RPM, Volume 16, Number 49, November 30 to December 6, 2014

Sermons on John 17

Sermon III

By Thomas Manton

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. JOHN 17: 3

Here our Lord declareth the way, means, and order how he would give eternal life to the elect; and so it is added as an amplification of the former argument. The words must be expounded by a metonymy. Such kind of predications are frequent in Scripture: John iii. 19, "This is the condemnation," etc.; that is, the cause of it. Sometimes it signifies the outward means: John xii. 50. "His commandment is life everlasting;" that is, his word is the most assured means of it. Sometimes the principal cause: "Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life," 1 John v. 20; that is, the author of it.

"This is life eternal."

- Some understand these words formally, as if they were a description of eternal life, which consisteth in a sight of God. But I suppose it rather layeth down the way and means, and showeth rather what is the beginning and original of eternal life, than the formality and essence of it. It is not in this eternal life consisteth, but by this means it is gotten and obtained.

1. Partly because the word ginoskein, which is here used, is proper to the light of faith; and so it is used ver. 7, "They have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee;" and ver. 8, "They have known surely that I came out from thee." Vision is proper to the light of glory. It is more usually expressed by seeing than knowing: ver. 24, "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, ina theorosi, that they may behold my glory."

2. Christ is proving the reason, that unless he were glorified, he could not bestow eternal life; for there could be no knowledge without his ascension into heaven, and effusion of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and so by consequence no eternal life. So that the words must be explained, "This is life eternal;" that is, this is the way to life eternal, or life eternal begun, and in the root and foundation.

"That they may know thee."

- That must be understood by way of apposition; this is life eternal to know thee: and knowledge is here put for faith or saving knowledge; It is a known rule that words of knowledge do imply suitable affections; as 1 Thes. v. 12, "We beseech you to know them which labour among you;" that is, reverence them. Or, more clearly to the present case; 1 John ii. 4, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Our Saviour understandeth not naked and unactive speculations concerning God and Christ, or a naked map or model of divine truths. Bare knowledge cannot be sufficient to salvation, but a lively and effectual light. Faith is intended, as is clear by the mention of the double object - God and Christ. He that knoweth God in Christ knoweth him for his reconciled Father, and so leaneth on him. And affections and motions of grace are intended; for it must be such a knowledge of God as discerneth him to be the chiefest good and only happiness. They know not God that do not choose him for their portion: "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee," Ps. ix. 10. Again, suitable practice and conversation is implied; for surely St John knew Christ's meaning: 1 John ii. 3, "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." So that in knowledge all the genuine effects of it are included - assent, affiance, practice, choice, necessary respect to God and Christ. Literal instruction is not enough to eternal life. A carnal man may know much of God and Christ, and yet be miserable. In point of the object, I know no difference between godly and carnal persons; all the difference is in the force and efficacy; as fair water and strong water differ not in colour, but only in strength and operation. I confess, in matters evangelical, nature is most blind; but by reason of common gifts they may have a great proportion of knowledge, as to the letter, more than many of God's children. But of this elsewhere.

"The only true God": ton monon aleithinon theon.

- Much ado there hath been about this clause, I shall endeavour to bring all to a short decision. The doubt is, How can the Father be said to be the only true God, since the Spirit and the Son do also communicate in the divine essence?

1. Some to solve the matter, invert the order of the words thus, "To know thee and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent, to be the only true God." But if the construction would bear it, what provision is there then made for the godhead of the Holy Spirit, which is also a fundamental article?

2. Some say that the Father is not to be taken strictly and personally for the first person, but essentially for the whole godhead. But this seemeth not so plausible an answer, for then Christ must pray to himself. He prayeth here as God-man, and all along to the Father. For my part, I think the expression is used for a twofold reason - (1.) To exclude the idols and false gods; (2.) To note the order and economy of salvation.

[1.] To exclude the idols of the Gentiles, foreign and false gods, such as are extra-essential to the Father; and to note that that godhead is only true that is in the Father; se ton monon aleithinon theon - "Thee the only, thee the true God." The Son and the Holy Ghost are not excluded, who are of the same essence with the Father. Christ and the Spirit are true God, not without, but in the Father: John x. 30, "I and my Father are one:" John xiv. 30, "I am in the Father, and the Father in me;" not divided in essence, though distinguished in personality. Such kind of expressions are usual in the Scriptures, when any of the persons are spoken of singly; as Rom. ix. 5, where Christ is said to be "God over all, blessed for ever." And more expressly, he is said to be theos aleithinos, "the only true God," 1 John v. 20; by which neither the Father nor the Spirit are excluded from the godhead. Many such exclusive particles there are in Scripture, which must be expounded by the analogy of faith; as Mat. xi. 27, "None knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son;" where the Spirit is not excluded, "who searcheth the depths of God," 1 Cor. ii. 10. One person of the Trinity doth not exclude the rest. So see Isa. xliii. 11, "I, even I, am the Lord; and besides me there is no Saviour;" which is applied to Christ: Acts iv. 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved;" it only excludeth legomenous theous, those that are called gods, 1 Cor. viii. 5. There is no God but one. Many are called gods, "but to us there is but one God, the Father." As also it is the scope of Christ; he would lay down the summary of Christian doctrine; the one member being opposed to the vanity of the Gentiles, the other to the blindness of the Jews.

