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THOUGHTS UPON THE MYSTERY OF
Though there be many in the world that seem to be religious, there are but few that are so : great reason whereof is, because there are so many mistakes about religion, that it is an hard matter to hit upon
the true notion of it: and therefore desiring nothing in this world so much as to be an instrument in God's hand to direct men into the true religion, my great care must, and by the blessing of God shall be, to instil into them right conceptions of him, that is the only object of all religious acts, without which it is impossible to continue, or indeed to be religious: the true nature and notion of religion consisting in the right carriage and deportment
of our whole man, both soul and body, towards him that made us : whom therefore, unless we truly know, we can never be truly religious; and therefore they that begin their religion with zeal and passion, begin at the wrong end; for in
deed they begin where they should end : our zeal for God, and love unto him, being the highest acts of religion, and therefore cannot be the first; but they necessarily presuppose the true knowledge of God, without which our zeal will be blind, and our love both groundless and transient.
But as it is impossible to be truly religious, unless we know God, so it is very difficult so to know him, as to become truly religious. It is true that there is such a supreme Being in and over the world, as we call God; the very light of nature teaches, and reason itself demonstrates it to be the most certain and undeniable. But what he is, and what apprehensions we ought to have of this glorious Being, none but himself is able to describe and manifest unto us; so that our conceptions of him are still to be regulated by the discoveries that he hath made of himself to us; without which, though we may have some confused notions of him, yet we can never so know him, as to serve him faithfully, and, by consequence, be truly religious.
Hence, therefore, if we would know God, we must search the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, wherein God hath been pleased most clearly to manifest and discover himself unto us; I say, both the Old and New Testaments, for otherwise, our knowledge of God may very defective and erroneous, there being several things which God, in the New Testament, hath most plainly revealed of himself, which in the Old Testament are more darkly and obscurely delivered to us. As for example the great mystery of the Trinity; though it be frequently intimated in the Old Testament, yet it is an hard matter rightly to understand it without - he New; insomuch, that the Jews, though they
have had the law above three thousand, and the prophets above two thousand years among them, yet to this day they could never make this an article of faith; but they, as well as the Mahometans, still assert, “ That God is only one in person as well as nature:” whereas nothing can be more plain from the New Testament, than that there is but one God, and yet there are three persons, every one of which is that one God : and so that though God be but one in nature, yet he is three in persons; and so three persons, as yet to be but one in nature.
And, verily, although there was no other text in all the Scripture, whereon to ground this fundamental article of our Christian faith, that of ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,'' is a sufficient foundation for it; there being nothing, I think, necessary to be believed concerning the glorious Trinity, but what may easily and naturally be deduced from these words; which were spoken, it is true, by our Saviour before his ascension, but I question whether they were thoroughly understood, till after the Holy Ghost was come down on earth : it being only by God himself that we can come to the true knowledge of him, much less are we able rightly to apprehend, and firmly to believe three persons in the Godhead, without the assistance of one of them, that is, of the Holy Ghost, by whom the other two are wont to work; he being the issue, if I may say, and breath of both. Hence it is, that the wisdom of the church, for these many centuries, hath thought fit to order, that this great mystery be
! Matt. xxviii. 19.
celebrated the next Lord's day after the commemoration of the Holy Spirit's coming down upon the disciples, and in them, upon all true believers ; both because all three persons have now manifested themselves to mankind; the Father in his creation of them, the Son in his conversing with them, and the Holy Ghost by his coming down upon them : and also to show, that it is only by the grace and assistance of God's Spirit that we can rightly believe in this glorious and incomprehensible mystery which our Saviour hath so clearly revealed to us in these words, “Go ve and teach all nations,' &c.
For the opening of which, we must know that our Saviour, in the foregoing verse, acquaints his disciples, that now all power was given him .in heaven and in earth ;' by virtue whereof he here issueth forth his commission to his apostles, and, in them, to all that should succeed them, to supply his room, and be his vicegerents upon earth, he being now to reside in his kingdom of heaven. For saith he, “all power is given to me in heaven and earth : go ye therefore and teach all nations.' As he also saith elsewhere to them, “As my Father hath sent me, even so I send you.'' As if he should have said, My Father having committed to me all power and authority both in heaven and earth, I therefore authorize and commissionate, yea, and command you to go and teach all nations, &c.
This therefore is part of the commission which our Lord and master left with his apostles immediately before he parted from them. Those being the last words which St. Matthew records him to have spoken upon earth; and therefore they must needs contain matter of very great importance to his church ; and it must needs highly concern us all to understand the true meaning and purport of them, which that we may the better do, in treating of them, I shall observe the same method and order as he did in speaking them.
1 John xx. 21.
First, therefore, here is the work he sends the apostles about; 'Go ye therefore and teach, Hopevθέντες αν μαθητέυσατε, which more properly may be rendered, “Go ye therefore and disciple all nations,' or 'make the persons of all nations to be my disciples, that is, Christians. That this is the true meaning of the words, is plain and clear, from the right notion of the word here used, uaOntevw, which coming from pa Intis, a disciple, it always signifieth either to be or to make disciples, wheresoever it occurs in all the Scriptures ; as μαθητευθείς, which is instructed, say we, the Syriac better, damtachlamad, that is, made a disciple, a tbn, that is, not only a scholar or learner, but a follower or professor of the gospel, here called the kingdom of heaven. Another place where this word occurs, is έμαθήτευσε τω Ιησέ, where we rightly translate it, was Jesus' disciple.' Another place is kai pa.OnTEÚDavreg ikavec,' which we improperly render, 'having taught many;' the Syrian and Arabic, more properly, ‘having made many disciples. And these are all the places in the New Testament where this word is used, except those I am now considering, where all the eastern languages render it according to its notation, disciple. The Persian paraphrastically expounds it, Go ye and reduce all nations to my faith and religion.' So that whosoever pleads for any other meaning of these words, do
I Matt. xiii. 52.
2 Matt. xxvii. 57.
Acts, xiv. 21.