|« Prev||Lecture XVII. Preached January 6, 1694.||Next »|
Whereas, in the former discourse, we told you, that it is impossible that the spirit of a man, this inward man, can have been made of matter, so neither can it be made of spirit, for spirit is not a partible thing. If any should suppose it to be made of created spirit, it is as good to suppose it made immediately out of nothing, as any former created spirit; for the necessity will recur of referring this production, at length, to that special kind; to wit, of making a thing out of nothing. But for its being made of the uncreated spirit, God himself, that would 1)e to make the Divine Essence a divisible thing, a partible thing, as if there were parts capable of being severed from parts belonging to the same essence of God. And therefore, though among some of your heathens, (your stoics particularly) there have been those high hyperbolical expressions of men’s being parts and members of the Godhead, Des partes sumus et membra, as Seneca’s expression is; and that celebrated stoic speaks softly enough indeed of the soul’s being divinae particula aurae, the soul should be a particle of divine breath; these are expressions allowable enough as high rhetorical strains, but not as expressions of rigid truth, by any means. If, therefore, the spirit of man were neither made of matter, nor of spirit, it must have been made out of nothing. And so 299in reference to this part of the product, the effect, the thing produced, man, that must needs be by most immediate creation in the strictest and most proper sense.
As for the question, “Whether that these souls were made at once, or whether made successively just then, when put into a state of union with these bodies?” is a thing altogether unfit for us to concern ourselves about; it being, indeed, such a thing as divine Revelation hath given no determination to; and such a thing as no human investigation can ever be able to make a determination of, one way or other; we must be content to be ignorant where God hath drawn a veil over things, and not brought them into any kind of light that we can discern them by.
And then, for the completing of this production or productive act, we are to consider, (as comprehended in it) the union that is brought about between these two parts, the outward man and the inward man, without which there could not be one product considerable in the case: for when we speak of God’s making man, (as this text doth,) the meaning cannot be barely, that he made a body for him out of the earth, and that he made a soul for him out of nothing; the production of these two parts will not amount to the making of a man, unless these two parts be united and brought together, so that of both to compass and make one thing: a man is not created till then, not made till then. And most plain it is, that this union, it was made, at first, by God himself immediately, without the co-operation of any second cause. But it is in the after productions, brought about in a settled way and course of nature, in which, yet, we cannot say that man’s being produced, doth consist in the making of his body, or the making of his soul; but in the union of the one with the other. There is not a man produced till then; till these two parts, being produced, are brought together, But they are not brought together in union in the same way as they were at first: for at first it was by God’s own immediate operation; but he hath now settled the course of nature wherein all following productions are brought about. But yet, still it is his work; otherwise, man which was God’s creature at first, would cease to be God’s creature, if he were not still the Maker. Now concerning this union we have this to say:
1. That it doth not confound the parts united, one with another; for the body is a body still, and not a spirit: and the spirit is a spirit still, and not a body. These parts do remain distinct in the union: there is no confusion of them in the case, nor identification; as if the nature of the one were 300lost and swallowed up, in the nature of the other. But the body continues to have all the properties of a body; and the spirit continues to have all the properties of a spirit; the properties of the one are not communicated to the other. It is not the body that thinks, nor the spirit that grows; or the like, but these particular distinguishing actions proceed, that are proper to the one and the other, they remain unto each. But,
2. We have further to say, concerning this union, that, though under it the parts remain distinct, and are not confounded one with another, yet they are most intimately united; though it does not identify them, nor confound them, yet is this union a most close union, a most inward union, so as not to be ordinarily separable by any means that shall not discompose the recipient herein, that it shall be no longer naturally capable of being; so the soul cannot but stay there: and when it ceaseth to be capable of being the apt recipient of the soul, the soul can no longer stay; it is, therefore, a most intimate union; and a most marvellous one; and one of the greatest mysteries in all the creation of God; considering the vast difference that there is between these two natures, a piece of clay, and a mind; that these two should be so united together, that so long as the one remains naturally susceptible of the other, they can by no means be parted, they cannot be separated, while the crasis of the body remains entire. It is one of the greatest miracles in all the great creation of God; that is, that when this mind of mine, this spirit, is loose from all matter besides, I can move myself from this place, or that, as I will; I cannot yet, by any means, from this body of mine: to this piece of matter I am tied and fixed: and though this soul of mine be an elective and voluntary agent, and I do things electively, and at choice, I cannot at my own choice take myself out of this body of mine, to separate it from my soul; but whither ever I have a mind to go, it follows me, and goes with me, and cleaves with me; I cannot shake it off while the crasis lasts. This is a thing whereon the wisdom of the Creator hath infinitely outwitted us, and gone beyond us. We know not what hath tied this knot, this knot of man, made of these two parts, that are so little of kin, as dust and spirit are to one another, yet so to adhere to one another, as that they cannot be severed by any art, or any power, as long as the crasis, or whole constitution lasts, so as this mind or spirit can go out and come in at pleasure. Let it be considered, for it is one of the deepest mysteries of divine wisdom in all the creation of God. A great wonder it is in itself; and really, it is not a less wonder 301that it should be so little considered, that man, that hath such a thing as this belonging to his nature, a union of two such, so disagreeable parts, should so seldom reflect upon it, so seldom allow himself to contemplate and look into the mystery of his own composition.
But now, to go on to the Use of this former part—God made man: here are but a few words. But it is a vast improvement that they are capable of, if we would give our thoughts scope; and if it might please the Divine Spirit to concur and fall in with his own word. Here lies before us the foundation, laid bare and open to view, of the whole law of nature: that which we call the law of nature herein, it hath its foundation even in this—God made man. It results but from the nature of God, and the nature of man compared together, or with one another; the nature of the Creator and the nature of the creature, this creature, such a creature. Inferior creatures are not govern able by a law; it is an intelligent, voluntary subject that alone is capable of being so governed. And inasmuch as God is the most perfect intellectual Being, and our Creator, and we are intellectual beings too, and his creatures, hence results upon us the obligation of that law which is called “the law of nature;” and may justly be so called, or which otherwise may be called “the law of our creation.” Take that in the general. But to be here a little more particular, there are these several things to be learned even from hence—that God made man. As,
1. Is God indeed our Maker? Then certainly there ought to be in us a most thirsty, longing desire to know him, as far as our minds are capable of knowing him. For what! Can I be content to be ignorant who it is that made me? Indeed, there cannot be a higher and more notorious violation of the law of our nature, or creation, to be willingly ignorant of that God that made me, and gave me being. But how dismal a thing is it, that we should so generally need to be taught how to answer the very first question that we are wont to ask our children: “Who made you?” I hope you are wont to do it; God knows how it is; but I hope it is your wont and use to ask your children, “Who made you?” But pray let us consider, Do we not need to be taught ourselves, what we pretend to teach our children, “who made us?” When you would teach your children so much, do you mean that they should repeat the words and no more? Is it not your meaning, that you would have them understand who made them? Is it not your meaning that they should have some notion in their minds of him that made them? If we had so, and a true, right, correspondent notion, O! how mightily 302impressive would that very thought he upon our souls; how would it strike through all our powers, for ourselves to answer that question, “Who made us?” He that is infinitely beyond all thought, beyond all conception, declare his name, or his Son’s name, if thou canst tell: as it is said unto Ithiel and Ucal, Prov. xxx. 4. Into what an amazement should it put us to consider, what answer we should put to this question, “Who made us?” Into how profound thinking should it cast our minds? Into how deep thoughts? Out of how vast and immense a fulness and plenitude of life, and being, and power, we did spring? That vast plenitude, that abyss of being, that answers the question, “Who made me?” He made me, that is the infinite fulness of all being, and of all life, and of all excellency, and of all perfection: and shall not I covet to know him? At the same time that I acknowledge him incomprehensible, I must look upon the knowledge of him as most desirable, the most desirable of all knowledge.
And therefore, it speaks a most horrid degeneracy (as there will be occasion more directly to take notice of hereafter) of this thinking part of man, his mind and spirit, that it can think of so many thousands of things, and covet to know them, affect to know them, but not affect to know the Author of its own being, of its own life, and of all those great powers and faculties that he hath furnished the reasonable, intelligent nature with; “They liked not to retain God in their knowledge.” Rom. i. 28. They did not approve of it: that is the import of the word: a strange thing that this matter being proposed to God’s own creature, and a creature capable of thought and understanding. Hast thou a mind to know God, to understand him that gave thee being? No, I do not approve of it. They approved not to retain God in their knowledge; there was a secret dislike and disaffection; “an alienation from the life of God.” as it is expressed, Ephes. iv. 18. “and this they are willingly ignorant of,” (saith the apostle Peter 2 epis. iii. 5.) “that the world was made at first by the word of God, the earth standing out of the waters and in the waters. Of this they were willingly ignorant.” This matter, it lay hid from them, being very willing that it should: that is the import of the expression the Spirit of God makes use of there. It lies hid from them, being willing of it. What lies hid? That this world had a creation; of this they are willing to be ignorant; and so, consequently, that they had a creation. They desire not the knowledge of it; they say to God, “Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thee.” Job xxi. 14. Here is divine light and glory shining every where through this world; but 303we choose rather to dwell in the dark as to this thing. “The light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not;” receives it not, would exclude and shut out that light: a voluntary darkness; as if that darkness should entertain thoughts and communings with itself; as if there should be an agreement among the several clouds of that darkness; “Come, let us collect and gather together thick about such and such minds, to fence them against the beams of such light;” this mind is self-collecting, and gathering these clouds, drawing them in, inwrapping itself in them; “O! let us not know God, though he made us; God made me and yet I will not know him.” O! unnatural thing; most monstrously unnatural.
