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his goodness unto all his creatures, though there be an especial exercise of it towards them that believe. But as unto his love and grace as they are peculiar unto his elect, the church chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, so they respect them primarily in a lost undone condition by sin Rom. v. 8. God commendeth his love unto us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' God is love, saith the apostle, his nature is essentially so. And the best conception of the natural internal actings of the holy persons is love; and all the acts of it are full of delight. This is, as it were, the womb of all the eternal counsels of God, which renders his complacency in them ineffable. Hence doth he so wonderfully express his delight and complacency in the actings of his love towards the church ; Zeph. iii. 17. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy ; he will rest in his love; he will rejoice over thee with singing.' The reason why in the salvation of the church, he rejoiceth with joy, and joyeth with singing, the highest expression of divine complacency, is because he resteth in his love, and so is pleased in the exercise of its effects.
But we must return to manifest in particular how all these coumsels of God were laid in the person of Christ, to which end the things ensuing may be distinctly considered.
1. God made all things in the beginning good, exceeding good. The whole of his work was disposed into a perfect harmony, beauty, and order, suited unto that manifestation of his own glory which he designed therein. And as all things had their own individual existence, and operations suited unto their being, and capable of an end, a rest, or a blessedness, congruous unto their natures and operations; so in the various respects which they had each to other in their mutual supplies, assistances, and co-operation, they all tended unto that ultimate end, of his eternal glory. For as in their beings and existence they were effects of infinite power, so were their mutual respects and ends disposed in infinite wisdom. Thereon were the eternal power and wisdom of God glorified in them; the one in their production, the other in their disposal into their order and harmony. Man was a creature that God made, that by him he might receive the glory that he aimed at, in and by the whole inanimate creation, both that below which was for his use, and that above which was for his contemplation. This was the end of our nature in its original constitution. Thereunto are we again restored in Christ; James i. 18. Psal. civ. 24. cxxxvi. 5. Rom. i. 20.
2. God was pleased to permit the entrance of sip, both in heaven above and in earth beneath, whereby this whole order and harmony was disturbed. There are yet characters of divine power, wisdom, and goodness, remaining on the works of creation, and inseparable from their beings. But the primitive glory that was to redound unto God by them, especially as unto all things here below, was from the obedience of man, unto whom they were put in subjection. Their good estate depended on their subordination unto him in a way of natural use, as his did on God in the way of moral obedience; Gen. i. 26. 28. Psal. viii. 6—8. Man, as was said, is a creature which God made, that by him he might receive the glory that he aimed at, in and by the whole inanimate creation, This was the end of our nature in its original constitution. Thereunto are we again restored in Christ; James i. 18. But the entrance of sin cast all this order into confusion, and brought the curse on all things here below. Hereby were they deprived of that estate wherein they were declared exceeding good, and cast into that of vanity under the burden whereof they groan, and will do so to the end ; Gen. ii. 17, 18. Rom. viii. 20, 21. And these things we must again consider afterward.
3. Divine wisdom was no way surprised with this disaster. God had from all eternity laid in provisions of counsels for the recovery of all things into a better and more permanent estate than what was lost by sin. This is the ανάψυξις, the αποκατάστασις πάντων, the revification, the restitution of all things ; Acts iii. 19. 21. The ávakepalaiwols, or the gathering all things in heaven and earth into a new head in Christ Jesus; Eph. i. 10. For although it may be, there is more of curiosity than of edification, in a scrupulous inquiry into the method or order of God's eternal decrees or counsels, and the disposal of them into a subserviency one unto another ; yet this is necessary from the infinite wisdom, prescience, and immutability of God, that he is
surprised with nothing, that he is put unto no new counsels by any events in the works of creation. All things were disposed by him, into those ways and methods, and that from eternity, which conduce unto, and certainly issue in, that glory which is ultimately intended. For as we are careful to state the eternal decrees of God, and the actual operations of his providence, so as that the liberty of the will of man as the next cause of all his moral actions, be not infringed thereby; so ought we to be careful not to ascribe such a sacrilegious liberty unto the wills of any creatures, as that God should be surprised, imposed on, or changed by any of their actings whatever. For known unto him are all his works from the foundation of the world,' and with him there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning.'
