The Mystery of Godliness
In a Letter to an Erroneous Man
William Huntington (1745-1813)
WRITTEN FOR THE COMFORT AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CONGREGATIONS AT PROVIDENCE CHAPEL AND MONKWELL STREET MEETING.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. ? I Tim. iii. 16.
TO MR. BENSLEY, PRINTER, BOLT-COURT, FLEET-STREET
Dear Brother in the Lord, and Dear Tom in the Flesh,
As I have hitherto proved you, and, upon proof, have found you to be the most careful, the most desirous of giving satisfaction, the most attentive to your employers; and whose works have been sent in properly dried, and better packed up; and the numbers ordered, and time of sending them, better observed, and more punctually fulfilled, than by any printer I ever yet employed; I do, in this confidence, dear Tom, send you these papers; beseeching you, for the Lord's sake, to send them out verbatim as they come from me.
I am driven, by an ungodly man, into a controversy about things which are heavier to me than a talent of lead, and more fit for an archangel than a self-despairing sinner, who has neither learning, nor abilities; "but by the grace of God I am what am;" and, as the Lord has made me a shepherd, I must defend the lambs of the flock against every wolf in sheeps clothing. I think I have made Truth both my shield and buckler; and under her protection I need fear no danger, as we are commanded to be valiant for truth. If you see any thing in these papers that may in any sense sully her glory, or obscure her lustre, bring your objections to me, and let them be weighed in an even balance. I am conscious of my own inability ; but dare not quit the standard of Christ, when his word is so boldly attacked-by so obstinate, so imperious, so daring, so hardened, so insensible, so confused, so bewitched, and so presumptuous a rebel. The man is, I think, a native of Maidstone in Kent, and (to my grief I speak it) a member with us; though it was with the greatest difficulty he got in among us, for I was fully persuaded that the person who was his supposed father knew nothing savingly of God. And this affair, as well as many others, has served to establish the sentiment that has ever stuck by me, namely, that no man can communicate to others what he never had himself; or, in other words, that a child of the flesh cannot communicate to others the Spirit of God ; or a bond-child be instrumental in setting another at liberty, seeing, the scripture declares it is-like people, like priest; and so with respect to congregations also; as is the mother, so is her daughter. I am informed there are a few that belong to us, who are leavened with the wild ferment of this awful and dangerous man; and, as you are one in union with the family, I wish you would endeavour to find them out, that we may purge ourselves from this old leaven, and be a new lump. For my part, I hope never to be slack in this business, which is so strictly enjoined by the Lord himself, and so incumbent upon us all. We have long, endeavoured to keep the gate into the fold as strait as possible, and many have complained of its being, too strait: but this awful and wretched man shews us that it is by far too wide yet; which I hope will be an instructing lesson to us all. He had the countenance of Cain when he came to us; which was the cause of our criticizing, him so closely, and receiving him so reluctantly: but Satan had well furnished him, and deeply councelled him. And by this means that enemy of God props up his tottering interest in the world ; who, not withstanding, all his efforts, shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
I cannot help thinking but the craftiness of this wretched man was exhibited to me a few months ago in a dream. One Saturday night I dreamed that I was in a barn floor, where there lay some wheat, some chaf, and some straw; which I was particularly remarking, when on a sudden I saw a wolf, of a tabby colour, come softly into the floor, and creep under a little heap of straw; and soon after there came two more; and so on, till seven in all took the same shelter; but, as there was not much straw in the floor, they were obliged to get one upon another; but neither of them could so cover himself as to be entirely hid. I particularly observed how they all had placed themselves; and, recollecting that I bad an old musket in the barn ready charged, I took hold of it, and attempted so to take my aim as to hit or wound three of them, even if I killed none. But my gun missed fire; which induced me to take another method which was to take my gun by its butt end, and with the barrel to smite across the loins of three of them, and by so doing render them, incapable of taking, their hinder parts with them, consequently rendering them unable to defend themselves or run away; which I accordingly did, and wounded all three; but I awaked myself by the violent swing of my arms.
This dream lately came fresh to my mind, and I have no doubt out it is now in part fulfilled. I believe the barn floor to represent the church of God, to which it is compared; the heap of wheat to represent God's elect; who are called wheat gathered into the barn, Matt. xiii. 30. The chaff I construed to be light, graceless professors,, Matt. iii. 12. The straw I took to be false doctrines, I Cor. iii. 10. And the wolves, erroneous men, who get into the floor, or into the churches, on purpose to injure the godly, who are hid under the straw of false doctrine, making lies their refuse, as the scriptures witness; "For I know," said Paul, "that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock; also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them," Acts, xx. 29, 30. But the straw was not sufficient to hide any one of the wolves. And it appears that many of the gracious see through the deception of this new deceiver, through a few are under the straw with him. My gun missing fire convinced me that all the truth, that has been discharged from the pulpit, has been ineffectual to convince him of his error: but, as the last effort wounded three of them, it gave me some encouragement to take my pen in hand; and, if this will not do, we must handle Paul's rod.
I shall beg no excuse for troubling you with dreams, because I have my warrant for so doing: "He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream.'
Dear Tom, grace be with thee. My kind respects to your dame, the old disciple with whom you lodge; not forgetting the little family of Arminians, whom I love for your sake, though I am no friend to their principles. Believe me to be, in the Lord Jesus, ever yours,
Church-street, Paddington, 3 January, 1794.
TO MR. BERRY, PERFUMER, GREEK-STREET, SOHO.
Walworth, Saturday Evening, May 11, 1793.
My Dear Friend,
I RECEIVED yours; and would directly have answered it, but find myself exceeding busy; partly owing to my intended journey into the North, and partly owing to our purposed removal into the Borough High-street at Midsummer. However, I feel myself inclined to comply, as far as I can, with your request, as a small acknowledgment of your unlimited kindness to me.
That you have found me faithful, my dear Friend, is owing to my having, first obtained mercy. And indeed the grace of God, I can truly say, has been abundant toward me; for I have felt, and do feel to the present day, when left without the Saviour's sensible presence, that my heart is nothing but a mass and sink of corruption; but, when he is pleased to come into his garden, he causes a sweet moving of the affections towards himself; 'tis then that joy and praise spring up, "thanksgiving and the voice of melody. "And indeed, my dear Friend, the happiest, sweetest moments that I enjoy, are when the Lord is pleased to bless me with a view of the journey's end, and the thoughts that by and by I shall be for ever with him. 0 happy state! 0 unspeakably blest abode! where no wretched old man shall ever come; no, not a limb or member of him; but Jesus and we shall live and reign to all eternity together. But here my pen has run with my heart a little; pray excuse me.
Respecting Mr. Loud; as you request me, I will be as explicit as the limits of time and paper will allow me to be. I think I have known him about seven years, and within the two last with some degree of intimacy; from which time (for reasons I shall presently give you) I have studiously avoided any intercourse with him. When I first became acquainted with him, I was led to look upon him not only as a godly man, but a man of singular abilities, gifts, and grace; and indeed have often looked upon myself as many decrees below him: but the Lord hath said, The first shall be last and the last first. He had a particular turn for much reading, and study, which made him pass with me for a while as a man of profound wisdom; but now I greatly fear that his reading and study were only on speculation, rather than for godly edification. The first doctrinal defect that I ever discovered in him was, by his bringing, one of Winchester's books to our house, in Princes-street, about five years ago; which, when Mr. W. and I had read and condemned, he attempted to justify; not roundly, out by saying there were many things in it unanswerable, &c. Being pretty smartly talked to about it, he soon relinquished his client, at least to all appearance. However, this was left as a witness in the court against him; and, though silent then, by a professed change in Loud's mind, yet allowed to speak on any future occasion.
The next was respecting the moral law as a believer's rule of life and action, which he at first denied; but about two years and a half ago changed his mind, and began to dispute almost incessantly for it; and, being, frequently opposed, he got worse and worse upon it, abusing, and speaking, evil of Mr. Huntington, and of all that hear him. From that time I began a little to watch him, and have continued to do so to this day. He would, for him or two Sundays together, go to Tottenham-court, and perhaps on a third to Providence; when I observed that he was, at feast, nine times out of ten asleep during the whole time of worship. This I charged upon him about two years ago, when I disputed with him about the law, for, I believe, two hours; and, though in fact I stopped his mouth, yet his stubborn spirit could not bend. Soon after this he was severely afflicted with a putrid fever, as was his wife also, and I think two of his children. I must confess it gave me some degree of pleasure when this heavy trial came upon him; not to see or bear barely of the miseries of a fellow creature; but, as I knew him to be employed in fighting against the truth, I hoped the Lord would by that means have purged out the rebellion of his heart; but I am sorry to say he came out, as the wise man says, like a fool brayed in a mortar. He did not, indeed, belch out, as he had done, against the Providence connexion, because a few of that dear community had supported him in his late distress; yet (the Lord knows my heart) I have sometimes thought, when I have met him, that he looked with a fallen countenance, and like a man with a conscious roguish principle about him, among a few honest, simple souls, that he found he could not injure.
It was not long after this when our dear friend Gilbert told me be had broached a strange new doctrine respecting the person of the Mediator; affirming that he was not God and man, of two distinct natures; but that the Word, the second person, was made flesh, or that the Godhead was converted into manhood in the womb of the virgin; and that, if he had seen Jesus Christ with his bodily eyes, be should with the same eyes have seen, in that very body, the true essence of God. About five months ago be called at King-street on some business; when we took occasion to ask him about this new thing, and disputed for some time. He then insisted upon it that, if the Saviour really partook of the seed of the virgin, he was a sinner; and that his death and sacrifice had no more merit in it than if he (Loud) himself should die a martyr. He said he believed that Christ partook no more of the seed of the woman than his handkerchief (at the same time drawing a pocket handkerchief through his fingers); or than a funnel partook of wine, or any other liquor that passed through it. The idea that God could not suffer, he said, was only a common, handed-down, made-up expression, without any scriptural ground for it. We proposed many scriptures to him, which he could not answer; but, as he remained quite obstinate, we told him that the error seemed to be almost, if not altogether, damnable, and that he certainly was in an awful state. However, he professed himself to be very comfortable, and said it was a very wholesome doctrine, and that he got it on his knees.
These are some of the many wicked things he advanced. I have also heard that there are some who are deceived by him, and have embraced his wicked doctrines. I think, my dear friend, if you was to take a person or two with you, and call at his house, you would be an eye and ear witness to what I have said. My paper forbids me to proceed; must therefore conclude with kind respects to Mrs. Berry. Your affectionate friend, and brother in our dear dear Lord.
TO MR. HAMILTON.
As you have desired my judgement in writing of the person of the Saviour of poor lost sinners, &c. it is thus:?
First, That he is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, by inconceivable Generation.
Secondly, That this Son, called the Word, who was with God and was God, was, in the fullness of time, made flesh; or a man in likeness of sinful flesh, in fashion as a man, and was born of a virgin.
Thirdly, That this Son of God, (one in essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost) being born a man child, the son of man, was anointed with the fullness of the Holy Ghost, and did grow up to manhood, obeying the law of God perfectly through life; endured temptation, poverty, &c. in behalf of those for whom he became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs.
Fourthly, That this God Man, having been upholden by his Almighty Father till he had set judgement in the earth, the sword of justice awoke against him; he was left alone, and failed, expired, or resigned his life, under the stroke, a ransom for many.
Fifthly, That this man Christ Jesus, consisting of body and soul, very God, having shed his blood, and laid down his life, his body was laid in the grave, and his soul descended into hell, under the sentence of death and fierce wrath of God. and there abode until the third day, when his Father (having received the last mite of payment at his hands) justified him in the Spirit, and loosed the pains of death.
Sixthly, That he (God) being thus freed from the heavy debt, came forth from the prison of hell, and quickened and took up his body, and the life he laid down (his Father also concurring), together with all power in heaven and earth.
Seventhly, That this God, after some days, ascended, body and soul, and was received up into glory, and sat down at the right hand of his Father; where he, who was dead, but is now alive, ever liveth to make intercession, &c.
Eighthly, That that very body and soul, Jesus, God himself, the true God and eternal life, will again descend to judge the quick and dead.
So that be which was conceived in the womb, born of the virgin, lived, died, &c. &c. was God, wholly God, and nothing but God, as touching his nature or essence.
So I believe, and therefore have I spoken.
TO MR. LOUD
My dear Sir,
HAVING seen two letters concerning you, and the doctrines you hold, which are not true, and things which you neither acknowledged nor confessed when you joined us, I should be glad if you would call at my house next Monday or Tuesday morning, as it is my duty to admonish you; and, if you and I cannot settle matters, we will have a vestry meeting. Think soberly, and be not too hasty in writing in a wanton, trifling way. Divine things are dangerous things to play with.
Yours in Christ very affectionately,
W. HUNTINGTON.Church-street, Paddington, Dec. 20, 1793.
TO T. LOUD, AT MR. LONGMAN'S, MUSICAL INSTRUMENT-MAKER, TOTTENHAM-COURT-ROAD.Sir,
THERE are some things in your creed repugnant to the word of God; and, as you seem to be assiduous in circulating them, and very obstinate and immovable in them, I am constrained to set truth against them, that the gracious may see you and shun you. I know there must be heresies in the churches, that the contrary part may be made manifest; and that those which are not of God may be discovered, and go out, or be put out, from among them that are of God: and I much fear that this is your case; and perhaps in some future period you may find it so to your sorrow. You are gazing through the bounds, and stumbling upon the dark mountains, where thousands have mounted the scorners chair, and at last have been drowned in destruction and perdition. Your positively asserting, and obstinately insisting, when at my house, that the Godhead of Christ was changed into real flesh and blood; that his Godhead, thus changed, died upon the cross; and that the soul of Christ descended into hell, and lay there three days and three nights; appear to me to be contrary to the scriptures of truth. And indeed I think you perverted every scriptural text that you quoted, As to your insisting that the children of God are under the law as a rule of life, I wonder not at; for you never was delivered from the law. This appears plain by your pride and obstinacy; for the law does not exclude boasting. And your having the old vail still upon your heart is another proof that you are not got from that mount. Your blindness and ignorance in the above things demonstrates it, as well as your countenance. Indeed I never liked your religion in my heart, from the first account I had of it; and it was not without difficulty that you got in among us. But you told me, when at my house, that you knew not then what you believed, nor do you know what you believe now. You are more wise in your own conceit, but I think far more ignorant, and farther from the truth, now, than ever you have been yet. But to proceed to these points in hand.
