|« Prev||Lecture XV. Preached December l6, 1693.||Next »|
2. I shall, therefore, now proceed to make application of that second general head of discourse; that the more principal and advantageous way of our coming to understand the creation, is by faith. And it is a very manifold use that may be made of this. As,
(1.) We may learn from it, the excellency of faith; how soul-enabling a thing it is. It hath a certain power, with very great light, to help a man’s understanding, and to clear his intellectuals. By faith we understand. It hath, in great part, its seat in the understanding: there it is originally, though it is not finally there; thence it descends, too, into the heart. But it hath a great work in the minds of men. Faith doth supply minds with notions; so it is if we would read the words literally to you. It doth furnish us with notions, which we should otherwise never have. It is true, if it be faith indeed, it will not let them always remain mere notions; it will inspirit them; it will make them vital, and powerful, and operative. But notions they must be first, and faith makes them so. By faith we have notions of things, that otherwise we never should have had. But this, I say, speaks faith to be 276a soul-enabling thing. It nobilitates the mind and spirit of a man; acquaints it with things from God, (for that is the business of faith,) unto which it would otherwise be a stranger.
This should raise and heighten our apprehensions of faith, that despised thing; that little understood thing. That by which we are to understand; men do not understand.
Whatsoever it is that divine Revelation doth, in order to the informing us of needful and useful things, that faith doth. And take we the compass of divine Revelation, and consider all the great and glorious things that are contained and brought to light in it, and by it, and thence you are to collect the excellencies of faith. Because, without that, the divine Revelation signifies nothing to us; no more than light doth to a blind man. The divine Revelation and faith, must both concur to the same effect, to wit, our understanding of things; as light and the eye do both concur to the same effect, our seeing of a thing. We cannot see by light without an eye; nor will an eye enable us to see without light, but both together. The divine Revelation, that is light to us; faith is the thing by which we discern things in that light. And so, if we do apprehend an excellency in the divine Revelation, which brings so many great and important things into view before us, we are proportionally to apprehend the excellency of faith too; without which all that divine Revelation could signify nothing to us. And,
(2.) We may further learn, hence, how wonderfully kind and gracious God’s condescension is to us, that he should make such a discovery, and offer it to our faith, of things, in reference to which we should be at so great a loss, and understand so very little of: as for instance, this creation of God: what we do owe to the bounty of heaven for this, that it should condescend, so distinctly, to tell us how things came at first to begin. Faith, in that discovery which God makes to us of this matter, sup plies the room and place of sight; and so it is the same thing in effect, as if he had let us see him making the world; for faith is the evidence, to us, of things we have not seen. We were not present, we were not by, when this mighty glorious work was done. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Where wast thou? saith God to Job: chap. 38. 4. But now, God having vouchsafed to us, such a Revelation and discovery of this mighty work of his; if he also gives us faith by which we believe this discovery, it is as if he had set us by him while all this was doing; so, we have (as it were) the idea, the representation, the landscape of the rising creation; as if God should before that time have created one 277of us, and have taken us, and set us up, spectators of his whole work.
Whereas, yet, there was nothing but horrid darkness spread every where, then for God to have taken one of us, made us stand up out of nothing, and said to such a one—“Come, cast about thine eye, there is nothing but vacuity, emptiness and darkness every where; come see me make light out of this darkness.” He that calls things where they were not, and makes them be, or as if they were, saying, “Light, where art thou? come out of that dark, profound abyss;” and immediately it springs forth, what an amazing light were that! Why, faith in God’s discovery gives you this light: by faith we come to be so intelligible, to have so much understanding about us, as to know how this world did rise out of nothing, eternal nothing, into that state in which now it is. And what vouchsafement is this to such as we, to do, in effect, the same thing, as if he had set us by him at making of the world. “Come see me collect a mass of grosser matter; see me (as it were) spin out of it that fine texture of the vast and spacious firmament, those heavens that do encircle this little habitable world in which we dwell; see me adorn it with sun, moon and stars; see arising on this earth, plants, and trees, and woods, and springs, and rivers: all lately nothing, and now begin to be: see me replenishing this world with living creatures, in their several varieties and kinds.” O! what condescension is this, that God should vouchsafe to tell us all this over again, and give us the representation so distinctly, of what, in so many successive days, he did and wrought in this kind. But, again,
(3.) We may further learn, hence, how inexcusable it is, that they who pretend to faith in this matter, should use it so little. If we falsely pretend, it is a most unjust usurpation of a name, to call ourselves believers; and that, of such things, when we are not. But if we pretend truly and justly to the faith of these things, then we are most inexcusable to use that faith no more hereabouts; to live so long, in such a world as this, and so seldom to consider how it began. A strange and inexcusable stupidity. That this world should be replenished with intelligent creatures, reasonable creatures; and that it should come into the minds of so few, and into any minds so seldom to consider, How did all things begin? Sure we are there, where multitudes of things are existing, that must have had a beginning, that are riot self-existent, or unto which existence is not essential, so, as that they could not but be and exist. It is amazing to think that intelligent creatures should not more frequently consider with themselves, how things first 278began to be, beholding such a world as this, which they are sure was not always, but had a beginning; and not consider how it began. That men can behold such varieties of creatures, and use such varieties, and enjoy such varieties, and never consider whence they are, whence came they, how came there to be such things in the world, and how came there to be such a world? It is most inexcusable and strange stupidity, and dotishuess of mind, in any reasonable creature: but most of all in them that do pretend to believe and know by faith, that the worlds were created by the word of God. And,
(4.) We may, again, learn hence, that what is commonly called faith, about this matter, is really and indeed not faith: that is, the apprehension of such a thing as this, is without effect, and that impresseth nothing upon the soul. It hath been very justly and fitly told you, that we have the notions of things by faith, many things which we should otherwise have no notion of. But though faith first begets such notions, yet it will not let them continue mere notions long, if it be faith: that is a mighty, lively, operative principle, powerfully working in the soul, to form that suitably to the thing believed. But while there is so little of suitable impression upon the souls of men, in reference to this thing, what they call faith about it, is not faith, but must be something else.
For the most part, it is not any thing else but a negative faith, which men are wont to call faith in this and many other such cases. It is, I say, but a mere negative faith upon which they place that great name: that is, a not believing the contrary, not having formed explicit belief of the contrary, that they call faith. They have not yet (it may be) laid down in their minds any formed conclusions to this purpose, that the worlds were not made by the word of God; and their not disbelieving it, they call believing it: whereas, faith is a most positive thing, a thing of great reality, and a thing of great efficacy and power, wherever it is. And, therefore, for such as never yet found their souls impressed by their apprehensions of the world’s creation, I would admonish them no more to call that apprehension of theirs by the name of faith, but call it something else,—call it by its true name,—call it a floating uncontradicted opinion; and that is the best they can make of it, while it is an apprehension that hath no power; and while it doth not represent God in his excellent glory, as the great Creator and Lord of all, so as to form the soul to adoration and subjection to him thereupon. Never say till then, that you do believe, or that you have faith concerning the creation of the worlds. Alas! how many that have it often in their 279mouths—“I believe in God the Father, Maker of heaven. and earth”—yet do but usurp the words, “I believe.” and their heart, and their practice, contradict their tongue, and tell them they believe it not. Believe it! yea, as much as a known romance, while they live in affront of the Creator, and take upon them as if they were lords of the creation; and as if they had made the worlds; and not He.
These things we may, by way of just inference, collect from hence; that it is a thing to be understood by faith, that the worlds were made by the word of God. But we shall thence proceed to some further Use; that is, to counsel and exhort those that have faith in this matter, to use it more; to have their faith more in exercise upon this great and noble subject, the creation of the worlds by the word of God. And it is to many great purposes, that faith upon this important subject may be employed and used. As,
1. To engage us in the more frequent and serious meditations on the beginnings of things. To engage us, I say, in the more frequent, more serious, more affectionate, and more fruitful meditation of this matter. If we believe it indeed, let us think of it often. Our faith is an apprehension that it is true: and if it be once owned to be true, it cannot but be deemed to be a very important truth; a very considerable truth; a truth that requires, and challenges, great attention of mind, and application of heart and soul to it. Think and judge it an unreasonable thing, to live from day to day, in this world, and never consider whence it came, and how it began. And let your faith be set on work in frequent and most affectionate meditations of the beginning of the worlds,
2. Let your faith, hereupon, form your souls into adoration of the great Creator. Go up and down this world with adoring souls: let every thing you behold, from time to time, put you in mind of him, and make you bow your head, and worship. Admire that fulness of his, that fills all in all; and those variable displays of his wisdom, and power, and goodness, which are conspicuous every where, more or less, in all sorts of creatures. We are but nominal believers and christians, if there be not many, if there be not much of this about us; and if we are not aiming and endeavouring that there may be more and more.
3. Let our faith instruct us unto the grateful and reverential use of the creatures of God, as remembering they are made things; and that we have the use of them by divine vouchsafement and allowance. There ought to be a mixture, a temperature of reverence and gratitude in the habitual frames of our 280spirits hereupon: and if we have a real and true faith in us about this matter, it will make it to be so; it will impress our spirits; it will fill us (as it ought to do) with a wondering gratitude, that such creatures as we, should be so accommodated by such a world as this, so suitably ordered for us. If we use faith in this matter, it will make us sit down and wonder; look upon it as it is, an admirable thing, that the great God should have raised up such a creation, such a world, as this is, out of nothing, by the word of his power. That it being designed, “I, in time, coming to have a place and being in it, should want nothing while I am there; such and such creatures, made out of nothing to supply me, to furnish me. What is it that I eat? What is it that I drink? What is it that I wear? Are they not all the creatures of God? What is it that refreshes me? What is it that delights me? Are they not God’s creatures?” How full of reverential gratitude should our hearts continually be, on this account! To think such and such parts of the creation were made on purpose that I might not be in distress, that I might not feel necessity; and to think bow this world gene rally accommodates its inhabitants: and to wonder with all, that their apostasy was foreseen! O! how should it replenish our souls with wondering gratitude, to think that there should be such a provision made with design, and upon foresight, for the entertainment of rebels and apostates! This whole world replenished and filled with the divine goodness, all sorts of creatures made for the unthankful and the evil. A design laid through so many successions of ages, “My goodness shall diffuse itself, and flow in such and such a part of my creation, (as this world is but a little, a very little part of it,) for the supply and support of those that will never give me thanks, (though they have natures capable of doing so,) even for the unthankful and for the evil.”
4. Our faith, upon this subject, should instruct and enable us to contend with difficulties in reference to whatsoever God hath encouraged us to expect, or told us he means to do. What can pose that faith which believes the creation of the world? He that could make such worlds as these are, out of nothing, by his word; what cannot he do? what is there to be expected greater than this, that should be the matter of any present solicitude, thoughtfulness, concern and care? If very perplexing thoughts of heart do arise about the ill state of things in this world, he that made heaven and earth, and all the worlds by his word, cannot he make new heavens and a new earth when he will, and when the time and season of it comes? How frequently may we observe it to be, in Scripture, for the 281people of God, to animate and raise their own hearts unto the belief and expectation of great things from God, upon this ground, that he hath made heaven and earth, that he is the Creator of all things. “Our God hath made the heavens.” When those vain creatures that dislike the divine government, and oppose themselves to it, taking counsel against the Lord, and against his Anointed, when, I say, they have nothing to trust to, in the designs of this kind, they are forming and driving continually; nothing but stocks and stones, the work of men’s hands; “Our God hath made the heavens;” (so you have it expressed, Psalm cxv. 3, 4.) made the worlds; given being to all these worlds: and what cannot he do } when his time and season for it are come? And things will come to their full issue in the fittest time. Our God it is, who hath power enough to do the things we expect, and wisdom enough to order the times and seasons for them. Again,
5. Our faith ought to have exercise with us, upon this subject, in order to the keeping of our minds quiet and composed, amidst the various expressions and instances that we behold of the divine dominion and sovereignty, doing what he will in the disposal of affairs in this world. It may be, some we find him exalting, and it pleaseth us; we find him depressing, and it displeaseth us; we have a little share and portion in this world, and we regret it: others have a great and large portion of it, and that we envy. But we should consider whose this world is, who made it. May not he dispose of what he hath, made, as he pleaseth? This (as we noted to you before) is a just inference from the very thing itself, abstractly considered, that is, to form our spirits agreeably, and to make us content, and well pleased, that God does dispose of what he hath made, as seemeth good to him.
6. We should further learn, hence, to behold, with great complacency, what appearances there are of divine glory in this world, which he hath made by his word. And to behold, with just regret, the dishonours that he meets with in it; or that these appearances of his are so little taken notice of; and that such glory shines unregarded as to the most. These are but dutiful dispositions and affections towards the Creator and Maker of these worlds: and faith should furnish our souls with such dutiful affections; otherwise it is a fruitless faith, a life less faith, if it doth not do this. Do I believe that God made these worlds, by his word? how can it then but please me to behold his glory shining in such and such aspects and appearances of God? and how can it but fill my soul with such dutiful wishes? “O! may thy glory, more and more, be exalted 282above the heavens, and shine through all the earth.” And how can it but fill our souls with resentments, that there should be such glory shining, and not regarded? The great Maker and Lord of this world, excluded out of his own creation, as if the All in all did signify nothing! men taking upon them, every where, as if they were absolute, as if they had been self-created, and using the creatures of God at their own pleasure, and in affront to him that made them. If faith would do the part in our souls which belongs to it, it could not but fill them with regret, and with a dutiful concern, that the great Lord and Maker of this world, should be so little acknowledged, and taken notice of in it. Again,
7. The faith of the creation of the worlds, should engage our hearts in an earnest desire and endeavour to have a sure and clear interest in Him who created and made all. What doth this world signify to me, to behold it, to be in it, to be of it, a part of it, but to have nothing to do with him that made it? The faith of this, would make a soul restless till it can say, “The Lord of heaven and earth is my Lord.” Were these worlds created by the word of God? then he shall be my God. He that could make such worlds as these, by his word, is it not a covetable thing to have an interest in him? Is it not desirable? Can I satisfy myself till I have it? especially, when I find it is matter of hope, a thing not to be despaired of; when there are such notifications of his pleasure, (that he is inviting and teaching men to take him, and choose him) published and proclaimed in his gospel to the world, declaring now the terms by which he offers himself to be our God, and invites us to take and accept him for ours? The serious belief of this thing, that these worlds were made by the word of God, would certainly put us upon a most industrious inquiry, “How shall I do to know him, and to be acquainted with him, and to be interested in him, by whose word these worlds were made? And, I can not satisfy myself not to know him that made them, and not to have him for mine, since I find there is a possibility of the thing; that it is a thing not to be despaired of, and it is no unjust, or presumptuous aspiring, for me to seek an interest in him.” My faith of the thing ought to make my soul restless in this case.
And if one consider, cast one’s eye round about, and behold this world in the extent of it, (as far as our dim and short sighted eyes can go,) and behold the great variety of creatures in it, methinks the thought should presently arise, “Amongst all these things, there is nothing suitable to me, to my spirit; nothing in which I can be satisfied, and in which I could take 283rest, unless I could find out him that made these worlds by the power of his own word:” till then, methinks one should always look very wisely about one, and behold the amplitude of this world; and then, presently to think, likewise, “Sure it is a sad, melancholy thing, to be in this world, as without God in the world, what an empty cipher is it, if God he out of my sight, if I cannot find out the Maker of all, so as to know him, and have him as mine.” And then,
8. If one can do so, how should our faith fill our souls with high gloriations in that God? I have him, that made the worlds, for my God. “All people will walk every one in the name of their God.” And we should say, And we will walk In the name of our God: and see, where there is such another God to be found that hath made these worlds, (how many soever they be, and how great soever they be,) and all by his word: I have him for my God. And again,
9. It should, by a little further recollection, make us apprehend too, the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon whom the business lay of redeeming and saving lost creatures in this world; and must lie of making a new world; of repairing a ruined and languishing creation. For you had to consider, that he had his part, he concurred, he was Creator even of this world. Look to the 1 chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews: He is styled “the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of his person;” he that upholds all things by the word of his power—the heir of all things, and by whom he made the worlds. “By him he made all things, visible and invisible,” Col. i. 16. and John i. 1, 3. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. By him were all things made: and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And I will not undertake to exclude that from the signification and meaning of the text, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” the essential Word, the divine Logos. Though, I would not lay a stress upon a thing that is not plainly and manifestly intended: yet, to take it in, is very suitable to the current of other texts of Scripture. The eternal Word had its hand and part in the creation; and it was by it, that these worlds were made. And thereupon, by a right of creation as natural, as well as by the acquired right of a Redeemer of a lost world, by the effusion of his blood, and the sacrifice of himself, he comes to have a governing power over all this world: being ascended and gone up far above all heavens, he hath all power given into his hands, both in heaven and in earth.
