SEEING the foundation of all true ratiocination is the constant signification of words; which, in the doctrine following, dependeth not (as in natural science) on the will of the writer, nor (as in common conversation) on vulgar use, but on the sense they carry in the Scripture; it is necessary, before I proceed any further, to determine, out of the Bible, the meaning of such words as by their ambiguity may render what I am to infer upon them obscure or disputable. I will begin with the words body and spirit, which in the language of the Schools are termed substances, corporeal and incorporeal.
The word body, in the most general acceptation, signifieth that which filleth or occupieth some certain room or imagined place; and dependeth not on the imagination, but is a real part of that we call the universe. For the universe, being the aggregate of all bodies, there is no real part thereof that is not also body; nor anything properly a body that is not also part of that aggregate of all bodies, the universe. The same also, because bodies are subject to change, that is to say, to variety of appearance to the sense of living creatures, is called substance, that is to say, subject to various accidents: as sometimes to be moved, sometimes to stand still; and to seem to our senses sometimes hot, sometimes cold; sometimes of one colour, smell, taste, or sound, sometimes of another. And this diversity of seeming, produced by the diversity of the operation of bodies on the organs of our sense, we attribute to alterations of the bodies that operate, and call them accidents of those bodies. And according to this acceptation of the word, substance and body signify the same thing; and therefore substance incorporeal are words which, when they are joined together, destroy one another, as if a man should say, an incorporeal body.
But in the sense of common people, not all the universe is called body, but only such parts thereof as they can discern, by the sense of feeling, to resist their force; or, by the sense of their eyes, to hinder them from a farther prospect. Therefore in the common language of men, air and aerial substances use not to be taken for bodies, but, as often as men are sensible of their effects, are called wind, or breath, or (because the same are called in the Latin spiritus) spirits; as when they call that aerial substance which in the body of any living creature gives it life and motion, vital and animal spirits. But for those idols of the brain which represent bodies to us where they are not, as in a looking-glass, in a dream, or to a distempered brain waking, they are (as the Apostle saith generally of all idols) nothing; nothing at all, I say, there where they seem to be; and in the brain itself, nothing but tumult, proceeding either from the action of the objects or from the disorderly agitation of the organs of our sense. And men that are otherwise employed than to search into their causes know not of themselves what to call them; and may therefore easily be persuaded, by those whose knowledge they much reverence, some to call them bodies, and think them made of air compacted by a power supernatural, because the sight judges them corporeal; and some to call them spirits, because the sense of touch discerneth nothing, in the place where they appear, to resist their fingers: so that the proper signification of spirit in common speech is either a subtle, fluid, and invisible body, or a ghost, or other idol or phantasm of the imagination. But for metaphorical significations there be many: for sometimes it is taken for disposition or inclination of the mind, as when for the disposition to control the sayings of other men, we say, a spirit of contradiction; for a disposition to uncleanness, an unclean spirit; for perverseness, a froward spirit; for sullenness, a dumb spirit; and for inclination to godliness and God's service, the Spirit of God: sometimes for any eminent ability, or extraordinary passion, or disease of the mind, as when great wisdom is called the spirit of wisdom; and madmen are said to be possessed with a spirit.
Other signification of spirit I find nowhere any; and where none of these can satisfy the sense of that word in Scripture, the place falleth not under human understanding; and our faith therein consisteth, not in our opinion, but in our submission; as in all places where God is said to be a Spirit, or where by the Spirit of God is meant God Himself. For the nature of God is incomprehensible; that is to say, we understand nothing of what He is, but only that He is; and therefore the attributes we give Him are not to tell one another what He is, nor to signify our opinion of His nature, but our desire to honour Him with such names as we conceive most honourable amongst ourselves.
"The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." [Genesis, 1. 2] Here if by the Spirit of God be meant God Himself, then is motion attributed to God, and consequently place, which are intelligible only of bodies, and not of substances incorporeal; and so the place is above our understanding that can conceive nothing moved that changes not place or that has not dimension; and whatsoever has dimension is body. But the meaning of those words is best understood by the like place, where when the earth was covered with waters, as in the beginning, God intending to abate them, and again to discover the dry land, useth the like words, "I will bring my Spirit upon the earth, and the waters shall be diminished":[Ibid., 8. 1] in which place by Spirit is understood a wind (that is an air or spirit moved), which might be called, as in the former place, the Spirit of God, because it was God's work.
Pharaoh calleth the wisdom of Joseph the Spirit of God. For Joseph having advised him to look out a wise and discreet man, and to set him over the land of Egypt, he saith thus, "Can we find such a man as this is, in whom is the Spirit of God?" [Genesis, 41. 38] And Exodus, 28. 3, "Thou shalt speak," saith God, "to all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, to make Aaron garments, to consecrate him." Where extraordinary understanding, though but in making garments, as being the gift of God, is called the Spirit of God. The same is found again, Exod. 31. 3-6, and 35. 31 And Isaiah, 11. 2, 3, where the prophet, speaking of the Messiah, saith, "The Spirit of the Lord shall abide upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel, and fortitude, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord." Where manifestly is meant, not so many ghosts, but so many eminent graces that God would give him.
In the Book of Judges, an extraordinary zeal and courage in the defence of God's people is called the Spirit of God; as when it excited Othniel, Gideon, Jephtha, and Samson to deliver them from servitude, Judges, 3. 10, 6. 34, 11. 29, 13. 25, 14. 6, 19. And of Saul, upon the news of the insolence of the Ammonites towards the men of Jabesh Gilead, it is said that "The Spirit of God came upon Saul, and his anger" (or, as it is in the Latin, his fury) "was kindled greatly." [I Samuel, 11. 6] Where it is not probable was meant a ghost, but an extraordinary zeal to punish the cruelty of the Ammonites. In like manner by the Spirit of God that came upon Saul, when he was amongst the prophets that praised God in songs and music, [Ibid., 19. 20] is to be understood, not a ghost, but an unexpected and sudden zeal to join with them in their devotion.
The false prophet Zedekiah saith to Micaiah, "Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak to thee?" [I Kings, 22. 24] Which cannot be understood of a ghost; for Micaiah declared before the kings of Israel and Judah the event of the battle as from a vision and not as from a spirit speaking in him.
In the same manner it appeareth, in the books of the Prophets, that though they spake by the Spirit of God, that is to say, by a special grace of prediction; yet their knowledge of the future was not by a ghost within them, but by some supernatural dream or vision. It is said, "God made man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils (spiraculum vitae) the breath of life, and man was made a living soul." [Genesis, 2. 7] There the breath of life inspired by God signifies no more but that God gave him life; and "as long as the spirit of God is in my nostrils" [Job, 27. 3] is no more than to say, "as long as I live." So in Ezekiel, 1. 20, "the spirit of life was in the wheels," is equivalent to, "the wheels were alive." And "the spirit entered into me, and me, and set me on my feet," [Ezekiel, 2. 30] that is, "I recovered my vital strength"; not that any ghost or incorporeal substance entered into and possessed his body.
In the eleventh chapter of Numbers, verse 17, "I will take," saith God, "of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee"; that is, upon the seventy elders: whereupon two of the seventy are said to prophesy in the camp; of whom some complained, and Joshua desired Moses to forbid them, which Moses would not do. Whereby it appears that Joshua knew not they had received authority so to do, and prophesied according to the mind of Moses, that is to say, by a spirit or authority subordinate to his own.
In the like sense we read that "Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands upon him":[Deuteronomy, 34. 9] that is, because he was ordained by Moses to prosecute the work he had himself begun (namely, the bringing of God's people into the promised land) but, prevented by death, could not finish.
In the like sense it is said, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his":[Romans, 8. 9] not meaning thereby the ghost of Christ, but a submission to his doctrine. As also, "Hereby you shall know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God"; [I John, 4. 2] by which is meant the spirit of unfeigned Christianity, submission to that main article of Christian faith, that Jesus is the Christ; which cannot be interpreted of a ghost.
Likewise these words, "And Jesus full of the Holy Ghost"[Luke, 4. 1] (that is, as it is expressed, Matthew, 4. 1, and Mark, 1. 12, "of the Holy Spirit") may be understood for zeal to do the work for which he was sent by God the Father: but to interpret it of a ghost is to say that God Himself (for so our Saviour was) was filled with God; which is very improper and insignificant. How we came to translate spirits by the word ghosts, which signifieth nothing, neither in heaven nor earth, but the imaginary inhabitants of man's brain, I examine not: but this I say, the word spirit in the text signifieth no such thing; but either properly a real substance or, metaphorically, some extraordinary ability or affection of the mind or of the body.
The Disciples of Christ, seeing him walking upon the sea[Matthew, 14. 26 and Mark, 6. 49] supposed him to be a spirit, meaning thereby an aerial body, and not a phantasm: for it is said they all saw him; which cannot be understood of the delusions of the brain (which are not common to many at once. as visible bodies are; but singular, because of the differences of fancies), but of bodies only. In like manner, where he was taken for a spirit, by the same Apostles: [Luke, 24. 3, 7] so also when St. Peter was delivered out of prison, it would not be believed; but when the maid said he was at the door, they said it was his angel; [Acts, 12. 15] by which must be meant a corporeal substance, or we must say the disciples themselves did follow the common opinion of both Jews and Gentiles that some such apparitions were not imaginary, but real; and such as needed not the fancy of man for their existence: these the Jews called spirits and angels, good or bad; as the Greeks called the same by the name of demons. And some such apparitions may be real and substantial; that is to say, subtle bodies, which God can form by the same power by which He formed all things, and make use of as ministers and messengers (that is to say, angels), to declare His will, and execute the same when He pleaseth in extraordinary and supernatural manner. But when He hath so formed them they are substances, endued with dimensions, and take up room, and can be moved from place to place, which is peculiar to bodies; and therefore are not ghosts not ghosts incorporeal, that is to say, ghosts that are in no place; that is to say, that are nowhere; that is to say, that, seeming to be somewhat, are nothing. But if corporeal be taken in the most vulgar manner, for such substances as are perceptible by our external senses; then is substance incorporeal a thing not imaginary, but real; namely, a thin substance invisible, but that hath the same dimensions that are in grosser bodies.
By the name of angel is signified, generally, a messenger; and most often, a messenger of God: and by a messenger of God is signified anything that makes known His extraordinary presence; that is to say, the extraordinary manifestation of His power, especially by a dream or vision.
Concerning the creation of angels, there is nothing delivered in the Scriptures. That they are spirits is often repeated: but by the name of spirit is signified both in Scripture and vulgarly, both amongst Jews and Gentiles, sometimes thin bodies; as the air, the wind, the spirits vital and animal of living creatures; and sometimes the images that rise in the fancy in dreams and visions; which are not real substances, nor last any longer than the dream or vision they appear in; which apparitions, though no real substances, but accidents of the brain; yet when God raiseth them supernaturally, to signify His will, they are not improperly termed God's messengers, that is to say, His angels.
And as the Gentiles did vulgarly conceive the imagery of the brain for things really subsistent without them, and not dependent on the fancy; and out of them framed their opinions of demons, good and evil; which because they seemed to subsist really, they called substances; and because they could not feel them with their hands, incorporeal: so also the Jews upon the same ground, without anything in the Old Testament that constrained them thereunto, had generally an opinion (except the sect of the Sadducees) that those apparitions, which it pleased God sometimes to produce in the fancy of men, for His own service, and therefore called them His angels, were substances, not dependent on the fancy, but permanent creatures of God; whereof those which they thought were good to them, they esteemed the angels of God, and those they thought would hurt them, they called evil angels, or evil spirits; such as was the spirit of Python, and the spirits of madmen, of lunatics and epileptics: for they esteemed such as were troubled with such diseases, demoniacs.
But if we consider the places of the Old Testament where angels are mentioned, we shall find that in most of them, there can nothing else be understood by the word angel, but some image raised, supernaturally, in the fancy, to signify the presence of God in the execution of some supernatural work; and therefore in the rest, where their nature is not expressed, it may be understood in the same manner.
For we read that the same apparition is called not only an angel, but God,
where that which is called the angel of the Lord, saith to Hagar, "I will
multiply thy seed exceedingly"; [Genesis, 16. 7, 10] that is, speaketh in the
person of God. Neither was this apparition a fancy figured, but a voice. By
which it is manifest that angel signifieth there nothing but God Himself, that
caused Hagar supernaturally to apprehend a voice from heaven; or rather, nothing
else but a voice supernatural, testifying God's special presence there. Why
therefore may not the angels that appeared to Lot, and are called men;
[Ibid., 19. 10] and to whom, though they were two, Lot speaketh as but
to one, [Ibid., 19. 18] and that one as God (for the words are, "Lot
said unto them, Oh not so my Lord"), be understood of images of men,
supernaturally formed in the fancy; as well as before by angel was understood a
fancied voice? When the angel called to Abraham out of heaven, to stay his hand
from slaying Isaac, [Genesis, 22. 11] there was no apparition, but a voice;
which nevertheless was called properly enough a messenger or angel of God,
because it declared God's will supernaturally, and saves the labour of supposing
any permanent ghosts. The angels which Jacob saw on the ladder of
heaven[Ibid., 28. 12] were a vision of his sleep; therefore only fancy
and a dream; yet being supernatural, and signs of God's special presence, those
apparitions are not improperly called angels. The same is to be understood where
Jacob saith thus, "The angel of the Lord appeared to me in my sleep."
Also the angel that went before the army of Israel to the Red Sea, and then came behind it, is the Lord Himself; [Exodus, 14. 19 and He appeared not in the form of a beautiful man, but in form, by day, of a "pillar of cloud," and, by night, in form of a "pillar of fire";[Ibid., 13. 21] and yet this pillar was all the apparition and angel promised to Moses for the army's guide: for this cloudy pillar is said to have descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and to have talked with Moses. [Ibid., 33. 2]
There you see motion and speech, which are commonly attributed to angels, attributed to a cloud, because the cloud served as a sign of God's presence; and was no less an angel than if it had had the form of a man or child of never so great beauty; or wings, as usually they are painted, for the false instruction of common people. For it is not the shape, but their use, that makes them angels. But their use is to be significations of God's presence in supernatural operations; as when Moses had desired God to go along with the camp, as He had done always before the making of the golden calf, God did not answer, "I will go," nor "I will send an angel in my stead"; but thus, "My presence shall go with thee."[Exodus, 33. 14]
To mention all the places of the Old Testament where the name of angel is found would be too long. Therefore to comprehend them all at once, I say there is no text in that part of the Old Testament which the Church of England holdeth for canonical from which we can conclude there is, or hath been created, any permanent thing (understood by the name of spirit or angel) that hath not quantity, and that may not be by the understanding divided; that is to say, considered by parts; so as one part may be in one place, and the next part in the next place to it; and, in sum, which is not (taking body for that which is somewhat or somewhere) corporeal; but in every place the sense will bear the interpretation of angel for messenger; as John Baptist is called an angel, and Christ the Angel of the Covenant; and as (according to the same analogy) the dove and the fiery tongues, in that they were signs of God's special presence, might also be called angels. Though we find in Daniel two names of angels, Gabriel and Michael; yet it is clear out of the text itself that by Michael is meant Christ, not as an angel, but as a prince: [Daniel, 12. 1] and that Gabriel (as the like apparitions made to other holy men in their sleep) was nothing but a supernatural phantasm, by which it seemed to Daniel in his dream that two saints being in talk, one of them said to the other, "Gabriel, let us make this man understand his vision": for God needeth not to distinguish his celestial servants by names, which are useful only to the short memories of mortals. Nor in the New Testament is there any place out of which it can be proved that angels (except when they are put for such men as God hath made the messengers and ministers of His word or works) are things permanent, and withal incorporeal. That they are permanent may be gathered from the words of our Saviour himself where he saith it shall be said to the wicked in the last day, "Go ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels":[Matthew, 25. 41] which place is manifest for the permanence of evil angels (unless we might think the name of Devil and his angels may be understood of the Church's adversaries and their ministers); but then it is repugnant to their immateriality, because everlasting fire is no punishment to impatible substances, such as are all things incorporeal. Angels therefore are not thence proved to be incorporeal. In like manner where St. Paul says, "Know ye not that we shall judge the angels?" [I Corinthians, 6. 3] And II Peter, 2. 4, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down into hell"; and "And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the last day";[Jude, 1. 6] though it prove the permanence of angelical nature, it confirmeth also their materiality. And, "In the resurrection men do neither marry, nor give in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven":[Matthew, 22. 30] but in the resurrection men shall be permanent, and not incorporeal; so therefore also are the angels.
There be diverse other places out of which may be drawn the like conclusion. To men that understand the signification of these words, substance and incorporeal (as incorporeal is taken not for subtle body, but for not body), they imply a contradiction: insomuch as to say, an angel or spirit is in that sense an incorporeal substance is to say, in effect, there is no angel nor spirit at all. Considering therefore the signification of the word angel in the Old Testament, and the nature of dreams and visions that happen to men by the ordinary way of nature, I was inclined to this opinion, that angels were nothing but supernatural apparitions of the fancy, raised by the special and extraordinary operation of God, thereby to make His presence and commandments known to mankind, and chiefly to His own people. But the many places of the New Testament, and our Saviour's own words, and in such texts wherein is no suspicion of corruption of the Scripture, have extorted from my feeble reason an acknowledgement and belief that there be also angels substantial and permanent. But to believe they be in no place, that is to say, nowhere, that is to say, nothing, as they, though indirectly, say that will have them incorporeal, cannot by Scripture be evinced.
On the signification of the word spirit dependeth that of the word inspiration; which must either be taken properly, and then it is nothing but the blowing into a man some thin and subtle air or wind in such manner as a man filleth a bladder with his breath; or if spirits be not corporeal, but have their existence only in the fancy, it is nothing but the blowing in of a phantasm; which is improper to say, and impossible; for phantasms are not, but only seem to be, somewhat. That word therefore is used in the Scripture metaphorically only: as where it is said that God inspired into man the breath of life, [Genesis, 2. 7] no more is meant than that God gave unto him vital motion. For we are not to think that God made first a living breath, and then blew it into Adam after he was made, whether that breath were real or seeming; but only as it is "that he gave him life, and breath";[Acts, 17. 25] that is, made him a living creature. And where it is said "all Scripture is given by inspiration from God," [II Timothy, 3. 16] speaking there of the Scripture of the Old Testament, it is an easy metaphor to signify that God inclined the spirit or mind of those writers to write that which should be useful in teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing men in the way of righteous living. But where St. Peter saith that "Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but the holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," [II Peter, 1. 21] by the Holy Spirit is meant the voice of God in a dream or vision supernatural, which is not inspiration: nor when our Saviour, breathing on His Disciples, said, "Receive the Holy Spirit, was that breath the Spirit, but a sign of the spiritual graces he gave unto them. And though it be said of many, and of our Saviour Himself, that he was full of the Holy Spirit; yet that fullness is not to be understood for infusion of the substance of God, but for accumulation of his gifts, such as are the gift of sanctity of life, of tongues, and the like, whether attained supernaturally or by study and industry; for in all cases they are the gifts of God. So likewise where God says, "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions," [Joel, 2. 28] we are not to understand it in the proper sense, as if his Spirit were like water, subject to effusion or infusion; but as if God had promised to give them prophetical dreams and visions. For the proper use of the word infused, in speaking of the graces of God, is an abuse of it; for those graces are virtues, not bodies to be carried hither and thither, and to be poured into men as into barrels.
In the same manner, to take inspiration in the proper sense, or to say that good spirits entered into men to make them prophesy, or evil spirits into those that became phrenetic, lunatic, or epileptic, is not to take the word in the sense of the Scripture; for the Spirit there is taken for the power of God, working by causes to us unknown. As also the wind that is there said to fill the house wherein the Apostles were assembled on the day of Pentecost[Acts, 2. 2] is not to be understood for the Holy Spirit, which is the Deity itself; but for an external sign of God's special working on their hearts to effect in them the internal graces and holy virtues He thought requisite for the performance of their apostleship.
THE kingdom of God in the writings of divines, and specially in sermons and treatises of devotion, is taken most commonly for eternal felicity, after this life, in the highest heaven, which they also call the kingdom of glory; and sometimes for the earnest of that felicity, sanctification, which they term the kingdom of grace; but never for the monarchy, that is to say, the sovereign power of God over any subjects acquired by their own consent, which is the proper signification of kingdom.
To the contrary, I find the kingdom of God to signify in most places of Scripture a kingdom properly so named, constituted by the votes of the people of Israel in peculiar manner, wherein they chose God for their king by covenant made with Him, upon God's promising them the possession of the land of Canaan; and but seldom metaphorically; and then it is taken for dominion over sin (and only in the New Testament), because such a dominion as that every subject shall have in the kingdom of God, and without prejudice to the sovereign.
From the very creation, God not only reigned over all men naturally by His might, but also had peculiar subjects, whom He commanded by a voice, as one man speaketh to another. In which manner He reigned over Adam and gave him commandment to abstain from the tree of cognizance of good and evil; which when he obeyed not, but tasting thereof took upon him to be as God, judging between good and evil, not by his Creator's commandment, but by his own sense, his punishment was a privation of the estate of eternal life, wherein God had at first created him: and afterwards God punished his posterity for their vices, all but eight persons, with a universal deluge; and in these eight did consist the then kingdom of God.
