|« Prev||Lecture X. Preached January 24, 1693.||Next »|
(2.) We are now, in the second place, to consider the Agent in this great and mighty work, and that is, (as the text expresseth it,) God himself, that great, all-comprehending Name. There will be occasion to take notice of the way of his agency, (by his word,) by and by. The Creator of all things, of heaven and earth, can be no other than he who comprehends and contains all things, virtually, in his own power. But whereas, we have heretofore shewn to you at large, that there is in the Deity a threefold subsistence, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, they are each of them to be comprehended under the notion of Creator here. It is a plain and self-evident truth, commonly given us as a maxim, Opera Trinitatis, ad extra, sunt indivisa, vel communicabla; that the works of the three persons in the Godhead towards the creature are undivided, and communicable to each of the persons; so as that we must understand them to be conjunct, in every such act as they do exert without themselves or towards any thing that is not God. Their distinguishing actions are towards one another; but the actings that they exert towards any thing without them, these are common to them all. So that the Father creates, the Son creates, and the Holy Ghost creates. This action which, as we have told you, makes its object, and doth not suppose it, as other acts, ad extra, do, it is the common act of each of these. And so you find that the creation is usually ascribed to God, under that name of God (that name, being essentially taken) which comprehends 237all the three persons. And so we must understand that, in the beginning of Genesis, where God is said to have created the heavens and the earth. And that observation is not to be slighted, that Elohim, a plural noun is conjoined with a verb of the singular number; Barah Elohim. As if it were said, Gods created the heaven and the earth; that is, it is an expression to note that there is a plurality in the Deity; that is, of persons, each of which is God. But it being conjoined with a verb in the singular number, it shews that these three were but one; did agree in Deity, as well as in this creative act. And this is that which that learned man Zanchy, in his treatise, “De tribus Elohim,” doth prove profitably and at large. But more particularly, when the name of God is taken,
[1.] Personally, as divers times also it is, then it signifies, eminently, God the Father: and that very term doth sufficiently express him to be the Original of all things, of all beings, both created and uncreated. He is usually, and fitly enough, said to be Fons Deitatis et fons Trinitatis. The Deity is first in the Father, and all created beings first and originally from him, as the matter is plainly expressed in the 1 Cor. viii. 6. To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things. Him we are taught to adore as the great Original, from whom all being hath its rise. And yet,
[2.] We have the creation, very frequently, ascribed to the Son, speaking him conjunct with the Father in this great creative act. And even in that last mentioned place, (1 Cor. viii.) where it is said, “To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things and we in him,” it is added, “and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things, and we by him.” And so, in that Col. i. 15, 16. his agency in the creation is most expressly asserted. He who is there said to be “the image of the invisible God, and the first-born,” (as we read it, but it may as properly be read, according to grammar, with only the alteration of an accent, the first-begotten of every creature,) “by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and for him.” There is his concurrence and conjunction with the Father, both as the efficient and final Cause of all things. So that Heb. i. 2. “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed the heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” He that is “the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person,” by him the worlds were made. And so we have it, most expressly, in the beginning of John’s gospel: 238“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, (a known name and title of Christ, God’s eternal Son and consubstantial Word) that Word was in the beginning with God, and that Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He is spoken of under a title of like import, frequently, in other scriptures, and most expressly in Proverbs viii. That is, by the name of the wisdom of God, and, under that name, is asserted to be with him, even through out the whole work of this creation. Not with him in an idle concomitancy: which no man can understand, either according to the reason of the thing, or the plain import of the other scriptures that have been named, and many more that are to be named. He was with him, when the Lord laid the foundations of the earth, when he stretched out the heavens, when he did all that was done in the work of creation. And then,
[3.] The creation is ascribed to the Eternal Spirit, to the Holy Ghost, as you find expressly in that Gen. 1. when we had been told, t( In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and that the earth was without form and void; the Spirit of God is said to have moved upon the face of the waters:” that is, upon the fluid matter of the yet unformed chaos, that profound abyss; that Tohu and Bohu, as it is expressed; upon that fluid and yet unformed matter that was fluctuating, even as waters do: upon that, the Spirit of God did move to collect and form things out of it, according to divine pleasure.
