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The Gospel designed to gather all things into Onc.
EPHESIANS, i. 9, 10, 11, 19.
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to the
good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth ; even in him, in whom also we have obtained an inheri. tance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
REDEMPTION from the present guilt and the future punishment of sin, is a blessing which comes to sinners from the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This blessing is granted, not indiscriminately to all, but peculiarly to those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ, and who repent and become holy before God. These qualifications are the gifts of God, but gifts usually bestowed in a way of means. That divine operation, which disposes the hearts of sinners to repentance and faith, is offered to them in their attendance on the instructions of the gospel. The grace of God, however, in bringing sinners to repentance of sin and faith in the Saviour, is no less to be acknowl. edged, than if all means were utterly excluded ; for the gospel itself is as much a divine gift, as the influence of the Spirit. All things are of God, who hath recon
ciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath instituted for our benefit the ministry of reconciliation.
In the enumeration of the spiritual blessings granted us through Jesus Christ, the Apostle mentions, in our text, the mystery of the gospel, as one which deserves our most thankful regard.
In the words now before us, there are three things observable :
I. The sovereign grace of God in making known to us the mystery of his will.
II. The purpose of God in this dispensation ; that he might gaiher together in one, all things in Christ.
III. The obligation, which lies on such as enjoy this privilege, to live to the praise and glory of God's
I. We are taught the sovereign grace of God in giving us the gospel. He hath made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.
Let it here be particularly remarked,
1. The gospel is called ihe mystery of God's will ; and, Chapter iii, the mystery which from the beginning was hid in God; and the unsearchable riches of Christ.
You will not imagine, that the Apostle by these phrases intends to represent the gospel as obscure and unintelligible ; for he elsewhere says, that he and the other apostles “ used great plainness of speech, and, by manifestation of the truth, commended themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” But his meaning is, that the gospel scheme was undiscov. erable by the efforts and researches of human reason, and could be made known to men only by the light of divine revelation. He says, “ God has made known to us the mystery of his will." He calls the gospel a revelation of the mystery, which had been hidden from preceding ages.
It is a mystery in regard to those ages, in which it was kept secret ; but not in regard
to the ages, in which it is revealed, so that all men may see and understand it. This is the usual sense of the word.
And it is not the whole gospel that is in this sense called a mystery ; but only some particular doctrines of it. There are many things in it, such as the being and providence of God, and the great and leading duties of morality, which even the Heathens themselves acknowledged. But the method of our redemption by Jesus Christ is a mystery, which never could have been known, if God had not revealed it. The Apostle says, “ We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, ever, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew ; but God hath revealed it to us by his spirit, that we might know the things which are freely given vs of God, which things we also speak.” tery of the gospel was first revealed by the spirit to the prophets ; then more fully to the Apostles ; and by them preached with great plainness to the world. Their preaching was a revelation of the mystery of God's will concerning the way of salvation through lesus Christ.
There are, indeed, many things in the gospel, which are, and will remain incomprehensible to human reason ; but, though we cannot fully comprehend them, we may sufficiently understand them.
The promises of God, the terms of happiness, and the duties required of us, are clearly stated. What salvation is, how it was procured, in what way it is conveyed, and where to look for help in all our weaknesses and wants, we are plainly insructed. No farther revelation do we need to teach us the acceptable will of God, and lead us along toward heaven. The one which we have is perfect. They who pretend to add to it, bring on themselves the curses written in it.
How absurd, how impious is it then, to represent the gospel as a mystery, which cannot be understood
without a new revelation immediately from God ! If the gospel is a revelation of the mystery, we are not to expect à revelation of this revelation, as if it were a mystery still. The Apostle says, “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach another gospel, let him be accursed.” The Apostles had the divine mystery commu. nicated to them by the Spirit ; their divine inspiration they proved by miracles; and what was imparted to them by inspiration, they have communicated to the world by preaching. The gospel, confirmed by divine testimory, we are to make the only rule of our faith. We need the direction and assistance of the Spirit in all the duties of the religious life ; but we need no further revelation ; nor does the Spirit operate to give us new discoveries, but to assist us in understanding and obey. ing the gospel which is already given us. Though it were conceded, that immediate revelations were now made, yet these could be of use only to the persons who received them ; they could do no good to the world, unless their divine origin were proved by miracles ; and therefore all pretentions of this kind are to be discarded.
Let us attend to the mystery of God's will, which is made known to us ; prove what is acceptable in his sight ; abhor that which is evil; and cleave to that which is good.
We may remark,
2. That God has made known to us his will, according to the good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.
It is not owing to any worthiness in us—to any thing which we had done, or could do—to any choice or application which we had made ; but to God's wise and gracious purpose, that a revelation is given to the world--that we were born in an age, and in a land of gospel light-that we are distinguished from those nations, which still sit in the region and shadow of death. It is God who makes us to differ-we have nothing but what we received. We may adopt the words of
our Saviour,“ I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast revealed to babes the things which thou hast hidden from the wise and prudent; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
We may, perhaps, wonder, why the gospel revelation was not made earlier, and why it is not now more extensive. But we are to remember, that “God works all things according to the counsel of his will;" and, though the reason of his administrations is not made known to us, yet they are all directed by consummate wisdom. To those who enjoy the gospel it is a free gift from God; not the fruit of their desert, but of his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself. He is sovereign in the distribution of his favors. His good. ness to us is no wrong to the Heathens. He is not chargeable with injustice in granting to some the priv. ileges which he withholds from others; for none could demand them as their due. He was no more bound to place all men under equal advantages, than to endue all with equal abilities, or to make men equal to angels. He may do what he will with his own.
One thing, however, is certain, that to whom much is given, of them much will be required. In the day of the revelation of his righteous judgment, he will take into con. sideration, not only men's different works, but their various abilities, opportunities and advantages; and he will render to them what is right, according to what they have received and what they have done. many as have sinned without law, will perish without law; and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law, in that day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel.”
It is sometimes inquired, whether they who know not the gospel are capable of salvation ? But this is a question of little importance to us. The judge of all the carth will do right. It is a more interesting inquiry, whether we have complied with the gospel ? How. VOL. III.