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A Y brethren, A serious and attentive mind, on pe
V rusing the sacred volume, can hardly help being often struck both with the sentiments and language of the inspired writers on the subject of redemption. With what a deep veneration of foul, with what warmth of affection, with what transports of adoring thankfulness, do they speak of the plan laid by divine wisdom for the salvation of loft finners, by the cross of Chrift! A person possessed only of understanding and taste, may adınire these fallies of holy fervor, for the elevation of thought and boldness of exprefsion, which a man's being in good earnest on an interesting subject doth naturally inspire. But happy, happy, and only happy, that foul who, from an inward approbation, can receive, relish, and apply those glorious things that are spoken of the name, character, and undertaking of the Saviour of finners.
You may observe, that there are two different subjects, in general, on which the writers of the New Testament are apt to break out, and enlarge, when they are confidering or commending the mystery of redemption. One
fing bothtely calculated intend, that this The sacra
is, the glory of Gol, as it appears in it; the lustre of di. vine power, wisdom, and grace, which reigns through the whole. The fecond is, the unspeakable interest which we have in it, from the danger escaped on the one hand, and the exalted hopes to which we are raised by it, on the other. I cannot help putting you in mind, that there two things are so inseparably joined, that none can forget or be intensible of either of them, without in reality delpi. sing both. And as a view of the divine glory seems most immediately calculated to assist and continue a proper worshipping frame, I intend, that this shall lead the way in our meditations on this occasion. The sacrament of the Lord's supper is called the Eucharist, or facrifice of praise; and therefore very fit for adoring contemplation.
The words which I have read are the conclusion of the apostle Peter's account of the gradual unfolding of this great design of Providence; and they contain a striking and extraordinary sentiment, That the angels themselves are filled with a holy curiosity to search into the mystery of redemption. Few commentators have failed to observe, that the word here translated to look into, properly signifies, to stoop or bend down, and examine with the strictest attention. This, my brethren, gives us a very exalted view of the scheme of redemption, as a leading design in the government of God, that these pure and exalted fpirits, not only adore it as a part of their Creator's will, but that they are loft and swallowed up in the contemplation of it, and see such a series of wonders, as they are not able to coinprehend. If this is so, let us no longer postpone the following reflection: How much more are we, the interested parties, called to adore and dwell on this mystery of love, on which our salvation from deserved wrath, and possession of infinite felicity to all eternity, is suspended ! I cannot find a more proper subject for an introduction to the sacred and solemn service of this day; and therefore I beg your attention, while I endeavor, in dependance on divine grace, to illustrate the assertion in the text, by mentioning some particulars in the mystery of redemption, which are probably the subject of adoring inquiry, and
perhaps holy astonishment, to those celestial spirits. Having done this, I will conclude with fome improvement of the subject, for assisting you in your present duty.
I. First, then, we are to mention those circumstances in the mystery of redemption which are probably the subject of adoring enquiry, or perhaps holy astonishment, to the angels of God. The angels, though they are exalted creatures, are yet plainly of limited capacity. There are many things of which they are ignorant : Matth. xxiv. 36. “ But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not “the angels of heaven, but my Father only." And as their employment is to be messengers and ministers of God, with some inferior agency in the conduct of his provi. dence; so it is not to be doubted that much of their hap. piness consists in the contemplation of the nature and glo. ry of God, as discovered in his works. They are represented in the book of Job as joyful witnesses of the creation and birth of this lower world: Job xxxviji. 6, 7. “ Whereupon are the foundations thereof faftened ? or “ who laid the corner-stone thereof? when the morning. “ stars fang together, and all the sons of God shouted for “ joy.” The state of the church is also represented as discovering to them the divine wisdom: Eph. jij. 10. “ To the intent that now unto the principalities and pow. “ ers in heavenly places might be known by the church “ the manifold wisdom of God.”
Let us, therefore, consider what circumstances in the myftery of redemption may be supposed to strike them most with astonishment and wonder. This we cannot do without finding ourselves greatly interested, and called to the cleepest humility, and at the same time the highest ex. ercise of gratitude and love. And,
1. The first thing I ftalt mention is the incarnation of the Son of God; the union of the divine and human nature, by the Word's being made fieth. This is indeed the first thing to be considered, both in order and in rank. O wonderful union indeed! Well might the apostle say, I Tim. iii, Já.“ Without controversy, great is the mystery Si of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in
“the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, "s believed on in the world, received up into glory.” But what view. must the angels have of this event ? those glorious and active beings, who are thus described, Psal. civ. 4. “ Who maketh his angels fpirits, his ministers a fla“ ning fire.” Their knowledge of the nature of God, as a pure and immaculate fpirit, as the eternal, uncreated, selfexistent Father of Spirits, and of the Son, as one with the Father, who's thought it no robbery to be equal with God,” mult deeply astonish them at this marvellous humiliation ; that he should become one person with a creature, and that with a creature lower than themselves; for it is expressly faid, that “ he was made a little lower than the angels." How astonishing, that he who is the Lord of angels, and whose distance from the highest of all created spirits is not great only, but infinite, should become a man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul!
It is more than probable from our text, especially when compared with the context, and other passages of fcripture, that this discovery was made to the angels only gradually, as it was to men. They could not but have inti. mations of God's purpose of mercy, which was begun and carried on immediately after the fall; this, however, was done in a manner comparatively dark and obscure. There have been indeed some who seem to me to have gone a little beyond their depth; and who have supposed, that God discovered to the angels, even before the creation of man, the fall, which he foresaw, and the method by which he proposed to recover a chosen remnant, viz. the incarnation of his own Son ; that the superior honor done to an inferior creature, stirred up the pride and envy of Lucifer, and his associates; and that in this consisted their guilt and apostasy, for which they were punished with an immediate banishment from the abodes of bliss, and are now reserved in chains under darkness to the day of judgment.
This at best is but mere conjecture. It seems much . more probable that they learned the several parts of this great design of mercy in their gradual accomplishment. It cannot indeed be doubted, that the angels who were concerned in the ministry of providence, must have known