« PreviousContinue »
causes it to have a clearer view of them, and enables it more clearly to see their mutual relations, and occasions it to take more notice of them. The ideas themselves that otherwise are dim and obscure, are by this means impressed with the greater strength, and have a light cast upon them; so that the mind can better judge of them. As be that beholds objects on the face of the earth, when the light of the sun is cast upon them, is under greater advantage to discern them in their true forms and natural relations, than he that sees them in a dim twilight.
The mind being sensible of the excellency of divine objects, dwells upon them with delight; and the powers of the soul are more awakened and enlivened to employ themselves in the contemplation of them, and exert themselves more fully and much more to the purpose. The beauty of the objects draws on the faculties, and draws forth their exercises : So that reason itself is under far greater advantages for its proper and free exercises, and to attain its proper end, free of darkness and delusion.-But,
Secondly, A true sense of the divine excellency of the things of God's word doth more directly and immediately convince us of their truth; and that because the excellency of these things is so superlative. There is a beauty in them so divine and godlike, that it greatly and evidently distin. guishes them from things merely human, or that of which men are the inventors and authors; a glory so high and great, that when clearly seen, commands assent to their divine reality. When there is an actual and lively discovery of this beauty and excellency, it will not allow of any such thought as that it is the fruit of men's invention. This is a kind of intuitive and immediate evidence. They believe the doc. trines of God's word to be divine, because they see a divine, and transcendent, and most evidently distinguishing glory in tbem; such a glory as, if clearly seen, does not leave room to doubt of their being of God, and not of men.
Such a conviction of the truths of religion as this, arising from a sense of their divine excellency, is included in saving faith. And this original of it, is that by which it is most essentially distinguished from that common assent, of which unregenerate men are capable.
II. I proceed now to the second thing proposed, viz. To shew how this light is immediately given by God, and not obtained by natural means.* And here,
• In the preceding statement and the following explanation, our author might have rendered the subject of " divine light immediately imparted to the soul" more perspicuous, by a fuller use of that analogy whicb the scripture 1. It is not intended that the natural faculties are not used in it. They are the subject of this light; and in such a manner, that they are not merely passive, but active in it. God, in letting in this light into the soul, deals with man according to his nature, and makes use of his rational faculties. But yet this light is not the less immediately from God for that ; the faculties are made use of as the subject, and not as the cause. As the use we make of our eyes in beholding various objects, when the sun arises, is not the cause of the light that discovers those objects to us.
2. It is not intended that outward means have no concern in this affair. It is not in this affair, as in inspiration, where new truths are suggested; for, by this light is given only
holds forth, between the common theory of vision and the doctrine be de. fends, Let the remarks which follow be candidly considered.
1. In the sacred scriptures, God is represented as “ the Father of lights," and Christ as “ the sun of righteousness." Yea, it is asserted, that “ God is LIGAT," and that " he shines into the heart." These and similar expressions, with which the Old and New Testament abound, shew that there is a strong analogy between light in the natural world, agd something spiritual ibat is expressed by the same term.
2. As the light of day proceeds from the natural sun, and shines into the eye; so the spiritual or supernatural light proceeds from God, and shines into the heart, or mind. Thus the analogy holds, not only as to the things intended-in their sources, and their emanations--but also as to the organs of reception.
3. The existence of light in the eye depends neither on the perception of it, por on any external object. Our perception of illuminated objects is the effect of light's existence in the organ of vision. Without light, both in the eye, and on the object to be seen, there can be no perception of that object. To like manner, the existence of that light which emanates from God, and shines into the mind, is there (that is, in the mind,) prior to, and inde. pendent of the mental perception of it; and consequently is there irrespective of the knowledge of objects to be known by it.-Therefore,
4. Knowledge can be called “ light" only in a secondary sense, both naturally and spiritually; that is, by a metonymy, because it is the effect of light. We know a visible object, because we see it; and we see it, because light shines both on the object, and into the eye. It is by divine light shining into the mind that we have a spiritual knowledge of God, of Christ, or of any other objects in other words, a holy emanation or io. fluence from God, called light, is the cause why any person or thing is knowa in a spiritual manner.
5. When any identify this divine light, these rays of the sun of righteous. ness, with knowledge, (however spiritual and excellent,) because the latter is metonymically called " light,” they are chargeable with identifying cause and effect, and therefore of confounding things whicb essentially differ. For spiritual light, in the primary and proper sense, emanates immediately from God, as rays from the sun; but this cannot be said of knowledge, because the perception of an object, which is our act, mast intervene. Knowledge presupposes the primary light, and is also dependent on the objective truths per. ceived. All knowledge, whether natural or spiritual, stands essentially related to objects knowo; so that without those objects it can have no existence. The knowledge of objects to be seen, therefore, is the effect of two causes concurring, the object itself and light; whereas the “ divine light which is immediately imparted to the soul,” has but one cause, even the sovereiga will of God.
6. Coroll. The theological notion which makes all spiritual light ip man to consist in knowledge, and which is become too fashionable in the present day, is contrary to scripture, and to rational analogy.-W.
a due apprehension of the same truths that are revealed in the word of God; and therefore it is not given without the word. The gospel is employed in this affair. This light is the " light of the glorious gospel of Christ.” 2 Cor. iv. 4. The gospel is as a glass, by which this light is conveyed to us. I Cor. xiii. 12. Now we see through a glass.' -But,
3. When it is said that this light is given immediately by God, and not obtained by natural means, hereby is intended, that it is given by God without making use of any means that operate by their own power or natural force. God makes use of means; but it is not as mediate causis to produce this effect. There are not truly any second causes of it; but it is produced by God immediately. The word of God is no proper cause of this effect; but is made use of only to convey to the mind the subject matter of this saving instruction: And this indeed it doth convey to us by natural force or influence. It conveys to our minds these doctrines; it is the cause of a notion of them in our heads, but not of the sense of their divine excellency in our hearts. Indeed a person cannot have spiritual light without the word. But that does not argue, that the word properly causes that light.
The mind cannot see the excellency of any doctrine, unless that doctrine be first in the mind; but seeing the excellency of the doctrine may be immediately from the Spirit of God; though the conveying of the doctrine or proposition itself may be by the word. So that the notions which are the subject-matter of this light, are conveyed to the mind by the word of God; but that due sense of the heart, wherein this light formally consists, is immediately by the Spirit of God. As for instance, the notion that there is a Christ, and that Christ is holy and gracious, is conveyed to the mind by the word of God: But the sense of the excellency of Christ by reason of that holiness and grace, is nevertheless immediately the work of the Holy Spirit.
III. To shew the truth of the doctrine; that is, to shew that there is such a thing as that spiritual light that has been described, thus immediately let into the mind by God. And here I would shew briefly, that this doctrine is both scriptural and rational.
First, It is scriptural. My text is not only full to the purpose, but it is a doctrine with which the Scripture abounds. We are there abundantly taught, that the saints differ from the ungodly in this, that they have the knowledge of God, and a sight of God, and of Jesus Christ. I shall Inention but few texts out of many: 1 John iii. 6. “ Whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, nor known him.” 3 Jobn 11. " He
that dueth good, is of God: but he that doeth evil, hath not seen God." John xiv. 19. “ The world seeth me no more; but ye see me." John xvii. 3. “ And this is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” This knowledge, or sight of God and Christ, cannot be a mere speculative knowledge; because it is spoken of as that wherein they differ from the ungodly. And by these scriptures it must not only be a different knowledge in degree and circumstances, and different in its effects; but it must be entirely different in nature and kind.
And this light and knowledge is always spoken of as immediately given of God; Matth. xi. 25-27.' “ At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, () Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them uato babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Here this effect is ascribed exclusively to the arbitrary operation and gift of God bestowing this knowledge on whom he will, and distinguisbing those with it who have the least natural advantage or means for knowledge, even babes, when it is denied to the wise and prudent. And imparting this knowledge is here appropriated to the Son of God, as his sole prerogative. And again, 2 Cor. iv. 6. “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, bath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ." This plainly shews, that there is a discovery of the divine superlative glory and excellency of God and Christ, peculiar to the saints: and also, that it is as immediately from God, as light from the sun: and that it is the immediate effect of his power and will. For it is compared to God's creating the light by his powerful word in the beginning of the creation; and is said to be by the Spirit of the Lord, in the 18th verse of the preceding chapter. God is spoken of as giving the knowledge of Christ in conversion, as of what before was hidden and unseen; Gal. i. 15, 16.6 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.”—The scripture also speaks plainly of such a knowlerige of the word of God, as has been described as the immediate gift of God; Psalm cxix. 18. “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” What could the Psalmist mean, when he begged of God to open his eyes ? Was be ever blind? Might he not have resort to the law, and see every word and sentence in it when he pleased? And what could he mean by those wondrous things? Were they the wonderful stories of the creation, and deluge, and Israel's passing through the Red Sea, and the like? Were not his eyes open to read these strange things when he would ? Doubtless by wondrous things in God's law, he had respect to those distinguishing and wonderful excellencies, and marvellous manifestations of the divine perfections and glory contained in the commands and doctrines of the word, and those works and counsels of God that were there revealed. So the scripture speaks of a knowledge of God's dispensation and covenant of mercy and way of grace towards his people, as peculiar to the saints, and given only by God; Psalm xxv. 14. “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant."
And that a true and saving belief of the truth of religion is that which arises from such a discovery, is also what the scripture teaches. As John vi. 40. “ And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may bave everlasting life;" where it is plain that a true faith is what arises from a spiritual sight of Christ. And, John xvii. 6, 7, 8. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.-Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me;" where Christ's manifesting God's name to the disciples, or giving them the knowledge of God, was that whereby they knew that Christ's doctrine was of God, and that Christ himself proceeded from him, and was sent by him. Again, John xii. 44, 45, 46. “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but him that sent me. And he that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me, should not abide in darkness.” Their believing in Cbrist, and spiritually seeing him, are parallel.
Christ condemns the Jews, that they did not know that he was the Messiah, and that bis doctrine was true, from an inward distinguishing taste and relish of what was divine, in Luke xii. 56, 57. He having there blamed the Jews, that though they could discern the face of the sky and of the earth, and signs of the weather, that yet they could not discern those times--or, as it is expressed in Matthew, the signs of those times-adds, “ yea, and why even of your ownselves, judge ye not what is right?" i. e. without extrinsic signs. Why have ye not that sense of true excellency, whereby ye may distinguish that which is holy and divine? Wby have ye not that savour of the things of God, by which you may see the