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WORK OF REDEMPTION.
Isalah li. 8.-For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool:
but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
most ally cease, aning, and all chand vanish as
The design of this chapter is to comfort the church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies; and the argument of consolation insisted on, is, the constancy and perpetuity of God's mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally crowning her with victory and deliverance.
In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her. And therein we may observe,
1. How short-lived the power and prosperity of the church's enemies is : The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool ; i. e., however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory, they shall by degrees consume and vanish away by a secret curse of God, till they come to nothing; and all their power and glory, and so their persecutions, eternally cease, and they be finally and irrecoverably ruined: as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz., those that are the enemies of God's people: Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
2. The contrary happy lot and portion of God's church, expressed in these words, My righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation. Who are meant as those that shall have the benefit of this, we also learn by the preceding verse, viz., they that know righteousness, and the people in whose heart is God's law; or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning this happiness of theirs here spoken of, we may observe two things, viz., 1. Wherein it consists. 2. Its continuance.
(1.) Wherein it consists, viz., in God's righteousness and salvation toward chem. By God's righteousness here, is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his Covenant promises to his church, or his faithfulness towards his church and people, in bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them; which benefits, though they are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, as being altogether undeserved ; yet as God has been pleased, by the promises of the covenant of grace, to bind himself to bestow them, so they are bestowed in the exercise of God's righteousness or justice. And therefore the apostle says, Heb. vi. 10, God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labor of love. And so 1 John i. 9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So the word righteousness is very often used in Scripture for God's covenant faithfulness; so it is used in Nehem. ix. 8, Thou hast performed thy words, for thou art righteous. So we are often to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same thing; as Psal. xxiv. 5, He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psal. xxxvi. 10, Continue thy loving-kindness to them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart. And Psal. li. 14, Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation ; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. Dan. ix. 16, O Lord, according to thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away. And so in innumerable other places..
The other word here used is salvation of these two, God's righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God's righteousness, or covenant mercy, is the root, of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God's covenant mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.
(2.) We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions ; · forever, and from generation to generation. The latter seems to be explanatory
of the former. The phrase forever, is variously used in Scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. So it is said, the servant that has his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master, should be his forever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the continuance of the Jewish state. So of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws, it is said that they should be statutes forever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. So it is said, Eccles. i. 4, “ One generation passeth away, and another cometh ; but the earth abideth forever.” Sometimes thereby is meant to all eternity. So it is said, “ God is blessed forever," Rom. i. 25. And so it is said, John vi. 51, “ If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." –And which of these senses is here to be understood, the next words determine, viz., to the end of the world, or to the end of the generations of men. It is said in the next words, "and my salvation from generation to generation.” Indeed the fruits of God's salvation shall remain after the end of the world, as appears by the 6th verse : “ Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath : for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner, but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” But the work of salvation itself toward the church chall continue to be wrought till then: till the end of the world God will go on to accomplish deliverance and salvation for the church, from all her enemies ; for that is what the prophet is here speaking of; till the end of the world; till her enemies cease to be, as to any power to molest the church. And this expression, from generation to generation, may determine us as to the time which God continues to carry on the work of salvation for his church, both with respect to the beginning and end. It is from generation to generation, i. e., throughout all generations; beginning with the generations of men on the earth, and not ending till these generations end, at the end of the world.—And therefore we deduce from these words this
DOCTRINE. The work of REDEMPTION is a work that God carries on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
The generations of mankind on the earth did not begin till after the fall. The beginning of the posterity of our first parents was after the fall; for all their posterity, by ordinary generation, are partakers of the fall, and of the corruption of nature that followed from it; and these generations, by which the humun race is propagated, shall continue to the end of the world: so these two are the limits of the generations of men on the earth; the fall of man, the beginning; and the end of the world, or the day of judgment, the end. The same are the limits of the work of redemption as to those progressive works of God, by which that redemption is brought about and accomplished, though not as to the fruits of it ; for they, as was said before, shall be to all eternity.
The work of redemption and the work of salvation are the same thing. What is sometimes in Scripture called God's saving his people, is in other places called his redeeming them. So Christ is called both the Saviour and the Redeemer of his people.
Before entering on the proposed History of the Work of Redemption, I would,
1. Explain the terms made use of in the doctrine; and,
2. Show what those things are that are designed to be accomplished by this great work of God.
First, I would show in what sense the terms of the doctrine are used. And, 1, I would show how I would be understood when I use the word redemption; and, 2, how I would be understood when I say, this work is a work of God, carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
I. I would show how I would be understood when I use the word redemption. And here it may be observed, that the work of redemption is sometimes understood in a more limited sense, for the purchase of salvation ; for so the word strictly signifies, a purchase of deliverance; and if we take the word in this restrained sense, the work of redemption was not so long in doing. But it was begun and finished with Christ's humiliation. It was all wrought while Christ was upon earth. It was begun with Christ's incarnation, and carried on through Christ's life, and finished with his death, or the time of his remaining under the power of death, which ended in his resurrection. And so we say, that the day of Christ's resurrection is the day when Christ finished the work of redemption, i. e., then the purchase was finished, and the work itself, and all that appertained to it, was virtually done and finished, but not actually.