[2.] To note the order and economy of salvation, in which the Father is represented as supreme, in whom the sovereign majesty of the deity resideth, and the Son sustaineth the office of mediator and servant: John xiv. 28, "My Father is greater than I;" not in respect of nature or essential glory, for therein they are both equal: PhiL ii. 6, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God;" but in the order of redemption, in which the Father is the principal party representing the whole deity, because he is the original and fountain of it. So 1 Cor. viii. 6, "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." God the Father is to be conceived as the supreme person, or ultimate object of worship, and the Son as lord and mediator.

"And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;" that is, Jesus Christ, not as the second person in the Trinity, but as mediator.

Sent, implieth -

1. Christ's divine original: he came forth from God; he is legatus a latere: John xvi. 30, "By this we know that thou camest forth from God." He was a person truly existing before he was sent into the world, and a distinct person from the Father; for he that sendeth and he that is sent are distinguished.

2. His incarnation: Gal iv. 4, "When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman."

3. It implieth his whole office of mediator and redeemer; wherefore he is called "the apostle and high priest of our profession," Heb. iii. 1.

Apostle implieth one that was sent. Christ was the chief apostle and messenger of heaven; "the high priest and apostle." The high priesthood was the highest calling in the Jewish church, and the apostleship the highest calling in the Christian church; to note that the whole office of saving all the church, the elect of all ages, is originally in Christ. He is the great ambassador to treat with us from God, and the high priest to treat with God and appease his wrath for us.

The names of Christ are also of some use. Such Scriptures are like gold, that may be beaten into thin leaves. In summaries and breviats every mark and letter is of use.

Jesus signifieth a saviour, as it is explained Mat. i. 21, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." This is a part of our belief, to acknowledge Christ a saviour. Then Christ signifieth anointed.

We shall draw out the sum of all in a few points.

First, Observe, the beginning, increase, and perfection of eternal life lieth in knowledge.

[1.] The beginning of it is in knowledge. Knowledge is the first step to eternal life. In paradise Adam's two symbols were the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. As light was the first creature that God made, so it is in the new creation: Col. iii. 10, "Put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." By the enlightening of the Holy Ghost, the work of grace is begun, and the seed of glory is laid in the heart. The Holy Ghost representeth the pattern, and then conformeth us to it. Regeneration is nothing but a transforming light, or such an illumination as changes the heart: 2 Cor. iii. 18, "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of our God;" Eph. iv. 23, "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds." It maketh our notions of God and Christ to be active and effectual. The force of the new nature is first upon the mind; it taketh sin out of the throne. God, in the order of grace, followeth the order which he hath established in nature. Reason and judgment is to go before the will.

[2.] The increase of it is by knowledge: 2 Peter iii. 18, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." The more thou growest in knowledge, the more thou growest in life. All the gradual progress and increase of the spiritual life is by the increase of light: 2 Peter i. 2, "Grace be multiplied unto you by the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord." Heat doth increase by light, as a room is warmer at high noon than in a chill morning. I confess through corruption and literary airy knowledge, men grow more carnal and careless, as new light quencheth old heat; but by the light of the Spirit the heart is more quickened and enlivened; and as the judgment is made solid, so the heart is more gracious.

[3.] The perfection of it is by knowledge: Ps. xvii. 15, "When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness." The heaven of heavens is to satisfy the understanding with the knowledge of God. One great end of our going to heaven is to better our notions and apprehensions. While the soul is prisoner in the body, we have but low and dark thoughts; but there we are illuminated on a sudden. One glimpse of God in glory will inform us more than the study of a thousand years.

Use 1. Is to show us the sad estate -

1. Of men without knowledge: Prov. xix. 2, "Also that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good." Fruit that hath but little sun can never be ripe. Men will say we are ignorant, but we hope we have a good heart. You can as well be without the sun in the world, as without knowledge and light in the heart. In all the communications of grace, God beginneth with the understanding; as strength to bear afflictions: Jer. xxxi. 19, "After I was instructed, I smote on my thigh, and was ashamed, yea even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth;" James i. 5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask it of God." It is the perfection of the present life, and the foundation of the next. It is the perfection of the present life, the excellency of a man above the beasts; the more knowledge, the more a man; and the more ignorant, the more brutish: Ps. xlix. 20, "Man that is in honour and understandeth not is like the beasts that perish;" Job xxv. 11, "Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven." If a man would glory in anything, it should be in the knowledge of God: Jer. ix. 24, "Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me.

2. Of those that have only a washy weak knowledge, not a living light and knowledge, that is rooted in their own hearts; they talk like parrots: like the moon, they are dark themselves, though from others they shine to others; like vintners that keep wine, not for use, but for sale: the cellar maybe better stored, but it is for others: 2 Peter 1. 8, "For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is a disparagement to know Christ and never be the better for him. These are like the nobleman of Samaria, that saw the plenty of Samaria, but could not taste of it. Surely there are not greater atheists in the world than carnal scholars that have a great deal of light, but no grace. It is sad to hear of such a Christ and feel nothing: John xvii. 17, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. They who are able to understand the word, but to no purpose, must needs doubt of the truth of it.

Use. 2. To press Christians to grow in knowledge, that they may enter upon eternal life by degrees: Hos. vi. 3, "Follow on to know the Lord." There is a growth in knowledge as well as grace. It is not so sensible in the very increase and progress as that of grace is; because growth in grace is always cum luctu, with some strife, but the work upon the understanding is more still and silent. Draw away the curtain, and the light cometh in, and our ignorance vanisheth silently, and without such strife as goeth to the taming of lusts and vile affections; yet afterwards it is sensible that we have grown: "Ye were darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord," Eph. v. 8; as a plant increaseth in length and stature, though we do not see the progress. We read of Jesus Christ that he grew in knowledge; we do not read that he grew in grace: he received the Spirit without measure, and nothing could be added to the perfection of his innocence. Yet it is said, Luke ii. 40, "The child grew;" and ver. 52, "Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man." The Godhead made out itself to him by degrees. Oh! let us increase. It is notable that Moses his first request to God was "Tell me thy name;" and afterward, "Show me thy glory," a more full manifestation of God. We should not always keep to our milk, our infant notions and apprehensions, but go on to a greater increase; it much advanceth your spiritual life, and will be an advantage to your eternal life. They have the highest visions of God hereafter, that know most of him here upon earth. They are vessels of a larger capacity; and though all be perfect, yet with a difference.

Now for means and directions, take these: -

1. Wait upon the preaching of the word. God appointed it, and hath given gifts to the church for this end and purpose. We should quicken one another: Isa. ii. 3, "Come and let us go up to the house of the Lord, and he will teach us his ways." God's grace is given in his own way. When men neglect and despise God's solemn institutions, they either grow brutish or fanatical, as we see by daily experience. Light as well as flame is kept in by the breath of preaching. By long attention you grow skilful in the word of righteousness. Men that despise the word may be more full of crotchets and curiosities, but that light is darkness. It is disputed which is the sense of learning, hearing or seeing. By the eye we see things, but must, by reason of innate ignorance, be taught how to judge of them.

2. You must read the word with diligence; that is every man's work that hath a soul to be saved. They that busy themselves in other books will not have such lively impressions: Ps. i. 2, "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night;" that must be our exercise, not play-books, stories, and idle sonnets. How many sacrilegious hours do many spend this way! Castae deliciae meae sunt scripturae tuae - Augustine. Nay, good books should not keep from the Scriptures. Luther in Gen. chap. xix. saith, Ego odi libros meos, et saepe opto eos interire, ne morentur lectores, et abducant a lectione ipsius scripturae. We should go to the fountain: 2 Tim. iii. 15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." We put a disparagement upon the word when we savour and relish human writings, though never so good and excellent, better than the word of God itself. This is the standing rule by which all doctrines must be confirmed; and you do not know what sweet, fresh, and savoury thoughts the Spirit of God may stir up in your own minds; for word-representations are not so taking as our own inward thoughts and discourses; these, like a draught of wine from the tap, are more fresh and lively. It is necessary, as I said before, to wait upon preaching, to hear what others can say out of the Scriptures; but it is good to read too, that we may preach to ourselves. Every man is fittest to commune with his own heart; and that conviction which doth immediately arise out of the word is more prevalent. A man can be angry with any preacher but conscience. In another, when a matter is expressed to our case, we are apt to suspect the mixture of passion and private aims; but read thyself, and what thoughts are stirred up upon thy reading will be most advantageous to thee. Besides, those that are studious of the word have this sensible advantage, that they have the promises, the doctrines, the examples of the word more familiar and ready with them upon all cases. It is said of one, that he was a living bible and a walking library, biblos empsuchos, kai mousaion peripatoun; such a Christian is a walking concordance. And whereas other Christians are weak, unsettled in comfort or opinion, these have always Scriptures ready. And let me tell you, in the whole work of grace you will find no weapon so effectual as the sword of the Spirit, as Scriptures readily and seasonably urged. Therefore no diligence here is too much. If you would not be barren and sapless in discourse with others, if you would not be weak and comfortless in yourself, read the Scriptures, that you may bring sic scriptum est upon every temptation, and urge the solid grounds of our comfort. I speak the more in so plain a point, because I would make men more conscionable, both in their closets and families, in this point, that they may not only have recourse to learned helps, and books of a human original, but to the word itself.

3. The Scriptures must be read with prayer. We must plough with God's heifer if we would understand his riddle; we must beg the Spirit's help. The Spirit is the best interpreter: bene orasse, est bene studuisse. Every minister findeth prayer to be his best comment. So should you pray before and after reading the Scriptures, as you do before and after you receive your bodily food. You do not know how prayer will clear up the eyes: Ps. cxix. 18, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." There is some excellency in the letter of the Scriptures; but this is nothing to what we see by the Spirit; it will make a man wonder at the excellency, efficacy, consonancy of these truths; a man seeth far more than ever he saw before. The Spirit is needful both to open the heart and to open the Scriptures: Luke xxiv. 32, "Did not our hearts burn when he opened to us the Scriptures? compared with ver. 45, "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. To understand the truth, and to give us an active and certain persuasion of it; to open the heart, Acts xvi. 14, inclining it to obedience, giving in light, that works a ready assent and firm persuasion, bringing forward the heart with power to obedience. In dark places and difficult cases, when you have no certainty, you should "cry for knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding;" as the blind man that cried to Jesus, "Lord! that I might receive my sight," Mark x. 52.

4. Study the creatures. God is known out of his word, but his works give us a sensible demonstration of him. You have David's night and day meditation. His night meditation: Ps. viii. 3, "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy hands, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained." Not a word of the sun, the most noble creature: Ps. xix. 5, he speaks of the "going forth of the sun like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race;" that is his morning meditation. When we walk out in the night or morning, we may think of God, view his stupendous works. The heathens had no other bible. Consider that the huge weight of the earth hangeth on nothing, like a ball in the air: Job xxiii. 7, "He stretcheth out the north upon the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing." Consider the beauty of the heavens, with their ornaments; the bounding of the sea; the artifice in the frame of the smallest creatures, the excellent ministries, and subordination of the services of the creatures one to another, etc.

5. Spiritualise every outward advantage, so as to raise your hearts in the contemplation of God. As when we observe the wisdom of a father, or the bowels of a mother, let us take occasion to exalt the love and care of God. As from a mother's bowels: Isa. xlix. 15, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee." From the wisdom of a father: Mat. vii. 11, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" Tam pater nemo, tam pius nemo. So the centurion mentions his own command and government when he desires Christ to put forth his power: Mat. viii. 8,9, "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." As if he should say, All sicknesses are at thy beck, as well as these soldiers at mine. In your carriage to your children, and theirs to you, you may sublimate your thoughts to consider of that commerce between you and God. So in the work of your callings; a little is useful for bringing great matters to pass; think of providence. I press this, because it will be a double advantage; it will keep the heart heavenly, and you will serve faith out of common experiences, and so it will help us in our notions of God; for if limited creatures go thus far, how much more excellent is God !

6. Purge your heart more and more from carnal affections; these are the clouds of the mind, as in fenny countries the air is seldom clear: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," Mat. v. 8. We usually look upon God through the glass of our own humours. Carnal men fancy the eternal essence as one of their society, and misfigure God in their thoughts.

7. The last is, in the progress of knowledge, or search of truth, beware of novelism: 2 Tim. iii. 14, "Continue thou in the things thou hast learnt and been assured of, knowing from whom thou hast learned them." There is as great care to keep what we have, as to gain more knowledge. The devil taketh advantage of our changes; when we renounce old errors, he bringeth man to question truth; as in public changes, when men shake off the ordinances of men, he stirreth up others to question the ordinances of God. And I have observed that some, out of a pretence of growing in knowledge, put themselves upon a flat scepticism and wary reservation, holding nothing certain for the present, but waiting for new light; such as these the apostle intendeth, 2 Tim. iii. 7, "Ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth;" they make profession of being studious in sacred things, but never come to any settlement, and are loath to hold to any punciples, lest they should shut the door upon new light. New light is become a dangerous word, especially now in the latter times; now we have a promise that "knowledge shall be increased," Dan. xii. 4. Aims at knowledge is the dangerous snare of these times, as the Gnostics pretended to more knowledge. This is a great snare. Satan promised more knowledge to our first parents: Gen. iii. 5, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil;" which example the apostle setteth before our eyes, 2 Cor. xi. 3, "But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." And he telleth us, "Satan turneth himself into an angel of light," ver. 13. 14.

Now for your direction know: -

1. Progress in knowledge is rather in degrees than parts; not in new truths, but greater proportions of light. Light respecteth the medium, truth the object. I say, it is rather, not altogether. A man may walk in present practices which future light may disprove and retract; but usually the increase of a Christian is rather in the measure of knowledge than difference of objects. Our old principles are improved and perfected: Prov. iv. 18, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day." To know God more, and Christ more, to be more practically skilful in the word of righteousness: Heb. v. 14, "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

2. That fundamentals in the Scripture are clear and certain. God hath not left us in the dark, but pointed out a clear way to heaven, of faith and good works: Eph. ii. 10, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." It is a disparagement to the word to make it an uncertain rule. The way to heaven is beaten, and we may observe the track and footprints of the flock. It is a good observation of Chrysostom, that the saints do not complain of the darkness of the Scripture, but of their own hearts: "Open thou mine eyes," not, "Make a new law."

3. These necessary doctrines must be entertained without doubt and hesitancy. It is dangerous when foundation-stones lie loose. We are pressed to "stand fast in the faith," 1 Cor. xvi. 13, and to hold the profession of it without wavering, Heb. x. 23; not to inquire after the gods of the nations, Deut. xii. 30; and Gal. i. 8, "Though an angel from heaven should preach any other doctrine to you than that which ye have heard, let him be accursed." The notion of new light chiefly aimeth at undermining the old doctrine of the Scriptures. For the main of religion, a man should be settled above doubt and contradiction. Till we have certainty there cannot be grace. The soul is not brought under the power of truth; for things that are controversial have no efficacy and force. The great hindrance of saving knowledge is that natural atheism, and those habituated doubts which are found in the heart.

