THE PROMISE OF A REDEEMER,
AND THE STATE OF MANKIND EXPLAINED.
Q. Was man, in his fallen state, able to make up his peace with God, and remedy his own miseries?Return to Table of Contents
A. No: Fallen man was utterly incapable to take any effectual step towards that end, and much less to attain it.
Q. Why so?
A. Because, to make up his peace with God, it was necessary the Divine justice should first be satisfied by the grievous injury done to God by his disobedience in preferring the suggestions of Satan to the command of God. And to remedy his own miseries, it was necessary he should regain the grace of God which he had lost by sin, and which was the source of all his happiness; neither of which was it possible for man, in his fallen state, to do.
Q. Why could he not satisfy the justice of God for the offence he had committed against him?
A. Because, considering on the one hand the vileness of man, who of himself is a mere nothing; and, on the other, the infinite Majesty of God, whom this nothing has so grievously injured, the malice of the offence was in a manner infinite; and therefore the divine justice required a satisfaction of infinite value to equal the offence, and make up the offender's peace; now man, a poor sinful creature, was utterly incapable of this in the smallest degree.
Q. Why could not he of himself regain the grace of God?
A. Because the grace of original justice, which he lost by sin, was a free gift of the goodness of God, to which man could have no right or title, even when innocent, and was a gift of infinite value; but by his fall he was become positively unworthy of that or any other grace, and utterly incapable of doing any thing that could move God to bestow it upon him.
Q. Was it possible for the good angels to make up man's peace with God, and bring a remedy to is evils?
A. No: It was impossible for any mere creature, though ever so pure and holy, to satisfy for the offence committed by man in the manner the Divine justice required, or to obtain for him the grace he had lost by sin. None but God himself could apply an effectual remedy to so great an evil.
Q. What then must have become of our first parents, if no remedy must have been found?
A. They, and all of us their posterity must have been lost for ever.
Q. Were they left then, by the Divine justice, to the punishment they deserved, without all remedy?
A. God Almighty, out of his incomprehensible justice, was pleased to pursue the fallen angels with immediate punishment without remedy: but out of his infinite goodness he had pity and compassion on fallen man, and provided a Redeemer for him.
Q. Who is this Redeemer?Return to Table of Contents
A. No less a person than God the Son, whom the Father promised to send into this world in the fulness of time, to remedy all the evils of their fall.
Q. When was this promise first made?
A. When passing sentence on our first parents after their fall; he even then showed the greatness of his mercy, by promising to send them a Redeemer, who should overcome their enemy that had seduced them, saying to the serpent, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." Gen. iii. 15. And St. John tells us, that "for this purpose the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil, I Jo. iii. 8.
Q. Was it long after the fall before this promise was fulfilled, by the coming of the Redeemer?
A. It was about four thousand years after the creation and fall before he appeared in the world, though, the promise of sending him was frequently renewed, during that time, to the holy servants of God, and all the circumstances of his appearance and office was revealed to several among them, and by them communicated to others.
Q. In what condition was mankind during that long space of time?
A. Soon after the world began to be peopled men began to forsake God, and follow the best of their corrupted nature; and though God always had a succession of good people who adhered to him, yet vice at last became so universal, that "God seeing that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts of their heart was bent upon evil at all times, it repented him that he had made man upon the earth: and being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, he said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth. - But Noah found grace before the Lord, for Noah was a just and perfect man in his generation, and he walked with God. - And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me, the earth is filled with iniquity through them, and I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of timber planks - behold I will bring the waters of a great flood upon te earth to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life under heaven. - And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt enter into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and the wives of thy sons with thee, and of every living creature of all flesh, thou shalt bring tow of a sort into the ark, that they may live with thee. - For yet a while, and after seven days I will rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy every substance that I have made from the face of the earth. And Noah did all things which the Lord commanded him - And after seven days the waters overflowed the earth - All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the flood-gates of heaven were opened; and the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights - And the waters overflowed exceedingly and filled all the face of the earth - and they prevailed beyond measure upon the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The water was fifteen cubits higher than the mountains which it covered. And all flesh was destroyed that moved upon the earth - And all men, and all things wherein there was breath of life on the earth died - And Noah only remained, and they that were with him in the ark," Gen. vi. vii.
Q. What became of them after this?
A. When the waters of the deluge were abated, and the earth was again dried, "God spoke to Noah, saying, Go out of the ark, thou and thy wife, thy sons and the wives of thy sons, and all living things that are with thee of all flesh - bring out with thee, and go ye upon the earth; increase and multiply upon it," Gen. viii. 16. And they did so, "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, Gen. ix. 1.
