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Prop. XXI.-In so doing we shall 'effectually secure our own
Salvation; For the Scripture has made our Salvation to depend on those Relations and Offices which these divine Persons sustain, and on the Ilonours due to them according to these Offices, rather than upon any deep
. Philosophical Notions of their Essence and Personalities, any nice and exact Acquaintance with their mysterious Union and Distinction.
I have said before, that I know not bow we can pay such honours and worship to Christ or the blessed Spirit, as are expressed and described in the New Testament, unless we suppose them to have some real communion in the divine nature, and to have true godhead belonging to them : Yet if we turn over all the books of the New Testament, we shall find that the stress of our salvation is laid upon our humble sense of our sins, our return to God the Father by sincere repentance, and change of heart and life, and our unfeigned faith in the Lord Jesus. These were the great and glorious things that St. Paul mentions as the sum of his preaching in order to the salvation of men. Acts xx. 21. “Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
And when the things absolutely necessary to salvation are mentioned, which relate particularly to our Lord Jesus Christ, these are generally comprehended in a belief of the characters and offices of Christ, as the great promised Messiah, as a Saviour, a Prophet, a Mediator, a Priest, and proper sacrifice of atonement, as a Lord and King, as an example, as a head of vital influence, as our final Judge, &c. together with our sense of his all-sufficiency for those offices, and our sacred practical regards to him in the discharge of them. These are the chief things required in order to salvation; and not a distinct knowledge or belief how or in what manner he is the saine with the Father, and in what manner he differs from the Father.
The language in which the requisites of salvation are generally expressed, as they relate to Christ or the Holy Spirit, is as follows:
Acts xvi. 31. “ Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.”
Mark i. 15. “ Repent ye, and believe the gospel,” that is, the glad tidings of peace with God by Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Mark xvi. 16. “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
John viii. 24. “ If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins," that is, if ye believe not that I am the Messialı, the promised Saviour of mankind. Acts ii. 38. “ Repent and be baptized every one of you in
the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Jolin iii. 3. “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" verse 5. “ Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God :" that is, except he be inwardly regenerated, sanctified and cleansed from sin by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as we are outwardly baptized and cleansed with water, he cannot be saved.
Rom. viii. 9.“ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Verse 13. “ If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
Rom. x. 9. “ If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe with thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Verse 13. “ He that calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts x. 43. “ To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins."
John i. 12. “ But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that be lieve on his name.”
John vi. 37. “ Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Mat. xi. 28. “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and aro heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Heb. vii. 25. “ He is able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God by him."
Rom. iii. 25. “ Him hath God set forth for a propitiation, through faith in his blood.”
2 Tim. i. 12. “I know whom I have believed, that is Christ, and I am persuaded he is able to keep what I have committed to him against that day.”
Heb. v. 9. “ He became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him."
John vi. 40. « This is the will of him that hath sent me, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on bin, may have everlasting life : And I will raise him up at the last day.”
Now faith or believing in our Lord Jesus, is most frequently mentioned here : And this, so far as we can find it explained in scripture, and made necessary to salvation, signifies chiefly, a believing him to be the Messiah, the Christ, who was foretold by all the ancient prophets as the Saviour of mankind, and it includes in it, or necessarily draws after it, such addresses of the soul, and sacred regards to him, as are suited to his character as the Lord and Saviour of mankind, and the only and all-suffi. cient Mediater between God and man
The only difficulty lies in this, that several places of the New Testament scein to make a belief of Christ to be the Son of God necessary to salvation; as Joho xx. 31. “ These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” 1 John v. 13. “ These things bave I written unto you, that believe on the name of the Son of God ; that ye may know that ye bave eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 Jobniv. 15. “ Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him.” 1 John ü. 23. “ Whosoever denieth the Son, the same bath not the Fatber."
Now the objection runs thus : If we are required to believe that Christ is the Son of God, then we must know and believe what is this relation of sonship to God the Father in order to salvation, and this seems to be more than a mere knowledge. and belief of his offices, and his all-sufficient capacity to fulfil them.
In answer to this objection, I bave shewn in a particular discourse, which I had once designed to publish at the eod of this book, what appears to me the true meaning of this name, “ Son of God ;” and upon the best judgment I can make, by a comparison of scriptures together, I am inclined to believe that this name Son of God signifies, “ That glorious person wbo bas in general some peculiar and sublime relation to God the Father, and is appointed to be the Messiah or Saviour ;” and the chief things included herein, are his office and his divine fitness and capacity to fulfil it ; and it is under this notion Christ was preached to the Jews, and believed on by the disciples. It is this that ren. ders him directly suitable to the necessities of perishing sinners, and a most proper object for the exercise of a saving faith. This therefore is the most natural and probable sense of this title, "the Son of God,” in the general use of it in the New Testament; and especially in those places where our salvation is made to depend on the belief of it.
This imperfect idea or conception of some glorious and peculiar but unknown relation to God, seems to be the utinost which at that time the disciples could well arrive at concerning his
How far they could be apprized of his true godhead, I make not the matter of my present enquiry : Their faith of that sometimes at least seemed to be fluttering and dubious. But as to their notion of his sonship, they seem to have no certain idea whether it related to his body, or his soul, to his divine nature, or his office, or to several of these together.
It is hard to suppose, that the eternal generation of the Son of God, as a distinct person, yet co-equal, and consubstantial, or of the same essence with the Father, should be made a fundamental article of faith, in that dawn of the gospel, that hour of jewish twilight between deelining judaism and rising christianity. It is very hard to imagine, that God should propose so sublime a doctrine of so obscure and doubtful evidence in that day, as a test to the faith of poor ignorant fishermen, and pronounce damnation on the disbelief of it
I am persuaded therefore, that faith in him as the divine Messiah, or all-sufficient and appointed Saviour, is the thing re. quired in those very texts where he is called the Sop of God, and proposed as such for the object of our belief: And that a belief of the natural and eterval and consubstantial sonship of Christ to God as a Father, was not made the necessary term or requisite of salvation, neither in those texts before mentioned, nor in any others. Nor indeed can I find it asserted or revealed with so much evidence in any part of the word of God, as is veces. sary to make it a fundamental article of my faith.
This doctrine of the co-eternal generation and consubstan, tial and co-equal sonship, is but one of the learned schemes found out to explain the “ modus” or manner of one godhead subsisting in distinct persons. Now I would fain bave my readers learn that our faith in the scripture doctrine of the true and eternal godhead of Christ, which is plainly revealed, does not necessarily depend on any of those learned schemes and explications, which, if they are not merely humane, yet are of more doubtful revelation, and a matter of difficulty and dispute even among the learned and pious Trinitarians.
I grant it indeed a very possible thing, that the great God may propose any sublime truth to our belief, as a test of the obedience of our understanding to his word, and a trial of the submission of our reason to faith and divine revelation. But then such a truth must be revealed with bright evidence, and great plainness in the word of God. And we ought to keep our consciences under so awful a' sense of this sovereignty of God, as to make us willing to submit our belief to every such truth plainly revealed in scripture, even though it may surmount our present comprehension. And since God hatb revealed it, I think, with sufficient evidence in scripture that the Son and Holy Spirit have real communion with the Father, in the divine nature or god. head, and are the one true God, we should be much afraid to allow ourselves in any degrading sentiments concerning those glorious persons, and maintain a holy jealousy, lest we defraud them of that due honour and divine veneration which belongs to those sacred Three who are in one godhead.
Yet if I may give up my thoughts and judgment entirely to the conduct of scripture, I am there led to believe thiat the practical concern we have with these three persons of the blessed Trinity, is of far greater importance in the matter of salvation, than any of the vice and speculative notions and terms of art concerning
the essence, union, and distinction of the Father, Son, and Hely Spirit ; though we must always take liced to maintain such notions concerning their nature, powers and properties, as are sufficient to support and justify all the practical honours and duties we pay to them. Prop. XXII.-The Man therefore who professes each of the
Sacred Three to have sufficient divine Power, and Capacity to sustain the Characters, and fulfil the Offices attributed to them in Scripture, and pays due Honour to them according to those offices, may justly be owned by me, and received as a Christian Brother, though we may differ much in our Notions and Opinions about the Explication of the Blessed Trinity, or though we may both be ignorunt or doubtful of the True Way of explaining it.
No man can pay the honours due to our Lord Jesus, unless he believe him to bave the dignity and perfections of godhead belongiog to him, so far as to answer the purposes of an all-sufficient sacrifice, and atouement for sit), so far as to give him unia versal acquaintance wth the infinite affairs of his kingdom in the world and the church, together with equal power to manage and controul all things in the regions of heaven, earth and hell: But these powers and capacities do not depend on any particular mode of explaining the Trinity.
No man can pay the honours due to the blessed Spirit, unless he believe bim to have such communion in godliead, as to render him fit for the universal Agent or Minister in this most extensive kingdom of Christ, that he may both know and infuence all the infinite affairs of creation and providence and grace; but those powers and capacities do not depend on any particular mode of explaining the 'Trinity.'
No man therefore in my judgment, can pay due honours to the Son or Spirit, unless lie believe them to be the true God ; though he may pay all necessary honours to them without knowing how to explain the “ modus" or manner how they are ona God and yet distinct persons.
He therefore that appears to me to be a hearty lover of God and Jesus Christ, a humble enquirer and searcher after truth, that believes and professes our Lord Jesus and the blessed Spirit to bave such a real communion in the divine nature, or such an one-ness with God, as is sufficient to sustain all the glorious ofhces which are assigned to him in scripture, particularly the satisfaction for our sins, the sanctification of our natures, and the government and influence over the visible and invisible worlds, and such as is sufficient to render them the proper objects of