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All solid wisdom laid up in Christ — True wisdom, wherein it consists — Knowledge of God, in Christ only to be obtained — What of God may be known by his works — Some properties of God not discovered but in Christ only; love, mercy — Others not fully but in him; as vindictive justice, patience, wisdom, all-sufficiency — No property of God savingly known but in Christ — What is required to a saving knowledge of the properties of God — No true knowledge of ourselves but in Christ — Knowledge of ourselves, wherein it consisteth — Knowledge of sin, how to be had in Christ; also of righteousness and of judgment — The wisdom of walking with God hid in Christ — What is required thereunto — Other pretenders to the title of wisdom examined and rejected — Christ alone exalted.
A second consideration of the excellencies of Christ, serving to endear the hearts of them who stand with him in the relation insisted on, arises from that which, in the mistaken apprehension of it, is the great darling of men, and in its true notion the great aim of the saints; which is wisdom and knowledge. Let it be evinced that all true and solid knowledge is laid up in, and is only to be attained from and by, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the hearts of men, if they are but true to themselves and their most predominate principles, must needs be engaged to him. This is the great design of all men, taken off from professed slavery to the world, and the pursuit of sensual, licentious courses, — that they maybe wise: and what ways the generality of men engage in for the compassing of that end shall be afterward considered. To the glory and honour of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, and the establishment of our hearts in communion with him, the design of this digression is to evince that all wisdom is laid up in him, and that from him alone it is to be obtained.
1 Cor. i. 24, the Holy Ghost tells us that “Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God:” not the essential Wisdom of God, as he is the eternal Son of the Father (upon which account he is called “Wisdom” in the Proverbs, chap. viii. 22, 23); but as he is crucified, verse 23. As he is crucified, so he is the wisdom of God; that is, all that wisdom which God layeth forth for the discovery and manifestation of himself, and for the saving of sinners, which makes foolish all the wisdom of the world, — that is all in Christ crucified; held out in him, by him, and to be obtained only from him. And thereby in him do we see the glory of God, 2 Cor. iii. 18. For he is not only said to be “the wisdom of God,” but also to be “made unto us wisdom,” 1 Cor. i. 30. He is made, not by creation, but ordination and appointment, wisdom unto us; not only by teaching us wisdom (by a metonymy of the effect for the cause), as he is the 80great prophet of his church, but also because by the knowing of him we become acquainted with the wisdom of God, — which is our wisdom; which is a metonymy of the adjunct. This, however verily promised, is thus only to be had. The sum of what is contended for is asserted in terms, Col. ii. 3, “In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
There are two things that might seem to have some colour in claiming a title and interest in this business:— 1. Civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; 2. Ability of learning and literature; — but God rejecteth both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed. There is in the world that which is called “understanding;” but it comes to nothing. There is that which is called “wisdom;” but it is turned into folly, 1 Cor. i. 19, 20, “God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world.” And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubtless there is not), without the knowledge of God, Jer. viii. 9, it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.” He is not seen at another time, John i. 18, nor known upon any other account, but only the revelation of the Son. He hath manifested him from his own bosom; and therefore, verse 9, it is said that he is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” — the true Light, which hath it in himself: and none hath any but from him; and all have it who come unto him. He who doth not so, is in darkness.
The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads:— I. The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. II. The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. III. Skill to walk in communion with God:—
I. The knowledge of the works of God, and the chief end of all, doth necessarily attend these. 1. In these three is summed up all true wisdom and knowledge; and, 2, — Not any of them is to any purpose to be obtained, or is manifested, but only in and by the Lord Christ:—
1. God, by the work of the creation, by the creation itself, did reveal himself in many of his properties unto his creatures capable of his knowledge; — his power, his goodness, his wisdom, his all-sufficiency, are thereby known. This the apostle asserts, Rom. i. 19–21. Verse 19, he calls it τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, — verse 20, that is, his eternal power and Godhead; and verse 21, a knowing of God: and 139139 Ἐπεὶ οὖν τὸ γενόμενον ὁ κόσμος ἐστὶν ὁ ξύμπας, ὁ τοῦτον θεωρῶν τάχα ἂν ἀκοῦσαι παρ’ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἐμὲ πεποίηκεν ὁ Θεός. — Plotin.all this by the creation. But yet there are some properties of God which all the works of creation cannot in any measure reveal or make 81known; — as his patience, long-suffering, and forbearance. For all things being made 140140 Gen. i. 31.good, there could be no place for the exercise of any of these properties, or manifestation of them. The whole fabric of heaven and earth considered in itself, as at first created, will not discover any such thing as patience and forbearance in God;141141 “Quamvis speciali cura atque indulgentia Dei, populum Israelitcum constat electum, omnesque alias nationes suas vias ingredi, hoc est, secundum propriam permissæ sunt vivere voluntatem, non ita tamen se æterna Creatoris bonitas ab cationibus admoneret,” — Prosp. De Vocat. Gent. 2, 4. “Cœlum et terra, et omnia quæ in eis sunt, ecce undique mihi dicunt ut te amem, nec cessant dicere omnibus, ut sint inexcusabiles.” — August. Confess, lib. x. cap. 6. which yet are eminent properties of his nature, as himself proclaims and declares, Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.
Wherefore the Lord goes farther; and by the works of his providence, in preserving and ruling the world which he made, discovers and reveals these properties also. For whereas by cursing the earth, and filling all the elements oftentimes with signs of his anger and indignation, he hath, as the apostle tells us, Rom. i. 18, “revealed from heaven his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;” yet not proceeding immediately to destroy all things, he hath manifested his patience and forbearance to all. This Paul, Acts xiv. 16, 17, tells us: “He suffered all nations to walk in their own ways; yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness.” A large account of his goodness and wisdom herein the psalmist gives us, Ps. civ. throughout. By these ways he bare witness to his own goodness and patience; and so it is said, “He endures with much long-suffering,” etc., Rom. ix. 22. But now, here all the world is at a stand; by all this they have but an obscure glimpse of God, and see not so much as his back parts. Moses saw not that, until he was put into 142142 Exod. xxxiii. 22; 1 Cor. x. 4.the rock; and that rock was Christ. There are some of the most eminent and glorious properties of God (I mean, in the manifestation whereof he will be most glorious; otherwise his properties are not to be compared) that there is not the least glimpse to be attained of out of the Lord Christ, but only by and in him; and some that comparatively we have no light of but in him; and of all the rest no true light but by him:—
(1.) Of the first sort, whereof not the least guess and imagination can enter into the heart of man but only by Christ, are love and pardoning mercy:—
[1.] Love; I mean love unto sinners. Without this, man is of all creatures most miserable; and there is not the least glimpse of it that can possibly be discovered but in Christ. The Holy Ghost says, 821 John iv. 8, 16, “God is love;” that is, not only of a loving and tender nature, but one that will exercise himself in a dispensation of his love, eternal love, towards us, — one that hath purposes of love for us from of old, and will fulfil them all towards us in due season. But how is this demonstrated? how may we attain an acquaintance with it? He tells us, verse 9, “In this was manifested the love of God, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” This is the only discovery that God hath made of any such property in his nature, or of any thought of exercising it towards sinners, — in that he hath sent Jesus Christ into the world, that we might live by him. Where now is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world, with all their wisdom? Their voice must be that of the hypocrites in Zion, Isa. xxxiii. 14, 15. That wisdom which cannot teach me that God is love, shall ever pass for folly. Let men go to the sun, moon, and stars, to showers of rain and fruitful seasons, and answer truly what by them they learn hereof. Let them not think themselves wiser or better than those that went before them, who, to a man, got nothing by them, but being left inexcusable.
[2.] Pardoning mercy, or grace. Without this, even his love would be fruitless. What discovery may be made of this by a sinful man, may be seen in the father of us all; who, when he had sinned, had no reserve for mercy, but hid himself, Gen. iii. 8. He did it לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם, when the wind did but a little blow at the presence of God; and he did it foolishly, thinking to “hide himself among trees!” Ps. cxxxix. 7, 8. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” John i. 17, — grace in the truth and substance. Pardoning mercy, that comes by Christ alone; that pardoning mercy which is manifested in the gospel, and wherein God will be glorified to all eternity, Eph. i. 6. I mean not that general mercy, that velleity of acceptance which some put their hopes in:143143 Ἕστω δὴ ἔλεος, λύπη τὶς ἐπὶ φαινομένῳ κακῷ φθαρτικῷ καὶ λυπηρῷ τοῦ ἀναξίου τυγχάνειν. — Arist. 2. Rhet. “Quid autem misericordia, nisi alienæ miseriæ quædam in nostro corde compassio; quâ alicui, si possumus, subvenire compellimur?” — August. De Civit. Dei, lib. ix. cap. 5. that πάθος (which to ascribe unto God is the greatest dishonour that can be done him) shines not with one ray out of Christ; it is wholly treasured up in him, and revealed by him. Pardoning mercy is God’s free, gracious acceptance of a sinner upon satisfaction made to his justice in the blood of Jesus; nor is any discovery of it, but as relating to the satisfaction of justice, consistent with the glory of God. It is a mercy of inconceivable condescension in forgiveness, tempered with exact justice and severity. Rom. iii. 25, God is said “to set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins;” 83144144 Κατακαυχᾶται ἔλεος κρισεως, James ii. 13.his righteousness is also manifested in the business of forgiveness of sins: and therefore it is everywhere said to be wholly in Christ, Eph. i. 7. So that this gospel grace and pardoning mercy is alone purchased by him, and revealed in him. And this was the main end of all typical institutions, — to manifest that remission and forgiveness is wholly wrapped up in the Lord Christ, and that out of him there is not the least conjecture to be made of it, nor the least morsel to be tasted. Had not God set forth145145 Προέθετο. the Lord Christ, all the angels in heaven and men on earth could not have apprehended that there had been any such thing in the nature of God as this grace of pardoning mercy. The apostle asserts the full manifestation as well as the exercise of this mercy to be in Christ only, Tit. iii. 4, 5, “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared,” — namely, in the sending of Christ, and the declaration of him in the gospel. Then was this pardoning mercy and salvation not by works discovered.
And these are of those properties of God whereby he will be known, whereof there is not the least glimpse to be obtained but by and in Christ; and whoever knows him not by these, knows him not at all. They know an idol, and not the only true God. He that hath not the Son, the same hath not the Father, 1 John ii. 23; and not to have God as a Father, is not to have him at all; and he is known as a Father only as he is love, and full of pardoning mercy in Christ. How this is to be had the Holy Ghost tells us, 1 John v. 20, “The Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true.” By him alone we have our understanding to know him that is true. Now, these properties of God Christ revealeth in his doctrine, in the revelation he makes of God and his will, as the great prophet of the church, John xvii. 6. And on this account the knowledge of them is exposed to all, with an evidence unspeakably surmounting that which is given by the creation to his eternal power and Godhead. But the life of this knowledge lies in an acquaintance with his person, wherein the express image and beams of this glory of his Father do shine forth, Heb. i. 3; of which before.
(2.) There are other properties of God which, though also otherwise discovered, yet are so clearly, eminently, and savingly only in Jesus Christ; as, — [1.] His vindictive justice in punishing sin; [2.] His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners; [3.] His wisdom, in managing things for his own glory; [4.] His all-sufficiency, in himself and unto others. All these, though they may receive some lower and inferior manifestations out of Christ, yet they clearly shine only in him; so as that it may be our wisdom to be acquainted with them.
