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may be ascribed to the Deity; because these exercises seem to imply some degree of deliberation and sus. pense. The answer is, though imperfect creatures often deliberate and suspend their judgment, before they choose or determine, yet God, who is absolutely perfect, could never have occasion for deliberation or suspense. As he possessed, from eternity, every divine perfection, so he had, from eternity, an intuitive view of all possible beings, objects, and events, which enabled him to form the best possible scheme of things, as early as his own existence. We can as easily conceive of an eternal purpose, as of an eternal power, wisdom or goodness. We can as easily conceive of eternal motion as eternal rest. We can as easily conceive of God's determining from eternity, as of his existing from eternity. And if we only admit the truth of his existing from eternity, we must necessarily admit the truth of his decreeing from eternity to redeem the church through the atonement of Christ, Any other supposition must carry the idea of imperfection and mutability in Him who is without variableness or shadow of turning. The way is now perpared to inquire,
III. Why God was graciously pleased to devise and adopt, from eternity, the great scheme of man's redemption. To this inquiry the apostle gives a general answer in the text. He says, it was “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God.” Moved by infinite benevolence, the Deity determined to make himself known through the medium of his works; and, among all possible works, he saw the work of redemption to be the best adapted to answer this glorious and important purpose. He knew that his creatures could not see the natural and
moral excellency of his nature, unless he actually displayed himself in his works. It was their imperfection, therefore, which rendered any exhibitions of his glory necessary. Could they have looked directly into his mind, as he can into theirs, there would have been no occasion for the creation of the heavens and the earth, or for the existence of natural cr moral evil, or for the incarnation and sufferings of Christ, or for any of the visible scenes and retributions of eternity. All the ends of creation might have been completely answered, by the bare existence of rational, holy and immortal creatures, had such creatures been capable of seeing all the perfections of God, without the medium of his works. But though the imperfection of created beings was the general reason why God chose to act himself out before their eyes, yet it may be still further inquired, why he chose to act himself out in the work of redemption. In answer to this, the following observations may perhaps afford some light and satisfaction.
1. God chose the work of redemption because it was the only one in which he could display all his perfections before the minds of his intelligent creatures. He might have created different objects, and fixed upon different orders and series of events; but none of these could have unfolded his whole character. This will be evident, if we only consider the various modes of operation which he might have chosen and pursued.
He might have formed just such a material system as now exists. He might have formed angels and men holy and happy, and preserved them from sin and misery forever. This is certainly a supposable case, because the same divine influence, which first formed them in the divine image, could have preserved that image through every period of their existence. And
had God treated angels and men in this manner, he would have displayed great goodness to the inhabitants of heaven and earth, and established a state of things almost infinitely different from what has actually taken place. But such a mode of divine operation would not have discovered either the justice or grace of God; because perfectly innocent creatures could not have been proper objects of either vindictive justice or pardoning mercy.
Again: God might have preserved both angels and men in a state of holiness and happiness, for a certain season, and then subjected only a few individuals to endless sin and misery. This mode of conduct would have displayed divine benevolence to the holy and happy part of the moral system, and divine sovereignty and justice to the sinful and miserable part. But still this order of things would have left forgiving grace entirely undiscovered.
Once more: we may suppose that God might have preserved angels and men in a holy and happy state, for ages and ages, and then annihilated the whole moral creation. This, like the last mentioned series of events, would have forever concealed from the view of creatures the sovereign grace of God, in forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.
These three schemes of divine operation are the only ones, which could have been devised, different from the scheme of redemption revealed in the gospel. And since neither of these could have displayed all the perfections of God, this was a good reason why he should prefer the work of redemption to all other ways of making himself known. In this way, he can cause "his grace to reign through righteousness unto eternal life,” in them that are saved; and, at the same time, manifest his justice in the everlasting punishment of
the finally impenitent and incorrigible. And as this was the only possible way of displaying all his perfections, so he determined, from eternity, to exhibit his whole character to all intelligent beings in the face of Jesus Christ.
2. Another reason why God devised and adopted the work of redemption, was, because there was no other way by which he could so clearly and fully manifest
any of his perfections. We have just obseryed, that there was no other way by which he could discover all his perfections; but we now further observe, that there was no other by which he could display any of his perfections in their highest beauty and glory. The other methods of manifesting himself, which have been mentioned, would have given created beings some apprehension of some of his natural and moral attributes; but the method of redeeming love displays them all in the clearest and strongest light. To illustrate this general idea, let us begin with the attribute of divine wisdom, which the apostle particularly mentions in the text. He says, it was the intent of God in redeeming the church, to make known his manifold wisdom to all the principalities and powers in the heavenly world. And what other method could have been so well adapted to display this divine attribute in all its glory? The plan of redemption is the deepest design that could be formed, and the most surpassing all created wisdom. “Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh.” The united wisdom of angels and men could never have discovered the way of reconciling justice and mercy in the pardon of sinners, by the incarnation and death of the divine Redeemer. Besides, the way of saving sinners through the atonement of Christ, displays not only the deepest, but the most manifold, wisdom. It is the most complicated scheme conceivable. Though God had created as many worlds as there are sands on the sea-shore, and made as many species of creatures as he has made individuals; yet he could not have displayed such manifold wisdom in the formation and government of such a system, as he has displayed in raising up the church out of the ruins of the apostasy. This scheme combines and contrasts the most opposite things in nature, and brings them all into subserviency to one great and ultimate end. It makes sin promote holiness, misery promote hiappiness, darkness promote light, confusion promote order, and the greatest discord promote the most intimate and inviolable union. To adapt all these things in order, in weight, and io measure, to each other, so as to produce the greatest quantum of holiness and happiness in the universe, displays the greatest depth and extent of divine wisdom, and must finally constrain all intelligent and holy beings to cry out, in raptures of admiration and gratitude, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
The porcer of God might, indeed, have been seen in the creation, preservation and government of perfectly holy and obedient creatures; but this divine attribute is more illustriously displayed in carrying on the work of redemption. In this work, the exceeding greatness of God's power is exerted, in subduing the hearts of sinners, and in maintaining his throne and authority in the hearts of believers. Nor is this all; for all the powers of darkness are combined against the members of the church militant, and it requires the continual exertion of God's omnipotence to restrain and conquer all his and their enemies.
So that the power of God is much more visibly displayed, in earth and in hell, in governing his rebellious creatures, than