"That which was from the Beginning,"
1 John i.1. -- "That which was from the beginning," &c.

Things are commended sometimes, because they are ancient, especially doctrines in religion, because truth is before error, and falsehood is but an aberration from truth and therefore there is so much plea and contention among men, about antiquity, as if it were the sufficient rule of verity. But the abuse is, that men go not far enough backward in the steps of antiquity, that is, to the most ancient rule, and profession, and practice of truth in scripture, to Christ and his apostles, but halt in their grandfathers' tombs. But sometimes things are commended, because new. The nature of man being inclined to change and variety, and ready to surfeit and loath accustomed things, even as the stomach finds appetite for new and unusual diets, so the mind of man hath a secret longing after new doctrines and things. Now we have both these combined together in this subject, which makes it the more excellent and wonderful, -- antiquity, and novelty, for antiquity, it is that which was from the beginning, and which was with the Father, and that is before all antiquity, even from eternity, not only from the beginning of time, but before all time, before all imaginable beginnings. He, of whom he speaks, Christ Jesus, the Father's Word, was with the Father from the beginning, with the Ancient of days who infinitely and unmeasurably antedates all antiquity, to whose endurance all antiquity that is renowned among men, is but novelty, to whom the world is but as of six days standing, or but as of yesterday, if we consider that infinite, beginningless, immeasurable endurance of God, before this world, what a boddom(227) or clew is that, that can never be untwined by the imaginations of men and angels! To all eternity they should never unwind it and come to the end of that thread of the age of the Father and the Son, who possessed one another before the hills were, and before the foundations of the mountains. This is it that maketh religion the richest and most transcendent subject in the world, that it presents us with a twofold eternity, and environs the soul before and behind with an eternity without beginning, only proper to God, and an eternity without and communicated to angels and men from God. That which was from the beginning, and before all beginning, either real or imagined, how much moment and weight is in that, to persuade a soul, and compose it, beyond all the specious and painted appearances of the world! To consider that such a Saviour is holden out unto us, to come unto, and lean upon, that is the Rock of ages, upon whose word this huge frame is bottomed, and stands firm, -- one who infinitely exceeds and prevents all things visible or invisible, all their mutations and changes, -- one who was possessed of the Father, as his delights, before the foundation of the world, and so most likely to reconcile him to us, and prevail with him, yea, most certainly, they must have one will, and one delight, who were undivided from all eternity, and they then rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, taking complacency in their own thoughts of peace and good will they had towards us, afterwards to break forth. And if both delighted in their very projects and plots upon the business, what may we think the accomplishment of the whole design will add, if it were possible to superadd to their delight? I would have you upon this, to gather two considerations, for your edification. One, to think what an incomparably excellent Saviour we have, one with God, equal to him, yea, one with him from all eternity, and so how strong a foundation there is for faith and confidence, what a Rock to establish a tossed soul upon. Man's misery and curse being for all eternity, there is One to deliver from that, who was from all eternity. And who could purchase unto us such absolute blessedness throughout all eternity, who was not himself from all eternity? What marvellous congruity and beauty is in the ways of God? How is all fitted and framed by infinite wisdom, to the end that we may have strong consolation? Do you not see the infinite evil and heinousness of sin, in the giving of such a precious ransom for it? O how is the black visage of sin portrayed in the beauty and glory of the Mediator's person? How is it painted, even to horror, in his death? Again, what divinity and worth is put upon the immortal soul of man, that is but of yesterday, since the beginning, when he that was the delight of God, before all beginning, is weighed in the balance, as it were with it, and no other thing found sufficient for exchange and compensation, that the soul may be redeemed? And doth not this answer all the jealousies and suspicious thoughts, and fearful apprehensions, arising from the consideration of our own weakness and infirmity, when such an One is offered, as is able to save to the utmost? Then I would desire you may believe, that the Father is as well minded to the salvation of sinners, as the Son, for they were sweet company together from all eternity, and, as it were, contrived this plot and design between them, to save and redeem mankind. Some entertain harsher thoughts of the Father, as if Christ were more accessible, and exorable. But the truth is, he hath given his Son this command, and therefore he professed, that it was not so much his will, as his Father's, he was about. Therefore correct your apprehensions, do not stand aback from the Father, as it were till you have prevailed with Christ. No, that is not the way. Come in your first address to the Father, in the Son, for so he wills you, not because he must be overcome by his Son's persuasion but because he would have his love to run in that channel through Christ to us. And indeed our Saviour was much in holding out the love of the Father, and laboured to persuade the world of it. Withal, I wish you to consider whom ye neglect and despise who hear this gospel duly, and the Word of life holden out unto you and yet suffer not your hearts to be moved, or stirred after him. Alas, my beloved, to forsake so great a mercy, as the eternal Word of life as the infinite Wisdom of the Father, and to let the offer of this every day run by us, and never to find leisure and vacancy from the multitude of businesses and throng of the thoughts and lusts of the world, never to start so far backward, as to look beyond this world, to God, and his Son Jesus Christ, never to mind seriously either him that was before all things visible, or our own souls, that must survive and outlive all this visible frame. This, I say, is the great misery and condemnation of the world, that this eternal Light hath shined, and you love your own darkness better. But be persuaded that one day ye will think one offer of this Word of life better than life -- better, infinitely better than the most absolute life that the attendance and concurrence of all the creatures could yield you. O then that ye would incline your ears and hearts to this that is declared unto you to receive this Word of life that was from the beginning, and ye may be persuaded ye shall enjoy a blessedness without end!

But here is withal a newness in this subject, which both increases admiration and may the more engage our affection. For "the life was manifested" saith he, ver.2, and he is such a Word of life as though he was invisible and untouchable from the beginning, yet he was lately clothed with flesh that made him both visible and capable of being handled. Now truly these are the two poles about which the mystery, glory and wonder of Christianity turns, -- the antiquity of his real existence as God, and the lateness or novelty of his appearance in the flesh as man, -- nothing so old, for he hath the infinite forestart of the oldest and most ancient creatures. Take those angels, the sons of God, who sung together in the first morning of the creation yet their generation can soon be told, and their years numbered. It is easy to calculate all antiquity, and we should not reach six thousand years, when it is taken at the largest measure. And what are six thousand years in his sight, but as six days when they are past? And if we would run backward, as far before that point of beginning, and calculate other six thousand, yet we are never a jot nearer the age of the Son of God. Suppose a mountain of sand as big as the earth, and an angel to take from it one grain in every year, your imagination would weary itself, ere ye reckoned in what space this mountain should be diminished, or removed. It would certainly trouble the arithmetic of the wisest mathematician. Now imagine as many years or ages of years to have run out before the world took its beginning, as the years in which the angel would exhaust this mountain, yet we have not come a whit nearer the endurance of our Lord and Saviour, whose Being is like a circle, without beginning or end. "Behold he is great and we know him not, and the number of his years cannot be searched out,"? Job xxxvi.26. And who can tell his generation? The age of this Word is such a labyrinth, with innumerable turnings and windings in it, as will always lead them round that enter in it. And so they are, after the longest progress and search, but just where they were, always beginning, and never coming nearer the beginning of his duration, because it is the beginning of all things that hath a beginning but hath none itself.

Now he that was thus blessed from everlasting, who dwelt in inaccessible light and glory, which no man hath seen, nor can see, infinitely removed from all human capacities and senses, -- he, I say begins to be manifested in the fulness of time. And to make himself visible, he takes on our flesh, -- and all for this purpose, that he who was the substantial life in himself, and the eternal life, in an essential and necessary way, might become life to poor dead sinners, and communicate to them eternal life. And truly it was no wonder that all ages were in the expectation of this from the beginning of the world since it was first promised, -- that the inhabitants of heaven were in a longing expectation to see and look into this mystery, for there is something in it more wonderful than the creation of this huge frame of heaven and earth, God's footstool! The thunder, how glorious and terrible a voice! In a word, the being, the beauty the harmony, and proportion of this huge frame, is but a visible appearance of the invisible God. But in taking on our flesh, the Word is more wonderfully manifested, and made visible, for, in the first, the Creator made creatures to start out of nothing at his command, but in this, the Creator is made a creature. He once gave a beginning of being to things that were not. Being before all beginning himself, he now takes a beginning, and becomes flesh, that he was not. And what is it in which he was manifested? Is it the spiritual nature of angels? But though that far excel ours yet it is no manifestation of him to us, for he should still be as unknown as ever. Is it in the glory, perfection, and power of the visible world, as in the sun, and lights of heaven? But though that have more show of glory than the flesh of man, yet it makes not much to our comfort, -- there would not be so much consolation in that manifestation. Therefore, O how wisely and wonderfully is it contrived, for the good of lost man that the Son of God shall be made of a woman, that the Father of spirits shall be manifested in the lowest habit of our flesh, and the lower and baser that be in which he appears, the higher the mystery is and the richer the comfort is. Suppose the manifestation of glory should not be so great, yet the manifestation of love is so much the greater. And this is the great design, "God so loved the world" &c. John iii. Nay, I may say, even the glory of the only begotten Son of God was the more visibly manifested, that he appeared in so low and unequal a shape. For power to show itself in weakness, for glory to appear in baseness, for divinity to kythe(228) in humanity, and such glorious rays to break forth from under such a dark cloud, this was greater glory, and more majesty, than if he had only showed himself in the perfection of the creatures. Now it is easy to distinguish the vail from that it covers, -- to separate infirmity from divinity. But then it had been more difficult, if his outward appearance had been so glorious, to give unto God what was God's, and to give the creatures what was the creatures'. The more near his outward shape had been to his divine nature, the less able had we been to see the glory of his divinity through it.

Now, my beloved, when both these are laid together, the ancientness of our Saviour, and withal the newness of his appearance in the flesh by which he hath come so near us, and, as it were, brought his own Majesty within our sphere, to be apprehended by us, -- and for no other end but to make life and immortality to shine forth as beams from him, to the quickening of dead souls, -- O how should this conjunction endear him to us! That the everlasting Father should become a child for us, that is one wonder. The next wonder is, that we who are enemies should be made the children of God by him. When the dark and obscure prophesying of this, -- when the twilight of Jewish types and shadows did create so much joy in the hearts of believers, insomuch that they longed for and rejoiced to see afar off that day, -- when such a dark representation of this Word of life, was the very life of the godly in the world for four thousand years, -- O how much is the cause of joy increased, by the rising of the Sun of righteousness himself, and his appearing in the very darkest night of superstition and idolatry that ever was over the world! When the true Life hath risen himself, and brought to open light that life that was obscurely couched up in prophecies and ceremonies, as hid under so many clouds. O then, let us open our hearts to him, and then entertain these new and fresh tidings with new delights. Though these be now more than sixteen hundred years old, yet they are still recent to a believing heart. There is an everlasting spring in them, that sends out every day fresh consolation to souls, as refreshing as the first day this spring was opened. This is the new wine that never grows old, nay, it is rather every generation renewed, with the accession of some new manifestation of the love of God. Christ's incarnation was the first manifestation of the Son, the very morning of light and life, the dayspring visiting the world that was buried in an hellish darkness of heathen idolatry, and even the church of God, in the grave of superstition and corruption of doctrine and manners. Then did that Sun of righteousness first set up his head above the horizon. But it is but one day still. He hath been but coming by degrees to the meridian and "shining more and more to the perfect day." That Sun hath not set since, but made a course, and gone round about the world, in the preaching of the gospel, and brought life and light about, by succession, from one nation to another, and one generation to another. And therefore we ought to entertain it this day with acclamations and jubilation of heart, as the people that lie under the north do welcome the sun when it comes once a year to them. "After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared," Tit. iii.4, {GREEK SMALL LETTER PHI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}, his kindly and affectionate love to mankind. That is it that shines so brightly. The beams of grace and love to men, are the rays that are scattered from this Sun of righteousness. O the hardness of men's hearts, the impenetrable obstinacy of man, that this cannot melt or pierce! How damnable and miserable a case are they into who can neither be persuaded with the eternity of this subject, to adore it, nor moved with the late appearance of the love of God to the world, in sending of his Son -- whom neither Christ's majesty nor his humility can draw! Certainly this makes sinners under the gospel in a more deplorable condition than Sodom, because if he had not come, they had not had such sin, but now it is without excuse, &c.

sermon i that which was
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