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the gates of hell unto the church, respected faith in the person of Christ as the Son of the living God.
(2.) By some his human nature was opposed, for no stone did Satan leave unturned in the pursuit of his great design. And that which in all these things he aimed at, was the substitution of a false Christ, in the room of him who in one person was both the Son of man, and the Son of the living God. And herein he infected the minds of men with endless imaginations. Some denied him to have any real human nature, but to have been a phantasm, an appearance, a dispensation, a mere cloud acted by divine power; some that he was made of heavenly flesh, brought from above, and which, as some also affirmed, was a parcel of the divine nature. Some affirmed that his body was not animated as ours are, by a rational soul, but was immediately acted by the power of the Divine Being, which was unto it in the room of a living soul. Some that his body was of an ethereal nature, and was at length turned into the sun; with many such diabolical delusions. And there yet want not attempts in these days, of various sorts, to destroy the verity of his human nature; and I know not what some late fantastical opinions about the nature of glorified bodies may tend unto. The design of Satan in all these pernicious imaginations, is to break the cognation and alliance between Christ in his human nature and the church, whereon the salvation of it doth absolutely depend.
3. He raised a vehement opposition against the hypostatical union, or the union of these two natures in one person. This he did in the Nestorian heresy, which greatly, and for a long time, pestered the church. The authors and promoters of this opinion, granted the Lord Christ to have a divine nature, to be the Son of the living God. They also acknowledged the truth of his human nature, that he was truly a man even as we are. But the personal union between these two natures they denied. A union, they said, there was between them, but such as consisted only in love, power, and care. God did, as they imagined, eminently and powerfully manifest himself in the man Christ Jesus, had him in an especial regard and love, and did more act in him than in any
other. But that the Son of God assumed our nature into personal subsistence with himself, whereby whole
Christ was one person, and all his mediatory acts were the acts of that one person, of him who was both God and man; this they would not acknowledge. And this pernicious imagination, though it seem to make great concessions of truth, doth no less effectually evert the foundation of the church than the former. For if the divine and human nature of Christ do not constitute one individual person, all that he did for us was only as a man, which would have been altogether insufficient for the salvation of the church, nor had God redeemed it with his own blood. This seems to be the opinion of some amongst us at this day about the person of Christ. They acknowledge the being of the eternal Word, the Son of God. And they allow in the like manner the verity of his human nature, or own that man Christ Jesus. Only they say, that the eternal Word was in him and with him in the same kind, as it is with other believers; but in a supreme degree of manifestation and power. But though in these things there is a great endeavour to put a new colour and appearance on old imaginations, the design of Satan is one and the same in them all, namely, to oppose the building of the church upon its proper sole foundation. And these things shall be afterward expressly spoken unto.
I intend no more in these instances but briefly to demonstrate that the principal opposition of the gates of hell unto the church, lay always unto the building of it by faith on the person of Christ.
It were easy also to demonstrate that Mahometanism, which hath been so sore a stroke unto the Christian profession, is nothing but a concurrence and combination of these two ways, of force and fraud, in opposition unto the person of Christ.
It is true that Satan, after all this, by another way, attempted the doctrine of the offices and grace of Christ, with the worship of God in him. And this he hath carried so far, as that it issued in a fatal antichristian apostacy; wbich is not of my present consideration.
But we may proceed to what is of our own immediate concernment. And the same work with that before described is still carried on. The person of Christ, the faith of the church concerning it, the relation of the church unto it, the building of the church on it, the life and preservation
of the church thereby, are the things that the gates of hell are engaged in opposition unto. For,
1. It is known with what subtlety and urgency his divine nature and person are opposed by the Socinians. What an accession is made daily unto their incredulity, what inclination of mind multitudes do manifest towards their pernicious ways, are also evident unto all who have
any concernment in or for religion. But this argument I have laboured in on other occasions.
2. Many who expressly deny not his divine person, yet seem to grow weary of any concernment therein. A natural religion, or none at all, pleaseth them better than faith in God by Jesus Christ. That any thing more is necessary in religion, but what natural light will discover and conduct us in, with the moral duties of righteousness and honesty which it directs unto, there are too many that will not acknowledge. What is beyond the line of nature and reason is rejected as unintelligible mysteries or follies. The person and grace of Christ are supposed to breed all the disturbance in religion. Without them the common notions of the Divine Being and goodness, will guide men sufficiently unto eternal blessedness. They did so before the coming of Christ in the flesh, and may do so now he is gone to heaven.
