Ebenezer Erskine and his brother Ralph were famous Presbyterian ministers
in Scotland, and close friends of Thomas Boston. Their father was Henry
Erskine, under whose preaching the youthful Thomas Boston came to Christ.
Proverbs 8:23. I
was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
this passage there are such evident rays of the eternal and supreme deity of
Christ, and of His personality and essential oneness with the Father, as
puts the Arians and Socinians, these blasphemers of the Son of God, quite
out of countenance. They are obliged, though with great absurdity, to allege
that what is spoken of and by Christ in this chapter, particularly in verses
22-31, is to be understood of wisdom as one of the attributes of the divine
nature. But it is beyond controversy, among all orthodox interpreters, that
it is Christ, the second person of the glorious Trinity (under the idea of
wisdom) that here speaks - as might be proved from the many personal
properties, personal acts and personal words that are ascribed to Him in
this passage of Scripture, which, for brevity's sake, I cannot insist upon
at this time.
penman of this book was Solomon. But, "behold, a greater than Solomon
is here", even "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of
God", "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge". Solomon had all his wisdom out of this treasure; so, being
under the direction of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, he is led, as a
type, to speak in the person of his glorious antitype, as his father David
doth frequently in the book of the Psalms, particularly in Psalms 16 and 40.
Christ recommends his dictates in the Word unto the children of men and
shows what advantage will accrue to them by the study of the Scriptures,
agreeable unto what He says: "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye
think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me"
(John 5:39). From verse 22 unto verse 31, in order to engage our faith and
trust in Him, He elegantly describes the glory of His own person. Thus we,
beholding His glory as in a glass, may be changed into His image. More
particularly, (1.) He shows how from all eternity He lodged in His Father's
arms and bosom, as His beloved Son in whom He was and is well pleased:
"The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of
old" (verse 22). (2.) He speaks of His eternal appointment unto the
great work and service of our redemption, in the words of my text, "I
was set up from everlasting . . .". We may notice:
divine person who is the speaker, in the pronoun I,
the eternal Son of God, the glorious Immanuel, the faithful and true
witness: I who am God co-equal with the Father and who sat as a constituent
member of the council of peace, about the great affair of man's redemption,
and therefore cannot but be well acquainted with what was transacted there.
The result of that eternal transaction declared with relation to Himself, I
was set up - that is, I was, by an act of the divine will, common to all
the three Persons of the glorious Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost -
elected, set apart, or fore-ordained to the great service of man's
redemption. A word parallel unto this, which casts a light upon the text,
you have in Psalm 2:7, where Christ, speaking of Himself, says, "I will
declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day
have I begotten Thee". This is called the Father's will: "Lo I
come, in the volume of the book, it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy
will" (Ps 40:7,8).
In the words we have the date of the divine council and decree, with
relation to our Redeemer, or when He was set up for that service. It bears
date from the ancient years of eternity, I
was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was.
Here are words that swallow up all finite thought and consideration; they
lead us back to an eternity past, and who could ever have told us what was
acted in the divine mind and council from all eternity but He only who is
the Alpha and the Omega, from everlasting to everlasting God. So much for
explaining the words.
That as Christ is the everlasting God; so, from all eternity, He was
foreordained and set up for the great service of man's redemption.
I was set up from everlasting . . . . To this purpose is that verse of
the apostle: "He was verily foreordained before the foundation of the
world, but was manifest in these last times" (1 Pet ).
method, through divine assistance, I shall observe, is as follows:
To prove that Christ is the
everlasting God, and that He was from
the beginning, ere ever the earth was.
Show what is meant by His
being set up from everlasting.
For what ends and purposes
He was set up.
Why He, and none else, was
set up for this end.
Make some application of
To prove that Christ is the everlasting God, and that He was from the
beginning, ere ever the earth was.