4. There were therefore eternal counsels of God whereby he disposed all things into a new order unto his own glory, in the sanctification and salvation of the church. And of them two things may be considered. (1.) Their original. (2.) The design of their accomplishment.
Their first spring or original was in the divine will and wisdom alone, without respect unto any external moving cause. No reason can be given, no cause be assigned of these counsels, but the will of God alone. Hence are they called or described by, the 'good pleasure which he purposed in himself;' Eph. i. 9. * The purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will;' ver. 11. Who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath given'first unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again ? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things;' Rom. xi. 34-36. The incarnation of Christ, and his mediation thereon, were not the procuring cause of these eternal counsels of God; but the effects of them, as the Scripture constantly declares. But the design of their accomplishment was laid in the person of the Son alone. As he was the essential wisdom of God, all things were at first created by him. But upon a prospect of the ruin of all by sin, God would in and by him, as he was foreordained to be incarnate, restore all things. The whole counsel of God unto this end centred in him alone. Hence their foundation is rightly said to be laid in him, and is declared so to be by the apostle, Eph. i. 4. For the spring of
the sanctification and salvation of the church lies in election, the decree whereof compriseth the counsels of God concerning them. Herein God from the beginning 'chooseth us unto salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit ;' 2 Thess. ii. 13. The one being the end he designeth, the other the means and way thereof. But this he did in Christ; • he chooseth us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love;' that is,' unto salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit.' In him we were not actually, nor by faith, before the foundation of the world ; yet were we then chosen in him, as the only foundation of the execution of all the counsels of God, concerning our sanctification and salvation.
Thus as all things were originally made and created by him, as he was the essential wisdom of God; so all things are renewed and recovered by him, as he is the provisional wisdom of God in and by his incarnation. Therefore are these things put together and compared unto his glory; Col. i. 15–19. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible : all things were created by him and for him : and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.'
Two things as the foundation of what is ascribed unto the Lord Christ in the ensuing discourse, are asserted, ver. 15. (1.) That he is the image of the invisible God.' (2.) That he is the first-born of every creature;' things seeming very distant in themselves, but gloriously united and centring in his person.
(1.) He is the image of the invisible God;' or as it is elsewhere expressed, he is in the form of God,' his essential form, for other form there is none in the divine nature. The 'brightness of the glory, and express image of the Father's person.' And he is called here the invisible God,' not absolutely with respect unto his essence, though it be most true, the divine essence being absolutely invisible, and that equal. ly, whether considered as in the Father or in the Son; but he is called so with respect unto his counsels, his will, his love, and his grace. For soʻnone hath seen him at any time, but the only-begotten which is in the bosom of the Father, he declares him;' John i. 18. As he is thus the essential, the eternal image of the invisible God, his wisdom and power, the efficiency of the first creation, and its consistence being created, is ascribed unto him, ver. 16, 17. • By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and in earth, visible and invisible.' And because of the great notions and apprehensions that were then in the world, especially among the Jews, unto whom the apostle had respect in this epistle, of the greatness and glory of the invisible part of the creation in heaven above, he mentions them in particular, under the most glorious titles that any could, or then did ascribe unto them ; ' whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers : all things were created by him and for him ;' the same expression that is used of God absolutely, Rom. xi. 36. Rev. iv. 11. Add hereunto those other places to this purpose, John i. 1-3. Heb. i. 1-3. and those that are not under the efficacy of spiritual infatuations, cannot but admire at the power of unbelief, the blindness of the minds of men, and the craft of Satan, in them who deny the divine nature of Jesus Christ. For whereas the apostle plainly affirms, that the works of the creation do demonstrate the eternal power and Godhead of him by whom they were created; Rom. i. 19, 20. And not only so, but it is uncontrollably evident in the light of nature; it being so directly, expressly, frequently affirmed, that all things whatever, absolutely, and in their distributions into heaven and earth, with the things contained respectively in them, were made and created by Christ; it is the highest rebellion against the light and teachings of God, to disbelieve his divine existence and power.
(2.) Again it is added, that he is the first-born of every creature;' which principally respects the new creation, as it is declared, ver. 18. He is the head of the body the church; the beginning; who is the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.' For in him were all the counsels of God laid for the recovery of all things unto himself; as he was to be incarnate.' And the accomplishment of these counsels of God by him, the apostle declares at large in the ensuing verses. And these things are both