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THIS book, though it consists of three parts, apparently distinct and separate from each other, hath nevertheless a unity in itself which entitles it to be regarded as one work. The first part treats of the work of Christ in the flesh; the second, of the publication and propagation of the same good work amongst men; and the third, of the present aspect and condition, and the immediate prospects, of that portion of the world which hath received the preaching of the Gospel of the incarnate Word ;-the first being doctrinal, the second ecclesiastical and practical, the third national and prophetical. Upon each of these three several parts, I have a word or two to say, by way of preface.
The Sermons on the Incarnation were intended to open that mystery after a dogmatical, and not a controversial, method; as being designed for the instruction of the church committed to my ministerial and pastoral care, of whom I knew not that any one entertained a doubt upon that great head of Christian faith. To open the subject in all its bearings, and to connect it with the other great heads of divine doctrine, especially with the doctrine of the Trinity; and to shew the several offices of the Divine persons, in the great work of making the Word flesh; this truly was the good
purpose with which I undertook and completed the four sermons upon the Origin, the End, the Act, and the Fruit of the Incarnation. When I had completed this office of my ministry, and, by the request of my flock, had consented to the publication of these and the other discourses contained in this book; and when the printing of them had all but, or altogether, concluded; there arose, I say not by what influence of Satan, a great outcry against the doctrine which, with all orthodox churches, I hold and maintain concerning the person of Christ: the doctrine I mean of his human nature, that it was manhood fallen, which he took up into his Divine person, in order to prove the grace and the might of Godhead in redeeming it; or, to use the words of our Scottish Confession, that his flesh was, in its proper nature, mortal and corruptible, but received immortality and incorruption from the Holy Ghost. The stir which was made in divers quarters, both of this and my native land, about this matter, as if it were neither the orthodox doctrine of the church, nor a doctrine according to godliness, shewed me, who am convinced of both, that it was necessary to take controversial weapons in my hand, and contend earnestly for the faith as it was once delivered to the saints. I perceived now, that the dogmatical method which I had adopted for the behoof of my own believing flock, would not be sufficient when publishing to a wavering, gainsaying, or unbelieving people; and therefore it seemed to me most profitable to delay the publication until I should have composed something fitted to re-establish men's minds upon this great fundamental doctrine of the church,
which having done, I resolved to insert the same as two other sermons; the one upon the method of the Incarnation, and the other upon the relations of the Creator and the creature, as these are shewn out in the light of the Incarnation. And for this timeous interruption by evil tongues, I desire to give thanks to God, inasmuch as I have been enabled thereby not only to expound, but to defend the faith, that the Son of God came in the flesh.
I would not add another word upon this subject, were it not that I know how ready the ear of this generation is to take up an evil report, and how much it doth prejudice a man to be even suspected of a great vital error in his faith. Therefore to set myself straight with honest-hearted men, who may have been poisoned by malicious slanders, I will state, in a few words, what is the exact matter in dispute between us and these gainsayers of the truth.
The point at issue is simply this; Whether Christ's flesh had the grace of sinlessness and incorruption from its proper nature, or from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. I say the latter. assert, that in its proper nature it was as the flesh of his mother, but, by virtue of the Holy Ghost's quickening and inhabiting of it, it was preserved sinless and incorruptible. This work of the Holy Ghost, I further assert, was done in consequence of the Son's humbling himself to be made flesh. The Son said, "I come: the Father said, "I prepare thee a body to come in :" and the Holy Ghost prepared that body out of the Virgin's substance. And so, by the threefold acting of the Trinity, was the Christ constituted
a Divine and a human nature, joined in personal union for ever. This I hold to have been the orthodox faith of the Christian church in all ages: it is the doctrine of the Scottish Church, expressed in these words of the Twenty-first Article: "As the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which of its own nature was mortal and corrptible, life and immortality," &c. And, moreover, I assert, that the opposite of this doctrine, which affirmeth Christ's flesh to have been in itself immortal and incorruptible, or in any way diverse from this flesh of mine, without respect had to the Holy Ghost, is a pestilent heresy, which coming in will root out atonement, redemption, regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and the human nature of Christ altogether. Now, I glory that God hath accounted me worthy to appear in the field of this ancient controversy, which I hold to be the foundation-stone of the edifice of orthodox truth. With all this I hold the human will of Christ to have been perfectly holy, and to have acted, spoken, or wished nothing but in perfect harmony with the will of the Godhead; which, to distinguish it from the creature will, he calleth the will of the Father: for that there were two wills in Christ, the one the absolute will of the Godhead, the other the limited will of the manhood, the church hath ever maintained as resolutely as that there were two natures. These two wills, I maintain, were always concentric or harmonious with each other, and the work achieved by the Godhead through the Incarnation of Christ was neither less nor more than this, to bring the will of the creature, which had erred from the Divine will, back again to be harmonious