"The word was made flesh." This is true, but not in the sense you hold it The Godhead was not changed into flesh and blood. This is conversion, not union; it is converting one nature into another; not uniting two distinct natures together, so as to become one person. Changing one substance into another is transubstantiation, not incarnation. Such a change of nature differs much from that of a divine person assuming, or taking, human nature into union with himself The first of these is an error, the latter is a gospel truth. This union, being ordained in the ancient settlements of eternity, took place in the virgin's womb, not after the human nature was formed, nor yet after it was born; for this would have been joining, or uniting, two persons together, instead of uniting two natures in one person. The Holy Spirit, who moved upon the face of the waters at the creation of the world, and separated the light from the darkness; who gathered the waters into seas, and made the dry land appear; who garnished the heavens, and spread the face of the earth with all its verdant herbage and vegetation, had a hand in this mysterious, this wonderful conception. Hence the angel's answer to the virgin's modest inquiry "How shall this be?" &c. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." Under which Almighty power and prolific overshadowing, the seed passed from the loins to the womb. "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb," said the angel, &c. In which the wonderful conception and mystic union took place between the person of the Son of God and the virgin's seed. "He was made" (touching his humanity) "of a woman." He was the woman's seed, made of the substance of her body. And this human nature was so wonderfully prepared by Jehovah, as that it should not be in the least tainted with original sin, nor with one sinful infirmity; that it might be entirely pure, and as proper as possible to be in union with so great a person; and that Adam, in innocence, might be a figure of him that was to come. On which account, though born of a woman, he is called a holy thing. Who can bring, a clean thing, out of an unclean? I answer, man cannot. But the angel told Mary that with God nothing should be impossible, therefore God can do it, and God has done it, "A body hast thou prepared me."
Furthermore, the human nature of Christ never did exist of itself, nor by itself; hence it is called a holy thing, not a person, because it never had any existence but in union with the Eternal Word; which union took place in the virgin's womb; and which union never was, nor ever will be, dissolved. Moreover, this assumption of human nature, and union with it, made no chance or alteration in the Lord's divinity. He was God from everlasting, before this union took place, and no less than God with us after it took place; and by this union he became what be never was before, God incarnate, or "God manifest in the flesh;" which manifestation was in these last times for us, and never before.
The words, "made flesh," do not signify a converting or changing one nature into another. When we hear of persons being created Peers, made Earls, or Lords, or made Chancellor, or Lord of the Household, we understand no such change by it; but that titles of honour are thereby conferred, and persons appointed to, and invested with, such or such an office. And, whey we read that "the word was made flesh," it means he was invested with human nature - "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood." And, when it is said "God hath made Jesus both Lord and Christ," it means the appointment of God. It was the decree of God to join the Son's Godhead to manhood, to which the Son agreed. The Father was to prepare the body, which the Son assumed in nature, and in which he was to do the will of God, which was his heart's delight; and in which nature be was made a middle person, and made or appointed King and Mediator. When it is said that the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit he neither understand a change, nor yet a creation, by it: but that the Lord from heaven, who is an uncreated Spirit, was appointed and sent to assume human nature, and in it to quicken dead sinners, or "to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him."
Mr. Loud must learn to distinguish between the body prepared, and he that came to do the will of God in it; between the vesture dipped in blood, and the word that wore it; between the gift, and the altar that sanctified the gift; between the tabernacle that God pitched, and the Shekina that tabernacled in it; between the vail (that is to say, his flesh), and the anchorage of hope within the veil; between God, and the flesh in which God was manifested; between the throne of grace (which is the human nature, Isa. xxii. 22, 23) and he that fills the throne, who is the first and the last, the Almighty; between the temple of his body, and he that raised it up in three days; between the virgin's substance, and the everlasting, Father; between the body, and all the fullness of the Godhead that dwells bodily in it; between the manhood, which grew in wisdom and in stature, and infinite wisdom, and immensity itself, to whose wisdom there can be no addition, and to whose stature nothing can be added; between the Son, who knew not the day of Jerusalem's destruction, Mark, xiii. 22, and the omniscient God, who can be ignorant of nothing. Until Mr. Loud can learn to distinguish a little better, he will never appear wise to salvation, though he may be wise above what is written, and too wise in his own conceit to become a fool that be may be wise indeed. God will stain the pride of all vain glory, be will hide his mysteries from the wise and prudent; and, as he takes the wise in their own craftiness, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; for he that thinketh he knoweth any thing (of these things) knows nothing, yet as he ought to know-for who is sufficient for these things, where a slip of the pen or tongue might lay a foundation for destructive heresies? But our sufficiency here must be of God, and our wisdom from the Father of lights, as it is only in his light that we see light. But Mr. Loud objected to my asserting that Emmanuel, God with us, signifies God in our nature; because, as he observed, the text says, God with us, not in us; much less God in our nature. These curious quibbles may serve to stumble the weak, and to entangle himself in the labyrinth of error; but he will never be able to fix any other sense upon the word, if he pursues the safest method - I mean, that of "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
The Prophet tells King Ahaz that the Lord himself shall give him a sign, a miracle, or a wonder; and such a sign as never was given before in this world. But if Emmanuel, a name that never appeared in holy writ before (and which signifies, God with us) means no more than God's presence with his people, this was no new sign, but what has been common to every saint, in every age. God was with Adam; with Abel, Seth, and Enoch, with whom he walked three hundred years; with Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses; and with Israel always, either in the tabernacle or temple, and even in Babylon, and down to the death of Christ. "Israel hath never been forsaken of his God." In this sense Emmanuel can be no new sign, but a very old one, and even as old as the Word; but this mysterious sign has never been till these last days; and Jeremiah says it is a new sign, such as never was or had been before. "The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man," Jer. xxxi. 22. The Prophet intimates that the creating power of God in this work is to be put forth, under which a woman is to compass a man; that is, she shall, under the over-shadowing power of the most High, compass this strange work, of bringing forth a man child, without the help of man. This Isaiah calls a sign,, and Jeremiah calls it a new thing; and such a thing as never was before - a new thing under the sun.
Nor can the compound word Emmanuel be construed to mean (as Mr. Loud suggested) no more than God in us; for God has dwelt in all his saints from the creation of the world-their bodies have ever been temples of the living God; as God hath said "I will dwell in them, and walk in them." It remains, therefore, that the word Emmanuel must have a meaning different from both the above; and signify "God with us" in a way that he never was before. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign," saith the prophet, "Behold a virgin shall conceive (a son) and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel," which the Apostle tell us is "God with us" The first wonder is-that a pure virgin should conceive. And the word conceive, or conception, implies that this man, that she was to compass, was to be of her seed; for, if not of her seed, how can we understand conception seeing the scriptures witness that Satan's head is to be bruised by the woman's seed; whereas Deity, abstractly considered, is the Father of all, but the seed of none. And true it is that Christ was, according to the flesh, made of a woman, of the substance of her body; and so flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. "This is a great mystery," but it is a true one. The third part of the sign is that, after this son is conceived and born, two natures The divine nature is called GOD, the human nature expressed by the word us; which is a plain contradiction of Mr. Loud's notion-I mean that of transubstantiating the Godhead into flesh, is the papists pretend to turn the Saviour into a wafer; for this would amount to no more than flesh with us; whereas Emmanuel is God with us. And the prophet here shews when and where this union took place; namely, at the virgin's conception and in the virgin's womb; not after the infant was formed, not after it was born, as before observed; for this had been no more than a union of two persons, and is what every believer may claim who has fellowship with the Lord, seeing, such are in union with him, joined to him, and of one spirit with him. But this union took place as soon as the seed passed from the loins to the womb; Thou shalt conceive," in thy womb, said the angel; and "the word was made flesh" in the womb; that is, Christ assumed the human nature there. Hence it appears plain that a union of two natures in one person should be this wonder, this miracle, this glorious sin, which God would give; and which is the good thing promised to the house of Israel, and the new thing which God would create in the earth. Hence it must follow, and we may safely conclude, that Emmanuel, God with us, signifies God in human nature; "God manifest in the flesh;" or, as the scriptures witness, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling, bodily in the human nature of Christ; and so Emmanuel, Christ, or God with us" as he never was before; and God with all his children, who were flesh and blood, and on whose account "he himself took part of the same." But himself taking part of the same is not a converting himself into the same: it is not a change of nature, but an incarnation, as Besor, one of the cities of refuge, a type of Christ, signifies. For the Saviour's union with a body prepared can never be called a change into that body. Moreover, it is a matter of doubt with me whether Deity changed into flesh and blood be a proper object of trust, or of divine worship, seeing we are not to trust in an arm of flesh, nor to have any confidence in the flesh, nor to worship any but the Lord our God, But God in the tabernacle, and in the temple, was worshipped by all the Israelites, whether far off or near, wherever prayer was to be made; and God in the temple of human nature is worshipped, both in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; for, "when he bringeth his first begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him;" and of Zion it is said, "He is thy Jehovah, and worship thou him."
Your other notion of the Godhead when changed into manhood dying or expiring, on the cross, appears to me to be without any foundation in scripture, as may be gathered both out of the Old Testament and the New. Christ is the truth of all the legal types, and the substance of all those shadows; and I think the two goats, which were brought on the day of atonement, represented the two natures of Christ: one was to be offered for a sin offering, and the other to be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and then to be let go for a scapegoat into the wilderness, Levit. xvi. 9, 10. If it be objected that sinners are compared to goats, and therefore the divine nature could not be represented by them, it may be answered that sinners are also compared to lions, and yet God is compared to that noble creature more than once; moreover, the goat is enrolled in the lists of clean beasts, and the lion is not. Furthermore, the two sparrows, that were to be taken at the cleansing of the leper, appear to me to represent the same mystery. One of the birds was to be killed in an earthern vessel, over running water; the other bird, preserved alive, was to be taken, and, with cedar wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop, to be dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed: the leper was to be sprinkled seven times with these, and to be pronounced clean, and then the living, bird was to be let go upon the face of the field, Levit. xiv. 4, 5, 6. This ceremonial cleansing by the two birds, most beautifully prefigured our purgation by the two natures of Christ, who purged our sins by his one offering, and made an atonement for us. One bird dies; the other escapes, dipped in the blood of his fellow. So Christ in human nature died, but divinity could not; "he was put to death in the flesh," (or in the human nature, and in nothing else) "but quickened by the Spirit." If it be objected that the two sparrows prefigured, one the body and the other the soul of the Saviour, I answer that the scapegoat and the living bird both escaped unhurt and unwounded, which the soul of Christ did not, for that was by far the greatest sufferer, as every child of God will own, who has felt the wrath of God and the pains of hell, and confess, too, that the most excruciating bodily pains are nothing when compared to "a wounded spirit which, as the wise man says "who can bear?" But he allows that a man's spirit may sustain the infirmities of the body.
Furthermore, the law was ordained for man, not for Deity, God's "voice is to the sons of men," "Cursed is he" (that is, the man) "that continues not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them;" and "the soul that sinneth shall die." But neither of these awful sentences reach Divinity, or Godhead; and unless this can be proved Mr. Loud's transubstantiation can never be established. God is the one lawgiver, but himself is above all law; he "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;" and his uncontrollable will is the only law of all the creatures that He has made, either in heaven above or in the earth beneath. Now, as the law's demands, or threatenings, are not ordained for any person in the Trinity, nor for Divinity transubtanitiated into flesh and blood, so I think it will be readily granted that not Deity, nor Deity changed into manhood, is required to die in order to make restitution for man. The demands, both of law and justice, must be granted to the utmost mite - this I acknowledge: but the suffering of Deity, or the death of Divinity converted into flesh and blood, is never once to be found among, all the demands both of law and justice: and, as this was never required or demanded, we have no reason to believe it was ever given. The utmost demand of vindictive justice is the death of the sinner, both body and soul: and the scriptures tell us that the Surety "bore our own sins in his own body on the tree," and that he made "his soul an offering for sin," "the chastisement of our peace being, upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." But Eternal Love in the abstract can never be miserable; Eternal Life can never die; Infinite Holiness is incapable of chastisement; and Immortality can never be striped. He was the Mighty God when a child born. The divinity of our Lord filled both heaven and earth when he was "put to death in the flesh." Touching his incarnation, he came down from heaven, when, as God, he was in heaven, John iii. 13. Suffice it to say that Christ was made of the seed David according to the flesh; and in no other sense is he the offspring of David. In the flesh he suffered, I Pet. iv. 1, and in the flesh be was put to death, I Pet. iii. 18, but not in divinity, for by that he raised the temple of his body in three days. David's offspring died, but David's root could never be conquered by death, being the Lord both of life and death. David's son was made a curse for us, but David's blessed Lord could never be cursed. The particular distinction which the Spirit makes between the two natures of Christ ought to be observed. When he says "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" - of the Jews, as concerning the flesh, Christ came; be suffered in the flesh, and was put to death in the flesh. These distinctions of flesh and spirit do not mean the body and soul of the Saviour, for all the human nature suffered; but the distinction respects the Godhead and manhood of Christ.
