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WORK OF REDEMPTION.
ISAIAH li. 8.
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
THE design of this chapter is to comfort the Church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies; and the argument of consolation insisted on, is the constancy and perpetuity of God's mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally, crowning her with victory and deliverance.
In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her: And therein we may observe,
I. How short lived the power and prosperity of the church's enemies is: "The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool;" i. e. however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory, they shall by degrees consume and vanish away by a secret curse of God, till they come to nothing; and all their power and glory, and so their persecutions, eternally cease, and they be finally and irrecoverably ruined: as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz. those that are the
enemies of God's people: "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings."
II. The contrary happy lot and portion of God's church; expressed in these words, "My righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." Who shall have the benefit of this we also learn by the preceding verse, viz. They that know righteousness, and the people in whose heart is God's law: or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning their happiness, we may observe, wherein it consists; in its continuance.
1. Wherein it CONSISTS; viz. In God's righteousness and salvation towards them. By God's righteousness here is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant-promises to his church, or, his faithfulness towards his church and people, in bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them. Though these benefits are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, as being altogether undeserved; yet as God has been pleased, by the promises of the covenant of grace, to bind himself to bestow them, they are bestowed in the exercise of God's righteousness or justice. And therefore the apostle says, Heb. vi. 10. "God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love." And, 1 John, i. 9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So the word righteousness is very often used in scripture for God's covenant-faithfulness; as in Nehem. ix. 8. "Thou hast performed thy words, for thou art righteous." So we are often to understand righteousness and covenantmercy for the same thing; as Psal. xxiv. 5. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." Psalm xxxvi. 10. "Continue thy loving-kindness to them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart." And Psal. li. 14. "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness." Dan. ix. 16. "O Lord, according to thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away :-And so in innumerable other places.
The other word here used is salvation. Of these two, God's righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God's righteousness, or covenantmercy, is the root, of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God's covenant-mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant-mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.
2. We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions, for ever, and from generation to generation; the latter seems to be explanatory of the former. The phrase for ever, is variously used in scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. It is said, that the servant who had his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master, should be his for ever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the continuance of the Jewish state. Of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws it is said that they should be statutes for ever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. Thus Eccles. i. 4. “One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever." Sometimes thereby is meant to all eternity. So it is said, "God is blessed for ever," Rom. i. 25. And so it is said John vi. 51. "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever."-And which of these senses is here to be understood, the next words determine, viz. to the end of the world, or to the end of the generations of men. It is said in the next words, "and my salvation from generation to generation." Indeed the fruits of God's salvation shall remain after the end of the world, as appears by the 6th verse: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner, but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." But the work of salvation itself toward the church shall continue to be wrought till then: till the end of the world God will go on to accomplish deliverance and salvation for the church, from all her enemies: for that is what the prophet is here speaking of. Till the end of the world, till her enemies cease to be, as to any power to molest the church. And this expression, from generation to generation, may determine us as to the time which God continues to carry on the work of salvation for his church, both with respect to the beginning and end. It is from generation to generation, i. e. throughout all generations; beginning with the generations of men on the earth, and not ending till those generations end.-And therefore we deduce from these words this
The work of redemption is a work that God carries on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
The generations of mankind on the earth which began after the fall, by ordinary generation, are partakers of the
corruption of nature that followed from it; and these generations, by which the human race is propagated, shall continue to the end of the world. These two are the limits of the generations of men on the earth; the fall of man, and the end of the world, or the day of judgment. The same are the limits of the work of redemption, as to those progressive works of God, by which that redemption is brought about and accomplished, though not as to the fruits of it; for they shall be to eternity.
The work of redemption and the work of salvation are the same thing. What is sometimes in scripture called God's saving his people, is in other places called his redeeming them. So Christ is called both the Saviour and the Redeemer of his people.
BEFORE entering on the proposed History of the Work of Redemption, I would explain the terms made use of in the doctrine; and show what those things are that are designed to be accomplished by this great work of God.
FIRST. I would show in what sense the TERMS of the doctrine are used;-particularly the word redemption ;—and, how this is a work of God, carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
I. The use of the word redemption.-And here it may be observed, that the work of redemption is sometimes understood in a more limited sense, for the purchase of salvation; for the word strictly signifies, a purchase of deliverance. If we take the word in this restrained sense, the work of redemption was not so long in doing: but was begun and finished with Christ's humiliation. It was begun with Christ's incarnation, carried on through his life, and finished with the time of his remaining under the power of death, which ended in his resurrection. And so we say, that on the day of his resurrection Christ finished the work of redemption, i. e. then the purchase was finished, and the work itself, and all that appertained to it, was virtually done and finished, but not actually.
But sometimes the work of redemption is taken more largely, as including all that God accomplishes tending to this end; not only the purchase itself, but also all God's works that were properly preparatory to the purchase, and accomplishing the success of it. So that the whole dispensation, as it includes the preparation and purchase, the application and success of Christ's redemption, is here called the work of redemption; all that Christ does in this great affair as mediator, in any of his offices, either of prophet, priest, and king; either when he was in this world, in his human nature, or before or since. And it includes not only what Christ the
mediator has done, but also what the Father or the Holy Ghost, has done, as united or confederated in this design of redeeming sinful men or in one word, all that is wrought in execution of the eternal covenant of redemption. This is what I call the work of redemption in the doctrine; for it is all but one work, one design. The various dispensations or works that belong to it, are but the several parts of one scheme. It is but one design that is formed, to which all the offices of Christ directly tend, and in which all the persons of the Trinity conspire. All the various dispensations that belong to it are united; and the several wheels are one machine, to answer one end, and produce one effect.
II. When I say, this work is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world; in order to the full understanding of my meaning in it, I would desire two or three things to be observed.
1. That it is not meant, that nothing was done in order to it before the fall of man. Some things were done before the world was created, yea from eternity. The persons of the Trinity were, as it were, confederated in a design, and a covenant of redemption. In this covenant the Father had appointed the Son, and the Son had undertaken the work; and all things to be accomplished in the work were stipulated and agreed. There were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it. The work of creation was in order to God's work of providence. So that if it be inquired, which are greatest, the works of creation or those of providence; I answer, the works of providence; because those of providence are the end of the works of creation; as the building of a house, or the forming of a machine, is for its use. But God's main work of providence is this of redemption, as will more fully appear hereafter.
The creation of heaven was in order to the work of redemption; as an habitation for the redeemed; Matth. xxv. 34. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Even the angels were created to be employed in this work. And therefore the apostle calls them, ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation: Heb. i. 14. As to this lower world, it was doubtless created to be a stage upon which this great and wonderful work of redemption should be transacted: and therefore, as might be shown in many respects, this lower world is wisely fitted, in its formation, for such a state of man as he is in since the fall, under a possibility of redemption. So that when it is said, that the work of redemption is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world, it is not meant, that all 22