Q. After so dreadful an example of Divine justice, did the posterity of Noah continue faithful to God?
A. For some time they did; but at last the effects of corrupt nature, and the delusion of Satan, began again to prevail, and by degrees spread over the whole world, insomuch that, after some time, the very knowledge of the true God was almost extinguished from the face of the earth, and mankind was drowned in idolatry and all manner of crimes, worshipping idols instead of God, and sacrificing their own children, to devils; of which the scriptures give us the following description: "They did works hateful to God by their sorceries and wicked sacrifices; they were merciless murderers of their own children, and eaters of men's bowels, and devourers of blood; the parents sacrificing with their own hands helpless souls," Wisd. xii. 4. St. Paul also described the state of their idolatry before the coming of Christ, in these words: "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God in the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things; they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator," Rom. i. 23. And as the Holy Ghost declares, "That the beginning of fornication is the devising of idols, and the invention of them is the corruption of life," Wisd. xiv. 12. So the apostle goes on to declare the shocking abominations which were the consequences of their idolatry: "as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient, being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, covetousness, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things," &c. Rom. 1. Such is the description which the word of God gives us of the deplorable situation that mankind was in before the Redeemer was sent among them.
Q. Why did Almighty God leave mankind in this sad condition, and so long delay the coming of the Redeemer?
A. To teach us, by sad experience, our own extreme perverseness, and the dreadful corruption of our nature by sin; to cure the deep wound of pride which sin had made in our souls, by letting us see what we are capable of when left to ourselves; to convince us of the great need we have of a Redeemer, and to make us receive him with the greater readiness when he should come amongst us.
Q. Did God totally abandon mankind to their wicked ways during all that time?
A. Far from it; for,
First, he raised up holy men from time to time, to warn the wicked of their evil ways, and exhort them to repentance.
Second, He often punished them in a visible, and dreadful manner for their crimes, and when he drowned the whole world by the deluge; and rained down fire and brimstone from heaven to consume the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And,
Third, When wickedness was still more and more spreading over the face of the earth, he chose a whole nation, whom he separated from the rest of mankind, and, by a special providence, preserved them from the general corruption.
GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE.
Q. Who was this so highly favored nation?Return to Table of Contents
A. The posterity of his faithful servant Abraham, whose fidelity and obedience God tried many different ways, and finding him always constant and uniform in his duty, he made choice of him to be the father of his chosen people, renewed to him the promise of the Redeemer, and assured him that he should come of his posterity: "And the Lord appeared to Abraham, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be perfect; and I will make my covenant between thee exceedingly - And thou shalt be father of many nations - And kinds shall come out of thee. - And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee, in their generations, by a perpetuated covenant, to be a God to thee, and they seed after thee," Gen. xvii. And again, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord," to Abraham, "I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the seashore; thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice," Gen. xxii, 16.
Q. What did God do for this people, the posterity of Abraham?
A. He multiplied them into a great nation. He watched over them by a special providence, and wrought numberless and most amazing miracles in their favor, and for their defence. He settled them in a most excellent land, "flowing with milk and honey," as the scripture expresses it. He gave them by his servant Moses a holy law to direct them, written with his own hand in tablets of stone. He taught them the way in which he would be worshipped by them, revealing to them his holy religion for that end. He gave them his holy scriptures for their instruction and consolation. - He sent among them, from time to time, his holy prophets to declare his will to them, and keep them steady in his service. He often renewed his promise of a Redeemer to several of his holy servants among them, and foretold by his prophets all the circumstances of his coming, and what he was to do for mankind. For all of which see their whole history in scripture.
Q. How was this people called?
A. They were sometimes called Israelites, or the Children of Israel, from the name of one of their patriarchs; sometimes Jews, from one of their principal tribes, out of which the Redeemer was to come; and sometimes the people of God, from the care and protection which God had of them, choosing them for his inheritants from among all the nations of the earth, and preferring them from that deplorable corruption into which all the other nations fell.
Q. Did this people always continue faithful to God, and grateful to him for such special protection shown by him to them?
A. Far from it; they often rebelled against him, forsook his service, and fell into idolatry and other abominations, for which he most severely punished them, till, by their repentance, they regained his favour, and returned again to the faithful observance of his law.
Q. What kind of religion did God institute among them?
A. The full and perfect manifestation of the will of God to man was reserved to be the work of the Redeemer; but to this people God gave an imperfect revelation of the truths of eternity, such as the grossness of their minds and the hardness of their hearts was able to receive; their religion, therefore, principally consisted in the several kinds of sacrifices of beasts and other creatures, which God instituted to be offered for his honor, and in their obedience to the law he had given them.
Q. Had these sacrifices of beasts and other creatures any worth or value in themselves before God?
A. All these sacrifices, and indeed all the religion which God instituted among this people,w ere but types and figures of the Redeemer then to come, and of the perfect religion which was afterwards to be instituted by him, and as such they were agreeable to God; and when offered by the people with a view of the Redeemer, and with faith in him were most beneficial to them; for, from the beginning, "there is no other name under heaven given to man whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus only," Acts iv. 12. So that, from the beginning, before the Redeemer appeared among men, none could be saved but by faith in him, who was then to come; as none can be saved since his coming, but by faith in him, as already come.
THE JEWS DIVIDED INTO SECTS.
Q. In what condition were the Jews when the Redeemer came among them?Return to Table of Contents
A. They still retained the knowledge and worship of God, according to the law of Moses; but had corrupted the true sense of the law in many things, by human opinions, and were divided into several different sects among themselves.
Q. In what condition was the reset of mankind when the Redeemer came into the world?
A. All the other nations of the earth, who, in scripture language, are called the gentiles, at the time our Savior appeared, and for many ages before, were sunk in those miserable vices which are mentioned in above question and wholly ignorant of the God that made them, and of every thing else concerning their eternal salvation, and upon which our salvation depends.
THE TRUTHS OF ETERNITY.
Q. What are the those truths on eternity for which they were so ignorant, and the knowledge of which is so necessary for salvation?Return to Table of Contents
A. They may all be reduced to these heads; the knowledge of the one true living God that created us; the way of worshipping this great God according to his will; the cause of all our miseries, which is sin or disobedience to his law; the only remedy of sin, and all our miseries, which is the grace of a Redeemer; the great end for which we were created, which is the possession and enjoyment of God in heaven; and the means on our part to obtain this end of our being; which are faith and obedience. Of these great and important truths, all the nations of the earth were wholly ignorant, the Jews only excepted; and they had by their depraved opinions in many things, corrupted even that imperfect knowledge of them which God had given them.
Q. Could not man, by the strength of reason and study, have attained the knowledge of these things?
A. No; that was absolutely impossible; for these truths are all supernatural, they belong to another world, they do not fall under our senses or reason, so as to be examined or investigated by them; and some of them flow entirely from the free will and appointment of Almighty God: so that it was impossible man should ever come to the knowledge of them, except God himself had discovered them to him. And this is proved to a demonstration by experience itself, not only from the ancient heathens before the Redeemer came, among whom there were many great men, remarkable for their strength of genius and learning, who yet could never acquire any rational knowledge of the above great truths, though they often applied themselves with great assiduity to study them; but also from many different nations in the remoter regions of the globe to whom the revelation of these truths has not yet reached, and who, though endowed with sense and reason not inferior to our own, have never been able, to this day, to come to any degree of knowledge about them.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF DIVINE TRUTH.
Q. Did Almighty God ever reveal those truths to mankind?Return to Table of Contents
A. He did; and it was one of the principal offices of the Redeemer to bring from heaven to men the knowledge of these Divine truths, and to deliver them from the miserable darkness in which they had been involved. The deplorable situation that were in before he came, with the admirable light he brought among them, is thus beautifully described in the holy scriptures. Isaiah, foretelling this happy effect of his coming, says, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, to them light is risen," Is. ix. 2. And God thus speaks to the Redeemer by the same prophet, "I have given thee for a covenant of the people for a light of the Gentiles; that thou mightest open thee eyes of the blind, and bring forth the prisoner out of prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house," Isaiah xlii. 7. Zacharias also, in his prophecy at the birth of Saint John the Baptist, says of the Redeemer, "Through the bowels of mercy of our God, the Orient from on high hath visited us, to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to direct our feet in the way of peace," Luke. 1. 78. The holy Simeon, when he held the Redeemer, then a child, in his arms, said, he was the salvation of God, "which thou, O Lord," said he, "hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel," Luke ii. 31. And the Redeemer himself, when he appeared to St. Paul, and authorized him to carry the light of his revelation to the Gentiles, said he sent him to the nations, "to open their eyes, that they may be converted from darkness to light, and from the power of Stan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a lot among the saints by the faith that is in me," Acts xxvi. 18.
Hence the same holy Apostle, describing the misery and blindness of the Gentiles, says, "They walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understandings darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of our hearts, Ephes. iv. 18. But that God, by the Redeemer, "has made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins," Coloss. i. 12. St. Peter declares to Christians, that is, to the believers of the Redeemer, "You are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people, that you may declare his virtues who hath called you out of darkness into his admirable light; who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God," 1 Pet. ii. 9.
THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND.
Q. What are the principal offices of the Redeemer?Return to Table of Contents
A. They are chiefly these two:
First, To redeem us from our sins, and from the captivity of Satan, to which mankind had been reduced by sin.
Secondly, to enlighten our minds, by revealing to us the great truths of eternity, which we could never have known without such a teacher, and upon the knowledge of which our eternal happiness depends.
Q. What is the Redeemer's name?
A. Jesus Christ. The name Jesus signifies a Savior, and was given him by God himself, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, many ages before his coming, when he said, "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name," Is. lxii. 2. And it was brought immediately from heaven before he was born; for, when the angel discovered the mystery of his incarnation to St. Joseph, he said, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins," Matth. i. 20, and not only from their sins, but also from the fatal effects of sin, the slavery of Satan, and the torments of hell.
The name Christ signifies anointed, and implies that the Redeemer is anointed with all kind of grace, and with the divinity itself; for "in him it hath well pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell," Coloss. i. 19; and "in him dwelled all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," Coloss. ii. 9. By this divine unction he is consecrated to be "a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech," Ps. cix. 4.; as also, "to the king over Sion his holy mountain," Ps. ii. 6, and "to reign in the house of Jacob for ever;" for, "of his kingdom there shall be no end," Luke i. 32. It also implies, that he is anointed with all the graces of the Holy Ghost, according to Isaiah, "and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and he shall be filled with the spirit or the fear of the Lord," Is. xi. 2. Hence St. Peter says, that "God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power," Acts x. 38.