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Thus much concerning the Occasion of the Words, and the Light that yields for our understanding of them.
In discoursing whereupon, that which I design is,
I. Farther to explain and illustrate the true Meaning of our Saviour in them.
II. To put in express Cautions against Conclusions that have been weakly inferr'd from them.
III. To press the true practical Doctrine that is contained in them by suitable Exhortation.
I. To explain and illustrate the true Meaning of the Words: To which End it will be needful to enquire into these three Things only.
1. What we are to understand by that Saying, God is a Spirit ?
2. What it is to worship God in Spirit and in Truth? 3.
Wherein lies the Force of that Reason why we must worship God in Spirit and in Truth, because God is a Spirit?
1. What is the Meaning of Spirit, when it is said, God is a Spirit?
And without doubt the Word Spirit is here used to express the Nature and Elence of God: And it signifies Two Things.
1. That God hath nothing of Body or Matter in his Nature, but is purely a Mind, that is, according to the more popular way
of speaking, a Spirit
. It requires great exercise of Thought to arrive at the Philofo. phical Notion of Mind or Spirit, and most Men letting in the far greater part of their Knowledge from Impressions made upon the outward Senses by bodily Things, lie under great Dificulties when they try to apprehend the Nature of a Spirit, and commonly they confound it with the Imagination of Body or Matter : But the nicety of the Notion is not necefsary to Religion; It is enough for us to understand, that there is something in our selves, and that the far Nobler Part of our Natures, by 'which we think, we reason, we know Good from Evil, we have free-Will, and can choose a greater Gond, which we forefeé, before a leffer Good that is present, in a Word, by which we are Reaa sonable Creatures. Now that part of our Natures by which we do all this, is not Bodily Life, or any Composition of Matter
, it being impossible for mere Matter to think or reason, and very evident that we can exercise these rational Powers very often when the bodily Life is alınost quite deceas'd: It being then our Mind or Spirit by which we are capable of these things; when we fay God is a 'Spirit, our meaning is, that he is a Free Agent, and that he is a Wise and Good Being, and thit whereas we are Body as well as Spirit, he is purely á Spirit that
is, that Freedom and Wisdom, and Knowledge, and Goodness is his Nature, without the Composition of any thing that is Body, or Matter. So that the Likeness in which we are created to the Divine Naturë respecteth only our Immaterial and Spiritual Part; For nothing that can be seen or felt, nothing that isso imperfect as Body, can be like to the Godhead, which is a pure Spirit.
Now that which our Saviour here affirins of the Spirituality of the Divine Nature (though it was not altogether unknown to the wilést Philosophers, for Tully tells us, that God is a Mind Pure from all mixture of that which is Material and Mortal, yet) was never before delivered as a Doctrine of Religion: For though in the Old Testament we meet with frequent' mention of the Spi-, rit of God, yet it was our Blessed Saviour, who first of all instructed Mankind, That God is a Spirit, not concealing so high a Point from a Woman, that seemed not to be extraordinarily versed in Divine Matters. This was the proper' Foundation for the removal of all Superstition and Idolatry out of the World, and therefore fittest to be made known by him, who came with unquestionable Authority from God to make an Universal Reformation of the Mistakes of Men in things relating to God, and to bring into Practice the best and most perfect Way of
Worshipping God: For that of necessity must be founded upon the most Worthy and Honourable, that is, upon the True Notion of God, in particular, that he is a Spirit.
2. We are to conceive of God, not only as a Spirit, which is the most Perfect Kind of Beings, but as a Spirit infinitely Perfect, or incomparably the Best of that Best kind, that is, that he is Infinite in all the Perfedions of a Spiritual Nature or Being; Whereas all other Spirits, the Spirits of Men or Angels, have in them a finite and limited proportion. The proper Perfections of a Spirit are Reason, Wisdom, Freedom, Choice, Goodness, and all Virtue: These are its Moral Perfections, as its Natural Perfections are a certain Valtness of Power, and Largeness of Presense, and an Exemption from Corruptibility, which belong not to Matter or Body : And all these are infinite in God; That is to say, God is the most Free Agent, of boundless Reason and Understanding, of most perfect Goodness, of irresistible Power, of immense Presence, and of eternal Duration. Now although it is not exprelly said in the Old Testament that God is a Spirit, yet thoie Perfections are frequently and plainly attributed to him there, sometimes indeed under figurative Expressions, by which the Scriptures condescend to the Capacity of People not yet instructed in the best Way +
of Religion; Hence it is, that his Power is express’d by his Arm, and his Knowledge by Eyes, and his Goodness by Bowels; and the like; Which Metaphors taken from humane Bodies are not used in the New Testament, which Designs to raise in us higher Apprehensions of God, than the Ifraelites had: And therefore our Saviour tells us God is a Spirit, revealing thereby to us what indeed was discoverable by Natural Reason, it being evident to those that gave their Minds to consider these things, that the foremention'd Perfections cannot belong to Body; And therefore fince they are infinitely in God, he is not a Body, but a Spirit: But it requires so much labour of Mind, and such an unwearied abstractedness of Thought from bodily Things to come to this Conclusion by Philosophy, that our Lord, who came to instruct Men of all Capacities in Divine Things, hath not left his Disciples to gather this Do&trine from Philosophy, which they are few who can attend to, but delivered it in a plain Proposition, and left it to be believed upon his Authority, and those Testimonies of Divine Revelation, by which his whole Doctrine is confirmed.
This is all that I think fit to say upon the first Head, that God is a Spirit.