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OF THE WAY AND MANNER WHEREBY THE SAINTS HOLD COMMUNION WITH THE LORD
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Of the way and manner whereby the saints hold communion with the Lord Christ as to personal grace — The conjugal relation between Christ and the saints, Cant. 2:16 ¢ Isaiah 54:5, etc.; Cant. 3:11, opened — The way of communion in conjugal relation, Hosea 3:3; Cant. 1:15 — On the part of Christ — On the part of the saints.
(2.) The next thing that comes under consideration is, the way whereby we hold communion with the Lord Christ, in respect of that personal grace whereof we have spoken. Now, this the Scripture manifests to be by the way of a conjugal relation. He is married unto us, and we unto him; which spiritual relation is attended with suitable conjugal affections. And this gives us fellowship with him as to his personal excellencies.
This the spouse expresseth, Cant. 2:16, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his;” — “He is mine, I possess him, I have interest in him, as my head and my husband; and I am his, possessed of him, owned by him, given up unto him: and that as to my Beloved in a conjugal relation.”
So Isaiah 54:5, “Thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” This is yielded as the reason why the church shall not be ashamed nor confounded, in the midst of her troubles and trials, — she is married unto her Maker, and her Redeemer is her husband. And Isaiah, chap. 61:10, setting out the mutual glory of Christ and his church in their walking together, he saith it is “as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.” Such is their condition, because such is their relation; which he also farther expresseth, chap. 62:5, “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” As it is with such persons in the day of their espousals, in the day of the gladness of their hearts, so is it with Christ and his saints in this relation. He is a husband to them, providing that it may be with them according to the state and condition whereinto he has taken them.
To this purpose we have his faithful engagement, Hosea 2:19,20, “I will,” saith he, “betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness.” And it is the main design of the ministry of the gospel, to prevail with men to give up themselves unto the Lord Christ, as he reveals his kindness in this engagement. Hence Paul tells the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 11:2, that he had “espoused them unto one husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin unto Christ.” This he had prevailed upon them for, by the preaching of the gospel, that they should give up themselves as a virgin, unto him who had betrothed them to himself as a husband.
And this is a relation wherein the Lord Jesus is exceedingly delighted, and inviteth others to behold him in this his glory, Cant. 3: it, “Go forth,” saith he, “O ye daughters of Jerusalem, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.” He calls forth the daughters of Jerusalem (all sorts of professors) to consider him in the condition of betrothing and espousing his church unto himself. Moreover, he tells them that they shall find on him two things eminently upon this account: — 1.
Honor. It is the day of his coronation, and his spouse is the crown wherewith he is crowned. For as Christ is a diadem of beauty and a crown of glory unto Zion, Isaiah 28:5; so Zion also is a diadem and a crown unto him, Isaiah 62:3. Christ makes this relation with his saints to be his glory and his honor.
2. Delight. The day of his espousals, of taking poor sinful souls into his bosom, is the day of the gladness of his heart. John was but the friend of the Bridegroom, that stood and heard his voice, when he was taking his bride unto himself; and he rejoiced greatly, John 3:29: how much more, then, must be the joy and gladness of the Bridegroom himself! even that which is expressed, Zephaniah 3:17, “he rejoiceth with joy, he joys with singing.”
It is the gladness of the heart of Christ, the joy of his soul, to take poor sinners into this relation with himself. He rejoiced in the thoughts of it from eternity, Proverbs 8:31; and always expresseth the greatest willingness to undergo the hard task required thereunto, Psalm 40:7,8; Hebrews 10:7; yea, he was pained as a woman in travail, until he had accomplished it, Luke 12:50. Because he loved his church, he gave himself for it, Ephesians 5:25, despising the shame, and enduring the cross, Hebrews 12:2, that he might enjoy his bride, — that he might be for her, and she for him, and not for another, Hosea 3:3. This is joy, when he is thus crowned by his mother. It is believers that are mother and brother of this Solomon, Matthew 12:49,50. They crown him in the day of his espousals, giving themselves to him, and becoming his glory, 2 Corinthians 8:23.
Thus he sets out his whole communion with his church under this allusion, and that most frequently. The time of his taking the church unto himself is the day of his marriage; and the church is his bride, his wife, Revelation 19:7,8. The entertainment he makes for his saints is a wedding supper, Matthew 22:3. The graces of his church are the ornaments of his queen, Psalm 45:9-14; and the fellowship he has with his saints is as that which those who are mutually beloved in a conjugal relation do hold, Cant. 1.
Hence Paul, in describing these two, makes sudden and insensible transitions from one to the other, — Ephesians 5, from verse 22 unto verse 32; concluding the whole with an application unto Christ and the church.
It is now to be inquired, in the next place, how it is that we hold communion with the person of Christ in respect of conjugal relations and affections, and wherein this does consist. Now, herein there are some things that are common unto Christ and the saints, and some things that are peculiar to each of them, as the nature of this relation does require. The whole may be reduced unto these two heads: — [1.] A mutual resignation of themselves one to the other; [2.] Mutual, consequential, conjugal affections. [1.] There is a mutual resignation, or making over of their persons one to another. This is the first act of communion, as to the personal grace of Christ. Christ makes himself over to the soul, to be his, as to all the love, care, and tenderness of a husband; and the soul gives up itself wholly unto the Lord Christ, to be his, as to all loving, tender obedience. And herein is the main of Christ’s and the saints’ espousals. This, in the prophet, is set out under a parable of himself and a harlot, Hosea 3:3, “Thou shalt abide for me,” saith he unto her, “thou shalt not be for another, and I will be for thee.” — “Poor harlot,” saith the Lord Christ, “I have bought thee unto myself with the price of mine own blood; and now, this is that which we will consent unto, — I WILL BE FOR THEE, AND THOU SHALT BE FOR ME, and not for another. 1st. Christ gives himself to the soul, with all his excellencies, righteousness, preciousness, graces, and eminencies, to be its Savior, head, and husband, for ever to dwell with it in this holy relation. He looks upon the souls of his saints, likes them well, counts them fair and beautiful, because he has made them so.
Cant. 1:15, “Behold, thou art fair, my companion; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.” Let others think what they please, Christ redoubles it, that the souls of his saints are very beautiful, even perfect, through his comeliness, which he puts upon them, Ezekiel 16:14, — “Behold, thou art fair, thou art fair:” particularly, that their spiritual light is very excellent and glorious; like the eyes of a dove, tender, discerning, clear, and shining. Therefore he adds that pathetical wish of the enjoyment of this his spouse, Cant. 2:14, “O my dove,” saith he, “that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely;” — “Do not hide thyself, as one that flies to the clefts of the rocks; be not dejected, as one that hides herself behind the stairs, and is afraid to come forth to the company that inquires for her. Let not thy spirit be cast down at the weakness of thy supplications, let me yet hear thy sighs and groans, thy breathing and partings to me; they are very sweet, very delightful: and thy spiritual countenance, thy appearance in heavenly things, is comely and delightful unto me.” Neither does he leave her thus, but, chap. 4:8, presseth her hard to a closer [union] with him in this conjugal bond: “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Herman, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards;” — “Thou art in a wandering condition (as the Israelites of old), among lions and leopards, sins and troubles; come from thence unto me, and I will give thee refreshment,” Matthew 11:28.
Upon this invitation, the spouse boldly concludes, Cant. 7:10, that the desire of Christ is towards her; that he does indeed love her, and aim at taking her into this fellowship with himself. So, in carrying on this union, Christ freely bestoweth himself upon the soul.
Precious and excellent as he is, he becometh ours. He makes himself to be so; and with him, all his graces.
Hence saith the spouse, “‘My Beloved is mine;’ in all that he is, he is mine.” Because he is righteousness, he is “The LORD our Righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6.
Because he is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, he is “made unto us wisdom,” etc., 1 Corinthians 1:30. Thus, “the branch of the LORD is beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth is excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel,” Isaiah 4:2.
This is the first thing on the part of Christ, — the free donation and bestowing of himself upon us to be our Christ, our Beloved, as to all the ends and purposes of love, mercy, grace, and glory; whereunto in his mediation he is designed, in a marriage covenant never to be broken. This is the sum of what is intended: — The Lord Jesus Christ, fitted and prepared, by the accomplishment and furniture of his person as mediator, and the large purchase of grace and glory which he has made, to be a husband to his saints, his church, tenders himself in the promises of the gospel to them in all his desirableness; convinces them of his goodwill towards them, and his all-sufficiency for a supply of their wants; and upon their consent to accept of him, — which is all he requires or expects at their hands, — he engageth himself in a marriage covenant to be theirs for ever. 2ndly. On the part of the saints, it is their free, willing consent to receive, embrace, and submit unto the Lord Jesus, as their husband, Lord, and Savior, — to abide with him, subject their souls unto him, and to be ruled by him for ever.
