October 5, 2014

Matthew Newcomen (c.1610–1669) on God's Gracious Condescension in Christ and Infinite Love to Mankind

Here then see the infinite goodness and condescension of God towards us his poor and worthless creatures, who though he be infinitely above us, and stands not at all in need of us, nor cannot be in the least benefited or advantaged by us, or by his acquaintance with us; but before there was made either Man or Angel, he was infinitely satisfied, and infinitely blessed in the enjoyment of himself; yet was he pleased to create Angels and Men, not only to a fitness and capacity of, but unto an actual communion and acquaintance with himself; which was more than needed on God's part, or was owing on our parts; and when we like foolish and unthankful wretches, upon the very first motion of the devil, gave away this honour and happiness of acquaintance and communion for an apple, as Esau sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage, and thereby not only made our selves unworthy for ever to be admitted into God's favour and acquaintance, but unfit for it too, as well as unworthy; that God should yet please to stoop so low as to take us yet again into acquaintance with himself: this speaks the wonderful goodness of God, his infinite Φιλανθρωπια or love to mankind.

When Esau had once undervalued the birth-right, so far as to sell it for a mess of pottage though afterwards it grieved him for what he had done, and he sought earnestly, and that with tears, to recover that blessing and birth-right which he had so foolishly lost, yet it could not be: so God might have dealt with Adam, and every one of us. The Text tells us, Adam lived 930 years after his sin, now if Adam had spent all those years in nothing but weeping and mourning, for his folly and madness in parting with his birth right, his acquaintance and communion with God, for an apple and in seeking earnestly, and that with tears, to recover communion and acquaintance with God again, and after all, had been denied it, yet God had been altogether just and righteous.

But behold the kindness of God, and his love towards mankind! As it is said of David, when Absalom by his villanies had banished himself from his Father's Court and presence, it is said, The soul of King David Longed to go forth unto Absalom: that is, David's heart was full of fatherly affection towards him, and he longs to be friends with him again: so did the heart of God even long towards man, after his sin and fall, and he did even long to be friends with him again, and to renew his acquaintance and converse with him.

And this gracious disposition of his towards sinful man, this great desire and inclination which God hath after peace and renewed acquaintance with sinful man, God hath abundantly declared and testified.

First, By appointing, ordaining, and giving one to be a Mediator, a Reconciler, a Peace-maker, a Friend-maker, between God and us.

Secondly, By appointing and giving no other nor meaner Person to this work, than his own blessed and dear Son, who is the express image of his person, and the brightness of his glory.

Thirdly, By giving this Son of his to be a Mediator, not only by way of Intercession, but also by way of Satisfaction, to make peace for us by paying our debts, and satisfying for our sins, which he could not do but by shedding his blood, and laying down his precious life; and yet rather than God would quite lose and abandon all his interest in us, and acquaintance with us, he would not spare his own Son.

Fourthly, By testifying and proclaiming unto all men in the Ministry of the Gospel, that he is reconciled to the world, and by recalling and inviting sinners unto peace and acquaintance with himself.

Fifthly, By proffering his acquaintance unto sinners upon such easy, and as I may say, such cheap terms, namely, that we should repent of, and cease from our hating of him, and our being enemies to him, and enter into a league of unfeigned love and friendship with him; and would any of us take one that hath been our enemy, into our acquaintance, upon other terms than these?

Sixthly, By his not only offering acquaintance with us upon these terms, by his Ambassadors, his Ministers, but by his coming personally by his Spirit to our several hearts, inviting and soliciting us to this acquaintance. According to that of our Lord Jesus Christ, Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open to me, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. The Greeks and Romans of old were wont always to have their feasts at supper; therefore when it is said here, I will come in to him, and sup with him, it is as if he had said, I will come in to him and feast with him. And feasting together was of old a Symbol of perfect reconciliation, and intimate friendship and acquaintance. Now, behold here the wonderful goodness and condescension of God, and his gracious disposition and inclination towards peace and acquaintance with his poor creatures. May we not here now take up that admiring expression of David, And is this the manner of men, O Lord. Did you ever read or hear of any King or Prince, that when his Subjects had highly provoked him, by their rebellion against him, and he had power enough to crush and destroy them, would yet not only send his Heralds and Ambassadors to them to offer terms of peace and reconciliation, but would himself, go in his own person, from house to house, and from man to man, entreating them severally, and by name, that they would be friends with him their Sovereign Lord and King; and offering if they will but open the door to him, that he will forgive them, and be friends with them: did you ever read or hear of such a thing? and is this the manner of men? but this is the manner of God's dealing with his enemies. Behold therefore, I say, and admire the gracious disposition of God towards sinful man, and the great desire he hath towards peace and renewed acquaintance with him.
Matthew Newcomen, The Best Acquaintance and Highest Honour of Christians, Or, A Discourse of Acquaintance with God (London: Printed, and are to be sold by Peter Parker, at the Leg and Star in Cornhil, over against the Royal Exchange, 1679), 42–49.
He disdaineth not the acquaintance of the least of men, nor of the greatest of sinners. Such was the condescension of the divine nature, that it disdained not the near acquaintance with the human nature: to take it into personal union with himself; and such was the condescension of God in our nature, that when he was upon the earth he disdained not the acquaintance of those who upon common account were the vilest of men, even Publicans and sinners. And such is still the gracious condescension of God in Christ, that he disdaineth not the acquaintance of the meanest Persons or vilest sinners that seek acquaintance of him. Nay,

Secondly, He offers and tenders this acquaintance to them; and this is not usual for great person to do to their Inferiors; he entreateth and beseecheth poor sinners that they would be reconciled to him, and acquainted with him.

Thirdly, Out of his mere grace and favour only, for their good and benefit, not for any gain or advantage to himself. Can a man be profitable to God? saith Eliphaz. No, God cannot be a gainer by our acquaintance: that he offers it, seeks it, is for our good and benefit, that we may be made happy and blessed by it. O then, let not this grace of God be in vain to us, but accept we this gracious offer of God, acquainting ourselves with him.
Ibid., 62–64.


No comments: