WITH AN ANSWER TO THAT INQUIRY, HOW WE KNOW THE SCRIPTURES TO BE THE WORD OF GOD.
Continued from Part 3
CHAPTER 4. Innate arguments in the Scripture of its divine original and authority — Its self-evidencing efficacy — All light manifests itself — The Scripture light — Spiritual light evidential — Consectaries from the premises laid down — What the self-evidencing light of the Scripture peculiarly is — Power self-evidencing — The Scripture the power of God, and powerful — How this power exerts itself — The whole question resolved.
Having given some few instances of those many testimonies which the Scripture, in express terms, bears to itself, and the spring, rise, and fountain of all that authority which it claims among and over the sons of men — which all those who pretend, on any account whatever, to own and acknowledge its divinity, are bound to stand to, and are obliged by — the second thing proposed, or the innate arguments that the Word ofGod is furnished withal for its own manifestation, and whereby the authority of God is revealed, for faith to repose itself upon, comes in the nextplace into consideration. Now, these arguments contain the full and formal grounds of our answer to that inquiry before laid down, viz., why and wherefore we do receive and believe the Scripture to be the word of God.
It being the formal reason of our faith, that whereon it is built and whereinto it is resolved, that is inquired after, we answer as we said before, We do so receive, embrace, believe, and submit unto it, because of the authority of God who speaks it, or gave it forth as his mind and will, evidencing itself by the Spirit in and with that Word, unto our minds and consciences: or, because that the Scripture, being brought unto us by the good providence of God, in ways of his appointment and preservation, it doth evidence itself infallibly unto our consciences to be the word of the living God.
The self-evidencing efficacy of the Scripture, and the grounds of it — which consist in common mediums, that have an extent and latitude answerable to the reasons of men, whether as yet they acknowledge it to be the word of God or no — are those, then, which, in the remainder of this discourse, I shall endeavor to clear and vindicate. This only I shall desire to premise, that whereas some grounds of this efficacy seem to be placed in the things themselves contained in the Scripture, I shall not consider them abstractedly as such, but under the formality of their being the Scripture or written Word of God; without which consideration and resolution the things mentioned would be left naked, and utterly divested of their authority and efficacy pleaded for, and be of no other nature and importance than the same things found in other books. It is the writing itself that now supplies the place and room of the persons in and by whom God originally spake to men. As were the persons speaking of old, so are the writings now. It was the word spoken that was to be believed, yet as spoken by them from God; and it is now the word written that is to be believed, yet as written by the command and appointment of God.
There are, then, two things that are accompanied with a self-evidencing excellency; and every other thing doth so, so far as it is partaker of theirnature, and no otherwise. Now, these are — 1st , Light; 2d , Power, for or in operation. 1. Light manifests itself. Whatever is light doth so; that is, it doth whatever is necessary on its own part for its manifestation and discovery.
Of the defects that are or may be in them to whom this discovery is made we do not as yet speak; and “whatever manifests itself is light” — pa~n gamenon fw~v ejsti . ( Ephesians 5:13.) Light requires neither proof nor testimony for its evidence. Let the sun arise in the firmament, and there is no need of witnesses to prove and confirm, unto a seeing man, that it is day. A small candle will so do. Let the least child bring a cradle into a room that before was dark, and it would be a madness to go about to prove by substantial witnesses — men of gravity and authority — that lightis brought in. Doth it not evince itself with an assurance above all that can be obtained by any testimony whatever?
Whatever is light, either naturally or morally so, is revealed by its being so.
That which evidenceth not itself is not light.
That the Scripture is a light we shall see immediately. That it is so, or can be called so, unless it hath this nature and property of light, to evidence itself as well as to give light unto others, cannot in any tolerable correspondency of speech be allowed. Whether light spiritual and intellectual regarding the mind, or natural with respect to bodily sight, be firstly and properly light, from whence the other is by allusion denominated, I need not now inquire. Both have the same properties in their several kinds, Fw~v ajlhqinonei? — “True light shineth.” JO QeoJohn 1:5,) “God is light;” and he inhabiteth fw~v ajpro>siton , ( 1 Timothy 6:16,) not a shining, glistering brightness, as some grossly imagine, but the glorious, unsearchable majesty of his own being, which is inaccessible to our understandings. So Isaiah, ( 57:15,) “God inhabiteth eternity.” So rwOa jf,[ saith the Psalmist, ( <19A404> civ. 2,) “Thou clothest thyself with light;” and Daniel, ( 2:22,) arev] Hme[i ar;yhon]W, the “light remaineth with him.”God is light essentially, and is, therefore, known by the beaming of his eternal properties in all that outwardly is of him. And light abides with him as the fountain of it, he communicating light to all others. This being the fountain of all light, the more it participates of the nature of the fountain, the more it is light; and the more properly, as the properties and qualities of it are considered. It is, then, spiritual, moral, intellectual light, with all its mediums, that hath the preeminence, as to a participation of the nature and properties of light.
Now, the Scripture, the Word of God, is light. Those that reject it are called ( Job 24:13) rwOaAyder]mo , “light’s rebels” — men resisting the authority which they cannot but be convinced of. ( Psalm 19:8, 43:3, 119. 105, 130; Proverbs 6:23; Isaiah 9:2; Hosea 6:5; Matthew 4:16, 5:15; John 3:20,21.) It is a light so shining with the majesty of its Author, as that it manifests itself to be his, ( 2 Peter 1:19,) “a light shining in a dark place,” with an eminent advantage for its own discovery, as well as unto the benefit of others. Let a light be ever so mean and contemptible, yet if it shines, casts out beams and rays in a dark place, it will evidence itself. If other things be wanting in the faculty, the light, as to its innate glory andbeauty, is not to suffer prejudice. But the Word is a glorious, shining light, as hath been showed; an illuminating light, compared to and preferred above the light of the sun. ( Psalm 19:5-8; Romans 10:18.) Let not, then, a reproach be cast upon the most glorious light in the world, the most eminent reflection of uncreated light and excellencies, that will not be fastened on any thing that, on any account, is so called. ( Matthew 5:16.)
Now, as the Scripture is thus a light, we grant it to be the duty of the church, of any church, of every church, to hold it up, whereby it may become the more conspicuous. It is a pillar and ground to set this light upon. ( 1 Timothy 3:15.) Stu>lov kai< eJdrai>wma th~v ajlhqei>av , may refer to the mystery of godliness in the next words following, in good coherence of speech, as well as to the church; but granting the usual reading, no more is affirmed but that the light and truth of the Scripture are held up and held out by the church. It is the duty of every church so to do — almost thewhole of its duty. And this duty it performs ministerialy, not authoritatively. A church may bear up the light — it is not the light. It bears witness to it, but kindles not one divine beam to further its discovery. All the preaching that is in any church, its administration of ordinances, all its walkingin the truth, hold up this light.
Nor doth it in the least impair this self-evidencing efficacy of the Scripture, that it is a moral and spiritual, not a natural light. The proposition is universal to all kinds of light; yea, more fully applicable to the former than the latter. Light, I confess, of itself, will not remove the defect of the visive faculty. It is not given for that end. Light is not eyes. It suffices that there is nothing wanting on its own part for its discovery and revelation. To argue that the sun cannot be known to be the sun, or the great means of communicating external light unto the world, because blind mencannot see it, nor do know any more of it than they are told, will scarce be admitted; nor doth it in the least impeach the efficacy of the lightpleaded for, that men stupidly blind cannot comprehend it. ( John 1:5.)
I do not assert from hence, that wherever the Scripture is brought, by what means soever, (which, indeed, is all one,) all that read it, or to whom it is read, must instantly of necessity assent unto its divine original. Many men who are not stark blind may have yet so abused their eyes, that when a light is brought into a dark place they may not be able to discern it. Men may be so prepossessed with innumerable prejudices — principles received by strong traditions — corrupt affections making them hat the light — that they may not behold the glory of the Word when it is brought to them. But it is nothing to our present discourse, whether any man living be able by and of himself to discern this light, whilst the defect may be justly cast on his own blndness. 2 Corinthians 4:2-4: “By manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
There is, in the dispensation of the Word, an evidence of truth commending itself to the consciences of mere Some receive not this evidence. Is it for want of light in the truth itself? No; that is a glorious light that shines into the hearts of men. Is it for want of testimony to assert this light? No; but merely because the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of men, that they should not behold it.
From what, then, hath been laid down, these two things may be inferred: — That as the authority of God — the first and only absolute truth in the Scripture — is that alone which divine faith rests upon, and is the formal object of it — so wherever the Word comes, by what means soever, it hath in itself a sufficiency of light to evidence to all (and will do it eventually to all that are not blinded by the god of this world) that authority ofGod its author; and the only reason why it is not received, by many in the world to whom it is come, is the advantage that Satan hath to keep them in ignorance and blindness, by the lusts, corruptions, prejudices, and hardness of their own hearts.
The Word, then, makes a sufficient proposition of itself, wherever it is; and he to whom it shall come, who refuses it because it comes not so or so testified, will give an account of his atheism and infidelity. He that hath the witness of God need not stay for the witness of men, for the witness of God is greater.
Wherever the Word is received indeed, as it requireth itself to be received, and is really assented unto as the Word of God, it is so received upon the evidence of that light which it hath in itself, manifestly declaring itself so to be. It is all one by what means, by what hand — whether of a childor a church, by accident or tradition, by common consent of men or peculiar providence the Scripture comes unto us: come how it will, it hath its authority in itself and towards us by being the word of God — and hath its power of manifesting itself so to be from its own innate light.
Now, this light in the Scripture, for which we contend, is nothing but the beaming of the majesty, truth, holiness, and authority of God, given unto it and left upon it by its author, the Holy Ghost — an impress it hath of God’s excellency upon it, distinguishing it by infallible tekmh>ria from theproduct of any creature. By this it dives into the consciences of men, into all the secret recesses of their hearts; guides, teaches, directs, determines, and judges in them, upon them, in the name, majesty, and authority of God. If men who are blinded by the god of this world, will yet deny this light because they perceive it not, it shall not prejudice them who do. By this self-evidencing light, I say, doth the Scripture make such a proposition of itself as the word of God, that whoever rejects it, doth it at the peril of his eternal ruin; and thereby a bottom or foundation is tendered for that faith which it requireth to repose itself upon.
For the proof, then, of the divine authority of the Scriptures unto him or them who, as yet, on no account whatever do acknowledge it — I shall only suppose that, by the providence of God, the book itself be so brought unto him or them, as that he or they be engaged to the consideration of it, or do attend to the reading of it, This is the work of God’s providence in the government of the world. Upon a supposal hereof I leave the Word with them, and if it evidence not itself unto their consciences, it is because they are blinded by the god of this world, which will be no plea for the refusal of it at the last day; and they who receive it not on this ground, will never receive it on any, as they ought. 2. The second sort, of things that evidence themselves, are things of an effectual powerful operation in any kind. So doth fire by heat, the wind by its noise and force,salt by its taste and savor, the sun by its light and heat; so do also moral principles that are effectually operative. ( Romans 2:14,15.) Men in whom they are, ejndei>knuntai to< e]rgon, “do manifest the work of them, or manifest them by their work and efficacy. Whatever it be that hath an innatepower in itself, that will effectually operate on a fit and proper subject — it is able to evidence itself, and its own nature and condition.
To manifest the interest of the Scripture to be enrolled among things of this nature — yea, (under God himself, who is known by his great power, and the effects of it,) to have the pre-eminence I shall observe only one or two things concerning it, the various improvement whereof would take up more time and greater space than I have allotted to this discourse.
It is absolutely called the “power of God, and that unto its proper end; which way lies the tendency of its efficacy in operation. ( Romans 1:16.)
It is du>namiv Qeou~ , “vis, virtus Dei” — the “power of God.” JO lo>gov oJ tou~ staurou~ , the “word concerning the cross” — that is, thegospel is du>namiv Qeou~ , ( 1 Corinthians 1:18,) the “power of God.” And faith, which is built on that Word, without other helps or advantages, is said to stand in the “power of God ( 1 Corinthians 2:5;) that is, effectually working in and by the Word, it worketh ejn ajpodei>zei Pneu>matov kai< duna>mewv , “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power;” e[n dia< duoi~n? — its spiritual power gives a demonstration of it. Thus it comes not as a naked word, ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5,) but in “power, and in the Holy Ghost;” and ejn plhrofori>a| pollh~|? giving all manner of assurance and full persuasion of itself, even by its power and efficacy.
Hence it is termed z[o hFem , “the rod of power” or Strength, ( <19B002> Psalm 110:2,) denoting both authority and efficacy. Surely that which is thus the power and authority of God, is able to make itself known so to be.
It is not only said to be du>namiv , “power,” the power of God in itself, but also duna>menov , “able and powerful” in respect of us. “Thou hastlearned,” saith Paul to Timothy, ta< iJera< gra>mmata , “the sacred letters,” (the written Word,) ta< duna>mena> se sofi>sai eijv swthri>an , “which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” They are powerful and effectual to that purpose. It is lo>gov duna>menov sw~sai tav , ( James 1:21,) “The word that hath power in it to save souls.” So Acts 20:32: “I commend you” lo>gw| tw~| duname>nw| , “to the able, powerful word.” And that we may now what kind of power it hath, the apostle tells us that it is zw~n kai< ejnergh>v — it is “living and effectual,” ( Hebrews 4:12,) and “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is desired of God to declare thrgeian th~v duna>mewv , “the effectual working of his power.” (SeeJohn 6:68,69; 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:57; Galatians 2:8.) By virtue of this power, it brought forth fruit in all the world. ( Colossians 1:6.) Without sword, without (for the most part) miracles, without human wisdom or oratory, without any inducements or motives but what; were merely and solely taken from itself, consisting in things that “eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor could enter into the heart of man to conceive,” hath it exerted this its power and effigy to the conquest of the world — causing men of all sorts, in all times and places, so to fall down before its divine authority, as immediately to renounce all that was dear to them in the world, and to undergo whatever was dreadful, terrible, and destructive tonature all its dearest concernments.
It hath been the work of many to insist on the particulars wherein this power exerts itself; so that I shall not enlarge upon them. In general, they have this advantage, that as they are all spiritual, so they are such as have their seat, dwelling, and abode, in the hearts and consciences of men, whereby they are not liable to any exception, as though they were pretended, Men cannot harden themselves in the rejection of the testimony they give, by sending for magicians to do the like; or by any pretense that it is a common thing that is befallen them on whom the Word puts forth its power. The seat or residence of these effects is safe-guarded against all power and authority but that of God. Its diving into the hearts, consciences, and secret recesses of the minds of men; its judging and sentencing of them in themselves; its convictions, tenors, conquer, and killing of men; its converting, building up, making wise, holy, obedient; its administering consolations in every condition, and the like effects of its power, are usually spoken unto.
These are briefly the foundations of the answer retched to the inquiry formerly laid down, which might abundantly be enlarged — How know we that the Scripture is the word of God; how may others come to be assured thereof? The Scripture, say we, bears testimony to itself that it is the word of God; that testimony is the witness of God himself, which whoso doth not accept and believe, he doth what in him lies to make God a liar.
To give us an infallible assurance that, in receiving this testimony, we are not imposed upon by cunningly devised fables, the aiJ grafai> , the i[era gra>mmata , “the Scriptures,” have that glory of light and power accompanying them, as wholly distingnisheth them by infallible signs and evidences from all words and writings not divine; conveying their truth and power into the souls and consciences of men with an infallible certainty.
On this account are they received as from God by all that receive them, who have any real, distinguishing foundation of their faith, which would not be — separated from these grounds — as effectual an expedient for the reception of the Koran.
CHAPTER 5. Of the testimony of the Spirit — Traditions — Miracles.
Before I proceed to the consideration of those other testimonies, which are as arguments drawn from those innate excellencies and properties of the Word which I have insisted on, some other things, whose right understanding is of great importance in the cause under debate, must be laid down and stated. Some of these refer to that testimony of the Spirit that is usually and truly pleaded as the great ascertaining principle, or that on the account whereof we receive the Scriptures to be the word of God.
That it may be seen in what sense that is usually delivered by our divines, and how far there is a coincidence between that assertion and what we have delivered — I shall lay down what that testimony is, wherein it consists, and what is the weight or stress that we lay upon it.
That the Scripture be received as the word of God, there is required a twofold efficacy of the Spirit. The first respects the subject, or the mind of man that assents unto the authority of the Scripture. Now, concerning this act or work of the Spirit, whereby we are enabled to believe the Scripture, on the account whereof we may say that we receive the Scripture to be the word of God — or upon the testimony of the Spirit — I shall a little inquire, what it is, and wherein it doth consist. First, then, It is not an outward or inward vocal testimony concerning the Word, as the Papist would impose upon us to believe and assent. We do not affirm that the Spirit immediately, by himself, saith unto every individual believer This book is, or contains, the word of God. We say not that the Spirit ever speaks to us of the Word, but by the Word. Such an enthusiasm as they fancy is rarely pretended; and where it is so, it is for the most part quickly discovered to be a delusion. We plead not for the usefulness, much less the necessity, of any such testimony. Yea, the principles we have laid down — resolving all faith into the public testimony of the Scriptures themselves — do render all such private testimonies altogether needless. Secondly, This testimony of the Spirit consists not in a persuasion that a man takes up, he knows not well how or why; only this he knows, he will not depose it [lay it aside] though it cost him his life. This would be like that which by Morinus is ascribed to the Church of Rome, which, though it knew no reason why it should prefer the vulgar Latin translation before the original, yet, by the guidance of the Spirit, would do so — that is, unreasonably. But if a man should say, that he is persuaded that the Scripture is the word of God, and that he will die a thousand times to give testimony thereunto; and, not knowing any real ground of this persuasion that should bear him out in such a testimony, shall ascribe it to the Spirit of God — our concernment lies not in that persuasion. This may befall men by the advantage of traditions, whereof men are usually zealous, and obstinate in their defence. Education in some constitutions will give pertinacity in most vain and false persuasions. It is not, then, a resolution and persuasion induced into our minds we know not how, built we know not upon what foundation, that we intend in the assignation of our receiving the Scripture to be the word of God to the effectual workand witness of the Holy Ghost.
Two things, then, we intend by this work of the Spirit upon the mind of man.
1. His communication of spiritual light; by an act of His power, enabling the mind to discern the saving truth, majesty, and authority of the Word — pveumatika< pneumatikw~v . There is a blindness, adarkness, upon the minds of men pneu~ma mh< ejco>ntwn , that not only disenables them from discerning the things of God in their certainty, evidence, necessity, and beauty, (for yucikocetai ta< tou~ zeou~ ), but also causes them to judge amiss of them, as things weak and foolish, dark, unintelligible, not answering to any principle of wisdom whereby they are guided. (1 Corinthians 2.) Whilst this glau>kwma abides on the minds ofmen it is impossible that they should, on any right abiding foundation, assent to the Word of God. They may have a prejudicate opinion — they have no faith concerning it. This darkness, then, must be removed by the communication of light by the Holy Ghost; which work of his illumination is commonly by others spoken unto, and by me also in another place.
2. The Holy Ghost, together with and by his work of illumination, taking off the perverse disposition of mind that is in us by nature, with our enmity to and aversation from a the things of God, effectually also persuades the mind to a receiving and admitting of the truth, wisdom, and authority of the Word. Now, because this perverse disposition of mind, possessing the to< hJgemoniko>n of the soul, influences the will also into an aversation and dislike of that goodness which is in the truth proposed to it, it is removed by a double act of the Holy Ghost. (1.) He gives us wisdom — understanding — a spiritual judgment — whereby we may be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, in a spiritual manner, and to come thereby to a clear and full light of the heavenly excellency and majesty of the Word; and so enables us to know of the doctrine whether it be of God. Under the benefit of this assistance all the parts of the Scripture in their harmony and correspondency, all the truths of it in their powerand necessity, come in together to give evidence one to another, and all of them to the whole; I mean as the mind is enabled to make a spiritual judgment of them. (2.) He gives ai]sqhsin pneumatikh>n, a spiritual sense, a taste of the things themselves upon the mind, heart, and conscience; when we have aijsqhth>ria gegumnasme>na , “senses exercised” to discern such things.
These things deserve a more full handling, and to be particularly exemplified from Scripture, if the nature of our present design would admit thereof.
As in our natural estate, in respect of these things of God, the mind is full of vanity, darkness, blindness, yea, is darkness itself, so that there is no correspondency between the faculty and the object — and the will lies in an utter unacquaintedness, yea, impossibility of any acquaintance, with the life, power, savor, sweetness, relish, and goodness, that are in the things proposed to be known and discerned, under the dark shades of a blind mind; so, for a removal of both these, the Holy Ghost communicates light to the understanding, whence it is able to see and judge of the truth as it is in Jesus — and the will being thereby delivered from the dungeon wherein it was, mad quickened anew, performs its office, in embracing what is proper and suited unto it in the object proposed. The Spirit, indeed, discovereth to every one kaqw~v bou>letai, according to the counsel of his will; but yet in that way, in the general, whereby the sun gives out his light and heat, the former making way for the latter. But these things must not now be insisted on.
Now, by these works of the Spirit he doth, I say, persuade the mind concerning the truth and authority of the Scripture, and therein leave an impression of an effectual testimony within us; and this testimony of his, as it is authoritative and infallible in itself, so [is it] of inconceivably more efficacy, power, and certainty, unto them that do receive it, than any voice or internal word, boasted of by some, can be. But yet this is not the work of the Spirit at present inquired after.
3. There is a testimony of the Spirit that respects the object, or the Word itself; and this is a publictestimony, which, as it satisfies our souls in particular, so it is, and may be, pleaded in reference unto the satisfaction of all others to whom the Word of God shall. come. The Holy Ghost speaking in and by the Word — imparting to it virtue, power, efficacy, majesty, and authority — affords us the witness that our faith is resolved into. And thus, whereas there are but two heads whereunto all grounds of assent do belong — viz., authority of testimony and the self-evidence of truth — they do here both concur in one. In the same Word, we have both the authority of the testimony of the Spirit and the self-evidence of the truth spoken by him; yea, so that both these are materially one and the same, though distinguished in their formal conceptions. I have been much affected with those verses of Dante, the Italian poet, which somebody hath thus, word for word, turned into Latin: — — “Larga pluvia Spiritus sancti quae, est diffusa Super veteres, et super novas membranas, Est syllogismus qui eam mihi conclusit Acute adeo ut prae illa Omnis demonstratio mihi videatur obtusa.” The Spirit’s communication of his own light and authority to the Scripture, as evidence of its original, is the testimony pleaded for.
When, then, we resolve our faith into the testimony of the Holy Ghost, it is not any private whisper, word, or voice, given to individual persons; it is not the secret and effectual persuasion of the truth of the Scriptures that falls upon the minds of some men, from various involved considerations of education, tradition, and the like, whereof they can give no particular account; it is not the effectual work of the Holy Ghost upon the minds and wills of men, enabling them savingly to believe, that is intended; (the Papists, for the most part, pleading about these things, do but show their ignorance and malice;) but it is the public testimony of the Holy Ghost given unto all, of the Word, by and in the Word, and its own divine light, efficacy, and power.
Thus far, then, have we proceeded: The Scripture, the written Word, hath its infallible truth in itself: JO lo>gov oJ soqeia> ejsti . ( John 17:17.) From whence it hath its verity, thence it hath its authority; for its whole authority founded in its truth. Its authority in itself, is its authority in respect of us; nor hath it any whir more in itself than, de jure, it hath towards and over all them to whom it comes. That, de facto some do not submit themselves unto it, is their sin and rebellion. This truth, and consequently this authority, is evidenced and made known to us by the publictestimony which is given unto it by the Holy Ghost speaking in it, with divine light and power, to the minds, souls, and consciences of men; being therein by itself proposed unto us, we being enlightened by the Holy Ghost, (which, in the condition wherein we are, is necessary for the apprehension of any spiritual thing or truth in a spiritual manner,) we receive it, and religiously subject our souls unto it, as the word and will of the ever-living, sovereign God and Judge of all. And if this be not a bottom and foundation of faith, I here publicly profess that, for aught I know, I have no faith at all Having laid this stable foundation, I shall, with all possible brevity, consider some pretences and allegations for the confirmation of the authority of the Scripture, invented and made use of by some to divert us from that foundation, the closing wherewith will, in this matter alone, bring peace unto our souls. And so this chapter shall, as it were, lay in the balance and compare together, the testimony of the Spirit before mentioned and explained, and the other pretences and pleas that shall now be examined. 1. Some say — when, on other accounts they are concerned so to say — that we “have received the Scripture from the Church of Rome; which received it by tradition; and this gives a credibility unto it.’ Of tradition in general — without this limitation (which destroys it) of the Church of Rome — I shall speak afterward. Credibility either keeps within the bounds of probability, as that may be heightened to a manifest uncontrollableness, whilst yet its principles exceed not that sphere — in which sense it belongs not at all to our present discourse; or it includes a firm, suitable foundation for faith, supernatural and divine. Have we, in this sense, received the Scripture from that church, as it is called? Is that church able to give such a credibility to any thing? or doth the Scripture stand in need of such a credibility to be given to it flora that church? Is not the first most false, and is not the last blasphemous? To receive a thing from a church as a church, is to receive it upon the authority of that church. If we receive any thing from the authority of a church, we do it not because the thing itself is ajpodoch~v a]xiov , “worthy of acceptation,’ but because of the authority alleged. If, then, we thus receive the Scriptures from the Church of Rome, why (in particular) do we not receive the apocryphal books also which she receives? How did the Church of Rome receive the Scriptures? Shall we say that she is authorized to give out what seems good to her as the Word of God? No; but she hath received them by tradition. So she pleads that she hath received the apocryphal books also.
We, then, receive the Scriptures from Rome by tradition; we make ourselves judges of that tradition; and yet Rome saith this is one thing that she hath by the same tradition, viz., that she alone is judge of what she hath by tradition. But the common fate of liars is befallen that harlot. She hath so long, so constantly, so desperately lied, in many, the most, things that she professeth pretending tradition for, that indeed she deserves not to be believed when she telleth the truth. Besides, she pleads that she received the Scriptures from the beginning, when it is granted that the copies of the Hebrew of the Old and the Greek of the New Testament were only authentic; these she pleads, now under her keeping, to be wofully corrupted, and yet is angry that we believe not her tradition. 2. Some add, that we receive the Scripture to be the word of God upon the account of the miracles that were wrought at the giving of the Law and of the New Testament; which miracles we have received by universal tradition. But, first, I desire to know whence it comes to pass, that, seeing our Savior Jesus Christ wrought many other miracles besides those that are written, (John 20:30, 21:25,) and the apostles likewise, they cannot, by all their traditions, help us to so much as an obscure report of any one that is not written; (I speak not of legends;) which yet at their performance were no less known than those that are, nor were less useful for the end of miracles than they. Of tradition in general afterward: but is it not evident that the miracles whereof they speak are preserved in the Scripture, and no otherwise? And if so, can these miracles operate upon the understanding or judgment of any man, unless he first grant the Scripture to be the Word of God — I mean to the begetting of a divine faith of them, even that there were ever any such miracles? Suppose these miracles, alleged as the ground of our believing of the Word, had not been written, but, like the sibyl’s leaves, had been driven up and down by the worst and fiercestwind that blows in this world — the breath of man; — those who should keep them by tradition (that is, men) are by nature so vain, foolish, malicious — such liars, adders, detracters — have spirits and minds so unsuited to spiritual things, so liable to alteration in themselves, and to contradiction one to another — are so given to impostures, and are so apt to be imposed upon — have been so shuffled and driven up and down the world in every generation — have, for the most part, so utterly lost the remembrance of what themselves are, whence they came, or whither they are to go — that I can give very little credit to what I have nothing but their authority to rely upon for, without any evidence from the nature of the thing itself.
Abstracting, then, from the testimony given in the Scriptures to the miracles wrought by the prime revealers of the mind and will of God in the Word, no tolerable assurance as to the business in hand, where a foundation for faith is inquired after, can be given, that ever any such miracles were wrought. If numbers of men may be allowed to speak, we may have a traditional testimony given to the blasphemous figments of the Koran, under the name of true miracles. But the constant tradition of more than a thousand years, carried on by innumerable multitudes of men, great, wise, and sober, from one generation to another, doth but set open the gates of hell for the Mohammedans. Yet, setting aside the authority of Godin his Word, and what is resolved thereinto, I know not why they may not vie traditions with the rest of the world. The world, indeed, is full of traditions flowing from the Word — that is, a knowledge of the doctrines of the Word in the minds of men; but a tradition of the Word not resolved into the Word — a tradition referred to a fountain of sense in seeing and hearing, preserved as an oral law in a distinct channel and stream by itself — when it is evidenced, either by instance in some particular preserved therein, or in a probability of securing it through the generations past, by a comparison of some such effect in things of the like kind, I shall be ready to receive it.
Give me, then, as I said before, but the least obscure report of any one of those many miracles that were wrought by our Savior and the apostles, which are not recorded in the Scriptures, and I shall put more valuation on the pretended traditions than I can as yet persuade myself unto. Besides, many writers of the Scripture wrought no miracles, and by this rule their writings are left to shift for themselves. Miracles, indeed, were necessary to take off all prejudices from the persons that brought any new doctrine from God; but the doctrine still evidenced itself. The apostlesconverted many, where they wrought no miracles; (Acts 16-18.) and where they did so work, yet they were received for their doctrine, and not the doctrine on their account. And the Scripture now hath no less evidence and demonstration in itself of its divinity, than it had when by them it was preached.
But because this tradition is pretended with great, confidence as a sure bottom and foundation for receiving of the Scriptures, I shall a little further inquire into it. That which in this case is intended by this Masora, or “tradition,” is a report of men, which those who are present have received from them that are gone before them. Now, this may be either of all the men of the world, or only of some of them; if of all, either their suffrages must betaken in some convention, or gathered up from the individuals as we are able and have opportunity. If the first way of receivingthem were possible, which is the utmost improvement that imagination can give the authority inquired after, yet every individual of men being a liar, the whole convention must be of the same complexion, and so not be able to yield a sufficient basis to build a faith upon, cui non potest subesse falsum — that is, infallible, and that “cannot possibly be deceived:” much less is there any foundation for it in such a report as is theemergency of the assertion of individuals.
But now if this tradition be alleged as preserved only by some in the world — not the half of rational creatures — I desire to know what reason I have to believe those who have that tradition, or plead that they have it, before and against them who profess they have no such report delivered to them from their forefathers. Is the reason hereof, because I live among those who have this tradition, and they are my neighbors whom I know? By the same rule those who live among the other parts of men are bound to receive what they deliver them upon tradition; and so men may be obliged to believe the Koran to be the word of God.
It is more probable, it will be answered, that their testimony is to be received because they are the church of God. But it doth not yet appear that I can any other way have any knowledge of them so to be, or of any authority that any number of men (more or less) can have in this case, under that name or notion, unless by the Scripture itself. And if so, it will quickly appear what place is to be allotted to their testimony, who cannot be admitted as witnesses unless the Scripture itself be owned and received; because they have neither plea nor claim to be so admitted but only from the Scripture. If they shall aver, that they take this honor to themselves, and that, without relation to the Scripture, they claim a right of authoritative witness-bearing in this case — I say again, upon the general grounds of natural reason and equity, I have no more inducements to give credit to their assertions than to an alike number of men holding out a tradition utterly to the contrary of what they assert.
But yet suppose that this also were granted, and that men might be allowed to speak in their own name and authority, giving testimony to themselves which, upon the hypothesis under consideration, God himself is not allowed to do — I shall desire to know whether, when the church declares the Scriptures to be the word of God unto us, it doth apprehend any thing in the Scripture as the ground of that judgment and declaration, or no? If it says, No, but that it is proposed upon its sole authority — then surely, if we think good to acquiesce in this decision of this doubt and inquiry, it is full time for us to lay aside all our studies and inquiries after the mind of God, and seek only what that man [says,] or those men say, who are intrusted with this authority — as they say, and as they would have us believe them, though we know not at all how or by what means they came by it, seeing they dare not pretend any thing from the Scripture, lest thereby they direct us to that in the first place.
If it be said that they do upon other accounts judge and believe the Scripture to be true, and to be the word of God — I suppose it will not be thought unreasonable if we inquire after those grounds and accounts, seeing they are of so great concernment unto us; All truths in relations consisting in their consonancy and agreement to the nature of the things they deliver, I desire to know how they came to judge of the consonancy between the nature of the things delivered in the Scripture and the delivery of them therein. The things whereof we speak being heavenly, spiritual, mysterious, and supernatural, there cannot be any knowledge obtained of them but by the Word itself. How, then, can they make any judgment of the truth of that Scripture in the relation of these things which are no where to be known (I speak of many of them) in the least, but by that Scripture itself?
If they shall say that they found their judgment and declaration upon some discovery that the Scripture makes of itself unto them, they affirm the same that we plead for; only they would very desirously appropriate to themselves the privilege of being able to discern that discovery so made in the Scripture. To make good this claim, they must either plead somewhat from themselves or from the Scripture. If from themselves, it can be nothing but that they see, (like the men of China,) and all others are blind, or have but one eye at the best — being wiser than any others, and more able to discern than they. Now, though I shall easily grant them to be very subtle and cunning, yet that they are so much wiser than all the world besides — that they are meet to impose upon their belief things that they neither do nor can discern or know I would not be thought to admit, until I can believe myself and all others, not of their society or combination, to be beasts of the field, and they as the serpent amongst us. If it be from the Scripture that they seek to make good this claim, then as we cause them there to take a stand — which is all we aim at — so their plea must be from the promise of some special assistance granted to them for that purpose. If their assistance be that of the Spirit, it is either of the Spirit that is promised to believers to work in them, as before described and related, or it is some private testimony that they pretend is afforded to them. If the former be affirmed, we are in a condition wherein the necessity of devolving all on the Scripture itself, to de aide and judge who are believers, lies in every one’s view; if the latter, who shall give me assurance that when they pretend that witness and testimony, they do not he and deceive? We must here certainly go either to the Scripture or to some cunning man to be resolved. ( Isaiah 8:19,20.)
I confess the argument is of great force and efficacy which hath, not long since, been singled out, and dexterously managed, by an able andlearned pen, viz., of proving the truth of the doctrine of the Scripture from the truth of the story, and the truth of the story from the certainty there is that the writers of the books of the Bible were those persons whose names and inscriptions they bear; so pursuing the evidence, that what they wrote was true and known to them so to be, from all requisita that may possibly be sought after for the strengthening of such evidence. It is, I say, of great force and efficacy as to the end for which it is insisted on — that is, to satisfy men’s rational inquiries; but as to a ground of faith; it hath the same insufficiency with all other arguments of the like kind. Though I should grant that the apostles and penmen of the Scripture were persons of the greatest industry, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, holiness, that ever lived in the world, as they were; and that they wrote nothing but what themselves had as good assurance of as what men by their senses of seeing and hearing are able to attain: yet such a knowledge or assurance is not a sufficient foundation for the faith of the church of God. If they received not every word by inspiration, and that evidencing itself unto us otherwise than by the authority of their integrity, it can be no foundation for us to build our faith upon.
Before the committing of the Scriptures to writing, God had given the world an experiment what keepers men were of this revelation by tradition. Within some hundreds of years after the flood, all knowledge of him, through the craft of Satan and the vanity of the minds of men, which is unspeakable, was so lost, that nothing but as it were the creation of a new world, or the erection of a new church-state by new revelations, could relieve it. After that great trial, what can be further pretended on the behalf of tradition, I know not.
The sum of all is: The merciful, good providence of God having, by divers and various means — using therein, amongst other things, the ministryof men and churches — preserved the writings of the Old and New Testament in the world, and by the same gracious disposal afforded them unto us, they are received and submitted unto by us, upon the grounds and evidences of their divine original before resisted on.
Upon the whole matter, then, I would know, if the Scripture should be brought to any man when or where he could not possibly have it attested to be the word of God — by any public or private authority of man or church, tradition or otherwise — whether he were bound to believe it or no? whether he should obey God in believing, or sin in the rejecting of it?
Suppose he do but take it into consideration, do but give it the reading or hearing, seeing in every place it avers itself to be the word of God, be must of necessity either give credit unto it or disbelieve it; to hang in suspense which ariseth from the imperfect actings of the faculties of the soul — is in itself a weakness, and, in this case, being reckoned on the worst side, is interpretatively a rejection. If you say it were the duty of such a one to believe it, you acknowledge in the Scripture itself a sufficient evidence of its own original authority — without which it can be no man’s duty to believe it. If you say it would not be his sin to reject and refuse it, to disbelieve all that i speaks in the name of God, then this is what you say — God may truly and really speak unto a man, (as he doth by the Scripture,) and yet that man not be bound to believe him. We deal not thus with one another.
To wind up, then, the plea insisted on in the foregoing chapter, concerning the self-evidencing light and power of the Scripture, from which we have diverted, and to make way for some other considerations that tend to the confirmation of their divine original, I shall close this discourse with the two general considerations following: — 1. Then, laying aside these failing pleas, there seems to be a moral impossibility that the Word of God should not manifest its own original, and its authority from thence. “Quaelibet herba Deum,” There is no work of God, as was showed, but reveals its author. A curious artificer imparts that of form, shape, proportion, and comeliness, to the fruit of his invention and work of his hands, that every one that looks upon it must conclude that it comes from skill and ability. A man in the delivery of his mind in the writing of a book, will give it such an impression of reason, that though you cannot conclude that this or that man wrote it, yet you must that it was the product of a man or rational creature; yea, some individual men of excellency in some skill are instantly known by them that are able to judge in that art orskill by the effects of their skill. This is the piece, this is the hand, the work of such a one. How easy is it for those who are conversant about ancient authors to discover an author by the spirit and style of his writings! Now, certainly, this is strange beyond all belief, that almost every agent should give an impress to his work whereby it may be appropriated unto him; and only the Word wherein it was the design of the great and holy God to give us a portraiture, as it were, of his wisdom, holiness, and goodness, so far as we are capable of an acquaintance with him in thislife — is not able to declare and evince its original That God, who is prima Veritas, “the first and sovereign Truth,” infinitely separated and distinguished from all creatures, on all accounts whatever, should write a book, or at least immediately indite it, commanding us to receive it as his under the penalty of his eternal displeasure, and yet that book not make a sufficient discovery of itself to be his, to be from him, is past all belief. Let men that live on things received by tradition from their fathers — who perhaps never had sense of any real transaction between Godand their souls, who scarce ever perused the Word seriously in their lives, nor brought their consciences to it — please themselves in their own imaginations; the sure anchor of a soul that would draw nigh to God, in and by his Word, lies in the things laid down.
I suppose it will not be denied but that it was the mind and will of God that those to whom his Word should come should own it and receive it as his; if not, it were no sin in them to reject it unto whom it doth so come. If it were, then either he hath given those characters unto it, and left upon it that impression of his majesty, whereby it might be known to be his, or he hath not done so; and that either because he would not or because he could not. To say the latter, is to make him more infirm than a man or other worm of the earth — than any naturally effectual cause. He that saith the former, must know that it is incumbent on him to yield a satisfactory account why God would not do so, or else he will be thought blasphemously to impute a want of that goodness and love of mankind unto Him which he hath in infinite grace manifested to be in himself. That no man is able to assign any such reason, I shall firmly believe, until I find some attempting so to do — which, as yet, none have arrived at that height of impudence and wickedness as to own. 2. How horrible is it to the thoughts of any saint of God, that the Scripture should not have its authority from itself! Tertullian objects this to the Gentiles: (Apol., cap. 5:) “Facit et hoc ad causam nostram, quod apud vos de humano arbitratu divinitas pensitatur; nisi homini Deus placuerit, Deusi non erit; homo jam Deo propitius esse debebit.” Would it be otherwise in this case, if the Scripture must stand to the mercy of man for the reputation of its divinity, nay, of its verity? for whence it hath its authority, thence it hath its verity also, as was observed before; and many more words of this nature might be added.
CHAPTER 6. Consequential considerations, for the confirmation of the divine authority of the Scripture.
I said, in the former chapter, that I would not employ myself willingly to enervate or weaken any of the reasons or arguments that are usually insisted on to prove the divine authority of the Scripture. Though I confess I like not to multiply arguments that conclude to a probability only, and are suited to beget a firm opinion at best, where the principle intended to be evinced is de fide , and must be believed with faith divine and supernatural; yet because some may haply be kept to some kind of adherence to the Scriptures by mean grounds, that will not in their ownstrength abide, until they get footing in those that are more firm, I shall not make it my business to drive them from their present station, having persuaded them by that which is better.
Yea, because, on supposition of the evidence formerly tended, there may be great use, at several seasons of some consequential considerations and arguments to the purpose in hand, I shall insist on two of that kind; which, to me who have the advantage of receiving the Word on the fore-mentioned account seem not only to persuade, and in a great measure to convince to undeniable probability, but also to prevail irresistibly on the understanding of unprejudiced men to close with the divine truth of it, The first of these is taken from the nature of the doctrine itself contained in the Scripture; the second, from the management of the whole design therein: the first is innate, the other of a more external and rational consideration.
For the first of them, there are two things considerable in the doctrine of the Scripture, that are powerful, and, if I may so say uncontrollably prevalent as to this purpose. First, Its universal suitableness, upon its first clear discovery and revelation, to all the entanglements and perplexities of the souls of men, in reference to their relation to and dependence upon God. It all mankind have certain entanglements upon their hearts and spirits in reference unto God — which none of them that are not utterly brutish do not wrestle withal, and which all of them are not able in the least to assoil [acquit] themselves in and about — certainly that doctrine which is suited universally to satisfy all their perplexities, to calm and quiet their spirits in all their tumultuatings, and doth break in upon them with a glorious efficacy to that purpose, in its discovery and revelation, must needs be from that God with whom we have to do, and none else. From whom else, I pray, should it be? He that can give out the Word ille mihi semper erit Deus.
Now, there are three general heads of things, that all and every one of mankind, not naturally brutish, are perplexed withal, in reference to their dependence on God and relation to him. 1. How they may worship him as they ought. 2. How they may be reconciled and at peace with him, or have an atonement for that guilt which naturally they are sensible of. 3. What is the nature of true blessedness, and how they may attain it, or how they may come to the enjoyment of God.
That all mankind are perplexed and entangled with and about these considerations — that all men ever were so, without exception, more or less, and continue so to be to this day — that of themselves they miserably grope up and down in the dark, and are never able to come to any satisfaction, neither as to what is present nor as to what is to come — I could manifest, from the state, office, and condition of conscience, the indelible prolh>yeiv , “presumptions, about them, that are in the hearts of all by nature. The whole history of all religion which hath been in the world, with the design of all ancient and present philosophy, with innumerable other uncontrollable convictions, (which also God assisting, I shall in another treatise declare,) do manifest this truth.
That, surely, then, which shall administer to all and every one of them, equally and universally, satisfaction as to all these things — to quiet and calm their spirits, to cut off all necessity of any further inquiries — give them that wherein they must acquiesce and wherewith they will be satiated, unless they will cast off that relation and dependence on God which they seek to confirm and settle; surely, I say, this must be from the all-seeing, all-satisfying Truth and Being, and from none else. Now, this is done by the doctrine of the Scripture, with such a glorious, uncontrollable conviction, that every one to whom it is revealed, the eyes of whose understanding are not blinded by the god of this world, must needs cry out [Eurhka — “I have found” that which in vain I sought elsewhere, waxing foolish in my imaginations.
It would be too long to insist on the severals — take one instance in the business of atonement, reconciliation, and acceptance with God. What strange, horrible fruits and effects have men’s contrivances on this account produced! What have they not invented? what have they not done? what have they not suffered? and yet continued in dread and bondage all their days. Now, with what a glorious, soul-appeasing light doth the doctrine of satisfaction and atonement by the blood of Christ, the Son of God, come in upon such men! This first astonisheth, then conquereth, then ravisheth and satiateth the soul. This is that they looked for, this they were sick for, and knew it not. This is the design of the apostle’s discourse in the three first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. Let any man read that discourse from chap 1:18, and onward, and he will see with what glory and beauty, with what full and ample satisfaction, this doctrine breaks out. (Chap. 3:21-26.)
It is no otherwise as to the particulars of present worship or future blessedness. This meets with men in all their wanderings, stops them in their disquisitions, convinces them of the darkness, folly, uncertainty, falseness, of all their reasonings about these things; and that with such an evidence and light as at once subdues them, captivates their understanding, and quiets their souls. So was that old Roman world conquered by it; so shall the Mohammedan be, in God’s good and appointed time.
Of what hath been spoken this is the sum: All mankind, that acknowledge their dependence upon God and relation to him, are naturally (and cannot be otherwise) grievously involved and perplexed in their hearts, thoughts, and reasonings, about the worship of God, acceptation with him, (having sinned,) and the future enjoyment of him. Some with more clear and distinct apprehensions of these things, some under more darkand general notions of them, are thus exercised. To extricate themselves, and to come to some issue in and about these inquiries, hath been the great design of their lives — the aim they had in all things they did, as they thought, well and laudably in this world. Notwithstanding all which, they were never able to deliver themselves, no, not one of them, or attain satisfaction of their souls, but waxed vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were more and more darkened. In this estate of things, the doctrine of the Scripture coming in with full, unquestionable satisfaction to all these sued to the inquirings of every individual soul, with a largeness of wisdom and depth of goodness not to be fathomed it must needs be from that God with whom we have to do. And those who are not persuaded hereby, that will not cast anchor in this harbor, let them put to sea once more, if they dare; turn themselves loose to other considerations, and try if all the forementioned perplexities do not inevitably return.
Another consideration of the doctrine of the Scripture to this purpose regards some particulars of it. There are some doctrines of the Scripture, some revelations in it so sublimely glorious, of so profound and mysterious an excellency, that at the first proposal of them, nature startles, shrinks, and is taken with horror, meeting with that which is above it, too great and too excellent for it, which it could desirously avoid and decline but yet, gathering itself up to them, it yields, and finds that unless they are accepted and submitted unto, though unsearchable, not only all that hath been received must be rejected, but also the whole dependence of the creature on God be dissolved, or rendered only dreadful, terrible, and destructive to nature itself. Such are the doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Son of God, of the resurrection of the dead, of the new birth, and the like. At the first revelation of these things nature is amazed, cries, “How can these things be?” or gathers up itself to opposition: “This is babbling” — like the Athenians; “Folly” — as all the wise Greeks. But when the eyes of reason are a little confirmed, though it can never clearly behold the glory of this sun, yet it confesseth a glory to be in it above all that it is able to apprehend. I could manifest, in particular, that the doctrines before mentioned, and several others, are of this importance; namely, though great above and beyond the reach of reason, yet, upon search, found to be such, as, without submission to them, the whole comfortable relation between God and man must needs be dissolved.
Let us take a view in our way of one of the instances. What is there, in the whole book of God, that nature at first sight doth more recoil at, than the doctrine of the Trinity? How many do yet stumble and fall at it! I confess; the doctrine itself is but sparingly — yet it is clearly and distinctly — delivered unto us in the Scripture. The sum of it is: That God is one — his nature or his being one: that all the properties or infinite essential excellencies of God, as God, do belong to that one nature and being: that this God is infinitely good, holy, just, powerful; he is eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent; and these things belong to none but him — that is, that one God: that this God is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which are not diverse names of the same person, nor distinct attributes or properties of the same nature or being, but one, another, and a third, all equally that one God, yet really distinguished between themselves by such incommunicable properties as constitute the one to be that one, and the other to be that other, and the third to be that third. Thus, the Trinity is not the union nor unity of three, but it is a trinity in unity, or the ternary number of persons in the same essence; nor doth the Trinity, in its formal conception, denote the essence, as if the essence were comprehended in the Trinity, which is in each person; but it denotes only the distinction of the persons comprised in that number.
This, I say, is the sum of this doctrine, as it is delivered unto us in the Scripture. Here reason is entangled; yet, after a while, finds evidently, that unless this be embraced, all other things wherein it hath to do with God will not be of value to the soul. This will quickly be made to appear. Of all that communion which is here between God and man, founded the revelation of his mind and will unto him, which makes way for his enjoyment in glory, there are these two parts: — 1st , God’s gracious communication of his love, goodness, etc., with the fruits of them, unto man; 2d , The obedience of man unto God, in a way of gratitude for that love, according to the mind and will of God revealed to him. These two comprise thewhole of the intercourse between God and man. Now, when the mind of man is exercised about these things, he finds at last that they are so wrapped up in the doctrine of the Trinity, that without the belief, receiving, and acceptance: of it, it is utterly impossible that any interest in them should be obtained or preserved.
For the first, or the communication of God unto us in a way of love and goodness, it is wholly founded upon and inwrapped in this truth, both as to the eternal spring and actual execution of it, A few instances will evince this assertion. The eternal fountain of all grace, flowing from love and goodness, lies in God’s election, or predestination. This being an act of God’s will, cannot be apprehended but as an eternal act of his Wisdom or Word also. All the eternal thoughts of its pursuit lie in the covenant that was between the Father and the Son, as to the Son’s undertaking to execute that purpose of his. This I have at large elsewhere declared.
Take away, then, the doctrine of the Trinity, and both these are gone; there can be no purpose of grace by the Father in the Son — no covenant for the putting of that purpose in execution: and so the foundation of all fruits of love and goodness is lost to the soul.
As to the execution of this purpose, with the actual dispensation of the fruits of grace and goodness unto us, it lies wholly in the unspeakable condescension of the Son unto incarnation, with what ensued thereon. The incarnation of the eternal Word by the power of the Holy Ghost, is the bottom of our participation of grace. Without it, it was absolutely impossible that man should be made partaker of the favor of God. Now, this inwraps the whole doctrine of the Trinity in its bosom, nor can once be apprehended without its acknowledgment, Deny the Trinity, and all the means of the communication of grace, with the whole of the satisfaction and righteousness of Christ, fall to the ground. Every tittle of it speaks this truth; and they who deny the one reject the other.
Our actual participation of the fruits of this grace is by the Holy Ghost.
We cannot ourselves seize on them, nor bring them home to our own souls. The impossibility hereof I cannot now stay to manifest. Now, whence is this Holy Ghost? Is he not sent from the Father by the Son?
Can we entertain any thought of his effectual working in us and upon us, but it includes this whole doctrine? They, therefore, who deny the Trinity, deny the efficacy of its operation also.
So is it as to our obedience unto God, whereby the communion between God and man is completed. Although the formal object of divine worship be the nature of God, and the persons are not worshipped as persons distinct, but as they are each of them God; yet, as God, they are every one of them distinctly to be worshipped. So is it as to our faith, our love, our thanksgiving, all our obedience, as I have abundantly demonstrated in my treatise of distinct communion with the Father in love, the Son in grace, and the Holy Ghost in the privileges of the gospel. Thus, without the acknowledgment of this truth, none of that obedience which God requireth at our hands can in a due manner be performed.
Hence, the Scripture speaks not of any thing between God and us but what is founded on this account. The Father worketh, the Son worketh, and the Holy Ghost worketh. The Father worketh not but by the Son and his Spirit; the Son and Spirit work not but from the Father. The Father glorifieth the Son, the Son glorifieth the Father, and the Holy Ghost glorifieth them both. Before the foundation of the world the Son was with the Father, and rejoiced in his peculiar work for the redemption of mankind. At the creation, the Father made all things, but by the Son and the powerof the Spirit. In redemption, the Father sends the Son; the Son, by his own condescension, undertakes the work, and is incarnate by the Holy Ghost. The Father, as was said, communicates his love and all the fruits of it unto us by the Son, as the Holy Ghost doth the merits and fruits of the mediation of the Son. The Father is not known nor worshipped, but by and in the Son; nor Father nor Son, but by the Holy Ghost, etc.
Upon this discovery, the soul that was before startled at the doctrine in the notion of it, is fully convinced that all the satisfaction it hath sought after, in its seeking unto God, is utterly lost if this be not admitted. There is neither any foundation left of the communication of love to him, nor means of returning obedience unto God. Besides, all the things that he hath been inquiring after appear, on this account, in their glory, beauty, and reality, unto him; so that that which most staggered him at first in the receiving of the truth, because of its deep, mysterious glory, doth now most confirm him in the embracing of it, because of its necessity, power, and heavenly excellency.
And this is one argument of the many belonging to the things of the Scripture, that, upon the grounds before mentioned, hath in it, as to my sense and apprehension, an evidence of conviction not to be withstood.
Another consideration of the like efficacy may be taken from a brief view of the whole Scripture, with the design of it. The consent of parts, or harmony of the Scripture in itself, and every part of it with each other and with the whole, is commonly pleaded as an evidence of its divine original.
This much, certainly, it doth evince, beyond all possible contradiction, that the whole proceedeth from one and the same principle, hath the same author, and he wise, discerning, able to comprehend the whole compass of what he intended to deliver and reveal Otherwise, or by any other, that oneness of spirit, design, and aim, in unspeakable variety and diversity of means of its delivery — that absolute correspondency of it to itself, anddistance from any thing else — could not have been attained. Now, it is certain that this principle must be summum in its kind either bonum ormalum. If the Scripture be what it reveals and declares itself to be, it is then unquestionably the “word of the living God,” truth itself; for that it professeth of itself from the beginning to the ending — to which profession, all that it reveals answers absolutely and unquestionably in a tendency to his glory alone. If it be not so, it must be acknowledged that the author of it had a blasphemous design to hold forth himself to beGod, who is not so — a malicious design to deceive the sons of men, and to make them believe that they worship and honor God, and obey him, when they do not, and so to draw them into everlasting destruction; and that to compass these ends of blasphemy, atheism, and malice, he hath laid out, in a long course of time, all the industry and wisdom that a creature could be made partaker of. Now, he that should do thus must be the devil, and none else: no other creature can possibly arrive at that height of obstinacy in evil. Now, certainly, whilst God is pleased to continue unto us any thing whereby we are distinguished from the beasts that perish, whilst there is a sense of a distance between good and evil abiding amongst men, it cannot fall upon the understanding of any man that that doctrine which is so holy and pure — so absolutely leading to the utmost improvement of whatever is good, just, commendable, and praiseworthy — so suitable to all the light of God, of good and evil, that remains in us — could proceed from any one everlastingly hardened in evil, and that in the pursuit of the most wicked design that that wicked one could possibly be engaged in, namely, to enthrone himself, and maliciously to cheat, cozen, and ruin the souls of men; so that upon necessity the Scripture can own no author but him whose it is — even the living God.
As these considerations are far from being the bottom and foundation of our faith, in our assenting to the authority of God in the Word, so, on the supposition of what is so, they have a usefulness, as to support in trials and temptations, and the like seasons of difficulty: but of these things so far.