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don us for ever, did, in his infinite wisdom, project a new method of governing us, more accommodated to this our degenerate state, viz. by uniting himself to sensible matter, and therein addressing to our bodily senses in audible voices, visible appearances, and finally in our own form and nature, which, of all other sensible things, we are most apt to be affected with, to love, and honour, and reverence, and obey. For so immediately after his fall God appeared to Adam, probably in a glorious human form, and spake to him in an audible voice; and afterwards he did the same to the patriarchs, and to the whole nation of the Jews from mount Sinai, among whom he also dwelt in a visible glory: by which means he acquired to himself the same advantage of governing those sensual men that sensible objects had, which, by striking on their bodily sense, did more powerfully insinuate themselves into their wills and affections. But all these sensible appearances of God were only as so many præludia to his assuming our nature into personal union with his Godhead, and therein exhibiting himself familiarly to the bodily senses of mankind, which though he now ceases to do, as being exalted far above our sight, on the right hand of God the Father, there to reign till the consummation of all things, yet seeing we believe he is there visible in himself, clothed in a most glorious human form, we can by imagination supply the want of our sight of him, and reach him by. our inward sense, though we cannot come at him by our outward. And whereas, were he a mere Spirit, we could have no imagination of him, because imaginations are nothing but the images of sensible things, we can now, by the strength of our imagination, fetch him down from the heavens when we please, and set him before our minds in all that venerable majesty wherein he sits at the right hand of his Father. So that though he be never present to our outward sense, yet, which is almost equivalent, whenever we have occasion to converse with him, we can make him present to our inward, viz. our fancy and imagination ; into this spacious gallery of the pictures of sensible things our mind can walk when it pleases, and there behold him in effigy, though it cannot see him face to face: and considering how much we are governed, in this degenerate state of our nature, by fancy and imagination, as well as by sight and feeling, it is doubtless a most advantageous circumstance of God's government of the world, that he governs us by one whom we can fancy and imagine, when we cannot see or feel him.
There are a great many men that never saw the king, who yet are overawed by the imagination they have of his majesty and greatness; whereas was not the king a man, but a pure invisible spirit, they could form no imagination of him, the want of which would very much abate, if not utterly extinguish, their awe and reverence of his person.
Considering therefore how much we are governed by our sense in this state of our apostasy, it was doubtless a wonderful wise contrivance of God, who is a pure spirit, to assume to himself some sensible matter, that therein, by presenting himself to our outward or inward sense, he might strike the deeper awe on us, and thereby the more effectually rule and govern us.
But of all sensible matter, none could be so proper to this purpose as a human form, in which we are inured and accustomed to be governed, and of which, as was hinted before, we have, of all sensible things, the greatest love and veneration : during this our degeneracy, therefore, by which we are so unqualified to be governed by God immediately, God the Father hath most wisely contrived to govern us by God-man; i. e. by his own eternal Son, hypostatically united to our natures. But when once mankind is recovered out of his lapsed condition, when our sense is perfectly subdued to our reason, all our faculties are reduced into their primitive order, then we shall return under God's immediate dominion ; for then God-man shall deliver up the kingdom, and God shall be all in all
II. God now governs us by his own eternal Son in our natures, to cure and prevent the spreading contagion of idolatry. There is no one vice to which our corrupt nature is more propense, and of which it hath been more universally tardy, than that of idolatry; for as for other vices, they have their peculiar provinces, and such a vice is more predominant in such a clime and temperament of air. In one nation pride reigns, in another intemperance, in another treachery, and in a fourth malice and revenge: as for idolatry, it is an universal monarch, to whose empire all the world hath been enslaved and subjected; and notwithstanding all the care which God hath taken to prevent it, it hath spread like the plague, till it became the epidemical disease of human nature. Now to be sure such an universal effect must necessarily be owing to some universal cause; and what other can that be, than the universal degeneracy of human nature from its primitive life of reason into a life of sense? For while man was under the government of his reason, he was as much influenced by dry arguments as he is now by his sense; and the full reason he had to believe that there is an invisible divine Being presiding over all things, did as vigorously excite him to adore and worship him as the sight of him could have done, had he appeared to his bodily eyes in a glory proportionable to the immense perfections of his nature. But when once his sense had usurped the throne of his reason, and enslaved him to its empire, the case was quite altered: now reason and argument have very little influence on him, unless it be backed with some impressions of his sense; and his predominant affections are those that are raised by the strokes of sensible objects upon the sensories of his sight, and taste, and feeling, which the divine substance and perfections can never touch, they being purely spiritual; by which means that communication and intercourse which was between God and man, whilst man was governed by reason, is mightily disturbed and interrupted, though it be not altogether stopped and intercepted; for still our reason (which was not extinguished by the degeneracy of our natures) suggests to us, that there is a God, and inspires us with an awful sense of his divine perfections, which still maintains in us religious inclinations and affections, whereby we are importuned and solicited to adore and worship; but we being under the government of sense, are thereby naturally inclined either to look upon God, who is in himself a pure invisible spirit, under the notion of a sensible being, and as such to worship him, (for so anciently some adored the sun for God, others the universal material nature, others such and such particular parts of it;) and in this consists that gross idolatry of worshipping false gods, or at least to blend our conceptions of him with corporeal phantasms; and then to express those phantasms in outward visible images, by them to excite and direct our worship to him, (for so in most nations the supreme Numen was heretofore adored in statues and images of several shapes and figures, copied from the several images by which they represented him to themselves in their own vain and roving imaginations;) and herein consists that more refined idolatry of worshipping the true God in a false manner. Thus the general cause of all idolatry is nothing but the general apostasy of human nature from the life of reason to the life of sense, by which we are naturally inclined either to transform God into a gross and sensible nature, or at least to assist ourselves in conceiving of, and adoring and worshipping him by sensible and visible objects. To prevent which, God hath been graciously pleased to assume some material substance, and therein from time to time to exhibit to men's eyes a visible presence of himself, which in scripture is frequently called the glory of the Lord, and by the ancient Jews the shechinah or habitation of God, and consisted of a shining luminous matter, which exhibited a glorious lustre of flame or light set off with thick and solemn clouds; whence, it is probable, he is said to cover himself with light as with a garment, Psalm civ. 2. and in this glorious appearance he conducted Israel through the Red sea and wilderness; came down upon mount Sinai, and was seen by Moses and the elders of Israel; and from thence removed into the tabernacle,