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all his actions, is but for him to do justice to infinite merit, to display the most perfect beauty, to illustrate supreme excellence, to exhibit the supreme good in a just light, to procure honour to what is in itself most honourable, and to represent the true God in the most godlike manner : and what can be more fit or decent ? a lower end than this would be unworthy of him. This is of more real worth than the existence, or the happiness of ten thousand worlds. And this is the end which he has uniformly pursued in all the steps of creation, providence and redemption. This particularly was his end in the permission of sin, and in the form of his administration towards our guilty world, through a Mediator. As, on the one hand, we are sure that he is not at all accessary to sin, as its proper producing cause, so we may be equally sure, on the other hand, that it has not entcred into the world without his permission ; that is, it could not have happened if he had hindered it. Now there were undoubtedly very good reasons for this permission ; and one appears evident, namely, that if sin had never entered, it would have been impossible in the na. ture of things, that some of the divine perfections, particularly his punishing justice and his forgiving grace, should be displayed in the conduct of his providence towards his creatures. Pardoning grace could never be displayed, if there were no sin to be pardonod ; nor vindictive justice, if there were no crimes to be punished : and consequently, if moral evil had never been permitted, these perfections must have been forever idle, concealed, and as much unknown, as if they did not belong to the divine nature. But now there is room for the various economy of providence towards guilty creatures, and particularly for the mediatorial scheme of salvation to our world. And I now proceed to shew, that in this scheme all the perfections of God have an illustrious display, and are represented to the greatest advantage.
Here I would consider this scheme, both absolutely in itself apd relatively, as a part of the grand administration towards the rational world. In the latter view, I shall consider it but briefly, and therefore I shall begin with it.
Considering it relatively, as a part of the divine economy to: wards the rational world, it concurs with the other parts, to show the amiable and wise variety of the divine government, or in how many ways God can answer his ends, and display his perfections in his dispensations towards his creatures.
The scriptures give us an account of the divine conduct to. wards iwo sorts of reasonable creatures, angels and men. And from thence we may also learn the wise variety of the divine dispensations towards them. A part of the angels were preserved in their primitive state of holiness, and a part of them were suffered to fall into sin. But the whole human race was permitted to fall, and not one of them continued in their original state of integrity. A part of the angels are happy forever ; and so is a number of mankind. But here lies the difference ; the an. gels are continued in a state of happiness, from which they never fell; but the saved from among men are recovered from a state of sin and misery, into which they fell, to a state of happiness, which they had entirely lost. The angels are entitled to happiness upon the footing of a covenant of works, to which they have yielded perfect obedience; but men are saved entirely upon the plan of the covenant of grace, on account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to them and accepted for them, though it be not originally their own. The angels, having never offend. ed, have no need of a Mediator, or of redemption through his blood. But it is through a Mediator only that guilty mortals have access to God; and they owe their salvation to his death, As to the fallen angels, there was no Saviour provided for them ; but 10 us is born a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. T'hey were never placed in a second state of trial, or under a dispensation of grace, but given up to irrecoverable ruin immediately, upon their first apostasy ; but our guilty race is placed under a dispen. sation of grace, and made probationers for a happy immortality, after their first fall. The devils are irrecoverably lost for want of a Saviour, but the sinners from among men perish by the neglect. ing a Saviour.
All the fallen angels, without exception, are remedilessly miserable ; but only a part of mankind share in their doom. The angels stood every one for himself, but Adam was constituted our representative ; our concerns were lodged in his hands, and we fell in him. Now what a surprising variety is here! here are some holy and happy beings, that were never otherwise ; and some that are recovered 10 holiness and happiness, who had been deeply involved in guilt and misery : here are some rewarded for their own personal works of obedience ; and some are saved by the righteousness of another : here are some that have access to God without a Mediator, and some through a Mediator. Some that have always gone on in an easy, natural ten:
our of uniform obedience ; and some that have passed through va. rious conflicts and temptations, and ascended to heaven from the field of battle ; here are some shining in all the glory of pative in. nocence, highly improved, but not new-created ; and some repair. ed from their ruins, and formed anew. Here are some that perish without a dispensation of grace : some without the offer of a Saviour, and some for rejecting the offer. Here are some sinners abandoned forever for the first offence ; and some lost by abusing their time of trial and the means of their recovery. What various theatres are these, on which to display the glory of the divine perfections ! what amazing wisdom to form so many different models of government, and so conduct and manage them all, as to answer the best ends! If there be any of the divine attributes that are most properly exercised upon sinless creatures that never fell, they meet with a proper object in the elect angels. If there be any perfections that cannot be displayed but upon the guilty, here are guilty men and angels, in the conduct towards whom they may shine in their full glory. If there be any of the divine attributes that may be represented in the most illustrious light, in the recovery of lost sinners through the obedience and sufferings of a Mediator, here are thousands saved in this way from among men, who will be the everlasting monuments of their amiable glories. If any of the divine perfections can receive more honour by punishing abandoned criminals immediately giv. en up to remediless ruin, they receive that honour from the everJasting punishment of the fallen angels ; or if any of them be displayed to greater advantage, by the punishment of the ungrateful abusers of the means of grace, and a time of trial, the impenitent and unbelieving sons of men are a proper object for them. To all which I may add, that here we have the divine perfections displayed in justification by works, and by grace, in inflicting punishment upon the proper offender, and upon Jesus Christ as a surety: and whatever glory may be peculiar to one or other of these ways, or may result from them all conjunctly as one whole, or system of government, all that glory redounds to the divine perfections. Thus you see the method of salvation through Christ, considered as a part of the grand scheme of the divine government, tends to the illustration of the perfections of God : it is one link in the bright chain ; and should it be broken or removed, the whole system and contexture would be shattered or left incomplete. Thus St. Paul tells us, that by the dispensations of grace towards the
church, are made known, not only to men, but to principalities and powers (that is, to the angels) the manifold wisdom of God, his variegated and beautifully diversified wisdom. Ephes. iii. 10. And 0 ! that our eyes may be enlightened to behold and admire it ! However little this divine scheme be regarded in our blind and ungrateful world, the various ranks of angels cannot behold it with careless eyes : they stoop,* and look, and pry into it, with a divine curiosity and an insatiable eagerness, through all eternity. But let us now proceed to a more particular survey of this scheme, considered absolutely in itself ; and, in this view, we shall find the divine perfections are displayed more gloriously by it, than by any other ; particularly-as to the degree-the harmony-the universality--the grace and benevolence and the wonderful and surprising manner of the display.
