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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. 3-8. 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!
2. This is also an ineffable pledge of the love of God unto our nature. For although he will not take it in any other instance, save that of the man Christ Jesus, into this relation with himself, by virtue of personal union; yet therein he hath given a glorious pledge of his love unto, and valuation of, that nature. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.' And this kindness extends unto our persons, as participant of that nature. For he designed this glory unto the man Christ Jesus, that he might be the first-born of the new creation, that we might be made conformable unto him according to our measure; and as the members of that body, whereof he is the head, we are participant in this glory.
3. It is he, in whom our nature hath been carried successfully, and victoriously, through all the oppositions that it is liable unto, and even death itself. But the glory hereof I shall speak unto distinctly in its proper place, which follows, and therefore shall here pass it by.
4. He it is, who in himself hath given us a pledge of the capacity of our nature to inhabit those blessed regions of light, which are far above these aspectable heavens. Here we dwell in tabernacles of clay, that are crushed before the moth;' such as cannot be raised, so as to abide one foot-breadth above the earth we tread upon. The heavenly luminaries which we can behold, appear too great and glorious for our cohabitation. We are as grasshoppers in our own eyes, in comparison of those gigantic beings; and they seem to dwell in places, which would immediately swallow up, and extinguish our natures. How then shall we entertain an apprehension of being carried and exalted above them all? to have an everlasting subsistence in places incomprehensibly
more glorious than the orbs wherein they reside? What capacity is there in our nature of such a habitation? But hereof the Lord Christ hath given us a pledge in himself. Our nature in him, is passed through these aspectable heavens, and is exalted far above them. Its eternal habitation is in the blessed regions of light and glory; and he hath promised that where he is, there we shall be, and that for ever.
Other encouragements there are innumerable to stir us up unto diligence in the discharge of the duty here proposed; namely, a continual contemplation of the glory of Christ in his person, office, and grace. Some of them, the principal of them, which I have any acquaintance with, are represented in the ensuing Discourse. I shall, therefore, here add the peculiar advantage which we may obtain in the diligent discharge of this duty. Which is, that it will carry us cheerfully, comfortably, and victoriously, through life and death, and all that we have to conflict withal in either of them.
And let it be remembered, that I do here suppose what is written on this subject in the ensuing Discourse, as being designed to prepare the minds of the readers for the due improvement of it.
As unto this present life, it is well known what it is unto the most of them, who concern themselves in these things. Temptations, afflictions, changes, sorrows, dangers, fears, sickness, and pains, do fill up no small part of it. And on the other hand, all our earthly relishes, refreshments, and comforts, are uncertain, transitory, and unsatisfactory; all things of each sort being imbittered by the remainders of sin. Hence every thing wherein we are concerned, hath the root of trouble and sorrow in it. Some labour under wants, poverty, and straits all their days; and some have very few hours free from pains and
sickness. And all these things, with others of an alike nature, are heightened at present, by the calamitous season wherein our lot is fallen. All things almost in all nations are filled with confusions, disorders, dangers, distresses, and troubles; wars and rumours of wars, do abound, with tokens of farther approaching judgments; distress of nations, with perplexities, men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.' There is in many places 'no peace unto him that goeth out, nor to him that cometh in, but great vexations are on the inhabitants of the world; nation is destroyed of nation, and city of city, for God doth vex them with all adversity.' And in the mean time, vexation, with the ungodly deeds of wicked men, doth greatly farther the troubles of life; the sufferings of many also for the testimony of their consciences are deplorable, with the divisions and animosities that abound amongst all sorts of Christians.
But the shortness, the vanity, the miseries of human life, have been the subject of the complaints of all sorts of considering persons, heathens as well as Christians; nor is it my present business to insist upon them. My inquiry is only after the relief which we may obtain against all these evils, that we faint not under them, that we may have the victory over them.
This in general is declared by the apostle, 2 Cor. iv. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. But for this cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a more exceed