Let Mr. Loud soberly learn, before he gets too far in the bog, to answer the Saviour's question, "What think ye of Christ, whose son is he?" And, if he answers, "the son of David," then why doth David in the spirit call him Lord? And let him learn the difference between the corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died, and He who is the resurrection and the life, by the power of whom that grain was raised again, and all the glorious harvest that shall follow. The difference also between the Lord from heaven, and the branch from Jesse's root. The Saviour was crucified through weakness, into which Omnipotence could never be converted; and, as it was the weaker nature that went to the wall, so the weaker nature has no glory or honour, but what was given to it, or conferred on it. The Holy Ghost kept that nature in its place, by saying, of him, respecting his manhood, that he was made lower than the angels; calling him the hind of the morning, the poor and needy man, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yea, despised and rejected of men, a worm and no man. And it is mentioned as a matter of astonishment that God should take notice of him as man. "What is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" The great things that are said of the human natures abstractedly considered, are, that God hath highly exalted him - that he hath given him glory and honour, and put all things, under his feet, and made him Lord and Christ - that he hath glorified him, and that in the same glorified body dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and into the likeness of whose glorious body all the saints shall be changed and fashioned in the great day. But, as touching his Godhead, the Most High can never be exalted above what he is; nor can any thing be added to the fullness of him who filleth all in all; nor can any glory be added to the God of Glory; nor any honour to infinite majesty, nor any power to him that upholds all things by the word of his own power. As man, he is appointed "heir of all things," am all power in heaven and earth is given to him, and all things are put under his feet. But, as God, "all things were made by him" - by his underived power; and all thing's are made for him-for his use, and for his pleasure; and to him are all things accountable, Rom. xi. 36.
The two passages of scripture, that you quoted in favour of Deity dying, by no means prove it "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us," I John, iii. 16. The words of God are not in the original text, but supplied by the translators. It was in the flesh he suffered, and in the flesh he was put to death. But, as there were two distinct natures in the person of Christ, the humanity doubtless died in union with the Godhead; on which account the Jews are charged with killing the Prince of life, crucifying the Lord of glory, and murdering the Just one; and the church of God is said to be purchased with his own blood. All which prove the union of the two natures, even in death; and from this union springs the sweet savour of the one offering, and all the invaluable worth and glorious merit of it; because he thought it no robbery to be equal with God," even when he was God incarnate; and on which account also he is called the man Jehovah's fellow. But then it was the Godhead that laid down the life of the manhood, and it was the Godhead that took that life again. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." They did destroy the temple in which the Shekina dwelt, and in three days the Shekina raised it again.
But Mr. Loud denies that the Saviour assumed the human nature; though the scriptures testify this truth so plainly, by asserting, "For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." Heb. ii. 14. If the Lord's humanity were not in reality of the virgin's seed, but Divinity changed into flesh, be could not be said to take part of the children's flesh and blood, which the Holy Spirit says he did; and therefore we are said to be "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," Eph. v. 30. And again, he was made of a woman; his humanity was of her seed, made of her substance; which is too plain a truth to be disproved; and none, but those who are given up to believe a lie, would ever attempt it.
Mr. Loud's insisting upon it that, if the Saviour really partook of the seed of the virgin, he was a sinner, and there could be no more merit in his sacrifice than in the martyrdom of Loud, is both shocking and dreadful. However, the angel told Mary that "with God nothing, shall be impossible;" and therefore this wonderful work was possible with God; and it was done. The Lord assumed a human nature, of which the body was prepared by God the Holy Ghost, and was a lamb without spot, and without blemish; a holy thing; holy, harmless, and undefiled. The Prince of this world could find nothing, of his bane in him. And this was no more impossible with God than raising, the sinful dust and ashes of the saints out of their graves, and setting them down immortal, incorruptible, glorious, and without spot or wrinkle, in the kingdom of heaven; which is a work that is to be done, and will be done.
Mr. Loud's mystery ? of the Lord's partaking no more of the virgin's nature than a funnel does of the liquor that is poured through it-is no part of the doctrine which he says be got on his knees; for that abominable heresy of the funnel, or pipe, is many hundred years old. In short, Mr. Loud, by his abominable doctrines, denies the great mystery of godliness - the view of angels, the doctrine of the apostles, the hope of the saints, and the faith that has been in the world these seventeen hundred years. God manifested in the flesh" was, and is, the only hope of Israel; God manifest in the flesh was "seen of angels;" God manifest in the flesh was preached to the Gentiles;" God manifest in the flesh was believed on in the world;" God manifest in the flesh was "received up into glory." Hence it appears plain that the apostle's great mystery, Isaiah's sign, Jeremiah's new thing, and the good thing promised to the house of Israel, is God incarnate, God manifest in the flesh, or God with us by incarnation.
I come now to consider Mr. Loud's notion of the Lord's descent into hell. I think the altar made of whole stones, upon which no tool was to be lifted - the golden altar - and the altar of brass, or brazen altar-were all types of our Lord's divinity; upon which, as upon the altar, the humanity was offered in sacrifice to God the Father. For it is the altar that sanctifies the gift; and for our sakes the Saviour sanctified himself. And it is clear that the Lord's feet, which denote strength, are compared to brass, his faithfulness to a girdle of gold; and he is called "the stone of Israel." And thus he is compared to the different materials of which the Jewish altars were composed. The horns of the altar likewise were a refuge for sinners, Chro. xxi, 14; 1 Kings, ii. 28; typical of the mighty Horn of salvation raised up in the house of God's servant David, Luke, i. 69; who is the only refuge that God has set before us. But Mr. Loud told me that the altar was a type of God the Father; but I think it is not a very easy matter to find an inanimate type of him. Besides, Christ, and not God the Father, is the truth of all the types, and the substance of all the legal shadows. Moreover, the sacrifices were offered upon the altar, not to the altar; but upon the altar to God. And it is plain that the altar was greater than the gift, because it sanctified the gift; and it is as true that our Lord's divinity, which offered up the humanity, is greater than the humanity that was offered up.
Furthermore, when the sacrifices under the law were offered on the altar, there was an end of the offering, without any thing done that prefigured a descent into hell. Nor was the fire, in which the victim was consumed, called hell fire, but holy fire, and the fire of the altar.
And we may add, that the sacrifice was offered immediately to God; and immediately after the priest pronounced God's blessing on the people; Num. vi. 24; without any thing like a space of three days, exhibiting, our Lord's sufferings beyond the cross.
And, as the burnt offerings were accepted of God upon the altar, Isaiah, lvi. 7; so the offering of our dear Lord was accepted when finished on the cross; for he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and, having said thus, he gave up the Ghost," Luke, xxiii. 46. The soul of our Lord was received from the cross, not from hell. "He made his soul an offering for sin;" and to God the Father he offered it, and into the Father's hands he commended it, not into hell fire; and yielded up the ghost ? it did not sink into the bottomless pit.
It may be further observed, that the Saviour is our forerunner and our example, and we are to tread in his steps, to drink of his cup, and are "planted together in the likeness of his death;" and the utmost of the saints' sufferings is carrying the cross, and dying for his sake: but, if he went into hell, we do in that sense by no means tread in his steps, nor are we in that sense planted together in the likeness of his death. Nor do we understand by the phrases "yielded up the ghost," as Jacob did, or commending, the spirit to God, as Stephen did, any thing like a descent into hell. The souls of the saints return to God who gave them; and so did the soul of Christ when it was made an offering, for sin. His yielding up the ghost in death, and his commending, his spirit into his Father's hands, as well as his resurrection from the dead, are earnests and pledges of the blessed death, happy end, glorious departure, and certain resurrection, of the saints; who commend their souls to God, die in faith, and yield up the ghost, when the soul returns to the Almighty, and is numbered and arranged among "the spirits of just men made perfect," while the body rests in hope of a glorious and certain resurrection. And such was the blessed end of the Saviour when he had finished the work upon the cross - "He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, because be had done no violence, neither was deceit found in his mouth," Isa. iiii. 9. He made his grave with the wicked by becoming, our surety, or by being, made sin for us by imputation, and so was numbered with the transgressors; but his grave was made with the rich in his death. Mark that-in death he made his grave with the rich not among the poor and wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, who go quick into hell;" but with the rich he made his grave - rich in faith, rich towards God, possessed of all true riches, rich in merit, rich in good works, and heir of all things: and in the possession of all these true riches be made his grave, as soon as the work was finished.
Furthermore, the blood of the sacrifice is called the life of it and by the blood of the sacrifice were the Israelites cleansed in a ceremonial way; and so, when the blood of Christ was shed, our redemption was completely obtained; for we are declared to be redeemed "by the blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Our redemption is always said to be by the blood of Christ, but never by the torments of hell fire.
I add, further, that when the Saviour bowed his head he declared, as his dying testimony, "It is finished." But Mr. Loud objected to this: saying that his meaning was - that the mockery and insults of the Jews were finished. This is a very empty meaning, if the dying testimony of our great Deliverer contains no more than this. Besides, if this were the Lord's meaning, it is not true; for the Jews insulted him, mocked, reviled, and railed on him, both in his person and in his members, long after this. They blasphemed him, compelled some of his followers to curse him; and Paul persecuted him; of which he complains out of heaven long after this. Yea, the mockery and insults of Jews and infidels are not finished yet, nor will they be so long as the long-suffering mercy of the Lord permits such wretched men as Mr. Loud to live upon the earth. It remains, therefore, that the words "It is finished" must have a better, a truer, and a more pregnant meaning.
He bore our sins in his own body on the tree;" and no farther than the tree did he bear them. There the Surety paid the fatal score, and cancelled the total debt; that was finished.
He was made a curse for us; for it is written "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." That curse pursued him no farther than the tree: redemption from the curse was then and there finished.
The seed of the woman was to bruise the serpent's head. He spoiled principalities and powers; he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in the death of the cross. Victory over devils, therefore, was obtained, and the complete conquest of them was then and there finished.
The handwriting, of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us, he took out of the way, nailing it to his cross." The bondage of the law, the terrors of the law, the wrath of God revealed in the law, pursued and held the Saviour no farther than the cross. This was all ur life for the brethren. But there never was, nor ever will be, nor do we ever read of, any obedience performed in hell fire.
Hence it appears plain that the ceremonial law had its full accomplishment and its end in the death of Christ. The moral law was magnified by a perfect obedience both to its precept and penalties, the body of sins were destroyed, the old man was crucified, devils spoiled and conquered, judgment was fully executed, truth was cleared, wrath appeased, the paschal lamb offered, and the gates of heaven opened, the grand oblation was offered, complete atonement made, reconciliation obtained, the flaming sword sheathed, peace made, a new and living way consecrated, Justice fully satisfied, God well pleased, the ransom price paid, everlasting righteousness brought in, a jail delivery proclaimed, a fountain for sin opened, a sure foundation laid, the elect sanctified and redeemed, the middle wall of partition broken down, and salvation in the executionary part completed and eternally finished, without any suffering, in the regions of the damned. He made peace for us by the blood of his cross. All the above things, are implied in the dying testimony of the faithful and true witness, the Lord Jesus Christ, when he bowed his head, and said, "It is finished."
But Mr. Loud objects this text - "Whom God hath raised, having, loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it, " Acts, ii. 24. Which be says were the pains that he endured in hellfire, which were loosed when he was taken from that prison. If the Saviour's soul lay three days and three nights in hell, the work was far from being finished on the cross, though he bowed his head, and declared it was. The word here called pains of death, or sorrows of death, is expressive of the sufferings of his soul under our sins, the wrath of God, the buffetings of Satan, the sword of Justice, the curse of the law, and being forsaken by his Father; and is the same word as is used to express the pangs of child birth, or the sorrows of a woman in labour, which the prophet Isaiah calls his travail, which he was to endure, and then he was to "see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied" in our salvation: which travail came upon him some days before his death, one pain after another; and every pain stronger and stronger, till the travail was over. "Now is my soul troubled," John, xii. 27. And in the garden be was sorrowful, and sore amazed, till at length he breaks out and complains of it - "My soul is exceeding, sorrowful, even unto death." Here are the sorrows, or pains of death on him; or, as be himself says, "the sorrows of death are fallen upon me, and an horror hath overwhelmed me." And, when travail came heavier still, he prayed to God; and afterwards, when more bitter pangs came on, he sweat blood; and, when more oppressive still, he, being in an agony, prayed the more earnestly, till an angel appeared" and strengthened him; after this he said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." But on the cross all his travail, the pains or sorrows of death came on him again; it was the Jews' hour, and the powers of darkness. And here he might truly say, "Behold, all ye that pass by, was ever any sorrow like my sorrow!" Here it was that the snares of death and flames of wrath got hold of him; the sword of Justice, the wrath of God, and the sins of men, met all together upon him; and to complete the dreadful scene, his Father forsook him, which he had never done before. Darkness likewise overspread the world; to shew the inexpressible sufferings of his soul as well as his body. At last he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" At which cry "he was heard in that be feared." The horrors of his soul were soon dispelled; the dreadful lower and awful storm blew over; Satan's shafts were spent; the sword of Justice was in its scabbard: the Father began to shine upon him; the dust and ashes of our sins dropped to the foot of the altar; the Holy Ghost sweetly operated as a comforter, and lent his friendly aid; at which the pains of death were loosed from his soul; his sorrows, or soul travail, was at an end; and with a loud voice he cried, "It is finished;" commended his spirit into the hands of his Father; bowed his head, and yielded up the ghost; and through the eternal Spirit offered himself to God." Thus "the pains of death were loosed, because it was not possible that be should be holden of it" any longer than till the soul was made an offering, for sin; which through the eternal Spirit was offered, and by that Holy Spirit conveyed, or carried, into the hands of God the Father.
There is no suffering in hell, mentioned by the prophet, between the travail of his soul and being, satisfied with seeing his seed. No, nor Yet between his being, obedient unto death and being, highly exalted.
