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IMPROVEMENT OF THE WHOLE.
I proceed now to enter upon some improvement of the whole that has been said from this doctrine.
I. Hence we may learn how great a work this work of redemption is. We have now had it in a very imperfect manner set forth before us, in the whole progress of it, from its first beginning after the fall, to the end of the world, when it is finished. We have seen how God has carried on this building from the first foundation of it, by a long succession of wonderful works, advancing it higher and higher from one age to another, till the top-stone is laid at the end of the world. And now let us consider how great a work this is. Do men, when they behold some great palaces or churches, sometimes admire their magnificence, and are almost astonished to consider how great a piece of work it was to build such a house? Then how well may we admire the greatness of this building of God, which he builds up age after age, by a series of such great things which he brings to pass! There are three things that have been exhibited to us in what has been said, which do especially show the greatness of the work of redemption.
1. The greatness of those particular events, and dispensations of Providence, by which it is accomplished. How great are those things which God has done, which are but so many parts of this great work! What great things were done in the world to prepare the way for Christ's coming to purchase, and what great things were done in the purchase of redemption! What a wonderful thing was that which was accomplished to put Christ in an immediate capacity for this purchase, viz., his incarnation, that God should become man! And what great things were done in that purchase, that a person who is the eternal Jehovah, should live upon earth for four or five and thirty years together, in a mean, despised condition, and that he should spend his life in such labors and sufferings, and that at last he should die upon the cross! And what great things have been done to accomplish the success of Christ's redemption! What great things to put him into a capacity to accomplish this success! For this purpose he rose from the dead, and ascended up into heaven, and all things were made subject to him. How many miracles have been wrought, what mighty revolutions have been brought to pass, in order to it!
2. The number of those great events by which God carries on this work, shows the greatness of the work. Those mighty revolutions are so many as to fill up many ages. The particular wonderful events by which the work of creation was carried on filled up six days: but the great dispensations by which the work of redemption is carried on, are so many, that they fill up six or seven thousand years at least, as we have reason to conclude from the word of God. —There were great things wrought in this affair before the flood, and in the flood the world was once destroyed by water, and God's church was so wonderfully preserved from the flood in order to carry on this work. And after the flood, what great things did God work relating to the resettling of the world, to the building of Babel, the dispersing of the nations, the shortening of the days of man's life, the calling of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and that long series of wonderful providences relating to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and those wonders in Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness, and in Canaan in Joshua's time, and by a long succession cf wonderful providences from age to age, towards the nation of the Jews !
What great things were wrought by God, in so often overturning the world
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before Christ came, to make way for his coming! What great things were done also in Christ's time, and then after that in overturning Satan's kingdom in the Heathen empire, and in so preserving his church in the dark times of Popery, and in bringing about a reformation! How many great and wonderful things will be effected in accomplishing the glorious times of the church, and at Christ's last coming on the day of judgment, in the destruction of the world, and in carrying the whole church into heaven.
3. The glorious issue of this whole affair, in the perfect and eternal de. struction of the wicked, and in the consummate glory of the righteous. And now let us once more take a view of this building, now all is finished and the top-stone laid. It appeared in a glorious height in the apostles' time, and much more glorious in the time of Constantine, and will appear much more glorious still after the fall of Antichrist; but at the consummation of all things, it appears in an immensely more glorious height than ever before. Now it appears in its greatest magnificence, as a complete lofty structure, whose top reaches to the heaven of heavens ; a building worthy of the great God, the King of kings.
And from what has been said, one may argue that the work of redemption is the greatest of all God's works of which we have any notice, and it is the end of all his others works. It appears plainly from what has been said, that this work is the principal of all God's works of providence, and that all other works of providence are reducible hither; they are all subordinate to the great affair of redemption. We see that all the revolutions in the world are to subserve this grand design; so that the work of redemption is, as it were, the sum of God's works of providence.
This shows us how much greater the work of redemption is, than the work of creation : for I have several times observed, that the work of providence is greater than the work of creation, because it is the end of it; as the use of a house is the end of the building of the house. But the work of redemption, as I have just said, is the sum of all God's works of providence: all are subordinate to it: so the work of the new creation is more excellent than the old. So it ever is, that when one thing is removed by God to make way for another, the new one excels the old. Thus the temple excelled the tabernacle; the new covenant, the old; the new dispensation of the gospel, the dispensation of Moses; the throne of David, the throne of Saul; the priesthood of Christ, the priesthood of Aaron; the new Jerusalem, the old ; and so the new creation far excels the old.
