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That he is truly so, we may farther show. From other appellations peculiar to God, applied to him; as that of Jehovah, Lord, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, &c.: this head enlarged on.
Also from the divinest attributes of God, in the most absolute manner and perfect degree, assigned to him; eternity as already shown; immensity of presence and power; the wisdom of God, and the power of God, &c.
The divine attributes he also expresses by divinest operations and works ascribed unto him; by the work of creation; that of sustaining and preserving things in being; that of performing miracles, &c. : this topic dilated on.
Now all this state and majesty, all these glorious titles, attributes, and works, can we imagine that he whose name is Jealous, (Exod. xxiv. 14.) who will not give his glory to another, (Is. xlii. 8.) would communicate them, or suffer them to be ascribed to a mere creature? &c. Our Saviour therefore, when he assumes them, is truly God.
II. Now since the whole tenor of our religion asserts the unity of God, our Saviour, being God, must of necessity partake of the same individual essence with God his Father: this explained and enlarged on.
Yet hath he not this essence from himself, but by communication. He is not first in order, but is the image of the invisible God, the character, or exact impression of his substance. He is the internal Word or Mind of God, which resembles him, and yet is not different from him: he is the life, the wisdom, and the power of God; which terms denote intrinsic and perfect unity: this point enlarged on and illustrated. Some practical applications of the point.
1. We may hereby learn whence the performances and sufferings of Christ become of so high worth and so great efficacy, &c.
2. What reverence and adoration is due from us to our
Saviour, and why we must honor the Son even as we honor the Father, &c.
3. We may hence perceive the infinite goodness of God towards us, and our correspondent obligation to thankfulness and love towards him, &c.
4. This consideration may fitly serve to beget in us hope and confidence in God on all occasions of need and distress.
5. St. John applies it also to the begetting charity in us towards our brethren. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
6. It may also remind us of the dignity of our nature and condition; and how in this respect we ought to behave ourselves.
7. This consideration greatly aggravates all impiety and sin: this shown.
8. Lastly, it may serve to beget in us a high esteem of the evangelical dispensation, and a hearty submission to its doctrines and precepts. Conclusion.
His only Son, &c.
JOHN, CHAP. I.-VERSE 14.
And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.
THAT Jesus Christ our Lord is the μovoyevès, the only Son of God, that is, the Son of God in a peculiar and high manner, otherwise far than any creature can be so termed, St. John doth here (and in several other places) suppose, or assert plainly; and it is a great point of the Christian doctrine, a special object of our faith. To show the truth of which, to explain how it is to be understood, and to apply the consideration thereof to our practice, shall be the subject and scope of our present discourse.
I. That the Messias, designed by God to come into the world for the restoring and reconciling mankind unto God, was in an especial manner to be the Son of God, even the ancient prophets did foretel and presignify; Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' saith God of him in the second Psalm. And of him, that which in the first less perfect sense was spoken to King Solomon, (who as the son and heir of David, as the builder of God's house, as a prince of peace, reigning in great glory, wealth, and prosperity; as endued with incomparable wisdom, did most signally represent and prefigure him,) was chiefly intended for him, and did more exactly agree to him; 'He shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever :' and again; He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation: Also I will make him
blisher of nature, and the continual sustainer of it by his free providence, it is not likely that he will suffer the laws and course thereof to be much violated, except on occasions very considerable, and for very good purposes; no inferior cause being able to determine his voluntary influence or providential concourse to the accomplishment of designs contrary to his will and purpose. That also the natural goodness and justice of God, the constant care and providence he exerciseth over this world, the particular relations he beareth toward mankind, (as the Maker and Father, the Lord and Governor thereof,) the honor and interest of truth, of religion, of virtue, (whose protector and patron he is, and declareth himself,) the necessary regard he also, in connexion with the rest, doth bear to his own honor and glory, do all conspire to persuade that God will never endure such things to be performed in any high manner, so that good and well meaning people shall be very liable to be thereby extremely seduced into error; or that himself shall be intolerably mocked by the enemies of his glory and our good. This may serve to render it probable that the objection is capable of a solution.
But to answer more distinctly and particularly; we do grant that God sometimes for special reasons (for wise probation of some persons, and just punishment of others; for to approve some men's sincerity and constancy, to detect other men's naughtiness and vanity) may permit such things (in some manner, in some degree such) to be effected by the influence of wicked spirits, or the fraud of wicked men ; yet then it will never be very hard for moderately wise and well-disposed persons to distinguish such feats from those acts which issue from the positive and direct efficacy of God, for authorising his messengers and confirming his truth: we may usually discern them to come from bad causes by their nature; we may certainly detect them by their design and influence.
There are some things so great that it is not reasonable to conceive that any such inferior power is able to do them; or if they were able, that God should permit their power actually to be exerted, and to succeed in doing them: such is the making any general or grand alteration in the course of nature; which being God's great work and establishment, the which he doth,
as the prophets speak, govern by a standing law, and preserve according to a perpetual decree, which cannot pass; yea according to a covenant, which his faithfulness is in a manner engaged to observe; it is not probable that he will suffer any creature to disturb or disorder: this experience well confirmeth for had bad spirits a power of crossing nature so, such is their malice and proneness to do mischief, that the world would soon have been turned by them into confusion and ruin; that all things therein go in so kindly and steady a course, is an argument of their small power and influence on things; that God holdeth the reins fast in his own hands, reserving to himself only as Lord paramount of nature a power to dispense with any of its main laws; that it is he alone, who,' as the psalmist saith, *doeth great wonders.' There are also some things, which, although not of so great and general consequence, are yet of so difficult performance, that it is improbable any creature should affect them; such was the turning of dust into lice, which the devils could not enable the Egyptian sorcerers to perform; to prepare or dispose so much dust for the reception of souls, and to furnish so many souls for the dust, did, it seems, exceed their ability; whence they were forced to confess of that miracle done by Moses, This is the finger of God.'
There are also things so good and so beneficial to mankind, that evil spirits may be deemed unable to do them, (God, the fountain of good, retaining them as instruments of his glory, and arguments of his goodness, to his own dispensation,) which also we may presume they would not be willing, were they able, to perform, it being against their disposition or their interest to do it; such are, to dispossess devils, (that is, to divide and weaken their own kingdom;) to discover moral truths of consequence, (that is, to drive men from themselves ;) and even to free men from grievous diseases, (that is, to starve their own èτixaipekakia, and malignity;) as is implied in that passage of the gospel, where it is said, 'These are not the words of him that hath a devil: Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?' 'Extraordinary works then, if they are very great, very hard, very good, do thence indicate their cause to be divine: wicked spirits deal only in petty, low, and useless prestigiatory tricks, of small consequence and no benefit.