Now, this in the soul is either initial, or the solemn consent at the first entrance of union; or consequential, in renewed acts of consent all our days. I speak of it especially in this latter sense, wherein it is proper unto communion; not in the former, wherein it primarily intendeth union.
There are two things that complete this self-resignation of the soul: — (1st.) The liking of Christ, for his excellency, grace, and suitableness, far above all other beloveds whatever, preferring him in the judgement and mind above them all. In the place above mentioned, Cant. 5:9, the spouse being earnestly pressed, by professors at large, to give in her thoughts concerning the excellency of her Beloved in comparison of other endearments, answereth expressly, that he is “the chiefest of ten thousand, yea,” verse 16, “altogether lovely,” infinitely beyond comparison with the choicest created good or endearment imaginable. The soul takes a view of all that is in this world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” and sees it all to be vanity, — that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof,” 1 John 2:16,17. These beloveds are no way to be compared unto him. It views also legal righteousness, blamelessness before men, uprightness of conversation, duties upon conviction, and concludes of all as Paul does, Philippians 3:8, “Doubtless, I count all these things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” So, also, does the church, Hosea 14:3, reject all appearing assistance whatever, — as goodly as Asshur, as promising as idols, — that God alone may be preferred. And this is the soul’s entrance into conjugal communion with Jesus Christ as to personal grace, — the constant preferring him above all pretenders to its affections, counting all loss and dung in comparison of him. Beloved peace, beloved natural relations, beloved wisdom and learning, beloved righteousness, beloved duties, [are] all loss, compared with Christ. (2ndly.) The accepting of Christ by the will, as its only husband, Lord, and Savior. This is called “receiving” of Christ, John 1:12; and is not intended only for that solemn act whereby at first entrance we close with him, but also for the constant frame of the soul in abiding with him and owning of him as such. When the soul consents to take Christ on his own terms, to save him in his own way, and says, “Lord, I would have had thee and salvation in my way, that it might have been partly of mine endeavors, and as it were by the works of the law; I am now willing to receive thee and to be saved in thy way, — merely by grace: and though I would have walked according is my own mind, yet now I wholly give up myself to be ruled by thy Spirit: for in thee have I righteousness and strength, in thee am I justified and do glory;” — then does it carry on communion with Christ as to the grace of his person. This it is to receive the Lord Jesus in his comeliness and eminency. Let believers exercise their hearts abundantly unto this thing.
This is choice communion with the Son Jesus Christ. Let us receive him in all his excellencies, as he bestows himself upon us; — be frequent in thoughts of faith, comparing him with other beloveds, sin, world, legal righteousness; and preferring him before them, counting them all loss and dung in comparison of him. And let our souls be persuaded of his sincerity and willingness in giving himself, in all that he is, as mediator unto us, to be ours; and let our hearts give up themselves unto him. Let us tell him that we will be for him, and not for another: let him know it from us; he delights to hear it, yea, he says, “Sweet is our voice, and our countenance is comely;” — and we shall not fail in the issue of sweet refreshment with him.
Digression 1. Some excellencies of Christ proposed to consideration, to endear our hearts unto him — His description, Cant. 5, opened.
To strengthen our hearts in the resignation mentioned of ourselves unto the Lord Christ as our husband, as also to make way for the stirring of us up to those consequential conjugal affections of which mention shall afterward be made, I shall turn aside to a more full description of some of the personal excellencies of the Lord Christ, whereby the hearts of his saints are indeed endeared unto him.
In “The LORD our Righteousness,” then, may these ensuing things be considered; which are exceeding suitable to prevail upon our hearts to give up themselves to be wholly his: —
1. He is exceeding excellent and desirable in his Deity, and the glory thereof. He is “Jehovah our Righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6. In the rejoicing of Zion at his coming to her, this is the bottom, “Behold thy God!” Isaiah 40:9. “We have seen his glory,” saith the apostle. What glory is that? “The glory of the only-begotten Son of God,” John 1:14. The choicest saints have been afraid and amazed at the beauty of an angel; and the stoutest sinners have trembled at the glory of one of those creatures in a low appearance, representing but the back parts of their glory, who yet themselves, in their highest advancement, do cover their faces at the presence of our Beloved, as conscious to themselves of their utter disability to bear the rays of his glory, Isaiah 6:2; John 12:39-41. He is “the fellow of the Lord, of hosts,” Zechariah 13:7. And though he once appeared in the form of a servant, yet then “he thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” Philippians 2:6. In the glory of this majesty he dwells in light inaccessible. We “cannot by searching find out the Almighty unto perfection: it is as high as heaven; what can we do? deeper than hell; what can we know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea,” Job 11:7-9. We may all say one to another of this, “Surely we are more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. We neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
Who has ascended up into heaven, or descended? who has gathered the wind in his fists? who has bound the waters in a garment? who has established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if ye can tell,” Proverbs 30:2-4.
If any one should ask, now, with them in the Canticles, what is in the Lord Jesus, our beloved, more than in other beloveds, that should make him so desirable, and amiable, and worthy of acceptation? what is he more than others? I ask, What is a king more than a beggar? Much every way. Alas! this is nothing; they were born alike, must die alike, and after that is the judgement. What is an angel more than a worm? A worm is a creature, and an angel is no more; he has made the one to creep in the earth, — made also the other to dwell in heaven. There is still a proportion between these, they agree in something; but what are all the nothings of the world to the God infinitely blessed for evermore? Shall the dust of the balance, or the drop of the bucket be laid in the scale against him? This is he of whom the sinners in Zion are afraid, and cry, “Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire, who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” I might now give you a glimpse of his excellency in many of those properties and attributes by which he discovers himself to the faith of poor sinners; but as he that goes into a garden where there are innumerable flowers in great variety, gathers not all he sees, but crops here and there one, and another, I shall endeavor to open a door, and give an inlet into the infinite excellency of the graces of the Lord Jesus, as he is “God blessed for evermore,” presenting the reader with one or two instances, leaving him to gather for his own use what farther he pleaseth. Hence, then, observe, — The endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in him who is thus our husband, as he is the God of Zion. It is not the grace of a creature, nor all the grace that can possibly at once dwell in a created nature, that will serve our turn. We are too indigent to be suited with such a supply. There was a fullness of grace in the human nature of Christ, — he received not “the Spirit by measure,” John 3:34; a fullness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the sea (I speak not in respect of communication, but sufficiency); a fullness incomparably above the measure of angels: yet it was not properly an infinite fullness, — it was a created, and therefore a limited fullness. If it could be conceived as separated from the Deity, surely so many thirsty, guilty souls, as every day drink deep and large draughts of grace and mercy from him, would (if I may so speak) sink him to the very bottom; nay, it could afford no supply at all, but only in a moral way. But when the conduit of his humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible fountain of the Deity, who can look into the depths thereof? If, now, there be grace enough for sinners in an all-sufficient God, it is in Christ; and, indeed, in any other there cannot be enough. The Lord gives this reason for the peace and confidence of sinners, Isaiah 54:4,5, “Thou shalt not be ashamed, neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame.” But how shall this be? So much sin, and not ashamed! so much guilt, and not confounded! “Thy Maker,” saith he, “is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” This is the bottom of all peace, confidence, and consolation, — the grace and mercy of our Maker, of the God of the whole earth. So are kindness and power tempered in him; he makes us, and mars us, — he is our God and our God, our Redeemer. “Look unto me,” saith he, “and be ye saved; for I am God, and none else,” Isaiah 45:22, “Surely, shall one say, In the LORD have I righteousness,” verse 24.
And on this ground it is that if all the world should (if I may so say) set themselves to drink free grace, mercy, and pardon, drawing water continually from the wells of salvation; if they should set themselves to draw from one single promise, an angel standing by and crying, “Drink, O my friends, yea, drink abundantly, take so much grace and pardon as shall be abundantly sufficient for the world of sin which is in every one of you;” — they would not be able to sink the grace of the promise one hair’s breadth. There is enough for millions of worlds, if they were; because it flows into it from an infinite, bottomless fountain. “Fear not, O worm Jacob, I am God, and not man,” is the bottom of sinners’ consolation. This is that “head of gold” mentioned, Cant. 5:11, that most precious fountain of grace and mercy. This infiniteness of grace, in respect of its spring and fountain, will answer all objections that might hinder our souls from drawing nigh to communion with him, and from a free embracing of him.
