|« Prev||Lecture XVI. Preached April 24, 1691.||Next »|
6. It lets us see how we are to understand the relation that results from such a covenant between God and us, whereby we become related to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and they become related to us: you have heard under what distinct notions, principally, but not exclusively, each of the persons is related to us. The Father as Creator, not excluding the Son and Spirit: the Son as Redeemer, not excluding the Father and Spirit, the Spirit as Sanctifier, not excluding the Father and Son. We have shewn you concerning each of these, that creative power (according as the Scripture teacheth us to conceive) is from the Father, as the Fountain, through the Son as the way of its conveyance, (in respect whereof some speak of a natural mediatorship belonging unto the Son of God before the ordinate one) and by the agency of the Holy Ghost, who is represented as the immediate Agent in all the operations of God towards the creature, whether in the sphere of nature or of grace. And we are to look upon the Son as under the notion of the Redeemer, but so as to understand that this redemption; 31was designed by the Father, and is applied by the Holy Ghost; and upon the Holy Ghost as the Sanctifier, and yet still to understand that this his sanctifying work was predetermined by the Father, procured by the Son, and effected by himself. When therefore, we are to consider God as related to us as our God, (“this God is our God, he will be our guide even unto death”) we must take in and bring together each of these notions, and conceptions concerning him; we must take in the conceptions of each of the persons, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is my God.” Somewhat agreeable to what the ancient philosopher saith, concerning relatives, Relata sunt quorum totum esse est ad aliud; that is, relatives are such things, the whole of which appertains to another. Why so? All that is conceivable in the Divine Being is, in this case, all to us. The fulness of God is to be considered with relation to us so far as is needful, so far as we are capable: he doth not reserve himself from us in any thing of it. How admirable a thing is this! How great and high thoughts ought we to have concerning the privilege state of our case I Indeed, there is nothing that we have to consider of this God, or to look after the knowledge of, to answer the curiosity of a vain mind; but every thing or any thing that may answer the necessity of a perishing soul, of a soul that must otherwise be miserable and lost. Whatsoever is requisite to our real felicity and blessedness, we may look to all that is in God as determined by a special relation unto us. “As I am such (saith God) I am such entirely yours, all for you, wholly yours.” Therefore, did the everlasting covenant that comprehends and conveys all this, yield such solace to the soul of dying David, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. “Thou hast made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, for this is all my salvation and all my desire.” ‘I care for nothing beyond this.’ The great thing that the covenant doth convey, is God: and by it, it is, that God the Father, Son and Spirit do become related to us as ours, if once we do take hold of the covenant, if once we put in our claim, and do but lay the ground by that act of oar own interest: our claimable interest doth depend upon that; that very act of taking, accepting, “laying hold” as the expression is in that 56 Isaiah, for the encouragement of poor strangers that might possibly apprehend they were quite cut off from God. “No, let the sons of the strangers that take hold of my covenant encourage themselves; that makes me theirs: I am theirs, if they do but lay hold; it is but take and have,” as afterwards, in this” chapter where the text is, it is said concerning the Son especially, “He 32that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” And he hath him who hath once taken him. Again,
7. This serves specially to instruct us concerning our application to God in prayer. That is, that we must still comprehend in our thoughts, Father, Son, and Spirit together; the Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, as it is expressed in the text. I know and have particularly understood from some, that they have been full of dubious, perplexing thoughts, how to steer aright in their applications to God, making their solemn ad dresses so as to run into neither of those things which they have pretended to have been, both of them, their fear and confusion: on the one hand, by not ascribing distinctly to each of the persons what they should; or blasphemy on the other hand, by ascribing what was not due; what was not to be ascribed. But our way is very plain, if we do but consider what the Scriptures say concerning these three substances in the Godhead, and what copies it sets us of applying ourselves hereupon. That is, to the eternal Father, through the eternal Son, by the eternal Spirit; so we ought to apply ourselves, and here is nothing to lead us into confusion or indistinction of thoughts in so doing. It is plain we have the Father always represented as the original Foundation of all light, all life, all being, all excellency, all perfection, whether created or uncreated. He is then a most adequate terminative Object of our worship in such application and supplication. We go properly to the Fountain of all good. Whither should we go else? But he is (especially to those that have been in delinquency and transgression) inaccesible: we need a mediator: there could no mediator answer the exigency of our case, that was not God as well as man: we need a Divine Mediator, a God Mediator, we cannot expect that God should do any thing for us but for the sake of God, or for his sake who was God: so we are always taught to apply ourselves, to direct our addresses: and so we are to expect the answers of them: that is, that prayer must ascend through Christ, and that blessings are to descend through him. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places,” through him. Eph. i. 3. And we are to suppose that whatsoever is done for us, in answer to our prayers, when they are accepted, it must be by the agency of the Holy Ghost. The state of our case is such, as to require an infinite almighty Agent to work in us, and to work for us, the things that are necessary to our present support, and to our final blessedness. And we are hereupon, taught by our Lord himself, in respect to the final and terminative Object of 33such worship, (that of prayer for instance) to pray unto the Father; “Our Father which art in heaven”—so we are taught to pray. “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephes. iii. 14. Yea, and so our Lord Jesus Christ did pray himself: “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter.” John xiv. 16. “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke xxii. 24. And to him he renders solemn acknowledgment by way of thanksgiving. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Matth. xi. 25. And when he did so, (as we find his was a very praying life, in the days of his flesh, here in this world,) it is very vainly and foolishly alleged that then he must, according to our doctrine and notion, be supposed to pray to himself: it is a very vain and idle pretence. And so I find indeed, that the arguments of that sort of adversary, that is, they that do impugn the divinity of the Son of God, tend to prove, generally, nothing but that which we never deny, that is, that Christ was man. This is the thing that by many arguments they set themselves most industriously to prove, which none of us deny, that Christ was man. Who doth doubt it? But they would thence conclude that because he is man, therefore he could not be God; which is their absurd and foolish consequence, when we know it was so plainly, so very plainly said, that the Word which, in that text, is said to be with God, is also said to be God: and the same Word is said to be made flesh, to be incarnate, to have assumed and taken on flesh: that is, not as if it did, in becoming flesh, cease to be what it was before, but did only add an assumed nature to a divine; and therefore, there being two natures now meeting together in that one person, it was no way unintelligible, but that he should do that in the one nature which was impossible he should do in or by the other. That is, as man he did grow, and as a man he did die, and as man he did pray, when as God he could do none of these. But he that was God did do these things, though not as he was God. He that was God, did lay down his life, as in that 3rd. chapter of this epistle, verse 16. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, that he” (that same he that was God) “laid down his life for us.” And so he that was God, shed his blood for us. Acts xx. 28. “Feed the flock of God (his church) which he hath purchased with his own blood;” his own, who was God; though as God, we know he could neither bleed nor have blood. But whereas, the Son of God, as he was the Son of God and God, did pray, and praying, apply himself to the Father, so are we to do, to pray, and in praying, apply ourselves to the Father as we are led by that great example. But then, we being nothing but 34creatures, we have the whole Deity in view as the Object of our worship and addresses. But not the Deity, abstractly considered, but the Deity as subsisting in these three persons. The Deity abstractly considered, in the case of our Lord himself, was neither the Object, nor the Subject of prayer; God, as God, did neither pray nor was prayed unto by him; did not pray, for it was the man, the man Christ that prayed; nor abstractly, nor merely as God, was he the Object of prayer: but as the Godhead did subsist in the person of the Father, so did the man Christ apply himself to him, and so could in no sort be said to pray to himself, in praying to him. But now, I say, we who are nothing but creatures, we have the entire Godhead, not abstractly, but as subsisting in three persons, to apply ourselves unto, and those persons conceived of, according to the order they are represented to stand towards one another, and to be related one to another. As we told you already, when we pray to the Father, as the final and terminative Object of our prayers, we are at the same time, to conceive the Son as through whom the prayer is to be transmitted, together with the answer, the good we are to expect and pray for: and the Holy Ghost, as by whose power to pray, and by whose power the answer of prayer is to be effected too. And so it is God that our prayers must respect, God to whom, God through whom, and God by whom. Pray to God, through God and from God, and so our prayer hath every way to do with God. Our prayer, as it is to be through the mediation of Christ, so both it and its answer are to be wrought by the Holy Ghost: we are in that great and sacred work of praying, to deliver up ourselves to the conduct of the Holy Ghost, and so we are to do in the whole of our course. “As many as are the sons of God they are led,’’ oracled (as that word signifies, Rom. viii. 14) “by the Spirit of God.” Which Spirit is a Spirit of adoption, (as it afterwards follows,) the Spirit that belongs to the state of worship, as they are sons, that teaches them to cry “Abba Father.” And because they are sons, he hath sent the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, as it is said in that parallel place. Gal. iv. 6. And we are required to pray alway in the Spirit. Ephes. vi. 18. And in the Holy Ghost: 20th verse of the epistle to Jude. “Praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Put all this together, and then every prayer of ours, ought to respect each person in the Godhead. That is, it ought to be to God, through God, and from God: even as the answer, it is to be in the same order, originally God’s answer, through Christ, and by the Holy Ghost. And so we run into no confusion, 35when we suffer ourselves to be governed by Scripture light. And we can be in no danger of incurring the guilt of blasphemy: for we do not ascribe to any of these persons more than the Scripture doth plainly teach us to ascribe. And as our Saviour saith concerning himself, so may we concerning each of these persons: when the Scripture saith so and so, and doth attribute such and such things to them, will any one say, that he blasphemes that saith, that the eternal Father is God, or the eternal Son is God, or the eternal Spirit is God? Scripture most expressly saying these things as words can speak them. And again,
8. This should further teach us how to steer our whole course in this world: our business here on earth, ought to be (in the main of it) religion: we ought to make religion our business. The business of religion, while we are in this imperfect state, is only a motion Godward. The religion of the way, is coming to God. So that any one who is sincerely religious and Godly, will be able to make answer to this question, What is the main business of your life? This true answer he can make, “My main business is to make towards God, I am aiming at God, tending towards God, as one that hath been removed and set at a distance from him, and so am to be brought back to him.” It was this, Christ died for, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Now this being the state of our case, we are distant from him, in nearness to whom consists our duty and felicity. When we are to take and direct our course Godward, we must have a final term for our motion: “Whither are you going?” “Why my course is tending and directed Godward.” This motion must have for its ultimate term, God the Father. This is the sense and language of an inquiring soul, when once it comes to understand what the Scripture doth so plainly reveal; that there are in the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Their sense, I say, is what we find expressed, John xiv. 8. “Shew us the Father and it sufficeth us:” “do but shew us the Father, and we have enough: our great inquiry is after the Father, the Fountain and Original of all things, in whom is our life and our only hope.” “Well,” saith our Saviour (meeting that genius and sense of such an inquirer) “I know where you would be, and who you are seeking: and have you so long known me, and are ignorant of the Father? Come, I will be your Conductor, I will be your Guide, no man cometh to the Father but by me.” And therefore, as there must be a final term of this motion, so there must be a way leading thereto. “Why, ] am the way, the truth and the life, (John xiv. 6.) no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” What is considerable 38in all motion, is especially considerable in this. In every motion there must be a final term, and there must be a way to move in. The Father, he is the final term—the Son, he tells us, he is the way. But then there must be a third thing, there must be an acting, moving principle besides, and that must be the Holy Ghost, and can be no other. It is by that one Spirit that all who shall approach to God must have access to him, even to him the Father, considered under the notion of the Father. Jews and Gentiles have been wont (as that was the noted distinction) to divide the world. Now we find both spoken of in the same context, Ephes. 2. His business was to make them nigh who were afar off. The Gentiles were afar off, the Jews were comparatively nigh: now Christ was to make them nigh too, and both of them were to have access by one and the same Spirit to the Father: from the 13th to the 18th verse. Whoever have a mind to return, to come back to God, (from whom, in the common apostacy, all have made a defection and cut themselves off,) here is the course and method of their procedure, they must propound to themselves God the Father, (the Fountain of all life and blessedness) to whom they must come, to whom they must be bending and directing their course, and to whom they must guide their course in the way he hath prescribed, and that is, by his own Son: “No man cometh to the Father (saith our Saviour) but by me.” And they must be acted on in this way towards that final term and end, by the power of the Holy Ghost. There can be no motion without the concurrence of such a third, unto which there is a correspondency here. That is, no man can move, but he moves some whither towards some term, nor can he move, but it must be in some way. Nor again, can he move but it must be from some motive principle, that carries him through this way to that end. And so you may easily represent to yourselves the business of your lives here in this world. My business is from day to day, to tend towards the eternal Father by the eternal Son and under the conduct and influence of the eternal Spirit. These are obvious and useful instructions, in reference to the doctrine that hath been opened to you from the text, that do more directly concern and relate to the subject we have thus far been upon.
