Conclusions Concerning the Subsistence of God, and the Subsistence of the Creature Derived from Reflecting on the Incarnation
John 1.18: No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
While meditating the above sermons on the incarnation, various thoughts connected with this great subject have stirred my mind, touching its relations unto other great subjects; and I have been led to perceive distinctly, how the incarnation of the Son of God is the ground and basis of all real ‘knowledge with respect to the Godhead, is the ground and basis of all worship of the Godhead by the creature, and of the creature’s own eternal being and blessedness. I perceive, moreover, through the light cast upon these subjects by the incarnation, how a creation out of God, and yet worshipping God, is not possible without the knowledge of God in three persons subsisting, which, if it can be speculatively attained by the reason, is a truth realised only by the incarnation. Now, it is my desire to point out some of these high relations of the subject, which God hath enabled me to perceive; in doing which, the great difficulty is to observe order and method,—for the thoughts are high, and the range of them is very far. Yet, by the grace of God, I shall endeavour to comprehend them under these three heads:—
First, The coming of the Godhead into action to create, and to manifest itself unto the creatures whom it hath made, and to receive their worship and homage. This will open insight into the manner of the Divine existence in three personalities.
Secondly, We would endeavour to shew how the creature shall subsist in an infallible and indestructible state, distinct from the Godhead, with, and by means of Christ a form of existence between the two, which is of both, and, being of both, distinct from each. This will open insight into the three great distinctions, between the incomprehensible Godhead, the Christhead, and the infallible creature, inhabited by the Holy Ghost; which three things may never be mingled together, so as to be confused with one another.
Thirdly, We shall endeavour to open the connexions and communions, not the less subsisting amongst these three existences, the incomprehensible Godhead, the God-man-hood, and the Spirit-inhabited creature, in such wise as secureth worship unto the first, lordship unto the second, and infallibility unto the third.
And if we shall be able to open these three great heads of doctrine, we shall have comprehended and resolved the great problem of creation, and seen clean through unto the ultimate end of God, which is to manifest and communicate Himself unto the creatures; for I consider creation to be no more than the indelible, indestructible expression of that truth, God of one substance in three persons subsisting.
I. First, then, in the work of the creation we have maintained these heads of doctrine concerning the Trinity:—1. That the infinite God, who is also invisible and incomprehensible, cannot communicate Himself, or the knowledge of Himself, unto His creatures, without assuming to Himself a finite form. In order to be visible and comprehensible; nay, we may go a step higher, and say, that in order to fashion finite creatures, in order to do a finite action, it is necessary that the actor should assume a finite form. But, without doing more than to mention this great principle of Divine operations, we observe, that if the end of God in creation be, to manifest Himself unto the creatures, which is indeed the only end that He hath declared; and if His method of doing this be by bringing in His own Son, and setting Him up for ever, in the form of the Lamb slain and risen from the dead, or in the form of risen God-man, and in that form to shew Himself for ever and ever unto the creatures which He proposed to create; then is it never to be doubted, that He who worketh all things to the praise of His own glory, and who leaveth no loose or open parts in His purpose, but maketh it to be altogether harmonious, and consenting unto the great end, would from the beginning of creation bring Himself into action under that form, which He was afterwards to assume: that is to say, everything would have an eye and aim to the risen God-man, everything would tell and foretell of Him, everything would have its origin in that idea or purpose, and have the definition of its being thereby determined. And this is what I understand, by all things being made for Christ, as well as by Christ, The Christ form of being, God and man in one person, was only an idea and a purpose until the incarnation, when it became a fact. The person of the eternal Son, I mean, did not become the Christ in very deed, until He took human substance of the virgin. Therefore, the only meaning that can be assigned to such expressions as that all things were made by Him and for Him is, that the person of the Son—not in His absolute infinity, which I have said I even believe to be impossible, but in the finite creature form which He was in the fulness of time to assume and to retain for ever and ever—did create all things visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or principalities, or dominions, or powers; wherefore, also, He is called first-begotten from the dead, first-born of every creature. This, then, is the only ground of revelation anterior to Christ, that God might testify unto Him that is to come; and creation till He come, is but that same testimony, from the strongest archangel down to the worm that crawleth on the ground. I believe there is no sportiveness, playfulness, idleness, extravagance, or waste of creation power, but one concatenated systematic testimony unto the Christ; into whom, as all the disjected members are to be gathered up again into the head, so believe I, that in their present disjected state, the only end and purpose of their being is, to testify to Him of whom man is the only image, and Adam before his fall the only perfect type. Now, the counterpart of revelation is faith; and if the end of creation is to reveal Christ, then the object of all faith must be Christ. And all knowledge in the creature subsisting, whether of itself, or of other creatures, or of God, is no true knowledge, until it hath turned to a testimony, is either incomplete or is false, until it hath revealed something concerning Christ, who is the end of all created things; and therefore faith comes in where knowledge endeth; or, I should say, knowledge is but as the needle that pointeth unto Christ, in whom I must believe: and the rivers of knowledge pour themselves into the ocean of faith; for the end of knowledge is not itself, but something which is to be. And the word, being the communication of knowledge, doth, therefore, no more than set out Christ that I may believe upon Him; and the preaching of the Word is the testimony of Jesus. But we have not yet arrived at the root of the matter, which is deeper still.
The end of all things created by the Godhead being, as hath been said, the bringing in of the Christ, and that not at the beginning, but onward a good way in the procession of the purpose, the preceding period must necessarily be the season of faith, during which the creatures can live only by faith. For the thing visible is not the real thing that is to be for ever; but is to be changed into its eternal form, whenever the Christ in His eternal form shall be revealed. Seeing, then, that faith is the condition of all the creatures until Christ come, they must be constituted fit subjects for faith: they must be constituted, also, fit subjects of hope, and altogether imperfect without hope: and these two principles of faith and hope must be wrought into the very vitals of their constitution. Now this is truly the condition of man ; who is born to believe, having no knowledge until he receive it from another; and is born to hope, having nothing in possession to begin with, but nakedness, helplessness, hunger, and want of every kind. To a creature thus constituted, faith and hope become the elements of his being; and therefore, in his very nature, man proveth himself a witness for something that is to come. And such a creature is proper to become the subject of a divine revelation; and through such creatures that divine revelation must be communicated to other creatures, who are not in like manner constituted ; even as the apostle expressly declareth, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, That it is by the Church the manifold wisdom of God is made known unto the heavenly hosts: and through the intelligence and power which man possesseth over the lower creatures, God expecteth of His piety, and of His diligence, that He would make them speak the praises of God their Creator, which is Christ, and make them prophesy concerning Him which is to come: so that, as God destined man to be the form which He should assume. He hath made man also to be the great witness unto His coming in that form.
If all things then were created by the Son, in the assumed form of the Christ, or the risen God-man, then all things spoken by God unto man must be spoken by the Son in that same character. But it may be asked here, What need to speak at all? I answer. Because when the creature had fallen into sin and death, it necessarily became overspread with darkness, and ignorance, and error. And this was one reason of the fall, even to negative that light of revelation which the creature possessed in itself; to shew that the creature was not the true light, but only a witness of the true light and that the witness might not be mistaken for the person witnessed of, it came to pass that darkness was permitted to cover the earth, and gross darkness the people. Yet, under this the cloud of darkness, the mystery lay shrouded; but so shrouded as that the creature, in himself, should not be able to discover it. And thus, during the fall-season of the creature, it is connected with the Creator by its very imperfectness; having in itself the ground of the truth of the promise of God, but yet, not being able of itself to read the lesson thereof; having a will, but in bondage; having an understanding, but in darkness; having a body, but under the law of sin and death; having a world for a possession, but a world ever rising in arms against its Master; having a being craving for faith, but ever falling into superstition; having a being formed for hope, but ever falling into delusion. A miserable estate indeed, had it been cut off and separated from Divine teaching! but, being connected with Divine teaching, the only state of being in which it was good for the creature to be during the preparatory and preliminary season before the coming of Christ. For, by these very defects, by these very unsatisfied cravings, it was taught its need of a higher Teacher; which lesson, without such imperfections, the creature could never have learned. And thus the fall becomes the ground of a revelation, such as we now possess; that is, a revelation of words superinduced upon the marred revelation of creation. The fall made the knot which no fallen being could loose; which every one, by his own nature, should be craving to have loosed ; but could not otherwise have loosed, than from some one higher than himself. The fall made the riddle, which no fallen intellect could resolve, and which might create a craving for superhuman intelligence; and thus it is, that the fallen world, without a revelation, were indeed a solecism in the idea: but a fallen world with a revelation is a better state of the creation than its first or unfallen estate, because in this there existed nothing to distinguish it from God, and to teach it that it was not God in itself; no incompleteness, no mystery, no suffering, no evil, no apparent contradiction to be reconciled. But in the other state, the creature by its very want, from clothes of skin to clothing of righteousness, from succession of seasons to give him bread unto the preparation of the times and seasons for giving him bread from heaven, all from new-born babyhood unto the birth of the resurrection morn, is man in the fallen state of his being dependent upon the word of the revelation of God, Oh, what a mystery of goodness, as well as of wisdom, there is to be seen in the fall of man, which made way for the revelation of word and of ordinance, and enabled a Church to be preserved upon the earth, exclusive of none which should maintain the testimony, until He that is to come should come!
Thus was the creature linked to the Creator, by the very act of its falling away from Him, and hung in total dependence upon His gracious word, by the very act of disobeying His word: just as the infant, which with anguish is rent from its parent, becomes, in that very act of its birth, the object of its parent’s tenderest care. It was no longer a creation out of God, but a creation that had been out of Him, brought into Him, and standing in Him by His gracious and faithful word. And not only did the fall of the creature thus make way for the revelation of the grace of God, but it did also, in a manner, render that revelation absolutely necessary, in order to maintain the completeness and accomplish the ends of the Divine purpose. Because now the creation being made subject unto vanity, and possessed with the spirit of a lie, wanting its high Prophet to interpret its ever misinterpreted mystery; man himself having become subject to the deceiver, and being no more able to understand or prophesy the truth; either the creation must fail from its high design of being and speaking and acting for Christ, or God himself must interfere with a Divine commentary and interpretation thereof. And forasmuch as we cannot believe that God is ever to be thwarted, or the testimony of Christ ever defeated, it doth necessarily remain, that a revelation shall be superinduced upon a fall; and that God shall first appear a Prophet, to gainsay the gainsayers, and to deliver truth from the jaws of the lion, before He becometh a High Priest to purify and sanctify the whole lump, and a King of kings to rule over it in righteousness. In which character of the Prophet He shall separate the truth from the lie, and preserve the testimony of the truth against the many witnesses of the lie.
2. And, secondly, we have maintained that this word of revelation is to ‘be made consistently with the acting of God in a Trinity of Persons. All things being made for the Christ, and by the Christ, all things must be spoken for Him and by Him. Wherefore also He hath His name of the Word, which was with God in the beginning, and which was God; to signify that His character of Revealer by word is as indefeasible a prerogative of His Person in the blessed Trinity, as is His character of Creator of all things, or His character of the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, or His character of only-begotten and first-begotten from the dead. It proves, moreover, that a revelation by word is older than the fountain-head of time, even old as the purpose of the Ancient of days. And it moreover proveth, that the covenant between the Father and the Son, before the world was, is a true idea; and that all word external, and uttered, is but the extension of that deed which was done and sealed with the blood of the Lamb before the world was. Wherefore, also, the Holy Scriptures are called the two Testaments or Covenants. If Christ, then, be the Word of God, the Light that lighteth every man who by God is sent into the world, the true and faithful Witness, who, having dwelt in the bosom of the Father, is the only one able to reveal Him, because He only hath seen Him, He only hath known Him; then through Him must this work proceed, and He must speak it in that form of the creature in which He is for ever to reveal the Godhead, that is, in the form of risen God-man. So that when He says,”Let us make man in our own image,” it is not the image of the infinite Godhead, but the image of that risen God-manhood in which the Godhead is to manifest itself. The word is not uttered by the invisible Father, who speaketh nothing but by the Son nor is it spoken by the Holy Ghost, who speaketh nothing which He hath not first heard of the Son; but it is spoken by the Son, who speaketh nothing of Himself, but what He heareth from the Father. Neither by the Son is it spoken in His infinite Godhead, but in His predestinated creature form or, as we would say, in character, and in keeping with that manifestation of God which is to be for ever, are all manifestations of God which have been from the beginning, to the end that Christ’s working in the whole, and the working of the whole for Christ, may be made manifest.
This matter will bear yet a little more consideration, for it is a deep and a most important matter. Christ did not assume the form of risen God-manhood, without the Holy Ghost; who created His body, who informed it against the fallen tendencies of the creature, who raised it from the grave, and doth now inform all its members, proceeding from the Head, and by the presence of the Holy Ghost, in the actings of Christ, is the presence of the Father manifested. The Son, in His proper divinity, is infinite, as the Father is infinite, and as the Holy Ghost is infinite ; and yet these are not three infinites, but one infinite. Now, before the infinite Godhead in the Son could act in the finite form, whether before taking that form or after. He must act not of Himself only, but with the consent and concurrence of the other persons of the Trinity. And this is not a small matter, but is in fact that which determineth all the rest. This is the fountain head of Divine goodness, that the Godhead should once act in a finite form, to the accomplishment of a finite end: and this involveth in it all which follows of creation, of the fall, of revelation, of redemption, of resurrection, and eternal glory it is all shut up in that one word, that it is the good pleasure of the infinite Godhead to do finite things. The choice of the form in which it was to be done, whether of angel, or of archangel, or of man, are inferior questions to this, that it should be done at all. Now, how is this assent and concurrence of the three persons of the blessed Trinity secured, to this great undertaking of Godhead? Here comes in the doctrine of the orthodox fathers concerning the Holy Ghost, as the vinculum Trinitatis, the circle of communication between the Father and the Son, through whom the will of the Father expresseth itself to the Son, and the obedience of the Son expresseth itself back again to the Father. The action to be done is, that, in the person of the Son, Deity should go forth in finite works of creation. The will of the Father is communicated to the Son, and the obedience of the Son returned, through the Holy Ghost: and thus, as it is in the origination, so it is in the details of the accomplishment. In everything done in creation, in everything spoken in revelation, in everything acted in the incarnation, in everything suffered in the Church, and in everything to be executed in the kingdom; Christ is the doer, the Father is the wilier, and the Holy Ghost the suggester of the will. And thus the Divinity follows out still its eternal and necessary law of being in the secret recesses of its own harmonious purpose, with which no creature intermeddleth, and of which no creature is competent to discourse, further than to say, Thus it is, because it is revealed that there is a trinity of persons in the Godhead. And thus the Son, in coming into action in the finite form, doth already possess the consenting goodness, the harmonious mind of the three infinite personalities of the Godhead. And thus He is not a manifestation of the Son, in action upon finite things, but He is a manifestation of the Godhead, acting by the Son, in finite things; and this He is, from the first beginning to create, until eternal and eternal ages, during which He shall in finite form reveal the Godhead unto every creature. And observe further, that thus He can refer back to the Godhead, as greater than He, because He can only be known by limitations: and yet He can say, that in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead. And forasmuch as the Son thus taketh in hand the manifestation to rule over it, the Father must keep in hand the unmanifested of the unmanifestable Godhead, to represent it, and to call it by His name. Likewise, the Holy Spirit, who thus bringeth unto Christ’s ear the voice of the Father, doth receive from Christ the signification of the voice of His obedience, and doth carry into effect the limited form of acting which the Son hath condescended unto: and according to the word of the voice of the Father, which the Son hath heard, and bowed Himself submissively to, the Holy Ghost goeth forth to do the thing : and from the creature thus informed by the word of the Son, and inspired with the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost doth carry up unto the Father the glory of the creature’s obedience, and the gladness of the creature’s joy, and the gratitude of the creature’s blessedness. But yet not unto the Father direct, but through the Head, which is Christ, who hath received the dignity of Mediator, and Intercessor, and Priest, and King, wholly to intercept and to con-vey the communication of the Godhead with the creatures, God informed ; because it was through His voluntary obe- dience and humiliation that the creatures were created, were spoken to when they had fallen, were redeemed from their fallen state. This is the superadded prerogative of the Son, and likewise the constitution of the creature, after the Divine purpose, that the Father should give unto the Son the honour of being its Sovereign and conservative Head, together with the honour of conveying upwards unto the Father all its homage and service: so that creation, the fall, and redemption amount simply to this, that it is a purpose of the Father to give outward glory unto the Son, because of that humiliation of Himself which He underwent, in order to manifest forth the glory of the Father. In both which acts, reciprocal from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Father, the Holy Ghost is the great agent and operator.
3. Thirdly, We have maintained and made good that through Christ, and Christ only, who is the Godhead in a body, could the Godhead out of a body, the infinite and invisible Godhead, ever have been known. The attributes of infinitude are not cognoscible by a finite creature, and I hold that all those a priori speculations concerning the attributes of God, are nothing more than descriptions of the pure intellect of man;—they are the categories of the pure reason of man, and no knowledge of God whatever. God is known by His acts: the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory. Creation is for the knowledge of God; and the end of creation is to be seen summed up in the creature-part of Christ. The being of man reflects the being of Christ; the being of Christ reflecteth the being of God. It is not the tale which Christ telleth concerning the invisible world, as your Socinians talk; it is not as a tale hearer a tall, but it is as He is seen, as He is, (not excluding what He spake certainly, but including that also,) that He sheweth God. A prophet told of God; but Christ is God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, made visible to the creatures, that the creatures might see and know Him. Seeing and knowing are used synonymously in Scripture; as, for example, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.” And again, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” An act, not a thought, nor a word, is the work of God. The Father’s it is to will; the Son’s to word what the Father hath willed; and the Spirit’s it is to bring it into existence, as a thing separate and outward from the Creator. In the first form, it is a purpose; in the second, it is a covenant; in the third, it is a work of God accomplished. Here, then, is Christ: look upon Him, and know God; look away from Him, and be lost in darkness: hear Him, and believe that what He saith is in the purpose, and shall be in the manifestation. And what saith He? He saith that the Father is another Person from Himself, whom He worshippeth, whom He serveth; and yet that the invisible Father is only to be known, by knowing the visible Son, No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and He to whom the Son shall reveal Him: therefore, believe that the Father is another Person from the Son, seeing He speaketh of them as twain: “I and my Father will come unto you, and we will take up our abode with you:” and though twain, in respect of personality, yet one in substance; for the Son doeth nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: “The words which I speak, I speak not of myself, and the Father which dwelleth in me, he doeth the works: I and my Father are one. He that hath seen me, Philip, hath seen the Father and how then sayest thou, Shew us the Father?”
Thus come we by the knowledge of the invisible Godhead of the Father, through the visible Godhead of the Son; and in like manner come we by the knowledge of the personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost; for Christ speaketh of Him as one that is to be sent to supply His room when He is gone away. He is called another Comforter. He is the Spirit of Truth, which abideth always; not the Son of God who must depart for a season: and as Christ heareth the Father, so this other Divine Person heareth Christ: “What he shall hear, that he shall speak, and he will shew you things to come.” There is between them a distinctity which admits of the personal pronouns, his and mine: “He shall take of the things of mine, and shall shew them unto you.” Yet not the less is He one with Christ: in act He is what Christ is in word. Christ breathes on them, and they receive the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost must beget them before they can see the kingdom. This is the power which Christ giveth to them that believe; to become the sons of God as He was the Son of God, through the inhabitation of His human nature; by that Holy Spirit,—and every act of Christ is an act done by the Holy Spirit;—His life, the Holy Spirit’s life His holiness, the holiness of the Holy Spirit; His power, the power of the Holy Ghost; and thus, from the visible Christ, Cometh the knowledge of the three subsistencies in the Godhead, and of their common substance, what its purpose is what its word is, and what its act is; and knowledge is obtained of the invisible and unchangeable God, by the manifestation of Christ. And this I regard as a great end which was served by the bringing of the Christ into the world.
4. Still further, as concerneth worship, or continual acknowledgment and service of the Creator, as the great first cause, and deep abysmal will, which is separate from the creature, yet the life of the creature, and the basis of its being; this is a mystery which cannot be otherwise understood, than by perusing the Christ, who, though God, did not worship Himself, but did evermore worship the invisible Father, and yet He was God. But being God, united to the creature, and seen only through the actings of the creature, it is most needful that nothing terminate in Him, but pass through Him into the region of the invisible: therefore, whenever the people were disposed to rest in Him, He did always refer them back unto the Father, saying, “Ye cannot come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw you.” Now, I know well, that the ignorance of this time, upon the subject of the Trinity, passeth all ignorance of any former time; and therefore I do deem it of the more importance to draw your attention particularly to this part of the subject which concerneth worship, Christ’s human nature, inhabited by the Holy Ghost, and from which the Holy Ghost never was and never shall be separated, was not an object of worship, and never shall be an object of worship; and if Christ received worship upon earth, from those who were ignorant of His Divinity, He did receive it, not as man, but as God. This I hold to be a most important point of doctrine, and most necessary to preserve men from creature-worship, and, above all, from saint-worship; for I believe that Christ’s human nature is not distinct from, but most closely united to, and indeed the very support, yea, and substance, of the renewed nature of every believer. Whosoever by faith eats His body and drinks His blood, is one with Him, as He is one with the Father; and that is one substance in diverse personalities. As by nature I am of the substance of Adam, and coequal with him in all pains and penalties of this fallen being, so by faith I am coequal in honour, and to be coequal in glory, with the human nature of Christ; one with Him, I say again, as He is one with the Father. Such unity it is as all visible unity only resembleth, but doth never equal. Such unity giveth faith, as that it can be said, we are of His flesh and of His bones ; and is of the essence and substance of faith, and He who hath not this hath no life abiding in him. His human nature is inhabited by the Holy Ghost ; and our human nature is by the Holy Ghost likewise inhabited. If, therefore, inhabitation by the Holy Ghost maketh any creature-substance as the body of Christ to be worshipped, then must it also make His members, which are of the same substance, and by the same Spirit inhabited, to be in like manner worshipped ; and so have you saint-worship introduced at once; as, indeed, it was introduced into the Papal Church, and must ever be introduced, where the body of Christ is worshipped; and it doth destroy the whole end of redemption, which is to get the creature separated from the Creator, and delivered from the worship of itself But as the creature, in its redeemed state, is inhabited by the Holy Ghost, this would constitute it an object to be worshipped, if Christ’s body, which is inhabited by the Holy Ghost, might be worshipped. Wherein then consisteth that pre-eminent dignity of Christ above all redeemed creatures, which placeth Him at distance infinite above them, though in substance most closely united with them? It consisteth in His Divine nature, with which His human nature mingleth not, though to it in one person united. This constituteth him Head over all, though Brother of all the redeemed; Brother by the community of the human substance, and the inhabitation of the Holy Ghost; Head by the solitary pre-eminence, by the Divine dignity of being the eternal and only-begotten Son of God. Nevertheless, though in His Divine personality He be a proper object of worship, like as is the Holy Ghost in His Divine personality yet, as the Holy Ghost inhabiting the creature doth; cease from worship contemplated therein, so the Son, taking the redeemed creature into union with His own person, and shewing the Godhead in the manhood, doth cease from being the object of worship, being therein the great Leader of the chorus, the great Head of the worshippers. And who, then, is the proper object of worship? I answer, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, one God;—not as inhabiting the creature, for then the creature would worship a Deity within itself;—not as sustaining the redeemed creature, for then the creature would worship its visible Head, and still the object of its worship would be in and of itself: but the object of its worship is God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, their invisible, incommunicable, indivisible being, represented in the person of the Father. Let no one start at this, as if it denied worship to the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Son and the Holy Ghost are one with the Father, who are worshipped when He is worshipped. The Divine person of the Son is not contained in His manhood: the ocean, the round immense of space, were better said to be contained within a household dish, than that the Divine nature of the Son should be contained in manhood. And to guard against this error, is the very reason why divines rest so much upon the distinctness of the Godhead from the manhood. But, save through the manhood of Christ, God shall never be known to any creature, nor communicated to any creature; and for this reason, that the fulness of the Godhead cannot thus, or in any way, be to the creatures communicated, most necessary it is, in order to the existence of true worship, that the Godhead, not in its manifested likeness and limited proportions, nor in its felt influences and operative powers, but in its invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible fulness and essential separateness, from the creature, that is, in the person of the Father, representing the substance of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, should be worshipped. And this, verily, is the end of the whole mystery. That God should inhabit the creature in the person of the Holy Ghost, and yet not be worshipped there: that God should sustain the creature, in the person of the Son, united unto man, and yet not be worshipped there, but be worshipped in the absolute invisible person of the Father: so that God supporteth all, inhabiteth all the redeemed creatures, and, for the security and blessedness thereof, receiveth their homage out of and beside them all. Such is the true account of Divine worship, and such is the way in which it is attained.
While, however, I argue, that the Godhead, in the person of the invisible Father, approached unto by the manifest Christ, through the indwelling Spirit, is the only ultimate object of worship from whom all petitions are to be sought, and all favours understood to proceed, I do not the less preserve unto the Godhead, manifest in the person of the Son, a superlative dignity above every visible creature;—the King of all power; the Priest of all holiness; the Heir of all possession; the Revealer of the Godhead; the Light coming forth from the mystery of light, in which the Father dwelleth inaccessible the life, also, felt in all redeemed creatures, and the visible object of all their homage, reverence, and obedience; and so bound to, and submitted to, and in that sense worshipped by, all the angels of God: as it is written, “When he bringeth his Son the second time into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him:” and not the angels only, but every creature; as it is written, “That at the name of Jesus every knee might bow.” But still, while this supremacy and lordship of God-manifest may never be doubted, I argue not the less that Christ will suffer no worship to terminate in Himself, as an ultimate object, but will lead it up into the invisible and infinite Godhead of Father, Son, and HolyGhost; where again no worship is received, nor petition answered, which doth not come through the manifest Godhead as its way, and from the indwelling Spirit as its source: so that the end of the whole matter is, that the creature is taken into the circle of the intercommunion of the blessed Trinity, and therein consisteth its blessedness and its stability.
Now I may say, that any difficulties which may appear on this subject vanish at once, to any one who will but look on Christ, who, though He was very God and very man, did not the less direct His worship unto the Father, and pray unto Him continually. And when He gave that form of prayer, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, it was addressed unto the Father. This was not for example’s sake, nor did it arise out of His humiliation, but is the example of what He shall ever be, as the Head of redeemed creation; evermore directing His homage unto the invisible God. Let no one think that this is to derogate from the Divinity of the Son, or of the Holy Ghost; anymore than it is to derogate from the Divinity of the Father, to say that He dwelleth in us, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and shall never otherwise be felt; any more than it derogates from the Divinity of the Father, to say that He is manifest in the Son. It is not the Holy Ghost inhabiting merely, but it is the substance of the Godhead, in the person of the Holy Ghost; and it is not the Son merely, sustaining and redeeming all things, but it is the Godhead in the Person of the Son; and it is not the Father merely that is worshipped, but it is the Godhead in the Person of the Father, and the Son is worshipped equally with the Father; and so, also, the Holy Ghost: and the Father is manifested equally with the Son; and so, also, is the Holy Ghost: and the Father inhabiteth equally with the Holy Ghost; and so, also, doth the Son. The same substance is present in the threefold personalities; the personalities most distinct, the substance most entirely one. And herein is the mystery of the Trinity most excellent and most glorious; and herein are all Sabellian schemes of the Trinity, which do not hold the distinctness of the personalities, devoutly to be abhorred; for, if you keep not the personalities distinct, observe what follows. Con- found the personality of the Son with the personality of the Holy Ghost, or deny the latter, which is virtually, yea, and avowedly too, a most wide-spread heresy; and it immediately follows, that every member of Christ, inhabited by the Holy Ghost, is upon an equal footing with Christ;—that every one of us is an Immanuel, or God with us, as certain blasphemously affirm; —and straightway there follows upon this a total loss of Christ’s great act of love and of atonement. Again, confound the personality of the Father with the personality of the Son, which is to all intents and purposes done by worshipping the Son as the ultimate object of worship, instead of regarding Him as High Priest and Intercessor, and you mingle at once God and the creature; and will come to worship Him, not as a personal God, separate from the creature, but as a widely-diffused power and omnipresent influence. So that, without the doctrine of the Trinity of persons in a unity of substance, the whole scheme of redemption and revelation, of a creation, of a fall, and of a regeneration, is an ineffectual and vain display of power and suffering, which accomplisheth nothing.
II. So much have I to say with respect to the light which this discourse of the incarnation casteth upon the actings of the one Godhead in a Trinity of Persons to the ends of creation, revelation, and worship: and I now proceed to see what light it sheddeth upon the reconstituted creation under Christ the Head thereof In creation there are three things to be kept distinct by an impassable gulf. The first is, the redeemed creature; the second is, the Head of the redeemed creature; the third, the invisible God. If the creature jostle or mingle with its Head, then the procuring cause of its redemption, and the abiding cause of its stability, atonement, intercession, manifestation of God, and everything else, which since the fall hath been transacted, and till the giving up of the kingdom remaineth to be transacted, becometh a dead and unmeaning thing. Therefore, I say, the Head of the redeemed creation and the redeemed creation must be distinct and separate by a gulf impassable. This is the first distinctness; and these two existences so distinct must yet be united more closely than any visible union: for every visible union is disunited, as the body from the soul, and the members of the body from each other; but by an indissoluble union must the redeemed creature be united with its Head, in order that it may know and feel that it standeth only in Christ, and through Christ only can worship the Father. Now this union, beyond all unions close, yet in distinctness and separation impassable, is compassed by the union of the two natures in the Person of Christ. Christ the Head, being God and redeemed manhood in one Person, which redeemed manhood maketh the redeemed creature of one substance with Him; so that in that manhood every elect creature standeth, and yet no elect creature tasteth of His Godhead; and thus is the Christ personal separated from, yet united to, the Christ mystical, with all that dependeth thence. To constitute the union, the Holy Ghost laboureth; to preserve the distinctness, the distinct personality of the Son from that of the Holy Ghost prevaileth: and finally, to prevent the creature thus redeemed by the Holy Ghost, and headed up in Christ, from aspiring to, or mixing with, the invisible Godhead; to throw in another impassable gulf between the creature redeemed by the Son, inhabited by the Spirit, and the invisible, infinite, incommunicable, incomprehensible Godhead, the distinct personality of the Father prevaileth. So that to accomplish this threefold distinctness, (and unless this be accomplished, all, all is vain,) nothing prevaileth, but the distinct separate personalities of the Godhead, never to be confounded, in one substance never to be disunited. The doctrine of the Trinity is the only view of God which will give Him separateness from the creature, and yet communicate to the creature of His indefectibility and blessedness: and the great end served by the coming of the Son of God in the flesh is the making known of the great truth of the Godhead as one substance in three persons subsisting, whose distinctness from one another is the ground and basis of all distinction between the redeemed creature inhabited and possessed by the Holy Ghost, and its Head, which is the Lord Jesus Christ; and between these two, considered as the whole visible existence, and the invisible Godhead, This necessity of perfect distinctness between these three subsistences—to wit, the redeemed creature, the Head of the redeemed creature, and the invisible Godhead,—is the reason, and ground, and fruit of the doctrine of the three persons in the Godhead.
Now, this is a subject of such great importance in itself, and in its consequences so unbounded, and withal a subject so little understood, or treated as a speculation,—whereas, it is the only defence against Spinozism, and Sabellianism, and that philosophy of the West and religion of the East, which makes God the soul of the creatures, or the creatures an emanation from God,—that I deem it good to open it at some length, and to shew how it is the essence and the substance of all sound doctrine whatsoever concerning the creatures, and concerning God the object of the creature’s worship.
1. The end of God, in giving existence beside Himself, is to communicate life in such a way as shall consist with His own being and glory. Accordingly, the creation was completed in a living soul; but Adam, thus formed, was not the perfect or complete creature, but only the likeness or type of Him that is to be. And therefore Adam could not have eternal or immortal life to give; which required that the life should be manifested, which was done in the Person of Christ, who brought life and immortaHty to light. In Him was life, and to Him only it belongeth to convey life, who could say, “I am the life. I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me shall never die: he that believeth in me hath everlasting life.” Adam was not the life, nor was he able to communicate eternal life as it is written, “The first man Adam was a living soul, the Second Adam a life-giving Spirit.” Adam therefore, the head of creation’s unfallen state, was only to prepare the way for Christ. The Son of God was to come in flesh, or in human nature; and, therefore, there must be flesh, or human nature in which He might come. If Adam had possessed life in himself, then no one should have been able to take it from him, and God’s gifts are without repentance. Seeing, then, that death did lay hold upon him, it is proof sufficient that God had not invested him with eternal life, over which death hath not any power. Creation, therefore, in its unfallen state, was only to make way for creation in the fallen state; and this, though last in accomplishment, was, as consisteth with the very idea of a purpose, first in the design. So far, therefore, is it from being derogatory unto God for one to say, that creation was only the imperfect rudiments of His work, that it is the only way of preserving the honour and glory of God. For if herein He put forth all His strength, and gave Adam immortal life, then is the fall a failure, and redemption is an after-thought, an expedient to remedy and repair a failure, and God hath no purpose nor foresight of things at all; and there is a chance and possibility that the redemption also may be, by some unforeseen hap and hazard, likewise subverted and overthrown; and there is neither ground for faith, nor yet for hope, nor for promise, nor for fulfilment, nor for covenant, nor for faithfulness of an Almighty God at all.
We may, therefore, without offence unto, but in high justification of, God, inquire a little into the necessity of a fall, for the accomplishment of God’s purpose. The creature unfallen was very good, but it knew not evil as yet; and, not knowing evil, it could not know its own inferiority to, and distinctness from, God: for God is also very good, and the creature is very good; how shall the creature distinguish between itself and God? Moreover, God is invisible, and the creature is visible, and by so much the creature is in advantage over God. In that state, therefore, the creature could not fulfil the great end of God, that it should pay its homage, and place its dependence upon God; which if any one deny, then I appeal unto the fact, that the first time the creature was tried with a temptation, though the weakest imaginable, he, or rather she, preferred the inanimate creature unto God; and he preferred the love of woman unto the obedience of God;—proof positive, experiment decisive, and so arranged of God, for the ending of all strife upon this subject, and for proving beyond a question, that the creation state was not the state in which a creature could stand and worship God.
If any one cut me short here with an interruption, and ask, Why then put the creature forth in the creation state at all? why not bring in the Second Adam at the beginning, and present Him in the glorious humanity at once, as He was being risen from the dead.’ This indeed, I answer, would have prevented the necessity of a fall; but it would have been as far as ever from accomplishing the end of God, which is not merely eternal life in the creature, but along with this consciousness of a being separate from God, as the indispensable preliminary unto the worship of God only, and not of itself also. For if Christ had come in the unfallen state, God and man, putting forth the power of the Godhead and the wisdom of Godhead in the creature form, it would have made things worse, instead of better, with the creature, unto which He propagated, or communicated, the same glorious and eternal life; for there would have been no act demonstrative of the creature’s separateness from the Godhead of the Son. From the first of its existence, upon this hypothesis, it standeth supported by the power, and shewing forth the glory of God; and so it is to continue without a change of its condition, with no knowledge of its infirmity, with every experience of its power and sufficiency; and how such a creature should know of a Godhead beyond and beside itself, how it should know itself not to be the all-sufficient God, is what I cannot for a moment imagine. For, as I said in the former head of discourse, these are things not to be told by words, but to be embodied in the being of things. A word must have a correspondency, in the being of him who is spoken to, or it amounteth to nothing; and especially such a word as this, that there is a God beside the creature, whom to know, to worship, and to enjoy, is the very end of the creature, must not be left to an airy carriage, but must be infixed in the heart of being itself; for which, upon this idea, that Christ in the form of risen God-man is brought into the world first of all, there is no provision in the being of the creatures propagated by Him, but, on the other hand, everything to confuse, to bewilder, and to contradict the knowledge of an invisible God, above and beside themselves, who is to be worshipped.
In order, therefore, to preserve distinctness between the invisible and absolute God and the visible limited creature, it was necessary that the creature should fall; and, by falling, should know the end and inferiority that is in itself; and that the goodness which it had originally, is a goodness derived from another source than itself, seeing there hath not been, in itself, the power of retaining it. And to the end the creature might know evil by feeling evil, it is necessary that it should also know good by feeling good. There must exist in the creature, after it hath fallen, something to be unto it for a continual memorial of its state above the fall; that is, there must be a conscience of good struggling against the oppression of evil. If the creature were all evil, without a conscience of good, then there would be no memorial, no remembrance of its unfallen state; which would stand only as a page of the book, instead of being written on the heart of man. Mistake me not, as if I held the Pelagian, and what is now called Arminian, though it is baser still than Arminian heresy, that man can do any good thing in himself; for it is one thing not to be at all, and another thing to be in bondage; it is one thing to be a devil, and another thing to be under the oppression of the devil. I believe with St Paul, that God leaveth not the wickedest heathen without a witness; that there is a law written in the heart, and that there are thoughts which accuse or else excuse one another. The state above the fall was a state of goodness; the state below the fall is a state of the knowledge of good and evil;—not the knowledge of evil only, but the knowledge of good also; and yet in this consisteth the wickedness of it, that there should be the knowledge of evil at all, and the obedience of it at all. It is this warfare in itself, it is this incompleteness in itself, (which is, I may say, the great fact of human existence, denied by none except a few Stoics, who form the small exception that confirms the rule;)—it is this incompleteness, whether you look to the body or to the mind pain and death, in the former; error, prejudice, ignorance, and dark uncertainty beyond the grave, in the latter;—this knowledge of good and evil, and prevalence of the evil over the good, which is felt by sage and by savage by prince and by peasant alike; for all suffer, and all die, and all by nature are in trouble, and dark uncertainty; this is the very condition of conscious existence unto which the creature must be brought, in order that the creature may know itself not to be God. For set the greatest atheist before me, and I will pose him with a single question: Whence hadst thou thy manifold thoughts, purposes, sufferings, and enjoyments? Is it not from life? Yea, from life, he must answer; for the dead have them not. Shew whence hast thou life? Not from thyself, else thou couldst keep it; but keep it thou canst not. Not from other men, for they are in the like plight. Then thou hast it from One unseen, who can only be known by this, that He hath life in Himself; that He can lay it down, and take it up again, and give it even eternally unto whom it pleaseth Him; and thus death is the great demonstration unto the creature of a God, besides and over the creature: and resurrection from death, and power to overcome death, and to communicate a life which is eternal, is the great demonstration that He who doth it is not a creature, but is God. The creatures, therefore, were brought into the condition of death, that they might be negatived, might know themselves not to be God; might know that He, who should be above and over this condition of death, is the very God. So that I may take a step here in advance, and say, that in no other way than by coming under the power of death, and overcoming death, when under its power, could the eternal Son of God, when He came, have been known to be the very God. And this I believe to be the reason why Christ and the resurrection were preached together: Christ, to shew that He was the Messiah, or the Seed of the woman, so long promised; the resurrection, to shew that He was God. Wherefore also Paul maketh express declaration, (Rom. 1.4) “That he was determined to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Wherefore also Peter declareth, that God by the resurrection hath proved Him to be “both Lord and Christ.”
2. The end, therefore, of the fall of creation under death, being no other than to separate and distinguish the creature from the Creator, and to put a negative upon every creature’s pretension to be God, that the solitary creature who should overcome death might be known to be God, we may well conceive how important an end in the great scheme and purpose of God it is to keep the distinction for ever clear. And let us now follow onward to the redemption, and see how it is provided for in this third stage of the creature. This brings us to consider the Son of God, the great Head of redemption, who appeared as a man in all respects; a man indeed anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure, but still a very man, and a fallen man also in all the attributes of a fallen man, except that He never sinned; who also was cut off by death, thereby proving Himself to have taken the form of the fallen creature; but before going into death, continually declaring, that He would rise again, and overcome death, and never see corruption; which accordingly having accomplished, He proveth himself to be not a creature, but the Creator of the creatures, who, though in human form, was not subject unto humanity’s laws: and at the same time He proveth, that the creature substance which He had taken is not of the Godhead apart, but with the Godhead united, and thence deriving everlasting life. Be it moreover observed, that in the like manner He dealeth with all the redeemed, propagating in them their eternal life, before they die, according to His own word, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Every believer hath now, and doth not wait for, everlasting life. But to the end that he may know that this eternal life is not inherent in the creature itself, or in any powers which it possesseth, it is so ordered, that it should exist in the creature, while in a dying state, and not prevent the creature from dying, but permit the dissolution of body and soul, which is death; to the end, that every creature who is redeemed might know of a surety, that not from itself, but from a Power without itself, it hath this present regeneration unto eternal life, and is to have the future resurrection to the same. Now, at this point of the subject it is, that a new distinction is revealed to us, which is the distinction between the Father of this new life, or the Second Adam, and the children. To shew out this distinctness between Christ, the Head of the redemption, and the redeemed ones, is a first and primary object of the redemption which now cometh into view, and which is procured by that very thing, that while we are dead in trespasses and sins, Christ reneweth us unto God, and sustaineth us in this renewed estate, not only without the help, but in despite of all the powers of sin and death weighing down the creature. If this second distinction be lost, an evil is sustained of hardly less amount than by the loss of the distinctness between the creature and the Creator, For the whole power, and strength, and love, and grace of God in Christ is lost, and Christ’s own Divine nature is lost, and the Divine nature of the Holy Ghost also, if we do not preserve Christ as a head of power and fountain of holiness. And of truth, the merit of Christ departs, the value of His life and death, as an atonement, is lost, everything escapes the vision and hold of the mind, if the man Jesus Christ, as a Father of redeemed ones, be not in some conspicuous way distinguished from the redeemed ones whom He begetteth. Which great distinction is secured, by His doing the thing for every one of us while we underlie the curse of sin and death. His life and death brought Him to our level, His resurrection, and His regenerating of us while under the curse of sin and death, proveth Him to be the procuring cause, the instrumental cause, the final cause; and, in “one word, the all in all of our redemption. And this is likewise the demonstration of His Divinity. Every act of communicating life unto a creature fallen, and held to death by God’s appointment, is an act as demonstrative of Godhead as is the resurrection itself. And hence, I may observe in passing, it cometh to pass, that even under the kingdom, men will be subject unto death, because otherwise they could not know and experience the headship of Christ. And, therefore, the last enemy that is to be destroyed is death; and so it cometh to pass, that death is God’s great means of giving dignity and demonstration of Divinity unto the Prince of Life.
The redemption, therefore, doth introduce us to a new distinction, the distinction between the fallen creature redeemed, and its Divine redemption-head; which distinction forms the basis of all our obligations unto Christ, and constitutes the inferiority and dependence of the redeemed creation upon Christ its Head. So that, while He is a creature. He is yet above the creatures; while He is Head unto the Church, He is yet above the Church; linking the whole creation unto Himself in firmest bond by His human nature, and by His Divine connecting it with the Godhead,—truly Mediator between the invisible Godhead and the visible creature, the way unto the Father, and the Father’s way unto us! Now, to give this distinctness is another great end of the fall of the creatures. For being by their fall taught their wickedness and their weakness, they were thereby prepared to receive and acknowledge righteousness and strength in Him who should recover and restore them. But for the fall, the eternal Son of God could not have been known by the creatures, in any of His offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King; in any of His names, as Jesus, Christ, and Lord. So that the fall is as essential for giving the God-man His dignity over and above the creatures, as it is for teaching the creature its distinctness from the invisible and incomprehensible Godhead.
3. Thus then have we established two great distinctions, and three great distinct substances. First, The invisible, infinite, absolute Godhead; secondly, The manifest Godhead in the Son of man; and, thirdly, The redeemed creatures. And now I have to add a fourth, which is. The unredeemed creation, or the reprobate part of the creatures. The whole creation hath fallen, excepting only a part of the angelic form of being who are elect in Christ, and intended, in the Divine purpose, to shew the mighty power of the Christhead of creation, which should stretch its arms of salvation both ways, and sustain the infirmity of the creature in all its forms. The elect angels, no doubt, looked forward to Him that was to come, and stood in that hope; they were His witnesses in the spiritual region of creation; they are His trophy, won from that domain wherein sin was first conceived, because that domain was first in being. Besides these, the rest of creation hath all fallen; and out of that fall, God hath from the beginning been signifying His purpose to take, by redemption, a part, and only a part. Therefore He separated the clean and the unclean of animals, and required the clean to be presented in sacrifice, in order to signify that the elected part should be made a sacrifice of, as was first shewn in Christ, and now is shewing in the Church. Then, from amongst the families of the earth, He chose one to bless above the rest, with His covenant; and now, from all the Gentiles, He is taking whom it pleaseth Him to take. The end of this mystery of electing only a part, is to shew forth God’s sovereignty, and God’s right over the creatures; to establish the immutable distinction between God and the creature still more effectually, and above all to mark out, for ever, the nature of guilt, the nature of sin. If the scheme of God had ended in the redemption of all the creatures, then it would have seemed but a great scheme for manifesting His own power and being, as the Three-one God; for distinguishing Himself from the creature, and securing to Himself the worship of the creature, and unto the creature its own blessedness: but God being a holy God, the nature of holiness itself, the nature of sin, and the nature of atonement and satisfaction, the nature of priesthood, which is an essential part of Christ, as the Head of the creatures, would have been for ever lost; for if sin, after any curve of aberration, or cycle of change, is able to arrive at the same point with holiness, then, at that point, the difference between sin and holiness ceaseth for ever. It turns out that there is no essential and eternal difference between the obedience and the disobedience of God, but only a temporary and expedient one; and it further follows, that the creatures have only been in the hand of God like the men upon a chessboard, to perform a certain great exploit of purpose and forecast. I have no hesitation in saying, moreover, that this scheme of saving all at the last, doth destroy the very existence of a will altogether; and a will is the substance of a spirit, of an intelligent being: reason, without a will, is like a visible world without a sensible creature to possess it. The will is before reason, as the sense is before the sensible world. Now, if the fallen will should not manifest for ever its unchangeableness in itself, the demonstration would be wanting of what a will is, which would seem to be nothing else than a material substance which changed and changed again for ever. All this, and much more, I can see would flow from the universal redemption of all the fallen creatures. Reprobation, eternal reprobation of a part, is the very ground upon which the nature of sin resteth, without which sin is but a change, ordained of God, whereof the creature must be patient; a circumstance of creation, which we must be content for a while to stand under, but which will soon betake itself away. The very possibility of understanding the true difference between obedience and disobedience, throughout eternity, would be destroyed; government under Christ would be, what government under Christ’s lieutenants on the earth hath at length become, on principles of expediency alone administered; a frightful materialism would invert all things and God would be the world, and the world would be God.
Besides this, it were to lose the whole end of God’s scheme in bringing His purpose to pass, by a creation, and a fall, and a redemption, instead of bringing it to pass by one single act, were a part of the creature not left for ever in an unredeemed state. For, as hath been so often said, the great end of the scheme is to separate between the creature and the Creator, and, in bringing it up again from its fall, so to bring it up as that, while it stood infallibly, by standing in Christ, the Head, it should yet know itself not to be God, by knowing itself not to be its head, and by knowing even its Head not to be the infinite and invisible God, but only such a manifestation of Him as the creatures are competent to apprehend. If now, as the Universalists falsely assert, there should be no reprobation of the creatures, there would be no evidence of what creation is when standing out of God. Redemption would have no glory above creation, because creation hath no apparent inferiority beneath redemption. And as I believe that redemption and its glories, above creation and its infirmities, is the very principle with which God will go forth to people the sphere sin numerable with which we are surrounded, I do hold it to be a most essential point, that the glories of redemption should be seen reflected from the dark background of a reprobate creation, existing under the conditions of the second death. For, if there be one principle which, from the beginning of the world until now, hath been declared at sundry times, and in divers manners, this is the principle, that the chosen and elected part is chosen of free grace, chiefly for the end of shewing forth the wickedness of the part not elected. In one word, without reprobation of the fallen creatures, helpless and irremediable, free grace is no better than an empty name. Grace is favour where no right remained, where no far-distant possibility of reparation existed, where no law nor scheme of God comprehended restoration, and where restoration could not otherwise than by grace come to pass.
4. Seeing, therefore, it is essential for every good and holy purpose of the Creator, that a part of the creation should be left in its fallen state, or rather brought up again by a resurrection, and be constituted in the estate of the second death which is not annihilation, and which is not life, but the second death, in which the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, the question next occurs, by what means, and by what mighty workmanship, is the redemption of the part to be redeemed accomplished? This is taught us in the redemption of the body of Christ, concerning which we have already discoursed. The fallen woman’s substance was, by the Holy Ghost, sanctified, and preserved holy, against all the powers of hell and death. The human will of Christ was, by the power of the Holy Ghost, preserved perfectly concentric with the divine and absolute will of the Godhead, so that the latter found the former always a vehicle for expressing itself intelligibly to the creatures: yet did the human will of Christ know temptation of the flesh, as we see by His temptation, when He said, “Not my will, but thine be done;” that is to say, the flesh which beareth our will to a side, away from its centre, and maketh it sinful, which is a will in bondage, was not able to carry Christ’s will away, though nature shook, and shrunk, and quivered again, under the mighty power which held it unswerving from its rectitude. Ah that word, “My will,” toucheth me to the heart, shewing me that Christ called human nature by the name I!—and that His human nature would have swerved Him from His centre, but for the Holy Ghost, which abode in Him. Now, one who will receive this,—and they are not many, for the time is come when they shall not receive sound doctrine;—one who will receive this, I say, can understand how the distinction is made, whereof I now discourse, between the redeemed and the unredeemed creature. The ground of that distinction is not in the creature, but in the Creator: it is the will of God to save whom it pleaseth Him to save. This act of the Divine will being absolute, and not revealed, is properly reserved with the Father, who representeth and retaineth the absolute attributes of the Godhead; and thus without the doctrine of election, you have, I may say, no absolute God, but only a revealed and manifested God, and you can, therefore, have no worship of the invisible Godhead. I mention this, however, only by the way, because it doth not properly belong to the head of distinctions, but to the head of unions, which will come hereafter to be discoursed of. The ground, therefore, of the distinction between the redeemed and unredeemed of creation is in the absolute will of God ; and the origin of it in the manifestation, is the eternal Son taking unto Himself a body,—which body is the beginning and the ending, the first and the last of the redeemed creation. Therefore, all redemption, which in the purpose dependeth from the goodness of the Father, doth in the manifestation depend from the humiliation of Christ. It was an act of His own self-existent personality to contract that infinite circle of His being, in the bosom of His Father, and to make all its acting pass through that concentric and limited circle of the human being which He assumed. And forth is act never to be unacted; for what God doth, He doeth for ever; the Father bestowed upon His human nature the power of the Holy Ghost, or, I should say, the Holy Ghost, in His independent personality, did condescend to inform that human nature, and never to act towards the creatures save in it and through it; so that the great operative cause in the redemption of the creature is the Holy Spirit taking the possession of it, and sanctifying or separating it from the wicked mass. Now, with respect to the manner in which this is effected, it is by taking it out from the waste, digging it out from the miry clay, drawing it up from the fearful pit of this our fallen nature; and by might of Divine influence, resisting the force of corrupt nature upon the will or spirit of man, which hath made it move contrary to the will of God, unto which will the Holy Spirit constraineth it to return back and be agreeable. It is not that there are two wills, or spirits, in the renewed man; but that his will is, upon the one hand, acted on by the powers of a fallen creation, and on the other by a power of the Holy Spirit acting under the risen God-man. And the effect of the Holy Spirit is, to unite the fallen creature unto, and make it one with, the body of Christ: so that the end of redemption is the gathering out for salvation of the fixed quantity of the creation’s substance, and joining it to Christ’s body; and when this is completed, the dispensation of election is completed, and the Son of God, who heretofore appeared one substance in one person, shall hereafter shew His glorious human substance in many persons; that is, in all the elect Church, which shall come with Him in the power and glory of His kingdom. But for Himself, He alone partaking of the Divine nature, shall stand alone and eminent above them all, the manifest Godhead for ever. From which era, of the accomplishment of the elect, and the bringing in of the kingdom, shall begin the work of government, wherein the manhood shall manifest itself victorious over that with which it warred against; that is, flesh and blood, and sin, and Satan, and death;—not now in the Christ personal and individual merely, but in the Christ plural; that is, in the whole redeemed Church. But further into this we may not enter at present. And for the creatures which are left unredeemed; all these, being raised up at the end of the kingdom in that form which is proper to endure the second death, and with them the fallen angels, shall—in punishment of that resistance which they made unto the truth, and of that preference which they gave to sin over righteousness and for their denial of the law of God, written in their hearts by Christ their Creator; and for the distinguishing of holiness from goodness, and of sin from weakness; and in general for the eternal distinctions of obedience and disobedience, of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong, and in order to lay the basis of government for ever be cast into the lake that burneth, which is the second death. And thus we have these four distinct things in existence: First, the invisible Godhead, which is never changed; secondly, the manifest Godhead, in the creature form of the God-man; thirdly, the redeemed creatures, standing in the human nature of Christ, and parts of that one substance; fourthly, the unredeemed forms of the wicked creation in the state called the lake that burneth, or the second death.
