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from the redemption which was purchased for us, as if Jesus Christ had never come into the world. And why so? Because they have not this witness; that Jesus Christ is their redeemer. Although they have some little taste, yet they always remain starved; and if they hear the word redeemer mentioned, it bringeth no comfort to them; neither do they receive any benefit from what is contained in the gospel.
Thus we perceive that those who are not partakers of the blessings purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ, receive not the witness. Before Jesus Christ came into the world, the Gentiles were not only unbelievers, but God had blinded their eyes; insomuch that it seemed as if Christ came only for one certain people. Yea, one would have thought, in the time of the law, that God had not spread forth the knowledge of his truth over all the world, but had given it to a particular people, whom he held for his church.
St. Paul informeth us, that it pleased God to give his law to the fathers, and set them apart from the rest of the world: he testified his good will toward Israel, and not to other nations; as it is said, Psalms ixxiv. 20. "Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." Moses likewise saith, Deut. xxxii. 9. "For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." We see therefore that God chose for himself a particular people: namely, the stock of Abraham; setting others aside as strangers. This is true, saith St. Paul, but it is now necessary that this knowledge should be spread over all the world; to wit, That God is the Father and Saviour of the Gentiles, as well as the Jews.
We may therefore perceive that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ would be unprofitable to us, unless it were witnessed by the gospel. For it is faith that putteth us in possession of this sal
vation. This is a very profitable doctrine: for it is acknowledged that the greatest benefits that can be bestowed upon man in this world, is to be partaker of the salvation purchased by Jesus Christ; however, there are but few that take the right way to obtain it. For we see how the gospel is despised, and how men stop their ears against the voice which God hath ordered to be proclaimed throughout the world!
We see but few now-a-days that become reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ; for they deprive themselves of this witness: others cast it away, or at least, profit so little by it, that Jesus Christ dwelleth not in them by faith, to make them partakers of his blessings. St. Paul saith, 1 Cor. i.. 30. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:" that being grafted into him, we may have part and portion in all his riches; and that whatsoever he hath, may be ours. Seeing he was once pleased to become our brother, we must not doubt, but that in taking upon him our poor and wretched state, he hath made an exchange with us, that we may become rich through his grace.
It is certain that God hath always borne witness of himself; yea, even to the Heathens. Although they had neither law nor prophets, he hath declared himself to them sufficiently, to leave them without excuse. If there were nothing but the order of nature, (as St. Paul maketh mention, Acts xiv.) it would be sufficient to convince infidels of their unthankfulness to God, who formed them, and hath nourished them through life. For it is said in the xix Psalm, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work: although they speak not, yet they set forth his goodness in such a manner, that we ought to be convinced without any other instructer. Behold the book of nature! writ
ten with letters plain enough to make known to us that we ought to glorify God!
But this witness was too dark for the rudeness and weakness of men it was therefore necessary that God should reveal himself in another manner, which was far greater; which he hath done by means of the gospel. The law and the prophets were as a lamp to lighten the Jews, but they belonged to but one people. But this grace is bestowed generally upon all the nations of the earth. Therefore, it is not without cause that St. Paul saith, this witness was to be testified in due time.
In another place, we see how marvellously he setteth forth this great secret, which God had kept from the beginning of the world, but had now revealed by the preaching of the gospel; insomuch, saith he, that the angels marvel at it: to see those who were separated from God, who seemed to be cut off and banished from salvation, now taken for his children, to be members of Jesus Christ, and of the fellowship and company of angels. This was a wonderful secret, and enough to astonish all creatures! St. Paul saith, Gal. iv. 4 and 5. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Wherein it pleased him to make known to the world, that which was before unknown to the fathers.
For he saith, Eph. ii. 12, 13, 14, 15. "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now, in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in
his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." Thus, the discord which was between the Jews and Gentiles was abolished.
Jesus Christ hath not only proclaimed the glad tidings, but hath sent forth his apostles and ministers to preach and publish peace to the world: to assemble the Jews, who were nigh by reason of the covenant, and by the solemn pledge made to their fathers, but who still needed a reconciliation through Jesus Christ the redeemer. These glad tidings were afterwards directed to those who were afar off; even to the poor Gentiles: they also received the message of salvation, and the peace of God; being assured that God so loved them, that he forgave all their sins. Thus the partition wall was broken down, and the ceremonies destroyed, whereby God had made a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. And why so? Because this salvation belongeth to all the world without exception.
We therefore have this doctrine made clear; namely, that it was requisite for our Lord Jesus Christ to make an atonement for our sins; and that by his death he hath purchased our redemption. We must therefore come to the testimony set forth in the gospel, that we may enjoy the blessings contained therein. We must not say that God is changeable, because it pleased him to hide the witness of his gospel from the Gentiles for a season, and afterwards to have it preached throughout the world, for this he had determined in the counsel of his own will. Let us therefore be convinced that it is our duty to worship and reverence him with all humbleness, for this is the greatest wisdom we can possess.
We must not be too curious in seeking vain and unprofitable questions: for God, who knoweth what we are able to bear, hath made known that which is
proper for us to understand: let us therefore learn in his school, and no where else. Isaiah speaketh of an acceptable time, chap. xlix. 8. He calleth it an acceptable time, when the message of salvation is carried throughout all the world. Seeing then that God hath displayed his goodness, and showeth that he chose a particular time to call us to salvation, let us not on our part be stiff-necked, and show our corrupt hearts, and say all is not well, for this churlishness will prevent our coming to God; but let us heartily content and rest ourselves upon the grace offered, that there may be a sweet union between God and us; and that we may acknowledge it to be a fit time, because the Lord hath chosen it.
If things do not go according to our own minds, we must not find fault, and say, God should have done otherwise, but let us restrain ourselves, and show implicit obedience to his divine will; let us be ruled by his counsel, and remember that it is not for us to appoint a time when he shall do what is to be done: this mastership and office of commanding is not in our hands, but belongs to God alone. When the gospel is called a witness, it is to assure us that God is kind and favourable toward us; but if we doubt, after having this assurance of his good will, and stand wavering, and show ourselves rebellious against him, we cannot do him a greater dishonour. Let us remember that whenever the gospel is preached to us, God beareth us witness of his goodness.
Moreover, although they that speak to us be mortal men, yet let us consider in what situation God hath placed them; he hath made them his witnesses. When a man is sworn as a notary in any place, all the writings which he receiveth must be taken for true and authentical: if magistrates, who have so little authority, can do this, and the order be good and allowable in a commonwealth, how much more ought we, when God sendeth his witnesses to