SERMONS Concerning the DIVINITY and INCARNATION OF OUR Blessed Saviour:

Preached in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry.

By JOHN late Lord Archbishop of CANTERBURY.

The Second Edition.

LONDON: Printed for Br. Aylmer at the Three Pigeons against the Royal Exchange in Cornhil, and W. Rogers at the Sun against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet. MDCXCV.

AN Advertisement TO THE READER.

THE following Sermons were preached several years ago, in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry in Lon­don; and being now revised and enlarged by the Author are here made publick: The true Reason whereof, was not that which is commonly alledged for Printing Books, the importunity [Page] of Friends; but the importunate clamours and malicious calumnies of Others, whom the Author heartily prays God to forgive, and to give them better minds: And to grant that the ensuing Discourses, the publication where­of was in so great a degree ne­cessary, may by his Blessing prove in some measure useful.

SERMON I. Concerning the Divinity of our B. Saviour.
Preached in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry, Decemb. 30th. 1679.

JOHN I. 14.‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’

THESE words con­tain in them three great Points concern­ing our B. Saviour, the Author and Founder of our Faith and Religion.

[Page 2] First, His Incarnation, the Word was made, or became, flesh.

Secondly, His Life and conversation here among us, and dwelt amongst us, [...], he pitched his Ta­bernacle amongst us; he lived here below in this World and for a time made his residence and abode with us.

Thirdly, That in this state of his hu­miliation he gave great and clear evi­dence of his Divinity; whilst he ap­peared as a man and liv'd amongst us, there were great and glorious Testi­monies given of him that he was the Son of God: and that in so peculiar a manner as no Creature can be said to be: And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Fa­ther, &c.

I shall begin with the First of these, his Incarnation; as most pro­per for this Solemn Time, which hath for many Ages been set apart for the commemoration of the Nati­vity [Page 3] and Incarnation of our B. Savi­our: The Word was made flesh, that is, he who is personally called the Word, and whom the Evangelist St. John had so fully described in the beginning of this Gospel, he became flesh, that is, assumed our Nature and became Man; for so the word flesh is fre­quently used in Scripture for Man or human nature: O thou that hearest prayer, Psal. 65. 2. unto thee shall all flesh come, that is, to thee shall all men address their Supplications:Isa. 40. 5, 6. again, The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, that is, all men shall behold and acknowledge it; and then it follows, all flesh is grass, speak­ing of the frailty and mortality of man: And so likewise in the new Testament, our B. Saviour foretelling the misery that was coming upon the Jewish Nation,Matt. 24. 22. says, Except those days should be shortned no flesh should be saved, that is, no man should escape and survive that great calamity and de­struction which was coming upon [Page 4] them:Gal. 2. 16. By the works of the Law, says the Apostle, shall no flesh, that is, no man be justified.

So that by the Word's being made or becoming flesh the Evangelist did not intend that he assumed only a human Body without a Soul, and was united only to a human Body, which was the Heresie of Apollinaris and his Followers, but that he be­came Man, that is, assumed the whole human Nature, Body and Soul. And it is likewise very pro­bable that the Evangelist did purpose­ly chuse the word flesh, which signi­fies the frail and mortal part of Man, to denote to us that the Son of God did assume our Nature with all its infirmities, and became subject to the common frailty and mortality of human Nature.

The words thus explain'd con­tain that great Mystery of Godliness, as the Apostle calls it, or of the Christian Religion, viz. the Incarnation of the Son of God, which St. Paul expres­seth [Page 5] by the appearance or manifesta­tion of God in the flesh,1 Tim. 3. 16. And without controversie great is the mystery of godli­ness, God was manifested in the flesh, that is, he appeared in human Na­ture, he became man; or, as St. John expresseth it in the Text, The Word was made flesh.

But for the more clear and full ex­plication of these words, we will consider these two things.

First, the Person that is here spo­ken of, and who is said to be incar­nate, or to be made flesh, namely the Word.

Secondly, the Mystery it self, or the nature of this Incarnation, so far as the Scripture hath revealed and de­clared it to us.

I.I. We will consider the Person that is here spoken of, and who is said to be incarnate or to be made flesh, and who is so frequently in this Chap­ter called by the Name or Title of the Word; namely the eternal and only [Page 6] begotten Son of God; for so we find him described in the Text, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, &c. that is, such as became so great and glorious a Person as deserves the Title of the only begotten Son of God.

For the explaining of this Name or Title of the Word given by St. John to our B. Saviour, we will consider these two things.

First, The reason of this Name or Title of the Word, and what proba­bly might be the Occasion why this Evangelist insists so much upon it, and makes so frequent mention of it.

Secondly, The Description it self, which is given of him under this Name or Title of the Word by this Evangelist, in his entrance into his History of the Gospel.

I. We will enquire into the reason of this Name or Title of the Word, which is here given to [Page 7] our B. Saviour by this Evangelist: And what might probably be the Occasi­on why he insists so much upon it and makes so frequent mention of it. I shall consider these two things di­stinctly and severally.

First, The reason of this Name or Ti­tle of the Word, here given by the E­vangelist to our B. Saviour. And he seems to have done it in compliance with the common way of speaking among the Jews, who frequently call the Messias by the Name of the Word of the Lord; of which I might give many instances: But there is one ve­ry remarkable, in the Targum of Jona­than, which renders those words of the Psalmist, which the Jews acknow­ledge to be spoken of the Messias, viz. The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, &c. I say it renders them thus, The Lord said unto his Word, sit thou on my right hand, &c. And so likewise Philo the Jew calls him by whom God made the World, the Word of God, and the Son of God. And Plato [Page 8] probably had the same Notion from the Jews, which made Amelius the Pla­tonist, when he read the beginning of St. John's Gospel, to say, this Barba­rian agrees with Plato, ranking the Word in the order of Principles; meaning that he made the Word the Principle or efficient Cause of the World, as Plato also hath done.

And this Title of the Word was so famously known to be given to the Messias, that even the Enemies of Christianity took notice of it. Julian the Apostate calls Christ by this Name: And Mahomet in his Alchoran gives this Name of the Word to Jesus the Son of Mary. But St. John had probably no reference to Plato any otherwise than as the Gnosticks, against whom he wrote, made use of several of Plato's words and notions. So that in all probability St. John gives our B. Sa­viour this Title with regard to the Jews more especially, who anciently call'd the Messias by this Name.

[Page 9] Secondly, We will in the next place consider, What might probably be the Occasion why this Evangelist makes so frequent mention of this Title of the Word, and insists so much upon it. And it seems to be this: Nay, I think that hardly any doubt can be made of it, since the most ancient of the Fathers, who lived nearest the time of St. John, do confirm it to us.

St. John, who survived all the Apostles, liv'd to see those Heresies which sprang up in the beginnings of Christianity, during the lives of the Apostles grown up to a great height, to the great prejudice and distur­bance of the Christian Religion: I mean the Heresies of Ebion and Cerin­thus, and the several Sects of the Gno­sticks which began from Simon Magus, and were continued and carried on by Valentinus and Basilides, Carpocrates and Menander: Some of which ex­presly denied the Divinity of our Sa­viour, asserting him to have been a mere man, and to have had no man­ner [Page 10] of existence before he was born of the B. Virgin, as Eusebius and Epi­phanius tells us particularly concern­ing Ebion: Which those who hold the same Opinion now in our days may do well to consider from whence it had its Original.

Others of them, I still mean the Gnosticks, had corrupted the simpli­city of the Christian Doctrine by mingling with it the fancies and con­ceits of the Jewish Cabbalists, and of the Schools of Pythagoras and Plato, and of the Chaldaean Philosophy more ancient than either; as may be seen in Eusebius de Preparat. Evan.; and by jumbling all these together they had framed a confused Genealogy of Deities, which they called by several glori­ous Names, and all of them by the general Name of Eons or Ages: Among which they reckon'd [...] & [...] & [...] & [...], that is, the Life, and the Word, and the only begotten, and the Fulness, and many other Divine Powers and Ema­nations [Page 11] which they fancied to be suc­cessively derived from one another.

And they also distinguished be­tween the Maker of the World whom they called the God of the Old Testa­ment, and the God of the New: And between Jesus and Christ: Jesus ac­cording to the Doctrine of Cerinthus, as Irenaeus tells us, being the man that was born of the Virgin, and Christ or the Messias being that Divine Power or Spirit which afterwards descended into Jesus and dwelt in him.

If it were possible, yet it would be to no purpose, to go about to re­concile these wild conceits with one another; and to find out for what reason they were invented, unless it were to amuse the People with these high swelling words of vanity and a pre­tence of knowledg falsly so called, as the Apostle speaks in allusion to the Name of Gnosticks, that is to say, the Men of knowledge, which they proudly assum'd to themselves, as if the knowledge of Mysteries of a more [Page 12] sublime nature did peculiarly belong to them.

In opposition to all these vain and groundless conceits, St. John in the beginning of his Gospel chuses to speak of our B. Saviour, the History of whose life and death he was going to write, by the Name or Title of the Word, a term very famous among those Sects: And shews that this Word of God, which was also the Ti­tle the Jews anciently gave to the Messias, did exist before he assumed a human Nature, and even form all Eternity: And that to this eternal Word did truly belong all those Titles which they kept such a canting stir about, and which they did with so much senseless nicety and subtilty distinguish from one another, as if they had been so many several Emana­tions from the Deity: And he shews that this Word of God, was really and truly the Life, and the Light, and the Fulness, and the only begotten of the Father; v. 5. In him was the Life, [Page 13] and the Life was the Light of men; and v. 6. And the Light shineth in dark­ness, and the darkness comprehended it not: and v. 7, 8, 9. where the Evan­gelist speaking of John the Baptist says of him, that he came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light; and that he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light: And that Light was the true Light which coming into the World enlightens every man: And v. 14. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth: And v. 16. And of his fulness we all receive, &c. You see here is a perpetual Allusion to the glorious Titles which they gave to their Aeons as if they had been so many several Deities.

In short, the Evangelist shews that all this fanciful Genealogy of Divine Emanations, with which the Gnosticks made so great a noise, was mere con­ceit and imagination; and that all these glorious Titles did really meet in the Messias who is the Word, and [Page 14] who before his Incarnation was from all eternity with God, partaker of his Divine Nature and Glory.

I have declared this the more fully and particularly, because the know­ledge of it seems to me to be the on­ly true Key to the interpretation of this Discourse of St. John concerning our Saviour under the Name and Ti­tle of the Word. And surely it is a quite wrong way for any man to go about by the mere strength and sub­tilty of his Reason and Wit, though never so great, to interpret an anci­ent Book, without understanding and considering the Historical occa­sion of it, which is the only thing that can give true light to it.

And this was the great and fatal mistake of Socinus, to go to inter­pret Scripture merely by Criticising upon words, and searching into all the senses that they are possibly ca­pable of, till he can find one, though never so forc'd and foreign, that will save harmless the Opinion, which [Page 15] he was before-hand resolved to main­tain even against the most natural and obvious sense of the Text which he undertakes to interpret: Just as if a man should interpret ancient Sta­tutes and Records by mere Critical skill in words without regard to the true Occasion upon which they were made, and without any manner of knowledge and insight into the Hi­story of the Age in which they were written.

I should now proceed to the Se­cond thing which I proposed to con­sider, namely,

II. The Description here given of the Word by this Evangelist in his entrance into his History of the Gospel. In the beginning, says he, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: The same was in the beginning with God: All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

[Page 16] In which Passage of the Evangelist four things are said of the Word which will require a more particular Ex­plication.

First, That he was in the beginning.

Secondly, That he was in the begin­ning with God.

Thirdly, That he was God.

Fourthly, That all were made by him.

1st, That he he was in the beginning, [...],1 John 1. 1. which is the same with [...] from the beginning, where speaking of Christ by the name of eternal life, and of the Word of life, That, says he, which was from the be­ginning. Nonnus, the ancient Para­phrast of St. John's Gospel, by way of explication of what is meant by his being in the beginning, adds that he was [...] without time, that is, before all time; and if so, then he was from all eternity: In the beginning was the Word, that is, when things [Page 17] began to be made he was; not then be­gan to be, but then already was, and did exist before any thing was made; and consequently is without begin­ning, for that which was never made could have no beginning of its Being: And so the Jews used to de­scribe Eternity, before the World was, and before the foundation of the World, as also in several places of the New Testament. And so likewise Solomon describes the Eternity of Wisdom, Prov. 8. 22, 23, &c. The Lord, says he, possessed me in the be­ginning of his way, before his works of old: I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the Earth was: When he prepared the Heavens I was there; then I was with him as one brought up with him, rejoicing always before him: And so Justin Martyr explains this very expression of St. John, that he was, or had a Being before all Ages: So likewise Athenagoras, a most ancient Christian Writer, God, says he, who is an invisi­ble Mind, had from the beginning the Word in himself.

[Page 18] 2ly. That in the beginning the Word was with God: And so Solomon, when he would express the Eternity of Wisdom, says it was with God: And so likewise the Son of Sirach speaking of Wisdom says it was [...] with God: And so the ancient Jews often called the Word of God, the Word which is be­fore the Lord, that is, with him, or in his presence: In like manner the Evangelist says here that the Word was with God, that is, it was always to­gether with him, partaking of his Happiness and Glory: To which our Saviour refers in his Prayer,John 17. 5. Glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the World was. And this being with God the Evange­list opposeth to his appearing and being manifested to the World, v. 10. He was in the World, and the World was made by him, and the World knew him not, that is, he who from all eternity was with God, appeared in the World, and when he did so, though he had made the World yet the World [Page 19] would not own him. And this op­position between his being with God and his being manifested in the World, the same St. John mentions else­where,1 John 1, 2. I shew unto you that eternal Life which was with the Father, and was ma­nifested unto us.

3ly. That he was God: And so Justin Martyr says of him, That he was God before the World, that is, from all Eternity: But then the Evangelist adds by way of Explication, the same was in the beginning with God, that is, though the Word was truly and really God, yet he was not God the Father, who is the Fountain of the Deity, but an Emanation from him, the only begotten Son of God, from all eternity with him; to denote to us that which is commonly called by Divines, and for any thing I could ever see properly enough, the distincti­on of Persons in the Deity; at least we know not a fitter word whereby to express that great Mystery.

[Page 20] 4thly, That all things were made by him. This seems to refer to the de­scription which Moses makes of the Creation,Gen. 1. where God is represented creating things by his Word, God said, Let there be light, and there was light: And so likewise the Psalmist, Psal. 33. 6. By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made, and all the Host of them by the breath of his mouth: And so St. Peter also ex­presseth the Creation of the World, By the Word of the Lord the Heavens were of old, 2 Pet. 3. 5. and the Earth made out of Water: And in the ancient Books of the Chaldeans and the verses ascribed to Orpheus, the Maker of the World is called the Word, and the Divine Word: And so Tertullian tells the Pagans, that by their Philosophers the Maker of the World was called [...] the Word, or Reason: And Philo the Jew following Plato, who himself most probably had it from the Jews, says, that the World was created by the Word; whom he calls the Name of God, and the Image of God, and the Son of God; [Page 21] two of which glorious Titles are ascri­bed to him together with that of Ma­ker of the World, by the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews; In these last days, says he, God hath spoken to us by his Son, by whom also he made the Worlds: Who is the brightness of his glo­ry, and the express Image of his person: And to the same purpose St. Paul, Colos. 1. 15, 16, 17. speaking of Christ, calls him the Image of the invisible God, the first-born of every Creature, that is, born before any thing was created, as does evidently follow from the reason given in the next words why he call'd him the first-born of every Creature, for by him were all things created that are in Heaven and in Earth, visible and invisible; all things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things subsist: From whence it is plain that by his being the first-born of every Creature thus much at least is to be understood, that he was before all Creatures, and therefore he himself cannot be a Creature, unless he could [Page 22] be before himself: Nay the Apostle says it expresly in this very Text in which he is called the first-born of every Creature, or of the whole Creation, that he is before all things, that is, he had a Being before there was any created Being, he was before all Creatures both in Duration and in Dignity; for so must he of necessity be, if all things were made by him; for as the Maker is always before the thing which is made, so is he also better and of greater Dignity.

And yet I must acknowledge that there seems to be no small difficulty in the Interpretation I have given of this expression in which Christ is said by the Apostle to be the first-born of every Creature, or of the whole Creation; because in strictness of speech the first-born is of the same Nature with those in respect of whom he is said to be the first-born: And if so, then he must be a Creature as well as those in respect of whom he is said to be the first-born: This is the Objection [Page 23] in its full strength, and I do own it to have a very plausible appearance: And yet I hope before I have done to satisfy any one that will consider things impartially and without preju­dice, and will duly attend to the scope of the Apostle's reasoning in this Text and compare it with other parallel places of the New Testament, that it neither is, nor can be the Apo­stle's meaning in affirming Christ to be the first-born of every Creature to insinuate that the Son of God is a Creature.

For how can this possibly agree with that which follows and is given as the reason why Christ is said to be the first-born of every Creature? name­ly, because all things were made by him: The Apostle's words are these, the first-born of every Creature, or of the whole Creation, for by him all things were created: But now, according to the Socinian interpretation, this would be a reason just the contrary way: For if all things were created by him, [Page 24] then he himself is not a Creature.

So that the Apostle's meaning in this expression must either be that the Son of God our B. Saviour was before all Creatures, as it is said presently after that he is before all things; and then the reason which is added will be very proper and pertinent, he is before all things because all things were created by him: In which sense it is very proba­ble that the Son of God elsewhere calls himself the beginning of the Crea­tion of God, Rev. 3. 14. meaning by it, as the Philosophers most frequently use the word [...], the Principle or Efficient Cause of the Creation: And so we find the same word, which our Tran­slation renders the beginning, used to­gether with the word first-born, as if they were of the same importance; the beginning and first-born from the dead, Col. 1. 18. that is, the Principle and Efficient Cause of the Resurrection of the dead.

Or else, which seems to me to be the most probable, and indeed the [Page 35] true meaning of the Expression, by this Title of the first-born of every creature the Apostle means that he was Lord and Heir of the Creation: For the first-born is natural Heir, and Justinian tells us that Heir did ancient­ly signify Lord: And therefore the Scripture uses these terms promiscu­ously, and as if they were equiva­lent;Acts 10. 36. for whereas St. Peter faith of Jesus Christ that he is Lord of all, St. Paul calls him Heir of all things: Rom. 4. 14. And then the reason given by the Apostle why he calls him the first-born of every Creature will be very fit and proper, because all things were created by him: For well may he be said to be Lord and Heir of the Creation who made all things that were made, and with­out whom was not any thing made that was made.

And this will yet appear much more evident, if we consider that the Apostle to the Hebrews, who by several of the Ancients was thought to be St. Paul, where he gives to [Page 26] Christ some of the very same Titles which St. Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians had done, calling him the Image of God, and the Maker of the World, does instead of the Title of the first-born of every Creature call him the Heir of all things; and then adds as the reason of this Title, that by him God made the Worlds, God, says he, hath in these last days spoken un­to us by his Son, whom he hath constituted Heir of all things: Who being the bright­ness of his glory, and the express Image of his person, and upholding all things by the Word of his power, &c. Which is exactly parallel with that passage of St. Paul to the Colossians, where Christ is call'd the Image of the invisible God, and where it is likewise said of him that he made all things, and that by him all things do subsist, which the Apostle to the Hebrews in different words, but to the very same sense, expresseth by his upholding all things by the Word of his power, that is, by the same powerful Word by which all things at first were [Page 27] made: But then instead of calling him the first-born of every Creature, be­cause all things were made by him, he calls him the Heir of all things, by whom God also made the worlds.

And indeed that expression of the first-born of every Creature cannot ad­mit of any other sense which will agree so well with the reason that follows as the sense which I have mentioned, namely, that he is therefore Heir and Lord of the whole Creation, because all Creatures were made by him; which exactly answers those words of the Apostle to the He­brews, whom he hath constituted Heir of all things, by whom also he made the Worlds.

And now I apppeal to any sober and considerate man, whether the interpretation which I have given of that expression of the first-born of every Creature be not much more agreeable both to the tenour of the Scripture, and to the plain scope and design of the Apostle's [Page 28] Argument and reasoning in that Text.

I have insisted the longer upon this, because it is the great Text upon which the Arians lay the main strength and stress of their Opinion that the Son of God is a Creature, because he is said by the Apostle to be the first-born of every Creature; by which expression if no more be meant than that he is Heir and Lord of the whole Creation, which I have shew'd to be very agreeable both to the use of the word first born among the Hebrews, and likewise to the de­scription given of Christ in that pa­rallel Text which I cited out of the Epistle to the Hebrews, then this ex­pression of the first born of every Crea­ture is nothing at all to the purpose either of the Arians or the Socinians, to prove the Son of God to be a Crea­ture: Besides, that the interpretation which I have given of it makes the Apostle's sense much more current and easy; for then the Text will run thus, [Page 29] who is the image of the invisible God, Heir and Lord of the whole Creation, for by him all things were made.

So that in these four expressions of the Evangelist which I have explain'd there are these four things distinctly affirmed of the Word.

First, That he was in the beginning, that is, that he already was and did exist when things began to be crea­ted: He was before any thing was made, and consequently is without any beginning of Time; for that which was never made could have no beginning of its Being.

Secondly, That in that state of his existence before the Creation of the World he was partaker of the Divine Glory and Happiness: And this I have shew'd to be the meaning of that expression, and the Word was with God: For thus our B. Saviour does ex­plain his being with God before the World was, And now, O Father, glo­rify me with thy own self, with the glory [Page 30]which I had with thee before the World was.

Thirdly, That he was God; And the Word was God. Not God the Father, who is the Principle and fountain of the Deity: To prevent that mistake, after he had said that the Word was God, he immediately adds in the next verse, the same was in the beginning with God: He was God by participa­tion of the Divine Nature and Hap­piness together with the Father, and by way of derivation from him as the light is from the Sun: Which is the common illustration which the ancient Fathers of the Christian Church give us of this Mystery, and is per­haps the best and fittest that can be given of it. For among finite Beings it is not to be expected, because not possible, to find any exact resem­blance of that which is infinite, and consequently is incomprehensible, because whatever is infinite is for that reason incomprehensible by a finite understanding, which is too short [Page 31] and shallow to measure that which is infinite; and whoever attempts it will soon find himself out of his depth.

Fourthly, That all things were made by him: Which could not have been more emphatically express'd than it is here by the Evangelist, after the manner of the Hebrews, who when they would say a thing with the greatest force and certainty are wont to express it both affirmatively and negatively, as, He shall live and not die, that is, he shall most assuredly live; so here, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made, that is, he made all Creatures without exception, and consequently he himself is not a Creature, because it is evidently im­possible that any thing should ever make it self: But then if he be, and yet was never made, it is certainly true that he always was, even from all Eternity.

[Page 32] All these Assertions are plainly and expresly contain'd in this description which the Evangelist St. John here makes of the Word; and this accord­ing to the interpretation of these ex­pressions by the unaminous consent of the most ancient Writers of the Chri­stian Church: Who, some of them, had the advantage of receiving it from the immediate Disciples of St. John: Which surely is no small prejudice against any newly invented and contrary interpretation; as I shall hereafter more fully shew, when I come to consider the strange and extravagant interpretation which the Socinians make of this Passage of St. John; which is plain enough of it self, if they under a pretence of ex­plaining and making it more clear had not disturb'd and darken'd it.

Now from this description which the Evangelist here gives of the Word, and which I have so largely explain'd in the foregoing Discourse, these three Corallaries or [Page 33] Conclusions do necessarily follow.

First, That the Word here descri­bed by St. John is not a Creature. This Conclusion is directly Against the Arians, who affirm'd that the Son of God was a Creature. They grant indeed that he is the first of all the Creatures both in Dignity and Durati­on; for so they understand that ex­pression of the Apostle wherein he is called the first-born of every Creature: But this I have endeavoured already to shew not to be the meaning of that expression.

They grant him indeed to have been God's Agent or Instrument in the Creation of the World, and that all other Creatures besides himself were made by him: But still they contend that he is a Creature and was made: Now this cannot possibly consist with what St. John says of him, that he was in the beginning, that is, as hath been already shewn, before anything was made: And likewise, be­cause [Page 34] he is said to have made all things, and that without him was not anything made that was made; and there­fore he himself who made all things is necessarily excepted out of the con­dition and rank of a Creature; as the Apostle reasons in another Case, He hath put all things under his feet: But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted who did put all things under him: In like man­ner, if by him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made, then either he was not made, or he must make himself; which involves in it a plain contra­diction.

Secondly, That this Word was from all Eternity: For if he was in the be­ginning, that is, before any thing was made, he must of necessity always have been; because whatever is, must either have been sometime made, or must always have been; for that which was not, and after­wards is, must be made. And this [Page 35] will likewise follow from his being said to be God, and that in the most strict and proper sense, which doth necessarily imply his Eternity, be­cause God cannot begin to be, but must of necessity always have been.

Thirdly, From both these it will undeniably follow that he had an existence before his Incarnation and his being born of the B. Virgin. For if he was in the beginning, that is, from all Eternity, which I have shewn to be the meaning of that expression, then certainly he was before his be­ing born of the B. Virgin. And this likewise is implied in the Proposition in the Text, And the Word was made flesh, viz. that Word which the Evange­list had before so gloriously described, that Word which was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God, and by whom all things were made; I say, that Word was incarnate and assumed a human Nature, and therefore must necessarily exist and have a Being before he could assume humanity [Page 36] into an union with his Divinity.

And this Proposition is directly le­velled against the Socinians, who af­firm our B. Saviour to be a mere man, and that he had no existence before he was born of the Virgin Mary his Mother: Which Assertion of theirs doth perfectly contradict all the for­mer Conclusions which have been drawn from the description here given by St. John of the Word: And their interpretation of this passage of St. John applying it to the beginning of the publication of the Gospel, and to the new Creation or Reformation of the World by Jesus Christ, doth like­wise contradict the interpretation of this passage constantly received, not only by the ancient Fathers, but even by the general consent of all Christians for fifteen hundred years together, as I shall hereafter plainly shew: For to establish this their Opinion, that our B. Saviour was a mere man, and had no existence before his Birth, [Page 37] they are forc'd to interpret this whole passage in the beginning of St. John's Gospel quite to another sense, never mention'd, nor I believe thought of by any Christian Writer whatsoever before Socinus: And it is not easie to imagin how any Opinion can be loaded with a greater and heavier prejudice than this is.

