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hoped to prevail against the Almighty by SER M. Power and Force, as Some have fuppofed; is indeed too abfurd to be imagined. But that they should rebel against the Counsel and Will of God, and endeavour malicioufly to overthrow his Kingdom of Righteoufness; this is no more than what wicked men, in a lower degree, are perpetually doing. But 2dly, It may be confidered further, that poffibly the Tempter was not yet fure, whether our Lord was indeed the Meffiab or no. His words, If thou be the Son of God, feem to express his uncertainty concerning that matter. And there are several other things taken notice of in Scripture, the obferving of which will make This feem lefs improbable. The Evangelifts tell us, that the Devil entred into Judas, and put it in his Heart to betray his Mafter. By This it appears, that the Tempter did not even Then know, that the Salvation of Men was to be accomplished by the fhedding of the Blood of Chrift; feeing he hoped to put an End to the Doctrine of Christ, by destroying his Life. And This will be the lefs to be wondred at, if we confider what
SER M. is declared in Scripture even concerning VIII. good Angels themselves, who always behold the Face of our Father which is in Heaven. 1 Pet. i. 11; The Antient Prophets, fays the Apostle, fearched What, and what manner of Time, the Spirit of Chrift which was in them did fignify, when it teftified beforehand the Sufferings of Chrift, and the Glory that fhould follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto Us they did minifter the things which are now reported unto you by Them that have preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghoft fent down from Heaven. Which things, the Angels defire to look into. Not only Evil Spirits understood not, what the Prophets had foretold concerning the Sufferings of Chrift, and the Glory that fhould follow; but even Good Angels themselves, St Peter tells us, were defirous to look into Thofe things. And St. Paul carries this matter ftill further: Eph. iii. 9; To preach, faith he, the unSearchable Riches of Chrift; and to make all men fee what is the Fellowship of the Mystery, which from the Beginning of the World, bath been hid in God, who
created all things by Jefus Chrift; To the SER M. intent that Now unto the Principalities VIII. and Powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold Wif dom of God. By the Church; that is, by the Difpenfations of God's Providence towards his univerfal Church, by the Events accomplishing antient Types and Myfteries; and by the clear fulfilling of obscure Prophecies; by These is the Wisdom of God, and the manifold Beauty of the Divine Counfels, made known not to Men only, but to Angels alfo. And This perhaps is the true meaning of That obfcure Text: 1 Tim. iii. 16. The Mystery of Godliness, This is (or God) * manifeft in the Flesh, was feen of Angels: Seen, not in the literaling. Sense; for That was no mystery; But underflood, apprehended, made plain, to the Angels; who were before, in That fenfe, defirous to look into it. To mention but One place more: There is a very remarkable expreffion in the Book of Tobit, ch. vi. 17; where the Angel Raphael, one of the feven Spirits that are defcribed going in and out before the Throne of God, is introduced thus fpeaking: More
the old and
SER M.over, I fuppofe, fays he, (he does not VIII. fpeak as with certain knowledge, but, I fuppofe, fays he,) that he shall bear thee children. He who confiders Thefe, and the like expreffions of Scripture; will not perhaps think Evil Spirits to be Crea tures of fuch extenfive Capacity, but that the Tempter might very well be uncertain, whether our Saviour was the promi fed Meffiah or no, at the Time of his prefuming to tempt him as in the Text. But 3dly, Suppofing the Tempter did know our Lord to be the promised Meffiab, at the Time of his tempting him; yet ftill it was by no means impoffible for the Great Deceiver to fuppofe, that as, by feducing the Firft Adam, he had excluded Mankind out of That Paradise which God had planted for them; fo by endeavouring to make fome impreffion or other upon the Second Adam, he might prevent men from being reftored to Paradife again; and fo a fecond time defeat the Counsel of God. Defeat the Counsel of God; That is, not prevent any thing that the Almighty had refolved abfolutely to accomplish: For, in That fenfe, nothing
can refift his Will, nothing can oppose his SER M. Power: But the Enemy may oppofe fuch VIII.
Counfels or Designs of God for the Salvation of Mankind, as are conditional only, and appointed to depend upon the Behaviour of Others: Such Counfels of God, as even Men are at liberty by their Perverseness and Obftinacy to disappoint. As when the Evangelift tells us, St. Luke i. 30; that the Pharifees and Lawyers rejected the Counsel of God against themfelves: That is; Against their own Intereft, against their own both Temporal and Eternal Welfare, they rejected the gracious Offers of the divine Mercy. Such Counfels of God as thefe, it is no wonder that He whofe Works and Kingdom our Lord came to deftroy, fhould endeavour to oppofe. Nor is it at all impoffible, that the Design of God in fending the Meffiab into the World, might feem to the Tempter to be of the fame Nature; to be conditional likewise. For as all the Threatnings of God, even those which in the manner of Expreffion are most peremptory and abfolute, yet in reality muft always be understood to be conditional, VOL. VI O