4. We must be zealous for lesser truths when we have received them upon certain grounds. Every piece and parcel of truth is precious; a little leaven of error is dangerous: Gal. v. 9, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Error fretteth like a gangrene, and grows still higher and higher. Men think it is enough to be careful of fundamentals; all other knowledge is but scientia oblectans, for delight, not safety. Oh! it is dangerous to stain the understanding, though you do not wound it. There are maculae and vulnera intellectus. It is dangerous to be wanton in opinions that seem to be of smaller concernment. Men that play with truth leave themselves open to more dangerous errors. Some say, Fundamentals are few; believe them, and live well, and you are saved. This is as if a man in building should be only careful to lay a good foundation, no matter for roof, windows, or walls. If a man should untile your house, and tell you the foundation, the main buttresses are safe, you would not be pleased. Why should we be more careless in spiritual things?

5. Take up no practices nor principles but upon full conviction. This imposeth a necessity of often change, or at least of frequent doubting. Men do not search, but act out of blind obedience, and then they are liable to seduction: 1 Thes. v. 21, "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." It is a pertinacy, not a constancy, when I have no clear warrant. A Christian should be able to give an answer to every man that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear, 1 Peter iii. 15; otherwise we shall never be able to secure our practices and opinions against the objections in our own hearts, and answer the sophister in our own bosoms.

Secondly, Observe that no knowledge is sufficient to life eternal but the knowledge of God and Christ.

I am to prove -(1.) No other knowledge is sufficient; (2.) How far this is enough for such an end and purpose.

The Scripture asserts both, for the words are exclusive and assertive; there is no other knowledge, and this is sufficient.


No other knowledge is sufficient to life eternal.

I shall prove it by two arguments

[1.] Out of Christ we cannot know God.

The Gentiles had to gnoston, something that was known of God, Rom. i. 19, 20, which served to leave them without excuse, but not to save their souls. The apostle instanceth in such attributes as are obvious, but more terrible than comfortable, as eternity, power, etc. They had some loose thoughts of his Godhead and power, but no distinct view of his essence; that is reserved for the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the picture of Christ, and Christ is the image of the Father: 2 Cor. iv. 4, "Lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them. God never made out himself to the world in that latitude and greatness as he hath done to the world in Christ. In Christ's person and kingdom the majesty of God is known; in the divine power of his operations, the strength of God; in the excellency of his benefits, the love of God. The wisest heathens, that hath no other glass than the book of the creatures whereby to dress up their apprehensions, could only see a first cause, a first mover, a being of beings, some great lord and governor of the order of the world, whom they mightily transformed and misfigured in their thoughts; they knew nothing distinctly of creation and providence, of the nature of worship, which is necessary; for whosoever is saved must not only know God's essence, but his will, for otherwise we shall but grope as the heathens did: Acts xvii. 27, "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they should feel after him, and find him. We cannot seek him to satisfaction.

[2.] Without Christ, no enjoying of God.

It must be such a knowledge as bringeth God and the soul together. Now between us and him there is a great gulf; all gracious commerce is broken off between God and the fallen creature: John xiv. 6, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." No free trade unto heaven but by Jacob's ladder: John i. 51, "Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." There is no access but by Christ; and so no salvation but by him: Acts iv. 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." In the fallen state of man there is need of a mediator. In innocency we might immediately converse with God: God loved his own image. What could a just and holy man fear from a just and holy God? But now, that of God's creatures we are made his prisoners, we can expect nothing of mercy, because he is just. Guilty nature presageth nothing but evil: om. i. 32, "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death." The great question the world is, Wherewith shall I appease him, to give his justice content and satisfaction? Micah vi. 8. In all the inventions of men, they could never find out a sufficient ransom to expiate sin, to reconcile God, to sanctify human nature, that we might have commerce with heaven.

2. The sufficiency of this knowledge.

For understanding of this, you must know that all breviates, where religion is reduced to a few heads, must be enlarged according to the just extent of the rule of faith; as in the commandments, where all moral duties are reduced to ten words; so in the summaries of the gospel, far more is intended than is expressed.

As for instance, there are two things in the text - the means and the object; the means, "know;" the object, "thee," and "Jesus Christ."

1. The means, "know." It implieth acknowledgment, faith, fear, reverence, love, worship, and the glorifying God in our conversations. For it is easy to prove out of Scripture the necessary concurrence of all these things in their order and place. For if I know God to be the only true God, I must fear, reverence, and obey him, or else I do not glorify him as God; as it is said of the heathens, Rom. i. 21, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God." It is not a naked sight of his essence that will save a man: I must know him for a practical end, to choose him, and carry myself to him as an all-sufficient portion: I must honour him as the giver of all things; revere and worship him as the just governor of the world; and live purely, as he is pure; and worship him in a way suitable to the infiniteness, perfectness, and simplicity of his nature. A man is not saved by holding a right opinion of God. A man may be a Christian in opinion and a pagan in life. So if I know Jesus Christ to be sent of God as mediator, I am to close with him, receive him as such by an active faith: Acts iv. 12, "There is no salvation in any other;" not only by no other, but in him; it noteth union and close adherence, and not only that I should be of this opinion. As when a man is ready to perish in the floods, it is not enough to see land, but he must reach it, stand upon it, if he would be safe; so we must get into the ark; many saw it and scoffed, but all others were drowned in that general wrack that were not in it. There was no security for the manslayer till he got into the city of refuge: Phil. iii. 9, "That I may be found in him." It is not enough to cry, Lord, Lord; to have a naked opinion, or general and loose desires.

2. For the object, "To know thee the only true God." There are many articles comprised that are necessary to salvation; as that God is but one: Deut. vi. 4, "Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord." One in three persons: 1 John v.7, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." This God is a spirit: John iv. 24, "God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." He is holy, just, infinite, the creator of all things; that he upholdeth all things in his eternal decree, raising some to glory, leaving others, by their sins, to come to judgment: Rom. ix. 22, 23, "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?" All these articles concerning God. So concerning Christ, that he is the second person, incarnate, anointed to be a Saviour, "to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment, John xvi. 8. Of man's misery by nature, redemption by Christ, necessity of holiness, as a foundation of glory; all the articles of the practical catechism. It is a pestilent opinion to think that every man may be saved if he do in the general acknowledge Christ. It is said, Acts ii. 21, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved;" not "on the Lord," but "on the name of the Lord." By the name of the Lord is meant all that which shall be revealed to us of the Lord Jesus in the Scriptures. The meaning is, whosoever doth receive, acknowledge, and worship Christ, according to what the Scriptures do reveal and testify of him, shall be saved. Many think the differences of christendom vain, and this general faith enough; but if a general acknowledgment were enough, why hath God revealed so many things, and given us such an ample rule, if with safety to salvation we may be ignorant whether he were true God and true man; whether he redeemed us by satisfaction, or justified us by works, yea or no? They seem to tax the Scriptures of redundances, and the apostles of rash zeal, for disputing with such earnestness for the faith of the saints, as Paul against Justiciaries, James against the Antinomists and Libertines, if a general profession of Christ was enough. So they tax the martyrs of folly, that would shed their blood for less-concerning articles. So all be resolved into Christ, men think it is enough: we need not inquire into the manner of the application of his righteousness, the efficacy and merit of his passion; as if it were enough to hold a few generals, and the more implicit our faith the better. Whereas the Lord would have us to abound in knowledge; and if we persist in any particular error against light, or do not search it out, our case is dangerous, if not damnable. I shall not take upon me to determine what articles are absolutely necessary to salvation; it will be hard to define, and we know not by what rule to proceed. In the general, it is exceeding dangerous to lessen the misery of man's nature, the merit and satisfaction of Christ, or the care of good works; these are contrary to that doctrine which the Spirit teacheth and urgeth in the church: John xvi. 8, "When he is come, he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." All that can be certain is, that those opinions which are irreconcilable with the covenant of grace, or do overturn the pillar upon which it standeth, are irreconcilable with salvation.

Use 1. To confute them that say that every man shall be saved in his own religion, if he be devout therein, Turks, Jews, heathens; and among Christians, Papists, Socinians, etc. You see this is life eternal; and nothing else - no religion but that which teacheth rightly in Christ is a way of salvation. There is no salvation but 1 Cor. iii. 11, "For other foundation can no man lay than at is laid, which is Jesus Christ;" Acts iv. 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." There is no salvation by Christ but by faith and knowledge. They cannot have benefit by him, as some say, if they live only according to the law and light of nature: Heb. xi. 6, "Without faith it is impossible to please God;" and here it is said, "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." The heathens had many moral virtues, but unless God did reveal himself to them by extraordinary ways, which we cannot judge of, all their privilege was ut mitius ardeant, their works being but splendida peccata. If any now may be saved without Christ, Christ is dead in vain, and we may want the whole gospel and yet be safe; the philosophy of Aristotle and Seneca would be the way and power of God unto salvation, as well as the gospel. We must have a care lest, by going about to make them Christians, we make ourselves heathens.

Use 2. Let us bless God for the gospel, that revealeth God and Christ. Many nations are spilt on the world without any knowledge and Christ, and are as sheep, whom no man taketh up. Blessed be God for our privileges. When we look to the hole of the pit whence we were digged, we shall find ourselves as barbarous as others. Portenta diabolica pene Aegyptiaca numina Vincentia, saith Gildas of our idols. God threateneth Israel, Hosea ii. 3, "I will strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born." If we should despise the gospel, abuse the messengers of it, God will return us to our old barbarism; and we that were so shy of letting in popery, should usher in atheism. When the professors of the gospel were banished Cambridge, and Peter Martyr heard the sacring bell, he said, There is the gospel's passing bell. It would be sad if we should hear such a sound. The ministry (I may speak it without arrogancy) are the only visible party that uphold the life of religion in the land: the Lord knows what may be the sad fruits of their suppression, if either these lights should be extinguished by violence, or be starved for want of oil. Methinks our message should make our feet beautiful. We preach God and Christ. If we be a little earnest for the faith of the saints, remember it is for the good of your souls; it cannot be zeal for our interests, for this is the way to endanger them. Bear with us, it is in a case of salvation or damnation: "If we be besides ourselves, it is for Christ," 2 Cor. v. 13. If we seem to hazard all, many nations to whom God hath denied the mercy, would welcome it with all thanksgiving; when God hath opened a door of hope to the Indians, it may be it will be more precious.

Use 3. Study God in Jesus Christ.

This is the most glorious subject of contemplation; there we may find him infinitely just and yet merciful, pardoning sinners yet salving the authority of this law; there we may see God and man in one person, and the beams of divine majesty allayed by the veil of human nature. In the godhead of Christ we may see his power, in his human nature his love and condescension. He is our Lord, and yet our brother; a man, and yet God's fellow and equal: Zech. xiii. 7, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts." He would have a mother on earth, that we might have a Father in heaven; our relation and alliance to heaven groweth by him. In Christ only can we look upon God as a father: Deum absolutum debent omnes fugere qui non volunt perire; otherwise we shall perish, and be overwhelmed with despair. Again, non solum periculosum est, sed etiam horribile, de Deo extra Christum cogitare. In trials and temptations it is dangerous to think of God alone, to consider him out of Christ; but here infinite majesty condescendeth to converse with you. The Indian gymnosophists would lie on their backs, and gaze on the sun all day. Oh! how should we, by the deliberate gaze of faith, reflect upon this mega mysterion, 1 Tim. iii. 16, this glorious mystery, fit for angels to look into! Only get an interest in it, or else it will be more cold and comfortless; thy God and thy Christ, that is another thing when thou canst own God as thy father and Christ as thy brother. Luther saith, Deus magis cognoscitur in praedicamento relationis quam in praedicamento substantiae - To know God in relation to us is far sweeter than to be able curiously to discourse of his essence: John xiv. 20, "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." When we know God in Christ, and Christ in us, this is to know him indeed; not only by hearsay, but acquaintance, to know him so as to love him, and enjoy him.

Use 4. To press us to seek salvation in no other but in God through Christ.

Come to Christ; you are in need of salvation, and there is no other way: Acts iv. 12, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour, "able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God through him," Heb. vii. 25, a plaster broad enough for every sore. Do you cast yourselves upon him; see if he will refuse you: John vi. 37, "He that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast off."

Now I shall come to the particulars that are to be known concerning God and Christ.

First, Concerning God.

Doct 1. That there is a God.

This is the supreme truth, and first to be known: Heb. xi. 6, "They that come to God must believe that he is." The discussion is not needless. Though it be impossible to deface those impressions of the deity which are engraven upon our hearts, yet the drift of our desires and thoughts goeth this way, as if there were no God: Ps. x. 4, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts." All his thoughts are, There is no God: Ps. xiv. 1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Though he durst not speak it out, yet he saith it in his heart, he entertaineth some such suspicious thoughts and desires about this matter. Those that are guilty of treason would fain destroy the court-rolls; so carnal men would destroy all memorials of God. Yea, many of the children of God feel this temptation. Is there a God? It will not be lost labour to answer the inquiry. I shall pitch upon such arguments as are every man's money.

1. God is evidenced by his works: -

[1.] Of creation. The world is a great book and volume, the creatures are letters, the most excellent are capital letters. If you cannot read, the beasts will teach you: Job xii. 7, 8, "Ask now the beasts, and they will teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?" The mute fishes, that can hardly make any sound, have voice enough to proclaim their creator. The apostle tells us, Rom. i. 20, "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead." Like Phidias, who in his image carved his own name, there is God engraven upon every creature. But how doth the world show that there is a God? There must be some supreme and infinite cause, for nothing can be cause to itself; then it would be before it is. Aristotle acknowledged proton aition, a first cause. Every house must have a builder, and this curious fabric an infinitely wise architect. Thou that deniest God, or doubtest of his being, look upon the heavens: Ps. xix. 1, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." His glory shineth in the sun, and sparkles in the stars. The sun is a representative of God in the brightness of his beams, extent of his influence, indefatigableness of his motion. All the motions of the creatures are so many pulses, by which we may feel after God.

[2.] By works of providence. The world is made up of things of different and destructive natures, and all that we now see would soon run into disorder and confusion were it not poised and tempered with a wise hand; and when we are stupid, and do not mind these things, providence discovereth itself in judgments and unwonted operations: Ps. lviii. 11, "So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

2. From the confession and common consent of all nations, even those that have been most rude and barbarous, there is none without some worship. The pagan mariners, Jonah i. 5, "were afraid, and cried every man unto his god." Those that were most estranged from human society, those that lived in the wilderness without law and government, have been touched with a sense of a deity and godhead; which must arise from natural instinct. It cannot be any deceit, or imposition of fancy, by custom and tradition, falsehood usually not being so universal and long-lived. Men do what they can to blot out these notions and instincts of conscience. An invention so contrary to nature would have been long ere this worn out.

3. From our own consciences, that appall the stoutest sinner after the commitment of any gross evil. The heathens, that had but a little light, feared death: Rom. i. 32, "They, knowing the judgment of God, that they that do such things are worthy of death, etc.; and "they had thoughts excusing and accusing one another," Rom. ii. 14, 15. As letters written with the juice of a lemon, hold them to the fire; they may be read. What terrors are in the hearts of wicked men after the commitment of sins against light, as incest, murder, promiscuous lusts, contemptuous speaking of God or his worship! Though their sins were secret, hidden under a covert of darkness and secrecy, and not liable to any human cognisance, yet they still feared an avenging hand: their hearts have been upon them. Yea, atheists smitten with horror, what they deny in the day, they acknowledge in, the darkness of the night, especially in distress. Diagoras, troubled with the strangury, acknowledged a deity. Or a little before death, their hearts are filled with trembling and horror.

4. From several experiences. The power of the word: 1 Cor. xiv. 25, "Thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." There is some God guideth these men. There are devils, and they would undo all were they not bound up with the chains and restraints of an irresistible providence. God suffereth them now and then to discover their malice, that we may see by whose goodness we do subsist. So there are virtues, which must be by some institution, or by comformity to a supreme being, or a sense of his law. They cannot be out of any eternal reason, which is in the things themselves, nor by the appointment of man's will; for then everything which man willeth would be good. Many arguments might be brought to this purpose, but I am shortly to handle this argument elsewhere.

By way of use.

1. Let us charge it upon our hearts, that we may check those private whispers and suspicions which are there against the being and glory of God. Many times we are apt to think that God is but a fancy, religion a state curb, and the gospel but a quaint device to please fond and foolish men; and all is but talk to hold men in awe. Oh! consider, in such truths as these we do not appeal to Scripture, but nature. You will never be able to recover your consciences out of this dread. The devils are under the fear of a deity: James ii. 19, "Thou believest that there is one God, thou doest well; the devils also believe I tremble." The devil can never be a flat atheist, because of the of the wrath of God tormenting him; he is not an atheist, because cannot be one, it cannot stand with the state of a damned angel; there may be atheists in the church, but there are none in hell. Humble thyself for such atheistical thoughts and suggestions. It is a sin irrational; all the creatures confute it: Ps. lxxiii. 22, "So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee;" when he had an ill thought of providence. When you go about to ungod God, you unman yourselves. Common sense and reason would teach you otherwise. Thoughts and desires that strike at the being of God are thoughts of a dangerous importance. Oh! what a foul heart have I, that casteth up such mire and dirt! Wrath came upon the Jews to the uttermost for killing Christ in his human nature; but these are thoughts that strike at God, and Christ, and all together.

2. It reproveth those that wish down, or live down this principle. Some wish it down: Ps. xiv. 1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There no God." It is his desire rather than his thoughts. It is a pleasant thing for them to imagine that there is none to call them to an account. Guilty men would fain destroy the righteous God, which is an argument of the worst hatred. Some live it down: Titus i. 16, "In works they deny him." It is the real language of their lives that there is no God. There is no greater temptation to atheism than the life of a scandalous professor. One surprised a Christian in an act of filthiness and cried out, Christiane! Christiane! ubi Deus tuus? - O Christian ! Christian ! where is thy God? There are few atheists in opinion, more in affection, most in conversation of life. You live in deceit and cozenage, and yet profess to believe an omniscient God; and your privy walkings are full of sin and excess. There is blasphemy in your lives: Rev. ii. 9, "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Mr Greenham tells of one who was executed at Norwich for an atheist; first he was a papist, then a protestant; then he fell off from all religion and turned atheist. How can you believe it is true that there is a God, when this truth hath so little power on the heart?

3. It presseth you to lay this principle up with care. All Satan's malice is to bring you to a denial of this supreme truth; it is good to discern his wiles. There are special seasons when you are most liable to atheism. When providence is adverse, prayers are not heard, and that worship God are in the worst case; the Lord doth not come in when we would have him. The devil worketh upon our stomach and discontent; and when we are vexed that we have not our desires, we complain, as Israel, Exod. xvii. 7, "Is the Lord among us or no?" when they wanted water. But still "our God is in the heavens, and doth whatsoever he pleaseth." The saints in their expostulation still yield the principle: Ps. lxxiii. 1, "Truly God is good to Israel; however the state of things are, yet he is resolved to hold to principles. So Jer. xii. 1, he layeth it down as an undoubted maxim, "Righteous art thou, O God." God is God still. So when we meet with oppression, men pervert judgment, others forswear themselves, our innocency doth not prevail, the devil abuseth the rage of passions in such a case. As Diagoras, a noted atheist among the heathens, became so upon this occasion: he saw a man deeply forswearing himself, and yet was not stricken with a thunderbolt. Consider, though this be a sure temptation, yet there is a God: Eccles, iii. 16, 17, "I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there." What then? "I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time for every purpose and for every work." God will have a time to judge this matter ere long. Still recover your supreme principle out of the hands of the temptation. So in times of general oppression, when the innocent party are left as a prey to their adversaries: Eccles. v. 8, "When thou seest the violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for he that is higher than the highest regardeth, and there be higher than they." We may lose all outward supports, but not our God. Attamen vivit Christus, et regnat. So when second causes operate and accomplish their wonted effects according to their fixed and stated course, "All things continue as they were," 2 Peter iii. 4, they think the world is governed by chance or nature; so this proveth a snare. But you should see God at the other end of causes; he can change them as he pleaseth.

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