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with the Father, but from the Father, as the Father is not from Him; Who is the Father's Word, the coming forth to all created being of the Father's glory; the counsels of the Holy Ghost, one God with the Father and with the Son; from the Father and from the Son, the Lord of love, of light, of life; Their counsels; Their "Let us make man;" Their secret, trackless, thoughttranscending plans! Surely, as we gaze reverently, through the mist which hangs over eternity, at the council-chamber of the mysterious Three in One, we feel that the majesty of the words we utter, even transcends our thoughts, and we might turn away heart-struck from these counsels of eternity. Yet this passage declares to us most plainly their existence: "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The question which undoubtedly exists, whether in the true construction that "from the foundation of the world" belongs directly to "the Lamb slain," or to "the Lamb's book of life," makes no difference here. Either interpretation equally presupposes the counsel in that awful council chamber; the pre-ordaining plan; the predetermined end. Nor does the passage stand alone. Listen to the words of Zechariah: "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts." How are the stirrings of His hidden will Who is "the mighty God, great in counsel, mighty in work "," set before us in this grand chant of ancient prophecy! How do we hear Him "declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." For all this is indeed but the ushering into Time from the circumambient Eternity of Him who is "the Ruler b Jer. xxxii. 18, 19.
• Zech. xiii. 7.
c Isa. xlvi. 10.
in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting "
It is, then, plainly revealed to us that there were these counsels of eternity. And this year we propose to follow up, even into them, the subject which now for the last two seasons has occupied these our Lenten lectures. We would complete these two series of sermons in which we have seen the conflict of Christ through His Church; first, with the evil which is in this world; and next, with evil as it is impersonate in the Prince of the powers of the air, and in the hosts of his vassals, by now examining His own personal conflict with it; by tracing up the strife from His to Him, from the subject to the Lord, from the visible earthly servant to Him the unseen Lord, who gave His Saint the victory, standing by Him and making Him more than conqueror. This tracing, then, of the great Victor's path must, if it is to be complete, lead us up to its very beginning; and it began here in the counsels of eternity.
Besides, moreover, the logical fitness of beginning our enquiry here, there are some most important practical considerations into which we shall be led, and for the sake of which, even if there were no other reason for doing so, it would be well to trace back the strife and the victory to this their marvellous beginning.
For, first, in such an enquiry, we shall be drawn out of that miserable subjective mode of dealing with these great truths of the Gospel which is so common in this day; and which is full of danger; having, amongst its other evils, such a tendency to develope, under the garb of high devotional feeling, a most refined spiritual selfishWe may trace the working of this evil in the way in which the great doctrine of the atonement is often
d Micah v. 2.
handled. Men speak of the necessity of our Lord becoming man that He might die for us, and the necessity of His being God that an infinite value might be imparted to His sacrifice, so that He might atone for us. In a certain sense, of course both these assertions are true; He did obey and suffer as man; and as He who obeyed and suffered was the eternal Son of the Father, He did expiate as God; but there is a too common mode of so dwelling on these mysteries of the Divine love as to exalt man into the very centre of all being. All is for him. The Son of God becomes Man; nay, men almost imply that He is God because it is necessary for us that He should be. A strange perversion of the highest truth, so as to turn it into deadly error; making God to be for the sake of man, instead of seeing that man exists at all only because it pleased God that he should be; that he is but the mere breath of God's Will, which is another name for His Love. If we would be free from this wretched blinding self-exaltation, we must approach these deep contemplations from the side of God, not from the side of man.
Go, then, with me, brethren, for a few moments, into these vast truths. See all creation, every being and thing which is, IN God before it had any derived existence, FOR God when it had been made to be. See God as the cause of creation. Understand that whilst out of God there is no necessity which can limit or constrain His perfect being, His very perfection makes Him to be a law to Himself: that His Love could not be solitary and barren, but required from its own essential perfection to be prolific; to pour itself out into a creation of derived beings, who should be capable of blessedness in doing that which His Will appointed as the perfecting of their own nature. So
gazing into the mystery of creation, we can in some degree understand the Divine Perfection calling into existence personal beings endowed with reason, possessed of a real will, having a true power of choice both of good and of evil; of that which His Will in its perfectness chose for them as their blessedness, or of that which was contrary to His Will, and so to their own true happiness; even though this involved the possible development of evil. For, so far as we can. see, that possibility was essential to the existence of reasonable creatures, who should possess a true power of choice, and therefore a real capacity for loving Him and rejoicing in Him, by the free action of the wills. which He had created. For such a capacity would seem to be essential to the existence of a real, separate, reasonable personality, since, if it were not in these creatures of His hand, they would be but repetitions of Himself, and the universe would be peopled with nothing better than the painted and fantastic rays of the Pantheist's dream. Such a creation could not have satisfied that great Love which was the motive cause of the existence of all derived being. Rather, as we have seen, the law of its own perfectness required the existence of reasonable creatures with an independent will, able, as the result of their own choice, to share the blessedness of their Creator.
And yet further, we may see not only that this coming in of sin, through the evil choice of true free agents, may probably have been a necessary condition of the creation of such beings; but that in making redemption from sin possible, it made also possible higher actings of the Divine love than mere creation could have given room for; and further still, that it provided for a blessedness in the redeemed creation, of which it would
not otherwise have been capable. Therefore, it may be, it was planned in the Counsels of Eternity. For we must not deem of redemption, or of the wonder of the Incarnation by which it was wrought out, as if they were in any sense an after-thought;—the mending of a broken plan; the supplying by a new expedient that which in the first design had failed. Far otherwise; before any derived being was, the entrance of evil into the universe, and the fall of man was foreseen; and, withal, the opportunity it afforded for the acting of a love higher than the love even of a Creator. For great as is the love which we may trace in creation, surely we can see that for Him who, for Himself, needed not any out of Himself, and who leaving the lost in their loss, by His mere Word could have called into being hosts of other creatures to fill up the places of the fallen,-for Him to stoop so low as to knit in the Divine person of the Eternal Son the fallen nature to Himself, that He who was God might, as man, obey, suffer, and die,-surely we can see in this a love more stupendous than the love which made creation to be. This, then, the love of God required, that He might satisfy that pouring-out of love which belonged to His eternal perfection. Into this shoreless ocean, swelled, in the Counsels of Eternity, the mighty tides of the foreknowing love of God.
Secondly, whilst these Counsels of Eternity thus made provision for the acting of the Divine love, they provided also for the greater blessedness of the reasonable creation.
For the truest blessedness of every reasonable creature consists in knowing God. Out of God there is to such a being weariness, wasting, and the neverending pangs of unsatisfied desire. For only in God can one capable of comprehending God find enough