And this I should now take into consideration, and shew, besides the novelty of this interpretation and the great violence and unreasonableness of it, the utter inconsistency of it with other plain Texts of New Testa­ment.

But this is wholly matter of Con­troversy and will require a large Dis­course by it self; I shall therefore wave the further prosecution of it at present, and apply my self to that which is more practical and proper for the Occasion of this Season: So that at present I have done with the first thing contain'd in the First part of the Text, viz. The Person here [Page 38] spoken of who is said to be incarnate, namely the Word, it was He that was made flesh.

I should then have proceeded to the Second thing which I proposed to consider, viz. The Mystery it self, or the nature of this Incarnation so far as the Scripture hath revealed and de­clared it to us, namely, by assuming our Nature in such a manner as that the Divinity became united to a hu­man Soul and Body. But this I have already endeavoured in some mea­sure to explain, and shall do it more fully in some of the following Dis­courses upon this Text. I shall now only make a short and useful reflecti­on upon it with relation to the Solem­nity of this Time.

And it shall be to stir us up to a thankful acknowledgment of the great love of God to Mankind in the Mystery of our Redemption by the Incarnation of the Word, the only begotten Son of God: That he should deign to have such a regard to us in [Page 39] our low condition, and to take our Case so much to heart as to think of redeeming and saving Mankind from that depth of misery into which we had plunged our selves; and to do this in so wonderful and astonishing a manner: That God should em­ploy his eternal and only begotten Son, who had been with him from all Eternity, partaker of his Happiness and Glory, and was God of God, to save the Sons of men by so infi­nite and amazing a condescention: That God should vouchsafe to be­come man, to reconcile man to God: That he should come down from Heaven to Earth, to raise us from Earth to Heaven: That he should assume our vile and frail and mortal nature, that he might cloath us with glory and honour and im­mortality: That he should suffer Death to save us from Hell, and shed his blood to purchase eternal Redemption for us.

[Page 40] For certainly the greater the Per­son is that was employed in this mer­ciful Design, so much the greater is the condescention, and the love and goodness expressed in it so much the more admirable: That the Son of God should stoop from the height of Glory and Happiness to the lowest degree of abasement and to the very depth of misery for our sakes, who were so mean and inconsiderable, so guilty and obnoxious to the severity of his Justice, so altogether unwor­thy of his grace and favour, and so very unwilling to receive it when it was so freely offer'd to us; for, as the Evangelist here tells us, He came to his own, and his own received him not: To his own Creatures, and they did not own and acknowledg their Ma­ker; to his own Nation and Kin­dred, and they despised him and esteemed him not. Lord! what is man, that God should be so mindful of him; or the Son of man, that the Son of God should come down from [Page 41] Heaven to visit him, in so much hu­mility and condescention, and with so much kindness and compassion?

Blessed God and Saviour of Man­kind! What shall we render to thee for such mighty love, for such in­estimable benefits as thou hast pur­chas'd for us and art ready to confer upon us? What shall we say to thee, O thou preserver and lover of Souls, so often as we approach thy H. Table, there to commemorate this mighty love of thine to us, and to partake of those invaluable blessings which by thy precious bloodshedding thou hast obtained for us? So often as we there remember, that thou wast pleased to assume our mortal Nature, on purpose to live amongst us for our instruction, and for our example, and to lay down thy life for the re­demption of our Souls and for the expiation of our Sins; and to take part of flesh and blood that thou mightst shed it for our sakes: What affections should these thoughts raise [Page 42] in us? What Vows and resolutions should they engage us in, of perpe­tual love and gratitude, and obedi­ence to thee the most gracious and most glorious Redeemer of Man­kind?

And with what Religious Solem­nity should we, more especially at this Time, celebrate the Incarnation and Birth of the Son of God by giving praise and glory to God in the highest, and by all possible demon­stration of charity and good-will to men? And as he was pleased to assume our Nature so should we, especially at this Season, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, sincerely embrace and practice his Religion, making no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lUsts thereof: And now that the Sun of Righteousness is risen upon the World, we should walk as Children of the light, and demean our selves decently as in the day, not in rioting and drunken­ness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envy: And should be [Page 43] very careful not to abuse our selves by Sin and Sensuality, upon this ve­ry consideration that the Son hath put such an honour and dignity upon us: We should reverence that Na­ture which God did not disdain to assume and to inhabit here on Earth, and in which he now gloriously reigns in Heaven, at the right hand of his Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

SERMON II. Concerning the Divinity of CHRIST.
Preached in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry, January 6. 1679.

JOHN I. 14.‘The Word was made flesh.’

I Proceed now to prosecute the third Corollary or Conclusion which does necessarily follow from the de­scription which St. John in the begin­ning of his Gospel gives of the Word, and which I have so largely explain'd in the foregoing Discourse: And it was this,

That the Word, here described by the Evangelist, had an existence before his Incarnation and his being born of the B. Virgin,

[Page 46] This Assertion, I told you, is le­velled directly against the Socinians, who affirm our B. Saviour to be a mere man, and deny that he had any existence before he was born of the Virgin Mary his Mother: Which Posi­tion of theirs does perfectly contradict all the former Conclusions which have been so evidently drawn from the Description here given of the Word: And not only so, but hath forc'd them to interpret this whole passage in the beginning of St. John's Gospel in a very different sense from that which was constantly received, not only by the ancient Fathers, but by the general consent of all Christians for 1500 years together: For to establish this their Opinion of our Saviour's being a mere man and having no existence before his Birth, they have found it necessary to expound this whole pas­sage quite to another sense, and such as by their own confession was never mentioned, nor I believe thought of, by any Christian Writer whatsoever before Socinus.

[Page 47] For this reason I shall very parti­cularly consider the interpretation which Socinus gives of this Passage of St. John; and besides the novelty of it, which they themselves ac­knowledge, I make no doubt very plainly to manifest the great violence and unreasonableness, and likewise the inconsistency of it with other plain Texts of the New Testament.

It is very evident what it was that forc'd Socinus to so strain'd and vio­lent an interpretation of this Passage of the Evangelist, namely, that he plainly saw how much the obvious, and natural, and generally received interpretation of this Passage, in all Ages of the Christian Church down to his time, stood in the way of his Opinion, of Christ's being a mere man, which he was so fond of, and must of necessity have quitted, unless he would either have denied the Divine Authority of St. John's Gospel, or else could supplant the common in­terpretation of this Passage by put­ting [Page 48] a quite different sense upon it: Which sense he could find no way to support without such pitiful and wretched shifts, such precarious and arbitrary Suppositions, as a man of so sharp a Reason and judgment as Socinus, could not, I thought, have ever been driven to. But necessity hath no Laws either of Reason or Modesty, and he who is resolved to maintain an Opinion which he hath once taken up must stick at nothing, but must break through all difficul­ties that stand in his way: And so the Socinians have here done, as will, I hope, manifestly appear in the fol­lowing Discourse.

They grant that by the Word is here meant Christ, by whom God spake and declared his mind and will to the World; which they make to be the whole reason of that Name or Title of the Word which is here given him, and not because by Him God made the World: For the Word by which God made the World, they [Page 49] tell us, was nothing but the power­ful Command of God, and not a Person who was design'd to be the Messias. And because, as I have shewed before, the ancient Jews do make frequent mention of this Title of the Word of God by whom they say God made the World, and do likewise ap­ply this Title to the Messias; there­fore to avoid this, Schlictingius says that the Chaldee Paraphrasts, Jonathan and Onkelos, do sometimes put the Word of God for God, by a Metonymy of the Effect for the Cause; but then he confidently denies that they do any where distinguish the Word of God from the Person of God, as they acknowledge that St. John here does; nor do they, says he, understand by the Word of God the Messias, but on the contrary do oppose the Word of God to the Messias: All which is most evidently confuted by that passage which I cited before out of the Tar­gum of Jonathan, who renders those words concerning the Messias, The [Page 50] Lord said unto my Lord, &c. thus, The Lord said unto his Word, sit thou on my right hand, &c. where you see both that the Word of God is plainly distin­guished from God, and that it is the Title given to the Messias: Which are the two things which Schlictingius doth so confidently deny.

This then being agreed on all hands, that by the Word St. John means the Messias, I shall in the next place, shew by what strained and forced arts of interpretation the Soci­nians endeavour to avoid the plain and necessary consequence from this Passage of St. John, namely that the Word had an existence before he was made flesh and born of the B. Virgin his Mother.

This then in short is the interpreta­tion which they give of this Passage, than which I think nothing can be more unnatural and violent.

In the beginning, This they will by no means have to refer to the Creation of the World, but to the beginning [Page 51] of the Gospel, that is, when the Gospel first began to be publish'd then was Christ, and not before: And he was with God, that is says Socinus, Christ as he was the Word of God, that is, the Gospel of Christ which was after­wards by him revealed to the World was first only known to God: But all this being somewhat hard, first to understand by the beginning not the beginning of the World but of the Go­spel; and then by the Word which was with God to understand the Gospel which before it was revealed was only known to God; they have up­on second thoughts found out ano­ther meaning of those words, And the Word was with God, that is faith Schlictingius, Christ was taken up by God into Heaven, and there instru­cted in the mind and will of God, and from thence sent down into the World again to declare it to Man­kind.

And the Word was God, that is say they, Christ had the Honour and Ti­tle [Page 52] of God conferr'd upon him, as Magistrates also have, who in the Scripture are called Gods: He was God, not by Nature but by Office and by Divine constitution and appoint­ment.

All things were made by him: This they will needs have to be meant of the Renovation and Reformation of the World by Jesus Christ, which is seve­ral times in Scripture call'd a new Crea­tion.

This in short is the Sum of their interpretation of this Passage, which I shall now examine, and to which I shall oppose three things as so many invincible prejudices against it.

First, That not only all the anci­ent Fathers of the Christian Church, but so far as I can find, all Interpre­ters whatsoever for fifteen hundred years together did understand this Passage of St. John in a quite diffe­rent sense, namely, of the Creation of the material, and not of the Reno­vation [Page 53] of the moral World: And I add further, that the generality of Christians did so understand this Pas­sage, as to collect from it as an un­doubted Point of Christianity, that the Word had a real existence before he was born of the B. Virgin.

And thus not only the Orthodox Christians, but even the Arians, and Amelius the Platonist, who was a more indifferent judge then either of them, did understand this Passage of St. John, without any thought of this inven­tion that he spake not of the old, but of the new Creation of the World by Jesus Christ, and the Reformation of Mankind by the preaching of the Gospel: Which I dare say no indiffe­rent Reader of St. John, that had not been prepossess'd and byass'd by some violent prejudice would ever have thought of.

And surely it ought to be very considerable in this Case, that the most ancient Christian Writers, Igna­tius, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Ire­naeus, [Page 54] Tertullian, and even Origen him­self who is called the Father of Inter­preters, are most express and posi­tive in this matter. For Ignatius was the Scholar of Polycarp, who was a Disciple of St. John; and Justin Mar­tyr lived in the next Age to that of the Apostles; and Origen was a man of infinite learning and reading, and in his Comments upon Scripture seems to have considered all the Interpretations of those that were before him: So that if this, which Socinus is so con­fident is the true sense of St. John, had been any where extant, he would not probably have omitted it; nay rather would certainly have mentioned it, if for no other rea­son, yet for the surprising novelty and strangeness of it, with which he was apt to be over-much delighted.

So that if this interpretation of Socinus be true, here are two things very wonderful, and almost incre­dible: First, that those who lived so very near St. John's Time, and were [Page 55] most likely to know his meaning, as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, &c. should so widely mistake it: And then, that the whole Christian World should for so many Ages together be deceived in the ground and foundation of so important an Article of Faith, if it were true; or if it were not, should be led into so gross and dangerous an Error as this must needs be, if Christ had no real existence before he was born into the World: And which would be necessarily consequent up­on this, that no man did understand this Passage of St. John aright before Socinus. This very consideration alone, if there were no other, were sufficient to stagger any prudent man's belief of this Interpretation.

And as to the Novelty of it, Socinus himself makes no difficulty to own it; nay he seems rather to rejoice and to applaud himself in it. Un­happy man! that was so wedded to his own Opinion that no Objection, no difficulty could divorce him from it.

[Page 56] And for this I refer my self to his Preface to his Explication of this first Chapter of St. John's Gospel; where you shall find these words concerning the Passage now in controversy, quorum verus sensus omnium prorsus, qui quidem extarent, explanatores latuisse vi­detur, the true sense of which words, says he, seems to have been hid from all the Expositors that ever were extant: And upon those words, v. 10. He was in the World, and the World was made by him, he hath this expression, quid autem hoc loco sibi velit Johannes, à ne­mine quod sciam adhuc rectè expositum fuit, but what St. John means in this place was never yet, that I know of, by any man rightly explain'd: And Schlictin­gius after him, with more confidence but much less decency, tells us, that concerning the meaning of those ex­pressions, in the beginning, and of those which follow concerning the Word, the ancient Interpreters did ab Apostoli mente delirare, went so far from the Apostle's meaning as if they had rav'd and [Page 57] been out of their wits: Which is so ex­travagantly said, and with so much contempt of those great and vene­rable Names, who were the chief Propagaters of Christianity in the World, and to whom all Ages do so justly pay a reverence, that nothing can be said in excuse of him but on­ly that it is not usual with him to fall into such rash and rude expressions. But the man was really pinch'd by so plain and pressing a Text, and where Reason is weak and blunt Passion must be whetted, the only weapon that is left when Reason fails: And I always take it for gran­ed, that no man is ever Angry with his Adversary but for want of a bet­ter Argument to support his Cause.

And yet to do right to the Writers on that side, I must own that gene­rally they are a Pattern of the fair way of disputing, and of debating matters of Religion without heat and unseemly reflections upon their Adversaries, in the number of whom [Page 58] I did not expect that the Primitive Fathers of the Christian Church would have been reckoned by them. They generally argue matters with that temper and gravity, and with that freedom from passion and transport which becomes a serious and weigh­ty Argument: And for the most part they reason closely and clearly, with extraordinary guard and caution, with great dexterity and decency, and yet with smartness and subtilty enough; with a very gentle heat, and few hard words: Vertues to be praised whereever they are found, yea even in an Enemy, and very worthy our imitation: In a word, they are the strongest managers of a weak Cause and which is ill founded at the bottom, that perhaps ever yet medled with Controversy: Inso­much that some of the Protestants and the generality of the Popish Writers, and even of the Jesuits themselves who pretend to all the Reason and subtilty in the World, are in compa­rison [Page 59] of them but mere Scolds and Bunglers: Upon the whole matter, they have but this one great defect that they want a good Cause and Truth on their Side; which if they had, they have Reason, and Wit, and temper enough to defend it.

But to return to the business. That which I urge them withall, and that from their own confession, is this, that this interpretation of theirs is perfectly new, and unknown to the whole Christian World before Soci­nus; and for that reason, in my opi­nion, not to be bragg'd of: Because it is in effect to say that the Christian Religion, in a Point pretended on both Sides to be of the greatest mo­ment, was never rightly understood by any since the Apostles days, for fifteen hundred years together: And which makes the matter yet worse, that the Religion which was particu­larly design'd to overthrow Polytheism and the belief of more God, hath, according to them, been so ill taught [Page 60] and understood by Christians for so many Ages together, and almost from the very beginning of Chistianity, as does necessarily infer a Plurality of Gods: An inconvenience so great as no Cause, how plausible soever it may otherwise appear, is able to stand under and to sustain the weight of it.

For this the Socinians object to us at every turn, as the unavoidable consequence of our interpretation of this Passage of St. John, and of all other Texts of Scripture produced by us to the same purpose, notwith­standing that this interpretation hath obtain'd in the Christian Church for so many Ages: Now whosoever can believe that the Christian Religion hath done the Work for which it was principally design'd so ineffectually, must have very little reverence for it, nay it must be a marvellous civility in him if he believe it at all. All that can be said in this Case is, that it pleases God many times to permit [Page 61] men to hold very inconsistent things, and which do in truth, though they themselves discern it not, most effe­ctually overthrow one another.

Secondly, Another mighty preju­dice against this Interpretation is this, that according to this rate of liberty in interpreting Scripture, it will signify very little or nothing, when any Person or Party is concern'd to oppose any Doctrine contained in it; and the plainest Texts for any Article of Faith, how fundamental and ne­cessary soever, may by the same arts and ways of interpretation be eluded and render'd utterly ineffectual for the establishing of it: For example, If any man had a mind to call in question that Article of the Creed con­cerning the Creation of the World, why might he not, according to Socinus his way of interpreting St. John, un­derstand the first Chapter of Genesis concerning the beginning of the Mo­saical Dispensation, and interpret the Creation of the Heaven and the Earth [Page 62] to be the Institution of the Jewish Politie and Religion, as by the new Heavens and the new Earth they pre­tend is to be understood the new State of things under the Gospel? And why may not the Chaos signify that state of darkness and ignorance in which the World was before the giving of the Law by Moses? And so on;Dr. Stil­lingfleet, now Bishop of Wor­cester. as a very learned Divine of our own hath ingeniously shewn more at large.

There is no end of Wit and Fancy, which can turn any thing any way, and can make whatever they please to be the meaning of any Book, though never so contrary to the plain design of it, and to that sense which at the first hearing and reading of it is obvious to every man of com­mon sense.

And this, in my opinion, Socinus hath done in the Case now before us, by imposing a new and odd and vio­lent sense upon this Passage of St. John, directly contrary to what [Page 63] any man would imagine to be the plain and obvious meaning of it, and contrary likewise to the sense of the Christian Church in all Ages down to his Time; who yet had as great or greater advantage of understand­ing St. John aright, and as much in­tegrity as any man can now modest­ly pretend to: And all this only to serve and support an Opinion which he had entertain'd before, and there­fore was resolv'd one way or other to bring the Scripture to comply with it: And if he could not have done it, it is greatly to be feared that he would at last have called in question the Divine Authority of St. John's Gospel rather than have quitted his Opinion.

And to speak freely, I must needs say that it seems to me a much fairer way to reject the Divine Authority of a Book, than to use it so disinge­nuously and to wrest the plain expres­sions of it with so much straining and violence from their most natural and obvious sense: For no Doctrine [Page 64] whatsever can have any certain foundation in any Book, if this liber­ty be once admitted, without regard to the plain Scope and Occasion of it to play upon the words and phrases with all the arts of Criticism and with all the variety of Allegory which a brisk and lively Imagination can de­vise: which I am so far from admi­ring in the expounding of the Holy Scriptures, that I am always jealous of an over-labour'd and far-fetch'd interpretation of any Author whatso­ever.

I do readily grant that the Socini­an Writers have managed the Cause of the Reformation against the Innova­tions and Corruptions of the Church of Rome both in Doctrine and Pra­ctice, with great acuteness and ad­vantage in many respects: But I am sorry to have cause to say that they have likewise put into their hands bet­ter and sharper weapons than ever they had before for the weakning and undermining of the Authority [Page 65] of the H. Scriptures, which Socinus indeed hath in the general strongly asserted, had he not by a dangerous liberty of imposing a foreign and fore'd sense upon particular Texts brought the whole into uncertainty.

Thirdly, Which is as considerable a prejudice against this new interpre­tation of this Passage of St. John as either of the former, I shall endea­vour to shew that this Point, of the existence of the Word before his Incar­nation, does not rely only upon this single Passage of St. John, but is like­wise confirmed by many other Texts of the New Testament conspiring in the same sense and utterly incapable of the interpretation which Socinus gives of it.

I find he would be glad to have it taken for granted that this is the only Text in the New Testament to this purpose: And therefore he says very cunningly, that this Doctrine of the existence of the Son of God before his Incarnation is too great a Doctrine [Page 66] to be establish'd upon one single Text: And this is is something, if it were true that there is no other Text in the New Testament that does plainly deliver the same sense: And yet this were not sufficient to bring in questi­on the Doctrine delivered in this Passage of St. John.

That God is a Spirit will I hope be acknowledged to be a very weighty and fundamental Point of Religion, and yet I am very much mistaken if there be any more than one Text in the whole Bible that says so, and that Text is only in St. John's Gospel. I know it may be said, that from the light of natural Reason it may be sufficiently prov'd that God is a Spi­rit: But surely Socinus of all men, cannot say this with a good grace; because he denies that the existence of a God can be known by natural light without Divine Revelation: And if it cannot be known by natu­ral light that there is a God, much less can it be known by natural light [Page 67] what God is, whether a Spirit or a Body.

And yet after all it is very far from being true that there is but one Text to this purpose; which yet he thought fit to insinuate by way of ex­cuse for the novelty and boldness of his interpretation; of which any one that reads him may see that he was sufficiently conscious to himself, and therefore was so wise as to endeavour by this sly insinuation to provide and lay in against it. I have likewise another reason which very much in­clines me to believe that Socinus was the first Author of this interpretation, because it seems to me next to im­possible that a man, of so good an understanding as he was, could ever have been so fond of so ill-favour'd a Child if it had not been his own. And yet I do not at all wonder that his Followers came in to it so readi­ly, since they had him in so great a veneration, it being natural to all Sects to admire their Master; besides [Page 68] that I doubt not but they were very glad to have so great an Authority as they thought him to be, to vouch for an interpretation which was so seasonably devis'd for the relief of their Cause in so much danger to be overthrown by a Text that was so plain and full against them.

And how little ground there is for this Insinuation, that this is the only Text in the New Testament to this purpose, I shall now shew from a multitude of other Texts to the same sense and purpose with this Passage of St. John. And I shall rank them un­der two Heads.

First, Those which expresly assert the Son of God to have been, and to have been in Heaven with God, and partaker with him in his Glory, before his Incarnation and appearance in the World.

Secondly, Those which affirm that the World and all Creatures whatso­ever were made by him.

[Page 69] I. Those Texts which expresly assert the Son of God to have been, and to have been in Heaven with God, and partaker with him in his Glory, before his Incarnation and appearance in the World.

No man hath ascended into Heaven, John 3. 13. but he that came down from Heaven, the Son of man who is in Heaven: Where the Son is said to have come down from Heaven, in respect of the Union of his Divinity with human Nature and his special residence in it here below: And yet he is said to have come down from Heaven as still to be in Heaven: He that came down from Heaven, the Son of man who is in Heaven, that is, in respect of his Divinity by which he is every-where present: And he that came down from Heaven is here called the Son of man, by the same Figure that his Blood is elsewhere called the Blood of God, Acts 20. 28. the Apostle ascribing that to one Nature which is proper to the other: This we take to be the most natural and easie sense of this [Page 70] Text, and most agreeable to the te­nour of the New Testament.

Again;John 6. 62. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was be­fore? So that if he really ascended up into Heaven after his Resurrection, he was really there before his Incarnation.

Before Abraham was, John 8. 58. says our B. Sa­viour, I am; the obvious sense of which words is, that he had a real existence before Abraham was actually in Being.

Again it is said,John 13. 3. that Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God, &c.

And again;Joh. 16. 27, For the Father himself loveth you, because ye loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. v. 28. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the World; again, I leave the World, and go to the Father: This was so very plain, that his Disciples who were slow enough of apprehension in other things, did understand this so well that upon this declaration of [Page 71] his they were convinced of his Om­niscience, which is an incommunicable Property of the Divinity: For so it im­mediately follows,v. 29, 30. His Disciples said unto him, Lord, now speakest thou plainly and speakest no Parable: Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: By this we believe that thou camest forth from God. So that either this which I have all along declared must be the meaning of our Saviour's words, or else his Disciples were grosly mistaken and did not understand him at all: And if so, then surely our Saviour before he had proceeded any further would have corrected their mistake and have set them right in this mat­ter: But so far is he from doing that, that he allows them to have under­stood him aright: For thus it fol­lows,v. 31. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? as if he had said, I am glad that you are at last convinc'd and do believe that I came from God, and must return to him; and that I know [Page 72] all things, which none but God can do. Is it now possible for any man to read this Passage and yet not to be convinced that the Disciples under­stood our Saviour to speak literally? But if his meaning was as the Socini­ans would make us believe, then the Disciples did perfectly mistake his words; the contrary whereof is I think very plain and evident beyond all contradiction.

Again,John 17. 5. And now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee, before the World was: This surely is not spoken of his being with God after his Incarnation, and before his entrance upon his publick Ministry: They have not I think the face to understand this expression, before the World was, of the new Crea­tion, but do endeavour to avoid it another way, which I shall consider by and by.

And a little after,v. 8. I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them, and known assuredly [Page 73] that I came from thee, and that thou didst send me.

Again,1 Joh. 1. 1, 2. That which was from the be­ginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of life: For the life was mani­fested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and shew unto you that eternal Life, for so he calls the Son of God, which was with the Father, and was mani­fested unto us.

And that he was not only with God before he assumed human Nature, but also was really God, St. Paul tells us:Phil. 2. 5, 6, 7, 8. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God [...], did not arrogate to himself to be equal with God, that is, he made no ostentation of his Divinity: For this I take to be the true meaning of that Phrase, both because it is so used by Plutarch, and because it makes the sense much more easie and current, thus, who be­ing in the form of God, did not assume [Page 74] an equality with God, that is, he did not appear in the Glory of his Divi­nity, which was hid under a Veil of human flesh and infirmity; But he emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, or in the habit of a man, he became obedient to the death, &c. So that if his being made in the likeness and fashion of a man does signify that he was really Man by his Incarnation, then surely his being in the form of God when he took upon him the fashion and likeness of man and the form of a Servant or Slave, must in all reason signify that he was really God before he became Man: For which reason the same Apostle did not doubt to say, that God was manifested in the flesh. 1 Tim. 3. 16.

And now I hope that I have made it fully appear that the beginning of St. John's Gospel is not the single and only Text upon which we ground this great Doctrine as Socinus calls it, and as we really esteem it to be: [Page 75] For you see that I have produced a great many more; to avoid the dint and force whereof the Socinians do chiefly make use of these two Answers.

First, To those Texts which say that he was in Heaven and came down from Heaven, they give this answer; That our Saviour some time before his entrance upon his publick Mini­stry, they cannot agree precisely when, was taken up into Heaven, and then and there had the Will of God revealed to him, and was sent down from Heaven again to make it known to the World.

This is so very arbitrary and pre­carious a Supposition that I must con­fess my self not a little out of coun­tenance for them, that men of so much Wit and Reason should ever be put to so sorry and pitiful a shift. For can any man imagine that in so exact a History of our Saviour's Life, written by several Persons, the Re­lation [Page 76] of so important a matter as this, and of the circumstances of it, should be wholly omitted? That we should have a particular account of his being carried into Egypt in his in­fancy, and of the time when he was brought back from thence: Of his disputing in the Temple with the Jewish Doctors, and putting them to silence, when he was but twelve years of Age: A punctual Relation of his being baptized by John; and how after that he was led by the Spirit into the Wilderness to be tempted of the Devil, and was carried by that evil Spirit from one place to another: But not one word of his being taken up by God into Heaven, and of his coming down again from thence; not the least intimation given either of the Time or any other circumstance of so memorable a thing, upon which, according to the Socinians, the Autho­rity of his Mission and the Divinity of his Doctrine did so much depend: When so many things of so much [Page 77] less moment are so minutely and ex­actly reported, what can be the rea­son of this deep silence in all the Evangelists concerning this matter? But above all, it is to be wondred that St. John, who wrote his Gospel last, and as Eusebius tells us on pur­pose to supply the omissions of the other Evangelists, should give no ac­count of this thing, and yet, as the Socinians suppose, should so often take it for granted and refer to it; as when it is said that he came forth from God, and was sent from God, and came down from Heaven, besides se­veral other Expressions to this pur­pose.

Who can believe this? And can it then be reasonable to suppose such a thing? And this without any ground from the History of the Gospel, only to serve an Hypothesis which they had taken up, and which they cannot maintain, unless they may have leave to make a Supposition for which they have nothing in truth to [Page 78] say, but only that it is necessary to defend an Opinion which they are resolved not to part with upon any terms.

This is so inartificial, not to say absurd a way of avoiding a difficulty, to take for granted whatever is ne­cessary to that purpose, that no man of common ingenuity would make use of it: And there is no surer sign that a Cause is greatly distress'd than to be driven to such a shift. For do but give a man leave to suppose what he pleases and he may prove what he will, and avoid any difficul­ty whatever that can be objected to him.

Besides, that according to this device the Son of God did not first come from Heaven into the World, as the Scripture seems every where to say, but first was in the World, and then went to Heaven, and from thence came back into the World again: And he was not in the beginning with God, but was first in the World [Page 79] and afterwards with God; whereas St. John says that the Word was in the beginning, and then was made flesh and dwelt among us: But they say, that he first was made flesh, and then a great while after was in the beginning with God: A supposition which is quite contrary to all the Texts which I have mention'd.

Nor do the several parts of this interpretation of theirs agree very well together. In the beginning, that is, say they, when the Gospel first be­gan to be publish'd, was the Word; and then, that is, in the beginning, he was with God, that is in Heaven to re­ceive from God that Doctrine which he was to deliver to the World: But if by the beginning be meant the first publication of the Gospel, he was not then with God, but had been with him and was come back from him before he entred upon his publick Ministry, which they make to be the meaning of the beginning: And in the beginning he was God, that is say they, [Page 80] not God by Nature but by Office and Divine constitution: And yet in this again they fall foul upon them­selves, for they say he was not decla­red to be God till after his Resurrecti­on and his being advanced to the right hand of God: So that he was not God in their sense of the begin­ning, that is when he entred upon his publick Ministry and began to preach the Gospel.

Secondly, As to some other Texts which speak of his existence before his Incarnation, as that he was glori­fied with his Father before the World was, and before Abraham was, I am: These they interpret thus, that he was glori­fied with his Father before the World was, and that he was before Abraham was, viz. in the Divine foreknowledg and Decree: But then surely they do not consider that this is nothing but what might have been said of any other man and even of Abraham himself, that before he was, that is, before he had a real and actual existence he [Page 81] was in the purpose and Decree of God, that is, before he was, God did intend he should be: Which is a sense so very flat, that I can hardly abstain from saying it is ridiculous. For certainly our Saviour did intend by saying this of himself to give himself some preference and advan­tage above Abraham, which this sense and interpretation does not in the least do: Because of any other man, as well as of our B. Saviour, it may as truly be said that he was in the foreknowledg and Decree of God before Abraham was born.

And I cannot but observe further, that our Saviour does not say before Abraham was, I was; but before Abra­ham was, I AM: Which is the pro­per Name of God, whereby is signi­fied the eternal duration and perma­nency of his Being: In which sense he is said by the Apostle to the Hebrews to be the same yesterday, Heb. 13. 8. to day, and for ever; And so likewise he describes himself in St. John's Vision,Rev. 1. 8. I am [...] [Page 82] and [...], the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty: And that this is spoken of the Son you may see in the same Chapter, where he says of himself,v. 17. I am the first and the last: And so likewise he describes himself again,Rev. 22. 13. I am [...] and [...], the be­ginning and the end, the first and the last: And that we may not doubt who it is that thus describes his own Eternity, he continuing still to speak in the same Person says,v. 16. I Jesus have sent mine Angel, &c. After this I shall on­ly observe that all these expressions are the common Description which the Scripture gives of the Eternity of God, whose Being is commensu­rate to all the several respects of Duration, past, present, and to come: Besides that the Attribute of Almighty is also a part of this Description, which is so peculiar a Property of God, I mean of Him who is God by Nature, that the Scripture never gives it to any other.

[Page 83] II. I shall in the next place pro­duce those Texts which do expresly affirm that the World and all Creatures whatsoever were made by him: And this will not only infer his existence be­fore his Incarnation, but from all Eternity.

And for this, besides this Passage of St. John, we have the Apostle to the Hebrews most express, who says that by him God made the Worlds: Heb. 1. 2. And St. Paul likewise says the same more fully and particularly,Coloss. 1. 15, 16. calling Jesus Christ, who was the Son of God, the first born of every Creature, that is, as I have shewn in my former Dis­course, the Heir and Lord of the whole Creation: For by him, says he, were all things created, that are in Heaven and that are in Earth, visible and invisi­ble; Whether they be Thrones or Domini­ons, Principalities or Powers, for so he calls the several Orders of Angels: all things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things: Or, as he is de­scribed [Page 84] in St. John's Vision, he is the beginning of the Creation of God, that is, the Principle and Efficient Cause of the Creation; or else, he was when all things began to be made, and therefore must be before any thing was created, and for that reason could not be a Creature himself; and con­sequently, must of necessity have been from all Eternity.

Now these Texts must necessarily be understood of the old Creation and of the natural World, and not of the moral World, and the Renovation and Reformation of the minds and man­ners of men by the Gospel: For that was only the World here below which was reform'd by him, and not things in Heaven; not the invisible World, not the several Orders of good Angels, which kept their first station and have no need to be reform'd and made anew: Nor the Devil and his evil Angels; for though since the preaching of the Gospel they have been under greater restraint and kept [Page 85] more within bounds, yet we have no reason to think that they are at all reform'd, but are Devils still, and have the same malice and mind to do all the mischief to Man­kind that God will suffer them to do.

So that these Texts seem at first view to be very plain and pres­sing of themselves, but they ap­pear to be much more convincing when we consider the groundless interpretations whereby they en­deavour to evade the dint and force of them. For can any man that seriously attends to the perpe­tual style and Phrase of the New Testament, and to the plain scope and drift of the Apostle's reasoning in these Texts, be induc'd to believe that when St. Paul tells us that all things were created by him, that are in Heaven and that are in Earth, visible and invi­sible; whether they be Thrones, or Do­minions, or Principalities, or Powers: I say, can any man of good sense [Page 86] persuade himself that by all this the Apostle means no more than the moral Renovation of the World here below, and the Reformation of Mankind by Jesus Christ, and his Gospel which was preach'd unto them?

But there is yet one Text more to this purpose, which I have re­serv'd to the last place; because I find Schlictingius and Crellius, in their joint Comment upon it, to be put to their last shifts to avoid the force of it. It is in the Epistle to the Hebrews, at the beginning of it: Where the Apostle thus de­scribes the Son of God; Heb. 1. 2. God, says he, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath constitu­ted heir of all things, by whom also he made the Worlds: From whence he argues the excellency of the Gospel above the Law: For the Law was given by Angels, but the Gospel by the Son of God; whose prehemi­nence above the Angels he shews [Page 87] at large in the two first Chapters of this Epistle.

And to this end he proves the two parts of the Description which had been given of him, namely, that God had constituted him heir of all things, v. 2. and that by Him he made the Worlds.

First, That God had constituted him heir of all things, which is no­where said of the Angels: But of him it is said that was made so much better than the Angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excel­lent Name than they: v. 7. The Angels are only called God's Ministers, for which the Apostle cites the words of the Psalmist; Ps. 104. 4. but to Christ he gives the Title of his Son, and his first begotten, by virtue whereof he is heir of all things: v. 6. For to which of the Angels said he at any time, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And this I will agree with them to be spoken of Christ with respect to his [Page 88] Resurrection, by which, as St. Paul tells us,Rom. 1. 4. he was powerfully declared to be the Son of God. This is the first Prerogative of Christ above the Angels: But there is a far greater yet behind; for he proves,

Secondly, That he had not only the Title of God given him; but that he was truly and really God, because he made the World. v. 8. That the Title of God was given him he proves by a citation out of the Psalmist, Ps. 45. 6, 7. But unto the Son he saith, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever, &c. And that he was truly and really God because he made the World, he proves by a cita­tion out of another Psalm, where it is said of him,v. 10, 11, 12. Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the Earth, and the Heavens are the works of they hands: They shall perish, &c.

Let us now see how Schlictin­gius and Crellius interpret this Text cited out of the Psalmist by the Apostle as spoken of Christ. They [Page 89] say,Ne referre qui­dem haec priora verba, de coeli ter­raeque creatione lo­quentia, ad Chri­stum potuisset Au­tor, nisi pro conces­so sumsisset Chri­stum esse summum illum Deum, coeli & terrae Creato­rem; praesertim si ea, ut necesse soret, primò & directè ad Christum dicta esse censeas. Nam cum omnia Psalmi verba manifestè de Deo loquuntur, Christum autem Deum illum esse ne unico quidem verbo in toto hoc Psalmo indicetur; necesse est ut si verba illa ad Chri­stum directa esse velis, pro concesso sumas, Christum esse Deum illum summum de quo in Psalmo se [...]mo est. that the Author of this Epistle could not have referr'd to Christ the former words of this Citation, which speak of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, unless he had taken it for granted that Christ is the most high God; especially if they be understood, as they must necessarily be by those who take this for granted, to be spoken in the first place and di­rectly to, or concerning, Christ. For since all the words of the Psalm are manifestly spoken of the most High God, but that Christ is that God is not signified no not so much as by one word in that Psalm, it is necessary that if you will have these words to be directed to Christ, you must take it for granted that Christ is that most High God of whom the Psalmist there speaks.

[Page 90] Now we will join issue with these Interpreters upon this Concession, viz. that the Author of this Epistle could not have referr'd these words, which speak of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, to Christ, without taking it for granted that Christ is truly that God who made the World. And if the Author of this Epistle does affirm these words of the Psalmist to be spoken of Christ, then they must acknowledge Christ to be the true God who made Heaven and Earth: But the Author of this Epistle does as evidently affirm these words to be spoken to or of Christ, as he does the words of any other Text cited in this Chapter: And for this I appeal to the common sense of every man that reads them.

These Interpreters indeed are con­tented that the latter part of this Cita­tion should be spoken of Christ, but not the former: But why not the for­mer as well as the latter? when they have so expresly told us that all the words of this Psalm are manifestly spoken [Page 91] of God. What is the mystery of this? Could they not as easily have inter­preted the former part which speaks of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, con­cerning the moral World, and the new Creation or Reformation of Mankind by Jesus Christ and his Gospel, as well as so many other plain Texts to the same purpose? No doubt they could as well have done it, and have set as good a face upon it when they had done it. But why then did they not do it? It was for a reason which they had no mind to tell, but yet is not hard to be guessed at, namely, that if they had admitted the former words to have been spoken of Christ they knew not what to do with the latter part of this Citation, v. 11, 12. They shall perish, but thou remainest; they shall wax old as agarment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. What shall perish, and wax old, and be changed? Why, the Earth and the Heavens which the Son had made, that is, the moral World, the Refor­mation [Page 92] of Mankind, and the new Creation of things by the Gospel: All these must have undergone the same fate with the natural World, and must not only have been defaced, but ut­terly destroy'd and brought to no­thing. This they would not say, but they did see it, tho they would not seem to see it: And we may plainly see by this, that they can in­terpret a Text right when necessity forceth them to it, and they cannot without great inconvenience to their Cause avoid it: But when men have once resolv'd to hold fast an Opinion they have taken up, it then becomes not only convenient but necessary to understand nothing that makes against it: And this is truly the present case. But in the mean time where is ingenuity and love of Truth?

And thus I have, with all the clearness and brevity I could, search'd to the very foundations of this new Interpretation of this [Page 93] Passage of the Evangelist, upon which the Divinity of the Son of God is so firmly established; and likewise of the gross misinterpretations of seve­ral other Texts to the same purpose in this Evangelist, and in other Books of the New Testament: All which In­terpretations I have endeavoured to shew to be not only contrary to the sense of all Antiquity, of which as Socinus had but little knowledge, so he seems to have made but little ac­count; but to be also evidently con­trary to the perpetual tenour and style of the H. Scripture.

Before I go off from this Argu­ment, I cannot but take notice of one thing wherein our Adversaries in this Cause do perpetually glory as a mighty advantage which they think they have over us in this Point of the Divinity of the Son of God, and conse­quently in that other Point of the B. Trinity: namely, that they have Rea­son clearly on their Side in this Contro­versy, and that the Difficulties and Ab­surdities [Page 94] are much greater and plain­er on our part than on theirs.

Here they are pleas'd to triumph without modesty, and without mea­sure: And yet notwithstanding this, I am not afraid here likewise to join issue with them, and am contented to have this matter brought to a fair Trial at the Bar of Reason, as well as of Scripture expounded by the general Tradition of the Christian Church: I say by general Tradition, which next to Scripture is the best and surest confirmation of this great Point now in question between us, and that which gives us the greatest and truest light for the right under­standing of the true sense and mean­ing of Scripture not only in this, but in most other important Doctrines of the Christian Religion.

I am not without some good hopes, I will not say confidence, for I never thought that to be so great an advan­tage to any Cause as some men would be glad to make others believe [Page 95] it is, hoping to help and support a weak Argument by a strong and mighty confidence: But surely mo­desty never hurt any Cause, and the confidence of man seems to me to be much like the wrath of man, which 1. v. 20. James tells us worketh not the righte­ousness of God, that is, it never does any good, it never serves any wise and real purpose of Religion:

I say, I am not without some good hopes, that I have in the fore­going Discourses clearly shewn that the tenour of Scripture and general Tradition are on our Side in this Argu­ment, and therefore I shall not need to give my self the trouble to exa­mine this matter over again.

Now as to the Point of Reason, the great Difficulty and Absurdity, which they object to our Doctrine con­cerning this Mystery, amounts to thus much, that it is not only above Reason, but plainly contrary to it.

As to its being above Reason, which they are loth to admit any [Page 96] thing to be; this I think will bear no great Dispute: Because if they would be pleased to speak out, they can mean no more by this, but that our Reason is not able fully to com­prehend it: But what then? Are there no Mysteries in Religion? That I am sure they will not say, because God whose infinite Nature and Per­fections are the very Foundation of all Religion is certainly the greatest Mystery of all other, and the most in­comprehensible: But we must not, nay they will not for this reason deny, that there is such a Being as God. And therefore if there be Mysteries in Religion, it is no reasonable Ob­jection against them that we cannot fully comprehend them: Because all Mysteries in what kind soever, whether in Religion or in Nature, so long, and so far as they are Mysteries, are for that very reason incompre­hensible.

But they urge the matter much further, that this particular Mystery [Page 97] now under debate is plainly contrary to Reason: And if they can make this good, I will confess that they have gained a great Point upon us. But then they are to be put in mind, that to make this good against us they must clearly shew some plain Contra­diction in this Doctrine, which I could never yet see done by any. Great Difficulty I acknowledge there is in the explication of it, in which the further we go, beyond what God hath thought fit to reveal to us in Scripture concerning it, the more we are entangled, and that which men are pleased to call an explaining of it, does in my apprehension often make it more obscure, that is, less plain than it was before; which does not so very well agree with a pretence of Explication.

Here then I fix my foot: That there are three Differences in the Deity, which the Scripture speaks of by the Names of Father, Son, and H. Ghost, and every where speaks of them as [Page 98] we use to do of three distinct Persons: And therefore I see no reason why in this Argument we should nicely ab­stain from using the word Person; though I remember that St. Jerome does somewhere desire to be excused from it.

Now concerning these Three I might in the first place urge that plain and express Text, 1 John 5. 7. There are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the H. Ghost; and these three are one: But upon this I will not now insist, because it is pretended that in some Copies of greatest antiquity this Verse is omitted; the contrary where­of is I think capable of being made out very clearly: But this matter would be too long to be debated at present.

However that be, thus much is certain and cannot be deni'd, that our Saviour commanded his Apostles to baptize all Nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: And that the Apostles in their Epistles do in [Page 99] their most usual form of Benediction join these Three together: And it is yet further certain, that not only the Name and Title of God, but the most incommunicable Properties and Per­fections of the Deity, are in Scripture frequently ascribed to the Son and the H. Ghost; one Property only ex­cepted, which is peculiar to the Father as he is the Principle and Foun­tain of the Deity, that he is of him­self and of no other; which is not, nor can be said of the Son and H. Ghost.

Now let any man shew any plain and downright Contradiction in all this; or any other Difficulty besides this, that the particular manner of the existence of these three Differen­ces or Persons in the Divine Nature, express'd in Scripture by the Names of Father, Son, aud H. Ghost, is in­comprehensible by our finite Understand­ings, and inexplicable by us: In which I do not see what Absurdity there is, since our Adversaries cannot deny that [Page 100] many things certainly are, the parti­cular manner of whose existence we can neither comprehend, nor explain.

Let us now see, whether the Opi­nion of our Adversaries hath not great­er Difficulties in it, and more palpable Absurdities following from it. They say, that the Son of God is a mere Creature; not God by Nature, and yet truly and really God by Office and by Divine appointment and con­stitution; to whom the very same Honour and Worship is to be given which we give to Him who is God by Nature.

And can they discern no Difficulty, no Absurdity in this? What? no ab­surdity in bringing Idolatry by a back­door into the Christian Religion, one main Design whereof was to banish Idolatry out of the World? And will they in good earnest contest this matter with us, that the giving Divine Worship to a mere Creature is not Idolatry? And can they vindicate [Page 101] themselves in this Point any other way, than what will in a great measure acquit both the Pagans and the Papists from the charge of Idolatry?

What? no Absurdity in a God as it were but of yesterday? in a Creature God, in a God merely by positive In­stitution; and this in opposition to a plain moral Precept of eternal obliga­tion, and to the fix'd and immutable Nature and Reason of things?

So that to avoid the shadow and appearance of a Plurality of Deities they run really into it, and for any thing I can see into downright Ido­latry,Rom. 1. 25. by worshipping a Creature besides the Creator, who is blessed for ever.

They can by no means allow two Gods by Nature; no more can we: But they can willingly admit of two Gods; the one by Nature, and the other by Office, to whom they are content to pay the same Honour which is due to Him who is God by Nature. Provided Christ will be con­tented to be but a Creature, they will [Page 102] deal more liberally with him in ano­ther way than in reason is fit▪

And do they see no absurdity in all this? nothing that is contrary to Reason and good sense? nothing that feels like inconsistency and Contradi­ction? Do they consider how often God hath declar'd that he will not give his glory to another? And that the Apostle describes Idolatry to be, the giving service, Gal. 4 8. or worship, to things which by Nature are no Gods?

Surely if Reason guided by Divine Revelation were to chuse a God, it would make choice of one who is declared in Scripture to be the only begotten of the Father, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the same yesterday, to day, and for ever: much rather than a mere Creature, who did not begin to be till about seventeen hundred years ago.

I only propose these things, with­out any artificial aggravation, to their most serious and impartial con­sideration; after which I cannot [Page 103] think that these great Masters of Rea­son can think it so easy a matter to extricate themselves out of these Difficulties. The God of Truth lead us into all Truth, and enlighten the minds of those who are in Error, and give them Repentance to the acknow­ledgment of the Truth: For his sake who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

And thus much may suffice to have said upon this Argument, which I am sensible is mere Controversy: A thing which I seldom meddle with, and do not delight to dwell upon. But my Text which is so very proper for this Season hath almost necessa­rily engaged me in it: Besides, that I think it a Point of that concern­ment, that all Christians ought to be well instructed in it. And I have chosen rather once for all to handle it fully and to go to the bottom of it, than in every Sermon to be flurting at it, without saying any thing to the purpose against it: A way which in my opinion is neither proper to esta­blish [Page 104] men in the truth nor to con­vince them of their Error.

I shall only at present make this short reflection upon the whole: That we ought to treat the Holy Scriptures as the Oracles of God, with all reverence and submission of mind to the Doctrine therein revealed: And to interpret them with that can­dour and simplicity which is due to the sincere Declarations of God in­tended for the instruction and not for the deception and delusion of men: I say, we should treat them as the Oracles of God, and not like the doubtful Oracles of the Heathen Deities, that is, in truth of the Devil; which were contrived and calculated on purpose to deceive, containing and for the most part intending a sense directly contrary to the appearing and most obvious meaning of the Words: For the Devil was the first Author of Equivocation; though the Jesuits have since made it a lawful way of lying, which their Father of [Page 105] whom they learn'd it had not credit and authority enough to do.

And it deserves likewise to be very well considered by us, that nothing hath given a greater force to the Exceptions of the Church of Rome against the H. Scripture's being a suf­ficient and certain Rule of Faith, than the uncertainty into which they have brought the plainest Texts ima­ginable for the establishing of Do­ctrines of greatest moment in the Christian Religion, by their remote and wrested interpretation of them: Which way of dealing with them seems to be really more contumelious to those H. Oracles, than the down­right rejecting of their Authority: Because this is a fair and open way of attacquing them, whereas the other is an insiduous, and therefore more dangerous way of undermi­ning them.

But as for us who do in good earnest believe the Divine Authority of the H. Scriptures, let us take all [Page 107] our Doctrines and Opinions from those clear Fountains of Truth, not disturb'd and darkned by searching anxiously into all the possible Senses that the several words and expressi­ons of Scripture can bear, and by forcing that sense upon them which is most remote and unnatural, and in the mean time wilfully overlook­ing and passing by that sense which is most obvious and easie to the com­mon apprehension of any unbyass'd and impartial Reader. This is to use the H. Scriptures as the Church of Rome have done many Holy and good men whom they are pleased to brand with the odious Name of He­reticks, to torture them till they speak the mind of their Tormen­tors though never so contrary to their own.

I will now conclude this whole Discourse with a Saying which I heard from a great and judicious Man, Non amo nimis argutam Theologiam, I love no Doctrines in Divinity which stand [Page 106] so very much upon quirk and subtilty. And I cannot upon this occasion for­bear to say, that those Doctrines of Religion and those Interpretations of Scripture have ever been to me the most suspected, which need abundance of Wit and a great many Criticisms to make them out: And considering the Wisdom and Goodness of Almighty God, I can­not possibly believe but that all things necessary to be believ'd and practis'd by Christians in order to their eternal Salvation are plain­ly contain'd in the H. Scriptures: God surely hath not dealt so hard­ly with Mankind as to make any thing necessary to be believ'd or practis'd by us which he hath not made sufficiently plain to the ca­pacity of the unlearned as well as of the learned. God forbid that it should be impossible for any man to be saved and to get to Heaven without a great deal of learning to direct and carry him [Page 108] thither, when the far greatest part of Mankind have no learning at all. It was well said by Erasmus, That it was never well with the Christian World since it began to be a matter of so much Subtilty and Wit for a man to be a true Christian.

SERMON III. Concerning the Incarnation of CHRIST.
Preached in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry, December 21. 1680.

JOHN I. 14.‘The Word was made flesh.’

THE last Year about this Time, and upon the same Occasion of the Annual Comme­moration of the Incarnation and Na­tivity of our B. Lord and Saviour, I began to discourse to you upon these Words: In which I told you were contained three great Points concern­ing our Saviour the Author and Founder of our Religion.

[Page 110] First, His Incarnation, the Word was made, or became flesh.

Secondly, His Life and conversati­on here amongst us; and dwelt among us, [...], he pitched his Ta­bernacle among us, he lived here below in this World, and for some time made his residence and abode with us.

Thirdly, That in this state of his Humiliation he gave great and clear evidence of his Divinity: Whilst he appear'd as a Man and lived amongst us, there were great and glorious Testimonies given of Him that he was the Son of God; and that in so peculiar a manner as no Creature can be said to be: And we beheld his Glory, the Glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

I began with the first of these, namely his Incarnation, the Word was made flesh: For the full and clear ex­plication of which words I proposed to consider these two things.

[Page 111] I. The Person here spoken of and I who it is that is here said to be incar­nate, or made flesh, namely the Word. And this I have handled at large in my two former Discourses upon this Text. I shall now proceed in the

II. Second place to give some ac­count II of the nature and manner of this Incarnation, so far as the Scripture hath thought fit to reveal and declare this Mystery to us. The Word was made flesh, that is, He who is perso­nally called the Word, and whom the Evangelist hath so fully and clearly described in the beginning of his Gospel, he became flesh, that is, assu­med our Nature and became man; for so the word flesh is frequently used in Scripture, for Man or Human Nature.

So that by the Word's becoming flesh, that is, Man, the Evangelist did not only intend to express to us that he assumed a human Body without a Soul, but that he became a perfect Man, consisting of Soul and Body [Page 112] united. It is very probable indeed that the Evangelist did purposely chuse the word flesh, which signifies the frail and mortal part of Humanity, to denote to us the great condescensi­on of the Son of God in assuming our Nature with all its infirmities, and becoming subject to frailty and mor­tality for our sake.

Having thus explain'd the mean­ing of this Proposition, the Word was made flesh, I shall in a further prose­cution of this Argument take into consideration these three things.

First, I shall consider more di­stinctly what may reasonably be suppos'd to be implied in this expressi­on of the Word's being made flesh.

Secondly, I shall consider the Ob­jections which are commonly brought against this Incarnation of the Son of God from the seeming impossibility, or incongruity of the thing.

