Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

fruition of God. It was therefore congruous to the divine wisdom, that their final sentence should depend upon their first election : whereas man's rebellion, though inconceivably great, was against a lower light and less grace dispensed to him.

(3.) They sinned without a tempter, and were not in the same capacity with man to be restored by a Saviour. The devil is an originał proprietor in sin, it is of his own, John viii. 44. Man was beguiled by the serpent's subtilty. As he fell by another's malice, so he is recovered by another's merit.

(4.) The angelical nature was not entirely lost. Myriads of blessed spirits still continue in the place of their innocency and glory, and for ever ascribe to the great Creator that incommunicable honour which is due to him, and perfectly do his commandments. But all mankind was lost in Adam, and no religion was lest in the lower world.

Now although in these and other respects it was most consistent with the wisdom and justice of God, to conclude them under an irrevocable doom, yet the principal cause that inclined him to save man, was mere and perfect grace. The law made no distinction, but awarded the same punishment: mercy alone made the difference; and the reason of that is in himself. Millions of them fell sacrifices to justice, and guilty man was spared. It is not for the excellency of our nature, for man in his creation was lower than the angels; nor upon the account of service, for they having more eminent endowments of wisdom and power, might have brought greater honour to God ; nor for our innocence, for though not equally, yet we had highly offended him; but it must be resolved “into that love which passeth knowledge.” It was the unaccountable pleasure of God that preferred babes before the wiser and prudent, and herein grace is most glorious. He in no wise took the nature of angels, though immortal spirits ; he did not put forth his hand to help them, and break the force of their fall; he did nothing for their relief, they are under unallayed wrath: but he took “the seed of Abraham," and plants a new colony of those who sprung from the earth, in the heavenly country, to fill up the vacant places of those apostate spirits. This is just matter of our highest admiration, why the milder attribute is exercised towards man, and the severer on them! Why the vessels of clay are chosen, and the vessels of gold neglected! How can we reflect upon it without the warmest affections to our Redeemer? We shall never fully understand the riches of distinguishing grace, till our Saviour shall be the Judge, and receive us into the kingdom of joy and glory, and condemn them to an eternal separation from his presence.

CHAPTER IX.

THE GREATNESS OF THE DIVINE MERCY IN REDEMPTION.

[ocr errors]

The next circumstance to be considered in the divine mercy is the degree of it; and this is described by the apostlc in all the dimensions which can signify its greatness. He prays for the Ephesians, that they “may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” Ephes. iii. 18. No language is sufficient to express it: if our hearts were as large as the sand on the seashore, yet they were too strait to comprehend it. But although we cannot arrive at the perfect knowledge of this excellent love, yet it is our duty to study it with the greatest application of mind; for our happiness depends upon it; and so far we may understand it, as to inflame our hearts with a superlative affection to God. And the full discovery, which here we desire and search after, in the future state shall be obtained by the presence and light of our Redeemer.

Now the greatness of the divine love in our redemption appears by reflecting on,

I. The mighty evils from which we are freed;
II. The means by which our redemption is accomplished ;

III. The excellent state to which we are advanced by our Redeemer.

I. If we reflect upon the horror of our natural state, it will exceedingly heighten the mercy that delivered us. This I have in part opened before, therefore I will be the shorter in describing it. Man by his rebellion had forfeited God's favour, and the honour and happiness he enjoyed in paradise. And as there is no middle state between sovereignty and misery, he that falls from the throne stops not till he comes to the bottom; so when man fell from God and the of his innocent state, he became extremely miserable. He is under the servitude of sin, the tyranny of Satan, the bondage of the law, and the empire of death.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1. Man is a captive to sin. He is fallen from the hand of his counsel, under the power of his passions. Love, hatred, ambition, envy, fear, sorrow, and all the other stinging affections (of which is true what Solinus speaks of the several kinds of serpents in Africa, “ Quantus nominum, tantus mortium numerus”) exercise a tyranny over him. And if “no man can serve two masters,” as our Saviour tells us, how wretched is the slavery of man, whose passions are so opposite, that in obeying one, he cannot escape the lash of many imperious masters ! He is possessed with a legion of impure lusts. And as the demoniac in the gospel was sometimes cast into the fire and sometimes into the water; so he is hurried by the fury of contrary passions.

This servitude to sin is in all respects complete; for those who serve, are either born servants, or bought with a price, or made captives by force; and sin hath all these kinds of title to man.

He is conceived and born in sin, Psalm li. 5:-he is “sold under sin,” Rom. vii. 14 ;-and sells himself to do evil, Isa. xxviii. 15. As that which is sold passeth into the possession of the buyer, so the sinner exchanging himself for the pleasures of sin, is under its power. Original sin took possession of our nature, and actual sin of our lives. He is the servant of corruption by yielding to it: “ for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage,' 1 Pet. ii. 19.

