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by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power, by himself purged our sins.' That he purged our sins by his death, and the oblation of himself therein unto God, is acknowledged. That this should be done by him by whom the worlds were made, who is the essential brightness of the divine glory, and the express image of the person of the Father therein, who upholds, rules, sustains all things by the word of his power, whereby God purchased his church with his own blood, Acts xx. 28. is that wherein he will be admired unto eternity. See Phil. ii. 6-9.
Isaiah, chap. vi. there is a representation made of him as on a throne, filling the temple with the train of his glory. The Son of God it was who was so represented, and that as he was to fill the temple of his human nature with divine glory, when the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily. And herein the seraphims, which administered unto him, had six wings, with two whereof they covered their faces, as not being able to behold or look into the glorious mystery of his incarnation, ver. 2, 3. John xii. 40. ii. 19. Col. ii. 9. But when the same ministering spirits under the name of cherubims attended the throne of God in the administration of his providence as unto the disposal and government of the world, they had four wings only; and covered not their faces, but steadily beheld the glory of it; Ezek. i. 6. x. 2, 3.
This is the glory of Christian religion, the basis and foundation that bears the whole superstructure, the root whereon it grows. This is its life and soul, that wherein it differs from, and inconceivably excels, whatever was in true religion before, or whatever any false religion pretended unto. Religion in its first constitution, in the state of pure uncorrupted nature, was orderly, beautiful, and glorious. Man being made in the image of God, was fit and able to glorify him as God. But whereas whatever perfection God had communicated unto our nature, he had not united it unto himself in a personal union, the fabric of it quickly fell unto the ground. Want of this foundation made it obnoxious unto ruin. God manifested herein, that no gracious relation between him and our nature could be stable and permanent, unless our nature was assumed into personal
union and subsistence with himself. This is the only rock and assured foundation of the relation of the church unto God, which now can never utterly fail. Our nature is eternally secured in that union, and we ourselves, as we shall see thereby, Col. i. 17, 18. In him all things consist;' wherefore, whatever beauty and glory there was in the relation that was between God and man, and the relation of all things unto God by man, in the preservation whereof natural religion did consist, it had no beauty nor glory in comparison of this which doth excel, or the manifestation of God in the flesh; the appearance and subsistence of the divine and human natures in the same single individual person. And whereas God in that state had given man dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth;' Gen. i. 26. it was all but an obscure representation of the exaltation of our nature in Christ, as the apostle declares, Heb. ii. 6-9.
There was true religion in the world after the fall, both before and after giving of the law; a religion built upon and resolved into divine revelation. And as for the outward glory of it, the administration that it was brought into under the tabernacle and temple, it was beyond what is represented in the institutions of the gospel. Yet is Christian religion, our evangelical profession, and the state of the church thereon, far more glorious, beautiful, and perfect, than that state of religion was capable of, or could attain. And as this is evident from hence, because God in his wisdom, grace, and love to the church, hath removed that state, and introduced this in the room thereof; so the apostle proves it in all considerable instances, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, written unto that purpose. There were two things before in religion; the promise which was the life of it, and the institutions of worship under the law, which were the outward glory and beauty of it. And both these were nothing, or had nothing in them, but only what they before proposed and represented of Christ, God manifested in the flesh. The promise was concerning him; and the institutions of worship did only represent him. So the apostle declares it, Col. ii. 17. Wherefore, as all the religion that was in the world after the fall, was built on the promise of this work of God in due time to be accomplished; so it is
the actual performance of it, which is the foundation of Christian religion, and which gives it the pre-eminence above all that went before it. So the apostle expresseth it, Heb. i. 1. 3. God who at,' &c.
All false religion pretended always unto things that were mysterious. And the more men could invent, or the devil suggest, that had an appearance of that nature, as sundry things were so introduced horrid and dreadful, the more reverence and esteem were reconciled unto it. But the whole compass of the craft of Satan, and the imaginations of men, could never extend itself unto the least resemblance of this mystery. And it is not amiss conjectured, that the apostle in his description of it, 1 Tim. iii, 16. did reflect upon, and condemn the vanity of the Eleusynian mysteries, which were of the greatest vogue and reputation among the Gentiles.
Take away the consideration hereof, and we despoil Christian religion of all its glory, debasing it unto what Mahometanism pretends unto, and unto what in Judaism was really enjoyed.
The faith of this mystery ennobles the mind wherein it is, rendering it spiritual and heavenly, transforming it into the image of God. Herein consists the excellency of faith above all other powers and acts of the soul, that it receives, assents unto, and rests in things in their own nature absolutely incomprehensible. It is ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων, Heb. xi. 1. The evidence of things not seen;' that which makes evident as by demonstration, those things which are no way objected unto sense, and which reason cannot comprehend: The more sublime and glorious, the more inaccessible unto sense and reason are the things which we believe, the more are we changed into the image of God, in the exercise of faith upon them. Hence we find this most glorious effect of faith, or the transformation of the mind into the likeness of God, no less real, evident, and eminent in many, whose rationally comprehensive abilities are weak and contemptible in the eye of that wisdom which is of this world, than in those of the highest natural sagacity, enjoying the best improvements of reason. For God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom;' James ii. 5. However they may be poor, and, as another apostle
speaketh, 'foolish, weak, base, and despised,' 1 Cor. i. 27, 28, yet that faith which enables them to assent unto, and embrace divine mysteries, renders them rich in the sight of God, in that it makes them like unto him.
Some would have all things that we are to believe to be levelled absolutely unto our reason and comprehension, a principle which at this day shakes the very foundations of Christian religion. It is not sufficient, they say, to determine that the faith or knowledge of any thing is necessary unto our obedience and salvation, that it seems to be fully and perspicuously revealed in the Scripture; unless the things so revealed be obvious and comprehensible unto our reason. An apprehension, which as it ariseth from the pride which naturally ensues on the ignorance of God and ourselves; so it is not only an invention suited to debase religion, but an engine to evert the faith of the church in all the principal mysteries of the gospel; especially of the Trinity and incarnation of the Son of God. But faith which is truly divine, is never more in its proper exercise, doth never more elevate the soul into conformity unto God, than when it acts in the contemplation and admiration of the most incomprehensible mysteries which are proposed unto it by divine revelation.
Hence things philosophical, and of a deep rational indagation, find great acceptance in the world, as in their proper place they do deserve. Men are furnished with proper measures of them, and they find them proportionate unto the principles of their own understandings. But as for spiritual and heavenly mysteries, the thoughts of men for the most part recoil upon their first proposal, nor will be encouraged to engage in a diligent inquiry into them; yea, commonly reject them as foolish, or at least that wherein they are not concerned. The reason is that given in another case by the apostle, 'All men have not faith;' 2 Thess. ii. 2. which makes them absurd and unreasonable in the consideration of the proper objects of it. But where this faith is, the greatness of the mysteries which it embraceth, heightens its efficacy in all blessed effects upon the soul. Such is this constitution of the person of Christ, wherein the glory of all the holy properties and perfections of the divine nature are manifested, and do shine forth. So speaks the apostle,
2 Cor. iii. 18. Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory.' This glory which we behold is the glory of the face of God in Jesus Christ, chap. iv. 6. or the glorious representation which is made of him in the person of Christ, whereof we shall treat afterward. The glass wherein this glory is represented unto us, proposed unto our view and contemplation, is divine revelation in the gospel. Herein we behold it by faith alone. And those whose view is steadfast, who most abound in that contemplation by the exercise of faith, are thereby changed into the same image from glory to glory;' or are more and more renewed and transformed into the likeness of God so represented unto them.
That which shall at last perfectly effect our utmost conformity to God, and therein our eternal blessedness, is vision, or sight. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is ;' 1 John iii. 2. Here faith begins what sight shall perfect hereafter. But yet we walk by faith, and not by sight;' 2 Cor. v. 7. And although the life of faith and vision differ in degrees, or as some think in kind, yet have they both the same object, and the same operations; and there is a great cognation between them. The object of vision is the whole mystery of the divine existence and will; and its operation, is a perfect conformity unto God, a likeness unto him, wherein our blessedness shall consist. Faith hath the same object, and the same operations in its degree and measure. The great and incomprehensible mysteries of the Divine Being, of the will and wisdom of God, are its proper objects; and its operation with respect unto us, is conformity and likeness unto him. And this it doth in a peculiar manner in the contemplation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; and herein we have our nearest approaches unto the life of vision, and the effects of it. For therein, 'beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory;' which perfectly to consummate is the effect of sight in glory. The exercise of faith herein doth more raise and perfect the mind, more dispose it unto holy, heavenly frames and affections, than any other duty whatever.
To be nigh unto God, and to be like unto him, are the