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other worlds, perhaps many others besides our own; if it's virtues penetrate even into heaven itself; if it gather together all things in Christ; who will then say, that the dignity of the agent was disproportioned to the magnitude of the work; and that it was not a scene sufficiently splendid for the Son of God himself to appear upon, and to display the riches of his love, not only to the race of man, but to many other orders of intelligent beings?
Upon the whole, it is certainly unpardonable in such a creature as man, to judge of the system of our Redemption, from that very small part of it which he now sees; to reason as if we ourselves were the only persons concerned in it, and on that ground to raise cavils, and difficulties, and objections, and represent the cross of Christ as foolishness, when, alas, it is we only that are foolish!
There may undoubtedly be many other ways in which the Redemption of man might have been effected. But this we are sure of, that the way in which it is effected, is the wisest and the best, for this plain reason, because the wisest and the best of Beings has chosen it. It has been shown, that even with our short-sighted faculties, and with our very imperfect knowledge of the subject, we can discover some reasons which might render this way of redeeming us preferable to any other; and we have seen also, that it may have a relation to other beings, whose situation and circumstances, if fully and clearly made known to us, would probably furnish us with still stronger reasons to admire and adore the wisdom of God's proceedings towards his creatures. But even admitting, that the benefits of this most extraordinary dispensation were designed to reach no further than this world, and that Christ died solely M for us men, and for our salvation " what other rational conclusion can be drawn from this supposition, than that we ought to be impressed with a deeper and a livelier sense of his unbounded goodness to the children of men?
That the Son of God should feel such compassion for the human race, as voluntarily to undertake the great, and arduous, and painful task of rescuing them from death, and sin, and misery; that for this purpose he should condescend to quit the bosom of his Father, and the joys of heaven; should divest himself of the glory that he had before the world began; should not only take upon himself the nature of man, but the form of a servant; should submit to a low and indigent condition, to indignities, to injuries and insults, and at length to a disgraceful and excruciating death, is indeed a mystery. But it is a mystery of kindness and of mercy; it is, as the Apostle truly calls it, " a love that passeth knowledge ;" * a degree of tenderness, pity, and condescension, to which we have neither words nor conceptions in any degree equal. It is impossible for us, whenever we reflect upon it, not to cry out with the Psalmist, "Lord, "what is man that thou art mindful of "him, and the son of man that thou visitest "him." t
And what effect should this reflection have upon our hearts? Should it dispose us to join with the disputer of this world, in doubting and denying the wisdom of the Almighty in the plan of our Redemption, and in quarrelling with the means he has made use of to save us, because they appear to our weak understandings strange and unaccountable! Shall the man who is sinking under a mortal disease, refuse the medicine which will infallibly restore him, because he is ignorant of the ingredients of which it is composed? Shall the criminal who is condemned to death, reject the pardon that is unexpectedly offered him,because he cannot conceive in what manner and by what means it was obtained for him? Shall We, who are all criminals in the sight of God, and are all actually (till redeemed by Christ) under the sentence of death; shall we strike back the arm that is graciously stretched out to save us, merely because the mercy offered to us is so great, that we are unable to grasp with our understanding the whole extent of it? Shall the very magnitude, in short, of the favour conferred upon us, be converted into an argument against receiving it; and shall we determine not to be saved, because God chuses to do it not in our way, but his own?
* Eph. iii. 19. f Psalm viii, 4,
That in this and many other instances his ways are mysterious, and past finding out, is undoubtedly true. But let it be remembered, always, that the mysterious part relates only to what he has done for us; what we have to do (which is all that it concerns us to know) is perfectly clear and intelligible. It is nothing more than this, that we prostrate ourselves with all humility before the throne of grace, and adore the goodness of our Maker in consenting, on any terms, to extend his mercy to us; that we embrace, with gratitude and thankfulness, the great salvation offered to us by the death of Christ, and exert our utmost endeavours to render ourselves capable of sharing in the benefits of that sacrifice, by fulfilling the conditions, the only conditions, on which we can be admitted to partake of it; that is, "by denying ungod"liness and worldly lusts, and living so"berly, righteously, and godly in this pre"sent world*."
* Tit. ii. 12.