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he then appeared in a form expressive of his majesty, power, and providence, requisite for the ordering all the great events that should befal it: and said, “ I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I live for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death :" wherein he appropriates to himself the incommunicable titles of the Deity; and then declares those two astonishing miracles, that the Prince of Life, who had an eternal principle of it in himself, was dead; and that one who had been dead, was alive. This riddle the Gospel unfolds; the Son of God was made man, and by that admirable union allied eternity and time, life and death together. As it is a common form of speech, that a man dies when the body is deprived of life, though the soul be immortal ; so it was true, the Son of God died when his body was crucified, though he was incapable of the least diminution of his divine life. And after three days he rose by the divine power to enjoy an immortal life; " and have the keys of hell, and death." The irresistible force of death all men must yield to, and from the grave there is no redemption by finite power. But Jesus Christ has sovereign authority and power to open the grave, and raise the dead to a happy immortality. This glorious appearance made St. John to fall as dead at his feet, and could not recover himself, till assured by the reviving words of his favour.
The Spirit also appeared from heaven to give testimony concerning the divine person and office of Christ: first, by descending as a dove on him when he was baptized. This was the completion of the
prophecy : “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to publish deliverance to the captives.” And in the second of the Acts, the Spirit descended in the form of fiery tongues upon the apostles, to qualify them for preaching the Gospel to the world : and it is worthy of observation, that the apostles were before this very defective in wisdom and courage, so that their divine Master, though goodness itself, yet taxed them for their stupidity, and in his sufferings they all forsook him. But after the effusion
. of the Spirit upon them, they were endued with that admirable wisdom and resolution, that nothing could gainsay and overcome. They presently spake in various languages the things concerning Jesus Christ, that the world was astonished, and many converted by this testimony from God, for the honour of our Saviour, and others confounded in their obstinacy. Now, since this miraculous descent of the Spirit was to ratify the promise that he made to them, “ If I go away, I will send to you another Comforter;" what more clear and valuable testimony can we have that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world? If infidelity should reply, if we had heard these voices, and seen those glorious visions, we should be convinced ; but what assurance have we there is no deceit in these relations? I answer, there never was clearer ground of the belief of any thing done without the compass of our own senses, than of what the apostles testify, as hath been evidently proved before. And certainly as those who saw and heard those things, were by the divine characters in the external objects, and by their efficacy on their spirits, fully persuaded
they were not deceived ; so we have as strong proofs
; that they did not deceive us in their reports.
I shall briefly consider the other testimonies. " And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree
in one. The Spirit is to be considered in two different manners in the testimonies attributed to him, either in respect of those representations by a dove and fiery tongues, or in respect of his virtues and influences communicated to the Christian church: the first was his testimony from heaven; the second his testimony on earth. And these were his extraordinary gifts, so liberally dispensed at the first preaching of the Gospel: “ To one was given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith;" that is, extraordinary confidence in the divine power, for the producing miraculous effects; “ to another, the gift of healing; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues.” Now, because these operations more eminently declare the presence and power of the Spirit than his ordinary graces, they are called by that name. For understanding the second witness, the water, two things are observable.
1. That in the rituals of Moses, frequent washings were enjoined, for the purifying of the Jews from legal pollutions contracted by them. And as those corporeal stains were resemblances of the vicious habits of the mind; so the cleansing by water was typical of sanctifying grace, that purifies the heart. And for this reason, under the new covenant, to re
present the sanctification of Christians by an outward sign, baptism in water was appointed.
2. The Apostle John, in the narrative of the sufferings of Christ, tells us that a soldier pierced his side with a spear, so that “ blood and water came out." This is not recited by St. John merely as a circumstance of the history, or as a certain proof of his death, but the following words, “ He that saw this, testifies it, and his testimony is worthy of belief; and he knows that he says true, that you may believe," declare it to be of singular consequence. And, accordingly he says, " that our Saviour came by water and blood,” with respect to that which was done at his crucifixion, which was so ordered by divine wisdom for high ends: that is, the water issuing out of his side, was a fit emblem of that sanctifying grace that is given to all that have communion with him in his death.
3. For the testimony of the blood, it is also to be observed, that by the Mosaic institution, daily sacrifices were offered up; and a most solemn one, by the high-priest in the day of atonement, to expiate the guilt of ceremonial uncleanness, and to restore those who, for that, were excluded from external communion with God in the sanctuary. Now, as that legal guilt arising from those outward pollutions, and the separation of those who were so polluted, from the service of God, was a representation of the moral guilt and punishment that follows the vicious habits and actions of men; so the shedding of the blood of the sacrifice and offering, was typical of the true propitiation that was to be made by the blood of Christ. And this is peculiarly remarked by the Apostle, that “ Jesus came not only by water, but by water and blood; and it is the Spirit that testifies of it, and the Spirit is the truth.” By which we must understand something distinct from the former, that is, that the flowing of his blood signified the reconciling efficacy of his death, by satisfying divine justice, and, consequently, the remission of sins given to those who believe in him.
Now briefly, to show the force of their conspiring testimony, that Jesus is the Son of God and our Redeemer, these things may be considered absolutely in themselves, or as the accomplishment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. In the last respect, they afford us a great assurance of this truth. For all was expressly foretold: “ And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and
old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophecy.” This promise was universally acknowledged to refer to the coming of the Messiah. For that of water, (that is, sanctification) not only the washings under the law were figures of it, but it was also clearly prophesied of in many places, and most expressly in Ezekiel, “ I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness will I cleanse you. heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will put my Spirit within you,
I and cause you to walk in my statutes." And for the third testimony, besides that the typical blood of the Messiah ran down from all the sacrifices, it