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It is not needful to insist long in explaining the words, after having thus shown of whom they are to be understood. Only we shall briefly consider what is meant by God's righteousness, and what it is to magnify the law. God's righteousness is sometimes in Scripture taken for his mercy and goodness; but the most proper sense of it is, that justice by which he keeps up the authority of his law. It is also taken for the righteousness of Christ, which satisfied the law, called the righteousness which is of God by faith. It is the same thing, whether we understand it here of God's essential justice, or of Christ's righteousness; because it comes to the same purpose, whether it be said, that God was well pleased upon the account of his essential natural justice, which Christ satisfied, or that he is well pleased for the sake of Christ's righteousness, which satisfied that justice.
As for magnifying or making the law honourable, God may be said to make the law honourable by every thing by which he shews his own great respect to it. In every government, the sovereign is the fountain of honour; in the divine government, God is the fountain of all honour. Whatever shews God's respect to it, magnifies the law. The law is magnified when either the precepts or penalty of it is fulfilled, when the commands or threatenings of it are satisfied.
What I design to insist on at present is the doctrine in the latter part of the words, that by the work of redemption there is unspeakable honour done to the law. This is a doctrine very useful, to give us high and exalted thoughts both of the law, and also of the work of redemption. In prosecuting it, we shall chiefly consider, how the work of redemption magnifies God's law; and at the same time consider of how great importance it is that the law should be magnified.
Now, the work of redemption magnifies God's law, 1. By the perfect obedience that Christ gave to the commandments of it. 2. By the perfect satisfaction
he gave to the threatenings of it. 3. The work of redemption magnifies the law, as it is a work of infinite love for every thing that strengthens the motives to obey the law, magnifies the law by strengthening the force of it; and a manifestation of infinite love magnifies and strengthens the motives to obey a law, the substance of which is love, and the chief part of which is to love the Lawgiver himself. 4. The work of redemption magnifies the law upon the account of the great reward of Christ's obedience: for the law is magnified, not only when obedience is performed, but also when obedience is rewarded: and the more honour and glory, and greater gifts, Christ received for the sake of his obedience, it was not Christ only was Honoured, but the law also. 5. The application, as well as the execution, of the work of redemption, magnifies the law; the way and manner of the application, by faith. No sinner can obtain any favour from the Sovereign of the world, till he magnify the law, by joining with it, in condemning himself, and honouring that perfect obedience the Son of God gave it, and making it the ground of his hope; and by the fruit of that application, by bringing such innumerable wretches, that once despised and hated the law, to love, honour, and obey it.
1. I begin with the first of these, That Christ did. unspeakable honour to the law by his perfect obedience to it. It is useful for us to consider, first, What is meant by his obedience. When we speak of ourselves, or of mere creatures, holiness, and obedience to the law, is but one and the same thing; but it is not so, it was not so always, as to Christ. Before he came to the world he was perfectly holy; but that holiness could not be called obedience. It could not be then so properly said, that Christ was conform to the law, as that the law was conform to him. It was then (as the apostle expresses it) he was made under the law, when he was made of a woman. His actions. before were always holy; yet they could not be called duty; for he was not formally a member and subject of God's kingdom, but the head of it. His holiness.
before excited him to make that law, to rule the world by it; but afterwards he himself was governed by it. His holiness and righteousness before was the holiness of God; afterwards it was the obedience of a man. There is a resemblance between the holiness of God and that of man; or rather, holiness is the chief thing in which any man or creature can resemble God; but notwithstanding that resemblance, there is also an infinite difference betwixt the holiness of the Creator and of creatures, yea there is a great difference be twixt the holiness of one sort of creatures and another, as to the manifestations and effects of a holy disposition; between the duties of angels and of men; and even between the duties of different ranks, and stations, and relations, among men themselves; between the duties of masters and servants, parents and children, rulers and subjects, and the like. The law of holiness is the one law unto all God's reasonable creatures, in respect of the principle from which obedience should proceed: it commands every person to act from a principle of love to God. Yet that law has different forms with relation to the different nature or circumstances of those to whom it is given: so that in some sense, the law of angels and the law given to men are different, or different forms of the same law. For setting this in a better light, we may consider that which the apostle Paul teaches us, Phil. ii. when he tells us, that Christ was first, and consequently acted in the form of God, that is of the Sovereign of the world, and afterwards in the form of a servant. We may consider this subject, as if a sovereign who had made excellent laws for all his subjects, and for the meanest station, should himself, for wise and just reasons, for a time take on him the form of a servant, or the meanest subject, and in that station obey every part of the law that he had given himself, to observe and fulfil the duty of that relation. It is plain, even in this case, there would be a vast difference between the righteousness of a sovereign and prince and that of a servant,
To illustrate this further, I would show, that though, after the sovereign assumed that station, it would be requisite in him to perform the duties of it; yet it was at his own free will, to which he was not obliged, to assume that form; and it is very plain, that if such things could he done consistent with other greater reasons of importance, by every sovereign, it would be a way to put honour and dignity upon the duties of the meanest relation, and upon obedience to the law. It was when Christ took on him the form of a servant, when he took on him our nature, that he fulfilled our law. It was our duty that he performed, and our righteousness that he fulfilled, as well as our sins that he bore.
How much this obedience magnified God's law as to the commands of it, will appear when we consider the following properties of it. 1. It was perfect obedience. 2. It was the obedience of the most glorious person that could fulfil the law. 3. It was obedience performed by express divine appointment. 4. It was obedience performed in a low condition; which served to show, that obedience to the law in any rank or station is honourable. And by this means, 5. it was an obedience of universal influence as to the example of it.
1. It was perfect obedience: "He continued in all things written in the book of the law to do them." It was obedience to the death, without spot or blemish.
2. It was the obedience of the most glorious person that could be subject to the law. We know, that though every man, as far as he obeys the law, honours the law as much as he can by obeying it; yet the obedience of one person does more honour to it than that of another. As to human laws, there is scarce any thing that makes good laws more contemptible than when great persons despise and reject them; nor almost any thing makes laws more honourable, than when the greatest persons endeavour, by their good example, to put respect on them. The
more honourable the person is that obeys the law, the more is the law honoured by his obedience. Hence it is plain, that the obedience of the eternal Son of God, in our nature, did more honour to the law, than the obedience of all mankind could have done. He put a greater honour upon the commandment, and upon every duty enjoined in the law, than the indig nity put upon it by the disobedience of all the transgressors in the world. So that, if it were possible that the duties of holiness should be more honourable at one time than another, certainly they are far more so, since he who is God himself performed those duties, and performed those acts of obedience, that are incumbent upon us. When other subjects obey the law, it is their honour that they obey it; but in this case it was the honour of the law that it was obeyed by the Sovereign.
3. His obedience magnifies the law, because it was by divine solemn appointment. He was chosen of God, anointed, and elected, (as we have it in the first verse), for that end. It was observed before as a general principle, that whatever manifests the sovereign's love and respect to the law, puts honour and dignity on it for when a sovereign neglects the law he has made, then indeed it falls to the ground; but when a sovereign shows the greatest respect to it, if he be of power otherwise, and of importance to give any respect to it, it is his manifesting his love to it that magnifies it. It was God that sent his Son to be made under the law; and when we consider, that the most wonderful work of God that we can think on, that we can possibly conceive, was the incarnation of the Son of God, and his life in the world, and such wonders that were done on purpose to magnify the law, it shows, that it is impossible for us to have too high thoughts of that love, that respect, so to speak, that God has for his own law. But then again,
4. Another property of this obedience, by which the law was magnified, was, its being performed in