Thirdly, And because, after all that can be said in answer to those Ob­jections, it may still appear to us very [Page 113] strange that God who could without all this circumstance, and condescen­sion even almost beneath the Ma­jesty of the Great God, at least as we are apt to think, have given Laws to Mankind, and have offer'd forgiveness of Sins and eternal life upon their Repentance for sins past, and sincere tho imperfect obedience for the future; I say, it may seem strange, that notwithstanding this God should yet make choice of this way and method of our Salvation: I shall therefore in the last place en­deavour to give some probable ac­count of this strange and wonderful Dispensation, and shew that it was done in great condescension to the weakness and common prejudices of Mankind; and that when it is throughly consider'd it will appear to be much more for our comfort and advantage than any other way which the wisdom of this World would have been apt to devise and pitch up­on. And in all this I shall, all along [Page 141] take either the plain declarations of Scripture, or the pregnant intimations of it for my ground and guide.

I. I shall consider more distinctly what may reasonably be supposed to be im­plied in this expression of the Word's being made flesh, namely, these five things.

First, The truth and reality of the thing: That the Son of God did not only appear in the form of human flesh, but did really assume it: the Word was made flesh, as the Evangelist expresly declares: For if this had been only a Phantasme and Apparition, as some Hereticks of old did fancy, it would in all probability have been like the appearance of Angels men­tioned in the old Testament, sudden and of short continuance, and would after a little while have vanish'd and disappear'd. But he dwelt among us and convers'd familiarly with us a long time, and for many years toge­ther; and the Scripture useth all the expressions which are proper to sig­nify a real Man, and a real Human [Page 115] Body, and there were all the signs and evidences of reality that could be: For the Word is said to be made flesh, and Christ is said to be of the seed of David according to the flesh, and to be made of a Woman; and all this to shew that he was a real Man, and had a real and substantial Body: For he was born, and by degrees grew up to be a Man, and did perform all such actions as are natural and proper to Men: He continued a great while in the World, and at last suffer'd and dy'd, and was laid in the grave; He did not vanish and disappear like a Phantasme or Spirit, but he dyed like other Men: And his Body was raised again out of the grave; and after he was risen, he conversed forty days upon Earth, and permitted his body to be handled, and last of all was visibly taken up into Heaven.

So that either we must grant Him to have had a real Body, or we have cause to doubt whether all Mankind be not mere Phantasms and Appari­tions. [Page 116] For greater evidence no man can give that he is really clothed with and carries about him a true and substantial Body, than the Son of God did in the days of his flesh. It is to me very wonderful upon what ground, or indeed to what end, the Hereticks of old, Marcion and others, did de­ny the reality of Christ's flesh. Surely they had a great mind to be Hereticks who took up so sensless an Opinion for no reason, and to no purpose.

Secondly, Another thing implyed in the Word's being made flesh, is, that this was done peculiarly for the benefit and advantage of Men: The Word was made flesh, that is, became Man; for so I have shewn the word flesh to be often used in Scripture. And this the Au­thor of the Epistle to the Hebrews takes very special notice of as a great grace and favour of God to Man­kind, that his Son appear'd in our Nature, and consequently for our Salvation; as it is said in the Nicene Creed, who for us Men and for our Sal­vation [Page 117] came down from Heaven, and was incarnate, &c. For verily, says the Apostle, Hebr. 2. 16. He took not on him the nature of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham, [...], he did not assume the Angelical Nature, so our Translators understood the phrase; but the word also signifies to take hold of a thing which is falling, as well as to assume or take on him: He did not take hold of the Angels when they were falling, but suffered them to lapse irrecoverably into misery and ruine: But he took hold of Human Nature when it was falling, and particularly of the Seed of Abraham, and by the Seed of Abraham, that is, by himself, in whom all the Nations of the Earth were blessed, he brought Salva­tion first to the Jews, and then to the rest of Mankind. The Apostle chuses to derive this Blessing from Abraham, that so he might bring it nearer to the Jews to whom he wrote this Epistle, and might thereby more effectually recommend the Gospel to [Page 118] them, and the glad tidings of that great Salvation in which they had so peculiar an interest.

And it is some confirmation of the interpretation I have given of that expression he took not on him, &c. that the Evangelist uses the very same word for taking hold of one that was ready to sink: For so it is said of St. Peter when he was ready to sink, that Christ put forth his hand [...] and caught hold of him, Matth. 14. 31. and saved him from drowning: And thus the Son of God caught hold of Mankind which was ready to sink into eternal perditi­on: He laid hold of our Nature, or as it is express'd in the same Chapter, he took part of flesh and blood, that in our Nature he might be capable of effecting our Redemption and Deli­verance.

But it is no where said in Scripture, not the least intimation given there, that the Son of God ever shew'd such grace and favour to the Angels: But the Word became flesh, that is, became [Page 119] Man: He did not assume the Angeli­cal Nature, but was contented to be cloathed with the Rags of Humanity, and to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, of sinful Man.

Thirdly, This expression of the Word's being made flesh may further im­ply his assuming the infirmities, and sub­mitting to the miseries of Human Na­ture. This I collect from the word flesh, by which the Scripture often useth to express our frail and mortal Nature. The Son of God did not only condescend to be made Man, but also to become mortal and misera­able for our sakes: He submitted to all those things which are accounted most grievous and calamitous to hu­man nature: To hunger and want, to shame and contempt, to bitter pains and agonies, and to a most cruel and disgraceful death: So that in this sense also he became flesh, not only by being cloathed with human nature, but by becoming liable to all the frailties and sufferings of it; [Page 120] of which he had a greater share than any of the Sons of men ever had: for never was sorrow like to his sor­row, nor suffering like to his suffer­ings, the weight and bitterness whereof was such as to wring from him, the meekest and most patient endurer of sufferings that ever was, that doleful complaint, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Fourthly, In this expression, the Word was made Flesh, is likewise im­plyed the Union of the Divinity with Human Nature in one Person. And this the Text expresseth in such words as seem to signifie a most perfect, and intimate, and vital Union of the Divine and human Natures of Christ in one Person: The Word was made, or be­came, flesh: Which what else can it signify but one of these two things? Either that the eternal Word and only begotten Son of God was changed into a Man, which is not only impossible to be, but impious to imagin: Or else, that the Son of God did assume [Page 121] our Nature and became Man by his Divinity being united to human Nature as the Soul is vitally united to the Body; without either being changed into it, or confounded with it, or swallowed up by it, as the Eutychian Hereticks fancied the human Nature of Christ to be swallowed up of his Divinity: Which had it been so, St. John had expressed himself very untowardly when he says, The Word became flesh; for it had been quite contrary, and flesh had become the Word, being changed into it, and swallowed up by it, and lost in it.

The only thing then that we can reasonably imagine to be the mean­ing of this expression is this, that the Son of God assumed our Nature, and united himself with it, as our Souls are united with our Bodies: And as the Soul and Body united make one Person, and yet retain their distinct Natures and Properties; so may we conceive the Divine and hu­man Natures in Christ to be united [Page 122] into one Person: And this without any change or confusion of the two Natures.

I say, the Divinity united it self with human Nature: For though flesh be only mentioned in the Text, yet he did not only assume a human Body, which was the Heresie of Apollinaris and his Followers, upon a mistake of this and some other Texts of Scri­pture: But he assumed the whole human Nature, that is, a human Soul united to a real and natural Body: for so I have shewn the word flesh to be fre­quently used in Scripture, not only for the Body but for the whole Man, by an usual Figure of speech: As on the other hand, Soul is frequently used for the whole Man or Person: So many Souls are said to have gone down with Jacob into Egypt, that is, so many Persons.

But this I need not insist longer upon, our Saviour being so frequent­ly in Scripture, and so expresly said to be a Man; which could with no pro­priety [Page 123] of speech have been said, had he only assumed a human Body: Nor could he have been said to have been made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, had he only had a human Body but not a Soul: For then the meaning must have been, that he had been made in all things like unto us, that is, like to a Man, that only ex­cepted which chiefly makes the Man, that is, the Soul: And the addition of those words, Sin only excepted, had been no less strange; because a hu­man Body, without a Soul, is neither capable of being said to have Sin, or to be without it.

And this may suffice to have been spoken in general concerning that great Mystery of the Hypostatical, as they that love hard words love to call it, or Personal Union of the Divine and human Natures in the Person of our B. Saviour: In the more particular explication whereof it is not safe for our shallow understandings to wade further than the Scripture goes before [Page 124] us, for fear we go out of our depth and lose our selves in the profound in­quiry into the deep things of God, which he has not thought fit in this present state of darkness and imperfe­ction to reveal more plainly and fully to us. It ought to be thought suffi­cient, that the Scripture speaking of the same Person, Jesus Christ our B. Saviour, doth frequently and expresly call him both God and Man: Which how it can be so easily conceived upon any other Supposition than that of the Union of the Divine and human Natures in one Person, I must confess that I am not able to comprehend.

Fifthly and lastly, All this which I have shewn to be implyed in this Proposition, the Word was made flesh, does signifie to us the wonderful and amazing condescension and love of God to Mankind in sending his Son into the World, and submitting him to this way and method for our Sal­vation and recovery. The Word was made flesh: What a step is here made [Page 125] in order to the reconciling of Men to God? From Heaven to Earth; from the top of Glory and Majesty to the lowest gulf of meanness and misery: The Evangelist seems here to use the word flesh, which signi­fies the meanest and vilest part of Humanity, to express to us how low the Son of God was contented to stoop for the Redemption of Man. The Word was made flesh: Two terms, at the greatest distance from one ano­ther, are here brought together: The Son of God is here expressed to us by one of his highest and most glorious Titles, the Word, which im­ports both Power and Wisdom; Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God, as the Apostle calls him: And human Nature is here described by its vilest part, flesh; which imports frailty and infirmity: The Word became flesh, that is, submitted to that from which it was at the greatest distance: He who was the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God, 1 Cor. 1. 24. submitted not [Page 126] only to be called, but really to be­come a frail and miserable Man; not only to assume our Nature, but to put on all the infirmities, and which is the greatest of all, the Mortality of it.

And this is the great Mystery of godli­ness, that is, of the Christian Religion, that God should be manifested in the flesh, and become man, with a most gracious and merciful design to bring man back again to God: That he should become a miserable, and a mortal man to save us from eternal death, and to make us partakers of everlasting life: That the Son of God should condescend to inhabit our vile Nature, to wear Rags and to become a beggar for our sakes; and all this not only to repair those dis­mal Ruins which Sin had made in it, and to restore us to our former estate; but to better and advance our condi­tion, and by degrees to bring us to a state of much greater perfection and happiness than that from which we fell.

[Page 127] And that he should become man on purpose that he might dwell among us, and converse with us, and thorough­ly instruct us in our Duty, and shew us the way to eternal life by his heavenly Doctrine, and as it were take us by the hand and lead us in that way by the perfect and familiar Example of a most blameless and ho­ly life; shewing us how God himself thought fit to live in this World, when he was pleased to become man.

That by conversing with us in the likeness and nature of man, he might become a human, and in some sort an equal and familiar, an imitable and encouraging Example of inno­cency and goodness, of meekness and humility, of patience and sub­mission to the Will of God under the forest afflictions and sufferings, and in a word a most perfect Pattern of a Divine and Heavenly conversation upon Earth.

And that by this means we might for our greater encouragement in ho­liness [Page 128] and vertue, see all that which the Law of God requires of us ex­emplified in our Nature, and really performed and practised by a Man like our selves.

And that likewise in our nature he might conquer and triumph over the two great Enemies of our Salvation, the World and the Devil: And by first suffering Death, and then overcom­ing it, and by rescuing our nature from the power of it by his Resur­rection from the dead, he might deli­ver us from the fear of Death, and give us the glorious hopes of a blessed Immortality: For by assuming our frail and mortal Nature he became capable of suffering and of shedding his precious Blood for us, and by that means of purchasing forgiveness of sins and eternal Redemption for us.

And further yet, that by being subject to the miseries and infirmities of Humanity, he might from his own Experience, the surest and most sensible sort of knowledge and in­struction, [Page 129] learn to have a more com­passionate sense of our infirmities, and be more apt to commiserate us in all our sufferings and temptations, and more ready to succour us labour­ing under them.

And finally, that as a Reward of his Obedience and sufferings in our Nature, he might in the same Na­ture be exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high, there to continue for ever to make intercession for us.

II. I shall in the next place con­sider the Objections against the Incar­nation of the Son of God, from the supposed impossibility and incongruity of the thing. I shall mention three, and endeavour in as few words as I can to give a clear and satisfactory Answer to them.

First, It is objected, that the Incar­nation of the Son of God as I have ex­plained it, neccessarily supposing an Union of the Divinity with human Na­ture [Page 130] is, if not altogether impossible, yet a very unintelligible thing.

Now that there is no impossibility in the thing seems to be very evident from the Instance whereby I have endeavoured to illustrate it, of the Union between the Soul and the Body of man, which we must acknow­ledge to be a thing possible, because we are sure that it is; and yet no man can explain, either to himself or to any one else, the manner how it is, or can be conceived to be; but for all that we are certain, as we can be of any thing, that it is so.

And is it not every whit as possible for God, if he so please, to unite himself to human Nature, as it is for the Soul to be united to the Body? And that we are not able to conceive the manner how this is or can be done, ought not in reason to be any prejudice against the truth and cer­tainty of the thing: This indeed may make it seem strange to us, but [Page 131] by no means incredible: Because we do most firmly believe a great many things to be, the manner of whose Being we do not at all com­prehend. And therefore I take it for an undoubted Principle which no Man can gainsay, That to assure us that a thing really is, it is not necessary for us to know the manner how it is, or can be: It is sufficient for us to know, that the thing is not impossible; and of that we have the very best Demon­stration that can be, if we be sure that it is.

Secondly, supposing this thing to be possible, and capable in any mea­sure to be understood, which yet I have shewn not to be necessary to our firm belief of it: it is further objected, that it seems to be a thing very incongruous, and much be­neath the Dignity of the Son of God, to be united to human Nature, and to submit to so near an Allyance with that which is so very mean and despi­cable: Yea to be infinitely more be­low [Page 132] Him, than for the greatest Prince in this World to match with the poorest and most contemptible Beg­gar.

But herein surely we measure God too much by our selves, and because we who are evil have seldom so much goodness as to stoop beneath our selves for the benefit and good of others, we are apt to think that God hath not so much goodness neither: And because our ill nature, and pride, and folly, as indeed all pride is folly, will not suffer us to do it, we presently conclude that it does not become God. But what Pliny said to the Emperour Trajan concern­ing earthly Kings and Potentates, is much more true of the Lord of Glory, the great King of Heaven and Earth; Cui nihil ad augendum fastigium supereft, hoc uno modo crescere potest, si se ipse sub­mittat, securus magnitudinis suae, He that is at the top, and can rise no higher, hath yet this one way left to become great­er, by stooping beneath himself; which [Page 133] he may very safely do, being secure of his own Greatness. The lower any Being, be he never so high, conde­scends to do good, the glory of his Goodness shines so much the bright­er. Men are many times too proud and stiff to bend, too perverse and ill natur'd to stoop beneath their own little Greatness for the good of others: But God, whose ways are not as our ways, and whose thoughts are as much above our low and nar­row thoughts as the Heavens are high above the earth, did not disdain nor think it below him to become Man for the good of Mankind; and as much as the Divinity is capable of being so, to become miserable to make us happy. We may be afraid that if we humble our selves we shall be despis'd, that if we stoop others will get above us and trample upon us: But God, though he conde­scend never so low, is still secure of his own Greatness, and that none can take it from him.

[Page 134] So that in truth, and according to right Reason, it was no real diminu­tion or disparagement to the Son of God to become Man for the Salvation of Mankind: But on the contrary, it was a most glorious Humility, and the greatest Instance of the truest Goodness that ever was. And there­fore the Apostle to the Hebrews, when he says that Christ glorifyed not himself to be made an High-Priest, Heb. 5. 5. but was ap­pointed of God to this Office, as was Aaron [...], does hereby seem to intimate that it was a glory to the Son of God to be made an High-Priest for the Sons of Men: For though it was a strange condescention, yet was it likewise a most wonderful Argument of his Goodness, which is the highest Glory of the Divine Nature.

In short, if God for our sakes did submit himself to a condition which we may think did less become him, here is great cause of thankfulness, but none surely of cavil and excepti­on: We have infinite reason to ac­knowledge [Page 135] and admire his goodness, but none at all to upbraid him with his kindness, and to quarrel with him for having descended so much be­neath himself to testifie his love to us and his tender concernment for our happiness: Besides, that when we have said all we can about this matter, I hope we will allow God himself to be the best and most com­petent Judge what is fit for God to do; and that he needs not to take counsel of any of his Creatures, what will best become him in this or any other Case:Job 33. 12, 13. Behold in this thou art not just; I will answer thee, that God is greater than man: Why dost thou dispute against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.

Thirdly, If our Reason could get over this Difficulty, and admit that God might become Man; yet it seems very unsuitable to the Son of God and to his great Design of in­structing and reforming Mankind, to appear in so low and suffering a [Page 136] condition. This, to the Heathen Philosophers, who as the Apostle tells us by Wisdom knew not God, did not only seem unreasonable but even ri­diculous:1 Cor. 1. 21. So St. Paul tells us, We, says he, preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness: To think that so poor and mean a Man was fit to give Laws to Mankind, and to awe the minds of men by the Authority of his Do­ctrine: That One who was put to Death himself should be believed by others when he promised to them Life and Immortality in another World, could not but appear very strange and unreasonable.

For Answer to this; besides other excellent Reasons and Ends which the Scripture expresly assigns of our B. Saviour's Humiliation, in his assu­ming our Nature with the frailties and miseries of it: As that he might be a Teacher, and an Example to us: That by his bitter Passion he might make Expiation for sin, and [...]et us [Page 137] a pattern of the greatest meekness and patience under the greatest provoca­tions and sufferings: That having suffered so grievously himself, he might know how to commiserate and pity us in all our temptations and suf­ferings: That by death he might destroy him that had the power of Death, that is, the Devil; and might deliver those who through fear of Death were all their Life-time sub­ject to bondage: I say, besides all this, it was of great use that the great Teacher and Reformer of Mankind should live in so mean and afflicted a con­dition, to confront the pride and va­nity of the World by this considera­tion that the Son of God, and the very best man that ever was, was a Beggar, and had not where to lay his head: And likewise to convince Men of these two great Truths, That God may grievously afflict those whom he dear­ly loves; and, That it is possible for men to be innocent and contented in the midst of poverty, and reproach, and sufferings.

[Page 138] Had our B. Saviour appeared in the Person and Pomp of a great temporal Prince, the influence of his Autho­rity and Example would probably have made more Hypocrites and ser­vile Converts, but not have persua­ded men one jot more to be inward­ly holy and good. The great Ar­guments that must do that, must not be fetch'd from the Pomp and Pro­sperity of this World, but from the great and eternal Recompences of the other.

And it is very well worth our ob­servation that nothing puzzled Cesar Vaninus, who was perhaps the first, and the only Martyr for Atheism that ever was; I say, nothing puzzled him more, than that he could not from the History of our Saviour's Life and Actions, written by the Evangelists with so native a simplicity, fasten upon him any probable impu­tation of a secular interest and de­sign in any thing that he said or did. No doubt but Vaninus, before he [Page 139] made this acknowledgment, had searched very narrowly into this mat­ter; and could he have found any co­lour for such an imputation, he would have thought it sufficient to have blasted both Him and his Re­ligion.

You may be pleased to consider further, that it was the opinion of the Wisest Jews, that the best men, the Children of God who called God their Father, were many times expo­sed to the greatest sufferings and re­proaches for the trial of their faith, and meekness, and patience, as we may see at large in the Wisdom of So­lomon, where speaking of the malice and enmity of the wicked to one that was eminently righteous, he brings them in saying after this man­ner,Chap. I. v. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn; he is clean contrary to our doings: He upbraideth us with our offending the Law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressions of our youth: He professeth to have the know­ledge [Page 140] of God, and he calleth himself the Child of the Lord: He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other mens, his ways are of another fa­shion: We are esteemed of him as counter­feits, he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: He pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his Father: Let us see if his words be true, and what shall happen in the end of him: For if the just man be the Son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hands of his Enemies: Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meek­ness and prove his patience: Let us con­demn him to a shameful Death, &c.

This is so exact a Character of our B. Saviour, both in respect of the holiness and innocency of his Life, and of the reproaches and sufferings which he met with from the wicked and malicious Jews, who persecuted him all his life, and at last conspir'd his death, that whoever reads this Passage can hardly forbear to think [Page 141] it a Prophetical Description of the innocency and sufferings of the B. Jesus: For He certainly in the most eminent manner was the Son of God, being called by the Evangelist, the only begotten of the Father.

Or if this was not a Prediction concerning our B. Saviour, yet thus much at least may be concluded from it, that in the judgment of the Wisest among the Jews, it was not unwor­thy of the Goodness and Wisdom of the Divine Providence to permit the best Man to be so ill treated by wicked men: And further, that in their judgment the innocency and vertues of an eminently righteous man are then set off to the best advan­tage, and do shine forth with the greatest lustre, when he is under the hardest circumstances of suffering and persecution from an evil World.

Add to this likewise, that the best and wisest of the Heathen Philosophers do frequently inculcate such Do­ctrines as these: That Worldly Great­ness [Page 142] and Power are not to be admir'd, but rather to be despis'd by a wise man: That men may be very good, and dear to the Gods, and yet liable to the greatest miseries and sufferings in this World. That who­ever suffers unjustly, and bears it patient­ly, gives the greatest testimony to Good­ness, and does most effectually recommend Piety and Vertue, as things of greater va­lue than the ease and pleasure of this pre­sent Life: Nay further, that a good man cast into the hardest circumstances of poverty and misery, of reproach and suffering, is the fittest person of all other to be the Minister, and Apostle and Preacher of God to Mankind; Which are the very words of Arian a Heathen Philosopher, in his Discourses of Epictetus. Now surely they who say such things have no reason to ob­ject to our B. Saviour his low and suf­fering condition, as misbecoming one that was to be the great Teacher and Reformer of the World.

And as to that part of the Objection, that He who so freely promised [Page 143] Immortality to others could not, or however did not save himself from Death: This vanisheth into nothing when we consider, that he rescued himself from the power of the Grave: And it is so far from being ridiculous to rely upon his Promise of raising us up from the dead, that the Objecti­on it self is really so. For can any thing be more reasonable than to re­ly upon Him for our hopes of Im­mortality, who by rising from the Grave himself, and by conquering the Powers of Death and Darkness, and triumphing openly over them by his visible Ascension into Heaven, hath given so plain and sensible a Demon­stration to all Mankind that he is able to make good to the uttermost all the glorious Promises which he hath made to us of a blessed Resur­rection to eternal Life and Happiness in another World? To Him be Glory and Dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

SERMON IV. Concerning the Incarnation of CHRIST.
Preached in the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry, December 28. 1680.

JOHN I. 14.‘The Word was made flesh, &c.

THE third and last thing which I proposed upon this Argu­ment of the Incarnation of the Son of God was,III. to give some account of this Dispensation, and to shew that the Wisdom of God thought fit thus to order things, in great condescension to the weakness and common preju­dices of Mankind: And that when all things are duly weigh'd and con­sider'd it will appear much more for [Page 146] our comfort and advantuge, than any other way which the wisdom of men would have been most apt to devise and pitch upon.

And it is the more necessary to give some account of this matter, because after all that hath hitherto been said in answer to the Objecti­ons against it, it may still seem very strange to a considering man that God, who could without all this cir­cumstance and condescension have done the business for which his Son came into the World and appear'd in our Nature, that is, could have gi­ven the same Laws to Mankind, and have offer'd to us the forgiveness of our Sins and eternal Life upon our Repentance for Sins past, and a sin­cere endeavour of obedience for the future: I say, that notwithstanding this, he should yet make choice of this way for the Redemption and Re­covery of fallen Man, by sending his Son in our Nature, to accomplish this Design.

[Page 147] And in the handling of this Argu­ment I shall, as I said before, all along take the express declarations, or at least the pregnant intimations of Scripture for my ground and guide: It being always safest to take the Reasons of the Divine counsels and actions from God himself: And in the

First place, I make no manner of doubt to say, that it would be a great presumption and boldness in any man to affirm that the infinite Wisdom of God could not have brought about the Salvation of Men by any other way, than by this very way in which he hath done it. For why should we take upon us to set limits to infinite Wisdom, and pre­tend to know the utmost extent of it? But since God hath been pleased to pitch upon this Way rather than any other, this surely ought to be reason enough to satisfie us of the peculiar wisdom and fitness of it, whether the particular Rea­sons [Page 148] of it appear to us or not.

And yet it cannot be denied to be a very noble Argument, and well worthy our consideration, to en­quire into the Reasons of this dispen­sation, and to assign them particu­larly, if we can. For I look upon Mysteries and Miracles in Religion to be much of the same nature, and that a great Reverence is due to both where they are certain, and necessa­ry in the Nature and Reason of the thing: But neither of them are easi­ly to be admitted without necessity, and very good evidence.

Secondly, I consider in the next place that in the several Revelations which God hath made of himself to Mankind, he hath with great con­descension accommodated himself, both as to manner and degree of them, to the condition, and capa­city, and other circumstances of the Persons and People to whom they were made.

[Page 149] Particularly we find that the Di­spensation of God towards the Jewish Nation was full of condescension to the temper, and prejudices, and other circumstances of that People. For the Religion and Laws which God gave them were far from being the best and most perfect in themselves; in which sense some understand that Passage in the Prophet Ezekiel, where it is said that God gave them Statutes which were not good, that is, very im­perfect in comparison of what he could and would have given them, had they been capable of them; and yet such as were very well suited and fitted to their present capacity and circumstances.

Thirdly, I observe yet further; That though the Christian Religion, as to the main and substance of it, be a most perfect Institution, being the Law of Nature reviv'd and perfe­cted; yet upon a due consideration of things it cannot be denied that the manner and circumstances of this [Page 150] Dispensation are full of condescensi­on to the weakness of mankind and very much accommodated to the most common and deeply radicated Prejudices of Men concerning God and Religion; and peculiarly fitted to remove and root them out of the minds of men, by substituting some­thing in the place of them of as near a compliance with them as was con­sistent with the Honour of Almighty God, and the great Design of the Christian Religion.

