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Secondly. The second general head we now come to is, how or by what principle we are to understand all this. And for that, the text tells us, it is by “faith” that we are to understand it. How come we to know that this vast universe, these worlds, (which how many they are we cannot tell,) did all spring up into being by the word of God? How come we to be informed, or how are we informed of all this? Why it is by faith. Here, it is requisite to shew how this is to be taken, that we are by faith to understand the worlds to have been created by the word of God. Why,
It is not to be taken exclusively, as if it were to be under stood no way, but by faith. It is plain, and hath been made plain, that it may be understood by reason too. And there is no prejudice at all in it, that the same conclusion should be capable of being proved by more arguments than one; and by more sorts of arguments than by one sort. Nothing is more ordinary, than to bring many arguments of one sort, of those we call artificial arguments, to prove the same conclusion: many such arguments may be useful to serve one and the same purpose: and it is no more inconvenient, and incongruous, that there should be arguments of more sorts than one, to prove the same thing, than that there should be many arguments used of one sort. Therefore, this is not to be understood exclusively, that we are to have the notice of the worlds being made by the word of God no way at all but by faith; or that we are to understand this by faith only: that the text doth not say, and we are not to take it so. But,
We are to take it thus, that is, that we are to understand this by faith more advantageously; not exclusively, but with 259much more advantage than by any other way alone. My meaning is, that having plain, rational evidence of the creation, (as indeed we have such as is irrefragable, and as no mind which considers, can withstand) then, it is a great superadded advantage, to understand the same thing by divine Revelation too. It adds a great deal, to have the matter so stated, that I may also understand this by faith, that the worlds were made by the word of God.
And, I shall now shew wherein this great superadded advantage lies; and wherein, if we compare the two ways of understanding this by reason, and of understanding it by faith, this latter way hath the advantage, even of the other. For, first, we understand more of it by faith, than we can by reason; and, secondly, what we understand by faith, we understand better.
1. We understand more of it by faith, than by mere rational indagation or search, we could understand. We have a more circumstantial account of very important, considerable circumstances of this creation, as faith represents the matter to us, out of God’s own Revelation, than by rational disquisition we could have had. We understand within what limits of time; and we understand in what order this work of creation was performed, by faith. Reason could never have informed us of either of these,
(1.) We understand within what limits of time this work was done, that is, that all was absolved within the space of six days: no reason could ever have informed us of that. But it signifies much towards the liveliness of any representation, that the matter be represented in its circumstances. Reason, in the gross, could only have informed us generally, that all these things which do appear, are not of themselves, and were, some time or other, raised up out of nothing, by an almighty, creative power; but it could never have informed us within what limits of time such a mighty work as this was done. But our faith in the divine Revelation informs us of that too. And then,
(2.) It informs us of the order in which things were produced, which no reason could ever have informed us of, or found out; that is, that on the first day, there being nothing at all but a disorderly chaos, (which must have been supposed first raised out of its primitive nothing) that God causeth a glorious light to spring out of that horrid darkness, that had every where spread itself over this chaos, this vast confused heap. He did but say the word, “Let there be light, and it was so.”260
And then, it informs us, that on the second day, God ordereth a firmament, dividing the waters, or the fluid matter that was superior, made up of finer particles, from that which was inferior and more gross: the one, being designed for a nobler kind of use, and the other, for meaner services and purposes.
And then, we are informed, again, that on the third day, God made, in this inferior world of ours, dry land and sea to appear, severally divided, and separate one from another, and distinct. And, that, as to the dry land, God doth implant in it the seminal principles of all sorts of vegetation, to make it capable of serving its after uses and purposes.
And then, on the fourth day, all these glorious lights are made to appear, and shine forth in the firmament, that are ever since observable and conspicuous in the world.
And then, on the fifth day, he replenished! this earth with all those sorts of sensible animals that we find it inhabited with, and by which they are so much the more to be fitted for the habitation and use of man.
And then, on the sixth day, he makes man, and brings him forth into this orderly and so well prepared world; all things being fitted and accommodated to his use and purpose, as was most suitable and congruous; and gives him dominion over all; as the matter is so copiously, and with admiration of God, represented to us in that 8th psalm.
And then, that having thus, in six days, absolved and finished all this great and glorious work, he now sanctifies, and hallows, and blesses, the seventh day. The Lord himself, (as it were) resting with complacency in the view of his own work, finding it to be good, and answering to the complete, eternal idea which lay in his own all-comprehending Mind. He beholds, with complacency, all that he had done, and so takes up that satisfying rest that was suitable to a God, in the contemplation of his own work. He did it with delight and pleasure; and now beholds it with delight and pleasure done. And so, takes man (the creature, here in this lower world, which he had made capable thereof) into communion and participation with him, in this blessed rest of his: upon which is founded the law of the sabbath.
Now, all these things that could not otherwise have been known to us, but by divine Revelation, and our faith therein, God, telling us that things were so and so, and we believing him, and relying on the truth of his word therein, He did graciously provide that those things should be made manifest; that they should be made known to the children of men, in 261succeeding times, by casting all into sacred records. Though, that, indeed, were not done till a considerable time after this beginning of all things; yet, till it was done, the knowledge of these things was more easily transmitted or conveyed; three or four men, having seen all from the beginning of the world, and so were capable of telling one another, until the time when these things were capable of being transmitted into sacred records; these records themselves giving an account of those particulars that were transmitted, from hand to hand, by three or four of those that lived, successively, nearest to the beginning of time, who seeing and knowing, might tell one another.
And we have these notices, all of us, from God, that thus these worlds began. And, indeed, if such a notification of these things, did but now first arrive to us; if there were but one such manuscript in being, that should give this account of the first rise and production of all things, and it were sufficiently attested and proved to be divine, of how great value and account would it be! Your great antiquaries, that have been so highly pleased in searching into the ancientest original of things, what would not one of them have given for such a monument of antiquity as this, informing us distinctly, from point to point, how all things came into being, and in that order wherein they now lie to our notice and view? The price thereof, would be above that of rubies, and all that could be desired, would not be compared therewith.
That is one thing, whereby this understanding, by faith, the creation of the world, hath its advantage over any other way of coming to the knowledge or notice of it: that is, that we know more of it, by faith, than we could do any other way. And,
2. What we do know, we know better. It is a better way of knowledge, or we may know better this way, to speak of the one and the other, comparatively, in several respects. As,
(1.) It is an easier way of knowledge, than that of rational search and disquisition. There must, in order to that, to know things so, be usually a laborious inquiry into the reference of one thing to another. There must be an adaption of a frame and series of consequences and deductions; some whereof may be more obscure, but leads us gradually into clearer light, step by step. This is a more painful way of understanding things: it requires a very great exercise of mind to know many things by the deduction of a long series of consequences, one following upon another; and which the minds of men, generally, are less apt for, in this low and lapsed state of man. 262But how easy a thing is it, to have such a matter told us, by One who, we are sure, will not deceive us, and cannot deceive us? and then, to believe it, and take his word that so it is? This brings us to a satisfaction about this matter presently, and with the greatest facility, h is true, indeed, that as to this particular point of the creation, the matter is most plainly demonstrable, and very soon, to any capable and apprehensive mind: but if men were left to themselves, though they may be capable of discerning things represented to them in their dependencies, one upon another, they would not so easily find it out of themselves; and, therefore, as this is far the more easy way of knowing, so,
(2.) It is a way, too, by which the thing may be more commonly known: so far as the divine Revelation doth obtain and extend, it may be more commonly known. Very true, as I told you, it may be demonstrable, most plainly, to an intelligent, apprehensive, unprejudiced person, that this world was raised up out of nothing, by divine power. But as there are few that have ever made it their business, so far to cultivate their minds, as to be capable of demonstrating this to themselves; so there are few, that have opportunity of consulting with those, who will take the pains, (having acquired so much knowledge themselves) as to make such a demonstration to them; so as that, with the most, it goes but as a matter of opinion. But few, if they were put to it, are able to prove that this world had its rise thus, at first. But now, if it be to “be believed, as a matter of divine Revelation, so far as that divine Revelation doth obtain, every one may presently be in formed; and so this knowledge would become as much more common, as it is much more easy:—every one can read, or hear this read, to wit, the account that Scripture gives concerning the original of things: and so this knowledge, by this means, shall not be confined to a few, as it would be confined to a few, if none could come to the knowledge but those whose minds are sufficiently cultivated, so as to be capable of demonstrating this to themselves, or of apprehending well the demonstration made of it by others. And again,
(3.) It is a much clearer and more satisfying way, as well as it is more easy and more common. When the understanding of this matter is grounded this way, it is more satisfying to the mind; it makes things much more clear. They are but dark, and confused, and indistinct notices that we could have had in a rational way, of the beginning of things. But to be told this, from point to point, how all things were produced at first, and brought forth into that being, and order, wherein we behold 263them; what a satisfaction is it to an inquiring mind, to have such notices of these things!
How much hath the matter been otherwise, with those that have been destitute of divine Revelation, in this matter, and who could not discern the state of this affair by faith. How conjectural have their apprehensions been; and how wild and exorbitant their conjectures, even concerning their own beginning. Man is nearest to himself: and if one would inquire concerning the beginning of things, one would inquire first of all, and chiefly, How did we begin? How came it first to be, that there should be such a creature as man here in this world? Those that have not had the help of divine Revelation, so as to be capable of understanding the matter by faith, as their apprehensions have been conjectural, so their conjectures have been the most strangely disorderly, inordinate, that could be thought; some imagining, that men were thrust out, at first, m little bags out of this earth, having been formed there: others have apprehended, that they were begotten in the bellies of fishes; (these were the conjectures of the great philosophers in the former ages of the world,) and by those fishes exposed and thrown out upon the earth. But to have an account given us, by the word of God, so plainly, how satisfying it is to the mind of an inquiring man! All dubious hallucinations about this matter, come now to be decisively and plainly represented, so as here is no more place left for dubious, and uncertain conjecture in the case. But this was the determination of heaven; and according to the determination of heaven, the thing was done. “Let us now make man:” and so God made man: “In his own image male and female created he them.” Here is an expedite, clear, and satisfying account how we had our beginning. And then,
(4.) This way of understanding, by faith, the beginning of things, the creation of all things, is much more impressive; which is the greatest, and most important thing of all the rest. It is more easy; it is more common; (where divine Revelation obtains,) it is more satisfying; and, lastly, more impressive; more apt to make deep, and suitable, and useful impressions upon our mind and heart. By faith, we understand, that is, to make the thing enter into our souls. That notice of such a thing, of so great importance to us, which is by faith, transforms the subject; moulds it into a suitable frame towards the Creator, towards itself, and towards its fellow-creatures, especially, those of the same order and kind. Here will be corresponding impressions made by faith: whereas, mere rational knowledge of the same things, makes very little, or that, that is, at best, but faint and languid.264
And the matter is very plain, that till faith comes, it is but an empty, notional knowledge, which people have of God’s Creator-ship; and of their own creature-ship: of God, as their Creator, and of themselves as his creatures. It is but a slight, superficial knowledge that any have of these things, till faith comes: that carries a transforming power with it, so as to work the truth revealed, and believed, into the ver inwards of our souls. And it is more impressive, the knowledge and understanding even of this matter, which comes by faith, upon several accounts.
[1.] Because the ground of this my faith, is distinctly and immediately divine. I believe such a thing, as God reveals it, because it is reported to me upon the authority of God, which carries a mighty awe with it, upon the soul, and so makes the thing revealed and believed, the more impressive. I attend to God in the matter, the authority of God. If I believe such a thing, with a divine faith, it strikes my soul, and carries the matter to my heart. And again,
[2.] The notice that I have by faith, of these things, is very agreeable to an apprehensive mind; and so it enters in the more. Look to the matter really, as it is revealed, and the substance of the divine Revelation, concerning this matter, is congruous, and suitable to the mind and spirit of a man. There lie no unanswerable exceptions against it. The knowledge that comes by rational inquiry, and search, admits of objections: when the matter is to be wrought out by mere ratiocination, there will be reasons pro and con; arguments on the one hand, and arguments on the other hand: and many things that may seem reasonable to one, will not seem reasonable to another. But, as to what we are here required to believe about this matter, or what is matter of faith in this case, there is nothing in it but what is very congenerous to an apprehensive and unprejudiced mind, that is willing to know the truth of things. It may be, there is what should never have been found out, or known, if it had not been told: but to a considering mind, the thing appears to be just as it is told it is. I should not have thought of it before; but now I am told of it, it is very agreeable it should be so. And things do impress the more, accordingly as they are more suitable to them, they are the more easily received, there is less of obstruction lies against them. And,
[3.] The notice we have of such things by faith, is the more impressive, for that this very faith itself is a divine principle, immediately divine, implanted, inwrought into the heart by the Divine Spirit. We find faith reckoned among the fruits of the Spirit. Gal. v. 22. And we read of such a thing as the 265spirit of faith. 2 Cor. iv. 13. The Divine Spirit, when it comes to new-create, to raise the new creation, amongst all the necessary principles of the divine life that are now to be implanted in this new creature of God, there is faith, that great receptive principle, by which it is to take in all light and gracious influences from him. The very principle itself, is from God; and therefore, the discoveries that are made by it, must needs he so much the more deeply impressive upon the soul, because, that faith by which the impression is made, is immediately a divine thing. And, then,
[4.] If you look to the act of faith, or its more immediate and connatural effect, it must he more impressive: faith, being described by its most appropriate act, or by its immediate effect, is called, “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen:” expressions that represent faith to us as looking forward and backward, as what goes so immediately before the text in this same chapter. Hope, that always refers to somewhat future, is that by which we have the prospect of futurities; faith is the substance of those hoped fur things, those futurities; that is one expression of the work of faith, to substantiate future things that we do but hope for. And, then, there is another work of it, or its work is otherwise expressed: it is, “the evidence of things not seen:” and that is larger and more extensive, and represents faith to us as a principle that can look backward as well as forward. We do not see how this world was raised out of nothing: no matter for that, we can believe it; faith will be to us the evidence of that we never saw, or have not seen: faith will (as it were) place us upon the verge of this world: and let us see, as if we had stood by, when God did, in this orderly way, raise up this creation, part by part, out of a disorderly chaos, and heap of confusion, wherein all things lay. If we have that obediential subjection to the divine authority, revealing things, (which subjection, faith doth involve and carry in it,) this faith serves us instead of eyes; doth the same thing (being the evidence to us of things not seen, or of what we never saw) as if we had been by as spectators, when God was doing this great and mighty and noble work; one thing raising up after another into view before our eyes. Faith shews all this with evidence, and, therefore, is much the more impressive: so that, after the hearing of such a discourse as this, if it be entertained by faith, we should go away with hearts deeply impressed, having God in all the glorious excellencies of a Creator in view before our eyes; and our own spirits formed as dutiful, loyal, dependant, subject creatures, all full of adoration and praise; so as continually 266to behold him, and his fulness, filling all in all, which way soever we look or cast our eye: and that is the general use indeed which is to be made of all this.
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