But then sometimes the work of redemption is taken more largely, including all that God works or accomplishes tending to this end; not only the purchasing of redemption, but also all God's works that were properly preparatory to the purchase, or as applying the purchase and accomplishing the success of it; so that the whole dispensation, as it includes the preparation and the purchase, and the application and success of Christ's redemption, is here called the work of redemption. All that Christ does in this great affair as mediator, in any of his offices, either of prophet, priest, or king ; either when he was in this world, in his human nature, or before, or since; and not only what Christ the mediator has done, but also what the Father, or the Holy Ghost, have done, as united or confederated in this design of redeeming sinful men; or, in one word, all that is wrought in execution of the eternal covenant of redemption ; this is what I call the work of redemption in the doctrine ; for it is all but one work, one design. The various dispensations or works that belong to it, are but the several parts of one scheme. It is but one design that is formed, to which all the offices of Christ do directly tend, and in which all the persons of the Trinity do conspire, and all the various dispensations that belong to it are
ünited; and the several wheels are one machine, is answer one end, and produce one effect.
II. When I say, this work is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world; in order to the full understanding of my meaning in it, I would desire two or three things to be observed. ,
1. That it is not meant, that nothing was done in order to it, before the fall of man. There were many things done in order to this work of redemption before that. Some things were done before the world was created, yea from all eternity. The persons of the Trinity were as it were confederated in a design and a covenant of redemption; in which covenant the Father had appointed the Son, and the Son had undertaken the work; and all things to be accomplished in the work were stipulated and agreed. And besides these, there were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work, before man fell; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it. The work of creation was in order to God's works of providence. So that if it be inquired, which of these kinds of works is the greatest, the works of creation or the works of providence ? I answer, the works of providence; because God's works of providence are the end of his works of creation, as the building a house, or the forming an engine or machine, is for its use. But God's main work of providence is this great work of God that the doctrine speaks of, as may more fully appear hereafter.
The creation of heaven was in order to the work of redemption. It was to be a habitation for the redeemed. Matt. xxv. 34, " Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Even the angels were created to be employed in this work. And therefore the apostle calls them, “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation,” Heb. i. 14. As to this lower world, it was doubtless created to be a stage upon which this great and wonderful work of redemption should be transacted. And therefore, as might be shown, in many respects, this lower world is wisely fitted, in the formation, for such a state of man as he is in since the fall, under a possibility of redemption; so that when it is said that the work of redemption is carried on from the fall of man, to the end of the world, it is not meant that all that ever was done in order to redemption has been done since the fall. Nor,
2. Is it meant that there will be no remaining fruits of this work after the end of the world. The greatest fruits of all will be after that. That glory and blessedness that will be the sum of all the fruits, will remain to all the saints after that. The work of redemption is not an eternal work, i. e., it is not a work always a doing and never accomplished. But the fruits of this work are eternal fruits. The work has an issue. But in the issue the end will be obtained ; which end will never have an end. As those things that were in order to this work before the beginning of the world, as God's electing love, and the covenant of redemption, never had a beginning ; so the fruits of this work, that shall be after the end of the world, never will have an end. And therefore,
3. When it is said in the doctrine, that this is a work that God is carrying on from the fall of man to the end of the world, what I mean is, that those things that belong to this work itself, and are parts of this scheme, are all this while accomplishing. There are things that are in order to it that are before the beginning of it, and fruits of it that are after it is finished. But the work itself is so long a doing, even from the fal. of man to the end of the world, it is all this while a carrying on. It was begun immediately upon the fall, and will continue to the end of the world, and then will be finished. The various dispensations of God that are in this space, do belong to the same work, and to the same design, and have all one issue; and therefore are all to be reckoned but as several parts of one work, as it were several successive motions of one machine, to bring about in the conclusion one great event.
And here also we must distinguish between the parts of redemption itself, and the parts of the work by which that redemption is wrought out. There is a difference between the parts of the benefits procured and bestowed, and the parts of the work of God by which those benefits were procured and bestowed. As, for example, there is a difference between the parts of the benefit that the children of Israel received, consisting in their redemption out of Egypt, and the parts of that work of God by which this was wrought. The redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt, considered as the benefit which they enjoyed, consisted of two parts, viz., their deliverance from their former Egyptian bondage and misery, and their being brought into a more happy state, as the servants of God, and heirs of Canaan. But there are many more things which are parts of that work of God which is called his work of redemption of Israel out of Egypt. To this belong his calling of Moses, his sending hiin to Pharaoh, and all the signs and wonders he wrought in Egypt, and his bringing such terrible judgments on the Egyptians, and many other things.
It is this work by which God effects redeinption that we are speaking of. This work is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world, and it is so in two respects.
(1.) With respect to the effect wrought on the souls of the redeemed ; which is common to all ages from the fall of man to the end of the world. This effect that I here speak of, is the application of redemption with respect to the souls of particular persons, in converting, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying of them. By these things the souls of particular persons are actually redeemed, and do receive the benefit of the work of redemption in its effect in their souls. And in this sense the work of redemption is carried on in all ages of the world, from the fall of man to the end of the world. The work of God in converting souls, opening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, raising dead souls to life, and rescuing the miserable captivated souls out of the hands of Satan, was begun soon after the fall of man, has been carried on in the world ever since to this day, and will be to the end of the world. God has always, ever since the first erecting of the church of the redeemed after the fall, had such a church in the world. Though oftentimes it has been reduced to a very narrow compass, and to low circumstances; yet it has never wholly failed.
And as God carries on the work of converting the souls of fallen men through all these ages, so he goes on to justify them, to blot out all their sins, and to accept them as righteous in his sight, through the righteousness of Christ, and adopt and receive them from being the children of Satan, to be his own children; so also he goes on to sanctify, or to carry on the work of his grace, which he has begun in them, and to comfort them with the consolations of his Spirit, and to glorify them, to bestow upon them, when their bodies die, that eternal glory which is the fruit of the purchase of Christ. What is said, Rom. vii. 30, " Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified :" I say this is applicable to all ages, from the fall, to the end of the world.
The way that the work of redemption, with respect to these effects of it on the souls of the redeemed, is carried on from the fall to the end of the world, is