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actions, sufficient to deserve rewards from his creatures ; but because He is infinitely above all capacity of receiving any reward. He is already infinitely and unchangeably happy, and we cannot be profitable unto him. But still he is worthy of our supreme benevolence for his virtue: and would be worthy of our beneficence, which is the fruit and expression of benevolence, if our goodness could extend to Him. If God deserves to be thanked and praised for his goodness, He would for the same reason, deserve that we should also requite his kindness if that were possible. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits ?" is the natural language of thankfulness : and so far as in us lies, it is our duty to render again according to benefits received. And that we might have opportunity for so natural an expression of our gratitude to God as beneficence, notwithstanding his being infinitely above our reach ; He has appointed others to be his receivers, and to stand in his stead as the objects of our beneficence: such are especially our indigent brethren.
The acts of the Will of the human soul of Jesus Christ, necessarily holy, yet truly virtuous, praise-worthy, rewardable, f-c.
I have already considered how Dr. Whitby insists upon it, that a freedom not only from co-action but necessity, is requisite either to virtue or vice, praise or dispraise, reward or punishment. He also insists on the same freedom as absolutely requisite to a person being the subject of a law, of precepts, or prohibitions ; in the book before-mentioned, (p. 301, 314, 328, 339, 340, 341, 312, 347, 361, 373, 410.) And of promises and threatenings, (p. 298, 301, 305, 311, 339, 340, 363.) And as requisite to a state of trial, p. 297, &c.
Now therefore, with an eye to these things, I would enquire into the moral conduct and practices of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he exhibited in his human nature, in his state of humiliation. And first, I would shew, that his holy behaviour was necessary; or that it was impossible it should be otherwise, than that He should behave himself holily, and that he should be perfectly holy in each individual act of his life. And secondly, that his holy behaviour was properly of the nature of virtue, and was worthy of praise; and that he was the subject of law, precepts or commands, promises and rewards ; and that he was in a state of trial.
1. It was impossible, that the Acts of the Will of Christ's human soul should, in any instance, degree or circumstance, be otherwise than holy, and agreeable to God's nature and will. The following things make this evident.
1. God had promised so effectually to preserve and uphold Him by his Spirit, under all his temptations, that he could not fail of the end for which he came into the world; but he would have failed, had he fallen into sin. We have such a promise, (Isai. xliii. 1, 2, 3, 4.) “ Behold my Servant, whom I uphold ; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth : I have put my Spirit upon him : He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles : He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.—He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait his law.” This promise of God's Spirit put upon Him, and his not crying and listing up his voice, fc. relates to the time of Christ's appearance on earth ; as is manifest from the nature of the promise, and also the application of it in the New Testament, (Matt. xii. 18.) And the words imply a promise of his being so upheld by God's Spirit, that he should be preserved from sin; particularly from pride and vainglory ; and from being overcome by any temptations he should be under to affect the glory of this world, the pomp of an earthly prince, or the applause and praise of men: and that he should be so upheld, that he should by no means fail of obtaining the end of his coming into the world, of bringing forth judgment unto victory, and establishing his kingdom of grace in the earth. And in the following verses, this promise is confirmed, with the greatest imaginable solemnity. “ Thus saith the LORD, HE that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it ; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein : I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand ; and will keep thee, and give thee for a Covenant of the people, for a Light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I am Jehovali, that is my name, &c."
Very parallel with these promises is another (Isai. xlix. 7, 8, 9.) which also has an apparent respect to the time of Christ's humiliation on earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers; kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship ; because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard thee ; in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, &c."
And in Isai. 1. 5-6. we have the Messiah expressing his assurance that God would help him, by so opening his ear, or inclining his heart to God's commandments that he should not be rebellious, but should persevere, and not apostatize, or turn his back: that through God's help he should be immoveable in obedience, under great trials of reproach and suffering ; setting his face like a fiint: so that he knew he should not be ashamed, or frustrated in his design ; and finally should be approved and justified, as having done his work faithfully. “ The Lord hath opened mine ear; so that I was not rebellious, neither turned away my back : I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair ; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me ; therefore shall I not be confounded : therefore have I set my face as a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me : who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary ? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God will help me: who is he that shall condemn me ? Lo, they shall all wax old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up.'
2. The same thing is evident from all the promises which God made to the Messiah, of his future glory, kingdom, and success, in his office and character of a Mediator: which glory could not have been obtained, if his holiness had failed, and he had been guilty of sin. God's absolute promise makes the things promised necessary and their failing to take place absolutely impossible : and, in like manner, it makes those things necessary, on which the thing promised depends, and without which it cannot take effect. Therefore it appears that it was utterly impossible that Christ's holiness should fail from such absolute promises as these, (Psal. cx. 4.) “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec." And from every other promise in that psalm, contained in each verse of it. (And Psal. ii. 6, 7.) “] will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee: Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, &c.” (Psal. xlv. 3, 4, &c.) “Gird thy sword on thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty ; and in thy majesty ride prosperously." And so every thing that is said from thence to the end of the psalm. (See Isai. iii. 13–15. and liii. 10-12.) And all those promises which God makes to the Messiah, of success, dominion and glory in the character of a Redeemer, (Isai. chap. xlix.)
3. It was often promised to the church of God of old, for their comfort, that God would give them a righteous, sinless Saviour. (Jer, xxiii. 5, 6.) “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous branch:
and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is the name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness." (So Jer. xxxiii. 15.) I will cause the branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.” (Isai. xi. 6, 7.) " For unto us a child is born ;-upon the throne of David and of his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth, even for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." (Chap. xi. 1. &c.). “There shall come forth a rod out of the ( stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,—the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord :—with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity :— Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." (Chap. lii. 13.) “ My servant shall deal prudently.” (Chap. liii. 9.) “ Because he had done no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth.” If it be impossible that these promises should fail, and it be easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one jot or tittle of them to pass away, then it was impossible that Christ should commit any sin. -Christ himself signified, that it was impossible but that the things which were spoken concerning him, should be fulfilled. (Luke xxiv. 44.) “ That all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me.” (Matt. xxvi. 53, 54.) “But how then shall the scripture be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”. (Mark xiv. 49.) " But the scriptures must be fulfilled.” And so the apostle, (Acts i. 16, 17.) “ This scripture must needs have been fulfilled."
4. All the promises, which were made to the church of old, of the Messiah as a future Saviour, from that made to our first parents in paradise, to that which was delivered by the prophet Malachi, shew it to be impossible that Christ should not have persevered in perfect holiness. The ancient predictions given to God's church, of the Messiah as a Saviour, were of the nature of promises; as is evident by the predictions themselves, and the manner of delivering them. But they are expressly, and very often called promises in the New Testament; (as in Luke i. 54, 55, 72, 73. Acts xiii. 32, 33. Rom. i. 1-3. and chap. xv. 8. Heb. vi. 13, &c.) These promises were often made with great solemnity, and confirmed with an oath; as (Gen. xxii. 16, 17.) “ By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, that in blessing, I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore :And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Compare Luke
i. 72, 73. and Gal. iii. 8, 15, 16.) The Apostle in Heb. vi. 17, 18. speaking of this promise to Abraham, says, “Wherein God willing more abundantly to shew to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two IMMUTABLE things, in which it was IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie, we might have strong consolation.” In which words, the necessity of the accomplishment, or (which is the same thing) the impossibility of the contrary, is fully declared. So God confirmed the promise of the Messiah's great salvation, made to David, by an oath ; (Psal. Ixxxix. 3, 4.) “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant; thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations." . There is nothing so abundantly set forth in scripture, as sure and irrefragable, as this promise and oath to David. (See Psalm lxxxix. 34-36. 2 Sam. xxii. 5. Isai. lv. 4. Acts ii. 29, 30. and xii. 34.) The scripture expressly speaks of it as utterly impossible that this promise and oath to David, concerning the everlasting dominion of the Messiah should fail. (Jer. xxxiii 15, &c.) “ In those days, and at that time, I will cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David. For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the House of Israel.” (Ver. 20, 21.) “ If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also' my covenant be broken with David my servant, that He should not have a son to reign upon his throne.” (So in ver. 25, 26.) Thus abundant is the Scripture in representing how impossible it was, that the promises made of old concerning the great salvation and kingdom of the Messiah should fail : which implies, that it was impossible that this Messiah, the second Adam, the promised seed of Abraham and of David, should fall from his integrity as the first Adam did.
5. All the promises that were made to the Church of God under the Old Testament, of the great enlargement of the Church, and advancement of her glory in the days of the Gospel, after the coming of the Messiah ; the increase of her light, liberty, holiness, joy, triumph over her enemies, &c. of which so great a part of the Old Testament consists; which are repeated so often, are so variously exhibited, so frequently introduced with great pomp and solemnity, and are so abundantly sealed with typical and symbolical representations; I say all these promises imply that the Messiah should perfect the work of redemption: and this implies, that he should persevere in the work, which the Father had appointed Him, being in all things conformed to his Will. These promises were often confirmed by an oath. (See Isai. liv. 9. with the context; chap. Ixii. 18.) And it is represented as utterly impossible that these