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echoes of thought in love with God through Christ crucified

Category: Special Observances (page 1 of 7)

He took to himself what He was not,
while remaining what He was;

He came to us in a man
without ever departing from the Father (in heaven);

He continued to be what He is
while appearing to us as what we are;

His divine power was confined in the body of an infant
without (His presence) being withdrawn from the (entire) universe.

—Augustine
Sermon in A. D. 396

HE HATH MADE HIS WONDERFUL WORKS TO BE REMEMBERED
—Psalm 111:4

[Excerpts from a sermon delivered on “the day of annual thanksgiving,” November 20, 1794, by Pastor David Osgood of the church in Medford, MA]

THE works of God are usually distinguished into those of creation, and those of providence. By the former, we understand the stretching forth and garnishing of the heavens, the forming and replenishing of the earth, and the originating of the present order and course of nature. By the latter, are meant the continued preservation, the upholding and governing of all these things; and the superintending of all events, both in the natural and moral world. All these are great and wonderful works, worthy to be had in constant remembrance by every rational spectator. They make God to be remembered; nay, they are so many memorials of him, witnessing his eternal power and Godhead, his overflowing benignity, and his care of, and kindness towards, his creatures.

They who have any taste for intellectual and moral pleasures, who are capable of relishing what is grand and sublime, will delight in prying into, and contemplating these great and wonderful works of creation and providence. To this purpose it is observed in the context, that the works of the Lord being great, honourable and glorious, they will be sought out or investigated by all them who have pleasure therein. By these works the Psalmist has special reference to the more signal dispensations of Providence in his dealings with his covenant people, the descendants of Abraham his friend. In these dispensations he set before them the most striking illustrations of his character and glorious perfections. They often saw him, on one occasion and another, triumphing over the false gods of the heathen around them, executing judgment upon their vain idols, and confounding their stupid worshippers. They saw his infinite power displayed in an almost continued series of miraculous operations; his justice in the exemplary punishment of cruel oppressors; his mercy in numberless affecting instances towards themselves; and his truth and faithfulness in the exact fulfilment of his promises and predictions. These things were intended to make lasting impressions on their minds—such as might not be easily or speedily effaced. The wonderful works of Providence are wrought for this very purpose, that, by beholding them, men may be so affected, as to have God continually in their thoughts, and thereby be led to fear and serve him.

The text may teach us, that the more signal mercies of Heaven towards us, and those more remarkable deliverances which, at any time, have been wrought in our favour, ought to be gratefully remembered, and thankfully acknowledged by us. These things are some of the chief beauties and most brilliant pages in that book of Providence, which it highly concerns us daily to read and study. This book indeed contains the whole history of God’s dealings with mankind, from age to age; in which he displays his moral perfections to the view of his rational offspring. The clear light of eternity will show every part of this volume to be full of meaning; and such an explanation will then be given to those passages, which are now esteemed dark and mysterious, as will induce enraptured saints, with astonishment, to exclaim, O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! But while we dwell in this land of shadows and obscurity, we see only a small proportion of what God does; and having such limited views of his dispensations, it is no wonder if we be unable to comprehend the meaning of particular events.

. . .

Our present trust in the divine mercy is also encouraged by the remembrance of former favours and deliverances. For this purpose, among others, the Israelites were enjoined to teach “their children the praises of the Lord, his strength, and his wonderful works—that the generation to come might know them—even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their HOPE in God.”

The honour of God, the interests of religion, and the comfort and consolation of good men, being all promoted by the memory of the divine dispensations; it is highly agreeable to reason, and consonant to scripture, that public days should be set apart, on which a whole people may unite in celebrating the goodness of God; recollecting the instances of his providential care of, and kindness towards, them; and talking of his wonderful works in their favour. Such institutions serve as pillars of remembrance, to revive and perpetuate a sense of our obligations to Heaven. The thoughts of the great body of the people are so taken up about their own private affairs, that they are prone to pay but little attention to the concerns of the public. After the first impression is worn off, they soon forget, at least practically, national mercies and deliverances, as well as national judgments. They need to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance. And when God, by a long and continued series of remarkable interpositions, has multiplied, blessed, and prospered any people—has, on one occasion and another, repeatedly rescued them from great and threatening dangers—put them in full possession of their rights and liberties, laws and religion; and from year to year continues them in the quiet enjoyment of these privileges, together with the usual bounties of his munificent providence; they cannot too frequently recollect, nor too fervently and gratefully acknowledge, these signal instances of the divine benignity. It surely becomes christian magistrates, and is a duty they owe to God, to call upon their subjects to unite in commemorating these wonderful works of Heaven in their favour.

Our forefathers, from the first settlement of the country, esteemed certain seasons of the year as highly proper for special acts of devotion. At the opening of the spring, they judged it fit and suitable, to set apart a day for humiliation and prayer; that they might implore the divine blessing on the affairs of the ensuing season—that it might be rendered fruitful, healthy and prosperous. And after the reception of these mercies, at the close of the season, another day was set apart for public thanksgiving. To this custom of our pious and renowned ancestors the proclamation for the observance of this day expressly refers.

