Chapter II

Opposition made unto the Church as built upon the Person of Christ

There are in the words of our Saviour unto Peter concerning the
foundation of the church, a promise of its preservation, and a
prediction of the opposition that should be made thereunto. And,
accordingly, all things are come to pass, and carrying on towards a
complete accomplishment. For (that we may begin with the opposition
foretold) the power and policy of hell ever were, and ever will be,
engaged in opposition unto the church built on this foundation--that
is, the faith of it concerning his person, office, and grace, whereby
it is built on him. This, as unto what is past, concerneth matter of
fact, whereof, therefore, I must give a brief account; and then we
shall examine what evidences we have of the same endeavour at present.

The gates of hell, as all agree, are the power and policy of it, or
the actings of Satan, both as a lion and as a serpent, by rage and by
subtlety. But whereas in these things he acts not visibly in his own
person, but by his agents, he has always had two sorts of them
employed in his service. By the one he executes his rage, and by the
other his craft; he animates the one as a lion, the other as a
serpent. In the one he acts as the dragon, in the other as the beast
that had two horns like the lamb, but spake like the dragon. The first
is the unbelieving world; the other, apostates and seducers of all
sorts. Wherefore, this work is this kind is of a double nature;--the
one, an effect of his power and rage, acted by the world in
persecution--the other, of his policy and craft, acted by heretics in
seduction. In both he designs to separate the church from its

The opposition of the first sort he began against the person of
Christ immediately in his human nature. Fraud first he once attempted
in his temptation, (Matt.4,) but quickly found that that way he could
male no approach unto him. The prince of this world came, but had
nothing in him. Wherefore he retook himself unto open force, and, by
all means possible, sought his destruction. So also the more at any
time the church is by faith and watchfulness secured against
seduction, the more does he rage against it in open persecution. And
(for the example and comfort of the church in its conformity unto
Christ) no means were left unattempted that might instigate and
prepare the world for his ruin. Reproaches, contempt, scorn, false and
lying accusations--by his suggestions--were heaped on him on every
hand. Hereby, in the whole course of his ministry, he "endured the
contradiction of sinners against himself: " Heb.12:3. And there is
herein blessed provision made of inestimable consolation, for all
those who are "predestinated to be conformed unto his image," when God
shall help them by faith to make use of his example. He calls them to
take up his cross and follow him; and he has showed them what is in
it, by his own bearing of it. Contempt, reproach, despiteful usage,
calumnies, false accusations, wrestings of his words, blaspheming of
his doctrine, reviling of his person, all that he said and did as to
his principles about human government and moral oonversation,
encompassed him all his days. And he has assured his followers, that
such, and no other, (at least for the most part,) shall be their lot
in this world. And some in all ages have an experience of it in an
eminent manner. But have they any reason to complain? Why should the
servant look for better measure than the Master met withal? To be made
like unto him in the worst of evils, for his sake, is the best and
most honorable condition in this world. God help some to believe it!
Hereby was way made for his death. But, in the whole, it was
manifested how infinitely, in all his subtlety and malice, Satan falls
short of the contrivances of divine wisdom and power. For all that he
attained by effecting his death, in the hour of darkness, was but the
breaking of his own head, the destruction of his works, with the ruin
of his kingdom; and what yet remains to consummate his eternal misery,
he shall himself work out in his opposition unto the church. His
restless malice and darkness will not suffer him to give over the
pursuit of his rage, until nothing remains to give him a full entrance
into endless torments--which he hasteneth every day. For when he shall
have filled up the measure of his sins, and of the sins of the world
in being instrumental unto his rage, eternal judgment shall put all
things unto their issue. Through that shall he, with the world, enter
into everlasting flames--and the whole church, built on the rock, into
rest and glory.

No sooner did the Church of the New Testament begin to arise on this
foundation, but the whole world of Jews and gentiles set themselves
with open force to destroy it. And all that they contended with the
church about, was their faith and confession of it, that "Jesus was
the Christ, the Son of the living God." This foundation they would
cast it from, or exterminate it out of the earth. What were the
endeavours of the gates of hell in this kind--with what height of
rage, with what bloody and inhuman cruelties they were exercised and
executed--we have some obscure remembrance, in the stories that remain
from the martyrdom of Stephen unto the days of Constantine. But
although there be enough remaining on record, to give us a view of the
insatiable malice of the old murderer, and an astonishing
representation of human nature degenerating into his image in the
perpetration of all horrid, inhuman cruelties yet is it all as nothing
in comparison of that prospect which the last day will give of them,
when the earth shall disclose all the blood that it has received, and
the righteous Judge shall lay open all the contrivances for its
effusion, with the rage and malice wherewith they were attended. The
same rage continueth yet unallayed in its principles. And although God
in many places restrain and shut it up in his providence, by the
circumstances of human affairs, yet--as it has the least advantage, as
it finds any door open unto it--it endeavours to act itself in lesser
or higher degrees. But whatever dismal appearance of things there may
be in the world, we need not fear the ruin of the church by the most
bloody oppositions. Former experiences will give security against
future events. It is built on the rock, and those gates of hell shall
not prevail against it.

The second way whereby Satan attempted the same end, and yet
continueth so to do, was by pernicious errors and heresies. For all
the heresies wherewith the church was assaulted and pestered for some
centuries of years, were oppositions unto their faith in the person of
Christ. I shall briefly reflect on the heads of this opposition,
because they are now, after a revolution of so many ages, lifting up
themselves again, though under new vizards and pretences. And they
were of three sorts:--

1. That which introduced other doctrines and notions of divine
things, absolutely exclusive of the person and mediation of Christ.
Such was that of the Gnostic, begun as it is supposed by Simon the
magician. A sort of people they were, with whom the first churches,
after the decease of the apostles, were exceedingly pestered, and the
faith of many was overthrown. For instead of Christ and God in him
reconciling the world unto himself, and the obedience of faith thereon
according unto the Gospel, they introduced endless fables,
genealogies, and conjugations of deities, or divine powers; which
practically issued in this, that Christ was such an emanation of light
and knowledge in them as made them perfect--that is, it took away all
differences of good and evil, and gave them liberty to do what they
pleased, without sense of sin, or danger of punishment. This was the
first way that Satan attempted the faith of the church, viz., by
substituting a perfecting light and knowledge in the room of the
person of Christ. And, for aught I know, it may be one of the last
ways whereby he will endeavour the accomplishment of the same design.
Nor had I made mention of these pernicious imaginations which have
lain rotting in oblivion for so many generations, but that some again
endeavour to revive them, at least so far as they were advanced and
directed against the faith and knowledge of the person of Christ.

2. Satan attempted the same work by them who denied his divine nature-

  • that is, in effect, denied him to be the Son of the living God, on the faith whereof the church is built. And these were of two sorts:--

    (1.) Such as plainly and openly denied him to have any preexistence
    unto his conception and birth of the holy Virgin. Such were the
    Ebionites, Samosatanians, and Photinians. For they all affirmed him to
    be a mere man, and no more, though miraculously conceived and born of
    the Virgin, as some of them granted; (though denied, as it is said, by
    the Ebionites;) on which account he was called the Son of God. This
    attempt lay directly against the everlasting rock, and would have
    substituted sand in the room of it. For no better is the best of human
    nature to make a foundation for the church, if not united unto the
    divine. Many in those days followed those pernicious ways; yet the
    foundation of God stood sure, nor was the church moved from it. But
    yet, after a revolution of so many ages, is the same endeavour again
    engaged in. The old enemy, taking advantage of the prevalence of
    Atheism and profaneness among those that are called Christians, does
    again employ the same engine to overthrow the faith of the church--and
    that with more subtlety than formerly--in the Socinians. For their
    faith, or rather unbelief, concerning the person of Christ, is the
    same with those before mentioned. And what a vain, wanton generation
    admire and applaud in their sophistical reasonings, is no more but
    what the primitive church triumphed over through faith, in the most
    subtle management of the Samosatanians, Photinians, and others. An
    evidence it is that Satan is not unknowing unto the workings of that
    vanity and darkness, of those corrupt affections in the minds of men,
    whereby they are disposed unto a contempt of the mystery of the
    Gospel. Who would have thought that the old exploded pernicious errors
    of the Samosatanians, Photinians, and Pelagians, against the power and
    grace of Christ, should enter on the world again with so much
    ostentation and triumph as they do at this day? But many men, so far
    as I can observe, are fallen into such a dislike of the Christ of God,
    that every thing concerning his person, Spirit, and grace, is an
    abomination unto them. It is not want of understanding to comprehend
    doctrines, but hatred unto the things themselves, whereby such persons
    are seduced. And there is nothing of this nature whereunto nature, as
    corrupted, does not contribute its utmost assistance.

    (2.) There were such as opposed his divine nature, under pretence of
    declaring it another way than the faith of the church did rest in. So
    was it with the Asians, in whom the gates of hell seemed once to be
    near a prevalence. For the whole professing world almost was once
    surprised into that heresy. In words they acknowledged his divine
    person; but added, as a limitation of that acknowledgment, that the
    divine nature which he had was originally created of God, and produced
    out of nothing; with a double blasphemy, denying him to be the true
    God, and making a god of a mere creature. But in all these attempts,
    the opposition of the gates of hell unto the church respected faith in
    the person of Christ as the Son of the living God.

    (3.) By some his human nature was opposed--for no stone did Satan
    leave unturned in the pursuit of his great design. And that which in
    all these things he aimed at, was the substitution of a false Christ
    in the room of Him who, in one person, was both the Son of man and the
    Son of the living God. And herein he infected the minds of men with
    endless imaginations. Some denied him to have any real human nature,
    but [alleged him] to have been a phantasm, an appearance, a
    dispensation, a mere cloud acted by divine power; some, that he was
    made of heavenly flesh, brought from above, and which (as some also
    affirmed) was a parcel of the divine nature. Some affirmed that his
    body was not animated, as ours are, by a rational soul, but was
    immediately acted by the power of the Divine Being, which was unto it
    in the room of a living soul; some, that his body was of an ethereal
    nature, and was at length turned into the sun; with many such
    diabolical delusions. And there yet want not attempts, in these days,
    of various sorts, to destroy the verity of his human nature; and I
    know not what some late fantastical opinions about the nature of
    glorified bodies may tend unto. The design of Satan, in all these
    pernicious imaginations, is to break the cognation and alliance
    between Christ in his human nature and the church, whereon the
    salvation of it does absolutely depend.

    3. He raised a vehement opposition against the hypostatical union, or
    the union of these two natures in one person. This he did in the
    Nestorian heresy, which greatly, and for a long time, pestered the
    church. The authors and promoters of this opinion granted the Lord
    Christ to have a divine nature, to be the Son of the living God. They
    also acknowledged the truth of his human nature, that he was truly a
    man, even as we are. But the personal union between these two natures
    they denied. A union, they said, there was between them, but such as
    consisted only in love, power, and care. God did, as they imagined,
    eminently and powerfully manifest himself in the man Christ Jesus--had
    him in an especial regard and love, and did act in him more than in
    any other. But that the Son of God assumed our nature into personal
    subsistence with himself--whereby whole Christ was one person, and all
    his mediatory acts were the acts of that one person, of him who was
    both God and man--this they would not acknowledge. And this pernicious
    imagination, though it seem to make great concessions of truth, does
    no less effectually evert the foundation of the church than the
    former. For, if the divine and human nature of Christ do not
    constitute one individual person, all that he did for us was only as a
    man--which would have been altogether insufficient for the salvation
    of the church, nor had God redeemed it with his own blood. This seems
    to be the opinion of some amongst us, at this day, about the person of
    Christ. They acknowledge the being of the eternal Word, the Son of
    God; and they allow in the like manner the verity of his human nature,
    or own that man Christ Jesus. Only they say, that the eternal Word was
    in him and with him, in the same kind as it is with other believes,
    but in a supreme degree of manifestation and power. But, though in
    these things there is a great endeavour to put a new colour and
    appearance on old imaginations, the deign of Satan is one and the same
    in them all, viz., to oppose the building of the church upon its
    proper, sole foundation. And these things shall be afterwards
    expressly spoken unto.

    I intend no more in these instances but briefly to demonstrate, that
    the principal opposition of the gates of hell unto the church lay
    always unto the building of it, by faith, on the person of Christ.

    It were easy also to demonstrate that Muhammadanism, which has been
    so sore a stroke unto the Christian profession, in nothing but a
    concurrence and combination of these two ways, of force and fraud, in
    opposition unto the person of Christ.

    It is true that Satan, after all this, by another way, attempted the
    doctrine of the offices and grace of Christ, with the worship of God
    in him. And this he has carried so far, as that it issued in a fatal
    antichristian apostasy; which is not of my present consideration.

    But we may proceed to what is of our own immediate concernment. And
    the one work with that before described is still carried on. The
    person of Christ, the faith of the church concerning it, the relation
    of the church unto it, the building of the church on it, the life and
    preservation of the church thereby, are the things that the gates of
    hell are engaged in opposition unto. For,

    1. It is known with what subtlety and urgency his divine nature and
    person are opposed by the Socinians. What an accession is made daily
    unto their incredulity, what inclination of mind multitudes do
    manifest towards their pernicious ways, are also evident unto all who
    have any concernment in or for religion. But this argument I have
    laboured in on other occasions.

    2. Many, who expressly deny not his divine person, yet seem to grow
    weary of any concernment therein. A natural religion, or none at all,
    pleaseth them better than faith in God by Jesus Christ. That any thing
    more is necessary in religion, but what natural light will discover
    and conduct us in, with the moral duties of righteousness and honesty
    which it directs unto, there are too many that will not acknowledge.
    What is beyond the line of nature and reason is rejected as
    unintelligible mysteries or follies. The person and grace of Christ
    are supposed to breed all the disturbance in religion. Without them,
    the common notions of the Divine Being and goodness will guide men
    sufficiently unto eternal blessedness. They did so before the coming
    of Christ in the flesh, and may do so now he is gone to heaven.

    3. There are some who have so ordered the frame of objective
    religion, as that it is very uncertain whether they leave any place
    for the person of Christ in it or no. For, besides their denial of the
    hypostatical union of his natures, they ascribe all that unto a light
    within them which God will effect only by Christ as a mediator. What
    are the internal actings of their minds, as unto faith and trust
    towards him, I know not; but, from their outward profession, he seems
    to be almost excluded.

    4. There are not a few who pretend high unto religion and devotion,
    who declare no erroneous conceptions about the doctrine of the person
    of Christ, who yet manifest themselves not to have that regard unto
    him which the Gospel prescribes and requires. Hence have we so many
    discourses published about religion, the practical holiness and duties
    of obedience, written with great elegance of style, and seriousness in
    argument, wherein we can meet with little or nothing wherein Jesus
    Christ, his office, or his grace, are concerned. Yea, it is odds but
    in them all we shall meet with some reflections on those who judge
    them to be the life and centre of our religion. The things of Christ,
    beyond the example of his conversation on the earth, are of no use
    with such persons, unto the promotion of piety and gospel obedience.
    Concerning many books of this nature, we may say what a teamed person
    did of one of old: "There were in it many things laudable and
    delectable, sed nomen Jesu non erat ibi."

    5. Suited unto these manifest inclinations of the minds of men unto a
    neglect of Christ, in the religion they frame unto themselves--
    dangerous and noxious insinuations concerning what our thoughts ought
    to be of him, are made and tendered. As, (1.) It is scandalously
    proposed and answered, "Of what use is the consideration of the person
    of Christ in our religion?" Such are the novel inquiries of men who
    suppose there is any thing in Christian religion wherein the person of
    Christ is of no consideration--as though it were not the life and soul
    that animates the whole of it, that which gives it its especial form
    as Christian--as though by virtue of our religion we received any
    thing from God, any benefit in mercy, grace, privilege, or glory, and
    not through the person of Christ--as though any one duty or act of
    religion towards God could be acceptably performed by us, without a
    respect unto, or a consideration of, the person of Christ--or that
    there were any lines of truth in religion as it is Christian, that did
    not relate thereunto. Such bold inquiries, with futilous answers
    annexed unto them, sufficiently manifest what acquaintance their
    authors have either with Christ himself, which in others they despise,
    or with his Gospel, which they pretend to embrace. (2.) A mock scheme
    of religion is framed, to represent the folly of them who design to
    learn the mind and will of God in and by him. (3.) Reproachful
    reflections are made on such as plead the necessity of acquaintance
    with him, or the knowledge of him, as though thereby they rejected the
    use of the gospel (4.) Professed love unto the person of Christ is
    traduced, as a mere fancy and vapour of distempered minds or weak
    imaginations (5.) The union of the Lord Christ and his church is
    asserted to be political only, with respect unto laws and rules of
    government. And many other things of an alike nature are asserted,
    derogatory unto his glory, and repugnant unto the faith of the church;
    such as, from the foundation of Christian religion, were never vented
    by any persons before, who did not openly avow some impious heresy
    concerning his person. And I no way doubt but that men may, with less
    guilt and scandal, fall under sundry doctrinal misapprehensions
    concerning it--than, by crying hail thereunto, to despoil it of all
    its glory, as unto our concernment therein, in our practical obedience
    unto God. Such things have we deserved to see and hear.

    6. The very name or expression of "preaching Christ" is become a term
    of reproach and contempt; nor can some, as they say, understand what
    is meant thereby, unless it be an engine to drive all rational
    preaching, and so all morality and honesty, out of the world.

    7. That which all these things tend unto and centre in, is that
    horrible profaneness of life--that neglect of all gospel duties--that
    contempt of all spiritual graces and their effects, which the
    generality of them that are called Christians, in many places, are
    given up unto. I know not whether it were not more for the honour of
    Christ, that such persons would publicly renounce the profession of
    his name, rather than practically manifest their inward disregard unto

    That by these and the like means Satan does yet attempt the ruin of
    the church, as unto its building on the everlasting rock, falls under
    the observation of all who are concerned in its welfare. And (whatever
    others may apprehend concerning this state of things in the world) how
    any that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity--especially such as are
    called to declare and represent him unto men in the office of the
    ministry--can acquit themselves to be faithful unto him, without
    giving their testimony against, and endeavouring to stop what lies in
    them, the progress of this prevailing declension from the only
    foundation of the church, I know not; nor will it be easy for
    themselves to declare. And in that variety of conceptions which are
    about him, and the opposition that is made unto him, there is nothing
    more necessary than that we should renew and attest our confession of
    him--as the Son of the living God--the only rock whereon the church of
    them that shall be saved is founded and built.

    "Pauca ideo de Christo," as Tertullian speaks; some few things
    concerning the person of Christ, with respect unto the confession of
    Peter, and the promise thereunto annexed--wherein he is declared the
    sole foundation of the church--will be comprised in the ensuing
    discourse. And He who has ordained strength out of the mouths of babes
    and sucklings, as he has given ability to express these poor, mean
    contemplations of his glory, can raise by them a revenue of honour
    unto himself in the hearts of them that do believe. And some few
    things I must premise, in general, unto what I do design. As,

    1. The instances which I shall give concerning the use and
    consideration of the person of Christ in Christian religion, or of him
    as he is the foundation whereon the church is built, are but few--and
    those perhaps not the most signal or eminent which the greater
    spiritual wisdom and understanding of others might propose. And,
    indeed, who shall undertake to declare what are the chief instances of
    this incomprehensible effect of divine wisdom? "What is his name, and
    what is his son's name, if thou can't tell?" Prov.30:4. See Isa.9:6.
    It is enough for us to stand in a holy admiration, at the shore of
    this unsearchable ocean, and to gather up some parcels of that divine
    treasure wherewith the Scripture of truth is enriched.

    2. I make no pretence of searching into the bottom or depths of any
    part of this "great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh".
    They are altogether unsearchable, unto the line of the most
    enlightened minds, in this life. What we shall farther comprehend of
    them in the other world, God only knows. We cannot in these things, by
    our utmost diligent search, "find out the Almighty unto perfection."
    The prophets could not do so of old, nor can the angels themselves at
    present, who "desire to look into these things:" 1 Pet.1:10-12. Only I
    shall endeavour to represent unto the faith of them that do believe,
    somewhat of what the Scripture does plainly reveal--evidencing in what
    sense the person of Christ is the sole foundation of the church

    3. I shall not, herein, respect them immediately by whom the divine
    person of Christ is denied and opposed. I have formerly treated
    thereof, beyond their contradiction in way of reply. But it is their
    conviction which I shall respect herein, who, under an outward
    confession of the truth, do--either notionally or practically, either
    ignorantly or designedly, God knows, I know not--endeavour to weaken
    the faith of the church in its adherence unto this foundation.
    Howbeit, neither the one sort nor the other has any place in my
    thoughts, in comparison of the instruction and edification of others,
    who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

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