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whereon the church of them that shall be saved is founded and built.
'Pauca ideo de Christo,' as Tertullian speaks; some few things concerning the person of Christ with respect unto the confession of Peter, and the promise thereunto annexed, wherein he is declared the sole foundation of the church, will be comprised in the ensuing discourse. And he who hath ordained strength out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, as he hath given ability to express these poor mean contemplations of his glory, can raise by them a revenue of honour unto himself in the hearts of them that do believe. And some few things I must premise in general unto what I do design. As,
1. The instances which I shall give concerning the use and consideration of the person of Christ in Christian religion, or of him as he is the foundation whereon the church is built, are but few, and those perhaps not the most signal or eminent which the greater spiritual wisdom and understanding of others might propose. And indeed who shall undertake to declare what are the chief instances of this incomprehensible effect of divine wisdom? What is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell ;' Prov. xxx. 4. See Isa. ix. 6. It is enough for us to stand in a holy admiration at the shore of this unsearchable ocean, and to gather up some parcels of that divine treasure, wherewith the Scripture of truth is enriched.
2. I make no pretence of searching into the bottom or depths of any part of this great mystery of godliness, God、 manifest in the flesh.' They are altogether unsearchable unto the line of the most enlightened minds in this life. What we shall farther comprehend of them in the other world, God only knows. We cannot in these things, by our utmost diligent search, find out the Almighty unto perfection.' The prophets could not do so of old, nor can the angels themselves at present, who desire to look into these things;' 1 Pet. i. 10-12. Only I shall endeavour to represent unto the faith of them that do believe, somewhat of what the Scripture doth plainly reveal, evidencing in what sense the person of Christ is the sole foundation of the church.
3. I shall not herein respect them immediately by whom
the divine person of Christ is denied and opposed. I have formerly treated thereof, beyond their contradiction in way of reply. But it is their conviction which I shall respect herein, who under an outward confession of the truth, do either notionally or practically, either ignorantly or designedly, God knows, I know not, endeavour to weaken the faith of the church in its adherence unto this foundation. Howbeit neither the one sort nor the other have any place in my thoughts, in comparison of the instruction and edification of others, who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
The person of Christ the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and goodThence the next cause of all true religion. In what sense it is so. THE person of Christ is the most glorious and ineffable effect of divine wisdom, grace, and power, and therefore is the next foundation of all acceptable religion and worship. The Divine Being itself is the first formal reason, foundation, and object of all religion. It all depends on taking God to be our God, which is the first of his commands. For religion, and the worship performed in it, is nothing but the due respect of rational creatures unto the divine nature, and its infinite excellencies. It is the glorifying of God as God, the way of expressing that respect, being regulated by the revelation of his will. Yet the divine essence is not in itself the next and immediate cause of religious worship. But it is the manifestation of this Being and its excellencies wherewith the mind of rational creatures is immediately affected, and whereby it is obliged to give that religious honour and worship which is due unto that Being, and necessary from our relation thereunto. Upon this manifestation, all creatures capable by an intelligent nature of a sense thereof, are indispensably obliged to give all divine honour and glory to God.
The way alone whereby this manifestation may be made is by outward acts and effects. For in itself the divine na
ture is hid from all living, and dwelleth in that light whereunto no creature can approach. This therefore God first made, by the creation of all things out of nothing. The creation of man himself, with the principles of a rational intelligent nature, a conscience attesting his subordination unto God, and of all other things, declaring the glory of his wisdom, goodness, and power, was the immediate ground of all natural religion, and yet continues so to be. And the glory of it, answers the means and ways of the manifestation of the Divine Being, existence, excellencies, and properties. And where this manifestation is despised or neglected, there God himself is so; as the apostle discourseth at large, Rom. i. 18-22.
But of all the effects of the divine excellencies, the constitution of the person of Christ as the foundation of the new creation, as the mystery of godliness, was the most ineffable and glorious. I speak not of his divine person absolutely; for his distinct personality and subsistence was by an internal and eternal act of the Divine Being in the person of the Father, or eternal generation, which is essential unto the divine essence, whereby nothing anew was outwardly wrought or did exist. He was not, he is not, in that sense, the effect of divine wisdom and power of God, but the essential wisdom and power of God himself. But we speak of him only as incarnate, as he assumed our nature into personal subsistence with himself. His conception in the womb of the Virgin, as unto the integrity of human nature, was a miraculous operation of the divine power. But the prevention of that nature from any subsistence of its own, by its assumption into personal union with the Son of God, in the first instance of its conception, is that which is above all miracles, nor can be designed by that name. A mystery it is, so far above the order of all creating or providential operations, that it wholly transcends the sphere of them that are most miraculous. Herein did God glorify all the properties of the divine nature, acting in a way of infinite wisdom, grace, and condescension. The depths of the mystery hereof are open only unto him whose understanding is infinite, which no created understanding can comprehend. All other things were produced and effected by an outward emanation of power from God: 'He said, Let there be light, and
there was light.' But this assumption of our nature into hypostatical union with the Son of God, this constitution of one and the same individual person in two natures so infinitely distinct, as those of God and man, whereby the eternal was made in time, the infinite became finite, the immortal mortal, yet continuing eternal, infinite, immortal, is that singular expression of divine wisdom, goodness, and power, wherein God will be admired and glorified unto all eternity. Herein was that change introduced into the whole first creation, whereby the blessed angels were exalted, Satan and his works ruined, mankind recovered from a dismal apostacy, all things made new, all things in heaven and earth reconciled and gathered into one head, and a revenue of eternal glory raised unto God, incomparably above what the first constitution of all things in the order of nature could yield unto him.
In the expression of this mystery, the Scripture doth sometimes draw the veil over it, as that which we cannot look into. So in his conception of the Virgin with respect unto this union which accompanied it, it was told her, that 'the power of the Highest should overshadow her;' Luke i. 35. A work it was of the power of the Most High, but hid from the eyes of men in the nature of it; and, therefore, that holy thing which had no subsistence of its own, which should be born of her, should be called the Son of God,' becoming one person with him. Sometimes it expresseth the greatness of the mystery, and leaves it as an object of our admiration; 1 Tim. iii. 16. Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.' A mystery it is, and that of those dimensions as no creature can comprehend. Sometimes it putteth things together, as that the distance of the two natures shall illustrate the glory of the one person; John i. 14. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' But what Word was this? That which was in the beginning, which was with God, which was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made, who was light and life.' This Word was made flesh; not by any change of his own nature or essence; not by a transubstantiation of the divine nature into the human; not by ceasing to be what he was, but by becoming what he was not, in
taking our nature to his own, to be his own, whereby he dwelt among us. This glorious Word which is God, and described by his eternity and omnipotency in works of creation and providence,' was made flesh,' which expresseth the lowest state and condition of human nature; without controversy great is this mystery of godliness. And in that state wherein he visibly appeared as so made flesh, those who had eyes given them from above, saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.' The eternal Word being made flesh, and manifested therein, they saw his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father. What heart can conceive, what tongue can express, the least part of the glory of this divine wisdom and grace? So also is it proposed unto us, Isa. ix. 6. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.' He is called, in the first place Wonderful, and that deservedly; Prov. xxx. 4. That the mighty God should be a child born, and the everlasting Father a Son given unto us, may well entitle him unto the name of Wonderful.
Some amongst us say, that if there were no other way for the redemption and salvation of the church, but this only of the incarnation and mediation of the Son of God, that there was no wisdom in the contrivance of it. Vain man indeed would be wise, but is like the wild ass's colt. Was there no wisdom in the contrivance of that, which when it is effected, leaves nothing but admiration unto the utmost of all created wisdom? Who hath known the mind of the Lord in this thing? or who hath been his counsellor in this work, wherein the mighty God became a child born to us, a Son given unto us? Let all vain imaginations cease; there is nothing left unto the sons of men, but either to reject the divine person of Christ, as many do unto their own destruction, or humbly to adore the mystery of infinite wisdom and grace therein. And it will require a condescending charity to judge that those do really believe the incarnation of the Son of God, who live not in the admiration of it as the most adorable effect of divine wisdom.
The glory of the same mystery is elsewhere testified unto, Heb. i. 1-3. God hath spoken unto us by his Son,