I would only improve the consideration hereof, to this purpose, 284to greaten your thoughts concerning your Redeemer. We are fain in very important cases, from time to time, to be beholden to our senses, even in the most important cases that can be thought. Our sense tells us something of the greatness and amplitude of the world; though it cannot tell us much, yet it tells us something: and by that, make your estimate (for we need such helps) how great a Redeemer we have; him that made these worlds. They were made by the word of God: he was the eternal Word; and as such, we are sure, having the eternal idea in him, according to which the worlds were to be made; by him, at length, they came to stand forth into being. Think this with yourself, “This is my Redeemer; he that had so mighty a hand in the formation of all these worlds; and in whose hand the government of them now lies. It is with him I am to trust my soul. It is to him that I am to subject and devote my soul. Have I not reason to do so? Have I not encouragement enough to trust him, that made this soul, and all these worlds, and to obey him who hath so great and universal a power over these worlds?”
10. Our faith in this matter should, more and more, release our spirits from mean and vile confinement to this one world only; for by faith we understand that there were more: therefore, our faith should release our spirits from a base confinement to one world, when it tells us of more. It tells us, there were worlds created by the word of God: therefore, it speaks an abject mind, a mean and base spirit, and so much the more if we have faith, (as we pretend to have,) to be confined in our thoughts, in our desires, in our designs, in our expectations and hopes, to this one world. Tell a believer, “Your all lies in this one world;” “No, (he will say,) my faith hath got ken of more, notice of more.” By faith I understand that there were worlds, framed by the word of God; therefore, it is a base thing to be tied to the present: “Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world.” A believing soul would look upon that with disdain, (there is such a generosity in faith) and would say, “I scorn so base a confinement as that, to be limited to one world, when I know there were worlds created by the word of God.” Though we are not told how many there were, yet we are sure they are more than one; and we have a very distinct account of one more, in which our principal concerns do lie, and are signified to be. And blessed be God for that, that we know so much, that there is one more, with which we have more to do than we have with this world, or can have, even where our principal interest lies, and where our Lord and our Head is. O! how should we bless God for this! that 285since there are more worlds, he hath told us so, and hath let us know it. To be limited, in our spirits, to this one world, this present world, is to run counter to the design of our Lord’s dying; “He gave himself for our sins, to deliver us from this present evil world.” He gave himself for our sins: what doth that signify, in conjunction with the latter words? but that they are our sins that chain us in our present dungeon. And by how much the more we can be released from these chains of our sins, so much the more shall we get out of this confinement, and get above this present evil world. O! if we have many things that we dislike in this world, let us bless God that we know of more worlds. And in the last place,
11. We may further learn, that our faith concerning the creation and being of this world, should very much facilitate our faith concerning the end of it. If we can believe, that these worlds were made by the word of God, we may easily believe what he hath told us concerning the unmaking of them. And particularly, the unmaking of this, the dissolution of it as to its present frame. We may argue from the one to the other, that since the one hath been, the other is not harder to be: if one be a thing to be believed, the other is as believable as that, when we are told it will be so.
It is very true, indeed, that believing is not formally arguing; but as faith doth rest upon the strongest argument in all the world, so it may supply matter of further arguing, though it be not in itself formal arguing, it rests upon the strongest argument that ever was; that is, that because there is a Being in finitely perfect, therefore, he cannot but be true, therefore, it is impossible for him to lie; therefore, it is inconsistent with his nature to impose upon his creatures: heaven and earth cannot have a surer foundation than this which my faith hath upon this matter, and upon tins ground. And then, resting upon the strongest argument imaginable, it can easily supply matter of further argument; that is, if my faith hath once believed this, that these worlds were made by the word of God, because God hath told us so, if also, he hath told us he will put an end to the present world, and how he will put an end to it, as he hath told us how it began; if I can believe the one, I can believe the other, too, with the same faith: and so am to live in the suitable expectation of such a time, when these visible heavens “shall be rolled up as a scroll, and pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all that is therein, be consumed and burnt up.”
And, if I believe this, then how entertaining must the belief 286be! How pleasant the belief of the other world (as was said before) that is to come afterwards, that pure, and peaceful, and orderly, and blissful world! that lasting, permanent, and everlasting world! that when this world and all the lusts thereof are past away and gone, shall abide for ever, and all they that do the will of God: as that expression is 1 John ii. 17. “The world passeth away and all the lusts thereof.” Love it not, nor the things of it. If you love it, the love of the Father is not in you: and it is passing away. God is not so unkind to you as to place your love upon vanishing things, upon shadows. This world, I tell you, and all the lusts thereof, are vanishing, passing away; will shortly be gone; the shew will be over: but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever in that blissful world, which it is his will and pleasure shall abide for ever.287
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