But Mr. Loud fetches all his arguments from the words "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," Acts, ii. 27. The sufferings of his soul in tasting of death, and the grave, is what is there meant by hell. Hell torments to a sinner lie in hearing his own sins, in the lashes of conscience, in the wrath of God, the curse of the law, the torment of devils, utter darkness, and banishment from God; of all which the Saviour tasted for us, and then these pains were loosed. Hell, in scripture language, does not always mean the bottomless pit. Jonah says he cried "out of the belly of hell," and God heard his voice. But there is a deal of difference between the sufferings of Jonah's mind in the bottom of the sea, and sufferings in bottomless perdition and much more between the regions of the damned and the carcass of a whale. And certain it is that Jonah was a type of Christ, in being a sign to the Ninevites; and Christ being three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and then rising, from the dead, was to be the only sign that was to be given to that adulterous generation of the Jews.
Furthermore, that the soul of our Saviour did not descend into hell, may plainly be seen by his answer to the thief upon the cross. The thief prayed to be remembered by him when he came into his kingdom; whose propitious answer to him was, "Verily, I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in Paradise," Luke, xxiii. 43. Which Paradise, Paul says, is "the third heaven," 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4. Nor is this to be understood or the divine nature of Christ; for that is omnipresent. and immensity itself, and fills all space; and, in one sense, never left Paradise at all, for he was in the third heaven, though incarnate upon earth as it is written "And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven," John, iii. 13. Here is a coming down from heaven, which is so called because of his humiliation in the assumption of human nature; and yet (in the present tense) it is said that the Son of man is in heaven; which is true respecting his divine presence, though incarnate. The Saviour's answer, therefore, plainly implies thus much; this day I shall make my soul an offering for sin, and through the eternal Spirit it will be conveyed into my Father's hands in the third heaven, and thy soul shall be conveyed there likewise by the angels; so that thou shalt this day, before midnight, be with me in Paradise; which is a scriptural solution of the text, and by no means contrary to the analogy of faith. Hence it is plain that the Lord suffered no hell torments between the death of the cross and the third heaven; and it is as plain that there is no place of punishment between the death of the saint and Paradise. Elijah went from earth to heaven in a fiery chariot, and Lazarus went from death, by the angels, into Abraham's bosom; which differs much from purgatory. By the blood of the cross peace was made by the Saviour; and God declares that, if we mark the perfect man and behold the upright, we shall see the end of that man to be peace, not purgatory: and so we may conclude that the end of faith is the salvation of the soul.
It is a pity that Mr. Loud did not consider Peter's sermon, recorded in the Acts, a little more minutely, before he had perverted one word, to contradict all the rest; where be would have seen his vile notion (of the Saviour's partaking no more of the human nature than his handkerchief, or his supposed funnel) plainly and fully refuted. But so dexterous is the spirit of error in him, at turning, all things into bane, that be can grasp one word to support his notion of a descent into hell, but he could not see the other, which contradicts him to his face with an oath. But, as be has neglected this, I must produce it. "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that be is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day; therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, be would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption," Acts, ii. 29, 30, 31. I think Mr. Loud will find it a hard task to prove that Christ's divinity can, in any sense whatever be called the fruit of David's loins, because the text asserts that be is the fault of his loins according to the flesh, not according, to his Godhead. For the Godhead of Christ is David's root, which gave David his existence as a creature, and which gave him his existence as a saint; and which root supplied him both with natural life and with grace; yea, Christ as God is called David's Jehovah, who made him, governed him, gave him grace, and saved his soul; whom he acknowledged, in whom he believed, and whom he worshipped. Divinity, or divinity changed into flesh, can never be the fruit of a fallen mortal's loins. But God swore to David that, according to the flesh, Christ should be the fruit of his body, Psal. cxxxii. 11; the fruit of his loins,Acts, ii. 30; his son, Matt. xx. 30; his offspring, Rev. xxii. 16; and accordingly he was the virgin Mary's seed, who was of the house and lineage of David, and which seed was once in David's loins; and, if it were not so, what becomes of the oath of God; God cannot be perjured. O what sad lengths men go when destitute of the Spirit, and given up to believe a lie! and how clear it is, from the above texts, that it was the humanity, and not the Deity, of Christ that suffered. Peter speaks of no other parts suffering but the soul and body of Christ. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption." Which terms, hell and corruption, are both explained by the apostle himself; the first by loosing the pains of death, the second by raising the body from the tomb. The pains of death were loosed from his soul just as had ended his first cry on the cross, as we have proved, and as Paul says, "he was heard in that he feared;" and the answer was given to that bitter cry. Upon which God shone into his soul, as well pleased, lifted up the light of his countenance upon him, filled him with unutterable joy and comfort: all which is expressed in the following, words; "I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is at my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad, my flesh also shall rest in hope." As soon as his heart rejoiced the pains of death were loosed; and, as soon as the joy of his heart had made his tongue glad, he cried, " It is finished," bowed his head, gave up the ghost, and all was over. His soul went without spot into the hands of God, filled with unspeakable joy and gladness, where sorrow and sighing for ever flee away. And this is expressly called "the joy that was set before him, for the sake of which he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God," Heb. xii. 2. But to lie three days and three nights in hell fire can never be called a joy set before him, as an encouragement to him to endure the cross; for the cross itself would have been much lighter than hell fire. Peter and Paul both agree in this-that there was no sufferings endured beyond the cross; there it was that the pains of death were loosed, and soon after the power of death was loosed from the body also.
For, as dying pains, or the pains of death, which end in a dissolution of the body from the soul, at which instant the soul goes to God to receive its doom, and as it is the body that bears the pains of temporal death, and by which separating pains the body is left in the bonds of corruption; so the Jews, who viewed Christ as a deceiver, an impostor, and a sinner, expected that this would unavoidably have been his fate; hence malice requested that his death might be by crucifixion, which was a Roman, not a Jewish death, hoping thereby to bring, his soul and body under the curse of God, because their law says that he which hangeth upon a tree is cursed of God. Hence malice wished and expected that the end of Christ, whom they hated with cruel hatred, would have been damnation; and they were so confident of this, that without hesitation they imprecated his blood on themselves and all their children; and therefore preferred a murderer before him, and crucified him between two thieves. This malicious evil, and blood crime, Peter charges home upon them, calling, it the deed of their wicked hands; telling them that they were all mistaken; that the pains of death were loosed; and that this Holy One, whom they judged as an impostor, did not see corruption, for the pains of his soul were loosed on the cross, and the other in the tomb; that be was risen from the dead, and that they were all witnesses of it. And he adds, "Let all the house of Israel know that God has made that same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." This awful charge was accompanied with the sword of the Spirit, and they were pricked in their heart at such an awful testimony against them, which extorted from them the following cry Men and brethren, what shall we do?" These convinced Jews saw their awful mistake. They thought that they had blotted out the name of Jesus from under heaven, and that it should have been no more in remembrance; while the chief rulers and priests, having cast him out of the vineyard and slain him, vainly thought that his inheritance should have been theirs. But he was raised up to requite them. So they were all mistaken; and so is Mr. Loud, who supposes that he descended into the regions of the damned; for the text says it was the pains of death that were loosed, and not the pains of hell.
But there is another text produced in favour of the Saviour's descension into hell, which is I Pet. iii. 18, 19, 20. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust (that he might bring us to God), being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which some time were disobedient, when once the long-suffering, of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing; wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." There is nothing in this passage that in the least favours, much less supports, the notion of our Lord's suffering in hell fire; but the contrary. The apostle asserts that "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust." The word once may be applied to the whole life of Christ, for he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief all his days; he suffered from the manger to the cross. But the apostle seems to confine the word to his sufferings on the cross, as himself explains it - "being put to death in the flesh." What is before called his once suffering is here called " being put to death in the flesh;" which words confine the Lord's soul sufferings and his bodily sufferings both to be endured and ended on the cross; for it was in the flesh he suffered, and in the flesh he was put to death: but disembodied, or out of the flesh, he never suffered at all; there is nothing, of this in all the Bible; consequently he never was in hell; for, if he had, he must have suffered more than once; once on the cross, and once more in hell fire.
Moreover, the apostle confines the Lord's sufferings and death to his human nature only. He suffered once - he was "put to death in the flesh." The body suffered intolerably, and the soul suffered in the body; but not his divinity - he was "put to death in the flesh," but not in his divine person, for that is an uncreated spirit, and hath not flesh and bones as his human body had. The last Adam, the quickening Spirit, the Lord from heaven, could never die; "I live for ever," Deut. xxxii. 40.
The resurrection of Christ is attributed to all the three persons in the Godhead. He is said to be "raised up by the glory of the Father." He is also said to raise himself; "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." "I lay down my life of myself, and I take it again." And by the Spirit it is said to be done; "being, put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." In short, he was raised by the Father's appointment, by his commandment, for the glory of his name, and by his joint power, who had received his soul, and now sent it back again to its tabernacle; when the Holy Ghost, through whom he had offered himself to God, now returned with the soul, and quickened the body in the tomb, animated it, and filled it with life; which life the second person in the Godhead took again. But it may be objected, if Christ commended his spirit into his Fathers hands, and the Holy Ghost conveyed the soul immediately to the Father, and it went to heaven, how came the Saviour to say to Mary, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father?" &c. By the same rule it might be asked what Peter meant, when he said, "for David is not ascended up into heaven, for his sepulchre is with us to this day." Doubtless David's soul was among the spirits of just men made perfect, though his body was not risen from the tomb. The soul of Moses was seen in glory with Christ on the Mount, though God had buried his body in the country of Moab, where it is to this day. Beside, though the Saviour's soul was offered to God, and was on the same day in Paradise, yet the body had not at that time ascended. Moreover, it was the body, not the soul, that Mary was going to touch. She was going, to catch him by the feet, and worship him; but was forbidden, as he had other business for her to do; which was, to tell his brethren of his resurrection. At a more convenient time she might touch him, and handle him too, as he commanded them all to do. " See, and handle me, that it is I myself." Now it was that "Truth sprung out of the earth, when Righteousness (well pleased) looked down from heaven. Now did God give that which is good, for the holy land had yielded her increase. His righteousness goes to heaven before him, and sets us in the way of his steps, Psal. xxxv. 11, 12. Now was "the branch of the Lord beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth excellent and comely, for them that are escaped of Israel," Isa. iv. 2. This is the "handful of corn upon the tops of the mountains." The mountains shall bring peace to the people," Psa. vii. 2, 3. "And the little hills rejoice on every side," Psalm lxv. 12. This is "the wave sheaf," and "the first fruits of them that slept;" the first that ever was raised to an immortal life, and the first that ever saw the path to eternal glory in heaven from tomb. "thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore," Psalm xvi. 11. These endless pleasures at the Father's right hand, is "the joy that was set before him; for which he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God," Heb. xii. 2. And here we may clearly see the glorious work of each person in the Trinity. Here is the Incarnate Word laying, down the life of his humanity; the Eternal Spirit, through which he offered himself, attending the soul into the Father's hands, and quickening the body at the soul's return to it; and God the Father accepting the sin offering, and by the blood of the covenant sending, the prisoners forth from the pit, as a proof that the price was accepted. But I have run away from the subject - "By the Spirit be was quickened."
And by which Spirit "he went and preached to the spirits in prison." The spirits in prison, are the souls that are now in hell: the wicked, at their departure from this life, are said to go quick into hell, where they are "gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit [or dungeon]; and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited," Isa. xxiv. 22. Here they are confined, and after many days they are to be visited; and this visit will be when death and hell deliver up their dead, and both body and soul appear in judgement, to receive their awful doom, when they will be sent away, body and soul, into everlasting punishment. Their resurrection is a resurrection to damnation. But then why, or to what purpose, should the Saviour preach to these prisoners, seeing the gulf of God's irrevocable decree is fixed, so that none can pass from thence to heaven? and, as for the elect, they are ransomed from the pit, and therefore can never go there. Besides, God declares that those "that go down into the pit cannot hope for his truth," Isa. xxxviii. 18. And, if no hope for truth is laid, why should truth be preached to the hopeless? and, as they cannot hope for his truth, it is clear that truth was never preached to them; for Christ, by his Spirit, never preached the gospel to them that are in hell. The imprisoned souls mentioned in the text are what Peter calls "the world of the ungodly," that perished by water; and the Spirit of Christ in Noah (who was a preacher of righteousness) preached to them in the antediluvian world, while the ark was preparing, and while the long-suffering of God waited. But Peter says they were disobedient; and God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, seems, he is flesh." For which disobedience, in resisting and quenching the Spirit of Christ in Noah, their souls, or spirits, are now in the prison of hell; to whom no gospel has ever been preached since their imprisonment; no, nor ever will be. The grave cannot praise the Lord; death in the abstract cannot celebrate Him, Isa. xxxviii. 18. It remains, therefore, that the time when the Spirit of Christ preached to them was while the ark was preparing.
Of two natures in Christ. This union took place in the purpose of God from everlasting; and the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, which he was to take on him, called sometimes the fruit of David's body, and the fruit of his loins, and which was the virgin's seed; yea, that individual seed was pitched upon, was chosen of God, and appointed, in his decree, to be united to the word, even from all eternity. Hence he is called God's Elect, in whom his soul delighteth. In that eternal decree he was appointed to assume that chosen seed in the fullness of time, and in that nature he was to be exalted to the high office of King Messiah, and only Mediator. On which account he tells us, respecting his Godhead, which was in the bosom of the Father, "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." But, with respect to the appointed union, and his exaltation in the human nature to the office of mediatorial king, he speaketh to us on this wise, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was," Prov. viii. 22, 23. Which must respect the manhood, for the Godhead cannot be higher than it is. Thus the Father viewed him as future man and Mediator; and, as such, entered into covenant with him: on which account he is called the man at his right hand, Psalm lxxx. 7; before the union took place. Thus the dear Redeemer, as chosen, appointed, and set up, as our covenant head and glorious Mediator, was viewed as man from eternity; and therefore said to be the Son of man that came down from heaven; and, on the account of his agreeing to be future man to redeem us, it is said that he went forth in unparalleled love, and, in this eternal council, from everlasting; as it is written, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity," Mic. v. 2. On account of this decree of God, and the covenant made, and the office to which the Saviour was appointed, he tells us that his love to the chosen, who were given to him in eternity, who were to be created by him in time, and who would be ruined by the fall - I say his love to them was such, that, at the creation, while the terraqueous globe was framing, he was then "rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, and his delights were with the sons of men," Prov. viii. 31. When at that time the earth was not inhabited, nor had the children of men any existence but in the decree and purpose of God.
