|« Prev||Lecture XIV. Preached December 9, 1693.||Next »|
And now, it is the particular Use of the whole which we are next to come to. And you see the heads of discourse, hitherto, have been two; and so we shall have two things to improve by way of use, that is, first, that we are to understand the worlds to have been made by the word of God: and, secondly, that we are to have this understanding by faith. Each of these do claim their distinct improvement. And,
1. For the former. This is a matter to be understood, that these worlds were made, created; that this great universe which comprehends all the worlds, (we do not know how many the text means; but we noted to you, that it is not the dual number that is used here, but the plural,) is, most undoubtedly, a made thing. That the worlds were made, this we do understand. And we learn from thence,
(1.) That the world was not eternal, that it had a beginning. This hath, on the by, been hinted before, and we have formerly proved this to you in itself; and, I think, sufficiently. We now consider it as an inference, that, because it hath been created, therefore, it was not eternal; therefore, it some time began. Indeed, this inference hath been doubted, and disputed by philosophers, whether it were good and strong, yea or no, that, because the world hath been created, therefore, it cannot have been eternal, but must have begun. Some have imagined, that it might be dependently eternal, notwithstanding its being a created thing. Some such as grant it to be a creature, have yet imagined also, that it might be, in a way of dependance, eternal. But in truth, the question would only need to be distinguished, and then it would be soon and easily answered: for that supposed dependance upon a cause, must be understood to be, either upon a necessary cause, necessarily acting and producing such an effect, or upon an arbitrary cause. If we should suppose this world to have been from God, as the necessary Producer of it, that would make this world itself to be a necessary being, and would be simply in consistent with its being a creature. All necessary being must be divine, must be God; whatsoever is necessarily, can be no 267other than God. But if it be meant of dependance on God as an arbitrary cause, considering an act of the divine will to intervene; that is, that it was his perfect choice whether the world should be, or not be, so it is impossible it can have been eternal, dependantly eternal, if the matter were determinate by divine pleasure. Shall this be, or not be? that supposeth it some time not to have been. It supposeth a transitus from not being to being; but that it is impossible it should be eternal; for there can be no change in eternity. That of which eternity is spoken, must have been always what it is, and as it is. Therefore, nothing can be more manifest, than that this world began: its being, depended upon the divine word, upon his pleasure: for that is the notion that the Scripture gives of the creation: “for thy pleasure all things are and were created.” Rev. iv. 11.
And that should be a measure to us, how we are to conceive of this universe of things. Be it, or they, (the things contained in it) as great as we can imagine; let our thoughts be enlarged and raised as much as is tit, or they are capable of, upon such a subject,—the greatness and vastness of this universe: yet presently think, once this was all nothing, raised up out of nothing, sprang from nothing. It is a mighty disgrace upon created being, once to have been nothing. This is a disgrace upon created being, which it is fit it should bear; all shrinking into nothing before him who is the All. Magnify it to yourselves as much as you will or can, yet presently think it back into nothing: great it is indeed; but once it was nothing, mere nothing. It began to be, and therefore, there was a vast, immense duration wherein it was not, wherein there was no such thing.
And, moreover, the worlds, in that frame wherein we behold them, cannot have been eternal: for it would be the most ab surd contradiction, and nonsense, imaginable, to say, that in this changeable state, wherein things are, they could be from eternity. It is a manifest contradiction to the understanding of any body, that would use his thoughts, that there should be eternal changes. And pray consider it. It may seem a little dark and obscure to you at first hearing, but stay a little upon it in your thoughts, and there is not any here of so mean capacity, but if they would use their thoughts a little, they may easily apprehend it impossible that there can be such a thing as an eternal change. Now there is in this world a continual succession, and a succession of changes. As to things that have life, to instance, there we see a continual succession of living and dying amongst all things that have life, and come 268under our view from day to day. But it is altogether impossible that there can have been such changes from eternity; for there can be no death; but there must have been life before: nothing can be said to die, that did not live. But to suppose any such change from eternity, an eternal change from life to death, it is a contradiction in itself; one must be first in its place; life must be first; and if life were eternal, it could never die; what lies under the measure of eternity must be always as it is. Eternum non patitur novum, there can be nothing new in eternity. And, again,
(2.) As it is manifest, that this universe, these worlds, were not eternal, but began to be; so it is also manifest, that it did not begin to be by any kind of chance or fate. Some, who have admitted this world not to have been always what it is, in that order we behold it, yet thought, that it came, by a sort of casualty into this state we now see it. That matter having always been of itself, (as they absurdly imagine) they have thought that the eternal motion of this matter, the various rollings to and fro, of it, have at last produced this strange and orderly frame of things which we behold. But nothing is more plain, than as this world is a late thing, in comparison; for there was a vast, immense duration wherein it was not; and in comparison of which it is but lately come into being: so that, when it did come into being, it was brought forth, into that being, by a designing cause.
The word, in the text, is emphatically enough expressive of that; it was brought into that exact and accurate order, wherein we see things lie, designedly, as the greek word here used, implies; as the several parts and limbs of a body are joined together, so as to consummate and make up one orderly frame. Order is the effect of design; wisdom is the parent of order. To behold that orderly frame of things which is observable to every eye in this universe of created beings, doth sufficiently shew, that it was not chance, but most profound wisdom, that hath brought things into this state wherein they are.
That is most plain; that is, if the worlds were made, they are not eternal, but did begin; so that they did not begin without design. The wisdom of him that did design this orderly frame of things, ought to be discerned, acknowledged, and adored; and a continual disposition of heart to adore it, ought to be habitual to us, and often going forth into actual exercise. It hath been the constant frame of holy ones of old, and we should take heed of letting it be an alien thing to us. “Lift up thine eyes on high, and consider; Who hath made all these things,” that we behold, in so much lustre, and beauty, 269and glory, over our heads? who hath made them, and produced all the hosts of heaven, and called them by name? “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy hands,” (saith the psalmist) when I do, (it implies he did it often, that it was his wont,) then, I say, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” Look to such places as I relate to, that Isaiah xl. 26 and psalm 8 throughout, and many more. It should be more our business to contemplate and admire the unsearchable wisdom of God, in the creation of this world. The great exercise and argument it is of a holy heart, that wherein it doth exercise itself, and by which it discovers itself to be such. Again,
(3.) We may learn hence, the meanness and poverty of all creature-being, even upon the account of its being such; created and made. The worlds were made. As that doth argue them all, once, not to have been, so it argues them still to be next to nothing, continually depending. What was not of itself, ran not continue to be by itself: that which was drawn forth out of nothing, by an almighty power, still needs the Continual exercise of the same power, to keep it from a relapsing, and sliding back into nothing again; which otherwise it must soon do. Sin being come into the creation, there needed a mediator, for this purpose, that all might not be thrown back into nothing again: “By him all things consist.” Col. i. 17. It is he that upholds and bears up the pillars of a tottering world; even where it was not obnoxious to justice, to a divine nemesis; yet, as being created, the mere liability, its dependableness, (which is proper to all created beings as such,) must have rendered it continually liable to relapse into nothing, if not continually upheld.
You see hence, therefore, by the way, what an ungodly creature hath to trust in; what he hath, for the final object of his trust, to wit, that which is every moment ready to mutare, to drop into nothing, to go out of being, that is only sustained momentarily by him that made it. This is all that a wretched soul, that is off from God, hath to rely upon, to trust in; nothing but creature; nothing but that which itself is next to nothing: all such a one’s dependance is upon that which doth itself, too, depend. He that hath not a God to trust, to rely upon, what doth he depend upon? Let him but name it to you; be it what it will, God it is not. Alas! mistaken man! thou dependest upon that which depends, itself: and how miserable a case art thou in? Indeed, the vanity of creature dependance, is obvious to every man’s thoughts, that will but allow himself to think. But the wickedness of it, is but a little 270thought of: few think of that. Any man may apprehend how vain a thing it is to place confidence in a creature that is next to nothing: but it enters into the minds of but few to consider how wicked a thing it is. You must know, that to be the final Object, is the divine peculiarity of the Deity; and one of the highest, and most appropriate: a glory that he will not impart. As to be prayed to, to be invocated, that is hut secondary to this of his being trusted in: we trust first, and then invocate. This is a glory that he will not give to another. It is a homage due to Deity, which belongs to God alone, to be, I say, the final Object of trust; he, into whom my trust doth ultimately resolve. I know there may be a subordination; you may trust in a friend, in a relation: but for the final, supreme Object of trust, it is the highest, supreme worship of the Deity, to be placed only upon him.
And therefore, it doth not only infer misery by disappointment, when a man trusts in a creature; but it infers a curse by revenge. It is not only an infelicity, that doth befal a man in such a case, when he doth expect that which is not to be had, from that which affords it not; but it is a wickedness, that is followed with a divine curse, with a just vindicta, for a wrong and injury done to him; that is, that I place upon a creature, that which is peculiar and belongs to him alone; and so, I do not only punish myself as a foolish, mistaken creature; but God punisheth me as a sinful, guilty creature, upon this account: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” Jer. xvii. 5. But, alas! how many do place their trust in ignobler creatures than man is, in things beneath man? So much the meaner and baser is the temper of their spirits herein, to place a reliance upon that which is meaner than themselves. To neglect and forsake, to avert and turn off from God: and then sink beneath themselves, creep to an inferior creature, this calls for the blast of heaven upon such a one that hath “forsaken God, the Fountain of living waters, to dig to himself broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” For which the prophet (Jer. ii. 12, 13.) doth call heaven and earth to behold, with astonishment, as witnesses of such folly and wickedness as this; especially as being found in a people pretending to God. “My people, they that call themselves my people, have committed these two evils, to forsake me the Fountain of living waters, and dig unto themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.” When a man lets his heart unite, by trust, in that which hath nothing in it, forsaking the All for that which is of itself nothing; and which in itself cannot be a moment, what folly and wickedness is this!271
This is the snare that carnal, worldly-minded men run themselves into, and do not consider it as a deadly one; it is a snare of death: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they trust not in uncertain riches, (the lubrious things, the uncertain things of riches, as the words admit to be read, (1 Tim. vi. 17.) but in the living God, who gives us all things richly to enjoy.” That trust which is not reposed on the living God, it is not only the greatest folly, but the highest iniquity: folly lies in it, that they place Deity upon a nullity, a mere nullity. That which thou makest the final object of thy trust, is thy god; and, then, likewise, that trust is idolatry. God will be jealous in this case, when his rival is set up in his place; when a creature is made his rival; and the little minute things in this creation are made to fill up his room, and to be to thee instead of God.
Naturally, every one affects to be happy, and when this is the natural tendency of a man’s spirit, that it is now quiet, in some measure quiet, either in the possession of what he hath got, or in the probable hope of getting more; and of having within one’s compass, that which one doth desire and covet, and reckon most suitable: here is my felicity, and I am so far quiet, because, I think here I have enough. As he is brought in, in the parable of the wicked fool, saying, “Soul take thy rest, thou hast goods laid up for many years.” That which he had in his barns, that was his god; and now he thought his soul should rest, as thinking to have enough no where but there. Alas! thou fool, thy soul will be gone from thee this night, and then what will become of thee, and all these? What folly it is to set a man’s heart upon such things: as the heart is set by trusting upon any thing. Trust fixeth it, as in its own place, as is spoken concerning trust in God; “His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Trust, is that which fixeth a man’s heart. But thou dost fix thy heart like a fool, who fix eth it upon any thing unfixed itself: for then what becomes of thee and thy trust, when that is gone? So do they who trust in uncertain riches; for “riches make themselves wings and fly away, as an eagle to heaven.”—A strangely emphatical expression! It may be the soul would say to itself, “Shall my wealth, and my riches be gone? why, I intend they shall have no wings.” Alas! they make themselves wings: they will not be beholden to you for wings; they will be gone of themselves, though you would never so fain they would stay. And there is an expression that is likewise strangely emphatical, and which is very proper to our present purpose, of setting the heart upon that which is not. All created being is so poor a 272dependant being, that it is next to nothing, and is rather fit to be called a mere nullity, a mere nothing: and that so despicable a thing should be put into the place of God! should supply the room of Deity: O! what an indignity is this to the Majesty of heaven; and how severely to be reproved! Be cause there is nothing else stable besides God; when the soul is once oft* from him, it offers to fix, but cannot be fixed; because its object is not fixed. Therefore, heathen light hath seen this, and a most significant expression was it of a heathen. “That a soul off from God, is like a cylinder upon a plain, that moves necessarily and perpetually, cannot be fixed, but continually rolls and moves this way and that; and cannot be otherwise, for it hath nothing to fix upon.” And, again,
This lets us see the absolute independency of the Divine Being; for what is there without himself for him to depend upon? These worlds are all that can be thought of extra Deum, without God; and they were all made by him. Can he depend upon that which he himself made? The worlds were created by the word of God; therefore, his being must be absolutely independent. And herein we should give our thoughts scope, it is pity we do not do it oftener, and more designedly, to consider the difference between that which is of itself, and which is not of itself. We might even lose ourselves and be swallowed up in the contemplation, to think of a Being, that, by its own peculiar excellency, could never not be, to which it was impossible not to be; which was not beholden to any thing; for all things were beholden to it.
How is the great God magnified before our eyes, upon this account, in that 40 chap. of Isaiah, in several verses of it together, from the twelfth verse and onwards. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hands, and meted out the heavens with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.” Who is he that hath done all this? The “who is he?” there, is not an expression of doubt; but of admiration and wonder. O! what a One is he! How glorious a One that hath done so! “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him, in the path of judgment?” Who had he to commune with, besides what was himself, in going about this mighty work of creation? Who prompted him, who suggested it to him? “Come now make a world, give being to a creation.” No! all was proprio motu. Who instructed this Spirit of God, as to this great affair of the creation, or any thing else that he doth? “Who doth 273all things after the counsel of his own will! Behold the nations are as the drop of a bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance; behold he taketh up the isles as a very little thing, and Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. All nations before him are as nothing, and they are accounted to him less than nothing and vanity. To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?”
So should we, upon this account, greaten to ourselves the Divine Being, and heighten and raise our own thoughts and apprehensions concerning him: that when all things else, of this vast universe of beings, are so absolutely and purely dependant every moment upon him, he, in the mean time, depends upon nothing. All that he is, he is in, of, and by, and for, himself. He can have no dependance upon the creature, either for the support of his being, or for any other addition to his felicity: but is his own All. And how convictively doth the apostle reason with those philosophers at Athens, to this purpose, Acts xvii. 24. 25. “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, nor is he worshipped with men’s hands as though he needed any thing, inasmuch as he hath given to all, life and breath and all things.” And what can you add to this? What support can he have from you? what improvement of his felicity any way from you, or from anything else, since all things are his own creatures? And further,
(5.) You may learn, hence, the divine all-sufficiency; and how vast an amplitude of being there is in him, when all this great creation sprang from him; and yet, nothing could be detracted from him by it neither. How vast an amplitude of being must that be, when all this great creation is gone out from him, sprung from him, and yet his being not diminished, nothing the less! O! consider this, and think how great and desirable a thing it is, to have him for a portion; the All; he that comprehends in himself the all of the creature, and who formally possesseth his own All still: that is, is simply All. What can he want that hath him for his portion, who is All? All his own creation, it was virtually in him before, and is still virtually in him, depending still upon that power of his, for its sustentation, that gave it being at first. And there is his own infinite All too. O! happy that soul that can say, “The Lord is my portion.” How rich, how full, how satisfying a portion! And,
(6.) We may, further learn hence, the absoluteness of God’s dominion over all his creatures. Will you not allow him to do whatsoever he will in heaven and earth, who made 274both by his own word? Shall he not do what he will with his own? We are apt, most unreasonably and peevishly, to regret it when there is a disposal of creatures; or any little minute part of this creation of God, this way or that, any otherwise than we would. But how absurd it is to repine at God’s disposition of his own! He gives more of this world to such a one, and less of it to me. What then? What he gives to me, and what he gives to the other, was it not all made by himself? And may he not dispose, as he pleaseth, with what he had made?
How doth he plead the matter with Job, to exalt his own dominion upon the ground of his creation? Job thought it hard that he who was so rich a man, so healthy a man, should be bereaved of all so suddenly, and of his health, and comforts of his life besides: “Why,” says God to him, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding. Did I consult thee when I made this and that, and the other creature? And may I not dispose of the creatures I have made, my own way, and as I will?” And,
(7.) We may further learn, that if these worlds thus began, that is, were thus framed by the word of God; if they had such a beginning, even at his pleasure, then at his pleasure, too, we must reckon they will have an end. That which began to be at some time or other, it began to be what it is. Such and such things began to be at the pleasure of the great Creator: and at the pleasure of the great Creator they must cease to be what they are. And we ought not to think it strange, that there should be such an end determined for this world, as the Scripture informs us there is: that is, a time will come, at length, when, the purposes of the great Creator having been sufficiently served upon it, these visible heavens, which we behold, “shall be rolled up as a scroll; pass away with a great noise; and the elements melt with fervent heat; and the earth, and all things therein, be consumed and burnt up,” as 2 Peter iii. 10. and we are not to think it strange. And it is only upon this ground, that it hath been thought strange, that this should be the end of this world, because the beginning of it was not understood, as we may see, looking in the same chapter, at the 3d and 4th verses: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts; and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” “It is talked of that he will come, and then an end will be put to time, and all the successions of time. But all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation to this day. And therefore, we cannot imagine that 275there should be any such end.” But (saith the apostle) “this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of the Lord the heavens were of old;” and because they are willingly ignorant of this, therefore, they are wilfully ignorant of that end which is determined concerning this world. They will not believe it, because they believe not its framing at first: “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing in the water, and out of the water.” Because they do not believe the beginning of things, therefore, they will not believe that which is told them expressly, too, concerning the end of them.
There are a great many things more, that we might learn hence, but they will more immediately belong to the consideration of our own creatorship, than of the world: they do not so immediately result from the consideration of God’s having made the world, as the consideration, more particularly, of his having made us; and therefore, I shall not insist on them till I come more particularly to speak to the creation, of man from another text.
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