presents us with a reconciled God, and a reconciling Jesus; this only salves the honour of God, repairs the ruins of nature, ensures the happiness of the creature, and discovers an eternal inheritance upon a firm foundation; this varnishes all God's attributes, calms the conscience, cures natural jealousies of God, and restores the creature to answer the end of his creation; this declares things worthy of God, honourable to him as well as beneficial to the world; it shows him in the heights of his wisdom, and the depths of his holiness, the length of his love, and the breadth of his justice.
[1.] It declares the glory of God. We know something of God by natural reason, but the full story of his glorious perfections is not printed in the book of the creation, as in that of redemption. Hence, when he speaks of his redeeming design, he often adds, 'that I may be glorified,' Isa. xlix. 8, lx. 21, as though he had no glory lying in the womb of creation, but all was to spring out from that of redemption. The creation of the world was but a preparation to this; the creation was too dim a glass to show the image of God's glory. He seems to intimate, Isa. xiii. 5, 6, that his creating the heavens and stretching them out, the spreading forth the earth, and that which comes out of it, and giving breath to people upon it, was as a stage on which he would call Christ to act the highest part, as a covenant for the people. He laid the foundation of the old world, to build those new things upon The glory of the creation was too low for a great God to rest in. Upon sin the creation was laid waste, and the glory of God had sunk with the ruins of it, bad not this succeeded. This restored to him the glory of his creation, with interest and increase. His stretching out the heaven and spreading the earth had glorified his power; the damning man upon his fall had honoured his justice; where then should the standing angels have had prospect of his tenderest love, immense wisdom, and severest justice? He had never been known in his full beauty by any creature, had not the platform of this counsel been laid and executed; whence he calls his calling Christ in righteousness, to open the eyes of the blind, and committing the work of reconciliation to him, his glory, that he would not give to another, i. e. entrust in any other hands than in the hands of his Son, Isa. xlii. 6-8, peculiarly his glory, which he does not ascribe to himself so eminently in stretching out the heavens. His attributes were glorified, some in one act, some in another; here they kiss each other with mutual congratulations; mercy rejoices that justice is satisfied, justice rejoices that mercy is manifested, wisdom and holiness join the hands of mercy and justice together. In other things they are scattered in various subjects, here they are banded in one knot, and shine forth with united beams. In which respect Christ may be said to be 'the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person,' as well as in that of his deity, Heb. i. 3, carakthr, wherein we may see the perfections of God engraver as visibly as a stamp upon the seal, his wisdom, mercy, justice, holiness, and truth. 'The light of the glory of God' breaks forth 'in the face of Jesus Christ,' 2 Cor. iv. 6. In the actions and sufferings of Christ, God exhibits himself in the glory of his nature, and gives a fuller view of himself, who was but imperfectly known before. Here the world may see him in the beauty of trig holiness, the condescending sweetness of his nature, the severity of his justice, the inexhaustibleness of his bounty, and brightness of his wisdom; thus he shows himself at once clearly legible in all his perfections. What religion in the world gives us such an account of God? What discovery did so fully evidence him in his robes of royalty at once? Never was the earth seen so full of the glory of God, as in the mediation of Christ; then was there glory to God in the highest ascents, a glory reaching as high as the highest heavens, when there was peace on earth, Luke ii. 14.
First, It manifests his wisdom. which shoots forth with clearer beams in his Son than in the creation. In which regard Christ is called 'the wisdom of God,' i. e. the highest discovery of his wisdom. There is a counsel, as well as will, in the more minute passages of his providence; but there is a more glorious workmanship of wisdom in the work of reconciliation, a manifold wisdom in laying the reconciliation frame with advantage to the glory of his name, and the welfare of the creature, which could not be conceived by angels or men before they saw it unfolded, for it was hid in God from the beginning of the world, and was not then made known to the angels, Eph. iii. 9, 10. What is the frame of heaven and earth to this? Just as his power and wisdom is in the making a clod of earth, to that which appears in the fabric of a man. In the creation it is like a sunbeam through the cranny of a wall, this like the sun facing us in its full glory; he is the only wise God, as he is our Saviour, Jude 25. And the apostle fixes the best note to it, when he calls it 'all wisdom and prudence,' wherein God abounded too: Eph. i. 8, 'Wherein he has abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence.' All wisdom in contriving and determining the way, prudence in ordering and disposing the means consonant thereunto, wisdom in drawing the platform, and prudence in digging through all impediments, and making even the seeming obstacles serve as steps to the execution. How great was that wisdom that restored us by that logoV, that Word, whereby he had created us, and appointed his Son, who had an holiness exactly to obey him, and a power to bear the weight of whatsoever was necessary, to make up the breach! And this mystery he kept secret in his own breast from the beginning of the world, revealed to none distinctly, but by the gospel, after the incarnation of Christ, that it might evidently appear to be the work only of his wisdom, and therefore called 'hidden wisdom,' 1 Cor. ii. 7; whence the apostle, speaking of this as a mystery kept secret, breaks out into the praise of God for it, as 'The only wise God,' Rom. xvi. 25-27. What religion in the world declares the security of God's rights with man's happiness? What doctrine beside this answers all contradictions, and discovers justice possessing all its rights, and mercy fully answered in all its desires?
Secondly, His power. As the Father was in Christ reconciling the world, Christ was the power of God, as well as the wisdom of God: 1 Cor. i. 24, 'Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.' The power of God in breaking the heart of the enmity by the death of the cross, and overthrowing all the designs of the evil spirit. The power of God is manifest in sustaining all things after the foundation of the world tottered, more than if he had destroyed this world and made a new one. That man has a mighty power over his own passions, that when he is extremely injured without giving the least occasion, yea, and against multiplied benefits, should study ways of reconciliation with that person, though he knew he should receive new slights from him upon the offers of such kindness; a mightier power would be manifest over himself, if he should part with his dearest friend, or a beloved son, to expose him to contempt and ignominy, for renewing the amity between him and his ungrateful adversary: such a man would have a mighty power and royalty. Rex est qui sibi imperat. Other things show the power of Clod over the creatures, this is as it were power over himself. If the pardon of one sin, or the sins of a nation, argue the greatness of God's power,óNum. xiv. 17, the power of God is pleaded by Moses as an argument to pardon the provoking Israelites, 'Let the power of my God be great,'ómuch more does the reconciling a world. Here is a power over his own wrath, deeply provoked by his offending creatures; a power over his own affections and love to his Son; a power over himself after such vast provocations, and a foresight of more, enhanced by ingratitude and slights of his creatures, and studying ways of reconcilement, while the offender was exercising fresher hostilities against God. It is an inconceivable power, and greater than that which is visible in the creation, and will be acknowledged so by those that understand the evil of sin, and the immense provocations offered to the justice of God. What religion in the world gives us any notice of so vast a power in God, as the gospel does in this case?
Thirdly, The wonders of his goodness. How is the gospel an edition of God's heart, as it wrought from eternity! An unfolding, and opening of his bowels which lay secretly yearning! This 'brings life and immortality to light,' 2 Tim. i. 10, which lay locked up in the cabinet of God's purpose, till they were unlocked and brought down to men in the gospel. In this we may see the scheme and model of his thoughts, the method of his counsels, the treaties about man's recovery, all the motions of his goodness, in its descent to earth and ascent to heaven, carrying at last the creature with it, to the wearing an eternal crown upon its head. How did he prepare all things for man's recovery, before man's fall, which was foreseen by him, and decreed to be permitted, providing a medicine before the disease, and a solder before the crack, casting about to reduce rebels to amity, before they had A being wherewith to rebel! Where is that religion, besides, that presents us with such draughts of divine love, that declares its secret resolves and transactions, that tells us of such an immense flood of bounty flowing down upon mankind! The heathens regarded God as severe, though they saw testimonies of his patience, they saw not those springs of kindness bubbling up in his own breast; they imagined them squeezed out by their sacrifices and solicitations, and purchased by their services. Here is the goodness and tender compassions of God making the first motion, laying on one colour after another, till it was brought to perfection. The gospel shows us God contriving redemption by his own wisdom, drawing it with his own hand, working it by his own power.
All this shows the excellency and amiableness of his nature. Honourable to God, a pattern of goodness to men, the highest incentive to a worship, adoration, and service to him, to all those duties which are most fit for a creature toward God, admiration of him, self-humiliation, dependence, ingenuous obedience: such discoveries of God leave men without excuse in all their contradictions to him. He is not represented in the gospel with his standard up, his weapons sharpened, his bow bent, and his arrows prepared, unless against inveterate and wilful unbelievers; but the gospel draws him to our view sheathing his sword, placing his arrows in his quiver, not in his bow, with his arms open, his countenance smiling; means sufficient to make us sink down in self-abomination, and rise up in the choicest affections to God. No religion represents God so admirably, so amiably to man, so worthy of himself, and with greater motives to those duties which become a creature; and therefore this has an excellency above all other religions in the world.
[2.] It has an excellency above all other religions, in showing the true way of attaining peace with God, and thereupon peace in ourselves. 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself;' not in any other methods, not in purifications and washings superstitiously practised by the heathens; not in sacrifices of beasts, though commanded to the Jews; but only as types of the great sacrifice God intended. All other ways of appeasing God are fond and foolish, cannot find a foundation in common and ordinary reason; they disparage God rather than honour him, in such mean and sordid thoughts of him, as though an infinite justice could be bribed by the blood of a beast. All other religions widen the breach, but do not in the least close it. But here we gee a God of peace, and a prince of peace embracing each other, and 'the voice of the turtle is heard' in the world. The gospel is the dove bringing an olive-branch of peace, put into its mouth by God. It brings us news of the allay of his wrath, which was due to our sins, and that his sword is blunted by himself in the bowels of his Son, that it might not be sheathed in ours. It shows us a shelter for storms, a light in God's countenance even in the shadow of darkness. Here God draws near to man, that man may have access to him. He makes his Son like to man, that man might be rendered capable of approaching to God. Two natures are joined in one person, that there may be an amiable conjunction of two different parties; he exposes his beloved Son to the strokes of his justice for a time, that he might reassume his life with honour for ever. It is a way that reason cannot disapprove of, since nothing could conduce more to the honour of God, and nothing more establish the peace of the creature. Other religions have framed mediators of their own, deified men, whereby they might have access to God. God in the gospel presents us with n mediator of his own choosing, of his own fitting, of his own ordering; one that he will not refuse, whose intercessions ho is pleased with; that he might keep off the darts of divine justice from us, that we might 'draw near through the veil of his flesh,' Heb. x. 20, that we may look upon God in Christ, without being dazzled by his glory, or scorched by his wrath. Now may devouring fire and combustible stubble meet together; fire without scorching, stubble without consuming. Here misery may approach to glory, because glory condescends to misery. Hereby guilt is removed, which makes us incapable of access to God; and wrath is removed, which hinders our actual access. Here may all that will believe in God through Christ and conform to his laws, walk in the midst of the furnace of God's justice without having an hair of their heads touched, without feeling the smart of that which will ho quick in consuming unregenerate men. Since nothing else discovers any peace with God, no doctrine else can make any peace in the conscience. It is the old way gives rest to the soul, Jer. vi. 16, the way as old as the first promise of a reconciler. All other ways, if rightly considered, rather promote than allay suspicions of God. Conscience has no ground to make any comfortable reflection, without some plain declaration of God's reconcilableness and reconciliation. Conscience can show us our guilt, but nothing in the world evidences the way of our peace but the gospel; no other religion discovers God in treaty about reconciliation.
Herein the Christian religion transcends all others; it glorifies God, and dignifies the creature. Salvation is bestowed upon fallen man, but the honour of all redounds to God, 'that no flesh may glory in his presence.' Here is an admirable temperament of justice and mercy, in the reconciliation of God and the creature: Hosea ii. 19, 'I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and judgment, in kindness and mercy.' Judgment in the satisfaction by the surety, an efflux of mercy in requiring no portion at our hands.
(2.) Second information. If God be the author of reconciliation and redemption, then the knowledge of this, the declaration of the gospel, is an inestimable blessing to a nation. What better news can God send to men? The very declaration of it is a lifting a nation up to heaven: Mat. xi. 23, 'And thou, Capernaum, that art exalted to heaven.' The Bibles in our hands are inexpressible blessings, since God has made a large comment upon that first promise which he gave to Adam; God has declared to the world in full, what he gave Adam as it were in a scrip of paper, he has unfolded in his word the mystery, brought it to perfection, and proclaimed it openly, and given us a glass wherein we may see his glory. The discovery of Christ in the flesh was a greater glory belonging to the second temple than what was in the first, notwithstanding all its ornaments and riches. The people wept when they saw the beauty of the second temple inferior to that of the first; and indeed there was wanting in it the propitiatory, the holy fire, Urim and Thummim, the spirit of prophecy, and the ark of the testimony, yet, Haggai ii. 9, God tells them, 'the glory of the latter house should be greater than that of the former,' though it wanted all those things. The matter of it was not so precious, the condition of the inhabitants was more grievous. The temple was often pillaged, by Antiochus, Pompey, Crassus. There must be some other gift proportionable to the majesty of that God who had promised, as the words following declare, 'I will give peace.' Not a temporal peace, for they never had such cruel wars as after the building of that temple; but a spiritual peace, a peace between God and man, between God's justice and our sins, by the means of the Messiah. He would not adorn the temple with riches; he could if he would, for the gold was his and the silver his, ver. 8. But the declarations of peace which should be wrought in that city, and published in that temple, was the glory of the place. What though a nation should be brought to poverty and disgrace, have the waves of all kinds of afflictions go over their heads, while God keeps up the declarations of a spiritual peace, while he proclaims still the reconciliation he is the author of! That nation is still glorious, though externally miserable. God never employed his thoughts so much about the riches and honour of a nation, the gold and ornaments of the temple, as about the reconciliation of man. While God declares that to a people which is the subject of his thoughts, the delight of his heart, the glory of a nation is preserved, but when once he shuts his mouth, and will speak no more
when his voice shall not be heard in our streets, when he shall shake off the dust of his feet against us, then we may write Ichabod upon ourselves, the 'glory is departed,' though wealth and outward glory should stay behind. The proclaiming the everlasting gospel is the fall of Babylon. When the auger comes forth with the everlasting gospel, Rev. xiv. 6, he is presently followed by another that brings the tidings of Babylon's fall: ver. 8, Babylon is fallen, is fallen.' The removing the everlasting gospel is the rising of Babylon, and makes way for an army of judgments. Desolation follows upon a nation when God's 'soul departs from them,' Jer. vi. 8 and his soul departs from them when he breaks off any further treaties With men upon the articles of peace in the gospel. The gospel is nothing else but a proclamation of the articles of peace. His thoughts of peace were the cause of his sending Christ, the accomplishment of the reconciliation is the ground of proclaiming it. He sent Christ to effect it, and his Spirit in the gospel to ratify it. It is called by the title of 'the word of reconciliation,' 1 Cor. v. 19, as though nothing else was intended in it, but to make God and man at peace together actually. It is a declaration of his ardent desire to return into amity with us, that he is satisfied by the death of his Son, and can admit us, without any contradiction to his justice, and with a stronger security than at the first creation. What a mercy is it that God should make known his gospel to us, and not to all in the world! If he did not intend to be reconciled to some in a nation, he would never transmit it from one nation to another. He has made known his Godhead and power to all, Rom. i. 20 but not his placability and mercy to all. Men may know by natural light that God is merciful, and yet not know that he has erected a propitiation for the world in Christ, and without this distinct knowledge no man can be saved under the New Testament; and by all the knowledge of God's mercy in the world, they were never able to arrive to this without a special revelation, no more than by the knowledge of the nature of a candle they can arrive to the knowledge of the nature of the sun in the heavens. Is not this a glory, a happiness? What praise does God deserve from us for it!
