« AnteriorContinuar »
is certainly so, that their sins are forgiven, and God does love them, &c.-they say they know it is so; and when the words of scripture are suggested to them, and as they suppose immediately spoken to them by God, in this meaning, they are ready to cry out, Truth, truth! it is certainly so! the word of God is true! And this they call "seeing the truth of the word of God." Whereas the whole of their faith amounts to no more, than only a strong confidence of their own good estate, and so a confidence that those words are true, which they suppose tell them they are in a good estate; when indeed (as was shewn before) there is no scripture which declares that any person is in a good estate directly, or any other way than by consequence. So that this, instead of being a real sight of the truth of the word of God, is a sight of nothing but a phantom, and is all over a delusion. Truly to see the truth of the word of God, is to see the truth of the gospel; which is the glorious doctrine the word of God contains, concerning God, Jesus Christ, the way of salvation by him, and the world of glory that he is entered into, and purchased for all them who believe; and not a revelation that such and such particular persons are true Christians, and shall go to heaven. Therefore those affections which arise from no other persuasion of the truth of the word of God than this, arise from delusion, and not true conviction; and consequently are themselves delusive and vain.
But suppose the religious affections of persons indeed arise from a strong persuasion of the truth of the Christian religion; their affections are not the better, unless it be a reasonable persuasion or conviction. By a reasonable conviction, I mean a conviction founded on real evidence, or upon that which is a good reason, or just ground of conviction. Men may have a strong persuasion that the Christian religion is true, when their persuasion is not at all built on evidence, but altogether on education, and the opinion of others; as many Mahometans are strongly persuaded of the truth of the Mahometan religion, because their fathers, and neighbours, and nation believe it. That belief of the truth of the Christian religion, which is built on the very same grounds with that of Mahometans who believe in the Mahometan religion, is the same sort of belief. And though the thing believed happens to be better; yet that does not make the belief itself to be of a better sort, for though the thing believed happens to be true, yet the belief of it is not owing to this truth, but to education. So that as the conviction is no better than the Mahometans' conviction, so the affections that flow from it, are no better, in themselves, than the religious affections of Mahometans.
But suppose the belief of Christian doctrines, be not merely from education, but indeed from reasons and arguments, it will
not from thence necessarily follow, that their affections are truly gracious: for in order to that, it is requisite, not only that the belief which their affections arise from, should be a reasonable, but also a spiritual belief or conviction. I suppose none will doubt but that some natural men yield a kind of assent of their judgments to the truth of the Christian religion, from the rational proofs or arguments that are offered to evince it. Judas, without doubt, thought Jesus to be the Messiah, from the things which he saw and heard; but yet all along was a devil. So in John ii. 23-25, we read of many that believed in Christ's name, when they saw the miracles that he did; whom yet Christ knew had not that within them, which was to be depended on. So Simon the sorcerer believed, when he beheld the miracles and signs which were done; but yet remained in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity, Acts viii. 13, 23. And if there is such a belief or assent of the judgment in some natural men, none can doubt but that religious affections may arise from that assent or belief; as we read of some who believed for a while that were greatly affected, and anon with joy received the word.
It is evident that there is a spiritual conviction of the truth, or a belief peculiar to those who are spiritual, who are regenerated, and who have the Spirit of God, in his holy communications, dwelling in them as a vital principle. So that their conviction does not only differ from that which natural men have, in that it is accompanied with good works; but the belief itself is diverse, the assent and conviction of the judgment is of a kind peculiar to those who are spiritual, and of which natural men are wholly destitute. This is evident by the scripture, if any thing at all is so; John xvii. 8. They have believed that thou didst send me. Tit. i. 1. According to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness. John xvi. 27. The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 1 John iv. 15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Chap. v. 1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. Verse 10. He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself.
What a spiritual conviction of the judgment, is, we are naturally led to determine from what has been said already, under the former head of a spiritual understanding. The conviction of the judgment arises from the illumination of the understanding the passing of a right judgment on things, depends on a right apprehension. And therefore it follows, that a spiritual conviction of the truth of the great things of the gospel, is such a conviction as arises from having a spiritual apprehension of those things in the mind. And this is also evident from the
scripture, which often represents a saving belief of the reality and divinity of the things proposed and exhibited to us in the gospel, as what proceeds from the Spirit of God enlightening the mind. Hence right apprehensions of the nature of those things; the Spirit as it were unveiling, or revealing them, and enabling the mind to view them as they are. Luke x. 21, 22. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast HID these things from the wise and prudent, and hast REVEALED them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father: and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will REVEAL him. John vi. 40. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which SEETH the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life. Where it is plain, that true faith arises from a spiritual sight of Christ. And John xvii. 6-8. I have MANIFESTED thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.-Now they have known that all things whatsover thou hast given me, are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me: and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. Christ's manifesting God's name to the disciples, or giving them a true apprehension of divine things, was that whereby they knew that Christ's doctrine was of God, and that Christ himself was sent by him. Matth. xvi. 16, 17. Simon Peter said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not REVEALED it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 1 John v. 10. He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself. Gal. i. 14-16. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to REVEAL his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.
If that is a spiritual conviction of the divinity and reality of the things exhibited in the gospel, which arises from a spiritual understanding of those things; I have shewn already what that is. In short, it consists in a sense and taste of the divine, supreme, and holy excellency and beauty of those things. So that then is the mind spiritually convinced of the divinity and truth of the great things of the gospel, when that conviction arises, either directly or remotely, from such a sense or view of their divine excellency and glory as is there exhibited. This clearly follows from what has been already said; and for this the scripture is very plain and express: 2 Cor. iv. 3-6. But if our gos
pel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that BELIEVE not, lest the light of the GLORIOUS GOSPEL of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the LIGHT OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORY OF GOD, in the face of Jesus Christ. Together with the last verse of the foregoing chapter, which introduces this, But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the GLORY OF THE LORD, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Nothing can be more evident, than that a saving belief of the gospel is here spoken of by the apostle, as arising from the mind being enlightened to behold the divine glory of the things it exhibits. This view or sense of the divine glory, and unparalleled beauty of the things exhibited to us in the gospel, has a tendency to convince the mind of their divinity two ways; first, directly, and secondly, more indirectly and remotely.
I. A view of the divine glory directly, convinces the mind of the divinity of these things, as this glory is in itself a direct, clear, and all-conquering evidence of it; especially when clearly discovered, or when this supernatural sense is given in a good degree.
He that has his judgment thus directly convinced and assured of the divinity of gospel truths by a clear view of their divine glory, has a reasonable conviction. His assurance is altogether agreeable to reason; because the divine glory and beauty of divine things is in itself a real evidence of their divinity, and the most direct and strong. He that truly sees the divine, transcendent, supreme glory of those things which are divine, does as it were know their divinity intuitively; he not only argues, but sees that they are divine. He sees that in them wherein divinity chiefly consists; for in this glory, which is so vastly and inexpressibly distinguished from the glory of artificial things, and all other glory, mainly consists the truc notion of divinity. God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above them, chiefly by his divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from all other beauty. They therefore that see the stamp of this glory in divine things, they see divinity in them, they see God in them, and so see them to be divine; because they see that in them wherein the truest idea of divinity consists. Thus a soul may have a kind of intuitive knowledge of the divinity of the things exhibited in the gospel; not that he judges the doctrines of the gospel to be from God, without any argument or deduction at all; but it is without any long chain of arguments; the
argument is but one, and the evidence direct; the mind ascends. to the truth of the gospel but one step, and that is its divine glory.
It would be very strange, if any professing Christian should deny it to be possible, that there should be an excellency in divine things, which is so transcendent, and exceedingly different from what is in other things, that if it were seen, would evidently distinguish them. We cannot rationally doubt, but that things which are divine, that appertain to the Supreme Being, are vastly different from things that are human. There is a God-like, high, and glorious excellency in them, so distinguishing them from the things which are of men, that the difference is ineffable; and therefore such as if seen, will have a most convincing, satisfying influence upon any one, that they are what they are, viz. divine. Doubtless there is that glory and excellency in the Divine Being, by which he is so infinitely distinguished from all other beings, that if it were seen, he might be known by it. It would therefore be very unreasonable to deny, that it is possible for God to give manifestations of this distinguishing excellency, in things by which he is pleased to make himself known; and that this distinguishing excellency may be clearly seen in them. There are natural excellencies that are very evidently distinguishing of the subjects or authors, to any one who beholds them. How vastly is the speech of an intelligent man different from that of a little child! And how greatly distinguished is the speech of some men of great genius, as Homer, Cicero, Milton, Locke, Addison, and others, from that of many other intelligent men! There are no limits to be set to the degrees of manifestation of mental excellency, that there may be in speech. But the appearances of the natural perfections of God, in the manifestations he makes of himself, may doubtless be unspeakably more evidently distinguishing, than the appearances of those excellencies of worms of the dust, in which they differ one from another. He that is well acquainted with mankind, and their works, by viewing the sun, may know it is no human work. And it is reasonable to suppose, that when Christ comes at the end of the world, in the glory of his Father, it will be with such ineffable appearances of divinity, as will leave no doubt to the inhabitants of the world, even the most obstinate infidels, that he who appears is a divine person. But above all, do the manifestations of the moral and spiritual glory of the Divine Being, (which is the proper beauty of the divinity), bring their own evidence, and tend to assure the heart. Thus the disciples were assured that Jesus was the Son of God, for they beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John i. 14. When Christ appeared in his transfiguration to his disciples, as an outward glory to their bodily eyes-which was a sweet and admira