It is not easie to give a certain ac­count of the true Original of some Notions and Prejudices concerning God and Religion which have generally ob­tained in the World, in that variety of Religions, and the different ways of Worship and Superstition which have been in several Nations of the Earth: But in History and Fact this is certain, that some Notions, and those very gross and erroneous, did almost uni­versally prevail even among those who did extremely differ in the par­ticular [Page 151] Forms and Modes of their Su­perstition.

And though some of these were much more tolerable than others, yet God seems to have had great consi­deration of some very weak and gross apprehensions of Mankind con­cerning Religion. And, as in some of the Laws given by Moses God was pleased particularly to consider the hardness of the hearts of that People; so he seems likewise to have very much suited the Dispensation of the Gospel and the Method of our Salva­tion, by the Incarnation and Sufferings of his Son, to the common Prejudices of Mankind; especially of the Hea­then World, whose minds were less prepared for this Dispensation than the Jews, if we consider the Light and advantages which the Jewish Nation had above the Gentile World: That so by this Means and Method he might wean them by degrees from their gross conceptions of things, and re­ctify more easily their wrong appre­hensions [Page 152] by gratifying them in some measure, and in a gracious compli­ance with our weakness by bending and accommodating the way and Method of our Salvation to our weak Capacity and imperfect Conceptions of things.

Fourthly, And that God hath done this in the Dispensation of the Gospel will I think very plainly appear in the following Instances; in most of which I shall be very brief, and only insist somewhat more largely upon the last of them.

1st. The World was much given to admire Mysteries in Religion. The Jews had theirs; several of which by God's own appointment were re­serv'd and kept secret in a great mea­sure from the People; others were added by the Superstition of after Ages, and held in equal or rather greater Veneration than the former: And the Heathen likewise had theirs; the Devil always affecting to imitate [Page 153] God so far as served his wicked and malicious design of seducing Man­kind into Idolatry and the Worship of himself: And therefore the Scripture always speaks of the Heathen Idolatry as the Worship of Devils, and not of God: So that almost every Nation had their peculiar and celebrated Myste­ries; most of which were either very odd and phantastical, or very lewd and impure, or very inhuman and cruel, and every way unworthy of the Deity.

But the great Mystery of the Christi­an Religion, the Incarnation of the Son of God; or, as the Apostle calls it, God manifested in the flesh; was such a Mystery, as for the greatness and wonderfulness, for the infinite mer­cy and condescension of it, did ob­scure and swallow up all other Myste­ries. For which reason the Apostle, in allusion to the Heathen Mysteries and in contempt of them, speaking of the great Mystery of the Christian Religion says,1 Tim. 3. 16. without controversy great [Page 154] is the Mystery of Godliness, God was ma­nifested in the flesh, &c. Since the World had such an admiration for Mysteries, he instanceth in that which was a Mystery indeed; a Mystery beyond all dispute, and beyond all comparison.

2dly. There was likewise a great inclination in Mankind to the Wor­ship of a visible and sensible Deity: And this was a main Root and Source of the various Idolatries in the Hea­then World. Now to take Men off from this, God was pleased to appear in our Nature; that they who were so fond of a visible Deity might have one to whom they might pay Divine Worship without danger of Idolatry, and without injury to the Divine Na­ture: even a true and natural Image of God the Father, the Fountain of the Deity; or, as the Apostle to the Hebrews describes the Son of God, the resplendency or brightness of his Fathers Glory, Heb. 1. 2. and the express Chara­cter or Image of his Person.

[Page 155] 3dly. Another Notion which had generally obtained among Mankind, was concerning the Expiation of the Sins of men and appeasing the of­fended Deity by Sacrifice, upon which they supposed the punishment due to the Sinner was transferred, to exempt him from it: Especially by the Sacrifices of Men, which had al­most universally prevailed in the Gentile World.

And this Notion of the Expiation of Sin, by Sacrifices of one kind or other, seems to have obtained very early in the World, and among all other ways of Divine Worship to have found the most universal reception in all Times and Places. And indeed a great part of the Jewish Religion and Worship was a plain Condescen­sion to the general apprehensions of men concerning this way of appea­sing the Deity by Sacrifice: And the greatest part of the Pagan Religion and Worship was likewise founded upon the same Notion and Opinion, [Page 156] which because it was so universal seems to have had its Original from the first Parents of Mankind; either immediately after the Creation, or after the Flood; and from thence, I mean as to the substance of this Notion to have been derived and propagated to all their Posterity.

And with this general Notion of Mankind, whatever the ground and foundation of it might be, God was pleased so far to comply as once for all to have a general Atonement made for the Sins of all Mankind by the Sacrifice of his only Son, whom his wise Providence did permit by wicked hands to be crucified and slain. But I shall not at present insist any further upon this; which requires a particu­lar Discourse by it self, and may by God's assistance in due time have it.

4thly. Another very common No­tion and very rife in the the Heathen World, and a great Source of their Idolatry, was their Apotheoses or Canonizing of famous and eminent [Page 157] Persons, who in their Life time had done great things and some way or other been great Benefactors to Man­kind, by advancing them after their Death to the Dignity of an inferiour kind of Gods fit to be worship'd by men here on Earth, and to have their Prayers and Supplications address'd to them as proper and powerful Media­tors and Intercessors for them with the Superiour Gods: To these they gave the Titles of Hero's and Semi­dei, that is, half Gods; though the Notion of a Being that is just half-infi­nite seems to me very hard to be con­ceiv'd and defin'd.

Now to take men off from this kind of Idolatry, and to put an end to it, behold One in our Nature exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high; to be worshipped by Men and Angels: One that was the truly Great Benefa­ctor of mankind: One that was dead, and is alive again, and lives for evermore, to make intercession for us.

[Page 158] 5thly. To give but one Instance more, which I have already intima­ted: The World was mightily bent upon addressing their requests and supplications, not to the Deity im­mediately, because their Superstiti­on thought that too great a pre­sumption, but by some Mediators be­tween the Gods and them, who might with advantage in this humble man­ner present their Requests so as to find acceptance. To this end they made use of the Daemons or Angels, and of their Hero's, or Deifyed Men whom I mentioned before, by whom they put up their Prayers to the Su­preme Gods, hoping by their Intercessi­on, and Patronage of their Cause, to obtain a gracious answer of them.

In a gracious compliance with this common apprehension, and thereby more easily and effectually to extirpate this sort of Idolatry, which had been so long, and so ge­nerally practised in the World, God was pleased to constitute and appoint [Page 159] One in our Nature to be a perpetual Advocate and Intercessor in Heaven for us, to offer up our Prayers to God his Father, and to obtain mercy for us and grace to help in time of need.

And for ever to take us off from all other Mediators, 1 Tim. 2. 5. we are expressly told in Scripture that as there is but one God to whom we are to pray, so there is but one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, by whom we are to offer up our Prayers to God: And that we need not look out for any other, since the Apostle to the Hebrews tells us,Heb. 7. 25. that he is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by him, seeing he lives for ever to make intercession for us.

And for this reason the Church of Rome is altogether inexcusable in this Point, for introducing more Media­tors and Intercessors, more Patrons and Advocates in Heaven for us: And this not only without any necessity, for who can add any vertue and efficacy to the powerful and prevalent inter­cession [Page 160] of the Son of God? but like­wise in direct contradiction to the express Constitution and appoint­ment of God himself, who says there is but one Mediator between God and men, and they say there ought to be many more, not only the B. Virgin, but all the Saints and Angels in Heaven. Besides that by this very thing they revive one notorious Piece of the old Pagan Idolatry, which God so plainly design'd to extinguish by appointing One only Mediator be­tween God and Men.

By this Condescension likewise God hath given us the comfortable assu­rance of a most powerful and a per­petual Intercessor at the right hand of God in our behalf. For if we consi­der Christ as Man and of the same Na­ture with us, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, so very nearly allied and related to us, we may easily be­lieve that he hath a most tender care and concernment for us: That he sincerely wisheth our happiness, and [Page 161] will by all means seek to procure it, if we our selves by our own willful obstinacy do not hinder it, and resist the kindness and the counsel of God against our selves: For if we be re­solv'd to continue impenitent, there is no help for us; we must die in our Sins, and Salvation it self cannot save us.

But to proceed; it cannot surely but be matter of greatest consolation to us, that the Man Christ Jesus who is now so highly exalted at the right hand of God, and who hath all power in Heaven and Earth committed to him, is our Patron and Advocate in Heaven to plead our Cause with God: Since we cannot but think, that He who was pleased to become Brother to us all does bear a true affection and good will to us: And that He who assu­med our Nature will heartily espouse our Cause, and plead it powerfully for us; and will with all possible advantage recommend our Petitions and Requests to God.

[Page 162] But then if we consider further, that He did not only take our Nature, but likewise took our infirmities and bore them many years, in which he had long and continual experience of the saddest sufferings to which hu­man Nature is subject in this World, and was tempted in all things like as we are: This gives us still greater assu­rance that he who suffer'd and was tempted himself cannot but be touched with a lively sense of our infirmities, and must have learn'd by his own Sufferings to compassionate ours, and to be ready to succour us when we are tempted, and to afford us grace and help suitable to all our wants and infirmities: For nothing gives us so just a sense of the Suffer­ings of others as the remembrance of our own, and the bitter experience of the like Sufferings and Temptations in our selves.

And this the Apostle to the Hebrews doth very particularly insist upon as matter of greatest comfort and en­couragement [Page 163] to us, that the Son of God did not only assume our Nature, but was made in all things like unto us, and during his abode here upon Earth did suffer and was tempted like as we are: For verily, says the Apostle, Heb. 2. 16, 17, 18. he took not on him the nature of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham: Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his Brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-Priest in things per­taining to God: For in that he himself suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

And again exhorting the Jews who were newly converted to Chri­stianity to continue stedfact in their Pro­fession, notwithstanding all the suf­ferings to which upon that account they were exposed; he comforts them with this consideration, that we have at the right hand of God so powerful an Advocate and Intercessor for us as the Son of God, who is sen­sible of our Case, having suffered the same things Himself, and there­fore [Page 164] we cannot doubt of his com­passion to us and readiness to support us in the like Sufferings:Heb. 4. 14, 15, 16. Seeing then, says he, that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our Profession: For we have not an High-Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without Sin: From whence he concludes, that having such an Intercessor we may with great confidence and assurance address our Supplications to God for his mercy and help in all our wants and weakness, to supply the one, and to assist the other: Let us therefore, says he, come boldly to the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, [...] grace for seasonable relief.

So that our B. Saviour and Re­deemer, now that he is advanced to Heaven and exalted to the right hand of God, is not unmindful of us in this height of his Glory and [Page 165] Greatness; but with the tenderest affection and compassion to Mankind doth still prosecute the Design of our Salvation; and in vertue of his me­ritorious Obedience and Sufferings, which he presents to God continually, he offers up our Prayers to Him, and pleads our Cause with Him, and re­presents to Him all our wants and necessities, and procures for us a fa­vourable answer of our Prayers, and supplies of grace and strength pro­portionable to our temptations and infirmities.

And thus, by vertue of this pre­valent intercession of his with God for us, our Sins are forgiven, and our Wants supplied, and our Requests granted, and the gracious assistance and supports of God's H. Spirit are seasonably afforded to us, and we are kept by the mighty power of God through Faith unto Salvation: In a word, all those Blessings and Be­nefits are procured for us by his Intercession in Heaven, which he [Page 166] purchased for us by his Blood upon Earth.

So that in this Method of our Sal­vation, besides many other gracious Condescensions which God hath made to the weakness and prejudices of Man­kind, our B. Saviour hath perfectly supplied the two great Wants concern­ing which Mankind was at so great a loss before, namely the Want of an effectual Expiatory Sacrifice for Sin upon Earth, and of a prevalent Me­diator and Intercessor with God in Heaven.

And he hath, in great Goodness and Condescension to our inveterate Prejudices concerning these things, taken effectual care fully to supply both these Wants; having appeared in the end of the World to take away Sin by the Sacrifice of himself; and in vertue of that Sacrifice appearing now in Heaven in the presence of God for us, he is become our perpetual Advocate and a most prevalent Intercessor with God in our behalf.

[Page 167] For instead of the various and end­less Sacrifices of the Jews and Heathen, the Son of God hath by one Sacrifice for Sins perfected for ever them that are sanctified: And instead of the Mediati­on of Daemons and Hero's, to offer up our Prayers to God, which were the Intercessors made use of among the Heathen, we have one Mediator between God and men, appointed by God him­self, even the Son of God, who is entred into Heaven it self, there to ap­pear in the presence of God for us: And to assure us that he commiserates our Case and hath a true and tender sense of our infirmities and suffer­ings, the very manner of his Inter­cession for us, as the Scripture repre­sents it to us, is a plain Demonstra­tion of the thing: For he intercedes for us in Heaven by representing to God his Father his sufferings upon Earth; and pleading them in our behalf: So that the very Argument which he useth to God for us cannot but stir up compassion in Him [Page 168] towards us, and whilst he represents his Own sufferings in our behalf, we cannot think that he is unmindful and insensible of Ours.

You see then that in this Dispensati­on of God for our Salvation, by sending his Son in our Nature, things are not only suited in great condescensi­on to our apprehensions, but are like­wise in great compassion to us every way fitted for our comfort and en­couragement. God hath made him our great Patron and Advocate who was our Sacrifice and Propitiation. And surely we have all the reason in the World to believe that he who in the days of his flesh humbled himself and became obedient to the death for our sakes, will be ready to do us all good offices now that he is advanced to the right hand of God; that he who dyed for us upon Earth, now that he lives again will make inter­cession for us in Heaven and perfect that Salvation which he purchased for us upon the Cross.

[Page 169] And therefore we find in Scripture that as the purchasing of our Salvati­on is ascribed to the Death and Suffer­ings of Christ, so the perfecting of it is attributed to his Intercession for us at the right hand of his Father: Wherefore, says the Apostle to the He­brews, he is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by him, seeing he liveth for ever to make intercession for us: He dyed once to purchase these be­nefits, but he lives for ever to procure them for us, and to apply them to us: And now that he is in Heaven, he is as intent upon our Concern­ments and lays our Happiness as much to heart as when he dwelt here among us on Earth, and poured out his Blood a Sacrifice for Sin upon the Cross: And that when he lived here below he suffer'd and was tempted as we are, this very consideration gives us the greatest assurance possible that he is still touched with the feeling of our infirmities and hath a lively sense of our Sufferings; and consequently, [Page 170] that he doth compassionate our Case and will use all his power and inte­rest for our advantage, for our sea­sonable support and succour in all our trials and sufferings. But besides the wonderful Gondescension of this Dispensation, there is likewise in the

Fifth and last place, a great Con­gruity and fitness in the thing it self; and this Method of our Salvation which the Wisdom of God hath pitched upon is in many other re­spects very much for our real benefit and comfort. For by this means we have a perfect and familiar Example of holiness and obedience in our own Nature, by which we plainly see that God requires nothing of us, but what he himself when he submitted to become Man did think fit to do: For being made of a Woman, he was of ne­cessity made under the Law, and by assuming human Nature he became naturally subject to the Laws and con­ditions of his Being.

[Page 171] And here likewise is a provision made for the Expiation and Forgiveness of our Sins, in a way not only very honourable to the Justice of God and the Authority of his Laws, but likewise very effectual to discounte­nance Sin and to deter men from it; since God did not think fit to forgive the Sins of men without great Suffer­ings and that in our Nature: For though God was willing to save the Sinner, yet rather than encourage­ment should be given to Sin by let­ting it go unpunish'd, he was con­tented to give up the dearly beloved of his Soul to be a Sarcifice and Propitiati­on for the Sins of the whole World.

By the same means also we have a most powerful Antidote against the fear of Suffering, and particularly against the fear of Death one of the greatest slaveries of human Nature: So also the Apostle to the Hebrews tells us,Heb. 2. 14, 15. that for this cause Christ himself also took part of flesh and blood, that by Death he might destroy him that had the [Page 172] power of Death, that is the Devil; and might deliver those who through fear of Death were all their life-time subject to bondage.

Again, we have hereby full assu­rance of a blessed Immortality in another Life, because in our Nature Death and all the Powers of Dark­ness were baffled and overcome. The Death of Christ, which could not have been without his Incarnation; and so likewise his Resurrection from the dead and his Ascension into Hea­ven, are sensible Demonstrations to all Mankind of a blessed Immortality after Death; which is the most pow­erful motive in the world to Obedi­ence and a holy Life.

And lastly, we may upon this ac­count promise to our selves a fair and equal Trial at the Judgment of the great Day, because we shall then be judged by a Man like our selves. Our Sa­viour and Judge himself hath told us, that for this reason God hath committed all Judgment to the Son, Joh. 5. 22, 27. because he is the [Page 173] Son of man. And this in human Judgments is accounted a great Pri­vilege, to be judged by those who are of the same Rank and condition with our selves, and who are likely to understand best and most carefully to examine and consider all our cir­cumstances, and to render our Case as if it were their own.

So equitably doth God deal with us, that we shall be acquitted or con­demned by such a Judge as according to human measures we our selves should have chosen; by One in our own Nature who was made in all things like unto us, that only excepted which would have rendered him incapable of being our Judge, because it would have made him a Criminal like our selves. And therefore the Apostle offers this as a firm ground of assu­rance to us that God will judge the World in Righteousness, because this Judg­ment shall be administred by a Man like our selves; He hath, saith he, ap­pointed a Day wherein be will Judge the [Page 174] World in Righteousness, by that Man whom be bath ordained, &c.

I shall now only make a practical Inference or two from what hath been delivered upon this Argument and so conclude this whole Discourse.

First, The serious consideration of what hath been said concerning the Incarnation of our B. Saviour should effectually prevail with us to comply with the great End and De­sign of the Son of God's becoming Man and dwelling amongst us, and of his doing and suffering all those things which are recorded of him in the History of his Life and Death written by the H. Evangelists: I say, the consideration hereof should persuade us all to comply with the great De­sign of all this, which is the Reforma­tion of Mankind and the Recovery of us out of that sinful and miserable estate into which we were fallen: Because the Salvation which the Son of God hath purchased for us, and which he offers to us by the Gospel, is [Page 175] not to be accomplished and brought about any other way than by our forsaking our Sins and reforming our Lives. The Grace of God, which hath appeared to all men and brings Salvation, will not make us partakers of it in any other way, nor by any other means, than by teaching us to deny un­godliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly and righteously, and godly in this present World. God sent his Son Jesus to bless us, by turning us away every one from his iniquities; and unless this change be effectually wrought in us, we are utterly incapable of all the Blessings of the Gospel of Christ. All that He hath done for us without us will avail us nothing, unless we be inwardly transformed and renewed in the spirit of our minds; unless we become new Creatures, unless we make it the continual and sincere endeavour of our lives to keep the commandments of God.

For the Scripture is most express and positive in this matter; That [Page 176] without Holiness no man shall see the Lord: Heb. 12. 14. That every man that hath this hope in Him, 1 Joh. 3. 3. that is, in Christ to be saved by Him, must purifie himself even as be is pure. We do not rightly and truly believe that Jesus Christ came into the World to save Sinners, if we be not also thoroughly convinced that it is as necessary for us to leave our Sins, as to believe this most faithful and credible Saying.

The Obedience and Sufferings of our B. Saviour are indeed accounted to us for Righteousness, and will most certainly redound to our unspeakable benefit and advantage upon our per­formance of the Condition which the Gospel doth require on our Part, name­ly, that every man that names the Name of Christ depart from iniquity: And the Grace of God's H. Spirit is ready to enable us to perform this Condition, if we earnestly ask it, and do sin­cerely co-operate with it: Provided we do what we can on our part, God will not be wanting to us on His. But [Page 177] if we receive the Grace of God in vain, and take no care to perform the Con­dition, and do neglect to implore the Grace and assistance of God's H. Spirit to that purpose, we have none to blame but our selves; because it is then wholly our own fault if we fall short of that Happiness which Christ hath purchased, and promised to us upon such easie and reasonable Conditians as the Gospel proposeth.

But I no where find that God hath promised to force Happiness upon the negligent, and a reward upon the wicked and slothful Servant: A gift may be given for nothing, but surely a Reward does in the very nature of it always suppose some Service. None but a righteous man is capable of a righteous mans Reward: And St. John hath sufficiently cautioned us not to think our selves Righteous unless we be doers of righteousness: 1 Joh. 3. 7. Little chil­dren, says he, let no man deceive you, he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. This is so [Page 178] very plain a Text, that if men were not either very easie to be deceived by others, or very willing to deceive themselves, they could not possibly mistake the meaning of it: And therefore I will repeat it once more, Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doth righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous.

Secondly, The other Inference which I would make from the precedent Discourse is this, That with all possi­ble thankfulness we should acknow­ledge and adore the wonderful Goodness and Condescension of Almighty God in sending his only begotten Son into the World in our Nature, to be made flesh, and to dwell amongst us in order to our Recovery and Salvation: A Method and Di­spensation not only full of mercy and goodness, but of great Condescensi­on to our meanness, and of mighty vertue and efficacy for our Redempti­on and Deliverance from the Guilt and Dominion of Sin; and upon all [Page 179] accounts every way so much for our benefit and advantage. So that well may we say with St. Paul, This is a faithful Saying, [...] a credible Word, and worthy of all acceptation, that is, fit to be embraced and enter­tained with all possible Joy and thankfulness, That Jesus Christ came into the World to save Sinners.

What an everlasting Fountain of the most invaluable Blessings and Benefits to Mankind is the Incarna­tion of the Son of God? His vouch­safing to assume our Nature, and to reside and converse so long with us? And what are we, that the eternal and only begotten Son of God should condescend to do all this for us? That the High and Glorious Majesty of Heaven should stoop down to the Earth, and be contented to be clothed with Misery and Mortality? That He should submit to so poor and low a Condition, to such dread­ful and disgraceful Sufferings for our sakes? For what are We? vile and [Page 180] despicable Creatures, guilty and un­worthy, Offenders and Apostates, Enemies and Rebels. Blessed God! how great is thy Goodness? how infinite are thy tender Mercies and Compassions to Mankind? That thou should'st regard us whilst we neglected thee, and remember us in our low condition when we had forgotten thee days without number, and shouldst take such pity on us when we shewed none to our selves; and whilst we were thy declared and implaca­ble Enemies should'st express more kindness and good will to us, than the best of Men ever did to their best Friends.

When we reflect seriously upon those great things which God hath done in our behalf, and consider that mighty Salvation which God hath wrought for us; what thanks can we possibly render, what acknowledg­ments shall we ever be able to make, I do not say equal but in any wise meet and becoming, to this great [Page 181] Benefactor of Mankind? Who, when we had so highly offended and pro­vok'd Him, and so foolishly and so fatally undone our selves; when we were become so guilty and so miser­able, and so much fitter to have eter­nally been the objects of his wrath and indignation than of his pity and compassion, was pleas'd to send his own, his only Son into the World to seek and save us; and by Him to re­pair all our ruines, to forgive all our iniquities, to heal all our spiritual disea­ses, and to crown us with loving kind­ness and tender mercies.

And what Sacrifices of Praise and Thanksgiving should we also offer up to this gracious and most merciful Redeemer of ours, the everlasting Son of the Father, who debased himself so infinitely for our sakes, and when he took upon Him to deliver Man did not abhor the Virgins womb: Who was con­tented to be born so obscurely and to live all his life in a poor and per­secuted condition; and was pleased [Page 182] both to undergo and to overcome the sharpness of Death, that he might open the Kingdom of Heaven to all Be­lievers?

Every time we have occasion to meditate upon this, especially when we are communicating at his H. Table and receiving the blessed Symbols and Pledges of his precions Death and Pas­sion: How should our Hearts burn within us and leap for Joy? How should the remembrance of it re­vive and raise our Spirits, and put us into an Extasie of Love and Grati­tude to this great Friend and Lover of Souls: And with the B. Mother of our Lord, how should our Souls, upon that blessed occasion, magnify the Lord, and our Spirits rejoyce in God our Saviour?

The Holy men of old were tran­sported with Joy at the obscure and confused apprehension and remote foresight of so great a Blessing, at so great a distance: It is said of Abra­ham the Father of the faithful, that he [Page 183] saw His Day afar off and was glad: How should we then be affected with Joy and Thankfulness, to whom the Son of God and B. Saviour of Men is actually come? He is come many ages ago, and hath enlightened a great part of the World with his Glory. Yea, He is come to us, who were in a manner separated from the rest of the World: To Us is this great Light come, who had so long sate in Darkness and the shadow of Death: And this mighty Salvation which He hath wrought for us is near to every one of us that is willing to lay hold of it, and to accept it upon those gracious terms and conditions upon which it is offer'd to us in his H. Gospel.

And by His Coming he hath deli­vered Mankind from that gross Ig­norance and thick Darkness which co­vered the Nations: 1 Joh. 1. 20. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding to know him that is true: And we are in Him that is true, even in [Page 184] his Son Jesus Christ: This is the true God, and eternal Life. And then it imme­diately follows,ver. 21. Little Children, keep your selves from Idols. What can be the meaning of this Caution? and what is the Connection of it with the foregoing Discourse? It is plain­ly this: That the Son of God by His Coming had rescued Mankind from the sottish Worship of Idols; and there­fore he Cautions Christians to take great heed of relapsing into Idolatry by worshipping a Creature, or the Image and likeness of any Creature instead of God. And because he foresaw that it might be objected to Christians, as in fact it was afterwards by the Heathen, that the Worship of Christ, who was a man, was as much Idolatry as that which the Christians charged the Heathen withal: There­fore St. John effectually to prevent the force of this plausible Objecti­on, though he perpetually, through­out his Gospel declares Christ to be really a Man, yet he expresly also [Page 185] affirms Him to be God, and the true God; and consequently, Christians might safely pay Divine Worship to Him without fear or danger of Ido­latry: We are in Him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ: This is the true God, and eternal Life: Little Children, keep your selves from Idols.

But this I am sensible is a Digressi­on, yet such a one as may not be all­together useless.

To proceed then in the recital of those great Blessings which the Coming of the Son of God hath brought to Mankind. He hath rescued us from the bondage of Sin, and from the slavery of Satan: He hath openly proclaimed Pardon and Reconcilia­tion to the World: He hath clearly revealed eternal Life to us, which was but obscurely made known be­fore, both to Jews and Gentiles; but is now made manifest by the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished Death, and brought Life and immortality to light by the Gospel: He [Page 186] hath purchased this great Blessing for us; and is ready to confer it upon us, if we will be contented to leave our Sins and to be saved by Him: A Condition without which as Salvati­on is not to be had, so if it were, it would not be desirable, it could not make us happy; because our Sins would still separate between God and us, and the guilt and horrour of our own minds would make us eter­nally miserable.