The condition of the most wretched bondslave is more sweet and less servile than that of a sinner; for the severest tyranny is exercised only upon the body, the soul remains free in the midst of chains: slaves are called ousuara, bodies, Rev. xviii. 13: but the power of sin oppresses the soul, the most noble part, and defaces the bright character of the Deity that was stamped upon its visage. The worst slavery is terminated with this present life.

the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from his master,” Job iii: 18, 19. But there is no exemption from this servitude by death, it extends itself to eternity.

2. Man since his fall is under the tyranny of Satan, who is called “the god of this world," and is more absolute than all temporal princes, his dominion being over the will. He overcame man in paradise, and by the right of war rules

In the grave

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

over him. The soul is kept in his bondage by subtile chains, of which the spiritual nature is capabie. The understanding is captivated by ignorance and errors; the will, by inordinate and dangerous lusts; the memory, by the images of sinful pleasures, those mortal visions which enchant the soul and make it not desirous of liberty. Never did cruel pirate so incompassionately urge his slaves to ply their oars in charging or flying from an enemy, as Satan incites those who are his captives to do his will, 2 Tim. ii. 26. And can there be a more afflicting calamity, than to be the slave of one's enemy, especially if base and cruel ? This is the condition of man; he is a captive to the devil, who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning. He is under the rage of that bloody tyrant, whose ambition was to render man as miserable as himself; who in triumph upbraids him for his folly, and adds derision to his cruelty.

3. Fallen man is under the curse and terror of the law; for being guilty, he is justly exposed to the punishment threatened against transgressors, without the allowance of repentance to obtain pardon. And conscience, which is the echo of the law in his bosom, repeats the dreadful sentence. This is an accuser which none can silence, a judge that none can decline : and from hence it is that men all their life are “subject to bondage,” being obnoxious to the wrath of God, which the awakened conscience fearfully sets before them.

This complicated servitude of a sinner the scripture represents under a great variety of similitudes, that the defects of one may be supplied by another. Every sinner is 'a servant, John viii. 34. Now a servant by flight may recover his liberty; but the sinner is a captive in chains, 2 Tim. ii. 26. A captive may be freed by laying down a ransom; but the sinner is deeply in debt. Every debtor is not miserable by his own fault; it may be his infelicity, not his crime, that he is poor ;. but the sinner is guilty of the highest offences. A guilty person may enjoy his health ; but the sinner is sick of a deadly disease, an incurable wound, Isa. i. 6. He that is sick and wounded may send for the physician in order to his recovery; but the sinner is in a deep sleep, 2 Tim. ii. 26. The apostle sets forth the conversion of a sinner by the word dvavíceiv, which signifies an awakening out of sleep, caused by the fumes of wine or strong liquor; which is an excellent resemblance of the sinner's state, wherein the spiritual senses are bound up, and the passions, as thick and malignant va

a

[ocr errors]

pours, cloud the mind, that it cannot reflect upon his miseries. He that is asleep may awake; but the sinner is in a state of death, which implies not only a cessation from all vital actions, but an absolute disability to perform them. The understanding is disabled for any spiritual perception, the will for any holy inclinations, the whole man is disabled for the sense of his wretched state. This is the spiritual death which justly exposes the sinner to death temporal and eternal.

4. Every man as descending from Adam, is born a sacrifice to death. His condition in this world is so wretched and unworthy the original excellency of his nature, that it deserves not the name of life. It is a continual exercise of sinful actions dishonourable to God and damning to himself; and after the succession of a few years in the defilements of sin and the accidents of this frail state, in doing and suffering evil, man comes to his fatal period, and falls into the bottomless pit, the place of pollutions and horrors, of sin and torments. It is there that the wrath of God abides on him ; and “who knoweth the power of his wrath ? According to his fear, so is his wrath,” Psalm xc. 12. Fear is an unbounded passion, and can extend itself to the apprehension of such torments, as no finite power can inflict: but the wrath of God exceeds the most jealous fears of the guilty conscience. It proceeds from infinite justice, and is executed by almighty power, and contains eminently all kinds of evils. A lake of burning brimstone, and whatever is most dreadful to sense, is but an imperfect allusion to represent it.

And how great is that love which pitied and rescued us from sin and hell! This saving mercy is set out for its tenderness and vehemence by the commotion of the bowels, at the sight of one in misery, Luke i. 78, especially the working of the mother, when any evil befals her children: such an inward deep resentment of our distress was in the Father of mercies. When we were in our blood, he said unto us, Live, Ezek. xvi. 6.

And that which farther discovers the eminent degree of his love is this—he might have been unconcerned with our distress, and left us under despair of deliverance. There is a compassion which arises from self-love, when the sight of another's misery surprises us, and affects in such a manner as to disturb our repose and embitter our joy, by considering our liableness to the same troubles; and from hence we are

« PreviousContinue »