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belief, though it were equal to the whole revealed will of God, that is vital to the soul, but that which is practised by
The apostle saith, though he had the understanding of all mysteries, and all knowledge, and all faith; yet if it were not joined with love, the principal of obedience, it were unprofitable, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. There is the same difference between the speculative knowledge of these mysteries and that which is affectionate and operative, as between the wearing of pearls for ornament, and the taking of them as a cordial to revive the fainting spirits. In short; such a belief is required, as prevails upon the will, and draws the affections, and renders the whole man obsequious to the gospel; for such a faith alone is answerable to the quality of the revelation. The gospel is not a mere narrative, but a promise. Christ is not represented only as an innocent person dying, but as the Son of God dying to deliver men from sin and the effects of it. The fallen angels may understand and believe it without any affections, being unconcerned in it; to them it is a naked history; but to men it is a promise, and cannot be rightly conceived without the most ardent affections. “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Tim. i. 15.,
It is essentially as good, as true; its sweetness and profit are equal to its certainty: so that it commends itself to all, our faculties. There are severe and sad truths which are attended with fearful expectation, and the mind is averse from receiving them; as the law, which, like lightning, terrifies the soul with its amazing brightness: and there are pleasant allusions which have no solid foundation: and as truth doth not delight the mind unless united to goodness, such as is suitable to its palate, so goodness doth not affect the will unless it be real. Now the doctrine of the gospel is as certain as the law, and infinitely more comfortable than all the inventions of men. It is in the knowledge of it alone, that the sensible and considering soul enjoys perfect satisfaction and the most composed rest. It is evident, that the understanding doth not behold these truths in their proper light, when the will doth not embrace them; for the rational appetite follows the last judgment of the mind. When the apostle had a powerful conviction of “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ,” this made him so earnest to gain an interest in him, Phil. iii. 8. For this reason, those who are
only Christians in title, “having a form of godliness, and denying the power of it,” are, in scripture language, styled infidels; it being impossible that those who truly and heartily believe this great mystery of godliness, should remain ungodly. It is a strong and effectual assent that descends from the brain to the heart and life, that denominates us true believers; so that when the death of Christ is propounded as the cause of our reconciliation with God, the wonder of the mystery doth not make it incredible, when, as the reason of the mortification of our lusts, the pleasures of sin do not disguise its horror. When salvation is offered upon our accepting of Christ for our Prince and Saviour, the soul is ravished with its beauty, and chooses it for an everlasting portion.
To conclude; the doctrine of the gospel clearly discovers its divine original. It is so reasonable in itself and profitable to us, so sublime and elevated above man, yet hath such an admirable agreement with natural truths; it is so perfectly corresponding in all its parts, that without affected obstinacy no man can reject it. And if after the open revelation of it we are so stupid and wicked, as not to see its superlative excellency, and not to receive it with the faith, love, and obedience which are due to it, what contempt is this of that infinite wisdom which contrived the astonishing way of our salvation ! what a reproach to the divine understanding, as if it had been employed from eternity about a matter of no moment, and that deserves not our serious consideration and acceptance! The neglect of it will justly bring a more severe punishment than the hell of the uninstructed heathens, who are strangers to supernatural mysteries.
THE FREENESS OF THE DIVINE MERCY IN REDEMPTION.
Though all the divine attributes are equal as they are in God, (for one infinite cannot exceed another) yet in their exercise and effects, they shine with a different glory. And mercy is represented in scripture with peculiar advantages above the rest. It is God's natural offspring ; he is styled “the Father of mercies,” 2 Cor. i. 3. It is his dear attri
bute, that which he places next to himself; he is proc aimed, The Lord God merciful and gracious,” Exod. xxxiv. 6. It is his delight, mercy pleases him, Mic. vii. 18. It is his treasure, “he is rich in mercy,” Ephes. ii. 4. It is his triumphant attribute, and the special matter of his glory; mercy rejoices over judgment, Jam. ii. 13. Now in the performance of our redemption, mercy is the predominant attribute, that sets all the rest a working. The acts of his wisdom, justice, and power, were in order to the illustration of his mercy. And if we duly consider that glorious work, we shall find in it all the ingredients of the most sovereign mercy. In discoursing of it, I shall principally consider two things, wherein this attribute is eminently glorified, the freeness and the greatness of it.
The freeness of this mercy will appear by considering the original and object of it.
1. The original is God : and the notion of a Deity includes infinite perfections, so that it necessarily follows that he hath no need of the creature's service to preserve or heighten his felicity. “ If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand ?! Job xxxv.7. From eternity he was without external honour, yet in that infinite duration he was perfectly joyful and happy. He is the fountain of his own blessedness, the theatre of his own glory, the glass of his own beauty. One drop increases the ocean, but to God a million of worlds can add nothing. Every thing hath so much of goodness as it derives from him. As there was no gain to him by the creation, so there can be no loss by the annihilation of all things. The world proceeded from his wisdom as the idea and exemplar, and from his power as the efficient cause ; and it so proceeds from him, as to remain more perfectly in him. And as the possession of all things, and the obedience of angels and men, is of no advantage to God, so the opposition of impenitent rebels cannot lessen his blessedness. “If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him ? or, if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him ?” Job xxxv. 6. The sun suffers no loss of his light by the darkness of the night or an eclipse, but the world loses its day : intelligent beings do not esteem God for his greatness, and love him for his goodness, it is no injury to him, but their own infelicity. Were it for his interest, he could by one act of power conquer the obstinacy of his fiercest enemies. If he require
subjection from his creatures, it is not that he may be happy, but liberal, that his goodness may take its rise to reward them. Now this is the special commendation of divine love, it doth not arise out of indigency as created love, but out of fulness and redundancy. Our Saviour tells us there is “none good but God ;" not only in respect of the perfection of that attribute, as it is in God in a transcendent manner; but as to the effects of his goodness, which are merely for the benefit of the receiver. He only is rich in mercy, to whom nothing is wanting or profitable. The most liberal monarch doth not always give, for he stands in need of his subjects. And where there is an expectation of service for the support of the giver, it is traffic and no gift. Human affection is begotten, and nourished by something without; but the love of God is from within: the misery of the creature is the occasion, but the cause of it is from himself. And how free was that love, that caused the infinitely blessed God to do so much for our recovery, as if his felicity were imperfect without ours !
It doth not prejudice the freeness of redeeming mercy, that Christ's personal glory was the reward of his sufferings. It is true, that our Redeemer for “ the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb. xii. 2; but he was not first drawn to the undertaking of that hard service by the interest of the reward : for if we consider him in his divine nature, he was the second person in the Trinity, equal to the first; he possessed all the supreme excellencies of the Deity: and by assuming our nature, the only gain he purchased to himself was to be capable of loss for the accomplishing of our salvation. Such was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich,” 2 Cor. viii. 9. And although his human soul was encouraged by the glorious recompence the Father promised, to make him King and Judge of the world, yet his love to man was not kindled from that consideration, neither is it lessened by his obtaining of it; for immediately upon the union of the human nature to the Eternal Son, the highest honour was due to him. When the first-begotten was brought into the world, it was said, “Let all the angels of God worship him," Heb. i. 6. The sovereign power in heaven and earth was his inheritance, annexed to the dignity
of his primogeniture. The name above every name” was a preferment due to his person. He voluntarily renounced his right for a time, and appeared in the “form of a servant" upon our account, that by humbling himself he might accomplish our salvation. He entered into glory after a course of sufferings, because the economy of our redemption so required ; but his original title to it was by the personal union. To illustrate this by a lower instance: the mother of Moses was called to be his nurse by Pharaoh's daughter, with the promise of a reward, as if she had no relation to him. Now the pure love of a mother, not the gain of a nurse, was the motive that inclined her to nourish him with her milk. Thus the love of Christ was the primary active cause that made him liberal to us of his blood; neither did the just expectation of the reward take off from it.
The sum is this—the essence of love consists in desiring the good of another without respect to ourselves; and love is so much the more free, as the benefit we give to another is less profitable or more damageable to us. Now among men it is impossible that to a virtuous benefactor there should not redound a double benefit, from the eternal reward which God hath promised, and from the internal beauty of an honest action, which, the philosopher affirms, doth exceed any loss that can befal us; for if one dies for his friend, yet he loves himself most, for he would not choose to be less virtuous than his friend, and by dying for him he excels him in virtue, which is more valuable than life itself. But to the Son of God no such advantage could accrue; for being infinitely holy and happy in his essence, there can be no addition to his felicity or virtues by any external emanation from him. His love was for our profit, not his own.
The freeness of God's mercy is evident by considering there was no tie upon him to dispense it. Grace, strictly taken, differs from love; for that may be a debt, and without injustice not denied. There are inviolable obligations on children to love their parents; and duty lessens desert: the performance of it doth not so much deserve praise, as the neglect merits censure and reproof. But the love of God to man is a pure, free, and liberal affection, no way The grace of God, and the gift by grace, hath abounded unto many,” Rom. v. 15. The creation was an effusion of goodness, much more redemption. “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour, and power; for thou hast