(a.) Third information. This doctrine acquaints us with the whole concern of faith. It shows,
[1.] What a strong foundation of faith we have. God chose him, called him, counselled him: he is wise, and would not choose a feeble and uncertain reconciler, unable to manage the business committed to him, he is immutable, and in regard of the holiness of his nature, will not and cannot recede from his own choice and approbation, he has done all that he can possibly to show himself placable and pacified. Christ has done all which concerned him, to the high satisfaction and content of God. All the business lies on our side, whether we will join issue with God in it; whether our hearts shall endeavour to run parallel with the counsel of God in it; whether his approbation shall be the joyful measure of ours. What high ground have we to own and accept this pacification; or what pretence can we have to refuse it? If we do not refuse it, God carrot. His act Lath been already passed, for Christ is a reconciler of his election. It is his glory and our security, that he is a God that changes not: Mal. iii. 6, 'For I am the Lord, I change not, therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.' Which seems to me to be spoken in relation to the messenger of the covenant, ver. 1, and not to the words immediately foregoing, ver. 5. As if God should say, I will punish, for I am unchangeable in my justice; which would infer rather their destruction than their preservation: but I have decreed the sending the messenger of the covenant, and I am unchangeable in this purpose, and in the accomplishing all the fruits of his coming, therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed. The assurance is stronger, since the decree has been manifested, and the satisfaction accepted by the injured Father. God has provided such a satisfaction to himself, in the death of his Son, as is answerable to the greatness of the creature's guilt, a remedy for the creature's fears. The God who was offended is pacified; the law which cursed the sinner is satisfied, the honour of God, which stood in the way of happiness, is repaired, He sent him when we did not desire him, he sent him when we did not expect him; when there was scarce any faith in the promise of the Messiah left in all the land of Judea, and sent him not to procure a temporal good, but the favour of God, which is the womb of inconceivable happiness; and was so far from dealing with us as enemies when we were in his hands, that he did the utmost he could to lay a foundation of amity, and put the management of it into the hands of the person dearest to him, whom he could only trust.
Had God spared any cost to reconcile us, our doubts might be excusable; but since he has discovered a combination of gracious acts about Christ, that his thoughts only run upon this, and had no other intention but the glory of his name in the happiness of the offending creature; there is no room for distrust if we embrace his conditions. The very end of raising him and giving him glory, and therefore of all the actions preceding, was 'that your faith and hope might be in God,' 1 Pet. i. 21, that you might believe him to be a God reconciled, and thereupon hope for all blessings from him which he has promised. As crucified, Christ is the object of faith; as exalted, he is the ground of faith. This sufficiency of Christ as a ground of faith, God Lath witnessed in the highest manner possible: 1 John v. 7, 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and those three are one,' i. e. that give an heavenly and divine authority to this truth. The word heaven is not to be taken for the place or local heaven, for many there bear witness to it, innumerable companies of angels, and martyrs, and glorified spirits but we must understand it of an extraordinary testimony. (As Job xx. 27, when it is said, 'The heaven shall reveal his iniquity,' i. e. God, by an extraordinary judgment, shall manifest to man, that he was a wicked creature.) 'And these three are one,' not only in their essence, but in their testimony, which gives a greater strength to this witness; as the testimony of a man is stronger, when it is in conjunction with the testimony of others, who are worthy to be credited; and this record is, that faith has a strong foundation, and will have a blessed success; it was the whole purpose of the blessed Trinity to join together in this extraordinary witness in all their acts, that Christ is a full ground of faith in God, so that now a faithful person may highly plead this, Lord, I present thee with a mediator of thy own choice. Thou did choose him for me, before I did choose him for myself; thou did counsel him to undertake this office, before thou did command me to accept him; thou did call him to be a reconciler, before thou did call me to be reconciled; thou did bruise him for me; this is thy only act, and this I plead, and upon this foundation will I rest the weight of my soul. It is a ground for a brace plea; for God would not busy himself about any thing that should have no effect. God would not deceive his people, and feed them with vain hopes in a business of so great a concern; he will not go back from his own appointment, he cannot go back from his own word, his own deed, his own counsel, which he is pleased with, especially since it was not by permission, as Adam's sin was, but by his grace, which makes, in the apostle's judgment, the efficacy of Christ's death stronger for reconciliation, than Adam's offence was for the breach of amity: Rom. v. 1a, 'If through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many,' i. e. acting all along in it and with it in a way of grace from the first original of his gift, and therefore it abounds, i. e. is more efficacious to the salvation of men, than Adam's was to their condemnation.
[2.] It shows us the nature and necessity of faith. God has appointed Christ a mediator between himself and man. God has testified himself reconciled in this mediator, all his acts about him signify those things. Faith on our parts is nothing else but an act of our souls, answering to those acts on the part of God. As God chose him, commissioned him, accepted him, glorified him, so faith is a full approbation of all the acts of God in this concern. A choice of Christ, an acceptance and glorifying him, putting our concerns into his hands, receiving him as our mediator and king, upholding him, a; far as creature-ability reaches, in his office; resting in him, in his precepts by obedience, in his promises by dependence; and by such terms faith is set out in Scripture. As God looks to him as his rest, Isa. lxvi. 2, so we are to look to him and be saved, Isa. xiv. 22. As God looks unto him faith all the affections of a God, we should look unto him with all the affections of a creature. A mediator must be accepted by both parties that are at variance, and they must stand to what that mediator does. As when two princes are at difference, and a third interposes to make an agreement between them, they must both consent to accept of that prince for mediator, and both put their Concerns into his hand; he can be no mediator for him that does not accept of him in that relation. God has appointed this mediator, and settled him in this office, because God and man did not stand upon equal terms, God being the sovereign and only offended, man being the offending criminal. God has declared himself fully contented, and has complied with all the conditions of the first agreement; it only rests now that man will accept of him for those purposes for which God did constitute him, and comply with those conditions which God has settled. This is necessary; God saves no man against his will, and he that does not join issue with God in consenting to this, declares he has no purpose to be saved by him.
There must be some mediator to make God and man meet in agreement, to answer all the ends of God, and restore the fallen creature; God has appointed no other than his Son; if men could find out any other and propose him, God is not hound to accept of him. But what mediator can man appoint to treat with God? Without consent to this person, man is utterly undone, for all the wit of men and angels cannot find out a person fit for so great a business. If it were possible, it is an increase of the crime, and a high presumption for a criminal to stand upon terms, and refuse the person the prince chooses to mediate for him, when there can be no exceptions against him, which shows the necessity of faith in Christ, in whom God has been reconciling the world, and only in him, and the duty of the creature to acquiesce in God's contrivance and constitution. God has taken a full measure of Christ and all his sufferings, and found him complete, therefore our faith should be complete in him. As God has singled him out from angels and men to be an expiatory sacrifice and a great king, no faith suits itself to this act of God in singling Christ out from all other competitors to be a reconciler and Lord, and the righteousness of God from all other righteousness. This faith must not be a naked assent, as God's act about Christ was not a naked assent, but a full, hearty consent; a joy in him, an acceptation of him with all his affections. So must ours be.
[3.] It shows us the true object of faith. Not God in the simplicity of his own being, not Christ alone in his incarnation and death, but 'God ire Christ.' As God was in Christ reconciling the world, so God in Christ is the object of faith. God is the ultimate object of faith, Christ the immediate object: John xii. 44, 'He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me;' not on me ultimately, his faith is directed to God; as he that believes an ambassador does not only give credit to him, but to the prince that sent him. And to God, not as creator, but as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; to God as ordering, to Christ as acting; to God as commissioning, to Christ as commissioned: John xiv. 1, 'You believe in God, believe also in me;' in God as the author of all good, in me as the mediator and purchaser of all grace; in God as the first author, in Christ as the faithful executor. God is the sun, Christ is the beam; our eye ascends to the sun by the beam, but terminates not in the beam, but in the sun. Faith ascends ultimately to God, as being the head of Christ, 1 Cor. xi. 3, and the salutation is first, 'Peace from God the Father,' 1 Cor. i. 3, the fountain and spring of all that Christ did. In Christ, we see the smiles of God; in Christ, we hear the joyful sound of his bowels, in Christ, we feel the beatings of his heart. The Father is the reconciled, the Son the reconciler, faith is therefore called faith towards God, Heb. vi. I, and we are said to 'believe in God through Christ,' 1 Peter i. 21, and 'through his name,' Acts x. 43. God is the primary and principal object, Christ the immediate; both must be taken in. He that believes not in the Son, believes not in the Father; he that believes not in the Son as reconciler, believes not in the Father as reconciled. He that believes not in the satisfaction and mediation of Christ, believes not in the Father satisfied, for 'he that honours not the Son, honours not the Father which has sent him, John v. 23, for they are one in the work of redemption, and in all the grace which flows down to us, as wolf as in nature. As Christ is the Son, equal with the Father, we believe in him as God; as he is mediator, we believe in him as God's servant, furnished by him with authority and ability. He is the proper object of faith, as being one with the Father. If he were not God, he could not be the object of trust: Jer xvii. 5, 7, 'Cursed is the man that trusts in man; blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord.' And a blessedness is pronounced to those that trust in the king God has set upon Sion, Ps. ii. 12, and in the chief corner-stone he has laid in Sion, 1 Peter ii. 6. He is the mediums of our faith, as he is God's servant. We believe in God as the author, we believe in Christ as the means. Faith fastens upon Christ as a gift, upon God as the donor. It receives Christ as God's token and gift of transcendent kindness, and from ravishment with this gift, the soul ascends to confidence in the giver. It reads God's heart in Christ, sees the glory of God in the face of Christ, and mounts up to clasp about one who has declared himself in amity. We eye Christ as the expiation, God as the judge; we see Christ upon the cross and in heaven. But we consider by whose authority he. is there, for what ends he is there, and both the authority and the ends lead us naturally to God, to place our confidence in him as the rector, the acceptor, and in Christ as mediator. For faith is a grace that comforts the soul; joy and peace comes in by believing, John xv. `13. What joy can there be in Christ's actions and passion, unless we regard God the Father as concerned in them? God is a God of all comfort, as being u God of all peace. All Christ's sufferings signify nothing but as they refer to God, and have his approbation and concurrence; so our faith is not right, and signifies nothing, which does not make the whole honour redound to God.
[4.] It shows the acceptableness of faith to God, and the high pleasure he takes in it. Faith is an approbation of God's actions herein, and of the whole scheme; it is a sealing the counterpart, as God's act was a sealing the original deed; it is a testimony to the glory of all those attributes he honoured in the mediation of Christ: as Abraham by his faith 'gave glory to God,' Rom. iv. 20. Faith does actively glorify God, and passively too, for every one that trusts in Christ is 'to the praise of the glory of his grace,' Eph. i. 12. To his truth and to his power, which were concerned, one in the intention of making good his promise, the other in his ability to perform it; so in believing in God as reconciled through Christ, and that he has taken off the curses of the law, and will bestow an everlasting righteousness, and relying upon him in a way of obedience, as Abraham did in that case, we acknowledge God's veracity, wisdom, holiness, justice, love; and we acknowledge (Christy love, tenderness, and sufficiency. It is an applauding the wisdom of God in his choice. Certainly, that God gives us so many exhortations to be followers of him, to be like him, is delighted to see men have the same sentiments with himself, to be like him in their judgments of things in regard of knowledge, and like him in the practice of things in regard of holiness; he delights to see that his Son's blood was not shed in vain; to perceive himself and his Son glorified by men in laying down their weapons. Every act of faith is a new glory to God; it is 'to the praise of the glory of his grace.' God justifies us by this way of reconciliation, and our acceptance of it justifies God from all charge and imputations from the creature, as the approving of John's baptism, Luke vii. 29, was a justification of God. Next to the joy God has in Christ, he has a joy in the beginnings of faith: there is 'joy in the presence of the angels,' Luke xv. 10. Christ has a joy in the faith and obedience of his people, John xv. 11; and when their faith is perfect, they shall at last be 'presented before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy:' Jude 24, 'The presence of his glory;' God will appear more glorious when he comes to see all the purchased and redeemed ones of Christ, that have approved of his gracious and wise contrivance, and given him the honour of his attributes by a believing obedience to his will. 'With exceeding joy;' since the subject of this joy is not determined in the text, it may be understood of the joy of God, of the mediator, of the saints. 'Presented'; God shall receive the presents en egalaliasei, with an exulting joy.
(4.) Fourth information. We see here the strength and sufficiency of Christ for all the concerns of his mediation. God would not have called him out for this work, had he not been able to accomplish it; he would never have laid the government of things, in order to a restoration, upon unable shoulders. God would no more have chosen him, or been pleased with any proposition of it, than he was pleased with sacrifice and burnt offerings. God would not fail of his end; his end was reconciliation; Christ therefore was able to pacify the sharpest wrath. It was not agreeable to God's wisdom to choose an unable or unskilful agent. God was certain of the event; he would never have exposed the human nature, united to the second person, to a task wherein it should have utterly sunk under the justice of God. God had more love to his creature, than to venture the eternal concerns of those he was resolved to save, in a weak bottom, that could not have resisted the sturdiest rocks and most blustering storms. God foresaw the vast number of those sins (though numberless to man) that stood in need of pardon, when he singled out Christ to this charge. It was for 'many offences' he intended the merit of Christ, Rom. v. 16, even for as many offences as those for whom he died would be guilty of, and he would not lay them upon the shoulders of one who was not able to bear them. He was every way able, in regard he had the same nature and glory with the Father; he was every way fit, in the affinity he had with both parties, whereby he could reach out his hand to both: the hand of his deity to the Father, that of his humanity to man. As God, he could satisfy for all mankind; as man, he could suffer. Had he not been every way fit and able, the Majesty of heaven, who was desirous of reconciliation, would not have pitched upon him. No creature could satisfy by suffering, because no creature had an infinite dignity in his person to render temporary sufferings of infinite value; nor could any creature present a service as valuable as the offence was provoking No man can be profitable to God, Job xxii. 2. Good services among men take not off the sentence of the law in a court of judicature, without a pardoning act of the supreme power. Where was there any creature who had strength enough to bear our sins, and dignity enough to satisfy for them? Our offences were too great a load for a creatures strength, or a creature's suffering, or expiation. Here was the humanity in conjunction with the divinity, to be the sacrifice; and the divinity in conjunction with the humanity, to be the altar for the sanctification of it. The whole method of God's proceedings assures us of the sufficiency of Christ for the work of mediation; had he not been fit, God would never have laid all his honour at stake in the choice of him to it. And the sequel shows that God is fully satisfied with it, since, on the consideration of it, justice forgets the injuries done to the Deity, and treats believers as heirs of heaven instead of rebels.
(5.) Fifth information. It gives an assurance of all spiritual and eternal blessings, since God was in Christ reconciling the world, and was the author of all the methods of it, and the acceptor of the performance. Christ must cease to be a reconciler, before God can cease to be reconciled. God was in Christ from eternity in the resolve of it; he has been in Christ in time in the acting of it; he will be in Christ for rendering the fruits of it fully ripe. Christ is the knot and baud of the reconciliation, and is gone to heaven in our nature to secure it. God is in Christ approving it, the second person is in the humanity ensuring it; his conducting Christ through the world in human infirmities to eternal glory, is an assurance that he will dignify all those that by faith lay hold on him, and lay down their weapons against him. If he be in Christ reconciling the world, he is in Christ wrapping up all other blessings for us; since it is an everlasting gospel, the womb of it is full of everlasting blessings.
[1.] God's end is not yet perfected. God has not attained his full end; reconciliation was but in order to further blessings. There may be a reconciliation wrought between parties, whereby a party is freed from punishment, without being partaker of a special amity. God did send Christ to make peace, not simply to be at peace with his creature, but to second it with other mercies which the enmity before was a bar unto. It is a reconciliation that teems with many more inexpressible blessings. The riches of his grace, and the glory of his grace, would not be fully displayed by a single peace. The mystery which he proposed in himself, was, that he might gather together all in one, even in cultist, to the full possession of the purchased inheritance, 'to the praise of his glory,' Eph. i. 10, 14; his glory would not attain its full praise without further blessings at the heels of this. He will rejoice in believers for ever. How can he rejoice in them if they never come to rejoice in themselves; if there be always a defect and indigence in them? The remnants of enmity will drop off, the appearances of anger in his face as a Father will one day for ever vanish, and every frown be smoothed. God is perfectly reconciled, but believers are not yet fully fit for all the fruits of it; but since he has been in Christ laying the foundation in grace, he will be in him rearing the superstructure to glory. God would be at peace with us, that he might bestow the highest kindness upon us. Justice stood in the way, and God would have his justice satisfied, that mercy might flow down without any obstacle. Since, therefore, he has been in Christ contenting his justice, he will be in Christ fully pleasing his mercy As infinite justice was not contented without the death of Christ, so mercy will not be contented without an efflux of benefits upon the believer. We should not understand God fully appeased, if things stood always at one stay.
