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system, all pre-supposed or implied in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And the rather, because it is possible, that while we live under the clear light of the Gospel, we may be blind to all its peculiar glories; and so never believe it to be true, nor reap any saving benefit from it; but be finally lost; eternally lost. For, as Saint Paul observes, if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Wherefore, while we search into the nature and glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us pray, that he who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, would shine in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. iii. 18. and iv. 3, 4, 5.
In these words of the apostle just cited, to which a special reference will be had in the following Essay, these things may be observed : That the Gospel of Christ, is a glorious Gospel—That the glory of the Gospel is seen by all who sit under it, that are not blind; and all who see its glory do beJieve, savingly believe-That those who are blind to the glory of the Gospel, do not believe it; the Gospel is hid from them, and they are lost—That the devil's grand scheme is to keep men blind to the glory of the Gospel; as knowing, that this is the direct method to prevent their ever believing it, to the saving of their souls—That spiritual illumination, whereby men are brought to see the glory of the Gospel, to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, is as immediately from God, as was natural light, when God commanded the light to shine out of darkness; saying, let there be light, and there was light—That all who behold this glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.
These propositions are expressly declared, or plainly implied, in the words of the apostle. Wherefore let us inquire into the nature and glory of the Gospel of Christ; into the nature and consequences of spiritual blindness; and into the nature and effects of divine illumination.
A general view of the nature of the Gospel. The word Gospel, signifies good news. The good news comes from heaven ; from God, the great king of the universe. It was first more darkly hinted to Adam immediately after the fall ; and afterwards to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by God himself; and by Moses and all the Prophets in God's name, to Israel of old. But last of all, the whole glorious plan was fully brought to light, and published to the world, by Jesus Christ and his apostles.
And he, who will be at the pains carefully and critically to read the bible through, and take a full view of the whole account as it there stands, will find the following particulars, among many others, implied in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. That God is considered as the 'moral governor of the world ; that man is considered as a proper subject of moral government; that God's law is considered as holy, just, and good ; that man has broken it, is without excuse, stands guilty before God, already condemned ; and is so far from penitence, that he is dead in sin, an enemy to God, and at enmity against his law and government.
2. That God did not judge it suitable to the honour of his majesty, or agreeable to the honour of his law and goverament, in a sovereign way, by the influences of his holy spirit, to bring man to repentance, and then by a sovereign act of grace to pardon him, and receive him to favour, and entitle him to eternal life, without a Mediator and an atonement.
3. That God has appointed his own Son to be a Mediator, and made him a curse, to redeem us from the curse, that through him he might communicate the holy spirit: and sef bim forth to be a propitiation, that through faith in his blood, we might receive forgiveness of sins; and yet God be just, and the honour of his law be secured in the sight of all worlds.
So that the doctrine of Christ's atonement, considered in its antecedents, effects, and consequences, is the sum and substance of the Gospel. This is the good news, that God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish; but have everlasting life. John iii. 16. And therefore St. Paul sums up all in these words, Christ crucified, 1 Cor. 1. 23. Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Cor. ii. 2. and sometimes merely in the cross of Christ. Gal. vi. 14. Yea, in that one word, the crosse 1 Cor. i. 18.
When the Gospel was first published to fallen man, it was in words to this effect; The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. But how bruise the serpent's head? It was not then a proper time to declare in express language, but sacrifices were instituted to show how, by way of emblematical representation, as they were types and shadows of the great atonement. Abel sacrificed, Noah sacrificed, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob offered sacrifice; and almost the whole external worship of God, under the Mosaic dispensation, which was designed as an introduction to Christianity, consisted in offering sacrifice; and without shedding of blood there was no remission. And the meaning of all this was made plain, when the Son of God became incarnate, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil: and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. Heb. ij. 14, 15.
How had the devil the power of death? It was the devil's original design to be the death and destruction of all the human race, perhaps, that in the ruin of God's new-made world, he might be revenged for his expulsion out of heaven. He thought that if they sinned, they must inevitably die, according to the express declaration of God's law. He had lately felt the force of the divine law he was under. He sinned, and he was banished from the celestial regions, down to eter
nal wo and endless despair. He tempted man to sin, that he might be joined in the same state. For if God will be so severe as to kill and damn for the first offence, satan's practice seemed to declare, that he could wish God might have nothing else to do among all his subjects. So that when a fallen world was doomed to death, it was the very thing satan would have. And so death became, as it were, his servant. It served his will, it accomplished his scheme, and answered his ends, as though it had been in his power. God seemed obliged in honour to put his law in execution ! but in doing of it, he would gratify the devil, the greatest enemy to God, to law, and to the whole system. This was satan's malicious crafty scheme, and thus perhaps was he ready to say, If law is put in execution, man must die; and God will be disappointed of the glory of his new creation, and I shall triumph. If law is vacated and set aside in favour of rebel man, no more let the Almighty monarch pretend to impartial justice. As well might law have been set aside in my case: my exclusion from heaven was an arbitrary act: if arbitrary, then tyrannical. And what care I for the wrath of an angry tyrant? Hell will be no longer hell to me.” Wherefore, there was a peculiar propriety in the first promise being delivered to man in the form of a threatening to satan. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. For it was a chief design of infinite wisdom to disconcert the devil's scheme, break up his plan, and so kill the old serpent in a way suited to his own nature. And what can excruciate him more, and put him to greater torment, than to see law honoured, and man saved, both at once; and an eternal end put to his influence, in a way most honourable to God, and advantageous to the system : whilst himself and all his obstinate adherents are doomed to everlasting fire.
But how can law be honoured, and man saved, both at once? For this end Christ became incarnate, and placed himself in our room and stead, that through death he might destroy the devil, break up his scheme, set at liberty his guilty trembling captives, who through fear of death are all their life-time subject to bondage. For he was made a curse to redeem us from the curse of the law : set forth to be a propitiation, to
declare God's righteousness, that God might be, and appear to be, just, while he justifies the sinner; and so the law be magnified and made honourable, while the sioner is saved ; death turned into a blessing, and be succeeded by a glorious resurrection, and a blessed immortality.
And thus the design of Christ's death, was to secure the honour of the divine government, and open a way for the honourable exercise of his grace in the salvation of sinners. And this is so plainly held forth in the whole of divine revelation, that it is, at least in words, generally agreed to by almost all parties, however differently they profess to think in many other points. In words, 1 say, for if in reality it was agreed to, all parties would soon agree in every other important article of the Christian faith.
It is true, there are some divines, who seem to think, that God might arbitrarily have set aside bis law in favour of fallen man; and that even his own perfections obliged him to it; and to pardon and receive to favour his sinful creatures upon their repentance, had there never been a mediator or an atonement. Repentance and reformation was all the atonement they could make, and all that God could demand. “I affirm,” says one, " it is an article of natural religion, that forgiveness does certainly follow repentance. If God be a merciful and benign being, he will accept the payment we are able to make; and not insist on impossible demands with his frail bankrupt creatures m.”
But little do such divines think how their confident affirmations are really subversive of the whole of Christianity. For if there had been a law, which could have given life, cerily righteousness had been by the law. Gal. iii. 21. If it had been “an article of natural religion' that any doings of ours could have in reason entitled us to the divine favour, verily God would have proceeded with mankind upon the principles of natural religion, and not needlessly have been at such infinite expense, as the sacrifice of his Son. For if upon the principles of natural religion, sinful man could obtain the favour of God, the death of Christ was unnecessary. Gal. ii.
on Mr. Nye, Natural and Revealed Religion, p. 85, 86.