Thus, it is plain, each person in the Godhead hath his hand and part in this great work of creation. What hand and part each hath, some are very curious in describing. But so far as the Scriptures expressly do lead us, so far we may allow our conceptions to be formed concerning their distinct agency. And it is plain,
First: That the name Father doth signify him to be the Original of all things, the first Fountain Being, the Fountain of all being, created and uncreated. The Divine Being itself is first and originally in Him, as the name Father signifies: and that comprehends the fulness of all being in itself, all excellency, all perfection whether conceivable by us, or unconceivable. So from him, the creation must have taken its rise as the Head of all things. And then,
Secondly: The Scripture speaks of the Son under the name of the eternal consubstantial word of God, or his essential wisdom, which must needs be understood to contain in itself the first idea of all things. All being originally contained and comprehended in God the Father as such, he is now said to be 239the image of the invisible God, and in him do all the glories of the Deity shine, as in their first image. All things being to be created and produced into actual being according to that image which lay in the Divine Mind, which he is. As there is no one goes about to make any thing, but hath the image and idea in his own mind, first, of what he intends to make. He that intends to make a book, or to make a house, or a garment, hath the idea in his own mind, first, of what he intends to make, and according to that idea all things are made. All things that were to be created, the eternal wisdom of the Father comprehending them all in himself, he is the rule or norma, according to which; the creation is at last produced into actual being. And then,
Thirdly: The agency of the Holy Ghost may be conceived according to that light the Scripture gives concerning the distinguishing characters of that person. From the actuous love, between the Father and the Son, for an eternal production of the divine image by the Father in the Son, there cannot but be an everlasting spiration of love between the Father and this, his consubstantial Image: an actuous love, and that image, containing in itself the ideas of all the things that were to be produced. This mighty power of actuous love, it goes forth to produce all things, according to this image, with the highest delectation and complacency, according to which, God pronounced concerning all things which he had made—that it was very good, and so a derivative object of divine love; all things being produced according to that excellency of his own image that was the Original Root of all things. And hereupon, do other scriptures speak of the agency of the Holy Ghost in this matter; that is, that by his Spirit he garnished the heavens; one part of the creation there spoken of. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit and they are created.” Psalm civ. 30. And so you see, that Father, Son, and Spirit have their parts and agencies in this great work of creation. But then,
(3.) We have here to consider the act itself. You have seen the object, the worlds; and you have seen the Agent, God himself, Father, Son, and Spirit. We are now next, according to the order proposed, to consider the act that is expressed here in the text by a word, which is, fitly enough, rendered, “framed;” but we must note unto you, that, that word doth express one sort of act, and supposeth another. It expresseth one sort of act, that is, the framing of things; framing (as it is fitly enough translated here) when there was some what now brought into being, out of which, they should be so and so diversly framed, especially as to the material part of 240the world. That is the act here expressed. But then, it supposeth a former act, a foregoing act, and that is, the making all out of nothing, out of which any thing was after framed. We shall speak of the act the word expresseth, first; and then shall speak of the act that word supposeth.
[1.] The word in the text is very fitly expressive of the former act, that the worlds are said to be framed. It comes of a word that signifies perfect and entire, and it seems to come from that we commonly denote by art; or, as some would have, the relation of this word to artus which signifies our limbs, the limbs of any creature that is endued with life. And so they would borrow the illustration of this word from chirurgick art, that doth aptly place the bones which have been dislocated, and puts them into joint again. So the worlds were framed (as it were) by the most curious and exquisite chirurgick art: or else, that which is precedent to that, the locking and joining things into one another throughout the whole creation.
And in this respect, the framing of the worlds was more immediately the work of the divine wisdom, which may be meant by the expression here, that they were created by the word of God, which I told you we should take notice of in its proper place. Which may be meant not of the word spoken out, but of the internal word, agreeable to what we are wont to call verbum mentis: as there is no one that speaks, (if he speak sense,) but he hath in his own mind first, that which he after wards expresseth and speaks out. But herein was the wisdom of the Creator principally conspicuous; in that beautiful order and frame of things that appeared every where throughout this great universe; that there is that order that we behold daily among the heavenly bodies, in reference to one another and in reference to us; that which, in the 8th psalm, you find the Psalmist in so high and holy an adoration of: “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained.” It is a great argument of a holy heart, to be much in contemplating the divine wisdom that Lath settled every thing of that order which is any where to be found in the whole creation.
If you look into this lower world, and consider that, as to what falls under our notice, there is every where that correspondency of actives to passives, of faculties to objects, as every one that will use thoughts may easily discern, the wisdom of the Creator is greatly to be adored in it. For think we with ourselves, how great a piece of vanity this creation had been, if it had not been so; if there had been objects upon which there had been no faculties to exercise: or, if there were 241faculties to be exercised that had no objects; as if there were visible things, and no eye to see them; if there were audible things, and no ear to hear them. And so, back again, if there were eyes, and nothing to be seen; and a faculty of hearing, and no such thing as sound. But herein is the admirable contrivance of the divine wisdom in this creation manifest, that there is such a correspondency throughout, of objects to faculties, of active powers and principles to passives.
And then, in that order that is settled amongst things, there in we have the great display of the divine wisdom, there being (as hath been often said) that relation between wisdom and order, as between cause and effect. Wheresoever there is any of stated, settled order, we may be sure there was wisdom to contrive and design it. Stated and settled order cannot be a casualty. When we see the contrivance and order that are in such a thing as a watch or a clock, and the like, we are presently sure that such a thing was not made by chance. And to think that such a mighty agency, a mighty power of motion, as was once exerted in this creation, should produce things in that orderly frame wherein we behold them, without design, without wisdom, is as absurd an imagination, as if we should imagine a thousand men, by violent strokes with axes and hammers, upon brass or iron, or the like, without any design, should produce so many watches, clocks, or any such like engines; meaning no such thing.
Therefore, nothing is more to be wondered at, nor a greater argument of the degeneracy of man, or how low his mind is sunk, than that there should be any who should go into the account of the more thinking sort of men, that yet should make it their business to exclude the power of final causes out of the world: as if there were no such thing as a final cause, or an end designed, that had any influence at all upon this great creation. Whereas, if we consider the several orders and sorts of being, how useful the meanest creature, even the inanimate part of the creation is, to very great and necessary purposes and ends; and when we consider, among those things that have life, how aptly they serve for their own purposes, and how aptly every thing in them serves their own purpose, that is, to beget and maintain that life, we cannot but see the absurdity of that conceit. To look upon the lowest sort of living creatures, the mere vegetable creatures; Why are they made with roots? but to take hold of the earth from whence by them their nutriment is drawn; that those little fibres, without which a leaf could not be nourished, should be dispersed every where throughout the whole, with so fine a texture as they are? Very well doth Cicero, a heathen, 242speak of nature under the name of the divine art, the art of God. And whereas, “Boni artificis est celare artem;” it is the part of a good artist to conceal his art, truly, if the divine art were not, in great part, concealed, one would think all the actions of intelligent creatures, should be swallowed up in wonder, to behold the divine agency running through all things, and so variously exerting itself for the production of things as we find them; and contriving the several kinds of things in the same rank and station in the creation, into which at first they were set.
If we should look to that admirable, rare contrivance, that appears in the forming of our own bodies, upon which you find the Psalmist in that transport, “Marvellous are thy works, fearfully I am made.” that is, wonderfully; “and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm cxxxix. 14. That is, “This is a beaten subject to me, a thing that my thoughts are much used to, it is a thing about which my mind is accustomed, I know it right well:” as we know the path that we have often trod.
And not only is the divine wisdom conspicuous in this framing of things, but his goodness too. How adorable is the goodness of God, even in that frame and disposure of things that we find in the creation; that things are so framed and adapted, as to answer and correspond to one another. Here is a great appearance of the divine goodness, that whereas he hath put into such sorts and orders of his creatures, a desiring faculty, there is still somewhat in that creation to answer that faculty of desire. Every thing is, by natural instinct, taught to desire that which is good for it; that is, that which is convenient and suitable to it. So we have the Psalmist (psalm cxlv. 15.) admiring God upon this account, that the eyes of all things were up unto him, and that he gave them their meat in due season: a continual argument and testimony of the divine goodness. He hath not left himself, in this, without witness; the whole earth is full of his goodness, even that which the inhabitants of it replenish and fill with their wickedness and malignity against him. He cloth good to all, even to the evil and the good. He hears the ravens when they cry, and they seek their meat from God: psalm 104. which psalm is full of expressions to this purpose. This is the munificence of the great Creator, that when he did design to replenish such and such parts of the created universe, with such and such inhabitants, creatures able to receive and entertain some correspondent and suitable good, he hath also stored the world with that good which shall answer every appetite throughout all this creation of God: so that none can be miserable, amongst even those that are rendered, 243 by their own natures, capable of government by a law, but such as make themselves so by aversion and disaffection to their proper and suitable good. They only have it not, because they refuse it, because they are disaffected thereunto.
But then, we should come, in the next place, to speak ct the second act which this expression in the text doth suppose. That which the word in the text is most expressive of, is only that sort of act by which things are adapted and suited to one another: but this supposeth a former act, by which those things, out of which things are thus framed, were themselves at first produced and brought forth out of nothing; which is creation in the strictest and most proper sense; though, indeed, there is not a word that doth exclusively signify that act in any of the learned languages. But the nature of the thing, doth plainly evidence that there must be such an act. That is, look upon all uncreated being, the being of God himself, and then that which is created and made being, must have been made out of nothing; which they that will not apprehend, run into various and most manifest absurdities; one sort, thinking there must be such a thing as eternal, necessary matter; another sort, thinking that things must be made out of God as so many parts of the Deity. But I shall, on the next occasion, labour to evince to you the absurdity of any such imaginations as these.
And in the mean time, pray let us make so much of present reflection upon this great work of God’s creation; that is, that he who hath made such a world as this, cannot but have both right and ability to rule it, and all things in it, to the best and most valuable purposes. And truly, I fear we do not, on this account, enough study the creation, and the attributes of the Divine Being that are exerted and put forth in that creation. There is his wisdom and his goodness to be seen in that first sort of act already spoken to.
And his power is most visible, and especially to be seen in the latter sort of act, as we shall shew when we come to speak to it. But to any that would give themselves liberty of their own thoughts, one would think, they should not part, for all the world, with the consolation, that this one thing should afford us: that is, that all this vast frame of things should be produced by divine wisdom, goodness, and power, into that exquisite order, in which we now behold them: and that, hereupon, he that could tell how to make such a world as this, replenished with such variety of inhabitants, knows how to govern, and dispose every thing he hath made. And, as there hath been that display of those glorious excellencies, in the Divine Nature, in the frame and contexture of this whole creation, we ought, hereupon, always to expect, that he will, with the same wisdom, 244power, and goodness, regulate, govern, and dispose of what he hath so made. All these things will appear, and shew themselves in the most proper seasons, without our distracting and self-tormenting cares. Let us be desirous, principally and finally, of nothing but that he who made such a world as this, for himself, and for his own glory, may, in his own way and time, have that glory out of it which he seeks and designs for himself. Yea, let us be content, that he should have it in such a way as may possibly be conjunct with our suffering many inconveniencies; things that may be grievous to us, to our flesh and blood, and external sense. Should not he have his glory out of his own creation, his own way? This world was not made for us, but it was made for him, by whom it was made.
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