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Secondly. I shall now come to speak of those perfections of God that are to be considered under the head of intellectual ones, and there we have these two to consider and speak of, as more eminent perfections, the KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, and his WISDOM. These are great perfections of the Divine Mind, wherein we must understand our heavenly Father to be perfect, as the text stiles him. I shall speak to these both together, they being congenerous, and of one sort and kind, though they are to be conceived of by us, with some distinction. And,
1. For HIS KNOWLEDGE: our heavenly Father is perfect in this respect; or his knowledge is most perfect knowledge. It appears to be so, both in respect of the peculiar nature of it, and in respect of its extent, with reference to the objects about which it is conversant.
(1.) In respect to the peculiarity of its nature: it is knowledge of such a kind as is appropriate to God only: that is, upon this account principally, that it is entirely intuitive not discursive. It is not such a sort of knowledge as that by which we proceed, as we do from the knowledge of plainer and more obvious things to the knowledge of those that are darker and more obscure. But his knowledge of all he knows is simultaneous, that is, he knows all things at once, all at one view. We come to know some things by the knowledge of others which we foreknew, and so are fain to lead on our minds from step to 84step, and from point to point. The case is not so with him. All things are at once naked and manifest to his view, so as that, though he doth see the connexion of things and knows them to be connected; yet he doth not know them or any of them because they are so connected; that is, because he knows such things, therefore knows such other things as are connected therewith, as it is with us, while we proceed by rotation from the knowledge of some things to the knowledge of more. His is in this respect most perfect knowledge. And,
(2.) It is so in respect of its extent, in reference to the objects known. And we must,
[1.] Suppose the extent of this knowledge so vast as to reach simply unto all things: that is, not only all things that do exist, but all things that are even possible to do so. In this respect, with reference to the objects of divine knowledge, it is aptly wont to be distinguished into that which they call Simplicis intelligentia et purae visionis. It is no matter for opening to you those terms; but the thing intended to be signified by the one and the other is briefly this—that God doth not only know all those things that shall certainly be, but all those things that are possible to be. And so in that respect the object of his knowledge is equal to his power. There is nothing possible but what he can do, but what he can effect. Every thing is possible to him because he can make it to be. And so vast as that ambitus, circle of his omnipotence, so vast also is the object of his knowledge or omniscience; that is, he knows whatsoever he can do, he knows the utmost extent of his own power though he never intends to do actually all he can. But then,
[2.] The perfection of this knowledge, in reference to the object of it, is most especially conspicuous in two things, namely,—that he knows all futurities and—that he knows all the most secret thoughts and purposes of men, or generally of his intelligent creatures.
First. That he knows all contingent futurities. It is needful you should understand me right here, not only bare futurities, that is, things that shall certainly come to pass. There are many men can certainly foretell many future things: that is, natural futurities and such as do depend upon certain and settled causes; as when it is morning, the night will come, when the sun is risen, that it will set, when the sea has ebbed, that it will flow, and the like; but contingent futurities mean quite another thing, that is, such futurities as do depend upon free causes, such as do depend upon the will and pleasure of such creatures as have a certain sort of liberty belonging to their nature. And thence comes that miracle of prophesying; 85that God should be able to tell so distinctly and with such certainty, for many ages yet to come, that such and such things, men will do. Nor are we to think so debasingly of this knowledge of God as to suppose it depends only upon this his purpose to make a man do whatsoever he knows he will do; which indeed were to debase it into the very dirt, and to make him accessary to all the impurities and wickedness in the creation, by men or devils. Arid it is to narrow it as much as to debase it: that is, to suppose that he could not know that men would do so and so unless he would make them do the very things that he forbids them, in the very circumstances wherein he forbids them. And this indeed were to subvert the whole entire notion of divine forbearance and permissive providence. As when we are told (Rom. iii. 25) “That God set forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” To suppose that sin should be past, through the forbearance of God, that is, that he forbearing men, they sin, were a subverting the notion of forbearance, if he made them do (by a positive effective influence) all that they do in a way of sin, though the thing be never so apparently evil in itself most intrinsically evil, as the very act of hating himself. To suppose that he should only so know this or that, that he should be ignorant who should hate him and who should