|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by Thomas Goodwin
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Under the common title, 'The Glory of the Gospel,' Goodwin left two works, the one consisting of two sermons, and the other a treatise divided into eight chapters. Although he probably intended that the one should supersede the other and, if he had published his works himself, would probably have suppressed the former, the greater part of the matter of which is incorporated and more fully treated in the latter, yet, as they are both included in the folio edition of his works, it has not been considered right to omit either of them in this reprint; for the reason that, as they stand, they differ too widely to be regarded merely as different editions of the same work.ED.]
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Col. 1:26, 27.
The apostle spends this chapter, from the 13th verse to the end, in three things principally.
1. In setting out Jesus Christ in all that fulness of the riches of his glory wherewith he is arrayed and represented in the gospel; from ver. 13 to 23, from whence to the 4th verse of the second chapter, he falls into a commendation and elogium of the gospel, 'Which is that mystery,' as the text hath it, 'wherein is made known that rich glory of Christ, the glory of the mystery, which riches is Christ.'
And the apostle doth both these on set purpose (as in the 4th and 8th verses he professeth), to divert and take off these Colossians' minds, from these vain deceitful speculations grounded on philosophy, traditions of men, &c., gaudily and speciously set out with enticing words. 'This, I say,' says verse the 4th, 'lest any, &c.' 'Beware,' verse the 8th, 'lest any spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit.' To dash and put these quite out of countenance at once, he reveals riches and glory. To reveal the beggarliness of these rudimentsas the apostle elsewhere calls the best of them, Gal. 4:9he lays open the riches of the mysteries of Christ, and displays the glory, and the excellency of it, to spoil, and cause to vanish, and come to nothing, the enticing gloss and lustre of all other wisdom (as it is 1 Cor. 1:19), which had well nigh spoiled them.
Now, in this place of this first chapter, the words I have read to you, the current of his commendation of the gospel's excellency swells to the highest, and runs with the deepest and strongest stream, within the limits of which therefore, I will confine myself, as affording matter enough to set forth the glory of it, and that by all that doth commend unto us any knowledge.
For first, it is commended by the original author and revealer of it, with his intent therein; God himself, who is best able to discern what knowledge is the fullest of riches and glory, chose to reveal and make known this merely for the worth of it; namely, because the riches of glory were revealed by it. He first says God would, or was desirous to, make known the riches of glory that were in it; that moved him to it.
Secondly, If the worth of the subject matter revealed doth ennoble a knowledge, then must this be glorious, for Christ is the subject matter of it, 'which riches are Christ, the Lord of glory.'
Thirdly, If all the properties that are excellent in any knowledge will add worth to it, they centre in this,
First, If depth and profoundness, it is a mystery.
Secondly, If preciousness and abundance; it is full of riches and glory.
Thirdly, If profitableness and usefulness, it not only reveals riches of glory to the knowers of it, the saints, out of themselves, 'but makes them possessors of all the riches it reveals, and gives them certain hope of all the glory it speaks, which riches are Christ in you, made your Christ, with all his riches, for the present, and to you the hope of glory.
Fourthly, If secrecy commends a knowledge, as it doth, it hath been hid long from the beginning of the world in regard of the clear revealing of it, but now in the end of the world it is revealed.
And lastly, If rareness, now it is revealed, it is not made common, it is revealed only to the saints, who only know it in the riches and glory of it, 'To whom God would make known,' &c.
You have the scope and meaning of the apostle; mine at this time is by enlarging on these particulars to set out the glory of the gospel; that part of the word which in strict sense reveals the doctrine of God's free grace, the work of Christ's redemption, and the riches of it, justification, and sanctification, and the secrets hereof; for this is the gospel.
But you will say, To what end will all this be? I wish there were no need of it, so I never preached more, and that both in regard of the people and ministers themselves; for the people of this land, it were well for England if the contempt of this glorious gospel and the ministry of it were not their greatest sin. Happy were we if the measure of our iniquities were made so much lighter by the absence of it. I should then expect to see many more years past ere it were filled than now are likely to be. And is there no need to set forth the glory of it? And for the ministers, they might add more beauty to their own feet, and souls to God, if in their speculations and preachings they did not, as the Pharisees of old did in their practice, (if we may judge what is in the cistern by what ordinarily cometh in and out), neglect the great things of the gospel forementioned, and tithe mint and cummin, pick truths of less moment, bolt and fasten themselves to the chaff, but leave the other unsearched into and uninsisted on.
But, my brethren, however we may esteem this doctrine of the gospel, and what other knowledge we may pride ourselves in, and wear out our brains in, yet it is this which is the riches of the Gentiles and saints, as this place shews, and many more: 'the pearl of the world,' Mat. 13:45; 'the glory of the ministry,' 1 Cor. 2:7; which God ordained for our glory,' namely, apostles' and ministers', the preachers of it.
The clear revealing of which was the desire and longing of the patriarchs and prophets, who though they know the legal covenants as fully as we, yet this doctrine of salvation, Christ's sufferings, God's grace, was it they 'inquired into;' that is, sought to God by prayer, 'and searched diligently,' that is, searched using all means of reading and meditating, to attain the knowledge of it, and all this diligently; spent, and thought it worthy of the chiefest of their pains, which, when it came to be revealed, the apostles counted it their glory, which Paul therefore, who had profited so much in the Jews' religion, Gal. 1:14, professeth, Phil. 3:8, that he accounted all dross and dung for this excellent knowledge of Christ. He might well say, Rom. 1:16, he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for he makes his knowledge therein his chiefest excellency, Eph. 3:4, there is a parenthesis wherein you would think he boasted speaking of his own writings, 'Whereby when you read' (saith he) 'you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.'
What do I, speaking of the study and glory of prophets and apostles? It is the study of the angels, which they think worthy of their greatest attention. Look into both these places, 1 Pet. 1:12, Eph. 1:10, 'Which things the angels desire to pry into;' these glorious creatures that know God in his legal covenant and work of creation more fully than ever Adam did, that have the immediate participation of God himself, have his face to read lectures in, day and night, and yet glad if they can get but a peep and glimpse of the way of saving men by Christ, as being a knowledge of greater excellency than otherwise they have any; yea, and so desirous are they to learn it, that they are content to go to school to the church, Eph. 3:9, 10, 'That to principalities and powers might be made known by the church,' &c.
But what need I speak of angels, prophets, and apostles? It is the great study (if I may so speak with reverence), the wisdom and great learning of God himself, who was the first professor of it, called so kat exochn, 1 Cor. 2:7, speaking of the gospel, says he, 'We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,' and that a hidden wisdom before the world was, hid in God, Eph. 3:9; God's act, and peculiar to himself; whereas other knowledge men and angels have in common with us infused at first creation to attain to, and pick out of themselves.
But this is his wisdom, which he alone had studied, and which none knows but those to whom he revealed it, which hath brought me to the first part of my text; 'setting forth the excellency of the gospel,' that it is a mystery which God only makes known, and that to saints, for the riches of glory that are revealed in it.
1. Now, to shew you the original and the intent of framing this mystery, you have it expressed in this frame following:
Our all-wise and infinitely blessed Lord, who had from everlasting riches of glorious perfections of holiness, justice, wisdom, mercy in him, which though he himself knew and was infinitely blessed in the knowledge of them, though no saint or angel had ever been, or over knew them, yet all these his glorious perfections being crowned with goodness, both made him willing to make known what riches of glory were in him unto some creatures which yet were in Christ, his goodness moved him to it, for bonum est sui communicativum (good is communicated by itself), and it is the nature of perfection also to be manifestativum sui (manifested by itself), and that not because any perfection is added to it when made known (which makes us desire to manifest our imperfections, as being perfected when made known), but that they might perfect others. This act him upon some ways to make known his riches and his glory to some that should be made happy by it, and to that end he would have saints be his saints, as being beloved of him, unto whom he might as it were unbosom himself and display all the riches of glory which are in him, into whose laps he might withal pour out all his riches, that they might see his glory, and be glorified in seeing of it, John 17:8, 24.
And one way he began to manifest his glorious back-parts to angels and man in the first creation, in the law, covenant of works, and works of creation which he had done, as his eternal power, and Godhead, and goodness in the glorious workmanship of heaven and earth, and of such glorious creatures as they themselves were, Rom. 1:20. His wisdom in the ordering, governing, and guiding so great a host and armies of several creatures, to several ends, by several laws; his justice in his legal covenant, giving them life whilst they should obey; threatening damnation to the disobeyers of it; his infinite holiness in that perfect and exact rule of righteousness, the copy of his own will written in their hearts.
Here was one way whereby God made known what glorious riches were in him, which might have made him glorious in their eyes, and themselves happy; and this the angels and Adam at the first had. But all this contented him not; God would make known a further mystery, another larger, deeper way, an act found out of the depths of his wisdom, namely, this doctrine of the gospel, which he kept hid and close in his own breast; not a creature knew it, no, not the angels, who were his nearest courtiers and dearest favourites; it lay hid in God, Eph. 3:9, hid even from them, verse 10.
A mystery which, when it should be revealed, should amaze the world, put the angels to school again, as if they had known nothing in comparison of this, wherein they know over again all those glorious riches which are in God, and that more perfectly and fully than ever yet. And so after they had a little studied the catechism and compendium, there should then come out a large volume, a new system, of the riches of the glory of God, the mystery of Christ in the text, which is the last edition also that ever shall come forth, now set out, enlarged, perfected, wherein the large inventory of God's glorious perfections is more fully set down, and with additions.
The reasons why God did thus intend to manifest himself are:
First, Because he would shew his manifold wisdom, which is the reason given of revealing the gospel, Eph. 3:10. 'That to the angels might appear the manifold wisdom of God.'
That his wisdom is so vast and large, that he could vary and take more ways than one; and as he had two sorts of reasonable creatures to show himself unto, so a double way, a double sampler, a double method, a systema majus et minus.
And secondly, because indeed it was of itself too obscure and too imperfect.
First, Too obscure; for in the gospel, and works of redemption, they came to see all that they saw before; and this more clearly and largely, wherein they see more power in Christ, 'the power of God,' 1 Cor. 1:24. In raising himself up from death to life, declared with power thereby to be the Son of God, Rom. 1:4, and also the exceeding greatness of his power in raising us up also, Eph. 1:19, as might easily be shewed greater than in the creation.
Wherein they likewise see a greater and clearer instance and manifestation of his justice, in putting to death his own Son, taking on him to be a surety for sin, than if a world of worlds had been damned for over. And in that his Son also, they came to see a greater and more transcendent righteousness than ever appeared either in the law or is inherent in the angels; for if all their righteousness were put into one, it could but justify themselves, it could not satisfy for the least breach of the law in another. But in the gospel, and work of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no sin in God's people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it. To instance it no more,
Secondly, That other was but an imperfect way in comparison of this, or,
(First), Those attributes which God accounts his greatest riches and greatest glory, Rom. 9:23, even his mercy and free grace, which he intends most to exalt, never saw light till now; the doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage, wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as Eph. 2:5, that 'by grace we are saved;' and therefore, 1 Peter 2:10, the whole work of salvation is called 'mercy,' all God's ways to his people are mercy, Ps. 25:10, the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the doctrine of the gospel is called grace, Titus 2:10, 11. Mercy manageth the plot, gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act; mercy enters in at the beginning, acts the prologue in election; and, giving Christ, continues every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory.
But (secondly), not only more of his attributes came thus to be discovered, but, further, the glorious mystery of the Trinity came hereby to be unfolded more clearly, if not the first discovery made of the three persons hereby, there being scarce the footsteps of them distinctly and clearly to he seen in the works of creation or in the law.
But now, when the gospel came to be revealed, and the work of salvation in it, then were there discovered to be 'three witnesses in heaven,' 1 John 5:7, witnesses to our salvation, and their several witnessing came to be known by three several seals and head works set severally to our salvation, bearing the stamp of their three several subsistences, so as by these three seals, of the election of Christ and us, redemption, and sanctification, we may know there are three persons, and how they do subsist. Even as in men's seals, their several arms being engraven, their houses and antiquity is known.
As, first, God the Father hath set to his seal in election, 2 Tim. 2:19,
The foundation of the Lord remains firm, having this seal, 'The Lord knows who are his;' and in this seal of election you may read the similitude of his subsistence written, and the order of it. For as his subsisting is the fountain of the other two, so is election attributed to him, which is the foundation, as that place says, both of sanctification and redemption.
Secondly, God the Son hath set to his seal, even his blood, the seal of the new covenant, in the work of redemption, to the sealing up of iniquity, Dan. 9:24, which carries in it the resemblance of his subsistence also. For as it flows from election alone, and is next to it, so his subsistence from the Father only.
And lastly, God the Holy Ghost hath his seal also set to it. Eph. 4:30, 'Wherewith we are sealed to the day of redemption;' by the work of sanctification, which bears the print and manner of his subsistence, for as it flows both from election and redemption, so doth his person from the Father and from the Son.
2. And so now in the second place let us come to the subject of the gospel, Christ, in whom the riches of glory is alone discovered, 'which riches is Christ.'
Whereas in the law and covenant of works these riches were not only imperfectly and obscurely discovered, but also manifested scatteredly and with broken beams, as the sun in water when the water is disturbed, one attribute shining in one work, another in another, and dimly too; so as a man must have read over all the larger volumes of the world, and picked out here and there several notions of God out of several works; as now we are fain to study many tongues, in which knowledge is bound up and hidden as kernels in the shells; in this second way of manifesting his glory, things are more full, large, and clearer than ever, yet all is contracted into one volume, bound up in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; who is the subject of the mystery, in whom we may fully read the glory of the Lord in Christ God-man. And therefore the gospel is called the 'mystery of Christ,' Col. 4:3, and the gospel of God concerning Jesus Christ, Rom. 1:3; he being the adequate subject of it, whom he hath set up to be 'all in all,' Col. 3:11, and therefore we are complete in him, chap. 2 ver. 10, all fulness dwelling in him in such fulness, that we need no other object to represent these riches of glory to us.
