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Sermons on Important Subjects
By J. M. Pendleton

The Wisdom of God in Redemption.

      Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. - Ephesians, i:8.

      The wisdom of God is displayed in the works of his hands. It is seen in the arrangements of the material universe. Every advance in physical science makes it more conspicuous. The intellectual universe is a mirror which reflects the Divine wisdom. The silent, yet sublime operations of Providence show that God is wise. But the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ gives a display of the wisdom of God which eclipses every other. In this plan his grace abounds toward us in all wisdom and prudence. As if the apostle had said, all wisdom is seen here. All the elements of wisdom are brought into wondrous combination. A prudence is exhibited which consults the honor of the divine administration, and the best interests of all worlds. My theme is:

The Wisdom of God in Redemption

      In what does this wisdom appear?

      1. In rendering the glory of God and the salvation of man compatible. - The glory of God is a manifestation

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of his perfections. The more perfect the manifestation the more brilliant the glory. But how can all the divine perfections be manifested whether man is saved or lost? If saved, what becomes of justice, holiness, and truth? If lost, how will it be known that "God is love?" How difficult these problems! How insusceptible of human or angelic solution! If, when man sinned, the angelic myriads before the throne in heaven had been convoked into one grand council, to consult as to the possibility of rendering his salvation consistent with the glory of God, the unanimous decision of that council would have been that it was an impossibility! They had seen their fellows, who kept not their first estate, cast down to hell, and how could they expect for rebellious man a different fate? What the wisdom of angels could never have done, the wisdom of God has accomplished - has devised a plan which harmonizes the divine glory with man's salvation. In the execution of this plan the eternal "Word must become incarnate, and pour forth his sacrificial blood on Calvary. Strange method of rendering the divine glory and human salvation compatible, but the only method. In it God displays all wisdom. His manifold wisdom is made known to principalities and powers in heavenly places.

      2. In making law and justice harmonize with mercy. - Man's ruin was brought upon him by a violation of the law. The law must, therefore, pronounce its sentence of condemnation. Its

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curse impends over the transgressor. Justice demands its infliction. The law knows nothing of mercy. It recognizes the principles of inexorable justice. It says, "obey and live," or, "transgress and die." There proceeds not from the law the remotest intimation that the exercise of mercy is a possible thing. Hence atonement, so far from being provided for by law, is obviously a measure above law. I will not say contrary to it, but above it. It is an expedient introduced into the divine goverment to satisfy the law - to maintain its authority; to enforce its sanctions, and to vindicate its majesty. The sacrifice of Christ does this, and therefore the exercise of mercy to transgressors is harmonious with the honor of the law. The cross makes law and justice approve the salvation of sinners through the blood of its illustrious sufferer. With what transcendent glory the wisdom of God shines forth in this scheme of redemption.

      3. In manifesting Divine love to sinners, and hatred of their sins. - God's love to man is, in redemption, displayed in an infinitely remarkable manner. Who would have thought that Jesus would be given up to poverty, reproach and suffering? Who would have supposed that the Lord of life would exchange a throne for a cross, and become the unresisting victim of death? Could divine benevolence go farther? Could there have been a sublimer demonstration of God's love to sinners? Truly "God commended his love toward us in that, while

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sinners, Christ died for us." And this love to sinners was displayed in connection with infinite abhorrence of their sins. Else why "was Jesus required to drink the cup of atoning sorrow? Why was he "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted?" Why was the sword of justice bathed in the blood of his breaking heart? Why that appalling question, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" Here is boundless wisdom. Here is ininite prudence. Love to sinners and love to their sins, are infinitely distinct. Love and hatred reign in the divine bosom, nor can an angel tell which principle is the stronger. The transactions of Calvary indicate that love to sinners and hatred of their sins are precisely equal in their energy of operation. O, the wisdom of God!

      4. In the manner in which the conscience is tranquilized. - It is not a forgetfulness of sin that pacifies the conscience. There is an acute remembrance of sin. There is no mitigation of its criminality, but a full recognition of it. Nor is conscience tranquilized by a belief that personal merit has expiated guilt. There is no such belief. Penances and pilgrimages can not atone for sin. The waters of the "sacred Ganges" can not wash away its stains. Let the sensibilities of conscience be adequately excited, and it knows no pacification except in the blood of the cross. Its tranquillity can not be purchased with the "gold of Ophir," nor with "the topaz of Ethiopia." No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls, for

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the price of this tranquillity is "above rubies." "The fruit of the body," if given for "the sin of the soul," would bring no peace to the troubled conscience. No human expedients can hush its clamorous thunderings. But let faith rely on the blood of the cross, and appropriate the benefits of atonement, and conscience is as tranquil as was the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said to the winds and the waves, - "Peace, be still! and there was a great calm." Sin is not ignored, but vividly remembered, intensely hated, yet the conscience finds repose in the Mediator's blood. This method of tranquilizing the conscience infinite wisdom alone could invent. It looks like God's work.

      5. In providing for the interests of practical holiness. - The manner in which sin is pardoned shows its evil nature. God shows his hatred of sin in pardoning it for Christ's sake, more than he does in punishing it in the finally impenitent. Sin was condemned in the flesh when Jesus died. It is evident, therefore, that the influences going forth from his cross must be favorable to the interests of holiness. Another fact is worthy of notice. "Sinners are led to hate sin before they are forgiven. This makes it morally certain that they will be enamored of the beauty of holiness - will hunger and thirst after righteousness. Being dead to sin they will say, "How can we live any longer therein?" The grace of God having brought to them salvation - which consists chiefly in deliverance from sin - they will "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." Thus in

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the gospel plan of redemption, effectual provision is made for securing the interests of practical holiness. In this God displays his wisdom; for the welfare of the universe requires the suppression of sin and the promotion of holiness. "In all wisdom," is the language of the text.

      6. In humbling and elevating the saved. - The unworthiness of those who are saved is fully recognized. The justice of the condemnation from which they are delivered is irresistibly implied. They have this in remembrance, and their souls are humbled within them. They take their appropriate positions at the foot of the cross, and a sense of their personal demerits keeps them low in the dust before God. They are ashamed and confounded before the Lord. They are abashed in the presence of the Holy One. Pride, and vanity, and self-complacency are all crucified. Who does not see that God displays his wisdom in providing for the humiliation of those he saves? The plan of salvation checks all presumption, and leads the pardoned penitent to say with Paul, "By the grace of God I am what I am." And while the saved are humbled under a consciousness of personal unworthiness, they are exalted in the Redeemer's righteousness. They are "complete in him." He is "made to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." So perfect is their salvation in Christ, that, while humbled under an affecting view of their unworthiness, they can triumphantly inquire, "Who shall lay any thing to our charge?" Accepted in the Beloved they are safe, and while

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they are humbled they are exalted. They are distinguished for humiliating views of themselves and elevated views of Christ. The wisdom of God is seen in this.

      7. In making the Savior's death, instigated by Satan, the means of overturning Satan's empire. - The devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray the Redeemer into the hands of sinners. He prompted the Jews to demand, with clamorous importunity, his death. Under his influence Pilate, though convinced of the innocence of the "man of sorrows," pronounced sentence against him. But Jesus was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. In his death he bruised the head of the serpent. His death was indispensable to the subversion of Satan's empire. Sin was the devil's great work, and Jesus came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As a reward for his humiliation and death, he has been highly exalted - crowned with glory and honor - and must reign till he puts all enemies under his feet. His triumph will grow out of his cross. His standard of victory will be planted on the summit of Calvary. The hands stretched in quivering agony on the "accursed tree" will yet sway a universal scepter; and the feet which felt the rugged spikes will tread into the dust the proudest foe. How unsearchable is the wisdom of God in redemption! He makes the Savior's death, instigated by Satan, the means of overturning Satan's empire!

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      1. It is wise for us to acquiesce in the gospel plan of redemption

      2. Not to acquiesce in it is to insure the ruin of the soul.


[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

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