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PREFACE TO THE READER.
CHRISTIAN READER, The design of the ensuing Discourse, is to declare some part of that glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is revealed in the Scripture, and proposed as the principal object of our faith, love, delight, and admiration. But alas! after our utmost and most diligent inquiries, we must say, how little a portion is it of him that we can understand! His glory is incomprehensible, and his praises are unutterable. Some things an illuminated mind may conceive of it; but what we can express in comparison of what it is in itself, is even less than nothing. But as for those who have forsaken the only true guide herein, endeavouring to be wise above what is written, and to raise their contemplations by fancy and imagination above Scripture revelation (as many have done), they have darkened counsel without knowledge, uttering things which they understand not, which have no substance or spiritual food of faith in them.
Howbeit, that real view which we may have of Christ and his glory in this world by faith, however weak and obscure that knowledge which we may attain of them by divine revelation, is inexpressibly to be preferred above all other wisdom, understanding, or knowledge whatever. So it is declared by him, who will be acknowledged a competent judge in these things ; ‘Yea doubtless' (saith he), 'I account all these things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.' He who doth not so, hath no part in him.
The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel, is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, than the whole creation; and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford. Without the knowledge hereof, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion.
This, therefore, deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them. For if our future blessedness shall consist in being where he is, and beholding of his glory; what better preparation can there be for it, than in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the gospel, unto this very end, that by a view of it, we may be gradually transformed into the same glory.
I shall not, therefore, use any apology for the publishing of the ensuing meditations, intended first for the exercise of my own mind, and then for the edification of a private congregation, which is like to be the last service I shall do them in that kind. Some may by the consideration of them be called to attend unto the same duty with more diligence than formerly, and receive directions for the discharge of it; and some may be provoked to communicate their greater light and knowledge unto the good of many. And that which I design farther in the present Discourse, is to give a brief account of the necessity and use, in life and death, of the duty exhorted unto.
Particular motives unto the diligent discharge of this duty, will be pressed in the Discourse itself. Here some things more general only shall be premised. For all persons not immersed in sensual pleasures, not overdrenched in the love of this world, and present things, who have any generous or noble thoughts about their own nature, being, and end, are under the highest obligation to betake themselves unto this contemplation of Christ and his glory. Without this they shall never attain true rest or satisfaction in their own minds. He it is alone in whom the race of mankind may boast and glory, on whom all its felicities do depend. For,
1. He it is in whom our nature, which was debased as low as hell by apostacy from God, is exalted above the whole creation. Our nature, in the original constitution of it, in the persons of our first parents, was crowned with honour and dignity. The image of God wherein it was made, and the dominion over the lower world wherewith it was intrusted, made it the seat of excellency, of beauty, and of glory. But of them all it was at once divested and made naked by sin, and laid grovelling in the dust from whence it was taken. Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return,' was its righteous doom. And all its internal faculties were invaded by deformed lusts; every thing that might render the whole unlike unto God, whose image it had lost. Hence it became the contempt of angels, the dominion of Satan, who being the enemy of the whole creation, never had any thing or place to reign in, but the debased nature of man. Nothing was now more vile and base, its glory was utterly departed. It had both lost its peculiar nearness unto God, which was its honour, and was fallen into the greatest distance from him of all creatures, the devils only excepted, which was its ignominy and shame. And in this state, as unto any thing in itself, it was left to perish eternally.
In this condition, lost, poor, base, yea, cursed, the Lord Christ the Son of God found our nature. And hereon, in infinite condescension and compassion, sanctifying a portion of it unto himself, he took it to be his own in a holy, ineffable subsistence, in his own person. And herein again the same nature, so depressed into the utmost misery, is exalted above the whole creation of God. For in that very nature, God hath set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.' This is that which is so celebrated by the psalmist, with the highest admiration, Psal. viii. 38. This is the greatest privilege we have among all our fellow-creatures; this we may glory in, and value ourselves upon. Those who engage this nature on the service of sensual lusts and pleasures, who think that its felicity and utmost capacities consist in their satisfaction with the accomplishment of other earthly temporary desires, are satisfied with it in its state of apostacy from God. But those who have received the light of faith and grace; so as rightly to understand the being and end of that nature whereof they are partakers, cannot but rejoice in its deliverance from the utmost debasement into that glorious exaltation, which it hath received in the person of Christ. And this must needs make thoughts of him full of refreshment unto their souls. Let us take care of our persons; the glory of our nature is safe in him. For,
2. In him the relation of our nature unto God, is eternally secured. We were created in a covenant relation unto God. Our nature was related unto him in a way of friendship, of likeness, and complacency. But, the bond of this relation and
union was quickly broken by our apostacy from him. Hereon our whole nature became to be at the utmost moral distance from God, and enmity against him, which is the depth of misery. But God, in infinite wisdom and grace, did design once more to recover it, and take it again near unto himself. And he would do it in such a way, as should render it utterly impossible that there should ever be a separation between him and it any more. Heaven and earth may pass away, but there shall never be a dissolution of the union between God and our nature any more.
He did it, therefore, by assuming it into a substantial union with himself, in the person of the Son. Hereby the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in it bodily, or substantially, and eternally. Hereby is its relation unto God eternally secured. And among all the mysterious excellencies which relate hereunto, there are two which continually present themselves unto our consideration.
1. That this nature of ours, is capable of this glorious exaltation and subsistence in God. No creature could conceive how omnipotent wisdom, power, and goodness, could actuate themselves unto the production of this effect. The mystery hereof, is the object of the admiration of angels, and will be so of the whole church, unto all eternity. What is revealed concerning the glory, way, and manner of it, in the Scripture, I have declared in my treatise concerning the mystery of godliness, or the person of Christ. What mind can conceive, what tongue can express, who can sufficiently admire the wisdom, goodness, and condescension of God herein! And whereas he hath proposed unto us this glorious object of our faith and meditation, how vile and foolish are we, if we spend our thoughts about other things in a neglect of it!