Return to article Print
The John Newton Project

Messiah No. 5

No 5 col

Isaiah 7:14

[Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, God with us.] [1]
 
 
The Lord God has impressed a signature of his wisdom and power upon his works, which evidently distinguishes them from the feeble imitations of men. 
5 glimmering
Not only the splendour of the sun, but the glimmering of the glow-worm, proclaims his glory.
The structure and growth of a blade of grass are the effects of the same power which produced the fabric of the heavens and the earth. 
In his word likewise he is inimitable.  He has a style and manner peculiarly his own.  What he declares (Isaiah 55) is confirmed by the whole Scripture:  My thoughts are not your thoughts, etc. [2]  The superiority of his thoughts to ours causes a proportionable difference in his manner of operation.  His ways are above and often contrary to our conceptions.  He sometimes produces great effects by means which to us appear unsuitable and weak. 
 
Thus he gave Gideon a complete victory, not by providing him an army equal to that of the enemy but by 300 men armed only with earthen pitchers and lamps.  At other times the greatness of his methods, intimate difficulties insuperable to any power but his own, when our narrow apprehensions, till enlightened and enlarged by his wisdom, can see little difficulty. 
 
It is eminently so with respect to the restoration of fallen man to his favour.  We have but slight thoughts of his holiness, and therefore are but slightly affected by the evil of sin.  But though he is rich in mercy, no wisdom but his own could have proposed an expedient by which the exercise of mercy towards sinners, could be made to correspond with his justice and truth and the honour of his government. 
5 infinite
But infinite wisdom and infinite love, provided a way in which mercy and truth meet together, and his inflexible righteousness is displayed in perfect harmony with the peace of those who have transgressed his holy laws, and God appears not only gracious but just, in restoring rebels to favour. 
 
This is the greatest of all his works, and exhibits the most glorious discoveries of his perfections which creatures are capable of conceiving.  The means are answerable to the grandeur of the design.  They are summarily expressed in my text:  Behold, attend, admire and believe – a virgin shall conceive etc.
I shall not take up your time with an attempt to clear the difficulties of the context. Let it suffice that this passage expressly, and exclusively, refers to the Messiah, and is directly applied as accomplished in him, by the evangelists Luke and Matthew.  If sinners are to be saved, without injury to his government and the honour of his law (and otherwise they must perish) two things are necessary:
1. A virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son
The Mediator, the Surety, must be a man.  Those whom he came to redeem were partakers of flesh and blood — he therefore took part of the same.  Had not the Messiah engaged for us, a case would have occurred, which I think we may justly deem incongruous to the divine wisdom – that while fire and hail, snow and vapour and the stormy wind fulfil the will of God; while the whole brute creation are faithful to the instincts implanted in them by their Maker – a whole species of intelligent beings would have fallen short of the original law and design of their creation, and indeed have acted in direct and continual opposition to it.  For the duty of man to live, serve and trust God with all his heart and mind, and to love his neighbour as himself, is founded in the very nature and constitution of things, and necessarily results from his relation to God, and his absolute dependence on him as a creature.  Such a disposition was doubtless as natural to man before the fall, as it is for a bird to fly, or a fish to swim.  But sin degraded and disabled him, detached him from his proper centre, if I may so speak, and rendered both his obedience and happiness impossible.  Neither Adam after his fall, nor any of his posterity have kept this law; but the Messiah fulfilled it exactly as a man, and the principles of it are renewed in all who believe in him; and though the best fall short, his obedience is accepted on their behalf, and he will at length perfectly restore them to the primitive order and honour of their creation.  When they shall see him as he is, they shall be like him. [3]

Again, the Messiah must not only be a man, but partaker of our very nature.  It had been easy to divine power to have formed the second Adam as he did the first, out of the dust of the earth, but though in this way he might have been a true and perfect man, he would have been no more related to us, than an angel.  Therefore when God sent forth his Son to be made under the law, he was made of a woman, thus he became our Goel, our near kinsman. But –

Farther, had he denied his human nature, wholly in the ordinary way from sinful parents, we see not how he could have escaped that inherent defilement which the fall of Adam has entailed upon all his posterity.  But his body, that holy thing conceived and born of a virgin, was the immediate production of God.  Therefore he was perfectly pure and spotless, qualified to be such a high priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, [4] who needed not as the typical high priests of Israel, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. These difficulties were obviated, by a virgin’s conceiving and bearing a son.  Let us now pause and admire the wisdom of God, let us adore his power.  Thus he created a new thing upon earth.  But,
2.   The wonder rises unspeakably: this Son of the virgin, shall be called Emanuel, God with us.
  wonder rises
  The human nature of Christ considered alone, was not sufficient for the great undertaking of reconciliation.  Two things were requisite which exceeded the utmost capacity of any mere creature: dignity and power.


 
2.1    As sinless and perfect, he might have yielded a complete obedience, but it could have been only for himself.  The most excellent creature cannot exceed the law of his creation.  He is bound to serve God with his all, and his obligations keep pace with his ability.  An obedience acceptable and available for others, for thousand[thousands] and millions, for all who plead it, must be performed by a nature not necessarily bound.  It was therefore a divine person in the human nature, who engaged for us.  He who was before all, by whom all things were made, assumed the nature of man.  The lawgiver himself submitted in this way, to be under his own law.  This gave a value and dignity to all that he did, to all that he suffered; thus he not only satisfied but honoured the law.  We may boldly say the law and perfections of God were more honoured by the Messiah in his obedience during a few years’ residence upon earth, terminated by the last and highest act of obedience, in submitting to the death of the cross, than it could have been by the unsinning obedience of all mankind to the end of time.
2.2   The Messiah was not only to obey but to expiate, to sustain and exhaust the curse due to sin (Galatians 3 [5]).  In this attempt no mere creature could have endured.  Nor could the sufferings of a creature, have been proposed to the universe, as a sufficient consideration to vindicate the righteousness of God in the remission of sin, after he had determined and declared that the wages of sin is death.  Upon the same ground that the Apostle tells us it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, we may assert the same of the blood of man, or of angels, if angels could bleed.  But the atoning blood, is the blood of Emanuel, the blood of God (Acts 20) [6] – of God with us.  And no sinner obtains forgiveness in this way, but he obtains by it such a knowledge of the evil of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it, as teaches and disposes him, from that hour to fear, hate and forsake it.
Behold then the character of the Messiah in this prophecy: a man, a God-man, a divine person in the human nature, God manifested in the flesh! God with us.

As fallen creatures, we had lost the true knowledge of God, and were unable to conceive of him to our comfort.  His glory shines in the heavens and fills the earth, yet he is to us unknown and unnoticed.  But he is known and found, where the Messiah is known.  To us his glory shines in the person of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

As fallen creatures, God is against us and we are against him.  But in the Messiah, he is reconciled: God with us.

He is God in our nature still.  He suffered as a man and as a man he now reigns on the throne of glory – exercises all power and receives all spiritual worship both in heaven and upon earth.  He is the head of principalities and powers, thrones and dominions, and has a name above every name.  Thus man is not only saved but enabled, brought into the nearest relation to him that sitteth upon the throne, and can say, He is our Lord, our Shepherd, our Saviour, our friend, Emanuel, God with us.

Infer:

What a cold assent is paid to this doctrine by many who profess to receive it as a truth!

What a strong foundation for the faith and hope of those who have put their trust in him.

How awful the state of those who reject him, and say in their hearts, We will not have this man to reign over us? [7]  He is now manifested as a Saviour, hereafter he will appear as a judge.  Embrace his golden sceptre – lest you are broken by his rod of iron!
 


Endnotes:
 
[1] KJV: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
[2] Isaiah 55: 8-11 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it
.
[3] 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
[4] Hebrews 7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
[5] Galatians 3:10,13 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them… Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
[6] Acts 20:28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
[7] Luke 19:14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.


Acknowledgements:
Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's Messiah notebook
 

Marylynn Rouse, 07/01/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 10:36 on 12 December 2019