by Ebenezer Erskine
PROV. 8:23.—I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
THERE are such evident rays of the eternal and supreme Deity of Christ, as also of his personality and essential oneness with the Father, in this passage, as looks the Arians and Socinians, these blasphemers of the Son of God, quite out of countenance, and obliges them, though with great absurdity, to allege, that what is spoken of and by Christ in this chapter, and particularly from ver. 22 to ver. 31, is to be understood of wisdom as one of the attributes of the divine nature. But it is beyond controversy, among all orthodox interpreters, that it is Christ the second person of the glorious Trinity, under the notion of wisdom, that here speaks, as might be cleared from many personal properties, personal acts, and personal words, that are ascribed to him in this passage of scripture, which, for brevity's sake, I cannot insist upon at this time.
The penman of this book was Solomon, "But behold a greater than Solomon is here," even Christ, "the wisdom of God, and the power of God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid." As Solomon had all his wisdom out of this treasure; so being under the conduct of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, is led, as a type, to speak in the person of his glorious anti-type, as his father David doth frequently in the book of the Psalms, particularly in Psal. 16 and Psal. 40:1–17. Christ recommends his dictates in the word unto the children of men, and shews what advantage will accrue to them by the study of the scriptures: agreeable unto what he says, John 5:39, "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." From the 22d verse unto the 31st, in order to engage our faith and trust in him, he elegantly describes the glory of his person, that so we beholding as in a glass, his glory, may be changed into his image. More particularly, (1.) He shews how, from all eternity, he lodged in his Father's arms and bosom, as his beloved Son, in whom he was and is well pleased, ver. 22, "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." (2.) He speaks of his eternal designation unto the great work and service of our redemption, in the words of my text, I was set up from everlasting, &c. Where we may notice,
1. The divine person, who is the speaker, in the pronoun, (I) I, the eternal Son of God, the glorious Immanuel, the faithful and true Witness. I who am God co-equal with the Father; and who sat as a constituent member of the council of peace, anent the great affair of man's redemption, and therefore cannot but be well acquainted with what was transacted there.
2. The result of that eternal transaction declared with relation to himself, I was set up, i, e., I was, by an act of the divine will, common to all the three persons of the glorious Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, elected, set apart, or fore-ordained to the great service of man's redemption. A word parallel unto this, and which casts a light upon the text, you have, Psal. 2:7, where Christ, speaking of himself, says, "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." This is called the Father's will, Psal. 40:7, 8, "Lo! I come, in the volume of the book, it is written of me, I delight to do thy will."
3. In the words we have the date of the divine council and decree, with relation to our Redeemer, or when he was set up for that service. It bears date from the ancient years of eternity, I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was. Here are words that swallow up all finite thought and consideration, it leads us back to an eternity past, and who could ever have told us what was acted in the divine mind and council from all eternity, but he only who is the Alpha, and the Omega, from everlasting to everlasting, God. He was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was. So much for explaining the words.
DOCT.—"That as Christ is the everlasting God; so, from all eternity, he was fore-ordained and set up for the great service of man's redemption. I was set up from everlasting," &c.
To this purpose is that of the apostle, 1 Pet. 1:20, "He was verily fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times."
The method, through divine assistance, I shall observe, is as follows,
I. To prove that Christ is the everlasting God, and that he was from the beginning, ere ever the earth was.
II. Shew what is imported in his being set up from everlasting.
III. For what ends and purposes was he set up.
IV. Why he, and none else, was set up for this end.
V. Make some application of the whole.
I. The first thing is to prove, That Christ is the everlasting God, and that he was from the beginning, ere ever the earth was.
The Socinians affirm, That he had no being before his actual incarnation. And the Arians, though they allow that he had a being before his incarnation; yet they deny his eternal existence, and consequently make him but a nominal deity, and reduce him among the rank of created beings. Now, in opposition to both these damnable heresies, I shall endeavour to trace a little, the scriptural account of the eternal existence of the Son of God, our glorious Redeemer.