Socinians affirm that He had no being before His actual incarnation. And the
Arians, though they allow that He had a being before His incarnation; yet
they deny His eternal existence, and consequently make Him but a nominal
deity and reduce Him to the rank of created beings. Now, in opposition to
both these damnable heresies, I shall endeavour to trace a little of the
scriptural account of the eternal existence of the Son of God, our glorious
firstly, that He existed before
His incarnation, or His being born of the Virgin, is evident from the
appearance He made to our first parents in paradise after the fall: "It
[the seed of the woman] shall bruise thy head" (Gen ) - the serpent's, as explained
by the apostle in Hebrews 2:14. That this was God in the person
of the Son, intimating His future incarnation and the design thereof, is
evident, for God absolutely considered is not a promising but an avenging
God, a consuming fire unto the workers of iniquity. And all the promises in
Him are yea and amen. It is only the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and none
else, that opened the book of the divine counsel for our redemption. And
therefore it was He, and none else, that broke up this seal, and disclosed
this secret unto our first parents in paradise. In like manner, it was He
that preached the gospel to Abraham, saying, "In thy seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed", as is clear from Galatians 3:8.
find Him executing His threefold mediatorial offices before ever He came in
the flesh. We find Him, as a prophet, preaching righteousness unto the great
congregation, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation:
lo, I have not refrained My lips, O Lord, Thou knowest!" (Ps 40:9). And
by His Spirit in Noah, He preached to the old world, who, because of their
disobedience, were shut up in the prison of hell, as we see in 1 Pet
3:18-20. We find Him acting as the great Priest of His Church before His
actual appearance in the flesh, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not
repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps
110:4). And His royal and kingly office is asserted by God the Father before
ever He appeared in the flesh: "Yet have I set My King upon My holy
hill of Zion" (Ps 2:6); I have done it; it is not a thing to do, but it
is done already: I have set Him King. And He speaks to Him as a person
actually existing: "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for
Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy
possession". Thus you see Him executing all His offices before He was
I need not stand upon this point in opposition to the Socinians, seeing we
have it from Christ's own mouth, who is the faithful witness. Says He to the
Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John ), alluding probably unto that
same name He took to Himself when He appeared unto Moses in the bush and
sent him to bring Israel out of Egypt. Go, says He, and tell them,
"I AM hath sent me unto you" (Ex
then, secondly, let us go back
further, even to the creation of the world, and we shall find His existence
and agency in the production of all created beings: "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was
in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was
not any thing made that was made" (John 1:2,3). He must needs be the
everlasting God who is the Creator of all the ends of the earth: "In
the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen 1:1); hence,
"of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are
the work of Thy hands . . . " (Ps 102:25). Which words are applied unto
Christ, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the
earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but
Thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a
vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the
same, and Thy years shall not fail" (Heb -12).
thirdly, Let us run up to the
endless ages before the creation of the world, and we find Him existing or
ever the earth was (John 17:5). He prayeth that He might be glorified with
His Father, with the same glory that He had with Him before the foundation
of the world. Hence He is not only called the mighty God, but the
everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity; and "His goings forth
were from of old, from everlasting" (Mic 5:2). But I need not stand
upon this, seeing the very words of the text are so clear as to this matter,
"I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth
was". If He were not the everlasting God, He could never have been set
up from everlasting.
To enquire what is meant by His being set up from everlasting.
it supposes the council of peace, or an eternal transaction between the
Father and the Son concerning the redemption of lost sinners; for this is
the result of the counsel here declared by the Son, I was set up from
everlasting "The counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zec
it implies the infinite complacency that the Father and the Son had in each
other from all eternity. This is more clearly expressed in the verse
immediately preceding the text, "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning
of His ways, before His works of old;" and yet more clearly: "When
He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by Him, as one brought
up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him"
(verses 29,30). (So Is 42:1, Matt , 17:5.)
it implies a divine ordination and decree, whereby he was from eternity
elected unto the great service of man's redemption. Hence He is called His
Father's elect, "Behold My Servant whom I behold, Mine elect, in whom
My soul delighteth" (Is 42:1). So says God the Father, "I have
laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the
people" (Ps 89:19); and with an eye to this decree of the election of
Christ is that fore-cited verse of the apostle: "Who verily was
foreordained before the foundation of the world," (1 Pet 1:20). Though
He be God coequal with the Father, yet He voluntarily came under a decree of
election that so He might be the head of the election among mankind sinners,
in whom they are elected unto everlasting life: "He hath chosen us in
Him, before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4).
"I was set up from everlasting", implies that, in consequence of
the decree, He was called of God to undertake the work of redemption,
"I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine
hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a
light of the Gentiles" (Is 42:6). "No man taketh this honour unto
Himself, but he who is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified
not Himself to be made an high priest, but He that said unto Him, Thou art
my Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Heb 5:4,5).
it implies His own voluntary consent to, and compliance with, His Father's
call. This is of so great moment, that it is registered in the volume of the
book of God: "Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is
written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea Thy law is within My
heart" (Ps 40:7,8). Upon which words the Apostle Paul comments in
Hebrews 10:5-10, applying them to the purpose in hand.
a multitude of great promises that the Father made to Him followed upon this
voluntary consent of the Son of God. The Father promised to fit Him with a
human nature, which was to be personally united to His divine nature:
"A body hast Thou prepared Me", a promise of all needful
preparation and assistance in the undertaking. The Father promised that an
immeasurable fulness of the Spirit and all His gifts, graces and
qualifications should rest upon Him (Is 11:2,3, Is 43). He promised that
"the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. . . . Therefore
will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil
with the strong"; that He should see His seed (Is 53:10-12); that a
seed should serve Him which should be accounted to Him for a generation (Ps
22:30,31); that He would make His enemies His footstool, and greatly plague
all that hated Him; and that, when He had drunk of the brook that ran in the
way, He should again lift up the head, and be repossessed, even in the human
nature, of all that glory which He had with the Father before the world was.
now, before I go on to the third general head, I would here show how (in
consequence of all this which was done before the foundation of the world
was laid) He was actually set up in time, in the view of lost sinners of
Adam's family, whom He came to save and redeem.
His first appearance was in the promise made to our first parents, of His
future incarnation, already mentioned (Gen 3:15), which was the only
foundation of faith the Church had until the days of Abraham, to whom that
promise was renewed: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed (Gen 22:18).
He was set up typically, in the view of the Church, under the old testament.
What was the meaning of the tabernacle and temple and of all the sacrifices
and ceremonies of that economy? They were all intended as shadowy
representations of good things to come, upon the actual appearance of the
Son of God in our nature.
He was set up in the prophecies of the prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah and the
rest - for all the prophets prophesied of Him. To Him they did all bear
witness, and every one of them successively spoke more clearly than another,
till John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias, pointing Him
out with the finger, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God".
He was set up personally and actually in His incarnation, obedience and
death. His birth was celebrated and intimated by a company of angels,
saying, "Unto you is born, in the city of David , a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord," and in their heavenly anthem, "Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men". His inauguration unto His
mediatorial work, at His baptism, was celebrated by the opening of the
heavens, the descent of the Spirit upon Him in the likeness of a dove, and a
voice coming from His Father, from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased;" which voice was again repeated at His
transfiguration and His passion. His death was celebrated by the rending of
the veil of the temple from top to bottom, a quaking of the earth, a rending
of the rocks, and a darkening of the sun in the firmament; all signifying
that now the finishing stroke was given to the head of the old serpent, and
that principalities and powers were spoiled, and the prince of this world
cast out of his usurped authority and government.
He was set up in a glorious and triumphant manner in His resurrection and
ascension; for then He was "declared to be the Son of God with power,
according to the Spirit of holiness, by His resurrection from the
dead". He was set up also when "He ascended up on high",
"led captivity captive", and "sat down at the right hand of
the Majesty on high" - things in heaven and things on earth and things
under the earth being ordered to bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue
to confess that He is the Lord, to the praise and glory of His Father.
He was and is set up declaratively in the preaching of the everlasting
gospel, which is like the pole upon which the brazen serpent was lifted up
in the wilderness, by looking unto which the Israelites were cured of the
fiery serpents. Says Christ, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John
He is set up sacramentally in the sacraments of baptism and of the supper,
particularly in the last of these, which we are about this day to celebrate.
