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early of the intended redemption, and the Redeemer. Yet when they are said, as in the text, to look into the things preached in the gospel, it gives reason to conclude, that the incarnation and sufferings of Christ were, with re. gard to them, as well as to us, a mystery hid from ages and generations. Now how could those holy angels who retained their integrity, but be filled with amazement at the depth of the divine councils, when they saw themselves obliged to worship a man, to worship a feeble infant, born in a stable, and lying in a manger ? when they found themselves charged with publishing the glad tidings ? as in Luke ii. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14." And the angel said unto “ them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of
great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is " born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is 66 Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; “ Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, ly
ing in a manger. And suddenly there was with the “ angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and
saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men."
There is one circumstance in the incarnation itself, which ought not to be omitted, because it is mentioned in scripture, and is certainly as altonishing as any, That he was not only made felh, but fent in the likeness of sinful flesh. What so opposite to the nature of God as fin? And what fo surprising, as that the Son of God, though without sin, yet should in all respects outwardly be like to sinners ? that he should be born of a finner, taken for a finner, treated as a funner, and at last crucified with the utmolt ignominy, as a more than an ordinary finner? I doubt not, but those angels who looked with wonder on him in the manger, looked with still greater wonder on him on the cross; that the whole host of them are considering this with holy wonder still; and that it shall be the theme of eternal wonder to the innumerable company about the throne. This leads me to observe,
2. That another circumstance which must afford mat. ter for adoring enquiry to the celestial spirits, is the fubfti. tution of an innocent person in the room of the guilty,
and his suffering from the hand of God. When man's apoftafy was first known, I reckon we may affirm with fufficient certainty, that it could not enter into any created mind, that his recovery was possible. Many are even of opinion, that some passages of scripture carry in them an intimation, that it had been proposed, and as it were a trial made, in the councils of heaven, among assembled angels, whether any remedy could be found for the guilt and apoftasy of man; and that none was found either able or willing to stand in his rooin; as in that of the Psalmist, cited by the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. x. 5, 6, 7. “ Wherefore when he cometh into the world, “ be faith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldft not, but “a body bast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and “ facrifices for fin, thou hast had no pleasure : Then said “I, Lo, I come (in the volume of thy book it is written of
me) to do thy will, O God.” And in the prophecies of Ilaiah, chap. lix. 16. “ And he saw that there was no “ man, and wondered that there was no interceffor ; “ therefore his arm brought falvation unto him, and his “ rigliteousness, it sustained him.” I will not take upon me to affirm this interpretation of these passages; but the first of them, which is applied by the apostle to Christ, certainly implies, that he undertook the redemption of finners when other facrifices were found ineffectual.
Now, my brethren, let us prosecute the reflection pointed out by the text. The angels had always hitherto feen innocence and holiness attended with peace and felicity, and they had seen the apostate fpirits laid under an irreverfible sentence of condemnation. It is probable they looked upon it as manifesily founded on the nature of God, that he could not punish the innocent, and that he could not but punish the guilty. What astonishment then must it have given thein, what new views of the boundless sovereignty and unsearchable wisdom of the Most High must it have opened to them, wlien they heard him saying, “ Deliver him from going down into the pit, I have found “a ransom !” How muft they with wonder dwell on this part of the providence of a wise, holy, just, and gracious God, that the pure and innocent Jesus, the beloved of the Father, should make his appearance in this lower world, the abode of guilty creatures, under manifeft tokens of their Creator's displeasure that he should not only enter on the scene in the weakness of infancy, but with every circumstance of meanness and bafenels! How often must they have been put to a stand, what to think of the feverity and perfecution, the contempt and opposition which he met with, from those very finners whom he came to save !