And now surely we cannot but thus judge, that all the Praises and acknowledgments, all the Service and Obedience which we can possi­bly render to Him, are infinitely be­neath those infinite Obligations which the Son of God hath laid upon the Sons of men by his Coming into the World to save Sinners.

What then remains, but that at all times, and more especially at this Season we gratefully acknowledge and joyfully commemorate this great and amazing Goodness of God to [Page 187] us, in the Incarnation of his Son for the Redemption and Salvation of the sinful and miserable Race of Man­kind? A Method and Dispensation of the Divine Grace and Wisdom, not only full of mercy and conde­scension, but of great power and vertue to purifie our hearts and to re­form our Lives; to beget in us a fervent love of God our Saviour, and a perfect hatred and detestation of our Sins, and a stedfast purpose and resolution to lead a new Life, fol­lowing the Commandments of God and walking in his ways all the days of our life. In a word, a Method that is every way calculated for our unspeakable Benefit and Comfort.

Since then the Son of God hath so graciously condescended to be made in all things like unto us, Sin only excepted; let us aspire to be as like to Him as is possible in the exemplary Holiness and Vertues of his Life. We cannot be like Him in his Miracles, but we may in his Mercy and Compassion: [Page 188] We cannot imitate his Divine Power, but we may resemble Him in his Innocency and Humility, in his Meekness and Patience. And as He assumed Human Nature, so let us re-assume Humanity which we have in great measure depraved and put off; and let us put on bowels of mercy towards those that are in mi­sery, and be ready to relieve the poor for His sake, who being rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.

To conclude, Let us imitate Him in that which was his great Work and business here upon Earth, and which of all other did best become the Son of God; I mean in His going about doing good: That by giving Glory to God in the Highest, and by endea­vouring as much as in us lies to pro­cure and promote Peace on Earth, and Good Will amongst Men, we may at last be made meet to be made partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints in Light: [Page 189] Through the Mercies and Merits of our B. Saviour and Redeemer. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our Nature upon Him, and as at this Time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regene­rate and made thy Children by Adoption and Grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

SERMON V. Concerning the Sacrifice and Satisfaction of Christ, &c.

HEB. IX. 26.‘But now once hath he appeared in the end of the world, to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself.’

AMONG many other great ends and reasons for which God was pleased to send his Son into the World to dwell amongst us, this was one of the chief, that by a long course of the greatest innocency and the greatest sufferings in our Nature he might be capable to make a perfect Expiation of Sin: But now once in the end of the world, [...], in the conclusion of the Ages, that is in the last Age of the World, which is the Gospel Age, hath he [Page 192] appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The general design of God in sending his Son into the World was to save mankind from eternal death and misery, and to purchase for us eternal life and happiness. So the Author of our Salvation himself tells us,Joh. 3. 16. That God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that who­soever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Now in order to the procuring of this Salvation for us, the impedi­ments and hindrances of it were to be removed: these were the guilt, and the dominion of Sin: By the guilt of Sin we were become obnoxious to the wrath of God and to eternal condemnation, and by the defilement and dominion of it we were incapable of the happiness of Heaven and the reward of eternal Life.

To remove these two great hin­drances two things were necessary: the Forgiveness of sins past in or­der [Page 193] to our deliverance from the wrath of God and the eternal tor­ments of the next Life; and the Re­formation of our hearts and lives to make us capable of eternal Life and happiness in another World. And both these, if God had so pleased, might for any thing we certainly know to the contrary, have been effected by the abundant mercy and powerful grace of God, without this wonderful method and dispen­sation of sending his Son in our Na­ture to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself: But it seems the wisdom of God thought fit to pitch upon this way and method of our Salvation, and no doubt for very good Rea­sons; amongst which these three seem to be very obvious and very consi­derable.

First, To vindicate the honour of his Laws, which if Sin had gone al­together unpunish'd would have been in great danger of falling into contempt. For if God had pro­claimed [Page 194] a general Pardon of Sin to all mankind, without any testimony of his wrath and displeasure against it, who would have had any great veneration for his Laws, or have be­lieved in good earnest that the vio­lation of them had been either so extremely offensive to Him, or so very dangerous to the Sinner?

Therefore to maintain the honour of his Laws, rather than Sin should pass unpunisn'd God would lay the punishment of it upon his only begotten Son, the dearest Person to him in the World: Which is a great­er testimony of his high displeasure against Sin, and of his tender regard and concernment for the honour of his Laws, than if the Sinner had suf­fered the punishment due to it in his own person.

Secondly, Another Reason of this Dispensation, and that likewise ve­ry considerable, was, that God might forgive Sin in such a way as yet effectually to discountenance [Page 195] and discourage it, and to create in us the greatest horror and hatred of it: Which could not have been by an absolute Pardon, without any punishment inflicted, or satisfaction made to the honour of his Justice. For had Sin been so easily forgiven, who would have been sensible of the great evil of it, or afraid to of­fend for the future?

But when God makes his own Son a Sacrifice, and lays upon him the punishment due for the iniqui­ties of us all, this is a demonstration that God hates Sin as much, if it be possible, as he loved his own Son. For this plainly shews what Sin de­serves, and what the Sinner may justly expect, if after this severity of God against it he will venture to commit it.

And if this Sacrifice for Sin, and the Pardon purchased by it, be not effectual to reclaim us from Sin, and to beget in us an eternal dread and detestation of it: If we sin wilfully [Page 196] after so clear a revelation of the wrath of God from heaven against all un­godliness and unrighteousness of men, there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judg­ment and fiery indignation to consume the adversaries. For what could God do more to testify his displeasure against sin, and to discountenance the practice of it, than to make his only Son an offering for Sin, and to give him up to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities? In what clearer Glass can we at once behold the great evil and demerit of Sin, and the infi­nite goodness and mercy of God to Sinners, than in the sorrows and suf­ferings of the Son of God for our Sins and for our sakes?

Thirdly, Another Reason of this Dispensation seems to have been a gracious condescension and compli­ance of Almighty God with a cer­tain apprehension and persuasion, which had very early and universally [Page 197] obtained among Mankind, concern­ing the expiation of Sin and appea­sing the offended Deity by Sacrifices: by the Sacrifices of living Creatures, of Birds and Beasts; and afterwards by Human Sacrifices and the blood of their sons and daughters: by offering to God, as the expression is in the Prophet, their first-born for their trans­gression, and the fruit of their body for the sin of their souls.

And this Notion of the expiati­on of Sin by Sacrifice, whether it had its first Rise from Divine Revela­tion, and was afterwards propaga­ted from Age to Age by Tradition: I say, from whence soever this No­tion came, it hath of all other No­tions concerning Religion, except­ing those of the Being of God, and his Providence, and of the Recompen­ces of another Life, found the most universal reception, and the thing hath been the most generally practi­sed in all Ages and Nations, not only in the old, but in the new discovered parts of the World.

[Page 198] And indeed a very great part of the Jewish Religion, which was in­stituted by God himself, seems to have been a plain condescension to the general Apprehension of Man­kind, concerning this way of ap­peasing the offended Deity by Sa­crifices: As it was also a Figure of that great and effic [...]cious Sacrifice which should in due time be offer'd to God to make atonement once for all for the Sins of all Mankind.

And the Apostle to the Hebrews doth very particularly insist upon this condescension of God to them, in the Dispensation of the Gospel: and whereas they apprehended so great a necessity of an High-Priest and of Sacrifices to make expiation for the sins of the People, that it was an established Principle among them, that without shedding of blood there was no remission of Sins; God was pleased to comply so far with these Notions and Apprehensions of theirs, as to make his own Son both a Priest [Page 199] and a Sacrifice, to do that once for all which their own High-Priest pre­tended to do year by year.

And [...] hence the same Apostle takes [...] to recommend to them [...] Covenant and Dispensa­tion [...] Gospel, as having a great­er [...] perfect High-Priest and a [...] excellent Sacrifice, than were the High-Priests and the Sacrifices un­der the Law; the Son of God having by one Sacrifice of himself obtained eter­nal Redemption for us, and perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

And this Apprehension prevailed no less in the Heathen World, and proceeded to the Sacrifices of Men, even of their first-born. And with this Apprehension, not to counte­nance but to abolish it, God was pleased to comply so far as to make a general Atonement for the Sins of Mankind by the Death of his Son, appearing in our Nature to become a voluntary Sacrifice for us: God permitting him to be unjustly put to [Page 200] death and his blood to be shed by the malice of men, in appearance as a Malefactor, but in truth as a Martyr; and accepting of his Death as a meritorious Sacrifice and propiti­ation for the Sins of the whole World: That by this wise counsel and per­mission of his Providence he might for ever put an end to that barbarous and inhuman way of serving God which had been so long in use and practice among them: The Son of God by the voluntary Sacrifice of himself having effected all that at once, and for ever, which Mankind from the beginning of the World had in vain been endeavouring to accomplish by innumerable and con­tinual Sacrifices; namely, the par­don of their Sins, and perfect peace and reconciliation with God.

For these Ends and Reasons, and perhaps for many more as great and considerable as these which our shallow understandings are not able to fathom, the Wisdom of God [Page 201] hath pitched upon this way and me­thod of delivering Mankind from the guilt and dominion of Sin by the Sacrifice of his Son. And to this end it was requisite that he should appear in our Nature and dwell amongst us for some consider­able time, that by a long course of the greatest Innocency and of the greatest Sufferings in our Nature he might be capable of making a per­fect expiation of Sin.

So that two things were requisite to qualify him for this purpose; per­fect Innocency and Obedience, and great Sufferings in our Nature, even to the suffering of Death. Both these the Scripture declares to be neccessary qualifications of a Person capable to make expiation of Sin; and both these were found in the Person of our B. Saviour.

First, Unspotted Innocency and per­fect Obedience. This the Scripture testifies concerning Him, and the whole course of his Life and acti­ons. [Page 202] He was in all points tempted like as we are, Heb. 4. 15▪ yet without Sin, saith the Apostle to the Hebrews. Joh. 8. 29. He always did the things which pleased God, as He te­stifies concerning himself, and we are sure that his witness is true. 1 Pet. 2. 22. He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, as St. Peter tells us of Him. And this was necessary to qualify him for the perfect expiation of Sin, whether we consider Him as a Priest, or as a Sacrifice.

As a Priest, he could not have been fit to make expiation for the Sins of others, had he not been without sin himself. And this the Apostle tells us is one great Advantage of our High-Priest under the Gospel, above the High-Priest under the Law, who be­ing a Sinner himself, as well as those for whom he offer'd, had need to offer for himself before he could make so much as a Legal expiation for the Sins of others: But a perfect and effectual expiation of Sin, so as to purge the conscience from the guilt of it, can­not [Page 203] be made but by an High-Priest who is holy and innocent himself; For such an High-Priest, Heb. 7. 26. 27. saith the Apo­stle, became us, that is, now under the Dispensation of the Gospel, when a perfect expiation of Sins is to be made, such an High-Priest is neces­sary, as is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from Sinners, who needs not as those High-Priests, that is as the High-Priests under the Law, to offer up sa­crifice first for his own Sins, and then for the People: The plain force of which Argument is this, that he who will be qualified to make atonement for the Sins of others must be without sin himself.

And then if we consider Christ as a Sacrifice for Sin; perfect holiness is necessary to make a Sacrifice accep­table and available for the expiation of Sin. The necessity of this was typified by the quality of the expiatory Sacrifices under the Law: the Beasts that were to be offered were to be without spot and blemish: To which the [Page 204] Apostle alludes, speaking of the quality and efficacy of the Sacrifice of Christ: How much more, Heb. 9. 14. says he, shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit of­fered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God? And to the same purpose St. Peter, 1 Pet. 1. 18, 19. Forasmuch as ye know ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, &c. hereby intima­ting, that nothing less than the per­fect innocency and holiness of him who was to be a Sacrifice for us could have expiated the guilt of our sins and purchased eternal Redemption for us.

Secondly, great Sufferings likewise in our Nature, even to the suffering of Death, were requisite to the per­fect expiation of Sin: I say, even to the suffering of Death. For the Sa­crifices which were to make expiati­on, were to be slain. And it was a constant Maxim and Principle among [Page 205] the Jews, and the Apostle more than once in this Epistle seems to allow and confirm it, that without shedding of blood there was no remission of Sins.

Not that God could not have par­doned Sin without satisfaction made to his Justice, either by the suffering of the Sinner himself, or of a Sacrifice in his stead: But, according to the method and Dispensation which the Wisdom of God had pitched upon, he was resolved not to dispense Forgive­ness in any other way. For which reason he seems either to have pos­sess'd Mankind with this Principle, or to have permitted them to be so per­suaded, that Sin was not to be expiated but by Blood, that is, either by the Death of the Sinner, or of the Sacrifice.

Now the Life of our B. Saviour, as well as his Death, was made up of Suf­ferings of one kind or other: Continu­al Sufferings from his Cradle to his Cross, from the time he drew his first breath to his giving up of the ghost: And not only continual Sufferings, but [Page 206] the greatest that ever were, consider­ing the Dignity of the Person that suf­fered, and the nature of the Sufferings: Considering likewise that these Suffer­ings were not only wholly undeserved on his part, but unmerited also on ours, for whose sake he submitted himself to them: Nay, on the contrary, he had obliged to the utmost those for whom and by whom he suffered, and continued still to oblige them by the greatest Blessings and Benefits purcha­sed and procured for them by those very Sufferings which with so much Malice and Cruelty they inflicted on him.

Had our B. Saviour been a mere Man, the perfect Innocency and un­spotted Purity of his whole Life; his Zeal to do the Will of God, and his delight in doing it; his infinite pains and unwearied diligence in going about doing good: His constant Obedience to God in the most difficult Instances, and his perseverance in well doing, not­withstanding the ill usage and hard [Page 207] measure, the bitter Reproaches and Persecutions he met withal for it, from a wicked and ill natured World: His perfect submission to the Will of God, his invincible Patience under the greatest and bitterest Sufferings, and his infinite Charity to his Enemies and Persecutors: These must needs be highly acceptable to God, and if Man could merit of God, likely enough to be available for the Sins of others.

But our Saviour and our Sacrifice being the Son of God in our Nature; and He voluntarily assuming it, and submitting to the condition of Huma­nity in its lowest and most miserable state, Sin only excepted; and his being contented to live a Life of doing good and suffering evil, and at last to be put to Death and slain a Sacrifice for us: The Dignity of the Person who did and suffered all this for us, and his dearness to God, must needs add a mighty value to so perfect an Obedi­ence and such patient Sufferings; so as to render them a full, perfect and suffi­cient [Page 208] Sacrifice, oblation and satisfacti­on for the Sins of the whole World.

And all this being willingly per­formed in our Nature, and accepted by God as done upon our account, may reasonably be presumed to re­dound to our benefit and advantage, as much as if we our selves had perform­ed it in our own persons: Nothing being so proper, and so available to make an hon [...]urable amends and satisfaction to the Justice of God for the Sins of all Mankind, as the voluntary Obe­dience and Sufferings of Human Na­ture in a Person of so great Dignity and dearness to God as his eternal and entirely beloved Son.

Now that Expiation of Sin was made by the Sufferings of Christ in our stead, I shall endeavour to make good these three ways.

First, From plain Testimonies of H. Scripture, declaring this matter to us as clearly and fully as it is possible for words to do it.

[Page 209] Secondly, From the nature and in­tention of Expiatory Sacrifices, both among the Jews and Heathen; to which the Death of Christ is in the New Testament so frequently compa­red, and in point of vertue and [...]ffi­cacy to take away Sin infinitely pre­ferred to it.

Thirdly, By vindicating this Me­thod and Dispensation of the Divine Wisdom from the Objections which are brought against it; and by shew­ing that there is nothing in it that is unreasonable, or any wise unworthy of God.

I I. I shall produce some plain Te­stimonies of H. Scripture which de­clare this matter as clearly and fully as it is possible for words to do it; namely, that the Son of God, in order to the effectual Expiation of Sin, suffered in our stead, and bore the wrath of God for us, and made a per­fect Atonement for Sin, and obtain­ed eternal Redemption for us.

[Page 210] This the Scripture declares to us in great variety of expressions; as, that Christ died for us, and for our Sins; that he was a Sacrifice for us, and a propitiation for the Sins of the whole World, that is, of all Mankind; that be bare our Sins in his own body on the Tree, and appeared to take away Sin by the Sacrifice of himself; that we are justified in his blood, and redeemed by the price of it; and in very many other expressions to the same purpose.

And this is so evidently the scope and meaning of these Expressions, that it cannot be denied without offering the greatest violence imagi­nable to the H. Scriptures. For can any man think that God would have used so many expressions in Scripture, the plain and most obvious sense of all which is that the Son of God suffer­ed for our Sins and in our stead, if this had not been his design and meaning? Would not this be in effect to say, that God hath writ­ten a great Book to puzzle and con­found, [Page 211] but not to instruct and teach Mankind?

I will at present single out some few of those many Texts of Scripture which might be produced to this pur­pose:2 Cor. 5. 21. He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that is, he hath made him who had no sin himself a Sacrifice for our sins.Eph. 5. 10 Again; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us and given him­self for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God. 1 Pet. 1. 18. St. Peter to the same purpose tells us, that Christ also hath once suffered for Sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh: Here Christ is said to have suf­fered for Sin; and to declare that the Apostle did not only mean that Christ suffered upon the occasion of our Sins, but that he suffered in the place and stead of the Sinner, he adds, the just for the unjust, that is, the Son of God, who was innocent and had no Sin, suffered for us who were Sinners; or as it is elsewhere express'd, he bare our sins in his own body on the Tree.

[Page 212] It is true indeed, that Christ suffer­ed for our benefit and advantage; which the Socinians would have to be all that is meant in the Texts which I have cited: But then it ought to be considered, that Christ's suffering for our benefit and advantage does by no means exclude, nor is any wise incon­sistent with his suffering in our stead. For whoever suffers in another man's stead, and to save him from suffering, does undoubtedly suffer for his bene­fit and advantage, and gives the best demonstration of it that can be: But the manner of the expression, if com­pared with other parallel Texts of Scripture, and especially with what is so often said of our Saviour's being a Sacrifice, which I shall have occasion further to urge by and by: I say the manner of the expression, if well considered, will appear to any man that is not contentious to signify our Saviour's suffering instead of the Sin­ner.

[Page 213] But not to argue from words and phrases, I will produce two Texts which declare this matter so plainly, that the force of them is not to be avoided without the most shameful wresting and perverting of them. This is my Commandment, Joh. 15. 12. says our Saviour, that you love one another, as I have loved you. V. 13. How is that? he de­clares in the next words, Greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friend, that is, that he be contented to die in his stead. And to the same purpose St. Paul, Rom. 6. 6, 7, 8. For when ye were yet Sinners in due time Christ died for the ungodly: Now the question is, whether by this expres­sion of Christ's dying for the ungodly be meant only his dying for the be­nefit and advantage of Sinners, but not his dying in their stead? This, let the words which immediately follow determine: For scarcely for a righteous man will one dye, yet peradven­ture for a good man one would even dare to dye: But God commendeth his love to us, [Page 214] in that whilst we were yet sinners Christ dyed for us. And now I appeal to any man of good sense, whether it be not plain that the Apostle here speaks of Christ's dying for sinners in the same sense as one man is said to dye for another, that is, to save another from death; which what is it else but to dye in his stead? He that can deny this, is perverse to the highest degree, and I fear almost be­yond the possibility of being con­vinced.

And the Argument from these two Texts is so much the stronger, be­cause we do not here reason merely from the phrase and expression, but from the main Scope of our Saviour's discourse in the one, and of St. Paul's in the other. For the design of both is to recommend the Superlative love of Christ to us above the greatest love that ever any man express'd to another. The highest pitch that hu­man affection did ever rise to, was for a man to lay down his life for his [Page 215] Friend; but the Son of God laid down his life for his Enemies. Scarcely, says St. Paul, would one lay down his life for a righteous man, that is, for one who is but strictly just and honest, and does no body wrong; but for a good man, that is, for one that is kind and beneficial to all, and hath obliged Mankind by great Be­nefits, some one may be found that would lay down his life to save the life of such a Person: But the love of Christ hath gone far beyond this: He dyed for Sinners, for those who were neither good men nor righteous: But God commendeth his love to us, in that whilst we were yet Sinners Christ dyed for us. Now where doth the force of this Argument lye, if not in this? that Christ hath done that for us, who were Enemies and Sinners, which some very few persons in the World have done for their Friend, or for some very eminently good man: And what is that? Why they have laid down their lives in their stead: [Page 216] And so Christ hath done for us. This seems to be so very plain, that I do not see how the force of this Argu­ment is possible to be avoided.

It is evident then from Scripture, that Christ dyed not only for our ad­vantage but in our stead; as truly and really as any man ever did or can dye for another who lays down his own life to save another from death. For if Christ had not dyed, we had perished everlastingly; and because he dyed, we are saved from eternal Death and misery.

And though this be no where in Scripture spoken of by the name or term of Satisfaction, yet it is said to be the price of our Redemption; which surely is the same thing in effect with Satisfaction. For as we are Sinners we are liable, and, as I may say, in­debted to the Justice of God: And the Son of God, by his Death and Sufferings in our Nature, hath dis­charged this obligation and paid this debt for us: Which discharge since it [Page 217] was obtained for us by the shedding of Christ's blood, and the Scripture tells us that without shedding of blood there is no remission of Sins: And since God is graciously pleased to accept of it for the Debt which we owed to his Justice, and to declare himself fully pleased and contented with it, why it may not properly enough be called payment or satisfaction I confess I am not able to understand. Men may eternally wrangle about any thing, but what a frivolous contention, what a trifling in serious matters, what barretrie in Divinity is this?

Not that God was angry with his Son, when he thus laid on him the ini­quities of us all: No he was always well pleased with him; and never better, than when he became obedient to the Death, even the Death of the Cross, and bore our Sins in his own body on the Tree.

Nor yet that our Saviour suffered the very same that the Sinner should have suffered, namely, the proper [Page 218] Pains and Torment of the Damned: But that his Obedience and Suffer­ings were of that value and esteem with God, and his voluntary Sacri­fice of himself so well-pleasing to him, that he thereupon entred into a Covenant of Grace and Mercy with Mankind, wherein he hath en­gaged himself to forgive the Sins of those who believe and repent, and to make them partakers of eternal life. And hence the Blood of Christ which was shed for us upon the Cross is called the Blood of the Covenant, as being the Sanction of that New Cove­nant, into which God is entred with Mankind: and not only the Sanction and confirmation of that Covenant, but the very Foundation of it: For which reason the Cup in the Lord's Supper is called the New Testament, or, as the word should rather be ren­dred, the New Covenant in his Blood, which was shed for many for the remission of Sins. I proceed now to the

[Page 219] II IId: Thing propounded, which was to shew that the Expiation of our Sins was made by the Sufferings of Christ, from the nature and inten­tion of Expiatory Sacrifices, both a­mong the Jews and Heathen; to which the Death of Christ is in the New Testament so frequently compa­red, and in point of vertue and effi­cacy to take away Sin infinitely pre­ferr'd to it.

Now the nature and design of Ex­piatory Sacrifices was plainly this: To substitute one Living Creature to suffer and die instead of another, so that what the Sinner deserved to have suffered was supposed to be done to the Sacrifice, that is, it was slain to make an atonement for the Sinner.

And though there was no reason to hope for any such effect from the Blood of Bulls, or Goats, or of any other Living Creatures that were wont to be offered up in Sacrifice; [Page 220] yet that both Jews and Heathen did expect and hope for it, is so very evident, that it cannot without ex­treme Ignorance or Obstinacy be deny'd.

But this expectation, how unrea­sonable soever, plainly shews it to have been the common Apprehen­sion of Mankind, in all Ages, that, God would not be appeased, nor should Sin be pardoned without Suffering: But yet so that men gene­rally conceived good hopes that upon the Repentance of Sinners God would accept of a vicarious punish­ment, that is, of the Suffering of some other in their stead. And ve­ry probably, as I said before, in compliance with this Apprehension of Mankind, and in condescension to it, as well as for other weighty Reasons best known to the Divine Wisdom, God was pleased to find out such a Sacrifice as should really and effectually procure for them that great Blessing of the Forgive­ness [Page 221] of Sins which they had so long hoped for from the multitude of their own Sacrifices.

And the Apostle to the Hebrews doth in a large Discourse shew the great vertue and efficacy of the Sacrifice of Christ, to the purpose of Remission of Sins, above that of the Sacrifices under the Law: And that the Death of Christ is really and effectually to our advantage all that which the Sa­crifices under the Law were suppo­sed to be to the Sinner: But now once, saith the Apostle here in the Text, in the end of the World, hath he appeared to take away Sin by the Sacrifice of himself. This is the great vertue and efficacy of the Sacrifice of Christ, that what ever was expected from any other Sacrifices, either by Jews or Heathens, was really effected by this.

This was plainly signified by the Jewish Passover, wherein the Lamb was slain, and the Sinner did escape and was pass'dby. In allusion where­to St. Paul makes no scruple to call [Page 222] Christ our Passover or Paschal Lamb, who was slain that we might escape: Christ our Passover, 1 Cor. 5. 7. says he, is slain or offer'd for us; that is, He by the gra­cious appointment of God was sub­stituted to suffer all that in our stead which the Paschal Lamb was supposed to suffer for the Sinner.

And this was likewise signified by the Sinners laying his hand upon the Sacrifice that was to be slain, thereby as it were transferring the punishment which was due to him­self upon the Sacrifice that was to be slain and offered up. For so God tells Moses, that the Sinner, who came to offer an Expiatory Sacrifice, should do:Lev. 1. 4. He shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be accepted for him, to make an Atone­ment for him. And the Apostle tells us, that it was an established Princi­ple in the Jewish Religion, that with­out shedding of blood there was no Remis­sion of Sins: Which plainly shews that they expected this Benefit of [Page 223] the Remission of Sins, from the Blood of their Sacrifices.

And then he tells us, that we are really made partakers of this Benefit by the Blood of Christ, and by the vertue of his Sacrifice: And again, Christ, Heb. 9. 28. says he, was once offered to bear the Sins of many; plainly alluding to the Sacrifices under the Law, which did, as it were, bear the faults of the Sinner.