In these symbols and sacramental acts of His own institution, He is
evidently set forth crucified before you; and therein we may, as in a
mirror, discern the Lord's body, which was broken for us, and His blood of
the new testament, which was shed for us. There He is present, though not in
a corporal and carnal manner, yet in a symbolical and spiritual manner,
saying to His people, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O
He is set up in an efficacious manner in a day of conversion, and in the
renewed manifestations of Himself to the souls of His people, by the power
of His Word and Spirit, when He draws aside the veil and makes the light of
the knowledge of His glory to shine into the heart. Then, O then, Christ is
set up in the heart of the sinner; He gets the throne of the heart, and
every thought is brought into captivity unto His obedience. What a pleasant
setting up of Christ and His kingdom would it be to see Him going forth with
His bow and sword, in the gospel, travelling in the greatness of His
strength, making all the inhabitants of the land to fall under Him, everyone
crying, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our king, the Lord is our
lawgiver!" O then covenanting work would go on apace, and everyone will
say to another,
and let us join ourselves unto the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall
not be forgotten" (Jer 50:5).
Christ will be set up in a glorious and remarkable manner at His second
coming, without sin, unto the salvation of His people; for then He will
descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the
trump of God, when He shall come with clouds, and every eye shall see Him.
Then shall He be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that
believe, while all the wicked, unbelieving world, and all the kindreds of
the earth shall wail because of Him, crying to the rocks and mountains to
fall on them and hide them from the face of Him that sits upon the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb; and the heavens passing away with a mighty
noise, the elements melting with fervent heat.
show for what purposes Christ was set up from everlasting, from the
beginning, or ever the earth was.
He was set up from everlasting as a Sun to give light unto this lower world
which, through the sin of man, had become like a dungeon of darkness. No
sooner had man sinned, but his mind became dark, yea, darkness itself,
although before it was like a lamp of light, as to the knowledge of God and
of His mind and will. "Ye were sometimes darkness", says the
apostle, speaking of man in his natural state. There is the face of a
covering cast over all people and the veil that is spread over all nations,
and upon this account this world is called a dark place, and these parts of
the earth where Christ is not known are called the dark places of the earth.
But now Christ is and was set up as a glorious Sun to enlighten the world in
the knowledge of God and of the way of salvation; hence He is called the Sun
of righteousness, the Light of the world, because He, by His Word and
Spirit, spreads the light of the knowledge of the glory of God among lost
sinners of Adam's family. Hence, when the gospel of Christ, which is the
lamp of God's anointed, comes unto a people, they that "sat in darkness
saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death
light is sprung up".
He is set up as a second Adam, the Head of a new covenant of grace and
promise. All mankind were lost and ruined in the first Adam - by the breach
of the covenant of works made with him as their federal head and
representative - so that the curse of that covenant was the only legacy he
could bequeath unto his posterity. And under this curse we had lain through
all eternity if God had not raised up for us "a Horn of salvation . . .
in the house of His servant David". Sirs, God had a purpose of love and
grace, from all eternity, toward a select company of Adam's family. He
pitches upon His own beloved Son as a new covenant Head, and enters into a
covenant of grace with Him, to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery
and bring them unto a state of salvation through Him: "I have made a
covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant" (Ps 89:3).
Accordingly Christ, as the second Adam, steps into the room of the first
Adam and fulfils the covenant of works, both as to its precept and penalty;
whereby the promise of eternal life made to Him, upon condition of perfect
obedience, devolves upon Him as a second Adam and He becomes the righteous
heir of everlasting life, not only by birth, but also by purchase; and all
the promises of the covenant, and all the salvation of the covenant, stand
in Him. And that moment a sinner quits his holding of the first Adam and of
the law as a covenant and, by a faith of God's operation, is determined to
take hold of Christ and the covenant whereof He is Head, that moment, I say,
he is brought into the bonds of the covenant of grace and promise, according
to that, "Hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an
everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Is
He was set up from everlasting, as a repairer of breaches between God and
man. Whenever man sinned, and joined himself in a confederacy with Satan,
the god of this world, the breach between God and man became wide like the
sea. Death and hell were the penalty of the law; and the faithfulness of God
was pledged, so that without the shedding of blood there could be no
remission of sins. And though all the angels of heaven and men upon earth
had been sacrificed and their blood shed in order to satisfy justice, it
would have been rejected; the offence was infinite, with respect to the
object of it, and therefore a satisfaction of infinite value had to be
offered. Sacrifices and offerings - that is, of man's providing (Ps 40:6,
Heb 10) - Thou wouldest not. Well then, how shall the breach be repaired?
How shall the different claims of mercy and justice be reconciled with
respect to the guilty criminal? Lo, I come, says Christ, I will assume the
human nature, and in that nature I will die in the room of the criminal; and
in this way I will make peace through the blood of the cross. I will be
wounded for their transgressions and bruised for their iniquities; the
chastisement of their peace shall be upon Me, and by My stripes they shall
be healed; and so justice shall be satisfied, and mercy shall be for ever
magnified. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the
unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet ). Thus He is set up as the
Repairer of breaches, hence called the Mediator between God and men; and
there is no Mediator between God and men but the man Christ Jesus.
He is set up as the true temple where God sets His name, and in which alone
God is to be worshipped in an acceptable manner. The old testament
tabernacle and temple were but shadows of Christ, in whom the fulness of the
Godhead dwells bodily. And as all the worship of Israel was to be performed in the
temple, so all our sacrifices and services are to be offered up in the name
of Christ, for He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him, as our new
testament temple, is to be seen the true Shechina, the brightness of the
Father's glory and the express image of His Person. Here is the true oracle
whereby the mind of God is conveyed unto us, for "no man hath seen God
at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He
hath declared Him". Here is the true ark where the tables of the law
are kept, and in whom the law is magnified and made honourable. In Him we
have the true mercy seat and throne of grace, unto which we are called to
come with boldness, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in every
time of need. Here we have the Priest of our profession ministering in the
holy of holies, and appearing in the presence of God for us.
He is set up as a bridge of communication between God and man, between
heaven and earth, by which God comes down to us and we come up unto Him,
notwithstanding the two infinite gulfs of natural and moral distance between
Him and us. These gulfs were impassible until Christ, by His incarnation,
took away the natural distance, for in Him, as Immanuel, God and Man meet
together in one person; and by His death and satisfaction He removed the
moral distance, by taking away the sin of the world; for this end was He
manifested, to take away our sin. Now these two infinite gulfs being
removed, God and man meet together in a blessed friendship, and we have
"boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus". Hence
is that of Christ: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man
cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John ). This was shadowed by Jacob's
dream of the ladder reaching from heaven unto earth and the angels of God
ascending and descending thereupon, signifying that through Christ - in whom
all the rounds and steps of the ladder are finished - the angels are
ministering spirits unto the heirs of salvation upon the footing of Christ's
mediation, and that we have access to God through Him. Through Him we ascend
unto God's holy hill and abide in His tabernacle.
He is set up as the great gospel city of refuge, typified by the cities of
refuge under the law, unto which the manslayer was to flee for safety from
the avenger of blood (Heb ). Believers are said to flee for
refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them: justice cries for
vengeance; God's broken law cries for vengeance; conscience cries for
vengeance; the devil, as God's executioner, cries for vengeance. O the
deplorable case and condition of the poor guilty criminal before the
revelation of Christ! All refuges fail him, for the hail sweeps away all his
refuges of lies, and in this case his hope and strength perishes from the
Lord until God make a discovery of Christ as the city of refuge that He has
set open, with a cry from heaven, "Turn ye to your strongholds, ye
prisoners of hope". Then, O then, the soul flees for refuge as a dove
to its windows and gets into the clefts of the rock and abides in the secret
place and shadow of the Almighty, saying, O this is my rest, and here will I
dwell at ease, for "there is . . . no condemnation to them that are in
Christ". Here the poor soul can turn about to law, to justice, to
conscience, to the devil and the world, and say, "Who can lay any thing
to my charge? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?"
He is set up as a mystical brazen serpent in the camp of Israel , in the camp of the visible
church, that the poor sinner, finding himself stung by the fiery serpents,
sin and Satan, may be healed by looking unto Him. Hence is that of Christ,
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of Man be lifted up" (John ,15). The gospel is the pole upon
which He is lifted up in the view of all mankind: for by His commission we
preach the gospel unto every creature and the cry goes forth to the ends of
the earth, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is none else". Sirs, the venom of the old
serpent has diffused itself through all the powers and faculties of the soul
and body and it is worming out your life, and die you must unless you cast
the eye of faith upon Christ as the only ordinance of God for your
salvation. As the stung Israelite infallibly died unless he looked unto the
brazen serpent; so the sinner that does not look by faith unto Christ, the
true brazen serpent, shall infallibly die, not the first death only, but
also the second; for there is no name under heaven, given among men, whereby
a poor sinner can be saved, but the name of Jesus. But whosoever believes in
the name of Jesus shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.