84[1.] His vindictive justice. God hath, indeed, many ways manifested his indignation and anger against sin; so that men cannot but know that it is “the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,” Rom. i. 32. He hath in the law threatened to kindle a fire in his anger that shall burn to the very heart of hell. And even in many providential dispensations, “his wrath is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness of men,” Rom. i. 18. So that men must say that he is a God of judgment. And he that shall but consider that the angels for sin were cast from heaven, shut up under chains of everlasting darkness unto the judgment of the great day (the146146 Ἤ μιν ἑλὼν ῥίψω ἐξ Τάρταρον ἠερόεντα, Τῆλε μαλ’ ἧχι βαθιστον ὑπὸ χθονός ἐστι βέρεθρον, Ἕνθα σιδήρειαί τε πύλαι καὶ χάλκεος οὐδός, Τόσσον ἔνερθ’ Αἴδεω, ὅσον οὐρανός ἐστ’ ἀπὸ γαίης. Homer, Il. θ. 13–16. rumour whereof seems to have been spread among the Gentiles, whence the poet makes his Jupiter threaten the inferior rebellious deities with that punishment); and how Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned with an overthrow, and burned into ashes, that they might be “examples unto those that should after live ungodly,” 2 Pet. ii. 6; cannot but discover much of God’s vindictive justice and his anger against sin. But far more clear doth this shine into us in the Lord Christ:—
1st. In him God hath manifested the naturalness of this righteousness unto him, in that it was impossible that it should be diverted from sinners without the interposing of a propitiation. Those who lay the necessity of satisfaction merely upon the account of a free act and determination of the will of God, leave, to my apprehension, no just and indispensable147147 Vid. Diatrib. De Just. Divin. [A treatise by Owen, which will be found in vol. x. of this edition of his works.] foundation for the death of Christ, but lay it upon a supposition of that which might have been otherwise. But plainly, God, in that he148148 Rom. viii. 32; Isa. liii. 10; Heb. x. 7–9; Rom. i. 32; 2 Thess. i. 5, 6; Ps. v. 5, 6; Hab. i. 13; Ps. cxix. 137. spared not his only Son, but made his soul an offering for sin, and would admit of no atonement but in his blood, hath abundantly manifested that it is of necessity to him (his holiness and righteousness requiring it) to render indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish unto sin. And the knowledge of this naturalness of vindictive justice, with the necessity of its execution on supposition of sin, is the only true and useful knowledge of it. To look upon it as that which God may exercise or forbear, makes his justice not a property of his nature, but a free act of his will; and a will to punish where one may do otherwise without injustice, is rather ill-will than justice.
2dly. In the penalty inflicted on Christ for sin, this justice is far more gloriously manifested than otherwise. To see, indeed, a world, 85made149149 Gen. iii. 17–19, viii. 21; Rom. viii. 21, 22; 2 Pet. ii. 4–6, iii. 6; Jude 6, 7. good and beautiful, wrapped up in wrath and curses, clothed with thorns and briers; to see the whole beautiful creation made subject to vanity, given up to the bondage of corruption; to hear it groan in pain under that burden; to consider legions of angels, most glorious and immortal creatures, cast down into hell, bound with chains of darkness, and reserved for a more dreadful judgment for one sin; to view the ocean of the blood of souls spilt to eternity on this account, — will give some insight into this thing. But what is all this to that view of it which may be had by a spiritual eye in the Lord Christ? All these things are worms, and of no value in comparison of him. To see him who is the150150 1 Cor. i. 30. wisdom of God, and the power of God, always151151 Matt. iii. 17. beloved of the Father; to see him, I say, fear,152152 Matt. xxvi. 37, 38; Mark xiv. 33; Luke xxii. 43, 44; Heb. v. 7; Matt. xxvii. 51; Mark xv. 33, 34; Isa. liii. 6. and tremble, and bow, and sweat, and pray, and die; to see him lifted up upon the cross, the earth trembling under him, as if unable to bear his weight; and the heavens darkened over him, as if shut against his cry; and himself hanging between both, as if refused by both; and all this because our sins did meet upon him; — this of all things doth most abundantly manifest the severity of God’s vindictive justice. Here, or nowhere, is it to be learned.
[2.] His patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards sinners. There are many glimpses of the patience of God shining out in the works of his providence; but all exceedingly beneath that discovery of it which we have in Christ, especially in these three things:—
1st. The manner of its discovery. This, indeed, is evident to all, that God doth not ordinarily immediately punish men upon their offences. It may be learned from his constant way in governing the world: notwithstanding all provocations, yet he doth 153153 Matt. v. 45; Acts xiv. 17, 18.good to men; causing his sun to shine upon them, sending them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. Hence it was easy for them to conclude that there was in him abundance of goodness and forbearance. But all this is yet in much darkness, being the exurgency of men’s reasonings from their observations; yea, the management of it [God’s patience] hath been such as that it hath proved a snare almost universally unto them towards whom it hath been exercised, Eccles. viii. 11, as well as a temptation to them who have looked on, Job xxi. 7; Ps. lxxiii. 2–4, etc.; Jer. xii. 1; Hab. i. 13. The discovery of it in Christ is utterly of another nature. In him the very nature of God is discovered to be love and kindness; and that he will exercise the same to sinners, he hath promised, sworn, and solemnly engaged himself by covenant. And that we may not hesitate about the aim 86which he hath herein, there is a stable bottom and foundation of acting suitably to those gracious properties of his nature held forth, — namely, the reconciliation and atonement that is made in the blood of Christ. Whatever discovery were made of the patience and lenity of God unto us, yet if it were not withal revealed that the other properties of God, as his justice and revenge for sin, had their actings also assigned to them to the full, there could be little consolation gathered from the former. And therefore, though God may teach men his goodness and forbearance, by sending them rain and fruitful seasons, yet withal at the same time, upon all occasions, “revealing his wrath from heaven against the ungodliness of men,” Rom. i. 18, it is impossible that they should do any thing but miserably fluctuate and tremble at the event of these dispensations; and yet this is the best that men can have out of Christ, the utmost they can attain unto. With the present possession of good things administered in this patience, men might, and did for a season, take up their thoughts and satiate themselves; but yet they were not in the least delivered from the154154 “Animula vagula, blandula, Hospes comesque corporis, Quæ nunc abibis in loca Pallida, rigida, nudula? Nec ut soles dabias jocos.” Had. Imp. bondage they were in by reason of death, and the darkness attending it. The law reveals no patience or forbearance in God; it speaks, as to the issue of transgressions, nothing but sword and fire, had not God interposed by an act of sovereignty. But now, as was said, with that revelation of forbearance which we have in Christ, there is also a discovery of the satisfaction of his justice and wrath against sin; so that we need not fear any actings from them to interfere with the works of his patience, which are so sweet unto us. Hence God is said to be “in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” 2 Cor. v. 19; manifesting himself in him as one that hath now no more to do for the manifestation of all his attributes, — that is, for the glorifying of himself, — but only to forbear, reconcile, and pardon sin in him.
2dly. In the nature of it. What is there in that forbearance which out of Christ is revealed? Merely a not immediate punishing upon the155155 Rom. ii. 4, 5, ix. 22. offence, and, withal, giving and continuing temporal mercies; such things as men are prone to abuse, and may perish with their bosoms full of them to eternity. That which lies hid in Christ, and is revealed from him, is full of love, sweetness, tenderness, kindness, grace. It is the Lord’s waiting to be gracious to sinners; waiting for an advantage to show love and kindness, for the most eminent endearing of a soul unto himself, Isa. xxx. 18, “Therefore will the 87Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you.” Neither is there any revelation of God that the soul finds more sweetness in than this. When it [one’s soul] is experimentally convinced that God from time to time hath passed by many, innumerable iniquities, he is astonished to think that God should do so; and admires that he did not take the advantage of his provocations to cast him out of his presence. He finds that, with infinite wisdom, in all long-suffering, he hath managed all his dispensations towards him to recover him from the power of the devil, to rebuke and chasten his spirit for sin, to endear him unto himself; — there is, I say, nothing of greater sweetness to the soul than this: and therefore the apostle says, Rom. iii. 25, that all is “through the forbearance of God.” God makes way for complete forgiveness of sins through this his forbearance; which the other doth not.
3dly. They differ in their ends and aims. What is the aim and design of God in the dispensation of that forbearance which is manifested and may be discovered out of Christ? The apostle tells us, Rom. ix. 22, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?” It was but to leave them inexcusable, that his power and wrath against sin might be manifested in their destruction. And therefore he calls it “a suffering of them to walk in their own ways,” Acts xiv. 16; which elsewhere he holds out as a most dreadful judgment, — to wit, in respect of that issue whereto it will certainly come; as Ps. lxxxi. 12, “I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels:” which is as dreadful a156156 “Eos, quibus indulgere videtur, quibus parcere, molles venturis malis (Deus) format.” — Seneca, “De Providentiâ,” cap. iv. — “Pro dii immortales! Cur interdum in hominum sceleribus maximis, aut connivetis, aut præsentis fraudis pœnas in diem reservatis!” — Cic. pro Cæl. 24. condition as a creature is capable of falling into in this world. And Acts xvii. 30, he calls it a “winking at the sins of their ignorance;” as it were taking no care nor thought of them in their dark condition, as it appears by the antithesis, “But now he commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” He did not take so much notice of them then as to command them to repent, by any clear revelation of his mind and will. And therefore the exhortation of the apostle, Rom. ii. 4, “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” is spoken to the Jews, who had advantages to learn the natural tendency of that goodness and forbearance which God exercises in Christ; which, indeed, leads to repentance: or else he doth in general intimate that, in very reason, men ought to make another use of those things than usually they do, and which he chargeth them 88withal, verse 5, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart,” etc. At157157 Κατὰ μὲν τοῦ ἐπιῤῥέοντος βάψαντα, γλυκὺ τὸ ὕδωρ ἀνιμήοασθαι· εἰ δὲ εἰς βάθος τὶς καθῆκεν τὴγ κάλπιν, ἁλμυρόν. — Arrian. περιπ. Εὐξείνου πόντου. best, then, the patience of God unto men out of Christ, by reason of their own incorrigible stubbornness, proves but like the waters of the river Phasis, that are sweet at the top and bitter in the bottom; they swim for a while in the sweet and good things of this life, Luke xvi. 25; wherewith being filled, they sink to the depth of all bitterness.
But now, evidently and directly, the end of that patience and forbearance of God which is exercised in Christ, and discovered in him to us, is the saving and bringing into God those towards whom he is pleased to exercise them. And therefore Peter tells you, 2 Pet. iii. 9, that he is “long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” — that is, all us towards whom he exercises forbearance; for that is the end of it, that his will concerning our repentance and salvation may be accomplished. And the nature of it, with its end, is well expressed, Isa. liv. 9, “This is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth,” etc. It is God’s taking a course, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, that we shall not be destroyed notwithstanding our sins; and therefore, Rom. xv. 5, these two things are laid together in God, as coming together from him, “The God of patience and consolation:” his patience is a matter of the greatest consolation. And this is another property of God, which, though it may break forth in some rays, to some ends and purposes, in other things, yet the treasures of it are hid in Christ; and none is acquainted with it, unto any spiritual advantage, that learns it not in him.
