The Excellency of Christ (4)
“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev. 5:5-6).
[Edwards continues his portrayal of Jesus Christ as the one in whom seemingly divergent and mutually exclusive excellencies and acts are found in perfect harmony.]
Third, such diverse excellencies are expressed in him towards men, that otherwise would have seemed impossible to be exercised towards the same object, as particularly these three, justice, mercy, and truth. The same that are mentioned in Psa. 85:10, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
The strict justice of God, and even his revenging justice, and that against the sins of men, never was so gloriously manifested as in Christ. He manifested an infinite regard to the attribute of God’s justice, in that when he had a mind to save sinners, he was willing to undergo such extreme sufferings, rather than that their salvation should be to the injury of the honor of that attribute. And as he is the Judge of the world, he does himself exercise strict justice, he will not clear the guilty, nor at all acquit the wicked in judgment.
Yet how wonderfully is infinite mercy towards sinners displayed in him! And what glorious and ineffable grace and love have been and are exercised by him, towards sinful men! Though he be the just Judge of a sinful world, yet he is also the Savior of the world. Though he be a consuming fire to sin, yet he is the light and life of sinners. Rom. 3:25, 26, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
So the immutable truth of God, in the threatenings of his law against the sins of men, was never so manifested as it is in Jesus Christ. For there never was any other so great a trial of the unalterableness of the truth of God in those threatenings, as when sin came to be imputed to his own Son. And then in Christ has been seen already an actual complete accomplishment of those threatenings, which never has been nor will be seen in any other instance, because the eternity that will be taken up in fulfilling those threatenings on others, never will be finished. Christ manifested an infinite regard to this truth of God in his sufferings. And in his judging the world, he makes the covenant of works, that contains those dreadful threatenings, his rule of judgment. He will see to it, that it is not infringed in the least jot or tittle. He will do nothing contrary to the threatenings of the law, and their complete fulfillment. And yet in him we have many great and precious promises, promises of perfect deliverance from the penalty of the law. And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life. And in him are all the promises of God, yea, and Amen.
Having thus shown wherein there is an admirable conjunction of excellencies in Jesus Christ, I now proceed,
II. To show how this admirable conjunction of excellencies appears in Christ’s acts.
First, it appears in what Christ did in taking on him our nature. In this act, his infinite condescension wonderfully appeared, that he who was God should become man, that the word should be made flesh, and should take on him a nature infinitely below his original nature! And it appears yet more remarkably in the low circumstances of his incarnation: he was conceived in the womb of a poor young woman, whose poverty appeared in this, when she came to offer sacrifices of her purification, she brought what was allowed of in the law only in case of poverty, as Luke 2:24, “According to what is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.” This was allowed only in case the person was so poor that she was not able to offer a lamb. Lev. 12:8.
And though his infinite condescension thus appeared in the manner of his incarnation, yet his divine dignity also appeared in it. For though he was conceived in the womb of a poor virgin, yet he was conceived there by the power of the Holy Ghost. And his divine dignity also appeared in the holiness of his conception and birth. Though he was conceived in the womb of one of the corrupt race of mankind, yet he was conceived and born without sin, as the angel said to the blessed Virgin, Luke 1:35, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.”
His infinite condescension marvelously appeared in the manner of his birth. He was brought forth in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. The inn was taken up by others, that were looked upon as persons of greater account. The blessed Virgin, being poor and despised, was turned or shut out. Though she was in such necessitous circumstances, yet those that counted themselves her betters would not give place to her. Therefore, in the time of her travail, she was forced to betake herself to a stable, and when the child was born, it was wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger. There Christ lay a little infant, and there he eminently appeared as a lamb. But yet this feeble infant, born thus in a stable, and laid in a manger, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion. He came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness, and make a show of them openly: so to restore peace on earth, to manifest God’s goodwill towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest. According[ly] the end of his birth was declared by the joyful songs of the glorious hosts of angels, who appeared to the shepherds at the same time that the infant lay in the manger, whereby his divine dignity was manifested.