And that this expression of Christ's being offered to bear our Sins, cannot be meant of his taking away our Sins by his holy Doctrine which was confirmed by his Death, but of his bearing our Sins by way of imputation, and by his suffering for them in our stead, as the Sacrifice was supposed to do for the Sinner; This, I say, is evident beyond all denial from the opposition which follows, after the Text, between his first Appear­ance and his second; Christ, says our Apostle, v. 28. was once offered to bear our Sins; but unto them that look for him he shall [Page 224] appear a second time without Sin unto Sal­vation. Why? Did he not appear the first time without Sin? Yes cer­tainly, as to any inherent guilt; for the Scripture tells us he had no Sin. What then is the meaning of the opposition, That at his first Coming he bore our Sins, but at his second Com­ing he shall appear without Sin unto Salva­tion? These words can have no other imaginable sense but this, that at his first Coming he sustain'd the Per­son of a Sinner and suffered instead of us; but his second Coming shall be upon another account, and he shall appear without Sin unto Salvation, that is, not as a Sacrifice, but as a Judge to confer the Reward of Eternal Life upon those who are partakers of the bene­fit of that Sacrifice which he offered to God for us in the days of his Flesh. I proceed to the

III IIId. Thing I proposed, and which yet remains to be spoken to; name­ly, [Page 225] to vindicate this Method and Dispensation of the Divine Wisdom from the Objections which are brought against it; and to shew that there is nothing in it that is unrea­sonable, or any wise unworthy of God. I shall mention four Objecti­ons which are commonly urged in this matter, and I think they are all that are considerable.

First, Obj. 1st. That this Method, of the Expiation of Sin by the Sufferings of Christ, seems to argue some defect and want of Goodnes in God, as if he needed some external Motive and were not of himself disposed to forgive Sinners.

To which I think the Answer is not difficult, namely, that God did not want Goodness to have forgiven Sin freely and without any Satisfaction, but his Wisdom did not think it meet to give encouragement to Sin by too easy a forgiveness, and with­out some remarkable testimony of his severe displeasure against it: And [Page 226] therefore his greater Goodness and Compassion to Mankind devised this way to save the Sinner, without giving the least countenance and encouragement to Sin.

For God to think of saving us any way, was excessive Goodness and Mercy; but to think of doing it in this way, by substituting his dearly beloved Son to suffer in our stead, is a Condescension so very amazing, that if God had not been pleased of his own Goodness to stoop to it, it had almost been Blas­phemy in Man to have thought of it, or desired it.

Secondly, Obj. 2d. How can our Sins be said to have been forgiven freely, if the Pardon of them was purchased at so dear a rate and so mighty a Price was paid for it?

In Answer to this I desire these two things may be considered. 1st. That it is a wonderful grace and favour of God to admit of this translation of the Punishment which [Page 227] was due to us, and to accept of the Sufferings of another in our stead, and for our benefit; when he might justly have exacted it of us in our own Persons: So that, even in this respect, we are, as St. Paul says, justified freely by his grace, through the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ: And freely too in respect of any ne­cessity that lay upon God to forgive us in this or any other way. It was a free act of his Goodness to save us, even by the Satisfaction and Suffer­ings of his own Son. 2dly. It was in effect freely too, notwithstanding the mighty Price which was paid for our Redemption. Because this Price was not of our own procuring, but of God's providing; He found out this Ransome for us. And will any man say, that a Prince who pre­vails with his Son to intercede for the Pardon of a Rebel, yea and to suffer some punishment or to pay a Fine for the obtaining of it, does not in effect and in all equitable and [Page 228] grateful construction forgive him freely?

Thirdly, Obj. 3d. It is yet further objected, That this seems to be more unrea­sonable than the sacrificing of Beasts among the Jews, nay than the sa­crificing of Men among the Heathen, and even of their own Sons and Daugh­ters: Because this is the offering up of the Son of God, the most inno­cent and the most excellent Person that ever was.

To which I answer, that if we con­sider the manner, and the design of it, the thing will appear to be quite otherwise.

As to the manner of it, God did not command his Son to be sacrificed, but his Providence permitted the wickedness and violence of men to put him to death: And then his Goodness and Wisdom did over-rule this worst of Actions to the best of Ends. And if we consi­der the matter aright, how is this any more a reflection upon the Holy [Page 229] Providence of God, than any Enor­mities and Cruelties which by his permission are daily committed in the World?

And then if we consider the End and Design of this permission of Christ's Death, and the application of it to the purpose of a general Expia­tion; we cannot but acknowledge, and even adore the gracious and mer­ciful Design of it. For by this means God did at once put an end to that unreasonable and bloody way of Worship, which had been so long practiced in the World: And after this one Sacrifice, which was so infi­nitely dear to God, the benefit of Expiation was not to be expected in any other way; all other Sacrifices being worthless and vain in compa­rison of this: And it hath ever since obtained this effect, of making all other Sacrifices to cease, in all Parts of the World where Christianity hath prevailed.

[Page 230] Fourthly, Obj. 4th. The last Objection is, the Injustice and Cruelty of an inno­cent Person's suffering instead of the Offender.

To this I answer, That they who make so great a noise with this Obje­ction do seem to me to give a full and clear Answer to it themselves, by ac­knowledging, as they constantly and expresly do, that our Saviour suffered all this for our benefit and advantage, though not in our place and stead. For this, to my apprehension, is plainly to give up the Cause, unless they can shew a good reason why there is not as much Injustice and Cruelty in an innocent Person's suffering for the benefit and advan­tage of a Malefactor, as in his suffer­ing in his stead: So little do Men, in the heat of dispute and opposition, who are resolved to hold fast an Opi­nion in despite of Reason and good sense, consider, that they do many times in effect, and by necessary con­sequence, grant the very thing which [Page 231] in express terms they do so stifly and pertinaciously deny.

The truth of the matter is this; there is nothing of Injustice or Cru­elty in either Case; neither in an In­nocent Person's suffering for the bene­fit of an Offender, nor in his stead; supposing the Suffering to be volun­tary: But they have equally the same appearance of Injustice and Cruelty: Nor can I possibly discern any reason why Injustice and Cruel­ty should be objected in the one Case more than in the other, there being every whit as little reason why an Innocent Person should suffer for the benefit of a Criminal, as why he should suffer in his stead. So that I hope this Objection, which above all the rest hath been so loudly and so in­vidiously urged, hath received a just Answer.

And I believe, if the matter were searched to the bottom, all this per­verse contention, about our Saviour's suffering for our benefit but not in our [Page 232] stead, will signify just nothing. For if Christ dyed for our henefit so as some way or other, by vertue of his Death and Sufferings, to save us from the wrath of God and to pro­cure our escape from eternal Death, this, for ought I know, is all that any body means by his dying in our stead. For he that dies with an in­tention to do that benefit to another as to save him from Death, doth cer­tainly to all intents and purposes dye in his place and stead.

And if they will grant this to be their meaning, the Controversie is at an end; and both sides are agreed in the thing, and do only differ in the phrase and manner of expression: which is to seek a quarrel and an occasion of difference where there is no real ground for it; a thing which ought to be very far from reasona­ble and peaceable Minds.

For the Socinians say, that our Sa­viour's voluntary Obedience and Suf­ferings did procure his Exaltation at [Page 233] the right hand of God, and Power and Authority to forgive Sins, and to give eternal Life to as many as he pleased: So that they grant that his Obedience and Sufferings, in the meritorious consequence of them, do redound to our Benefit and ad­vantage as much as we pretend and say they do; only they are loth in express terms to acknowledge that Christ dyed in our stead: And this, for no other reason, that I can imagine, but because they have de­nied it so often and so long.

But I appeal to the ingenuity of our Adversaries, whether this do not in the last issue come all to one; and be not, on their part, a mere Controver­sie about words? For suppose a Ma­lefactour condemned to some grie­vous punishment, and the King's Son to save him from it is contented to submit to great disgrace and suf­ferings: In reward of which Suf­ferings the King takes his Son into his Throne and sets him at his own [Page 234] right hand, and gives him power to pardon this Malefactour, and upon a fitting Submission and Re­pentance to advance him to ho­nour: Will not any man in this Case allow that the King's Son suf­fer'd instead of this Malefactour, and smile at any man that shall be so nice as to grant that indeed he suf­fered for him, but yet to deny that he was punish'd for him, to allow that he bore the inconvenience of his faults, but yet obstinately to stand it out that the faults of this Malefa­ctour were not laid upon him, or in any wise so imputed to him that he can be said to have suffered in his stead? This is just the Case, and the difference in reality, and in the last result of things is nothing but words.

Thus far have I tryed your patience in a contentious Argument; in which I take no pleasure, but yet shall be glad if I may be so happy as by any thing that hath been said to [Page 235] contribute towards the putting an end to so unhappy a Controversy, which hath troubled the World so long, and raised such a dust that very few have been able to see clearly through it.

However I cannot dismiss this Ar­gument without making some useful but very short reflection upon this great Doctrine of our Religion, namely, That the Son of God being made a Sacrifice for us, and exposed to such bitter Sufferings and so cruel a Death for the Expiation of our Sins, should create in us the greatest dread and detestation of Sin, and for ever deter us from all wilful transgression and disobedience. For if the guilt of our Sins was done away upon such hard terms and cost the dearly belo­ved Son of God so much sweat and blood, then surely we ought to take great heed how by our renewed Provocations we renew his Passion, and do what in us lies to crucify to [Page 236] our selves the Son of God afresh, and to put him to an open shame.

If God did so terribly afflict the dearly beloved of his Soul for our sakes; if the Son of God was so grievously wounded for our trans­gressions and so sorely bruised for our iniquities: If so fearful a Storm of Vengeance fell upon the most inno­cent Person that ever was for our Sins, then we have reason to take that kind and merciful admonition of the Son of God to Sinners, to sin no more, lest a worse thing, if it be possi­ble, come upon our selves.

In this Dispensation of God's Grace and Mercy to Mankind, by the Death of his Son, God seems to have gone to the very extremity of things, and almost further than Good­ness and Justice will well admit; to afflict Innocency it self to save the Guilty: And if herein God hath expressed his hatred of Sin in such a wonderful way of love and kind­ness to the Sons of Men as looks [Page 237] almost like hatred of Innocency and his own Son: This ought in all inge­nuity and gratitude to our gracious Redeemer, who was made a curse for us, and loved us to that degree as to wash us from our Sins in his own Blood: I say, This ought to beget in us a greater dis­pleasure against Sin, and a more per­fect detestation of it, than if we had suffered the punishment due to it, in our own Persons: For in this Case, we could only have been displeased at our Selves and our Sins as the just Cause of our Sufferings: but in the other, we ought to hate Sin as the unhappy occasion of the saddest Mis­fortune and sorest Calamities to the best Man that ever was, and to our best Friend, for our Sins and for our Sakes.

Since then the Son of God hath so graciously condescended to be made in all things like unto us, Sin only excepted; let us aspire as much as is possi­ble, to become like to Him: Above all, let us hate and avoid Sin as the only thing in which the Son of God [Page 238] would have no part with us, though he was contented to suffer such bitter things to save us from the Defilement and Dominion of it, from the Punish­ment and all the dismal consequences of it.

He had no Sin, but God was pleased to lay upon him the iniquities of us all, and to make his Soul an offering for Sin, and to permit all that to be done to Him which was due to us: He was con­tented to be sacrificed once for all Mankind, that Men might for ever cease from that inhuman and ineffe­ctual way of sacrificing one another, whereby instead of expiating their guilt they did inflame it, and by think­ing to make Atonement for their Sins they did in truth add to the number and heinousness of them.

And let us likewise learn from this admirable Pattern, to pity those that are in misery, as Christ also hath pitied us; and to save them that are ready to perish, for His sake who came to seek and to save us that were lost.

[Page 239] Let us, upon all occasions, be ready to open our bowels of Compassion towards the Poor; in a thankful imi­tation of his Grace and Goodness who for our sakes chose to be a Beggar, that we for his sake might not despise the Poor, but might have a tender regard and compassion to those whose Con­dition in this World does so nearly resemble that in which the Son of God thought it fittest for him to appear when he was pleased to become Man.

In a word, Let us in the whole course, and in all the actions of our lives, shew forth the Vertues of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his mar­vellous light; and hath raised up a mighty Salvation for us, that being delivered from all our spiritual Enemies, from Sin and all the Powers of darkness, we might serve him who hath saved us; walking in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives.

Now, to him that sitteth upon the Throne, and to the Lamb that was slain: To God even our Father, and to our Lord [Page 240] Jesus Christ, the first begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the Earth: Unto him, who hath loved us, and washed from our Sins in his own Blood; and whilst we were Enemies to Him, loved us at such a rate as never any man did his Friend. To Him, who be­came Man, that he might bring us to God; and assumed our frail and mor­tal Nature, that he might cloath us with Immortality and Life: To Him, who was pleased to dwell and live amongst us, that he might teach us how to live: To Him, who dyed for our Sins, and rose again for our Justifica­tion, and lives for ever to make Interces­sion for us: To Him, be Glory and Dominion, Thanksgiving and Praise to Eternal Ages. Amen.

SERMON VI. Concerning the Ʋnity of the Divine Nature, and the B. Trinity, &c.

1 TIM. II. 5.‘For there is one God.’

THE Particle for leads us to the consideration of the Con­text and Occasion of these words, which in short is this. The design of this Epistle is to direct Timothy, to whom St. Paul had committed the Government of the Church of Ephesus, how he ought to demean himself in that great and weighty Charge. And at the beginning of this Chapter he gives direction con­cerning Publick Prayers in the Church; that Prayers and Thanks­giving [Page 242] he made for all men, and for all Ranks and Orders of men; espe­cially for Kings and all that are in Autho­rity, that under them Christians might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godli­ness and honesty.

And this he tells us was very suit­able to the Christian Religion, by which God designed the Salvation of Man­kind; and therefore it must needs be very acceptable to him that we should offer up Prayers and Thanksgi­vings to him in behalf of all men: For this, saith the Apostle, is good and accep­table in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.

And then it follows in the next words, For there is one God, and one Me­diator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a Ransome for all: As if he had said, this univer­sal Charity of Christians, in praying for all men, must needs be very ac­ceptable to Him to whom we put up our Prayers, God the Father, who sent [Page 243] his Son for the Salvation of all men: And to Him likewise by whom we offer up our Prayers to God, and is among us Christians the only Media or between God and Men, in virtue of that Price and Ransom which he paid for the Redemption of all Man­kind, I say, for this reason it must needs be very acceptable to Him that we should pray for all men, be­cause he died for all men, and now that he is in Heaven at the right hand of God intercedes with him for the Salvation of those for whom he died: There is One God, and one Mediator be­tween God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a Ransome for all.

Which words, though they be brought in to prove more immedi­ately that it is acceptable to God our Sa­viour, that we should put up Pray­ers to Him for all men, because he de­sires the Salvation of all men, and hath sent his Son to purchase the Salvation of all men, by the Sacrifice of him­self; [Page 244] and in virtue of that Sacrifice to be the only Mediator between God and us: I say, though this be the immediate scope and design of these words, yet they are likewise a dire­ction to us, unto whom we ought to address our Prayers, namely, to God; and by whose mediation and in­tercession we ought to put up our Prayers to God the Father, namely, by his Son Jesus Christ, who is con­stituted the only Mediator between God and Men.

There are several Propositions con­tained in this and the following verse; but I shall at present confine my self to the first, namely, That there is One God, 1 Cor. 8. 4. that is, but One, as St. Paul elsewhere expresseth it, There is none other God but One. And Moses lays this as the Foundation of the Natu­ral Law, as well as of the Jewish Religion,Deut. 4. 35. The Lord he is One God, and there is none besides him, that is, be­sides Jehovah, whom the People of Israel did worship as the only true [Page 245] God. And this the Prophet Isaiah perpetually declares in opposition to the Polytheism and variety of Gods among the Heathen. Isai. 44. 6. I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God. v. 8. And again, Is there any God besides me? there is no God, I know not any: He, who hath an infinite knowledge and knows all things, knows no other God. And our B. Saviour makes this the Fundamental Article of all Religion, and the knowledge of it necessary to every man's Salvation; This, says He, is life eternal, to know thee the only true God.

The Unity of the Divine Nature is a Notion wherein the greatest and the wisest part of Mankind did always agree, and therefore may reason­ably be presumed to be either natu­ral, or to have sprung from some Original Tradition delivered down to us from the first Parents of Mankind: I mean, that there is One Supreme Being, the Author and Cause of all [Page 246] things, whom the most ancient of the Heathen Poets commonly called the Father of Gods and men. And thus Aristotle in his Metaphysicks defines God, the eternal and most excellent, or best of all Living Beings. And this Notion, of One Supreme Being, agrees very well with that exact Harmony which appears in the Frame and Government of the World, in which we see all things conspiring to one End, and continuing in one uni­form Order and Course; which cannot reasonably be ascribed to any other but a constant and uni­form Cause; and which to a consi­dering man does plainly shew that all things are made and governed by that One powerful Principle, and great and wise Mind which we call God.

But although the generality of Mankind had a Notion of One Supreme God, yet the Idolatry of the Heathen plainly shews that this Notion, in process of time, was greatly de­generated, [Page 247] and corrupted into an apprehension of a Plurality of Gods; though in reason it is evident enough, that there can be no more Gods than One; and that One, who is of infinite Perfection, is as suf­ficient to all purposes whatsoever, as ten thousand Deities, if they were possible, could possibly be; as I shall shew in the following Di­scourse.

Now this multitude of Deities; which the fond Superstition and vain Imagination of Men had form­ed to themselves, were by the Wiser sort, who being forced to comply with the Follies of the People en­deavoured to make the best of them, supposed to be either Parts of the Universe which the Egyptians, as Plutarch tells us, thought to be the same with God; but then the more considerable parts of the Uni­verse they parcelled out into several Deities; and as the Ocean hath seve­ral Names, according to the several [Page 248] Coasts and Countries by which it passeth; so they gave several Names to this One Deity according to the several Parts of the World which se­veral Nations made the Objects of their Worship.

Or else, they adored the several Perfections and Powers of the One Supreme God under several Names and Titles, with regard to the various Blessings and Benefits which they thought they received from Him.

Thus the Indian Philosophers, the Brachmans, are said to have wor­shipped the Sun as the Supreme Deity; and he certainly is the most Worship­ful of all sensible Beings, and bids fairest for a Deity; especially if he was, as they supposed, animated by a Spirit endued with knowledg and understanding. And if a man, who had been bred in a dark Cave, should all on the sudden be brought out at Noon-day to behold this visi­ble World; after he had viewed and consider'd it a while, he would in [Page 249] all probability pitch upon the Sun as the most likely, of all the things he had seen, to be a Deity. For if such a man had any Notion of a God, and were to chuse one upon sight, he would without dispute fix upon the Sun, and fall down be­fore Him and worship Him.

And Macrobius manageth this as his main Plea for the Idolatry of the Heathen; that under all the several Names of their Gods they Worship­ped the Sun: And this diversity of Names was but a more distinct con­ception and acknowledgment of the many Blessings and advantages which mankind received from Him, and a more particular and express Adoration of the several Powers and Perfections which were in Him. And this was the very best defence, and all the tolerable sense which the Wisest among the Heathen could make of the multitude of their Dei­ties.

[Page 250] And yet whilst they generally owned One Supreme Being that was the Principle and Original of all things, they worshipped several subordinate Deities as really distinct from one another. Some of these they fancied to be superior to the rest and to have their residence in Heaven; by which Marsilius Ficinus supposes Plato to mean no more but the Chief of the Angels. These were called [...], Dii Superi and Dij Caelestes, superior and heavenly Gods: The Scripture terms them the Host of Heaven, meaning the Sun, Moon and Stars, which they supposed to be animated, or at least to be in­habited by Angels, or glorious Spi­rits, whom they called Gods.

Other of their Deities were ac­counted much inferior to these, being supposed to be the Souls of their de­ceased Heroes; who for their great and worthy Deeds, when they li­ved upon Earth, were supposed af­ter Death to be translated into the [Page 251] number of their Gods. And these were called Semidei and Deastri, that is, half Gods and a sort of Gods: And as the other were Celestial, so these were [...] a kind of Ter­restrial Spirits that were Presidents and Procurators of Human affairs here below, that is, a middle sort of Divine Powers that were Media­tors and Agents between God and Men, and did carry the Prayers and Supplications of Men to God, and bring down the Commands and Blessings of God to Men.

But in the midst of all this Crowd and confusion of Deities, and the various Superstitions about them, the Wiser Heathen, as Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Tully, Plu­tarch and others, preserved a true Notion of One Supreme God, whom they defined an infinite Spirit, pure from all Matter and free from all imper­fection: And all the variety of their Worship was, as they pretended in excuse of it, but a more particular [Page 252] owning of the various representa­tions of the Divine Power and Ex­cellencies which manifested them­selves in the World, and of the se­veral communications of Blessings and Favours by them imparted to Men: Adversus Marcio­nem, I. 1. c. 10. and Tertullian observes, that even when Idolatry had very much obscured the Glory of the Sovereign Deity, yet the greater part of Man­kind did still in their common Forms of Speech appropriate the Name of God in a more especial and peculiar manner to One, saying, If god grant, If God please, and the like.

So that there is sufficient ground to believe that the Unity of the Di­vine Nature, or the Notion of One Supreme God, Creator and Governor of the World, was the Primitive and general belief of Mankind: And that Polytheism and Idolatry were a corruption and degeneracy from the Original Notion which Mankind had concerning God; as the Scripture-History doth declare and testify.

[Page 253] And this account which I have given of the Heathen Idolatry doth by no means excuse it. For what­ever may be said by way of exte­nuation in behalf of some few of the wiser and more devout among them, the generality were grossly guilty both of believing more Gods, and of worshipping false Gods.

And this must needs be a very great Crime, since the Scripture eve­ry where declares God to be parti­cularly jealous in this Case, and that he will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven Images. Nay, we may not so much as make use of sensible Images to put us in mind of God, lest devout Ignorance, seeing the Worship which Wise men paid towards an Idol, should be drawn to terminate their Worship there, as being the very Deity it self; which was certainly the Case of the great­est part of the Heathen World.

And surely those Christians are in no less danger of Idolatry, who pay [Page 254] a Veneration to Images by kneeling down and praying before them; and in this they are much more inexcusable, because they offend against a much clearer Light; and yet when they go about to justify this Practice are able to bring no other nor better Pleas for themselves than the Heathen did for their worshipping of Images, and for praying to their inferior Dei­ties, whom they looked upon as Me­diators between the Gods in Heaven and Men upon Earth.

There is but one Objection, that I know of, against the general Con­sent of Mankind concerning the Unity of God; and it is this, That there was an ancient Doctrine of some of the most ancient Nations, that there were two First Causes or Principles of all things; the one the Cause of all Good, and the other of all the Evil that is in the World: The reason whereof seems to have been, that they could not apprehend how things of so contrary a nature, [Page 255] as Good and Evil, could proceed from one and the same Cause.

And these two Principles in several Nations were called by several Names. Plutarch says that among the Greeks the Good Principle was called God, and the Evil Principle [...] or the Devil. In conformity to which ancient Tradition the Mani­chees, a Sect which called themselves Christians, did advance two Principles, the one infinitely Good, which they supposed to be the Original Cause of all the good which is in the World; the other infinitely Evil, to which they ascribed all the evils that are in the World.

But all this is very plainly a cor­ruption of a much more ancient Tra­dition concerning that old Serpent the Devil, the Head of the fallen Angels, who by tempting our First Parents to transgress a positive and express Law of God brought Sin first into the World and all the Evils conse­quent upon it; of which the Scripture [Page 256] gives us a most express and particular account.

And as to the Notion of a Being in­finitely Evil, into which this Tradition was corrupted, after Idolatry had pre­vailed in the World, besides that it is a Contradiction, it would like­wise be to no purpose to assert two opposite Principles of infinite, that is of equal force and Power, for two In­finites must of necessity be equal to one another; because nothing can be more or greater than infinite, and therefore if two infinite Beings were possible they would certainly be equal, and could not be other­wise.

Now that the Notion of a Princi­ple infinitely Evil is a Contradiction will be very plain, if we consider that what is infinitely Evil must in strict Reasoning, and by necessary consequence, be infinitely imper­fect; and therefore infinitely weak, and for that reason, though never so malicious and mischievous, yet be­ing [Page 257] infinitely weak and foolish, could never be in a capacity either to contrive mischief or to execute it.

But if it should be admitted that a Being infinitely mischievous could be infinitely knowing and powerful, yet it could effect no Evil; because the opposite Principle of infinite Good­ness, being also infinitely Wise and Powerful, they would tye up one another's hands. So that upon this supposition the Notion of a Deity must signify just nothing, because by virtue of the eternal opposition and equal conflict of these two Prin­ciples they would keep one another at a perpetual Baye; and being just an equal Match to one another, the one having as much mind and power to do good as the other to do evil, in­stead of being two Deities they would be but two Idols, able to do neither good nor evil.

And having, I hope, now suf­ficiently cleared this Objection, I [Page 258] shall proceed to shew how agree­able this Principle, that there is but one God, is to the common Reason of Mankind, and to the clearest and most essential Notions which we have of God: And this will appear these two ways.

First, By considering the most essential Perfections of the Divine Nature.

Secondly, From the repugnancy and impossibility, the great absur­dity and inconvenience of suppo­sing more Gods than One.

First, By considering the most essential Perfections of the Divine Nature. Absolute Perfection which we ascribe to God, as the most essential Notion which Mankind hath always had concerning Him, does necessarily suppose Unity; be­cause this is essential to the Notion of a Being that is absolutely Perfect, that all Perfection meets and is united in such a Being: But to imagine more Gods, and some Perfections [Page 259] to be in one and some in another, does destroy the most essential Noti­on which men have of God, name­ly, that He is a Being absolutely Per­fect, that is, as perfect as is possi­ble: Now to suppose some Per­fections in one God which are not in another, is to suppose some possi­ble Perfection to be wanting in God, which is a Contradiction to the most natural and the most easie Notion which all men have of God, that He is a Being in whom all Per­fections do meet and are united: But if we suppose more Gods, each of which hath all Perfections united in Him, then all but One would be superfluous and needless; and therefore by just and necessary consequence not only may, but of necessity must be supposed not to be; since necessary existence is essential to the Deity; and therefore if but One God be necessary, there can be no more.