[3.] His wisdom, his infinite wisdom, in managing things for his own glory, and the good of them towards whom he hath thoughts of love. The Lord, indeed, hath laid out and manifested infinite wisdom158158 “Si amabilis est sapientia cum cognitione rerum conditiarum, quam amabilis est sapientia, quæ condidit omnia ex nihilo!” — August. Lib. Meditat., c. xviii. in his works of creation, providence, and governing of his world: in wisdom hath he made all his creatures. “How manifold are his works! in wisdom hath he made them all; the earth is full of his riches,” Ps. civ. 24. So in his providence, his supportment and guidance of all things, in order to one another, and his own glory, unto the ends appointed for them; for all these things “come forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working,” Isa. xxviii. 29. His law also is for ever to be admired, for the excellency of the wisdom therein, Deut. iv. 7, 8. But yet there is that which Paul is astonished at, and wherein God will for ever be 89exalted, which he calls, “The depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” Rom. xi. 33; — that is only hid in and revealed by Christ. Hence, as he is said to be “the159159 1 Cor. i. 20, 30. wisdom of God,” and to be “made unto us wisdom;” so the design of God, which is carried along in him, and revealed in the gospel, is called “the wisdom of God,” and a “mystery; even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world was; which none of the princes of this world knew,” 1 Cor. ii. 7, 8. Eph. iii. 10, it is called, “The manifold wisdom of God;” and to discover the depth and riches of this wisdom, he tells us in that verse that it is such, that principalities and powers, that very angels themselves, could not in the least measure get any acquaintance with it, until God, by gathering of a church of sinners, did actually discover it. Hence Peter informs us, that they who are so well acquainted with all the works of God, do yet bow down and desire with earnestness to look into these things (the things of the wisdom of God in the gospel), 1 Pet. i. 12. It asks a man much wisdom to make a curious work, fabric, and building; but if one shall come and deface it, to raise up the same building to more beauty and glory than ever, this is excellence of wisdom indeed. God in the beginning made all things good, glorious, and beautiful. When all things had an innocence and beauty, the clear impress160160 Gen. i. 31. of his wisdom and goodness upon them, they were very glorious; especially man, who was made for his special glory. Now, all this beauty was defaced by sin, and the whole161161 Gen. iii. 17, 18; Rom. i. 18. creation rolled up in darkness, wrath, curses, confusion, and the great praise of God buried in the heaps of it. Man, especially, was utterly lost, and came short of the glory of God, for which he was created, Rom. iii. 23. Here, now, doth the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God open itself. A design in Christ shines out from his bosom, that was lodged there from eternity, to recover things to such an estate as shall be exceedingly to the advantage of his glory, infinitely above what at first appeared, and for the putting of sinners into inconceivably a better condition than they were in before the entrance of sin. He appears now glorious; he is known to be a God 162162 Exod. xxxiii. 18, 19, xxxiv. 6, 7.pardoning iniquity and sin, and advances the riches of his grace: which was his design, Eph. i. 6. He hath infinitely vindicated his justice also, in the face of men, angels, and devils, in setting forth his Son for a 163163 Rom. iii. 24, 25.propitiation. It is also to our advantage; we are more fully established in his favour, and are carried on towards a more exceeding 164164 2 Cor. iv. 17.weight of glory than formerly was revealed. Hence was that ejaculation of one of the ancients, “O felix culpa, quæ talem meruit redemptorem!” Thus Paul tells us, “Great is the mystery of godliness,” 1 Tim. iii. 16, and that “without controversy.” We 90receive “grace for grace;”165165 John i. 16. — for that grace lost in Adam, better grace in Christ. Confessedly, this is a depth of wisdom indeed. And of the love of Christ to his church, and his union with it, to carry on this business, “This is a great mystery,” Eph. v. 32, says the apostle; great wisdom lies herein.
So, then, this also is hid in Christ, — the great and unspeakable riches of the wisdom of God, in pardoning sin, saving sinners, satisfying justice, fulfilling the law, repairing his own honour, and providing for us a more exceeding weight of glory; and all this out of such a condition as wherein it was impossible that it should enter into the hearts of angels or men how ever the glory of God should be repaired, and one sinning creature delivered from everlasting ruin. Hence it is said, that at the last day God “shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe,” 2 Thess. i. 10. It shall be an admirable thing, and God shall be for ever glorious in it, even in the bringing of believers to himself. To save sinners through believing, shall be found to be a far more admirable work than to create the world of nothing.
[4.] His all-sufficiency is the last of this sort that I shall name.
God’s all-sufficiency in himself is his absolute and universal perfection, whereby nothing is wanting in him, nothing to him: No accession can be made to his fulness, no decrease or wasting can happen thereunto. There is also in him an all-sufficiency for others; which is his power to impart and communicate his goodness and himself so to them as to satisfy and fill them, in their utmost capacity, with whatever is good and desirable to them. For the first of these, — his all-sufficiency for the communication of his goodness, that is, in the outward effect of it, — God abundantly manifested in the creation, in that he made all things good, all things perfect; that is, to whom nothing was wanting in their own kind; — he put a stamp of his own goodness upon them all. But now for the latter, — his giving himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by the creatures, to hold out all that is in him for the satiating and making them blessed, — that is alone discovered by and in Christ. In him he is a Father, a God in covenant, wherein he hath promised to lay out himself for them; in him hath he promised to give himself into their everlasting fruition, as their exceeding great reward.
And so I have insisted on the second sort of properties in God, whereof, though we have some obscure glimpse in other things, yet the clear knowledge of them, and acquaintance with them, is only to be had in the Lord Christ.
That which remaineth is, briefly to declare that not any of the properties of God whatever can be known, savingly and to consolation, 91but only in him; and so, consequently, all the wisdom of the knowledge of God is hid in him alone, and from him to be obtained.
2. There is no saving knowledge of any property of God, nor such as brings consolation, but what alone is to be had in Christ Jesus, being laid up in him, and manifested by him. Some eye the justice of God, and know that this is his righteousness, “that they which do such things” (as sin) “are worthy of death,” Rom. i. 32. But this is to no other end but to make them cry, “Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” Isa. xxxiii. 14. Others fix upon his patience, goodness, mercy, forbearance; but it doth not at all lead them to repentance; but “they despise the riches of his goodness, and after their hardness and impenitent hearts treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath,” Rom. ii. 4, 5. Others, by the very works of creation and providence, come to know “his eternal power and Godhead; but they glorify him not as God, nor are thankful, but become vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts are darkened,” Rom. i. 20. Whatever discovery men have of truth out of Christ, they “hold it captive under unrighteousness,” verse 18. Hence Jude tells us, verse 10, that “in what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.”
That we may have a saving knowledge of the properties of God, attended with consolation, these three things are required:— (1.) That God hath manifested the glory of them all in a way of doing good unto us. (2.) That he will yet exercise and lay them out to the utmost in our behalf. (3.) That, being so manifested and exercised, they are fit and powerful to bring us to the everlasting fruition of himself; which is our blessedness. Now, all these three lie hid in Christ; and the least glimpse of them out of him is not to be attained.
(1.) This is to be received, that God hath actually manifested the glory of all his attributes in a way of doing us good. What will it avail our souls, what comfort will it bring unto us, what endearment will it put upon our hearts unto God, to know that he is infinitely righteous, just, and holy, unchangeably true and faithful, if we know not how he may preserve the glory of his justice and faithfulness in his comminations and threatenings, but only in our ruin and destruction? if we can from thence only say it is a righteous thing with him to recompense tribulation unto us for our iniquities? What fruit of this consideration had Adam in the garden? Gen. iii. What sweetness, what encouragement, is there in knowing that he is patient and full of forbearance, if the glory of these is to be exalted in enduring the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction? nay, what will it avail us to hear him proclaim himself “The Lord, The Lord God,166166 Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. merciful 92and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth,” yet, withal, that he will “by no means clear the guilty,” — so shutting up the exercise of all his other properties towards us, upon the account of our iniquity? Doubtless, not at all. Under this naked consideration of the properties of God, justice will make men fly and hide, Gen. iii.; Isa. ii. 21, xxxiii. 15, 16; — patience, render them obdurate, Eccles. viii. 11. Holiness utterly deters them from all thoughts of approach unto him, Josh. xxiv. 19. What relief have we from thoughts of his immensity and omnipresence, if we have cause only to contrive how to fly from him (Ps. cxxxix. 11, 12), if we have no pledge of his gracious presence with us? This is that which brings salvation, when we shall see that God hath glorified all his properties in a way of doing us good. Now, this he hath done in Jesus Christ. In him hath he made his justice glorious, in making all our iniquities to167167 Isa. liii. 5, 6; Lev. xvi. 21; Rom. viii. 32. meet upon him, causing him to bear them all, as the scape-goat in the wilderness; not sparing him, but giving him up to death for us all; — so exalting his justice and indignation against sin in a way of freeing us from the condemnation of it, Rom. iii. 25, viii. 33, 34. In him hath he made his truth glorious, and his faithfulness, in the exact accomplishment of all his absolute threatenings and promises. That fountain-threat and commination whence all others flow, Gen. ii. 17, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die the death;” seconded with a curse, Deut. xxvii. 26, “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc. [Gal. iii. 10] — is in him accomplished, fulfilled, and the truth of God in them laid in a way to our good. He, by the grace of God, tasted death for us, Heb. ii. 9; and so delivered us who were subject to death, verse 15; and he hath fulfilled the curse, by being made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13. So that in his very threatenings his truth is made glorious in a way to our good. And for his promises, “They are all yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” 2 Cor. i. 20. And for his mercy, goodness, and the riches of his grace, how eminently are they made glorious in Christ, and advanced for our good! God hath set him forth to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sin; he hath made way in him for ever to exalt the glory of his pardoning mercy towards sinners. To manifest this is the great design of the gospel, as Paul admirably sets it out, Eph. i. 5–8. There must our souls come to an acquaintance with them, or for ever live in darkness.
Now, this is a saving knowledge, and full of consolation, when we can see all the properties of God made glorious and exalted in a way of doing us good. And this wisdom is hid only in Jesus Christ. Hence, when he desired his Father to glorify his name, John xii. 24, — to make in him his name (that is, his nature, his 93properties, his will) all glorious in that work of redemption he had in hand, — he was instantly answered from heaven, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” He will give it its utmost glory in him.
(2.) That God will yet exercise and lay out those properties of his to the utmost in our behalf. Though he hath made them all glorious in a way that may tend to our good, yet it doth not absolutely follow that he will use them for our good; for do we not see innumerable persons perishing everlastingly, notwithstanding the manifestation of himself which God hath made in Christ. Wherefore farther, God hath committed all his properties into the hand of Christ if I may so say, to be managed in our behalf, and for our good. He168168 1 Cor. i. 20, 30; Jer. xxiii. 6. is “The power of God, and the wisdom of God;” he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” and is “made unto us of God wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Christ having glorified his Father in all his attributes, he hath now the exercise of them committed to him, that he might be the captain of salvation to them that do believe; so that if, in the righteousness, the goodness, the love, the mercy, the all-sufficiency of God, there be any thing that will do us good, the Lord Jesus is fully interested with the dispensing of it in our behalf. Hence God is said to be “in him, reconciling the world unto himself,” 2 Cor. v. 18. Whatever is in him, he layeth it out for the reconciliation of the world, in and by the Lord Christ; and he becomes “The Lord our Righteousness,” Isa. xlv. 24, 25. And this is the second thing required.
(3.) There remaineth only, then, that these attributes of God, so manifested and exercised, are powerful and able to bring us to the everlasting fruition of him. To evince this, the Lord wraps up the whole covenant of grace in one promise, signifying no less: “I will be your God.” In the covenant, God becomes our God, and we are his people; and thereby all his attributes are ours also. And lest that we should doubt — when once our eyes are opened to see in any measure the inconceivable difficulty that is in this thing, what unimaginable obstacles on all hands there lie against us — that all is not enough to deliver and save us, God hath, I say, wrapped it up in this expression, Gen. xvii. 1, “I am,” saith he,169169 “Shaddai, Aquila interpretatur ἄλκιμον, quod nos robustum et ad omnia perpetranda sufficientem possumus dicere.” — Hieron., Epist. cxxxvi. “God Almighty” (all-sufficient); — “I am wholly able to perform all my undertakings, and to be thy exceeding great reward. I can remove all difficulties, answer all objections, pardon all sins, conquer all opposition: I am God all-sufficient.” Now, you know in whom this covenant and all the promises thereof are ratified, and in whose blood it is confirmed, — 94to wit, in the Lord Christ alone; in him only is God an all-sufficient God to any, and an exceeding great reward. And hence Christ himself is said to “save to the uttermost them that come to God by him,” Heb. vii. And these three things, I say, are required to be known, that we may have a saving acquaintance, and such as is attended with consolation, with any of the properties of God; and all these being hid only in Christ, from him alone it is to be obtained.
