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Under these, and such like considerations, we may with propriety learn from the light of revelation, the divine beauty that shines in this part of Christ's filial character, the image of God, to our spiritual comfort and edification. But we come to another argument.
8. All the fundamental articles of faith necessary to salvation, are plain, familiar, easy to be understood, and clearly revealed in the word of God; but the belief of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, is made necessary to salvation: therefore, it must be easy to be understood, and clearly revealed in the word of God. I need not stand to prove the major or first proposition, as it is granted by every protestant who knows his own principles. But with relation to the present subject, it may be observed, that as all true religion is practical, and is attained through knowledge of the object, it must therefore be necessary that we know in whom we believe; and as the only means of saving knowledge is divine revelation, it will follow, that the object of our faith must be clearly revealed therein. It cannot be supposed, that it is consistent with the wisdom and goodness of God, to leave that under the veil of ineffable mystery, the knowledge of which he hath made absolutely necessary to salvation.
And there is nothing more evident in the new testament, than the necessity of believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, which the following texts among many put beyond doubt." Whosoever* shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through his name. He that believeth on him, is not condemned: but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And be answered, I believe that JESUS Christ is the Son of God: and he baptized him. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abid eth on him."
* 1 John iv. 15. John xx. 31. Ibid. iii. 18. 1 John ïj, 23,
Acts viï, 37, 38, 1 Jobu v. 13. John üi. 36.
Now from premises so evident, the conclusion may with safety be admitted, that the sonship of Christ must be easily understood and clearly revealed in the word of God. Then the doctrine of his being a Son as he is God, must be given up; because all the supporters thereof, acknowledge it to be an ineffable mystery, so inconceivable that no man can know it. But as the economical character of our Lord and Savior is every where clearly taught in revelation, yea, is the substance of both old and new testaments, we may without hesitation affirm, that it is in that sense the scripture makes the knowledge and belief of his character as the Son of God necessary to salvation. This natively leads to another argument or reason why it must
9. As the scriptures make believing in the Son of God necessary to salvation, of consequence there must be that in him as a Son, which is directly suitable to the sinful and miserable state of man
kind,—which renders him a proper object of their desire, dependence, and hope. Now this is not the Deity abstractedly considered; for we cannot suppose him under that consideration to have the least relation to creatures, much less to sinful apostate men. And though we suppose the relation of creator and creatures betwixt God and sinful men; yet, if we do not also take in the consideration of the Son's complex character, in which he stands related to them as their kinsman, and consequently their surety and redeemer, there is nothing in him, that we know of, that is more suitable to the miserable case of men, as sinners, than there is to the hopeless case of devils, to whom he is under no such relation. All the love, mercy, and grace of God communicated to men, flow through his Son, in whom they are chosen : nay, all that is known of God is in Christ, for out of him* the scriptures do not reveal any God but heathen ones,
But consider the Son of God under the relative characters and offices he sustains, as the glorious Emanuel, the Savior of men, with his all-sufficient capacity to fulfil these offices, which he in so great condescension was clothed with; in this light, he is a comforting sight to a poor, perishing, convinced sinner, who is void of all hopes of salvation any other way. When the wretch, pursued with the curse, and stung with a sense of poignant guilt, beholds the glorious EMANUEL, appointed a prophet to enlighten his darkened soul,-a priest to atone for his numberless sins, and manage his cause by appearing in the presence of God for him,-a king to rule, influence, and defend him against all the combined powers of sin and hell,—and all-sufficient for these sacred purposes; how happy must the poor soul be, who is thus, through the power of his divine Spirit, determined to trust in him, who is every way suitable for all he wants, or can desire in time and for ever?
* “That GOD OUT of Christ is a consuming fire,” is a sentence that passeth for sacred writ, I own; I was myself so far deceived through the prejudice of education, that I used it as a test in a former publication; but am now satisfied, that neither the words, nor the sentinients they convey, are in revelation, but like many other things, which custom only hath made canonical. I mention this to shew the danger of taking things upon trust, and neglectivg to examine the sentiments we have been nursed up in, many of which are not authenticated from scripture.
10. The ground of our adoption, and right to the privileges of sons, are laid in the filiation or sonship of Christ, taken in connection with the free love of God, as the spring of his choosing us in him, to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. The scriptures prove this; but I can no ways agree with those, who make it an argument for a natural and necessary sonship in Christ; for the proposition if once admitted to be true, proves the contrary.
If believers sonship is founded upon a necessary sonship in Christ, it will necessarily follow, that their sonship is necessary also: for a necessary cause must produce a necessary effect. It must also follow, that the salvation of sinners was necessary in God. Where then will we find room for the least vestige of the sovereign love,—the free will, or even the mercy or grace of God? If the sonship of Christ was natural and necessary, it could in no wise depend upon the will of God: and if the sonship of believers is an effect of this natural sonship, then it must not depend on the will of God, more than the cause from which it doth flow. This makes our adoption, with the whole of redemption by Christ Jesus, to flow from necessity, not from the good pleasure of the will of God.
All God's children are made so by disposition, founded in sovereign love and grace; but is there, or can there be any connection betwixt a natural sonship of Christ, and a sonship founded in love and grace? unless we can suppose that Christ's relation to his people, is natural and necessary to him, in the same way as his sonship is pretended to be. But in this case it would unhappily follow, that it would no longer be a disposition of grace, but of necessity; which not only overthrows the whole plan of redeeming love and grace, but is a plain contradiction in terms.
Jesus Christ in the transaction which he voluntarily assumed, because the kinsman and elder brother of all who were chosen in him, as the objects of Jehovah's love,--sons and children by immutable promise made to him, and who in time should be actually adopted, -taken into the family of God, and made partakers of all the privileges of sons, by virtue of that infallible engagement of JEHOVAH, (who had chosen them) to his Son, their head and representative; and through the divine efficacy of that redemption wrought for them, in shedding his precious blood, that they might actually enjoy the favor of God, and fellowship with him. Thus they are made partakers of a divine nature, and possessors of the inheritance they were chosen to in Christ Jesus, which they had incapacitated themselves for the enjoyment of, being alienated from the life of God, and by apostacy liable to the curse; all which, the Son of God, their kinsman, came down to redeem them from, by being made a curse for them.
In this light there is a connection supporter by revelation, betwixt the sonship of Christ, as the elder brother in the family of God, and the saints sonship, as younger brethren, heirs of God, and