« PreviousContinue »
there is a more full and extensive revelation made of God, his counsels, and his will, in Christ and the gospel, than in all the works of creation and providence; but because this revelation and representation of God is received by faith alone, the other by reason only ; and it is faith that is the principle of spiritual light and life in us. What is received thereby is operative and effectual unto all the ends of the life of God. For we live by faith here, as we shall by sight hereafter. Reason alone, especially as it is corrupted and depraved, can discern no glory in the representation of God by Christ. Yea, all that is spoken thereof, or declared in the gospel, is foolishness unto it. Hence many live in a profession of the faith of the letter of the gospel, yet having no light, guide, nor conduct, but that of reason, they do not, they cannot, really behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; nor hath the revelation of it any efficacy upon their souls. The manifestation of him in the light of nature by the works of creation and providence, is suited unto their reason, and doth affect it: for that which is made in Christ, they say of it, as the Israelites did of manna that come down from heaven, What is it? we know not the meaning of it.' For it is made unto faith alone, and all men have not faith. And where God shines into the heart, by that faith which is of divine operation, there with open face we behold the glory of God as in a glass;' or have the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. There is not the meanest believer, but in the real exercise of faith in Christ hath more glorious apprehensions of God, his wisdom, goodness, and grace, of all his glorious excellencies, than the most learned and wise in the world can attain unto, in the exercise of reason, on the proper objects of it. So are these things opposed by the apostle, 1 Cor. i. Wherefore faith in Christ is the only means of the true knowledge of God; and the discoveries which are made of him and his excellencies thereby, are those alone which are effectual to conform us unto his image and likeness. And this is the reason why some men are so little affected with the gospel, notwithstanding the continual preaching of it unto them, and their outward profession of it. It doth not inwardly affect them, it produceth no blessed effects in them. Some sense they have of the power of God in the works of crea
tion and providence, in his rule and government, and in the workings of natural conscience. Beyond these, they have no real sense of him. The reason is, because they have not faith, whereby alone the representation that is made of God in Christ, and declared in the gospel, is made effectual unto the souls of men. Wherefore,
3. It is the highest degeneracy from the mystery of Christian religion, for men to satisfy themselves in natural discoveries of the Divine Being and excellencies, without an acquaintance with that perfect declaration and representation of them which is made in the person or Christ, as he is revealed and declared in the gospel. It is confessed that there may be good use made of the evidence which reason gives or takes from its own innate principles, with the consideration of the external works of divine wisdom and power, concerning the being and rule of God. But to rest herein, to esteem it the best and most perfective knowledge of God that we can attain, not to rise up unto the more full, perfect, and evident manifestation of himself that he hath made in Christ, is a declaration of our unbelief, and a virtual renunciation of the gospel. This is the spring of that declension unto a mere natural religion, which discovers itself in many, and usually ends in the express denial of the divine person of Christ. For when the proper use of it is despised, on what grounds can the notion of it be long retained? But a supposition of his divine person is the foundation of this discourse. Were he not the essential image of the Father in his own divine person, he could not be the representative image of God unto us, as he is incarnate. For if he were a man only, however miraculously produced and gloriously exalted, yet the angels above, the glorious heavens, the seat and throne of God, with other effects of creating power and wisdom, would no less represent his glory than it could be done in him. Yet are they nowhere jointly nor separately styled the image of the invisible God;' the 'brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person ;' nor doth God shine into our hearts to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of them. And it argues the woful enmity of the carnal mind against God, and all the effects of his wisdom, that whereas he hath granted us such a glorious image and representation of himself, we like
it not, we delight not in the contemplation of it, but either despise it, or neglect it, and please ourselves in that which is incomparably beneath it.
. 4. Because God is not thus known, it is that the knowledge of him is so barren and fruitless in the world, as it manifests itself to be. It were easy to produce, yea, endless to number, tire testimonies that might be produced out of heathen writers, given unto the being and existence of God, his authority, monarchy, and rule: yet, what were the effects of that knowledge which they had; besides that wretched idolatry wherein they were all immersed ? as the apostle declares, Rom. i. it rescued them from no kind of wickedness and villany, as he there also manifests. And the virtues which were found among them, were evidently derived from other causes, and not from the knowledge they had of God. The Jews have the knowledge of God by the letter of the Old Testament. But yet not knowing him in Christ, and having lost all sense and apprehension of those representations which were made of his being in him in the law, they continue universally a people carnal, obstinate, and wicked. They have neither the virtues of the heathens among them, nor the power of the truth of religion. As it was with them of old, so it yet continueth to be; "they profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate ;' Tit. i. 16. So is it among many that are called Christians at this day in the world. Great pretence there is unto the knowledge of God; yet did flagitious sins and wickedness scarce ever more abound among the heathens themselves. It is the knowledge of God in Christ alone that is effectually powerful to work the souls of men unto a conformity unto him. Those alone who behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.
The person of Christ the great repository of sacred truth. Its
Divine supernatural truth is called by the apostle, the *truth which is according to godliness ;' Tit. i. 1. Whereas therefore the person of Christ is the great mystery of godliness, we must, in the next place, inquire what is the relation of spiritual supernatural truth thereunto. And this I shall do in pursuit of what was proposed in the foregoing chapter, namely, that he is the great representative unto the church of God, his holy properties, and the counsels of his will.
All divine truth may be referred unto two heads. First, that which is essentially so, and then that which is so declaratively. The first is God himself, the other are the counsel of his will
First, God himself is the first and only essential truth, in whose being and nature the springs of all truth do lie. Whatever is truth, so far as it is so, derives from him; is an emanation from that eternal fountain of it. Being, truth, and goodness, is the principal notion of God, and in him they are all the same. How this is represented in Christ, as he is in himself the essential image of the Father, and as incarnate the representative image of him unto us, hath been declared.
Secondly, The counsels of God are the next spring and cause, as also the subject matter or substance of all truth, that is so declaratively. Divine truth is the declaration of the counsels of God;'Acts xx. 27. Of them all, the person of Christ is the sacred repository and treasury; in him are they to be learned. All their efficacy and use, depends on their relation unto him. He is the centre and circumference of all the lines of truth, that is, which is divine, spiritual, and supernatural. And the beauty of it is presented unto us only in his face or person. We see it not, we know it not, but as God shines into our hearts to give us the knowledge of it therein ; 2 Cor. iv. 6.
So he testifieth of himself, “I am the truth ;' John xiv. 6. He is so essentially as he is one with the Father, the God of truth; Deut. xxxii. 4. He is so efficiently, as by him alone it is fully and effectually declared. For no man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him;' John i. 18. He is so substantially, in opposition unto the types and shadows of the Old Testament; for in him dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily ;' Col. ii. 9. The body is of Christ; ver. 17. He is so subjectively; for all divine truth relating to the saving knowledge of God, is treasured up in him.
• In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ;' Col. ii. 3. That is, the wisdom and knowledge of God in his counsels concerning the vocation, sanctification, and salvation of the church; concerning which the apostle falls into that holy admiration; O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God;' Rom. xi. 33. And they are called 'treasures' in a twofold account, both mentioned together by the psalmist. 'How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O Lord; how great is the sum of them!' They are treasures because precious and invaluable, and are therefore usually preferred above all earthly treasures which men most highly esteem; Prov. iii. 14, 15. and they are so, because of the greatness of the sum of them; and therefore also called 'unsearchable riches,' Eph. iii. 8. These precious unsearchable treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God, that is, all divine supernatural truths, are hid, or safely deposited in Christ, in and from whom alone they are to be learned and received.
So we are said to learn the truth as it is in Jesus;' Eph. iv. 21. And the knowledge of all evangelical sacred truth, is in the Scripture most frequently expressed by the knowledge of him ; John viii. 19. xvii. 3. 2 Cor. ii. 14. iv. 5, 6. Eph. i. 17. Phil. iii. 8. 10. 1 John i. 1, 2. ii. 4. 13, 14. v. 20. 2 Pet. ii. 20.
Setting aside what we have discoursed and proved before concerning the laying of the foundation of all the counsels of God in the person of Christ, and the representation of them in the ineffable constitution thereof, I shall give some few instances of this relation of all supernatural truth unto