This, then, is the first part of our first demonstration, — that all true and sound wisdom and knowledge is laid up in the Lord Christ, and from him alone to be obtained; because our wisdom, consisting, in a main part of it, in the knowledge of God, his nature, and his properties, this lies wholly hid in Christ, nor can possibly be obtained but by him.
II. For the knowledge of ourselves, which is the second part of our170170 Ἡ σοφία ἐστὶ τῶν τιμιωτάτων. — Arist. wisdom, this consists in these three things, which our Saviour sends his Spirit to convince the world of, — even “sin, righteousness, and judgment,” John xvi. 8. To know ourselves in reference unto these three, is a main part of true and sound wisdom; for they all respect the supernatural and immortal end whereunto we are appointed; and there is none of these that we can attain unto but only in Christ.
1. In respect of sin. There is a sense and knowledge of sin left in the consciences of all men by nature. To tell them what is good and evil in many things, to approve and disapprove of what they do, in reference to a judgment to come, they need not go farther than themselves, Rom. ii. 14, 15. But this is obscure, and relates mostly to greater sins, and is in sum that which the apostle gives us, Rom. i. 32, “They know the judgment of God, that they which do such things are worthy of death.” This he placeth among the common presumptions and notions that are received by mankind, — namely, that it is171171 Τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν. — Rom. i. 32. “Perfecto demum scelere, magnitudo ejus intellecta est.” — Tacit. Τί χρῆμα πάσχεις; τίς σ’ ἀπόλλυσιν νόσος; Ἡ σύνεσις, ὅτι σύνοιδα δείν’ εἰργασμένος. Eurip. Orest. 395, 396. “righteous with God, that they who do such things are worthy of death.” And if that be true, which is commonly received, that no nation is so barbarous or rude, but it retaineth some sense of a Deity; then this also is true, that there is no nation but hath a sense of sin, and the displeasure of God for it. For this is the very first172172 “Primus est deorum cultus, Deos credere: deinde reddere illis majestatem suam, reddere bonitatem, sine qua nulla majestas est. Scire illos esse qui præsident mundo: qui universa vi sua temperant: qui humani generis tutelam gerunt.” — Senec., Epist. xcvi. “Neque honor ullus deberi potest Deo, si nihil præstat colenti; nec ullus metus, si non irascitur non colenti.” — Lactan. “Raro antecedentem scelestum Deseruit pede pæna claudo.” Horat., Od. iii. 2, 31, 32. “Quo fugis Encelade? quascunque accessseris oras, Sub Jove semper eris,” etc. ― “Hos tu Evasisse putes, quos diri conscia facti Mens habet attonitos, et surdo verbere cædit!” Juvenal, Sat. xiii. 192. Οἴει σὺ τοὺς θανόντας, ὦ Νικόστρατε, Τρυφῆς ἁπάσης μεταλαβόντας ἐν βίῳ, Πεφευγέναι, τὸ θεῖον ὡς λεληθότας; Ἔστιν Δίκης ὀφθαλμός, ὃς τὰ πάνθ’ ὁρᾷ. Καὶ γὰρ καθ’ ᾅδην δύο τρίβους νομίζομεν, Μίαν δικαίων, ἑτέραν δ’ ἀσεθῶν εἶν’ ὁδόν. Κ’ εἰ τοὺς δύο καλύψει ἡ γῆ, φαςὶ, χρόνῳ Ἁρπάζ’, ἀπελθών, κλέπτ’, ἀποστέρει, κύκα. Μηδὲν πλανηθῇς, ἔσται κᾴν ᾅδου κρίσις. Ἥνπερ ποιήσει Θεὸς ὁ πάντων δεσπότης, Οὗ τούνομα φοβερὸν οὐδ’ ἂν ὀνομάσαιμ’ ἐγώ. κ. τ. λ. Philemon, juxta Justin. Martyr. seu Diphil. juxta Clement. notion of God in the world, that he is the rewarder of good and 95evil. Hence were all the sacrifices, purgings, expiations, which were so generally spread over the face of the earth. But this was and is but very dark, in respect of that knowledge of sin with its appurtenances, which is to be obtained.
A farther knowledge of sin, upon all accounts whatever, is giver by the law; that law which was “added because of transgressions.” This173173 Gal. iii. 19; Rom. vii. 13. revives doctrinally all that sense of good and evil which was at first implanted in man; and it is a glass, whereinto whosoever is able spiritually to look, may see sin in all its ugliness and deformity. The truth is, look upon the law in its purity, holiness, compass, and perfection; its manner of delivery,174174 Exod. xix. 18–20; Deut. iv. 11; Heb. xii. 18–21. with dread, terror, thunder, earthquakes, fire; the sanction of it, in death, curse, wrath; and it makes a wonderful discovery of sin, upon every account: its pollution, guilt, and exceeding sinfulness are seen by it. But yet all this doth not suffice to give a man a true and thorough conviction of sin. Not but that the glass is clear, but of ourselves we have not eyes to look into it; the rule is straight, but we cannot apply it: and therefore Christ sends his Spirit to convince the world of sin, John xvi. 8; who, though, as to some ends and purposes, he makes use of the law, yet the work of conviction, which alone is a useful knowledge of sin, is his peculiar work. And so the discovery of sin may also be said to be by Christ, — to be part of the wisdom that is hid in him. But yet there is a twofold regard besides this, of his sending his Spirit to convince us, wherein this wisdom appears to be hid in him:— First, because there are some near concernments of sin, which are more clearly held out in the Lord Christ’s being made sin for us, than any other way. Secondly, in that there is no knowledge to be had of 96sin, so as to give it a spiritual and saving improvement, but only in him.
For the first, there are four things in sin that clearly shine out in the cross of Christ:— (1.) The desert of it. (2.) Man’s impotency by reason of it. (3.) The death of it. (4.) A new end put to it.
(1.) The desert of sin doth clearly shine in the cross of Christ upon a twofold account:— [1.] Of the person suffering for it. [2.] Of the penalty he underwent.
[1.] Of the person suffering for it. This the Scripture oftentimes very emphatically sets forth, and lays great weight upon: John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” It was his only Son that God sent into the world to suffer for sin, Rom. viii. 32. “He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” To see a slave beaten and corrected, it argues a fault committed; but yet perhaps the demerit of it was not very great. The correction of a son argues a great provocation; that of an only son, the greatest imaginable. Never was sin seen to be more abominably sinful and full of provocation, than when the burden of it was upon the shoulders of the Son of God. God having made his Son, the Son of his love, his only begotten, full of grace and truth,175175 2 Cor. v. 21. sin for us, to manifest his indignation against it, and how utterly impossible it is that he should let the least sin go unpunished, he lays176176 Zech. xiii. 7. hand on him, and spares him not. If177177 Heb. x. 7; Isa. liii. 6. sin be imputed to the dear Son of his bosom, as upon his own voluntary assumption of it it was (for he said to his Father, “Lo, I come to do thy will,” and all our iniquities did meet on him), [and] he will not spare him any thing of the due desert of it; is it not most clear from hence, even from the blood of the cross of Christ, that such is the demerit of sin, that it is altogether impossible that God should pass by any, the least, unpunished? If he would have done it for any, he would have done it in reference to his only Son; but he spared him not.
Moreover, God is not at all delighted with, nor desirous of, the blood, the tears, the cries, the inexpressible torments and sufferings, of the Son of his love (for he delights not in the anguish of any, — “he doth not178178 Lam. iii. 33. afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,” much less the Son of his bosom); only he required that his law be fulfilled, his justice satisfied, his wrath atoned for sin; and nothing less than all this would bring it about. If the debt of sin might have been compounded for at a cheaper rate, it had never been held up at the price of the blood of Christ. Here, then, soul, take a view of the desert of sin; behold it far more evident than in all the threatenings and curses of the law. “I thought, indeed,” mayest thou say from thence, “that sin, being found on such a poor worm as I am, 97was worthy of death; but that it should have this effect if charged on the Son of God, — that I never once imagined.”
[2.] Consider also, farther, what he suffered. For though he was so excellent a one, yet perhaps it was but a light affliction and trial that he underwent, especially considering the strength he had to bear it. Why, whatever it were, it made this179179 Zech. xiii. 7. “fellow of the Lord of hosts,” this180180 Rev. v. 5. “lion of the tribe of Judah,” this181181 Ps. lxxxix. 19. “mighty one,” “the182182 Prov. viii. 22; 1 Cor. i. 24. wisdom and power of God,” to tremble,183183 Matt. xxvi. 37, 38; Mark xiv. 33, 34; Luke xxii. 44; Heb. v. 7. sweat, cry, pray, wrestle, and that with strong supplications. Some of the popish devotionists tell us that one drop, the least, of the blood of Christ, was abundantly enough to redeem all the world; but they err, not knowing the desert of sin, nor the severity of the justice of God. If one drop less than was shed, one pang less than was laid on, would have done it, those other drops had not been shed, nor those other pangs laid on. God did not cruciate the dearly-beloved of his soul for nought. But there is more than all this:—
It pleased God to 184184 Isa. liii. 5, 6.bruise him, to put him to grief, to make his soul an offering for sin, and to pour out his life unto death. He 185185 Ps. xxii. 1.hid himself from him, — was far from the voice of his cry, until he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He made him 186186 2 Cor. v. 21.sin and a 187187 Gal. iii. 13.curse for us; executed on him the sentence of the law; brought him into an agony, wherein he sweat thick drops of blood, was grievously troubled, and his soul was heavy unto death. He that was the power of God, and the wisdom of God, went stooping under the burden, until the whole frame of nature seemed astonished at it. Now this, as I said before that it discovered the indignation of God against sin, so it clearly holds out the desert of it. Would you, then, see the true demerit of sin? — take the measure of it from the mediation of Christ, especially his cross. It brought him who was the Son of God, equal unto God, God blessed for ever, into the form of a 188188 Phil. ii. 8.servant, who had not where to lay his head. It pursued him all his life with afflictions and persecutions; and lastly brought him under the rod of God; there bruised him and brake him, — 189189 1 Cor. ii. 7.slew the Lord of life. Hence is deep humiliation for it, upon the account of him whom we 190190 Zech. xii. 10.have pierced. And this is the first spiritual view of sin we have in Christ.
(2.) The wisdom of understanding our impotency, by reason of sin, is wrapped up in him. By our impotency, I understand two things:— [1.] Our disability to make any atonement with God for sin. [2.] Our disability to answer his mind and will, in all or any of the obedience that he requireth, by reason of sin.