Furthermore, the Father fixed an eternal love upon the future seed appointed to be united to the word; and, having chosen that seed, and appointed it to this future union, he chose an innumerable company of the children of men in him, called the elect; and gave them to him; united them with him, and loved them with an eternal love in him; and this is called his good will to them, and the thoughts of his heart, which stand fast to a thousand generations. Thus "he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are both of one" ? of one God, and of one Father. "
I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
In the fullness of time the eternal word assumed the appointed seed, the child was born to us, and to us a son was given. And now was fulfilled the ancient prophecy; "And their noble one" (for that is the right reading), shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them, and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engageth his heart to approach unto me? saith Jehovah," Jer. xxx. 21. Mark, the noble one is by Christ applied to himself, and is called a certain nobleman who went to receive a kingdom, Luke, xix. 12. Thus God performed the good thing promised to the house of Israel, by sending, his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and who was "God manifest in the flesh." From the union that took place between the divine person of the Son of God, and the woman's seed in the virgin's womb, by incarnation, and which union continued throughout the Saviour's life, which subsisted also undissolved in death, and which will continue to all eternity, for in it he is a priest of an everlasting priesthood, and king of an everlasting kingdom; from this union, I say, springs all the invaluable and intrinsic merit of the Saviour. He thought it no robbery to be equal with God, when he took on him the form of a servant; hence springs the dignity of an everlasting righteousness. He was God's Fellow when he was smitten upon the cross, and therefore "perfected for ever all that are sanctified" He was the Prince of Life when he died; and so "the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him."
As to the human nature, it was entirely free from all original sin, nor did it ever contract any sin. It was filled with every grace in perfection; grace was poured into his lips, and an eternal blessing was on him; the Holy Ghost, with all his gifts, and in all his fullness, was on the manhood, and abode upon it; and that "holy thing" was in union with the eternal I AM. This is the Christ of God, the foundation that he has laid in Zion, and the darling of every believing soul. And without this union it is not easy to conceive how God and man, at an infinite distance, could ever come together, so as for man to have "fellowship with the Father." But "God was manifest in the flesh." And this is the great mystery of godliness, which the heavens have revealed to men, and is the fountain of all the godliness that ever was, or ever will be, revealed in men. All religion, that is not received from the fullness of Christ, is nothing but a shew, a form of godliness without the power; which renders the performer, in the sight of God, no more than a hypocrite, or a wolf in sheep's clothing. For, as God appointed the union between the two natures of Christ in eternity, and likewise the union between Christ and his seed, so from eternity he predestinated them to be conformed, in time, to the image of his Son. Hence, when be sent him forth, it was to gather together in him the [predestinated] children of God that were scattered abroad. He was lifted up upon the cross to draw all these men unto him; he was exhibited as the promised Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people was to be; and exalted to the right hand of God, that we might be called to the fellowship of him, and, by the reception of the Holy Spirit of promise, be joined to him, and "made one spirit with him," and so have "our affections set at the right hand of God where Christ sitteth." Christ being, the fountain of all godliness, all fullness dwelling in him, so out of his fullness all grace must be received, and be continually derived from him, by virtue of union with him; of which union I intend now to speak.
And, first, there are many things which the Spirit of God performs in the elect sinner before this eternal union call take place, so as to be manifested, known, felt, and enjoyed, in time. And,
The different impressions and motions of the soul under the influence of the ever blessed Spirit, in bringing about and affecting this union, are three; divine sensations, heavenly motions, and supernatural affections.
I now come to touch upon the scriptural description of this ever blessed union; and, first, it is compared to the union that subsists between the foundation of a building and its superstructure. "No other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus; and ye, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, that ye should shew forth the praises of him that hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" This union between a foundation and building, is a supportive union, and shews how all the intolerable load was laid on the Saviour. The foundation is that which bears the burden of the whole fabric. And indeed the Saviour of men bore the whole weight of our sins, the weight of God's wrath, of the law's requirements, of the infinite demands of justice, and of our infirmities also; yea, himself took our sicknesses; and ever since the government of his kingdom has stood upon his shoulders; while all the cares of his family, and all their burdens, all their infirmities, together with all their failings, short comings, imperfections, and backsliding, have been cast upon him. "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou bast wearied me with thine iniquities. "And what follows? "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins," Isaiah, xliii. 25. Hence we see how every part of the weight of the whole building of mercy, in the ancient purpose of God, in the execution of that purpose, in the administrations of grace, in the reception of the saints, and in hearing them with all their helplessness all their days, was laid upon Christ, as it is written, "I am he that bare thee from the belly, yea, from the womb; and to your old age I am he; and even to hoary hairs will I carry you. "This foundation bore every part of the load, even from the ancient settlements in eternity to the delivering up the kingdom to the Father in everlasting glory. Hence he is called "a tried stone, a sure foundation, elect and precious;" and to them that believe be is precious indeed.
This union is compared to the union that subsists between the head and the members of the human body. The discerning Christian is called the eye, the attentive and careful soul the ear, the diligent saint the foot, the communicative saint the mouth, the savoury saint the nose, the liberal soul the hand. Each of these are the particular members of Christ, and the whole collectively are his mystical body. "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And, if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? After hearing it starts... If the whole body were an ear, where were the seeing? And, if the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church - first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues," &c. 1. Cor xii. Here Paul shews that every member hath his particular grace and gifts. One is an apostle, to lay the foundation; another a prophet, which is an eye, to see what is coming on in the world; then teachers, to communicate what they have received; then miracles, which are wonders performed by the Saviour in answer to prayer; then gifts of healing which is stretching forth the Lord's hand when the prayer of the righteous preveils; then helps-every member, by his walk, by his conversation, by his experience, by his sympathy with the afflicted, by his prayers, or by his liberality, is a help in this mystical body; then governments-mothers in Israel are governesses to the young female converts, to teach the young, women to be sober, chaste, keepers at home. The fathers in the church give their cautions and counsels to the young men in faith. Deacons are over the poor; the minister, he rules by the word and doctrine; while each living, member of the whole body, by the hand of faith, holds the head, which influences and directs the whole body; from which head all the body, by being of one mind, of one judgement, one faith, one hope, and one spirit, are joined together; and, by the hands of mutual affection, spiritual unity, and of gospel peace, having, nourishment ministered from the head to each member, and from one member to another through the compacting joints, that knits all the members of the body together, the whole body increases in number and in strength, with the increase of God, 2 Col. xix. The neck, with its joints and sinews, that holds this glorious head and mystical body together, are the self-moving love of God, his eternal decree, and the bond of the covenant; which for ever keep this body and the head in union; while the divine veracity, brought to light by the gospel, lays a foundation for the fullest assurance of faith. "Whom be did foreknow them he did predestinate, and whom he predestinated them be called, and whom he called them he justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified." This is the good will of God in Christ Jesus, revealed to us, and by the Spirit of God wrought in us; and this is Zion's only security, which makes the glorious inheritance sure to all the seed, and the church that has an experimental knowledge of these things, that has experienced the application and power of them, and tasted the sweetness and felt the enjoyment of them, and who by the eye of faith sees them, and in love holds them fast, is the Lord's delightful spouse indeed. "Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck Song iv. 9. This union is father set forth by;
The union that subsists between the vine and its branches. "I am the vine, ye are the branches." There is nothing more fruitful than a vine. There is nothing that can be called wood that is so weak, and yet there is no root in the earth that contains so much life, sap, and nourishment, as the root of a vine; nor is there any plant that is productive of so much generous liquor, nor any thing that can produce any thing stronger, if it be distilled. Witness spirits of wine. And so in this union. Who could ever have thought that such great things should have been accomplished by the Saviour, when he appeared in the world a poor and needy man, a worm, and no man, the despised of the people, and crucified through weakness? This was David's offspring; but David's root was hid in David's branch; and in that ever blessed root is the natural life of all mankind, the life of angels, and the eternal life of all the chosen millions. "In him we all live, and move, and have our being;" and from him the blessing, of eternal life is received by all that believe; and from him the new wine of the kingdom is poured forth, the wine of eternal love, which is strong as death; and whoever drinks thereof forgets his poverty, and remembers his misery no more. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except ye abide in me." To abide sensibly in him, is to stand by faith in his strength, to have the mind swaddled with his truth, to shine in his light, to enjoy his countenance, to feel his power, to find the heart enlarged by a sense of his love, to observe his goings and comings, to bemoan his absence, to be entertained with his visits, and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith he has made us free; and not to be entangled in the traps of error, in the servitude of sin, nor with the yoke of legal bondage. Sometimes the branches of a vine are without leaves, and without fruit; but the branch that is in the vine still has life in its root, in which life lies both the leaves and the fruit, and nothing is wanted but the sun to bring them forth. So the child of God, through slips and falls, often loses the external verdure of his profession; at which times faith is lanquid, love cold, patience in a decaying state, hope at a low ebb, zeal abated, and all joy apparently gone. But Christ shines, and revives his work, communicates refreshings from his presence, the wind blows afresh upon the garden, and the beloved is once more invited to eat his own pleasant fruits. But, "if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." A man may be in Christ Professionally, but not spiritually. There are Christians in name and shew, and there are Christians in spirit and principle. He that is in Christ only by profession and confession, by head knowledge, by gifts, by zeal, by flushes of joy, springing up from the stirrings and motions of natural affections, is sure never to abide, for want of deepness of earth," or a broken heart; for want of moisture or the wellspring of divine life; and for the want of "root in themselves," which is the love of God shed abroad in the heart. Such are cast forth by the church, either for their open profanity, or else for their damnable heresies which they embrace, and by which they are discovered, and for which they are cast forth, as a branch is pruned or cutoff; and soon they are withered. Their joy, zeal, and first knowledge, all wither together, and men gather them; impostors, heretics, apostates, hypocrites, or worldlings, gather them into their company, and unto their assembly; and the end of them is to be burned, body and soul, in hell fire. This union is set forth by;
The union that subsists between the husband and the wife; which union exhibits the oneness of nature between Christ and his church. The human nature of Christ, which was Abraham's seed, the fruit of David's loins, the fruit of his body, the seed of the virgin, which was made of a woman, made and prepared of the substance of her body, and which is apart of the children's flesh and blood, which the Lord took, and of the same flesh and blood, for the scriptures say he took part of the same, Heb. ii. 14. This assumption of human nature, I say, by incarnation, shews the oneness of flesh between Christ and his spouse. He is clothed with a part of the children's flesh and blood. Hence we are said to be "members or his body, of his flesh, and of his bones;" Eph. v. 30; and "no more twain, but they two shall be one flesh." But, if Loud's notion be true, they are not one flesh; for he says the Saviour's flesh was made of deity, but ours was made of earth; consequently, be cannot be said to be of our flesh, and one flesh with us; but the Spirit says we are one flesh. "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church," Eph. v. 31, 32.
Furthermore, "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit, I Cor. vi. 17. All the elect are made partakers of the Spirit of Christ "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The whole fullness of the Spirit is without measure in the Saviour; and the same Spirit operates and dwells in all the saints, whose bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost. And, under the sweet influence of the Spirit of love, our glorious and eternal union with the Saviour is manifested to the elect sinner; for by the Spirit God calls us to the fellowship of his Son; and, when once the poor sinner feels Christ's love operating in him, and all his affections stirred up and going out after him, then he passes into the bond of the covenant, into the joy of the Lord, and into the glorious liberty of the children of God; he enters into his rest, and rests from all his burdens, and from all his legal and dead works; and says for himself, "My beloved is mine, and I am his;" while mutual affections, the bond of all perfectness, makes the union so clear, so close, so sweet, that they understand what he means when he says, "Believe that I am in you and you in me;" and again, "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse."
This union being compared to that which subsists between the foundation and the building, shews us where all the weight of our sins, and the sufferings due to us, were laid; and where the sin-burdened, soul-sinking, and self-despairing sinner finds his resting place, when he is brought out of the horrible pit, and led to the rock that is higher than he; where he casts all his burdens and his cares, and where he finds his heart fixed on a firm basis, against which the gates of hell shall never preveil.
This union being represented by the neck, which joins the body to the head, and which head contrives and schemes for the welfare of every member of the body, is to set forth to us the union of the members among themselves; and how the head, Christ, in union with the body, guides, directs, influences, and actuates, the whole mystical body. "The wise man's eyes are in his [covenant] head." "The way of man is not in himself." "It is not in man that walks to direct his steps." "Be not like an horse or a mule, which have no understanding and I will guide thee with mine eye," saith the Lord. And indeed the Lord contrives, and provides, for every member of the whole body. Healing, and health, food and physic, are all in him, and of him. "I am the Lord that healeth thee." Yea, the health of our countenance and our God. "I am the bread of life." And it is he that purged our sins by his own blood. The wandering member he brings back, the weak he carries, the ewe with young be gently leads, the blind he illuminates, the dead he quickens, the cold he inflames, and works in all both to will and to do.
This union being represented by the vine and its branches, shews the root in which our life lies, where it is hid, and the way in which it is communicated to us. And, as the vine branch, which often appears without leaves or fruit, has life still in its root, so had the elect life given them in Christ Jesus before the world began, though they are by nature the children of wrath even as others, and dead in trespasses and sins, till quickened by the Lord of life and glory.
