|« Prev||Lecture XVIII. Preached May 15, 1691.||Next »|
2. But I come now to give, in the second place, some more distinct account of some, at least, of the more eminent of the attributes of God. And I shall begin with that which must be understood as comprehensive of all the rest, and that is, of the DIVINE ALL-SUFFICIENCY. This is the summary perfection of God; his All-sufficiency. And as the verse where the text lies, saith “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” so elsewhere, is the Divine All-sufficiency represented to us as the ground and pattern of that perfection which is required in us. Gen. xvii. 1. “I am God All-sufficient: walk before me and be thou perfect.” The word there used is, in some translations, rendered All-mighty, in others, All-sufficient, El-Shaddai. They indeed seem to me, to give the more congruous account of the etymology of that word that do read it All-sufficient, deriving it not from Shadda that signifies to destroy, to lay waste, which yet, is comprehended no doubt (that is the power of doing so) in the notion of Almightiness, but rather deriving it from a word that signifies sufficiency with the pronominal particle he: He that is sufficient, God that is sufficient, El-Shaddai or that is self-sufficient. And he is so self-sufficient either understanding it to be a sufficiency arising from himself or a sufficiency serving for himself. Either way he is self-sufficient; by a sufficiency that speaks him to be All to himself, a sufficiency arising and springing up within himself, or a sufficiency to himself, as having enough in himself to enjoy without being beholden, without depending upon Any thing without himself. And such All-sufficiency spoken of God must needs mean, He that is of himself, sufficient for himself, must needs be sufficient for all the creation besides, 54If of himself there be a sufficiency in him for all his own perfections, there must he a sufficiency for all that communication that the creature can any way stand in need of. This is that attribute, that comprehensive one, that we shall in the first place say somewhat to.
And I shall say the more of this, because it is so vastly comprehensive as hath been said, and as the matter is plain in itself that it is. It is the same thing that is meant by that fulness that we find again and again, in Scripture, attributed to God, that πληρωμα του Θεου, “That you maybe filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephes. iii. 19. Not that there needs any great fulness to fill us. A very little thing will do it; and it signifies nothing to the vastness of the plenitude of the ocean, that a nut shell or a minute vessel may be filled; but it is the greatness of the expression that I here note, “the fulness of God;” how vast, how immense, how profound an abyss must that be! In Ephes. i. 23. we read of the “fulness of him that filleth all in all;” that filling fulness: it is another fulness that is meant there in that form of expression where, most condescendingly, the church of Christ in this world is spoken of as his fulness. But whose fulness is it? The “fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Even he, notwithstanding his vast and boundless self-fulness doth yet vouchsafe to be filled in respect of that union that he is pleased to take a people out of this world into, with his own blessed Self. We read (Col. ii. 9.) of “all the fulness of the Godhead” dwelling in flesh, as it were, embodied in flesh, which we must understand still is the same fulness when it is deposited, when it is, as it were, so disposed for communication. It is not another fulness from the original Divine Fulness, but the same under a new relation wherewith it now comes to be clothed. As when also, in that Col. i. 19. it is said, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” fulness and all fulness, that it should dwell in him. It did dwell indeed in him originally and naturally in the person of the Son, but now it dwells in the Mediator, that being so lodged and settled, (as it were) it now lies ready for communication to indigent creatures, necessitous creatures, empty creatures; such as we are, empty of every thing that is good, and of the desert of every thing that is so; and only designed and fitted by natural designation as so many “vessels of wrath” to be filled with wrath. Now all the