God has used the creation which he has made, for no other purpose but to subserve the designs of this affair. To answer this end, he hath created and disposed of mankind; to this the angels, to this the earth, to this the highest heavens. God created the world to provide a spouse and a kingdom for his Son. And the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, and the spiritual marriage of the spouse to him, is what the whole creation labors and travails in pain to bring to pass. This work of redemption is so much the greatest of all the works of God, that all other works are to be looked upon either as parts of it, or appendages to it, or are some way reducible to it; and so all the decrees of God do some way or other belong to that eternal covenant of redemption which was between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world. Every decree of God is some way or other reducible to that covenant.
And seeing this work of redemption is so great a work, hence we need noi wonder that the angels desire to look into it. And we need not wonder that so much is made of it in Scripture, and that it is so much insisted on in the histories, and prophecies, and songs of the Bible; for the work of redemption is the
great subject of the whole of its doctrines, its promises, its types, its songs, its histories, and its prophecies.
II. Hence we may learn how God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending of all things. Such are the characters and titles we find often ascribed to God in Scripture, in those places where the Scripture speaks of the course of things, and series of events in providence: Isa. xli. 4, " Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning ? I the Lord, the first and with the last; I am he." And particularly does the Scripture ascribe such titles to God, where it speaks of the providence of God, as it relates to, and is summed up in the great work of redemption : as Isa. xliv. 6, 7, and xlviii. 12, with the context, beginning with the 9th verse. So God eminently appears as the first and the last, by considering the whole scheme of divine Providence as we have considered it, viz., as all reducible to that one great work of redemption.
And therefore, when Christ reveals the future great events of Providence relating to his church and people, and this affair of redemption to the end of the world, to his disciple John, he often reveals himself under this character. So Rev. i. 8, “ I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” So again, verses 10, 11,“ I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” Alpha and Omega, are the names of the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, as A and Z are of ours; and therefore it signifies the same as his being the first and the last, and the beginning and the ending.
Thus God is called in the beginning of this book of Revelation, before the course of the prophecy begins ; and so again he is called at the end of it, after the course of events is gone through, and the final issue of things is seen : as Rev. xxi. 6, “ And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” And so chap. xxii. 12, 13, “ And behold, I come quickly ; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
We have seen how this is true in the course of what I have laid before you upon this subject. We have seen how things were from God in the beginning; on what design God began the course of his providence in the beginning of the generations of men upon the earth; and we have seen how it is God that has all along carried things on agreeable to the same designs without ever failing ; and how at last the conclusion and final issue of things are to God; and so we have seen how all things are of him, and through him, and to him; and therefore may well now cry out with the apostle, Rom. xi. 33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !" And verse 36, “ For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen."
We have seen how other things came to an end one after another ; how states, and kingdoms, and empires, one after another, fell and came to nothing, even the greatest and strongest of them; we have seen how the world has been often overturned, and will be more remarkably overturned than ever it has been yet; we have seen how the world comes to an end, how it was first destroyed by water, and how at last it shall be utterly destroyed by fire: but yet God remains the same through all ages. He was before the beginning of this course of things, and he will be after the end of them; agreeably to Psal. cii. 25, 26.Thus God is he that is, and that was, and that is to come.
We have seen, in a variety of instances, how all other gods perish, ere have seen how the ancient gods of the Heathen, in the nations about Canaan, and throughout the Roman empire, are all destroyed, and their worship long since overthrown; we have heard how Antichrist, who has called himself a god on earth, and how Mahomet, who claims religious honors, and how all the gods of the Heathen through the world, will come to an end : and how Satan, the great dragon, that old serpent, who has set up himself as god of this world, will be cast into the lake of fire, there to suffer his complete punishment: but Jehovah remains, and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of his dominion there is no end. We have seen what mighty changes there have been in the world; but God is unchangeable, “the same yesterday, to-day and forever.”
We began at the head of the stream of divine Providence, and have followed and traced it through its various windings and turnings, till we are come to the end of it, and we see where it issues. As it began in God, so it ends in God.-God is the infinite ocean into which it empties itself.—Providence is like a mighty wheel, whose circumference is so high that it is dreadful, with the glory of the God of Israel above upon it; as it is represented in Ezekiel's vision. We have seen the revolution of this wheel, and how, as it was from God, so its return has been to God again. All the events of divine Providence are like the links of a chain; the first link is from God, and the last is to him.
