The Scriptures reveal to us a pure God, a just God, a perfect law, the first man sinning, a law broken, a curse entering, mercy working in a promise of life, a way of salvation faintly discovered, Jesus Christ this way of salvation, Jesus Christ given for sinners, and yet purchasing sinners. All this wrought in time, and yet a predestinating and election of grace before all time. God loving us, and giving Christ for us, and yet loving us in the same Christ. These things are thus brought forth in the Word. And the Spirit of God can only guide us into safe constructions of the mystery thus revealed. And to conceive the work of redemption in such order, that sin and death by the first man may appear, and righteousness and life by the second, and the counsels of God concerning both, before either was brought forth to the world; to conceive something of it, though not all.
I find, before sin and righteousness did thus appear in the world, that God is said to predestinate and elect, and choose us. I find that all this work, thus wrought in time, is said to be present before God before time began. Therefore Christ is called, "the Lamb slain" (Rev. 13:8) so long ago; and we are said to be "chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid." (Eph. 1:4)
So I can find this glorious mystery, which is made up of such contrary ways and workings of sin and grace, justice and mercy, an old Adam and a new, and predestination or election of grace, will amount to this; that man sinned, God had mercy, and gave his Son, who was God with him from everlasting, to be that for man, and in man, which he could not be in himself, righteousness and true holiness; and thus man becomes a new creature to God again, not him himself, but in another, even in Christ.
God still is the same, though man is not, nor is God the less unchangeable because of several carriages or distributions of this his work respecting man. As man's falling, and redemption in Christ; man's sin, and Christ's suffering, may be said to be but the love of God, ordering man to the praise of his free grace, through several conditions of innocency and righteousness.
Yet this I find further, that the main and glorious work of redemption was that full and final work ordained by God the Father himself. So man's sin only made a way for this, for the bringing about the work of redemption, decreed of God, and occasioned by man's fall. God foreknowing the changeableness of his creature, and so working by that, not taking any new counsels upon this change in man, which he took not before, but ordering this, to that salvation he had ever ordained. Nor is the revealing of God's predestination or election in Christ so much to let us see into the order of his counsels, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" as to set up God in the glory of his power, will, and wisdom, before our eyes, that we may not look at anything as happening unobserved of him. And to lead us from conceiving any change in God, as if our sin and Christ's sufferings had wrought any alteration in his purposes.
If you would know this mystery without confusion, and yet in admiration know that all this work of free grace, and man's salvation in Jesus Christ, was ever the same with God, who calleth things that are not, as if they were. And man's sinning, and God's revealing Christ in promises, and in the flesh, and in the gospel, is, that the creature may partake of it. And whereas there is a work of sin, of time, of persons, of order, of Scripture notions, of manifestation, etc. these are but so many several ways by which the work of grace, love, Christ, salvation and transgression, is made an end of in the things themselves. And all these several parcels of law, gospel, righteousness, free grace, election, etc. go to the completing the body of Christ, the elect. If the law had been wanting, then there had been no transgression; if sin, there could have been no redemption; and free grace could not, for then there had been no everlasting purpose of God. So this one infinite work of salvation is manifested in many parts to us, who could neither enjoy it, nor know it otherwise, in that fullness or infiniteness as it is in God. And these many parts make us that one work of redemption in Jesus Christ. Nor can we know anything of it, but thus in parts, nor in the whole glorious depth of it: "we know but in part."
There are certain Scriptures which contain the mystery; yet the letter of them hold it forth under a diverse notion or word.
1. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," etc. (John 3:16) with other Scriptures of this kind, as 1 John 4:9,10.
2. Of the other sort are these Scriptures: "God has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4) "God hath saved us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us through Jesus Christ, before the world began;" (2 Tim. 1:9) with other Scriptures of this kind.
Now these words say, that God loved us, and gave Christ, and that he loved us in Christ. And these are both true according to the manifestation of this mystery to us; for one Scripture contains not all of the mystery of God's love to sinners. Some hold forth only so much of it as to make his power and will in it appear. Some so much as to make his free grace in it appear. Some so much as to make love in it appear. Some so much as to make predestination and election in it appear. Some so much as to make Jesus Christ appear as the Lamb slain before the world for sinners. Some so much as to make Jesus Christ appear crucified in time for sinners. Some to make God's love appear in giving Christ. Some to make Christ's love appear in giving himself. Some to make God's love appear complete to us in Christ. Some that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Some that he is the Son of man, and Saviour of men. Some that he died for such as were his before the world, and that all such he had loved and chosen.
And thus is the mystery opened to the sons of men in each part of Scripture, which, like so many several stars, give out their beams and light for the manifestation of this mystery of godliness. "God manifested in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16)
Now we must be sure in our conceptions concerning this redemption, and beware that we raise not up, nor form to ourselves, anything to explain this mystery which God himself would not approve by his Word or Spirit. There being so many discoveries and displays of God, who, though he be one pure, glorious essence, yet his creature man cannot behold him so, but as in so many compound parts and beams of glory. Man cannot take God, nor the mystery of God in, but by way of parts in distinct kinds of excellency, and so view him in one thing with another; thus he is best discovered in Jesus Christ.
So, when we would consider the work of salvation in and by Jesus Christ, we must take heed of confining it to the mystery of God's love only, lest something be left out by our narrow conceptions, or the mystery be but in part represented, and the other parts of the work have no room. By which, though we may know more of one part, yet we may know less of another. Like one who, pumping water through a narrow pipe, may not fill his vessel, while another, that works through a larger, filleth his. And indeed the not taking in Scripture interpretations in spiritual extent and variety, but running away to some one doctrine more than another, which agrees better with some principle in us, may make us rather opinionated than spiritually wise.
In the work of salvation we must consider Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as he is revealed, distinct from his incarnation, before his incarnation, and in it. Without it, he is revealed to be the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the eternal God. Before it, he is revealed to be the Seed of the woman, the Promise, the Elect, the Covenant, the Angel of the covenant, etc. In his incarnation he is revealed to be Emmanuel, or God with us, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, the Mediator, the Priest, the Propitiation, the Son, and the Son of man.
Now these several descriptions will direct us, and order our thoughts according to a scriptural revelation of this mystery. When we read of this Son of God, under the names or characters last spoken of, as the Son, or Jesus, or Redeemer, then we are to consider of this work of redemption in the flesh, manifested and amongst us; and then consider what part of the work comes under that description
And, when we read of his other names we are to consider what part of the mystery falls under those, either without incarnation, or flesh, as he was one with the Father etc, or else before incarnation, and so he was in the time of the law of ceremonies and types. And from all these we may draw this conclusion
That the Son of God, as Jesus and Christ, manifested in the flesh, was sent out, and given as it were of God. Foretold and figured before he was given. Ever with God, being God himself, and everlastingly present as God, and present as Mediator in the election of grace, being the Elect, in whom we are chosen, and whose body we are.
These conceptions of God, as the Word, and as Jesus Christ, and Redeemer, and Mediator, is but the drawing forth the mystery of redemption in its several parts and degrees. And all this is true, that God loved us, and gave Christ, and we are chosen in Christ, and he was the Lamb slain before the world in purpose, and in the world according to his purpose. Nor are we to consider God's love to us without Christ, nor God's love to us before Christ, nor ourselves out of Christ, in whom we are chosen; but rather thus, God loved us in Christ, and yet gave Christ. And all this is true in the way and order of manifestation, beyond which we cannot see. Nor can we Scripturally consider any act of grace from God, but in the Son; there being no way of union and communion with God for man, but by him who is both God and man