For first, did we know God, or would we know him in the creatures, we shall not need now to look on them if we know but him; who as a creature is the first-begotten of every creature, Col. 1:15; and being man, if he were no more, hath the excellencies of them all summed up in him. He is the compendium and model of the world; whatever they express of God, is to be more fully seen in him.
Secondly, Did we know or should we have known God by his image stamped upon man, and now shining in the law more than in all the creatures else, or than in man himself without it? Turn your eyes on Christ, for he is such a man as is the head of men, 1 Cor. 11:8, yea, and of angels also, who are a part of the church, Col. 1:18, and therefore a man of those transcendent perfections, that as he is more man, that image which Adam lost, the angels yet wear and count their glory, it shines more brightly in him than in them all it should have done. Even as the head contains more of the beauty and image of a man, hath more of man in it, than all the body.
But yet, thirdly, He is the Son of God, and second person, and therefore the express image and brightness of his Father's glory, the essential substantial image of his Father, which transcends infinitely more all other pictures of him than the image of a king in his son begotten like him, and in a board or tablet. But this image, you will say, it is too bright for us to behold it shining in his strength, we being as unable to behold it in him, as we were to see his Father himself, who dwells in light inaccessible, which no eye can attain to. Therefore that yet we may see it as nigh and as fully and to the utmost that creatures could; this Godhead dwells bodily in a human nature, that so shining through the lantern of his flesh we might behold it. His human nature and divine make up one person, and being so, are united together in the highest kind of union that God can be to a creature, and the nearest and fullest communications follow always upon the nearest union. To him therefore as man are communicated these riches of glory that are in the Godhead, as nearly and fully as was possible unto a creature; and being thus communicated, must needs shine forth in him to us to the utmost that they ever could unto creatures; and therefore more clearly than if millions of several worlds had been created every day on purpose to reveal God to us. God having stamped upon his Son all his glory, that we might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4:6.
But yet, fourthly, this is not all whereby Christ is made the image of the invisible God to us, for thus we might have seen the fulness of the Godhead shining in him though he had not come as a redeemer and mediator, and had acted nothing, done nothing in us or for us, but had been merely set up for us to look on and see God in, as supposing him incarnate, not in relation to redemption.
Therefore further also, and besides this, he is made to us the image of the invisible God in all these his works of mediation which flow from his person, and in the execution of all those glorious offices of king, priest, and prophet. The story of which, when it shall be all set and viewed together, makes up yet another kind of image and representation of all God's attributes and glorious riches than shine in his person as alone in itself considered, or than doth shine in the angels, or man at his first creation; and he himself being a mediator is become a middle person between God and man, so the story of those his works of mediation shews forth and presents us with a double picture and image of God, between them both there being a new and another edition of all God's attributes in the story of what he hath done, which infinitely transcends and comes nearer to the life than all those images which were or should have been stamped upon the hearts, or appeared in the works of men or angels; a brighter, clearer impression of all in God than such tablets are capable of; and indeed comes so near the life, that not only in regard of his person, but also of those his works of mediation, &c., he is called those attributes in the abstract which appear shining in them.
Men and angels, in regard of God's image stamped on them, might have been called wise, but not 'the wisdom of God,' but Christ, 1 Cor. 1:24, is called 'The wisdom of God, and the power of God,' which yet is not spoken of him in regard of his person, as he is substantially and essentially both these, as all the rest; but as in his works he is manifenstative, by way of manifestation to us, all these; by reason that in the story of his incarnation, life, and death, and mediation, &c., all these are manifested. In all these, when told and set together, there appears the greatest depths of wisdom that to the creatures could be discovered, which the knowledge of him discovers. So the power of God also in the same sense, in regard of the transcendent work of his rising again, wrestling with and overcoming hell, subduing sin, &c., in which the power of God appears. And there is the like reason of all the rest of God's attributes; as because he is the foundation of all God's great and precious promises by his blood, that they are all yea and amen in him, therefore he may likewise be called the 'truth and faithfulness of God.' So as through his mediation, at his cost, the world subsists, which else would fall in pieces, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:8, and that he governs it, and prays his Father for his forbearance of it, he may be called 'the patience and longsuffering of God.' That upon him God's justice had its full course, and by his judging the wicked at the latter day, with the transcendency of knowledge, wisdom, righteousness, &c., which will be required to so vast a work, that he may be termed 'the justice of God;' for in what he hath done, doth daily, and shall do, all these attributes appear.
Now, as Christ is thus in regard of his person and works the liveliest image and representation of God's glorious riches, which is otherwise invisible; so is the gospel the image of Christ, who otherwise should be invisible to us in this life. When he dwelt with men, the apostles and believers who saw and heard him and his works, saw his glory then, 'as of the only begotten Son of God,' John 1:14. But Christ was to be taken up to glory, John 16:7, 'It is necessary that I go away.' And though we shall see him when we are taken up also; see his glory which he had before the world was, John 17:24, yet how should believers do in the mean time to see him, and the riches of God's glory in him? Therefore hath God framed and revealed the doctrine of the gospel, in the preaching of which, Gal. 3:1, Christ is said to be evidently set forth or pictured, proegrafh, before our eyes. And as he is the liveliest image of God, so the gospel is the liveliest representation of Christ that could possibly be made, for it is a glass, 2 Cor. 3:18, and a glass is the liveliest way of representing things absent that over could be invented, not in dead and lifeless colours only, which pictures only do. And indeed it is a middle way of representing a man, from that either when we see his person directly before our eyes, or when we see his picture drawn in colours; for though it be less clear and perfect than seeing the man himself, yet is more lively than all the pictures in the world; for quod videtur in speculo non est imago, it is more than a bare image which is seen in a glass, even the person himself, though by a reflex and reverberated species, that is his likeness beaten back again to the eyes, which otherwise when we behold him face to face is received more directly; and therefore is a more obscure and imperfect way of seeing a man than to see him face to face, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. 13:1, 2, as in heaven we shall do Christ, yet in the mean time this puts down all the pictures in the world. And such is the knowledge of Christ under and by the gospel, in comparison of that knowledge which was had of him under and by the ceremonial law, Heb. 10:1, which he calls the 'shadow,' those representations under the gospel, 'the image of good things to come;' which the apostle calls but a shadow of him, Col. 2:17, drawn in wan and lifeless colours, and of that sight and knowledge we shall have of him in heaven, when we shall see him as he is; this knowledge of him in the glass of the gospel is as a middle way of seeing him between both, less lively than the one, yet infinitely more bright and real than the other, even as I said before, that the image of God in Christ which shineth in his works of mediation is a middle image or representation between that which shone in Adam and that which is substantial in his person.
For as it comes short of the one, it being substantial, so it exceeds the other, as I then shewed.
So that (to keep to the scope of the apostle in this Epistle), take all the knowledge of God and Christ discovered in the most choice and curious pieces of Grecian learning, or of the ceremonial law, which far exceeded their philosophy; both which, as it should seem by the second chapter, these Colossians so garishly doted upon: and let a believer with the eye of faith look upon Christ, as discovered in the glass of the gospel, and then with the other eye look upon the other, and what will all those other appear? At best but wan, dead, and lifeless pictures, shadows, as he calls them, ver. 17, whose rudiments and painted colours are said to be 'the rudiments of this world,' 'traditions of men,' ver. 8, whose varnish also is but 'the enticing words of men's wisdom,' ver. 4. But this is lively, real, the colours rich, the varnish glory, 'riches of glory' being bestowed upon it; 'whereby as in a glass we see the glory of the Lord, which cannot be painted,' 2 Cor. 3:18.
But you will say, what is the gospel but a verbal story told us when preached, or read, or meditated on? It represents Christ to us but as words use to do, and words are but umbra rerum, shadows, pictures, and indeed less lively. How comes it then to represent Christ so really? And to be as a glass representing Christ to us so truly? I answer, That as a glass in itself is but an empty thing, unless the objects to be seen in it be directly placed before it, and by light discovered in it, a glass represents nothing to us; and such I confess the gospel is in itself, a mere verbal representation; but to believers, the saints in the text, the Spirit of the Lord joins with these words, presents Christ by a secret, hidden, and unheard of act to the eye of faith in the preaching or reading of it, opens heaven, and causes the glory of Christ to shine as present in it in a lively, real manner. And so it follows in that 2 Cor. 3:18, 'We all behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;' and lastly, which is the strangest of all the rest, 'are changed into the same image.' That whereas a man may look long enough upon other pictures, though never so rich and glorious, and go away as he comes, his countenance no whit altered; but this is such a representation as, by beholding of it, we are changed into the same image, and the riches of Christ are made ours; which riches are 'Christ in you,' says the text; the strangest glass and picture that over yet was seen in the world.
3. The next thing that commends it is that it is a mystery; and indeed how can it be otherwise, if God's wisdom hath been employed for the inventing of it, and that as the utmost way of manifesting himself? And therefore, 1 Cor. 2:7, it is called 'the wisdom of God in a mystery.' And if the doctrine of popery, which in imitation of God the devil invented, to set up his eldest son antichrist, deserveth to be called a 'mystery of iniquity,' another gospel, and yet not another; and if the false doctrine of these in Thyatira be called depths, though of Satan, Rev. 2:24:and indeed popery is the greatest mystery that ever created understanding hatched, if all the frame, and policies, and mysteries of it be considered:then surely this, which is God's gospel, made for Christ, as that for antichrist, which is the master-piece of his wisdom.
And secondly, if Christ be the subject of it, it must needs be a mystery, called therefore, Col. 4:3, 'The mystery of Christ;' and in that regard it is a mystery, and a great mystery too, 1 Tim. 3:16, 'Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh' being the subject of it, coming therein to reconcile the world. Which plot, considering how things stood betwixt God and us, and laying these conclusions, that God will not put up the least wrong at men's hands, now fallen, without full satisfaction, which they nor any creature is able to make, and yet that nature that did offend must satisfy;had it been referred to a consultation of all intelligent natures, angels and men, that ever were or shall be, it would have perplexed and plunged their thoughts to eternity how it might be done, and after millions of years' consultation they would have returned answer, they could not think of nor find out any.
Great, therefore, is the mystery of godliness, God to this end manifested in the flesh, and that so great as, now it is revealed, all the world that hears and sees into the plot must needs acknowledge it so; without controversy, generally, with one mouth, as the word signifies, omologoumenwV.
And in the incarnation of his Son, and the satisfaction of his justice, so many more also meet in this one mystery, things of such a seeming contradiction, as the wits of men know not how to reconcile. And this in every part of it, as in election, that God at once loves the sinner with an everlasting, unchangeable love, and yet a child of wrath; which the Remonstrants therefore quarrel. In the work of redemption, that free grace, and richest mercy, and fullest satisfaction, should meet together; which the Socinians therefore are blinded in. In the work of justification, that one in whom God works inherent righteousness, should not stand righteous before God's tribunal, but be justified by the righteousness of another, which the papists stumble at, as did the Jews, to their destruction. In sanctification, how effectual calling, infallible conversion, should stand with man's free will, is a riddle to the Arminians and papists, who therefore cut the knot, not being able to untie it. All these are mysteries which God hath revealed and made up in this, on purpose to shew his wisdom, and to make wise his own, and to befool the world.
A mystery! Then it is of such depths of wisdom, as take all the poor petty plots of accommodating great difficulties, wherein the princes and wise men of the world spend their thoughts away to vanity, and yet magnify and pride themselves in; and this plot, and any one mystery in it, when once discovered, 'confoundeth and brings to nothing' all theirs, 1 Cor. 1:19; 2:8. It all vanisheth as mere folly; nothing.
And there are not only depths of wisdom, but depths of love in it also, Eph. 3:18. It reveals a breadth, height, depth of love in Christ dying for enemies, and God giving his Son for enemies, as passeth knowledge. Sin is a great depth, therefore the apostle saith, 'it doth abound,' Rom. 5:20, and is 'above measure sinful,' Rom. 7:13, and so you will find it when you plumb it to the bottom. And so the devils and damned spirits in hell shall find it, whilst they are a-studying their sinfulness in hell to all eternity (that being their business), and can never fathom it.
But yet this of God's free grace and Christ's love is a depth, which swallows up this of sin, more than the heavens do the earth. That place seems to compare it to a mighty sea, so deep, as it wants a bottom; so as though the thoughts of men and angels shall be diving into it to all eternity, they shall not come to ground. Of the length and breadth also, that it knows no shore, that though they shall be sailing over it with that small compass of their capacities for ever, yet they shall never come to land, 'it passeth knowledge.' And indeed, my brethren, these are great incitements, especially to large understandings, to search into them. For men of large understandings seek after depths, as good swimmers do after deep waters, and refuse to go into the shallows, because they cannot have scope enough to exercise their skill, and presently strike aground.
And besides, this having such depths in it, may still further be searched into with pleasure, for still it passeth knowledge. The most hidden things in other knowledge, and the causes of them, as the cause of the eclipse of the sun and moon, they are like riddles, which though admired, before revealed, yet then become trivial, and as it were below the understanding, and when you see the furthest of them they grow stale. But there are depths in this knowledge, which for ever my be dived into with pleasure; and by reason of their depth, the knowledge of them to a 'renewed understanding' will be always fresh and new; every new degree makes all seem now, as if not known before, 1 Cor. 13:10. Still as knowledge grows more perfect, that which was before is done away and swallowed up, as if you had not yet known it; and so still it is new. And to study and hear news all the day, the minds of men are led along with pleasure.
And withal this bids men be sure they come with reverence and fear, to hear and read them.
Thirdly, It was a mystery hid and kept long secret in regard of clear revealing of it. The prophets, 1 Pet. 1:11, had inquired into it, and searched diligently, unto whom it was revealed, not unto them but us; which therefore is said to be 'our glory,' 1 Cor. 2:7, being the privilege we have above the patriarchs, who yet had knowledge of the legal covenant as clearly as we; yet in regard of this. 'the least in the kingdom of God is greater than' John the Baptist, though in regard of clearer insight into the gospel he was greater than any before him.
And this both adds to the excellency of it, so far as to commend it to us the more. Were any of these secrets which philosophers and wise men in all ages had beat their brains about, as quadratum circuli, &c., and the philosopher's stone, found out and revealed to us in these ages; how would we therefore prize it the more, as we do printing, the mystery of which lay hid from the beginning. Nay, this mystery and the doctrine of it, is that which the saints for four thousand years studied, and sought to God to know, all of them one after another; and still they could get no other answer but this, that 'not unto them, but us.'
Again, Where lay it hid all this while? In God's breast; apo twn aiwnwn, the secula seculorum, before the world was, generations since. So Eph. 3:9, 'lay hid in God,' and is his master-piece, the chiefest of his works.
If one bit of the choice books of Solomon, which had lain hid till now, were yet found, a book about the nature of trees, birds, and beasts, how would we prize it! Much more this of God's. But you will say, When was it first revealed, it had this to commend it; yet now it is sixteen hundred years since it sprang forth. It is not therefore so new to us. I answer, It is true; only consider that as the law, which though delivered in Moses' time, yet before Josiah's time lay hid long, like some rivers that run some leagues under ground, and then discover themselves again; so did the doctrine of the gospel, after the first discovery of it, lie hid many ages and generations, as the church herself did in the wilderness, when school divinity and popery, both wanting the light of the gospel, did cover the world with darkness; when it might truly be said, that the world was 'spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, traditions of men, rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.'
Whereas, but within the compass of this age we now live in, it hath been that the 'kingdoms of the world have become' again the kingdoms of Christ,' Rev. 11:15, and the 'temple opened,' and the ark of the testament,' as it is in the last verse, that is Christ; and all his riches have been broken up and searched into, and discovered to the eyes of all. That as to the popish part there hath been a new Indies discovered, full of earthly treasure, that had not been known before, which had so enriched them; so a new Indies of heavenly treasure, a new world of divinity hath been found out, that was but privately known before, which hath enriched us; and happy were we, if we prized and defended ours, as they do theirs.
And though much of the heavenly treasure was digged up at first, yet more hath since and may be, for God will find his church digging and work of discovery to the end of the world. And, my brethren, these are the times.
And lastly, Now it is revealed, it is but 'to the saints.' If the secrets of it were known to all, they were no secrets, and less to be regarded; but God is dainty of this knowledge, tells it but to few. 'Father, I thank thee,' saith Christ, 'that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes.' The doctrines of God's free grace, are the the most inward, practical, and experimental secrets, and 'the deep things of God,' as the things of the gospel are called, 1 Cor. 2:10. Which 'secrets' are only 'with them that fear him (Ps. 25:14) and he will shew them his covenant.' The things of the law may be known by natural men as fully as by others, they have a copy of them in their consciences.
And this shews the excellency of this knowledge. For if there be any knowledge better than other, God will be sure to impart it to his friends and favourites; John 15:15, 'You are my friends, and all I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.' This he will not tell to those who are barely servants, 'they know not his mind,' as it is there. Believers only 'have the mind of Christ,' 1 Cor. 2:16.
But you will object, This is not so, for this knowledge is made common to all. God would have the gospel 'preached to every creature;' and so it was, Col. 1:23.
I answer, as when Alexander objected to Aristotle, 'that he would make his knowledge common, and so debase it when he published his books.' He answered, they were edita et non edita (published but not published), for none would understand them but his scholars, and therefore entitled them peri akroamatwn (for those who will hearken to it). So this, though published to all the world, yet it is entitled a mystery, and a mystery hid, for none know it but the saints who are taught of God, and are his scholars, John 6:45. That place shews that there must be a secret teaching by God, and a secret learning, 'If they have heard, and been taught of God.' Now God teacheth none but saints, for all that are so taught come unto him; 'Every one who hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.'
Ay, but you will say, Do not many carnal men know the gospel, and discourse of things in it, through strength of learning? &c.
I answer out of the text, that though they may know the things which the gospel reveals, yet not the riches and glory of them; that same rich knowledge spoken of in the word, they lack, and therefore know them not; as a child and a jeweller looking upon a pearl, both look upon it, and call it by the same name; but the child yet knows it not as a pearl in the worth and riches of it, as the jeweller doth, and therefore cannot be said to know it. Now Mat. 13:45, a Christian only is likened to a 'merchantman, that finds a pearl of great price,' that is, discovered to be so, 'and sold all he had for it, for he knew the worth of it.'
But you will say, Do not carnal men know the worth of the things in the gospel, and can discourse of the rich grace of Christ, and worth of him?
I answer, Yes, as a man who hath gotten an inventory by heart, and the prices also, and so may know it; yet never was he led into the exchequer and treasury, to see all the jewels themselves, the wardrobe of grace, and Christ's righteousness, to see the glory of them; for these are all 'spiritually discerned,' as the apostle says expressly, 1 Cor. 2:14.
Use 1. If it be a mystery, which God only makes known, as you see it is, then go to him for it; you know how to deal with him. James 1:5, 'If any lack wisdom, let him ask it,' whose promise is in the new covenant, to teach all his to know him. As you cannot see the sun without the light of itself, so nor the riches of the glory of Christ without his Spirit, who is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; who only knows the deep things of God, 1 Cor. 2:10, as the mysteries of the gospel are, as the context shews, that lie all at the bottom of his breast. The well is deep, we have nothing to draw.
But you will say, God hath revealed himself in the Scriptures, and it is but reading them, and I have wit enough to understand them.
I answer, It was the Spirit that wrote the word, which is not therefore (says Peter) of any private interpretation; that is, no man's nor men's private understanding, without the assistance of that public secretary of heaven, can understand them.
He only hid the treasures of knowledge in the field, and he only knows where they lie. What an advantage is it then by prayer to unlock God's breast, and obtain the 'key of knowledge' there, that unlocks God's study, and can direct to all his notes and papers.
Secondly, get to be a saint, to whom God will make known 'the riches,' &c., otherwise you cannot receive them, you will count them foolishness, as hath been shewed; if you do, you will but take them upon trust, by the wholesale, as we use to say, and in the bundle, will not be able to see the particular secrets that are in the truths revealed in the gospel, and opened, and riches laid out.
Or if you could do all this without grace, yet a saint hath advantage,
First, In the comfort you will have in studying the mysteries of the gospel, Col. 2:2, to go no further. He wisheth them 'the knowledge of the mystery, that they might be comforted;' for, indeed, a saint, the more he sees into it, the more he knows his own riches. He tells them but over, and gets more evidence of his title to them, whereas another is but as a lawyer, that studies other men's evidences, without any great comfort to himself. The choicest flowers of gospel truths to an unregenerate man are of the stalk and yield no scent, but grow up in a saint's heart fresh and comfortable.
Secondly, In that place, Col. 2:2, you shall find 'riches of assurance joined with a saint's knowledge, which, 1 Thes. 1:4, 5, is made a note of election, and not in another. Scotus says that to get a true and perfect knowledge in divine things, fides infusa et acquisita, both faith infused and acquired, are necessary.
First, A principle of faith infused, which may be an 'evidence,' as it is defined, Heb. 11:1, of all the principles and fundamental truths which are revealed in the gospel and not proved; for otherwise all our knowledge acquired built thereon will want assurance, will hang upon uncertainties. Things hanging upon a pin are no firmer than the pin they hang on. Unless faith rivets the principles of divine knowledge into the heart, the conclusions hang on uncertainties, and fall down in the end.
And, thirdly, grace will help you to get the start of another. As for a natural man, he brings only natural parts; a regenerate man is supposed to have as good, and moreover hath a further power of discerning given him. 1 Cor. 2:15, 'The spiritual man discerneth all things.' It is his own art. And as wicked men are often 'wiser' in their art and generation than the children of light; yea, by your leave, the reason will more strongly hold that a child of light may easilier be wiser in his, and therefore Solomon says, 'The knowledge of the holy is understanding.'
And, lastly, if they be saints, God makes known the saying truths of the gospel by the writings and judgments of holy men. The angels learn these mysteries of the church, and why should not we? Ps. 29:9, In the church every one speaks of God's glory,' or, as others read it, In the church God utters all his glory.' The saints, especially, that are or have been of the church, they speak of the glory of his kingdom and of his power, and make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. The ways of grace and mysteries of the kingdom are seldom made known but unto them.
And if God reveals the mysteries of grace to his saints only, trust not the judgments of natural men in the matters of grace; this is a godly man's art, and not a wicked man's, though never so learned, and a man would trust an artist in his own trade rather than another. 'The knowledge of the holy is understanding,' says Solomon, Prov. 9:10, especially in ways of holiness.
Take the controversies which are now on foot. Shall they judge of election who are reprobate to every good work themselves? Or they of the universality of God's free grace who turn the grace of God into wantonness? Or they of the power of God in conversion that deny the power of godliness? Or those of the perseverance of faith who care not to make voluntary shipwreck of it, men of corrupt minds, whose God is their belly, gain their godliness, preferment their religion, and who will cut their own opinions accordingly?
I will end all with one place, Isa. 35:8. In the former verses
he evidently speaks of the kingdom of Christ coming to preach
the gospel, by which he shews there should be a 'way' revealed,
an 'highway,' which is the common road to heaven, there being
but one way which Christ and all his go in, which shall be called,
'The way of holiness.' Take heed you miscall it not, and call
it a way of schism, faction, &c., as the Jews did call it
heresy. But yet this way the unclean shall not pass over; but
wayfaring men, who desire to know the way to heaven (though fools)
shall not err therein; but the unclean (as the opposition shews)
shall err therein, though never so learned.
Index to Thomas Goodwin
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