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wilt thou? 2dly, Consider if thou wilt call them greater than this sacrifice, he suffered. Take due notice of the greatness and worth, first of his person, and thence of his sufferings, and thou wilt not dare to say thy sin goes above the value of his suffering, or that thou art too unjust for him to justify thee: Be as unrighteous as thou canst be, art thou convinced of it? then know that Jesus the just, is more righteous than thy unrighteousness: And after all is said, that any sinner hath to say, they are yet, without exception, blessed that trust in him.
2. We have the final cause of his sufferings, That he might bring us to God.] It is the chief point of wisdom, to proportion means to their end: Therefore, the all-wise God, in putting his only Son to so hard a task, had a high end in this, and this was it, That he might bring us unto God. In this we have three things, 1st, The nature of this good, nearness 'unto God. 2dly, Our deprivemnt of it, by our own sin. 3dly, Our restorement to it, by Christ's sufferings.
1. The nature of this good, nearness to God. God hath suited every creature he hath made with a convenient good to which it tends; and in the obtainment of which it rests and is satisfied. Natural bodies have each their own natural place, whither, if not hindered, they move incessantly till they be in it; and they declare, by resting there, that they are (as I may say) where they would be. Sensitive creatures are carried to seek a sensitive good, as agreeable to their rank and being, and, attaining that, aim no further. Now, in this is the excellency of man; he is made capable of a communion with his Maker, and, because capable of it, is unsatisfied without it; the soul, being cut out (so to speak) to that largeness, cannot be filled with less, though he is fallen from his right to that good, and from all right desire of it, yet not from a capacity of it, no, nor from a necessity of it, for the answering and filling of his capacity.
* Psal. ii. ult.
Though the heart once gone from God, turns continually farther away from him, and moves not towards him till it be renewed; yet, even in that wandering, it retains that natural relation to God, as its centre, that it hath no true rest elsewhere, nor cannot by any means find it. It is made for him, and is therefore still restless till it meet with him.
It is true, the natural man takes much pains to quiet his heart by other things, and digests many vexations with hopes of contentment in the end, and accomplishment of some design he hath; but still the heart misgives. Many times he attains not the thing he seeks; but if he do, yet he never attains the satisfaction he seeks and expects in it; but only learns from that to desire something further, and still hunts on after a fancy, drives his own shadow before him, and never overtakes it; and if he did, yet it is but a shadow. And so in running from God, besides the sad end, he carries an interwoven punishment with his sin, the natural disquiet and vexation of his spirit, fluttering to and fro, and finding no rest for the sole of his foot : The waters of inconstancy and vanity covering the whole face of the earth.
We study to abase our souls, and to make them content with less than they are inade for; yea, we strive to make them carnal, that they may be pleased with sensible things. And in this men attain a brutish content for a time, forgetting their higher good. But, certainly, we cannot think it sufficient, and that no more were to be desired beyond ease and plenty, and pleasures of sense; for then, a beast in good case, avd a good pasture, might contest with us in point of happiness, and carry it away; for that sensitive good he enjoys without sin, and without the vexation that is mixt with us in all.
These things are too gross and heavy; the soul,
the immortal soul, descended from heaven, must either be more happy or remain miserable. The highest increated Spirit is the proper good; the Father of spirits, that pure and full good, raises the soul above itself; whereas all other things draw it down below itself. So, then, it is never well with the soul, but when it is near unto God, yea, in its union with him; married to him, and misinatching itself elsewhere, it hath never any thing but shame and sorrow. All that forsake thee shall be ashamed, says the Prophet"; and the Psalmist", They that are far off from thee shall perish. And this is indeed our natural miserable condition, and it is often exprest this way, by estrangedness and distance from God* The Gentiles were far off by their profession and nation, but both Jews and Gentiles far off by their natural foundation; and both are brought near by the blood of the New Covenant; and that is the other thing here implied, that we are far off by reason of sin; otherwise there were no need of Christ, especially in this way of suffering for sin, to baing us unto God. This we proposed to consider secondly,
2. Our deprivement of this great good of nearness to God, by our siu. Now sin, as the breach of God's command, broke off man and separated him from God, and ever since the soul remains naturally remote from God, 1. Under a sentence of exile, pronounced by the justice of God; condemned to banislıment from God, who is the life and light of the soul, as the soul itself is of the body. 2. It is under a flat impossibility of returning by itself; and that in two respects, 1. Because of the guiltiness of sin standing betwixt, as an unpassable mountain or wall of separation. 2. Because of the dominion of sin keeping the soul captive, yea, still drawing it farther off from God, and increasing the distance and the enmity every day. Nor is there in heaven, nor under heaven, any way to remove this enmity, and make up this distance, Jer. Ivii. 13.
