The Mercy of God is represented with peculiar advan∣tages above the other Attributes. 'Tis eminently glorified in our Redemption in respect of its freeness and greatness. The freeness of it amplified from the con∣sideration of the original and object of it. God is per∣fectly happy in Himself, and needs not the Creature to preserve or heighten his felicity. The glorious reward conferred upon our Saviour doth not prejudice the free∣ness of his love to Man. There was no tie upon God to save Man. The Object of Mercy is Man in his lapsed state. 'Tis illustrated by the consideration of what he is in himself. No motives of love are in him. He is a rebel impotent and obstinate. The freeness of mercy set forth by comparing him with the fallen Angels who are left in perfect irremediable misery. Their first state, fall, and punishment. The Reasons why the Wisdom of God made no provision for their recovery.
ALthough all the Divine Attributes are equal as they are in God, (for one Infinite cannot exceed another) yet in their exercise and effects, they shine with a different glory. And Mercy is repre∣sented in Scripture with peculiar advantages above the rest. 'Tis God's natural off-spring, he is stiled the Father of Mercies.* 'Tis his dear Attribute, that which he places next to himself, He is proclaim'd the Lord God Gracious and Merciful.* 'Tis his delight, Mercy pleases him. 'Tis his Treasure, he is rich in Mercy. 'Tis his triumphant Attribute, and the spe∣cial Page 147 matter of his Glory,*Mercy rejoyces over Judg∣ment. Now in the performance of our Redemption, Mercy is the predominant Attribute, that sets all the rest a working. The acts of his Wisdom, Justice, and Power were in order to the illustration of his Mercy. And if we duly consider that Glorious Work, we shall find in it all the ingredients of the most sovereign Mercy. In discoursing of it, I shall prin∣cipally consider two things wherein this Attribute is eminently glorified, the Freeness, and the Great∣ness of it. The Freeness of this Mercy will appear by considering the original, and object of it.
1. The Original is God: and the notion of a Dei∣ty includes infinite perfections, so that it neeessarily follows that he hath no need of the creatures service to preserve or heighten his feli•ity.*If thou be righ∣teous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? From Eternity he was without external honour, yet in that infinite duration he was perfect∣ly joyful and happy. He is the fountain of his own blessedness, the Theatre of his own Glory, the Glass of his own Beauty. One drop encreases the Ocean, but to God a million of Worlds •an add nothing. Every thing hath so much of Goodness as it derives from him. As there was no gain to him by the Crea∣tion, so there can be no loss by the annihilation of all things. The World proceeded from his Wisdom as the Idea and Exemplar, and from his Power as the efficient cause; and it so proceeds from him, as to re∣main more perfectly in him. And as the possession of all things, and the obedience of Angels and Men is of no advantage to God, so the opposition of im∣penitent Rebels cannot lessen his Blessedness. If thou sinnest, what do•t thou against him? or,*if thy transgres∣sions Page 148 be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? The Sun suffers no loss of its light by the darkness of the night, or an Eclipse, but the World lo•es its day: if intelligent Beings do not esteem him for his Great∣ness, and love him for his Goodness, 'tis no injury to him, but their own infelicity. Were it for his interest, he could by one act of Power conquer the obstinacy of his fiercest Enemies. If he require subjection from his creatures, 'tis not that he may be happy but liberal, that his Goodness may take its rise to reward them. Now this is the special commendation of Divine Love, it doth not arise out of indigency as Created Love, but out of fulness and redundancy. Our Sa∣viour tells us there is none good but God: not only in respect of the perfection of that Attribute,* as it is in God in a transcendent manner, but as to the ef∣fects of his goodness, which are meerly for the be∣nefit of the receiver. He is only rich in Mercy, to whom nothing is wanting, or profitable. The most liberal Monarch doth not always give, for he stands in need of his Subjects. And where there is an expectation of Service for the support of the giver, •tis trafique and no gift. Humane affection is begot∣ten, and nourisht by something without, but the Love of God is from within: the misery of the Creature is the occasion, but the reason of it is from himself. And how free was that Love, that caus'd the infinitely blessed God to do so much for our recovery, as if his felicity were imperfect without ours!
It doth not prejudice the freeness of redeeming Mercy, that Christ's personal Glory was the reward of his Sufferings.
1. 'Tis true, that our Redeemer for the Joy that was set before him,*endured the Cross, despising the shame, Page 149 and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God: but he was not first drawn to the undertaking of that hard service by the interest of the reward. For if we consider him in his Divine Nature, he was the second Person in the Trinity, equal to the first, he possest all the Supreme Excellencies of the Deity, and by assuming our Nature the only gain he purchas'd to himself, was to be capable of loss for the accom∣plishing our Salvation. Such was the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich,*yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. And although his humane Soul was encoura∣ged by the Glorious recompence the Father promi∣sed, to make him King and Judge of the World; yet his Love to Man was not kindled from that con∣sideration, neither is it lessened by his obtaining of it. For immediately upon the union of the humane Na∣ture to the Eternal Son, the Highest Honour was due to him. When the first-begotten was brought into the World, 'twas said, Let all the Angels of God wor∣ship him.* The Sovereign Power in Heaven and Earth was his inheritance, annext to the dignity of his Pri∣mogeniture: the Name above every name was a pre∣ferment due to his Person. He voluntarily renounc'd his right for a time, and appear'd in the form of a Ser∣vant upon our account, that by humbling himself he might accomplish our Salvation. He entred into Glo∣ry after a course of Sufferings, because the Oeconomy of our Redemption so requir'd, but his original title to it was by the personal union. To illustrate this by a lower instance: the Mother of Moses▪ was call'd to be his Nurse by Pharaohs Daughter, with the pro∣mise of a reward, as if she had no relation to him: Now the pure love of a Mother, not the gain of a Page 150 Nurse, was the motive that inclin'd her to nourish him with her Milk.* Thus the Love of Christ was the primary active cause that made him liberal to us of his Blood: neither did the just expectation of the reward take off from it.
The Sum is: the essence of Love consists in desi∣ring the good of another without respect to our selves; and Love is so much the more free, as the benefit we give to another, is less profitable, or more damageable to us. Now among Men 'tis impossible that to a vertuous benefactour there should not redound a double Benefit.
1. From the Eternal Reward which God hath pro∣mised. And,
2. From the Internal Beauty of an honest action, which the Philosopher affirms, doth exceed any loss that can befal us. For if one dyes for his Friend, yet he loves himself most, for he would not chuse to be less vertuous than his Friend, and by dying for him he excels him in Vertue, which is more valuable than Life it self. But to the Son of God no such ad∣vantage could accrue; for being infinitely holy and happy in his Essence, there can be no addition to his Felicity or Vertues by any external emanation from him. His Love was for our profit, not his own.
2. The freeness of Gods Mercy is evident by con∣sidering there was no •ye upon him to dispence it. Grace strictly taken differs from Love: for that may be a Debt, and without injustice not denied. There are inviolable obligations on Children to Love their Parents; and duty lessens desert: the performance of it doth not so much deserve praise, as the neglect merits censure and reproof. But the Love of God to Man is a pure, free, and liberal Affection, no way Page 151 due. The Grace of God,*and the gift by Grace hath abounded unto many. The Creation was an effusion of goodness, much more Redemption. Thou art wor∣thy, O Lord, to receive Glory, and Honour, and Power:*for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created. 'Tis Grace that gave being to the Angels, with all the prerogatives that adorn their Natures: 'tis Grace confirm'd them in their ori∣ginal integrity. For God ows them nothing, and they are nothing to him. 'Twas Grace that plac't Adam in Paradise, and made him as a visible God in the lower World. And if Grace alone dispensed benefits to innocent Creatures, much more to those who are obnoxious to justice: the first was free, but this is merciful. And this leads to the second consi∣deration, which exalts redeeming Love.
The object of it is Man in his lapsed state. In this respect it excels the goodness that prevented him at the beginning. In the Creation as there was no object to invite, so nothing repugnant to mans being and happiness: the dust of the Earth did not merit such an excellent condition as it received from the pure bounty of God, but there was no moral unworthi∣ness▪ But the Grace of the Gospel hath a different object, the wretched and unworthy, and it produ∣ces different operations, 'tis healing and medicinal, ransoming and delivering, and hath a peculiar cha∣racter among the Divine Attributes. 'Tis goodness that crowns the Angels, but 'tis Mercy, the Sanctu∣ary of the guilty, and refuge of the miserable, that saves Man. The Scripture hath consecrated the name of Grace in a special manner, to signifie the most ex∣cellent and admirable favour of God in recovering us from our justly deserv'd misery. We are justified Page 152 freely by his Grace:*By Grace we are saved: Grace and Truth is come by Jesus Christ: 'tis the Grace of God that brings Salvation. And this is gloriously manifested towards Man in that, 1. considered in himself he is altogether unworthy of it. 2. As compared with the fallen Angels, who are left un∣der perfect irremediable Misery.
First, Man considered in himself is unworthy of the Favour of God. The usual Motives of Love are,
1. The Goodnels of things or persons. This is the proper allective of the Rational Appetite: There is such a ravishing Beauty in it, that it powerfully calls forth Affection. When there is an union of amiable qualities in a Person, every one finds an attractive.
2. A Conformity in Disposition hath a mighty force to beget Love. Resemblance is the common Principle of Union in Nature: Social Plants thrive best when near together: Sensitive Creatures asso∣ciate with those of their kind. And Love which is an affectionate Union, and a voluntary Band, is best caused by a Similitude in inclinations. The Harmony of Tempers is the strongest and sweetest tye of Friendship.
3. Love is an innocent and powerful charm to produce Love:* 'tis of universal Virtue, and known by all the World. None are of such an unnatural Hardness, but they are softned and receive impres∣sion from it. Now there are none of these induce∣ments to encline God to love Man. The first qua∣lity he was utterly destitute of: Nothing excellent or amiable was in him: Nothing but Deformity and Defilements. The Love of God makes us amiable,Page 153 but did not find us so. Redemption is a free Favour▪ not excited by the worth of him that receives it, but the grace of him that dispenses it;*Herein God commended his Love to us, that while we were Sinners Christ died for us. Our goodness was not the Mo∣tive of his Love, but his Love the original of our goodness.
2. There is a fixed Contrariety in the corrupted nature of Man to the Holy Nature and Will of God; For which he is not only unworthy of his Love, but worthy of his wrath. We are opposite to Him in our Minds, Affections and Actions: A strong An∣tipathy is seated in all our Faculties. How unqua∣lified were we for his Love? There is infinite Holi∣ness in Him, whereby He is eternally opposite to all Sin, yet He exprest infinite Love to Sinners in saving them from Misery.
3. There was not the least spark of Love in Man to God:* notwithstanding his infinite Beauty and Bounty to us, yet we renewed acts of hostility a∣gainst Him every day.* And it was the worst kind of hostility arising from the hatred of God, and that for his Holiness his most amiable Perfection: yet then in his Love He pitied us. The same favour bestowed on an Enemy, is morally more valuable than given to a Friend. For 'tis Love that puts a price on Benefits: and the more undeserved they are▪ the more they are endeared by the Affection that gives them. Here is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us,*and sent his Son to be a Propitiation for our Sins. We were Rebels against God, and at enmity with the Prince of Life, yet then He gave Himself for us.
It will further appear that our Salvation comes Page 154 from pure favour, if we consider Man not only as a rebellious enemy to God, but impotent and obstinate, without power to resist Justice, and without affection to desire Mercy. Sometimes the interest of a Prince may induce him to spare the guilty, he may be compell'd to pardon, whom he cannot punish. The multitude is the greatest Potentate. The Sons of Zerviah were too strong for David: and then 'tis not pity, but policy to suspend the judgment. But our condition is described by the Apostle, that when we were sinners,*and without strength, then Christ dyed for us. Man is a despicable Creature, so weak that he trembles at the appearance of a worm, and yet so wicked that he lifts up his head against Heaven. How unable is he to encounter with offended Omnipo∣tence? How easily can God destroy him, when by his sole Word he made him? if he unclasps his hand that suports all things, they will presently relasp into their first confusion. The whole world of sinners was shut up, utterly unable to repel or avoid his displea∣sure: And what amazing Love is it to spare Rebels that were under his feet? When a man finds his ene∣my,*will he let him go well away? but God when we were all at his Mercy spar'd and sav'd us.
Besides, Rebels sometimes sollicit the favour of their Prince by their Acknowledgments, their Tears and Supplications, the testimonies of their Repen∣tance: but Man persisted in his fierce enmity, and had the weapons of defiance in his hands against his Cre∣ator; he trampled on his Laws and despised his Deity, yet then the Lord of Host became the God of peace. In short, there was nothing to call forth the Divine Compassion but our misery: The Breach be∣gan on Man's part, but Reconciliation on God's▪ Page 155 Mercy open'd his melting Eye, and prevented not only our desert, but our expectation, and desires. The design was laid from Eternity. God foresaw our sin, and our misery,* and appointed a Saviour before the foundation of the World. 'Twas the most early▪ and pure Love to provide a ransom for us before we had a being; therefore we could not be deserving, nor desirous of it; and after we were made, we deserv•d nothing but Damnation.
2. The Grace of God eminently appears in Mans recovery, by comparing his state with that of the fallen Angels who are left under misery: this is a special circumstance that magnifies the favour; and to make it more sensible to us, it will be convenient briefly to consider the first state of the Angels, their fall, and their punishment.
God in creating the World, formed two natures capable of his Image and Favour, to glorifie and enjoy him, Angels, and Men; and plac'd them in the principal parts of the universe, Heaven and Earth.
The Angels were the eldest Off-spring of his Love, the purest productions of that supreme Light: Man in his best state was inferiour to them. A great num∣ber of them kept not their first state of integrity and fe∣licity. Their sin is intimated in Scripture;*Ordain not a Novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the Devil: that is,* lest he become guil∣ty of that sin which brought a severe sentence on the Devil. The Prince of darkness was blinded with the lustre of his own excellencies, and attempted upon the Regalia of Heaven, affecting an independent state. He disavoued his Benefactor, inricht with his benefits. And in the same moment he with his companions in rebellion, were banished from Heaven. God spared Page 156 not the Angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell, and delivered them into Chains of Darkness to be re∣serv'd unto Judgment.* Mercy did not interpose to avert or suspend their Judgment, but immediately they were expell'd from the Divine Pre•ence. A so∣lemn triumph in Heaven followed: a voice came out of the Throne saying, Praise our God all ye his Servants: and there was a• it were the voice of mighty thundrings, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. They are now the most eminent examples of revenging wrath. Their present misery is insupportable, and they expect worse. When our Saviour cast some of them out of the possest persons, they cried out, Art thou come to torment us before our time?*Miserimum est timere cum s•eres nihil; 'tis the height of misery to have nothing to Hope, and something to Fear. Their guilt is attended with despair; they are in everlasting Chains. He that carries the Keys of Hell and Death will never open their Priso•. If the sen∣tence did admit a Revocation after a million of years, their torment would be nothing in compari∣son of what it is: for the longest measure of time bears no proportion to Eternity; and hope would allay the sense of the present sufferings with the pro∣spect of future ease. But their Judgment is irrever∣sible; they are under the blackness of darkness for ever. There is not the least glimps of hope to allay their sorrows, no Star-light to sweeten the horrours of their Eternal night. They are ser•i poenae, that can never be redeemed. It were a kind of pardon to them to be capable of Death: but God will never be so far reconciled, as to annihilate them. His Anger shall be accomplished,*and his Fury rest upon them. Immortali∣ty, the priviledge of their nature, infinitly increases Page 157 their torment: for when the Understanding by a strong and active apprehension, hath a terrible and unbounded prospect of the continuance of their Suf∣ferings, that what is intolerable must be Eternal, this inexpressibly exasperates their Misery: There wants a word beyond Death to set it forth. This is the condition of the sinning Angels, and God might have dealt in as strict Justice with rebellious Man. 'Tis true there are many Reasons may be assigned why the Wisdom of God made no provision for their Recovery.
