« AnteriorContinua »
visibly overcome Satan's kingdom in its greatest strength and glory, and so obtain the more complete triumph over Satan himself
It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonish captivity. For, before that, we have not histories of the state of the Heathen world, to give us an idea of the need of a Saviour. Besides, learning did not much flourish, and so there · had not been opportunity to show the insufficiency of human learning and wisdom to reform and save mankind.
Again, the Jews were not dispersed over the world, as they were afterwards; and so things were not prepared in this respect for the coming of Christ. The necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation was not then so apparent as it was afterwards, by reason of the dispersion of the Jews ; neither was the way prepared for the propagation of the gospel, as it was afterwards, by the same dispersion. Many other things might be mentioned, by which it would appear, that no other season before that very time in which Christ came, would have been proper for his appearing.
III. The next thing that I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, is the greatness of this event. Christ's incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass. The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator himself to become a creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished between the fall of man and the incarnation of Christ : but God becoming man was greater than all. Then the greatest person was born that ever was or ever will be.
IV. Next observe, concerning the incarnation of Christ, the remarkable circumstances of it. He was born of a poor virgin; a pious holy person, but poor, as appeared by her offering at her purification : Luke ii. 24. " And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons." Which refers to Lev. v. 7. “ And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons." And this poor virgin was espoused to an husband who was but a poor man. Though they were both of the royal family of David, which was the most honourable, and Joseph was the rightful heir to the crown ; yet the family was reduced to a very low state: which is represented by the tabernacle of David being fallen, Amos ix. 11. " In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old."
He was born in the town of Bethlehem, as was foretold
(Mich. v. 2.) and there was a very remarkable providence of God to bring about the fulfilment of this prophecy, the taxing of all the world by Augustus Cæsar, (Luke ii.) He was born in a very low condition, even in a stable, and laid in a manger.
V. Observe the concomitants of this great event. And,
1. The return of the Spirit; which indeed began a little before, but yet was given on occasion of his birth. I have before observed how the spirit of prophecy ceased, not long after Malachi. From about the same time visions and immediate revelations ceased also. But on this occasion, they are granted anew, and the Spirit in these operations returns again. The first revealed instance of its restoration is the vision of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, (Luke i.) The next is the vision which the Virgin Mary had, (ibid.) The third is the vision which Joseph had, (Matt. i.). In the next place, the Spirit was given to Elizabeth, (Luke i. 41.) Next, it was given to Mary, as appears by her song, (Luke í. 46, &c.) Then to Zacharias again, (ibid. verse 64.) Then it was sent to the shepherds, (Luke ii
. 9.) Then it was given to Simeon, (Luke ii. 25.) Then to Anna, (ver, 36.) Then to the wise men in the east. Then to Joseph again, directing him to flee into Egypt; and after that directing his return.
2. The next concomitant of Christ's incarnation is, the great notice that was taken of it in heaven, and on earth. How it was noticed by the glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, appears by their joyful songs on this occasion, beard by the shepherds in the night. This was the greatest event of providence that ever the angels had beheld. We read of their singing praises when they saw the formation of this lower world: Job xxxviji. 7. “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” And so they do, on this much greater occasion, the birth of the Son of God, who is the creator of the world.
The glorious angels had all along expected this event. They had taken great notice of the prophecies and promises of these things : for we are told, that they desire to look into the affairs of redemption, 1 Pet. i. 12. "They had been the ministers of Christ in this affair of redemption, in all the several steps of it from the very fall of man; as in God's dealings with Abraham, with Jacob, and with the Israelites. And doubtless they had long joyfully expected the coming of Christ; but now they see it accomplished, and therefore greatly rejoice, and sing praises on this occasion.
Notice was taken of it by Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary before the birth of Christ; not to say by John the Baptist before he was born, when he leaped in his mother's womb as
it were for joy, at the voice of the salutation of Mary. Elizabeth and Mary most joyfully praise God together, with Christ and his forerunner in their wombs, and the Holy Spirit in their souls. And afterwards what joyful notice is taken of this event by the shepherds, and by those holy persons Zacharias, and Simeon, and Anna! How do they praise God on the occasion! Thus the inhabitants of heaven, and the church on earth, unite in their joy and praise on this occasion.
Great part of the universe takes joyful notice of the incarnation of Christ. Heaven takes notice of it, and the inhabi. tants sing for joy. This lower world of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, take notice of it. It pleased God to put honour on his . Son, by wonderfully stirring up some of the wisest of the Gentiles to come a long journey to see and worship him at his birth. They were led by a miraculous star, signifying the birth of that glorious person who is the bright and morning-star, going before, and leading them to the very place where the young child was. Some think they were instructed by the prophecy of Balaam, who dwelt in the eastern parts, and who foretold Christ's coming as a star that should rise out of Jacob. Or they might be instructed by that general expectation there was of the Messiah's coming about that time, from the prophecies the Jews had of him in their dispersions in all parts of the world.
3. The next concomitant of the birth of Christ was his circumcision. But this may more properly be spoken of under another head, and so I will not insist upon it now.
4. The next concomitant was his first coming into the second temple, when an infant, on occasion of the purification of the blessed Virgin. We read, Hagg. ii. 7. “ The desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house (or temple) with glory.". And in Mal. iii. 1. “ The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant. And now was the first instance of the fulfilment of these prophecies.
5. The last concomitant I shall mention is the sceptre's departing from Judah, in the death of Herod the Great. The sceptre had never totally departed from Judah till now. Judah’s sceptre was greatly diminished in the revolt of the ten tribes in Jeroboam's time; and the sceptre departed from Israel or Ephraim at the time of the captivity of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser. But it remained in the tribe of Judah, under the kings of the house of David. And when the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the sceptre of Judah ceased for a little while, till the return from the captivity under Cyrus: and then, though they were not an independent government, as they had been before, but owed fealty to the kings of Persia; yet their governor was of themselves, who had the power of life and death, and they were governed by their own laws; and so Judah had a lawgiver from between his feet during the Persian and Grecian monarchies. Towards the latter part of the Grecian monarchy, the people were governed by kings of their own, of the race of the Maccabees, for near a hundred years; and after that they were subdued by the Romans. But yet the Romans suffered them to be governed by their own laws, and to have a king of their own, Herod the Great, who reigned about forty years, and governed with proper kingly authority, only paying homage to the Romans. But presently after Christ was born he died, as we have an account, (Matt. ii. 19.) and Archelaus succeeded him; but was soon put down by the Roman Emperor; and then the sceptre departed from Judah.' There were no more temporal kings of Judah after that, neither had that people their governors from the midst of themselves, but were ruled by a Roman governor sent among them; and they ceased to have the power of life and death among themselves. Hence the Jews say to Pilate, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,” John xviii. 31. Thus the sceptre departed from Judah when Shiloh
The purchase of Redemption.
HAVING thus considered Christ's coming into the world, and his taking on him our nature, to put himself in a capacity for the purchase of redemption, I come now to show what is intended by the purchase of redemption--to make some general observations concerning those things by which this purchase was made—and then to consider those things more particularly which Christ did and suffered, by which that purchase was, made.
The purchase itself, what ?
By Christ purchasing redemption, two things are intended, his satisfaction, and his merit. All is done by the price that Christ lays down, which does two things: it pays our debt, and so it satisfies; it procures our title to happiness, and so it
merits. The satisfaction of Christ is to free us from misery, and the merit of Christ is to purchase happiness for us.
The word purchase, in this connection, is taken either more strictly or more largely. It is oftentimes used more strictly, to signify only the merit of Christ ; and sometimes more largely, to signify both his satisfaction and merit. Indeed most of the words used in this affair have various significations. Thus sometimes divines use merit for the whole price that Christ offered, both satisfactorily, and positively meritorious. And so the word satisfaction is sometimes used, not only for his propitiation, but also for his meritorious obedience. For in some sense, not only suffering the penalty, but positively obeying, is needful to satisfy the law. The reason of this various use of these terms seems to be, that satisfaction and merit do not differ so much really as relatively. They both consist in paying a valuable price, a price of infinite value : but only that price as it respects a debt to be paid, is called satisfaction, and as it respects a positive good to be obtained, is called merit. The difference between paying a debt and making a positive purchase, is more relative than essential. He who lays down a price to pay a debt, does in some sense make a purchase ; he purchases liberty from the obligation. And he who lays down a price to purchase a good, does as it were make satisfaction : he satisfies the conditional demands of him to whom he pays it. This may suffice concerning what is meant by the purchase of Christ.
Some general Observations concerning those things by which
this Purchase was made.
1. And here observe, That whatever in Christ had the nature of satisfaction, was by virtue of the suffering or humiliation that was in it; but whatever had the nature of merit, was by virtue of the obedience or righteousness there was in it. The satisfaction of Christ consists in his answering the demands of the law on man, which were consequent on the breach of the law. These were answered by suffering the penalty of the law. The merit of Christ consists in what he did to answer the demands, which were prior to man's breach of the law, or to fulfil what the law demanded before man sinned, which was obedience.
The satisfaction or propitiation of Christ consists either in his suffering evil, or his being subject to abasement. Christ did not only make satisfaction by proper suffering, but by whatever had the nature of humiliation, and abasement of