« Prev Lecture XV. Preached April 17, 1691. Next »

LECTURE XV.33   Preached April 17, 1691.

Therefore, now for the importance and use of this doctrine, much may be conceived of that, if it be considered how the stamp and impression of a Trinity doth run through the world. A noted writer, of our time, hath said very much to that purpose, of which I shall say but little. Take the whole universe of created beings and you have every where a Trinity instamped, It is observable enough in that great triad, the several things conceivable under each member, of nature, morality and religion. But it is with religion that we are concerned, and wherein the practice of it doth principally appear, and is most considerable. Our religion you do know, objectively considered, is made up of doctrines to be believed, and of duties to be done, and of benefits to be sought, and these are comprised in those three noted summaries, the creed, the decalogue, and the Lord’s prayer. In these three, there is some impression and resemblance of the Trinity in the divine nature. That is, of that power and of that wisdom and knowledge, and of that benignity and love, which are the three great most noted principles we have to conceive of, and that we cannot but distinctively conceive of, we cannot otherwise 23conceive of, than as distinct in the simple union of the God head; and which may probably enough correspond to, and be the very notion of, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Why now, if we consider doctrinals in the first place, the doctrines that do make up the first and most noble part of the scheme of religion, you know how they all depend upon, and are reduced to, the notions that are given us of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; upon these three heads hangs the frame of Christian doctrine. That is, of the Father considered as God Creator; and of the Son considered as God Redeemer; and of the Holy Ghost considered as God Sanctifier. Which three great works of God, though it be true that they do each of them owe themselves to the concurrence of each of the persons according to that known maxim, opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa:44   The Holy Trinity, in external operations, is not divided. which is undoubtedly a true and clear one: yet each of these is appropriated to each of the persons severally, not exclusively, but eminently. And that we may understand that aright, when it is said, the Father creates, it is to be understood eminently, not exclusively, of the Son and the Holy Ghost: and so as to the rest. When we profess to believe in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, that is, in God the Father, as he is the first Fountain of all being, uncreated and created too; why though that be plainly said, yet it is as plainly said, that without the Word was nothing made; and that by him, that is, the Word, even he—who is said to be “the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person,” the worlds were made: and that they were made by the Spirit of his mouth; and that the Spirit did move upon the waters, that is, upon the fluctuating chaos, which we must suppose to have been first made, before things were made out of it: and that it was first made is the most demonstrable thing, in all the world; otherwise, it were, itself, a necessary and self original being, and so God; the notion of God would not be all-comprehending, or there would be something praeter Deum, besides God, originally and naturally, and of itself. So again, as to the work of redemption, that was designed by the Father, but wrought by the Son, and applied by the Holy Ghost. These are plain things and abundantly evident in Scripture as, if I should turn from text to text, you would see. But I must suppose you to understand it already. You cannot then but see the mighty importance of this doctrine of the Trinity in our religion. We shall have occasion to press that further by and by. But now hereupon, I shall, for putting a period to the discourse on 24this subject, subjoin several instructions in reference hereto. As,

1 That we should all learn to adore the wonderful divine condescension, that he should so far unveil himself, and make known so much of the things of his own nature and being, to such despicable beings as we. We can never wonder enough at this. Indeed, I have many times considered, it is a very instructive thing, that so many of the pagans should discover so very reverential thoughts of God, upon this account, and under this notion, as they apprehend his Being to be inscrutable, unsearchable, as that inscription on one of their temples doth import, “I am he that was, and he that is, and he that shall be, and no one hath ever unfolded my veil.” Such reverential apprehensions, had they (however they came by them,) of the inscrutableness and occultness of the Divine Being, that there were such arcana, such secrets veiled from all eyes, that could never possibly be looked into. Now that God should take such poor creatures as any of us are, and let us see so far into the veil, that, whereof we could have had no certain apprehensions, if he had not told us, how wonderful is it! Though some have made it very much their business, (after they had got the hint from Scripture concerning the Trinity,) to shew how rational it was; not only to shew how consistent it was with reason, (which is a very justifiable undertaking and a great piece of right done to our religion,) some carry the matter higher, (as I told you,) and undertake to demonstrate it to be necessary, and that we cannot conceive of the nature of God, and of that great work of his, the creation of the world, in reference to one another otherwise. But this is to strain beyond what the exigency of the case doth require. It may however, (by that improvement I have already made of it too,) serve somewhat to rebuke the proud confidence of that sort of men, who represent this doctrine as contrary to a common, rational dictate, the common sense and reason of mankind. That is most insolently pretended when, as (unless they will assume to themselves that there can be no such thing as a rational distate, that is not stamped at their mint) I say, unless they would assume that to themselves, it must appear very incongruous to pretend that such a thing is impossible to be, when others at the same time, (who may for ought I know lay as good a claim to that of being the men, and that wisdom shall die with them as they can,) should say with so much confidence, it is impossible not to be; and that there could be no such thing as a Creator and a creation, if it were Dot so.

But waving this disquisition, since it is most certainly not 25impossible in itself, it is very adorable that God should come, and so graciously discover to us that so it is; when we see how useful it is, and how expedite a frame of religion it lays open before us: that he should discourse to such children, such weaklings as we, at that rate concerning his own nature; “I will tell you how things are with me: now in the Godhead these are co-existent from all eternity, Father, Son and Spirit: and this I would not have hid from you; I would have you to be possessed with right notions and apprehensions of my nature thus far, that thus it is with me, and in me.” You would wonder that a great and wise prince should take upon him to discourse his arcana with a peasant, a mean, ignorant peasant. But we do not enough wonder at this condescension of God, upon this ground, that we do not enough set ourselves to consider the distance between God and creatures, and what mere nothings we are to him, and that when we have the most exalted thoughts that our minds are capable of, concerning any created being whatsoever, and then descending to the meanest sort of creatures we can think of, the distance is not only greater, but it is still infinitely greater between the great God and us. What then have we left to do, but to fall down and wonder, fall down and adore, and cry out, “Whence is it to us that thou shouldest let us know so much of thyself?” that whereas, the things of God are never to be known distinctly, otherwise than as the Spirit of God doth reveal them, that Spirit of God should be the Author to us, of such a revelation as this, which we have contained in the Bible, concerning this great and most important mystery.

2. Let us learn this too, not to think it a small matter, now that we are informed that there is in the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit; that all three should so far concern themselves as we find they do, and be so constantly concerned as they are about our affairs. If all the potentates on earth should concern themselves about the life of one single fly, it were not so strange a thing, it were not so great a stoop. We should consider with ourselves over and over, What am I? what am I, and what is my life, that the eternal Father, and the eternal Son, and the eternal Spirit, should all concern themselves from eternity about me? And again,

