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Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.— 1 John, v, 7.
I believe, that I was conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity; and that ever since, I have been continually conceiving mischief and bringing forth vanity.
THIS article of my faith I must of necessity believe whether I will or not, for if I could not believe it to be true, I should therefore have the more cause to believe it to be so; because, unless my heart was naturally very sinful and corrupt, it would be impossible for me not to believe that which I have so much cause continually to bewail; or, if I do not bewail it, I have still the more cause to believe it, and therefore am so much the more persuaded of it, by how much the less I find myself affected with it. For certainly I must be a hard-hearted wretch indeed, steeped in sin and fraught with corruption to the highest, if I know myself so oft to have incensed the wrath of the most high God against me, as I do, and yet not be sensible of my natural corruption, nor acknowledge myself to be by nature a child of wrath, as well as others; for I verily believe, that the want of such a due sense of myself argues as much original corruption, as murder and whoredom do actual pollution. And I shall ever suspect those to be the most under the power of that corruption, that labor most by arguments to divest it of its power.
And therefore, for my own part, I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to go about to confute that by wilful arguments, which I find so true by woful experience. If there be not a bitter root in my heart, whence proceeds so much bitter fruit in my life and conversation? Alas! I can neither set my head nor heart about any thing, but I still show myself to be the sinful offspring of sinful parents, by being the sinful parent of a sinful offspring; nay, I do not only betray the inbred venom of my heart by poisoning my common actions, but even
my most religious performances also, with sin. I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot hear or preach a sermon, but I sin; I cannot give an alms or receive the sacrament, but I sin; nay, I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still aggravations of them, my repentance needs to be repented of, my tears want washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer. Thus not only the worst of my sins, but even the best of my duties, speak me a child of Adam. Insomuch that whensoever I reflect upon my past actions, methinks I cannot but look upon my whole life, from the time of my conception to this very moment, to be but as one continued act of sin.
And whence can such a continued stream of corruption flow, but from the corrupt cistern of my heart? And whence can that corrupt cistern of my heart be filled, but from the corrupt fountain of my nature? Cease therefore, O my soul, to gainsay the power of original sin within thee, and labor now to subdue it under thee. But why do I speak of my subduing this sin myself? Surely this would be both an argument of it, and an addition to it. It is to thee, O my God, who art both the searcher and cleanser of hearts, that I desire to make my moan! It is to thee I cry out in the bitterness of my soul, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Who shall? Oh! who can do it, but thyself? Arise thou therefore, O my God, and show thyself as infinitely merciful in the pardoning, as thou art infinitely powerful in the purging away my sins!
I believe that the Son of God became the son of man, that I, the son of man, might become the son of God.
O how comfortably does this raise me, from the lowest abasement of sin and misery, which I have before acknowledged to be my natural state, to the highest exaltation of happiness and glory in a spiritual one! This is that great article of faith, by which all the benefits of our Saviour's death and passion are made over to me in the
new covenant, and by which, if I perform the conditions therein required, I shall not only be retrieved from the bondage and corruption that is inherent in me as a child of wrath, but be justified and accepted as the son of God, and be made a joint-heir with Christ. This is a point of the greatest moment and concern, which, by the grace and assistance of him of whom I speak, and in whom I thus believe, I shall therefore be the more exact and particular in the searching and examining into.
Now when I say and believe that God became man, I do not so understand it, as if the divine nature took upon it a human person; but that a divine person took upon him the human nature; that is, it was not the divine nature in general, without respect to the persons, but one of the persons in the divine nature which took flesh upon him. And yet, to speak precisely, it was not the divine person abstracted or distinct from the divine nature, but it was the divine nature in that person which thus took upon it the human ; and this was not the first or third, but the second person only in the sacred Trinity, that thus assumed our nature; as, considering the mysterious order and economy of the divine persons, it seems to be necessary that it should.
For, first, the Father could not have become this Son of man, because then he that had begotten from eternity, should have been begotten in time; by which means, as he was the Father to the Son, so would the Son also have been the Father unto him; and so the order betwixt the Father and the Son destroyed.
Nor, secondly, could the Holy Ghost have taken our nature upon him, because the bond of personal union betwixt the divine and human nature is from the Spirit, (and thence it is, that every one that is partaker of Christ's person, is partaker of his Spirit also) which could not be, if the Spirit itself had been the person assuming; for I cannot conceive how the same person could unite itself, by itself, to the assumed nature; and therefore we read, that in the virgin's conception of our Saviour, it was neither the Father, nor the Son himself, but the Spirit of the Most High, which did overshadow her. And, far ther, if the Holy Ghost had been my Redeemer, who should have been my Sanctifier? If he had died
personally for me, who should have applied his death effectually to me? That I could not do it myself is beyond contradiction evident; and that either the Father or the Son should do it, is not agreeable to the nature or order of the divine operations; they, as I believe, never acting any thing ad extra personally, but by the Spirit proceeding from them both. And therefore it is that Christ, to comfort his disciples after his death, promised them in his life-time that he would send them the Comforter, which is the Spirit of truth. He doth not say, he will come again personally, but mystically to them by his Spirit. But now that the Spirit, whose office it is to apply the merit and mediation of God-man to me, could not have done it, if himself had been that God-man, seems to me as clear and manifest as the other; for if he had done it, he should either have done it by the Father, by the Son, or by himself. He could not do it by the Father, nor the Son, because he does nothing by them, but all things from them. The Father acts in the Son by the Spirit, the Son from the Father by the Spirit, the Spirit from the Father and the Son. And therefore it likewise follows, that as the Spirit could not unite itself before, so neither can it apply itself here, to the human nature; for to assume the human nature into the divine, and to apply the divine nature to the human, are two distinct offices, and therefore to be performed by two distinct persons. The first could have been done only by one that was really man, as well as God; the other only by one that was merely God, and not man.
And that must needs be so; for otherwise God should act upon man by man, by the person man, as well as God; and, by consequence, all the dispensations of his grace towards us would have been stopped in the frailty of the human, though perfect, nature. So that it would have availed me nothing if the Spirit had taken my na ture upon him; because, though he had assumed the human, I could not thence have participated of the divine nature; nay, therefore I could not have participated of this, because he had assumed that by which alone I could be brought into this capacity; and so by this means I .should be farther off than I was before.
And, lastly, as, if the Father had become man, there
would have been two Fathers, so, if the Spirit had become man, there would have been two Sons, the second person begotten from eternity, and the third person begotten in time. But now, by the Son's taking our nature upon him, these and far greater difficulties are avoided, which we might easily perceive, could we sufficiently dive into the depth of that wisdom of the Father in sending his Son, rather than his Spirit, or coming himself in his own person. Howsoever, to us it cannot but seem most equitable, if reason may hold the balance, that he who is the middle person betwixt the Father and the Spirit, should become the Mediator betwixt God and man; and that he who is the Son of God in the glorious Trinity, should become the Son of man in this gracious mystery.
But, on the other side, as it was not the divine nature, but a divine person, that did assume, so neither was it a human person, but the human nature, that was assumed; for otherwise, if he had assumed the person of any one man in the world, his death had been beneficial to none but him whose person he thus assumed and represented. Whereas, now that he has assumed the nature of man in general, all that partake of that nature are capable of partaking of the benefits he purchased for us by dying in our stead. And thus, under each Adam, as the representation was universal, so were the effects designed to be for as in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Again; when I say the Son of God became the Son of man, I do not mean as if by this he should cease to be what he was before, the Son of God; for he did not leave his Godhead to take upon him the manhood; but I believe he took the manhood into his Godhead; he did not put off the one to put on the other, but he put one upon the other. Neither do I believe that the human nature, when assumed into the divine, ceased to be human; but as the divine person so assumed the human nature as still to remain a divine person, so the human nature was so assumed into a divine person as still to remain a human nature. God therefore so became man, as to be both perfectly God and prefectly man, united together in one per