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ON THE CHARACTER OF THE GOSPEL.
“The Gospel or doctrine of Christ has the very image and superscription of God, I will not say imprinted on it, that is too little, but intrinsically animating and constituting it. The matter and design contains the most wonderful expression of the wisdom of God, that ever was made to man on earth. All is mysterious, yet admirably fit, consistent and congruous. That a world which is visibly and undeniably fallen into wickedness and misery, should have a Redeemer, Saviour, and Mediator towards God! That he should be one that is near enough to God and unto us, and hath the nature of both: that he should be the second Adam, the Root of the redeemed and regenerate : that God should give all mercy from himself, from his own bounty and fulness, and not (as unwilling) be persuaded to it by another; and therefore that the Redeemer be not any angel or intermediate person, but God himself: that thus God comes nearer unto man, who is revolted from him, to draw up man again to him: that he lose not the world, and yet do not violate his governing justice: that he be so merciful, as not to be unrighteous, nor permit his laws and government to be despised; and yet so just, as that his only Son must die before one sinner can be forgiven: that he gives man a new law and conditions
of salvation, suitable to his lapsed guilty state ; and leaves him not under a law and conditions, which were fitted to the innocent: that he revealed himself to the apostate world in that way, which only is fit for their recovery, that is, in his admirable love and goodness, yet combined with unutterable purity and tenderness, that so love might win our love, and attract those hearts, which under guilt and the terrors of condemning justice would never have been brought to love him: that guilty souls have such evidence of God's reconciliation to encourage them, to expect his pardon, and to come to him with joy and boldness in their addresses; having a Mediator to trust in, and his sacrifice, merits, and acceptable name, to plead with God: that justice and mercy are so admirably conjoined in these effects: that Satan, and the world, and death, should be so conquered, in a suffering way, and man have so perfect a pattern to imitate, for self-denial, humility, contempt of honour, wealth and life, and exact obedience, and resignation to the will of God, with perfect love to God and man: that the world should be under such an universal Administrator, and the church be all united in such a Head; and have one in their nature that has risen from the dead, to be in possession of the glory which they are going to, and thence to send down his Spirit to sanctify them and fit them for heaven; and afterward to be their Judge, and to receive them unto blessedness: and that sinners now be not condemned merely for want of innocency, but for rejecting the grace and mercy which would have saved them: that we have all this taught us by a Messenger from heaven, and a perfect rule of life delivered to us by him, and all this sealed by a Divine attestation: that in the weakness and helplessness to which man is sunk, He provides the gifts of the Spirit to enlighten, to regenerate, to sanctify, to be in his people a Spirit of adoption, to console, and to make them meet for heaven: that this doctrine is suited to the capacity of the weakest, and yet so mysterious as to exercise the strongest wits; and is delivered to us, not by an imposing force, but by the exhortations and persuasions of men like ourselves, commissioned to open the evidences of truth and necessity in the Gospel : all this is no less than the image and wonderful effect of the wisdom of God.
And his goodness and love, his holiness and justice, are as resplendent in it all: for this is the effect of the wbole design, to set up a glass in the work of our redemption, in which God's love and holiness should be as wonderfully represented to mankind, as his power was in the works of creation. Here sinful man is saved by a means which he never thought of or desired : he is fetched up from the gates of hell; redeemed from the sentence of the righteous violated law of God, and the execution of his justice: The Eternal Word so condescends to man in the assumption of our nature, as that the greatness of the love and mercy, incomprehensible to man, becomes the greatest difficulty to our belief. He reveals to us the things of the world above, and brings life and immortality to light: He dwells with men; He converses with the meanest: He preaches the glad tidings of salvation to the world: He refuses not such familiarity with the poorest or the worst, as is needful to their cure : He spends his time in doing good, and healing all manner of bodily diseases : He refuses the honours and riches of the world, and the pleasures of the flesh, to work out our salvation : He bears the ingratitude and abuse of sinners, and endures to be scorned, buffeted, spit upon, tormented and crucified by those, to whom he had done no greater wrong than to seek their salvation: He makes himself a sacrifice for sin, to shew the world what sin deserved, and to save them from the deserved punishment. God had at first decreed and declared, that death should be the punishment of sin:. and Satan had maliciously drawn man to it, by contradicting this threatening of God, and making man believe that God would falsify his word, and that he did envy man the felicity of his advancement to be liker God in knowledge: And now Christ will first justify the truth and righteousness of God, and will demonstrate, by himself dying in our stead, that death is indeed the wages of sin; and will shew the world, that God is so far from envying their felicity, that he will purchase it at the dearest rate, and deliver them freely from the misery which sin and Satan had involved them in. Thus enemies are reconciled by the sufferings of him whom they offended ; even by his sufferings in the flesh, whose Godhead could not suffer; and by his death as man, who as God was most immortal. As soon as he was risen, he first appeared to a woman, who had been a sinner, and sent her as his first messenger with words of love and comfort to his disconsolate disciples, who had but lately sinfully forsaken him : He gives them no upbraiding words, but meltingly says to her, Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, to my God and your God. He after this familiarly converses with them, and instructs them in the things concern
ing the kingdom of God. He bids them preach the gospel to every creature, proclaiming salvation for all the world, that will not reject it; and appoints messengers to preach it unto all; and whatever pains or suffering it cost them, to go through all with patience and alacrity, and to be deterred by nothing from the saving of men's souls. He gave the Holy Spirit miraculously to them, to enable them to carry on this work; and to leave upon record to the world, the infallible narrative of his life and doctrine: His gospel is filled up with matter of consolation, with the promises of mercy, pardon and salvation, the description of the privileges of holy souls, justification, adoption, peace and joy: and finally, He governs and defends his church, and pleads our cause, and secures our interest in heaven, according to the promises of this his word. Thus is the gospel the very image of the wisdom and goodness of God. And such a doctrine from such a person must needs be Divine."