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Messiahs took advantage of it; and not only the Jews, but even the heathens, probably by report from them, had a notion of an incomparably great person who was to appear about that time. These, besides many other great things, serve to show what glorious preparations and pomp went before the great work we are speaking of.
Here it may perhaps occur to some, that it is strange, an action that had such great preparations before it happened, was so little observed when it did happen. Strictly speaking, this was not true; it was not much noticed indeed among blind and ignorant men ; this was foretold ; but it had a noble theatre, the whole universe were, in effect, spectators of it. The Scripture teaches us to reflect on this; particularly, to consider the principalities and powers in heavenly places, as attentive onlookers on this glorious performance: we may infer this (besides other Scriptures) from Eph. iii. 10.
These morning-stars shouted for joy, and sang together at the old creation, Job xxxviii. 7. This was a new creation to sing at, a more amazing spectacle than the old; in that, the Son of God acted in the form of God: now, he was to act in the low form of a servant. Nor was that the lowest part of it, he was to suffer in the form of a criminal: the judge in the form of a malefactor; the lawgiver in the room of the rebel. The creation was a mean theatre for so great an event, and the noblest creatures unworthy judges of such an incomprehensible performance; its true glory was the approbation of its infinite contriver, and that He, at whose command it was done, was fully well pleased with it.
Yet to us, on whose natures example has so much influence, it may be useful to consider that honorable crowd of admirers and spectators that this performance had, and to reflect how heaven beheld with veneration, what was treated on earth with contempt; it was a large theatre, multitudes as sand on the sea-shore, a glorious company. In Scripture, angels, in comparison of men, are called gods; we are not sensible of their glory ; which struck prophets almost dead with fear; and tempted an apostle to idolatry: but these, when the first begotten is brought into the world, (Heb. i. 6. compared with Psalm xcvii. 7.) all these gods are commanded to worship him ; the place of Scripture where angels are called gods, is the place where they are commanded to worship Christ; and accord'ing to the same apostle, Heb. 1. 6, it was a special time of his receiving this glory from the hosts of heaven, when his glory was to be veiled among the inhabitants of the earth. It is evident that they were spectators of all that he did in that state, and no doubt they were attentive spectators; they desired to look, as it were, with outstretched necks, into these things, 1 Pet. i. 12, nor could they be unconcerned spectators; they were on divers accounts interested in it; they did not need a redemption themselves; but they delighted in ours : they loved Christ, and they loved his people: their love interested them in the glory of the one and the other. All we know of their work and office, as Luther expresses it, is to sing in heaven, and minister on earth: our redemption gave occasion for both; they sang for joy when it began at Christ's birth, Luke ii. 13, they went with gladness on messages of it beforehand, to the prophets, and to the virgin Mary: they fed Christ in the desert, they attended him in his agony, and at his resurrection, and accompanied him, at his ascension ; they were concerned to look into these things in time, that were to be remembered to all eternity; and into that performance on earth, that was to be the matter of eternal hallelujahs in heaven.
It should not therefore hinder our esteem of this great work, that the great men on earth took no notice of it; they were but mean, blind, ignorant, vulgar, compared to these powers and thrones just now mentioned, who beheld it with veneration : it is no disparagement to an excellent performance, that it is not admired by ignorant persons who do not understand it.
The principalities in heaven understood, and therefore admired ; nor were the principalities and powers of darkness wholly ignorant of it. Their example should not be a pattern to us; but what they beheld with anguish, we should behold with transport. Their plot was to make the earth, if possible, a province of hell; they had heard of that glorious counterplot; they were alarmed at the harbingers of it; they looked on, and saw their plot step by step defeated, and the projects of eternal mercy going on. All the universe, therefore, were interested onlookers at this blessed undertaking ; heaven looked on with joy, and hell with terror, to observe the event of an enterprise that was contrived from everlasting, expected since the fall of man, and that was to be celebrated to all eternity.
UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL CALL, AND
ITS SINCERITY. On the subject of the universality of the gospel offer or call, and its sincerity and good faith on the part of God, as well as its sufficiency as regards men, let the following observations be considered:
1. To vindicate God in this procedure, and satisfy med, it is enough that these two things be acknowledged and established—first, His right to require and command the sinner's return to himself; and, secondly, His willingness and ability, in consistency with the ends of justice, to save all such as do return.
2. No sinner, before believing, is entitled to stipulate for any information on the subject either of the extent or of the sufficiency of the atonement, beyond the assurance that it will suffice for him if he will make use of it. To raise a question as to what may be its aspect or bearing towards him, while he is yet rejecting it, and to insist on his having this question answered or settled as a preliminary condition of his believing, is not only arrogant presumption, but mere infatuation; and to deal with any such question as if it might occasion any scruple really embarrassing to an earnest soul, and really, therefore, deserving of pity, or as if the statement of Christ's dying for his people, and for them only, must be modified or qualified to meet it, is but fostering the presumption and flattering the folly of unbelief. Let the sovereign authority of God in the gospel-call be asserted, and let the singer be summoned at his peril to return to his allegiance; let him be certified also of the sufficiency of Christ's atoning death for all the purposes for which he can possibly need it, and the free and full welcome that awaits him with the Father; and what more has he a right to ask ?
66 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” To believers, accordingly, more insight may be given into the mind and purpose of God. But to let unbelievers imagine that they, while yet in an attitude of rebellion, are entitled to have all things made plain, or that it is necessary to accommodate our statements respecting God's love to His elect, Christ's death for them, and the Spirit's witness in thein, to the difficulties which may be started as to the precise relation of all these to the unconverted—difficulties which the unconverted man starts, while continuing in a state of sin, and which would vanish on the instant of his being converted, and so ceasing to sinis really to bring down the Sovereign Jehovah to the rank of a mere petitioner for man's favour, and the gospel to the
level of a kind of bargaining and trafficing with presumptuous offenders.
3. But, further, it might be shown, that even if men had more information on the point in question, it would not help them to believe; for faith is not the belief of an express proposition defining the precise relation of Christ's death to the elect, or to men in general, or to the individual in particular ; but it is the receiving and resting upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation as he is freely offered in the gospel.” Thus even the revelation of the decree of election and of my name in it, would not materially help me in believing, and, at all events, would not produce faith; for it is not the knowledge or belief of a certain fact respecting the bearing of Christ's death on me that saves me, but my trust on Him as the way to the Father. Still less would it avail me to know with the utmost possible exactness, and to be able to put into the most precise categorical proposition, the exact relation or connexion between the death of Christ and men at large, including the non-elect; since, after all, the knowledge of that fact, and the belief of that proposition, would not advance me by a single footstep towards that faith, which is neither mere knowledge nor bare belief, but & hearty acquiescence in God's proposals and acceptance of God's gift, and reliance on his faithful promises for all the benefits of salvation unto everlasting life.
The Adaptation of an Exclusive Atonement to the Want and Desire of the Awakened Soul.
Let it be considered then, what it is that the awakened soul really needs, and feels itself to need-what is its desiderium? And here, without hesitation, we reply, that what such a soul desiderates, is not a general or universal redemption, which must necessarily be contingent and doubtful—but one that is particular, and therefore certain.
It is true, that in a certain stage of his experience, this doctrine of an unlimited