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XVII. Man was unable to deliver himself. Out of this state of utter ruin, the human race could have no hope of saving themselves.
The dead can never raise himself to life, nor can he who is fallen into a deep pit ever get out of it without the help of another. But, according to Paul, man is “ dead in sins;" Eph. ii. 5; and the comparison used by Christ, Mat. xii. 11, represents him, as fallen into the pit of misery. Therefore it was altogether impossible for him to deliver himself out of this state of utter ruin.
We have proyed, in Section xviii. of the First Part, that, according to our apprehension, the mercy of God might be obtained in two ways: namely, by doing good, and by repentance. But though these means, to appearance, and according to the reasonings of man, may seem to be effectual ; yet, when we duly consider them, and diligently penetrate into the spirit of the sacred Scriptures, we find them ineffectual. For, respecting the first, doing good, this requires, (as we have already pointed out,) that man should perfectly fulfil the law of God, and at no time be a partaker in any kind of sin. But who, amongst men can boast of a holiness like this, in the corrupt state of human nature, such as we have former
ly described ? I do not here speak of those who are converted to Christ; but of such as still re- * main in unbelief. - In regard to repentance also, it can never be sincere in the corrupt and unregenerate heart; because, to the end of life, the perpetual commission of sin proves it to be weak and ineffectual; for former acts of repentance, are ever violated by present transgressions. I do not mean evangelical or Christian repentance; it is of another kind : and why it is effectual, we shall soon shew.
Let no man, however, suppose, that because God is infinitely merciful, or rather mercy itself, he can, without regarding men’s imperfections and their falling into sin, out of his mere goodness, pardon men, and render them fit to be partakers of his blessedness and glory. Such reasoning is base and sinful; it makes the mercy of God blind; it presupposes a God not possessed of eternal and inviolable rectitude. It obliges him to regard the righteous and the wicked alike, a supposition which it is dreadful to apply to the living God.
Does any one ask, by what way then can man be saved ? By that way, I answer, which infinite wisdom has devised, and in which the mercy of our God is united with a fullsatisfaction of his
justice, in the work of our şalvation. And what this way is, the word of God has particularly revealed to us.
XVIII. For the salvation of mankind, God himself became incarnate. now
God could, in justice, have doomed such a guilty creature as man to eternal punishment; but being moved by unspeakable mercy, and by the counsel of his ir finite wisdom, he sent to him a Deliverer, his only begotten Son.
1. Sin always draws punishment after it. Therefore, it was not only not contrary to the justice of God, but his justice inevitably required, that man, as a free-will transgressor and despiser of the law, should for ever have been cast out from God, had not the diversified and infinite wisdom of Deity, devised a way to pour out his mercy upon this wretched creature, without any infringement of his equity. The Scriptures every where declare the inviolable justice of God. “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself;" Psalm xciv. 1. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Rom. xi. 19.
2. What God saith by the prophet Isaiah, is well known: “ Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she slı uld not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee;" Chap. xlix. 15. The love and mercy of God to all his creatures, but particularly to man, is greater than we are capable of comprehending. How could that being then, whose goodness transcends our comprehension, suffer man, the chief among the creatures, to perish ; and who, according to the design of God himself, was created for eternal happiness? But the justice of God is no less real than his mercy, and could not suffer the least violation. Thus, if any where, more especially here, we must use the words of the gospel : “ The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God;" Luke xviii. 27. What can be hid from the infinite wisdom of God? To it, the most secret means are all open and revealed. It beheld, that on the part of man there was no way by which he could obtain salvation; because every individual stood in need of this for himself. The angels were not possessed of adequate powers to execute this great work, which required nothing less than infinite might. There remained nợ hope but in God himself. And hence, in the most secret counsels of the Holy Trinity, which are impenetrable to the powers of angels, it was appointed, that the most exalteď Son of God
should himself become the Redeemer of the human race, and this office he assumed.
The world could never have expected to behold such a glorious, wonderful, and merciful display of God's working, as was the embassy of the Son of God upon the earth. While the divine Paul views in it the inexpressible and infinite wisdom of God, he exclaims in raptures, “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 !” Rom. xi. 39. The holy evangelist, in like manner, is amazed at the incomprehensible love of Deity, and thus exclaims: só God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son;" John iii. 16. But in what manner this divine Mediator has satisfied the justice of God, and bestows upon us his mercy, we shall soon see from the word of God.
XIX. Of the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.
The only begotten Son of God descended front heaven, became incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary; and being rédl and perfect God, became real and perfect man, God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.