Furthermore, the vine, contrary to most plants, never bears fruit in the old wood; the new branch, and its new fruit in the branch, both spring together. If no life be communicated, there is no new branch; and, if no new branch, no fruit. So old nature can never bring forth fruit unto God. The new and living principle, the new man of grace, must be formed in the soul before fruit can be expected. No man can gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. In Christ is our fruit found; the new man of grace comes from Christ's fullness of grace; the Holy Ghost operates, and produces his own fruits, which are called the graces, or fruits, of the Spirit; and from the tuition of grace we learn to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world and from the operations of grace all good works proceed. "I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." Moreover, as the new branch of the vine, the new cluster, and the leaves, all lie in the life, which is in the root of the vine, so our new man, new fruit, and the verdant leaves of our holy profession, are all derived from Christ, who is our life and our holy root; and on which account, though at times we appear withered in our profession, and barren in our souls, yet, by virtue of our union with him, in him our leaf shall be green, our leaf in him shall not wither, nor shall we entirely cease from yielding fruit; yea, "they shall bring forth fruit in old age, to shew that the Lord is upright," or righteous, or faithful, in giving to us, according to his covenant promise, the blessing of eternal life.
But, again; as the life of the branch, the fruit, and the leaf, all lie in the sap, which is the life of the vine, and in which it is secured and hid as in its root; and which life is drawn forth, and the branch, fruit, and leaf, are all set in a working motion by the warm enlivening rays of the sun; even so, when the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his beams, the barren desert becomes a fruitful field; and the degenerate plant of a strange vine appears with all its silverlings, and with all its blessed clusters.
This union being set forth by that which subsists between the man and his wife, not only exhibits the oneness of flesh and blood, and the oneness of spirit, between Christ and his church; but it sets forth the church's share in all the dignity, honour, wealth, and majesty of her husband. The wife is not only one flesh with her husband, but is likewise partner with him in every thing he has; and she will take care to let him know it, and will claim it, being taken "to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health." And so is this union. Christ is the bridegroom, she the bride; he is the husband, she the wife; he is the king, she the queen; he the king's son, she the daughter of the Lord God Almighty; he is a prince, she the princess, he is the lord, she is the elect lady. But they not only share in titles, in dignity, honour, and majesty, but in personal property also. She is to wear a crown, and to sit on his throne; she shares in his word, in his grace, in his mercy, in his spirit, in his kingdom, and in his glory, being an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. She must also share in his sufferings; she must drink of his cup, bear his cross; be planted together in the likeness or his death, partake of the afflictions of the gospel, lose all her reputation, and be hated of all men for his name's sake. And in doing this he comforts her in all her tribulations that she endures; makes her bed in her sickness, when she cannot make it herself; supports her on the bed of languishing, that she may not faint or be strangled supplies her wants, that she may not be compelled to get out before she is able. He is touched with the feeling, of her infirmities, and nurses her tenderly; succours her under temptations, that she may not faint; makes a way for her escape, that she may not be imprisoned; sympathizes with her, by describing her case, and pitying her. In all our afflictions he is afflicted; he calls every cruel touch of her, a touch of the apple of his eye; and pronounces an awful and eternal woe to all that offend the least part of her, or the least member in her.
This union is further set forth by the art of ingrafting, For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wert grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive tree, and partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the natural branches; "but, if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee," Rom. xi. 17, 18. This ingrafting, is said to be contrary to nature. The natural way of grafting, is to take a scion out of a good tree, which produces good fruit, and to graft it into a wild stock, the wood of which, being reduced to its natural standard, as it can sink no lower, will stand better, and endure longer in the earth, than the wood of a good tree, could a stock of such wood be procured. But our ingraftiture is contrary to nature; for we are wild olive branches, cut out of a wild olive tree, which is by nature wild, and are ingrafted into a good olive tree, so as to partake of the goodness and fatness of the good tree; which wonderful ingrafting must in the end purge out all the wild nature of such a wild branch: and this is done in part at the sinners conversion, by implanting a principle of grace in the heart; and will be effectually accomplished when our mortal bodies shall put on immortality, and these corruptible bodies shall have put on incorruption; for then mortality, with all its wildness, shall be swallowed up of life, and immortality be all in all.
This mystical union is set forth by the union between kings and their subjects. The king rules over his subjects, gives laws to them, demands tributes of them, and commands obedience to him. Hence Christ is called the king, of saints; by his righteous sceptre he rules in the midst of Jerusalem; the isles wait for his laws; and all the elect are made obedient to his will, and carry their tributes of praise and thanksgiving to him. They kiss the Son, set as king, on Zion's hill; put their trust under his shadow; and all that have felt the power of his sceptre agree in their petitions, that this olive tree would ever reign in and over their hearts, so as to subdue sin, dethrone Satan, and ever sit as supreme in all their affections.
Moreover, this union is set forth by that which subsists between the father and his children. The father loves and provides for his offspring, sees to their education, and endeavours to lay up something for them. So Christ is the everlasting father; the elect are his seed; he gives them eternal life, and the promise of the life that now is. All his children are taught of him; they are trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: and it is not yet known what that goodness is that he has laid up for them that trust in him before the sons of men. I come now to treat of the blessed effects of this mystical union.
And, first, persons in real union are divested of all prejudice to, and have a mutual affection for each other. And so the sinner is sweetly reconciled to his reconciling Lord, and loves him above every object in heaven above or in the earth beneath. "Whom have I heaven but thee, nor is there any upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee." Christ and his church, in union, deal with each other as real friends; they are well-wishers to each other's state, to their welfare, their family, and all that they have. And so souls in union with Christ wish well to Zion, to her watchmen, and desire the universal spread of the gospel, the salvation of the elect, and that Christ may be glorified in and by them all.
Christ deals not with those who are in union with him as he does with bond servants and hypocrites. "The servant knows not what his Lord doth," nor does Christ take into his privy council the treacherous heart. "He did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of men, for he knew what was in man." But to his own elect he reveals all his heart. "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends, for all things that I have heard of the Father I have made known unto you." Yea, "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant" But these things are hid from the wise and prudent, for none of the wicked shall understand.
None but the elect, in friendship with the Lord, are admitted to his banquets of wine, or to the feasts of fat things on Zion's holy mountain. The marriage feasts, the feasts of tabernacles, the feast of harvest, and the feast of the passover, are all for Israelites. The enemy, the sophist, the bond slave, and the hypocrite, are no more than lookers-on at these entertainments: who envy every smiling, countenance, are provoked at every contrite heart, and filled with infernal jealousy at every quiet spirit, at every penitential tear, at every rapture of joy, at every expression of thankfullness and inwardly grudge every token for good, every savoury morsel, every drop of honey, and every sweet word, that savours of truth, peace, and righteousness; but, notwithstanding all their grudging, and dissatisfaction, the kind invitation and hearty welcome reaches to all the friends of the bridegroom, and none else. "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."
Persons who are in union with the Saviour, find help in every kind of trouble; while the worldling, when his earthly god is gone, and the hypocrite, when his sandy foundation and vain confidence give way, are obliged to fly (like Judas) to a dumb dog, or go (like Saul) to the witch of Endor, or (like Demas) to the world, or (like Ahithophel) to the hater, or (like Alexander) to the blasphemers of Christ, or (like the sons of Sceva the Jew) into the madness or distraction of Satan, or else (like the foolish virgins) to buy oil of the wise when fearfullness surprises the hypocrites; but Zion comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved, whose strength is made perfect in her weakness. "Zion shall never be moved; God is in the midst of her; God shall help her, and that right early."
The hypocrite may walk with the righteous, as Ahithophel walked with David, to the house of God in company; and such may go to and fro to the place of the holy, and be "forgotten in the city where they had so done." But Zion, like Enoch and Noah, walks with God; she shall never be forgotten. "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance."
The believer knows that the government of both the church and the world is laid upon Christ's shoulders, who lends his friendly aid to those that trust in him in every time of need; and, when they are pressed beyond measure, insomuch that they despair even of life, they have "the sentence of death in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves, but in God who raiseth the dead." Such souls cast their burdens on the Lord, and pour out their soul before him, who "gives power to the saint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength;" Thus, when two walk together, if one fall, the other "will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to lift him up."
Furthermore, the soul that is in union with the Saviour is often alarmed, warned, and previously cautioned, of approaching dangers, while the judgments of God are far above out of the sight of the wicked. "A wise man discerns both time and judgment, be foresees the evil, and bides himself; when the wicked pass on, and are punished." "When he the Comforter is come, he will guide you into all truth, and he shall shew you things to come;" but the wicked cry, "Peace and safety," when sudden destruction cometh.
Souls in union with Christ daily correspond with each other. They talk to him in confession, in prayer, in praise, in meditation, and in thanksgiving; and he talks to them in his word, upon their hearts, in providences, by the cross, by internal changes of heart, or by some evident token for good. But the bond child and the hypocrite have no familiarity with Christ, no access to him, nor intercourse with him. All their talk is not to God, but to be heard of men; to seek honour from them, and to set themselves up in the affections of the simple, as rivals to God; which is a prelude to their ruin; for they that exalt themselves shall be abased, but those that humble themselves shall be exalted.
The soul that is in union and friendship with Christ cannot bear any distance, coldness, frown, shyness, or controversy, with him. This is worse to them than death itself, esteeming, his favour better than life, and the words of his mouth more than their necessary food; hence the following complaints - "Why bidest thou thy face from me?" "Shew me the reason wherefore thou contendest with me." "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me." "The Comforter that should relieve my soul, is far from me." "O Lord, why shouldest thou be as a man astonished, why shouldest thou be as a wayfaring man that turneth aside and tarrieth but for a night; O when will thou come and comfort me?"
But the mystical courtship and love visits that pass between Christ and his spouse; the little fits of jealousy and provocations to it; the trial of each other's affections, and the sifting of each other's sincere intentions to the bottom; the restlessness, while one doubt or suspicion remains; and the racking anxiety, till every thing be settled upon a sure, honourable, and lasting, foundation, to the satisfaction of each party; is all a riddle to the formalist and to the hypocrite. The whole work of such lies in their head; thinking, passes for believing, presumption for the assurance of faith, an external reformation is called conversion to God, legal bondage goes for the workings of the old man, the checks of an honest conscience is called the temptations of Satan, and being buffeted for their faults is being persecuted for righteousness sake; the preacher, who preaches to sap such a sandy foundation, is one that makes the heart of the righteous sad; while he that bears them slightly, and prophesies smooth things, is a builder up; and he that cries, "Peace, peace," where God has not spoken peace, is a man of candour, a man of a sweet and excellent spirit. This is the rest and security of an hypocrite, and hard work he has to keep things together; scripture, conscience, and every experimental and discerning child of God, are against him, and are continually making breaches in this supposed rest and refuse. The soul and Christ, who are in sweet union together, have a tender feeling for each other, and a tender regard for each other's honour. The sufferings of Christ often fill such a soul with cutting, grief and contrition; and all that touch such a believer, saith the Lord, shall offend. Such souls cannot endure to see or bear the Lord slightly or evil spoken of. "I hate them that hate thee," saith the Psalmist; and "they that hate Zion shall be desolate," saith the Saviour. They care not how lightly themselves are esteemed, so as their Lord is glorified; and the Lord is as much concerned for the honour of them. "They that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
"But not so the hypocrite; he pays no record to the honour of God, so as he can but exalt himself in the eyes of men. They that cleave to him, admire him, and listen with astonishment to the uncertain sound of his trumpet, however evil in life and empty in heart, are his best Friends; but all that are enlightened to see his deception are the worst enemies he has; nor will he go to the wise, nor to him that reproves him; he hates the light, and that is his condemnation.
Furthermore Christ and his church are not only united in the bond of the covenant, and in mutual affections, but they are of one judgment. What he reveals, they consent to; what he says, they credit; what he applies, they embrace; what he speaks to them, the Spirit seals on them; and they set their hand, and bear their testimony, to his seal that God is true. The seal is a confirming assurance, and their setting to their seal is their honest confession of what they feel and enjoy. This faith gives glory to the Lord; and thus to believe is the saint's glory and wisdom. To be wise above what is written is devilish or infernal wisdom; to disbelieve or contradict truth, is to make God a liar, and charge infinite wisdom with ignorance, and to debase him to a level with Satan, than which nothing, can be more vile and damnable. From this perilous path the fear of God keeps the saints. What they have seen in the Lord's light they testify; what they have heard from him they proclaim upon the house top; what they have felt they declare; and what is undiscovered they pray and wait for; but what is not revealed they dare not enter into and what is not discovered to them they will not decide upon, lest Satan should get an advantage of them, and their dear-Lord be dishonoured. All that an heretic draws out of the mouth of a child of God is sure to be pondered over in secret, and his lips are kissed when a right answer has been given.
O happy soul that is thus united to, and humbly walks with, his Saviour. The Lord guides him by his blessed Spirit, his eye, and his unerring counsel; while faith observes his motions and directions, and treads in his steps.
He plants his fear in his heart; and the believer walks, as in his immediate presence, before him in love; and considers himself under the eye of his everlasting friend, who ponders all his goings.
He feels a bar of equity erected in his own heart; to which, upon every recollection of misdoing, he cites himself; and will hold himself guilty, and culpable, till acquitted by the Spirit of God and his own conscience, and enlarged by a manifestation of pardoning love and the soul-humbling smile of his Saviour and his Judge.
The Lord daily proclaims his name to him, and causes all his goodness to pass before him; while the believer follows after and observes his wondrous ways, the work of his hands, the readings of his providence, the communications of his grace, and the inward motions of his Spirit. "He that will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving, ? kindness of the Lord."
The eye of faith discerns the narrow path; and, by the inward guidance of the Spirit, he shuns the rocks of error, the stumbling blocks and stumbling stones, where thousands dash and fall: he sees a harmony in the scriptures of truth, and a sweet harmony in the attributes of God, and in the glorious work of each person in the Godhead. A heavenly ray discovers the ancient footsteps of the flock, and big path shines more and more unto perfect day.
While he walks humbly by faith, he finds himself sensibly, upheld by a free spirit; the omnipresence of his blessed Lord encompasses him about as with a shield, which lifts his soul above the shackles of legal bondage, and rescues his mind from the gloomy regions of the shadow of death, and from the melancholy meditations of terror; "he dwells on high, his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks, bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure; thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty, and behold the land which is very far off."
The dear Lord often condescends to pay such humble souls his love visits: he sometimes meets them in their thoughts, and speaks upon their hearts; sometimes he meets them in his word, and makes them feel all that he says; meets them in their lawful calling, and puts his blessing on the work of their hands; meets them in their difficulties, and makes crooked things straight; meets them in his house of prayer, and gives them sometimes a reproof, and sometimes a promise. Thus the Almighty is with them, and his visitations preserve their spirits. "I will bear thee, saith the Lord, from the belly, and from the womb, and to your old age I am he, and to hoary hairs will I carry you."
Christian reader, cleave thou to thy God, and shun the path of the destroyer; stand not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor meddle with them that are given to change. Novelty suits an itching ear; but a circumcised ear will not give heed to a naughty tongue, nor will the unctuous heart be carried about with divers and strange doctrines. "Cease, my son, to hear, the instruction that causes thee to err from the words [and ways] of wisdom." "Stolen waters are sweet" to a proud stomach, and "bread of deceit is pleasant" to the palate of those who carry the poison of asps under their lips; but in the day of temptation his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
I charged Mr. Loud, when with me, with having written some books, and of his intention to publish them, and with his having endeavoured to circulate his heresies to the injury of some of the weaklings in faith. All which he denied. But I am informed that he is now determined to publish them, if he pawns his clothes to do it. This shews that be will not stick at a lie. However, I must leave him where God has left him ? to the perverseness of his own will, and the hardness of his own heart. He may serve as a fan, to blow away a little chaff from the floor, which we shall not be sorry for; and he may leave a testimony against his own soul; and the Judge of all the earth, who takes the wise in their own craftiness, may judge him out of his own mouth; but he shall never finally deceive one of God's elect. False doctrines, which are called the deceivableness of unrighteousness, never work effectually, only in them that perish. No soul shall embrace, hold fast, and go down to the grave with, his lies in their hand, but those "that were of old ordained to this condemnation." And I would advise him to send out his system as compact, and as closely put together, as possible; or else it is ten to one but the King, of Zion, who teaches Judah the use of the bow, will furnish me with some arrows from his quiver that will make a way through all the joints of his harness. "He that loveth and maketh lies" should have a strong memory; and every lie must be well swaddled, and well varnished, or else truth will discover it. And let Mr. Loud take care never to mention the words Son of man as applicable to Christ, for the Godhead of Christ is the Father of all men by creation; all things were made by him." But the father of all creatures can be the offspring of no creature. Neither divinity abstractedly considered, nor divinity incarnate, is the son of man, or son of David, but David's Lord. No, nor even divinity transubstantiated into flesh and blood, according to Loud's notion, can ever be the fruit of David's loins; because, according to his tenet, the Godhead was changed into flesh in the virgin's womb, and took no more of her nature than his handkerchief. According, to this, it never was in David's loins; consequently could never be a fruit that sprung from his body; for there was nothing of his body, or from his loins, in it. And by this doctrine what becomes of the oath of God? Psalm cxxxii 11. But the human nature of Christ was once in the loins of Adam, and once in the womb of Eve, and in the loins of forty-two ancients from Abraham to Mary; for all these, touching his human nature, were his ancestors and his fathers; of whom, as concerning the flesh, he came. But these fathers, who obtained such favour as to be the ancestors of such a wonderful and mysterious offspring, Must now, in point of conversation, give way to the numerous offspring of their Son whose children are much more talked of in the New Testament than the fathers are in the old; as it is written, "Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations, therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever," Psalm xlv. 16, 17.
Reader, fare thee well. Peace and truth be with thee. May God the Holy Ghost, our teacher, guide, and comforter, in our pilgrimage, bless this testimony to thy souls profit; which I believe to be a true testimony, and a testimony that will not be easily contradicted; and which will never be overthrown by arguments drawn from the word of God. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good will towards men." Amen and amen.
W. HUNTINGTON, S.S.
TO MR. HUNTINGTON.
Sunday, January 5, 1794.
Brother in the Lord,
I THANK my God for the grace given unto you, in that you are enabled in a measure to make a bold defence in behalf of the truth; also to divide the same according to the proportion of faith contained in the word of truth.
This morning I was comforted in beholding your steadfastness and order in your discourse. I looked pretty close at your steps. I saw that they were toward the highway. I do not remember of any dangerous turning you took in that sermon. You gave a good description of the countries I have passed through, corresponding, with my owm records thereof.
I heard you on Tuesday evening last at Monkwell-street. You seemed to be favoured with great enlargement of heart, and fervour of spirit; but there was one thing you advanced that I cannot agree with - that rod and sceptre in scripture have the same meaning, is a thing which no man can solder together, let him blow the coals and smite the anvil as long as he will. For I have passed under the rod before I was brought under the bond of the covenant. The rod is for the fool's back; and those that are not favoured with a touch of the sceptre, the rod will break in pieces, because they were not made wise and teachable; and, because they kissed not the Son, in his wrath they perish from the way of touching the sceptre of his kingdom for ever; and those his enemies his rod is heavy upon them. Blessed be the King for his mercy, that endureth for ever.
Yours for the truth's sake,
Great Arthur-street, Goswell-street.
TO JOHN WALKER.
Grace and truth be with thee, and with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth. I received yours; and hope ever to be thankful to God for enabling me to speak so as to agree with the Spirit's testimony in the hearts of any of his children; which, in part, you seem to acknowledge. But you must allow that the best of men, more especially the worst, are but fallible creatures, though the Spirit of God is an infallible Spirit. The Psalmist, who declared that he had more understanding than his teachers, in humility asks, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." It was in God's light that he saw light; but, if God withdrew his rays, he cries, "I am a stranger with thee; hide not thy commandment from me." It is more easy to hear a sermon, Sir, than it is to deliver one; nor does it require half the labour and wisdom to find fault with a discourse, than it does to put a good one together. No man (much less Wisdom's children) is to make a man an offender for a word, nor to lie in wait for him that reproves in the gate. Many a hearer has made a sad handle of one blunder in a discourse; whereas, had he himself been in the pulpit, he would, in all probability, have made an hundred. For my part, I would sooner preach before an hundred men really wise, than before one man that thinks himself so. Hearers are no more infallible than preachers; and more frequently err in finding fault than the Lord's servants do in preaching. If God sets an eye in the body mystical, he generally shines so in him as to give light to all that are in the house; and what he sees that he declares, while many in the house may think he is wrong, because themselves are not right; and find fault with what they do not understand; and this, Sir, is your case. The very one thing, that you cannot agree with me in, is what all the scriptures do agree to declare; and what you say no man can solder together, is put together by God himself, without any human soldering. If you have passed under the rod into the bond of the covenant, it is well for you; but I should suppose it is but lately; if otherwise, I fear you have too often played truant, instead of sitting humbly at the Lord's feet, and receiving his words; for it is evident that humility and wisdom are much wanting in your letter. Pride and ignorance are no proofs of divine teaching; these materials are from the ruins of the fall, not from the covenant of grace.
A sceptre Sir, in the literal sense, is a short staff, or small rod, carried in the hand of a royal sovereign, which is a sign or emblem of royal power and authority, granted by the King, of kings and Lord of lords, by whom kings reign; and it is put into the hands of a king by the nation that sets him as a ruler over them.
But, if this sceptre, this power and authority, was to extend no farther than just to be held out at the palace to an humble petitioner, who solicits a favour, it would be a sceptre of mercy with a witness, but not a sceptre of righteousness; for we should soon be overrun and destroyed by thieves, villains, and murderers, and no man would be sure of his life; "A king all mercy is a king, unjust." The authority of a ruler is to promote good works and to be a terror to evil; to do good, is to have praise of the same; but, if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sceptre nor the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil, Rom. xiii. 3, 4. But without a sceptre he hath no authority. What you mean by being favoured with a touch of the sceptre, I do not understand, and it is what you cannot explain. Queen Esther touched the sceptre of king Ahasuerus. This I know; but the sceptre of Christ is neither wood, gold, nor iron; it was not made by the turner, the goldsmith, nor upon the blacksmith's anvil; for it is no less than Almighty power, which is not to be touched with the finger, but felt in the soul; nor is it in our power to handle it, it must be manifested in us by the Lord himself. Nor is this power of the mediatorial King confined to the objects of his love, but it extends to all his enemies. "Thou hast given him power over all flesh," to subdue them, and make all things subservient to his own end; and for this reason, "that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him." This power reaches to all - to all the angels in heaven, and to all the devils in hell; to all the saints in Zion, and to all the sinners on earth. He is the head of all principalities, and has the keys of hell and of death. He is King of glory in heaven, King of saints in Zion, and King of nations, as well as King of kings and Lord of all lords. And it is under this rod of his strength that the rebel passes, who is made willing, in the day of his power; and by the same rod of his mouth he smites the earth, slays the wicked, and breaks in pieces the oppressor. If this kind tutor of mine had examined the word of God, he might have learned from thence that God calls a rod a sceptre more than once. "And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bear rule. And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation," Ezek. xix. 11, 14. And what is called the rod of Christ's strength, which went out of Zion, is said to be the rod by which he rules in the midst of his enemies, and by which he makes his own people willing to submit to his government, Psalm cx. 1, 2, 3. And this ruling rod is called his sceptre; and it is a right sceptre, and a sceptre of righteousness, which well becomes him who loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and who will reward the one and destroy the other. All this is to be learned from the Bible: but finding, fault in company sometimes brings more honour, from men, than reading or praying over the scriptures in private, where there are no lookers-on but God and conscience: for young men, or green disciples, who can dissect the sermons of old labourers in the vineyard, are often looked up to as men of wisdom, judgement, and discernment; men of deep experience and super abounding grace: and are often extolled, and their company much courted; which is a feast of fat things to those that are not aware of the foot of pride. It is the Lord's sceptre that makes the gospel a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. His authority is to dispense both mercy and judgement; and not only to rule in time, but to judge both quick and dead at last. With this rod he smites through the proud, and with the same he reproves with equity for the meek of the earth. The rod that you say you have passed under, and the rod upon the fool's back, is one and the same thing, both in English and in Hebrew, and signifies no less than the sceptre of a ruler. He that is invested with authority to humble a rebel, and to protect a wise man, uses the same authority in correcting a fool. What countries you have passed through, and what are your records thereof, I cannot tell: but, if your journal is as unintelligible as your notions of a sceptre, no person will ever understand it, nor will you ever be able to explain it. If you have, as you say, been brought under the bond of the covenant, I much question whether you was ever brought into it. Those who are humbled to lie down at the feet of the Lamb, and made teachable and tractable to receive their instructions at the mouth of the Saviour, and to be led by him, are swift to hear and slow to speak; more ready to take the lowest than the highest seat, and more fond of being instructed than to instruct others. God knows that no man is sufficient of himself for the work of the ministry, and therefore promises that his Spirit shall speak in them; and, when this is the case, it is not every novice that can condemn the speech. What you call dividing truth "according to the proportion of faith contained in the word of truth is altogether without either sense or meaning. Your records of the country are little better. And to talk of soldering rod and sceptre together, by blowing the coals and smiting the anvil, is ignorance, insolence, arrogance, and wickedness. For, though the Almighty pours contempt upon the carpenter and smith, who used to labour at the anvil and the solder, in making an image or a god, yet the omnipotent power and authority of Christ is not to be trifled with, nor yet to be compared to the work of men's hands, graven by art and man's device. For my part, I have been burdened with so much instruction of this sort, and so little has been added to me by this kind of conference, that I could almost wish in my heart that, if they cannot help me, they would not hinder me. And, as a friend, I would advise this kind tutor of mine to begin with Nehemiah's burden-bearers, and get away a little of his own rubbish, Neh. iv. 10; and to learn to temper his mortar, and to make clear work at the dung-gate, Neh. iii. 13, before he lifts up his trowel in the temple: or (in other words) that be wait till his understanding is more clear, his judgment better informed, the old vail of the heart a little more removed, and until the stream of truth runs a little more pure, before be attempts to instruct or polish the Lord's labourers; for it is not likely that be should pull a mote out of my eye while I can see two beams in his. This instruction is sent to my instructor by his soul's well-wisher,
Church Street, Paddington.
TO MR. HUNTINGTON.
I hope you will excuse my liberty of writing to you; for I feel myself in duty bound to bless the Lord for his Goodness and loving-kindness in directing my steps to Providence chapel; where I have had, under your ministry, by God's blessing, many sweet entertainments; yea, many doubts and fears have been removed, and many points of scriptural doctrine cleared up; as, for instance, election, as one of the grandest truths in all the Bible; against which I have in times past fought like a devil, for I was all for universal redemption. But now I am, through grace, persuaded that, if I have no part nor lot in special redemption (which I humbly hope and trust I have), I should then never expect to be saved at all; for, without an interest in Christ by free grace, it is impossible that any man can be happy, either in time or eternity. And, with respect to God's holy law and its demands, I have worked in a legal way at that for years, but all to no purpose; for it requires perfect obedience, internal as well as external; to which standard I could never attain, nor no one living ever will; for Christ Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness: and until he is pleased, in his rich mercy, to shew us his free salvation (O precious word! free salvation without money and without price!) we keep stumbling upon the dark mountains, and go from bad to worse. To-day the Lord has been pleased to shew me another error, which I have been taught, and believed for many years; namely, that Christ descended into hell after his crucifixion; either to shew himself as a conqueror to his enemies, or else to preach the gospel to the souls that were in prison, which did not believe in the time of Noah. But, if I now understand the text right, the Spirit preached to them, in and by Noah, when yet upon earth, before the destruction of the old world. Furthermore, concerning the incarnation of our blessed Lord and Saviour. I am sure I never had so clear a view of it before, as when you described it, and the Lord directed it to my heart, this day. How he took our nature into union with his Godhead, and how Gloriously every thing, under the old dispensation prefigured Christ's manhood; namely, the tabernacle in the wilderness, and afterwards the temple which Solomon built, where the Lord dwelt.