But above all, how must they have been at a loss to comprehend his being exposed, not only to the contempt of man, but to the wrath of God! For " it pleased the " Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief.” What must have been the surprise of that minister of providence, who was sent “ from heaven to strengthen” him, when he found him under an inexpressible agony of suffering, making supplication with strong crying and tears, saying, " Father, if it be poflible, let this cup pass from me!" And what created fpirit is able to reach the unfathomable meaning of his complaint upon the cross, “ My God, my " God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In the sufferings of an innocent person in the room of the guilty, in the fufferings of the well-beloved Son of God from his Father's hand, there is such an unsearchable depth, as no finite understanding is able to comprehend. At first view it seems to contradict the rectitude and holiness of the divine nature; but on a nearer inspection, there is such a striking discovery of wisdom, holiness, justice and mercy, that angels defire with a holy curiosity to contemplate and adore it.
3. As immediately founded upon the former, another circumflance in the plan of redemption through Chrift, which will afford matter of wonder to the celestial spirits, is the free justification of finners, and their acceptance with God, through the imputed righteoufness of Chrift. If it appears astonishing, that God, who distributes favor and punishment with the most perfect equity, should punish the innocent, it appears equally fo, that he should shew favor to the guilty ; that he should forgive their fins, accept their persons, and visit them with his loving-kindnels, and all this for the merit and obedience of another. What! (may it be said,) is he not unchangeably holy ! Is he not of purer eyes than to behold iniquity ? Are we not affured that evil cannot dwell with him, nor finners stand in his prelence ? How shall he receive into his favor these oflending rebels ? how shall he take into his bosom such polluted wretches ? And what can be the meaning of imputation? Can perlonal worth be transferred ? Can he commit fo great an error, as to view them with complacency for the merit of another?
Must not this appear a new and extraordinary plan to the angels, who, by personal and perfect obedience, retain the favor of their Creator, and who had been hitherto ftrangers to the influence and intercession of a mediator ? who had feen no such thing take place when their brethren had linned ? Heb. ii. 16. “ For verily he took not on him " the nature of angels, but he took on him the feed of “ Abraham,” The holy angels, not inclined to say, as more presumptuous men too often do, “ Let us continue in “ fin, that grace may abound,” will rather say, “Let us
step aside, and see this great fight.” They will then see, that there is no way more proper for maintaining the dignity of the divine government : nay, that it is the only way by which those who have been finners can be received into favor. They will see and confess, that there is no circumstance whatever that tends more to level the pride of the finner's heart, and bring him to universal submission, and absolute subjection to the fovereignty of God. I am persuaded, indeed, that even angels who never finned, have more of submission to the divine sovereignty, and dependance on the absolute grace of their Creator, than many are apt to imagine ; yet surely our world is the great theatre of divine grace. The same infinite benignity which shews itself in heaven, in favor to the worthy, is displayed on earth, to the astonishment of heaven itself, in mercy to the guilty.
Suffer me, my brethren, to embrace this opportunity of obferving, that nothing is more groundless than the accusation of men of corrupt minds, against the doctrine of divine grace, as encouraging to fin. It hath the very contrary effect, and that on these two accounts.
(1.) It is To mortifying to human pride, that the power of lin must be broken at least, belore it can be truly and cordially received. There is not so difficult a duty in the whole compass of the moral law, as an unfeigned denial of our own righteousness and strength, and being wil. ling to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. To receive forgiveness as mere mercy to those who had deserved to perish, without any complaint either against the strictness of the law or the severity of the sanction, is not so easy as many seem to imagine, and what no man is brought to but by the Holy Ghost.
(2.) As the finner must be really subjected to God the Creator, before he can lay hold of his mercy through Christ the Redeemer; so it is plain, that the most effectu. al measures are taken to continue and perpetuate this subjection. It is plain, that the infinite unmerited love of God to his soul, is the most powerful and operative prin. ciple of obedience that can dwell in the human heart: 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. “For the love of Christ constraineth
us; because we thus judge, that if one died for a!), then “ were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which
live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but “ unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Such confidence has the same apostle in the firength of this principle, that he bids defiance to all trials and opposition: Rom. viii. 35. “Who shall separate us from the love of “ Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or “ famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?" And again, verse 38, 39. “For I am persuaded that neither death, “nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate “ us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jelus our “ Lord.” These great principles of sanctification are new to the angels. When, therefore, they see the holiness of God thining in the free justification of finners through Christ, it will add new force and new meaning to that fong of praise which they are represented as singing, Rev. iv. 8. And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy,