« ÎnapoiContinuați »
much as to say, a thing is revealed, and get hid. I answer: The thing revealed is the truth of the doctrine ; so that the truth of it no longer remains hid, though many thing's concerning the manner may Yet many things concerning the nature of the things revealed may be clear, though many things concerning the nature of the same things may remain hid. God requires us to understand no more than is intelligibly revealed. That which is not distinctly revealed, we are not required distinctly to understand. It may be necessary for us to know a thing in part, and yet not necessary to know it perfectly.
15. The importance of all Christian doctrines whatsoever, will naturally be denied, in consequence of denying that one great doctrine of the necessity of Christ's satisfaction to Divine justice, and maintaining those doctrines that establish men's own righteousness, as that on which, and for which, they are accepted of God. For that great Christian doctrine of Christ's satisfaction, his vicarious sufferings and righteousness, by which he offered an infinite price to God for our pardon and acceptance to eternal favor and happiness, is what all evangelical doctrines, all doctrines beside the truths of natural religion, have relation to ; and they are of little importance, comparatively, any other way than as they have respect to that.
This is, as it were, the centre and hinge of all doctrines of pure revelation:
16. Indeed, the Papists, who are very far from having such a notion of that evangelical faith, which is the special condition of salvation in opposition to works, and have forsaken the evangelical notion of frue saving religion, yet, with fiery zeal, insist on the profession of a great number of doctrines, and several of the doctrines of pure revelation, as the Trinity, &c. But this in then flows not from any regard to their influence in internal saving religion, but from quite another view, i. e. to uphold their tyranny. These are the doctrines which have been handed down among them by their church from ancient tradition ; and, to maintain the credit of the infallibility, and divine authority and dominion, of their hierarchy, over men's faith, they must be zealous against n y that presume to deny
MYSTERIES OF SCRIPTURE.
Christ's doctrines, because they look upon it as an infringement on the high authority they claim. And some Protestants have a zeal for doctrines from likė views ; doctrines that indeed they have no great value for, in themselves considered.
17. That it is not alone sufficient to believe that one article, that a person of the name of Jesus came from God to reveal his will to man, without knowing or determining what he was, or concerning his nature and qualities, is evident from this, that it is often spoken of as necessary to know Christ. It is said, “ This is eternal life, to know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
18. There are two things especially that make modern fashionable divines look on doctrines of revealed religion of little importance. One is, their mistake about the conditions of salvation ; another is, their mistake about the nature of true virtue, placing it chiefly, and most essentially, in benevolence to men, and so little in respect to God and Christ. . If Christian virtue consists very much in a proper respect to Christ, then certainly it is of great importance to know what sort of person he is; at least, as to that particular wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists, which is surely his divinity, if he be a divine person. . Another thing on which a proper respect to him depends, is his relation to us, and our dependence upon him; which surely chiefly depends on his satisfaction and merits for us, if he has satisfied and merited
The reasons or grounds of the love and honor to Christ required of us, consist chiefly in two things : (1.) In what he is : And, (2.) In what he has done for us. Therefore, with regard to the latter, it concerns us greatly to know, at least as to the principal things, what they are. And if he has satisfied for our sins; if he has suffered in our stead ; if he has truly purchased eternal life and happiness for us ; if he has redeemed us from an extremely and perfectly sinful, miserable, helpless state, a state wherein we deserved no mercy, but eternal misery without mercy; then these are principal things.
Another reason why doctrines are thought to be of little importance, is a notion of sincerity wherein true virtue con
sists, as what may be prior to any means of it that God grants ; as if it was what every man had in his power, antecedently. to all means ; and so the means are looked upon as of liţtie im. portance. But the absurdity of this may be easily manifested. If it be independent of all means, then it may be independent of natural iníormation, or of the truths of the light of nature, as well as of revealed religion ; and men may sincerely regard and honor they know not what. The truths of natural religion, wherein Christians differ from the most igrorant, brutish, and deladed idolaters, the most savage and cruel of the heathen nations, may be of little importance. And the reason why they have this notion of sincerity antecedent to means, and so independent on means, is, that they have a notion that sincerity is independent on God, any otherwisc than as they depend on hin for their creation. They conceive it to be independent on his sovereign will and pleasure. If they were sensible that they depend on God to give it according to his pleasure, it would be easy and natural to acknowledge, that God gives it in his own way, and by his own means.
19. If any article of faith at all concerning Jesus Christ be of importance, it must be of importance to know or believe something concerning his person ; who he is, and what he was; what sort of a person or being he was. Anä if any thing concerning him be of importance to be known and believed, it must be something wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists : For nothing can be of importance to be known.or believed about him, but in order to some regard or respect of heart. But most certainly, if any thing of his excellency and dignity be of importance to be known or believed, it must be of importance at least to know so much about him, as to know whether he be God or a mere creature ; for herein lies the greatest difference, as to dignity, that possibly can be. This difference is infinite. If it be of importance to know how worthy he is, then it doubtless is of importance that we should not be ignorant of, and deny, as it were, all his diga nity, or so much of it, that what remains shall be absolutely as nothing to that which is denied. It is of importance that we love Christ, or have respect to him as one that is excellentą
and worthy of esteemi and love. The apostle says, “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be' anathema. maranatha."
And doubtless, true love to Christ is in some respect suitable to the worthiness and excellency of his per
Therefore it is of importance to believe, and not to deny those doctrines which exhibi: his worthiness. It is of importance that we do not in effect deny the whole of his worthiness.
20. How many things were believed by the ancient philosophers about divine matters, even the most rational of them more mysterious than the doctrine of the Trinity, chiefly because such things were landed to them by the Phænicians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, cr Persians, or on the authority of some great master? Yet these things were imbibed without much difficulty, the incomprehensibleurss of the doctrines being no objection to their receiving then..
21. There are things evidently true concerning the nature of our own souls, that seem strange paradoxes, and are seeming contradictions ; as, that our souls are in no place, and yet have a being; or, if they are supposed to be in a place, thať yet they are not confined to place, and limited to certaiir space; or, if they be, that they are not of a certain figure ; or, if they are figurate, that their properties, faculties, and acts, should or should not be so too.
22. If many things we all see and know of the mortality of mankind, the extreme sufferings of infants, and other things innumerable in the state of the world of mankind, were only matter of doctrine which we had no notice of any other way than by revelation, and not by fact and experience; have we not reason to think, from what we see of the temper of this age, that they would be exceedingly quarrelled with, objected mightily against, as inconsistent with God's moral perfections, not tending to amiable ideas of the Godhead, &c. &c.
23. The definition of a mystery, according to Stafiferus, Theol. Polem. p. 263, and 858, is this : A mystery is a religious doctrine, which must be made known by immediate reve elation, and cannot be known and demonstrated from the principles of reason, but is above reason, and which in this whole
universe has nothing like itself, but differs from all those truths which we discover in this system of the world.
Ibid. p. 859. It appears from the definition, that whatever is known by divine revelation, and is not certain from the principles of reason, is a mystery ; otherwise it could not be said to be revealed.
Revelation cannot be conceived of without mysteries; and mysteries are the first thing which we conceive concerning revelation ; for no revelation can be conceived without mysteries, and therefore they constitute the sum and essence of revelation.
It is to be observed, that we ought to distinguish between those things which were written in the sacred books by the iinmediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and those which were only committed to writing by the direction of the Holy Spirit. To the former class belong all the mysteries of salvation, or all those things which respect the means of our deliverance taught in the gospel, which.could not be known from the principles of reason, and therefore must be revealed. But to the other class those things belong, which either are already known from natural religion, but are of service to inculcate duty on man, and to demonstrate the necessity of a revelation of the means of salvation ; or are histories, useful to illustrate and to assure us of the doctrines revealed, and which point out the various degrees of revelation, the different dispensations of salvation, and the various modes of governing the church of God; all' which are necessary to be known in the further explanation of mysteries.
Mysteries constitute the criterion of dizine revelation : So absurdly do they act, who allow a revelation and deny mysteries ; or deny revelation for this reason, that it contains mysteries. What the sum and essence of revelation, or of revealed religion, are, is plain from the end of it, which is this, to point out to sinful man the mean of obtaining salvation, and of recovering the divine favor. But this mean is, that Jesus Christ is the only and most perfect causa oi salvation, to be received by a true faith. This doctrine, however, is a mystery of godliness manifestly great ; 1 Tim. iij. 16.