98[1.] For the first, that alone is discovered in Christ. Many inquiries have the sons of men made after an atonement, — many ways have they entered into to accomplish it. After this they inquire, Mic. vi. 6, 7, “Will any manner of sacrifices, though appointed of God, as burnt-offerings, and calves of a year old; though very costly, thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil; though dreadful and tremendous, offering violence to nature, as to give my children to the fire;” — will any of these things make an atonement? David doth positively, indeed, determine this business, Ps. xlix. 7, 8, “None of them” (of the best or richest of men) “can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever.” It cannot be done, — no atonement can be made; yet men would still be doing, still attempting: hence did they heap up191191 Vid. Diatr. de Just. Divin. cap. iii. vol. x. sacrifices, some costly, some bloody and inhuman. The Jews, to this day, think that God was atoned for sin by the sacrifices of bulls and goats, and the like. And the Socinians acknowledge no atonement, but what consists in men’s repentance and new obedience. In the cross of Christ are the mouths of all stopped as to this thing. For, —
1st. God hath there discovered that no sacrifices for sin, though of his own appointment, could ever make them perfect that offered them, Heb. x. 11. Those sacrifices could never take away sin;192192 Ps. xl. 6, 7. — those services could never make them perfect that performed them, as to the conscience, Heb. ix. 9; as the apostle proves, chap. x. 1. And thence the Lord rejects all sacrifices and offerings whatever, as to any such end and purpose, verses 6–8, Christ, in their stead, saying, “Lo, I come;” and by him we are “justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law,” Acts xiii. 39: God, I say, in Christ, hath condemned all sacrifices, as wholly insufficient in the least to make an atonement for sin. And how great a thing it was to instruct the sons of men in this wisdom, the event hath manifested.
2dly. He hath also written vanity on all other endeavours whatever, that have been undertaken for that purpose. Rom. iii. 24–26, by setting forth his only Son “to be a propitiation,” he leaves no doubt upon the spirits of men that in themselves they could make no atonement; for “if righteousness were by the law, then were Christ dead in vain.” To what purpose should he be made a propitiation, were not we ourselves weak and without strength to any such purpose? So the apostle argues, Rom. v. 6, when we had no power, then did he by death make an atonement; as verses 8, 9.
This, wisdom then, is also hid in Christ. Men may see by other helps, perhaps, far enough to fill them with dread and astonishment, as those in Isa. xxxiii. 14; but such a sight and view of it as may 99lead a soul to any comfortable settlement about it, — that only is discovered in this treasury of heaven, the Lord Jesus.
[2.] Our disability to answer the mind and will of God, in all or any of the obedience that he requireth, is in him only to be discovered. This, indeed, is a thing that many will not be acquainted with to this day. To teach a man that he cannot do what he ought to do, and for which he condemns himself if he do it not, is no easy task. Man rises up with all his power to plead against a conviction of impotency. Not to mention the proud193193 “Quia unusquisque sibi virtutem acquirit; nemo sapientum de ea gratias Deo egit.” — Cicer. conceits and expressions of the philosophers, how many that would be called Christians do yet creep, by several degrees, in the persuasion of a power of fulfilling the law! And from whence, indeed, should men have this knowledge that we have not? Nature will not teach it, — that is194194 “Natura sic apparet vitiata, ut hoc majoris vitii sit non videre.” — Aug. proud and conceited; and it is one part of its pride, weakness, and corruption, not to know it at all. The law will not teach it: for though that will show us what we have done amiss, yet it will not discover to us that we could not do better; yea, by requiring exact obedience of us, it takes for granted that such power is in us for that purpose: it takes no notice that we have lost it; nor doth it concern it so to do. This, then, also lies hid in the Lord Jesus. Rom. viii. 2–4, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” The law can bring forth no righteousness, no obedience; it is weak to any such purpose, by reason of the flesh, and that corruption that is come on us. These two things are done in Christ, and by him:— First, Sin is condemned as to its guilt, and we set free from that; the righteousness of the law by his obedience is fulfilled in us, who could never do it ourselves. And, secondly, That obedience which is required of us, his Spirit works it in us. So that that perfection of obedience which we have in him is imputed to us; and the sincerity that we have in obedience is from his Spirit bestowed on us. And this is the most excellent glass, wherein we see our impotency; for what need we his perfect obedience to be made ours, but that we have not, can not attain any? what need we his Spirit of life to quicken us, but that we are dead in trespasses and sins?
(3.) The death of sin; — sin dying in us now, in some measure, whilst we are alive. This is a third concernment of sin which it is our wisdom to be acquainted with; and it is hid only in Christ. There is a 100twofold dying of sin:— as to the exercise of it in our mortal members; and as to the root, principle, and power of it in our souls. The first, indeed, may be learned in part out of Christ. Christless men may have sin dying in them, as to the outward exercise of it. Men’s bodies may be disabled for the service of their lusts, or the practice of them may not consist with their interest. Sin is never more alive195195 See Treatise on Mortification. [Works., vol. vi.] than when it is thus dying. But there is a dying of it as to the root, the principle of it, — the daily decaying of the strength, power, and life of it; and this is to be had alone in Christ. Sin is a thing that of itself is not apt to die or to decay, but to get ground, and strength, and life, in the subject wherein it is, to eternity; prevent all its actual eruptions, yet its original enmity against God will still grow. In believers it is still dying and decaying, until it be utterly abolished. The opening of this treasury [mystery?] you have, Rom. vi. 3–6, etc. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” This is the design of the apostle in the beginning of that chapter, not only to manifest whence is the principle and rise of our mortification and the death of sin, even from the death and blood of Christ; but also the manner of sin’s continuance and dying in us, from the manner of Christ’s dying for sin. He was crucified for us, and thereby sin was crucified in us; he died for us, and the body of sin is destroyed, that we should not serve sin; and as he was raised from the dead, that death should not have dominion over him, so also are we raised from sin, that it should not have dominion over us. This wisdom is hid in Christ only. Moses at his dying day had all his strength and vigour; so have sin and the law to all out of Jesus: at their dying day, sin is no way decayed. Now, next to the receiving of the righteousness prepared for us, to know this is the chiefest part of our wisdom. To be truly acquainted with the principle of the dying of sin, to feel virtue and power flowing from the cross of Christ to that purpose, to find sin crucified in us, as Christ was crucified for us, — this is wisdom indeed, that is in him alone.
(4.) There is a glorious end whereunto sin is appointed and ordained, and discovered in Christ, that others are unacquainted withal. Sin in its own nature tends merely to the dishonour of God, the debasement of his majesty, and the ruin of the creature in whom it is; 101hell itself is but the filling of wretched creatures with the196196 Prov. i. 31; Jer. xvii. 10. fruit of their own devices. The comminations and threats of God in the law do manifest one other end of it, even the demonstration of the vindictive justice of God, in measuring out unto it a meet197197 2 Thess. i. 6. recompense of reward. But here the law stays (and with it all other light) and discovers no other use or end of it at all. In the Lord Jesus there is the manifestation of another and more glorious end; to wit, the praise of God’s glorious198198 Eph. i. 6. grace in the pardon and forgiveness of it; — God having taken order in Christ that that thing which tended merely to his dishonour should be managed to his infinite glory, and that which of all things he desireth to exalt, — even that he may be known and believed to be a199199 Heb. viii. 6–13. “God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin.” To return, then, to this part of our demonstration:—
In the knowledge of ourselves, in reference to our eternal condition, doth much of our wisdom consist. There is not any thing wherein, in this depraved condition of nature, we are more concerned than sin; without a knowledge of that, we know not ourselves. “Fools make a mock of sin.” A true saving knowledge of sin is to be had only in the Lord Christ: in him may we see the desert of our iniquities, and their pollution, which could not be borne or expiated but by his blood; neither is there any wholesome view of these but in Christ. In him and his cross is discovered our universal impotency, either of atoning God’s justice or living up to his will. The death of sin is procured by, and discovered in, the death of Christ; as also the manifestation of the riches of God’s grace in the pardoning thereof. A real and experimental acquaintance, as to ourselves, with all which, is our wisdom; and it is that which is of more value than all the wisdom of the world.
2. Righteousness is a second thing whereof the Spirit of Christ convinces the world, and the main thing that it is our wisdom to be acquainted withal. This all men are persuaded of, that God is a most righteous God; (that is a natural notion of God which Abraham insisted on, Gen. xviii. 25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”) they “know that this is the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death,” Rom. i. 32; that “it is a righteous thing with him to recompense tribulation unto offenders,” 2 Thess. i. 6. He is “a God of purer eyes than to behold evil,” Hab. i. 13; and therefore, “the ungodly cannot stand in judgment,” Ps. i. 5. Hence the great inquiry of every one (who lies in any measure under the power of it), convinced of immortality and the judgment to come, is concerning the righteousness wherewith to appear in the presence of this righteous God. This more or less they are solicitous about all their days; and so, as the apostle speaks, Heb. ii. 15, 102“through the fear of death they are all their lifetime subject to bondage,” — they are perplexed with fears about the issue of their righteousness, lest it should end in death and destruction.
(1.) Unto men set upon this inquiry, that which first and naturally presents itself, for their direction and assistance, assuredly promising them a righteousness that will abide the trial of God, provided they will follow its direction, is the law. The law hath many fair pleas to prevail with a soul to close with it for a righteousness before God. It was given out from God himself for that end and purpose; it contains the whole obedience that God requireth of any of the sons of men; it hath the promise of life annexed to it: “Do this, and live,” “The doers of the law are justified;” and, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” — yea, it is most certain that it must be wholly fulfilled, if we ever think to stand with boldness before God. This being some part of the plea of the law, there is no man that seeks after righteousness but doth, one time or another, attend to it, and attempt its direction. Many do it every day, who yet will not own that so they do. This, then, they set themselves about, — labouring to correct their lives, amend their ways, perform the duties required, and so follow after a righteousness according to the prescript of the law. And in this course do many men continue long with much perplexity; — sometimes hoping, oftener fearing; sometimes ready to give quite over; sometimes vowing to continue (their consciences being no way satisfied, nor righteousness in any measure attained) all their days. After they have wearied themselves perhaps for a long season, in the largeness of their ways, they come at length, with fear, trembling, and disappointment, to that conclusion of the apostle, “By the works of the law no flesh is justified;” and with dread cry that if God mark what is done amiss, there is no standing before him. That they have this issue, the apostle witnesseth, 200200 Διώκων νόμον δικαιοσύνης εἰς νόμον δικαιοσύνης οὐκ ἔφθασε.Rom. ix. 31, 32, “Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” It was not solely for want of endeavour in themselves that they were disappointed, for they earnestly followed after the law of righteousness; but from the nature of the thing itself, — it would not bear it. Righteousness was not to be obtained that way; “For,” saith the apostle, “if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect; because the law worketh wrath,” Rom. iv. 14, 15. The law itself is now such as that it cannot give life, Gal. iii. 21, “If there had been a law given which would have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” And he gives the reason in the next verse why it could not give life; because 103“the Scripture concludes all under sin;” — that is, it is very true, and the Scripture affirms it, that all men are sinners, and the law speaks not one word to sinners but death and destruction: therefore the apostle tells us plainly, that God himself found fault with this way of attaining righteousness, Heb. viii. 7, 8. 201201 Μεμφόμενο.He complains of it; that is, he declares it insufficient for that end and purpose.
Now, there are two considerations that discover unto men the vanity and hopelessness of seeking righteousness in this path:—
[1.] That they have already sinned:202202 Πάντες ἥμαρτον, Rom. iii. 23, v. 12. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Rom. iii. 23. This they are sufficiently sensible of, that although they could for the time to come fulfil the whole law, yet there is a score, a reckoning, upon them already, that they know not how to answer for. Do they consult their guide, the 203203 Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10.law itself, how they may be eased of the account that is past? it hath not one word of direction or consolation; but bids them prepare to die. The sentence is gone forth, and there is no escaping.
[2.] That if all former debts should be blotted out, yet they are no way able for the future to fulfil the law; they can as well move the earth with a finger, as answer the perfection thereof: and therefore, as I said, on this twofold account, they conclude that this labour is lost. 204204 Gal. iii. 11, 12.“By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
(2.) Wherefore, secondly, Being thus disappointed, by the severity and inexorableness of the law, men generally betake themselves to some other way, that may satisfy them as to those considerations which took them off from their former hopes; and this, for the most part, is by fixing themselves upon some ways of atonement to satisfy God, and helping out the rest with hopes of mercy. Not to insist on the ways of atonement and expiation which the Gentiles had pitched on; nor on the many ways and inventions — by works satisfactory of their own, supererogations of others, indulgences, and purgatory in the close — that the Papists have found out for this end and purpose; it is, I say, proper to all convinced persons, as above, to seek for a righteousness, partly by an endeavour to satisfy for what is past, and partly by hoping after general mercy. This the apostle calls a seeking for it “as it were by the works of the law,” Rom. ix. 32; 205205 Ὡς ἐξ ἔργων νόμου.not directly, “but as it were” by the works of the law, making up one thing with another. And he tells us what issue they have in this business, chap. x. 3, “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were by it enemies to the righteousness of God. The ground of this going about to establish their own righteousness was, that they were ignorant of the righteousness 104of God. Had they known the righteousness of God, and what exact conformity to his will he requireth, they had never undertaken such a fruitless business as to have compassed it “as it were by the works of the law.” Yet this many will stick on a long time. Something they do, something they hope for; some old faults they will buy off with new obedience. And this pacifies their consciences for a season; but when the Spirit comes to convince them of righteousness, neither will this hold. Wherefore, —
(3.) The matter comes at length to this issue, — they look upon themselves under this twofold qualification; as, —
[1.] Sinners, obnoxious to the law of God and the curse thereof; so that unless that be satisfied, that nothing from thence shall ever be laid to their charge, it is altogether in vain once to seek after an appearance in the presence of God.
[2.] As creatures made to a supernatural and eternal end; and therefore bound to answer the whole mind and will of God in the obedience required at their hands. Now, it being before discovered to them that both these are beyond the compass of their own endeavours, and the assistance which they have formerly rested on, if their eternal condition be of any concernment to them, their wisdom is, to find out a righteousness that may answer both these to the utmost.
Now, both these are to be had only in the Lord Christ, who is our righteousness. This wisdom, and all the treasures of it, are hid in him.
1st. He expiates former iniquities, he satisfies for sin, and procures remission of it. Rom. iii. 24, 25, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” “All we like sheep,” etc., Isa. liii. 6. “Through his blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” Eph. i. 7. “God spared not his own Son, but delivered,” etc., Rom. viii. 32. This, even this alone, is our righteousness; as to that first part of it which consists in the removal of the whole guilt of sin, whereby we are come short of the glory of God. On this account it is that we are assured that none shall ever lay any thing to our charge, or condemn us, Rom. viii. 33, 34, — there being “no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” verse 1. We are purged by the sacrifice of Christ, so as to have “no more conscience of sin,” Heb. x. 2; that is, troubles in conscience about it. This wisdom is hid only in the Lord Jesus; in him alone is there an atonement discovered: and give me the wisdom which shall cut all scores concerning sin, and let the world take what remains. But, —
2dly. There is yet something more required; it is not enough that 105we are not guilty, we must also be actually righteous; — not only all sin is to be answered for, but all righteousness is to be fulfilled. By taking away the guilt of sin, we are as persons innocent; but something more is required to make us to be considered as persons obedient. I know nothing to teach me that an innocent person shall go to heaven, be rewarded, if he be no more but so. Adam was innocent at his first creation, but he was to “do this,” to “keep the commandments,” before he entered into “life:” he had no title to life by innocence. This, then, moreover, is required, that the whole law be fulfilled, and all the obedience performed that God requires at our hands. This is the soul’s second inquiry; and it finds a resolution only in the Lord Christ: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life,” Rom. v. 10. His death reconciled us; then are we saved by his life. The actual obedience which he yielded to the whole law of God, is that righteousness whereby we are saved; if so be we are found in him, not having on our own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith, Phil. iii. 9. This I shall have occasion to handle more at large hereafter.
To return, then: It is not, I suppose, any difficult task to persuade men, convinced of immortality and judgment to come, that the main of their wisdom lies in this, even to find out such a righteousness as will accompany them for ever, and abide the severe trial of God himself. Now, all the wisdom of the world is but folly, as to the discovery of this thing. The utmost that man’s wisdom can do, is but to find out most wretched, burdensome, and vexatious ways of perishing eternally. All the treasures of this wisdom are hid in Christ; he “of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness,” 1 Cor. i. 30.
3. Come we to the last thing, which I shall but touch upon;
and that is judgment. The true wisdom of this also is hid in the
Lord Christ; I mean, in particular, that judgment that is for to come: so
at present I take the word in that place, [John xvi.
8.] Of what concernment this is to us to know, I shall not
speak; — it is that whose 206206 “Bene
et compositè C. Cæsar … de vita et morte disseruit, falsa, credo,
existimans, ea quæ de infernis memorantur; diverso itinere malos a bonis
loca tetra, inculta, fœda atque formidolosa habere,” — Cato. apud. Sallust. Bell. Catil.
Ἀλλ’ ἔστι καὶ τῷ ὄντι τὸ ἀγκβιώσκεσθαι, καὶ ἐκ τῶν τεθνεώτων τοὺς ζῶντας γίγνεσθαι, καὶ τὰς τῶν τεθνεώτων ψυχὰς εἶναι· καὶ ταῖς μὲν ἀγαθαῖς ἄμεινον εἶναι, ταῖς δὲ κακαῖς, κάκιον. — Plat. in Phæd. 17.influence upon the sons of men is the principle of their discriminating themselves from the beasts that perish. Neither shall I insist on the 207207 “Devenêre locos lætos, et amœna vireta Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas,” etc. Virg., Æn. vi. 638.obscure intimations of it which are given by the present proceedings of Providence in governing the world; nor that greater light of it which shines in the threats and promises of the law. The wisdom of it is 106in two regards hid in the Lord Jesus:— (1.) As to the truth of it. (2.) As to the manner of it:—
(1.) For the truth of it; and so in and by him it is confirmed, and that two ways:— [1.] By his death. [2.] By his resurrection:—
[1.] By his death. God, in the death of Christ, punishing and condemning sin in the flesh of his own Son, in the sight of men, angels, and devils, hath given an abundant assurance of a righteous and universal judgment to come; wherefore, or upon what account imaginable, could he be induced to lay such a load on him, but that he will certainly reckon one day with the sons of men for all their works, ways, and walkings before him. The death of Christ is a most solemn exemplar of the last judgment. Those who own him to be the Son of God, will not deny a judgment to come.
[2.] By his resurrection. Acts xvii. 31, Πίστιν παρασχὼν πᾶσιν, — he hath given faith and assurance of this thing to all, by raising Christ from the dead, having appointed him to be the judge of all; in whom and by whom he will judge the world in righteousness. And then, —
(2.) And, lastly, for the manner of it: that it shall be by him who hath loved us, and given himself for us, — who is himself the righteousness that he requires of our hands; and on the other side, by him who hath been, in his person, grace, ways, worship, servants, reviled, despised, contemned by the men of the world; — which holds out unspeakable consolation on the one hand, and terror on the other: so that the wisdom of this also is hid in Christ.
And this is the second part of our first demonstration. Thus the knowledge of ourselves, in reference to our supernatural end, is no small portion of our wisdom. The things of the greatest concernment hereunto are, sin, righteousness, and judgment; the wisdom of all which is alone hid in the Lord Jesus: which was to be proved.
III. The third part of our wisdom is to walk with God. Now, that one may walk with another, six208208 In the previous editions it is stated that five things are required to walk with God, and then five things are immediately enumerated. It will be found, however, that, in the subsequent illustration, six particulars are specified. A particular, the way, (see p. 109,) had been omitted in the division stated above. We have, therefore, altered it in accordance with Owen’s real treatment of his subject. — Ed. things are required:— 1. Agreement. 2. Acquaintance. 3. A way. 4. Strength. 5. Boldness. 6. An aiming at the same end. All these, with the wisdom of them, are hid in the Lord Jesus.
1. Agreement. The prophet tells us that two cannot walk together unless they be agreed, Amos iii. 3. Until agreement be made, there is no communion, no walking together. God and man by nature (or whilst man is in the state of nature) are at the greatest enmity. He declares nothing to us but wrath, Rom. i. 18; whence we are said to be children of it; that is, born obnoxious to it, Eph. ii. 3: and whilst we remain in that condition, “the wrath of God abideth on us,” John iii. 36. 107All the discovery that God makes of himself unto us is, that he is inexpressibly provoked; and therefore preparing wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of his righteous judgment. The day of his and sinners’ meeting, is called “The day of wrath,” Rom. ii. 5, 6. Neither do we come short in our enmity against him; yea, we first began it, and we continue longest in it. To express this enmity, the apostle tells us, that our very minds, the best part of us, are “enmity against God,” Rom. viii. 7, 8; and that we neither are, nor will, nor can be, subject to him; our enmity manifesting itself by universal rebellion against him: whatever we do that seems otherwise, is but hypocrisy or flattery; yea, it is a part of this enmity to lessen it. In this state the wisdom of walking with God must needs be most remote from the soul. He is 209209 1 John i. 5, Σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία. John i. 5; Eph. v. 8, ii. 1; Exod. xv. 11; 1 John iv. 8; Tit. iii. 3.“light, and in him is no darkness at all;” we are darkness, and in us there is no light at all. He is life, a “living God;” we are dead, dead sinners, — dead in trespasses and sin. He is “holiness,” and glorious in it; we wholly defiled, — an abominable thing. He is “love;” we full of hatred, — hating and being hated. Surely this is no foundation for agreement, or, upon that, of walking together: nothing can be more remote than this frame from such a condition. The foundation, then, of this, I say, is laid in Christ, hid in Christ. “He,” saith the apostle, “is our peace; he hath made peace” for us, Eph. ii. 14, 15. He slew the enmity in his own body on the cross, verse 16.
(1.) He takes out of the way the cause of the enmity that was between God and us, — sin and the curse of the law. He makes an end of sin, and that by making atonement for iniquity, Dan. ix. 24; and he blotteth out the hand-writing of ordinances, Col. ii. 14, redeeming us from the curse, by “being made a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13.
(2.) He destroys him who would continue the enmity, and make the breach wider, Heb. ii. 14 “Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” and, Col. ii. 15, “spoiled principalities and powers.”
(3.) He made “reconciliation for the sins of the people,” Heb. ii. 17; he made by his blood an atonement with God, to turn away that wrath which was due to us, so making peace. Hereupon God is said to be “in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,” 2 Cor. v. 19; — being reconciled himself, verse 18, he lays down the enmity on his part, and proceeds to what remains, — to slay the enmity on our part, that we also may be reconciled. And this also, —
(4.) He doth; for, Rom. v. 11, “By our Lord Jesus Christ we do receive the atonement,” accept of the peace made and tendered, laying down our enmity to God; and so confirming an agreement betwixt us in his blood. So that “through him we have an access 108unto the Father,” Eph. ii. 18. Now, the whole wisdom of this agreement, without which there is no walking with God, is hid in Christ; out of him God on his part is a consuming fire, — we are as stubble fully dry, yet setting ourselves in battle array against that fire: if we are brought together we are consumed. All our approachings to him out of Christ are but to our detriment; in his blood alone have we this agreement. And let not any of us once suppose that we have taken any step in the paths of God with him, that any one duty is accepted, that all is not lost as to eternity, if we have not done it upon the account hereof.
2. There is required acquaintance, also, to walking together. Two may meet together in the same way, and have no quarrel between them, no enmity; but if they are mere strangers one to another, they pass by without the least communion together. It doth not suffice that the enmity betwixt God and us be taken away; we must also have acquaintance given us with him. Our not knowing of him is a great cause and a great part of our enmity. Our understandings are “darkened,” and we are “alienated from the life of God,” etc., Eph. iv. 18. This also, then, must be added, if we ever come to walk with God, which is our wisdom. And this also is hid in the Lord Christ, and comes forth from him. It is true there are sundry other means, as his word and his works, that God hath given the sons of men, to make a discovery of himself unto them, and to give them some acquaintance with him, that, as the apostle speaks, Acts xvii. 27, “they should seek the Lord, if haply they might find him;” but yet, as that knowledge of God which we have by his works is but very weak and imperfect, so that which we have by the word, the letter of it, by reason of our blindness, is not saving to us if we have no other help; for though that be light as the sun in the firmament, yet if we have no eyes in our heads, what can it avail us? — no saving acquaintance with him, that may direct us to walk with him, can be obtained. This also is hid in the Lord Jesus, and comes forth from him, 1 John v. 20, “He hath given us an understanding, that we should know him that is true;” — all other light whatever without his giving us an understanding, will not do it. He is the true Light, which lighteth every one that is enlightened, John i. 9. He opens our understandings that we may understand the Scriptures, Luke xxiv. 45; — none hath known God at any time, “but he hath revealed him,” John i. 18. God dwells in that “light which no man can approach unto,” 1 Tim. vi. 16. None hath ever had any such acquaintance with him as to be said to have seen him, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Hence he tells the Pharisees, that notwithstanding all their great knowledge which they pretended, indeed they had “neither heard the voice of God at any time, nor seen his shape,” John v. 37. They had no manner of spiritual acquaintance with 109God, but he was unto them as a man whom they had never heard nor seen. There is no acquaintance with God, as love, and full of kindness, patience, grace, and pardoning mercy (on which knowledge of him alone we can walk with him), but only in Christ; but of this fully before. This, then, also is hid in him.
3. There must, moreover, be a way wherein we must walk with God. God did at the beginning assign us a path to walk in with him, even the path of innocence and exact holiness, in a covenant of works. This path, by sin, is so filled with thorns and briers, so stopped up by curses and wrath, that no flesh living can take one step in that path; a new way for us to walk in must be found out, if ever we think to hold communion with God. And this also lies upon the former account. It is hid in Christ. All the world cannot, but by and in him, discover a path that a man may walk one step with God in. And therefore the Holy Ghost tells us that Christ hath consecrated, dedicated, and set apart for that purpose, “a new and living way” into the holiest of all, Heb. x. 20; a new one, for the first, old one was useless; a living one, for the other is dead: therefore, saith he, verse 22, “Let us draw near;” having a way to walk in, let us draw near. And this way that he hath prepared is no other but himself, John xiv. 6. In answer to them who would go to the Father, and hold communion with him, he tells them, “I am the way; and no man comes to the Father but by me.” He is the medium of all communication between God and us. In him we meet, in him we walk. All influences of love, kindness, mercy, from God to us, are through him; all our returns of love, delight, faith, obedience unto God, are all through him; — he being that “one way” God so often promiseth his people: and it is a glorious way, Isa. xxxv. 8, — a high way, a way of holiness, a way that none can err in that once enter it; which is farther set out, Isa. xlii. 16. All other ways, all paths but this, go down to the chambers of death; they all lead to walk contrary to God.
4. But suppose all this, — that agreement be made, acquaintance given, and a way provided; yet if we have no strength to walk in that way, what will all this avail us? This also, then, must be added; of ourselves we are of no strength, Rom. v. 6, — poor weaklings, not able to go a step in the ways of God. When we are set in the way, either we throw ourselves down, or temptations cast us down, and we make no progress: and the Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that “without him we can do nothing,” John xv. 5; not any thing at all that shall have the least acceptation with God. Neither can all the creatures in heaven and earth yield us the least assistance. Men’s contending to do it in their own power, comes to nothing. This part of this, wisdom also is hid in Christ. All strength to walk with God is from him. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me,” 110saith St Paul, Phil. iv. 13, who denies that of ourselves we have any sufficiency, 2 Cor. iii. 5. We that can do nothing in ourselves, we are such weaklings, can do all things in Jesus Christ, as giants; and therefore in him we are, against all oppositions in our way, “more than conquerors,” Rom. viii. 37; and that because “from his fulness we receive grace for grace,” John i. 16. From him have we the Spirit of life and power, whereby he bears, as on eagles’ wings, swiftly, safely, in the paths of walking with God. Any step that is taken in any way, by strength that is not immediately from Christ, is one step towards hell. He first takes us by the arm and teaches us to go, until he leads us on to perfection. He hath milk and strong meat to feed us; he strengthens us with all might, and is with us in our running the race that is set before us. But yet, —
5. Whence should we take this confidence as to walk with God; even our God, who is “a consuming fire?” Heb. xii. 29. Was there not such a dread upon his people of old, that it was taken for granted among them that if they saw God at any time, it was not to be endured, — they must die? Can any, but with extreme horror, think of that dreadful appearance that he made unto them of old upon mount Sinai; until Moses himself, who was their mediator, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake?” Heb. xii. 21, and all the people said, “Let not God speak with us, lest we die?” Exod. xx. 19. Nay, though men have apprehensions of the goodness and kindness of God, yet upon any discovery, of his glory, how do they tremble, and are filled with dread and astonishment! Hath it not been so with the “choicest of his saints?” Hab. iii. 16; Isa. vi. 5; Job xlii. 5, 6. Whence, then, should we take to ourselves this boldness, to walk with God? This the apostle will inform us in Heb. x. 19; it is “by the blood of Jesus:” so Eph. iii. 12, “In him we have boldness, and access with confidence;” — not standing afar off, like the people at the giving of the law, but drawing nigh to God with boldness; and that upon this account:— The dread and terror of God entered by sin; Adam had not the least thought of hiding himself until he had sinned. The guilt of sin being on the conscience, and this being a common notion left in the hearts of all, that God is a most righteous revenger thereof; this fills men with dread and horror at an apprehension of his presence, fearing that he is come to call their sins to remembrance. Now, the Lord Jesus, by the sacrifice and the atonement that he hath made, hath taken away this conscience of sin; that is, a dread of revenge from God upon the account of the guilt thereof. He hath removed the slaying sword of the law, and on that account gives us great boldness with God; discovering him unto us now, no longer as a revenging Judge, but as a tender, merciful, and reconciled Father. Moreover, whereas there is on us by nature a spirit of bondage, filling us with innumerable tormenting fears, he takes it away, and gives us 111“the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father,” and behave ourselves with confidence and gracious boldness, as children: for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Cor. iii. 17; that is, a freedom from all that dread and terror which the administration of the law brought with it. Now, as there is no sin that God will more severely revenge than any boldness that man takes with him out of Christ; so there is no grace more acceptable to him than that boldness which he is pleased to afford us in the blood of Jesus. There is, then, —
6. But one thing more to add; and that is, that two cannot walk together unless they have the same design in hand, and aim at the same end. This also, in a word, is given us in the Lord Jesus. The end of God is the advancement of his own glory; none can aim at this end, but only in the Lord Jesus. The sum of all is, that the whole wisdom of our walking with God is hid in Christ, and from him only to be obtained; as hath been manifest by an enumeration of particulars.
And so have I brought my first demonstration of what I intended unto a close, and manifested that all true wisdom and knowledge is laid up in, and laid out by, the Lord Jesus; and this by an induction of the chief particular heads of those things wherein confessedly our wisdom doth consist. I have but one more to add, and therein I shall be brief.
Secondly,210210 The division of which this indicates the second part, is implied, but not expressed, in p. 79, and the first paragraph of p. 80. — Ed. then, I say this truth will be farther manifested by the consideration of the insufficiency and vanity of any thing else that may lay claim or pretend to a title to wisdom.
There be two things in the world that do pass under this account:— 1. The one is learning or literature; skill and knowledge of arts, sciences, tongues, with the knowledge of the things that are past. 2. Prudence and skill for the management of ourselves in reference to others, in civil affairs, for public good; which is much the fairest flower within the border of nature’s garden. Now, concerning both these, I shall briefly evince, — (1.) That they are utterly insufficient for the compassing and obtaining of those particular ends whereunto they are designed. (2.) That both of them in conjunction, with their utmost improvement, cannot reach the true general end of wisdom. Both which considerations will set the crown, in the issue, upon the head of Jesus Christ:—
1. Begin we with the first of these, and that as to the first particular. Learning itself, if it were all in one man, is not able to compass the particular end whereto it is designed; which writes “vanity and vexation” upon the forehead thereof.
The particular end of literature (though not observed by many, 112men’s eyes being fixed on false ends, which compels them in their progress “aberrare a scopo”) is none other but to remove some part of that curse which is come upon us by sin. Learning is the product of the soul’s struggling with the curse for sin. Adam, at his first creation, was completely furnished with all that knowledge (excepting only things not then in being, neither in themselves nor in any natural causes, as that which we now call tongues, and those things that are the subject of story), as far as it lies in a needful tendency to the utmost end of man, which we now press after. There was no straitness, much less darkness, upon his understanding, that should make him sweat for a way to improve, and make out those general conceptions of things which he had. For his knowledge of nature, it is manifest, from his imposition of suitable names on all the creatures (the particular reasons of the most of which to us are lost); wherein, from the approbation given of his nomination of things in the Scripture, and the significance of what yet remains evident, it is most apparent it was done upon a clear acquaintance with their natures. Hence Plato could observe,211211 Οἶμαι μὲν ἐγὼ τὸν ἀληθέστατον λόγον περὶ τούτων εἶναι ᾦ Σώκρατες, μείζω τινὰ δύναμιν εἶναι ἢ ἀνθρωπείαν, τὴν θεμένην τὰ πρῶτα ὀνόματα τοῖς πράγμασιν. — Plato in Cratylo. that he was most wise that first imposed names on things; yea, had more than human wisdom. Were the wisest man living, yea, a general collection of all the wise men in the world, to make an experiment of their skill and learning, in giving names to all living creatures, suitable to their natures and expressive of their qualities, they would quickly perceive the loss they have incurred. Adam was made perfect, for the whole end of ruling the creatures and living to God, for which he was made; which, without the knowledge of the nature of the one and the will of the other, he could not be. All this being lost by sin, a multiplication of tongues also being brought in, as a curse for an after rebellion,212212 Gen. xi. 3. the whole design of learning is but to disentangle the soul from this issue of sin. Ignorance, darkness, and blindness, is come upon the understanding; acquaintance with the works of God, spiritual and natural, is lost; strangeness of communication is given, by multiplication of tongues; tumultuating of passions and affections, with innumerable darkening prejudices, are also come upon us. To remove and take this away — to disentangle the mind in its reasonings, to recover an acquaintance with the works of God, to subduct the soul from under the effects of the curse of division of tongues — is the aim and tendency of literature. This is the “aliquid quo tendit;” and he that hath any other aim in it, “Passim sequitur corvum testâque lutoque.”213213 These words are borrowed from Pers., Sat. iii. 60, 61, in allusion to the fruitless pursuit of any object by the use of inadequate means. — Ed. Now, not to insist upon that vanity and vexation of spirit, with the 113innumerable evils wherewith this enterprise is attended, this is that I only say, it is in itself no way sufficient for the attainment of its end, which writes vanity upon its forehead with characters not to be obliterated. To this purpose I desire to observe these two things:—
(1.) That the knowledge aimed at to be recovered was given unto man in order to his walking with God, unto that supernatural end whereunto he was appointed. For after he was furnished with all his endowments, the law of life and death was given to him, that he might know wherefore he received them. Therefore, knowledge in him was spiritualized and sanctified: even that knowledge which he had by nature, in respect of its principle and end, was spiritual.
(2.) That the loss of it is part of that curse which was inflicted on us for sin. Whatever we come short in of the state of the first man in innocence, whether in loss of good or addition of evil, it is all of the curse for sin. Besides, that blindness, ignorance, darkness, deadness, which is everywhere ascribed to us in the state of nature, doth fully comprise that also whereof we speak.
