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1st. Reaching from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ; the
2d. From Christ's incarnation till his resurrection; or the whole time of Christ's humiliation;
3d. From thence to the end of the world.
It may be some may be ready to think this a very unequal division: And it is so indeed in some respects. It is so, because the second period is so much the greatest: For although it be so much shorter than either of the other, being but between thirty and forty years, whereas both the other contain thousands; yet in this affair that we are now upon, it is more than both the others. I would therefore proceed to show distinctly how the work of redemption is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world, through each of these periods in their order; which I would do under three propositions; one concerning each period.
I. That from the fall of man till the incarnation of Christ, God was doing those things that were preparatory to Christ's coming, and working out redemption, and were forerunners and earnests of it.
II. That the time from Christ's incarnation, till his resurrection, was spent in procuring and purchasing redemption.
III. That the space of time from the resurrection of Christ to the end of the world, is all taken up in bringing about or accomplishing the great effect or success of that purchase.
In a particular consideration of these three propositions, the great truth taught in the doctrine may perhaps appear in a clear light, and we may see how the work of redemption is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world.
From the Fall to the Incarnation.
My first task is, to show how the work of redemp
tion is carried on from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, under the first proposition, viz.
That the space of time from the fall of man to the incarnation of Christ, was taken up in doing those things that were forerunners and earnests of Christ's coming, and working out redemption, and were preparatory to it.
The great works of God in the world during this whole space of time, were all preparatory to this. There were many great changes and revolutions in the world, and they were all only the turning of the wheels of providence in order to this, to make way for the coming of Christ, and what he was to do in the world. They all pointed hither, and all issued here. Hither tended especially all God's great works towards his church. The church was under various dispensations of prov idence, and in very various circumstances, before Christ came. But all these dispensations were to prepare the way his coming. God wrought salvation for the souls of men through all that space of time, though the number was very small to what it was afterwards; and all this salvation was, as it were, by way of anticipation. All the souls that were saved before Christ came, were only as it were the earnests of the future harvest.
God wrought many lesser salvations and deliverances for his church and people before Christ came. These salvations were all but so many images and forerunners of the great salvation Christ was to work out when he should come. God revealed himself of old, from time to time, from the fall of man to the coming of Christ. The church during that space
of time enjoyed the light of divine revelation, or God's word: They had in a degree the light of the gospel. But all these revelations were only so many forerunners and earnests of the great light that he should bring who came to be the light of the world. That whole space of time was as it were the time of night, wherein the church of God was not indeed wholly without light: But it was like the light of the moon and stars that we have in the night; a dim light in comparison of the light of the sun, and mixed with a great deal of darkness. It had no glory, by reason of the glory that excelleth, 2 Cor. iii. The church had indeed the light of the sun; but it was only as reflected from the moon and stars. The church all that while was a minor. This the apostle evidently teaches in Gal. iv. 1, 2, 3. "Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world."
BUT here, for the greater clearness and distinctness, I would subdivide this period, from the fall of man to the coming of Christ, into six lesser periods, or parts...... The
1st. Extending from the fall to the flood;...the
3d. From thence to Moses ;...the
4th. From thence to David ;...the
5th. From David to the captivity into Babylon;...and the 6th. From thence to the incarnation of Christ.
From the Fall to the Flood.
THIS was a period farthest of all distant from Christ's incarnation; yet then this great work was begun to be carried on; then was this glorious building begun, that will not be finished till the end of the world, as I would now show you how. And to this purpose I would observe,
T. As soon as ever man fell, Christ entered on his mediato:ial work. Then it was that Christ first took on him the work and office of a mediator. He had undertaken it before the world was made. He stood engaged with the Father to appear as man's mediator, and to take on him that office when there should be occasion, from all eternity. But now the time was come. When man fell, then the occasion came; and then Christ immediately, without further delay, entered on his work, and took on him that office that he had stood engaged to take on him from eternity. As soon as ever ma man fell, Christ the eternal Son of God clothed himself with the mediatorial character, and therein presented himself before the Father. He immediately stepped in between an holy, infinite, offended Majesty, and offending mankind; and was accepted in his interposition; and so wrath was prevented from going forth in the full execution of that amazing curse that man had brought on himself.
It is manifest that Christ began to exercise the office of mediator between God and man as soon as ever man fell, be-cause mercy began to be exercised towards man immediately. There was mercy in the forbearance of God, that he did not destroy him, as he did the angels when they fell. But there is no mercy exercised towards fallen man but through a mediator. If God had not in mercy restrained Satan, he would immediately have seized on his prey. Christ began to do the part of an intercessor for man as soon as he fell. There is no mercy exercised towards man but what is obtained through Christ's intercession; so that now Christ was entered on his work that he was to continue in throughout all ages of the world. From that day forward Christ took on him the care of the church of the elect; he took on him the care of fallen man in the exercise of all his offices; he undertook thenceforward to teach mankind in the exercise of his prophetical office; and also to intercede for fallen man in his priestly office; and he took on him, as it were, the care and burden of the government of the church, and of the world of mankind, from this day forward. He from that time took upon him the care of the defence of his elect church from all their eng
mies. When Satan, the grand enemy, had conquered and overthrown man, the business of resisting and conquering him was committed to Christ. He thenceforward undertook to manage that subtle powerful adversary. He was then appointed the Captain of the Lord's hosts, and the Captain of their salvation, and always acted as such thenceforward; and so he appeared from time to time, and he will continue to act as such to the end of the world. Henceforward this lower world, with all its concerns, was, as it were, devolved upon the Son of God: For when man had sinned, God the father would have no more to do with man immediately; he would no more have any immediate concern with this world of mankind, that had apostatized from, and rebelled against him. He would henceforward have no concern with man, but only through a mediator, either in teaching men, or in governing or bestowing any benefits on them.
And therefore, when we read in sacred history what God did from time to time towards his church and people, and what he said to them, and how he revealed himself to them, we are to understand it especially of the second person of the Trinity. When we read of God's appearing after the fall, from time to time, in some visible form or outward symbol of his presence, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the second person of the Trinity; which may be argued from John i. 18. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." He is therefore called" the image of the invisible God," Col. i. 15; intimating, that though God the Father be invisible, yet Christ is his image or representation, by which he is seen, or by which the Church of God hath often had a representation of him, that is not invisible, and in particular that Christ has after appeared in an human form.
Yea not only was this lower world devolved on Christ, that he might have the care and government of it, and order it agreeably to his design of redemption, but also in some respect the whole universe. The angels from that time were committed to him, to be subject to him in his mediatorial of