[2.] The glory of God is concerned in it. If he be the author of it, he will no less be the guardian of it; the same motives of honour and love which excited him to contrive it, and brought it to this issue, will have the same influence on him to ripen all the fruits of it. As ho has the title of 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,' in regard of the whole interest he has in this affair of redemption, so the apostle gives him another title in relation to the same work: Eph. i. 17, 'The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.' He is the Father of glory, as he is the fountain of all the glory which accrues from this work; as well as he is the Father of glory subjectively, in the glory of the divine essence infinitely glorious; and objectively, as all glory is due to him from his creatures. He is the Father of glory, as all the actions of Christ did centre in the honour of the Father; or the Father of glory, as being the author of an those gracious and glorious communications designed to be bestowed by him, as the Clod of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon his creatures. It is by him, as the Father of glory in Jesus Christ, that a 'spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ' is given, a full and complete knowledge of him, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. If God designs to chew himself a Father of glory, as the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if he shows himself a Father of glory in increasing the knowledge of Christ by a spirit of wisdom in the hearts of his people and acquainting them with the riches intended for them, the crown of his glory would be dim if there were only n knowledge of it, and no possession at last, and full enjoyment of all that which Christ has purchased. How little glory would God get by acquainting them with it, if the knowledge of it should not at last mount up into fruition!
[3.] All that remains to be done in this kind is more feasible, and hat less obstacles than what already has been done. The grand obstacle to the fullness of his mercy, in regard of the demands of justice, is quite removed, the merit of Christ has surmounted the demerit of men; and what is behind is a lighter thing to the poller, wisdom, and mercy of God, than the laying the first stone of our redemption was. Since the delivery of his Son to death, which might have found resistance from the affections of the Father, has been performed, what is there that can be capable of any demur? How is it possible a believer should perish, since Christ has suffered to reconcile infinite justice, by the will of God? How is it possible he should miss of eternal happiness, since for God to give his Son to die for reconcilement, is infinitely more than the justification of him by his blood, and saving him through his life from wrath? Peace is the root of all joy and blessedness, and in the angels' song, good will towards men follows peace on earth. When peace is made, there is no bar to the highest manifestations of good will.
[4.] No enemies can possibly obstruct it. If God were in Christ reconciling the world, who can prevent the execution of his resolution to the full? Since it has been thus far carried on, all the venom of Satan spit out against a Christian, can no more deprive him of what God will do, than it could hinder what God has done. He was baffled in attempting the hindrance of it, though he engaged all the powers of hell in the contest; and was fooled, since the way he took to prevent it did eventually promote it; and in his resolving to be an hinderer, he was, by a reach of infinite wisdom beyond his own wit, made a furthered of it; and if he could not prevent the foundation, he shall be less able to deface the superstructure; and if the greater sins of unregeneracy did not hinder the influence and application of it, the infirmities after regeneration shall not obstruct the full perfection of it.
(6.) Sixth information. It shows us the unworthiness of man's dealing with God. God cannot do anything higher to sweeten our spirits towards him, he has not another or a dearer Son to give; nothing more can be acted upon the world for the security of the creature. There are no wider channels for the love of God to run in, no higher way to secure his honour from contempt, and his creature from vengeance. He was angry with us, and with good cause; we were children of wrath, and deserved it; God is appeased by the blood of Christ, he delights in the laying aside his anger, he has done his utmost to assure men of it.
[1.] Our rejecting Christ, and the way of his appointment, is a high contempt of God. It is a slight of God in the glory of his grace, an envying him the honour of the restoration. Adam envied his sovereignty and independence, and every unbeliever envies his wisdom and merciful bowels. Since his heart was set upon this work, that all the counsels of eternity centre in it, a deafness to his proposals is a contradiction to all his counsels, and the great desire of his heart. As faith in Christ redounds to the honour of God, as being an approbation of all God's acts in this affair, so unbelief of Christ redounds to the contempt of God, as slighting all those gracious manifestations of his grace and wisdom. As the murder of a man, and every degree of murder, in the contempt of him who is the image of God, is a dishonour to God in regard of the relation man bears to God in that respect, Gen ix. 6, so every unworthy usage of Christ, every act of unbelief, redounds to the dishonour of the Father, whose ambassador Christ is, and the exact image of his person. If men do not heartily think reconciliation by Christ worth their highest thoughts and entertainments, they reproach God, as if he were busy from eternity about just nothing, or a sleeveless matter, and run through so many stages in his acts about Christ to no purpose. It is a 'making light' of a rich feast of God's providing, Mat. xxii. 5, it is a self-destroying fury, worse than that of devils. It is a making all other sins against God more sinful: John xv. 22, 'If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin,' their sin had not appeared with so much malice.
[2.] Our jealousies of God. Men are fond of suspicions of God when they are struck down with a sense of their sin, though this despair is not so ordinary as presumption. This is a measuring God by man, and bringing him down to the creature's model; a contracting God's goodness according to the creature's scantiness. Can there be any just reflections upon God, after the manifestation of his earnestness for the reconciliation of man? If the owning God in those acts be a justifying God,óLuke vii. 29, 'They justified God,' óthe disowning him is a condemnation of God. As Abraham glorified God when he staggered not at the promise, but clasped it in his arms by faith, so we dishonour God inexpressibly, when we stagger not only at one promise, but at his whole scene of amazing, acts in the founding and carrying of his work in Christ. It is unworthy in any truly humbled soul to imagine God an enemy still, after all his mysterious contrivances for the relief of the creature, and his delight in his Son for answering his purposes.
[3.] Our enmity and disobedience to God, though God be in Christ reconciling the world, as therefore we disparage him by our jealousies of him, we also deal unworthily with him by sinful presumptions. There are terms expected to be performed by us; it is not a lazy belief, an assent to this, accompanied with a love of any one sin (which was the cause of God's anger), that gives men a title to it. As God's love in this, and his acceptation was not a lazy love, &c., neither must our faith. The application of it is not but to such a faith that purifies the heart. For us not to leave the love of sin, when God has quenched his wrath in the blood of Christ, is an unworthy usage of God, and cuts a man off from any interest in this reconciliation. Abraham's faith, whereby he glorified God, appeared eminent in this act of obedience, in a willingness to sacrifice his son. Not to endeavour to please God in a course of obedience, is to keep up our enmity under God's offers of amity. To presume upon his goodness, to act the highest unbelief under pretences of the contrary, to think God will be your friend while you persist in your enmity, is a contradiction to the whole tenor of the gospel. Faith in his promises is never accounted of, without faith in his precepts. As he has been a God in Christ reconciling the world, so he has been commanding in Christ the world to a submission, and it is outrage and high ingratitude not to endeavour to please God, since he has been so careful to please us.
[4.] Omissions of prayer. Has God done so much to render us capable of coming to him, and himself capable to receive us with honour to himself? And is it not very disingenuous and slighting to neglect this privilege, founded upon the counsels of wisdom, and the cost of the blood of Christ? Before, we could with no more comfort approach to God, than a guilty malefactor could to the judge; but since God has laid by his fury in Christ, and discovers an altering glory in the face of Christ, what can we plead for our neglects of his allurements, our seldom approaches to him, or our slight and lazy addresses? He uses his friend unkindly that will not make use of his friendship, and upon urgent occasions desire his assistance. All neglects imply either an inability or unwillingness in God, and both cast dirt upon his reconciling work, since there can be no greater evidences of his power and willingness than he has discovered in the whole working of it. We virtually deny the Father to be the fountain of all grace, when we go not to him; we deny Christ to be the purchaser of all peace, when we go not in his name. God sent Christ to 'consecrate a new and living way for us to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,' Heb. x. 19. By neglects we disparage God's mission, and Christ's consecration, and the liberty he has procured. What should we have done if we had been to approach to God as a judge upon a tribunal of justice, when we will not draw near to him as a judge upon a mercy-seat, through the reconciliation wrought in Christ?
Well, then, let us consider the danger of slighting this reconciliation. Well may that man deserve doubly the curses of the law, that will not believe and obey after God's demonstrations of the riches of grace; well may he deserve to be crushed in pieces under the insupportable burden of his own guilt, that will still be fond of his treason against a reconciling God. Shall the great king descend from the throne of his majesty to become a reconciler, and after that a solicitor, and feel nothing but heels lifted up (John xiii. 18) instead of hearts? Such an one is doubly a child of wrath: first, by nature; and after, by a particular refusal to become a friend. The interest of our souls lies at stake; without changing our unworthy courses, wrath will be executed upon us; God has provided no other reconciler, and is resolved not to let his weapons fall by any other motive than the blood of the Redeemer.
(7.) Seventh information. It shows us the way of all religious worship. If God be in Christ reconciling the world, all our recourse to, and dealing with, a reconciling God, must be in and through Christ. As God's motion to us is in Christ, our motions to Clod must be through the same medium. He is 'the way, the truth, and the life,' John xiv. 6. 'No man comes to the Father but by me;' as no man has the Father coming to him but by Christ, the way whereby God communicates truth and life to us, the way whereby we must offer up our true and lively services to him. As God is the ultimate object of faith, Christ the medium, so God is the object of worship, Christ the medium. As Christ is equal with God, he is the object of faith, the object of worship; as Christ is God's servant, he is the way whereby we believe, the way whereby we have access to God. The soul must be carried altogether by the consideration of Christ, in presenting petitions in his name; in expecting answers upon the ground of his merit. Ye must regard him as the meritorious cause of our access to the throne of grace, and our welcome at it. How can we go to God as reconciled, but in the name of the reconciler? We cannot come with any boldness upon any other account. It is by the knowledge of the Son we ascend to the knowledge of the Father, by the merit of the Son we have access to the throne of the Father, by the intercession of the Son we have access to communion with the Father; in the name of the Son, we are to ask what we want, and by the merit of the Son we must only expect what we beg. It is as 'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' that he communicates himself to us, Eph. i. 8; it is as the 'Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' we must 'bow our knees' to him, Eph. iii. 14, remembering still, that Christ is the band that links God and us together. What confidence can we have in God, if we respect him not as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for in him only he is the Father of believers, otherwise he is the Father of the whole world, a provoked Father; in Christ a reconciled Father. As the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our praises must be offered to him, 1 Pet. i. 3. All acts of worship are only acceptable to the rather through Christ: Heb. xiii. 15, 'By him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God;' all must have the stamp of this reconciler upon them. It is by his satisfaction we have the privilege to come to the holiest, before the seat of God, with our prayers and services. It is in his blood, the sword, set to prevent our entrance into paradise, has lost both its edge and flame. It is by the blood of Christ only we have this boldness, Heb. x. 19, 20. His blood is our best plea, his flesh our only screen from the wrath of God in all our services. We must, therefore, in all our services rest in his office, propose him as the mediator of our services.
(8.) Eighth information. There is then no mediator, no reconciler, but Christ. God is in Christ reconciling the world. In him, and none but him; in him, exclusively of all others. He is indeed 'the Christ, the Saviour of the world,' John iv. 42. By way of excellency! in regard of the danger he saves us from; by way of exclusion, in regard of the sole designation of his person, exclusive of all others. We must believe that Christ is he, the only person designed in the prophecies, promises, and types: John viii. 24, 'if you believe not that I am he.' There was none anciently but he; he was set up from eternity, he was the only lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This seed of the woman was only in the promise, only designed by the types; by this band only were the ancient believers united to God; in this Immanuel he was God with them as well as with us. None were courted God's friends before, but by his mediation; none can be since, because God has accepted no other. No ark, but that of God's appointing, could secure Noah and resist the force of the waters. None hereafter, he is 'the same for ever', he is today, as he was before, Heb. xiii. 8. The heart of God is fixed upon him, and his resolution concerning the duration of his office unalterable; he has summed up all the dispensations of former ages in him: Eph. i. 10, 'He has gathered together in one all things in Christ, even in him,' in no others All other things were preparations to him, shadows of him. But the perfection of all was in Christ; and God, who had various ways of communicating himself to men, has summed up his whole will in his Son, and manifested that all his transactions with men did terminate in his Son Christ, Web. ii. 1, 2. These are the last days, God will speak by no other.
[1.] None else was ever appointed by God. No other sacrifice was ever substituted in the room of sinners; none else was the centre of the prophecies, the subject of the promises, the truth of the types, no name erected for a shelter for the nations to trust in but this name: Isa. xlii. 4, 'The isles shall wait for his law;' Mat. xii. 21, 'In his name shall the Gentiles trust.' None else has the title of peacemaker conferred upon him, Eph. ii. 14, which title he has by his dentin on the cross, Col. i. 20. Those, therefore, that reject this way of mediation, must infallibly perish. He that will have any good by a prince, must go to that minister of state he has settled for that end. God has ordained no other mediator. God has thought none else fit to trust with his concerns, to do his work, restore his honour, receive glory from him. We must acquiesce in God's judgment, and not set up the pride of our reason and will, in contradiction to infinite wisdom. None else was ever honoured by the voice of the Father, testifying him to be his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. None besides him had this testimony, none in conjunction with him, none in subordination to him in the work of mediation; that he might be the first born among many brethren, enjoying all the rights of primogeniture. As God employed no other in the creation, so he employs no other in the restoration of the world.
[2.] None else was ever fit for this. Satisfaction there must be for the honour of God, that the law might be vindicated, justice glorified, holiness illustrated; none but Christ, an infinite person, was able to do all this. Security there must be to the Creator, that the honour of God might not be a lain at a loss. This could not be insured in the hands of a mutable creature; so that by any other mediator we cannot honour God by a suitable satisfaction, nor promise ourselves an unshaken preservation. Without infinite satisfaction, guilt must remain; without infinite power to preserve it entire, guilt would return. This mediator only had an alliance to both parties: to God, whereby he could call him Father; to us, whereby he could call us brethren. That God and man might be joined in one covenant of grace, the mediator of that covenant is God and man in one person. Had he been only God, he had had no alliance to our nature; bad he been only man, he had had no alliance to the divine nature, and had been an insufficient mediator, Incapable of performing what was requisite for our redemption. In this posture of fitness, there is none else in heaven and earth. Had the mediator been only man, he had been incapable of satisfying; had he been only God, he had been incapable of suffering; but being God and man, he was capable of both. No motive was powerful enough to appease the anger of the Father, but the blood of the cross; and no power strong enough to bear; no person worthy to present sufferings, but only this mediator. It was upon no other person that the Spirit descended like a dove, to furnish his human nature with all ability for the discharge of this trust. He is infinite,' and what can be added to infinite? If infinite be not sufficient to reconcile, finite beings must for ever come short of effecting it for us.
[3.] None else was ever accepted, or designed to be accepted, but this Mediator. No other surety was ever accepted by God for the payment of our debts. All sacrifices 'could not make the comers thereunto perfect,' Heb. x. 1, could not set them right in the esteem of God, and make a reconciliation with him; they were an image, not the life, and God accepted them as shadows, not as the substance; the repetition of them was a certain evidence of their inability to effect the reconciliation of man, Heb. x. 2, as the iteration of a medicine daily sheers its inefficacy to cure. The law was not able after our fall, by reason of our disagreement with the terms of it, to bring us near to God. God's justice and our sins stood in the way of amity, therefore God commanded bounds to be set to the people when the law was given, Exod. xix. 12, that they should not come near the mount. But the covenant of grace, veiled in the ceremonial law, was laid in the blood of Christ, typified by that blood sprinkled by Moses upon the people, Exod. xxiv. 8, to which the apostle alludes, 'the blood of sprinkling speaks better things than the blood of Abel,' Heb. xii. 24, than the blood of the firstlings, which Abel sprinkled, Gen. iv. 4, which was the first eminent type of the death of Christ upon record, which the Spirit of God mentions here as the first sacrifice, though no question Adam did not spend all that time between his fall and the growth of Abel to man's stature, without a sacrifice. Those sacrifices were poor and feeble, unworthy in themselves of the acceptance of God, not able to expiate sin, nor ever intended for propitiation, because they had no intrinsic value in them for such an end. But the blood of Christ, being the blood of the Lamb of God without spot, is a worthy and valuable price for the sins of the world. These, nor our own righteousness, were ever intended to be of worth, or strength, to expiate the sin of the soul and reconcile us to God; Christ is the only peacemaker, the only peace-conveyer; no other righteousness is called the righteousness of God, the righteousness of God's appointment, or the righteousness of God's acceptance. Anything in ourselves is too low and sordid to be joined with him. God has accepted none else, and we must have recourse to none else. Whatsoever we would join with him is unworthy of God's acceptance. None else was set forth to be a propitiation, and no means appointed of enjoyment, but faith in his blood. This blood was sprinkled upon the mercy-seat in heaven, as the blood of sacrifices was in the temple, which stilled justice, refreshed mercy, and revived it towards us.
[4.] None else ever did do that for us which was necessary to our reconciliation with God. None else ever interposed as a shelter between the irresistible wrath of God and our souls. He alone 'bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows,' Isa. liii. 4; he received into his own bowels that sword which was sharpened and pointed for us; 'by his stripes we are healed;' upon him alone did the scorching wrath of his Father fall for our peace. He trod the wine-press alone, none of the people were with him; he endured the bruises of his Father, and the reproaches of his enemies, and would not desist till he had settled the foundation of our peace. He bore the punishment of our sins, all our iniquities there considered by God in his person, and he paid what we owed. 'In one body' he reconciled us, Eph. i. 16; 'his own bode,' says Peter, 1 Peter ii. 24. None drew in the same yoke with him, none were partners with him in his sufferings, none sharers with him in his office. He sealed heaven alone, and alone made the entrance to his Father easy. None ever did, none ever could, answer the demands of the law, silence the voice of justice, by removing the burden of our guilt. He only filled up that gap and gulf which was between God and us; why should anything in our hearts carry away the honour of a Mediator from him, since none else removed the miseries we had deserved, and purchased the mercies we wanted? Till God therefore confers the title of peacemaker, and prince of peace, upon any other, own nothing else as a sharer with him in this honour; that would be to contradict God's order, deny his sufficiency, and contemn his kindness, and turn our backs upon the only tower that can hinder us from being crushed by the wrath of God. But, alas! men delight in their worm-eaten, withered righteousness, which they set up in the room of the Mediator; this, the grand cheat of the world, claims a precedence of Christ.
[5.] None else is appointed, or can secure to us the fruits of reconciliation. As God is in Christ reconciling the world, so he is in Christ giving out the fruits of that reconciliation, not imputing our trespasses to us. He is not only the Mediator of reconciliation, to make our peace, but the Mediator of intercession, to preserve it. He only took away our sins by his death, he only can preserve our reconciliation by his life. As he suffered effectually, by the strength of his deity, to make our peace, so he intercedes, in the strength of his merit, to preserve our peace. He did not only take away, but 'abolish and slay the enmity,' Eph. ii. 10, 16. He slew it, to make it incapable of living again, as a dead man is; and if any sin stands up to provoke justice, he sits as 'an advocate' to answer the process, 1 John ii. 2. All the gifts of grace, not only in their first purchase, but in their full conveyance and abundant communication, are 'by and through him,' Rom. v. 15. By him only we can come to the throne of grace; in this beloved Son only we are accepted for adopted sons, Eph. i. 6. To none else God gave children for a seed; children to beget, and preserve, and offer up to him at the last day. He rent the veil by his death, opened the holy of holies by his passion, and keeps it open by his intercession, that we may have a communion with God and a fellowship with angels by this only Mediator. Immanuel is a name only belonging to him, Isa. vii. 14; not that this was the name by which only he was called, but that this was his work, to make way for God's dwelling among the sons of men, and communicating to them the richest of his gifts. Not an angel in heaven but has his standing upon the account of Christ as their head; and therefore not a man upon earth can be secure under any other wing, or have the conveyance of grace through any other channel. He is the prosagwgeuV, the introducer of us into the inward chambers of the Father's goodness, where our bonds are cancelled, our pardon assured, and our Father, who was angry with us, falls upon our necks and kisses us. Our constant access to the Father is 'by him,' Rom. v. 2, Eph. iii. 12, 'access,' prosagwgh. He sits in heaven to lead us by the hand to the Father for whatsoever we want, as a prince's favourite brings a man into the presence of a gracious prince. The 'grace of Christ' is put in order by Paul before the 'love of God' and the 'communion of the Holy Ghost' in the benedictions, because it is the only band that knits us to God, and the foundation of every expression of love from the Father, and of every act of communion eve have with the Holy Ghost. Whatsoever grace God works in us is 'through Jesus Christ,' Heb. xiii. 21; he is therefore 'made to us wisdom and sanctification, as well as righteousness and redemption,' 1 Cor. i. 30. God transmits his virtues through Christ; as the heavens, which impregnate all things, transmit their virtues hither by the sun.
Well, then, let us have recourse only to this Mediator; the fire of God's wrath will consume us without this screen. It is the blood of the Lamb of God's appointment which can only secure us Irma the scorching heat of the wrath to come, typified by the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled upon flee posts of the Israelites' doors; not so much to be a mark to the angel, who could have known both the houses and persons of the Israelites from the Egyptians without that sign on the post, as to represent this mediatory blood of the Lamb of God as our only security from destroying fury. Let men make lies their refuse, and hide themselves under falsehood, the false coverings of their own righteousness, and think to shelter themselves from the overflowing scourge, Isa. xxviii. 15-17. It will be a miserable self-deceit, the hail will sweep away such a refuge, and the waters will overflow such a hiding-place. It is the corner-stone which God lays in Sion that is our only security, because he is only elect, 1 Peter ii. 6, chosen by God, and precious in his account, ver. 6; which is inserted (as some observe) between those two verses to show the miserable shifts of men to provide shelters for themselves, other mediations and mediators, not regarding the foundation God has laid, all which will end in self-destruction, as they began in self-deceit. All human satisfactions, intercessions of saints, refuge in any other righteousness, are weak hiding-places to preserve us from the overflowing waters of divine vengeance. No sure foundation but the stone God has laid in Sion.
One would think there were not so much need to press this information.; but whosoever will look into the world, and into his own heart, will find it necessary. What the papists do one way, many protestants do another; one sets up mediators without him, others set up mediators within them. The great business Christ urged in the days of his flesh was this, that he was the Messiah, the only person sent of God to redeem. Though men profess Christ is so, yet it is too common to bring in some sharer with him.
(9.) Ninth information. We may here see the incomprehensible love of God, in that he did not deal with us summo jure, as a severe law-giver. We are not deeply sensible of it; if we had a due sense of this love, we should have little kindness for sin. It was not a low kind of love, but 'exceeding riches of grace in his kindness towards us in Jesus Christ,' Eph. ii. 7. Grace never appeared in all its royalty but in Christ. A sweet combination of grace in the Father and the Son. Had the Son manifested his love in offering himself, nothing could have been done without the acceptation of the Father; had the Father manifested his lore in moving it, nothing could have been done without the Son's undertaking it. The first motion was from the Father, as the fountain of the Trinity; the execution was from the Son, by a free and dutiful acceptance of the offer of the Father. In this work God 'set his heart upon man,' Job vii. 17; the glorifying his name in the redemption of man was that which ran in his mind, and had the chiefest place in his heart from eternity. How great also is the love of Christ, since he was the person that the first sin was particularly against, as well as against the Father; it being an affecting of wisdom to be like God, and Christ was the wisdom of God. Every day's mercy is a miracle, but the mercies of our lives are to this of reconciling us by his Son, as a molehill to a mountain, a grain of sand to the whole frame of nature. When by our offence we were fallen under the sentence of the law, and shut up in the hands of justice, and could not satisfy for the offence, God pays a ransom out of the treasures of his own bowels, opens the heart of his dearest Son, and redeems us by the most precious thing he had: here love does come to the top of its glory, and does perfectly triumph.
[1.] His own love and compassion was the first rise of this reconciliation. This way by Christ was a 'new' as well as a 'living way,' Heb. xi. 20, not known by all the wisdom of man. New to men, new to angels, it could not enter into any of their hearts to conceive of it before it was declared. He purposed in himself, Eph. i. 9. It lay hid in the womb of his own love. There was none beside him from eternity to put up a request. It was the result of his bowels, before the being of any creature was the effect of his power. Though our justification, sanctification, and eternal blessedness be the fruits of the meritorious death of the Redeemer, yet the first source of all, in his mission and commission, was absolutely from the inconceivable love of God; whatsoever is merited by Christ for us, his first mission was not merited by himself; his personal relation to God rendered him fit for the honour and office of a mediator, but as mediator he did not merit his own sending into the world, because he was settled mediator by God, and sent, too, before he could as mediator merit. Christ did not die to render God compassionate to us, but to open the passage for his bowels to flow down upon us, with the honour of his justice. God's bowels wrought within himself, but the sentence pronounced by justice was a bar to the flowing of them upon man. Christ was sent to remove that by his death, that the mercy which sprang up from eternity in the heart of God might freely flow down to the creature. And when the time came, God looked about and 'saw that there was no man,' none to deprecate his wrath, and therefore 'his own arm brought salvation,' Isa. lix. 16, and 'his own righteousness sustained him,' i. e. his own truth and righteousness engaged in the promises made to the fathers. The satisfaction of Christ does not impair the kindness of God; his pity to us did precede the constitution of Christ. Had there been no compassion, there had been no contrivance, no acceptance of a mediator; but since he had threatened eternal death to sinners, there was need of an honourable reconciliation by death to maintain the honour of God's truth engaged in that sentence, and content his justice, which was obliged to execute the sentence for the honour of his truth. It was by the grace of God that Christ tasted death for us, Heb. ii. 9.
[2.] It is the greatest love that God can show. As Abraham could not skew a greater proof of faith and obedience than by offering his Son, the son of his affections, and his only son, so neither can God show a richer testimony of his affections to us than by making his own Son an oblation for us. Hoe mighty tender was God of our salvation! How valuable was man to him, when he prized him at the rate of his only Son i As high as God did esteem Christ, so highly did he value his own glory in man's reconciliation.
First. His love was more illustrious than if he had pardoned us by his absolute prerogative without a satisfaction. It had been a glorious mercy, but had wanted that enriching circumstance, the death of his Son; in this way he honours his mercy more than our sin had abused it. His mercy had not appeared in such sweetness had not Christ drunk the bitter cup; mercy sung sweetest when justice roared loudest against the Redeemer. Every attribute had a signal elevation in this way of reconciliation, but especially his kindness. We should have been happy had he pardoned us without a satisfaction, but neither his love nor his justice had been wound up to so high a strain. God did not aim only at the praise of his grace, but the praise of the glory of his grace, Eph. i. 6; he would have his grace appear in the richest attire, and with all the ornaments heaven could clothe it with.
This is evident,
First, By the condition of the person. He was his Son. Was it not the victorious triumph of mercy to make his Son a sufferer when we were the sinners, to make his own Son a servant to his justice when we were the debtors? He was his 'only begotten Son,' John iii. 16, not merely his own Son, but his only Son; he had but one Son in the world, and that Son he made a sacrifice for the world; he had not another begotten Son in being. He was 'the express image of his person,' one who was equal with God without robbery, or detracting anything from his glory, Philip. ii. 6; an only Son, enjoying the same majesty and perfections in the Deity with the Father; a Son dearer to him than heaven and earth; the Son he solaced himself with from all eternity, Prov. viii. 30, before ever any stone of the world was laid; and if we could suppose numberless worlds created before this, yet all his joy was placed in him. Can there be a greater assurance of the immensity of his love than in sending a Son that lay in his bosom; a Son who never in the least offended him, nor ever could? He always did the things which pleased him; and when he was in the world there was nothing in him that the devil could fasten upon as any resemblance to himself, John xiv. 30. In this Son was God reconciling the world. The nearer and dearer the Son was to the Father, the greater is the Father's love in pitching upon him to undertake this work. His love bore proportion to the greatness of that Son whom he sent.
Secondly, The condition in which he was sent. He was made lower than angels to stoop to the condition of a servant. To send an only Son out of his bosom to the cross, an innocent Son from glory to ignominy, and not upon a sudden resolve (which might be thought a passion), but by a deliberate counsel, never repenting of it, always glorying in it, even to this day, is a discovery of the most rooted affection. The lower the condition of Christ was, the more wonderful is the kindness of God in sending him in it. If we would walk into the garden and see Christ besmeared with clods of blood, step up to mount Calvary and see him hanging upon the cross, look up to heaven and see the bright sword sheathed in the bowels of the Son of God, see him with his scourged back, his nailed hands, his pierced side, ask then your souls this question, whether here be not bottomless love? whether any affection of God can be more miraculous than this, to give his Son to endure all this for our ransom, the Lord of glory to suffer this for rebellious malefactors? whether this is not greater kindness to you than if he had pardoned you without the sufferings of his only Son?
Secondly, It is a love that cannot be wound up to a higher strain. It is the utmost bound, if I may so speak, of an infinite love: 'God so loved the world,' John iii. 16. So, above the conception of any creature; so, that his affection cannot mount an higher pitch. His power could discover itself in laying the foundation of millions of worlds, and his wisdom could shine brighter in the structure of them; but if he should create as many worlds as there are sands and dust upon the face of this, and make every one of them more transcendent in glory than this, than the sun is above a clod of earth or an atom of dust, yet he could not confer a greater love upon it than he has done upon this; than to be, upon their revolt, a God in Christ reconciling those worlds to himself. There is not a choicer mercy than to be in amity with God, nor a more affectionate way of procuring and establishing it, than by giving his only Son to effect it: in giving whom, he contracts to give himself to be our God, and live with us for ever. If God should take the meanest beggar that lives upon common alms, and transform him into an angel, and make him the head of that heavenly host, it would be incomparably a far less love than the gift of his Son for him. A more condescending kindness cannot be conceived, unless the Father himself should become incarnate, and die for man; but that cannot be supposed. If the fountain of the Trinity, the Judge of all, should take flesh, and suffer, to whom should the offering be made? The rector and judge is to be satisfied, and it is not fit for the judge to make satisfaction to himself; but the Father has given that person next to himself to be our propitiation; most fit, as having the Father, the fountain of the Trinity, to offer the sacrifice of himself unto.
Thirdly, It is a greater love than has yet been shown to angels. The angels in heaven never did partake of such a vast ocean of love, for the Son of God never died for them, though they came under his wing, as a head exalted to that dignity, as a reward of his death. The angels came under him as an exalted head, but not as a crucified Saviour: they have their grace by the will of God, without the death of his Son; we by the will of God, through the death of his Son. What confirmation they have, they have it from Christ, by virtue of his headship over them, not by virtue of any death for them; and therefore they are, in the opinion of several, understood by the 'things in heaven,' which are 'reconciled to God,' Col. i. 20. What reconciliation is to us, confirmation is to them; yet there is not such an excess of love in their confirmation, as in our reconciliation by the blood of the cross. As the preservation of a life from death is less than the restoring life to one that is dead, the latter argues more of kindness, as well as more of power.
Fourthly, Take a prospect of this love by a review of the condition we were in.
First, Our vileness and corruption. What are we in our being but dust, slight and empty pieces of clay? Is it not wonderful that God, who has angels to attend him, should busy his thoughts about worms; that he, who has the beauty of angels, the most glorious piece of the works of his hands to look upon, should cast his eve upon such noisome dunghills; that he should not rest in the praises of angels, but repair such broken instruments as men are, to bear a part in the concert? If the sun knew its own excellency, it would think it a condescension to bestow a beam upon so dark and miry a body as the earth, that can return to it no recompense, much more is it in God, to look upon such pieces of clay as we are, much more to give out his grace and love to man, who can give him no requital. We would be loath to take a toad into our bosoms, and bestow our friendship upon it. By corruption we are worse than the most venomous toad that creeps upon the ground; yet God entertains thoughts of amity, and establishes it for us in the blood of his Con. We are unworthy of any one thought of unbounded goodness, much more unworthy of a thought of so high a strain. Would not any man think that king distracted, that should send his son to keep company with grooms and scullions, to wear the same livery, to advance them to a better state by his own blood? Nothing but the end fair which he does it, and the love which moved him to it, could excuse him. How much more condescending is God than the greatest prince in the world would be in this act!
Secondly, Impotence. When we lay wallowing in our blood, and it was the time of our weakness, that was the time of his love; when we had 'no eye to pity' us, nor a heart to pity ourselves, then were we the objects of his compassion, Ezek. xvi. 4-6, &c. When there was not one solicitor for us among all the holy angels, the peace was broken with them as well as with God, and we were justly hated by those holy spirits upon the Creator's account; when not a man in the whole race of mankind had any thoughts of presenting a petition for recovery; when God looked about, and to his astonishment, 'found none' that had any thoughts of interceding and soliciting a restoration, Isa. lix. 16; when there was not a person in heaven or earth besides himself could save us, 'his own arm,' without the least auxiliary force, 'brought salvation.' It is the glory of his love, that he was 'found of us when we asked not for him,' Isa. lxv. 1. What allurements were there in our nature, unless deformities and demerits could pass for attractives? We had not virtue to merit his love, nor ever shall have power to requite it; both are utterly impossible in a creature. God saw our demerits, it was in his thoughts, otherwise a reconciler had not been appointed; one to merit that for us, which we had forfeited, and never could have recovered. Justice might find cause of punishment in the rebellion of the delinquent, but grace could find no reason but in the pity of our Creator; the amazement of a true believer, when he comes to be seriously sensible of it, does manifest the impossibility of ever thinking of it himself.
