|« Prev||Lecture XI. Preached March 6, 1691.||Next »|
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well:
the devils also believe, and tremble.
IN pursuance of that design we have had in hand, of explaining and asserting to you the principal heads and doctrines of our religion, we have (you know) already been discoursing to you about the Object of it, the eternal, ever-blessed God: and concerning the measure and rule of it, the holy Scriptures, which we have proved to be the word of God: and that method it was necessary to follow, of evincing the being or existence of God to you first, before we could reasonably go about to prove the Scriptures to be his word. For of nothing there are no predicates; nothing can be affirmed of nothing. It were vain to allege the authority of this or that prince’s edict to one that should not believe that there was ever such a prince: but having evinced to you the existence of God, and that these Scriptures are his word, purposely written to reveal him more fully to us, his nature and his mind and will concerning what we are to believe and practice, in order to our pleasing and our enjoying of him, it is now highly reasonable to expect from these Scriptures, the discovery of such things further, concerning him, and our duty towards him and expectations from him, as we could not otherwise have known, as whereof we could 497not by other means have had, as to some things; and as to other things not so distinct or certain knowledge: for otherwise these Scriptures should not answer their avowed end, and must indeed be supposed to be written in vain. There are things that do concern even God himself, which is of great importance to us to be acquainted with, that either we should have had no knowledge at all of, without these Scriptures, or should not have known so clearly or not so easily: some of us (it may be) not at all: such as were less capable, or less inclined, or less willing to use their own reason in thought, and to discern a train of consequences and the force of them, and how to make things that are in themselves evidencable, evident to ourselves in an argumentative way. It is a great matter of advantage to have more of necessary things made known to us, and to have those things which it is necessary we should know, made known in an easy and less laborious way, without our more toilsome search: or to have it said, on the authority of the great God, this and this you are to believe, and this and this you are to do; to have that which is to be the food of our souls, not to be hunted for, but even brought to our hands; this is a very great advantage.
Now among some of those things that do concern God himself, and which it is of absolute necessity to be acquainted with, and in order whereto, we are to have a clear light, and for the most, their whole light from the Scriptures, there are especially two which I shall instance in, and insist upon. That is,—the unity of the Godhead, and—the trinity therein. And for the former of these, the unity of the Godhead, we may very fitly insist upon that, as far as is needful, from this scripture. In which there are two parts. The first, approving and justifying the believing of this great truth, that God is but ONE: “Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well:” the other, reproving and condemning the ineffectual belief of it: “the devils also believe and tremble.”
I. I shall insist on the former of these—That the Godhead is but ONE, or there is but ONE GOD. “This (saith the apostle) thou believest, thou doest well in it. Thou believest truly and as the matter is.” I do not propound this to you as a Scripture doctrine, upon that account, as if it were not at all demonstrable in a rational way; but shall first, let you see how very expressly the Scripture doth testify to us this truth touching the unity of the Godhead. And then secondly, shall shew what rational evidence it admits of besides.