fulness of God comes to be posited and clothed with that relation, to put on that aspect, with reference to us, that according to our need, measure and capacity it is all for us. “It pleased 55the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell,” with such a design that he might fill the sacrifice first, that was offered up, as you find the context speaks,—(Col. i. 19, 21.) “that he might make peace by the blood of his cross and reconcile all things to himself:” and then, that he might fill the souls which that sacrifice had been accepted for, in the virtue of it, opening its own way to flow in to us. And another expression you have of this same perfection, (the All-sufficiency and plenitude of the Godhead) to wit, that of his being “All in all.” A most Godlike phrase, wherein God doth in his own word speak so of himself, speaks like himself, at the rate of a God, with divine greatness and majestic sense. It is used with reference to the divine operations, 1 Cor. xii. 5. “There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” But it is also spoken of the Divine Being with reference to his existence; He is All in all; or as in the mentioned place, (Ephes. i. 23) “filleth all in all.” In the final state when all the great designs of God are compassed and brought about, then is he more entirely, fully and immediately to be All in all. He will be more conspicuously so then: he is now so indeed, as it hath not escaped the notice of heathens themselves, who tell us, that whatsoever we see is Jupiter, and whatsoever we are moved by, is Jupiter: that one universal mind doth work through all the universe and mingles itself with the vast body of the creation. So is Christ, in whom is all the fulness of God, (as was told before) he is said to be “All in all.” Here is an All in an all, a comprehending all and comprehended all; that is, an uncreated All, and a created: the latter, contained in the former, the former, containing the latter, in-wrapping it, infolding it, diffusing itself any where, throughout it, and in all, and over all, and through all. And indeed, that created all, is a little, most contemptible little all, in comparison of the all-comprehending, uncreated fulness, that involves the other in as great a disproportion as you may suppose an atom, a little mote or particle of dust comprehended in the whole earth, or a minute drop in the vast ocean, that swallows it up and runs through it and through it; so is the all of this creation (as great as it may appear to our little narrow minds and thoughts) swallowed up in the uncreated All, so as that in comparison of that, it is nothing. All nations come under this notion, but “as the drop of a bucket, and the small dust of the balance, and lighter than nothing,” as confessing it impossible to speak diminishingly enough of the littleness of the creature, in comparison of the Divine All, “less than nothing.” Indeed, 56simple nothing cannot vie with all fulness, with the immense plenitude of substantial beings. But that, that seems to be newly stept forth out of nothing, that, it may be, will pretend to vie, and therefore that is so much the more despicable, even more despicable than mere nothing: mere nothing hath no competition with it to that vast plenitude and fulness of Being. But there may seem somewhat of competition in that which is just stept forth out of nothing: and therefore, that is despised as less than nothing; for mere nothing is not so despicable as that which is just risen out of nothing when it is brought into any kind of compare with the infinite, immense All.
But to speak yet a little more particularly and distinctly concerning this most perfect All-sufficiency and fulness of God, (as it can be possible to us to speak and hear of so great a thing) I shall speak somewhat to the nature of it, what sort of fulness or plenitude this All-sufficient, perfect fulness is. And then—speak somewhat of the purposes which it answers and is most apt to answer.
1. Somewhat of the nature of it. And for that, our best way of opening and unfolding it will be to consider these two things, namely, what it contains,—and after what peculiar it doth contain what it must be understood to carry in it: that is, the contents and the properties of this fulness: what it contains and with what peculiar and distinguishing characters it doth contain it.
(1.) For the contents of this most absolute and perfect fulness of God, All-sufficient fulness; it contains all that we can think, and indeed all that we cannot think. It contains all being, and all life, all motive and active power, all knowledge and all wisdom, and all goodness; every thing that is excel lent, valuable and desirable in all the kinds, and in all the degrees of perfection conceivable, in reference thereunto. I shall not speak more distinctly now, in reference to that head, be cause under other heads that we are afterwards to speak a little (though but a little) particularly to, there will be more occasion to discourse of these severally. But we come,
(2.) To consider of the characters of this fulness, the proper ties of it, whereunto it must be understood to contain what it doth contain. And so,
[1.] It is a self-original fulness, a fulness that ariseth from itself. It is the highest fountain itself, and not fed from any higher, which is the signification of that title, or that name by which God was pleased to make himself known to Moses, “I Am,” and a little more largely “I Am that I Am.” A name so expressive of this plenitude and fulness of being and all-perfection 57of God; so aptly and naturally expressive thereof, that it hath obtained naturally, easily in the pagan world, as that inscription testifies in the temple, which I formerly named, “I am that which I was, and that which is, and that which shall he, and let any man at his peril disclose my veil.” And we are told by some of the ancients in the Christian church, that the notions which Plato doth so abound with, he learnt in Egypt, and came by them, it is most probable, and as they think, as having been communicated from some of the Israelites to some of the Egyptian priests with whom he afterwards conversed, that is, with those of them to whom those traditions came some centuries of years afterwards. And that this fulness is self-original, or self-originate, they must always apprehend, who do apprehend that any such thing as Deity could only be of itself, from itself. A Being of that sort and kind, as unto which not to be, was always repugnant; and so that it owes whatsoever it is, or whatsoever it hath in itself, to that peculiar excellency of its own nature, which was always necessary to it, to be what it is; can receive nothing aliunde, from without, and can lose nothing, or suffer no detraction of what it is, or hath already belonging to it. This is “I Am,” the stable and permanent Being that is by itself what it is. That then, is the character under which we are to conceive of this divine fulness, of this perfect All-sufficiency; that it is self-originate: he being the perpetual, everlasting Spring and Fountain of it to himself. “With thee is the fountain of life.” Psal. xxxvi. 9. There, being is in its first Fountain, and life is in its first Fountain. To that, all things else that be and live, and that have any thing of motive and active power, they participate all from hence; “In him we live and move and have our being,” as the apostle expresseth it, Acts xvii. 28. For which he there quotes a pagan poet; and likewise for that in the adjoining words, “we are all his offspring.”
[2.] We are to conceive concerning this Divine Fulness, that it is immense as well as self-originate. He is infinite, unbounded: and that it must needs be for the same reason, because it is self-originate: for causation speaks limitation, whatsoever causeth another, limits it: and that which is uncaused must be unlimited, omnis limitatis est causata; that which doth impart and communicate to another doth measure and bound its own communication: and from whence any thing hath that which it doth derive from another, thence it hath the bounds and limits of that which is derived. The limits of the derivation proceed from the original. Therefore it is plain whatever is uncaused must be unlimited, and so this 58fulness of God being self-originate without any superior cause, must needs be immense and infinite without bounds and limits. There is nothing to bound and limit, but he existing necessarily, when all things else do exist contingently, and by dependance upon his will and pleasure, it could not be but that he must engross all being, all life, and all perfection in himself, because there was nothing else existing besides or before that which did exist necessarily, that is himself, by which what was In him could not be any way limited. Therefore, so we are to conceive of the Divine Fulness—that it is immense. It is then a perfection here spoken of God, which is not particular of this or that special kind, but which is most properly absolute and universal, to wit, of all kinds taken together, with all the several degrees that can come within the compass of each several kind. So metaphysicians are wont to distinguish of perfection, into that which is simple or absolute, and that which sui generis, of its own particular kind, that which hath all that belongs to that kind in it, may be said to be perfect in its own kind. That which hath the essence and properties of gold may be said to be perfect gold, and especially if it be pure from dross and doth exclude every thing that is alien from it, if it be pure. That is the notion of pure: purum est quod est plenum sui, that is pure that is full of itself, and hath no admixture of any thing alien from it. So may a thing be said to be perfect in its own particular kind, when it is full of itself and when it is free from admixture of any thing else. But the Divine Nature (as is evident) is infinite and immense; is not perfect of this or that particular kind, but of all kinds whatsoever; that is, of all that is excellent and valuable; yea, every thing of all being, being included and comprehended in it. Not formally, for that would make God and the creature all one, but eminently and transcendently, that is, it being in the divine power to determine whether any thing besides should be extant, or not extant. And so he is the Root of being to every thing that is, and the Spring of life to every thing that lives, and the Fountain of all excellency to every thing that can partake of it. And therefore, his perfections or fulness is not of this or that particular kind; if it were so, it were a limited fulness, a bounded fulness: but it is a fulness that comprehends all kinds together eminently, and transcendently in itself. As the root of the tree doth comprehend all the branches, that is, virtually, it comprehends that virtue in it, and transmits that which extends to all the branches, and as the very seed did virtually contain the whole tree once in itself; so all 59the creation was contained in God, before it, by his appointment and command, stood forth into actual being. And,
[3.] It is hereupon an immutable Fulness. This divine fulness admits of no alteration, either by augmentation or diminution. It can neither be made more nor less than it is: either, would make a change, and no change can have place in. that Being which is necessary. The Divine Being and all that plenitude and fulness that belongs to it, being self-original, it must be necessary; it could spring from no other, therefore, it must be of itself what it is: and no other imaginable reason can be assigned why such a Being doth exist, but only that peculiar excellency of its own nature, to which it was repugnant not to exist. Hereupon therefore, this is the only necessary Being, and that which is necessarily what it is, can never be other than what it is, can never vary, and therefore that “Father of lights (as the blessed God is mentioned under that name, James i. 17.) is without variableness or shadow of turning.” Without so much as the umbrage of a change, there is not the shadow of variation with him. But before the creation was he was the same, and through all the successions of time when that creation is in being, he is still the same: and if the creation should drop back again into nothing he were the same. Unto that which is necessarily what it was first, nothing can supervene, because it hath its whole being necessarily, so that there can be no addition to it: and then there can be no detraction from it, no diminution, because it hath what it hath necessarily: it is essential to be what it is. And therefore,
[4.] This plenitude of God, must be everlasting, this All-sufficiency, this perfection, must be eternal. For if there can be no variation in any, the least degree, much less is it conceivable there should be a cessation of the whole Being. A variation in any, the least degree, is altogether impossible to that which is necessarily what it is: and thereupon the eternal permanency of it in the same state must needs be consequent. Hence those amazing expressions about the Divine Being, “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Psalm xc. 2. Set yourselves to contemplate God; you must needs yield yourselves to be lost and swallowed up in your minds upon the contemplations of that which is “from everlasting to everlasting.” And so that most emphatical expression, of his inhabiting eternity; “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell in the high and holy place.” Isaiah lvii. 15. But before that, he was his own place, and indeed all the creation is rather vested in him, than he in any thing. Before 60time was, or any creature was, he had nothing to inhabit but his own eternity, that is, his own eternal Self: for eternity and the eternal One are the same thing.
Thus you have some account of the nature of the all-sufficient, perfect fulness of God, both from the contents and proper ties or perfections thereof; what it contains, to wit, all being, all life, all motive power, all wisdom, all knowledge, and whatsoever excellency besides you can conceive, or all that is conceivable, and indeed, all that is unconceivable by any created mind. And then, under what characters, as it is a self-originate fulness, an immense fulness, an unalterable fulness, incapable of any augmentation or diminution, and as it is an everlasting fulness.
2. The next thing is to shew you what purposes this perfect, All-sufficient fulness of God may answer. And indeed, it answers all that is any way desirable should be answered, or that it were to be wished should be answered. For,
(1.) It answers the corresponding purpose of its own felicity, to be an everlasting felicity to himself, where there is the only correspondency, that it is any way possible it should otherwise be; should any way be found between the fruitive faculty and the object. Here is an immense and boundless object for an immense fruitive faculty: nothing could satisfy God but God: there is a capacity not otherwise to be filled up. It was to be answered by nothing but himself, and therefore we must not suppose that there are any additions any way to that felicity from any thing without himself. He only enjoys himself and takes pleasure in his own designs. When he hath designs upon such poor creatures as we, he only pleaseth himself in himself, in his bountifulness, the benignity and the kindness of his own design. When he did, (he must be supposed to have done) even in the days and ages of eternity always retain with himself a design, “I will raise up such and such creatures;” such in particular as any of us; “I will in their proper time and season raise them up out of nothing, on purpose to take them into a communion and participation with me in my own felicity, my own blessedness.” What is it he was pleased with? was it that he loved us or delighted in us? He was self-pleased with the kindness and benignity of his own design: not that any thing in us could draw his eye, his love, or his delight, but his kindness and goodness therein was its own reason. He sheweth mercy because he will shew mercy. It was not that one was better than another, but from that goodness of his that is invariable, and can never be better than himself, the complacency that it was always apt to take in its own designments. 61From hence it is, that he hath any such thing as delectation in a creature, only as he hath freely placed a design and made it terminate upon such a one, and so is pleased in that kindness and goodness which he hath in himself, and not in any delectableness that was previously in the object, For as to that, there was no more in one than another, and if it were for that reason as such, then it must have followed that all would have a like participation in the felicity of the Divine Being. But this is the eminent, great purpose that the divine All-sufficient fulness serves for, even for his own eternal and invariable felicity. Whence he hath so frequently the title and name of “the ever-blessed God;” his own blessedness being his very essence, or essential to himself; so that he was never to be known under another name, or conceived of under another notion, than as the blessed One, the Fountain of all blessedness; “The glorious gospel of the blessed God,” saith the apostle, 1 Tim. i. 11. And “the blessed and only Potentate.” 1 Tim. vi. 15. And “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore.” 2 Cor. xi. 31. And so of Christ as he is God, he is said to be “over all, God blessed for ever.” Rom. ix. 5. “Blessed for ever,” that is, only in himself as the only correspondent and adequate object of his own fruition. And,
(2.) His most perfect Divine Fulness, appears to have been sufficient for the creation of this world: and (which is but doing the same thing continually) preserving it ever since it was created, even until now; not only bringing it into being, a rude mass of being; but settling and conserving of order in it, and that variety and distinction of creatures, which we be hold and which indeed we must suppose to be the only effect of the All-sufficient perfection of a God. The very being of such a world speaks his power; but the order that is in it and the variety of creatures wherewith it is replenished, and the continued preservation of those distinct kinds and species through so many successive ages; so that what this or that plant is, or at least was, so many thousand years ago, it continues to be the same, a thing of the same kind; in the same rank or class of being still as it was. All this is by the All-sufficient, perfect fulness of a Deity that could answer such a purpose as this, to make such a mass of created beings exist and arise out of nothing; and that so much of order and distinction of kinds should obtain and be preserved even in this natural world, through so many successive ages unto this day. It was this that the perfect All-sufficiency of God did, and doth continually serve for. And,62
(3.) For the government of the intelligent world; so that wheresoever he hath intelligent creatures he can, by bare touches upon the mind, steer them and act them this way and that at his own pleasure: make great numbers of people at once to agree in one and the same design, all of them; as God did touch their minds in making Saul, king. And that is one instance that shews what is done throughout all the world, and all other ages, where all minds lie under the agency and influence of one supreme, universal Mind. And otherwise, how were it possible that all should conspire and agree to serve the same purpose and do the same thing. And again,
(4.) This perfect, All-sufficient Fulness serves for the defeating of the designs of his enemies; so that he can with the greatest facility and ease, consume adversaries with a fire not blown, and make them “perish like their own dung:” and blow upon them with the breath of his nostrils and make every thing of opposition vanish when he will. And thereupon, as being perfectly Master of his own designs and having every thing in his own power with the times and seasons and ways of doing them, he lets enemies run on, foreseeing still at a distance their day that is corning. He knows their day is coming, and in the mean time sits in heaven and laughs at them, “the Most High hath them in derision:” them who say “Come, let us break their bands asunder and let us cast away their cords from us:” as it is in the 2nd Psalm.
(5.) It answers the purpose of sustaining and preserving his own, the people that he hath collected and chosen out of this world to be peculiar to himself, the whole community of them and every particular soul belonging to that community so as to lose, none of them. He bears them up and carries them through all the temptations and conflicts and trials and exercises that they meet with here, in a sojourning state and in a warfaring state, so as that they are kept by his mighty power through faith unto salvation, And then,
(6.) And lastly, this perfect and All-sufficient Fulness serves for their final satisfaction and blessedness, when they shall be brought into that region, into his “presence, where there is fulness of joy, and to his right hand where there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm xvi. 11. And that which is felicity enough for himself, will surely be enough for them too.63
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