Will not this suit us in all our distresses? What is our finite guilt before it?
Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions (if I may so say) of this grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the stubbornst transgressor, — “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Take heed of them who would rob you of the Deity of Christ. If there were no more grace for me than what can be treasured up in a mere man, I should rejoice [if] my portion might be under rocks and mountains.
Consider, hence, his eternal, free, unchangeable love. Were the love of Christ unto us but the love of a mere man, though never so excellent, innocent, and glorious, it must have a beginning, it must have an ending, and perhaps be fruitless. The love of Christ in his human nature towards his is exceeding, intense, tender, precious, compassionate, abundantly heightened by a sense of our miseries, feeling of our wants, experience of our temptations; all flowing from that rich stock of grace, pity, and compassion, which, on purpose for our good and supply, was bestowed on him: but yet this love, as such, cannot be infinite nor eternal, nor from itself absolutely unchangeable. Were it no more, though not to be paralleled nor fathomed yet our Savior could not say of it, as he does, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you,” John 15:9. His love could not be compared with and squalled unto the divine love of the Father, in those properties of eternity, fruitfulness, and unchangeableness, which are the chief anchors of the soul, rolling itself on the bosom of Christ. But now, —
(1.) It is eternal: “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not,” saith he, “spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, has sent me,” Isaiah 48:16. He himself is “yesterday, today, and for ever,” Hebrews 13:8; and so is his love, being his who is “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come,” Revelation 1:11.
(2.) Unchangeable. Our love is like ourselves; as we are, so are all our affections: so is the love of Christ like himself. We love one, one day, and hate him the next. He changeth, and we change also: this day he is our right hand, our right eye; the next day, “Cut him off, pluck him out.” Jesus Christ is still the same; and so is his love. “In the beginning he laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of his hands; they shall perish, but he remaineth: they all shall wax old as does a garment; and as a vesture shall he fold them up, and they shall be changed: but he is the same, and his years fail not,” Hebrews 1:10-12. He is the LORD, and he changeth not; and therefore we are not consumed. Whom he loves, he loves unto the end. His love is such as never had beginning, and never shall have ending.
(3.) It is also fruitful, — fruitful in all gracious issues and effects. A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the great desire of our soul. It was love that made Abraham cry, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” but it might not be.
But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he willeth unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven. Love in him is properly to will good to any one: whatever good Christ by his love wills to any, that willing is operative of that good.
These three qualifications of the love of Christ make it exceedingly eminent, and him exceeding desirable. How many millions of sins, in every one of the elect, every one whereof were enough to condemn them all, has this love overcome! what mountains of unbelief does it remove! Look upon the conversation of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities, wherewith his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this be not to be admired. And is it not the same towards thousands every day?
2. He is desirable and worthy our acceptation, as considered in his humanity; even therein also, in reference to us, he is exceedingly desirable.
I shall only, in this, note unto you two things: —
(1.) Its freedom from sin; (2.) Its fullness of grace; — in both which regards the Scripture sets him out as exceedingly lovely and amiable.
(1.) He was free frown sin; — the Lamb of God, without spot, and without blemish; the male of the flock, to be offered unto God, the curse falling on all other oblations, and them that offer them, Malachi 1:14. The purity of the snow is not to be compared with the whiteness of this lily, of this rose of Sharon, even from the womb: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26. Sanctified persons, whose stains are in any measure washed away, are exceeding fair in the eye of Christ himself. “Thou art all fair,” saith he, “my love, thou hast no spot in thee.” How fair, then, is he who never had the least spot or stain!
It is true, Adam at his creation had this spotless purity; so had the angels: but they came immediately from the hand of God, without concurrence of any secondary cause. Jesus Christ is a plant and root out of a dry ground, a blossom from the stem of Jesse, a bud from the loins of sinful man, — born of a sinner, after there had been no innocent flesh in the world for four thousand years, every one upon the roll of his genealogy being infected therewithal. To have a flower of wonderful rarity to grow in paradise, a garden of God’s own planting, not sullied in the least, is not so strange; but, as the psalmist speaks (in another kind), to hear of it in a wood, to find it in a forest, to have a spotless bud brought forth in the wilderness of corrupted nature, is a thing which angels may desire to look into. Nay, more, this whole nature was not only defiled, but also accursed; not only unclean, but also guilty, — guilty of Adam’s transgression, in whom we have all sinned. That the human nature of Christ should be derived from hence free from guilt, free from pollution, this is to be adored.
Objection. But you will say, “How can this be? who can bring a clean thing from an unclean? How could Christ take our nature, and not the defilements of it, and the guilt of it? If Levi paid tithes in the loins of Abraham, how is it that Christ did not sin in the loins of Adam?”
Answer. There are two things in original sin: — [1.] Guilt of the first sin, which is imputed to us. We all sinned in him. “‘Eph hoi pantes hemarton”, Romans 5:12, whether we render it relatively “in whom,” or illatively, “being all have sinned,” all is one: that one sin is the sin of us all, — “omnes eramus unus ille homo”. We were all in covenant with him; he was not only a natural head, but also a federal head unto us.
As Christ is to believers, Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:22, so was he to us all; and his transgression of that covenant is reckoned to us. [2.] There is the derivation of a polluted, corrupted nature from him: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and nothing else; whose wisdom and mind is corrupted also: a polluted fountain will have polluted streams. The first person corrupted nature, and that nature corrupts all persons following. Now, from both these was Christ most free: — 1st. He was never federally in Adam, and so not liable to the imputation of his sin on that account. It is true that sin was imputed to him when he was made sin; thereby he took away the sin of the world, John 1:29: but it was imputed to him in the covenant of the Mediator, through his voluntary susception, and not in the covenant of Adam, by a legal imputation. Had it been reckoned to him as a descendant from Adam, he had not been a fit high priest to have offered sacrifices for us, as not being “separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26. Had Adam stood in his innocence, Christ had not been incarnate, to have been a mediator for sinners; and therefore the counsel of his incarnation, morally, took not place, until after the fall. Though he was in Adam in a natural sense from his first creation, in respect of the purpose of God, Luke 3:23,38, yet he was not in him in a law sense until after the fall: so that, as to his own person, he had no more to do with the first sin of Adam, than with any personal sin of [any] one whose punishment he voluntarily took upon him; as we are not liable to the guilt of those progenitors who followed Adam, though naturally we were no less in them than in him. Therefore did he, all the days of his flesh, serve God in a covenant of works; and was therein accepted with him, having done nothing that should disannul the virtue of that covenant as to him.
This does not, then, in the least take off from his perfection. 2ndly. For the pollution of our nature, it was prevented in him from the instant of conception, Luke 1:35, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” He was “made of a woman,” Galatians 4:4; but that portion whereof he was made was sanctified by the Holy Ghost, that what was born thereof should be a holy thing. Not only the conjunction and union of soul and body, whereby a man becomes partaker of his whole nature, and therein of the pollution of sin, being a son of Adam, was prevented by the sanctification of the Holy Ghost, but it also accompanied the very separation of his bodily substance in the womb unto that sacred purpose whereunto it was set apart: so that upon all accounts he is “holy, harmless, undefiled.” Add now hereunto, that he “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” 1 Peter 2:22; that he “fulfilled all righteousness,” Matthew 3:15; his Father being always “well pleased” with him, verse 17, on the account of his perfect obedience; yea, even in that sense wherein he chargeth his angels with folly, and those inhabitants of heaven are not clean in his sight; and his excellency and desirableness in this regard will lie before us. Such was he, such is he; and yet for our sakes was he contented not only to be esteemed by the vilest of men to be a transgressor, but to undergo from God the punishment due to the vilest sinners. Of which afterward.
(2.) The fullness of grace in Christ’s human nature sets forth the amiableness and desirableness thereof. Should I make it my business to consider his perfections, as to this part of his excellency, — what he had from the womb, Luke 1:35, what received growth and improvement as to exercise in the days of his flesh, Luke 2:52, with the complement of them all in glory, — the whole would tend to the purpose in hand. I am but taking a view of these things in transits. These two things lie in open sight to all at the first consideration: — all grace was in him, for the kinds thereof; and all degrees of grace, for its perfections; and both of them make up that fullness that was in him. It is created grace that I intend; and therefore I speak of the kinds of it: it is grace inherent in a created nature, not infinite; and therefore I speak of the degrees of it.