1. As to the Scripture testimony about this, it could be in nothing more express. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is 498 one Lord:” (Deut. vi. 4.) a passage quoted in the gospel as you find, Mark xii. in several verses of that chapter, in which it is enlarged upon. One of the scribes (verse 28) came to our Lord; and perceiving there were reasonings between him and some others, he asks, “Which is the first commandment?” Jesus answered him, “The first commandment is, Hear O Israel; the Lord thy God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” The scribe said unto him, “Well master, thou hath said the truth, for there is but one God, and there is none other but he; and to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding and with all the soul and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly; like a man that had a mind, (as the word signifies) had a presentness of mind, an understanding, a good sound understanding about him, he highly approves of what he said, and saith, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” There are many expressions very great and august, spoken like a God about this matter, in the prophecy of Isaiah, in several chapters of it. If you look to the 43. chapter, “Ye are my witnesses saith the Lord, and my servants whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and that ye may understand that I am he; before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I am the Lord; and besides me there is no Saviour.” Verses 10, 11. And in the 44th chap. ver. 8. “Fear ye not, neither be afraid; have I not told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are my witnesses, is there a God besides me? yea there is no God, I know not any.” “I that can transmit the beams of mine eye through this vast and boundless inane, and look round about me every where, can see nothing like another God in view: I know no such, and I know you cannot know more than I.” So you have the same thing inculcated in the 45th chapter, in sundry verses of it, “I am God, and there is none else; and the Saviour, and there is none beside me:” most pleasantly conjoining the notion of God and Saviour together, over and over, that when we know this one God, we may know him too under the pleasant notion of a Saviour. No discovery of him could be more suitable, or more grateful to poor creatures sunk and lost in misery as we are. And so you know, the apostle puts both these together, the “One God and one Mediator,” revealing to us this truth the unity of the Godhead in conjunction with what is most apposite and suitable with the state of our case in that 1 Cor. viii. 6. “To us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. And 1 Tim. ii. 5. “There is one God 499and one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.” And that place is famous, 1 John v. 7. “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” That oneness can mean nothing there, but in the Deity, in the Godhead.
2. But this matter is very capable of very clear rational evidence too; which because it is not obvious to every one at first sight, I would only help you herein a little, not doubting but you will apprehend things to be very plain to you, when you hear them, which might have been out of your thoughts or sight before: both what hath been already proved, and what is otherwise evident concerning God, will prove to us the unity of the Godhead, and also what is obvious to our common notice concerning the state of the creation; It is by the creation we come to have the first notices of the Creator, as you have heard. That is, of the invisible power and Godhead by the things that are made. Now whether you look to the Maker, the Creator of all made things; or whether you look to the state of those things themselves, you will find clear rational evidence that the Godhead is but one, or that God can be but one.
(1.) Consider what hath been made plain, or is otherwise evident, concerning God himself, the very notion of God: thence it will appear, that the Deity admits not of multiplication, or that there can be more Gods than one. As,
[1.] It hath been proved, and is in itself evident, that God is a self-original, a self-existing Being. He is such a Being as that he doth not owe it to another, that he is, but only to himself. He only is in being, because such is the peculiar excellency of his being, as to which, it is altogether repugnant and impossible ever not to be. He exists, necessarily of and from himself only. Now necessary self-existing, un-caused being can be but one, for whatsoever is un-caused is unlimited, all limitation proceeding from a cause; and of unlimited being there can be no more than one, for if there were two, one must limit the other: and so neither would be unlimited. And,
[2.] It belongs to the notion of God, considered in reference to other things, to be the very first in himself. He is uncaused towards the creature: he is the first Cause. Now nothing is plainer than that there can be but one first.
[3.] To whom it belongs to be the first of all things, to him it belongs also to be the last, and it is as evident there can be but one last: and as to these things that are so plain, I do not need to insist, but just lay them before you. Therefore,
[4.] It belongs to the notion of God, as he is God, to be the best of all beings, But there can be but one best good, in the 500 eminent and transcendent sense; and so there can be but one God, as the matter is in itself obvious, and is taken up by our Saviour, in that 18 Luke 19. “None is good but one, that is God,” or saving God. Again,
[5.] It belongs to the very being of God to be omnipotent, almighty, and it is most evident, that there can be but one omnipotent; for supposing another omnipotent, that could do all things, then he could cause that other not to besuitablee to do any thing, otherwise he were not omnipotent. And if he could do that, then the former were not omnipotent, but plainly impotent, absolutely impotent; that is, notsuitablee to do any thing.
