|The Glory of the Gospel
by Thomas Goodwin
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made
manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the
glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of
glory.Col. 1:26, 27.
The apostle spends this chapter, from the 13th verse to the end, in three things
1. In setting out Jesus Christ in all that fulness of the riches of his glory
wherewith he is arrayed and represented in the gospel; from ver. 13 to 23, from
whence to the 4th verse of the second chapter, he falls into a commendation and
elogium of the gospel, 'Which is that mystery,' as the text hath it, 'wherein is
made known that rich glory of Christ, the glory of the mystery, which riches is
And the apostle doth both these on set purpose (as in the 4th and 8th verses he
professeth), to divert and take off these Colossians' minds, from these vain
deceitful speculations grounded on philosophy, traditions of men, &c., gaudily
and speciously set out with enticing words. 'This, I say,' says verse the 4th,
'lest any, &c.' 'Beware,' verse the 8th, 'lest any spoil you through philosophy,
and vain deceit.' To dash and put these quite out of countenance at once, he
reveals riches and glory. To reveal the beggarliness of these rudimentsas the
apostle elsewhere calls the best of them, Gal. 4:9he lays open the riches of
the mysteries of Christ, and displays the glory, and the excellency of it, to
spoil, and cause to vanish, and come to nothing, the enticing gloss and lustre
of all other wisdom (as it is 1 Cor. 1:19), which had well nigh spoiled them.
Now, in this place of this first chapter, the words I have read to you, the
current of his commendation of the gospel's excellency swells to the highest,
and runs with the deepest and strongest stream, within the limits of which
therefore, I will confine myself, as affording matter enough to set forth the
glory of it, and that by all that doth commend unto us any knowledge.
For first, it is commended by the original author and revealer of it, with his
intent therein; God himself, who is best able to discern what knowledge is the
fullest of riches and glory, chose to reveal and make known this merely for the
worth of it; namely, because the riches of glory were revealed by it. He first
says God would, or was desirous to, make known the riches of glory that were in
it; that moved him to it.
Secondly, If the worth of the subject matter revealed doth ennoble a knowledge,
then must this be glorious, for Christ is the subject matter of it, 'which
riches are Christ, the Lord of glory.'
Thirdly, If all the properties that are excellent in any knowledge will add
worth to it, they centre in this,
First, If depth and profoundness, it is a mystery.
Secondly, If preciousness and abundance; it is full of riches and glory.
Thirdly, If profitableness and usefulness, it not only reveals riches of glory
to the knowers of it, the saints, out of themselves, 'but makes them possessors
of all the riches it reveals, and gives them certain hope of all the glory it
speaks, which riches are Christ in you, made your Christ, with all his riches,
for the present, and to you the hope of glory.
Fourthly, If secrecy commends a knowledge, as it doth, it hath been hid long
from the beginning of the world in regard of the clear revealing of it, but now
in the end of the world it is revealed.
And lastly, If rareness, now it is revealed, it is not made common, it is
revealed only to the saints, who only know it in the riches and glory of it, 'To
whom God would make known,' &c.
You have the scope and meaning of the apostle; mine at this time is by enlarging
on these particulars to set out the glory of the gospel; that part of the word
which in strict sense reveals the doctrine of God's free grace, the work of
Christ's redemption, and the riches of it, justification, and sanctification,
and the secrets hereof; for this is the gospel.
But you will say, To what end will all this be? I wish there were no need of it,
so I never preached more, and that both in regard of the people and ministers
themselves; for the people of this land, it were well for England if the
contempt of this glorious gospel and the ministry of it were not their greatest
sin. Happy were we if the measure of our iniquities were made so much lighter by
the absence of it. I should then expect to see many more years past ere it were
filled than now are likely to be. And is there no need to set forth the glory of
it? And for the ministers, they might add more beauty to their own feet, and
souls to God, if in their speculations and preachings they did not, as the
Pharisees of old did in their practice, (if we may judge what is in the cistern
by what ordinarily cometh in and out), neglect the great things of the gospel
forementioned, and tithe mint and cummin, pick truths of less moment, bolt and
fasten themselves to the chaff, but leave the other unsearched into and
But, my brethren, however we may esteem this doctrine of the gospel, and what
other knowledge we may pride ourselves in, and wear out our brains in, yet it is
this which is the riches of the Gentiles and saints, as this place shews, and
many more: 'the pearl of the world,' Mat. 13:45; 'the glory of the ministry,' 1
Cor. 2:7; which God ordained for our glory,' namely, apostles' and ministers',
the preachers of it.