On these two considerations it is most apparent that learning can no way of itself attain the end it aimeth at. For, —
[1.] That light which by it is discovered (which, the Lord
knows, is very little, weak, obscure, imperfect,
uncertain, conjectural, for a great part only enabling
men to quarrel with and oppose one another, to the reproach of reason, yet
I say, that which is attained by it) is not in the least measure by it
spiritualized, or brought into that order of living to God, and
with God, wherein at first it lay. This is wholly beyond its reach. As to
this end, the apostle assures us that the utmost issue that men come to, is
darkness and folly, Rom. i.
21, 22. Who knows not the profound inquiries, the subtile
disputations, the acute reasonings, the admirable discoveries of Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle, and others? What, as to the
purpose in hand, did they attain by all their studies and endeavours?
Ἐμωράνθησαν, says the apostle, — “They
became fools.” He that, by general consent, bears the crown of
reputation for wisdom from them all, with whom to have lived was counted an
inestimable happiness,214214 Εἰ δέ τις τῶν ἀρετῆς
ἐφιεμένων ὠφελιμωτέρῳ τινὶ Σωκράτους συνεγένετο, ἐκεῖνον ἐγὼ τὸν ἄνδρα
ἀξιομακαριστότατον νομίζω. — Xenoph. apol. pro Socrat. ad finem. died like a
fool, sacrificing a cock to Æsculapius.
And another [apostle assures us], that Jesus Christ alone is “the true
Light,” that lighteth us, John i.
9. And there is not any that hath any true light, but what is
immediately from him. After all the learning of men, if they have nothing
else, they are still natural men, and perceive not the things of God.
Their light is still but darkness; and how great is that darkness! It is
the Lord Jesus alone who is anointed to open the eyes of the blind. Men
cannot spiritualize a notion, nor lay it in any order to the glorifying 114of God. After all their endeavours, they are still blind and
dark, yea, darkness itself, knowing nothing as they should. I know how the
men of these attainments are apt to say, “Are we blind also?” with great
contempt of others; but God hath blasted all their pride:215215 “O Sapientia superba irridens Christum crucifixum!” —
August. Expos. In
Joh. Trac. 2, de cap. 1. “Where,” saith he, “is the wise?
where is the scribe,” etc., 1 Cor. i.
20. I shall not add what Paul hath farther cautioned us, to the
seeming condemning of philosophy as being fitted to make spoil of souls;
nor what 216216 “Hæreses a philosophiâ
subornantur. Inde Æones, et formæ nescio quæ, trinitas homines apud
Valentinium, Platonicus fuerat; inde Marcionis Deus melior de
tranquillitate, a Stoicis venerat. Et ut anima interire dicatur, ab
Epicureis observatur, et ut carnis restitutio negetur, de unâ omnium
philosophorum scholâ sumitur: … Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? quid
Academiæ et Ecclesiæ? quid hæreticis et Christianis? Nostra institutio de
porticu Salomonis est. Nobis curiositate opus non est post Jesum Christum;
nec inquisitione post evangelium. Cum credimus, nihil desideramus ultra
credere. Hoc enim priùs credimus, non esse quod ultra credere
debeamus.” — Tertul. de Præscript. ad Hæret. [cap. vii.]
― Ἐπειδήπερ ἱκανῶς ἐκ τῶν προειρημένων τὰ τῶν φιλοσόφων ὑμῶν ἐλήλεγκατα πάσης ἀγνοίας καὶ ἀπάτης φανέντα πλήρη. κ. τ. λ. — Just. Mart. ad Græc. Cohort. [c. xi.] Μοῦνον ἐμοὶ φίλον ἔσκε λόγων κλέος, οὓς συνάγειραν Ἀντολίη τι, δύσις τε, καὶ Ἑλλάδος εὖχος Ἀθῆναι, Τοῖς ἔπι πολλ’ ἐμόγησα πολὺν χρόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὺ, Πρηνέας ἐν δαπέδῳ Χριστοῦ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκα, Εἴξαντας μεγάλοιο θεοῦ λόγῳ ὅς ῥα καλύπτει Πάντα φρενὸς βροτέης στρεπτὸν πολυειδέα μῦθον. Greg. Naz. Car. i. de Reb. Suis.Tertullian with some other of the ancients have spoken of it; being very confident that it was the abuse, and not the true use and advantage of it, that they opposed. But, —
[2.] The darkness and ignorance that it strives to remove, being come upon us as a curse, it is not in the least measure, as it is a curse, able to remove it or take it away. He that hath attained to the greatest height of literature, yet if he hath nothing else, — if he have not Christ, — is as much under the curse of blindness, ignorance, stupidity, dullness, as the poorest, silliest soul in the world. The curse is only removed in him who was made a curse for us. Every thing that is penal is taken away only by him on whom all our sins did meet in a way of punishment; yea, upon this account. The more abilities the mind is furnished withal, the more it closes with the curse, and strengthens itself to act its enmity against God. All that it receives doth but help it to set up high thoughts and imaginations against the Lord Christ. So that this knowledge comes short of what in particular it is designed unto; and therefore cannot be that solid wisdom we are inquiring after.
There be sundry other things whereby it were easy to blur the countenance of this wisdom; and, from its intricacy, difficulty, uncertainty, unsatisfactoriness, — betraying its followers into that which they 115most profess to avoid, blindness and folly, — to write upon it “vanity and vexation of spirit.” I hope I shall not need to add any thing to clear myself for not giving a due esteem and respect unto literature, my intendment being only to cast it down at the feet of Jesus Christ, and to set the crown upon his head.
2. Neither can the second part of the choicest wisdom out of Christ attain the peculiar end whereunto it is appointed; and that is prudence in the management of civil affairs, — than which no perishing thing is more glorious, — nothing more useful for the common good of human kind. Now, the immediate end of this prudence is to keep the rational world in bounds and order, to draw circles about the sons of men, and to keep them from passing their allotted bounds and limits, to the mutual disturbance and destruction of each other. All manner of trouble and disturbance ariseth from irregularity: one man breaking in upon the rights, usages, interests, relations of another, sets this world at variance. The sum and aim of all wisdom below is, to cause all things to move in their proper sphere, whereby it would be impossible there should be any more interfering than is in the celestial orbs, notwithstanding all their divers and various motions: to keep all to their own allotments, within the compass of the lines that are fallen unto them, is the special end of this wisdom.
Now, it will be a very easy task, to demonstrate that all civil prudence whatever217217 Ὣ γῆρας ὡς ἐπαχθὲς ἀνθρώποισιν εἶ, καὶ πανταχῆ λυπηρόν, οὐ καθ’ ἓν μόνον, ἐν ᾦ γὰρ οὐδὲν δυνάμεθ’ οὐδ ἰσχύομεν, σὺ τηνικαῦθ’ ἡμᾶς διδάσκεις εὖ φρονεῖν. — Excerp. ex Nicostrat. (besides the vexation of its attainment, and loss being attained) is no way able to compass this end. The present condition of affairs throughout the world, as also that of former ages, will abundantly testify it; but I shall farther discover the vanity of it for this end in some few observations. And the
(1.) First is, That, through the righteous judgment of God lopping off the top flowers of the pride of men, it frequently comes to pass that those who are furnished with the greatest abilities of this kind do lay them out to a direct contrary end unto that which is their natural tendency and aim. From whom, for the most part, are all the commotions in the world, — the breaking up of bounds, setting the whole frame of nature on fire? is it not from such men as these. Were not men so wise, the world, perhaps, would be more quiet, when the end of wisdom is to keep it in quietness. This seems to be a curse that God hath spread upon the wisdom of the world, in the most in whom it is, that it shall be employed in direct opposition to its proper end.
(2.) That God hath made this a constant path towards the advancement of his own glory, even to leaven the wisdom and the counsels of the wisest of the sons of men with folly and madness, 116that they shall, in the depth of their policy, 218218 “Isthuc est sapere, non quod ante pedes modò est, Videre; sed etiam illa quæ futura sunt, Prospicere.” Teren. Adelph. 3, 3, 33.advise things for the compassing of the ends they do propose as unsuitable as any thing that could proceed out of the mouth of a child or a fool, and as directly tending to their own disappointment and ruin as any thing that could be invented against them. “He destroys the wisdom of the wise, and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent,” 1 Cor. i. 19. This he largely describes, Isa. xix. 11–14. Drunkenness and staggering is the issue of all their wisdom; and that upon this account, — the Lord gives them the spirit of giddiness. So also Job v. 12–14. They meet with darkness in the day-time:219219 Isa. xxix. 14, xlvii. 10; Jer. xlix. 7; Obad. 8. when all things seem clear about them, and a man would wonder how men should miss their way, then will God make it darkness to such as these. So Ps. xxxiii. 10. Hence God, as it were, sets them at work, and undertakes their disappointment, Isa. viii. 9, 10, “Go about your counsels,” saith the Lord, “and I will take order that it shall come to nought.” And, Ps. ii. 3, 4, when men are deep at their plots and contrivances, God is said to have them in derision, to laugh them to scorn, seeing the poor worms industriously working out their own ruin. Never was this made more clear than in the days wherein we live. Scarcely have any wise men been brought to destruction, but it hath evidently been through their own folly; neither hath the wisest counsel of most been one jot better than madness.
(3.) That this wisdom, which should tend to universal quietness, hath almost constantly given universal disquietness unto themselves in whom it hath been most eminent. “In much wisdom is much grief,” Eccles. i. 18. And in the issue, some of them have made away with themselves, as Ahithophel; and the most of them have been violently dispatched by others. There is, indeed, no end of the folly of this wisdom.220220 “Prudens futuri temporis exitum Caliginosa nocte permit Deus: Ridetque, si mortalis ultra Fas trepidat.” Horat., Od. iii. 29, 29. The great men of the world carry away the reputation of it; — really it is found in few of them. They are, for the most part, common events, whereunto they contribute not the least mite, which are ascribed to their care, vigilance, and foresight. Mean men, that have learned to adore what is above them, reverence the meetings and conferences of those who are in greatness and esteem. Their weakness and folly is little known. Where this wisdom hath been most eminent, it hath dwelt so close upon the borders of atheism, been attended with such falseness and injustice, that it hath made its possessors wicked and infamous.
117I shall not need to give any more instances to manifest the insufficiency of this wisdom for the attaining of its own peculiar and immediate end. This is the vanity of any thing whatever, — that it comes short of the mark it is directed unto. It is far, then, from being true and solid wisdom, seeing on the forehead thereof you may read “Disappointment.”
And this is the first reason why true wisdom cannot consist in either of these, — because they come short even of the particular and immediate ends they aim at. But, —
Secondly, Both these in conjunction, with their utmost improvement, are not able to reach the true general end of wisdom. This assertion also falleth under an easy demonstration, and it were a facile thing to discover their disability and unsuitableness for the true end of wisdom; but it is so professedly done by him who had the largest portion of both of any of the sons of men (Solomon in his Preacher), that I shall not any farther insist upon it.
To draw, then, unto a close:— if true and solid wisdom is not in the least to be found amongst these, if the pearl be not hid in this field, if these two are but vanity and disappointment, it cannot but be to no purpose to seek for it in any thing else below, these being amongst them incomparably the most excellent; and therefore, with one accord, let us set the crown of this wisdom on the head of the Lord Jesus.
Let the reader, then, in a few words, take a view of the tendency of this whole digression. To draw our hearts to the more cheerful entertainment of and delight in the Lord Jesus, is the aim thereof. If all wisdom be laid up in him, and by an interest in him only to be attained, — if all things beside him and without him that lay claim thereto are folly and vanity, — let them that would be wise learn where to repose their souls.
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