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Is it not much to be lamented that
Christians content themselves with a very superficiary knowledge of these things? How are the studies, the abilities, the time, and diligence of many excellent persons engaged in, and laid out about, the works of nature, and the effects of divine wisdom and power in them, by whom any endeavour to inquire into this glorious mystery is neglected, if not despised ? Alas, the light of divine wisdom in the greatest works of nature, holds not the proportion of the meanest star unto the sun in its full strength, unto that glory of it which shines in this mystery of God manifest in the flesh, and the work accomplished thereby. A little time shall put an end unto the whole subject of their inquiries, with all the concernment of God and man in them for evermore. This alone is that which fills up eternity, and which although it be now with some a nothing, yet will shortly be all.
Is it not much more to be lamented, that many who are called Christians do even despise these mysteries ? Some oppose them directly with pernicious heresies about the person of Christ, denying his divine nature, or the personal union of his two natures, whereby the whole mystery of infinite wisdom is evacuated and rejected. And some there are who though they do not deny the truth of this mystery, yet they both despise and reproach such as with any diligence endeavour to inquire into it. I shall add the words used on a like occasion, unto them who sincerely believe the mysteries of the gospel. But ye beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life.' And the due contemplation of this mystery will certainly be attended with many spiritual advantages.
[1.] It will bring in steadfastness in believing as unto the especial concerns of our own souls ; so as to give unto God the glory that is his due thereon. This is the work, these are the ends of faith ; Rom. v. 1-5. We see how many Christians who are sincere believers, yet fluctuate in their minds with great uncertainties as unto their own state and condition. The principal reason of it, is because they are unskilful in the word of righteousness, and so are babes in a weak condition, as the apostle speaks ; Heb. v. 13.
This is the way of spiritual peace. When the soul of a believer is able to take a view of the glory of the wisdom of God, exalting all the other holy properties of his nature in this great mystery unto our salvation, it will obviate all fears, remove all objections, and be a means of bringing in assured peace into the mind; which without a due comprehension of it, will never be attained.
[2.] The acting of faith hereon, is that which is accompanied with its great power to change and transform the soul into the image and likeness of Christ. So is it expressed by the apostle, 2 Cor. iii. 18. We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.' We all beholding ; KATOTTPLEÓpevol, not taking a transient glance of these things, but diligently inspecting them, as those do who through a glass design a steady view of things at a distance. That which we are thus to behold by the continued actings of faith in holy contemplation, is the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ,' as it expressed, chap.iv. 6. which is nothing but that mystery of godliness, in whose explanation we have been engaged. And what is the effect of the steady contemplation of this mystery by faith ? uerauoppouueJa, 'we are changed,' made quite other creatures than we were, cast into the form, figure, and image of Jesus Christ, the great design of all believers in this world. Would we then be like unto Christ? Would we bear the image of the heavenly, as we have borne the image of the earthy? Is nothing so detestable unto us as the deformed image of the old man, in the lusts of the mind and of the flesh? Is nothing so amiable and desirable as the image of Christ and the representation of God in him? this is the way, this is the means of attaining the end which we aim at.
[3.] Abounding in this duty is the most effectual means of freeing us in particular from the shame and bane of profession in earthly mindedness. There is nothing so unbecoming a Christian, as to have his mind always exercised about, always filled with, thoughts of earthly things. And according as men's thoughts are exercised about them, their affections are increased and inflamed towards them. These things mutually promote one another, and there is a kind of
circulation in them. Multiplied thoughts inflame affections, and inflamed affections increase the number of thoughts concerning them, Nothing is more repugnant unto the whole life of faith, nothing more obstructive unto the exercise of all grace, than a prevalency of this frame of mind. And at this season in an especial manner it is visibly preying on the vitals of religion. To abound in the contemplation of this mystery, and in the exercise of faith about it, as it is diametrically opposed unto this frame, so it will gradually cast it out of the soul. And without this we shall labour in the fire for deliverance from this pernicious evil.
[4.] And hereby arę we prepared for the enjoyment of glory above. No small part of thạt glory consists in the eternal contemplation and adoration of the wisdom, goodness, love, and power of God in this mystery, and the effects of it, as shall afterward be declared.
