A Sermon Delivered by THOMAS STORY at Grace-Church Street Meeting, September 25, 1737.
Scripture Truths Demonstrated, Being Sermons or Declarations by William Dewsbury, Robert Barclay, George Whitehead, William Penn, Charles Marshall, &c. &c. Philadelphia: Benjamin and Thomas Kite, 1825.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 2: The 18th Century.
Is there any one here at a loss, how, and where, and after what manner, to look unto God? I should be very glad, if, through the grace of God, I might be enabled this evening to help and rightly direct any one in this point. I say then, that though in our natural state we are all ignorant of God, yet, that we may gradually come to the knowledge of Him, and live with Him for ever, He hath given us natural senses, faculties, reason, and understanding, that, in the use of them, casting our eyes upon the great book of the Creation of God, we may, with infallible assurance, determine that it hath an Almighty, All-wise Author and Supporter; and accordingly the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, 1:19, 20 speaks very rationally, as well as divinely, on that subject; for he was, in a particular manner, a minister to the Gentiles, and they being inured to the exercise of their natural reason and understanding, he took them in their own way of thinking, in order to the beginning of the knowledge of God, saying: "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in (or to) them, for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal Power and Godhead. So that they are (or may be) without excuse."
Here the Apostle reasons from the effects to the cause, and infers an undeniable conclusion: The things that are made, of whose beings we are infallibly assured, even by our senses, that they have real existences, the sun, moon, and stars, the innumerable host of heaven, the earth and all things therein--and our own being, of which we are certain; these being realities, and not fantastical appearances, being noble and stupendous, declare then, selves in their own still, yet loud and well known language, even by their own nature, to have an eternal, almighty, all-wise, unlimited Power and Being for their Author; and in mankind be not become altogether without thought, irrational and stupid, (if any one can be so,) they must needs know, that an eternal incomprehensible Power hath produced all these things. We may and ought therefore to look unto God in the things which He hath made, and thereby understand that He is, and is eternal, without beginning or end of his Being; that lie is Almighty in Power, All-wise, Omnipresent; that he hath given being to all things, and supports and continues them; that He is infinite, in love, goodness, justice, mercy, beneficence, and truth; that He is so likewise in righteousness, and the Author of all those properties manifest (so far as they are manifested) in mankind. This therefore is the first and most obvious way we can look unto God, as rational creatures, by the things that are made.
We have been some of us more, and others less time in the world, and have seen, at least in a superficial manner, the things that are made; let every one of such therefore consider, with respect to himself, Have I at all looked unto God according to this invitation? Have I at all been able to perceive him in his works, or to look upon his work, only, without any due regard to Himself, or consideration of the things that are made, or the greatness and divine properties and attributes of the Almighty Author of them?
And, as we all grant that God is invisible in himself to all corporeal eyes, the next way whereby we may look unto him with further admiration is, in the constant course of his Providence, whereby He upholds and continues all his works in succession, from generation to generation, and provides for them all, from the highest to the lowest, from the greatest to the least, without losing or neglecting any one species or particular which he hath made; by which we may learn his endless goodness, and that He still regards them all, and ever will.
And we, and all tile ends of the earth, have yet still a more excellent way to look unto God for the glorious end of that gracious invitation, the eternal salvation of our souls; that is, by the Divine light of his Son, the Spirit of Christ, who is before all works and worlds, and was with God when He laid the foundations thereof, under the character of Wisdom, and so declared to be in the Holy Scriptures, where Wisdom saith: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth; while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there; when He set a compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when He gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth; then I was by Him, as One brought up with Him. And I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men." Prov. 8:22-31.
Again, "Wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me; for in her is an understanding Spirit, holy, one only, manifold, subtle, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good, quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtle spirits. For Wisdom is more moving than any motion; she passeth and goeth through all things, by reason of her pureness; for she is the breath of the power of God, and pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore can no defiled thing fall into her, for she is the brightness of the everlasting Light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. And being but one, she can do all things; and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new; and in all ages, entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God and prophets; for God loveth none, but him that dwelleh with wisdom; for she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars: being compared with the light; she is found before it."
This is thus written of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the eternal, essential Light, the Covenant of God with the Gentiles, the Word of God and true Light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
And for a further instrumental help to mankind, to look unto God for salvation, He hath also
given us the Holy Scriptures. They were not all written at one time, but occasionally, at several
different times and ages, by the Divine inspiration, and cogent force of the influence of the Holy
Spirit of Christ, which is Eternal Wisdom, and is before all worlds, and before all Scriptures.
God doth much good unto man by man, as fallen man is an evil instrument for the hurt of man; as saith the Scripture: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." I Cor. 15:21, 22. So God makes use of man, some for the help of the rest, according to his good will and pleasure; and qualifies one and another, and so many as He pleases, from age to age, and generation to generation.
The Scriptures then were thus written for the instruction of those ages wherein they were written, and to whom they were delivered; and being preserved by the special Providence of God, and presented by the same unto us in our own language, they are for our learning also.
And we may see what a high esteem and notion the Jews had of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the value and use whereof was likewise confirmed by Christ Himself; by the evidence and manifestation of whose Holy Spirit they had been written, long before He came in the flesh, according to the predictions therein contained. Yet they carried their esteem too high; they conceived an expectation from the Scriptures which God never gave them; it was their own imaginations and misunderstanding that carried them to that exorbitant expectation; yet the Lord Jesus Christ made a right use of it, in order to draw or direct them to Himself, saying: "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me; and ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life." John 5:39, 40. Certainly no people could have a higher esteem for the Scriptures, or expect more from them than eternal life; yet their expectations were wrong, for eternal Life was not, neither is it, in the Scriptures, but in Christ Himself, of whom they only testify. He owned that they testified of Him; but then here was the neglect, shortness, and loss of that people, "Ye will not come to ME, that ye might have life." They would not look unto God in Him Who was accompanied by Almighty Power, by which He commanded all distempers, healed all manner of diseases by his word, and raised the dead in his Father's power.
Their error was not in searching the Scriptures, for they were written for their learning, and that thereby they might have hope of a Saviour, by the predictions and promises of God contained in them, and they are ever worthy to be searched, believed, and regarded; for they testified and do testify of Him. The Power of the Father testified of Him, in all the miraculous works done by Him in their sight, upon which He put the test of the truth of his mission as the Messiah saying:" If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, though ye be believe not me, believe the works." John 10:37, 38, 14:11. Yet they would not believe Him.
And He likewise told them, "He was come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10. And yet they would not come unto Him for it; they would not look unto the Father in Him; they would not accept the invitation, and therefore they missed of that great salvation, and have not attained it unto this day, because they will not come unto him that they might have life, but are banished from the Land of Promise, and trodden under foot of all nations.
It is now several ages since our progenitors had the Holy Scriptures of both Testaments translated into our own language, strictly and exactly enough, with respect to all points necessary to salvation; and they had, and we still have, the free use of them; a great blessing, of which some of our neighbouring nations are hitherto deprived. Have we read them with diligence and attention? Have we duly considered them, and made a right use of them? What advantage have we reaped thereby? Are we come unto God, whose invitation is recorded therein, and unto Christ, of whom they abundantly testify in every dispensation? What end have we had in reading the Scriptures? Hath it been only to furnish ourselves with certain texts thereof, whereby to fight one against another, to aggravate one another, and exercise our passions upon one-another, and to support this, that, and the other notion and opinion, true or false; and never regard the moral precepts, holy examples, or great and necessary gospel truths and doctrines they contain, so as to bring them into practice? This would be an ill and perverse use, or rather abuse of them, and a great neglect.
Have we indeed looked unto the only true and Living God, of whom we read in the Holy Scriptures, with desire and hope of salvation by Him? Have we looked, with sincerity, to the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom they testify? The Creation of God declares that He is, but we cannot find Him there with all our search, we cannot KNOW Him thereby. "No man by searching can find out God to perfection." We all know, who have so searched, we cannot find Him thereby, we cannot see Him fully and clearly there. They testify of Christ, and are clear and full in their testimony of and concerning Him in all points; but alas! I am afraid the same charge is too true at this day, against the generality of people professing the Christian faith and religion, which was justly uttered against the Jews in that day, "You will not come unto Me" You might, but you will not come to the Son of God, that you may have life, and know the aboundings of it in you, by Him, "even as a well of living water, springing up unto life eternal."