3 There are some who have so ordered the frame of objective religion, as that it is very uncertain whether they leave any place for the person of Christ in it or no. For, besides their denial of the hypostatical union of his natures, they ascribe all that unto a light within them, which God will effect only by Christ as a mediator. What are the internal actings of their minds, as unto faith and trust towards him, I know not; but, from their outward profession, he seems to be almost excluded.
4. There are not a few who pretend high unto religion and devotion, who declare no erroneous conceptions about the doctrine of the person of Christ, who yet manifest themselves not to have that regard unto him, which the gospel prescribes and requires ; hence have we so many discourses published about religion, the practical holiness and duties of obedience, written with great elegancy of style, and seriousness in argument, wherein we can meet with little or no
thing wherein Jesus Christ, his office, or his grace, are concerned. Yea, it is odds, but in them all we shall meet with some reflections on those who judge them to be the life and centre of our religion. The things of Christ beyond the example of his conversation on the earth, are of no use with such persons unto the promotion of piety and gospel obedience. Concerning many books of this nature, we may say what a learned person did of one of old ; .There were in it many things laudable and delectable, sed nomen Jesu non erat ibi.'
5. Suited unto these manifest inclinations of the minds of men, unto a neglect of Christ in the religion they frame unto themselves, dangerous and noxious insinuations concerning what our thoughts ought to be of him, are made and tendered. As, (1.) It is scandalously proposed and answered, of what use is the consideration of the person of Christ in our religion. Such are the novel inquiries of men who suppose there is any thing in Christian religion wherein the person of Christ is of no consideration ; as though it were not the life and soul that animates the whole of it, that which gives it its especial form as Christian; as though by virtue of our religion we received any thing from God, any benefit in mercy, grace, privilege, or glory, and not through the person of Christ; as though any one duty or act of religion towards God could be acceptably performed by us, without a respect unto, or a consideration of, the person of Christ; or that there were any lines of truth in religion as it is Christian, that did not relate thereunto. Such bold inquiries, with futilous answers annexed unto them, sufficiently manifest what acquaintance their authors have either with Christ himself, which in others they despise, or with his gospel, which they pretend to embrace. (2.) A mock scheme of religion is framed to represent the folly of them who design to learn the mind and will of God, in and by him. (3.) Reproachful reflections are made on such as plead the necessity of acquaintance with him, or the knowledge of him, as though thereby they rejected the use of the gospel. (4.) Professed love unto the person of Christ is traduced as a mere fancy and vapour of distempered minds, or weak imaginations. (5.) The union of the Lord Christ and his church is asserted to be political only, with respect unto
laws and rules of government. And many other things of an alike nature are asserted, derogatory unto his glory, and repugnant unto the faith of the church ; such as from the foundation of Christian religion were never vented by any persons before, who did not openly avow some impious heresy concerning his person. And I no way doubt, but that men may with less guilt and scandal fall under sundry doctrinal misapprehensions concerning it, than by crying hail thereunto, to despoil it of all its glory, as unto our concernment therein, in our practical obedience unto God. Such things have we deserved to see and hear.
6. The very name or expression of preaching Christ is become a term of reproach and contempt; nor can some, as they say, understand what is meant thereby, unless it be an engine to drive all rational preaching, and so all morality and honesty out of the world.
7. That which all these things tend unto and centre in, is that horrible profaneness of life, that neglect of all gospel duties, that contempt of all spiritual graces and their effects, which the generality of them that are called Christians in many places are given up unto. I know not whether it were not more for the honour of Christ, that such persons would publicly renounce the profession of his name, rather than practically manifest their inward disregard unto him.
That by these, and the like means, Satan doth yet attempt the ruin of the church as unto its building on the everlasting rock, falls under the observation of all who are concerned in its welfare. And whatever others may apprehend concerning this state of things in the world, how any that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, especially such as are called to declare and represent him unto men in the office of the ministry, can acquit themselves to be faithful unto him, without giving their testimony against, and endeavouring to stop what lies in them, the progress of this prevailing declension from the only foundation of the church, I know not; nor will it be easy for themselves to declare. And in that variety of conceptions which are about him, and the opposition that is made unto him, there is nothing more necessary than that we should renew and attest our confession of him, as the Son of the living God, the only rock