And first, that he existed before his incarnation, or his being born of the virgin, is evident from the appearance he made to our first parents in paradise, after the fall, Gen. 3:15, It, viz. the seed of the woman, shall bruise thy head, viz. the serpent's, explained by the apostle, Heb. 2:14, That this was God in the person of the Son, intimating his future incarnation, and the design thereof is evident, for God absolutely considered is not a promising but an avenging God, a consuming fire unto the workers of iniquity. And all the promises in him are yea and amen. It is only the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and none else, that opened the book of the divine council anent our redemption. And therefore it was he, and none else, that broke up this seal, and disclosed this secret unto our first parents in paradise.
In like manner, it was he that preached the gospel to Abraham, saying, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," as is clear from Gal. 3:8.
We find him executing his threefold mediatorial offices, before ever he came in the flesh: We find him, as a prophet, preaching righteousness unto the great congregation, Psal. 40:9, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest!" And by his Spirit in Noah he preached to the old world, who, because of their disobedience, were shut up in the prison of hell; as we see in 1 Pet. 3:18–20. We find him acting as the great Priest of his church, before his actual appearance in the flesh, Psal. 110:4, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedeck," and his royal and kingly office is asserted by God the Father, before ever he appeared in the flesh, Psal. 2, "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion;" I have done it; it is not a thing to do, but it is done already: I have set him King, &c. And he speaks to him as a person actually existing: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Thus you see him executing all his offices before he was incarnate.
But I need not stand upon this point, in opposition to the Socinians, seeing we have it from Christ's own mouth, who is the faithful witness, John 8:58, says he there to the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am," alluding probably unto that same name he took to himself, when he appeared unto Moses in the bush, and sent him to bring Israel out of Egypt: Go (says he), and tell them, "I AM hath sent me unto you," Exod. 3:14; a name equivalent unto the name JEHOVAH, which signifies past, present, and to come, and distinguishes him from all the dunghill deities of the nations.
But then, secondly, let us go back further, even to the creation of the world, and we shall find his existence and agency, in the production of all created beings, John 1:2, 3, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." He must needs be the everlasting God, who is the Creator of all the ends of the earth. Gen. 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth;" hence, Psal. 102:25, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands," &c. Which words are applied unto Christ, Heb. 1:10–12, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."
Again, thirdly, Let us run up to the endless ages before the creation of the world and we find him existing or ever the earth was, John 18:5. He prayeth that he might be glorified with his Father, with the same glory that he had with him before the foundation of the world. Hence he is not only called the mighty God, but the everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity; and Micah 5:2, "His goings forth were from of old, from everlasting." But I need not stand upon this, seeing the very words of the text are so clear as to this matter, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." If he were not the everlasting God, he could never have been set up from everlasting, So much for the first thing.
II. The second thing proposed was, to enquire, what is imported in his being set up from everlasting.
And there are these few things that I take to be imported in this expression.
1st, It supposes the council of peace, or an eternal transaction between the Father and the Son, concerning the redemption of lost sinners; for this is the result of the council here declared by the Son, I was set up from everlasting. Zech. 6:13. "The council of peace shall be between them both."
2dly, It implies the infinite complacency that the Father and Son had in each other from all eternity. This is more clearly expressed in the verse immediately preceding the text, "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old;" and yet more clearly, ver. 22, 23, "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." So Is. 42:1; Matth. 3 at the close; chap. 17:5.
3dly, It implies a divine ordination and decree, whereby he was from eternity elected unto the great service of man's redemption. Hence he is called his Father's Elect, Is. 43:1, "Behold my Servant whom I behold, mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth." So Psal. 89:19, says God the Father, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people;" and, with an eye to this decree of the election of Christ is that fore-cited of the apostle, 1 Pet. 1:20, "Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world," &c. Though he be God co-equal with the Father, yet he voluntarily came under a decree of election, that so he might be the head of the election among mankind sinners, in whom they are elected unto everlasting life, Eph. 1:4, "He hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world."
4thly, I was set up from everlasting, it implies, that, in consequence of the decree, he was called of God to undertake the work of redemption, Is. 42:6, "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles." Heb. 5:4, 5, "No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he who is called of God, as was Aaron: So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."
5thly, It implies his own voluntary consent to, and compliance with his Father's call: This is of so great moment, that it is registrated in the volume of the book of God, Psal. 40:7, 8, "Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea thy law is within my heart." Upon which words the apostle Paul comments, Heb. 10:5–10, applying them to the purpose in hand.
And, upon this voluntary consent of the Son of God, followed a multitude of great promises that the Father made to him. The Father promised to fit him with a human nature, to be personally united to his divine nature: "A body hast thou prepared me; a promise of all needful furniture and assistance in the undertaking, that an immeasurable fulness of the Spirit, and all his gifts, graces, and qualifications, should rest upon him, Is. 11:2, 3; chap. 42; 53:10–12, "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong:" That he should see his seed; a seed should serve him, that should be accounted to him for a generation, Psal. 22 at the close: That he would make his enemies his footstool, and greatly plague all that hated him: And that, when he had drunk of the brook that ran in the way, he should again lift up the head, and be repossessed, even in the human nature, of all that glory which he had with the Father before the world was. Thus you see what is implied in his being set up from everlasting.
But now, before I go on to the third general head, I would here shew, how (in consequence of all this, which was done before the foundation of the world was laid) he was actually set up in time, in the view of lost sinners of Adam's family, whom he came to save and redeem. And,
1. His first appearance was in the promise made to our first parents, of his future incarnation, already mentioned, Gen. 3:15, which was the only foundation of faith the church had, until the days of Abraham, to whom that promise was renewed, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, Gen. 22:18.
2. He was set up typically, in the view of the church, under the old Testament. What was the meaning of the tabernacle and temple, of all the sacrifices and ceremonies of that economy? They were all intended as shadowy representations of good things to come, upon the actual appearance of the Son of God in our nature.
3. He was set up prophetically, in the prophecies of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest; for all the prophets prophesied of him: To him they did all bear witness, and every one of them successively spoke more clearly than another, till John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias, pointing him out with the finger, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God."
4. He was set up personally and actually, in his incarnation, obedience, and death. His birth was celebrated and intimate by a company of angels, saying, "Unto you is born, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," and that heavenly anthem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." His inauguration unto his mediatorial work, at his baptism, was celebrated by the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit upon him in the likeness of a dove, and a voice coming from his Father, from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" which voice was again repeated at his transfiguration and his passion. His death was celebrated by the rending of the veil of the temple from top to bottom, a quaking of the earth, a rending of the rocks, and a darkening of the sun in the firmament; all importing, that now the finishing stroke was given to the head of the old serpent, and that principalities and powers were spoiled, and the prince of this world cast out of his usurped authority and government.
5. He was set up in a glorious and triumphant way and manner, in his resurrection and ascension; for then he was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by his resurrection from the dead." And when he ascended up "on high, he led captivity captive, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;" and things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, being ordered to bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue to confess that he is the Lord, to the praise and glory of his Father.
6. He was and is set up declaratively, in the preaching of the everlasting gospel; which is like the pole upon which the brasen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, by looking unto which the Israelites were cured of the fiery serpents. John 3:14, 15, says Christ there, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
7. He is set up sacramentally, in the sacraments of baptism and of the supper, particularly in the last of these. which we are about this day to celebrate. In these symbols and sacramental acts of his own institution, he is evidently set forth crucified before you; and therein we may, as in a glass, discern the Lord's body, which was broken for us, and his blood of the New Testament, which was shed for us. There he is present, though not in a corporal and carnal manner, yet in a symbolical and spiritual manner, saying to his people, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."
8. He is set up in an efficacious way and manner, in a day of conversion, and in the renewed manifestations of himself to the souls of his people, by the power of his word and Spirit, When he draws by the veil, and makes the light of the knowledge of his glory to shine into the heart, then, O then, Christ is set up in the heart of the sinner; he gets the throne of the heart, and every thought is brought into captivity unto his obedience. What a pleasant upsetting of Christ and his kingdom would it be, to see him going forth, with his bow and sword, in the gospel, travelling in the greatness of his strength, making all the inhabitants of the land to fall under him, every one crying, The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our King, the Lord is our Lawgiver! O then covenanting work would go on apace, and every one will say to another, "Come, and let us join ourselves unto the Lord, in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten," Jer. 50:5.