I must own I wished in my Heart that that sermon might be printed, for the good of others as well as myself; for my memory is very shallow; yet what the Spirit of God writes in the inmost parts of the soul can never be erase, though all the devils in hell were to try at it; for he that is in us is stronger than be that is in the world. Blessed be his name, he says he will never leave us nor forsake us, world without end. Amen.
Now, my dear Sir, I beg once more that you will pardon my freedom, and excuse my blunders, considering that I am a foreigner in a two-fold sense; and, if you think it worthy an answer, I shall esteem it a great favour; if not, I hope the Lord will enable me to bear it patiently, and with Christian fortitude for without him I can do nothing: but, through him and his grace, we are enabled to do every thing he requires of us. Although I am not worthy of the least of his blessings, yet for his sake who has loved me, and given himself for me, I expect every needful blessing; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the one self-existent Jehovah, be all glory and honour for ever and ever.
I remain yours, with esteem, in the bond of peace.
Fedde FixsenGreat St. Ann's street, Westminster,
Dec, 25, 1793.
TO FEDDE FIXSEN.
I RECEIVED your kind letter, and bless God for condescending to make me useful to you, or to any other of his children. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us." The work is the Lord's, and he will work in whom and by whom he pleases. Every preacher that Gods sends has all his work lined out before him), and no man shall do it but the instrument that God has appointed. Peter must go to Cornelius, Paul to help them of Macedonia, and Philip to the Ethiopian; and perhaps he has appointed me to clear away a little of your rubbish, that you may make a better joint than you ever yet have done with the chief corner stone.
There are few of the Lord's chosen but who, at their first awakening, and when under legal convictions, wage war, and spend the shafts of their natural enmity and rebellion, at the doctrine of God's election, which is a terrible obstacle in the way of self sufficiency and human consequence. It is a mountain of brass, Zech. vi. 1, which proud nature cannot submit to, which freewill cannot surmount, and which malice itself cannot remove. It divests poor mortals of all their supposed sovereignty, baffles free agency itself, and renders the hand of the proud doer incapable of contributing the least mite to the work of the Most High, which from all eternity was finished in the decree and purpose of God, Heb. iv. 3. It tells us that "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, not yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill: so far from it, it is the lame that take the prey, the weak are strong, and he that becomes a fool is wise. All which is contrary to reason, and is to them that perish foolishness. God will stain the pride of all human glory, by hiding his mysteries from the wise and prudent, that those who profess themselves wise may become fools, vain in their imaginations, until their foolish hearts are darkened.
Universal redemption must be held by those professors who are conscious to themselves that the redemption price has never been applied to them, or else they must exclude themselves from all redemption touching experience: which true and honest confession of exclusion would at once render their profession empty, and debase them to a level with the world; which those can never brook who are left to seek honour one of another; so far from it, they are almost ready to blaspheme the God of heaven, when he discovers the hypocrisy of their hearts, by shewing their wickedness openly before the confederation. Saul will call for honour before the people, even when given up of God to a reprobate mind, and to a fearful looking for of judgement; which shews that neither the invasions of wrath in this world, nor the torments of hell in the next, will ever humble proud nature; witness the pride and obstinacy of devils, who have been long disciplined with the cords of their sins and the terrors of God (which is the only experience of Arminians), and yet remain just the same, and ever will.
Working at the precepts of the law is the common task of us all, until the Lord begin to work in us, for by nature we know no other way of life. The way of faith is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close even from the fowls of heaven, Job. xxviii. 21, till God discovers it; of course the awakened mind will turn his feet to the testimonies, and make haste to keep the commandments. This is the only way that seemeth right unto a man Prov. xiv. 12, till he is taught better. The law shews a man his sin, and works death in him by its own goodness; and, if he follows his work closely, it will sooner or later, shew him his weakness, condemn him for his partial performances, and there leave him: and numbers who stick here, and go no farther, pass with many preachers in our days for humble souls, and blessed recipients of grace. Preachers who have not the Spirit, must deal in the letter; and those, who cannot handle the mystery, must work at the precepts; which the unhumbled heart is fond of, as it does not, in the eyes of the blind, exclude boasting, which faith does. He that puts on the outside, the most shining varnish, is sure to tell his neighbour to stand by himself, for he is holier than he; and every one that can perform a double task of dead works is licensed, as he thinks, to have a throw at the publican. And this is easily accounted for, because to this day the vail is on the heart of all Moses's disciples; and, while they are kept looking through that curtain, darkness appears to be light, and light darkness; evil to be good, and good evil, Isa. v. 20. Every thing on their own side of the vail is a prize, but every thing on the other side a blank. Peter says they cannot see afar off. They can see a mote in another, while they cannot see a beam in themselves; and strain their jaws at a gnat, yet swallow a camel imperceptibly. It was through this vail the Samaritans looked when they set up their own judgment, and called Simon Magus the great power of God. And the Jewish scribes did the same when they called the divine master Beelzebub, and a fellow; but themselves Moses's disciples: a sufficient proof that the vail hung heavy upon them; they were wise and prudent in their own eyes, but their foolish hearts were darkened. They knew not the day of their visitation, they could not discern the sins of the times; and so the mysteries of the kingdom, and the things which made for their peace, were hid from their eyes. And this is the case with too many in a profession in our day; a formal round of duties, a decent deportment, legal and partial obedience, and eye service, (which are all dead works) are rested in, and trusted to, instead of the merits of Christ and the renewing operations of the Holy Ghost. But O, Sir, the wild olive branch must bear wild fruit until engrafted into the good olive tree: this branch can have neither life nor fruit till it partake of the goodness and fatness of the ever blessed tree of oil. The soul that is delivered from the law, and united to Christ, who is under the dominion of grace, influenced and actuated by the holy Spirit of promise, shall never be barren, nor fruitless; the faithfulness of God is engaged to keep his leaf green, and his soul shall never cease from yielding fruit.
That article of faith, called our Lord's descension into hell, never had any footing or foundation in God's book. The human nature dying, in union with the Godhead, must answer every infinite demand, both of law and justice; the human nature of Christ being, set up (in the purpose of God) from everlasting and ordained to everlasting glory, and the union of it to eternal divinity in Christ's death, must be sufficient to redeem the elect from eternal damnation. And it was done; we are justified from all demands of vindictive justice by his blood, and by the same are we ransomed both from wrath and the grave. The fabled limbo, called purgatory, stands upon our Lord's descension into hell; which has wrought wonderfully in the minds of thousands, whose eyes the god of this world has been permitted to blind, so as to keep the light of the gospel from them; this has furnished his holiness with one of his keys; this scarecrow has frightened many a miser out of his cash when in dying circumstances; it employs the innumerable company of mass-mongers, in labouring to change the immutable mind of God - to revoke his irrevocable decree - to remove his immoveable gulf - and to alter the unalterable state of the dead: nevertheless, this labour in vain has not been vain labour; a mint of money has been given and taken in order to obtain a permit and passport from purgatory, which has brought no small gain to the craftsmen of that occupation.
Hell, or scheol, in scripture very frequently means the grave, as in Gen. xxxvii. 35; xlii. 38; and in most places where it is simply and singly mentioned: but, where the place and state of the damned is intended, something is frequently added to distinguish it; as, (for instance) "Her guests are in the depths of hell;" Prov. ix. 18. "Hell and destruction are before the eyes of the Lord;" Prov. xv. 11. "Mine anger shall burn to the lowest hell." " It is deeper than hell; what canst thou know Job. xi. 8. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering." "O hell, where is thy victory?" "Shall be in danger of hell fire," Matt. v. 22. "Destroy soul and body in hell," Luke, xii. 5. "How can you escape the damnation of hell?" Matt. xxiii. 33. In all these passages of scripture the place of the damned is plainly pointed out; but, where the word hell is applied to Christ, (as in Psalm xvi. 10; and Acts, ii. 27) the grave, and not the bottomless pit, is meant. And, if it be objected that the soul, and not the body, is mentioned, ("Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," &c.) it may be answered, that the soul often intends the whole of his human nature. When it is said, he shall "make his soul an offering, for sin," "He shall see of the travail of his soul," and "because he poured out his soul unto death," &c. Isai. iiii. 10, 11, 12. All these expressions mean the whole manhood; for the body must not, cannot, be separated or excluded from the sacrifice, which is called "a lamb without spot," and by the blood of which the church is said to be purchased and redeemed. When it is said that Abraham took all the souls that he had gotten in Haran, Gen. xii. 5, not souls only, but persons, are meant. And sometimes the soul is mentioned when the body is meant, as in Psalm xlix. 15. 11. "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for he shall receive me." And again, "For great is thy mercy toward me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest grave," (for so the margin reads) Psalm lxxxvi. 13. Hence it appears plain that, when it is said "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," the whole human nature in union with the Godhead is intended, which the last clause of the text explains, by saying, "nor suffer thy Holy One to see Corruption." And, if it be objected that the soul of Christ, excluded from the body, is meant, and nothing else; then let such objectors explain to us in what sense the body, thus abstractedly considered, can be called the HOLY ONE, as Adam's body in innocency was a true figure of it; and seeing, also that the body is no more than one half, yea, the weakest, lowest, and meanest part of the manhood, which had its original from the earth; but the soul's original is from God. Earth is the mother of the body, but God the Father of spirits. Hence it is plain that the soul in that text includes the whole of Christ, which the phrase Holy One explains; and who never was in hell, nor left in the state of the dead; but by his death destroyed "him that had the power of death; that is, the devil;" and who is Lord both of life and death, and has the keys of both; which keys were not fetched from hell, but laid upon him by God the Father. "All power is given to me, both in heaven and earth. I have the keys of hell and of death" ? of hell, as the judge of angels and men and of death, as the resurrection and the life. The damned spirits in hell, and the dust in the tomb, shall hear his voice, and come forth.
You inform me that you are a foreigner in a twofold sense. If a Foreigner from a distant country, all the better; you have the less acquaintance to ensnare you; and, if a foreigner in the best sense you are one born from above, a native of the heavenly Jerusalem, and are a stranger in a strange land; and, if a partaker of grace, (with respect to God and Zion) you are well known; and no more (in this sense) a stranger or foreigner, but "a fellow citizen of the saints, and of the household of God."
While the good work of God is going on in your soul, cleave close to him, and shun all acquaintance. The formal professor will damp our zeal; the legalist will fetter and shackle you; the erroneous will puzzle and baffle your judgment; the presumptuous hypocrite will harden and impiously embolden you; the backslider in heart will envy your happiness, and unjustly smite you; while the man of gifts, (who is destitute of grace) will nurse your pride, and puff you up.
In this little treatise my dear friend may see something of the reality, the truth, and effects, of the doctrine of election, which he so much despised. You confess that God hath delivered you from that pharisaical notion, of believers being under the law as the rule of life, and from all the fruitless toil of the eye servant and the bond slave: and I have no doubt but thy soul is more humble, thy conscience more tender, and that more genuine fruits are brought forth to the glory of God's grace by you now than ever have been heretofore.
You are convinced also of the error of our Lord's descent into hell; and are led to see, both in the Old Testament and in the New, the blessed incarnation of Christ, and to rejoice in it. While, at the same time, in this little work, you may see a man, that has sat under the same ministry for years, and not a foreigner, like yourself, but an Englishman, who hold's fast all the deceit which God's grace has made you let go. Thus the Spirit leads one into all truth, while the other has a bridle in his jaws, causing him to err. The first is last, and the last first. He in the highest seat with shame gives place, and takes the lowest room; while the humble and teachable soul is bid to go up higher in the presence of the Prince. The talents are taken from the graceless, and given to the gracious, who has more abundance; while the empty professor is deprived of what he had, and walks naked, insomuch that the simple, who once admired him, see his name. While one builds upon the rock, and blesses both the founder and the foundation, the other makes it "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence." The verdant professor, or green tree, is dried up, and the dry tree is made to flourish. One bears clusters, with a blessing in them; another bitter clusters, with gall and wormwood; and both under the same sun. But so it is, and so it shall be till harvest. Judas must be discovered, and go out, that Matthias may succeed him. Vashti must be deposed, that Esther (a better than she) may be exalted. Haman must be gibbeted at his own expense, that Mordecai might go from the gate to the treasury, and from his sackcloth to royal apparel. Mr. Loud must get into Satan's strong hold, while Fixsen, who sat in the prison-house, must go forth and shew himself. Thus it must be done to those "whom the King delighteth to honour." And I bless God for every discovery be makes of an hypocrite, and I bless him for every soul in whose conscience he makes me manifest. A preacher is sent to root up as well as to plant; to throw down as well as to build. And, while God uses me to separate the vile from the precious, and the chaff from the wheat, I shall be as God's mouth. "And who is sufficient for these things?" Our sufficiency is of God." And where shall we solve these things? Not in freewill. Mr. Loud wills to be great, and you to be little; he to be wise, and you to be foolish, that you may be wise; he seeks honour from men, you the honour from God; he wishes to divide and scatter, and you to unite and gather; he hates the light, and shuns it, and you come to it; he reviles me for telling the truth, while the truth makes you free; he is, and will be, disappointed; and you do, and will, find what you never expected. And so "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." And here we are obliged to trace these things up to their proper basis; resolve them, settle them, and leave them, on the absolute, sovereign, and uncontrollable will of God, who will do as he pleases with his own. To believe in, humbly to acquiesce with, and to submit to, the sovereign and good will of God in Christ Jesus, is the highest act of a saint's obedience. But he that kicks, rebels, and resists his revealed will, and impiously disputes against it, does the work of a devil and a rebel. But God has made us willing in the day of his power, and Christ "has received gifts for the rebellions, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
The Lord Jesus Christ be thy prophet, thy priest, thy king, and thy sole director; and blessed shalt thou then be, and it shall be well with thee. Grace and peace with thee.