He is set up as a foundation of hope and help to the lost family of Adam to
build upon for their eternal salvation: "Behold, I lay in Zion, for a
foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure
foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste (shall not be ashamed or
confounded)" (Is 28:16). All other foundations are but foundations of
sand, and the house built upon the sand will fall, and great will the fall
thereof be; "for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ". Adam, in innocency, did indeed stand upon
another foundation; and, if he had continued there, he would have obtained
life and happiness, through the covenant of works; but there is no other
foundation for a lost sinner to build upon but the foundation Christ.
He is set up as the end of the law for righteousness to every sinner that
believes in Him. He has, by His obedience unto death, and the perfect
holiness of His nature, brought in an everlasting righteousness for the
justification of the ungodly sinner that believes in Him. This is His name,
whereby He is called, The Lord our Righteousness (Jer 23:6); and "what
the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His
own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the
flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us".
This is that white raiment Christ counsels us to buy of Him that the shame
of our nakedness may not appear. And see how He sets up, or sets out, this
righteousness, even to the stout-hearted, those far from righteousness:
"I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My
salvation shall not tarry" (Is 46:13). And the language of the soul,
when it puts on that robe, is, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have
I righteousness and strength. . . . In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall
glory" (Is 45:24,25).
He is set up as a storehouse, out of which the bankrupted and beggared
sinners of Adam's family may be supplied with everything they need, for it
hath pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell and that, out
of His fulness, we may all receive grace for grace. We, who are His
ministers and ambassadors, are authorised to cast open the gates of this
storehouse and give full liberty unto all wretched, miserable, blind, poor
and naked sinners to come and take what they want, without money and without
price (Is 55:1, Rev 22:17).
to shut up this head at present, He is set up as the salvation of God to all
lost sinners. Christ, in Scripture, is frequently called The
Salvation of God. Jacob, when he is addressing his children, makes a
pause, casting his eyes upon the Shiloh that was to spring out of the tribe
of Judah, and cries, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord"
(Gen 49:19). Old Simeon gets Christ, when a babe, in his arms and says,
"Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy
word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation" (Luke ). In Him, He who is our God, is
the God of salvation. He has wrought, and still works, manifold salvation in
the midst of the earth, salvation from sin (Matt 1:22), salvation from the
curse of the broken law (Gal 3:13), salvation from Satan, for He through
death destroyed him (Heb 2:14), salvation from the sting of death (1 Cor
15:55), salvation from hell and the wrath that is to come (2 Thess 1:10). So
that, whenever a sinner looks unto Him by the eye of faith, he may sing that
song, "I will praise thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger
is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation: I will
trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song;
He also is become my salvation" (Is 12:1,2).
more particulars might be insisted on if time and strength would allow. I
only name some of them:
He was set up as our Redeemer, to pay the ransom which justice demanded,
that we might not go down to the pit.
As a Surety, to pay the debts of bankrupts; therefore He is called,
"The Surety of a better testament" (Heb ).
As a Physician, to heal us of all our diseases. With Him is the balm in Gilead, and He is the Physician there.
As a Shepherd, to gather His Father's flocks unto His fold: "He shall
feed His flock like a Shepherd" (Is 40:11).
5. As a wonderful Counsellor, to give advice in all doubtful cases (Is 9:6).
So David: "I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel" (Ps
6. As an everlasting Father, in whom the fatherless orphans of Adam's family
find mercy (Is 9:6, Hos 14:3).
As the mighty God that was able to encounter principalities and to spoil
them on His cross (Is 9:6).
As the Prince of peace, the King of Salem: "I create the fruit of the
lips; Peace, peace, to him that is afar off".
As the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, by whose declaration all
controversies are to be decided between God and man, and man and man.
As a Guide and Leader, to guide the blind by a way they know not, by His
Word and Spirit.
As a Captain of salvation, or Commander, under whose banner we are to light
our way to heaven, through the armies of hell and earth.
As a Bridegroom, with whom we are called to make a match (Is 54:6, Hos ,20).
To enquire into the grounds and reasons why Christ was set up from
everlasting for the great work and service of redemption.
Here we must have recourse unto adorable sovereignty, because it was His
will and pleasure, and say, as Christ said in another case, "Even so,
Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Matt 11:26).
Because of the goodwill He did bear to man upon earth. Hence this was one of
the notes of the song of angels at His birth, "Glory to God in the
highest; peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke ).
Because of His ability for the undertaking. "I have", says the
Lord, "laid help upon one that is mighty" (Ps 89:19). He is the
man of God's right hand, and the arm of Jehovah was in Him and with Him.
Because He voluntarily offered Himself unto the work and service, as you
heard in the first head of the doctrine; He had a heart to the work.
"Thy law", says He, "is within My heart" (Ps 40:8, Is
Because of His undaunted courage to encounter all difficulties and
opposition in the way; hence called "The Lion of the tribe of Judah ". See His courageous
behaviour (Is 50:7-9).
Because from everlasting God foresaw what a revenue of glory would accrue to
the crown of heaven through His mediation, even a greater glory than by all
His other works of creation and providence. Hence the first note of the song
of angels is, "Glory to God in the highest" (Luke ). That is to say, "All the
other works of God praise Him, but now we see the highest revenue of glory
to be levied out of the strange work of God in uniting the divine and human
natures in that Child that is born in the city of David". And I
conceive it was with an eye to this, when they are viewing the personal
glory of our Redeemer, that the seraphim cry out, "The whole earth is
full of His glory" (Is 6:3). As if they had said, "It is no
surprise to us angels to see His glory shining in the heavens, but to see
the glory of the only begotten of the Father made flesh, and dwelling among
men upon earth, a theatre of sin, rebellion and misery, this is what indeed
strikes us with astonishment and admiration".
The application of the doctrine.
Is it so that Christ was set up from all eternity for the great work and
service of man's redemption?
Then, see hence the antiquity and eternity of the love of God towards lost
sinners of Adam's family. His love must be from everlasting, because Christ
was set up from everlasting as a help meet for us: "I have laid help
upon one that is mighty" (Ps 89:19). I have done it in eternity, before
the world was. Hence the eternity of His love is asserted: "I have
loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer 31:3). Run back the love of
God, we shall never find the beginning of it.
See hence, not only the eternity, but the activity of the love of God. It
was not an indolent but an operative love; it was such a love as set His
power, His wisdom and other perfections to work, and all the persons of the
glorious Trinity to work, to accomplish His purpose of grace and love
towards sinners of mankind. So that if the question be put:
What was God doing from all eternity before He created the world? here
you have an answer: The Father and Son possessed one another "in the
beginning of His ways, before His works of old", and Infinite Wisdom,
inspired by infinite and amazing love, set Him to work to lay the plan of
our salvation through His beloved Son, as you see here: "I was set up
See hence that Christ is the great Secretary of heaven, who is intimately
acquainted with the mind of God, which is unsearchable by any other but
Himself. For you see here that He brings forth things that were done in
eternity, before ever man or angels had any being: "I was set up from
everlasting". There is a word to this purpose, "All things are
delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father;
neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the
Son will reveal Him" (Matt ). Sirs, would you know the
secrets of heaven, the mysteries of the kingdom, that were hid in God from
eternity? Then come to Christ: hear ye Him, and He will tell you things that
none in heaven or earth can tell you, but Himself: "No man hath seen
God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,
He hath declared Him".
See hence the stability and perpetuity of the covenant of grace. Why, Christ
was set up from everlasting, as the new covenant Head. The covenant was
transacted with Him, as second Adam, from everlasting (Ps 89:3). And the
covenant derives its stability from the covenant Head: "My covenant
shall stand fast with Him" (Ps 89:28), and this is the very thing that
makes it a sure covenant to us. Hence "I will visit their transgression
with the rod; nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not take from Him"
(Ps 89:33,34), and therefore "My covenant will I not break (with them),
nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips". "For this is as
the waters of Noah unto Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth
with thee, nor rebuke thee. . . . For the mountains shall depart, and the
hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee" (Is
See the great ground and reason of the stability and perpetuity of the
Church. Why, it is founded upon the everlasting mountains of the divine
decrees and perfections, whereby Christ was set up from everlasting as the
basis and foundation upon which she stands. This is the rock upon which He
builds His Church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.
Storms and tempests are raised against her: tempests of persecution,
tempests of error, tempests of divisions and delusions. But what do they all
come unto in the issue? Why, they are just like the billows of the sea
breaking upon a rock, dashing themselves into foam, while the rock stands
Was Christ set up from everlasting? Then see hence a good reason why all
hands should be at work to exalt Him and set Him on high. Why, in so doing,
we join with a whole Trinity; whose plan was to set Him up from everlasting.
Though He is rejected by the generality of builders throughout Englandand Ireland, and in
Scotlandalso, God, who set Him up from
everlasting, has made Him the head stone of the corner; and therefore,
however weak and impotent they be that are bearing testimony for Him and His
cause, yet they shall prevail. Christ and His cause will aye be uppermost at
the end of the day, for He that set Him up from everlasting will have His
cause maintained through all periods of time, in spite of all the powers of
hell and earth.
See how it is, that faith pleases God, insomuch that, without it, "it
is impossible to please Him". Why, faith exalts Christ, whom God set up
from everlasting; it falls in with the great plan of heaven and cries, O
precious Christ, precious Christ; none but Him! "Whom have I in heaven
but thee? And there is none upon earth whom I desire besides Thee" (Ps
73:25). O, says faith, He is "my Lord and my God". He is "my
God, and I will prepare Him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt
Him". He is indeed "fairer than the children of men",
"as the apple tree among the trees of the wood", "the
chiefest among ten thousand" and "altogether lovely. This is my
Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." Now, I say, such language
of faith cannot but be pleasing unto God, who set Him up from everlasting.
Hence faith is called the very work of God: "This is the work of God,
that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John ).
See the reason why God has such an implacable quarrel against the sin of
unbelief as to declare, "He that believeth not is condemned
already" (John ). Why, the reason is, it
counteracts the work of God from eternity. God set Him up from everlasting;
but unbelief is for pulling Him down, tramples His blood underfoot, and
crucifies Him afresh; it despises and rejects Him whom God set up from
everlasting. And is it any wonder, then, that God is so much offended at the
unbeliever? O sirs, you that reject Christ, and continue in your unbelief,
remember that the arrows of God's vengeance will be made drunk with your
blood through eternity for the indignities done to Him whom God set up from
See the reason why the pleasure of the Lord has prospered, and shall
prosper, in His hand, maugre [in spite of] all the opposition of hell and
earth. Why, God set Him up from everlasting, and therefore He has upheld,
and will uphold, Him. As He has finished redemption in a way of purchase,
so He shall finish it in a way of power; all His enemies shall be His
will beat down before His face
all His malicious foes
I will them greatly plague who do with hatred him oppose."(Metrical Psalm 89:23)
victorious arms shall prosper; He shall ride forth in glory and in
majesty; and they shall bow under Him because God hath set Him up from
everlasting. Who then shall ever be able to shake His throne and
government? (Ps 11:1-6).
See what good reason we have to celebrate our Christian Passover, and to
set Him up sacramentally, by perpetuating His memory upon earth until His
second coming. This sacrament of the Supper is a public owning and
confessing Him and His dying love and glorious achievements in the work of
redemption before God, angels and men. It is putting honour upon Him and
avouching Him as our Redeemer, our Mediator, our Prophet, Priest and King
in the face of the devil and his angels, who are looking on us with
vexation. It galls the devil, and stills that enemy and avenger, to see
Christ, who bruised his head upon MountCalvary, exalted and set up
among the children of men at a communion table. "Through death
He" destroyed "him that had the power of death" (Heb ), and spoiled principalities
and powers. How tormenting then must it be to the devil to see Christ at
His table, dividing the spoils among a company of poor sinners, who once
in a day were His vassals and bond slaves?
now let us go on to celebrate actually the memorials of the death of our
glorious Immanuel, and to divide the spoils of the victory over sin and
Satan, death and hell, which is the great work of the day.
Works of Ebenezer Erskine (3 volumes) are published by Free
Presbyterian Publications (Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland)