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Our first parents, before the Fall, were altogether holy. The law of God was written upon their hearts, and, while they delighted in it as perfectly good, they obeyed it in all its length and breadth. Their religion was, in its nature, the same with that of Heaven. According to the universal and perpetual order of the Divine Government, they were entitled, on account of their own righteousness of character and conduct, to the favour of their Maker, which is happiness and life. They were not, however, placed out of the reach of evil. They had a trial of their faithfulness to stand, before their moral state should be rendered eter. nally secure. In that trial they failed. The command. ment of God, through the temptation of the Devil, was wilfully transgressed. Thus, " by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” Rom. v. 12.
The ruin was awful. The greatest calamity in the wide universe of God, is sin. The human race was now brought into that condition which is the most deplorable that any mind can conceive. Struck out from the order and happi. ness of the general creation, and cut off from all intercourse with God, it presented only a spectacle of horror and terrific desolation, uncheered by the smallest gleam of hope. The state of man was the same with that into which a part of the angels had fallen; a state of rebellion against the Almighty, of exclusion from peace, a state of infinite wrath, of death without hope and without end. But God had mercy. When no arm but his own could
save, he determined to help. He left the angels to perish without relief, but stretched forth his hand to rescue sinking
Heb. ii. 16. A great Salvation was provided. A wonderful arrangement had been from the beginning made in heaven, to recover the lost. The eternal Son of God engaged to become a sacrifice for their guilt, and the Father consented to receive once more into favour, and by his Spirit to restore to holiness, as many as should be willing to accept the atonement thus wonderfully secured. And because the nature of man's depravity was such, that not one of all the race would ever be naturally willing to embrace the offer of mercy, even after such condescension and love on the part of God, the arrangement of Divine compassion extended yet farther. It was determined that, in consideration of the Saviour's work, the Holy Spirit should be sent forth into the hearts of men, to enlighten and persuade them, so that some of them might become willing to be saved. Thus it was made certain, that the Redeemer should “ see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied ;" (Is. liii. 11;) and that, out of the multitude of Adam's fallen children, a portion would yet gloriously rise from ruin and find a happy restoration to the great family of God. Here originated the Church.
The church is a society made up of the Redeemer's people. In its visible character, as a body regularly organ. ized in this world, it comprehends all, who in any age profess to be his people, and externally are placed under that constitution which he has appointed for their government and improvement. In its invisible character, that is, as it appears to the eye of God, who searcheth the heart-it embraces only those who are really and truly the people of Christ, redeemed by his blood, and made meet by his grace “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Many belong to the church as an outward body on earth, who have no part in its glorious reality, as a body spiritu. ally united to its Great Head. The institution of the church had respect, no doubt, only to those who become truly thus united to Christ; its object was, by means of the truth of God, (which it was appointed to preserve from age to age, and to employ instrumentally for the salvation of men,) to bring out from the darkness of the world, as many as might
be moved to comply with the Divine invitation in deed and in truth, and so, by salutary preparation and discipline, to gather their whole number, from the beginning to the end of time, into one great family in heaven. But, in its actual outward form and history, in this world, all are regarded as being interested in its existence, who participate in its external privileges, whether truly pious or not; because man cannot try the heart, and God unfolds not his judgment of its character before the Great Day.
In consequence of the Redeemer's undertaking, our race was, immediately after the Fall, placed in new circumstances. They were fallen still, but a way of recovery was thrown open. The wrath of the Almighty.still hung sus. pended over their heads with tremendous terror; but for a little time its destruction was delayed; the full bursting forth of its fury was restrained; and in that awful pause, room was left for complete escape; a REFUGE was provided within reach, strong and secure, to which the criminal might run, and be eternally safe. Thus, in the midst of earth's moral desolation, there was to be displayed, down to the end of time, a spectacle of returning life. Heaven was to receive, with universal rapture, niillions from the very jaws of hell. The accomplishment of this mercy was to be, however, only through the mediation and suffer. ing of the Son of God. The Holy One of Heaven could deal no longer with men directly, save as their judge and destroyer. From the time of the Fall, therefore, no communication of friendship could exist between God and man, except through Christ. For his sake, the Infinte Judge forbears for a while the full execution of death, and to him is committed, in a peculiar manner, the care of our fallen world. The Father has withdrawn himself from imme. diate concern with it, such as he employs in his general government. It has been given over into the hands of the Son, in view of his mediatorial work. He has been con. stituted Head over all things to the church. (Eph. i. 22.) He has undertaken, and it has been left to him, to maintain the full honour of God's Law in the case of the human family, while yet redemption from its curse should be made possible for all, and multitudes should actually obtain the deliverance. He governs the world, therefore, with
continual regard to the church, which he has determined to gather out of its ruins, and conduct to glory. All the kindness which the world experiences now from God, comes through him, and is only in consequence of that new position in which it is placed before God, by his mediatorial undertaking. And because the world is thus given into his hands, with the trust of completely vindicating the holi. ness of the Divine Law, its final judgment will also proceed from his authority. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. He hath given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the son OF MAN.” (John v. 21—29: Acts xvii. 31.) As many as refuse to embrace his mercy, he will himself sentence to the everlasting death, which sin deserves, and God's righte. ous Law demands. Thus he will reduce all things to order, by grace or by justice, and wind up, as it were, in unalter. able and perfect arrangement, the affairs of this apostate part of creation. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power: For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. xv. 24–28.) Thus will be accomplished that res. titution of all things, foretold by all the prophets. (Acts iii. 21.) Then, having put an end to disorder and brought all opposition into subjection to God, the Redeemer, God and man in one person, shall reign in the glory of his kingdom, as Head of the church, under the general government of Him who is all in all, without interruption and without end. For it is written, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." And again, “ Unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” (Luke i. 33. Heb. i. 8.)
The church then, though it has been all along despised by the great body of our race, has ever been infinitely the most interesting and important institution in the world. It is the kingdom of Jesus Christ, proceeding under his own direction and government to that great end of victory and glory, which it is ordained to reach. The world de.