5. Now, the distinctness of these four existences must be kept for ever and for ever. The invisible essence of the Godhead must be kept distinct, that the Creator may not be confounded with the visible creature, but receive its homage, and worship, and service for ever. Secondly, the great Head of creation, which is the Christ, must be kept distinct from the redeemed creatures, in order that He may be the representative, the brightness of the glory, and the express image of the invisible God, and, in this dignity, maintain for ever the order and subordination of the redeemed creatures, ever looking up to Him as the face of God, and ever listening to Him as the Word of God, and ever honouring Him and revering Him as the way for the creature to approach unto God, and the way for God to come unto the creature. Thirdly, The redeemed creation, or body of Christ inhabited by the Spirit, must ever be kept distinct from the reprobate creatures lying in the penalty of the second death, in order that the eternal distinction between holiness and unholiness, between blessedness and misery, between God and sin, may be for ever established in the sight and knowledge of all creatures, which are yet to be created of God during the ages of eternity. Now, eternal distinctions, which enter into the purpose of God, must have an eternal basis to rest upon. These three eternal and unchangeable distinctions must have an eternal ground in the being of God himself; and this ground is, the personalities of the Godhead. If God is one personality, then there never can be a creation out of God. God and the creature will be for ever confounded and worshipped, and service of the Godhead is for ever lost. This is Unitarianism. Again, if there be but two personalities in the Godhead, then creation might, indeed, be separated from God under the Son; but it would be as a procession or emanation from God, and having in it of the essential being of God, which is the philosophy and religion of the Persian sophists, the Brahmins, and others of the East. But by three personalities in the essence existing, we can, as hath been set forth above, bring out the grand problem of a creation standing under God, worshipping God, and serving God, separate and distinct from itself; which I take to be the great end of the purpose of God, and the great problem which was to be resolved; and this is the reason why the doctrine of the Trinity ought ever to be held as the great fountainhead of all doctrine whatever, which flows from it like the crystalline streams from the secret recesses of the pure mountain snow. And however much men, and orthodox men, may cavil with us, who would thus seek the stream of life in its fountainhead,—which I confess is a perilous and dangerous undertaking, not by every head to be attempted, yet when Satan hath found his way thither, and poisoned the streams of all the valleys,—it is most needful, and cannot be dispensed with, that some of those who dwell in the fertilised, but now poisoned, valleys, should straightway, for the sake of all the families, their flocks and their herds, venture forth, though it were alone, in order to clear out the poisoned fountainheads. Or, to make my figure more exact, if a company of wicked, diabolical people should take post there, for the very end of diffusing poison by the necessary aliment of life, it is most necessary that the dales-men and the inhabitants of the plain should keep a host of valiant men, strong of body and true of heart, ever encamped in the cold and rocky upland, to dislodge these murderers and destroyers from their evil haunts and wicked purposes. For, to drop all figure, I do maintain that all doctrine whatsoever, concerning intercession, atonement, and mediation; concerning the creation, the fall, and regeneration; is truly, and verily, an indefensible doctrine, save by the presupposition of the doctrine of the Trinity, which, in all systems of sound faith, is advanced into the first and highest place. Now, the doctrine of the Trinity hath its practical form, only in the maintenance of these three great distinctions, whereof I have discoursed above:—(1) The essence existing in the Godhead standing under the Father; (2) the Head Christ, being the Godhead manifested in the person of the Son; (3) the redeemed creatures, being the subsistence of the Holy Ghost proceeding through the humanity of the Son; and these three subsistencies are preserved distinct, no otherwise than by the distinctness of the personalities of the Godhead, while, by the unity of the substance of the Godhead, they are united in relations manifold, which I shall open in the next head: and the whole redeemed creature, thus recapitulated into Christ, and standing in everlasting blessedness, being only a part, and not the whole of the creature created, doth stand distinguished from mere creature, which remaineth in the condition of the second death, concerning which condition I can say no more; and I think no more is revealed than this, that it is also eternal and unchangeable.
And here I conclude these heads and hints of deep discourse; to the all-important doctrine of which I have nothing to add, except to open, in another head, the unions in three distinctions; and I pray you to look upon the incarnation as chiefly valuable, or I should rather say invaluable, not for the sake of atonement, which is a mere part of its infinite fruitfulness, but for the sake of manifesting the existence of the Godhead, as outward from the creature, and never to be mingled with it, and the subsistence of the Godhead in three persons, under whose separate personality the great distinctions necessary to worship, to redemption, and to subjection, together with the union in those distinctions, might be clearly and for ever fixed. I have opened to you a great mystery: see ye receive it, and enter into it, and be no more children tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and cunning slight of men, which lie in wait to deceive, but, being rooted in truth and in love, may grow up into Him which is the Head, God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.
II. We have shewn out under the two preceding heads, the three personalities in the Godhead, and the three great distinctions preserved thereby, for ever and ever in creation namely, first, the distinction between the invisible Creator and the visible creature; secondly, between the redeemed and the unredeemed parts of the creatures; and thirdly, between the redeemed creature and Christ its Head. We have shewn, also, that these distinctions come to pass and are maintained through the three separate personalities in the Godhead; the invisible and infinite Godhead, standing under the personality of the Father; the visible and manifest Godhead standing under the person of the Son: the redeemed creatures consisting in, and standing under, the person of the Holy Ghost, which three ever distinct and never to be confounded personalities, of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, keeping distinctness between these three existencies, does leave a fourth, or the creature in its fallen state, or rather in the state of the second death, remaining as the great monument of what the creature is, when separated from the Godhead, and not stand- ing under the personalities thereof. And we come now to open another head of conclusions, without which the mystery is not explained; namely, the essential unions which coexist with these distinctions: for the end of creation is not attained, merely by separating the creature from the Creator, but by the securing of its worship and service, in that estate of separateness; and we are now to shew how this constitution in Christ doth attain this the ultimate end of creation, by securing the most certain and complete obedience and worship from the creature towards the Creator; together with the continual descent of blessing and goodness from the Creator unto the creature. And here we shall begin at the fountainhead of being, which is the invisible Godhead, and descend downwards unto the manifested Godhead, and down again to the Godhead inhabiting the redeemed creature, till we arrive at the waste ocean of the unredeemed creatures.
1. Concerning the Godhead in its unrevealed and incomprehensible being, we can only speak from the knowledge which we have from the Godhead manifested in Christ. Christ always referreth back to the invisible Father, and presents the great end and object of His coming to the world, as being to manifest the Father, whom no one at any time hath seen, or can see. Whenever the people were disposed to rest in Christ as the ultimate end of power and Divinity, He always referred them to a higher source than Himself, saying, “Ye cannot come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw you. My Father is greater than I.” And what He did by words, when needs was,—which, alas! occurred too seldom, because they were little disposed to rest in His manifest Godhead,—He did also continually by His acts, praying unto the Father for His help; and even when, as in the case of Lazarus, He was sure of that help, doing so that the people might observe it. Christ’s whole life is an act of obedience and of worship, offered unto the invisible Godhead, and yet was Christ the fulness of the Godhead in a bodily form. To the same end of carrying up the creatures beyond Himself, into the invisible and incomprehensible Godhead, Christ continually declared, that He did not His own will, but the will of the Father which sent Him; that He spoke not of Himself the words which He spake, and that His Father did the works which He did. Was it then, that the incomprehensible Godhead of the Father was dwelling in the body of Jesus Christ, who said, he hath seen me, hath seen the Father? No: the Holy Ghost dwelt in the body of Jesus Christ; and, insomuch as the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father, and is one substance with the Father, and speaketh and acteth only as He heareth the Father speak and seeth Him act, insomuch doth the Father dwell in the man Christ Jesus. But this is not the mystery of the Father’s Godhead, to which Christ maketh such continual reference. The mystery of the Father’s Godhead, which Christ came forth to manifest, is this. That in the Father, who is the fountain of the Godhead, generating the Son, and through and with Him the Holy Ghost, is hid and contained that incommunicable and inexhaustible fulness which no creature can receive or apprehend; but which every creature must worship and adore. The Father, of whom Christ speaketh so constantly, is not any manifestation of God, but God unmanifested; and therefore He is so often styled God. The Godhead, purposing to communicate unto the creatures so much of the goodness and glory of His being as the creatures could receive, did accomplish this gracious end by the incarnation of the Son, and the inhabitation of the Holy Ghost, whose necessary limitation of being, for this end, made it necessary that the infinite Godhead should stand presented under the unrevealed person of the Father. It could not stand under the person of the Son, who, in becoming manifest, becomes limited and comprehensible, and therefore not fit to represent the unlimited and incomprehensible. Neither could the infinite Godhead stand under the person of the Holy Ghost, for the same reason; and, consequently, to the end there might be an Infinite and Incomprehensible to be worshipped through the finite and comprehensible, it standeth under the person of the Father, in whom the infinite Godhead of the Son and the infinite Godhead of the Holy Ghost is worshipped, as well as the infinite Godhead of the Father but all standing under the person of the Father, because of the offices in the visible, which the Son and the Holy Ghost had undertaken, for bringing into effect the Christ constitution, or eternal purpose of God.
Now, the question is, how the communication of the visible creature, with the invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible Creator, shall be carried on: how the interchange of grace and goodness, yea, of life and being, on the one hand; and on the other, thanksgiving, and praise, and service, and worship, shall surely take place? This is accomplished by the procession of the Son from the bosom of the Father, to take a creature form, through which to speak and act the purposes of God. To do which the Son is the proper Person, not only as being of one substance with the Father, which the Holy Ghost also is; but likewise, as being the inhabiter of the Father’s bosom, from all eternity, His only-begotten Son, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person. The ground of His propriety to be Head of the creatures is, that He is nearest unto the Father, in the necessary order of the Divine nature, being by necessary generation, from all eternity, the expression of the Father’s fulness; and therefore it is said of the Son, what is not said of the Holy Ghost, “No one knoweth the Father but the Son and he to whom the Son shall reveal him.” But of the Holy Ghost it is said, “He shall take of the things of mine, and will shew them unto you.” The things of the Holy Ghost are first things of the Son. The Father, therefore, who in the necessary act of generation hath poured His fulness into the Son, doth, by a natural consequence, when the time Cometh to create all things, perform this act of the Godhead by the Son, into whom all fulness of the Godhead is poured; and when the time comes, to manifest unto the creatures whatever of the Godhead the creatures shall or can behold, the same congruity, or I may say necessity, requireth it to be done through the Person of the Son; and thus creation, in the perfected form of redemption, cometh to be a simple opening of the mystery of the Father and of the Son, so far as the creatures are able to receive it. And by what assurance, necessary and inviolable, the Son is observant of, affectionate to one with the Father, by that same assurance doth the redeei ed creatures, standing in the Son, become loving, reverent, aid obedient, unto the invisible Godhead ; so that I may say, that most perfect relation, most loving, most indissoluble, which from eternity, and through eternity, subsisteth between the Father and the Son, is propagated unto the creatures through their standing in the Son. They become not a part of the Godhead; but yet they are one with Christ, and with one another, as Christ is one with the Father; and there can never fail of worship, there can never fail of love, there can never fail of obedience, there can never fail of blessing in the redeemed creature towards God, unless these were to fail in the Son towards the Father. And in this way it is that the creature, under Christ, is ever preserved in its fealty, allegiance, ad subserviency unto the invisible Godhead, through its being headed up in, and bound unto Christ. And so much have I to say with respect to the connexion in distinction subsisting between the creature and the Creator, through the institution in Christ which will appear still; more distinctly when we come to consider, in the next place, the way in which the connexion between the Son and the redeemed creatures is maintained.
2. This ariseth out of the union of the two natures in Christ, which is not the union of two persons, as husband and wife, which by God are regarded as one; nor as parent and child, which by God, in baptism, are likewise regarded as one; but it is the union of two natures in one person, and that the person, the self-existing person, of the eternal and only- begotten Son of God. The personality of the Second Person of the Godhead is an eternal and necessary, not an apparent and temporary truth. The Son is a person because God is; and the same also say I of the personality of the Hoy Ghost. This personality of Christ acted in creation, as will as in redemption; but in creation it was not united unto the creature as it became united in redemption: and yet, even in creation, the Son, though invisible, and acting outside of the creature, did nevertheless act under the conditions of the finite, and not under the absoluteness of the infinite; that is to say, He presupposed unto Himself a form, though not yet created, but only purposed, in the Creator’s counsel; and his form, under which the world was created, was the form of the risen God-man, of the Lamb slain and living still, of the first begotten from the dead. Under the condition of the creature form, though not yet in the reality of it, did the infinite Godhead, in the person of the Son, contract and bound itself for the purposes of creation. He created, as Christ all things visible and invisible, as is set forth in the first chapter of the Colossians. But withal His own body was not yet created; created indeed in substance it was in the first act of creation, but in living form not yet quickened till the Holy Ghost came upon the virgin, and the power of the highest did overshadow her. But when the fulness of the time for this great act of the Father, by the Holy Ghost, was come, the time was come for the Son, or the Godhead in the person of the Son, to appear in that form which from eternity had been resolved upon, and from creation had been assigned, but till now was not effected, though shadowed forth from the beginning in the person of Adam, who is on this account, and on no other, said to have been created in the image of God. Now, by assuming into Himself the human nature, and becoming the Christ of God, the personality of the Son is still the same: it is the eternal, only-begotten Son of God, who speaketh, who heareth, who acteth, who suffereth, and yet the Divine nature is ever distinct, and never to be confounded with the human nature. So that it shall not be possible to say that the Divine nature suffereth any change, which is a great mystery, no doubt, but yet a great truth, both necessary to be known and to be believed. Nor do I think that it is safe to remain in ignorance of such a truth, and therefore I represent it unto you thus: That the words, and acts, and sufferings of Christ, are not to be called of the Divine nature only, nor of the human nature only, but of the person Christ, God-man; one person, though two natures.
And here I must, though reluctantly, disagree with the method in which many of the orthodox fathers, and reformers, and doctors, and ministers, are wont to speak, as if some actions of Christ were actions done in the Godhead only, and some others were actions done in the manhood only. And right glad am I that this, though current in the schools, and in sermons, hath not found its way into any of the standards of the Church for if this way of speaking were correct, it would lead necessarily to the making of two persons in Christ, or else of two ascendancies which in succession overrule His person, like the ascendancies of the flesh and the spirit in the person of a man,—which cannot be predicated of a Divine person, who overruleth, and hath the ascendant, and is not overruled or acted upon by an ascendancy. It is, moreover, a false idea concerning the Divine nature, to speak as if it could do a finite action, let that be ever so stupendous, even as creation itself, without assuming a finite form. It is, moreover, to subvert the whole purpose of the Creator, and confidence of the creature, to say that the personality of the Son may ever go into action separate from, or by suspension of, the human nature. If the human nature of Christ were thus ever, though only once, put sub silentio, it might be again and again, and for ever, and so the whole mystery of a manifest Godhead is defeated. I know from what this mode of speaking hath arisen, even from a desire to find in Christ’s life that evident manifestation of Godhead which Christ himself declareth that it contained not, when He said unto Peter, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” It is also a well meant attempt to preserve the Godhead of Christ impassive, by giving to it the acts of power, and to the manhood the acts of suffering. But really, though well-meant in this respect, it doth but save the flimsiest appearance: for in deed, and in truth, it is to the Godhead as disproportionate and unfit to suffer the pity and compassion of the mind which moveth to the healing of the sick, or the casting out of devils, as it is to suffer and abide the scourgings and buffetings of men; both being proper only to manhood, and not predicable of Godhead, except under a figure.
This mode of speaking, concerning the life of Christ, as being part all Godhead and part all manhood, is not only attended with these evil effects, but hath this moreover to answer for, that, first of all, it doth defeat the manifestation of the Holy Ghost in His manhood, which I affirm hath been almost forgotten to be a work of the Holy Ghost at all; and from this is chiefly derived that aimlessness, fancifulness, idleness, and unprofitableness with which men speak of the Holy Ghost altogether. And besides this, it hath destroyed Christ’s life from being the great type, both as respecteth suffering, and as respecteth power, of what every Christian’s life, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, ought to be: for I believe, that we cast not devils out, and heal not the sick, and do not the other parts of Christ’s life, simply and truly because we have not faith, and are responsible unto Christ’s challenge and rebuke, with which He chid His disciples when they fell short of their privilege to cast devils out, saying unto them, “O ye faithless generation, how long shall I bear with you?” All these evils, I say, come of this false way of representing the activity of the two natures of Christ; and therefore it is not, as it were, a matter of ingenious speculation, but grave reformation of error, when I undertake a little to lay open the distinctness of the nature of Christ in the unity of person, and that in every word, action, and suffering of the same.
As I said, the person acting and suffering is the eternal and unchangeable Second Person of the Godhead. He is the I who was in the bosom of the Father from all eternity; and in every action He is conscious God. When He saith, “I will,” it is the Godhead that willeth. From the infinite Godhead, therefore, is the origin of every volition and action of Christ. The fountain is there, in the infinite. And how proceedeth it into the finite? It proceedeth into the finite by an act of self-humiliation and self-restriction, which is the peculiar, proper, and boundless condescension of the Son in His own self-existent personality. But no eye beholdeth it, no finite mind comprehendeth it, no word can utter it; the greatness of this grace of self-humiliation on the part of the Son is known unto the Father only, whose bosom alone contained that fulness which is contracted into manhood’s narrow limits. This Divine act of self-contraction is the Godhead part of every act of Christ. It is the continuance, it is the abiding and the eternal perpetuity of that one resolve which is written in the book, “Lo! I come; a body hast thou prepared for me.” This is the nature of God; what He doth, to do for ever; He doth not exist in time. Time measureth Him not as space comprehendeth Him not. That purpose of the Son, to humble Himself into manhood, did not cast His Godhead away. He did not become, in person, a mere man. He continued to be in person the same Son of God, after as before He made this dedication of Himself unto His Father’s glory, and unto the creature’s good. He is God still, but God thus self-determined to act and suffer the man. He cannot cease to be Son of God, nor can He cease from His own willingness to become Son of man; and thus He is always to be by these words defined. Son of God willing to become Son of man. The Divine nature, therefore, ever acts, and it ever finishes with acting, when the Son of man begins to act. It is the Son of man, whose action is seen, felt, reported, discoursed of, imitated, and delighted in by the creatures. The Son of man only suffers, and the Son of man only acts with power. His actions, and His words, are like His countenance, such as man’s are; such as every man’s, who is full of the Holy Ghost, ought to be; and such, I believe, as mankind’s will be, in the days of the kingdom. But, while thus I speak, I put no man into the level of Christ; for that action of His self-contracting power, which belongeth to Him as a Divine and self-existent person, which is the action, and the only action, of the Godhead, and yet is present in all His actings, and yet not mingled with the human parts and appurtenances of them, is that to which no man may aspire. Because the sage hath, by his self-contracting power, brought himself to speak and act with the children of the nursery, the sage is not therefore to be equalled with the child, nor is the child to presume himself a sage. Yet is the sage, though apparently but a child, a sage still ; and by far the noblest part of his action is hidden in that previous self-contraction of his powers whereof the children have no consciousness at all.
When thus explained in the way in which alone I believe it is capable of being explained, how small a matter doth that seem upon which so much stress is laid by the ignorant, who will allow Christ readily enough to descend to the unfallen, but not to the fallen state of the creature; for the merit and the greatness of the act consisteth not so much in the nature of that finite form which He assumed, but in the assumption of a finite form; whether that finite form should be of the angel, or of the archangel, or of the man, hath little to do, or rather nothing to do, with the stupendous magnitude of the love, and condescension, and humiliation. It is not the bounds of the finite being, but it is the becoming finite in which the merit consisteth; and it betrayeth a degree of ignorance unpardonable in the Christian, to make a hesitation, after consenting to His becoming man, that He should become man in the fallen state. If, indeed, it brought Him into sin, then the whole face of the question were altered. But if it bring Him only into the controversy with sin, that He may overcome sin; and with the devil, that He may bruise the devil’s head; with fallen man, that He may redeem him; then, while it is everything to us that it should be so, indeed it is an exceedingly small addition, I may say nothing at all, to Him that, after taking the infinite descent of being a creature. He should step a hair’s-breadth further, and take up the creature in its fallen state. I make this remark, not to go back upon a thing which I have proved, nor yet to doubt the validity of the proof, but only to shew how little those who stumble here apprehend of the infinite grace which there is in the eternal Son of God taking up into the same personality with Himself the nature of the creature, and consenting, through the finite powers of the same, to shew forth unto the creatures what the creatures can comprehend, on all sides, of the infinite being and perfections of the invisible Godhead.
3. Another of the eternal distinctions which we laid down in our former head of discourse, is the distinction between the redeemed creatures inhabited by the Holy Ghost, and their head standing in the person of the Son. And I now proceed to shew how the union is maintained in this distinction; for union in distinctness is the key of the whole mystery. The redeemed creatures are only members of the body of Christ. They live, not by holding of Adam, by which tenure they inherit death; but they live by holding of Christ, in whom the life was manifested, and from whom the life proceedeth. The Holy Ghost is the eternal indwelling life of the creature; and no creature hath eternal life but through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Now, it is Christ’s to baptise with the Holy Ghost: “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:” and to shew us that it is from the body of Christ, even His human nature, that this baptism with eternal life proceedeth, we have His body presented unto us as our only nourishment, in the Holy Supper;—just as, in natural life, the child sucketh milk from the breast of her that bare him, and liveth upon her body. Seeing, then, that all life, eternal and immortal, proceedeth from, and feedeth on, the body of Christ, we speak nothing but the truth when we say that all the redeemed creatures are but parts of His human substance, consubstantial with Him as pertaineth to His manhood, as He is consubstantial with the Father as pertaineth to His Godhead. Now, no union is so close as this between the manhood of Christ and the redeemed creature. Husband and wife, who heretofore were one, are now become twain, separated ofttimes by every interest, and every passion, though by the Church, and by the law, and before the Lord, as one regarded. The members of the body also are not so placed in union with each other, but that it is in the power of every disease and of every accident to part them asunder. Nor is the soul so fast confederate with the body, but that death can separate them more widely than imagination can conceive. But this union, which Christ to the believer holdeth, hath in it that strength and faithfulness, which neither time, nor eternity, nor sin, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, can part asunder. And though I speak of this as union with His human nature only, it is not less union to the Person of the eternal Son, which now includeth and embraceth the human nature, with the same assurance and possession with which it embraceth the nature Divine. But, while thus I speak, I would not be understood to mean that Christ’s person, because it embraceth the human nature, doth also embrace His people. This were to make the union to swallow up and destroy the distinction: and it were, moreover, to confuse the personality of the Holy Ghost with the personality of the Son. Christ, in His Person, as much transcendeth the person of any of His members, as God transcendeth man; and each of His members, by how much they feel the closeness of their union unto Christ, by His humanity, with the inseparable security derived thence, do by so much also honour that condescension of His, that love of His, that undertaking of His, whereby He did purchase them, and redeem them from their bondage and misery, from their state of being sold under sin, into the glorious and blessed standing of grace which they now enjoy. All their delight, all their power, goes to His account, from whom it flowed of free grace unto them, and thus, between the redeemed creatures, and Christ their Head, there is established a relation of union, which by its union produceth all love, joy, and blessedness; while there is preserved a relation of distinctness, which bringeth unto Him all royal and priestly dignity, all Divine majesty and monarchical power, all right of possession, all right of command, and worketh in us all deference, respect, dependence, security, protection, and every other feeling which is proper in a creature towards its Creator, who, for love of it, hath condescended to live and move, and have His being in a creature form.
While I thus draw out the union in distinction, which is established between the redeemed creatures and their Divine Head, it is necessary to divide this from the worship of the invisible Godhead, which it is the very end of Christ’s manifestation to promote. Christ, or the Son manifesting the Godhead in creature form, hath all that love, hath all that reverence and homage, whereof I have discoursed; while at the same time the invisible Godhead, standing in the Person of the Father, as the visible doth in the Person of the Son, hath from the creatures that which is truly and really called worship. I do not mean that the Father only is worshipped; but that the Godhead in the invisible and unrevealed essence of it, and not the Godhead in the visible and creature form, is the proper object of what is truly called worship.
4. The third union in distinction is the union of the members of Christ with the human nature of Christ, and with one another through the Holy Ghost; whereof the perfectness cannot be expressed by any similitude. That employed in Scripture is, being one with Christ, and with one another, as Christ is one with the Father;—a union this which nothing can part; “neither life nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature.” All other unions can be separated. The union between the vine and its branches can be separated by the knife of the husbandman. The union between the members and the body can be separated by diseases and accidents manifold, and by death is utterly dissolved: the union between husband and wife, wickedness doth dissolve; and death dissolveth the union between the soul and the body; but the union which we have with Christ, through the Holy Ghost, is eternal life which nothing can ever dissolve, “Because He lives, we live also:” because He hath overcome all the powers of dissolution, we shall overcome them also. And not only doth Christ’s life in glory, and his Divine gift of quickening immortal life, secure to us this continual and uninterrupted fellowship with Himself; but it bringeth into one those who had been parted upon the earth by time and place, gathering them into one church, into one body, into one spouse, into one city, out of all kindreds and nations and tongues, against the day of His appearing, recalling the body from its dust-dissolved state, and joining it in immortal glory unto the soul, in a union never again to be divided, joining also the saints unto the inheritance and possession from which they had been separated by the interposition of Satan;—all broken families of the faithful reuniting, all interrupted loves and friendships of the faithful harmoniously reconciling, and bringing to pass such fellowship and unity of love as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived. And how is all this procured ? It is procured by the Holy Spirit, which is one, and which, proceeding from the body of Christ, doth gather into one all the election of God; who, thenceforth, grow into the same image with Christ, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of God. But how should the Holy Spirit be able to quicken in us, who are dead in trespasses and sins, that same life of godliness and image of perfection which was in Jesus Christ.? Because, I answer, this is the very end of His proceeding from Christ, unto whom all power is given, in order to beget sons unto God; and not only to beget sons unto God, but likewise sons of God, according as it is written, “Behold! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; . . , and when He who is our life shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory.” The Holy Ghost cometh not with some indescribable influence to work some formless effect; but He doth come unto us for that same end for which He came unto the virgin, in order to beget sons of God within and out of our fallen substance. And in the resurrection we shall be manifested sons of God, with what glory Christ also was manifested, and we shall reign with what glory He reigneth. Like peers of a royal court, we shall ever have liberty of access unto our King. The Holy Spirit cometh to quicken, in the living soul of every elect one, a spirit whose power of conformation is to reveal in us Christ the hope of glory ; to constrain and to overcome the old man, with his corruptions and lusts; to renew us after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness; and to give us, as we have shewed above, a new subsistence, which is not the subsistence of Adamhood, but the subsistence of Christhood: for I say, that the renewed man is another and a higher form of creature than the created man, inasmuch as he possesseth in him, not the type, but the very child of Christ. For more truly therefore, brethren, than we are one in Adam, are we one in Christ: for the unity in Adam, stamped as it is on every feature of the body and of the mind, is ever contended against by the murderous power of Satan; but the union unto Christ, and the oneness of His people, is ever contended for by the Almighty Spirit of God. And according as Christ liveth in us, according as, by faith, we do incorporate the body of Christ with ourselves, according as we assimilate the Divine food of the Lord’s Supper unto that life which we have in baptism, we do verily increase in the stature, in the wisdom, in the power of Christ; and we do increase in love, union, and fellowship with one another, through the Holy Ghost. That food which we receive from heaven, that immortal food which we have in the Supper of the Lord, though it be flesh and blood, is not flesh and blood subsisting through the power of the living soul; natural life cannot quicken it; natural life cannot assimilate it. It is the flesh and blood of the spiritual life which the Holy Spirit did sustain in Christ, pure and spotless, and which the Holy Ghost in us doth assimilate for the nourishment of His life. For the Holy Spirit, though He hath life in Himself, hath laid aside the manifestation thereof; and hath consented to be manifested, as having life derived from Christ: even as Christ saith that the Father had given unto Him to have life in Himself. Therefore, brethren, words cannot express, nor similitudes shadow forth, the true union which there is between a believer and Christ his Head; between believers and one another. We live not up to our privileges, else would we know this. If we possessed that faith which feedeth on Christ, we would never be weak, we would never be weary, we would never be overcome, we would never be hidden from His presence. He would dwell in us, and His Father would dwell in us, and they together would make their abode with us. And whatever we should ask the Father in His name, believing, we should receive; and He would prove Himself a faithful High Priest, who could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. And if we realised that faith which maketh one with Christ, we would be blessed with the communion of saints, whereby our burdens would be borne, our sorrows shared, our strength imparted to the weak, and our weakness supplied from the strong; our poverty made up out of their plenty, and a Divine circulation of the living spirit of life would be felt unseen; in a degree it would also be seen, but far beyond the range of sight it would be felt amongst the members of Christ: to express whose love, neighbourhood availeth not, nor family availeth; for we must hate father and mother, and brother and sister, to be His disciple. No form of communion or fellowship in this world, lying in the wicked one, availeth to represent the communion of the saints and the unity of the holy catholic Church. The loaf which was presented at the table this morning, one lump, and not without form, to be broken into parts, representeth the oneness of the substance of Christ’s body, whereof all the redeemed are parts: the identity of these fragments of the loaf which we took into our hands, and eat with our mouths, the perfect identity of every crumb with the whole loaf, is our identity and oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ, and with one another. Into which, as ye grow by the bonds of holy charity, ye shall rejoice and increase, and live more abundantly to His praise, who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen.