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CHAPTER VI. The apostles apply to Christ many passages of the old
testament, manifestly intended of the true God.
VII. The inspired writers give Christ the names and titles,
and ascribe to him the perfections, of the true God.
VIII. The apostles represent Christ as the immediate author of
the divine works, whether of creation or preservation. -A general view of these works.
Christ is the final and universal Judge.
XI. Divine worship was paid to him by patriarchs, prophets,
and apostles, and is his undoubted right.
Christ is also very man.
The use of the doctrine of Christ's divinity.
BY THE EDITOR
1. It seems necessary here to acquaint the reader, that, as Dr. Priestley had asserted the doctrine of the Trinity to be irrational, and that of our Lord's divinity to have no foundation either in the old testament or the new; Mr. Fletcher, in opposition to these assertions, had intended this work to consist of three parts ;—the first containing a Rational Defence of the Catholic Faith, respecting the Trinity and the divinity of our Lord; and the two last, a Vindication of the Prophets and Apostles “from the antichristian service,” as Mr. Fletcher's phrase is, “ to which the doctor had pressed them.” But being unexpectedly called to his reward, he left them all in a very imperfect state. Even of this first part, which indeed seems to have been begun after the others, he had only written the introduction, the first letter, and four chapters; and of these the third and fourth seem not to have been quite finished.
2. I was in doubt for some time, whether it would not be best just to correct the manuscripts, and give them to the public in their unfinished state, especially as I could not learn, either from any hints left in writing, or from any thing he had said to Mrs. Fletcher, or any one else, what plan Mr. Fletcher intended to have pursued in the further prosecution of the subject. But after more maturely considering the matter, it appeared that this would by no means answer the end the pious author had in view in beginning this work, as he did not seem to have proceeded far enough to have formed what could be called a proper vindication of the doctrine of Christ's divinity. It was judged necessary, therefore, to carry the argument at least a little further, in order that the work might, in some tolerable degree, be complete. In doing this, as I could form no judgment concerning Mr. Fletcher's intentions, I have been under the necessity of pursuing that plan which seemed most likely to answer the end proposed ; endeavouring, however, to preserve such a connexion between the part I have added, and that which Mr. Fletcher had written, that the whole might appear one continued treatise, and not a kind of patchwork
3. As to the style, indeed, the reader will doubtless observe a material difference between that which is Mr. Fletcher's, and what I have composed; and will regret
; that, with respect to this first part, he must take leave of so entertaining, as well as instructive, a writer as the ingenious author of the Checks, so early as at the conclusion of the fourth chapter, and join company with one much less able to mix the agreeable with the useful, and render a needful and profitable subject also pleasing. Truth, however, is of more consequence than the garb in which it appears; and, in what I have written, I have chiefly attended to that; and therefore have endeavoured, in imitation of the very pious and truly reverend author of these unfinished papers, to keep close to the scriptures as my guide, and that both with respect to sentiment and expression. It seems to me to be a dangerous thing, especially in a subject of such importance, concerning which we can know nothing but by divine revelation, to depart from the bible, or to go a hair's breadth further than God hath therein plainly revealed, or than we can fairly infer from what he hath so revealed. I am fully persuaded, that most of the errors and controversies which have darkened, perplexed, and divided the church in all ages respecting this matter, have arisen from a desire to be wise above what is written, not being contented with the information God hath seen fit to give us in his holy word, the sole rule of faith as well as practice.
4. It is, undoubtedly, a most desirable thing to know
As much as we can concerning the person of our adorable Saviour, on whom all our hopes depend; but after all we can know, his person is, and will remain, a mystery. Of this the scriptures fail not to give us warning: “Wherefore inquirest thou after my name ?” says he, Judges xiii. 18; “seeing it is secret,” or “ wonderful," as the word 55 also means.
“ His name,” says Isaiah, ix. 6, “shall be called" msg “ wonderful,” or secret.” “He hath a name written which no one knoweth but himself,” saith St. John. “ No one knoweth the Son," says the Lord Jesus, “but the Father; even as no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." It is true, he has revealed himself, in some degree, by his apostles and prophets, and reveals himself still more, or rather gives us the true understanding of what he has revealed, by the inward illumination of his Spirit. But this respects his offices rather than his person ; what he is to us and the rest of the creatures, rather than what he is in himself. And to know this, namely, what he is to us, as it most concerns us, so it is the principal thing meant in scripture by the “knowledge of Christ.”
5. And I may say the same concerning the knowledge of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. It does not consist in baving abstracted and speculative ideas of the nature and attributes of God, and the distinctions in the divine essence; but is the beholding, as St. Paul says, 2 Cor. iii. 18, with “open," avaxexaluppleve, with "un,ανακεκαλυμμενα,
" veiled face,” the veil of unbelief being rent from our minds, in the glass of his word and works, and especially in the person of his Son,-his glory, so as to be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Surely he only knows the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," who being made his
hild by adoption and grace, and having the “Spirit of adoption sent into his heart, crying, Abba, Father,” se 6 beholds what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon him," as to “ love God who hath first loved him.” For “ he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love ;" whereas “he that loveth,” and only he, is “ born of God,” and “knoweth God." He only knows the Lord
Jesus, who knows him as “the way, the truth, and the life :” as “the way," through whom he comes to the Father; as “the truth," whose testimony he fully receives, and on whose veracity he absolutely depends; and “the life,” who has quickened his soul, dead in sin, and by his grace made him a living branch in himself the living vine, a living member in his mystical body, vitally united to the living head. And he only knows the Holy Spirit who, being born of him, and possessed of his witness and his fruits, even “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gen. tleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance," is become a “temple of the Holy Ghost, a habitation of God through the Spirit."
6. On the other hand, if this be wanting, whatever speculative knowledge we may have of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of their natures and relations to each other, we are properly unacquainted with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and have not received that real benefit from it which the revelation of it was designed to produce. Nay, and for any spiritual or saving advantage we derive from it, it might as well not have been revealed to us. Thus Dr. Jeremy Taylor, “ He that goes about to speak of the mystery of the Trinity, and does it by words and names of man's invention, talking of essences,' and existences, hypostases,' and 'personalities, priorities in coequalities,' &c., and "unity in pluralities,' may amuse himself, and build a tabernacle in his head, and talk something he knows not what; but the good man that feels the power of the Father, and to whom the Son is become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and in whose heart the love of the Spirit of God is shed abroad,—this man, though he understands nothing of what is unintelligible, yet he alone truly understands the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.” Jeren:y Taylor on John vii. 17.
7. The apostle teaches us the true knowledge and use of this doctrine, and at the same time informs us who they are that understand it aright, when, Eph. ii. 18, he says, “ Through him," namely, Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, we both,” Jews and Gentiles,