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in. He doth not only reveal himself and his Son to the soul, but in it; he doth not only make discoveries to it, but lively impressions upon il; he doth not only appoint, and point out the way of life, but breathes in the breath of life. He hath not only provided a Saviour, a Redeemer, but he also draws the soul unto him, John vi. 44. He hath not only appointed pastors and teachers, but he himself impregnates their word, and clothes their doctrine with his own power, using their ministry as an instrument whereby to teach; so that the children of God are said to be
all taught of God,” John vi. 45. Ministers can only discover, and, as it were, enlighten the object; but God enlightens the faculty, he gives the seeing eye, and does actually enable it to discern. Therefore the work of converting a soul is still ascribed to God in Scripture; he begets us again, 1 Pet. i. 3; he draws the soul, before it can run after him, Cant. i. 4. Christ apprehends the soul, lays powerful hold of it, Phil. iii. 12. “God gives a heart of flesh, a new heart; he causes men to walk in his statutes,” Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. He puts “his law into their inward parts, and writes it in their hearts,” Jer. xxxi. 33. To which I might add many more quotations of the same import.
But yet, methinks, we are not come to a perfect discovery of religion's being the offspring of God in the minds of men. For it is God who enlighteneth the faculty, as to the learning of all other things also; he teacheth the grammar and the rhetoric, as well as the divinity; he instructeth even the husbandman to discretion in his affairs of husbandry, and teaches him to plough, and sow, and thresh, &c. Isa. xxviii. 26. Not only the gift of divine knowledge, but indeed
every good gift cometh from the Father of lights," James i. 17. God doth from within give that capacity, illumination of the faculty, and ingenuity, whereby we comprehend the mysteries of nature, as well as of grace, John i. 9.
Therefore we may conceive of the origin of religion in a more inward and spiritual manner still. It is not so much given of God as itself is something of God in the soul; as the soul is not so properly said to give life, as to be the life of man. As the conjunction of the soul with the body is the life of the body, so verily the life of the soul stands in its conjunction with God by a spiritual union of will and affections. God doth not enlighten men's minds as the sun enlightens the world, by shining unto them, and round about them, but by shining into them; by enlightening the faculty, as I said before, yea, which seems to be somewhat more, by shining in their hearts, as the apostle phraseth it, 2 Cor. iv. 6. He sets up a candle, which is his own light within the soul; so that the soul sees God in his own light, and loves him with the love that he hath shed abroad in it; and religion is no other than a reflection of that divine image,
life, and light, and love, which from God are stamped and imprinted upon the souls of true Christians. God is said to enlighten the soul, but it is not as the sun enlightens, that you see; so he draws the soul too, but not from without only, as one man draweth another with a cord; but, as the sun draws up earthly vapours by infusing its virtue and power into them; or, as the loadstone draws the iron, so he draws the soul by the powerful insinuations of his grace.
God doth not so much communicate himself to the soul by way of discovery, as by way of impression, as I said before; and indeed not so much by impression neither, as by a mystical and wonderful way of implantation. Religion is not so much something from God, as something of God in the minds of good men, for so the Scripture allows us to speak: it is therefore called his image, Col. iii. 10, and good men are said to "live according to God in the spirit," 1 Pet. iv. 6; but, as if that were not high enough, it is not only called his image, but even a participation of his divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4; something of Christ in the soul, an infantChrist as one calls it, alluding to the apostle, Gal. iv. 19, where the saving knowledge of Christ is called Christ himself, “ until Christ be formed in you.” True religion is, as it were, God dwelling in the soul, and Christ dwelling in the soul, as the apostles John and Paul express ityea, God himself is pleased thus to express his relation to the
godly soul, Isa. Ivii. 15. “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a humble spirit;" and again, 2 Cor. vi. 16. “As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them." Pure religion is a beam of the Father of lights; it is a drop of that eternal fountain of goodness and holiness, the breath of the power of God, a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty, the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness, more beautiful than the sun, and above all the orders of stars. What is spoken of the eternal Son of God, Heb. i. 3, may, in a sense, be truly affirmed of religion in the abstract, that “offspring or branch of Heaven," that it is, " the effulgency or beaming forth of divine glory;" for there is more of the divine glory and beauty shining forth in one godly soul, than in all things in the world beside; the glorious light of the sun is but a dark shadow of the divine light, not to be compared with the beauty of holiness.
An immortal soul doth more resemble the divine nature than any other created being; but religion in the soul is a thousand times more divine than the soul itself. The material world is indeed a darker representation of divine wisdom, power, and goodness; it is as it were the footsteps of God; the immaterial world of angels and spirits represents him more clearly, as the face of God: but holiness in the soul doth most nearly resemble him of all created things; one may call it the beauty and glory of his face. Every creature partakes of God indeed; he had no copy but himself and his own essence to frame the world by; so that all these must needs carry some resemblance of their Maker. But no creature is capable of such communications of God as a rational, immortal, spirit is; and the highest that angel or spirit, or any created nature, can be made capable of, is to be holy as God is holy.
One soul, any one soul of man, is worth all the world beside, for glory and dignity; but the lowest degree of true holiness, pure religion, conformity to the divine nature and will, is more worth than a world of souls, and to be preferred before the essence of angels. I have often admired three great mysteries and mercies: God revealed in the flesh, God revealed in the word, and God revealed in the soul: this last is the mystery of godliness which I am speaking of, but cannot fathom: it is this that the apostle says transcends the sight of our eyes, the capacity of our ears, and all the faculties of our souls too, 1 Cor. ii. 9. “Eye hath not seen," &c. Christ Jesus formed in the soul of man, incarnate in a heart of flesh, is as great a miracle, and a greater mercy, than Christ formed in the womb of a virgin, and incarnate in a human body. There was once much glorying concerning Christ in the world, the hope of Israel; but let us call out to the powers of eternity, and the ages of the world