3. It should further instruct us into this, to fasten the apprehension deep in our souls, of the great concernment of the doctrine, that it may lie with weight upon us, as a seal that doth not make impression unless it be pressed on; that we should endeavour and intend more to press on this doctrine, this truth upon our own souls, that it may make the proper, 26due impression, that we may be delivered up into the mould and form of it: as the expression is, Rom. vi. 17. And to that purpose, let us bethink ourselves, how miserably (where this doctrine is not entertained) the scheme of Christianity, and the Christian religion are scattered and torn by the want, or by the denial of it. This apprehension should urge us so as that the doctrine should lie with greater weight and pressure upon our spirits, because where it is not received, away go the great limbs of Christian religion. The Deity of the Son of God, that is abandoned and cashiered: well, and what then becomes of our religion? Do you not think yourselves concerned in this matter? What I Are you willing to venture your souls otherwise than in the hands of a Divine Saviour, when you know yourselves to be sinners, to be guilty creatures? Do you think it will answer the exigency of your case, to have an atonement made for you of no greater value than if one mere man were made a sacrifice for another? And if that would do, suppose one man were as good as another; why inasmuch as all are sinners, when he goes to satisfy another’s sin, who shall satisfy for his sin? Or how shall he satisfy for his own? And suppose an innocent man should be made on purpose (as it is supposed in this present case) to be a sacrifice; that is still but man for man. It is true, he hath no sin of his own to satisfy for, but suppose he could satisfy for the sin of another man, there must then, be as many innocent men created as there are guilty men, at that rate. But would not you be loath to hazard your souls upon such conceits as these? and to quit your hold of a mighty God for your Saviour? of this assurance, that he who is to be your Saviour is known by the name of “the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace?” Would you be content to abandon this, that he is to be your Saviour who is God blessed for ever; who before the worlds were made was with God; and in time was made flesh, and dwelt among us; that word that was with God, and that was God, and by which all things were made, without which nothing was made, that was made, was made flesh? An amazing thing it is to me, how men that pretend to believe the divine authority of the Bible, can disentangle themselves from such a place as this, “The Word was made flesh.” They that will have Jesus Christ never to have been, no such person ever to have been, before he was born of the Virgin Mary, I would then know of them, “What was that, that was made flesh?” It was the word that was made flesh; there was somewhat before this flesh was made, or it was nothing, that was made flesh. And every one that understands 27the ordinary use of this expression (flesh) knows it doth not signify the person of a man, but the whole of a man, not the body only: for when it is said, “in his sight there shall no flesh be justified,” what is the meaning of that? That the bodies of men shall not be justified? Surely not. But thus, from not believing this doctrine, proceeds the denial of that great and noble propitiation, once for all made for the sins of men, under the proper notion of a propitiation or an expiatory sacrifice to atone for sin, and take away guilt. Again hereupon,

The eternal priesthood of the Son of God is evacuated and reduced to a nullity: and all upon this, that an alterity cannot be conceived in the Godhead. Not that there is therein, Aliud et aliud, one diverse from another, but that there is there personae altera et altera, one person distinct from another. But because this is not apprehended, nor will be apprehended, therefore, say they, There can be no such thing as a propitiatory sacrifice, such as we, such as the Scripture, such as the gospel doth most expressly speak of, that is, of him who was God offered up unto God. For, say they, There is but one person in the Godhead; and a satisfier and a satisfied, must be two persons, there must be in such a case an alterity of persons personae altera et altera, and so they truly reason. He that doth satisfy and he that is satisfied must be two persons: this is most certain, but they, not admitting the alterity of persons, therefore exclude the whole doctrine. And then,

That mighty power that is to go forth from the Divine Spirit, for the breaking of the bands of iron, and the rescuing of captive souls out of the devil’s power; to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, all that is reduced to nothing too. And so there is no other Christianity left in the world but a certain sort of self-sprung religion: no power but that which I can be the author of to myself, what I have of mine own: or else if they will have more, they do speak altogether unintelligibly and contrary to the plain sense of things: that is, they will not have the Holy Ghost to be a distinct person in the Godhead, but (as they call it) the power of God, meaning a quality. But I take what hath been said against that, to be truly as plain demonstration as can be used in any case whatsoever. The Holy Ghost is called the divine power. Comply with them so far, then say I, This divine power is either created power or uncreated. If this divine power be created, then they must suppose God, while he was without power to create power; that is, that God being first impotent, created power and became omnipotent. But if they will say, It 28is an uncreated power, then they say what we say: then it is God: the Holy Ghost is God. But he is God so as he is capable of being sent, and sent of the Father, and so that he must be a distinct person in the Godhead. But the stress of all that mighty affair which is to be wrought in the souls of men, when they are sanctified; of children of the devil, and friends of hell, to be made children of God, and meet to be partakers of an inheritance with them that are sanctified, with the saints in light: all that mighty work that is to be done by an Almighty Spirit, must be proportionally diminished as the cause is diminished, as the agent is diminished and reduced, by their doctrine, to a mere creature. Therefore, I say, labour to apprehend deeply, the mighty importance of this doctrine, and to fix the apprehensions of it, and to have it wrought in your souls, that so such a truth may no more be capable of being torn away from thence than one faculty of your souls can be torn from another. And,

