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If man must perish, what becomes of mercy? If man be pardoned, what becomes of justice?
Only the wisdom of God can devise a satisfactory expedient. The wisdom of God saith, "I will satisfy you both. The pleas of justice shall be satisfied in the punishment of sin; and the pleas of mercy shall be satisfied in the pardon of sin. Justice shall not complain for want of punishment; nor mercy for want of compassion. I will provide a sacrifice which shall satisfy Justice; and the virtue of that sacrifice shall gratify Mercy. Justice shall have punishment to accept, and Mercy shall have pardon to bestow. The rights of both shall be secured; and the demands of both shall amicably accord in punishment and pardon, by transferring the punishment of the sinner to his Surety. Justice shall exact a recompense from his blood, while life and salvation shall be granted by Mercy to the sinner, without the expence of one drop of his own." Behold, therefore, the goodness and the severity of God! The riches of grace are entwined with the terrors of wrath. God is righteous without being cruel, and merciful without being unjust. His righteousness inviolate, and the world recovered*.
How marvellous is the wisdom of God in the provision of a SAVIOUR in the person of his SON, Jesus Christ? Who so proper to restore the world as he who made it? Who so qualified to renew the divine image, as he who first impressed it? Who is so fit to intercede with God, as his dearly beloved Son? Who so proper to redeem the forfeited inheritance as the "Heir of all things?"
The union of the two natures, human and divine, in the person of Christ, appears to be admirably adapted to the great purpose designed. He is "ImmanuelGod with us;" he was therefore qualified, as an umpire, to lay his hand upon both parties. By the one
* These thoughts, with many others in the course of these Sermons, are borrowed from the admirable CHARNOCK on the Attributes of God. See particularly vol. i. page 383, &c.
nature, he was fitted for "things pertaining to God," by the other, he was capable of sympathizing with men. He had a nature capable of suffering and a nature which could render his sufferings infinitely meritorious. Had he not been man, he could not have suffered and died; had he not been more than man, his sufferings and death would have been of no avail.
In the death of Christ we behold the righteousness of the law perfectly fulfilled (Rom. viii. 3); so that, "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, by the obedience of one, many were made righteous." And in this way, God manifested to the world, in one act, the strongest hatred to sin, and the greatest love to the sinner. Here is infinite love and infinite hatred condemning with awful severity the sin to what it deserved, and advancing the sinner himself to undeserved, unexpected, and everlasting happiness; consuming the sin, and recovering the sinner; and doing all this by instruments who had no such intention. Satan is overthrown by his own hands; he that had "the power of death" is himself destroyed "by death;" by his cross, Jesus wrests the crown of dominion from the prince of darkness: Satan is altogether baffled, and the agents he inspired to effect his plans are completely disappointed. It was 66 by wicked hands, that Jesus was crucified and slain;" but thus "the counsel and foreknowledge of God were fulfilled," and the church of God ransomed by the blood of his Son.
Nor is the wisdom of God less conspicuous in the ways and means by which the redemption of Christ is applied to the hearts of men. How simple and plain is that glorious gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, to every one that believeth! The great salvation was not published by men famous for wordly wisdom; it was not by the force of human eloquence, or by the influence of human authority, that men were converted; but "this treasure
was put into earthen vessels, that the excellency of
the power might plainly appear to be of God, and not of man." For the same reason, Faith is appointed to be the instrument of our justification; for Faith assumes no merit of its own; it simply and humbly receives the divine testimony, and with it the blessings promised, "without money and without price;" and "therefore it is of faith, that it may be by grace."
The wisdom of God has adapted the gospel to promote, in the most powerful manner, the practice of holiness and good works. While a salvation of pure grace is bestowed upon men, and becomes the ground of their confidence and the source of their hopes, they are powerfully induced and enabled to glorify God by their holy obedience. A true acquaintance with the gospel produces in the heart love both to God and men. Nothing is so powerful as love; and the love of God to us, if" shed abroad in hearts by the Holy Ghost," must and will effect a return of love and gratitude to God; and if we love him, we shall keep his commandments, for this is the proper fruit of faith, and the best evidence of our sincerity.
Let us improve the subject in three ways:-Adore the wisdom of God-Rely on the wisdom of God,and, Implore wisdom of God.
1. Adore the wisdom of God. Where can you turn your eyes without beholding it? Behold it in every object around you. Look at creation, with this design, that the Creator, infinitely wise and good, may be adored. Thus shall "the whole world become a temple, and life itself be one continued act of adoration." But it is in "the new creation” that wisdom most brightly shines: it is "through Jesus Christ," as the text expresses it; through him, as the light of the world, God shines upon us; and through him as our Mediator, let our honours be paid to God.
2. Rely on the wisdom of God. In the common affairs of life we have frequent occasion for advice;
and we gladly avail ourselves of the wisdom of a friend, of a physician, of a counsellor : but O! what a privilege is it to a Christian, that the God of wisdom presides over the world, over the church, and over his private affairs! Commit then thy way to the Lord. Trust in him at all times, even at the worst of times. He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation: he knows how to make all things work together for good. "The Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him." Finally,
3. Ask wisdom of God; so he directs us to do. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God-and it shall be given him." We need wisdom in all our concerns, and should seek direction in the management of all our affairs; but chiefly, we need it for our souls; for mistakes in religion are of all others the most dangerous. God has favoured us with the Bible, which is his own book of wisdom, and it is able to make us "wise unto salvation ;" but we also need "the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation" to guide us. into all truth, and to glorify Jesus, by revealing him to us as the way, the truth, and the life.-May we know, and love, and serve him on earth! daily increasing in true wisdom, and rejoicing in hope of a superior state, where our faculties shall be enlarged, and our knowledge improved; and where, with infinite gratitude, we shall adopt the doxology in our text:-To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE HOLINESS OF GOD.
Isaiah vi. 3. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.
LL the divine attributes are equally necessary to the perfection of his nature; and it may be improper to exalt any one of them above the rest: but it may be remarked, that no attribute of God is expressed in scripture as his holiness is-no attribute is so awfully proclaimed :-it is thrice repeated in a single sentence, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." We find this doxology in the account of a most remarkable vision, which Isaiah, the prophet, saw. "I saw the Lord," saith he, " sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the Seraphim ;-and one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." This is applied to Jesus Christ, in the gospel of St. John, where it is written, "These things said Esaias when he saw his glory, and spake of him." John xii. 41. We find another doxology of a similar kind, in Rev. iv. 8; where celestial beings are represented as giving glory to God, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." From these, and many other texts of Scripture, we learn a great and important doctrine, which we shall endeavour to illustrate and improve; namely, that
The great God is infinitely pure and holy.