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The divine condescension towards man is a truth upon any system; but upon the supposition of the heavenly bodies being so many inhabited worlds. it is a truth full of amazement, and the foregoing language of David and Solomon is forcible beyond all conception. The idea of HIM who upholds a universe of such extent by the word of his power becoming incarnate, residing with men, and setting up his kingdom among them, that he might raise them to eternal glory, as much surpasses all philosophy calls great and noble, as the Creator supasses the work of his hands.
2. The scriptures inform us, that before creation was begun, our world was marked out by eternal wisdom, as the theatre of its joyful operations. This idea is forcibly expressed in the eighth chapter of Proverbs: Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment ; when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejocing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
On this interesting passage I shall offer a few remarks. First: Among the variety of objects which are here specified as the works of God, the earth is mentioned as being, in a sort, his peculiar property. Doubtless the whole creation is the Lord's; but none of his other works are here claimed as his own, in the manner that the earth is. It is called his earth. And this seems to intimate a design of rendering it the grand theatre on which his greatest work should be performed; a work that should fill all creation with joy and wonder. Secondly: The wisdom of God is described as rejoicing in the contemplation of this part of the creation. Whether wisdom in this passage be understood of the promised Messiah, or of a divine attribute personified, it makes no difference as to the argument. Allow it to mean the latter; and that the rejoicing of wisdom is a figurative mode of speaking, like
that of mercy rejoicing against judgment :* still, redemption by Jesus Christ is the object concerning which it was exercised: nothing less can be intimated than this, that the earth was the place marked out by Eternal Wisdom as the theatre of its joyful operations. Thirdly The habitable part of the earth was more especially the object of Wisdom's joyful contemplation. The abodes of men, which through sin had become scenes of abomination, were, by the interposition of the Mediator, to become the abodes of righteousness. Here the serpent's head was to be bruised, his schemes confounded, and his works destroyed: and that by the woman's seed, the human nature, which he had despised and degraded. Here a trophy was to be raised in glory of sovereign grace, and millions of souls, delivered from everlasting destruction, were to present an offering of praise to HIM that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. Here, in a word, the peculiar glory of the Godhead was to be displayed in such a manner as to afford a lesson of joyful amazement to the whole creation, throughout all ages of time, yea, world without end! Lastly: Not only were the abodes of man contemplated with rejoicing, but the sons of men themselves regarded with delight. The operations of Eternal Wisdom were directed to their salvation and their salvation was appointed to become, in return, a mirror in which the whole creation should behold the operations of Eternal Wisdom. This expressive passage contains a fullness of meaning, let the extent of the intelligent creation be what it may: but if it be of that extent which modern philosophy supposes, it contains a greater fullness still. It perfectly accords with all those ideas suggested of this earth being the chosen theatre, upon which events should be brought to pass that shall fill creation with everlasting joy; and well they may, if the prospect of them rejoiced even the heart of God.
3. The mediation of Christ is represented, in scripture, as bringing the whole creation into union with the church or people of God. In the dispensation of the fullness of times, it is said that God would gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in
+ Ephes. iii. 21.
*James ii. 13.
heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.* Again; It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and (having made peace through the blood of his cross) by him to reconcile all things unto himself, by him, I say, whether things in heaven.†
The language here used, supposes that the introduction of sin has effected a disunion between men and the other parts of God's creation. It is natural to suppose it should be so. If a province of a great empire rise up in rebellion against the lawful government, all communication between the inhabitants of such provinces, and the faithful adherents to order and obedience, must be at an end. A line of separation would be immediately drawn by the sovereign, and all intercourse between the one and the other prohibited. Nor would it less accord with the inclination than with the duty of all the friends of righteousness to withdraw their counexion from those who were in rebellion against the supreme authority, and the general good. It must have been thus with regard to the holy angels, on man's apostacy. Those who at the creation of our world had sung together, and even shouted for joy, would now retire in disgust and holy indignation.
But, through the mediation of Christ, a re-union is effected. By the blood of the cross we have peace with God; and, being reconciled to him, are united to all who love him throughout the whole extent of creation. If Paul could address the Corinthians, concerning one of their excluded members, who had been brought to repentance, To whom ye forgive any thing, I also; much more would the friends of righteousness say in their addresses to the great Supreme, concerning an excluded member from the moral system, To whom THOU forgivest any thing, we also! Hence angels acknowledge Christians as brethren, and become ministering spirits to them while inhabitants of the present world.‡
There is another consideration which must tend to cement the holy part of God's creation to the church; which is, their being all united under one head. A central point of union has a great effect in cementing mankind. We see this every day in people who sit under the same ministry, or serve under the same com
Ephes. i. 10. + Col. i. 19, 20.
Rev. xix. 10. Heb. i. 14.
mander, or are subjects of the same prince: whether minister, general, or prince, if they love him, they will be, more or less, united together under him.
Now, it is a part of the reward of our Redeemer, for his great humiliation, that he should be exalted as head over the whole creation of God. Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exhalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly beings, of earthly, and of those under the earth.—He is the head of all principality and power.—God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come and put all things under his feet; and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.*
These passages, it is true, represent the dominion of Christ as extending over the whole creation, enemies as well as friends, and things as well as persons. But if the very enemies of God are caused to subserve the purposes of redemption, much more his friends; what the others do by constraint, these do willingly; and the consideration of their having one head, must make them feel, as it were, nearer akin. And, as Christ is head over all things to the church, which is his body, it is hereby intimated, that the happiness of the church is by these means abundantly enlarged.
To what extent creation reaches, I do not pretend to know: be that however what it may, the foregoing passages teach us to con
der the influence of redemption as commensurate with it; and in proportion to the magnitude of the one, such must be the influence of the other, as to the accomplishment of re-union and the restoration of happiness.
4. Through the mediation of Christ, not only is the whole creation represented as augmenting the blessedness of the church; but the church as augmenting the blessedness of the whole creation. As one
* Phil. ii. 8-10. Col. ii, 10. Ephes. i. 20-22.
member, be it ever so small, cannot suffer without the whole body, in some degree, suffering with it; so if we consider our world as a member of the great body or system of being, it might naturally be supposed that the ill or well-being of the former would, in some measure, effect the happiness of the latter. The fall of a planet from its orbit in the solar system, would probably have a less effect upon the other planets, than that of man from the moral system upon the other parts of God's intelligent creation. And, when it is considered, that man is a member of the body, distinguished by sovereign favour, as possessing a nature which the Son of God delighted to honour, by taking it upon himhimself, the interest which the universe at large may have in his fall and recovery may be greatly augmented. The leprosy of Miriam was an event that affected the whole camp of Israel; nor did they proceed on their journeys till she was restored to her situation and it is not unnatural to suppose, that something analogous to this would be the effect of the fall and recovery of man on the whole creation.
The happiness of the redeemed is not the ultimate end of redemption; nor the only happiness which will be produced by it. God is represented in the scriptures as conferring his favours in such a way as that no creature shall be blessed merely for his own sake, but that he might communicate his blessedness to others. With whatever powers, talents, or advantages we are endued, it is not merely for our gratification, but that we may contribute to the general good. God gives discernment to the eye, speech to the tongue, strength to the arm, and agility to the feet; not for the gratification of these members, but for the accommodation of the body. It is the same in other things. God blessed Abraham ; and wherefore? That he might be a blessing. He blessed his posterity after him; and for what purpose? That in them all the nations of the earth might be blessed.* Though Israel was a nation chosen and beloved of God; yet it was not for their righteousness, nor merely with a view to their happiness that they were thus distinguished: but that he might perform the oath which
*Gen. xii. 2. xxii. 18.