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The Beauties of Boston
By Thomas Boston
The Nature of that Faith and Obedience which the Holy Scriptures Teach
First, as to faith. Divine faith is a believing of what God has revealed, because God has said it, or revealed it. People may believe scripture truths, but not with a divine faith, unless they believe it on that very ground, the authority of God speaking in his word. And this divine faith is the product of the Spirit of God in the heart of a sinner, implanting the habit or principle of faith there, and exciting it to a hearty reception and firm belief of whatever God reveals in his word. And the faith which the scripture teaches is what a man is to believe concerning God. This may be reduced to four heads: What God is; the persons in the Godhead; the decrees of God relating to every thing that comes to pass; and the execution of them in his works of creation and providence. Now, though the works of creation and providence show that there is a God, yet that fundamental truth, that God is, and the doctrines relating to the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, God's acts and purposes, the creation of all things, the state of man at his creation, his fall, and his recovery by the mediation and satisfaction of Christ, are only to be learned from the holy scriptures. Hence we may infer,
1. That there can be no right knowledge of God acquired in an ordinary way without the scriptures, Matt. 22:29. 'Ye do err,' said Christ to the Sadducees, 'not knowing the scriptures.' As there must be a dark night where the light is gone, so those places of the earth must needs be dark, and without the saving knowledge of God, that lack the scriptures. Thus the Apostle tells the Ephesians, that, before they were visited with the light of the gospel, they were 'without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.' Eph. 2:12.
2. That where the scriptures are not known, there can be no saving faith. For, says the Apostle, Rom. 10:14, 15, 17. 'How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet. of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.'
3. That there is nothing we are bound to believe as a part of faith but what the scripture teaches, be who they will that propose it, and whatever they may pretend for their warrant. 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,' Isa. 8:20. No man must be our master in these things: 'For one is our master even Christ,' Matt. 23:10. He is Lord of our faith, and we are bound to believe whatever he has revealed in his word.
Secondly, As to obedience, it is that duty which God requires of man. It is that duty and obedience which man owes to God, to his will and laws, in respect of God's universal supremacy and sovereign authority over man; and which lie should render to film out of love and gratitude. The scriptures are the holy oracle from whence we are to learn our duty, Psal. 19:11. 'By them is thy servant warned,' says David. The Bible is the light we are to take heed to, that we may know how to steer our course, and order the several steps of our life. 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path,' says the Psalmist, Psalm 119:105. From whence we may infer,
1. That there can be no sufficient knowledge of the duty which we owe to God without the scriptures. Though the light of nature does in some measure show our duty to God, yet it is too dim to take up the will of God sufficiently in order to salvation.
2. That there can he no right obedience yielded to God without them. Men that walk in the dark must needs stumble; and the works that are wrought in the dark will never abide the light; for there is no working rightly by guess in this matter. All proper obedience to God must be learned from the scriptures.
3. That there is no point of duty that we are called to, but what the scripture teaches, Isa. 8:20, mentioned before. Men must neither make duties to themselves or others, but what God has made duty. The law of God is exceeding broad, and reaches the whole life of man, outward and inward, Psalm 19; and man is bound to conform himself to it alone as the rule of his duty.
Thirdly, As to the connection of these two: faith and obedience are joined together, because there is no true faith but what is followed with obedience, and no true obedience but what flows from faith. Faith is the loadstone of obedience, and obedience the touchstone of faith, as appears from James 2:They that lack faith cannot be holy; and they that have true faith, their faith will work by love. Hence we may see,
1. That faith is the foundation of duty or obedience, and not obedience or duty the foundation of faith, Tit. 3:8. 'This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men;' and that the things to be believed are placed before the things to be practised, in order to distinguish between the order of the things in the covenant of grace, and what they were under the covenant of works. Under the latter, doing, or perfect obedience to the law, was the foundation of the promised privilege of life; but under the former, the promise is to be believed, and the promised life is to he freely received: and thereupon follows the believer's obedience to the law, out of gratitude and love for the mercy received. This appears from the order laid down by God himself in delivering the moral law from mount Sinai. He lays the foundation of faith, first of all, in these words, 'I am the Lord thy God,.' which is the sum and substance of the covenant of grace; and then follows the law of the Ten Commandments, which is as it were grafted upon this declaration of sovereign grace and love, Exod. 20:2-18. And let it be remembered, that the Apostle Paul calls gospel-obedience the obedience of faith, as springing from and founded upon faith. And if we examine the order of doctrine laid down in all his epistles, we shall find, that he first propounds the doctrine of faith, or what man is to believe, and upon that foundation inculcates the duties that are to be practised.
2. That all works without faith are dead, and so cannot please God. For whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and without or separate from Christ we can do nothing. Faith is the principle of all holy and acceptable obedience.
3. That those who inculcate moral duties without proclaiming the necessity of regeneration, and union with Christ, as the source of all true obedience, are foolish builders; they lay their foundation on the sand, and the superstructure they raise will soon be overturned; and they pervert the gospel of Christ, Such would do well to consider what the Apostle says, Gal. 1:9, 'If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'
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The Manner of Discovering the True Sense of Holy Scripture.
1 The sense of the scripture is but one, and not many. There may be several parts of that one sense subordinate one to another; as some prophecies have a respect to the deliverance from Babylon, the spiritual by Christ, and the eternal in heaven; and some passages have one thing that is typical of another: yet these are but one full sense, only that may be of two sorts; one is simple, and another compound.
Some scriptures have only a simple sense, containing a declaration of one thing only; and that is either proper or figurative. A proper sense is that which arises from the words taken properly, and the figurative from the words taken figuratively. Some have a simple proper sense, as, 'God is a Spirit,' 'God created the heavens and the earth;' which are to be understood according to the propriety of the words. Some have a simple figurative sense, as, 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,' These have but one simple sense; but then it is the figurative, and is not to be understood according to the literal meaning of the words, as if Christ were a tree, Thus you see what the simple sense is. The compound or mixed sense is found wherein one thing is held forth as a type of the other; and so it consists of two parts, the one respecting the type, the other the antitype; which are not two senses, but two parts of that one and entire sense intended by the Holy Ghost: e.g. Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that those who were stung by the fiery serpents might look to it and be healed.
The full sense of which is, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' Here is a literal and mystical sense, which make up one full sense betwixt them. Those scriptures that have this compound sense, are sometimes fulfilled properly (or literally, as it is taken in opposition to figuratively) in the type and antitype both; as Hos. 11:1. 'I have called my Son out of Egypt,' which was literally true both of Israel and Christ. Sometimes figuratively in the type, and properly in the antitype, as Psal. 69:21. 'They gave me vinegar to drink.' Sometimes properly in the type, and figuratively in the antitype, as Psal. 2:9. 'Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.' Compare 2 Sam. 12:31. Sometimes figuratively in both, as Psal. 41:9, 'Yea, mine own familiar friend hath lifted up his heel against me; which is meant of Ahithophel and Judas. Now the sense of the scripture must be but one, and not manifold, that is, quite different and nowise subordinate one to another, because of the unity of truth, and because of the perspicuity of the scripture.
2. Where there is a question about the true sense of scripture, it. must be found out what it is by searching other places that speak more clearly, the scripture itself being the infallible rule of interpreting of scripture. Now that it is so, appears from the following arguments.
(1.) The Holy Spirit gives this as a rule, 2 Pet. 1:20, 21. After the apostle had called the Christians to take heed to the scripture, he gives them this rule for understanding it, 'Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation of our own exposition. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' As it came, so is it to be expounded: but it came not by the will of man; therefore we are not to rest on men for the sense of it, but holy men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and so never erring; therefore we are to look to the dictates of the same Spirit in other places.
(2.) There are several approved examples of this, comparing one scripture with another, to find out the meaning of the Holy Ghost, as Acts 15:15. And to this agree the words of the prophet,' The Bereans are commended for this, Acts 17:11. Yea, Christ himself makes use of this to show the true sense of the scripture against the devil, Matt. 4:6. 'Cast thyself down,' said that wicked spirit; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,' ver. 7. 'It is written again,' says Christ, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' And thus our Lord makes out the true sense of that scripture, that it is to be understood only with respect to them who do not cast themselves on a tempting of God.**
**The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and, therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture which is not manifold but one, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. 2 Pet. 1:20, 21; Acts 15:16 — Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter I.9.
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Reason not the Supreme Judge of Controversies in Religion
1 Reason in an unregenerate man is blind in the matters of God, 1 Cor. 2:14. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they,are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;' Eph. 4:17, 18; Eph. 5:8. Except. This only respects reason not illustrated by divine revelation. Ans. By that illustration of reason by divine revelation, they understand either subjective or objective illustration. If they understand it of subjective illustration, they quit that article of their religion, wherein they believe that the mind of man is capable of itself, without the illumination of the Spirit, to attain sufficient knowledge of the mind of God revealed in the scripture. If of Objective illustration, by the mere revelation of these truths, then it is false that they assert: For the apostle opposes here the natural man to the spiritual man; and therefore by the natural man is understood every unregenerate man, even that has these truths revealed to him; for, says the apostle, 'they are foolishness unto him.' Now, how can he judge them foolishness if they be not revealed?
2. Reason is not infallible, and therefore cannot be admitted judge in matters concerning our souls. Reason may be deceived, Rom. 3:4, and is not this to shake the foundations of religion, and to pave a way to scepticism and atheism? Except. That is not to be feared where sound reason is admitted judge. But what talk they of sound reason? The adversaries themselves will yield, that reason is unsound in the Most part of men. We say, that it is not fully sound in the world; for even the best know but in part; darkness remains in some measure on the minds of all men.
3. Reason must be subject to the scripture, and submit itself to be judged by God speaking there, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5. 'The weapons of our warfare are....mighty....to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations....and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Matters of faith are above the sphere of reason; and therefore as sense is not admitted judge in those things that are above it, so neither reason in those things that are above it, 1 Tim. 3:16. 'And without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.'
4. If reason were the supreme judge of controversies, then our faith should be built on ourselves, and the great reason why we believe any principle of religion would be, because it appears so and so to us, which is most absurd. The scripture teaches otherwise, 1 Thess. 2:13. 'Ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God.' Most plainly does our Lord teach this, John 5:34. 'receive not testimony from men;' chap. 5:39. 'Search the scriptures.'
The orthodox assert the supreme judge of controversies in religion to be the Holy Spirit speaking in the scriptures. This is proved by the following arguments.
1. In the Old and New Testament, the Lord still sends us to this judge. So that we may neither turn to the right hand nor left from what he there speaks, Deut. 5:32. and 17:11. 'According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee;' Isa. 8:20. To the law and to the testimony,' ; Luke 16:29. 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them;' John 5:39. 'Search the scriptures.' Some hereto refer that passage, Matt. 19:28. 'Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' In this sense it must be meant of the doctrine they taught, as dictated to them by the Holy Ghost.
2. It was the practice of Christ and his apostles to appeal to the Spirit speaking in the scriptures, Matt. 4:where Christ still answers Satan with that, 'It is written.' And so while discoursing with the Sadducees about the resurrection, Matt. 22:31, 32. So also in John, chap. 5 and 10 and Luke 24:44. And so did others, Acts 17:11, and 26:22, 23.; 2 Pet. 1:19.; Acts 15:15, 16. A careful examination of which passages I recommend to you for your establishment in the truth.
3. To the Spirit of God speaking in the scriptures, and to him only, agree those things that are requisite to constitute, one the supreme judge. (1.) We may certainly know that the sentence which fie pronounces is true, for he is infallible, being God. (2.) We cannot appeal from him, for he is one above whom there is none. (3.) He is no respecter of persons, nor can be biassed in favour of one in preference to another.
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To Search and Study the Scriptures is the Duty of All Classes of Men
If ye ask, by whom this is to be done? It is by all into whose hands, by the mercy of God, it comes. Some never had it, and so they will not be condemned for slighting of it, Rom. 2:12. Magistrates are called to look to it, and be much conversant in it, Josh. 1:8. 'This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' Deut. 17:18, 19. 'And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes, to do them.'
Ministers are in a special manner called to the study of it. 1 Tim. 4:13. 'Give attendance to reading.' 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction iii righteousness.' But not they only are so commanded, but all others within the church, John 5:39. 'Search the scriptures.' Deut. 6:6, 7. 'These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.'
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Search from the Book of the Lord
Several things are implied in Isaiah 34:16, "Search from the book of the Lord, and read:"
1. That man has lost his way, and needs direction to find it, Psalm 119:176, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant." Miserable man has blurred vision in a directionless world, which is a dark place, and has as much need of the scriptures to guide him, as one has of a light in darkness, 2 Pet. 1:19. What a miserable case is that part of the world in that lacks the Bible? They are vain in their imaginations, and grope in the dark, but cannot find the way of salvation. In no better case are those to whom it has not come in power.
2. That man is in danger of being led farther and farther wrong. This made the spouse say, "Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself By the flocks of your companions?" Song 1:7. There is a cunning devil, a wicked world, corrupt lusts within one's own breast, to lead him out of the right way, that we had need to let go of, and take this guide. There are many false lights in the world, which, if followed, will lead the traveller into a mire, and leave him there.
3. That men are slow of heart to understand the mind of God in his word. It will cost searching diligently before we can take it up, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me," John 5:39.
Our eyes are dim to the things of God, our understanding dull, and our judgment is weak. And therefore, because the iron is blunt, we must put too the more strength. We lost the sharpness of our sight in spiritual things in Adam; and our corrupt wills and carnal affections, that favour not the things of God, do blind our judgments even more: and therefore it is a labour to us to find out what is necessary for our salvation.
4. That the book of the Lord has its difficulties, which are not to be easily solved. Therefore the Psalmist prays, "Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law," Psa 119:18.
Philip asked the eunuch, "Do you understand what you are reading?" and he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" There are depths there in which an elephant may swim, and will exercise the largest capabilities, with all the expertise they may be possessed of. God in his holy providence has so ordered it, to stain the pride of all glory; to make his word the more like himself, whom none can search out to perfection, and to sharpen the diligence of his people in their inquiries into it.
5. That yet we need highly to understand it, otherwise we would not be commanded to search into it. "Of the times and seasons," says the apostle, "you have no need that I write to you;" and therefore he wrote not of them. There is a treasure in this field; we are called to dig for it; for though it be hid, yet we must have it, or we will waste away in our spiritual poverty.
6. That we may gain from it by diligent inquiry. The holy humble heart will not be always sent empty away from these wells of salvation, when it undertakes itself to draw. There are shallow places in these waters of the sanctuary, where lambs may wade.
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Useful Directions For Reading and Searching the Scriptures.
1. Follow a regular plan in reading of them, that you may be acquainted with the whole; and make this reading a part of your private devotions. Not that you should confine yourselves only to a set plan, so as never to read by choice, but ordinarily this tends most to edification. Some parts of the Bible are more difficult, some may seem very barren for an ordinary reader; but if you would look on it all as God's word, not to be scorned, and read it with faith and reverence, no doubt you would find advantage.
2. Set a special mark, however you find convenient, on those passages you read, which you find most suitable to your case, condition, or temptations; or such as you have found to move your hearts more than other passages. And it will be profitable often to review these.
3. Compare one Scripture with another, the more obscure with that which is more plain, 2 Pet. 1:20. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the Scriptures; and to this good use serve the marginal notes on Bibles. And keep Christ in your eye, for to him the scriptures of the Old Testament look (in its genealogies, types, and sacrifices), as well as those of the New.
4. Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience, 1 Thess. 2:13, "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."
5. Let your main purpose in reading the Scriptures be practice, and not bare knowledge, James 1:22, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Read that you may learn and do, and that without any limitation or distinction, but that whatever you see God requires, you may study to practice.
6. Beg of God and look to him for his Spirit. For it is the Spirit that inspired it, that it must be savingly understood by, 1 Cor 2:11, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." And therefore before you read, it is highly reasonable you beg a blessing on what you are to read.
7. Beware of a worldly, fleshly mind: for fleshly sins blind the mind from the things of God; and the worldly heart cannot favour them. In an eclipse of the moon, the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and so keeps the light of the sun from it. So the world, in the heart, coming between you and the light of the word, keeps its divine light from you.
8. Labour to be disciplined toward godliness, and to observe your spiritual circumstances. For a disciplined attitude helps mightily to understand the scriptures. Such a Christian will find his circumstances in the word, and the word will give light to his circumstances, and his circumstances light into the word.
9. Whatever you learn from the word, labour to put it into practice. For to him that has, shall be given. No wonder those people get little insight into the Bible, who make no effort to practice what they know. But while the stream runs into a holy life, the fountain will be the freer.
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God Alone Created the World
This will be evident from the following considerations:
1. The world could not make itself; for that would imply a horrible contradiction, namely, that the world was before it was; for the cause must always be before its effect. That which is not in being, can have no production; for nothing can act before it exists. As nothing has no existence, so it have no operation. There must therefore be something which has existence in itself, to give a being to those things that are; and every second cause must be an effect of some other before it be a cause. To be and not to be at the same time, is a manifest contradiction, which would infallibly take place if any thing made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made, as is obvious to the most illiterate peasant. If the world were a creator, it must be before itself as a created thing.
2. The production of the world could not be by chance. It was indeed the extravagant fancy of some ancient philosophers, that the original of the world was from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which were in perpetual motion in an immense space, till at last a sufficient number of them met in such a happy conjunction as formed the universe in the beautiful order in which we now behold it. But it is amazingly strange how such a wild opinion, which can never be reconciled with reason, could ever find any entertainment in a human mind. Can any man rationally conceive, that a confused jumble of atoms, of diverse natures and forms, and some so far distant from others, should ever meet in such a fortunate manner, as to form an entire world, so vast in extent, so distinct in the order, so united in the diversities of natures, so regular in the variety of changes, and so beautiful in the whole composure? Such an extravagant fancy as this can only possess the thoughts of a disordered brain.
3. God created all things, the world, and all the creatures that belong to it. He attributes this work to himself, as one of the particular glories of his Deity, exclusive of all the creatures. So we read, Isa 44:24, "I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by myself." Chapter 45:12, "I have made the earth, And created man on it. I; My hands; stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded." Chapter 40:12,13, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has taught him?" Job 9:8, "He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea." These are magnificent descriptions of the creating power of God, and exceed every thing of the kind that has been attempted by the pens of the greatest sages of antiquity.
By this operation God is distinguished from all the false gods and fictitious deities which the blinded nations adored, and shows himself to be the true God. Jer 10:11 "Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion." Psalm 96:5, " All the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens." Isa 37:16, "You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth." None could make the world but God, because creation is a work of infinite power, and could not be produced by any finite cause: For the distance between being and not being is truly infinite, which could not be removed by any finite agent, or the activity of all finite agents united.
This work of creation is common to all the three persons in the adorable Trinity. The Father is described in Scripture as the Creator, 1 Cor. 7:6, "The Father, of whom are all things." The same claim belongs to the Son, John 1:3, "All things were made by him," [that is to say-] the Word, the Son; John 1:3 "All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." The same honour belongs to the Holy Spirit, as Job 26:13, "By His Spirit He adorned the heavens." Job 33:4 "The Spirit of God has made me," says Elihu, "and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." All the three persons are one God; God is the Creator; and therefore all the external works and acts of the one God must be common to the three persons. Hence, when the work of creation is ascribed to the Father, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are excluded; but because as the Father is the fountain of the Deity, so he is the fountain of divine works.
The Father created from himself by the Son and the Spirit; the Son from the Father by the Spirit; and the Spirit from the Father and the Son; the manner or order of their working being according to the order of their subsisting. The matter may be considered in this way: All the three persons being one God, possessed of the same infinite perfections; the Father, the first in subsistence, willed the work of creation to be done by his authority: "He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast."-In respect of immediate operation, it peculiarly belonged to the Son. For, "the Father created all things by Jesus Christ," Eph. 3:9. And we are told, that "all things were made through him," John 1:3. This work in regard of settlement and ornament, particularly belongs to the Holy Ghost. So it is said, Gen 1:2, "and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters," to embellish and adorn the world, after the matter of it was formed. This is why it is also said, Job 26:13 "By His Spirit He adorned the heavens."
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|© 1999 The Old Time Gospel Ministry
"When to seek God has become life and to glorify God has become self, then you have truly found God."