Thirdly, Rebellion, which is worse than vileness and impotence. He was a God in Christ reconciling the world, when our enmity to him was as great as our misery; when we had not one spark of love for him, who had a boundless ocean of compassion for us. We had entered a league with Satan, the only enemy God had, rendered ourselves his bond-slaves, and that presently after our creation by his powerful hand; and it was far worse if Adam did know the sin and state of the fallen angels; howsoever his pride in his aspiring thought to be like his Maker was less excusable than that of the devil's, in regard that he was an inferior creature (though the devil's was greater, in regard of his greater knowledge of the excellency of God above him). Pride in a mean person is more odious than in one upon a throne. Then it is that he contrives with his Son, and by the blood of his Son, to redeem rebels; and though he disrelished and loathed the crime, yet he had a tenderness and pity for the malefactor, assured by an oath: Heb. vii. 28, 'The word of the oath, which was since the law, makes the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.' As the word of the oath was after the law the declaration of the oath after the declaration of the law, so in the eternal counsel of God, the constitution of the reconciler supposed a law enacted, and a law violated by transgression. After this, the cry of our sins for vengeance could not alter his resolve of sacrificing his Son, and bringing that vengeance upon the sins which they solicited against the sinner. How easy was it for God to have spurned us into hell, when we lay under his foot without all this expense! One touch of his iron rod would have broke us like a potter's vessel; yet he takes occasion to display his grace, where we give occasion to pour out his wrath. He would inflame us by his love, rather than turn us into ashes by his fury; and reconcile us to himself by the blood of his Son, rather than satisfy justice by our own.
Fifthly, It was a love in the freest manner; without cost to us, but expensive to God. We hear of no strugglings in the heart of God, from the first foundation to the topstone; his affections travel through every stage, without the least relenting; he was in Christ reconciling the world, from one end of his counsel to the other, without any repenting reflections. It cost him the blood of his Son, more expensive than the making millions of worlds. There was no need of any combat in his affections, to make as many worlds as he pleased; but we may wonder (since God represents himself to us often in Scripture according to the manner of men) that there were no pull-backs in his affections to the delivering up of his Son. If there be a conflict in his heart when he is to give up a creature,ó Hosea xi. 8, 'How shall I give thee up, O Ephraim? How shad I deliver thee, Israel? My heart is turned within me,'ócould we reasonably suppose less in giving up his Son? (though indeed the one was eternal, the other temporary), yet in this case we read of no such turnings of bowels, no such kindlings of repentings together. His soul was free in it, and let the peace cost what it would, he would procure it, though with the greatest charge.
Sixthly, Consider what it was his love designed in this. Not a petty inconsiderable thing, but a 'propitiation for sin,' 1 John iv. 10, the non-imputation of guilt, the removing all the bars between him and us, the turning the edge of the sword that was pointed against us, reducing us to an eternal amity. He would draw us out of the condition into which we were fallen, and from a wrath we had merited, to elevate us to an eternal life we had rendered ourselves unworthy of, and exposed his Son to the curses of the law, that the edge of them might be turned from us. And that we might have a free converse with him, he makes the mediator of kin to us, that by reason of the communication of our nature we might with more boldness approach to him. All delightful converse is between those of the same species; we could not have conversed freely with a reconciler of a different nature from us.
Seventhly, This love is perpetual. He was in Christ reconciling the world; he will to the end of the world beseech men to be reconciled to him. Love was the motive, the glory of his grace was the end; what was so from eternity, will be so to eternity. His love is as strong as it was, for infinite receives no diminution; his glory is as dear as it was, for to deny his glory is to deny himself. How great will be the joy of those that accept it i how dismal the torment and sorrow of those that refuse it?
Second use; of comfort. flow great may the joy of believing souls be, to be brought by God, and by ways of his own contriving, into actual favour with him, after they had lain in a state of wrath! To have an almighty, infinite, just God at variance with us, cannot but be a matter of sadness; to have a peace struck, and the light of his countenance shine upon us, cannot but beget a transcendent joy; it is in the very notion of it, to the understanding joyful, yea, tidings of great joy, and in the sense and feeling of it triumphant. The publication of it was ushered in with words of comfort in the prophet: Isa. xl. I, 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, speak comfortably to Jerusalem; cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.' Three words to note the great comfort should be taken in the gospel administration: the matter of it is the ceasing of the war between God and the creature, the pardon of their iniquities upon the satisfaction of Christ, the fruit whereof is received by the believer; the satisfaction of Christ, in regard of the infiniteness of his person, was great, which is expressed by double; and the fruits of it received by the church are great and double, freedom from the wrath of God, from the tyranny of the devil, and the collation of the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Those words, 'for she has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins,' cannot be meant of the punishment which they lay under, for that could be no cause of the pardon (as the particle for seems to be causal), neither is it a comfort to think of the greatness of punishment after it is past. But if we consider what follows, ver. 3, &c., it will appear to be a gospel promise, and the believer 'receives of the Lord's hand double:' either it is meant of Christ, who made the satisfaction, the fruits whereof the believer receives; or of the Father, who spared not his own Son, but exacted of him the punishment of our sins, and gives out to us the fruits of his reconciling death. This is the comfort, that the enmity is slain, the war ceased, an end of sin made, and God beheld with comfort, taking away the power of the devil, who first raised this war between God and man; as it is, her. 9, 10, 'Behold your God, behold the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; he shall feed his flock as a shepherd, he shall gather his lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' All this is the fruit of reconciling grace. God is well pleased with those that are sprinkled with the blood of Christ. As after the 'sprinkling of the blood of the covenant,' God appeared to the elders of the people in a clear, not a cloudy and stormy heaven, Exod. xxiv. 8, 10 (a cloudy and stormy heaven is a sign of God's anger), and his feet, the instruments of motion, standing in a clear heaven, show that all the passages of his providence to his people, are mercy, truth, and kindness, upon the account of the blood of the covenant of peace. God cannot hate those who accept of this reconciliation. Though God hates the remainders of sin in them, yet it is not with such a hatred as redounds to their persons, because their persons are reconciled to God; they believe and apply the reconciliation made by God in Christ. If God deny the acceptance of such, he denies his own act and deed, he denies himself and his whole contrivance from one end to the other. This would be to publish, that he was mistaken in his first design, that it was a fruitless thing, that there was a defect in his wisdom laying the scene of it, or a defect in Christ who undertook to accomplish it, and that things issued not according to his will. If any accept it upon the terms God offers it, nothing can be charged upon him. God must deny his whole contrivance, his commission to Christ, or find some flaw in the execution of it, before salvation can be denied to such a person; but God has already testified again and again how highly pleasing the whole negotiation of Christ was to him, and therefore it is not possible that God (who cannot be deceived in his foresight of events, to whom nothing is contingent) should delight in this before it was acted, please himself with it after it was acted, and yet dart out the frowns of an enemy upon the acceptors of it, who are called 'sons of peace,' Luke x. 6. No; the proper effect of this is non-imputation of sin, as it is in the text, 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;' and reconciliation and justification are one and the same thing in the apostle's doctrine; Rom. v. 9, what is called 'justification by his blood,' is called, her. 10, 'reconciliation to God by the death of Christ.' Sincere acceptance of it, with a resolution to obey him, gives an interest in this: Luke ii. 14, 'Good will towards linen.' Some read it, 'Peace on earth to men of good will,' actively, that bear a good will to Christ, that are upright in heart towards God in Christ. But the psalmist is clear in it, that where there is no guile in the spirit in accepting this righteousness, God will not impute sin, Ps. xxxii. 2, and though a believing person may not be sensible of his happiness, yet his happiness is ensured upon faith, though not testified to the soul. Reconciliation and the sense of it are two distinct things; a name may be written in the book of life, and the eye not clear enough to discern it. The prince may have a favour for a malefactor, and his pardon sealed too, yet the prisoner know it not, and perhaps have tattle hopes of it, but casts himself at the foot of the prince's mercy. How comfortable is it to have this peace, and a sense of it too, in our consciences, by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus! Worldly goods are small; corn, wine, and oil are little things, to the light of God's countenance, shining upon the soul, here is the ground of joy and glorying, that God 'exercises loving-kindness:' Jer. ix. 24, 'Let him that glories, glory in this that he knows me, that I am the Lord which exercises loving-kindness.'
There are several particular comforts arise from hence.
1. The angels, the whole host of heaven, are at peace with the believer. The angels, upon the sin of man, by virtue of their obedience, took part with God, and could not, because of their purity, be friends to a defiled creature; nor because of their affection to God, bear any respect to him to whom the Lord was an enemy. They were placed as a guard to bar man from re-entrance into paradise after his fan, and to 'keep the way of the tree of life,' Gen. iii. 24. Our sins broke the alliance between heaven and earth, so that the good angels could have no converse with the enemies of God; had it not been for this disobedience, they could have had no aversion to man. But since their Lord is satisfied, those obedient spirits cannot be discontented, for this reconciliation ties their hands, and makes all ill intelligence cease between them and believers. The death of Christ expiating our sin, established a good correspondence between the two great parties of the world, angels and men. The monarch being reconciled, the two states of men and angels reassume a mutual commerce. By this they are reduced into one corporation, into one family, and combined under one head: Eph. i. 10, 'All things which are in heaven and on earth, are gathered together in Christ.' That place, Col. i. 20, 'It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, and by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven,' is understood by some of the reconciliation of things in heaven to (cod, i. e. believers in the promised Messiah, who died before the coming of Christ, showing thereby the extent of the death of Christ which looked backward; by others, of the reconciliation of heavenly spirits unto us, as being a grand state of the world depending upon the universal monarch. Hence the angels rejoice and sing a hymn at the publishing the gospel, Luke ii. 13, and rejoice more in it than men do; for they delight in the glory of God, but men delight naturally in their enmity to God. They rejoice at the repentance of a sinner, and his acceptance of this reconciliation. They cannot rejoice at men's reconciliation to God, and be unreconciled themselves. They are 'ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation,' Heb. i. 14, instruments of God in the deliverance of his church and people, furtherers of the conversion of men as to outward means, as in the example of the eunuch, Acts viii. 26; and at last conduct the heirs to the possession of their inheritance 'reserved in the heavens for them,' Luke xvi. 22. They are ministers of wrath upon the unbelieving world, ministers of good to the believing creature, and guard him with those weapons wherewith they fought against him, from whence we have many invisible assistances. As God did not hate his creatures as creatures (for then he had hated man as made by him, which is inconsistent with the pure goodness of God), but as sinners, so the angels followed their great pattern in the hatred of men; but now they are reconciled to man, because God, to whom they pay an obedience, is reconciled. They are put under the government of Christ as their head, as he is the mediator, and cannot be enemies to us till Christ, as bead, become an enemy to himself as mediator. Their commission for guarding the heavenly paradise against us is cancelled, and should they now obstruct the way, they would be no longer good angels, but impure and disobedient devils. There is one place which some understand of this peace we have with angels: Rev. i. 4, 5, 'Peace from him which was, and which is, and which is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,' &c. The seven spirits are said to be before his throne, as waiting for the commands of God, as the seven angels are said to stand before God, Rev. viii. 2. But it is more likely it is meant of the Spirit of God; it is not reasonable to think the salutations of creatures to the church should be mixed with the benedictions of the Deity, with the exclusion of the third person, who is here to be understood, and called seven spirits in regard of the variety of gifts and graces, given out by him to the church, seven being a perfect number; and placed in the midst of this benediction, perhaps because of his procession both from the Father and the Son.
2. Peace with all creatures. If the Lord of the creation be the author of this peace, then no creatures which are under his conduct can be at enmity with a believer. When Adam fell, he did deserve that all creatures should act in hostility against him, as the rebel against the sovereignty of their common creator. But when God enters into a new amity with man, and ceases to be provoked, he renews the covenant with the beasts, that all creatures shall be serviceable to the reconciled believer: Hos. ii. 18, 'In that day I will make a covenant for him with the beasts of the field,' in the day of the evangelical espousals, as he had before promised if they continued in obedience, Lev. xxvi. 6. Though no formal covenant can be made between God and irrational creatures, yet they shall hurt no more than if they were tied up by a formal covenant, and were honest and valise enough to observe it; as in the first covenant made with Adam, while he stood on terms of peace with God, and owned a subjection to him as his Lord, all creatures were spontaneously to be under his dominion, which right depended upon the observance of the terms of the covenant which was between God and him. This right is renewed by the satisfaction of Christ procuring the restoration of that which Adam forfeited, and disarming nature, which was before armed against man. The corn and the wine shall hear Jezreel, the seed of God, Hos. ii. 22. The right to all things presents things to come, 'life, death,' all intermediate things, is restored by Christ, 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23. The world, universal nature, all is yours for your good, because you are Christ's, who has purchased those things; and Christ is God's, settled by him in this office for the purchase of them, and accepted by God to that end. The right to all creatures is perfect, the possession insured in the head, who has taken livery and seisin of all; and shall be perfect in the members, when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; all shall be in an harmonious combination for the glory of the believer. They do yet often instrumentally afflict them, but not hurt them. They hurt the man, not the Christian; they hurt a believer no more than death can, which, though it kills him, yet without a sting, they hurt us, yet without a curse; they are in the hand of a reconciled Father, who uses their natural enmity against us for our good, as the shepherd does the currishness of the dog to reduce the wandering sheep to the fold. The hurts we seem to feel from them issue in mercy, and are so intended by that reconciled God who guides them; they wound us, and thereby break our imposthumes. The same instrument may convey kindness to a believer, which is a mark of wrath upon an enemy; the same knife, which in the hand of an executioner may cut off the arm of a malefactor, in the hand of a chirurgeon may cut off the gangrened member of a patient; the same knife performs a friend's office to the one and a Wrathful to the other. Since we are not perfect in our services of God, we cannot expect the creatures should be perfect in their services of us; as our obedience is only inchoative here, so the performance of God's promises are here in their blade, not in their full harvest.
3. Access to God is another comfort arising from hence. As God was in Christ reconciling the world, so he is in Christ giving believers access to him. As he was in Christ reconciling our persons, so he is in Christ receiving our prayers. As Christ made satisfaction for us by his death, so he sweetens our services by his merit. As Christ was the means of our reconciliation, so is he the means of our access: Rom. v. 1, 2, 'By whom also we have access.' The word also intimates this freedom of access to be as great a benefit as justification. Though justification is a transcendent mercy, yet it would not complete the happiness of a creature, without communion with God. Peace was not the thing God ultimately aimed at; it was but the medium. He would be our friend, that there might be sweet interviews between him and a believer. Before, guilt on our side, and justice on God's, stood as bars to our access. Guilty souls cannot converse with a severe judge; a provoking creature and an offended God can have no commerce; but when the guilt is taken away, the distance is removed. Now may an humble believing creature come to a reconciled God, whose own heart put him upon laying the foundation of friendship, without any desires, or so much as expectations of the creature. We could no more before endure the presence of God than the devil; but by this the bar is taken from us, though not from him. This access is consequent upon this reconciliation. As there was a communion between God and man in innocence, which was broken off by the entrance of the enmity, so0 upon the restoration of the friendship there is a renewing of a mutual converse: that as God reveals his gracious will to the soul, the soul puts up holy desires to God; that as God descends to us in Christ, we may ascend through Christ to him in fruitful meditations, and take a delightful view and prospect of God. It was not only peace that Christ came to procure, but also good will; not only to slay the enmity, but to raise an entire and intimate friendship. The message the angels proclaimed was made up of the one as well as the other: Luke ii. 14, 'Peace on earth, goodwill towards men,' eudokia, a good pleasure in men.
(1.) Access with confidence. We go to our Father, who has had the greatest hand in all this affair. Since he is the author of this peace, what ground of dejection? We have God in Christ to receive us, and Christ by God's order to introduce as. It w as the purpose of God, and his eternal purpose, that by the faith of Christ, and in him, we should have boldness and access, with confidence, Eph. i. 12, parrhsian. And what higher ground of confidence than the consideration of God's appointing and giving this mediator to us for that end? How can a faithful, holy, true God deny his own act, in denying us when we come in the way of his own appointment? for since he has settled such an high priest over his house, we may well draw near in full assurance of faith, if we come with sincere and true hearts, Heb. x. 21, 22, flying with a deep humility to his throne of grace, with a plerophory of faith, a full sail filled by this wind of love. It is not meant of a personal assurance, or a certitudo subjecti, but objecti, a full belief of the doctrine of propitiation, and God's setting forth Christ and preparing him to take away sin, which was the cause of the enmity between God and us; for this is but the use the apostle makes of what he had doctrinally in this point delivered in the foregoing part of the chapter. We may go to God with more confidence upon this account than Adam could in innocence. He had access to a God of goodness, we to a God of grace; he could not look upon God as reconcilable if he should sin; God threatening was a bar to that. If he knew anything of God, he knew him to be just and true to his word, from which knowledge did arise those terrors of conscience upon his face, and his endeavouring to run and hide himself from God; but God in this dispensation Lath given us other notions of himself than Adam had, therefore we may go with more confidence than he could, and pour out our souls before him: Lam. iii. 24, 'The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in him.' The Lord is my reconciled friend, therefore will I hope in him for the mercy I beg.
(2.) Delight and joy in our access. We could not come to him before, no, nor think of him, without a slavish trembling; but now we may think of him, and approach to him with joy and comfort, for he deals not with us as an enemy by a strict justice, but as a friend in a way of an obliging mercy. If Adam had a sense that he might fall, he could not come to God without some dejection; the very possibility of falling would not be without fear attending it. But since God was in Christ reconciling the world, we go to him upon the account of an immutable righteousness, a righteousness he settled as an act of grace to us, and security to his own glory; whereas Adam could approach to him but upon the account of a mutable righteousness, which might be as the grass, standing this day and withered tomorrow. Our access to God is with 'a joy in the hope of the glory of God,' Rom. v. 2; and when we take hold of his covenant, this covenant of peace, we have his word that he will make us 'joyful in the house of prayer,' Isa. lvi. 6, 7; actively joyful, full of delight in his service, solacing ourselves in a sweet consideration of the infinite grace of a reconciling God, whereby a transcendent delight is raised in the soul, which is a direct delight in God as the object of faith, discovered in Christ and apprehended by spiritual reason and sense; passively joyful, by receiving in his service more of the refreshing waters of life, and being fed with the 'hidden manna' which God communicates in and by Christ to his friends. And beside, though our services are imperfect, God expects not a perfect obedience from us, but from his Son Christ. It is a full assurance of faith he expects from us, and a true heart, not a perfect obedience; his promise gives us joy, though the sense of our imperfections create a sorrow. Though we cannot delight in ourselves, we may in God, in his promise, in his gracious condescension, in the compensation he has from his Son for us, in his acceptation of it, and application of it to our souls. You are, upon believing, God's friends, not only his servants. It is Christ's speech to his disciples: John xv. 15, 'Henceforth I call you not servants.' It must not be understood of a freedom from all kind of service, which cannot be conferred upon a creature; (it were injustice in God to free a creature from so righteous and noble a virtue as gratitude to himself; God cannot command a creature not to love him, for he should then command the creature not to love the chief good); but it is a freedom from a bondage and servile fear in duties, and bringing to a filial and more dutiful manner of service,óa service from principles of grace, and encouraged by the views of God's reconciled face. Service is not excluded by admission to this friendship, but perfected to a more delightful garb. Peace opens the way for a delightful and successful trade, which war and enmity locks up.
4. The conquest of Satan is insured by this. When we are at peace with God, the devils themselves are subject to us. When God was in Christ reconciling the world, he was in Christ 'destroying him that had the power of death,' Heb. ii. 14, and bringing Satan under the feet of the Mediator, and the feet of his members. This was the intent of God in the first promise of a Mediator, to destroy him who had infected mankind, and brought death into the world. The bruising his head was the design of Christ's mission, Gen. iii. 15, that the great incendiary who had broken the league, and set afoot the rebellion, might feel the greater smart of it. And ever since it is by the gospel of peace, and the shield of faith, that we are only able to 'quench the fiery darts of the devil,' and make his attempts fruitless, Eph. vi. 15, 16, by the reconciliation God has wrought and published by the gospel. God, 'as a God of peace,' 'shall tread him under the feet' of believers, Born. xvi. 20. Unless he had been a God of peace, we had never been delivered from that jailer who held us by the right of God's justice. And since we are delivered, God, as a God of peace, will perfect the victory, and make him cease for ever from bruising the heel of the spiritual seed. As God has given peace in Christ, so he will give the victory in Christ. Peace cannot be perfect till it be undisturbed by invading enemies, and subtle adversaries endeavouring to raise a new enmity. Our Saviour spoiled him of his power upon the cross, and took away the right he had to detain any believer prisoner, by satisfying that justice, and reconciling that God who first ordered their commitment. Me answers his accusations as he is an 'advocate' at the right hand of God; and at the last, when death comes to be destroyed, and no more to enter into the world, the whole design of the devil for ever falls to the ground. Since we are at peace with God, while we are here, the devil himself shall serve us; and the messenger of Satan shall be a means to quell the pride of a believing Paul by the sufficiency of the grace of God, while he fills the heart of an unbelieving Judas with poison and treason against his Master.
5. Comfort in all afflictions. It is a cordial to cheer in the hottest services and sharpest difficulties. What can the greatest danger signify, while God remains reconciled to the soul in Christ, and the peace remains unbroken? God thought the promise of it support enough in all the standing punishment Adam was to endure; he therefore made this promise to him before he denounced the punishment after the fall. We may as well digest all crosses with this peace purchased, as Adam could do with this peace promised; God. was then in Christ promising it, God Lath now been in Christ performing it. The peace as designed was offered to the ancient Israelites as a ground of joy and relief under their oppressing calamities, Isa. ix.; Micah v. 5, 'This man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land.' The peace God has effected in Christ is a more firm matter of joy under oppressions, by how much the comfort of the performance exceeds the joy of the promise, as the joy of harvest does the joy of seed-time. Mercy was manifested in the making the promise truth as well as mercy glorified in the performing. If it were a ground of joy before he wrought it, what a rise is there for a triumphant joy since he has laid an unalterable foundation for it. This was the armour Christ furnished his disciples with against the injuries of the world: John xvi. 33, 'In me you shall have peace, in the world you shall have tribulation.' This was thought by our Saviour to be a sufficient defence for his weak disciples against all the furies of men and rage of devils, an universal remedy against all discouragements. In Christ, God smiles when the world frowns: 'Cause thy face to shine upon us' is thrice repeated, Ps. lxxx. 3, 7, 19, as the chief confidence of a gracious soul under smart distresses. Reconciliation with God changes the nature of everything that is terrible, dungeons into palaces and tears into cordials. It is a shield against fears, a treasure against poverty, physic against diseases, security against danger, and life against death. Indeed, under sharp afflictions a believing soul may not have a strength of faith to discern God as a father, from God as a judge, sense and carnal reason may dispute against faith and stagger it. If he be reconciled, why then does he make me his mark to shoot at? There may be a fatherly displeasure when there is not a wrathful anger, the satisfaction of justice excludes not the rod of mercy. Justice has no plea against a believer, because it is satisfied; mercy is the only attribute that orders all for a reconciled person. The visiting the transgression of the seed of Christ with a rod was knit together with the continuance of God's kindness to them in the covenant of redemption God made with Christ, Ps. lxxxix. 30-33. 'God was in Christ reconciling the world;' it is a less thing for him to be in every affliction, ordering it for good.
6. Comfort in the expectation of all other mercies. If God were in Christ reconciling us to himself, he will be in Christ giving forth all other suitable mercies. If he detains any you seem to want, it is a part of his reconciled wisdom when he sees them not good for you. It is inconsistent with his amity to withhold any you have real need of; it would not be then a much store, as Christ argues, but a much less: Mat. vii. 11, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, much more your Father which is in heaven.' But consider, they are only good things he has obliged himself to give, and he in the proper judge of what is good, not we ourselves. If, as a God of patience and goodness, he feeds the unclean birds, will he not, as a God of grace and peace in Christ, feed his friends? Will he let them starve while his enemies fatten? He has struck a covenant of amity and friendship, what may not be expected from a sincere and powerful friend, and one who made it his business from eternity to be casting about for the working of this peace? If this, which neither men nor angels could have imagined, be effected by his wisdom and grace, all subsequent blessings are far easier to God than this could be, since in this he has conquered his own affection to his Son. What can remain unconquered by him, which stands in the way of a believer's happiness? It was a greater act to be in Christ reconciling the world, than to be in Christ giving out the mercies he has purchased. If he has overcome the greatest bank that stopped the tide of mercy, shall little ones hinder the current of it? Justice, and the honour of the law, were the great mountains which stood in the way. Since those are removed by a miraculous wisdom and grace, what pebbles can stop the flood to believing souls? If God be the author of the greatest blessings, will he not be of the least? If he has not spared his best treasure, shall the less be denied? It is the apostle's arguing, Rom. viii. 82, 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?' He cannot but be as free in the least as he was in the greatest, there were more arguments to dissuade him from that, than there can be to stop his hands in other things. If anything you desire be refused by God, know it is your Saviour's mind you shall not have it; for God would deny him nothing of his purchase. Oh how little do we live in the sense of those truths; how does our impatience give God the lie, and tell him he is a deadly enemy, notwithstanding his reconciling grace!
7. There will be peace of conscience. If God be reconciled, conscience cannot charge. If God be the author of this peace, conscience, God's deputy, cannot keep up an enmity against us, for that must speak as God speaks. Peace with the viceroys and governors depends upon peace with the prince. The same blood which was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, is sprinkled upon the conscience of the believer. As it procured peace with heaven, it will produce peace in the soul: Heb. x. 22, 'Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.' An evil conscience is an accusing conscience; when sprinkled by this blood, it is an acquitting conscience, not from the facts, but from the guilt of them. Whatsoever has a power to satisfy God, cannot be invalid to satisfy conscience. Where infinite knowledge can raise no objection, a purblind conscience is too weak to find out any. If God has been the contriver of this reconciliation, and accepted it as fully finished, conscience must acquiesce. Adam's conscience flew in his face upon his sin, and did not leave quarrelling till its mouth was stopped with the promise of a reconciler. Guilt sets conscience on fire; when the guilt is quenched, conscience must be at ease. Nothing will satisfy conscience but that which satisfies God, and whatsoever satisfies God must satisfy conscience, for that acts by commission and a derived authority. All other things are too weak to take away the conscience of sin: 'the blood of bulls and goats,' of God's institution, could not do it, Heb. x. 2, it is the proper effect of this peace, all the waters in the world cannot quench the flame of conscience, till God be reconciled. The foundation of this peace of conscience is laid in peace with God, though present actual comfort may not be enjoyed; the day may be clouded, though the winds be still; there may be no storms, yet no sunshine.
8. Comfort against death. If God be the author of reconciliation by Christ, then death, which was the fruit of that sin which is now removed, can be no dreadful apparition. God was in Christ, and is still, conquering his enemies; and this is one enemy which must fall under his sword, and be made his footstool As God v, as in Christ reconciling you, he is in death calling for you to enjoy the full-blown felicities of that peace. It is no more than a departure in peace, when God is a God of peace. Old Simeon thought so, Luke ii. 29; he speaks, says one, like a merchant that had got all his goods on shipboard, and now desires the master of the ship to hoist sail and be gone homeward. Death was before a servant of divine justice; since justice is satisfied, it is the messenger of divine mercy. It was a jailer to enclose us in the prison of the grave, it is now a conductor to the glories of heaven. Where this peace is in maturity, where God's face shines clearly without disguises, veils, and cloudy interruptions, the name death is terrible, but the reconciled soul is beyond the fears of it. It has lost its sting, which was God's justice; Christ satisfying the one, has disarmed the other of what is hurtful. There is a knot between justification (which is termed reconciliation) and glorification; death comes between them, but does not dissolve it: Tom. viii. 30, 'Whom he justifies, them also he glorifies,' which knot cannot be untied by death, though that between our soul and body is: it sends the body to the grave to endure the sentence against sin denounced in paradise, and the soul to heaven, to enjoy the benefit of the promise.
9. This reconciliation is effectual. It is upon this all the other comforts depend. If God was the author of it, contriving, counselling Christ to effect it, furnishing him for the accomplishment of it, it cannot be a weak and imperfect peace. Infinite wisdom would not have spent innumerable 'thoughts, which cannot be reckoned up' (as the expression is, Ps. xl. 5), about a fruitless thing, a peace which might be easily blown away; he would never have sent his Son to shed his blood, and endure his wrath to no purpose, and make his own contrivance to end in a mere chimaera, as though he would be so busy only to deceive his creatures. 'The counsel of the Lord shall stand,' every counsel of his, much more his choicest purpose, to which all his other resolves are as small rivers which run into this great sea, and combine together for the perfecting this counsel; all other thoughts are lines drawn to or from this centre. As all things in heaven and earth are gathered in one, even in Christ, so all the counsels of God gather into this one of Christ and peace in him. This was the great source and pattern of all the rest, Eph. i. 10, 11. Besides, God has received this reconciler into heaven, whereby he has removed all ground of suspicion of his remaining yet unreconciled. If justice had any exception against his sacrifice, it would not have opened heaven's gates to Christ, but have barred, with a flaming sword, Christ's entrance into heaven, as well as Adam's return to paradise. The honourable title of our peace, had not been conferred upon Christ, had an imperfect reconciliation been all the fruit of his blood. By this name he is called, Mic. v. 5, Eph. ii. 14, and by that of our righteousness, Jer. xxxiii. 16. God is the author, and Christ the prince of peace; the reconciliation must be full, and righteous, and effectual, that has such a contriver, such a procurer. We are apt in our unbelieving moods to suspect God; because we have been unfaithful to him, we are jealous he will be unfaithful to us; but he asks the question, 'What could I have done more for my vineyard?' He appeals to men in that case, as if he should say, If men can tell me what I can do more, I will do it, do it to engage them, do it to encourage them. He has contrived it with the choicest wisdom, laid the foundation of it in the richest blood, given the fullest assurances of his sincerity in it, and never refused it to any that desired it; but it has been rejected by many whom his Spirit has solicited. Christ, whose honour lay upon it, would never have assured his disciples of it, after his return from paradise: John xx. 21, 'Peace be unto you,' had it been imperfect; a salutation he used, which is not recorded to be used by him in the time of his life.
10. This reconciliation is perpetual, as well as perfect and effectual; it is durable and fixed. It was an eternal redemption obtained: eternal in regard of its efficacy, eternal in regard of application, eternal in regard of the good things procured for us by it. Man nor devils cannot undo it, because of their weakness, nor God because of his faithfulness. It is a 'grace wherein we stand be faith,' Rom. v. 1, 2, not a tottering, but stable grace. Believers are received into the grace of God's good will, and God is not a light and unstable friend. All human friendship is perfidiousness in respect of this. The tie is everlasting, and knows no dissolution. His own grace and good will moved him to it, and the same good will in an immutable God will preserve it. Good will made the motion, justice acquiesced in it, but since the death of Christ, the righteousness and mercy of God join hand in hand to keep it entire; Righteousness and peace hate kissed each other, mercy and truth have met together,' and congratulated one another for their mutual satisfaction. The mercy of God is as prevalent with him to keep the covenant of peace from being removed, as for the first settlement of it: Isa. liv. 10, 'Neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, says the lord, that has mercy on thee.' Such consultations, such expensive accomplishments of it, cannot be mutable; mercy made it, and mercy perpetuates it. He can no more condemn a believing soul when he looks upon Christ, than he can drown the world against his own promise when he looks on the rainbow. His throne is encompassed with a rainbow, an emblem of a perpetual peace. It was so encircled in Ezekiel's time, Ezek. i. 28; with the same garb he appeared to John some ages after, Rev. iv. 3 and the predominant colour was green, that of an emerald, to note that this peace is always green and flourishing, as fresh in after ages as in the first. God was in Christ reconciling the world, God is in Christ as a priest keeping up that reconciliation. The intercession of Christ, which is a part of his priestly office, was as much in the thoughts of God, for his keeping firm this reconciliation, as the death of Christ was upon his heart to effect it. He confirms his eternal priesthood by an oath, Ps. ox 1, and therefore his intercession for it, otherwise there would be no priestly act for Christ now to perform. Christ by his death quenched the flame of the sword which guarded paradise against us; at his resurrection he sheathed the sword itself; and by his intercession keeps it perpetually in its scabbard, keeps the edge from ever being turned against a believer. Reconciliation is wrought by the death of Christ, and preserved by his merit. Christ's affections remain in his heart to solicit, the Father's affections remain in his heart to grant; Christ has an irrepealable liberty to approach to God to present his reconciling merit. Till, therefore, the unchangeable God change his resolution, and repent of all his counsel, cares, furniture, commission and acceptance of Christ; till Christ's merit become invalid, distasteful, and nauseous to the Father, this peace will stand firm. Christ's merit has been paid, it cannot be unpaid; it has been accepted, it cannot now be refused. If the soul he has redeemed be not safe, Christ can have no satisfaction for all his sufferings. Keep therefore your wills from sin, strive against the motions of it, agree not with it, and the peace will not be broken. As princes enter not into war, but where there is a real affront done, and no satisfaction given, so God breaks not the peace he has made upon every failing. When the will is not engaged, the sin is resisted; but where any give up their wills to sin, and delightfully wear its chains, they are so far from having this reconciliation perpetual, that they never had so much as the least interest in it. It is perpetual to them that embrace it, not by a pretended faith, but a real and obedient faith.
11. The state believers have by this reconciliation is far happier than that Adam had in innocence. It is likely had he persisted in it some time, he might have been confirmed in that state; but how long time he might have lived in that mutable condition, and whether, if he had persisted, he would have enjoyed such a degree of glory, is not upon record. God was in Adam making a covenant of works, he is in Christ making a covenant of peace. Christ came not only to give a simple life or a simple peace, but to give it 'more abundantly,' John x. 10, more abundantly than we had it by creation in innocence. After the fall, we were dead, and Christ restored us to life, but to a more abundant life, not that we had after the fall, for we had none at all, we were dead in trespasses and sins; but more abundantly than we had in Adam before the fall, a better life than man could challenge by the covenant of works. The second creation must be greater than the first, because the thoughts of God about the first were but a step to a second. In the first creation, mere man was the head, God in him gave out the precepts and promises to his posterity; in the second creation, God is in Christ giving out his covenant. As the means of conveyance are higher, so the things conveyed are more glorious. God would provide a way of peace that should not fail again, the security should be built upon a stronger bottom. The Lord give every one of us an interest in this reconciliation, and the comforts of it!
Third use; of exhortation. Is God in Christ reconciling the world? Then it is fit we should join issue with God, and be in Christ reconciled to him. We must comply with God in this his great ordinance. The consideration of it should work relenting, should work believing. Let the design of God prevail with us. It is in this we shall find expiation of sin, the grace of God, peace of conscience; in a word, whatsoever God as reconciled can give, whatsoever Christ as reconciling has purchased. Better to be the vilest slave in the galleys, the scoff and reproach of men, spurned by every foot, than be unreconciled. It was tender mercy, bowels of mercy, whereby the day-spring from on high has visited us,' Luke i. 8. When we lay wallowing in a miry sink, ready to be crushed by God's righteous hand, then he pitied us; the more disingenuous to refuse his amity. The dignity of the donor renders a gift more valuable than it is in itself; a present from a prince is more prized than that which is bestowed by an ordinary merchant. The gift of Christ and the offer of peace by him is incomprehensible in itself, and receives a value from that God that prepared and offers it. What pleasure can we taste in any earthly comfort, though we had a confluence of all princely delights, if we have no share in a reconciled God by a reconciling mediator, while we will force that God, who is the author of peace, to stand over us with a drawn sword pointed to our breasts? Corn, wine, and oil are little things to the light of God s countenance
1. Something must be done on our parts. Though God be the author of our reconciliation by Christ, yet something is incumbent upon us. If all men were reconciled without any condition on their parts, the apostle might have held his pen, and not have added the other clause, her. 20, after the text, 'We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God,' there had been no need of that inference. In the text, he speaks of the fundamental reconciliation; in this, of the actual. If all men had been reconciled to God, it had not been sense to say, You are reconciled, therefore be reconciled. It would have been an exhortation to do that which had been already done to their hands. If all men be actually reconciled, how come any to miss of the fruit of it? why is it not applied to all? Because all that are called do not comply with their call, answer not God's command and entreaty. The purchase and application are two distinct things; the purchase was made by Christ alone upon the cross, without any qualification in us; the application is not wrought without something in us concurring with it, though that also is wrought by the grace of God. God has ordained peace for us. But there is a work to be wrought within us for the enjoyment of that peace: Isa. xxvi. 12, 'Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us, for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.' The one is grace in the spring, the other is grace in the vessel; the one is the act of God in Christ, the other is the act of God by his Spirit. Though the fire burn, if I would have warmth I must not run from it, but approach to it.
2. This qualification is faith. As grace in God qualified God (if I may use the expression) for effecting it, so faith in us qualifies us for applying and enjoying it. Though Christ be the purchaser, vet faith is the means of instating us in it: Rom. v. 1, 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Not a man has peace with God till justified by faith. This inestimable mercy is not conferred but upon men of good will, men that affect it, value it, consent to it. We must lay our hands upon the head of the sacrifice, and own him for ours. This is the band which unites us to Christ as the purchaser, and by him to God as the author of this reconciliation; it gives us a right to this peace, and at the last the comfort of it.
3. The order is, first an acceptance of Christ, then of God in and through him. We must first comply with the means before we can attain the end. Our nearness to God was purchased by the blood of Christ, and is actually conferred by union with Christ: Eph. ii. 13, ~ But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are nnade nigh by the blood of Christ.' faith has recourse first to the atoning blood of Christ, and by that blood to God, Rom. iii. 25, 'Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.' This blood only quenched the consuming fire of God's wrath. By him we are reconciled, and by him only we can receive the atonement Rom. v. 11, 'We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.' As God was in Christ reconciling, so we must be in Christ accepting this reconciliation with God. 'You are Christ's, and Christ is God's,' 1 Cor. iii. 23. We must first be Christ's by the acceptance of him, as Christ was God's by his calling and mission. As God goes out to us in him, our return must be by him to God. He paid the debts, made an end of sin, removed the wrath which we had merited. God was the judge, Christ the mediator; we must first go to the mediator, to be conducted by him to the judge. We had offended the law-maker, we must first go to him who is the repairer of the honour of the law; we must take the redemption of Christ along with us, the pacifying blood to present it to God, by whose authority we were under wrath. It is that blood only joins us to God, no cement without it. If we are not first by faith in Christ satisfying, we are still but as stubble before God, who is a consuming fire. Christ is the only band of union between us and God. Think not of standing secure by absolute mercy; mercy through Christ only saves us; it breathes in no other air. We must first take hold of the strength of God before we are at peace with him: Isaiah xxvii. 5, 'Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me;' of Christ, who is as well 'the power of God as the wisdom of God,' 1 Cor. i. 24, where you have a direction how to gain it by laying hold of his strength, the end to be aimed at in the act, 'that he may make peace with me,' and an assurance to obtain it in that method, 'he shall make peace with me.'
1. Here is the highest encouragement and ground of acceptation. There is no room for any hard thoughts of God after so signal a discovery of himself. He is not a God of unquenchable wrath; he is willing his justice should be appeased: he took all the course that was possible for infinite wisdom to invent, for infinite power to effect, for infinite love to propose. What greater security for our blessings, than that he should make his Son a curse, that we might be blessed by him! How should so much love make us change our unworthy opinions of God! Here are the three persons employed in it: the Father contrives it, the Son effects it, the Spirit stands ready to apply it to every believer. A refusal puts a scorn upon all the three persons. As soon as ever Adam sinned, even the same day, Gen. iii. 15, God applies this remedy of a Redeemer. He did not let a day slip, for any thing we know, not an hour, before he made it known to him. His heart was in travail, and longed to be delivered of the gracious promise of a Mediator. He armed our first parents with this cordial, before he subjected them to their standing miseries. What his heart was then, it is the same still. His kindness was desirous to publish the promise, can his truth have less zeal to perform it? His kindness which moved him to assure it, has moved him to effect it, and will move him to apply it to every one that seeks to him for it in and by his beloved Son. His wrath, which we were subject to, is overcome by his love to the mediation of his Son, who has honoured him more than sin had dishonoured him. By accepting this, we own the glory of God, and honour him as much by faith as we have dishonoured him by sin; for thereby we own that satisfaction which was as grateful to him as our sins were hateful. As he honoured himself by the death of his Son, so he honours himself by giving forth the fruits of his death. He delights to honour Christ, and to see him honoured by us: we contribute to God's delight, when we approach to him by faith in his blood. Did God make this provision? Did he contrive an expiatory offering before the world was? And will he not communicate this? Would he provide him never to bestow him? Did he bruise him for nothing, but to keep him up as a jewel in a cabinet, not to give out? To whom should God give him, but to those that desire him? Would any father lay up treasures for his children, and not dispense them, when they are earnest for them in their necessities? Can there be a greater argument than this doctrine, to overcome our rebellion, extinguish our fears, hasten our approach, and add confidence to our desires?
2. The terms required are as low as can be imagined. Nothing can be objected against the conditions he requires, repentance and faith. Can any malefactor expect peace with his arms in his hand? Is it not fit there should be such conditions to justify God, since we were the guilty offenders? Can there be less than to cast away our weapons, bewail our crimes, receive his Son as our Mediator, serve him with newness of life, all which are desirable privileges? It was in his power to appoint what conditions he pleased, because he was the free and sole benefactor; what could be less than the believing and receiving the reconciliation? It was impossible the benefit could be without it: it is no benefit unless it be esteemed so; no reason any should enjoy a benefit, that does not think it a benefit. All the self-love of men could not have framed more reasonable terms. Men would have thought of 'rivers of oil, and thousands of rams,' mere impossibilities, Micah vi. 6, 7. God requires no more than to lie humbly at his feet, and reach out our hands to receive the assurance he gives. What can be easier? If faith be difficult, it is so, not in regard of itself, but in regard of our natural enmity to God, and the pride of our own wills; it is hard only as 'the law is weak, through the flesh,' Rom. viii. 3; but nothing could be more reasonable, nothing more easy in itself An ingenuous amazement at unexpected kindness should make us run more swiftly to embrace God, than ever we ran from him. We should subscribe to his articles. As he is a God to contrive the peace, let him be your God to impose the methods of enjoying it, since he Lath given this gift to a brutish world, who he knew would grieve and despise him, yet requires no more at your hands than that you should believe and accept him, which is but a just due to the greatness of the blessing.
3. There is an absolute necessity for this compliance for our happiness. If you have not a peace of God's ordaining, you can have none of your own inventing. There can be no fellowship with God without it. We cannot be happy, because we cannot enjoy God, wherein all the felicity of a creature consists. How can guilt and purity converse together? What society can stubble have with fire, but to its destruction? We cannot see God's face without it; and if the sight of God's face be wanting, felicity is at a distance. The greatest part of hell remains, though there be no positive punishment. This cannot be without a reconciled face. 'How can two walk together unless they be agreed?' Amos iii. 3. What intercourse can there be between a guilty rebel and a frowning judge? between a sinful creature and a provoked Deity? 'If he hide his face, who can behold him?' Job xxiv. 29; but when an agreement is made, there may be mutual endearments. We are enemies to God by birth, God an enemy to us by his law; the enmity will remain on God's part, while enmity remains on ours. Strike up then the treaty with God, since there is a necessity for it, and God has provided all things to that end. Shall not God's love melt you, and sour own necessities move you?
4. Wrath is unavoidable without a compliance with God. If we will not enter into these terms of reconciliation, the heart of God, which was before incensed by our sin, cannot but rise with an higher indignation at a resolve to persist in it. Abused love kindles the hottest wrath. What fence can inexcusable guilt have against an equitable justice? When man, after his creation, proved perfidious to God, there commenced u dreadful war, which only can be ended by him who Lath put an end to sin, or else it will endure for ever in hell. All must have endured what Christ suffered, had he not stood in their stead; and those that refuse him, as he is proffered by the grace of God, must endure the same for ever. If we will not receive him as a friend, eve cannot avoid him as an enemy; his eye will behold us, 'and his hand will reach us, in the thickest coverings of darkness,' Ps. cxxxix. 9, 11. Where he is not accepted as the author of reconciliation in his own way, he will be the author of judgment in his own way. If the satisfaction of his justice, which he has provided, be slighted, that Justice will be satisfied upon our own persons. If we deny him his honour by the sufferings of Christ, he will vindicate it by the sufferings of our own persons. The law was in full force against us, whereby God has obliged himself to inflict death upon the sinner, Gen. ii. 17. It is his law upon record, that damnation shall be inflicted upon every one that believes not. There is no discovery out of Christ, but of wrath prepared against the day of wrath: the day wherein God and his unreconciled enemies shall meet together, is called a 'day of wrath,' Rom. ii. 5, 6; a day wherein there shall be an appearance of wrath only to such. The angel that has a rainbow about his head, has feet as pillars of fire, Rev. x. i, to consume them that refuse the peace. Consider, then, we are sunk under infinite guilt, and cannot rise up without an almighty hand, vie are defiled with an universal filth, and cannot be cleansed Without infinite purity; sin is strong in its accusations, our righteousness imperfect in its defence, and can make no compensation for the wrongs by the other; our duties are bespotted, and are not fit for a pure eve. An eternal weight of wrath is due to all those; there is but one way of escape which God has provided, but one city of refuge whereby we may escape the edge of the revenging sword. The sword of divine justice reaches all that are without this shelter, touches none that are under Christ's wings, but like a consuming fire devours every thing else. We cannot perpetuate the war against him, but to our own sorrow, one spark of wrath will be enough to consume stubble; death will put a period to all treaties.
5. All other ways of reconcilement are insufficient. To pretend to any other ways is an injury to divine wisdom, as though his contrivance were not sufficient for the creature's restoration and support. Divine mercy will clasp no man in its arms with a wrong to any one attribute, nor to the dishonour of Christ. It will therefore never receive any who denies Christ and the efficacy of his priesthood. Men naturally are studious of making God compensation, applauding themselves in their own inventions and satisfactions of their own coining, unwilling to acquiesce in the wisdom and will of God. Two great things God would advance in the world by his grace, is his wisdom and authority; these are the things men oppose, his wisdom by the pride of reason, his authority by the perversity of will. But consider, do we need reconciliation or no? If we need it not, how came we fiends with God, since we were born enemies? If we do need it, is it not safer to enter into the terms God has proposed, wherewith he is satisfied, than to stand to our false, or, at best, hilt uncertain methods? The safest way is always the choice of wise men. Let us not be fools then in refusing the gospel method, unless we can meet with anything that has as fair a plea to divine revelation. Had we all the angels on our side, and all the men on earth to entreat for us, it would be ineffectual.. God never was in them reconciling the world; this one mediator, whom God has appointed, has done and can do that which neither men upon earth nor angels and saints in heaven can do by their joint intercessions. Place no confidence then in your own humiliations, services, duties, God never was in those reconciling any man; all that is done without faith is but enmity, and that in the best part, your minds, Rom. viii. Whatsoever fair colours they are painted with, they cannot please God. The Scripture settles an impossibility on the head of all of them: Heb. xi. 6, 'Without faith it is impossible to please God,' to gain or keep his favour. Were your righteousness of the highest elevation, it is but a creature, and therefore not the object of trust. Though Adam, while he continued in his natural righteousness, might have entered it as a plea, yet because mutable, it was no fit object of trust for him. But since the fall all pleas of a fleshly corrupted righteousness are overruled in the court of heaven. Absolute mercy, without faith in Christ, cannot save you. As God could not, after the sanction of the law, in regard of his truth, pardon the violations of it without a satisfaction, so since he has settled the way of reconciliation by faith in the blood of Christ, he cannot upon the same score of his truth save any in a way of absolute mercy, especially when that way which he has appointed is refused. As it would be against his truth, against his justice, so also against the honour of his obedient Son; for if he be at peace with one man by absolute mercy, why might he not upon the same terms have reconciled others, and then what need of the sufferings of his only Son to make up the breach? If anything else therefore be chosen as the way of this peace, God at the hour of judgment may remit us to our righteousness, services, carnal confidences, saying, Go to the reconcilers that you have chosen, and see whether they can make your peace, as he did to the Israelites: Judges x. 14, 'Go cry to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you;' a dreadful, but a just speech.