But there is somewhat else, in reference to the present purpose, upon this subject, which is collateral, and will be of use to us, however, to take notice of too. Our great design upon this text, was to observe to you, that there are such a three in the Godhead; three and no more, as we have observed and insisted, of one certain order, Father, Son, and Spirit, that do 37subsist in the Godhead, which is but one. But the apostle doth here not only take notice what they are, that are thus in heaven, but what also they do, how they are employed, amidst the glory of the heavenly state. And he tells us they “bear record in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” You see who the witnesses are, in the words of the text, and may see, a little lower, what is the matter of their testimony, (as I was hinting to you but now) that is, in sum, the truth of the Christian religion, or the whole constitution of the Mediator. This is the record, (as it is presently subjoined) that God hath given us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. He hath an infinite fulness of life to convey, to communicate, and to diffuse through a desolate world, a world lost in death and darkness. And how is it to be conveyed? in what way is it to be communicated? Why it is all treasured up in his Son, he hath constituted and appointed a Mediator, that in him it might be deposited, and that by him and through him, it might be transmitted and made to diffuse itself, and flow amongst lost and perishing souls. This was the matter of this testimony. Why let us take so much of instruction from hence,
That since those Three glorious Three that are in heaven, are bearing record to the truth of our religion, of Christianity, that is, that God hath a design to communicate life to lost and perishing souls, and hath treasured up that life in order to this communication in his Son: since this is their record, their testimony, I pray let us take care that we duly receive it. Be afraid of slighting that testimony, the matter whereof, is of so great importance to ourselves, and the Authors whereof, are the three glorious Persons in the Godhead, so venerable and so great Ones. When they are said to bear record in heaven, or to testify in heaven, the meaning is, not that, their testimony is performed in heaven terminative, but originaliter, that is, these witnesses do testify from heaven, concerning this matter which is of so great importance to the sons of men on earth. And pray see that we receive their testimony, as after it follows; If the testimony of a man (who is of any credit) ought not to, be slighted; the testimony of God is greater. We have the testimony of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, concerning this one thing, that there is a design of saving sinners, and giving life to them through his Son, and that this life is only in this way to be communicated and conveyed to perishing and undone souls: what an awe should this lay upon our souls that are perishing! And it is to us, that this salvation is offered. They are dead themselves, as the apostle’s expression 38is, “You are dead, but your life is hid with Christ in God.” This being the state of our case, tremble at the thought of slighting such a record, such a testimony, that proceeds from these three great Witnesses that do bear record in heaven. That is, the Father testifies concerning his Son, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased:” The Son, that eternal Word, testifying concerning the man to whom he united himself, replenishing that man with a divine glory, so as that glory descending from heaven, and accompanying him in his descent from heaven, shone visibly in him as the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. For he, at the same time when, after his descent, he had united himself with flesh is said to be the Son of Man, who came down from, and who is in, heaven. John iii. 13. He was therefore, testifying from heaven, and was actually in heaven, when also he was actually united with this man on earth. And the Holy Ghost, he testifying from heaven, by descending on this same man, in visible glory like a dove and lighting upon him. Thus, here was God the Father, testifying from heaven, and the eternal Word testifying, and the ever blessed Spirit testifying, from heaven, and their testimony meeting all in one point, namely, that Christ the Mediator is he by whom life is to be conveyed from the God of all grace unto undone, perishing, lost souls.
And consider in reference to this further, that as this is a testimony to us, it is our concernment, and is incumbent on us so to comport ourselves as that it may finally prove a testimony for us, and not a testimony against us. This testimony is directly to us, that is, that this is God’s appointed way for saving lost souls and bringing of them to life and blessedness, and consequently, according as the design of this testimony is comported with or not, it will be either for us or against us. For us, if it can be recorded at last concerning us, such and such have had the gospel preached unto them, Christ hath been offered, God hath been offering himself in Christ; and they have obeyed the gospel, they have complied with the call, they have received the Son of God. Oh! how great a thing would it be to have a record in heaven for that? How did Job solace himself in this, “My record is in heaven.” When you can appeal to the records in heaven touching transactions between God and you, and you can say, “Lord, thou didst make an offer to me of thy Son, thou didst require me to receive him as my Lord and Saviour; I have done so, I appeal to thee whether it be not recorded above, let the records of heaven be searched, see, whether I be not recorded a believer, one that 39hath resigned up my soul to God in Christ by the power of the eternal Spirit, to be entirely and absolutely his for ever. O! how blessed a thing will it be to have such a record in heaven concerning you and for you? He that knows all things knows that such a one hath received Christ in truth, such a one hath truly believed, such a one loves the Lord Jesus in sincerity.”
And how fearful, by consequence, will it be to have it recorded in heaven against you “So long, so many days, so many years hath such a one lived under the gospel,—so often hath a Christ been tendered to him, and been refused by him, and there he stands in the records of heaven, a refuser of the grace of God, refuser of his Christ, despiser of the great salvation, that hath been published and proclaimed and “begun to be spoken by the Lord himself, and was confirmed by them that heard him, God bearing them witness by divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.”
And besides, that we are thus to take notice of what is doing above; how these Three employ themselves, their bearing record in heaven, consider too (and therewith I shall shut up all) where it is that this work is doing, that these Three are bearing this record in heaven. Let us consider a little, and take this instruction from it, that it very ill becomes us to alienate ourselves from heaven and disregard the affairs and concerns of heaven. For we find that our affairs and concernments who dwell on earth are minded in heaven. In heaven there is a concern about such poor, wretched creatures as we upon earth. It is very unworthy dealing if we live here upon earth, groveling in the dust of it, and very seldom think any thought of heaven. When, in heaven, by that glorious Triad above, we see our concernments while we are upon earth are not forgotten, are not disregarded. These great and glorious Ones in heaven, are taken up about our affairs. Sure it should provoke us to look upwards much and often, adoringly. It should suggest from time to time this thought to us, that the intercourse between heaven and earth is not cut off. Still (as abject creatures as we are in this our low estate) these glorious persons above are concerned about us. Certainly, it should be often considered by us, that we have mighty attractives to draw our minds and thoughts upwards, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost still bearing a record from heaven to us about things that are of the greatest and highest concernments for us to mind.
And it should, in fine, provoke us to have aspirings upwards, towards the blessedness and perfection of the heavenly state. In heaven, these three bear record, the Father, the Word, and 40the Holy Spirit. Who can think of this, and not say, “O that I were there! O that I were there! Then will this glorious mystery of the Trinity lie open to my view.” It is in that seat of the divine glory that these Three are performing this kind office towards the poor children of men, even amidst the light and glory of the heavenly state. The time will come that we may hope to ascend, and be caught up into this region of light, and in that light to see light, so that as whatsoever is dark and obscure and unknown, and unrevealed, concerning this glorious Three and One, will be done away. When once we ascend and get up thither into the regions of light and bliss, where the glory of the Eternal Being doth display itself, we shall then know as we are known: we cannot know now but in part, and see but in part, but we shall then know perfectly and fully, and as we are known; so far as the capacity of created nature can admit. O! how pleasant should our aspiring upward to these Three be, where they do thus testify and bear record. How often should we be directing our thoughts and spirits, and the longing of our souls towards these regions of light and bliss, saying within ourselves, “When shall a period be put to the time of my converse with bats and moles in this base earth? when shall I hear the divine voice from the throne of glory that shall say to me, Ascend and come up hither, and see the things whereof thou hast hitherto but heard by the hearing of the ear?”
|« Prev||Lecture XVI. Preached April 24, 1691.||Next »|