For the fountain of grace, the Holy Ghost, he received not him “by measure,” John 3:34; and for the communications of the Spirit, “it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” Colossians 1:19, — “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” But these things are commonly spoken unto.
This is the Beloved of our souls, “holy, harmless, undefiled;” “full of grace and truth;” — full, to a sufficiency for every end of grace, — full, for practice, to be an example to men and angels as to obedience, full, to a certainty of uninterrupted communion with God, — full, to a readiness of giving supply to others, — full, to suit him to all the occasions and necessities of the souls of men, — full, to a glory not unbecoming a subsistence in the person of the Son of God, — full, to a perfect victory, in trials, over all temptations, — full, to an exact correspondence to the whole law, every righteous and holy law of God, full to the utmost capacity of a limited, created, finite nature, — full, to the greatest beauty and glory of a living temple of God, — full, to the full pleasure and delight of the soul of his Father, — full to an everlasting monument of the glory of God, in giving such inconceivable excellencies to the Son of man.
And this is the second thing considerable for the endearing of our souls to our Beloved.
3. Consider that he is all this in one person. We have not been treating of two, a God and a man; but of one who is God and man. That Word that was with God in the beginning, and was God, John 1:1, is also made flesh, verse 14; — not by a conversion of itself into flesh; not by appearing in the outward shape and likeness of flesh; but by assuming that holy thing that was born of the virgin, Luke 1:35, into personal union with himself.
So “The mighty God,” Isaiah 9:6, is a “child given” to us; that holy thing that was born of the virgin is called “The Son of God,” Luke 1:35. That which made the man Christ Jesus to be a man, was the union of soul and body; that which made him that man, and without which he was not the man, was the subsistence of both united in the person of the Son of God.
As to the proof hereof, I have spoken of it elsewhere at large; I now propose it only in general, to show the amiableness of Christ on this account. Here lies, hence arises, the grace, peace, life, and security of the church, — of all believers; as by some few considerations may be clearly evinced: —
(1.) Hence was he fit to suffer and able to bear whatever was due unto us, in that very action wherein the “Son of man gave his life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28. “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” Acts 20:28; and therein was the “love of God seen, that he gave his life for us,” 1 John 3:16. On this account was there room, enough in his breast to receive the points of all the swords that were sharpened by the law against us; and strength enough in his shoulders to bear the burden of that curse that was due to us. Thence was he so willing to undertake the work of our redemption, Hebrews 10:7,8, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” because he knew his ability to go through with it. Had he not been man, he could not have suffered; — had he not been God, his suffering could not have availed either himself or us, — he had not satisfied; the suffering of a mere man could not bear any proportion to that which in any respect was infinite. Had the great and righteous God gathered together all the sins that had been committed by his elect from the foundation of the world, and searched the bosoms of all that were to come to the end of the world, and taken them all, from the sin of their nature to the least deviation from the rectitude of his most holy law, and the highest provocation of their regenerate and unregenerate condition, and laid them on a mere holy, innocent, creature; — O how would they have overwhelmed him, and buried him for ever out of the presence of God’s love! Therefore does the apostle premise that glorious description of him to the purging of our sin: “He has spoken unto us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,” has “purged our sins.” Hebrews 1:2,3. It was he that purged our sins, who was the Son and heir of all things, by whom the world was made, — the brightness of his Father’s glory, and express image of his person; he did it, he alone was able to do it. “God was manifested in the flesh,” 1 Timothy 3:16, for this work. The sword awaked against him that was the fellow of the Lord of hosts, Zechariah 13:7; and by the wounds of that great shepherd are the sheep healed, 1 Peter 2:24,25.
(2.) Hence does he become an endless, bottomless fountain of grace to all them that believe. The fullness that it pleased the Father to commit to Christ, to be the great treasury and storehouse of the church, did not, does not, lie in the human nature, considered in itself; but in the person of the mediator, God and man. Consider wherein his communication of grace does consist, and this will be evident. The foundation of all is laid in his satisfaction, merit, and purchase; these are the morally procuring cause of all the grace we receive from Christ. Hence all grace becomes to be his; all the things of the new covenant, the promises of God, all the mercy, love, grace, glory promised, became, I say, to be his. Not as though they were all actually invested, or did reside and were in the human nature, and were from thence really communicated to us by a participation of a portion of what did so inhere: but they are morally his, by a compact, to be bestowed by him as he thinks good, as he is mediator, God and man; that is, the only begotten Son made flesh, John 1:14, “from whose fullness we receive, and grace for grace.” The real communication of grace is by Christ sending the Holy Ghost to regenerate us, and to create all the habitual grace, with the daily supplies thereof, in our hearts, that we are made partakers of. Now the Holy Ghost is thus sent by Christ as mediator, God and man, as is at large declared, John 14; 15; 16; of which more afterward. This, then, is that which I intend by this fullness of grace that is in Christ, from whence we have both our beginning and all our supplies; which makes him, as he is the alpha and Omega of his church, the beginner and finisher of our faith, excellent and desirable to our souls: — Upon the payment of the great price of his blood, and full acquitment on the satisfaction he made, all grace whatever (of which at large afterward) becomes, in a moral sense, his, at his disposal; and he bestows it on, or works it in, the hearts of his by the Holy Ghost, according as, in his infinite wisdom, he sees it needful. How glorious is he to the soul on this consideration! That is most excellent to us which suits us in a wanting condition, — that which gives bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, mercy to the perishing. All our reliefs are thus in our Beloved. Here is the life of our souls, the joy of our hearts, our relief against sin and deliverance from the wrath to come.
(3.) Thus is he fitted for a mediator, a days-man, an umpire between God and us, — being one with him, and one with us, and one in himself in this oneness, in the unity of one person. His ability and universal fitness for his office of mediator are hence usually demonstrated. And herein is he “Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Herein shines out the infinitely glorious wisdom of God; which we may better admire than express. What soul that has any acquaintance with these things falls not down with reverence and astonishment? How glorious is he that is the Beloved of our souls! What can be wanting that should encourage us to take up our rest and peace in his bosom? Unless all ways of relief and refreshment be so obstructed by unbelief, that no consideration can reach the heart to yield it the least assistance, it is impossible but that from hence the soul may gather that which will endear it unto him with whom we have to do. Let us dwell on the thoughts of it.
This is the hidden mystery; great without controversy; admirable to eternity. What poor, low, perishing things do we spend our contemplations on! Were we to have no advantage by this astonishing dispensation, yet its excellency, glory, beauty, depths, deserve the flower of our inquiries, the vigor of our spirits, the substance of our time; but when, withal, our life, our peace, our joy, our inheritance, our eternity, our all, lies herein, shall not the thoughts of it always dwell in our hearts, always refresh and delight our souls? (4.) He is excellent and glorious in this, — in that he is exalted and invested with all authority. When Jacob heard of the exaltation of his son Joseph in Egypt, and saw the chariots that he had sent for him, his spirit fainted and recovered again, through abundance of joy and other overflowing affections. Is our Beloved lost, who for our sakes was upon the earth poor and persecuted, reviled, killed?
No! he was dead, but he is alive, and, lo, he lives for ever and ever, and has the keys of hell and of death. Our Beloved is made a Lord and ruler, Acts 2:36. He is made a king; God sets him his king on his holy hill of Zion, Psalm 2:6; and he is crowned with honor and dignity, after he had been “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,” Hebrews 2:7-9. And what is he made king of? “All things are put in subjection under his feet,” verse 8. And what power over them has our Beloved? “All power in heaven and earth,” Matthew 28:18. As for men, he has power given him “over all flesh,” John 17:2. And in what glory does he exercise this power? He gives eternal life to his elect; ruling them in the power of God, Micah 5:4, until he bring them to himself: and for his enemies, his arrows are sharp in their hearts, Psalm 45:5; he dips his vesture in their blood. Oh, how glorious is he in his authority over his enemies! In this world he terrifies, frightens, awes, convinces, bruises their hearts and consciences, — fills them with fear, terror, disquietment, until they yield him feigned obedience; and sometimes with outward judgements bruises, breaks, turns the wheel upon them, — stains all his vesture with their blood, — fills the earth with their caresses: and at last will gather them all together, beast, false prophet, nations, etc., and cast them into that lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
He is gloriously exalted above angels in this his authority, good and bad, Ephesians 1:20-22, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” They are all under his feet, — at his command and absolute disposal. He is at the right hand of God, in the highest exaltation possible, and in full possession of a kingdom over the whole creation; having received a “name above every name,” etc., Philippians 2:9.