After this, it pleased God to speak to Abraham, and to make a covenant with him in these words, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee; And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession." [Genesis, 17. 7, 8] In this covenant Abraham promiseth for himself and his posterity to obey, as God, the Lord that spake to him; and God on his part promiseth to Abraham the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. And for a memorial and a token of this covenant, he ordaineth the sacrament of circumcision. [Ibid., 16. 11] This is it which is called the Old Covenant, or Testament, and containeth a contract between God and Abraham, by which Abraham obligeth himself and his posterity in a peculiar manner to be subject to God's positive law; for to the law moral he was obliged before, as by an oath of allegiance. And though the name of King be not yet given to God; nor of kingdom to Abraham and his seed, yet the thing is the same; namely, an institution by pact of God's peculiar sovereignty over the seed of Abraham, which in the renewing of the same covenant by Moses at Mount Sinai is expressly called a peculiar kingdom of God over the Jews: and it is of Abraham, not of Moses, St. Paul saith that he is the father of the faithful; [Romans, 4. 11] that is, of those that are loyal and do not violate their allegiance sworn to God, then by circumcision, and afterwards in the New Covenant by baptism.
This covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai was renewed by Moses where the Lord commandeth Moses to speak to the people in this manner, "If you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar people to me, for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a sacerdotal kingdom, and an holy nation." [Exodus, 19. 5] For a "peculiar people," the vulgar Latin hath, peculium de cunctis populis: the English translation made in the beginning of the reign of King James hath, a "peculiar treasure unto me above all nations"; and the Geneva French, "the most precious jewel of all nations." But the truest translation is the first, because it is confirmed by St. Paul himself where he saith, [Titus, 2. 14] alluding to that place, that our blessed Saviour "gave Himself for us, that He might purify us to Himself, a peculiar (that is, an extraordinary) people": for the word is in the Greek periousios, which is opposed commonly to the word epiousios: and as this signifieth ordinary, quotidian, or, as in the Lord's Prayer, of daily use; so the other signifieth that which is overplus, and stored up, and enjoyed in a special manner; which the Latins call peculium: and this meaning of the place is confirmed by the reason God rendereth of it, which followeth immediately, in that He addeth, "For all the earth is mine," as if He should say, "All the nations of the world are mine; but it is not so that you are mine, but in a special manner: for they are all mine, by reason of my power; but you shall be mine by your own consent and covenant," which is an addition to his ordinary title to all nations.
The same is again confirmed in express words in the same text, "Ye shall be to me a sacerdotal kingdom, and an holy nation." The vulgar Latin hath it, regnum sacerdotale, to which agreeth the translation of that place, sacerdotium regale, a regal priesthood; [I Peter, 2. 9] as also the institution itself, by which no man might enter into the sanctum sanctorum, that is to say, no man might enquire God's will immediately of God Himself, but only the high priest. The English translation before mentioned, following that of Geneva, has, "a kingdom of priests"; which is either meant of the succession of one high priest after another, or else it accordeth not with St. Peter, nor with the exercise of the high priesthood. For there was never any but the high priest only that was to inform the people of God's will; nor any convocation of priests ever allowed to enter into the sanctum sanctorum.
Again, the title of a holy nation confirms the same: for holy signifies that which is God's by special, not by general, right. All the earth, as is said in the text, is God's; but all the earth is not called holy, but that only which is set apart for his especial service, as was the nation of the Jews. It is therefore manifest enough by this one place that by the kingdom of God is properly meant a Commonwealth, instituted (by the consent of those which were to be subject thereto) for their civil government and the regulating of their behaviour, not only towards God their king, but also towards one another in point of justice, and towards other nations both in peace and war; which properly was a kingdom wherein God was king, and the high priest was to be, after the death of Moses, his sole viceroy, or lieutenant.
But there be many other places that clearly prove the same. As first when the elders of Israel, grieved with the corruption of the sons of Samuel, demanded a king, Samuel, displeased therewith, prayed unto the Lord; and the Lord answering said unto him, "Hearken unto the voice of the people, for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." [I Samuel, 8. 7] Out of which it is evident that God Himself was then their king; and Samuel did not command the people, but only delivered to them that which God from time to time appointed him.
Again, where Samuel saith to the people, "When ye saw that Nahash, king of the children of Ammon, came against you, ye said unto me, Nay, but a king shall reign over us; when the Lord your God was your king":[I Samuel, 12. 12] it is manifest that God was their king, and governed the civil state of their Commonwealth.
And after the Israelites had rejected God, the prophets did foretell His restitution; as, "Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem"; [Isaiah, 24. 23] where he speaketh expressly of His reign in Zion and Jerusalem; that is, on earth. And, "And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion":[Micah, 4. 7] this Mount Zion is in Jerusalem upon the earth. And, "As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you";[Ezekiel, 20. 33] and, "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant";[Ibid., 20. 37] that is, I will reign over you, and make you to stand to that covenant which you made with me by Moses, and broke in your rebellion against me in the days of Samuel, and in your election of another king.
And in the New the New Testament the angel Gabriel saith of our Saviour, "He shall be great, and be called the Son of the most High, and the Lord shall give him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." [Luke, 1. 32, 33] This is also a kingdom upon earth, for the claim whereof, as an enemy to Caesar, he was put to death; the title of his cross was Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews; he was crowned in scorn with a crown of thorns; and for the proclaiming of him, it is said of the Disciples "That they did all of them contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there was another King, one Jesus." [Acts, 17. 7] The kingdom therefore of God is a real, not a metaphorical kingdom; and so taken, not only in the Old Testament, but the New. When we say, "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory," it is to be understood of God's kingdom, by force of our covenant, not by the right of God's power; for such a kingdom God always hath; so that it were superfluous to say in our prayer, "Thy kingdom come," unless it be meant of the restoration of that kingdom of God by Christ which by revolt of the Israelites had been interrupted in the election of Saul. Nor had it been proper to say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand"; or to pray, "Thy kingdom come," if it had still continued.
There be so many other places that confirm this interpretation that it were a wonder there is no greater notice taken of it, but that it gives too much light to Christian kings to see their right of ecclesiastical government. This they have observed, that instead of a sacerdotal kingdom, translate, a kingdom of priests: for they may as well translate a royal priesthood, as it is in St. Peter, into a priesthood of kings. And whereas, for a peculiar people, they put a precious jewel, or treasure, a man might as well call the special regiment or company of a general the general's precious jewel, or his treasure.
In short, the kingdom of God is a civil kingdom, which consisted first, in the obligation of the people of Israel to those laws which Moses should bring unto them from Mount Sinai; and which afterwards the high priest, for the time being, should deliver to them from before the cherubim in the sanctum sanctorum; and which kingdom having been cast off in the election of Saul, the prophets foretold, should be restored by Christ; and the restoration whereof we daily pray for when we say in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come"; and the right whereof we acknowledge when we add, "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory, for ever and ever, Amen"; and the proclaiming whereof was the preaching of the Apostles; and to which men are prepared by the teachers of the Gospel; to embrace which Gospel (that is to say, to promise obedience to God's government) is to be in the kingdom of grace, because God hath gratis given to such the power to be the subjects (that is, children) of God hereafter when Christ shall come in majesty to judge the world, and actually to govern his own people, which is called the kingdom of glory. If the kingdom of God (called also the kingdom of heaven, from the gloriousness and admirable height of that throne) were not a kingdom which God by His lieutenants or vicars, who deliver His commandments to the people, did exercise on earth, there would not have been so much contention and war about who it is by whom God speaketh to us; neither would many priests have troubled themselves with spiritual jurisdiction, nor any king have denied it them.
Out of this literal interpretation of the kingdom of God ariseth also the true interpretation of the word holy. For it is a word which in God's kingdom answereth to that which men in their kingdoms use to call public, or the king's.
The king of any country is the public person, or representative of all his own subjects. And God the king of Israel was the Holy One of Israel. The nation which is subject to one earthly sovereign is the nation of that sovereign, that is, of the public person. So the Jews, who were God's nation, were called a holy nation. [Exodus, 19. 6] For by holy is always understood either God Himself or that which is God's in propriety; as by public is always meant either the person or the Commonwealth itself, or something that is so the Commonwealth's as no private person can claim any propriety therein.
Therefore the Sabbath (God's day) is a holy day; the Temple (God's house), a holy house; sacrifices, tithes, and offerings (God's tribute), holy duties; priests, prophets, and anointed kings, under Christ (God's ministers), holy men; the celestial ministering spirits (God's messengers), holy angels; and the like: and wheresoever the word holy is taken properly, there is still something signified of propriety gotten by consent. In saying "Hallowed be thy name," we do but pray to God for grace to keep the first Commandment of having no other Gods but Him. Mankind is God's nation in propriety: but the Jews only were a holy nation,. Why, but because they became his propriety by covenant?
And the word profane is usually taken in the Scripture for the same with common; and consequently their contraries, holy and proper, in the kingdom of God must be the same also. But figuratively, those men also are called holy that led such godly lives, as if they had forsaken all worldly designs, and wholly devoted and given themselves to God. In the proper sense, that which is made holy by God's appropriating or separating it to his own use is said to be sanctified by God, as the seventh day in the fourth Commandment; and as the elect in the New Testament were said to be sanctified when they were endued with the spirit of godliness. And that which is made holy by the dedication of men, and given to God, so as to be used only in his public service, is called also sacred, and said to be consecrated, as temples, and other houses of public prayer, and their utensils, priests, and ministers, victims, offerings, and the external matter of sacraments.
Of holiness there be degrees: for of those things that are set apart for the service of God, there may be some set apart again for a nearer and more especial service. The whole nation of the Israelites were a people holy to God; yet the tribe of Levi was amongst the Israelites a holy tribe; and amongst the Levites the priests were yet more holy; and amongst the priests the high priest was the most holy. So the land of Judea was the Holy Land, but the Holy City wherein God was to be worshipped was more holy; and again, the Temple more holy than the city, and the sanctum sanctorum more holy than the rest of the Temple.
A sacrament is a separation of some visible thing from common use; and a consecration of it to God's service, for a sign either of our admission into the kingdom of God, to be of the number of his peculiar people, or for a commemoration of the same. In the Old Testament the sign of admission was circumcision; in the New Testament, baptism. The commemoration of it in the Old Testament was the eating (at a certain time, which was anniversary) of the Paschal Lamb, by which they were put in mind of the night wherein they were delivered out of their bondage in Egypt; and in the New Testament, the celebrating of the Lord's Supper, by which we are put in mind of our deliverance from the bondage of sin by our blessed Saviour's death upon the cross. The sacraments of admission are but once to be used, because there needs but one admission; but because we have need of being often put in mind of our deliverance and of our allegiance, the sacraments of commemoration have need to be reiterated. And these are the principal sacraments and, as it were, the solemn oaths we make of our allegiance. There be also other consecrations that may be called sacraments, as the word implieth only consecration to God's service; but as it implies an oath or promise of allegiance to God, there were no other in the Old Testament but circumcision and the Passover; nor are there any other in the New Testament but baptism and the Lord's Supper.
WHEN there is mention of the word of God, or of man, it doth not signify a part of speech, such as grammarians call a noun or a verb, or any simple voice, without a contexture with other words to make it significative; but a perfect speech or discourse, whereby the speaker affirmeth, denieth, commandeth, promiseth, threateneth, wisheth, or interrogateth. In which sense it is not vocabulum that signifies a word, but sermo (in Greek logos) that is, some speech, discourse, or saying.
Again, if we say the word of God, or of man, it may be understood sometimes of the speaker: as the words that God hath spoken, or that a man hath spoken; in which sense, when we say the Gospel of St. Matthew, we understand St. Matthew to be the writer of it: and sometimes of the subject; in which sense, when we read in the Bible, "The words of the days of the kings of Israel, or Judah," it is meant the acts that were done in those days were the subject of those words; and in the Greek, which, in the Scripture, retaineth many Hebraisms, by the word of God is oftentimes meant, not that which is spoken by God, but concerning God and His government; that is to say, the doctrine of religion: insomuch as it is all one to say logos theou, and theologia; which is that doctrine which we usually call divinity, as is manifest by the places following: "The Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." [Acts, 13. 46] That which is here called the word of God was the doctrine of Christian religion; as it appears evidently by that which goes before. And where it is said to the Apostles by an angel, "Go stand and speak in the Temple, all the words of this life";[Ibid., 5. 20] by the words of this life is meant the doctrine of the Gospel, as is evident by what they did in the Temple, and is expressed in the last verse of the same chapter. "Daily in the Temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Christ Jesus":[Ibid., 15. 7 in which place it is manifest that Jesus Christ was the subject of this "word of life"; or, which is all one, the subject of the "words of this life eternal" that our Saviour offered them. So the word of God is called the word of the Gospel, because it containeth the doctrine of the kingdom of Christ; and the same word is called the word of faith; [Romans, 10. 8, 9] that is, as is there expressed, the doctrine of Christ come and raised from the dead. Also, "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom";[Matthew, 13. 19] that is the doctrine of the kingdom taught by Christ. Again, the same word is said "to grow and to be multiplied";[Acts, 12. 24] which to understand of the evangelical doctrine is easy, but of the voice or speech of God, hard and strange. In the same sense the doctrine of devils I Timothy, 4. 1] signifieth not the words of any devil, but the doctrine of heathen men concerning demons, and those phantasms which they worshipped as gods.
Considering these two significations of the word of God, as it is taken in Scripture, it is manifest in this latter sense (where it is taken for the doctrine of Christian religion) that the whole Scripture is the word of God: but in the former sense, not so. For example, though these words, "I am the Lord thy God," etc., to the end of the Ten Commandments, were spoken by God to Moses; yet the preface, "God spake these words and said," is to be understood for the words of him that wrote the holy history. The word of God, as it is taken for that which He hath spoken, is understood sometimes properly, sometimes metaphorically. Properly, as the words He hath spoken to His prophets: metaphorically, for His wisdom, power, and eternal decree, in making the world; in which sense, those fiats, "Let their be light, Let there be a firmament, Let us make man," etc. [Genesis, 1] are the word of God. And in the same sense it is said, "All things were made by it, and without it was nothing made that was made":[John, 1. 3] and "He upholdeth all things by the word of His power";[Hebrews, 1. 3] that is, by the power of His word; that is, by His power: and "The worlds were framed by the word of God";[Ibid., 11. 3] and many other places to the same sense: as also amongst the Latins, the name of fate, which signifieth properly the word spoken, is taken in the same sense.
Secondly, for the effect of His word; that is to say, for the thing itself, which by His word is affirmed, commanded, threatened, or promised; as where Joseph is said to have been kept in prison, "till his word was come";[Psalms, 105. 19] that is, till that was come to pass which he had foretold to Pharoah's butler concerning his being restored to his office: [Genesis, 11. 13] for there, by his word was come, is meant the thing itself was come to pass. So also, Elijah saith to God, "I have done all these thy words," [I Kings, 18. 36] instead of "I have done all these things at thy word," or commandment. And, "Where is the word of the Lord"[Jeremiah, 17. 15] is put for "Where is the evil He threatened." And, "There shall none of my words be prolonged any more";[Ezekiel, 12. 28] by words are understood those things which God promised to His people. And in the New Testament, "heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away";[Matthew, 24. 35] that is, there is nothing that I have promised or foretold that shall not come to pass. And in this sense it is that St. John the Evangelist, and, I think, St. John only, calleth our Saviour Himself as in the flesh the Word of God, "And the Word was made flesh";[John, 1. 14] that is to say, the word, or promise, that Christ should come into the world, "who in the beginning was with God": that is to say, it was in the purpose of God the Father to send God the Son into the world to enlighten men in the way of eternal life; but it was not till then put in execution, and actually incarnate; so that our Saviour is there called the Word, not because he was the promise, but the thing promised. They that taking occasion from this place do commonly call him the Verb of God do but render the text more obscure. They might as well term him the Noun of God: for as by noun, so also by verb, men understand nothing but a part of speech, a voice, a sound, that neither affirms, nor denies, nor commands, nor promiseth, nor is any substance corporeal or spiritual; and therefore it cannot be said to be either God or man; whereas our Saviour is both. And this Word which St. John in his Gospel saith was with God is, in his first Epistle, called the "Word of life";[Ibid., 1. 1] and "the Eternal Life, which was with the Father": [Ibid., 1. 2] so that he can be in no other sense called the Word than in that wherein He is called Eternal Life; that is, he that hath procured us eternal life by his coming in the flesh. So also the Apostle, speaking of Christ clothed in a garment dipped in blood, saith his name is "the Word of God," [Apocalypse, 19. 13] which is to be understood as if he had said his name had been "He that was come according to the purpose of God from the beginning, and according to His word and promises delivered by the prophets." So that there is nothing here of the incarnation of a word, but of the incarnation of God the Son, therefore called the Word, because his incarnation was the performance of the promise; in like manner as the Holy Ghost is called the Promise. [Acts, 1. 4; Luke, 24. 49]
There are also places of the Scripture where by the Word of God is signified such words as are consonant to reason and equity, though spoken sometimes neither by prophet nor by a holy man. For Pharaoh Necho was an idolater, yet his words to the good King Josiah, in which he advised him by messengers not to oppose him in his march against Carchemish, are said to have proceeded from the mouth of God; and that Josiah, not hearkening to them, was slain in the battle; as is to be read II Chronicles, 35. 21, 22, 23. It is true that as the same history is related in the first Book of Esdras, not Pharaoh, but Jeremiah, spake these words to Josiah from the mouth of the Lord. But we are to give credit to the canonical Scripture whatsoever be written in the Apocrypha.
The Word of God is then also to be taken for the dictates of reason and equity, when the same is said in the Scriptures to be written in man's heart; as Psalms, 37. 31; Jeremiah, 31. 33; Deuteronomy, 30. 11, 14, and many other like places.
The name of prophet signifieth in Scripture sometimes prolocutor; that is, he that speaketh from God to man, or from man to God: and sometimes predictor, or a foreteller of things to come: and sometimes one that speaketh incoherently, as men that are distracted. It is most frequently used in the sense speaking from God to the people. So Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others were prophets. And in this sense the high priest was a prophet, for he only went into the sanctum sanctorum to enquire of God, and was to declare his answer to the people. And therefore when Caiaphas said it was expedient that one man should die for the people, St. John saith that "He spake not this of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that one man should die for the nation." [John, 11. 51] Also they that in Christian congregations taught the people are said to prophesy. [I Corinthians, 14. 3] In the like sense it is that God saith to Moses concerning Aaron, "He shall be thy spokesman to the people; and he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God":[Exodus, 4. 16] that which here is spokesman is, Exodus, 7. 1, interpreted prophet: "See," saith God, "I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." In the sense of speaking from man to God, Abraham is called a prophet where God in a dream speaketh to Abimelech in this manner, "Now therefore restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet, and shall pray for thee";[Genesis, 20. 7] whereby may be also gathered that the name of prophet may be given not unproperly to them that in Christian churches have a calling to say public prayers for the congregation. In the same sense, the prophets that came down from the high place, or hill of god, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, Saul amongst them, are said to prophesy, in that they praised God in that manner publicly. [I Samuel, 10. 5, 6, 10] In the like sense is Miriam called a prophetess. [Exodus, 15. 20] So is it also to be taken where St. Paul saith, "Every man that prayeth or prophesieth with his head covered," etc., and every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered":[I Corinthians, 11. 4, 5] for prophecy in that place signifieth no more but praising God in psalms and holy songs, which women might do in the church, though it were not lawful for them to speak to the congregation. And in this signification it is that the poets of the heathen, that composed hymns and other sorts of poems in the honor of their gods, were called vates, prophets, as is well enough known by all that are versed in the books of the Gentiles, and as is evident where St. Paul saith of the Cretans that a prophet of their own said they were liars; [Titus, 1. 12] not that St. Paul held their poets for poets for prophets, but acknowledgeth that the word prophet was commonly used to signify them that celebrated the honour of God in verse.
When by prophecy is meant prediction, or foretelling of future contingents, not only they were prophets who were God's spokesmen, and foretold those things to others which God had foretold to them; but also all those impostors that pretend by the help familiar spirits, or by superstitious divination of events past, from false causes, to foretell the like events in time to come: of which (as I have declared already in the twelfth Chapter of this discourse) there be many kinds who gain in the opinion of the common sort of men a greater reputation of prophecy by one casual event that may be but wrested to their purpose, than can be lost again by never so many failings. Prophecy is not an art, nor, when it is taken for prediction, a constant vocation, but an extraordinary and temporary employment from God, most often of good men, but sometimes also of the wicked. The woman of Endor, who is said to have had a familiar spirit, and thereby to have raised a phantasm of Samuel, and foretold Saul his death, was not therefore a prophetess; for neither had she any science whereby she could raise such a phantasm, nor does it appear that God commanded the raising of it, but only guided that imposture to be a means of Saul's terror and discouragement, and by consequent, of the discomfiture by which he fell. And for incoherent speech, it was amongst the Gentiles taken for one sort of prophecy, because the prophets of their oracles, intoxicated with a spirit or vapor from the cave of the Pythian Oracle at Delphi, were for the time really mad, and spake like madmen; of whose loose words a sense might be made to fit any event, in such sort as all bodies are said to be made of materia prima. In the Scripture I find it also so taken in these words, "And the evil spirit came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house."[I Samuel, 18. 10]
And although there be so many significations in Scripture of the word prophet; yet is that the most frequent in which it is taken for him to whom God speaketh immediately that which the prophet is to say from Him to some other man, or to the people. And hereupon a question may be asked, in what manner God speaketh to such a prophet. Can it, may some say, be properly said that God hath voice and language, when it cannot be properly said He hath a tongue or other organs as a man? The Prophet David argueth thus, "Shall He that made the eye, not see? or He that made the ear, not hear?" [Psalms, 94. 9] But this may be spoken, not, as usually, to signify God's nature, but to signify our intention to honour Him. For to see and hear are honourable attributes, and may be given to God to declare as far as capacity can conceive His almighty power. But if it were to be taken in the strict and proper sense, one might argue from his making of all other parts of man's body that he had also the same use of them which we have; which would be many of them so uncomely as it would be the greatest contumely in the world to ascribe them to Him. Therefore we are to interpret God's speaking to men immediately for that way, whatsoever it be, by which God makes them understand His will: and the ways whereby He doth this are many, and to be sought only in the Holy Scripture; where though many times it be said that God spake to this and that person, without declaring in what manner, yet there be again many places that deliver also the signs by which they were to acknowledge His presence and commandment; and by these may be understood how He spake to many of the rest.
In what manner God spake to Adam, and Eve, and Cain, and Noah is not expressed; nor how he spake to Abraham, till such time as he came out of his own country to Sichem in the land of Canaan, and then God is said to have appeared to him. [Genesis, 12. 7] So there is one way whereby God made His presence manifest; that is, by an apparition, or vision. And again, the word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision";[Ibid., 15. 1] that is to say, somewhat, as a sign of God's presence, appeared as God's messenger to speak to him. Again, the Lord appeared to Abraham by an apparition of three angels; [Ibid., 18. 1] and to Abimelech in a dream; [Ibid., 18. 1] to Lot by an apparition of two angels; [Ibid., 19. 1] and to Hagar by the apparition of one angel; [Ibid., 21. 17] and to Abraham again by the apparition of a voice from heaven; [Ibid., 22. 11] and to Isaac in the night[Ibid., 26. 24] (that is, in his sleep, or by dream); and to Jacob in a dream; [Ibid., 28. 12] that is to say (as are the words of the text), "Jacob dreamed that he saw a ladder," etc. And in a vision of angels; [Ibid., 32. 1] and to Moses in the apparition of a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; [Exodus, 3. 2] and after the time of Moses, where the manner how God spake immediately to man in the Old Testament is expressed, He spake always by a vision, or by a dream; as to Gideon, Samuel, Eliah, Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets; and often in the New Testament, as to Joseph, to St. Peter, to St. Paul, and to St. John the Evangelist in the Apocalypse.
Only to Moses He spake in a more extraordinary manner in Mount Sinai, and in the Tabernacle; and to the high priest in the Tabernacle, and in the sanctum sanctorum of the Temple. But Moses, and after him the high priests, were prophets of a more eminent place and degree in God's favour; and God Himself in express words declareth that to other prophets He spake in dreams and visions, but to His servant Moses in such manner as a man speaketh to his friend. The words are these: "If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house; with him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold." [Numbers, 12. 6, 7, 8] And, "The Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." [Exodus, 33. 11] And yet this speaking of God to Moses was by mediation of an angel, or angels, as appears expressly, Acts 7. 35 and 53, and Galatians, 3. 19, and was therefore a vision, though a more clear vision than was given to other prophets. And conformable hereunto, where God saith, "If there arise amongst you a prophet, or dreamer of dreams," [Deuteronomy, 13. 1] the latter word is but the interpretation of the former. And, "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions":[Joel, 2. 28] where again, the word prophesy is expounded by dream and vision. And in the same manner it was that God spake to Solomon, promising him wisdom, riches, and honour; for the text saith, "And Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream":[I Kings, 3. 15] so that generally the prophets extraordinary in the Old Testament took notice of the word of God no otherwise than from their dreams or visions that is to say, from the imaginations which they had in their sleep or in an ecstasy: which imaginations in every true prophet were supernatural, but in false prophets were either natural or feigned.
The same prophets were nevertheless said to speak by the spirit; as where the prophet, speaking of the Jews, saith, "They made their hearts hard as adamant, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets." [Zechariah, 7. 12] By which it is manifest that speaking by the spirit or inspiration was not a particular manner of God's speaking, different from vision, when they that were said to speak by the Spirit were extraordinary prophets, such as for every new message were to have a particular commission or, which is all one, a new dream or vision.
Of prophets that were so by a perpetual calling in the Old Testament, some were supreme and some subordinate: supreme were first Moses, and after him the high priests, every one for his time, as long the priesthood was royal; and after the people of the Jews had rejected God, that He should no more reign over them, those kings which submitted themselves to God's government were also his chief prophets; and the high priest's office became ministerial. And when God was to be consulted, they put on the holy vestments, and enquired of the Lord as the king commanded them, and were deprived of their office when the king thought fit. For King Saul commanded the burnt offering to be brought; [I Samuel, 13. 9] and he commands the priest to bring the Ark near him; [Ibid.,14. 18] and, again, to let it alone, because he saw an advantage upon his enemies. [Ibid., 14. 19] And in the same chapter Saul asketh counsel of God. In like manner King David, after his being anointed, though before he had possession of the kingdom, is said to "enquire of the Lord" whether he should fight against the Philistines at Keilah; [Ibid., 23. 2] and David commandeth the priest to bring him the ephod, to enquire whether he should stay in Keilah or not. [Ibid., 23. 9] And King Solomon took the priesthood from Abiathar, [I Kings, 2. 27] and gave it to Zadok. [Ibid., 2. 35] Therefore Moses, and the high priests, and the pious kings, who enquired of God on all extraordinary occasions how they were to carry themselves, or what event they were to have, were all sovereign prophets. But in what manner God spake unto them is not manifest. To say that when Moses went up to God in Mount Sinai it was a dream, or vision, such as other prophets had, is contrary to that distinction which God made between Moses and other prophets. [Numbers, 12. 6, 7, 8] To say God spake or appeared as He is in His own nature is to deny His infiniteness, invisibility, incomprehensibility. To say he spake by inspiration, or infusion of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit signifieth the Deity, is to make Moses equal with Christ, in whom only the Godhead, as St. Paul speaketh, dwelleth bodily. [Colossians, 2. 9] And lastly, to say he spake by the Holy Spirit, as it signifieth the graces or gifts of the Holy Spirit, is to attribute nothing to him supernatural. For God disposeth men to piety, justice, mercy, truth, faith, and all manner of virtue, both moral and intellectual, by doctrine, example, and by several occasions, natural and ordinary.
And as these ways cannot be applied to God, in His speaking to Moses at Mount Sinai; so also they cannot be applied to Him in His speaking to the high priests from the mercy-seat. Therefore in what manner God spake to those sovereign prophets of the Old Testament, whose office it was to enquire of Him, is not intelligible. In the time of the New Testament there was no sovereign prophet but our Saviour, who was both God that spake, and the prophet to whom He spake.
To subordinate prophets of perpetual calling, I find not any place that proveth God spake to them supernaturally, but only in such manner as naturally He inclineth men to piety, to belief, to righteousness, and to other virtues all other Christian men. Which way, though it consist in constitution, instruction, education, and the occasions and invitements men have to Christian virtues, yet it is truly attributed to the operation of the Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, which we in our language call the Holy Ghost: for there is no good inclination that is not of the operation of God. But these operations are not always supernatural. When therefore a prophet is said to speak in the spirit, or by the Spirit of God, we are to understand no more but that he speaks according to God's will, declared by the supreme prophet. For the most common acceptation of the word spirit is in the signification of a man's intention, mind, or disposition.
In the time of Moses, there were seventy men besides himself that prophesied in the camp of the Israelites. In what manner God spake to them is declared in the eleventh Chapter of Numbers, verse 25: "The Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto Moses, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it to the seventy elders. And it came to pass, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease." By which it is manifest, first, that their prophesying to the people was subservient and subordinate to the prophesying of Moses; for that God took of the spirit of Moses put upon them; so that they prophesied as Moses would have them: otherwise they had not been suffered to prophesy at all. For there was a complaint made against them to Moses; [Numbers, 11. 27] and Joshua would have Moses to have forbidden them; which he did not, but said to Joshua "Be not jealous in my behalf." Secondly, that the Spirit of God in that place signifieth nothing but the mind and disposition to obey and assist Moses in the administration of the government. For if it were meant they had the substantial Spirit of God; that is, the divine nature, inspired into them, then they had it in no less manner than Christ himself, in whom only the Spirit of God dwelt bodily. It is meant therefore of the gift and grace of God, that guided them to co-operate with Moses, from whom their spirit was derived. And it appeareth that they were such as Moses himself should appoint for elders and officers of the people: [Ibid., 11. 16] for the words are, "Gather unto me seventy men, whom thou knowest to be elders and officers of the people": where, thou knowest is the same with thou appointest, or hast appointed to be such. For we are told before that Moses, following the counsel of Jethro his father-in-law, did appoint judges and officers over the people such as feared God; [Exodus, 18] and of these were those seventy whom God, by putting upon them Moses' spirit, inclined to aid Moses in the administration of the kingdom: and in this sense the spirit of God is said presently upon the anointing of David to have come upon David, and left Saul; [I Samuel, 16. 13, 14] God giving His graces to him He chose to govern His people, and taking them away from him He rejected. So that by the spirit is meant inclination to God's service, and not any supernatural revelation.
God spake also many times by the event of lots, which were ordered by such as He had put in authority over His people. So we read that God manifested by the lots which Saul caused to be drawn the fault that Jonathan had committed in eating a honeycomb, contrary to the oath taken by the people. [I Samuel, 14. 43] And God divided the land of Canaan amongst the Israelites by the "lots that Joshua did cast before the Lord in Shiloh." [Joshua, 18. 10] In the same manner it seemeth to be that God discovered the crime of Achan. [ Ibid., 7. 16, etc.] And these are the ways whereby God declared His will in the Old Testament.
All which ways He used also in the New Testament. To the Virgin Mary, by a vision of an angel; to Joseph, in a dream; again to Paul, in the way to Damascus in a vision of our Saviour; and to Peter in the vision of a sheet let down from heaven with diverse sorts of flesh of clean and unclean beasts; and in prison, by vision of an angel; and to all the Apostles and writers of the New Testament, by the graces of His Spirit; and to the Apostles again, at the choosing of Matthias in the place of Judas Iscariot, by lot.
Seeing then all prophecy supposeth vision or dream (which two, when they be natural, are the same), or some especial gift of God so rarely observed in mankind as to be admired where observed; and seeing as well such gifts as the most extraordinary dreams and visions may proceed from God, not only by His supernatural and immediate, but also by his natural operation, and by mediation of second causes; there is need of reason and judgement to discern between natural and supernatural gifts, and between natural and supernatural visions or dreams. And consequently men had need to be very circumspect, and wary, in obeying the voice of man that, pretending himself to be a prophet, requires us to obey God in that way which he in God's name telleth us to be the way to happiness. For he that pretends to teach men the way of so great felicity pretends to govern them; that is to say, rule and reign over them; which is a thing that all men naturally desire, and is therefore worthy to be suspected of ambition and imposture; and consequently ought be examined and tried by every man before he yield them obedience, unless he have yielded it them already in the institution of a Commonwealth; as when the prophet is the civil sovereign, or by the civil sovereign authorized. And if this examination of prophets and spirits were not allowed to every one of the people, it had been to no purpose to set out the marks by which every man might be able to distinguish between those whom they ought, and those whom they ought not to follow. Seeing therefore such marks are set out to know a prophet by, [Deuteronomy, 13. 1, etc.] and to know a spirit by; [I John, 4. 1, etc.] and seeing there is so much prophesying in the Old Testament, and so much preaching in the New Testament against prophets, and so much greater a number ordinarily of false prophets than of true; every one is to beware of obeying their directions at their own peril. And first, that there were many more false than true prophets appears by this, that when Ahab consulted four hundred prophets, they were all false impostors, but only one Micaiah. [I Kings, 22] And a little before the time of the Captivity the prophets were generally liars. "The prophets," saith the Lord by Jeremiah, "prophesy lies in my name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor spake unto them: they prophesy to you a false vision, a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart." [Jeremiah, 14. 14] Insomuch as God commanded the people by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah not to obey them. "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy to you. They make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord." [Ibid., 23. 16]
Seeing then there was in the time of the Old Testament such quarrels amongst the visionary prophets, one contesting with another, and asking, "When departed the spirit from me, to go to thee?" as between Micaiah and the rest of the four hundred; and such giving of the lie to one another, as in Jeremiah, 14. 14, and such controversies in the new Testament this day amongst the spiritual prophets: every man then was, and now is, bound to make use of his natural reason to apply to all prophecy those rules which God hath given us to discern the true from the false. Of which rules, in the Old Testament, one was conformable doctrine to that which Moses the sovereign prophet had taught them; and the other, the miraculous power of foretelling what God would bring to pass, as I have already shown out of Deuteronomy, 13. 1, etc. And in the New Testament there was but one only mark, and that was the preaching of this doctrine that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the King of the Jews, promised in the Old Testament. Whosoever denied that article, he was a false prophet, whatsoever miracles he might seem to work; and he that taught it was a true prophet. For St. John, speaking expressly of the means to examine spirits, whether they be of God or not, after he had told them that there would arise false prophets, saith thus, "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God";[I John, 4. 2, etc.] that is, is approved and allowed as a prophet of God: not that he is a godly man, or one of the elect for this that he confesseth, professeth, or preacheth Jesus to be the Christ, but for that he is a prophet avowed. For God sometimes speaketh by prophets whose persons He hath not accepted; as He did by Baalam, and as He foretold Saul of his death by the Witch of Endor. Again in the next verse, "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of Christ. And this is the spirit of Antichrist." So that the rule is perfect rule is perfect on both sides: that he is a true prophet which preacheth the Messiah already come, in the person of Jesus; and he a false one that denieth him come, and looketh for him in some future impostor that shall take upon him that honour falsely, whom the Apostle there properly calleth Antichrist. Every man therefore ought to consider who is the sovereign prophet; that is to say, who it is that is God's vicegerent on earth, and hath next under God the authority of governing Christian men; and to observe for a rule that doctrine which in the name of God he hath commanded to be taught, and thereby to examine and try out the truth of those doctrines which pretended prophets, with miracle or without, shall at any time advance: and if they find it contrary to that rule, to do as they did that came to Moses and complained that there were some that prophesied in the camp whose authority so to do they doubted of; and leave to the sovereign, as they did to Moses, to uphold or to forbid them, as he should see cause; and if he disavow them, then no more to obey their voice, or if he approve them, then to obey them as men to whom God hath given a part of the spirit of their sovereign. For when Christian men take not their Christian sovereign for God's prophet, they must either take their own dreams for the prophecy they mean to be governed by, and the tumour of their own hearts for the Spirit of God; or they must suffer themselves to be lead by some strange prince, or by some of their fellow subjects that can bewitch them by slander of the government into rebellion, without other miracle to confirm their calling than sometimes an extraordinary success and impunity; and by this means destroying all laws, both divine and human, reduce all order, government, and society to the first chaos of violence and civil war.