9. Christ will be set up in a glorious and remarkable way and manner, at his second coming, without sin, unto the salvation of his people; for then he will descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, when he shall come with clouds, and every eye shall see him. Then shall he be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe, while all the wicked unbelieving world, and kindreds of the earth, shall wail because of him, crying to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of him that sits upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; and the heavens passing away with a mighty noise, the elements melting with fervent heat. So much for the second thing proposed; for all these were in view, when Christ was set up from everlasting.
III. The third thing proposed in the method was, to shew for what ends and purposes Christ was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. I answer in these particulars.
1st, He was set up from everlasting, as a Sun to give light unto this lower world, which (through the sin of man) was become like a dungeon of darkness. No sooner had man sinned, but his mind (which before was like a lamp of light, as to the knowledge of God, and of his mind and will), became dark, yea, darkness itself. "Once were ye darkness," says the apostle, speaking of man in his natural state. There is the face of a covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations; and, upon this account, this world is called a dark place; and again, these parts of the earth, where Christ is not known, are called the dark places of the earth. But now Christ is and was set up, as a glorious Sun, to enlighten the world in the knowledge of God, and of the way of salvation, hence called the Sun of righteousness, the Light of the world, because he spreads the light of the knowledge of the glory of God among lost sinners of Adam's family, by his Word and Spirit. Hence, when the gospel of Christ, which is the lamp of God's anointed, comes unto a people, they "that sat in darkness see great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death light doth spring up."
2dly, He is set up as a second Adam, the Head of a new covenant of grace and promise. All mankind were lost and ruined in the first Adam, and by the breach of the covenant of works that was made with him as their federal head and representative; so that the curse of that covenant was the only legacy he could bequeath unto his posterity, and under this curse we had lain through all eternity, if God had not raised up for us "a Horn of salvation, in the house of his servant David." Sirs, God had a purpose of love and grace, from all eternity, toward a select company of Adam's family, he pitches upon his own beloved Son, as a new covenant Head, and enters into a covenant of grace with him, to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery, and bring them unto a state of salvation through him, Psal, 89:3, "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant," &c. Accordingly Christ, as the second Adam, steps in the room of the first Adam, and fulfils the covenant of works, both as to its precept and penalty; whereby the promise of eternal life made to him, upon condition of perfect obedience, devolves upon him as a second Adam, and he becomes the righteous heir of everlasting life, not only by birth, but also by purchase; and all the promises of the covenant, and all the salvation of the covenant, stand in him. And that moment a sinner quits his holding of the first Adam, and of the law as a covenant, and, by a faith of God's operation, is determined to take hold of Christ, and the covenant whereof he is Head, that moment, I say, he is brought into the bonds of the covenant of grace and promise, according to that which you have, Is. 55:3, "Hear, and your souls shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David," &c.
3dly. He was set up from everlasting, as a repairer of breaches between God and man. Whenever man sinned, and joined himself in a confederacy with Satan, the god of this world, the breach between God and man became wide like the sea; death and hell was the penalty of the law; the faithfulness of God was engaged, that "without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins." And though all the angels of heaven, and men upon earth, had been sacrificed, and their blood shed, in order to satisfy justice, it would have been rejected; the offence was infinite, with respect to the object of it, and therefore a satisfaction of infinite value behoved to be offered, Psal. 40:6; Heb. 10, Sacrifices and offerings thou wouldst not, viz. of man's providing. Well, then, How shall the breach be repaired? How shall the different claims of mercy and justice be reconciled, with respect to the guilty criminal? Lo, I come, says Christ, I will assume the human nature, and in that nature I will die in the room of the criminal; and in this way I will make peace through the blood of my cross. I will be wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities; the chastisement of their peace shall be upon me, and by my stripes they shall be healed; and so justice shall be satisfied, and mercy shall be for ever magnified. 1 Pet. 3:18, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, (that he might bring us to God)." Thus he is set up as the Repairer of breaches; hence called the Mediator between God and man: and there is no Mediator between God and men, but the man Christ Jesus.
4thly, He is set up as the true temple where God sets his name, and in which alone God is to be worshipped in an acceptable way and manner. The Old Testament tabernacle and temple was but a shadow of Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. And as all the worship of Israel was to be performed in the temple; so all our sacrifices and services are to be offered up in the name of Christ, for he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In him, as our New Testament Temple, is to be seen the true Shechina, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. Here is the true oracle whereby the mind of God is conveyed unto us, "For no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Here is the true ark where the tables of the law are kept, and in whom the law is magnified and made honourable. In him we have the true mercy-seat and throne of grace, unto which we are called to come with boldness, that we may obtain grace, and find mercy to help in every time of need. Here we have the Priest of our profession ministering in the holy of holies, and appearing in the presence of God for us.
5thly, He is set up as a bridge of communication between God and man, between heaven and earth, by which God comes down to us, and we come up unto him, notwithstanding of the two infinite gulfs of natural and moral distance between him and us. These gulfs were impassible, until Christ, by his incarnation, took away the natural distance; for in him, as IMMANUEL, God and Man meet together in one person: and by his death and satisfaction he removed the moral distance, by taking away the sin of the world; for this end was he manifested, to take away our sin. Now, these two infinite gulfs being removed, God and man meet together in a blessed amity and friendship; and we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." Hence is that of Christ's, John 14:16, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me." This was shadowed by Jacob's dream of the ladder, reaching from heaven unto earth, and the angels of God ascending and descending thereupon; signifying that, through Christ (in whom all the rounds and steps of the ladder are finished) the angels are ministering spirits unto the heirs of salvation, upon the footing of Christ's mediation; and that we have access to God through him. Through him we ascend unto God's holy hill, and abide in his tabernacle.
6thly, He is set up as the great gospel city of refuge, typified by the cities of refuge under the law, unto which the manslayer was to fly for safety from the avenger of blood, Heb. 6:18. Believers are said to fly for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them: justice cries for vengeance: God's broken law cries for vengeance: conscience cries for vengeance: the devil, as God's executioner, cries for vengeance. O the deplorable case and condition of the poor guilty criminal before the revelation of Christ! All refuges fail him: for the hail sweeps away all his refuges of lies, and in this case his hope and strength perishes from the Lord, until God make a discovery of Christ as the city of refuge that he has set open, with a cry from heaven, "Turn ye to your strong-holds, ye prisoners of hope:" Then, O then, the soul flies for refuge as a dove to its windows, and gets in to the clefts of the rock, and abides in the secret place and shadow of the Almighty, saying, O this is my rest, and here will I dwell at ease: "for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ." Here the poor soul can turn about to law, to justice, to conscience, to the devil, and the world, and say, "Who can lay any thing to my charge? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?"
7thly, He is set up as a mystical brazen serpent in the camp of Israel, in the camp of the visible church, that the poor sinner, finding himself stung by the fiery serpents, sin and Satan, may, by looking unto him, be healed. Hence is that of Christ, John 3:14, 15, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up," &c. The gospel is the pole upon which he is lifted up, in the view of all mankind: for by his commission we preach the gospel unto every creature; and the cry goes forth to the ends of the earth, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." Sirs, the venom of the old serpent has diffused itself through all the powers and faculties of the soul and body; and it is worming out your life; aud die you must, unless you cast the eye of faith upon Christ, as the only ordinance of God for your salvation. As the stung Israelite had infallibly died, unless he had looked unto the brazen serpent; so the sinner that does not look by faith unto Christ, the true brazen serpent, shall infallibly die, not the first death only, but also the second: for there is no name, under heaven, given among men, whereby a poor sinner can be saved, but by the name of Jesus: but whosoever believes (in the name of Jesus) shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.