u Psal. lxxiii. 27. * Eph. ii.
and return man to the possession of God, but this one, by Christ, and him suffering for sins; which we are to consider,
3dly, Our restoration to nearness to God by Christ's sufferings. He endured the sentence pronounced against man; yea, even in this particular notion of it, as one main ingredient in his suffering was his being deserted of God, as to any sensible communication of comfort from him; of that he cried out", My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And, by suffering the sentence pronounced, he took away the guiltiness of sin, He himself being spotless and undefiled; for such an High Priest
became us'. The more defiled we were, the more did we stand in need of an undefiled Priest and Sacrifice; and He was both. Therefore the Apostle here very fitly mentions this qualification of our Saviour, as necessary for reducing us unto God, the Just for the unjust; so taking on him, and taking away, the guilt of sin, setting his strong shoulder to remove that mountain, he made way or access for man unto God.
This the Apostle hath excellently expressed“, He hath reconciled us by his cross, haring slain the enmity; he killed the quarrel betwixt God and us; killed it by his death. He thus brings the parties together, and hath laid a sure foundation of
agreement in his own sufferings; appeases his Father's wrath by them, and by the same appeases the sinner’s conscience. All that God hath to say, in point of justice, is answered there; all that the poor humbled sinner hath to say, is answered too. He hath offered up such an atonement as satisfies the Father; so he is content that sinners come in and be reconciled: And then Christ gives notice of this to the soul, 'to remove all jealousies: It is full of fear; though it would, it dare not approach untó God, apprehending him to be a consuming fire. They that have done the offence are usually the hardest to reconcile; because they are still in doubt of their pardon: But Christ assures us of a full and hearty forgiveness, quenching the flame of God's wrath by his blood. “ No,” says Christ," upon my warrant come in; you will now find my Father otherwise than you imagine: He hath declared himself satisfied at my hands, and is willing to receive you, to be heartily and thoroughly friends; never to hear a word more of the quarrel that was betwixt you; he grants a full oblivion.” And if the soul bear back still through distrust, he takes it by the hand, and draws it forward, leads it in to his Father, as the word upoozycyn imports; presents it to him, and leaves not the matter till a full and sure agreement be made.
y Matt. xxvii, 46. a Heb. vii. 26. • Eph. ii. 16.
But for this purpose, that the soul may be able and willing to come unto God, the sufferings of Christ take away that other impediment. As they satisfy the sentence, and so remove the guiltiness of sin, so he hath by them purchased a deliverance from the tyrannous power of sin, that detains the soul from God, after all the way made for it. And he hath a power of applying his sufferings to the soul's deliverance in that kind too. the prison doors to them that are led captiveb; and because the great chain is upon the heart willingly enthralled in sin, he, by his sovereign power, takes off that; he frees the heart from the love of sin; shews what a base slavish condition it is in, by representing, in his effectual way, the goodness of God, his readiness to entertain a returning sinner, the sweetness and happiness of communion with him. Christ powerfully persuades the heart to shake off all, and, without further delay, so to return unto God, as to be received into favour and friendship, and so to walk in the way of friendship with God, to give up itself to his obedience, to disdain the vile service of sin, and live suitably to the dignity of fellowship and union with God.
And there is no other but the power of Christ alone that is able to effect this, to persuade a sinner
b Isa. lxi. 1.