« السابقةمتابعة »
conduct of those who subscribe articles of the church's faith contrary to their own faith; and from divers and strange doctrines daily propagated in these churches by the pulpit and press. While this laxness continues; we need not be surprised at the decline of the reformation cause with regard to purity of doctrine.
Lastly, as men's ignorance and denial of the genuine doctrines of the gospel tend to the ruin of vital pi-. ety; so, on the other hand, the decay of vital piety is attended with indifference and heart-aversion to these doctrines. They have no certain hold of the truths of the gospel, who have not received them in faith and love, and have no gracious experience of their sanctifying influence on the heart and life. When there is little exercise of believing prayer for the Spirit of truth, who guides us into the saving knowledge of all gospel
Christians to maintain the truths of God denied by these here. ticks, and to testify against their errors and blasphemies. Christians ought to do so, not only as individuals, but as a church; for the maintaining of Divine truth is one principal end of their visible union in that capacity. In this respect the church may be called the pillar and ground of truth, 1 Timothy iii. 15. But a particular church cannot discharge her duty in this respect without declaring her adherence not only to the words, but also to the true sense of scripture; which is denied by these hereticks. And such is the declaration which is made by a particular church in her Formula, Confession of Faith, or Judicial Testimony. Besides, who can deny, that such a plain and distinct representation of the first principles and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, as is made in the Catechisins and Confession of Faith compiled by the Westminster Assembly, must be of great use to the generality of Christians? In every church, not only children, but many others, have need of ́ such means of instruction in the first principles of the oracles of God. Nay, we have examples of such compositions in the summaries which the scripture itself gives us of our holy religion; such as, the ten commandments, what is commonly called, the Lord's prayer, and various other passages, such as Matth. xxii. 37, 38, 39. 1 Tim. iii. 16. Heb. vi. 1. Acts xx. 21.
truth; when professors are puffed up with the conceit of their own wisdom; when their eagerness in the pursuit of worldly things allows them no leisure for composed meditation on the truths of the gospel; when all seek their own things, not the things of Christ; when iniquity abounds and the love of many waxeth cold; the reformed churches, while such is the ruling character of their members, must be on the decline with regard to the purity of gospel doctrine.
But amidst all the evils of the times, there are still some comfortable signs, which give us ground to hope, that he who keeps the truth, will, in due time, make it prevail over all opposition. He continues his word and ordinances with us. He takes occasion from the opposition made to the various articles of his truth, to make the evidence, the necessity and importance of these articles, shine with more conspicuous lustre. The sword of the civil magistrate being no more abused, as formerly, in the persecution of Christ's witnesses; they are not afraid to lift up their voice in defence of his truths. They who explore the remote parts of the earth in pursuit of science or of gain, and who thus render the intercourse of the nations with one another more general and extensive, are employed (though they have no such design) by Divine providence, in preparing a way for the propagation of the gospel, and for the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom. It seems, indeed, that the church has to go through some severe trial before a thorough reformation. Hence he gives his people that call in Isai. xxvi. 20. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. But a blessed rem
nant shall be preserved, Zechar. xiii. 9. I will bring á third part through the fire and will refine them, as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God. We have also ground to expect that, on the other side of these calamities, the condition of the church will be better than it has been since the days of the apostles. The beauty of purity and power in her profession and ordinances; the beauty of unity among her members will then be attained in an eminent degree, Isai. xxx. 26. The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
P. S. The truth concerning the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ, is stated in the preceding letter, but as this important doctrine meets with much opposition, it seems not improper to add the following extract from a discourse on that subject.
We propose first to state, in some particulars, the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son; and Secondly, to confirm the truth of it.
1. Human generation bears some sort of analogy to and is some shadow of the eternal generation of the Son of God. The son amongst men is of the same nature with the father and bears his image or likeness. So the eternal Son is of the same nature with the eternal Father: he is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his Person. But,
2. There is an infinite disproportion and difference between the Divine generation of the Son and human generation. By human generation the Father and the Son, though of the same specific nature, are two beings. But by this Divine generation, the Father and the Son are of the same numerical nature, or, in other
words, they are one being. Hence, whilst a father and his son among men have different endowments, the excellencies and perfections of the Divine Father and his Son are necessarily the same.--By human generation, the son exists separately from his father and without his father: but in the Godhead, though the Son be a distinct person from the Father; yet he has no subsistence without the Father. Hence it is said of these Divine Persons, (what cannot be said of a human father and his son) that the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father; and that he who hath seen the Son, hath seen the Father. No human son can say to his father what Christ says to his Father, All things that are mine are thine, and that are thine are mine*. Hu man generation is temporal; the father is in time be fore the son, and begets one younger than himself. But the Divine generation of the Son is eternal. For the generation of the Son is the eternal act of the eter nal Father; both co-existing eternally in the same individual essence. The generation of the son amongst men is contingent: an event that may or may not be. But the generation of the Son of God is as necessary as the being of God. For it is as necessary for God to be whatever he is, as it is for him to be at all. Thus though there be some faint analogy between the Divine generation of the Son and human generation, yet we are by no means to admit that the former is properly comparable with the latter; as the Divine perfections are not properly to be compared with any shadows of them among creatures. Isai. xlvi. 5. To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal or compare me, that we may be like? And yet it may be justly said, that the generation of the Son of God is the most proper and perfect generation; in regard that he, the express image of the Father's Person, being the same Divine being with the Father.
3. The generation of the Son does not imply any inequality to the Father. For, according to this generation, the Father and the Son possess the same indi
John xvii. 10. So the Greek words may be most properly
vidual Godhead or Divine nature; and they possess it eternally so that there can be no priority of the Father to the Son.
4. The Divine essence is neither the principle nor the term of this generation. It is not the principle, or that which begets; for that is the person, as such, of the Father: nor is it the term, or that which is begotten; for that is the person, as such, of the Son. Hence our saying, that the Lord Christ, considered as the Son, is not of himself, but of the Father; consists well with our saying, that he is God of himself. He is of the same necessarily existent, underived, independent, absolutely eternal Godhead with the Father.
5. The manner of this eternal generation is to us absolutely incomprehensible. If it be asked, How the Son comes to be of the same numerical or individual nature with the Father, and yet co-equal and co-eternal with the Father; we must answer, that we cannot tell. Nor is it any just objection against the eternal generation of the Son that we cannot understand the manner nor find out the reason of it; for the finite mind can have no positive conception but of finite things; being absolutely incapable of fathoming what is infinite. Nor does it follow that it is unprofitable to seek the knowledge of this mystery; because a true knowledge of what God hath revealed concerning it is attainable and necessary to our salvation; necessary to our preservation from soul-ruining errors with regard to the Person of our Redeemer.
That Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the sense now declared, and not, as some assert, by his mediatorial office, is the doctrine of the holy scriptures.
I. The eternal generation of the Lord Christ is plainly asserted in various passages; as in the second Psalm ver. 7. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son: This day have I begotten thee. Here God the Father himself condescends to tell us upon what ground Christ is his Son; and assures us, that it is not on the ground of his mediatory office, but on that of his eternal generation. It cannot be