And how can we better or otherwise be prepared for it, but by the implanting a sense of it on our minds by sedulous contemplation whilst we are in this world ? God will not take us into heaven, into the vision and possession of heavenly glory, with our heads and hearts reeking with the thoughts and affections of earthly things. He hath appointed means to make us 'meet for the inheritance of the saints in light,' before he will bring us into the enjoyment of it. And this is the principal way whereby he doth it. For hereby it is that we are changed into the image of Christ from glory to glory, and make the nearest approaches unto the eternal fulness of it,
The nature of the person of Christ, and the hypostatical union
of his natures declared.
The nature or constitution of the person of Christ hath been commonly spoken unto, and treated of, in the writings both of the ancient and modern divines. It is not my purpose in this discourse to handle any thing that hath been so fully
already declared by others. Howbeit to speak something of it in this place, is necessary unto the present work; and Ishall do it in answer unto a double end or design.
First, To help those that believe, in the regulation of their thoughts about this divine person, so far as the Scripture goeth before us. It is of great importance unto our souls, that we have right conceptions concerning him; not only in general, and in opposition unto the pernicious heresies of them by whom his divine person, or either of his natures are denied; but also in those especial instances wherein it is the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and grace. For although the knowledge of him mentioned in the gospel, be not confined merely unto his person in the constitution thereof, but extends itself unto the whole work of his mediation, with the design of God's love and grace therein, with our own duty thereon; yet is this knowledge of his person the foundation of all the rest, wherein, if we mistake or fail, our whole building in the other parts of the knowledge of him will fall unto the ground. And although the saving knowledge of him is not to be obtained without especial divine revelation, Matt. xvi. 17. or saving illumination, 1 John v. 20. nor can we know him perfectly, until we come where he is to behold his glory; 1 John xvii. 24. yet are instructions from the Scripture of use to lead us into those farther degrees of the knowledge of him which are attainable in this life.
Secondly, To.manifest in particular how ineffably distinct the relation between the Son of God and the man Christ Jesus, is from all that relation and union which may be between God and believers, or between God and any other creature. The want of a true understanding hereof, is the fundamental error of many in our days.
We shall manifest thereupon how it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,' so that in all things he might have the pre-eminence;' Col. i. 18, 19. And I shall herein wholly avoid the curious inquiries, bold conjectures, and unwarrantable determinations of the schoolmen and some others. For many of them designing to explicate this mystery, by exceeding the bounds of Scripture light and sacred sobriety, have obscured it. Endeavouring to render all things plain unto reason, they have expressed many things unsound as unto faith, and fallen into manifold contradictions among themselves. Hence Aquinas affirms, that three of the ways of declaring the hypostatical union which are proposed by the master of the sentences, are so far from probable opinions, as that they are downright heresies. I shall therefore confine myself in the explication of this mystery unto the propositions of divine revelation, with the just and necessary expositions of them.
What the Scripture represents of the wisdom of God in this great work, may be reduced unto these four heads.
1. The assumption of our nature into personal subsistence with the Son of God.
2. The union of the two natures in that single person which is consequential thereon.
3. The mutual communication of those distinct natures, the divine and human, by virtue of that union.
4. The enunciations or predications concerning the person of Christ, which follow on that union and communion.
1. The first thing in the divine constitution of the person of Christ as God and man, is assumption. That ineffable divine act I intend, whereby the person of the Son of God assumed our nature, or took it into a personal subsistence with himself. This the Scripture expresseth sometimes actively with respect unto the divine nature acting in the person of the Son, the nature assuming; sometimes passively with respect unto the human nature, the nature assumed. The first it doth, Heb. ii. 14. 16. • Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.' Phil. ii. 6, 7. • Being in the form of God, he took on him the form of a servant;' and in sundry other places. The assumption, the taking of our human nature to be his own, by an ineffable act of his power and grace, is clearly expressed. And to take it to be his own, his own nature, can be no otherwise but by giving it a subsistence in his own person; otherwise his own nature it is not, nor can be. Hence God is said to purchase his church with his own blood,'Acts xx. 28. That relation and denomination of his own,' is from the single person of him whose it is. The latter is declared, John i. 14.. The Word