The Scriptures give a sure report of Christ the Son of God, and that all that is to be known of the Father is revealed and manifest in Him. They testify that He is the Eternal Word, Wisdom and Power of God; that He was born, as to his bodily appearance of the holy Virgin Mary; that the power of the Highest overshadowed her, the holy Divine Influence came upon her, by which she became pregnant, in order to that wonderful production conceived in her thereby, that holy thing called the Son of God: of which she being premonished, by the Messenger Of the Most High, she believed the message, and by faith conceived the true promised Seed, the Redeemer of the world; that all men might believe in him, and be born of the Spirit of Him, who was thus, by the Spirit conceived in the flesh; for in Him alone is the promise of God fulfilled: "' The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head."
And what do the Scriptures further testify concerning the Son of God? They bear testimony of Him in more points abundance than I have either time or strength, or is needful, at this time to go through; because most you now in my audience, (of several persuasions,) have read the Holy Scriptures, I do not doubt; yet I desire and exhort you my young men and women especially, not only to read them, but consider them, that you may understand them, and be more fully informed in those points and others by them; for the inbreathing of the Life and Light of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the influence of whose Spirit they were first written, without which they are not rightly to be understood, or the true end of them attained. Luke 24:45, John 22:22. Yet the concern and influence I am now under may carry me further on this subject, for your sakes, than I am now aware of.
The Lord Jesus was concealed from the people till about the twelfth year of his age, and then a glimpse of the wisdom of the Father shone in him, and through him, among the wise and learned in that day among them; yet he was not made manifest as the Messiah, until the Divine Influence of the same Power which operated in his bodily production, did anoint or fit him to preach the Gospel of Salvation unto his people. And then He was made manifest, not only by wonderful works, but by his doctrines which He published among the people; yet though He spake as never man spake, with respect to that wisdom and power in which He did speak, few there were who understood Him; so that they were still short, at that time of the true and full end of his appearance; for He was to be made manifest, not only to the Jews, but universally unto all nations, (in a nearer and more divine and excellent way than his outward appearance was, though that was indeed glorious,) but by degrees, from one dispensation to another, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, the evangelical Prophet, where he speaketh of the Son of God, as man in the state of a Servant of God, and even, in a manner, as such (a servant) in the sight of men, and in which He did indeed first appear in the flesh; that is to say: "Behold my Servant whom I uphold, my ELECT, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:1 Again, verses 6, 7. "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a Light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."
This prophecy was uttered and recorded several hundreds of years before the Lord Christ came to that people. We may see plainly by this, that there was a fore-promise of him to all nations, as a Light to enlighten them. The Most High is invisible, he dwelleth in divine eternal light inaccessible. No creature can behold him as he is; there is a medium and qualification needful to us, whereby we may approach him, come unto him, and be saved with an everlasting and glorious salvation; and therefore he hath sent forth his WORD, clothed with a reasonable human mind and human body, to declare him, according to that saying: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required: then said I, lo! I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God! yea, thy law is within my heart." Psa. 40: 6,7, Isa. 1:11, 66:3, Heb. 10:5. This Son of the Highest, thus clothed with humanity, is the Mediator between God and all other men, by whose holy Spirit and power the mind of man is washed, sanctified, and qualified, so as. through this veil, to behold the inaccessible glory of the Father, and live.
Now the Word Himself is the glory of the Father thus Veiled, and is Light in men, variously proportioned in point of manifestation, and proposed as the object of the faith of all men, as he is Divine Light; the "true Light, which ligheth every man that cometh into the world." And it is said, "The Gentiles shall come to this Light, and kings to the brightness of his arising." Isa. 60:2,3. And in his Name shall the Gentiles trust. Matt. 12:21, 4:16.
The Father hath sent his Son Christ, that all mankind may believe in Him, and look unto the Father in and by Him; and there is not another way. Mankind were in darkness and ignorance, they had lost the knowledge of God; and ye likewise by nature are ignorant of God and can never come to the knowledge of Him, and look to Him so as to be saved by Him, till we look unto in his own Light.
The first thing therefore that we mortals must do, in order to this salvation, is, to believe in this Light, and the power that dwelleth therein, "For without faith it is impossible to please god," pr become a child of God, who is Light. This faith is called the Faith of the operation of God, because it is raised in the heart by the manifestation of the Light and Power of the Spirit of Christ in the mind. There the Scriptures testify that he is: "The Word is nigh thee, in thy heart, and in thy heart, and in thy mouth, that thou mayest hear it, and do it:" and again, saith Christ of Himself: "I am the Light of the World; He that followeth me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life."
Again; we must believe in Him, and receive Him, as he is the Word of God, and as He is God; for the Scriptures so testify of Him, "That in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men." So then this Evangelist plainly declares the Lord Jesus Christ to be the true God, manifested in the proper nature of man. Does the Evangelist therefore teach that the Divine nature was changed into the human? No! Or that the human nature was become the Divine nature? No, truly! But that the human nature, a reasonable soul, clothed with a human body, was assumed by the Divine Word, the Wisdom and Power of God.
And Jesus Christ being the Eternal Son of God, is not made, but begotten; neither was he made, as he is man, with respect either to body or mind, but begotten by Divine Influence; and under this consideration, and by virtue of this union, the Lord Jesus Christ, as One with God, was denominated according to his superior nature, and, in that sense, is God. And he is also the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth; John 14:6, the Comforter, in his spiritual nature clothed with humanity, and leadeth into all Truth; and in this union he is also the Light of the world, who could never have beheld him in his unveiled Deity.
We must therefore not remain in a bare report of God and Christ, though we find it in the Holy Scriptures, and that testimony is forever true; but we must look unto God through Christ, the Mediator, near unto ourselves, as Christ said of his own Spirit. John 14:16: "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you; I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." Again; "He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name," as he is the word of God, and not only as man.
The Jews were his own in a more particular manner than other men, by a covenant of works, made with their fathers by the mediation of Moses, the servant at mount Sinai; but they rejected Christ as a deceiver, thou he is the Son of God, and Mediator of a more excellent law and covenant, which shall endure for ever; yet there was a remnant of them that believed and received him; and to them that believed and received him; and to them, but not to unbelievers, he gave power to become the sons of God. Not by eternal generation, as the Son himself is, 1 Peter 1:32, but by regeneration in time, whereby they are made partakers of the Divine Nature: as it is written, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (the Son) himself likewise took part of the same, Heb. 2:14. So then the Son took part of the human nature, that we might be made partakers of the Divine nature in him, through faith in his power, and thereby become the sons of God; not by creation only in the first Adam, but as begotten of God by Christ, the Word of his a Power, who is the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the Lord and giver of life, and quickening Spirit, clothed with humanity, like unto us in all things, sin excepted: that as he was a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death for us, so we, by him the Son, the firstborn, might be presented before the throne of the Father, perfect in heaven, with the innumerable company of the holy angels of God, and spirits of the just, who on earth looked unto God, from all the ends of the same, through the Son; and by Him obtained this great salvation.
Now friends, to you in particular do I direct his, who are the offspring of those who are glorified in heaven, through faith in the Son of God, and that grace by which they did believe, having been faithful in their day, and having known this glorious work of regeneration, It is not by blood, as their descendants in nature; for of flesh and blood can come only flesh and blood. Nature cab bring forth nothing but her own likeness. We are all the descendants of the first Adam by procreation, according to the ordinance of God in nature, and of our next immediate parents after the flesh; but we must all believe in the Spirit and Power of Christ, in his immediate operation in our hearts, that we also may be regenerated, and born in the image of God, and Divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we have likewise believed in our day; for if we should receive all the doctrines of truth which they received, and be in the practice of all the establishments settled among them by the Wisdom of Truth, by way of tradition only, without the Life and Light of Truth revealed in ourselves, we shall fall short of salvation in the end, notwithstanding.
But as we are all likewise called of God by his universal grace, and none excluded, we must comply with the means which God hath appointed, in order to obtain this salvation; that is, to believe, follow, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of Life, as He is divinely revealed and manifested in us; and I trust many of you of this age have already so believed.
And as he is God, he is omnipresent, and therefore very near unto all mankind, and is us, though we cannot perceive him in our natural state, because of our want of proper qualifications: we are blind by nature, as to the things of God, and want eye-salve from him. Saul, through a furious blind zeal, was persecuting the Church of Christ. Till "Light from the Son of God from heaven shined around him, and with a voice from above confounded him, saying Saul! Saul! why persecuteth thou me?" For which unreasonable work he could offer no reason, but humbly submitted to the just judgment exercised upon him from above.
We may see then how this great persecutor was convinced of the error of his ways by a light from heaven, and the voice of the Son of God. Oh! the blind zeal and wickedness of foolish and furious man, in persecuting the children of God! as saith the Scripture, "They that are born after the flesh always persecute them that are born after the Spirit," until God, in goodness and mercy unto his own seed, confounds and rebukes their enemies by his voice from heaven, by his Divine and powerful Word, and puts a stop to their fury and rage. There is a cogent energy in the voice of God above any other power: this persecutor was overcome thereby, and, of a furious persecutor of Christ in his members upon earth, in the spirit and power of the priests and rulers of that day, became a noble instrument for Christ and the glory of God, through those qualifications wrought in him by the Spirit of Christ, which also attended him in his ministry, whether in publishing the truths of the gospel revealed unto him, given him in charge, or in working of miracles, according to the dispensation of God in that age of the world. We may see therefore in this great instance, how soon the Lord can work so great a change in the hearts and understandings of mankind: but to witness a real change in ourselves, and the completion of it by the same power, is what all ought to wait for, and not rest contended in hearing what the Lord hath done for others, though we may firmly believe it.
"Who art thou, Lord, that I persecute?" I observe further upon this, that at that time the Son of God was exalted at the right hand of the eternal Majesty on high; glorified with the same glory that he had with the Father before all worlds, far above all principalities and powers, out of the reach of all persecution in himself; yet we may see he takes the persecutions exercised upon those who believe in his Name on earth, and are born of the same immortal Power and Word of Life, as done unto himself; for he is not ashamed to call them brethren. What great and glorious privileges then have they who believe in the Son of God, and stand for the glory of his Name, in doing and suffering according to his holy will! Those still look unto God for salvation at last, through and out of all persecution and sufferings for his Name's sake and Gospel, and they are not disappointed.
And we may also see, with thankfulness to the Lord, how by his Wisdom and Power he hath cut down the spirit of bloodshed and persecution in this nation, in a good degree, in this last age: and I do believe, nay I am assured of it, that the Lord will cut off that evil spirit by the root, and leave neither root nor branch of it, in his own due time.
The name of Saul being changed into Paul, and his heart greatly changed and turned unto the Lord, he was sent on a better errand; for his mission was, "To bear the Name of the Lord before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: he was filled with the Holy Ghost, made a minister thereby, and sent unto the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and "turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith in the Son of God." Acts 9:15, 17, 20, 36:16, 17, 18.
Now what Light is this the Gentiles were and are to be turned unto, in order to the forgiveness of their sins, sanctification of their hearts, and inheritance among the sanctified? He is even the same that I have mentioned unto you already, when the Father said unto the Son: "I will give thee a Light of Gentiles, and a Covenant of the people;"--unto him who is the Word of God, and the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world;--to the true and eternal God, who is that Light. This is the sum of the Gospel, and of the mission of the apostle, and of all the apostles of Christ in that day, and of every gospel minister now, and throughout all generations; that all mankind, believing in the Light, and being turned unto him, may have remission of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified through faith in him; without which faith, turning, and sanctification, there is not, nor ever was, or shall be, any such inheritances, by any soul who hath know the visitation and manifestation of it, in any measure, and rejected it.
The Light hath shined in darkness from the first lapse of mankind, and doth still shine there, and ever will, throughout all ages. Man, in his natural state, is, in comparison of this Light, but darkness. This is that darkness of which the Son of God gives this caution: "Take heed therefore that the Light which is in thee be not darkness. If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" It is even total darkness. The natural mind, with all its reason and faculties, is but darkness, with respect to the knowledge of God, or the things of God pertaining to his kingdom, according to the apostle who said to the believers in that day: "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye Light in the Lord." Ephes. 5:8. "Walk as children of Light." Again said the Lord Christ unto his believers and followers in that day: "Ye are the Light of the world." Matt. 5:14. And this is still the same in all that dwell in the Light and Life of the Son of God, in every age of the world.
We may see the great change then that is made in mankind by turning from Satan, the prince of the power of darkness, and from mankind themselves, who are by nature that darkness, unto the Son of God, who is that "true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." he is always in the world, a witness for the Father against the world, and the sins and corruptions of it; a reprover and condemner of the world, until they believe in him, turn unto him, and repent, and forsake the evil of their ways, themselves, and the evil One: and then that Divine Light shineth out of the darkness--the blind eye is opened--the deaf ear is unstopped--and mankind behold the beauty of the Lord in holiness and in truth, and hear the sure voice of salvation by him.
To open the blind eye, &c. This is the work of the ministry which God himself is the author of, who are raised up and qualified by the Word of Truth working in them to that end, and by no other way. And though they preach Christ the Light of the world, in the demonstration of his Spirit and Power, and those truths and doctrines which ten to the opening of the eyes and understandings of mankind, yet still it is God himself who worketh this great work, where it is wrought: his ministers are only co-workers with his Holy Spirit therein, or as feeble instruments in his hand, by whom he himself bringeth to pass so great works and salvation; as the apostle saith of the redeemed in that day: "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Ephes. 2:10.
"The Scriptures" (saith the apostle, Gal. 3:22) "hath concluded all under sin." Was it that mankind should be settled in sin for life in this world, as fools have taught? No, by no means! He speaketh more excellent things, Gal. 3:22, "That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe:" so that it is only declaratory of the state of natural man until He believe in Christ. How then must mankind believe in Christ? According to the promise, I will give thee a Light of the Gentiles; that all mankind might believe in the Son of God, the Light of the world, according to this promise, and come unto the Father by him who is Light, and be saved from darkness, which is the devil. Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God, and, as such, IS GOD: his Wisdom and Power is one, and is himself. He is that Wisdom and Power; and the same is the Word: God is One. The human mind is not God, nor is the human body; the human mind and body are effects of that Divine Wisdom and Power. The cause is before the effects; they are subsequent: yet because the humanity is taken unto the Divine nature, absorbed therein, and inseparably united therewith, Jesus Christ, who is that holy and Divine Man, is called God in the Holy Scriptures, because of the super-excellency and pre-eminence of the Divine nature, with which the human is annexed inseparably for ever: so that the Wisdom and Power of the Father, in the humanity and union, are one Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, under the character of Jesus Christ; and therefore let all the world look unto the Father by Him for Salvation; for there is no other Name given under heaven, or ever shall be, but the Name of Jesus, by which mankind ever were, are, or shall be saved. "He had a vesture dipped in blood; his Name is called 'The Word of God.'" And at the Name of Jesus, whenever, or in whomsoever the Father nameth this wonderful, powerful Name, then shall every knee bow, and every tongue confess unto him, the judge of the world, either in a day of visitation in mercy to life eternal, or in condemnation unto punishment.
Now the Lord Jesus Christ, having a real human body, subject unto death, as ours are, he was crucified therein, according to the Scriptures, as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, declaratory of the love and mercy of the Father to mankind universally, who sent his Son into the world, not to satisfy a vindictive justice, as that which is of man, which exacteth the utmost farthing, or else no satisfaction or forgiveness; but in the will of the Father, who sent him in love, to declare his love, goodness, and mercy, and forgiveness of sins unt all mankind, upon condition of faith in this Messenger, and repentance from dead words: "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." Matt. 9:13, 12:7, Hosea 6:6.
But though the human mind of Christ was separated from his body upon the cross, and so remained for a time, which is the common death; yet the word and mind were never separated from the time of their first union, nor ever can be, for then the whole Christ must have been dissolved, and ceased; and the same Word, in the same human mind, resumed the same human body; as saith the Lord Jesus: "No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment I have received of my Father. John 10:18.
And as the separation of the mind and body is the natural death, even so is the separation between the soul [of man] and the Divine Life of the Son of God, the death of the soul, by which she becomes totally corrupted, though not mortal in the manner that the body is, but [the soul](1) remaineth in this death, and yet liveth a sensual life in this corruption, until this corruptible put on incorruption, and this moral put on immortality; until the breath of life from God, in infinite mercy, return into her, and restore her unto life, through faith in his Almighty word: for in him still is life, and that life is the Light of men; as it si also written, "Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee Light." Ephes. 5:14. By this it appears, that though this Light is in all mankind, as a saving gift from God in the nature of it, yet we are not sensible of it, as such, until we are quickened, in some degree, by the powerful voice of the Son of God; according to that saying, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live. John 5:25.
It is remarkable, that the Son of God yielded up his life upon the cross, and was dead, before his blood was shed; (John 10:18, Isaiah 53:10. 12) ere the spear, in the hand of the soldier, made that large incision in his holy side, sufficient for the reception of a man's whole hand, piercing him to the heart, whence issued both blood and water; as an infallible proof, that he was really dead, and of the Eternal and Almighty Power, which, under the natural impossibility, raised Himself from the dead.
First, that at what time soever man believeth in the Son of God, confesses his sins before him, and repents, he shall have mercy and forgiveness; and, if not in a dying hour, if he perseveres in faith and obedience, shall have a place of rest and divine pleasure with the Lord forever. And seeing that Christ was that same day in paradise, and the thief there with him; when the body of Christ lay in the sepulchre till the third day after, and the body of the thief was broken upon the cross, after the manner of criminal in that part of the world in those days--what was that Me in Christ, and that thou in the thief, which were in paradise that same day they were crucified? It could not be in the bodies, and it is impossible that saying could fail: we may therefore learn thereby--
Secondly, that the union of the Godhead and manhood of Christ, was not dissolved or separated, by the death of his body, but remained perfect notwithstanding.
Seeing then, that the union of the divine and human natures constitute one Christ and Saviour, the Lord Jesus remained to be that Saviour, after the death of his body, and whilst it remained in that state, as well as before, and since; and so will remain to all eternity.
Thirdly, that though the body of the thief was dead, yet the mind was at the same time with Christ in a state of salvation, divine pleasure, and glory; and so he will remain forever. According to that saying of the Lord: "I am the resurrection and the life:" (John 11:25) "He that believeth in me, shall never die." From hence we may clearly infer, that though the natural man be ignorant of the life of Christ, and dead to all sense of the knowledge of God, in trespasses and sins, yet by faith in the Son of God, who is the resurrection and life eternal, he shall be raised in this world, into the sense and enjoyment of that life, be united with it, and continuing to believe therein, shall never die with respect to that life; he shall not be separated from it any more, but shall live with God and the Lamb therein forever, though his body shall die; and for saying of Christ cannot be understood to relate to the temporal life or death of the body.
The doctrine of a spiritual and eternal life, by Christ who is that life, thereby established, is further illustrated by what Christ said to the thief upon the cross as above; and that the minds of men are united unto Christ, by the invisible work or regeneration, and by him unto the Father, as Mediator of the new and everlasting covenant of light and life, and die no more forever; though the earthly houses and tabernacles, their bodies, be dissolved and be no more.
But as the body of Christ was raised again, by the same Divine power, by whose holy influence it was formed or begotten of the Virgin, and the same human mind thereunto re-united, as the Scriptures testify, and ascended as they likewise declare; some in this last age, apostatizing from the truth and light of the Son of God in themselves, after they had been once enlightened thereby, and being ignorant of his humanity, with respect to his human mind, have opposed his bodily appearance to this spiritual; saying, "His light within (or in man,) is not sufficient for salvation, without something else;" meaning the body of Christ only, as if that were the whole humanity of Christ, not regarding his soul; raising also curious and presumptuous questions, and disputations, about the body of Jesus, as Satan of old about the body of Moses, not for promotion of religion and edification, but for strife, debate, envy, and mischief: asking us if we believe, "That Christ is now in heaven, glorified in the same body that he had on earth, and therein sitting on the right hand of the Father?"
This they intended as a test of their own forming, concerning the truth of our faith in Christ. To some of whom I have answered, that though we believe whatsoever is written of Christ in the Holy Scriptures, yet we do not presume to take upon us to determine concerning the mode of the being of that body in Heaven, it not being declared in the Scriptures; only that it ascended out of the sight of those who saw it ascend, and much more is out of the sight of them who did never see it. Neither could those busybodies, and untaught querists, conceive any idea of it, much less transfer any adequate notion of it to any other; but thus much the Scripture saith, (Ephes. 4:9, 10) "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things." Seeing Christ in his bodily appearance, (of which the apostle here writeth,) and filleth all things, how can he remain in the same manner of existence? A circumscribed and material body, as that of Christ, cannot fill all things, and retain a corporeal mode. And Christ, as the Word of God, filled all things ever since they were created; and being present everywhere, at all times, there is no place where he can ascend or descend, so that this saying of the apostle is applicable to his human ascension only.
This put all such as I met with in those days, on this subject, to silence; and our doctrine was by many brethren maintained, that Christ being God, and the Word of God, and the true Light which lighteth every one that cometh into the world, and clothed with his true humanity, and inseparable from it, he is altogether sufficient for the salvation of all mankind, without anything else, or further knowledge of his holy body than what the Scriptures declare; he having done and suffered therein whatever was appointed him of the Father, and so far answered the end of its being and preparation. And that his is the same Saviour, and altogether sufficient, in his inward appearance, without that body (where and in what manner soever the same now exists) is clear, where it is said, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." James 1:21.
Then, as the evangelist said, such of the sons of men, who believed in Christ, as he is the Word of God, and is God, became to be the sons of God; not by generation, nor the traditions, impositions, and inventions of the wisdom and wills of men, by which they make the commandments and establishments of God of no effect to themselves and to others but as they believed in the Word of God, the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, by the effectual operation of the measure of grace received, by faith therein, even in him, out of the fulness, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell. So that it was not any thing of their own acquiring, by any abilities of theirs, that they believed him; but they were made sensible of the Word of reproof, by its own actions and motions in their hearts, manifested there, as the immediate object of their faith, wherein believing, and being thereby sanctified, they then became sensible, by blessed experience, of the flowings of his divine love, virtue, and power. As in the case of the distempered person who secretly believed in him, (yet durst not own if, as if she meant to steal to steal a cure from him,) and that if she could but touch the hem of his garment, she should be whole, he said: "There is virtue gone out of me."
Again; we may observe further upon this passage, concerning the penitent thief upon the cross, that this thou of which Christ spake, which the same day should be with the soul of Christ in paradise, in a state of salvation and divine eternal pleasure, was the mind, the soul of the man, and not the body; from which it followeth, that the mind is the man, without his earthly tabernacle, and that himself is a spiritual body, into which is breathed divine eternal life, by Jesus Christ, the second Adam, as he is the quickening Spirit, the Lord and giver of life eternal, to all that believe, and follow him, in the way of regenerations.
The heart and mind of mankind, even in this life, is capable of a good degree of divine consolation and pleasure, in a state of reconciliation with God through Christ, and in faithfulness to known duties; as many in this age, by happy experience through the grace of God, do know; and so remaining unto the end, are sure of the ocean and fulness thereof, as soon as they depart out of their earthly bodies; their minds themselves remaining spiritual bodies, alive by the life of Christ forever.
And that it may b e so with the this whole audience, now and to all eternity, is my sincere desire
and prayer to the Lord God, who hath thus mercifully invited all mankind to look unto himself,
and be saved. Amen.
1.[Square brackets] in the original printed text.