[6.] And lastly, that which sums up all; it belongs to the notion of God to be the absolutely universal, perfect Being; to comprehend in himself all perfection: that is, either formally, that which is his own, or appropriate to his own being; or eminently, that which is to be found any where throughout the creation. Now universal perfection, or all perfection can have but one seat. For there can be but one all; there can not be more than all; and all perfection is comprised in the divine Being. The very notion of God, imports all perfection, signifies him to be the Fountain of whatsoever can come under the notion of perfection; and which is perpetually springing from himself, and (when it is his pleasure to communicate) communicating from himself thereof to his creatures. And,
(2,) If you look upon the state of things in the creation, you will find that most plainly to signify to us the unity of the God head. As,
[1.] In the natural world; the order that is every where to be observed and seen; that speaks the unity, oneness, and one-liness of the Agent, that had the forming and continual management of the affairs of all this creation. It was impossible there could be that order which is every where to be observed in the natural world, the heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, with the constant succession of day and night, summer and winter; and that variety of creatures, with the due order still preserved in that great variety even here upon earth. I say it Is impossible this could be, if that mighty Agent that made, and that over-rules all, were not one, and only one: as the Psalmist takes notice, Psal. cxix. 91. Having spoken of heaven and earth before, he saith “They continue to this day according to thy ordinance, for all are thy servants.” “They are all in a stated subserviency to thee, as the only one that dost moderate, and dispose, and order all things, according to thine 501own pleasure; and so they remain stedfast and settled for ever.” And,
[2.] Even in the intellectual world, the intelligent world: consider the state of things there. Indeed there, there might be an objection, or from thence; which objection will be easily improved into an argument to the purpose I am speaking to: that is, that in the intellectual world, there is so great disorder, as we see, such confusions among men, and proceeding from that which we find to have been in a higher order of intelligent creatures, the angels that fell. But this, I say, is improvable into an argument, in that they fell, and are in a fallen state, those angels, and the generality of men, it shews, that all this disorder and confusion, hath come from their receding from the one God. They therefore came into that disorder and confusion, (which is the sad object of our daily contemplation, whenever we use our thoughts about such a thing,) having broken off themselves from the one God: from thence doth this disorder proceed; and, considering these two sorts of intelligent creatures, that lie under our notice, (to confine our eyes to the children of men,) they are either such as are in a state of apostasy still; or they are such as are in their return, and upon recovery, coming back to God in Christ. For those that are in a state of apostasy still, as they remain apostate and off from God, they make this world that they inhabit, a hell of confusion to themselves, which shews, that the disorder is by their breaking themselves from the one God, the centre of all virtue, and of all order thereupon. But for those, that are returning, that are coming back to God, under the conduct of Christ, that are in the exercise of repentance towards God, according as their minds are changed, according as that great work of renovation obtains, and takes place in them, so it becomes more and more their habitual sense, to own, even from their very hearts and souls, the one God. Then this is their sense, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” To dwell with God as my only one, (as in that, 27 psalm 4. And as in the 73 psalm 25,) “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and whom on earth do I desire besides thee?” It is very true indeed, that in the apostate part of the world, very great multitudes are quite wrong in their notions about this thing, as the polytheism of the pagan world, (of the most ignorant and sottish part of it, though the wiser part, even of that too, have always acknowledged one supreme God, looking upon the rest as so many ministering gods, meaning, no doubt, the same thing that we do by angels,) doth shew. But where 502 once the light and grace of the gospel do obtain, in conjunction, there is not only a rectitude of motion about this matter, but there is a correspondent sense of heart. “One thing have I desired, I can dwell no where, but with God, with any content: and whom have I in heaven, but thee?” All renewed senses, do presently return to this one, all are gathered back to one centre in one, in this one they all meet; they no sooner begin to live, but all their desires, and all their aims, and all their tendencies are directed the same way, to this one centre. And therefore now to make some Use of this.
1. We learn from it, the insupportable misery of those that have no relation to, nor interest in, this one God. God is but one. “Oh! then,” may every such wretched soul say, “what shall become of me, who have no part in him, no portion in him?” There is but one God to save thee, and thou hast nothing to do with him: but one God to satisfy thee, and thou hast nothing to do with him: but one to save thee, and if he will destroy thee, who will save thee? If there be but one, and he be set against thee, if he be thine enemy; if this be the state of thy case, that thou liest open to the destructive wrath of this one God, who shall save thee? There is but one Lawgiver, who issuitablee to save and to destroy; (as it comes in after, James iv. 12.) and there is but one to satisfy thee: thou was lost for want of being satisfied, by a suitable good: if thou wert never so safe from any external, any vindictive evil. There is but one good, that is God; no proportionable good, nor adequate good besides, no good that can fill up the capacity of the soul. How may such a creature go, bemoaning itself in so sad a state of its case! “There is but one good, throughout the whole universe of being, and I have nothing to do with that one; I have no part there.”
2. As the misery of such, is insupportable, so truly, their sin is as inexcusable: for there is but one God that claims obedience and duty from thee. The case is in this easy way to be understood. Let it be considered, you have not one to command, and another to countermand; one to bid, and another to forbid. There is one God: you know there is but one: you believe there is but one. No man (it is true) can serve two masters, who should both lay claim to supreme power over him. No one can serve two, but sure one may serve one, when there is but one, and his mind is express and plain; therefore the sin of such is altogether inexcusable. Thou hast but one God to worship; and what! not worship him. But one God to love, but one to fear, but one to trust: but one object for thy adoration, one object for thy expectation: and thou art to do him 503homage every day, in both together; both in adoring him and expecting from him. And what! to rob this one God of the glory, the service which he claims, and which thou mightest pay, and render to him! There is no exception against it, no counter claim, against this claim of his.
3. We further learn hence, how high and great is the privilege of those, that do belong to God, in that he is but one: they do not need to be divided among many, and to have their hearts distracted within them, “Whither shall I go? to whom shall I betake myself?” Their privilege is great, upon this account, with respect both to their knowledge of this one God, and their application to him, the former whereof, leads to the latter.
(1.) In respect to their knowledge of him; it is a very great privilege, that the eye of their mind and soul is called to one, directed to one: here is eternal life summed up (as it were) in one glance. “This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;” to know him as he is revealed, and as he is to be conversed with, through his Son: and in what a transport, do we find the disciples, upon this account, it being the great business and design of our blessed Lord to reveal the Father to poor souls. “Shew us the Father and it sufficeth,” say they. Saith he, “You do know the Father, in that you have known me,” in that 14 John. Then saith one of them, Judas, not Iscariot, (no not he, I warrant you, he had not a heart to savour any such thing,) “How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?” Oh! how lamentable is it to think (as if they had said) of the sad state of the blinded world, how little they know, how obscure and dark their notices are and how corrupted and depraved about the one Godhead. But Christ tells them, that in manifesting himself he manifested the Father too. And “Oh! (say they) whence is this to us, that we should have this manifestation when it is not afforded to the world, is not made common to the universality of men? And,
(2.) In respect of application to him; Oh, how great is the privilege not to be put to worship stocks and stones for deities and to pray to a god that cannot save. When we think of the inanimate, senseless gods which the blind nations do trust in and worship, we have then just cause to think with ourselves, “Oh, how unlike to them is the portion of Jacob! He is the Former of all things. Our God hath made the heavens, and doth whatsoever he will, there above and here below.”
4. We hence sec what obligation is upon us to singleness 504 of heart. The Deity wherewith we have most of all to do, finally, terminatively to do, is single, is but one. How to be abhorred a thing, hereupon, must a double heart be, a heart—and a heart! For a single God, how suitable is a single heart! There is not for us a God—and a God. And what should we do then for a heart—and a heart? The whole must go to the whole, one to one. When our Saviour had been telling us, (Matt. vi. 24.) “No man can serve two masters,” he points us back to what we find there in the same context: that if the eye be single, the whole body will be full of light. But if the eye be evil, (which implies that a double heart is an evil heart,) then all is in darkness. And saith he, “If the very light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?” When our eye looks with one direct and undivided view towards the one God, here the soul is all replenished with light, clear, and vital light, that is transfused through it. But multiplicity and darkness come all to one. If we do not look with a single eye to that one single Being, where all glory and all blessedness for poor souls reside; but are looking to other things, and departing from this one, we are presently lost in multiplicity, and see many things under that notion, as if our good lay here, or as if the prime duty lay here, it is all one as seeing nothing, as good to know nothing of any God at all, as to know many gods, or to consider many under that notion. And again,
5. We see hereupon how possible the most entire and intimate union with God is with sincere souls. To those that are sincere, if he be but one, how entire and intimate may the union be between one and one? When we bring to him a single soul, a soul full of simplicity, uprightness and sincerity, which points only at him as the one God, he being but one, and we but one in the intention and aim of our souls, how entire and intimate may this union be! That which some pagans have expressed by that nearest and closest and most intimate touch of the centre; centre to centre, so (have some of them said) are souls to apply themselves inwardly to God; the one God joining centre with them. And it is a mighty so lace to think of it: that whereas the felicity of a soul doth so absolutely depend upon the most near and intimate union with God, that which is so necessary is so possible. It is necessary to me, in order to my happiness and well being, that I be most intimately and entirely united with God; and since he is but one, if I be one in the intent and bent of my soul towards him, it is not more necessary than possible. For observe how the scribe, that puts that question to our Lord in that forementioned Mark xii. understands this conjunction, when our Lord 505answered him, what was the first and great commandment; namely, “the first and great commandment is, that God is but one, and that there is no other God but he, and that therefore we should love him, with all the heart,” he replies, “Master thou hast said well, for there is but one God:” and our Lord, it is said, observed, that he answered like a man of sense, like a man of understanding, like an intelligent man. There lies the connexion, (f therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, because the Lord our God, is one God, and there is none other but he.” And,
6. We may hence collect the mighty obligation there is upon Christians, to unity with one another; to be united one with another. Those several unities you read of, Ephes. 4. are all directed to this one purpose, and this is the prime and most fundamental of all the rest, “There is but one God;” and therefore are all those related to him, and that bear his name, to be but one. It cannot be said, one christian hath one God, and another hath another God: but all have but one God; so that it is impossible there can be any so great reasons for disunion among christians, those that are sincere, that have vital union with God in Christ, as there are for their union. Whatsoever pretence there can be for disunion, or for distinct communion, the reason is unspeakably greater for union. By how much doth God outweigh all things else, in finite reason is there for oneness in communion throughout, as he, with whom they have all a common union is infinite. But the things, wherein they differ from one another, are most minutely finite, and even as nothing, in comparison of this one thing, wherein they must all (whether they will or not) agree. And thereupon indeed, there cannot be a greater iniquity in the Christian church (which is the community of living christians) than when they do usually make distinct communions. This I must tell you, is the very heart and centre of all anti-christianism, the first remarkable thing in the apostasy of the Christian church, when it began to degenerate, that is, the making of distinct communions, or making of other terms of communion, than Christ had made by the evangelical law. This was the very heart of all anti-christianity, when men would take upon them to make distinct boundaries and terms of communion, which should be larger than Christ would have made, or narrower than Christ had made: to admit men upon such terms as his rules would admit none; and exclude men on such terms as his rules would exclude none; this is the first thing, the summary and most comprehensive thing, in all anti-christianity. Then the Christian church, first began to be anti-christian, when it came to this, to make other terms of 506 communion, than Christ had made, by his own law. And indeed, the iniquity of it, is intolerable, if it be considered; for under what notion, are any to be received into the community of Christians, but under the notion of persons visibly united to God in Christ, and so instated into the blessings of the gospel, and so entitled to everlasting blessedness in God, procured for them by the general Redeemer? Whereupon, to make new terms of communion, larger or narrower than Christ made, is to make a new covenant, to make a new gospel: it is to make new terms of everlasting life and death; and so to overturn and overthrow all things, that are most essential to a Christian church, or to the Christian religion, or any thing of religion in the world. It would strike at all, if men may shape their communion, according to their own fancy, when they are to shape it according to the evangelical law. Those that we believe to have vital union with God in Christ, or whom we ought to believe have so; we that with a sincere mind, look upon persons by gospel measures, and consider them as those who have visible characters of true vivid Christianity upon them ought to run into communion with them as such, and only such. This is Christ’s measure, and Christ’s rule, and so communion can be but one, and to offer to make it diverse and distinct, is to make a new gospel, and a new Christ, and a new religion throughout. Indeed it is a bold thing; for it is to make new terms of life and death. It is presumptuous enough to put the divine stamp upon this or that truth of ours, or this or that duty (as we count it) of our own; it is a great presumption: but unspeakably greater, to make new terms of life and death: for every truth, or every duty, are not parts of the terms of life and death. There is many a truth that is not necessary for a man to believe, under pain of damnation; and many a duty a man may be ignorant of, and so not bound to do, upon pain of damnation. But the terms upon which christians are to hold communion one with another, are such, to which we are bound under that penalty, or which are to be looked upon, as entitling them to be interested in salvation, or exempted from damnation: and so to make new terms of communion, is to make new terms of life and death. But blessed be God, though this hath been too little considered for above forty years past, God is awakening his people, to consider it now. And I look upon that to be the first step towards the restitution of the Christian church, and the recovering of it, out of the terrible apostasy in which it hath Iain for a thousand years, and upwards. This, I say, is the first step towards it, to make those the terms of union, and communion in the Christian 507church, which God in Christ hath made. And when that once comes to obtain generally, then we shall find the spirit of the body, (for there is but one body and one spirit) diffusing and influencing itself through the body, and making it lively, a kind of resurrection from the dead. It may further,
7. Be collected, that our encouragement is great, as to what expectation we may have, concerning the issue of things, since God is but one. That is, concerning the issue which things shall drive to here in this world, and concerning their ultimate and final issue in. the other world, it cannot but be good and happy; for God is but one, who in his Christ is the universal and only Ruler of all this world. If the kingdom of God in Christ were divided, it would come to nothing; but it is not divided, it is all in one hand, who hath the ordering and disposing of the times and seasons, as seems good to him, and he doth every thing with that profound wisdom that cannot err, and that mighty power, that cannot be withstood. And since the most perfect wisdom, and most absolute power, do belong to that one; and all affairs do lie in one hand, the issue will certainly be good. I cannot say it will be good to us, according to our fancy and our sense of things, but it must be, in itself, good. The kingdom is not divided, there is but one God, and one Christ, who governs this apostate world, by his own right, as God, and by a right, that he hath devolved upon him, as the Mediator. And therefore, never doubt concerning the issue of things, let them look never so horridly, and with never so confused an aspect; all will do well, for all is in the hand of one God.
And then, as to the final state, what transports should we be in, to think, when all that belongs to this one God, shall meet in this one God, the many sons brought to glory together, when God shall be all in all, one in all, one diffusing a vital, satisfying, beatifying influence through all, through the whole community, that relates to him, and is united to him, all (as it were) losing themselves in the one God, not in the natural sense, but in the moral; as morality comprehends duty and felicity both together, and the very Scripture expressions that speak of God’s being all in all, doth imply this distinction, for otherwise he could not be all in all, if there were not a created all which he replenished), with his own fulness. “All in all,” is not as if all being were to be reserved and swallowed up again into the fountain Being, and that the blessed should lose their individuality; no, no such thing, the very words and the nature of the thing, are repugnant to that, but when that all of holy ones shall be gathered about the central good, and be replenished continually, perpetually, fully and everlastingly 508 from thence, Oh! how satisfyingly then shall we experience the truth and sweetness of this thing,—that the Godhead is but one.
And this is enough as to the first thing which we have to consider in the text, “thou believest there is one God, thou doest well.” The belief of this is approved and justified.
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