8thly, He is set up as a foundation of hope and help to the lost family of Adam, to build upon for their eternal salvation: Is. 28:16, "Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste, shall not be ashamed or confounded." All other foundations are but foundations of sand, and the house built upon the sand will fall, and great will the fall thereof be; "for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Adam, in innocency, did indeed stand upon another foundation; and, if he had continued there, he would have had obtained life and happiness, by way of pactional debt; but there is no other foundation for a lost sinner to build upon, but the foundation Christ.
9thly, He is set up as the end of the law for righteousness to every sinner that believes in him. He has, by his obedience unto death, and the perfect holiness of his nature, brought in an everlasting righteousness, for the justification of the ungodly sinner that believes in him: This is his name, whereby he is called, The Lord our Righteousness, Jer. 23:6: and "what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might he fulfilled in us." This is that white raiment Christ counsels us to buy of him, that the shame of our nakedness may not appear. And see how he sets up, or sets out, this righteousness, even to the stout-hearted, and far from righteousness, Is. 46 at the close, "I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry," &c. And the language of the soul, when it puts on that robe, is that which you find, Is. 45 at the close, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
10thly, He is set up as a storehouse, out of which the bankrupted and beggared sinners of Adam's family may be supplied with every thing they need: "For it hath pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and that, out of his fulness, all we may receive grace for grace." We, who are his ministers and ambassadors, are authorised to cast open the gates of this storehouse, and give full liberty unto all wretched, miserable, blind, poor, and naked sinners, to come and take what they want, without money and without price, Is. 55:1; Rev. 22:17.
11thly, To shut up this head at present, he is set up as the salvation of God to all lost sinners. Christ, in scripture, is frequently called "The Salvation of God." Jacob, Gen. 49:19. when he is blessing his children, makes a pause, casting his eyes upon the Shiloh that was to spring out of the tribe of Judah, and cries, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Old Simeon gets Christ, when a babe, in his arms, Luke 2:29, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." one him, he who is our God, is the God of salvation. He has wrought, distain still works, manifold salvation in the midst of the earth; salvation manifestin, Matth. 1:22! salvation from the curse of the broken law, being ref. 13; salvation from Satan, for he through death destroyed friendship, 2:14; salvation from the sting of death, 1 Cor. 15:55; blood of Jesuom hell, and the wrath that is to come, 2 Thess. 1:10. So that, whenever a sinner looks unto him by the eye of faith, he may sing that song, Is. 12:1, 2, "I will praise thee; for though thou wast angry with me, yet thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation."
Thus you see some of these ends and uses for which Christ was set up from everlasting.
Many more particulars might be insisted on, if time and strength would allow. I only name some of them.
1. He was set up as our Redeemer, to pay the ransom justice demanded, that we might not go down to the pit.
2. As a Surety, to pay the debts of bankrupts; therefore called, Heb. 7:22, "The Surety of a better testament."
3. As a Physician, to heal us of all our diseases. With him is the balm in Gilead, and he is the Physician there.
4. As a Shepherd, to gather his Father's flocks unto his fold: Is. 40:11, "He shall feed his flock like a Shepherd."
5. As a wonderful Counsellor. to give advice in all doubtful cases, Is. 9:6. So David, Psal. 16:7, "I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel."
6. As an everlasting Father, in whom the fatherless orphans of Adam's family findeth mercy, Is. 9; Hos. 14.
7. As the mighty God, that was able to encounter principalities and powers, and to spoil them on his cross, Is. 9.
8. As the Prince of peace, the King of Salem, "I create the fruit of the lips, peace, peace, to him that is afar off," &c.
9. As the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, by whose declaration all controversies are to be decided between God and man, and man and man.
10. As a Guide and Leader, to guide the blind by a way they know not, by his word and Spirit.
11. As a Captain of salvation, or Commander, under whose banner we are to fight our way to heaven, through the armies of hell and earth.
12. As a Bridegroom, with whom we are called to make a match, Is. 54:6; Hos. 2:19, 20.
IV. The fourth thing in the method was, to enquire into the grounds and reasons why Christ was set up from everlasting, for the great work and service of redemption.
Answ. 1. Here we must have recourse unto adorable Sovereignty, because it was his will and pleasure, and say, as Christ said in another case, Matth. 11:26, "Even so, O Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Answ. 2. Because of the good-will he did bear to man upon earth. Hence this was one of the notes of the song of angels at his birth, Luke 2:14, "Glory to God in the highest; peace, good-will to man."
Answ. 3. Because of his ability for the undertaking: Psal. 89:19, "I have (says the Lord) laid help upon one that is mighty." He is the man of God's right hand, and the arm of JEHOVAH was in him and with him.
Answ. 4. Because he voluntarily offered himself unto the work and service, as you heard in the first head of the doctrine, Psal. 40:8, he had a heart to the work: "Thy law (says he) is within my heart," Is. 50:5.
Answ. 5. Because of his undaunted courage to encounter all difficulties and opposition in the way; hence called "The Lion of the tribe of Judah." See his courageous behaviour, Is. 50:7–9.
Answ. 6. Because from everlasting God foresaw what a revenue of glory would accrue to the crown of heaven, through his mediation, even a greater glory than by all his other works of creation and providence. Hence the first note of the song of angels, Luke 2:14, is "Glory to God in the highest." q. d. All the other works of God praise him; but now we see the highest revenue of glory to be levied out of the strange work of God, in uniting the divine and human natures in that Child that is born in the city of David. And I conceive it was with an eye to this, Is. 6, when they are viewing the personal glory of our Redeemer, cry out, "The whole earth is full of thy glory." As if they had said, 'It is no surprise to us angels to see his glory shining in the heavens; but to see the glory of the only begotten of the Father made flesh, and dwelling among men upon earth, a theatre of sin, rebellion, and misery; this is what indeed strikes us with astonishment and admiration.' I might here let you see how all the divine perfections are glorified to the full in the work of redemption, for which Christ was set up from everlasting. But I haste to the
V. And last thing proposed which was the application of the doctrine.
Use first shall be of Information, in the particulars following.
Is it so that Christ was set up from all eternity, for the great work and service of man's redemption?
1. Then, See hence the antiquity and eternity of the love of God towards lost sinners of Adam's family. His love must be from everlasting, because Christ was set up from everlasting, as a help meet for us, Psal. 89:19, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty." I have done it in eternity, before the world was. Hence the eternity of his love is asserted Jer. 31:3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Run back the love of God, we shall never find the beginning of it.
2. See hence, not only the eternity, but the activity of the love of God. It was not an indolent, but an operative love; is was such a love as set his power, his wisdom, and other perfections a-work; and all the persons of the glorious Trinity a-work, to accomplish his purpose of grace and love towards sinners of mankind. So that if the question be put,
What was God doing from all eternity before he created the world? Here you have an answer: The Father and Son possessed one another, "In the beginning of his ways, before his works of old:" and Infinite Wisdom, inspired by infinite and amazing love, set him a-work to lay the plan of our salvation, through his beloved Son: as you see here, I was set up from everlasting.
3. See hence that Christ is the great Secretary of Heaven, who is intimately acquainted with the mind of God, which is unsearchable by any other but himself. For you see here, that he brings forth things that were done in eternity, before ever man or angels had any being, I was set up from everlasting. There is a word to this purpose, Matth. 11:27, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son. and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Sirs, would you know the secrets of heaven, the mysteries of the kingdom, that were hid in God from eternity? Then come to Christ: hear ye him, and he will tell you things, that none in heaven or earth can tell you, but himself: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
4. See hence the stability and perpetuity of the covenant of grace. Why, Christ was set up from everlasting, as the new covenant Head. The covenant was transacted with him, as second Adam, from everlasting, Psal. 89:3. And the covenant derives its stability from the covenant Head, Psal. 89:28. "My covenant shall stand fast with him:" and this is the very thing that makes it a sure covenant to us. Hence, Psal. 89:33, 34, "I will visit their transgression with the rod; nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not take from him:" and therefore, "my covenant will I not break (viz. with them), nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips," Is. 54:9, 12. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindess shall not depart from thee, &c.