III. We may see by what has been said, how Christ, in all things, has the pre-eminence. For this great work of redemption is all his work; he is the great Redeemer, and therefore the work of redemption, being as it were the sum of God's works of providence, this shows the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, as being above all, and through all, and in all. That God intended the world for his Son's use in the affair of redemption, is one reason that is to be given why he created the world by him, which seems to be intimated by the apostle in Eph. iii. 9—12. What has been said, shows how all the purposes of God are purposed in Christ, and how he is before all and above all, and all things consist by him, and are governed by him, and are for him, Colos. i. 15, 16, 17, 18. We see by what has been said, how God makes him his firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth, and sets his throne above their thrones; how God has always upheld his kingdom, when the kingdoms of others have come to an end; how that appears at last above all, however greatly opposed for so many ages; how, finally, all other kingdoms fell, and his kingdom is the last kingdom, and is a kingdom that never gives place to any other.
We see, that whatever changes there are, and however highly Christ's enemies exalt themselves, that yet finally all his enemies become his footstool, and he reigns in uncontrolled power and immense glory: in the end his people are all perfectly saved and made happy, and his enemies all become his footstool. And thus God gives the world to his Son for his inheritance.
IV. Hence we may see what a consistent thing divine providence is. The consideration of what has been said, may greatly serve to show us the consistency, order, and beauty, of God's works of providence. If we behold the events of Providence in any other view than that in which it has been set before us, it will all look like confusion, like a number of jumbled events coming to pass without any order or method, like the tossings of the waves of the sea; things will look as though one confused revolution came to pass after another, merely by blind chance, without any regular or certain end.
But if we consider the events of providence in the light in which they have been set before us under this doctrine, in which the Scriptures set them before
as, they appear far from being jumbled and consused, an orderly series of events, all wisely ordered and directed in excellent harmony and consistence, tending all to one end. The wheels of providence are not turned round by blind chance, but they are full of eyes round about, as Ezekiel represents, and they are guided by the Spirit of God: where the Spirit goes, they go: and all God's works of providence, through all ages, meet in one at last, as so many lines meeting in one centre.
It is with God's work of providence, as it is with his work of creation; it is but one work. The events of providence are not so many distinct, independent works of providence, but they are rather so many different parts of one work of providence: it is all one work, one regular scheme. God's works of providence are not disunited and jumbled, without connection or dependence, but are all united, just as the several parts of one building: there are many stones, many pieces of timber, but all are so joined, and fitly framed together, that they make but one building : they have all but one foundation, and are united at last in one top-stone.
God's providence may not unfitly be compared to a large and long river, having innumerable branches, beginning in different regions, and at a great distance one from another, and all conspiring to one common issue. After their very diverse and contrary courses, which they held for a while, yet they all gather more and more together, the nearer they come to their common end, and all at length discharge themselves at one mouth into the same ocean. The different streains of this river are apt to appear like mere jumble and confusion to us, because of the limitedness of our sight, whereby we cannot see from one branch to another, and cannot see the whole at once, so as to see how all are united in one. A man who sees but one or two streams at a time, cannot tell what their course tends to. Their course seems very crooked, and different streams seem to.run for a while different and contrary ways : and if we view things at a distance, there seem to be innumerable obstacles and impediments in the way to hinder their ever uniting and coming to the ocean, as rocks, and mountains, and the like; but yet if we trace them, they all unite at last, and all come to the same issue, disgorging themselves in one into the same great ocean. Not one of all the streams fail of coming hither at last.
V. From the whole that has been said, we may strongly argue, that the Scriptures are the word of God, because they alone inform us what God is about, or what he aims at in these works which he is doing in the world. God doubtless is pursuing some design, and carrying on some scheme, in the various changes and revolutions which from age to age come to pass in the world. It is most reasonable to suppose, that there is some certain great design to which Providence subordinates all the great successive changes in the affairs of the world which God has made. It is reasonable to suppose that all revolutions, from the beginning of the world to the end of it, are but the various parts of the same scheme, all conspiring to bring to pass that great event which the great Creator and Governor of the world has ultimately in view; and that the scheme will not be finished, nor the design fully accomplished, and the great and ultimate event fully brought to pass till the end of the world, and the last revolution is brought about.
Now there is nothing else that informs us what this scheme and design of God in his works is, but only the Holy Scriptures. Nothing else pretends to set in view the whole series of God's works of providence from beginning to end, and to inform us how all things were from God at first, and for what end they are, and how they were ordered from the beginning, and how they will pro