not, among the children of men, unless he should make them hate him, and determine to make them do so that he might know what they would do; this were not only to debase, but infinitely to narrow this knowledge of God. To suppose that he cannot know but upon such and such terms, or in the same way wherein the devil hath some certain foreknowledge of what he intends to his uttermost to make men do, must infinitely debase and narrow his knowledge. He is not an idle or unconcerned supervisor of the affairs of this world, and doth not only foreknow whatsoever one will do, but he knows too how to limit their actions and how to restrain and how to convert and turn to good, what they do with the most evil and mischievous intentions and designs, but upon this it is that he doth demonstrate his God head, that he is able to declare future things long before they come to pass, and did so; that he hath given such predictions of what should be, long before it was. In many places of the prophet Isaiah he doth, as it were, magnify his own Deity in opposition to the paganish gods, by this, that he hath declared the end from the beginning, even what shall be in all aftertimes. As in the xli. xliv. and xlviii. chapters of that prophecy we have many passages of that import. And in that 41 chapter, verse 22, 23, he doth (as it were) provoke and challenge the 86heathen deities to demonstrate their Godhead this way, “Produce your cause,” (saith he) “let them declare things to come, that we may know that they are gods:” as if he had said, “Let them never talk of being gods, or that there is any such thing as deity belonging to such despicable idols unless they can foretell things to come. And this is the true import of that great scripture: Rev. xix. 10. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy:” that is, that which should demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion or prove against all contradiction that Jesus was the Christ, was the spirit of prophecy so long before, that he should come at such a time and in such circumstances into the world as eventually he did. And,
Secondly. This perfection of divine knowledge is most eminently conspicuous in this too, his knowledge of the hearts of men; that he knows the most secret thoughts and purposes of men’s hearts, and looks into them with an eye that injects fiery beams. He hath an eye as a flame of fire, that searcheth hearts and tries reins; so as that when there is (as it were) a challenge given to all this world; “Who can know the heart of man? “It “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked who can know it?” (Jer. xvii. 9.) here comes one, that answers the challenge, “I the Lord search the heart and try the reins.” And this is one of the great things that both demonstrates and magnifies his Godhead. Amos iv. 13. “He that formed the mountains and created the wind, and that declares to man what is his thought, the Lord, the God of hosts is his name.”
I shall not further insist on this, but pass on to the other intellectual perfection, in respect whereof we also ought to conceive our heavenly Father is perfect; that is,
2. His WISDOM. He is perfect in being perfectly wise, all-wise as well as all-knowing. I told you we were to speak of these perfections of the Divine Nature, and conceive of them, according to what analogy they have to such things as go under the same names with us, and so wisdom and knowledge are two distinct things. Many know much who are not wise: but so we are to conceive of the perfections of our heavenly Father, that he is not only most perfectly knowing, but most perfectly wise also. Wisdom, you know, is commonly distinguished into speculative and practical: sapience and prudence. Indeed, the former doth not greatly differ from knowledge but somewhat it doth. It is not needful for me to stay to explain to you the distinct notions of intelligence, sapience and science. The first whereof, is the knowledge of principles, the last of conclusions, and the middle comprehends both together.87
But besides what hath been said concerning the knowledge of God, it will be of more concernment to us to consider his wisdom, as it corresponds to that which with men is called prudence, as the expression is Prov. viii. 12. for both are most conjunct with him. “I wisdom dwell with prudence.” And so this wisdom lies in always proposing to himself the best and most valuable end: and choosing the aptest and most suitable measures and means for computing it. According as any one doth more perfectly both these, he ought to be accounted more perfectly wise. Now his end is known to every one that knows any thing of God, he cannot but be his own end. As he is the Author so he must be the End of all things for himself. He hath made all things for himself, by the clearest and most in disputable right. There could never have been any thing but by him, and it is not to be supposed that he should make a creature to be his own end. It would not consist with the wisdom of a God, that he should do so: it were indeed to make a creature to be a God to itself, or that he should upon such terms make a creature to ungod himself. And whereas, the just display of his own glory is the means to his end, his doing that, is most conspicuous in such things as these, to wit, in the creation of the world, in his providential government of his creatures, in the mighty work of redemption, wherein he hath abounded in all wisdom and prudence; and in the conduct of his redeemed through all the difficulties of time to their eternal state.
These are the means; or his actual displaying or diffusing of the beams of his glory in all these ways, is that by which he doth effect his own glory, make it to shine as that he is there upon the most worthy and becoming Object unto all eternity, of all the adoration and praise of his intelligent creatures; the most worthy and deserving Object, whatsoever is done, or not done by any of them. My limits will not allow me to insist, at least not largely, on these things.
(1.) The creation of the world. What a display of wisdom was there in that! If we take but the two great and comprehensive parts of it, heaven and earth, “He hath established the earth by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his understanding,” or discretion. Jer. x. 12. And if you should look into the one or the other of these more comprehensive parts, it would not be conviction only, but transport and admiration that we ought to be put into every hour, or as often as we make any such reflection. But I must not go into particulars, as I might. And then,
(2.) For the providence by which he governs this created 88world, and all the variety of creatures in it, so as that all things in their own particular places and stations do most directly subserve the purposes for which they were visibly made, they are sustained that they may do so: they are guided and governed and ordered in all their natural tendencies and motions that they may do so. And,
(3.) For that wonderful work of redemption, the apostle gives us this note about it, that he hath therein abounded in all wisdom and prudence. Ephes. i. 7, 8. Herein did the perfection of wisdom and prudence shine forth, to reconcile the mighty, amazing difficulties, and seeming contrarieties, real contrarieties indeed, if he had not some way intervened to order the course of things, such as the conflict between justice and mercy; that the one must be satisfied in such a way as the other might be gratified; which could never have had its pleasing, grateful exercise without being reconciled to the former. And that this should be brought about by such an expedient, that there should be no complaint on the one hand nor on the other, herein hath the wisdom of a crucified Redeemer, that is, whereof the crucified Redeemer or Saviour was the effected Object, triumphed over all the imaginations of men, and all the contrivances, even of devils and hell itself; for they undoubtedly were so secure upon no account as this, that they saw our Lord die. Satan filled the heart of Judas to bring it about that he might die; animated the whole design: this was the devil’s contrivance, “If he that is turning the world upside down, doing such wonders every where, all men running after him be but dead, if we can bring him to his end, we shall certainly make an end of his religion, we shall certainly make an end of his design.” But even by that death of his, by which the devil contrived the last defeat, the complete destruction of the whole design of his coming into the world, even by that very means it is brought about so as to fill hell with horror, and heaven and earth with wonder. And then,
(4.) The conduct of the redeemed through this world, notwithstanding all the obstacles, discouragements, and difficulties that lie in their way, what a display, a glorious display of the divine wisdom is there in this! I shall not speak to particulars distinctly, but only give some general account. As,
[1.] That it hath never yet made any wrong step; that amidst all these wonderful varieties of actings and dispensations wherein it hath been engaged ever since there was a creation, there should never be any one wrong step made, nothing amiss done, nothing ever done out of time, or otherwise than it should. And,89
[2.] That it is never at a stand, never puzzled, hath always its way open to it, every thing forelaid: “Known to God are all his works from the beginning,” as that sage speech is of the apostle James, at the famous council of Jerusalem. Acts 15. He can never meet with a difficulty that can put him to a stand; for his way is always plain and open before him. And,
[3.] That he never loses his design, never misseth any end that he proposes to himself: The counsel of the Lord always stands, and the thoughts of his heart take place through all generations. Psalm xxxiii. 11. And,
[4.] That he doth so frequently disappoint and bring to nothing the designs of the wisest and most contriving men, turns their wiles upon their own heads, “takes the wise in their own craftiness,” drives their way headlong, precipitates their counsels into confusion and abortion: as the expressions are in that 5th Job 12, 13. and in the 33d psalm, 9, 10. And many more we have in Scripture, of the like import. And then,
[5.] That he frequently surpriseth the most apprehensive and sagacious among men; doth things that it was never thought he would do; wondrous things, terrible things that we looked not for. Isaiah lxiv. 3. Sometimes they are fearful surprises that he brings upon men, and sometimes grateful ones. Indeed, the same dispensation may be at the same time most terrible and most grateful, most terrible to one sort and most grateful to another, as they must be understood to be that are mentioned in Isaiah lxiv. 3. “Terrible things that we looked not for, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.” That is, the most mountainous oppositions, the loftiest and most aspiring spirits brought down and made to stoop: and all their pride laid in the dust; so it hath often been beyond all expectation, he still shewing his ways to be as much above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts, as the heaven is high above the earth, and as the east is far removed from the west. So it hath been when he hath gone beyond any fear or foresight of his enemies, and above all the hopes and desires and prayers of his people, done beyond what they could ask or think. What wonderful conspicuous beamings forth of the divine wisdom, have there been in such ways as these!
I shall not discourse to you further doctrinally, concerning these things. Something I would say by way of Use, before I pass from them. Thus our heavenly Father is perfect. Why these are very clear notices of God, which we soon hear; we have heard them now within the compass of a little time; and we as soon assent to them as we hear them. But pray let us look into ourselves and consider, What impressions have they hitherto 90made upon our hearts? Have our hearts been all this while leaping and springing within us, and saying, “This God is our God; our heavenly Father is thus perfect?” Hath that been the lively sense of our souls within us all this while t And consider, these notices of God are not new to us. Did we never hear before that the living and true God is all-knowing and all-wise? When were we without these apprehensions? Such a conception of God as this we have had ever since we had the use of our understanding, and heard or knew any thing of God at all. But pray consider, What suitable, permanent and abiding impression have we borne about the world with us hitherto? and what is he so far manifested and made known to us for? Is it not that our spirits might be formed by the discovery, and our minds thereby governed agreeably thereunto? How comes it to pass that such things as these should have had all this while no more influence to beget a correspondent heart and spirit in us towards God? Is it that these things are of little weight, that they sink no more into our hearts and souls? Or is it a matter of small concernment to us, what a one he is whom we take for our God, or profess to have so taken? Is that a matter of small concernment to us? Do we know what the name of God imports? To be a God to us, is to be our “All in all,” to be such a one to us every way, in point of good to be enjoyed, in point of power and authority to be obeyed and submitted to. Can it be a little matter in our eyes, what a one our God is, he that we hare to do with continually as our God? And by how much the more easily we assent to such things concerning him when we hear them, it argues that they are so much the plainer, and therefore that the guilt must be unspeakably the greater and unspeakably the heavier, if our hearts and spirits be not in some measure proportionably framed and steered and conducted according to the import and tendency of so plain things. These are not dark things that need much explication to us, nor doubtful things that need proof or demonstration. We are satisfied already, that he could not be God, who is not infinitely knowing, and infinitely wise, and perfectly both. So that we have nothing at all to do but to comport in the frame and temper of our spirits, and in the course of our walking with these most evident things. And by how much the greater they are, and the more sacred they are, (and things that we profess to believe and apprehend concerning God must be such, for a greater one could not be concerned than he,) the greater profaneness must it be to abuse such notices as these are, or not to use them, not to improve them to their proper purpose and end. We know such things concerning 91God: and have we nothing to do with the things of God, but to trifle with them or to let them lie by as neglected, useless things, when they are to run through our lives and to have a continual influence upon us through our whole course from day to day? Are these things right in our minds and understandings, and our hearts in the mean time only as a rasa tabula, a mere blank? There are such notices in our minds, but look into our hearts and see what corresponds there. Alas! there is nothing, a mere vacuity: what a sad case is this! and yet the discovery of these things breathes no other design but only to form our hearts and spirits and that our lives may be proportionably governed. It is a dreadful thing to have the knowledge of God lie dead in our souls, as if that were to go for nothing. Here I might shew you what impressions this discovery of the divine perfections should make upon our hearts, and might thence proceed to shew you in many instances that it doth not make that impression which it should. But I must not take that course. I will briefly hint a little at the former, the latter you will recollect yourselves: rectum est index sui et obliqui: If it doth appear once what we should be and do, correspondently to the apprehension of the divine perfection in these respects, it will be easy to us to animadvert on ourselves and see wherein we are not what we should be, and do not what we should do correspondently hereunto. It is plain,
1. That such a discovery of God, in these perfections of his, should conduce greatly to the forming and composing of our spirits to adoration, to make adoration of him to be very much the business of our lives. How grateful should it be to us to think we have such an Object for worship and adoration, the all-knowing and the all-wise God! How vastly different in this respect is our case from theirs that worship stocks and stones for deities, senseless and inanimate things! That worship woods and trees and rivers and fountains and beasts and creeping things and the like. What hath God done for us that he hath made himself known to us in these great perfections, as the Object of our worship! that when we pray we know we pray to an intelligent Being that knows all things, and an all-wise God that judgeth what is best and most suitable to be done in reference to what we supplicate him about, and when and how to do all that he judgeth fit to be done. There ought not only to be an adoring frame in solemn worship hereupon, but an adoring frame we should carry about with us through this world, often looking up to him, and considering that we have always an eye to meet our eye, and are to apply mind to mind, (what a satisfaction is that!) understanding to understanding, our imperfect 92understanding to his perfect one. With what adoring souls should we go through this world every day upon this account! But do we do so? Consider how far short we come in so plain a case as this is. And again,
2. Should it not make us stand much in awe? The matter is plain: great knowledge and wisdom in a man, great prudence creates great reverence, especially if it be in conjunction with things that we know are in the highest conjunction here, if in conjunction with authority, power and dignity. But even apart they do much in this kind; when a man hath the repute of a wise man, of a knowing person, it would strike us with so much awe as not to trifle, not to play the fool in the presence of such a one. Is there any thing proportionable with us in our frame and deportment towards the all-knowing God? Our heavenly Father is perfectly knowing, perfectly wise; in what awe should we stand of him continually upon these accounts! And again,
3. It should fill us with shame to think what he knows by us. He is all eye as one said truly of him. With what confusion should it fill us to think he should know so much by us every day? Every vain thought, every light motion of our mind, all our fooleries, all our triflings, all our impurities that lodge and lurk in our hearts are known to him. This thought made a great impression upon a heathen; (Seneca, as he testifieth himself,) omnia sic ago, tanguam in conspectie, I do every thing as in sight, as having an eye that doth rimari, pry into my breast. O! what a shame is it that we should need a heathen instructor in such a matter as this! and how confounded should we be before the Lord to think what he knows by us continually, that we should be ashamed that men should know such things concerning us, as we are not ashamed he should know. The ingenuity of grace is wanting, it works not, shews not itself. It hath wrought like itself heretofore, “I blush, I am ashamed to lift up mine eyes to heaven.” saith good Ezra, and that, when he speaks not so much neither concerning his own sins as the sins of the people.
4. How should it make us study to be sincere. Nothing in us so answers perfect wisdom and knowledge in God, as sincerity. Every thought of my heart thou hast known long before; and it follows in the same Psalm, 139. “Search me O Lord and try me, and shew me if there be any evil way” (any painful way as the hebrew admits to be read) “in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Again,
5. It should possess us with great complacency, (those that can reflect upon their own sincerity,) that they are continually in view to God. It should be a complacential thought, to think 93that he who is so perfectly knowing, and so perfectly wise, knows their sincerity, and knows too, all their infirmities. That he knows their sincerity, “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” John xxi. 17. And that he knows their infirmities, and will consider them with indulgence and compassion. “He knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust.” Psalm ciii. 14. And,
6. It ought to possess us with trust, habitual trust that should run through our lives. Is not such a one fit to be trusted? doth it not highly recommend him to us as the Object of our trust, that we know him to be perfectly knowing and perfectly wise? You can easily apprehend, an ignorant fool is not to be trusted. One that is ignorant and a fool is no fit object of trust. Is not he therefore that is perfectly knowing and perfectly wise, a fit Object? How cheerfully therefore should you trust him with all your concernments, how cheerfully should you intrust him with the concerns of this world, and your part and share therein? considering in what hand your affairs and all affairs do lie, even in his who will make, “all things work together for good.” So he hath engaged to do, and he is most knowing and most wise that hath so engaged. Imprudent persons promise rashly what is not in their power, but he that is perfectly knowing and wise can never do so. Though I might mention divers other things I will shut up all with this,
7. It should make us study conformity to him in these respects. Have we this discovery of the perfections of our heavenly Father, that he is perfectly knowing and perfectly wise? It should make us endeavour after conformity to him in knowledge and wisdom: for these are some of his communicable excellencies: that is, his imitable ones. We should think with ourselves, “Is it for me to pretend to him as a child, to call him Father, to say, my Father which is in heaven is perfectly knowing and perfectly wise, when I am nothing else but an ignorant fool?” Wisdom expects to be justified of her children. Are we the children of wisdom, are we the children of him that is perfectly wise and perfectly knowing? Certainly it concerns us to be like our Father in these respects: this is a great part of his image, even of his image to be renewed in us. “Put on (saith the apostle) the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Col. iii. 10. Is it for the glory of the all-wise and all-knowing God to have a company of fools for his children, ignorant creatures that know nothing, and labour not to know much of the things that most concerns them to know, in reference to him, and what lies between him and them? We should, upon these accounts, 94labour to value and covet, most of all, mental excellencies’ such as these. But such is not the common guise of this world. And it is an amazing thing, to think so many intelligent creatures’ minds and spirits (though lodged in flesh) should be so lost as to all apprehension of true excellency, or of what is truly valuable, as to value a little glitter, a little exterior pomp and splendour before these mental excellencies of knowledge and wisdom, that are most peculiar to God, and wherein we, if we are possessed of them shall most resemble him. What fools are the men of this world! They esteem men according as they have most of worldly pelf, as they have collected together most of thick clay, but they never think of valuing themselves or any one else by the mental excellencies of knowledge and wisdom in which they resemble God. What base erroneous thoughts must these be supposed to have of God! What do such make of God? As the apostle speaks to these Athenians, but speaks as knowing and understanding them and himself to be of a mind as to this, he argues with them from a principle and ex concessis “What! do you think the Godhead is like silver and gold or corruptible things?” As if he had said, “I cannot but know as well as if I were within you that you are of my mind perfectly in this matter, that is, that the God head is not like to silver or gold or corruptible things, but he is a Spirit, and you, as you are spiritual beings, or as you have such in you, are his offspring.” Certainly it is to be governed by the judgment of a fool in my choice, in my desires, in my estimation of things, to think that earthly things are the most valuable things, that carnal things (as the apostle calls them) are the most honourable things. No, without doubt those are the most honourable and most valuable things that are most God like, and by which I shall most resemble God. How was he taken with Solomon for his judgment and choice when he bids him ask what he would have! He was not such a fool as to go and ask riches, honour, long life, or the necks of his enemies, but begs for wisdom and understanding. This was most God like: and you see how God was pleased with his choice, how high an approbation he gives of it in that 1 Kings iii. 10, 11. And we should labour to govern our own judgment in these matters accordingly.
And pray consider this with yourselves, and labour to feel the weight of it in your own spirits, if we do not covet and desire that God should create us according to his image and likeness, we shall certainly be apt to create to ourselves a god after our own image and likeness. That is, if we do not make it our business to have ourselves made like unto him, we shall be industrious 95to make him like to ourselves. As it is in the Psalmist, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself.” A thing that will lead and plunge us into the deplorable estate of all sin and misery unavoidably.
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