5. See the great ground and reason of the stability and perpetuity of the church. Why, it is founded upon the everlasting mountains of the divine decrees and perfections, whereby Christ was set up from everlasting, as the basis and foundation upon which she stands. This is the rock upon which he builds his church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against her. Storms and tempests are raised against her: Tempests of persecution; tempests of error; tempests of divisions and delusions. But what do they all come unto in the issue? Why, they are just like the billows of the sea breaking upon a rock, dashing themselves into foam, while the rock stands immoveable.
6. Was Christ set up from everlasting? Then see hence a good reason why all hands should be at work to exalt him, and set him on high. Why, in so doing, we join with a whole Trinity; whose plot was to set him up from everlasting. Though he be rejected by the generality of builders through England and Ireland, and in Scotland also, there is no matter of that: God, who set him up from everlasting, has made him the Head Stone of the corner; and therefore, however weak and impotent they be, that are bearing testimony for him and his cause, yet they shall prevail. Christ and his cause will aye be uppermost at the end of the day; for he that set him up from everlasting, will have him set up, and his cause maintained through all periods of time, in spite of all the powers of hell and earth.
7. See how it is, that faith pleases God, insomuch that, without it, "It is impossible to please him." Why, faith exalts Christ, whom God set up from everlasting: it falls in with the great plot of heaven, and cries, O precious Christ! precious Christ! none but him. Psal. 68:25, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth whom I desire besides thee." O says faith he is "my Lord and my God." He is "my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my Father's God, and I will exalt him. He is indeed fairer than the children of men. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood. The chiefest among ten thousand; and altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." Now, I say, such language of faith cannot but be pleasing unto God, who set him up from everlasting. Hence faith is called the very work of God, John 6:29, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
8. See the reason why God has such an implacable quarrel against the sin of unbelief, as to declare, John 3:18, "He that believeth not is condemned already." Why, the reason is, it counteracts the work of God from eternity. God set him up from everlasting: But unbelief is for pulling him down, and tramples his blood under foot; crucifies him afresh; it despises and rejects him whom God set up from everlasting: And is it any wonder, then, that God is so much offended at the unbeliever? O Sirs, you that reject Christ, and continue in your unbelief, remember that the arrows of God's vengeance will be made drunk with your blood through eternity, for the indignities done to him whom God set up from everlasting.
9. See the reason why the pleasure of the Lord has prospered, and shall prosper in his hand, maugre [in spite of] all the opposition of hell and earth. Why, God set him up from everlasting, and therefore he has upheld, and will uphold, him. As he has finished redemption in a way of purchase, so he shall finish it in a way of power, "All his enemies shall be his foot-stool," Psal. 89:23.
"I will beat down before his face,
all his malicious foes;
I will them greatly plague who do
with hatred him oppose."*
His victorious arms shall prosper; he shall ride forth in glory and in majesty; and they shall bow under him, because God hath set him up from everlasting. Who then shall ever be able to shake his throne and government, Psal. 11:1–6, &c.
10. See what good reason we have to celebrate our Christian passover, and to set him up sacramentally, by perpetuating his memory upon earth, until his second coming. This sacrament of the supper is a public owning and confessing him, and his dying love, and glorious achievements in the work of redemption, before God, angels, and men. It is putting honour upon him, and avouching him as our Redeemer, our Mediator, our Prophet, Priest, and King, in the face of the devil and his angels, who are looking on us with vexation: It galls the devil, and stills that enemy and avenger, to see Christ, who bruised his head upon Mount Calvary, exalted and set up among the children of men, at a communion table, Heb. 2:14, "Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, and spoiled principalities and powers." How tormenting then must it be to the devil, to see Christ at his table, dividing the spoils among a company of poor sinners, who once in a day were his vassals and bond slaves?
But now let us go on to celebrate actually the memorials of the death of our glorious Immanuel, and to divide the spoils of the victory over sin and Satan, death and hell, which is the great work of the day.