1. It was most decent that the first Breach of the Divine Law should be punisht, to secure Obedience for the future. Prudent Lawgivers are severe against the first Transgressors, the Leaders in Disobedience: He that first presumed to break the Sabbath, was by God•s command put to Death. And Solomon the King of Peace, punisht the first attempt upon his Royalty with Death, though in the person of his Brother.
2. The Malignity of their Sin was in the highest degree: For such was the clearness of the Angelical Understanding, that there was nothing of Ignorance and Deceit to lessen the voluntariness of their Sin; 'twas no mistake, but Malice: They fell in the light of Heaven, and rendered themselves incapable of Mercy. As under the Law, those who sinned with a high hand; that is,* not out of Ignorance or Imbe∣cillity to please their Passions, but knowingly and proudly despised the Command,* their Presupmtion was inexpiable, no Sacrifice was appointed for it. And the Gospel, though the Declaration of Mercy, yet excepts those who sin the great Transgression against the Holy Ghost. Now of such a nature Page 158 was the Sin of the Rebellious Angels, it being a contemptuous violation of Gods Majesty,* and there∣fore unpardonable. Besides, they are wholly spiri∣tual Beings, without any allay of flesh, and so fell to the utmost in evil, there being nothing to suspend the intireness of their Will: whereas the Humane Spirit is more slow by its union with the Body. And that which extremely aggravates their sin is, that it was committed in the state of perfect Happiness. They despised the full fruition of God: 'twas there∣fore congruous to the Divine Wisdom, that their final Sentence should depend upon their first Election: whereas Mans Rebellion, though inconceivably great, was against a lower Light and less Grace dispensed to him.
3. They finn'd without a Tempter, and were not in the same capacity with Man to be restor'd by a Saviour. The Devil is an original Proprietor in Sin,* 'tis of his own; Man was beguiled by the Ser∣pents subtilty: as he fell by anothers Malice, so he is recovered by anothers Merit.
4. The Angelical Nature was not entirely lost, Myriads of blessed Spirits still continue in the place of their Innocency and Glory, and for ever ascribe to the Great Creator that incommunicable Honour, which is due to Him,* and perfectly do his Command∣ments. But all Mankind was lost in Adam, and no Religion was left in the lower world.
Now although in these and other respects it was most consistent with the Wisdom and Justice of God, to conclude them under an irrevocable Doom, yet the principal cause that enclin'd him to save Man, was meer and perfect Grace. The Law mad• no distinction, but awarded the same Punishment: Page 159 Mercy alone made the difference: and the reason of that is in Himself. Millions of them fell Sacrifices to Justice, and guilty Man was spared. 'Tis not for the excellency of our Natures, for Man in his Creation was lower than the Angels; nor upon the account of Service, for they having more eminent Endowments of Wisdom and Power might have brought greater honour to God; nor for our Inno∣cence, for though not equally, yet we had highly offended Him: But it must be resolved into that Love which passeth Knowledg. 'Twas the unaccountable Pleasure of God that preferr'd babes before the wise and prudent: and herein Grace is most glorious.**He in no wise took the nature of Angels, though immortal Spirits; He did not put forth his hand to help them, and break the force of their Fall, He did nothing for their relief, they are under unallayed wrath: but He took the Se•d of Abraham, and plants a new Co∣lony of those who sprung from the Earth, in the Heavenly Country, to fill up the vacant places of those Apostate Spirits. This is just matter of our highest admiration, why the milder Attribute is ex∣ercised towards Man, and the severer on them? Why the vessels of clay are chosen, and the vessels of Gold neglected? How can we reflect upon it without the warmest Affections to our Redeemer? We shall never fully understand the Riches of di∣stinguishing Grace, till our Saviour shall be their Judg, and receive us into the Kingdom of Joy and Glory, and condemn them to an Eternal Separation from his Presence.