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lives, unto whom he is thus precious, is to acquaint themselves with him, the mystery of the wisdom, grace and love of God, in his person and mediation, as revealed unto us in the Scripture, which is “life eternal,” John xvii. 3. to trust in him, and unto him, as unto all the everlasting concernments of their souls, to love and honour bim with all their hearts, to endeavour after conformity unto him, in all those characters of divine goodness and holiness, which are represented unto them in him. In these things consist the soul, life, power, beauty and efficacy of Christian religion, without which, whaterer outward ornaments may be put upon ils exercise, it is but an useless, lifeless carcase. The whole of this design is expressed in those heavenly words of the apostle, Phil. iii. 8– 12. “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead: not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” This is a divine expression of that frame of heart, of that design which is predominant and efficacious in them unto whom Christ is precious.
But, on the other hand, according unto the forementioned prediction, as he hath been a sure foundation unto all that believe; so he hath in like manner been a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, unto them that stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereud to they also were appointed. There is nothing in him, nothing wherein he is concerned, nothing of him, his person, his natures, his office, his grace, his love, his power, his authority, his relation unto the church, but it bath been unto many a stone of stumbling and rock of offence. Concerning these things have been all the woful contests, which have fallen out, and been managed among those that outwardly have made profession of the Christian religion. And the contentions about them do rather increase than abate, unto this very day; the dismal fruits whereof the world groaneth under, and is no longer able to bear. For as the opposition unto the Lord Christ in these things by men of perverse minds, hatb ruined their own souls, as having dashed themselves in pieces against this everlasting Rock ; so, in conjunction with other lusts and interests of the carnal minds of mer, it hath filled the world itself with blood and confusion.
The re-enthroning of the person, spirit, grace, and authority of Christ in the hearts and consciences of men, is the only way whereby an end may be put unto these woful conflicts. But this is not to be expected in any degree of perfection, amongst them who stumble at this stone of offence, whereunto they are appointed, though in the issue he will herein also send forth judgment unto victory, and all the meek of the earth shall follow after it. In the mean time, as those unto whom he is thus a rock of offence, in his person, his spirit, his grace, his office and authority, are diligent and restless, (in their various ways and forms, in lesser or higher degrees, in secret artifices, or open contradictions unto any or all of them, under various pretences, and for divers ends, even secular advantages some of them, which the craft of Satan hath prepared for the ensnaring of them) in all the ways of opposition unto his glory; so it is the highest duty of them unto whom he is precious, whose principal design is to be found built on him as the sure foundation; as to hold the truth concerning him, (his person, spirit, grace, office, and authority) and to abound in all duties of faith, love, trust, honour and delight in him ; so also to declare his excellency, to plead the cause of his glory, to vindicate his honour, and to witness him as the only rest and reward of the souls of men, as they are called and have opportunity.
This and no other is the design of the ensuing treatise, wherein as all things fall unspeakably short of the glory, excellency, and sublimity of the subjects treated of, (for no mind can conceive, no tongue can express the real substantial glory of them), so there is no doubt but that in all the parts of it, there is a reflection of failings and imp ections from the weakness of its author. But yet I must say with confidence, that in the whole, that eternal truth of God concerning the mystery of his wisdom, love, grace, and power, in the person and mediation of Christ, with our duties towards himself therein, even the Father, Son, and eternal Spirit, is pleaded and vindicated, which shall never be shaken by the utmost endeavours and oppositions of the gates of hell.
And in the acknowledgment of the truth concerning these things consists that faith, in an especial manner, which was the life and glory of the primitive church, which they earnestly contended for, wherein and whereby they were victorious against all the troops of stumbling adversaries, by whom it was assaulted. In giving testimony hereunto, they loved not their lives unto death, but poured out their blood like water, under all the Pagan persecutions, which had no other design but to cast them down and separate them from this impregnable rock, this precious foundation. In the defence of these truths did they conflict in prayers, studies, travels, and writings, against the swarms of seducers, by whom they were opposed. And for this cause I thought to have confirmed the principal passages of the ensuing discourse with some testimonies from the most ancient writers of the first ages of the church; but I omitted that course, as fearing that the interposition of such passages might obstruct instead of promoting the edification of the common sort of readers, which I principally intended. Yet withal I thought not good utterly to neglect that design, but to give at least a specimen of their sentiments about the principal truths pleaded for, in this preface to the whole. But herein also I met with a
disappointment: for the bookseller having, unexpectedly to me, finished the printing of the discourse itself, I must be contented to make use of what lieth already collected under my hand, not having leisure or time to make any farther inquiry.