The clear revealing of which was the desire and longing of the patriarchs and
prophets, who though they know the legal covenants as fully as we, yet this
doctrine of salvation, Christ's sufferings, God's grace, was it they 'inquired
into;' that is, sought to God by prayer, 'and searched diligently,' that is,
searched using all means of reading and meditating, to attain the knowledge of
it, and all this diligently; spent, and thought it worthy of the chiefest of
their pains, which, when it came to be revealed, the apostles counted it their
glory, which Paul therefore, who had profited so much in the Jews' religion,
Gal. 1:14, professeth, Phil. 3:8, that he accounted all dross and dung for this
excellent knowledge of Christ. He might well say, Rom. 1:16, he was not ashamed
of the gospel of Christ, for he makes his knowledge therein his chiefest
excellency, Eph. 3:4, there is a parenthesis wherein you would think he boasted
speaking of his own writings, 'Whereby when you read' (saith he) 'you may
understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.'
What do I, speaking of the study and glory of prophets and apostles? It is the
study of the angels, which they think worthy of their greatest attention. Look
into both these places, 1 Pet. 1:12, Eph. 1:10, 'Which things the angels desire
to pry into;' these glorious creatures that know God in his legal covenant and
work of creation more fully than ever Adam did, that have the immediate
participation of God himself, have his face to read lectures in, day and night,
and yet glad if they can get but a peep and glimpse of the way of saving men by
Christ, as being a knowledge of greater excellency than otherwise they have any;
yea, and so desirous are they to learn it, that they are content to go to school
to the church, Eph. 3:9, 10, 'That to principalities and powers might be made
known by the church,' &c.
But what need I speak of angels, prophets, and apostles? It is the great study
(if I may so speak with reverence), the wisdom and great learning of God
himself, who was the first professor of it, called so kat exochn, 1 Cor. 2:7,
speaking of the gospel, says he, 'We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,' and
that a hidden wisdom before the world was, hid in God, Eph. 3:9; God's act, and
peculiar to himself; whereas other knowledge men and angels have in common with
us infused at first creation to attain to, and pick out of themselves.
But this is his wisdom, which he alone had studied, and which none knows but
those to whom he revealed it, which hath brought me to the first part of my
text; 'setting forth the excellency of the gospel,' that it is a mystery which
God only makes known, and that to saints, for the riches of glory that are
revealed in it.
1. Now, to shew you the original and the intent of framing this mystery, you
have it expressed in this frame following:
Our all-wise and infinitely blessed Lord, who had from everlasting riches of
glorious perfections of holiness, justice, wisdom, mercy in him, which though he
himself knew and was infinitely blessed in the knowledge of them, though no
saint or angel had ever been, or over knew them, yet all these his glorious
perfections being crowned with goodness, both made him willing to make known
what riches of glory were in him unto some creatures which yet were in Christ,
his goodness moved him to it, for bonum est sui communicativum (good is
communicated by itself), and it is the nature of perfection also to be
manifestativum sui (manifested by itself), and that not because any perfection
is added to it when made known (which makes us desire to manifest our
imperfections, as being perfected when made known), but that they might perfect
others. This act him upon some ways to make known his riches and his glory to
some that should be made happy by it, and to that end he would have saints be
his saints, as being beloved of him, unto whom he might as it were unbosom
himself and display all the riches of glory which are in him, into whose laps he
might withal pour out all his riches, that they might see his glory, and be
glorified in seeing of it, John 17:8, 24.
And one way he began to manifest his glorious back-parts to angels and man in
the first creation, in the law, covenant of works, and works of creation which
he had done, as his eternal power, and Godhead, and goodness in the glorious
workmanship of heaven and earth, and of such glorious creatures as they
themselves were, Rom. 1:20. His wisdom in the ordering, governing, and guiding
so great a host and armies of several creatures, to several ends, by several
laws; his justice in his legal covenant, giving them life whilst they should
obey; threatening damnation to the disobeyers of it; his infinite holiness in
that perfect and exact rule of righteousness, the copy of his own will written
in their hearts.
Here was one way whereby God made known what glorious riches were in him, which
might have made him glorious in their eyes, and themselves happy; and this the
angels and Adam at the first had. But all this contented him not; God would make
known a further mystery, another larger, deeper way, an act found out of the
depths of his wisdom, namely, this doctrine of the gospel, which he kept hid and
close in his own breast; not a creature knew it, no, not the angels, who were
his nearest courtiers and dearest favourites; it lay hid in God, Eph. 3:9, hid
even from them, verse 10.
A mystery which, when it should be revealed, should amaze the world, put the
angels to school again, as if they had known nothing in comparison of this,
wherein they know over again all those glorious riches which are in God, and
that more perfectly and fully than ever yet. And so after they had a little
studied the catechism and compendium, there should then come out a large volume,
a new system, of the riches of the glory of God, the mystery of Christ in the
text, which is the last edition also that ever shall come forth, now set out,
enlarged, perfected, wherein the large inventory of God's glorious perfections
is more fully set down, and with additions.
The reasons why God did thus intend to manifest himself are:
First, Because he would shew his manifold wisdom, which is the reason given of
revealing the gospel, Eph. 3:10. 'That to the angels might appear the manifold
wisdom of God.'
That his wisdom is so vast and large, that he could vary and take more ways than
one; and as he had two sorts of reasonable creatures to show himself unto, so a
double way, a double sampler, a double method, a systema majus et minus.
And secondly, because indeed it was of itself too obscure and too imperfect.
First, Too obscure; for in the gospel, and works of redemption, they came to see
all that they saw before; and this more clearly and largely, wherein they see
more power in Christ, 'the power of God,' 1 Cor. 1:24. In raising himself up
from death to life, declared with power thereby to be the Son of God, Rom. 1:4,
and also the exceeding greatness of his power in raising us up also, Eph. 1:19,
as might easily be shewed greater than in the creation.
Wherein they likewise see a greater and clearer instance and manifestation of
his justice, in putting to death his own Son, taking on him to be a surety for
sin, than if a world of worlds had been damned for over. And in that his Son
also, they came to see a greater and more transcendent righteousness than ever
appeared either in the law or is inherent in the angels; for if all their
righteousness were put into one, it could but justify themselves, it could not
satisfy for the least breach of the law in another. But in the gospel, and work
of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the
sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no
sin in God's people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it. To instance it
Secondly, That other was but an imperfect way in comparison of this, or,
(First), Those attributes which God accounts his greatest riches and greatest
glory, Rom. 9:23, even his mercy and free grace, which he intends most to exalt,
never saw light till now; the doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage,
wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it
acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as Eph.
2:5, that 'by grace we are saved;' and therefore, 1 Peter 2:10, the whole work
of salvation is called 'mercy,' all God's ways to his people are mercy, Ps.
25:10, the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the
doctrine of the gospel is called grace, Titus 2:10, 11. Mercy manageth the plot,
gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act; mercy enters in at
the beginning, acts the prologue in election; and, giving Christ, continues
every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory.
But (secondly), not only more of his attributes came thus to be discovered, but,
further, the glorious mystery of the Trinity came hereby to be unfolded more
clearly, if not the first discovery made of the three persons hereby, there
being scarce the footsteps of them distinctly and clearly to he seen in the
works of creation or in the law.
But now, when the gospel came to be revealed, and the work of salvation in it,
then were there discovered to be 'three witnesses in heaven,' 1 John 5:7,
witnesses to our salvation, and their several witnessing came to be known by
three several seals and head works set severally to our salvation, bearing the
stamp of their three several subsistences, so as by these three seals, of the
election of Christ and us, redemption, and sanctification, we may know there are
three persons, and how they do subsist. Even as in men's seals, their several
arms being engraven, their houses and antiquity is known.
As, first, God the Father hath set to his seal in election, 2 Tim. 2:19,
The foundation of the Lord remains firm, having this seal, 'The Lord knows who
are his;' and in this seal of election you may read the similitude of his
subsistence written, and the order of it. For as his subsisting is the fountain
of the other two, so is election attributed to him, which is the foundation, as
that place says, both of sanctification and redemption.
Secondly, God the Son hath set to his seal, even his blood, the seal of the new
covenant, in the work of redemption, to the sealing up of iniquity, Dan. 9:24,
which carries in it the resemblance of his subsistence also. For as it flows
from election alone, and is next to it, so his subsistence from the Father only.
And lastly, God the Holy Ghost hath his seal also set to it. Eph. 4:30,
'Wherewith we are sealed to the day of redemption;' by the work of
sanctification, which bears the print and manner of his subsistence, for as it
flows both from election and redemption, so doth his person from the Father and
from the Son.
2. And so now in the second place let us come to the subject of the gospel,
Christ, in whom the riches of glory is alone discovered, 'which riches is
Whereas in the law and covenant of works these riches were not only imperfectly
and obscurely discovered, but also manifested scatteredly and with broken beams,
as the sun in water when the water is disturbed, one attribute shining in one
work, another in another, and dimly too; so as a man must have read over all the
larger volumes of the world, and picked out here and there several notions of
God out of several works; as now we are fain to study many tongues, in which
knowledge is bound up and hidden as kernels in the shells; in this second way of
manifesting his glory, things are more full, large, and clearer than ever, yet
all is contracted into one volume, bound up in Christ, in whom are hid all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge; who is the subject of the mystery, in whom we
may fully read the glory of the Lord in Christ God-man. And therefore the gospel
is called the 'mystery of Christ,' Col. 4:3, and the gospel of God concerning
Jesus Christ, Rom. 1:3; he being the adequate subject of it, whom he hath set up
to be 'all in all,' Col. 3:11, and therefore we are complete in him, chap. 2
ver. 10, all fulness dwelling in him in such fulness, that we need no other
object to represent these riches of glory to us.
For first, did we know God, or would we know him in the creatures, we shall not
need now to look on them if we know but him; who as a creature is the
first-begotten of every creature, Col. 1:15; and being man, if he were no more,
hath the excellencies of them all summed up in him. He is the compendium and
model of the world; whatever they express of God, is to be more fully seen in
Secondly, Did we know or should we have known God by his image stamped upon man,
and now shining in the law more than in all the creatures else, or than in man
himself without it? Turn your eyes on Christ, for he is such a man as is the
head of men, 1 Cor. 11:8, yea, and of angels also, who are a part of the church,
Col. 1:18, and therefore a man of those transcendent perfections, that as he is
more man, that image which Adam lost, the angels yet wear and count their glory,
it shines more brightly in him than in them all it should have done. Even as the
head contains more of the beauty and image of a man, hath more of man in it,
than all the body.
But yet, thirdly, He is the Son of God, and second person, and therefore the
express image and brightness of his Father's glory, the essential substantial
image of his Father, which transcends infinitely more all other pictures of him
than the image of a king in his son begotten like him, and in a board or tablet.
But this image, you will say, it is too bright for us to behold it shining in
his strength, we being as unable to behold it in him, as we were to see his
Father himself, who dwells in light inaccessible, which no eye can attain to.
Therefore that yet we may see it as nigh and as fully and to the utmost that
creatures could; this Godhead dwells bodily in a human nature, that so shining
through the lantern of his flesh we might behold it. His human nature and divine
make up one person, and being so, are united together in the highest kind of
union that God can be to a creature, and the nearest and fullest communications
follow always upon the nearest union. To him therefore as man are communicated
these riches of glory that are in the Godhead, as nearly and fully as was
possible unto a creature; and being thus communicated, must needs shine forth in
him to us to the utmost that they ever could unto creatures; and therefore more
clearly than if millions of several worlds had been created every day on purpose
to reveal God to us. God having stamped upon his Son all his glory, that we
might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4:6.
But yet, fourthly, this is not all whereby Christ is made the image of the
invisible God to us, for thus we might have seen the fulness of the Godhead
shining in him though he had not come as a redeemer and mediator, and had acted
nothing, done nothing in us or for us, but had been merely set up for us to look
on and see God in, as supposing him incarnate, not in relation to redemption.
Therefore further also, and besides this, he is made to us the image of the
invisible God in all these his works of mediation which flow from his person,
and in the execution of all those glorious offices of king, priest, and prophet.
The story of which, when it shall be all set and viewed together, makes up yet
another kind of image and representation of all God's attributes and glorious
riches than shine in his person as alone in itself considered, or than doth
shine in the angels, or man at his first creation; and he himself being a
mediator is become a middle person between God and man, so the story of those
his works of mediation shews forth and presents us with a double picture and
image of God, between them both there being a new and another edition of all
God's attributes in the story of what he hath done, which infinitely transcends
and comes nearer to the life than all those images which were or should have
been stamped upon the hearts, or appeared in the works of men or angels; a
brighter, clearer impression of all in God than such tablets are capable of; and
indeed comes so near the life, that not only in regard of his person, but also
of those his works of mediation, &c., he is called those attributes in the
abstract which appear shining in them.
Men and angels, in regard of God's image stamped on them, might have been called
wise, but not 'the wisdom of God,' but Christ, 1 Cor. 1:24, is called 'The
wisdom of God, and the power of God,' which yet is not spoken of him in regard
of his person, as he is substantially and essentially both these, as all the
rest; but as in his works he is manifenstative, by way of manifestation to us,
all these; by reason that in the story of his incarnation, life, and death, and
mediation, &c., all these are manifested. In all these, when told and set
together, there appears the greatest depths of wisdom that to the creatures
could be discovered, which the knowledge of him discovers. So the power of God
also in the same sense, in regard of the transcendent work of his rising again,
wrestling with and overcoming hell, subduing sin, &c., in which the power of God
appears. And there is the like reason of all the rest of God's attributes; as
because he is the foundation of all God's great and precious promises by his
blood, that they are all yea and amen in him, therefore he may likewise be
called the 'truth and faithfulness of God.' So as through his mediation, at his
cost, the world subsists, which else would fall in pieces, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:8,
and that he governs it, and prays his Father for his forbearance of it, he may
be called 'the patience and longsuffering of God.' That upon him God's justice
had its full course, and by his judging the wicked at the latter day, with the
transcendency of knowledge, wisdom, righteousness, &c., which will be required
to so vast a work, that he may be termed 'the justice of God;' for in what he
hath done, doth daily, and shall do, all these attributes appear.
Now, as Christ is thus in regard of his person and works the liveliest image and
representation of God's glorious riches, which is otherwise invisible; so is the
gospel the image of Christ, who otherwise should be invisible to us in this
life. When he dwelt with men, the apostles and believers who saw and heard him
and his works, saw his glory then, 'as of the only begotten Son of God,' John
1:14. But Christ was to be taken up to glory, John 16:7, 'It is necessary that I
go away.' And though we shall see him when we are taken up also; see his glory
which he had before the world was, John 17:24, yet how should believers do in
the mean time to see him, and the riches of God's glory in him? Therefore hath
God framed and revealed the doctrine of the gospel, in the preaching of which,
Gal. 3:1, Christ is said to be evidently set forth or pictured, proegrafh,
before our eyes. And as he is the liveliest image of God, so the gospel is the
liveliest representation of Christ that could possibly be made, for it is a
glass, 2 Cor. 3:18, and a glass is the liveliest way of representing things
absent that over could be invented, not in dead and lifeless colours only, which
pictures only do. And indeed it is a middle way of representing a man, from that
either when we see his person directly before our eyes, or when we see his
picture drawn in colours; for though it be less clear and perfect than seeing
the man himself, yet is more lively than all the pictures in the world; for quod
videtur in speculo non est imago, it is more than a bare image which is seen in
a glass, even the person himself, though by a reflex and reverberated species,
that is his likeness beaten back again to the eyes, which otherwise when we
behold him face to face is received more directly; and therefore is a more
obscure and imperfect way of seeing a man than to see him face to face, as the
apostle says, 1 Cor. 13:1, 2, as in heaven we shall do Christ, yet in the mean
time this puts down all the pictures in the world. And such is the knowledge of
Christ under and by the gospel, in comparison of that knowledge which was had of
him under and by the ceremonial law, Heb. 10:1, which he calls the 'shadow,'
those representations under the gospel, 'the image of good things to come;'
which the apostle calls but a shadow of him, Col. 2:17, drawn in wan and
lifeless colours, and of that sight and knowledge we shall have of him in
heaven, when we shall see him as he is; this knowledge of him in the glass of
the gospel is as a middle way of seeing him between both, less lively than the
one, yet infinitely more bright and real than the other, even as I said before,
that the image of God in Christ which shineth in his works of mediation is a
middle image or representation between that which shone in Adam and that which
is substantial in his person.
For as it comes short of the one, it being substantial, so it exceeds the other,
as I then shewed.
So that (to keep to the scope of the apostle in this Epistle), take all the
knowledge of God and Christ discovered in the most choice and curious pieces of
Grecian learning, or of the ceremonial law, which far exceeded their philosophy;
both which, as it should seem by the second chapter, these Colossians so
garishly doted upon: and let a believer with the eye of faith look upon Christ,
as discovered in the glass of the gospel, and then with the other eye look upon
the other, and what will all those other appear? At best but wan, dead, and
lifeless pictures, shadows, as he calls them, ver. 17, whose rudiments and
painted colours are said to be 'the rudiments of this world,' 'traditions of
men,' ver. 8, whose varnish also is but 'the enticing words of men's wisdom,'
ver. 4. But this is lively, real, the colours rich, the varnish glory, 'riches
of glory' being bestowed upon it; 'whereby as in a glass we see the glory of the
Lord, which cannot be painted,' 2 Cor. 3:18.
But you will say, what is the gospel but a verbal story told us when preached,
or read, or meditated on? It represents Christ to us but as words use to do, and
words are but umbra rerum, shadows, pictures, and indeed less lively. How comes
it then to represent Christ so really? And to be as a glass representing Christ
to us so truly? I answer, That as a glass in itself is but an empty thing,
unless the objects to be seen in it be directly placed before it, and by light
discovered in it, a glass represents nothing to us; and such I confess the
gospel is in itself, a mere verbal representation; but to believers, the saints
in the text, the Spirit of the Lord joins with these words, presents Christ by a
secret, hidden, and unheard of act to the eye of faith in the preaching or
reading of it, opens heaven, and causes the glory of Christ to shine as present
in it in a lively, real manner. And so it follows in that 2 Cor. 3:18, 'We all
behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;'
and lastly, which is the strangest of all the rest, 'are changed into the same
image.' That whereas a man may look long enough upon other pictures, though
never so rich and glorious, and go away as he comes, his countenance no whit
altered; but this is such a representation as, by beholding of it, we are
changed into the same image, and the riches of Christ are made ours; which
riches are 'Christ in you,' says the text; the strangest glass and picture that
over yet was seen in the world.
3. The next thing that commends it is that it is a mystery; and indeed how can
it be otherwise, if God's wisdom hath been employed for the inventing of it, and
that as the utmost way of manifesting himself? And therefore, 1 Cor. 2:7, it is
called 'the wisdom of God in a mystery.' And if the doctrine of popery, which in
imitation of God the devil invented, to set up his eldest son antichrist,
deserveth to be called a 'mystery of iniquity,' another gospel, and yet not
another; and if the false doctrine of these in Thyatira be called depths, though
of Satan, Rev. 2:24:and indeed popery is the greatest mystery that ever created
understanding hatched, if all the frame, and policies, and mysteries of it be
considered:then surely this, which is God's gospel, made for Christ, as that
for antichrist, which is the master-piece of his wisdom.
And secondly, if Christ be the subject of it, it must needs be a mystery, called
therefore, Col. 4:3, 'The mystery of Christ;' and in that regard it is a
mystery, and a great mystery too, 1 Tim. 3:16, 'Without controversy, great is
the mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh' being the subject of it,
coming therein to reconcile the world. Which plot, considering how things stood
betwixt God and us, and laying these conclusions, that God will not put up the
least wrong at men's hands, now fallen, without full satisfaction, which they
nor any creature is able to make, and yet that nature that did offend must
satisfy;had it been referred to a consultation of all intelligent natures,
angels and men, that ever were or shall be, it would have perplexed and plunged
their thoughts to eternity how it might be done, and after millions of years'
consultation they would have returned answer, they could not think of nor find
Great, therefore, is the mystery of godliness, God to this end manifested in the
flesh, and that so great as, now it is revealed, all the world that hears and
sees into the plot must needs acknowledge it so; without controversy, generally,
with one mouth, as the word signifies, omologoumenwV.
And in the incarnation of his Son, and the satisfaction of his justice, so many
more also meet in this one mystery, things of such a seeming contradiction, as
the wits of men know not how to reconcile. And this in every part of it, as in
election, that God at once loves the sinner with an everlasting, unchangeable
love, and yet a child of wrath; which the Remonstrants therefore quarrel. In the
work of redemption, that free grace, and richest mercy, and fullest
satisfaction, should meet together; which the Socinians therefore are blinded
in. In the work of justification, that one in whom God works inherent
righteousness, should not stand righteous before God's tribunal, but be
justified by the righteousness of another, which the papists stumble at, as did
the Jews, to their destruction. In sanctification, how effectual calling,
infallible conversion, should stand with man's free will, is a riddle to the
Arminians and papists, who therefore cut the knot, not being able to untie it.
All these are mysteries which God hath revealed and made up in this, on purpose
to shew his wisdom, and to make wise his own, and to befool the world.
A mystery! Then it is of such depths of wisdom, as take all the poor petty plots
of accommodating great difficulties, wherein the princes and wise men of the
world spend their thoughts away to vanity, and yet magnify and pride themselves
in; and this plot, and any one mystery in it, when once discovered, 'confoundeth
and brings to nothing' all theirs, 1 Cor. 1:19; 2:8. It all vanisheth as mere
And there are not only depths of wisdom, but depths of love in it also, Eph.
3:18. It reveals a breadth, height, depth of love in Christ dying for enemies,
and God giving his Son for enemies, as passeth knowledge. Sin is a great depth,
therefore the apostle saith, 'it doth abound,' Rom. 5:20, and is 'above measure
sinful,' Rom. 7:13, and so you will find it when you plumb it to the bottom. And
so the devils and damned spirits in hell shall find it, whilst they are
a-studying their sinfulness in hell to all eternity (that being their business),
and can never fathom it.
But yet this of God's free grace and Christ's love is a depth, which swallows up
this of sin, more than the heavens do the earth. That place seems to compare it
to a mighty sea, so deep, as it wants a bottom; so as though the thoughts of men
and angels shall be diving into it to all eternity, they shall not come to
ground. Of the length and breadth also, that it knows no shore, that though they
shall be sailing over it with that small compass of their capacities for ever,
yet they shall never come to land, 'it passeth knowledge.' And indeed, my
brethren, these are great incitements, especially to large understandings, to
search into them. For men of large understandings seek after depths, as good
swimmers do after deep waters, and refuse to go into the shallows, because they
cannot have scope enough to exercise their skill, and presently strike aground.
And besides, this having such depths in it, may still further be searched into
with pleasure, for still it passeth knowledge. The most hidden things in other
knowledge, and the causes of them, as the cause of the eclipse of the sun and
moon, they are like riddles, which though admired, before revealed, yet then
become trivial, and as it were below the understanding, and when you see the
furthest of them they grow stale. But there are depths in this knowledge, which
for ever my be dived into with pleasure; and by reason of their depth, the
knowledge of them to a 'renewed understanding' will be always fresh and new;
every new degree makes all seem now, as if not known before, 1 Cor. 13:10. Still
as knowledge grows more perfect, that which was before is done away and
swallowed up, as if you had not yet known it; and so still it is new. And to
study and hear news all the day, the minds of men are led along with pleasure.
And withal this bids men be sure they come with reverence and fear, to hear and
Thirdly, It was a mystery hid and kept long secret in regard of clear revealing
of it. The prophets, 1 Pet. 1:11, had inquired into it, and searched diligently,
unto whom it was revealed, not unto them but us; which therefore is said to be
'our glory,' 1 Cor. 2:7, being the privilege we have above the patriarchs, who
yet had knowledge of the legal covenant as clearly as we; yet in regard of this.
'the least in the kingdom of God is greater than' John the Baptist, though in
regard of clearer insight into the gospel he was greater than any before him.
And this both adds to the excellency of it, so far as to commend it to us the
more. Were any of these secrets which philosophers and wise men in all ages had
beat their brains about, as quadratum circuli, &c., and the philosopher's stone,
found out and revealed to us in these ages; how would we therefore prize it the
more, as we do printing, the mystery of which lay hid from the beginning. Nay,
this mystery and the doctrine of it, is that which the saints for four thousand
years studied, and sought to God to know, all of them one after another; and
still they could get no other answer but this, that 'not unto them, but us.'
Again, Where lay it hid all this while? In God's breast; apo twn aiwnwn, the
secula seculorum, before the world was, generations since. So Eph. 3:9, 'lay hid
in God,' and is his master-piece, the chiefest of his works.
If one bit of the choice books of Solomon, which had lain hid till now, were yet
found, a book about the nature of trees, birds, and beasts, how would we prize
it! Much more this of God's. But you will say, When was it first revealed, it
had this to commend it; yet now it is sixteen hundred years since it sprang
forth. It is not therefore so new to us. I answer, It is true; only consider
that as the law, which though delivered in Moses' time, yet before Josiah's time
lay hid long, like some rivers that run some leagues under ground, and then
discover themselves again; so did the doctrine of the gospel, after the first
discovery of it, lie hid many ages and generations, as the church herself did in
the wilderness, when school divinity and popery, both wanting the light of the
gospel, did cover the world with darkness; when it might truly be said, that the
world was 'spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, traditions of men,
rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.'
Whereas, but within the compass of this age we now live in, it hath been that
the 'kingdoms of the world have become' again the kingdoms of Christ,' Rev.
11:15, and the 'temple opened,' and the ark of the testament,' as it is in the
last verse, that is Christ; and all his riches have been broken up and searched
into, and discovered to the eyes of all. That as to the popish part there hath
been a new Indies discovered, full of earthly treasure, that had not been known
before, which had so enriched them; so a new Indies of heavenly treasure, a new
world of divinity hath been found out, that was but privately known before,
which hath enriched us; and happy were we, if we prized and defended ours, as
they do theirs.
And though much of the heavenly treasure was digged up at first, yet more hath
since and may be, for God will find his church digging and work of discovery to
the end of the world. And, my brethren, these are the times.
And lastly, Now it is revealed, it is but 'to the saints.' If the secrets of it
were known to all, they were no secrets, and less to be regarded; but God is
dainty of this knowledge, tells it but to few. 'Father, I thank thee,' saith
Christ, 'that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed
them unto babes.' The doctrines of God's free grace, are the the most inward,
practical, and experimental secrets, and 'the deep things of God,' as the things
of the gospel are called, 1 Cor. 2:10. Which 'secrets' are only 'with them that
fear him (Ps. 25:14) and he will shew them his covenant.' The things of the law
may be known by natural men as fully as by others, they have a copy of them in
And this shews the excellency of this knowledge. For if there be any knowledge
better than other, God will be sure to impart it to his friends and favourites;
John 15:15, 'You are my friends, and all I have heard of my Father, I have made
known unto you.' This he will not tell to those who are barely servants, 'they
know not his mind,' as it is there. Believers only 'have the mind of Christ,' 1
But you will object, This is not so, for this knowledge is made common to all.
God would have the gospel 'preached to every creature;' and so it was, Col.
I answer, as when Alexander objected to Aristotle, 'that he would make his
knowledge common, and so debase it when he published his books.' He answered,
they were edita et non edita (published but not published), for none would
understand them but his scholars, and therefore entitled them peri akroamatwn
(for those who will hearken to it). So this, though published to all the world,
yet it is entitled a mystery, and a mystery hid, for none know it but the saints
who are taught of God, and are his scholars, John 6:45. That place shews that
there must be a secret teaching by God, and a secret learning, 'If they have
heard, and been taught of God.' Now God teacheth none but saints, for all that
are so taught come unto him; 'Every one who hath heard, and learned of the
Father, cometh unto me.'
Ay, but you will say, Do not many carnal men know the gospel, and discourse of
things in it, through strength of learning? &c.
I answer out of the text, that though they may know the things which the gospel
reveals, yet not the riches and glory of them; that same rich knowledge spoken
of in the word, they lack, and therefore know them not; as a child and a
jeweller looking upon a pearl, both look upon it, and call it by the same name;
but the child yet knows it not as a pearl in the worth and riches of it, as the
jeweller doth, and therefore cannot be said to know it. Now Mat. 13:45, a
Christian only is likened to a 'merchantman, that finds a pearl of great price,'
that is, discovered to be so, 'and sold all he had for it, for he knew the worth
But you will say, Do not carnal men know the worth of the things in the gospel,
and can discourse of the rich grace of Christ, and worth of him?
I answer, Yes, as a man who hath gotten an inventory by heart, and the prices
also, and so may know it; yet never was he led into the exchequer and treasury,
to see all the jewels themselves, the wardrobe of grace, and Christ's
righteousness, to see the glory of them; for these are all 'spiritually
discerned,' as the apostle says expressly, 1 Cor. 2:14.
Use 1. If it be a mystery, which God only makes known, as you see it is, then go
to him for it; you know how to deal with him. James 1:5, 'If any lack wisdom,
let him ask it,' whose promise is in the new covenant, to teach all his to know
him. As you cannot see the sun without the light of itself, so nor the riches of
the glory of Christ without his Spirit, who is called the Spirit of wisdom and
revelation; who only knows the deep things of God, 1 Cor. 2:10, as the mysteries
of the gospel are, as the context shews, that lie all at the bottom of his
breast. The well is deep, we have nothing to draw.
But you will say, God hath revealed himself in the Scriptures, and it is but
reading them, and I have wit enough to understand them.
I answer, It was the Spirit that wrote the word, which is not therefore (says
Peter) of any private interpretation; that is, no man's nor men's private
understanding, without the assistance of that public secretary of heaven, can
He only hid the treasures of knowledge in the field, and he only knows where
they lie. What an advantage is it then by prayer to unlock God's breast, and
obtain the 'key of knowledge' there, that unlocks God's study, and can direct to
all his notes and papers.
Secondly, get to be a saint, to whom God will make known 'the riches,' &c.,
otherwise you cannot receive them, you will count them foolishness, as hath been
shewed; if you do, you will but take them upon trust, by the wholesale, as we
use to say, and in the bundle, will not be able to see the particular secrets
that are in the truths revealed in the gospel, and opened, and riches laid out.
Or if you could do all this without grace, yet a saint hath advantage,
First, In the comfort you will have in studying the mysteries of the gospel,
Col. 2:2, to go no further. He wisheth them 'the knowledge of the mystery, that
they might be comforted;' for, indeed, a saint, the more he sees into it, the
more he knows his own riches. He tells them but over, and gets more evidence of
his title to them, whereas another is but as a lawyer, that studies other men's
evidences, without any great comfort to himself. The choicest flowers of gospel
truths to an unregenerate man are of the stalk and yield no scent, but grow up
in a saint's heart fresh and comfortable.
Secondly, In that place, Col. 2:2, you shall find 'riches of assurance joined
with a saint's knowledge, which, 1 Thes. 1:4, 5, is made a note of election, and
not in another. Scotus says that to get a true and perfect knowledge in divine
things, fides infusa et acquisita, both faith infused and acquired, are
First, A principle of faith infused, which may be an 'evidence,' as it is
defined, Heb. 11:1, of all the principles and fundamental truths which are
revealed in the gospel and not proved; for otherwise all our knowledge acquired
built thereon will want assurance, will hang upon uncertainties. Things hanging
upon a pin are no firmer than the pin they hang on. Unless faith rivets the
principles of divine knowledge into the heart, the conclusions hang on
uncertainties, and fall down in the end.
And, thirdly, grace will help you to get the start of another. As for a natural
man, he brings only natural parts; a regenerate man is supposed to have as good,
and moreover hath a further power of discerning given him. 1 Cor. 2:15, 'The
spiritual man discerneth all things.' It is his own art. And as wicked men are
often 'wiser' in their art and generation than the children of light; yea, by
your leave, the reason will more strongly hold that a child of light may
easilier be wiser in his, and therefore Solomon says, 'The knowledge of the holy
And, lastly, if they be saints, God makes known the saying truths of the gospel
by the writings and judgments of holy men. The angels learn these mysteries of
the church, and why should not we? Ps. 29:9, In the church every one speaks of
God's glory,' or, as others read it, In the church God utters all his glory.'
The saints, especially, that are or have been of the church, they speak of the
glory of his kingdom and of his power, and make known to the sons of men his
mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. The ways of grace and
mysteries of the kingdom are seldom made known but unto them.
And if God reveals the mysteries of grace to his saints only, trust not the
judgments of natural men in the matters of grace; this is a godly man's art, and
not a wicked man's, though never so learned, and a man would trust an artist in
his own trade rather than another. 'The knowledge of the holy is understanding,'
says Solomon, Prov. 9:10, especially in ways of holiness.
Take the controversies which are now on foot. Shall they judge of election who
are reprobate to every good work themselves? Or they of the universality of
God's free grace who turn the grace of God into wantonness? Or they of the power
of God in conversion that deny the power of godliness? Or those of the
perseverance of faith who care not to make voluntary shipwreck of it, men of
corrupt minds, whose God is their belly, gain their godliness, preferment their
religion, and who will cut their own opinions accordingly?
I will end all with one place, Isa. 35:8. In the former verses he evidently
speaks of the kingdom of Christ coming to preach the gospel, by which he shews
there should be a 'way' revealed, an 'highway,' which is the common road to
heaven, there being but one way which Christ and all his go in, which shall be
called, 'The way of holiness.' Take heed you miscall it not, and call it a way
of schism, faction, &c., as the Jews did call it heresy. But yet this way the
unclean shall not pass over; but wayfaring men, who desire to know the way to
heaven (though fools) shall not err therein; but the unclean (as the opposition
shews) shall err therein, though never so learned.