Thus is he glorious in his throne, which is at “the right hand of the majesty on high;” glorious in his commission, which is “all power in heaven and earth;” glorious in his name, a name above every name, — “Lord of lords, and King of kings;” glorious in his scepter, — “a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of his kingdom;” glorious in his attendants, — “his chariots are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels,” among them he rideth on the heavens, and sendeth out the voice of his strength, attended with ten thousand times ten thousand of his holy ones; glorious in his subjects, — all creatures in heaven and in earth, nothing is left that is not put in subjection to him; glorious in his way of rule, and the administration of his kingdom, — full of sweetness, efficacy, power, serenity, holiness, righteousness, and grace, in and towards his elect, — of terror, vengeance, and certain destruction towards the rebellious angels and men; glorious in the issue of his kingdom, when every knee shall bow before him, and all shall stand before his judgement-seat. And what a little portion of his glory is it that we have pointed to! This is the beloved of the church, — its head, its husband; this is he with whom we have communion: but of the whole exaltation of Jesus Christ I am elsewhere to treat at large.
Having insisted on these generals, for the farther carrying on the motives to communion with Christ, in the relation mentioned, taken from his excellencies and perfections, I shall reflect on the description given of him by the spouse in the Canticles, to this very end and purpose Chant. 5:10-16, “My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings, set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
The general description given of him, verse 10, has been before considered; the ensuing particulars are instances to make good the assertion that he is “the chiefest among ten thousand.”
The spouse begins with his head and face, verses 11-13. In his head, she speaks first in general, unto the substance of it, — it is “fine gold;” and then in particular, as to its ornaments, — “his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.” 1. “His head is as the most one gold,” or, “His head gold, solid gold;” so some; — “made of pure gold;” so others; — “chrusion kefale”, say the LXX, retaining part of both the Hebrew words, to “ketem paz”, “massa auri.”
Two things are eminent in gold, — splendor or glory, and duration. This is that which the spouse speaks of the head of Christ. His head is his government, authority, and kingdom. Hence it is said, “A crown of pure gold was on his head,” Psalm 21:3; and his head is here said to be gold, because of the crown of gold that adorns it, — as the monarchy in Daniel that was most eminent for glory and duration, is termed a “head of gold,” Daniel 2:38. And these two things are eminent in the kingdom and authority of Christ: —
(1.) It is a glorious kingdom; he is full of glory and majesty, and in his majesty he rides “prosperously,” Psalm 45:3,4. “His glory is great in the salvation of God: honor and majesty are laid upon him: he is made blessed for ever and ever,” Psalm 21:5,6. I might insist on particulars, and show that there is not any thing that may render a kingdom or government glorious, but it is in this of Christ in all its excellencies. It is a heavenly, a spiritual, a universal, and a shaken kingdom; all which render it glorious. But of this, somewhat before.
(2.) It is durable, yea, sterna], — solid gold. “His throne is for ever and ever,” Psalm 45:6; “of the increase of his government there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever,” Isaiah 9:7. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,” Daniel 7:27, — “a kingdom that shall never be destroyed,” chap. 2:44; for he must reign until all his enemies be subdued. This is that head of gold, — the splendor and eternity of his government.
And if you take the head in a natural sense, either the glory of his Deity is here attended to, or the fullness and excellency of his wisdom, which the head is the seat of. The allegory is not to be straitened, whilst we keep to the analogy of faith.
2. For the ornaments of his head; his locks, they are said to be “bushy,” or curled, “black as a raven.” His curled locks are black; “as a raven,” is added by way of illustration of the blackness, not with any allusion to the nature of the raven. Take the head spoken of in a political sense: his locks of hair — said to be curled, as seeming to be entangled, but really falling in perfect order and beauty, as bushy locks — are his thoughts, and counsels, and ways, in the administration of his kingdom. They are black or dark, because of their depth and unsearchableness, — as God is said to dwell in thick darkness; and curled or brushy, because of their exact interweavings, from his infinite wisdom. His thoughts are many as the hairs of the head, seeming to be perplexed and entangled, but really set in a comely order, as curled bushy hair; deep and unsearchable, and dreadful to his enemies, and full of beauty and comeliness to his beloved. Such are, I say, the thoughts of his heart, the counsels of his wisdom, in reference to the administrations of his kingdom: — dark, perplexed, involved, to a carnal eye; in themselves, and to his saints, deep, manifold, ordered in all things, comely, desirable.
The reason of this allusion is obvious: — doves are tender birds, not birds of prey; and of all others they have the most bright, shining, and piercing eye; their delight also in streams of water is known. Their being washed in milk, or clear, white, crystal water, adds to their beauty. And they are here said to be “fitly set;” that is, in due proportion for beauty and luster, — as a precious stone in the foil or fullness of a ring, as the word signifies.
Eyes being for sight, discerning, knowledge, and acquaintance with the things that are to be seen; the knowledge, the understanding, the discerning Spirit of Christ Jesus, are here intended. In the allusion used four things are ascribed to them: —
1. Tenderness; 2. Purity; 3. Discerning; and, 4.
1. The tenderness and compassion of Christ towards his church is here intended. He looks on it with the eyes of galleys doves; with tenderness and careful compassion; without anger, fury, or thoughts of revenge. So is the eye interpreted, Deuteronomy 11:12, “The eyes of the LORD thy God are upon that land.” Why so? “It is a land that the LORD thy God careth for;” — careth for it in mercy. So are the eyes of Christ on us, as the eyes of one that in tenderness cares for us; that lays out his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, in all tender love, in our behalf. He is the stone, that foundation-stone of the church, whereon “are seven eyes,” Zechariah 3:9; wherein is a perfection of wisdom, knowledge, care, and kindness, for its guidance.
2. Purity; — as washed doves’ eyes for purity. This may be taken either subjectively, for the excellency and immixed cleanness and purity of his sight and knowledge in himself; or objectively, for his delighting to behold purity in others. “He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity,” Habakkuk 1:13. “He has no pleasure in wickedness; the foolish shall not stand in his sight,” Psalm 5:4,5. If the righteous soul of Lot was vexed with seeing the filthy deeds of wicked men, 2 Peter 2:8, who yet had eyes of flesh, in which there was a mixture of impurity; how much more do the pure eyes of our dear Lord Jesus abominate all the filthiness of sinners! But herein lies the excellency of his love to us, that he takes care to take away our filth and stains, that he may delight in us; and seeing we are so defiled, that it could no otherwise be done, he will do it by his own blood, Ephesians 5:25-27, “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” The end of this undertaking is, that the church might be thus gloriously presented unto himself, because he is of purer eyes than to behold it with joy and delight in any other condition. He leaves not his spouse until he says of her, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee,” Cant. 4:7. Partly, he takes away our spots and stains, by the “renewing of the Holy Ghost;” and wholly adorns us with his own righteousness: and that because of the purity of his own eyes, which “cannot behold iniquity,” — that he might present us to himself holy.
3. Discerning. He sees as doves, quickly, clearly, thoroughly, — to the bottom of that which he looks upon. Hence, in another p]ace it is said that his “eyes are as a flame of fire,” Revelation 1:14. And why so? That the churches might know that he is he which “searcheth the reins and hearts,” Revelation 2:23. He has discerning eyes, nothing is hid from him; all things are open and naked before him with whom we have to do. It is said of him, whilst he was in this world, that “Jesus knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man,” John 2:24,25.
His piercing eyes look through all the thick coverings of hypocrites, and the snow [show] of pretenses that is on them. He sees the inside of all; and what men are there, that they are to him. He sees not as we see, but ponders the hidden man of the heart. No humble, broken, contrite soul, shall lose one sigh or groan after him, and communion with him; no pant of love or desire is hid from him, — he sees in secret; no glorious performance of the most glorious hypocrite will avail with him, — his eyes look through all, and the filth of their hearts lies naked before him.
4. Beauty and glory are here intended also. Every thing of Christ is beautiful, for he is “altogether lovely,” verse 16, but most glorious [is he] in his sight and wisdom: he is the wisdom of God’s eternal wisdom itself; his understanding is infinite. What spots and stains are in all our knowledge! When it is made perfect, yet it will still be finite and limited.
The next thing insisted on is his cheeks. Verse 13, “His cheeks are as a bed of spices; as sweet flowers,” or “towers of perfumes” [marginal reading], or well-grown flowers. There are three things evidently pointed at in these words: —
1. A sweet savor, as from spices, and flowers, and towers of perfume; 2. Beauty and order, as spices set in rows or beds, as the words import; 3. Eminency in that word, as sweet or well-grown, great flowers.
These things are in the cheeks of Christ. The Chaldee paraphrase, who applies this whole song to God’s dealings with the people of the Jews, makes these cheeks of the church’s husband to be the two tables of stone, with the various lines drawn in them; but that allusion is strained, as are most of the conjectures of that scholiast.
The cheeks of a man are the seat of comeliness and manlike courage. The comeliness of Christ, as has in part been declared, is from his fullness of grace in himself for us. His manly courage respects the administration of his rule and government, from his fullness of authority; as was before declared. This comeliness and courage the spouse, describing Christ as a beautiful, desirable personage, to show that spiritually he is so, calleth his cheeks; so to make up his parts, and proportion. And to them does she ascribe, —
1. A sweet savor, order, and eminency. A sweet savor; as God is said to smell a sweet savor from the grace and obedience of his servants (Genesis 8:21, the LORD smelled a savor of rest from the sacrifice of Noah), so do the saints smell a sweet savor from his grace laid up in Christ, Cant. 1:3. It is that which they rest in, which they delight in, which they are refreshed with. As the smell of aromatical spices and flowers pleases the natural sense, refreshes the spirits, and delights the person; so do the graces of Christ to his saints. They please their spiritual sense, they refresh their drooping spirits, and give delight to their souls. If he be nigh them, they smell his raiment, as Isaac the raiment of Jacob. They say, “It is as the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed,” Genesis 27:27; and their souls are refreshed with it.
2. Order and beauty are as spices set in a garden bed. So are the graces of Christ. When spices are set in order, any one may know what is for his use, and take and gather it accordingly. Their answering, also, one to another makes them beautiful. So are the graces of Christ; in the gospel they are distinctly and in order set forth, that sinners by faith may view them, and take from him according to their necessity. They are ordered for the use of saints in the promises of the gospel. There is light in him, and life in him, and power in him, and all consolation in him; — a constellation of graces, shining with glory and beauty. Believers take a view of them all, see their glory and excellency, but fix especially on that which, in the condition wherein they are, is most useful to them. One takes light and joy; another, life and power. By faith and prayer do they gather these things in this bed of spices. Not any that comes to him goes away unrefreshed. What may they not take, what may they not gather? what is it that the poor soul wants? Behold, it is here provided, set out in order in the promises of the gospel; which are as the beds wherein these spices are set for our use: and on the account hereof is the covenant said to be “ordered in all things,” 2 Samuel 23:5.
3. Eminency. His cheeks are “a tower of perfumes” held up, made conspicuous, visible, eminent. So it is with the graces of Christ, when held out and lifted up in the preaching of the gospel. They are a tower of perfumes, — a sweet savor to God and man.
The next clause of that verse is, “His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” Two perfections in things natural are here alluded unto: — First, the glory of color in the lilies, and the sweetness of savor in the myrrh. The glory and beauty of the lilies in those countries was such as that our Savior tells us that “Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of them,” Matthew 6:29; and the savor of myrrh such as, when the Scripture would set forth any thing to be an excellent savor, it compares it thereunto, Psalm 45:8; and thereof was the sweet and holy ointment chiefly made, Exodus 30:23-25: mention is also made frequently of it in other places, to the same purpose. It is said of Christ, that “grace was poured into his lips,” Psalm 45:2; whence men wondered or were amazed — “tois logois tes charitos”, [Luke 4:22] — at the words of grace that proceeded out of his mouth. So that by the lips of Christ, and their dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, the word of Christ, its savor, excellency, and usefulness, is intended. Herein is he excellent and glorious indeed, surpassing the excellencies of those natural things which yet are most precious in their kind, — even in the glory, beauty, and usefulness of his word. Hence they that preach his word to the saving of the souls of men, are said to be a “sweet savor unto God,” 2 Corinthians 2:15; and the savor of the knowledge of God is said to be manifested by them, verse 14. I might insist on the several properties of myrrh, whereto the word of Christ is here compared, — its bitterness in taste, its efficacy to preserve from putrefaction, its usefulness in perfumes and unctions, — and press the allegory in setting out the excellencies of the word in allusions to them; but I only insist on generals. This is that which the Holy Ghost here intends: — the word of Christ is sweet, savory, precious unto believers; and they see him to be excellent, desirable, beautiful, in the precepts, promises, exhortations, and the most bitter threats thereof.
The spouse adds, “His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl” [verse 14]. The word “beryl,” in the original, is “Tarshish;” which the Septuagint have retained, not restraining it to any peculiar precious stone; the onyx, say some; the chrysolite, say others; — any precious stone shining with a sea-green color, for the word signifies the sea also. Gold rings set with precious, glittering stones, are both valuable and desirable, for profit and ornament: so are the hands of Christ; that is, all his works, — the effects, by the cause. All his works are glorious; they are all fruits of wisdom, love, and bounty. “And his belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires.” The smoothness and brightness of ivory, the preciousness and heavenly color of the sapphires, are here called in, to give some luster to the excellency of Christ.” To these is his belly, or rather his bowels (which takes in the heart also), compared. It is the inward bowels, and not the outward bulk that is signified. Now, to show that by “bowels” in the Scripture, ascribed either to God or man, affections are intended, is needless. The tender love, unspeakable affections and kindness, of Christ to his church and people, is thus set out. What a beautiful sight is it to the eye, to see pure polished ivory set up and down with heaps of precious sapphires! How much more glorious are the tender affections, mercies, and compassion of the Lord Jesus unto believers!
Verse 15. The strength of his kingdom, the faithfulness and stability of his promises, — the height and glory of his person in his dominion, — the sweetness and excellency of communion with him, is set forth in these words: “His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars: his mouth is most sweet.”
When the spouse has gone thus far in the description of him, she concludes all in this general assertion: “He is wholly desirable, — altogether to be desired or beloved.” As if she should have said, — “I have thus reckoned up some of the perfections of the creatures (things of most value, price, usefulness, beauty, glory, here below), and compared some of the excellencies of my Beloved unto them. In this way of allegory I can carry things no higher; I find nothing better or more desirable to shadow out and to present his loveliness and desirableness: but, alas! all this comes short of his perfections, beauty, and comeliness; ‘he is all wholly to be desired, to be beloved;’” — Lovely in his person, — in the glorious all-sufficiency of his Deity, gracious purity and holiness of his humanity, authority and majesty, love and power.
Lovely in his birth and incarnation; when he was rich, for our sakes becoming poor, — taking part of flesh and blood, because we partook of the same; being made of a woman, that for us he might be made under the law, even for our sakes.
Lovely in the whole course of his life, and the more than angelical holiness and obedience which, in the depth of poverty and persecution, he exercised therein; — doing good, receiving evil; blessing, and being cursed, reviled, reproached, all his days.
Lovely in his whole employment, in his great undertaking, — in his life, death, resurrection, ascension; being a mediator between God and us, to recover the glory of God’s justice, and to save our souls, — to bring us to an enjoyment of God, who were set at such an infinite distance from him by sin.
Lovely in the glory and majesty wherewith he is crowned. Now he is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; where, though he be terrible to his enemies, yet he is full of mercy, love, and compassion, towards his beloved ones.
Lovely in all those supplies of grace and consolations, in all the dispensations of his Holy Spirit, whereof his saints are made partakers.
Lovely in all the tender care, power, and wisdom, which he exercises in the protection, safe-guarding, and delivery of his church and people, in the midst of all the oppositions and persecutions whereunto they are exposed.
Lovely in all his ordinances, and the whole of that spiritually glorious worship which he has appointed to his people, whereby they draw nigh and have communion with him and his Father.
Lovely and glorious in the vengeance he taketh, and will finally execute, upon the stubborn enemies of himself and his people.
Lovely in the pardon he has purchased and does dispense, — in the reconciliation he has established, — in the grace he communicates, — in the consolations he does administer, — in the peace and joy he gives his saints, — in his assured preservation of them unto glory.
What shall I say? there is no end of his excellencies and desirableness; — “He is altogether lovely. This is our beloved, and this is our friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
Digression 2. 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 judgement — 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 honor 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 Corinthians 1:24, 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. 8:22, ¢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 Corinthians 3:18. For he is not only said to be “the wisdom of God,” but also to be “made unto us wisdom,” 1 Corinthians 1:30. 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 great 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, Colossians 2:3, “In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
There are two things that might seem to have some color 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 Corinthians 1:19,20, “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, Jeremiah 8:9, it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” He is not seen at another time, John 1:18, nor known upon any other account, but only the revelation of the Son. He has manifested him from his own bosom; and therefore, verse 9, it is said that he is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that comes into the world,” the true Light, which has it in himself: and none has any but from him; and all have it who come unto him. He who does not so, is in darkness.
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, Romans 1:19-21. Verse 19, he calls it “to gnoston tou Theou”, — verse 20, that is, his eternal power and Godhead; and verse 21, a knowing of God: and 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 known; — as his patience, long-suffering, and forbearance. For all things being made 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; which yet are eminent properties of his nature, as himself proclaims and declares, Exodus 34:6,7.
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 has, as the apostle tells us, Romans 1:18, “revealed from heaven his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;” yet not proceeding immediately to destroy all things, he has manifested his patience and forbearance to all.
This Paul, Acts 14:16,17, 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, Psalm 104 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., Romans 9:22. 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 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, 1 John 4:8,16, “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 has purposes of love for us from of old, and will fulfill 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 has made of any such property in his nature, or of any thought of exercising it towards sinners, — in that he has 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, Isaiah 33:14,15. 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, Genesis 3:8.
He did it “leruach hayom”, when the wind did but a little blow at the presence of God; and he did it foolishly, thinking to “hide himself among trees!” Psalm 139:7,8. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” John 1:17, — 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, Ephesians 1:6. I mean not that general mercy, that velleity of acceptance which some put their hopes in: that “pathos”, (which to ascribe unto God is the greatest dishonor 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. Romans 3:25, 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;” his righteousness is also manifested in the business of forgiveness of sins: and therefore it is everywhere said to be wholly in Christ, Eph 1:7. So that this gospel grace and pardoning mercy is a]one 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 forth 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, Titus 3:4,5, “After that the kindness and love of God our Savior 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 has not the Son, the same has not the Father,1 John 2:23; 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 5:20, “The Son of God is come and has 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 17:6. 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, Hebrews 1:3; 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. [1.] His vindictive justice. God has, indeed, many ways manifested his indignation and anger against sin; so that men cannot but know that it is “the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,” Romans 1:32. He has 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,” Romans 1:18. So that men must say that he is a God of judgement. And he that shall but consider that the angels for sin were cast from heaven, shut up under chains of everlasting darkness unto the judgement of the great day (the rumor 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 Peter 2:6; cannot but discover much of God’s vindictive justice and his anger against sin. But far more clear does this shine into us in the Lord Christ: — 1st. In him God has 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 indispensable foundation for the death of Christ, but lay it upon a supposition of that which might have been otherwise.
But plainly, God, in that he spared not his only Son, but made his soul an offering for sin, and would admit of no atonement but in his blood, has 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. 2ndly. In the penalty inflicted on Christ for sin, this justice is far more gloriously manifested than otherwise. To see, indeed, a world, made 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 judgement 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 the wisdom of God, and the power of God, always beloved of the Father; to see him, I say, fear, 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 does 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 does not ordinarily immediately punish men upon their offenses. It may be learned from his constant way in governing the world: notwithstanding all provocations, yet he does 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 seasonings from their observations; yea, the management of it [God’s patience\ has been such as that it has proved a snare almost universally unto them towards whom it has been exercised, Ecclesiastes 8:11, as well as a temptation to them who have looked on, Job 21:7; Psalm 73:2-4, etc.; Jeremiah 12:l; Habakkuk 1:13. 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 has promised, sworn, and solemnly engaged himself by covenant. And that we may not hesitate about the aim which he has 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 levity 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 acting 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,” Romans 1:18, 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 the 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 acting 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 Corinthians 5:19; manifesting himself in him as one that has 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. 2ndly. In the nature of it. What is there in that forbearance which out of Christ is revealed? Merely a not immediate punishing upon the offense, 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, Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore will the LORD 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 has 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 has 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, Romans 3:25, that all is “through the forbearance of God.” God makes way for complete forgiveness of sins through this his forbearance; which the other does not. 3rdly. 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, Romans 9:22, “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 14:16; which elsewhere he holds out as a most dreadful judgement, — to wit, in respect of that issue whereto it will certainly come; as Psalm 81:12, “I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels:” which is as dreadful a condition as a creature is capable of falling into in this world. And Acts 17:30, 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, Romans 2:4, “Despises 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 does 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 withal, verse 5, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart,” etc. At 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 16:20; 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, Peter 3:9, 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, Isaiah 54:9, “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 wrath,” 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, Romans 15:5, 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 has thoughts of love. The Lord, indeed, has laid out and manifested infinite wisdom in his works of creation, providence, and governing of his world: in wisdom has he made all his creatures. “How manifold are his works! in wisdom has he made them all; the earth is full of his riches,” Psalm 104:24. 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,” Isaiah 28:29. His law also is for ever to be admired, for the excellency of the wisdom therein, Deuteronomy 4:7,8. But yet there is that which Paul is astonished at, and wherein God will for ever be exalted, which he calls, “The depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” Romans 11:33; — that is only hid in and revealed by Christ. Hence, as he is said to be “the 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 Corinthians 2:7,8. Ephesians 3:10, 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 Peter 1:12. 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.
Now, all this beauty was defaced by sin, and the wholes 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, Romans 3:23. Here, now, does 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 pardoning iniquity and sin, and advances the riches of his grace: which was his design, Ephesians 1:6.
He has infinitely vindicated his justice also, in the face of men, angels, and devils, in setting forth his Son for a propitiation. It is also to our advantage; we are more fully established in his favor, and are carried on towards a more exceeding weight of glory than formerly was revealed. Hence was that ejaculation of one of the ancients, “O felix culpa, quae talem meruit redemptorem!” Thus Paul tells us, “Great is the mystery of godliness,” 1 Timothy 3:16, and that “without controversy.”
We receive “grace for grace;” — 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,” Ephesians 5:32, 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 honor, 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 Thessalonians 1:10. 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 fullness, 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 has promised to lay out himself for them; in him has 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, but 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,” Romans 1:32. But this is to no other end but to make them cry, “Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” Isaiah 33:14. Others fix upon his patience, goodness, mercy, forbearance; but it does 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,” Romans 2:4,5. 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,” Romans 1:20. 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.”
(1.) That God has 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 has 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 threatening, but only in one 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? Genesis 3. 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, merciful and 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, Genesis 3; Isaiah 2:21, 33:15,16; — patience, render them obdurate, Ecclesiastes 8:11. Holiness utterly deters them from all thoughts of approach unto him, John 24:19.
What relief have we from thoughts of his immensity and omnipresence, if we have cause only to contrive how to fly from him (Psalm 139:11,12), if we have no pledge of his gracious presence with us? This is that which brings salvation, when we shall see that God has glorified all his properties in a way of doing us good. Now, this he has done in Jesus Christ. In him has he made his justice glorious, in making all our iniquities to meet upon him, causing him to bear them all, as the scapegoat 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, Romans 3:25, 8:33, 34. In him has he made his truth glorious, and his faithfulness, in the exact accomplishment of all his absolute threatening and promises. That fountain-threat and combination whence all others flow, Genesis 2:17, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die the death;” seconded with a curse, Deuteronomy 27:26, “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc. [Galatians 3:10] — 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, Hebrews 2:9; and so delivered us who were subject to death, verse 15; and he has fulfilled the curse, by being made a curse for us, Galatians 3:13. So that in his very threatening 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 Corinthians 1:20. 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 has set him forth to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sin; he has 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, Ephesians 1:5-8. There must our souls come to an acquaintance with them, or for ever live in darkness.
Hence, when he desired his Father to glorify his name, John 12:24, — to make in him his name (that is, his nature, his properties, 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 has made them all glorious in a way that may tend to our good, yet it does 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 has made in Christ. Wherefore farther, God has committed all his properties into the hand of Christ if I may so say, to be managed in our behalf, and for our good. He 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 has 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 Corinthians 5:18. 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,” Isaiah 45:24,25. 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 has, I say, wrapped it up in this expression, Genesis 17:l, “I am,” saith he, “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, — to 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,” Hebrews 7. 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 our wisdom, this consists in these three things, which our Savior sends his Spirit to convince the world of, — even “sin, righteousness, and judgement,” John 16:8. 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 judgement to come, they need not go farther than themselves, Romans 2:14,15. But this is obscure, and relates mostly to greater sins, and is in sum that which the apostle gives us, Romans 1:32, “They know the judgement 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 is “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 has a sense of sin, and the displeasure of God for it. For this is the very first notion of God in the world, that he is the rewarder of good and evil. 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.” This 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, 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 does 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 16:8; 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 sin, 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 does 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 3:16, “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, Romans 8:32. “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, 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 lays hand on him, and spares him not. If sin be imputed to the dear Son of his bosom, as upon his own voluntary assumption of 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 does not 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 threatening 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, was 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 this “fellow of the LORD of hosts,” this “lion of the tribe of Judah,” this “mighty one,” “the wisdom and power of God,” to tremble, 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 bruise him, to put him to grief, to make his soul an offering for sin, and to pour out his life unto death. He 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 sin and a 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 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, — slew the Lord of life. Hence is deep humiliation for it, upon the account of him whom we 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. [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, Micah 6:6,7, “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 does positively, indeed, determine this business, P9. 49:7, 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 up 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 has there discovered that no sacrifices for sin, though of his own appointment, could ever make them perfect that offered them, Hebrews 10:11. Those sacrifices could never take away sin; those services could never make them perfect that performed them, as to the conscience, Hebrews 9:9; as the apostle proves, chap. 10:1. 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 13:39: God, I say, in Christ, has 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 has manifested. 2ndly. He has also written vanity on all other endeavors whatever, that have been undertaken for that purpose.
Romans 3:24-26, 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, Romans 5:6, 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 Isaiah 33:14; but such a sight and view of it as may lead 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 proud 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 is 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 does it concern it so to do. This, then, also lies hid in the Lord Jesus. Romans 8:2-4, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has 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 twofold 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.
Sin is never more alive 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, Romans 6:3-6, etc. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized 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 vigor; 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 dishonor of God, the debasement of his majesty, and the ruin of the creature in whom it is; hell itself is but the filling of wretched creatures with the fruit of their own devices. The combinations 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 meets 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 glorious grace in the pardon and forgiveness of it; — God having taken order in Christ that that thing which tended merely to his dishonor 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 a “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, does 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 born 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, Genesis 18:25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”) they “know that this is the judgement of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death,” Romans 1:32; that “it is a righteous thing with him to recompense tribulation unto offenders,” 2 Thessalonians 1:6. He is “a God of purer eyes than to behold evil,” Habakkuk 1:13; and therefore, “the ungodly cannot stand in judgement,” Psalm 1:5. Hence the great inquiry of every one (who lies in any measure under the power of it), convinced of immortality and the judgement 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, Hebrews 2:15, “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 has 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 has 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 does, 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, — laboring 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, Romans 9:31,32, “Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, has 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 endeavor 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,” Romans 4:14,15. The law itself is now such as that it cannot give life, Galatians 3:21, “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 “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, Hebrews 8:7,8. 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: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. This they are sufficiently sensible of, that although they could for the time to come fulfill 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 law itself, how they may be eased of the account that is past? it has 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 fulfill 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 labor is lost. “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 retake 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 at 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 endeavor 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,” Romans 9:32; 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. 10:3, “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 of 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 endeavors, 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. Romans 3:24,25, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has 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., Isaiah 53:6. “Through his blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” Ephesians 1:7. “God spared not his own Son, but delivered,” etc., Romans 8:32. 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, Romans 8:33,34, — 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,” Hebrews 10:2; 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, — 2ndly. There is yet something more required; it is not enough that we 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,” Romans 5:10. 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, Philippians 3:9. 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 judgement 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 Corinthians 1:30.
3. Come we to the last thing, which I shall but touch upon; and that is judgement. The true wisdom of this also is hid in the Lord Christ; I mean, in particular, that judgement that is for to come: so at present I take the word in that place, [John 16:8.] Of what concernment this is to us to know, I shall not speak; — it is that whose influence upon the sons of men is the principle of their discriminating themselves from the beasts that perish. Neither shall I insist on the 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 in 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, has given an abundant assurance of a righteous and universal judgement 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 judgement. Those who own him to be the Son of God, will not deny a judgement to come. [2.] By his resurrection. Acts 17:31, “Pistin paraschon pasin”, — he has 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 has 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 has been, in his person, grace, ways, worship, servants, reviled, despised, condemned 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 judgement; 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, six things are required: —
1. Agreement. 2.
3. A way.
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 3:3. 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, Romans 1:18; whence we are said to be children of it; that is, born obnoxious to it, Ephesians 2:3: and whilst we remain in that condition, “the wrath of God abideth on us,” John 3:36. All 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 judgement. The day of his and sinners’ meeting, is called “The day of wrath,” Romans 2:5,6. 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,” Romans 8:7,8; 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. e is a “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 has made peace” for us, Ephesians 2:14,15. 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, Daniel 9:24; and he blotteth out the hand-writing of ordinances, Colossians 2:14, redeeming us from the curse, by “being made a curse for us,” Galatians 3:13.
(2.) He destroys him who would continue the enmity, and make the breach wider, Hebrews 2:14) “Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” and, Colossians 2:15, “spoiled principalities and powers.” (3.) He made “reconciliation for the sins of the people,” Hebrews 2:17; 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,” Corinthians 5:19; — 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 does; for, Romans 5:11, “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 unto the Father,” Ephesians 2:18. 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 approaching 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 does 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., Ephesians 4:18. 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 has 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 17:27, “they should seek the Lord, if happy 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 5:20, “He has 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 1:9. He opens our understandings that we may understand the Scriptures, Luke 24:45; — none has known God at any time, “but he has revealed him,” John 1:18. God dwells in that “light which no man can approach unto,” Timothy 6:16. None has 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 5:37. They had no manner of spiritual acquaintance with God, 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 has consecrated, dedicated, and set apart for that purpose, “a new and living way” into the holiest of all, Hebrews 10:20; 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 has prepared is no other but himself, John 14:6. 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, Isaiah 35:8, — a high way, a way of holiness, a way that none can err in that once enter it; which is farther set out, Isaiah 42:16. 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, Romans 5:6, — 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 15:5; 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,” saith St. Paul, Philippians 4:13, who denies that of ourselves we have any sufficiency, 2 Corinthians 3:5. 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,” Romans 8:37; and that because “from his fullness we receive grace for grace,” John 1:16. 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 has 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?” Hebrews 12:29. 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?” Hebrews 12:21, and all the people said, “Let not God speak with us, lest we die?”
Exodus 20:19. 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! Has it not been so with the “choicest of his saints?” Habakkuk 3:16; Isaiah 6:5; Job 42:5,6.
Whence, then, should we take to ourselves this boldness, to walk with God? This the apostle will inform us in Hebrews 10:19; it is “by the blood of Jesus:” so Ephesians 3:12, “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 has made, has taken away this conscience of sin; that is, a dread of revenge from God upon the account of the guilt thereof. He has 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 “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 Corinthians 3:17; 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 has 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 does consist. I have but one more to add, and therein I shall be brief.
There be two things in the world that do pass under this account: — 1.
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, men’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, 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 ]earning, 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, 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 seasonings, 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 has any other aim in it, “Passim sequitur corvum testaque lotoque.” Now, not to insist upon that vanity and vexation of spirit, with the innumerable 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, does 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, Romans 1:21,22. Who knows not the profound inquiries, the subtle disputations, the acute seasonings, 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 endeavors? “Emorantesan”, 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, died like a fool, sacrificing a cock to AEsculapius.
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 of God. After all their endeavors, 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 has blasted all their pride: “Where,” saith he, “is the wise? where is the scribe,” etc., 1 Corinthians 1:20. I shall not add what Paul has farther cautioned us, to the seeming condemning of philosophy as being fitted to make spoil of souls; nor what 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 has attained to the greatest height of literature, yet if he has 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 does 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 most 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 whatever (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 judgement 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 has 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 has 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, that they shall, in the depth of their policy, 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,” Corinthians 1:19. This he largely describes, Isaiah 19:11-14.
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 5:12-14. They meet with darkness in the day-time: 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 Psalm 33:10. Hence God, as it were, sets them at work, and undertakes their disappointment, Isaiah 8:9,10, “Go about your counsels,” saith the Lord, “and I will take order that it shall come to nought.” And, Psalm 2:3,4, 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 has evidently been through their own folly; neither has the wisest counsel of most been one jot better than madness.
(3.) That this wisdom, which should tend to universal quietness, has almost constantly given universal disquietness unto themselves in whom it has been most eminent. “In much wisdom is much grief,” Ecclesiastes 1:18. 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. 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.
Where this wisdom has been most eminent, it has dwelt so close upon the borders of atheism, been attended with such falseness and injustice, that it has made its possessors wicked and infamous.
I 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.