I shall do something of this nature the rather, because I shall have occa-. sion thereby to give a summary account of some of the principal parts of the discourse itself, and to clear some passages in it, which by some may be apprehended obscure.
Chap. I. The foundation of the whole is laid in the vindication of those words of our blessed Saviour, wherein he declares himself to be the Rock whereon the church is built, Matt. xvi. 18. “And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The pretended ambiguity of these words hath been wrested by the secular interests of men to give occasion unto that prodigious controversy among Christians, namely, Whether Jesus Christ or the Pope of Rome be the rock whereon the church is built? Those holy men of old unto whom Christ was precious, being untainted with the desires of secular grandeur and power, knew nothing hereof. Testimonies may be, they have been by others multiplied unto this purpose; I shall mention some few of them. Ούτος εσιν ή προς τ' πατέρα άγεσα οδός, η πέτρα, η κλείς, ο ποιμήν, &c. saith Ignatius Epist. ad Philadelph. “He (that is, Christ) is the way leading unto the Father the Rock, the Key, the Shepherd,”* wherein he hath respect unto this testimony. And Origen expressly denies the words to be spoken of Peter, in Matth. xvi. Tract. 1. Quod si super unum illum Petrum tantum existimes totam ecclesiam ædificari, quid dicturus es de Johanne, et apostolorum unoquoque? num audebimus dicere quod adversus Petrum unum non prevalituræ sunt portæ inferorum ? "If you shall think that the whole church was built on Peter alone, what shall we say of John, and each of the apostles ? What! shall we dare to say that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Peter only ?” So he, according unto the common opinion of the ancients, that there was nothing peculiar in the confession of Peter, and the answer made thereunto, as unto himself, but that he spake and was spoken unto in the name of all the rest of the apostles. Euseb. Preparat. Evangel. lib. Ι. cap. 3. ητε ονομασία προβεσπισθεισα εκκλησία αυτά έςηκε κατά βάδους ερριζωμένη, και μεχρις ουρανίων αψίδων ευχαίς οσίων και θεοφιλών ανδρών μετεωριζομένη-διά μίαν εκεινην ήν αυτός απεφήνατο λέξν, ειπων, επί την πέτραν οικοδομήσο με την εκκλησίαν, και πύλαι άδε ου κατισχύσεσιν αυτής. “ This his church that was foretold by name, stood rooted upon the foundation, and hitherto exalted
* The publisher, to do justice to the Author, and those who are acquainted with the languages, has continued all the Greek and Latin sentences which were inserted by the author ; but, at the same time, has added, for the benefit of the readers who are not acquainted with these languages, a translation of them, in turned commas, especially in the preface, where most of them are to be found.
to the poles of heaven, by the prayers of holy men, and lovers of God.Concerning this same one word which he declareth, saying, Upon this Rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He proves the verity of divine predictions from the glorious accomplishment of that word and promise of our Saviour, that he would build his church on the Rock, (that is, himself,) so as that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. For Unum hoc est immobile fundamentum, una hæc est felix fidei Petra, Petri ore confessa, tu es filius Dei vivi, saith Hilar. de Trin. lib. 2. “This is the only immovable foundation ; this is the blessed rock of faith, confessed by Peter-Thou art the Son of the living God.” And Epiphanus Hær. 39. évi tħ mérpa taúrn ons dopados πίσεως οικοδομήσω με την εκκλησίαν; «Upon this rock of assured faith I will build my church." For many thought that faith itself was metonymically called the rock, because of its object, of the person of Christ which is so.
One or two more out of Austin shall close these testimonies. Super hanc petram, quam confessus es, super meipsum filium Dei vivi, ædificabo ecclesiam meam. Super me ædificabo te, non me super te; De verbis Dom. Ser. 13. “Upon this rock which thou hast confessed, upon myself the Son of the living God, I will build my church. I will build thee upon myself, and not myself on thee.” And he more fully declareth his mind, Tract. 124. In Johan. Ecclesia in hoc seculo diversis lentationibus, velut imbribus, fluminibus, tempestatibusque quatitur, et non cadit; quoniam fundatu est supra petram ; unde at petrus nomen accepil. Non enim a Petro petra, sed Petrus a petra ; sicut non Christus a Christiano, sed Christianus a Christo vocatur. Ideo quippe ait Dominus super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam, quia dixerat Petrus, tu es Christus filius Dei vivi; super hanc ergo (inquit) petram quam confessus es, edificabo ecclesiam meam. Petra emim erat Christus, supra quod fundamentum etiam ipse ædificatus est Petrus ; fundamentum quippe aliud nemo potest ponere, præter id quod positum est, quod est Jesus Christus. “The church in this world is shaken with divers temptations, as with showers, floods and tempests, yet falleth not, because it is built on the rock (Petra) from whence Peter took his name. For the rock is not called Petra from Peter, but Peter is so called from Petra the rock; as Christ is not so called from Christian, but Christian from Christ. Therefore, said the Lord, Upon this rock I will build my church, because Peter hath said, Thou art Christ the Son of the living God. Upon this Rock, which thou hast confessed, will I build my church. For Christ himself was the rock on which foundation Peter himself was built. For no other foundation can no man lay, save that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
CHAP. II. Against this rock, this foundation of the church the person of Christ, and the faith of the church concerning it, great opposition hath been made by the gates of hell, not to mention the rage of the Pagan world endeavouring by all effects of violence and cruelty to cast the church from this foundation; all the heresies wherewith, from the beginning, and for some centuries of years ensuing, it was pestered, consisted in direct and immediate oppositions unto the eternal truth concerning the person of Christ. Some that are so esteemed indeed, never pretended unto any sobriety, but were mere effects of delirant imaginations ; yet did even they also one way or other derive from an hatred unto the person of Christ, and centered therein. Their beginning was early in the church, even before the writing of the gospel by John or his Revelations, and indeed before some of Paul's epistles. And although their beginning was but small, and seemingly contemptible, yet being full of the poison of the old serpent, they diffused themselves in various shapes and forms, until there was nothing left of Christ, nothing that related unto him, not his natures, divine or human, not their properties nor actings, not his person, nor the union of his natures therein that was not opposed and assaulted by them. Especially so soon as the gospel had subdued the Roman empire unto Christ, and was owned by the rulers of it, the whole world was for some ages filled with uproars, confusion, and scandalous disorders about the person of Christ through the cursed oppositions made thereunto by the gates of hell. Neither had the church any rest from these conflicts for about five hundred years. But near that period of time, the power of truth and religion beginning universally to decay among the outward professors of them, Satan took advantage to make that havock and destruction of the church by superstition, false worship, and profaneness of life, which he failed of in his attempt against the person of Christ, or the doctrine of truth concerning it.
It would be a tedious work, and it may not be of much profit unto them who are utterly unacquainted with things so long past and gone, wherein they seem to have no concernment, to give a specimen of the several heresies whereby attempts were made against this rock and foundation of the church; unto those who have inquired into the records of antiquity, it would be altogether useless. For almost every page of them, at first view, presents the readers with an account of some one or more of them. Yet do I esteem it useful that the very ordinary sort of Christians should, at least in general, be acquainted with what hath passed in this great contest about the person of Christ from the beginning. For there are two things relating thereunto, wherein their faith is greatly concerned. For, first, There is evidence given therein unto the truth of those predictions of the Scripture wherein this fatal apostacy from the truth, and opposition unto the Lord Christ, are foretold : And, secondly, An eminent instance of his power and faithfulness in the disappointment and conquest of the gates of hell, in the management of this opposition. But they have been all reckoned up, and digested into methods of time and matter, by many learned men of old, and of late, so that I shall not in this occasional discourse, represent them unto the reader again. Only I shall give a brief account of the ways and means whereby they who retained the profession