[Page 260] Secondly, From the repugnancy and impossibility, the great absurdity and in­convenience of the contrary. For suppose there were more Gods, two for example; and if there may be two there may be a Million, for we can stop no where: I say, suppose two Gods; either these two would be in all Perfections equal and alike, or unequal and unlike: If equal and alike in all things then, as I said be­fore, one of them would be need­less and superfluous, and if one why not as well the other? they being supposed to be in all things per­fectly alike; and then there would be no necessity at all of the being of a God; and yet it is granted on all hands that necessary existence is essential to the Notion of a God: But if they be unequal, that is, one of them inferior to and less perfect than the other, that which is inferior and less perfect could not be God, because he would not have all perfection. So that which way so­ever [Page 261] we turn the thing and look upon it, the Notion of more Gods than One is by its own repugnancy and self-contradiction destructive of it self.

Before I come to apply this Do­ctrine of the Unity of God, I must not pass by a very considerable Difficulty, which will most certainly arise in every mans mind, without taking particular notice of it, and endeavouring to remove it, if I can. And it is the Doctrine of the B. Trinity, or of three real Differen­ces or distinct Persons in One and the same Divine Nature.

And though this be not a Diffi­culty peculiar only to the Christian Re­ligion, as by the generality of those who urge this Objection against Chri­stians hath been inconsiderately thought; for it is certain, that long before Christianity appeared in the World, there was a very ancient Tradition, both among Jews and [Page 262] Heathen, concerning three real Diffe­rences or Distinctions in the Divine Nature, very nearly resembling the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, as I shall have occasion more fully to shew by and by: Yet it cannot be denied, but that this Difficulty doth in a more especial manner affect the Christian Religion; the generality of Christians, who do most firmly be­lieve the Trinity, believing likewise at the same time, more stedfastly if it be possible, that there is but One God. To us, 1 Cor. 8. 6. saith St. Paul, that is, to us Christians, there is but One God. But how can this possibly consist with the common Doctrine of Christians concerning the Trinity, God the Fa­ther, Son, and H. Ghost, to each of whom they Attribute, as they ve­rily believe the Scripture does, the most incommunicable Properties and Perfections of the Divine Nature? And what is this less in effect than to say, That there are three Gods?

[Page 263] For the clearing of this Difficulty I shall, with all the brevity I can, offer these following Considerations; which I hope, to an impartial and unprejudiced Judgment, will be sufficient to remove it, or at least to break the main force and strength of it.

I. I desire it may be well consi­dered,I that there is a wide difference between the nice Speculations of the Schools, beyond what is revealed in Scripture, concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity, and what the Scripture only teaches and asserts concerning this Mystery. For it is not to be de­nied but that the Schoolmen, who a­bounded in wit and leisure, though very few among them had either ex­act skill in the H. Scriptures, or in Ecclesiastical Antiquity and the Wri­tings of the ancient Fathers of the Chri­stian Church: I say, it cannot be denied but that these Speculative and very acute men, who wrought a [Page 264] great part of their Divinity out of their own Brains as Spiders do Cob­webs out of their own bowels, have started a thousand subtleties about this Mystery, such as no Christian is bound to trouble his head withal; much less is it necessary for him to understand those niceties which we may reasonably presume that they who talk of them did themselves never thoroughly understand; and least of all is it necessary to believe them. The modesty of Christians is contented in Divine Mysteries to know what God hath thought fit to reveal concerning them, and hath no curiosity to be wise above that which is written. It is enough to believe what God says concerning these matters; and if any man will ven­ture to say more, every other man surely is at his liberty to believe as he sees reason.

II II. I desire it may in the next place be considered, that the Do­ctrine [Page 265] of the Trinity, even as it is as­serted in Scripture, is acknowledged by us to be still a great Mystery, and so imperfectly revealed as to be in a great measure incomprehensible by Human Reason. And therefore though some learned and judicious Men may have very commendably attempted a more particular explica­tion of this great Mystery by the strength of Reason, yet I dare not pretend to that, knowing both the difficulty and danger of such an At­tempt, and mine own insufficiency for it.

All that I ever designed upon this Argument was to make out the cre­dibility of the thing from the Au­thority of the H. Scriptures, with­out descending to a more particular explication of it than the Scripture hath given us; lest by endeavouring to lay the Difficulties which are al­ready started about it new ones should be raised, and such as may perhaps be much harder to be remo­ved [Page 266] than those which we have now to grapple withal. And this I hope I have in some measure done in one of the former Discourses. Serm. II. Nor in­deed do I see that it is any ways necessary to do more; it being suf­ficient that God hath declared what he thought fit in this matter, and that we do firmly believe what he says concerning it to be true, though we do not perfectly comprehend the meaning of all that he hath said about it.

For in this and the like Cases I take an Implicite Faith to be very com­mendable, that is, to believe what­ever we are sufficiently assured God hath revealed, though we do not ful­ly understand his meaning in such a Revelation. And thus every man who believes the H. Scriptures to be a truly Divine Revelation does im­plicitely believe a great part of the Prophetical Books of Scripture and se­veral obscure expressions in those Books, though he do not particu­larly [Page 267] understand the meaning of all the Predictions and expressions con­tained in them. In like manner, there are certainly a great many ve­ry good Christians who do not be­lieve and comprehend the Mysteries of Faith nicely enough to approve themselves to a Scholastical and Ma­gisterial Judge of Controversies, who yet if they do heartily embrace the Doctrines which are clearly revealed in Scripture and live up to the plain Precepts of the Christian Religion, will I doubt not be very well ap­proved by the Great and Just, and by the infallibly Infallible Judge of the World.

III. Let it be further considered,III That though neither the word Tri­nity, nor perhaps Person, in the sense in which it is used by Divines when they treat of this Mystery, be any where to be met with in Scripture; yet it cannot be denied but that Three are there spoken of by the Names of [Page 268] Father, Son, and H. Ghost, in whose Name every Christian is baptized, and to each of whom the highest Titles and Properties of God are in Scripture attributed: And these Three are spoken of with as much di­stinction from one another as we use to speak of three several Persons.

So that though the word Trinity be not found in Scripture, yet these Three are there expresly and fre­quently mentioned; and a Trinity is nothing but three of any thing. And so likewise though the word Person be not there expresly applied to Fa­ther, Son, and H. Ghost; yet it will be very hard to find a more conveni­ent word whereby to express the di­stinction of these Three. For which reason I could never yet see any just cause to quarrel at this term. For since the H. Spirit of God in Scri­pture hath thought fit in speaking of these Three to distinguish them from one another, as we use in com­mon speech to distinguish three se­veral [Page 269] Persons, I cannot see any rea­son why, in the explication of this Mystery which purely depends upon Divine Revelation, we should not speak of it in the same manner as the Scripture doth: And though the word Person is now become a [...]erm of Art, I see no cause why we should decline it, so long as we mean by it neither more nor less than what the Scripture says in other Words.

IV. It deserves further to be con­sidered,IV That there hath been a ve­ry ancient Tradition concerning three real Differences or Distinctions in the Divine Nature; and these, as I said before, very nearly resembling the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity.

Whence this Tradition had its ori­ginal is not easie upon good and cer­tain grounds to say; but certain it is that the Jews anciently had this No­tion: And that they did distinguish the Word of God, and the H. Spirit of [Page 270] God, from Him who was absolutely called God, and whom they looked upon as the First Principle of all things; as is plain from Philo Judaeus, and Moses Nachmanides, L. 5. and others cited by the Learned Grotius in his in­comparable Book of the Truth of the Christian Religion.

And among the Heathen, Plato; who probably enough might have this Notion from the Jews, did make three Distinctions in the Deity by the Names of essential Goodness, and Mind, and Spirit.

So that whatever Objections this matter may be liable to, it is not so peculiar a Doctrine of the Christian Religion as many have imagined, though it is revealed by it with much more clearness and certainty: And consequently, neither the Jews nor Plato have any reason to object is to us Christians; especially since they pretend no other ground for it but either their own Reason, or an ancient Tradition from their Fathers: [Page 271] whereas we Christians do appeal to express Divine Revelation for what we believe in this matter, and do believe it singly upon that account.

V. It is besides very consider­able,V That the Scriptures do deliver this Doctrine of the Trinity without any manner of doubt or question concerning the Unity of the Divine Nature: And not only so, but do most stedfastly and constantly assert that there is but One God: And in those very Texts, in which these three Differences are mentioned, the Unity of the Divine Nature is expresly asserted; as where St. John makes mention of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the Unity of these Three is likewise affirmed, There are Three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit; and these Three are One.

VI. It is yet further considerable,VI That from this Mystery, as delivered [Page 272] in Scripture, a Plurality of Gods cannot be inferred without making the Scripture grosly to contradict it self; which I charitably suppose the Socinians would be as loth to admit as we our selves are. And if either Councils, or Fathers, or Schoolmen, have so explained this Mystery as to give any just ground, or so much as a plausible colour for such an Infe­rence, let the blame fall where it is due, and let it not be charged on the H. Scriptures; but rather, as the Apostle says in another Case, Let God be true, and every Man a liar.

VII VIIthly and Lastly, I desire it may be considered, That it is not repug­nant to Reason to believe some things which are incomprehensible by our Reason; provided that we have sufficient ground and reason for the belief of them: Especially if they be concerning God, who is in his Nature Incomprehensible; and we be well assured that he hath revealed [Page 273] them. And therefore it ought not to offend us that these Differences in the Deity are incomprehensible by our finite understandings; because the Divine Nature it self is so, and yet the belief of that is the Foundation of all Religion.

There are a great many things in Nature which we cannot compre­hend how they either are, or can be: As the Continuity of Matter, that is, how the parts of it do hang so fast together, that they are many times very hard to be parted; and yet we are sure that it is so, because we see it every day. So likewise how the small Seeds of things con­tain the whole Form and Nature of the things from which they proceed and into which by degrees they grow; and yet we plainly see this every year.

There are many things likewise in our Selves, which no man is able in any measure to comprehend, as to the manner how they are done [Page 274] and performed: As the vital union of Soul and Body: Who can imagine by what device or means a Spirit comes to be so closely united and so firmly link'd to a material Body, that they are not to be parted without great force and violence offer'd to Nature? The like may be said of the operations of our several Facul­ties of Sense and Imagination, of Me­mory and Reason, and especially of the Liberty of our Wills: And yet we certainly find all these Faculties in our selves, though we cannot ei­ther comprehend or explain the par­ticular manner in which the seve­ral Operations of them are per­formed.

And if we cannot comprehend the manner of those Operations which we plainly perceive and feel to be in our Selves, much less can we expect to comprehend things with­out us; and least of all can we pre­tend to comprehend the infinite Na­ture and Perfections of God, and every [Page 275] thing belonging to Him. For God himself is certainly the greatest Mystery of all other, and acknow­ledged by Mankind to be in his Na­ture, and in the particular manner of his Existence, incomprehensible by Human Understanding. And the reason of this is very evident, be­cause God is infinite, and our know­ledge and understanding is but fi­nite: And yet no sober man ever thought this a good reason to call the Being of God in question.

The same may be said of God's certain knowledge of future Con­tingencies which depend upon the uncertain Wills of free Agents: It being utterly inconceivable how any Understanding, how large and per­fect soever, can certainly know be­forehand that which depends upon the free Will of another, which is an arbitrary and uncertain Cause.

And yet the Scripture doth not only attribute this Foreknowledge to God, but gives us also plain In­stances [Page 276] of God's foretelling such things, many Ages before it hap­pened, as could not come to pass but by the Sins of Men, in which we are sure that God can have no hand; though nothing can happen without his permission: Such was that most memorable Event of the Death of Christ who, as the Scripture tells us, was by wicked hands crucified and stain; and yet even this is said to have happened according to the deter­minate foreknowledge of God, and was punctually foretold by Him some hundreds of years before. Nay, the Scripture doth not only ascribe this power and perfection to the Divine Knowledge, but natural Reason hath been forced to acknowledge it, as we may see in some of the wisest of the Philosophers. And yet it would puzzle the greatest Philosopher that ever was, to give any tolerable ac­count how any Knowledge whatso­ever can certainly and infallibly foresee an Event through uncertain [Page 277] and contingent Causes. All the reasonable satisfaction that can be had in this matter is this, that it is not at all unreasonable to suppose that infinite Knowledg may have ways of knowing things which our finite Understandings can by no means com­prehend how they can possibly be known.

Again, There is hardly any thing more inconceivable than how a thing should be of it self, and without any Cause of its Being; and yet our Reason compels us to acknowledge this; Because we cer­tainly see that something is, which must either have been of it self and without a Cause, or else something that we do not see must have been of it self and have made all other things: And by this reasoning we are forced to acknowledge a Deity, the mind of Man being able to find no rest but in the acknowledgment of one eternal and wise Mind as the Principle and first Cause of all other [Page 278] things; and this Principle is that which Mankind do by general con­sent call God. So that God hath laid a sure foundation of our acknow­ledgment of his Being in the Rea­son of our own Minds: And though it be one of the hardest things in the world to conceive how any thing can be of it self, yet necessity drives us to acknowledge it whether we will or no: And this being once granted, our Reason, being tired in trying all other ways, will for its own quiet and ease force us at last to fall in with the general appre­hension and belief of Mankind con­cerning a Deity.

To give but one Instance more; There is the like Difficulty in con­ceiving how any thing can be made out of nothing; and yet our Reason doth oblige us to believe it: Be­cause Matter, which is a very imper­fect Being and merely passive, must either always have been of it self; or else, by the infinite Power of a [Page 279] most perfect and active Being, must have been made out of nothing: Which is much more credible, than that any thing so imperfect as Matter is should be of it self: Because that which is of it self cannot be con­ceived to have any bounds and li­mits of its Being and Perfection; for by the same reason that it necessarily is and of it self, it must necessarily have all perfection, which it is cer­tain Matter hath not; and yet neces­sary Existence is so great a Perfection, that we cannot reasonably suppose any thing that hath this Perfection to want any other.

Thus you see, by these Instances, that it is not repugnant to Reason to believe a great many things to be, of the manner of whose Exi­stence we are not able to give a par­ticular and distinct account. And much less is it repugnant to Reason to believe those things concerning God which we are very well assured he hath declared concerning Him­self, [Page 280] though these things by our Reason should be incomprehen­sible.

And this is truly the Case as to the matter now under debate: We are sufficiently assured that the Scri­ptures are a Divine Revelation, and that this Mystery of the Trinity is therein declared to us. Now that we can­not comprehend it, is no sufficient Reason not to believe it: For if this were a good Reason for not believ­ing it, then no man ought to believe that there is a God, because his Na­ture is most certainly incomprehensi­ble. But we are assured by many Ar­guments that there is a God; and the same natural Reason which assures us that He is, doth likewise assure us that He is incomprehensible; and there­fore our believing Him to be so doth by no means overthrow our belief of His Being.

In like manner, we are assured by Divine Revelation of the truth of this Doctrine of the Trinity; and being [Page 281] once assured of that, our not being able fully to comprehend it is not reason enough to stagger our belief of it. A man cannot deny what he sees, though the necessary conse­quence of admitting it may be some­thing which he cannot comprehend. One cannot deny the Frame of this World which he sees with his eyes, though from thence it will necessari­ly follow that either that or some­thing else must be of itself; which yet, as I said before, is a thing which no man can comprehend how it can be.

And by the same Reason a man must not deny what God says, to be true; though he cannot compre­hend many things which God says: As particularly concerning this My­stery of the Trinity. It ought then to satisfy us that there is sufficient evi­dence that this Doctrine is delivered in Scripture, and that what is there declared concerning it doth not im­ply a Contradiction. For why should [Page 282] our finite understandings pretend to comprehend that which is infinite, or to know all the real Differences that are consistent with the Unity of an Infinite Being: or to be able ful­ly to explain this Mystery by any si­militude or resemblance taken from finite Beings?

But before I leave this Argument, I cannot but take notice of one thing which they of the Church of Rome are perpetually objecting to us upon this Occasion. And it is this, That by the same reason that we believe the Doctrine of the Trinity, we may and must receive that of Transubstantia­tion. God forbid: Because of all the Doctrines that ever were in any Religion, this of Transubstantiation is certainly the most abominably ab­surd.

However, this Objection plainly shews how fondly and obstinately they are addicted to their own Er­rors, how mishapen and monstrous soever; insomuch that rather than [Page 283] the Dictates of their Church, how absurd soever, should be called in question they will question the truth even of Christianity it self; and if we will not take in Transubstantiation, and admit it to be a necessary Arti­cle of the Christian Faith, they grow so sullen and desperate that they mat­ter not what becomes of all the rest: And rather than not have their Will of us in that which is controverted, they will give up that which by their own confession is an undoubted Article of the Christian Faith and not contro­verted on either Side; except only by the Socinians, who yet are hearty Enemies to Transubstantiation, and have exposed the absurdity of it with great advantage.

But I shall endeavour to return a more particular Answer to this Ob­jection; and such a one as I hope will satisfy every considerate and un­prejudiced mind, that after all this confidence and swaggering of theirs there is by no means equal reason [Page 284] either for the receiving or for the re­jecting of these two Doctrines of the Trinity and Transubstantiation.

First, There is not equal reason for the belief of these Two Doctrines. This Objection, if it be of any force, must suppose that there is equal evi­dence and proof from Scripture for these two Doctrines: But this we ut­terly deny, and with great reason; because it is no more evident from the words of Scripture that the Sacra­mental Bread is substantially changed into Christ's natural Body by virtue of those words, This is my Body, than it is that Christ is substantially changed into a natural Vine by virtue of those words,Joh, 15, 1. I am the true Vine; or than that the Rock in the Wilder­ness, of which the Israelites drank, was substantially changed into the Person of Christ, because it is ex­presly said, That Rock was Christ; or than that the Christian Church is sub­stantially changed into the natural Body of Christ, because it is in express [Page 285] terms said of the Church, That it is his Body. Eph. 1. 23.

But besides this, several of their own most learned Writers have freely acknowledged, that Transubstantia­tion can neither be directly proved, nor necessarily concluded from Scri­pture: But this the Writers of the Christian Church did never acknow­ledge concerning the Trinity, and the Divinity of Christ; but have al­ways appealed to the clear and un­deniable Testimonies of Scripture for the Proof of these Doctrines. And then the whole force of the Objection a­mounts to this, That if I am bound to believe what I am sure God says, tho I cannot comprehend it; then I am bound by the same reason to believe the greatest Absurdity in the World, though I have no manner of assu­rance of any Divine Revelation con­cerning it. And if this be their meaning, though we understand not Transubstantiation, yet we very well understand what they would [Page 286] have, but cannot grant it; because there is not equal reason to believe two things, for one of which there is good proof, and for the other no proof at all.

Secondly, Neither is there equal reason for the rejecting of these two Doctrines. This the Objection sup­poses, which yet cannot be suppo­sed but upon one or both of these two grounds: Either because these two Doctrines are equally incompre­hensible, or because they are equally loaded with Absurdities and Contra­dictions.

The First is no good ground of rejecting any Doctrine, merely be­cause it is incomprehensible; as I have abundantly shew'd already. But be­sides this, there is a wide difference between plain matters of Sense, and Mysteries concerning God; and it does by no means follow that, if a man do once admit any thing con­cerning God which he cannot com­prehend, he hath no reason after­wards [Page 287] to believe what he himself sees. This is a most unreasonable and destructive way of arguing, be­cause it strikes at the foundation of all Certainty, and sets every man at liberty to deny the most plain and evident Truths of Christianity, if he may not be humor'd in having the absurdest things in the World ad­mitted for true. The next step will be to persuade us that we may as well deny the Being of God because his Nature is incomprehensible by our Reason, as deny Transubstantiation because it evidently contradicts our Senses.

2dly. Nor are these two Doctrines loaded with the like Absurdities and Contradictions: So far from this, that the Doctrine of the Trinity, as it is delivered in the Scriptures, and hath already been explained, hath no Absurdity or Contradiction ei­ther involved in it, or necessarily consequent upon it: But the Do­ctrine of Transubstantiation is big [Page 288] with all imaginable Absurdity and Contradiction. And their own Schoolmen have sufficiently exposed it; especially Scotus, and he design­ed to do so, as any man that atten­tively reads him may plainly disco­ver: For in his Disputation about it he treats this Doctrine with the great­est contempt, as a new Invention of the Council of Lateran under Pope Innocent Ill. To the Decree of which Council concerning it he seems to pay a formal submission, but really de­rides it as contrary to the common Sense and Reason of Mankind, and not at all supported by Scripture; as any one may easily discern that will carefully consider his manner of handling it and the result of his whole Disputation about it.

And now Suppose there were some appearance of Absurdity and Contradiction in the Doctrine of the Trinity as it is delivered in Scripture, must we therefore believe a Do­ctrine which is not at all revealed [Page 289] in Scripture, and which hath cer­tainly in it all the absurdities in the World, and all the Contradictions to Sense and Reason; and which once admitted, doth at once de­stroy all Certainty? Yes, say they, why not? since we of the Church of Rome are satisfied that this Doctrine is revealed in Scripture; or, if it be not, is defined by the Church, which is every whit as good. But is this equal, to demand of us the belief of a thing which hath always been controverted, not on­ly between us and them, but even among themselves, at least till the Council of Trent? And this upon such unreasonable terms, that we must either yield this Point to them or else renounce a Doctrine agreed on both Sides to be revealed in Scripture.

To shew the unreasonableness of this proceeding, Let us suppose a Priest of the Church of Rome pres­sing a Jew or Turk to the belief of [Page 290] Transubstantiation, and because one kindness deserves another, the Jew or Turk should demand of him the belief of all the Fables in the Talmud, or in the Alchoran; since none of these, nor indeed all of them toge­ther, are near so absurd as Transub­stantiation: Would not this be much more reasonable and equal than what they demand of us? Since no Absurdity, how monstrous and big soever, can be thought of, which may not enter into an Un­derstanding in which a Breach hath been already made wide enough to admit Transubstantiation. The Priests of Baal did not half so much de­serve to be exposed by the Prophet for their Superstition and folly, as the Priests of the Church of Rome do for this sensless and stupid Doctrine of theirs with a hard Name. I shall only add this one thing more, That if this Doctrine were possible to be true, and clearly prov'd to be so; yet it would be evidently useless [Page 291] and to no purpose. For it pretends to change the substance of one thing into the substance of another thing that is already and before this change is pretended to be made. But to what purpose? Not to make the Body of Christ, for that was al­ready in Being; and the Substance of the Bread is lost, nothing of it re­maineth but the Accidents which are good for nothing, and indeed are nothing when the Substance is de­stroy'd and gone.

All that now remains is to make some practical Inferences from this Doctrine of the Unity of the Divine Nature. And they shall be the same which God himself makes by Moses, which Text also is cited by our Sa­viour, Hear, Deut. 6▪ 4. O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, Mark 12. 2 [...] ▪ 30, 3 [...] and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self. So [Page 292] that according to our Saviour the whole Duty of Man, the love of God and of our neighbour is founded in the Unity of the Divine Nature.

I. The love of God; The Lord thy God is One Lord, therefore thou shalt love Him with all thy heart, &c. this is the first and great Commandment: And it comprehends in it all the Duties of the first Table as naturally flowing from it. As that we should serve him only, and pay no Religious Worship to any but to Him. For to pay Re­ligious Worship to any thing is to make it a God and to acknowledge it for such: And therefore God being but One, we can give Religious Worship to none but to Him only. And among all the parts of Religious Worship none is more peculiarly appropriated to the Deity than solemn Invocation and Prayer. For he to whom men ad­dress their Requests, at all times, and in all places, must be supposed to be always every where present, [Page 293] to understand all our desires and wants, and to be able to supply them; and this God only is, and can do.

So likewise from the Unity of the Divine Nature may be inferr'd, that we should not worship God by any sensible Image or Representation: Because God being a singular Being there is nothing like Him, or that can without injuring and debasing his most spiritual and perfect and im­mense Being be compared to Him: As He himself speaks in the Pro­phet, Isa 46. 5. To whom will ye liken me, saith the Lord, and make me equal? And there­fore with no Distinction whatsoever can it be lawful to give Religious Worship, or any part of it, to any but God: We can pray to none but to Him, because He only is every where present,1 Kings 8. 39. and only knows the Hearts of all the children of men; which Solomon gives as the reason why we should address our Suppli­cations to God only, who dwelleth in the Heavens.

[Page 294] So that the Reason of these two Precepts is founded in the Unity and Singularity of the Divine Nature, and unless there be more Gods than One, we must worship Him only, and pray to none but Him: Because we can give Invocation to none but to Him only whom we believe to be God; as St. Paul reasons,Rom. 10. 14. How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?

II. The love likewise of our Neighbour is founded in the Unity of the Divine Nature, and may be in­ferr'd from it: Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One Lord, therefore thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy self. And the Apostle gives this reason why Christians should be at unity among themselves;Eph. 4. 6. There is One God and Fa­ther of all, and therefore we should keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace, that is, live in mutual love and peace. The Prophet likewise as­signs this reason why all Mankind should be upon good terms with one [Page 295] another, and not be injurious one to another,Mal. 2. 10. Have we not all One Father? hath not One God created us? Why do we then deal treacherously every man against his brother?

And therefore when we see such hatred and enmity among Men, such divisions and animosities among Christians, we may not only ask St. Paul's question, Is Christ divided? that we cannot agree about serving him; either all to serve him in one way, or to bear with one another in our differences: I say we may not only ask St. Paul's question, Is Christ divided? but may ask further, Is God divided? Is there not One God, and are we not all his Offspring? Are we not all the Sons of Adam, who was the Son of God? So that if we trace our selves to our Original, we shall find a great nearness and equality among men: And this equality that we are all God's crea­tures and Image, and that the One only God is the Father of us all, is a more [Page 296] real ground of mutual love, and peace, and equity in our dealings one with a­nother, than any of those petty differ­ences and distinctions of strong and weak, of rich and poor, of wise and foolish, of base and honourable, can be to en­courage men to any thing of Insolence injustice, and inequality of dealing one towards another. Because that where­in we all agree, that we are the Crea­tures and Children of God and have all One common Father, is essential and constant; but those things wherein we differ are accidental and muta­ble, and happen to one another by turns.

Thus much may suffice to have spoken concerning the first Propositi­on in the Text, There is one God: To Him, Father, Son, and H. Ghost, be all Honour and Glory, Dominion and Power, now and for ever. Amen.


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