4. Labour to savour and relish such truth, this truth, this doctrine, labour to get the savour and relish of it into your souls; that is, to receive this truth in the love of it. It is a matter of dangerous importance, when truth of this kind which concerns the vitals of religion, is received merely as an airy notion, and is not digested, doth not enter and sink deep into our hearts, and that which must entertain and admit there: even into the very centre of our souls must be the love of it. “They received not the truth in the love of it, that they might be saved.” 2 Thess. ii. 10. And what became of that matter? When they did so lightly adhere to divine truth as one doth to a thing that he doth not love, or that is not united to his soul by love, they easily suffered their souls to be cheated of it: and then, for their not loving this truth, (it being a thing most highly criminal not to love divine truth, not to love so great and sacred a thing) God gave them up to strong delusions, to believe lies, that they all might be damned who received not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Such truth they could take no pleasure in, but they could take pleasure in unrighteousness. “Let them go.” saith God, “the way that the inclinations of their own wicked hearts carries them to.” There is that kindred, that alliance between the soul and truth, that there is a violence done to both if they be severed, and if the soul do not inwardly love truth, as that which is most nearly allied to it. They that are after the Spirit do savour the things of the Spirit, as they that are after the flesh do savour the things of the flesh. And this is the way to become most stable Christians, when souls and truth come to be united and knit together in love, meeting 29in one and the same common centre, and even in this as the centre; as you may see in that place which I will recommend to your present perusal, and future serious thoughts. Colos. ii. 2. Saith the apostle, “I would, that ye knew what great conflict I have had for you, (as he introduceth it to them by what he saith in the foregoing verse) that your hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God.” And what is comprehended in this mystery of God? that is, of the Father and of Christ; it is generally expressed first, “the mystery of God, “and then particularly, “of the Father and of Christ.” The former and, is not copulative but exigetical: “To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and,” that is, even, or to wit, of the Father and of Christ. That is, the mystery of God doth comprehend these two. The Holy Ghost is not always mentioned, being expressly enough so in many other texts. But here is the very sum of our religion in this mystery, “the mystery of God.” to wit, “of the Father and of Christ;” two particular expressions including the general one, from both which, (as other scriptures sufficiently instruct us,) the Holy Ghost issues forth, as the great and mighty Agent to accomplish all the great things, which by Christian religion are to be effected in the world. And this was the apostle’s deep concern on the behalf of these christians. “You cannot imagine,” saith he, “what conflict I have about these things; that you might be strong christians:” and how? “That you may be knit together in love, unto the riches of the full assurance of understanding,” all loving together, all agreeing together to love the same truths, the same doctrines, and thereby to have it incorporated, inwrought into you, that you may be able to say, “I can as soon suffer limb to be torn from limb, as suffer such truth as this to be torn away from my soul:” that that is to be bought and never to be sold, never to be parted with on any terms, “What! part with that? or be indifferent towards that? or let my mind hover or be in suspense? why it is my very life, my life lies here: shall I in the midst of a tempestuous sea, being safely brought to a firm and stable rock, quit my rock and go to floating again amidst the raging waves?” So will any man reckon in this matter, that hath any care or concern for his soul. Again,

5. You may hence learn, how we are to eye God in our transacting the great business of covenanting with him; that is, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; which that initial seal of the covenant doth plainly enough dictate, when we are required to be baptised in the name of the 30Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. When I enter into covenant with God to take him for my God, if I am first solemnly to do it yet; or if I am with solemnity, from time to time, to renew my covenant, we must consider how we are to do it; we must not think of taking God abstractly or taking one person alone. But we must take God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost for our God. Do not think your baptism signifies nothing, when it is directed to be administered in that order, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. So you are to consider with yourselves, “I am to be a devoted one, I am a devoted one, and must continue so, to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” A wonderful thing that we should be a congregation of such persons dwelling on earth, who have these names named upon us, that such a claim should be laid from heaven to us, I claim every one of you for mine, for mine, saith the Father, you were baptized in my name; and so the rest. Why should we not walk up and down this world with this sense on our minds, with this thought often renewed, often impressed upon us?

« Prev Lecture XV. Preached April 17, 1691. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection