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to a Pharisee, he said, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. But,
V. Wherein does this peculiar knowledge of God differ from what natural men have actually had, or might have? If they may have all knozeledge, and understand all mysteries, so as to speak as it were with the tongues of men and angels; (1 Cor. xiii.) if they may be enlightened, and taste the hea. cenly gift : (Heb vi.) if they may receive the roord with joy: (Matt. xiii.) if they may escape the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ : (2 Pet ii. 20.) if they may have such a ravishing sense of the divine goodness, as the Israelites had at the Red sea; and such an affecting sense of his inajesty, greatness, power, holiness, and justice, as they had at Mount Sinai, when they stood trembling before the mountain, and were so ready to promise, whatsorver the Lord our God shall command, that will we do, and be obedient ; and such an high and heartabasing sense of the most high God, who liveth for ever, as Nebuchadnezzar had, when he praised and extolled, and honoured the King of heaven, all whose works are truth; and those who walk in pride, he is able to abast, (Dan. iv. 34. 87.) If they may have all this, what is it they cannot have? I answer, in one word, the holy beauty of God's real moral character; this is what they never had the least idea of. The most enlightened, affected, the devoutest natural man that ever lived, as to this, is as blind as the most ignorant, stupid sinner in the world. That this is in fact the case, is evident from this, that all who behold the glory of God, are actually changed into the same image ; which was not the case with the wicked Israelites, nor with Nebuchadnezzar, nor with the stony ground hearers, nor with those in 1 Cor. xii. Heb. vi. 2 Pet. ii.
But as the nature of divine illumination is so largely and accurately stated in Mr. Edwards' Treatise on Religious Affections, and his Sermon on Jam. ii. 19. I shall refer the reader to these pieces, and proceed.
The Effects of Divine Illumination. A VIEW of all the moral perfections of God, shining in their brightest glory in the Gospel-way of saving sinners, exhibits to the mind an evidence of the truth of the Gospel, entirely new, which never struck the mind before. An evidence of such a nature, as removes all those natural prejudi ces against the truth, which tended to keep the mind in suspense, notwithstanding all the external proofs from the miracles, prophesies, &c. and an evidence, in its own nature, the most convincing and satisfying; and whereby the whole heart is gained, and brought over to a full and thorough belief of the Gospel. So that now, and not till now, is the Gospel believed to be true, with all the heart ; so as to induce us to sell all for the pearl of great price, and from the heart to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ; venturing our all for time and eternity, upon the truth of bis Messiahship, of his divine mission, and of the news which he has brought to our ears.
When the Gospel, which is hid from all natural men; comes to be revealed, internally revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, in all its divine glories, agreeable to Mat. xi. 25. 2 Cor. iii. 18. chap. iv. 6, &c. it is known to be from God, from the divinity of its nature. For it appears to be, what the apostle's words import, the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor. iv. 4. And to use the words of a late writer, “ He that truly sees the divine, transcendent, supreme glory of those things which are divine, does as it were, know their divinity intuitively; he not only argues, that they are divine, but he sees that they are divine ; he sees that in them wherein divinity chiefly consists ; for in this glory, which is so vastly and inexpressibly distinguished from all other glory, does mainly consist the true notion of divinity : God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above thein, chiefly by his divinity. They,
therefore, that see the stamp of this divine glory in divine things, they see divinity in them, they see God in them, and so see them to be divine; because they see that in them wherein the truest idea of divinity does consist.” He therefore who sees the glory of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, must know Jesus to be the Son of God, and bis Gospel to be divine. For he must be the Son of him whose image he bears, and that Gospel must be from God, which is, in its own nature, so godlike.-Besides, as the sarne author adds,
“ This sense of the spiritual excellency and beauty of divine things, does also tend directly to convince the mind of the truth of the Gospel, as there are very many of the most important things declared in the Gospel, that are hid from the eyes of natural men, the truth of which does in effect consist in this excellency, or does so immediately depend upon it, and result from it, that in this excellency's being seen, the truth of those things is seen. As soon as ever the
eyes are opened to behold the holy beauty and amiableness that is in divine things, a multitude of most important doctrines of the Gospel, that depend upon it, (which all appear strange and dark to natural men,) are at once seen to be true. As for instance; men by seeing the true excellency of holiness, do see the glory of all those things which reason and Scripture show to be in the divine Being. And hereby they see the truth of all that the Scripture declares concerning God's glorious excellency and majesty, his being the fountain of all good, the only happiness of the creature, &c. and this again shows the mind the truth of what the Scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin against so glorious a God; and also what the Scripture teaches concerning sin's just desert of that dreadful punishment which it reveals; and also concerning the inpossibility of our offering any satisfaction or sufficient atonement for that which is infinitely evil and heinous. And this again shows the truth of what the Gospel reveals concerning the necessity of a Saviour, to offer an atonement of infinite value for sin. And this sense of spiritual beauty enables the soul to see the glory of those things which the Gospel reveals concerning the person of Christ; and so enables to see the exceeding beauty and dignity of his person, ap. pearing in what the Gospel exhibits of his word, works, acts, and life; and this apprehension of the superlative dignity of his person, shows the truth of what the Gospel declares concerning the value of his blood and righteousness; and so the infinite excellency of that offering he has made to God for us, and so its sufficiency to atone for our sins, and recoinmend us to God. And thus the Spirit of God discovers the way of salvation by Christ, &c. The truth of all these things appears to the soul only by the imparting that spiritual taste of divine beauty which has been spoken of. They being hidden things to the soul before.” Thus far this author, who has handled this subject at large, and with greater accuracy than I have seen it done by any other writer a.
And agreeable to these sentiments, it was an openly avowed maxim in the apostolic age, that whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. i John v. 1. and they every wbere publicly declared, that if thou shalt contess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom. x. 9. They promised salvation to every man, who with all his heari believed the Gospel to be true, and threatened damnation to none but infidels, according to their master's commission. Mark xvi. 15, 16. Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Not that they imagined, that every one who professed to believe the Gospel with all his heart, really did so. They knew there inight be a partial and ineffectual conviction of the truth. They well remembered bow Judas heard all Christ's discourses, and saw all his miracles, and professed to believe as well as Peter, and how he turned out in the end. And they well knew, that as both were under equal external advantages, to see all the external evidences of Christ's divine mission; so that peculiar kind of faith, which Peter bad, was entirely the result of divine illumination, as their master had in his life time expressly declared. Flesh and blood hath not revealed it urto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Mat. xvii. 17. And this kind of faith they called believing with all the heart, and asserted it to be peculiar to the regenerate, and infallibly connected with eternal life. A faith, in its own nature, specifically different from the faith of devils and of wicked men, who are all equally blind to the glory of the moral perfections of the Deity shining so brightly in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
a Mr. Edwards, on Religious Affections, p. 182. 199.
And now, when the Gospel is understood, seen in its glory, and believed with all the heart, it immediately begets every answerable affection in the soul. For we are begotten through the Gospel, i Cor. iv. 15. begotten by the word of truth, Jam. i. 18. sanctified by the truth, John xvii. 17. and particularly are begotten to a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, 1 Pet. i. 3. While the glory of the Gospel is hid, it produces none of these effects upon the soul. For if our Gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost. 2 Cor. iv.,3. But when we know the truth, the truth makes us free. John viii. 32. Or in the language of St. Paul, we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image b.
Sometimes, in the Scripture, the effect produced by the knowledge of the truth, is considered and spoken of as one thing, and every holy affection is summed up under one comprehensive name. As, the image of God, the law written in the heart, Christ formed in the soul, coming to God by Christ,
b Some of the above texts are alleged by some writers to prove, that a beGef that Christ died for me in particular, that my sins are pardoned, and that I shall be saved, begets every Christian grace. And this is all the regeneration they allow of. But in this case we are begotten, not by the truth, nor by the Gospel; for not one of these particulars are therein revealed. Yea, a man may be full of religious affections from such a belief, and yet at the same time look upon the Gospel of Christ as “jargon ;” “ hideous jargon.” Yea, it is a lie which begets these affections, viz. that God had forgiven the sins of an impenitent sin ner. And therefore, not the God of truth, but the father of lies, is the author of this kind of regeneration. And this is one of his stratagems to blind the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Thus be transforms himself into an angel of light, to delude poor sinners with false hopes and false joys; to the end they may never know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent : and so never have eternal life. See Mr. Cudworth's Further Defence. VOL. II