I. By this scheme the divine perfections are displayed in the highest degree possible. It appears that such and such attributes not only belong to God, but that they are in him in the highest perfection. Goodness had already displayed itself all the world over, in giving life and breath, and all things, to the sons of men, from age to age. But what are the blessings of the sun and rain, what are the productions of the earth, when compared to his only begotten Son, the man that was his fellow, whom he loved more than ten thousand worlds ! This is an unspeakable gift : this the richest gift which even the infinite goodness of God could bestow : almighty love could do no more ; this was its ne plus ultra. The creation and support of millions of worlds would not have display. ed such a degree of love and goodness as this. God had displayed his holiness and justice, and his abhorrence of sin, by the variety of his judgments upon a guilty world ; and he will display these attributes to all eternity by the more dreadful punishments of hell. But the subjects of these punishments are creatures of an inferior order ; and they have provoked their gracious Sovereign, and most justly incurred his displeasure, by their own personal crimes. These he may therefore punish, and yet spare his Son, when he only becomes the surety of the guilty, and he is chargeable with no sin of his own, but only the imputed guilt, of others. The dignity of bis person, the greatness of the love of his Father to him, his personal innocence, and the benevolence of his design,
1 Pet. i. 12. “ Which things (that is, the things now preached to us by the gospel, the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow) the angels desire fagaxista, to bend and pry into" with eager eyes.
plead for him, and seem to promise him an exemption, or at least the mitigation of his sufferings. This now is the greatest trial that can be made, whether divine justice be strictly inexorable, whether God can be prevailed upon by the strongest possible inducements to connive at sin, and dispense with his law. Had the doom of the whole created universe been suspended on it, it would not have been so great a trial. And what was the issue ? St. Paul will tell you the amazing result, God shared not his own Son, his proper, peculiar Son,* but delivered him up to death. Rom. viii. 32. When the honour of his justice and holiness were at stake, even the Father would not relent; but with his own mouth, he issues out the dread commission, Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against the Man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts : smite the Shepherd, smite and spare not. Zech. xiii. 7. Now it even pleased the Father to bruise him, and put him to grief. Isa. liii. 10. And could there be a more astonishing display of justice and the sacred honours of the divine government ? could a more striking proof be given of the infinite holiness of the divine Dature, the malignity of sin, and his implacable hatred to it ? No; all the punishments of hell can never give such an illustrious display of these perfections.f I might shew how sundry other at
T8 dis vie † How astonishing was the rigid justice of Brutus the Elder, who, in spite of all the passions of : father, passed sentence of death upon his own sons, for conspiring against the liberty of their country. While the amia. ble youths stood trembling and weeping before him, and hoping their tears would he the most powerful defence with a father ! while the senate whisper for the moderation of the punishment, and that they might escape with banishment ; while his fellow-consul is silent ; while the multitude trem. ble and expect the decision with horror, the inexorable Brutus rises in all the stern majesty of justice, and with a steady voice, not interrupted with one sigh, turning to the lictors, who were the executioners, says to them, "To you, lictors, I deliver them ; execute the law upon them.” In this sentence he persisted inexorable, notwithstanding the weeping intercessions of the multitude, and the cries of the young men calling upon their father by the most endearing names. The lictors seized them, stripped them naked, tied their hands behind them, beat them with rods, and then struck off their heads; the inexorable Brutus looking on the bloody spectacle with unaltered countenance. Thus the father was lost in the judge : the love of justice overcame all the fondness of the parent : private interest was swallowed up in a regard to the public good, and the honour and se. curity of government. This, perhaps, is the most striking resemblance of the justice of the Deity that can be found in the history of mankind. But how far short does it fall ! how trifling were the sufferings of these youths, compared to those of the Son of God! How insignificant the honour of the law and government for which they suffered, to that of the divine ! How small the good of the public, in one case, to that in the other! See Universal History, vol. xi. p. 360. Liv. I. ii. c. 5.