|« Prev||Lecture VII. Preached May 27, 1692.||Next »|
It only remains to make some Use of all that hath hitherto been spoken. And so comprehensive a truth as this, you will apprehend to be of very large and copious usefulness. I shall contract as much as the matter admits. It serves,
1. To shew us, how we are to form our notion of God. And if any have a mistaken one, how they may rectify and reform it. It lets us see we are to conceive of God to be a Being of infinite wisdom, for according to our notion of counsel, it is the immediate product of wisdom. Only, when we apply it to God we must do it so as to sever all that it imports of imperfection, and to include all that it imports of highest perfection. We find it needful with us, to consult and advise with our friends sometimes; however, with ourselves, and our more deliberate thoughts; but no such thing can be said of God, with whom all things lie open, in one infinite, eternal and all-comprehending view at once. That is not the meaning of counsel with him, as it is with us, as though being uncertain and doubtful, we did need to be counselled and advised: but 206that of perfection, which we mean by counsel and most perfect judgment of things, that we are to ascribe to him: and so, as that is the result of wisdom, it is with him in the highest perfection without consideration, so, that we can have no notion of wisdom, that doth not imply counsel; nor of divine counsel, that doth not imply the most perfect, most exact, and most accurate wisdom. We see he doth all things according to the counsel of his will, so as never to err in any thing; never to make one wrong step. For how often is he celebrated by expressions, that do import so much, God who is wise. What glorious ascriptions are there to him as such. “To God only wise, be honour and glory.” Rom. xvi. 2J. And so that of 1 Tim. i. 17. You have the same kind of doxology even in the same terms. And so in the epistle of Jude, the concluding words of that epistle: “To God only wise, be honour, and glory, and dominion, for ever and ever.” This appropriate term, only, only wise, speaks that there is no wisdom, that is not from him, nor in him, that he is primary wisdom, the original seat of wisdom. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally. He can do so, he hath it in all its fulness, in its most absolute plenitude in himself. James i. 5. And therefore, is he said to be the Father of lights, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, every congenerous gift; we must understand it agreeable to so exuberant a Fountain: and hereby, we are to rectify our thoughts of God, if we have taken up wrong ones; for we must conceive of the several attributes of the Divine Being, agreeably to this, as they are complicated with this most perfect wisdom, as that is most especially conjunct therewith. If any should think of God’s power, as only an act of boisterous omnipotency, working at random, not guided by wisdom and counsel: if they should conceive of his will, as if it were a stiff, inflexible resolvedness of doing things without judgment or wisdom, if they should conceive of his wrath, as an all-consuming flame, burning up all before it, without distinction, without discrimination: if any should think of his love as a fond inclination to this or that person, or thing, without being directed by wisdom or counsel: all this is infinitely to wrong God; it is indeed to create to ourselves a God like ourselves. But this is infinitely injurious to represent him by ourselves, as a being of mere power, and of mere will, without considering, that he is a Being of infinite wisdom, and so doth all things according to the counsel of his own will. And again,
2. We are further to learn, how we are to conceive of God’s works; for every thing works as it is: and as he is a Being of 207wisdom, we are to reckon, that there must be characters of wisdom and counsel upon all that he doth. There is eminently so, upon the works of his creation. He hath established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion. Jer. x. 12. Wisdom is the parent of order, where soever there is any thing of order, that surely must be attributed to wisdom as the directive cause of it; it must be found, if not in second causes, yet in the First. The stable ordinances of day and night, the certain returns of summer and win ter, the regular motions of sun, moon, and stars, and the like: in all these we are to behold the wisdom of God, who hath, settled things by so accurate counsel, according whereunto he doth all that he doth. And so we are to conceive concerning the works of his providence too, that there are counsel and wisdom, which conduct them all, which regulate human affairs where in men have themselves but a subordinate agency, under the supreme and sovereign Ruler of all. We are to reckon nothing falls out casually, nothing undetermined, either to be wrought or effected by him, or at least to be permitted, for greater and more preponderating reasons, against the restraints that might have been laid upon the second causes, by which they are wrought. And again,
3. We are further to learn hence, the extensiveness and universality of God’s powerful and governing influence. He worketh all things, he hath an agency about all that is done. It is true, the words are capable of being thus understood, He worketh whatsoever he worketh according to the counsel of his own will. But there cannot a hand be lift up, nor a foot stir, not a power or faculty of any creature be exerted, but he hath a working agency one way or other in reference there to: not so much as a sparrow falls to the ground, but it is within the compass of that agency of his, which doth all things after the counsel of his own will. Not so much as a hair drops from any head without him: all things, as they refer to him, are done with number, weight and measure: and so, wisdom and counsel, have a universal exercise, in reference to all things that are done under the sun, even the meaner concernments of men in this world If you go to the business of agriculture or husbandry in the general; the several methods of husbandmen in ploughing, sowing, threshing and the like, are all said to be from the Lord, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, Isaiah xxviii. 29. And therefore, we are hereupon to acknowledge, and own with adoration, the universal extensiveness of his governing influence; as was formerly noted in the opening of the words, in working all things; that is the expression, 208an energy that is most intrinsic, intimate, inward to every inferior agent, still exerting and putting forth itself, in whatsoever is wrought or done under the sun. And he is even more intimate to us, (as paganish light itself, doth more anciently observe) than we are to ourselves. That phrase is fetched from more refined paganism, into the schools of Christians, that he is more inward to us, than we are to ourselves, so as that there is a divine energy working and stirring in every created agent whatsoever. And,
4. We may next learn hence, the reasonableness and congruity of all his public constitutions and laws, which he hath made for the government of his reasonable creatures. Legislation is a great act of sovereignty, indeed the prime and most principal. If God do all things according to the counsel of his own will, it is according to the counsel of his will that he hath made laws for those who are capable of government by law, as only the reasonable creature is. Laws are frequently spoken of under the name of counsels. Your human laws are commonly called consulta as among the Romans, those that went under the name of senatus consulta; such things as were advised upon, and, as it were, weighed in balances. Are they fit, or are they not? Will this be a useful constitution, yea or no? And so is the frame of divine laws spoken of, under the name of the counsel of God. The pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Luke vii. 30. It is spoken in opposition to Christ and his teachings. Those that were doctors of the law among the Jews, they rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Indeed, the whole revelation of God’s mind, about the salvation of men, it bears that name, which included the perceptive as a very noble part of it. I have not shunned, saith the apostle, to declare unto you the whole counsel of God. Acts xx. 27. In all this, therefore, we ought to acknowledge and adore a divine wisdom, and especially in that, which is the standing constitution, for the governing of men, in reference to their salvation and final blessedness, since the apostasy, and you find God most highly celebrated and magnified, upon that account, in that Rom. 16. latter end: the apostle there speaking of the gospel constitution, under the name of a mystery, concludes all thus, “Now to him that is of power to establish you, according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ,” (ver. 25.) according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to ail nations, for the obedience of 209faith, “To God only wise, be glory, through Jesus Christ, for ever.” His wisdom is conspicuous in this established constitution of his, which is to last through all the ages of time, and which is the constitution of that kingdom, which is never to be shaken. That is called the kingdom not to be taken down: Heb. xii. latter end. The compages whereof are so firm and strong, as to suit a designed perpetuity. Whereupon, they that live under the gospel, are warned concerning their deportment under it. Now that we have received a “kingdom, that cannot be shaken, let us have grace to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” He will not now be dallied with by men, whom he hath put under the dispensations of the gospel; as that epistle to the Hebrews begins. There were some temporary constitutions wherein God did deal with men, and speak to them in various and variable methods. But now, he hath spoken to us by his Son: and this is such a state of things as shall last as long as the world lasts, and those that do not comport with this method, or law of grace, in order to being saved, shall never be saved! Therefore, let us seek grace to serve him acceptably. The last efforts of divine wisdom are seen in this constitution.
5. It thereupon, therefore, further lets us see, the impudence of sinners, who confront their own imaginations, and their own lusts, to the wisdom and counsel of the divine constitutions; for that is indeed the case, and the very state of the controversy between God and a guilty creature that hath been, in an apostasy from him, and doth yet refuse to return. This is the very sum of the controversy between God and them, Who is wiser, who is best capable of prescribing and giving laws? for wisdom is the most conspicuous thing, (as was said) in legislation. Authority is supposed, it is true, but if there be never so unquestionable authority, if there be not wisdom to use it, it would be strange work that one destitute of wisdom would make of governing authority; strange laws, strange edicts there would be, where there was uncontroulable power without wisdom. But (as was told you) when laws are to be made, here is the great exercise of governing wisdom, such as doth befit the state of a ruler, to consider how the exigency of the case may be answered, what laws will be more suitable for such and such, or for a people in such circumstances. Now, when the counsels of heaven are opened, (as it were) into a result, in such a constitution; here is the Law of that kingdom that is erected and set up for them that are to be saved. And here comes an insolent creature and contends against the Lawgiver, and disputes the matter with him that gave him breath; what impudency is here! That law of grace, 210it saith, wheresoever it is promulgated, to them that come under this government of grace, or will be the disciples of grace, grace doth teach them that live under it, “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, godly and righteously in the world.” But here, is an impure, obstinate sinner, to whom notices are given of the good and acceptable will of God to this purpose, that the gospel that is preached to him, the law of the Redeemer’s kingdom, it saith at the very first, Repent, now that kingdom is come among you, repent, turn. The divine wisdom saith to the sinner, “Turn, turn or die, turn or thou art lost.” But he saith, It is wiser to go on, to persist in my own course; it is a wiser thing to live a stranger from God still, and as without God in the world. Divine wisdom saith to men, “God hath a mind and design to save you, deny you all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and subject yourselves to God,” “No, it is wiser (saith the sinner,) to live an ungodly life still, it is a wiser thing to lay the reins on my own lusts, and do whatsoever is good in mine own eyes, it is wiser to please my own flesh than the God that made me; it is wiser to indulge sensual inclination and follow the imagination of my own heart.” For men, I say, to confront their own imaginations and lusts to the divine counsel, it speaks the height of impudency in sinners, that they do not turn, that they will not be brought back to God. And,
6. It further lets us see how sad and forlorn the case of unreconciled and impenitent sinners is. God hath done all things according to the counsel of his own will, therefore, the constitution that he hath made and settled, is uncapable of change. There is an immutability stamped upon the divine counsel, and what is likely, then, to become of such men as run counter to all the wisdom and counsel, that is conspicuous in the divine constitutions? Because of their perfection they cannot be changed, and because of the sinner’s wickedness, he will not. God cannot change, and men will not. What is then like to become of things between him and them? But,
7. We may further learn hence, how hopeful and comfortable their state is, whose minds and hearts are brought to a liking of the methods of God, for the saving of sinners, to a compliance and agreement with them. O! happy man! The unerring, and therefore unalterable counsels of heaven, have determined well concerning thee, and concerning thy state. You see in this same chapter where the text lies, that the gospel constitution carries, (as it were) this inscription upon it, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” Look upon the whole frame of divine constitutions, that refer to the saving of sinners, 211 and you may see (as it were) in golden letters written upon this noble fabric, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” Thus the gospel constitutions stand, (as it were) dedicated, “To the praise and glory of divine grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” And observe then, what follows in the next verse, “In whom we have redemption, through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence.” This is the mystery of God; he hath made known to us the mystery of his will; it is a most mysterious thing that ever he should have such a will towards me. But he doth all things according to the counsel of his own will; and thereupon, there is an immutability and unchangeableness upon the determination of it, as you see in that Heb. vi. 17. Wherein, God willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of his counsel; He hath confirmed it by his oath, added to his word, that by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, the heirs of promise might receive that strong, that steady, that unshaken consolation. It is to be attributed to want and deficiency of wisdom and foresight, that the constitutions and determinations of men, need so often to be altered. Such and such an inconvenience was not foreseen; such a law was made, and it may be, a little trial and experience, shew it to be very inconvenient, and so, it is fain to be reversed, repealed, or needs some explanatory additions, or the like; it is reckoned a piece of meanness, and disparagement, to be put to alter edicts; and because the Medes and Persians were a proud and haughty nation, therefore, were their laws and statutes irreversible, never to be changed; so that they did assume to themselves infallibility, and beyond what could agree to the condition and capacity of creatures, of men, in an imperfect state. But the divine counsel being all upon foresight, all the determinations thereof, being made and settled upon one comprehensive view, here is no place for the supposition of a change. And therefore, is this most highly consolatory to all that feel their hearts comply with the gospel terms, with the evangelical constitutions: “I find my heart is wrought to a closure with that, and I am never to fear a change.” It is the effect of his counsel, his immutable counsel which he hath shewn, that such as we might have strong consolation who fall in with, and comply with his terms.
8. It further serves to let us see the vanity of their confidence, who have any separate interest, and drive any opposite design from, and to, this of the great God himself. His counsels 212 must stand, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations; whereas, the counsels of the froward are turned head long: as the expression is, Job v. 13. How unequal is the contest, when there comes to be a competition between the design of a mortal man, though never so insolent, and that of the immortal God? Some of themselves have thought it insolent for creatures so to assume. Rabshakeh thought it were an imaginary thing, and very wrongly charged upon Hezekiah, yet seems to look upon it as a great piece of pride, “Thou sayest, I have counsel and strength for war,” thinking it to be an unbecoming thing: yet, though he only speaks of the counsel and might of Hezekiah as opposed to his own, or that of his master Sennacherib; but he never thought how insolent it was to oppose that, his counsel to that of heaven. “I have counsel and strength for war.” but how soon are all those counsels and strength blown upon, blasted and brought to nothing when God hath any work of his to do, whereunto, that counsel and might are opposed. And to conclude, I add,
9. That since God doth all things according to the counsel of his own will, the times and seasons for doing any great work that he intends, are always chosen by him, with most accurate wisdom. They are most fitly chosen; therefore, where as, we are apt to blame the divine methods because he doth not take our time and our way, how unreasonable is it, since it is plain, that all the things he hath to do are affixed to particular seasons, which lie under divine determinations? “Unto every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun. Eccles. iii. 1. And if you will look a little further in that book, you will see there, that as there is a time for every purpose, every event, so there is also judgment for every time, there is judgment, which is the effect of counsel, or that whereunto counsel results. For every thing there is a time and judgment. And so thereupon, there comes to be a critical nick of time into which such and such things must fall, and into no other. And therefore, it is said, that “the misery of man is great upon the earth.” Eccles. viii. 6. Because there is time and judgment to every purpose, therefore, that is, be cause time and judgment are not considered, are not under stood by men, therefore, their misery is great. And so they are taken, many times, in an evil time, without foresight; they do not know the time; not because they are ignorant of the time, but because they are unready, unprepared, for what is to be done and suffered in such or such a juncture of time. And so you see their case is represented still, upon that account, miserable. But the wise, they do consider time and judgment: 213Happy men! therefore, happy men! as those two verses full in together: Eccles. viii. 5, 6. This ought to be considered, and it makes a man a happy man that considers it. Therefore, how quiet and calm may all men’s minds be; and the minds of the wise will be that do equally consider things. We find things were determined most punctually, relating to the great concernments of that people, God had in the world heretofore, when they were yet an unconformed people. Four hundred and thirty years must pass, just so many from the time of his capitulating with their head, Abraham, striking a covenant with him. And so much time there must be, because the sins of the Amorites were not yet full, and Canaan could not he ready for the reception of them, and there did four hundred and thirty years pass upon this account. When they were in captivity in Babylon, seventy years was determined for that. When the woman is in the wilderness, there is a set time; forty and two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days. And we are not to think that the determinations of divine wisdom and counsel are less certain because they are less known to us, and we only see by the event what was determined. Twenty years have elapsed since the haughty French tyrant hath been the terror and scourge of Europe, and especially of reformed Christendom; for it is so long, (in the year 1672) that lie first attempted on our neighbours and brethren of Holland. Many might have been apt to think, why hath not God animadverted on him sooner, put upon him an earlier rebuke? Why was it not the last year? Why was not his fleet scattered, and his army broken then, as they have been, in several parts, this year? Or why was it not the year before that? Why, it is a foolish thing for us to contend and dispute with the counsel of heaven, and we are to refer it to the determination of divine counsel, to choose the fittest time to begin to animadvert on so insolent an enemy, and the aptest means how first to let him know that he is a mortal, and that they in whom he trusts, have a mortality upon them; that they are liable to defeatments, to disappointments; that their strength is not brass or iron, or such as cannot be broken when he will. He can make so weak and mutable a thing as the wind to serve his purpose against so haughty a one. We are to consider that these things fall out according to the counsel of the divine will: he is not to give us a reason why no such thing was, so many years ago, why he did not raise up such and such, who might have abated his pride, and brought a blast upon him long before now.
Hitherto, we have by way of use, from the doctrine of this text, let you see so many inferences and recommended so 214many truths from it, which, according to the aptitude that it hath in it, may help to rectify and regulate our thoughts, apprehensions, and notions in many things.
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