David Osgood, “The Wonderful Works of God Are to Be Remembered,” Early American Imprints, 1639-1800; No. 27456 (Boston: Samuel Hall, no. 53, Cornhill, Boston, 1794).

The only way for God’s holy love to be satisfied is for his holiness to be directed in judgement upon his appointed substitute, in order that his love may be directed towards us in forgiveness. The substitute bears the penalty, that we sinners may receive pardon. Who, then, is the substitute? Certainly not Christ, if he is seen as a third party. Any notion of penal substitution in which three independent actors play a role – the guilty party, the punitive judge and the innocent victim – is to be repudiated with the utmost vehemence. It would not only be unjust in itself but would also reflect a defective Christology. For Christ is not an independent third person, but the eternal Son of the Father, who is one with the Father in his essential being.

What we see, then, in the drama of the cross is not three actors but two, ourselves on the one hand and God on the other. Not God as he is in himself (the Father), but God nevertheless, God-made-man-in-Christ (the Son). Hence the importance of those New Testament passages which speak of the death of Christ as the death of God’s Son: for example, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”, “he … did not spare his own Son”, and “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” For in giving his Son he was giving himself. This being so, it is the Judge himself who in holy love assumed the role of the innocent victim, for in and through the person of his Son he himself bore the penalty which he himself inflicted. As Dale put it, “the mysterious unity of the Father and the Son rendered it possible for God at once to endure and inflict penal suffering.” There is neither harsh injustice, not unprincipled love nor Christological heresy in that; there is only unfathomable mercy. For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy himself, God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice. The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy.

—John Stott
The Cross of Christ, 158-159

To Glorify God in Propitiatory Death

WHY THE GOD-MAN?

REASON #4:

To Glorify God in Propitiatory Death

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect … to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
— Hebrews 2:17 —

When “Christ came into the world” He came to glorify God the Father, not only in perfect life, but ultimately in propitiatory death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), but God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins;” and this He did in love (1 John 4:10). A propitiatory death means a sacrificial death, in substitution on behalf of the guilty, that satisfies the just and righteous wrath of God. A propitiatory death fully satisfies or exhausts every legal demand—all penalties owing to sin’s rebellion. No penalty remains for the guilty when the guilty is substituted by a propitiatory death.

The aim of the glory of God in the substitutionary death of the incarnate Son is underscored in Hebrews 10:5-7, where the pleasure of God is the focus and contrasts are used to highlight this point. “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired” is contrasted with “a body you have prepared for me.” “Burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure” is contrasted to the pleasure that God the Father delighted in according to the pledge of God the Son, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.” Here we get a glimpse of God’s triune intrapersonal communication concerning the incarnation.

In the Gospel of John we see yet another illustration of this same purpose. Christ, being very near His betrayal and crucifixion, cries out to the Father with an eager entreaty that the Father be glorified. Christ openly declares, “for this purpose I have come to this hour” referring to His imminent sacrificial death. It was in response to this request that the Father declared that He had glorified His name and “will glorify it again.” Now, when He says that He will glorify it again, the most immediate pointer is to Jesus’ death. There is no question that God came in humanity “for this purpose” to lay down His life in the only sacrifice capable of satisfying the good and holy demands of God’s justice against humanity’s sin. Christ came not only so that He who is God could die, but that He could glorify God in propitiatory death.

Why the incarnation? Why the God-man? One central reason was to glorify God in propitiatory death.

—Pastor Manny

To Glorify God in Perfect Life

WHY THE GOD-MAN?

REASON #3:

To Glorify God in Perfect Life

You know that he appeared … and in him there is no sin.
— 1 John 3:5 —

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
— John 17:4 —

Our chief end speaks also of our chief sin. The basic principle of sin is idolatry, the worship of something other than God—the glorifying and enjoying of something chiefly other than God.

The Psalm says, “There is none who does good” (14:1). Man seeks not after God but after his own self-adoring will. Isaiah says, “we have turned—every one—to his own way” (53:6). Man naturally rebels against God as his King; thinking, desiring, living and doing, in principle as the ancient people of Israel, of whom it is said, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Christmas is a reminder that God came to glorify God, even, and especially, where man failed. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). And again, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Jesus repeatedly draws attention to the fact that He came and was sent to glorify God through perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Before John the Baptists, Jesus affirmed, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness … and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:15–17). This was part of His mission. Jesus said Himself that He was sent and lived a life marked by intimacy with the Father. Regarding His coming and living, He said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Hebrews reminds us that when “Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me . . . Behold, I have come to do your will’” (Hebrews 10:5–7).

Where Adam failed to glorify God in perfect life—where Israel failed, where you and I fail—Christ came to undo, invert, reverse, and correct through His substitution. The penalty of our rebellion and belittling of God, Christ came to absorb through His death and to magnify the worth of God through His life.

Why the incarnation? Why the God-man? One reason was to glorify God in perfect life.

—Pastor Manny

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