6. God seeks it at our hands, and is willing to receive us. He is not only a God in Christ reconciling the world, but he is a God in his ambassadors entreating: 'As though God himself did beseech you by us,' ver. 20, after the text. This is the tenor of his proclamation, 'Be you reconciled to God.' If he had not desired it, he would not have spent so many thoughts about it, and been at such expense to effect it. He was not bound to it; for he might have left Adam to sink into the death he had merited, without exposing his Son to a death he had not deserved, and contracted a necessity of, only as our surety; he was no more bound to seek out Adam and make him a promise of redemption than he was bound to make him a creature. He might have raised a new world, and have filled it with new inhabitants. It must be something of a vast concernment to us, that God has been so busy about, and so desirous of our acceptance of. Both God seek to us to receive wealth and worldly honours? No. This therefore must be a thing of higher value. A God seeks to us, who is infinitely more glorious than we are vile; a God who never did us the least wrong, but has borne with many injuries from us; a God who could as easily send us into hell with his breath, as breathe out a; kind invitation to us; a God who needs our friendship no more than he fears our enmity; a God no more benefited by it than the sun by darting a beam upon a grain of sand. Sure that soul never was sensible of the misery his war with God has sunk him into, who refuses to receive the peace he offers, nor can without an Inconceivable shame look God in the face at the last day, after so notorious a rejecting an entreating God. He seeks it this day, perhaps he will not seek it at our hands to-morrow. There is 'a day' wherein we may 'know the things that concern our peace,' Luke xix. 41. When the day is over, peace will not return. There is a day v herein he will pour out his wrath upon the unbelieving world. While he is yet a great way off, and his thunders at a distance, he sends an 'embassy of peace,' Luke xiv. 33. He yet seeks to his sworn enemies, and those that were in league with Satan: You may be in league with me, I have not yet shut the door. Listen, do you not hear God's voice in the gospel? He shuts out none that do not shut out themselves. What a guilt will the refusal amount to, when we are to answer for not only the first publication, but repeated offers? Besides, he is willing to receive us into favour, more willing to embrace us than we to receive him. The eternal motions in his heart which gave birth to this gracious design, are of the same force and strength still; he can never forget them. As the remembrance of the years of the right hand of the Most High is our comfort in times of trouble, so God's remembrance of the years of his own right hand, the workings of his own heart, has the like force to excite him to a reception of us, as they had to commission Christ for us. He never broke his word; and less will ho do it at the upshot of all, when his people are almost gathered, the world near its period, and the proclamation of the gospel ready to be taken down and folded up for ever; he will not at the end be worse than he has been all along. Let us be as willing to be at peace with him as he is to be at peace with us. God sets us a pattern, he seeks to us, it is an imitation of God to seek to him.
2. Exhortation. Is God in Christ reconciling the world 7 Then we must be at enmity with sin. God was in Christ reconciling sinners, not sin. God and sin are irreconcilable enemies, so that where there is a peace with one, there must be a war with the other. Fire and water may sooner agree than God and Sin, than a peace with God and a peace with sin. The traitor may be reconciled to the prince, and the treason as hateful to him as before. This is the best evidence to any that he is actually reconciled, when he hates that which made the first separation. Christ expiated sin, not encouraged it; he died to make your peace, but he died to make you holy: Titus ii. 14, 'To purify a people to himself.' The design of God in the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, was 'to destroy the works of the devil,' 1 John iii. 8. The chief work of the devil was to enter man in a league with himself and rebellion against God. God aimed at the death of our sins, when he aimed at the life of our souls. The ends of Christ's death cannot be separated; he is no atoner, where he is not a refiner. It is as certain as any word the mouth of God has spoken, that 'there is no peace to the wicked.' A bespotted conscience, and an impure, will keep up the amity with Satan, and enmity with God. He that allows himself in any sin, deprives himself of the benefit of reconciliation. This reconciliation must be mutual; as God lays down his wrath against us, so we must throw down our arms against him. As there was a double enmity, one rooted in nature, another declared by wicked works; or rather, one enmity in its root, and another in its exercise, Col. i. 21; so there must be an alteration of state, and an alteration of acts. The end of Christ's death was to reconcile God to us, and bring us back to God. We are not therefore linked in a peace with him, unless we be transformed into the image of his Son. How can we expect to be taken into the bosom of God, when we every day wilfully defile our souls! Can familiarity with God be kept up, when daily bars are laid in the way? Why was God in Christ reconciling the world? Because he was a holy as well as a gracious God; and to show his detestation of sin, as well as his affection to the creature. Shall this encourage any practice against the holiness of God? God is of as pure eyes, and can as little endure to behold iniquity, since the reconciliation, as before. God was sanctified in Christ when he was reconciling the world in him, and he will be sanctified in us if we have interest in this reconciliation. All God s acts about Christ are the highest obligation to be at enmity with that, for which the Son of God was appointed, and made a sacrifice; to receive encouragement from hence to sin more freely, is to act Judas his part with God's grace, and betray it to serve our lusts. Be afraid therefore to offend God, not so much because of his power to hurt you, as because of his love whereby he has obliged you. The peace was broken by the disobedience of Adam; it was restored by the obedience of Christ. But our obedience is necessary to the joyful fruits of it. 'Great peace have they which love thy law,' Ps. cxix. 165.
3. Be industrious and affectionate in the service of God. Has God been in Christ reconciling the world, manifesting his desire for it and affection to it by such various acts, and shall we put God off with a little service, who has not put us off with a scanty grace? God has done his utmost to engage our affection and encourage us in the choicest services: there could not be an higher way to procure it and deserve it of us. The view of the creatures, and God's goodness in them, raises a common love to God in the more ingenious natural minds. To what heights should our love ascend, who have such steps to mount by? A weak love is less than is due to him who has discovered such an immensity to us. Shall we return not a drop, or but a drop, for an ocean? How much should we think ourselves obliged to a prince who should but stop a torrent of legal penalties deserved by us? God has done this and more. How should we combine all our thoughts and affections together to serve that God acceptably, who has made all his thoughts conspire to reduce us honourably and successfully? 'I am the Lord thy God, which has brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,' is the preface to the Decalogue, as an incitement of them to a choice respect to all his precepts.; I am the God reconciling you in Christ,' is the tenor of the gospel, and much more an incitement to service, by how much the deliverance in the antitype exceeds that in the type; this being spiritual and eternal, that temporal. If you are actually reconciled, serve God as your friend. As God has given you an higher state, give him a greater honour. Do all things out of love to God as reconciled, without any base ends and sordid designs. God had no other end in being the author of peace but his own glory and your good; have then no other end but God's glory in your own welfare, advancing further to him and enjoying his reconciled favour. Serve him with a delight in him; a dull, slavish spirit becomes not any in his approach to so hearty a friend. Every duty should be performed with a triumph and glory in the God of salvation: Hab. iii. 18, 'I will joy in the God of my salvation.' God would then delight in us; next to the delight he has in his reconciling Son, he has the choicest delight in his reconciled servants, and services springing up from a sense of his love to them.
4. Let all our approaches to God be begun and attended with a sense of this. God in all his communications to his people acted as a reconciled God; we should eye him so in all our approaches to him. As there is not one mercy, one act of grace, God shows to us, but springs from this restored affection, so not any duty we offer up to God but should rise from a sense of it. Whatsoever is not by and through Christ, is not accepted as a duty. This consideration before all addresses would animate them with all those graces necessary, to be acted in them. It would make us humble to consider what we were, and how freely God reduced us. It would make us believing with an holy boldness. What despondency can there be, when God has given so many tokens of his heartiness in it? It would make us earnest; it would be a fetching fire from heaven for the inflaming our souls. Earnestness is grounded upon hope; what greater foundation for hope than the consideration that this was God's sole act? Think before every duty of the great love God bears to Christ as mediator, greater than to all men and angels; this will be a ground of confidence. For the love of God to Christ as mediator, was with respect to all that believe in him. Think much of the virtue of Christ's death, wherewith he sprinkled the throne of God, and turned the seat of justice into a throne of grace. It is the best way to receive answers; by pleading this, we mind God of all his engagements. Avery act about Christ is an argument fit to be used in prayer. God will never deny his own acts, nor the ends of them, which was to make a way for communicating himself to his creatures. God is only in Christ entertaining us, as well as reconciling us. Let us not lift up an eye to him without faith in him as a God in Christ, and carry this atoning blood in the hands of faith, in every act of communion with him.
5. Look for grace and spiritual strength from God in Christ. The conduct of mercy and grace is unstopped by Christ, to flow freely down to man. This is the foundation of the regeneration of any soul: 2 Cor. v. 17, 18, 'All things are become new, and all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.' Having spoken of the new creation, ver. 17, he lays down the true cause, God; the foundation, the reconciliation by Christ. AID things are of God, all the powerful effects and operations of the gospel in the hearts of men are from God as a reconciler by Christ, not from God as creator. The deep meditation of and closing with the promise of God in and through Christ, brings grace into the heart, not a consideration of God's precepts, but of God's promises. The application of the reconciling love of God in Christ by faith, is attended with a powerful benediction of the Spirit, pulling up the foundations of the enmity on our parts; the Spirit is received by the preaching of the gospel, the meditations of the gospel, the applications of the gospel; the Spirit is conveyed with those, not with the precepts of the law, Gal. iii. 5. Men begin at the wrong end, they would rise from obedience to faith, and deal with God as if he were to be appeased and satisfied by them. But begin at faith, a firm assent, a full consent to the gospel and the offers of redemption, and go down, by virtue of that, to obedience; it is by casting ourselves upon God in Christ that we receive vigour for all spiritual obedience. The spirit of holiness is the principle whereby we obey, not the effects of our obedience. Christ is first redemption, then sanctification; God a God of peace, and then a God of grace. We should look upon God as a God of peace, and under that title implore him for increase of habitual grace. As a God of peace, he 'works in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight' Heb. xiii. 20, 21. Our sanctification depends upon our justification. God promised to be as a dew to his people under the gospel, Hosea iv. 5. Dew descends from a clear sky, and grace from a reconciled God. As God in Adam had conveyed a natural righteousness to his posterity, had Adam stood, so God in Christ only conveys a spiritual righteousness to Christ's spiritual offspring.
6. When any rising of enmity is in the soul, go to God in Christ. As God was in Christ reconciling the world, so he is in Christ reconciling a veal after the readmission of guilt through temptation; not that the guilt of the whole mass of sins of a believer returns upon his far], tent a particular guilt of that sin he has committed lies upon him, for which he must have a fresh application of reconciling mercy. He must go to God in Christ for this; as the first application was made in and through Christ. so must the second and third, as often as we need it, even in our daily pardons. Christ sits an officer in heaven to this purpose, and God Lath constituted him an officer to this end, and is in him in his intercession accepting it, as well as in his first satisfaction. The Corinthians the apostle writes to, some of them at least, were reconciled, yet he beseeches them to be reconciled to God, i.e. renew their reconciliation upon every new breach, and regain the favour of God which they had forfeited by their sins, for which he had reproved them in the former epistle. This must be sued out every day. What was the foundation of the first peace is the foundation of the renewals of it; the same course you took at the first, will be successful for the second. God was not out of Christ in the first, and he will not be out of Christ whenever there is any need. As God was willing and desirous to make reconciliation by the blood of Christ, when all your sins lay before him with their crimson aggravations, much more will he renew it upon a particular fall. But he may hide his face till you sue out a pardon upon his own proclamation and contrivance; and if it be a presumptuous sin, he may deny you the comfort of this peace a long times perhaps as long as you live. Let not any presume upon this, for it belongs not to any man that lives in a course of known sin, which is inconsistent with a reconciled state.
7. How contented should those that are reconciled be in every condition! The peace of God should bear rule in our hearts, to compose them upon any emergency: Col. iii. 15, this will keep the heart and mind from solicitousness Philip. iv 6, 7, this will make us despise the promises of the world alluring us, and the threatenings of the world to scare us. This peace should be the guard of our souls, and will render us happy when the world may account us most miserable, and therefore should render us contented. If you would not have the riches and honours of the world without it, you may well bear the scorns and reproaches of the world with it. The world could not secure you, if you had a war with God, nor defend you from the arrows of his wrath. But since you have peace with God, you are mounted above the enmities of the world, and your spirits should be guarded by it from any tumultuous passions. If the wrath of God be ceased towards us, we may well bear the strokes of a Fathers since we are not like to feel his sword as a Judge. How cheerfully may we kiss the afflicting hand of God, when he is at peace with us! Look upon all your mercies too (though they are of a meaner bulk outwardly than others), as flowing from this fountain, which may make you not only contented with them, but highly value them. It gives a sweeter relish to mercy than Adam could have; he had the goodness of God, but not the goodness of a reconciled Father, while he was in innocence. If this makes heaven the sweeter, it should make mercies here more savoury
8. Let us then be reconcilable to others. Not only where we offer, but from whom we receive an injury. God's reconciliation should be our rule in dealing with others. Hard hearts and uncharitable dispositions are unlike to God, who had a heart full of tenderness to them, who will not part with a grain of their right to their brethren, when God parted with his Son to work their peace with him; and had he not been more forward in it than they, they had perished for ever. God sets his own actions to us as a pattern of ours to others: Luke vi. 36, 'Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful,' if we are irreconcilable to others, we are not imitators of God, but reject the noblest pattern, and discover no sense of the kindness of God to us. Since God has made Christ a propitiation for sin, the apostle makes this inference, that 'if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another,' 1 John iv. 10, 11. Did God send his Son out of his bosom, and veil his glory, to be at peace with us, and entreat us to accept his favour, and shall we be upon every occasion at sword's point with our brother? Such a disposition is against the whole tenor of the gospel, and a keeping up a wolfish and brutish nature against the design of the gospel administration, Isa. xi. 6. Christ came to slay the enmity between God and us, between Jew and Gentile; it is a crossing the design of God, to preserve enmity between Christian and Christian; it is to keep up the partition wall, and frustrate (what in us lies) the end of Christ's death, which was to demolish it. The peace God wrought was a matter of grace, the peace we owe to our brother is a matter of debt; it is due to the command of God. God first laid the scene of our reconciliation, not assisted by the counsels of others; not sought to by ourselves, but seeking us. Our doing the like to others is an imitation of God, whereas to be implacable in revenge is to partake of the devil's nature.
9. Glorify God for this. Since God sends out such a blessing to us, we should send out loud prayers to him. Heaven smiles upon earth, and earth should bless heaven Glorify God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though we have all immediately from Christ, yet Christ has all from the Father. He is the propitiation for our sins, but he was appointed by the Father. He came to redeem, but he was sent by God upon that errand. He paid our debts as a surety, but he was accepted by God. He was a mediator to bring us to God, but he was Commissioned by God to that end. What a love did God retain to his creatures, though he abominated their Sins, and in the midst of his indignation against their iniquities had bowels for their persons! How did God forecast for us, when we were 'prisoners in the pit wherein was no water,' Zech. ix. 11, the captives of the mighty, and the prey of the terrible! Isa. xlix. 25. When the law of God was against us, and his truth taking part with his law, his wisdom and mercy found a way to preserve his truth, and satisfy the curses of the law, that we might enjoy the blessings of the gospel, when we could not in the least deserve it, unless peevishness and perversity, treachery and disloyalty, weakness and wilfulness could pass for allurements; we had then been inconceivable meriters. Such free and full compassion deserves our thank fullness, though we could not merit his grace. It is not a contracted, half-made, or oppressive peace, It is an extensive, tender, and abundant peace, like a river and a flowing stream, a peace whereby we are borne in his bosom, Isa. lxvi. 12. How should we adore the depth of that wisdom which found a refuge for us, when heaven and earth were at war with us; adore this goodness, that when we were no sooner born, but we were He objects of a cursing law, the scorn of a malicious devil, our Jesus should be sent to pacify the law, and shame the devil our enemy I Angels glorify him for this peace; should we be outstripped by beings less concerned in it? God is only praised in and through Christ; God and Christ are joined together in the saints' praise: Rev. v. 13, 'Blessing, honour, glory, and power be unto him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever;' and so they should be in ours. How beautiful will this whole work appear, when the whole methods of it come to be read in heaven in the original copy, when they shall be seen in the face, in the bosom of God, in fair and plainer characters! To conclude. If all the sparks that ever leapt out of any fire since the creation, and all the drops of rain that have fell upon the world; were so many angelical tongues, their praise would come short of the excess of this love. Let the praise of God for this, be not the business of a day, but the work of our lives, since eternity is too short to admire it.
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