Even so it is with men in their distresses, when nature itself would dictate to them, “O cry to him to give thee help who hath given thee being.” Do but observe that, Job xxxv. 10. “They cry by reason of oppression of the mighty; but none saith, Where is God my Maker.” An amazing thing that men in their distress will many times cry to rocks and stones but not say, “Where is God my Maker?” Cry to rocks and mountains, (as they will at last) but lift up no cry to heaven, “Lord I would fain know thee, manifest thyself to me in this my distress.” No, men will perish under their burdens rather than do it: such is the disaffected temper of men’s minds towards God. Indeed, for ease and relief they will cry, but not for God, or say, “I want to know God;” that is none of their sense. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” Nothing more remote from the minds and hearts of men than this sense. And yet, it is not understood, what they are incurring of guilt and misery, by this neglect of getting their minds furnished and enriched with the knowledge of him that made them. It is not considered what lies upon it. “It is eternal life to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” And if these two be necessary (as we find in that John xvii. 3.) If both these, I say, be necessary, how fearful a case is it, if we cannot get men over the first, or to the first, which is more natural. But the knowledge of the true God, that lies within the compass of the sphere of nature, that belongs to natural religion. And a compliance with the divine pleasure in this, to wit, seeking to know him, belongs to the law of nature, by the first and primary obligation of that law upon us. At what a distance are their souls then, from blessedness and eternal life, that when it is “eternal life to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent,” we cannot get man to the first. No, 304they are content to be all their days ignorant of God; yea, though he be a Father to them.
O! strange prodigy of unnaturalness! So you would account it, if that were the temper of any child, that he did disaffect to converse with, or take any knowledge of, his own father. But this is the peculiar relation between God and men. He is a Father to them, a Father upon a natural account; as he hath been the immediate Creator of their spirits. And therefore, when Christ’s line is run up to the highest, you find it run up to Adam—“Who was the Son of Adam:” and then by Adam it is run up to God—“Who was the Son of God,” Luke iii. 38. and upon that account it is that we are said to be “his off spring,” in that Acts xvii. 28. An expression that the apostle borrows from a celebrated poet of their own, a certain astronomical poet, who was highly in vogue with that people, or with the philosophers of that place; that university at that time. One of your own poets tells us “we are his offspring.” Man is the creature of God: but with very great peculiarity. He hath many creatures besides. All the inferior universe are his creatures too: but among all, man only is the son; that is, there is none below him to whom that title is ever given of being his son. “And shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”
Besides this supernatural ground of this relation of Father and Son between God and the spirits of men: I say, besides the supernatural ground of it in regeneration, it hath its natural ground. And you will see more of it when we come to consider the Second Part—Man’s being created after God’s image: for if we speak of human productions, a man makes many things himself, yet what things he makes they are of a different nature from himself; but whatsoever he begets is of the same nature, of a like nature with his own. Human nature can make many things, make houses, make garments, but they have nothing of a similitude or agreement of nature with the maker. But it is this peculiar sort of production that gives foundation to the relation of father and son, even that which makes the product to be of the same nature and kind, or of an agreeable nature to the productive cause. If man be the son of God, then he must be an intelligent being, as He is. And this is the state of things between God and men; and yet they do not know it, and choose not to know it, are willingly ignorant of it. The matter is upon account plain, that their ignorance of God is voluntary; for that it is evident, it is not necessary; that is, they do not live ignorant of God because he cannot be known: for his glory shines every where. There is 305not the meanest creature but proclaims Deity to every one who will attend: there is not the most despicable pile of grass, or grain of sand, or any such thing, that will not make an argument to us of Deity, that cannot fail but be most cogent and unanswerable. For take but one single pile of grass, one single grain of sand, and here is a real something; that is plain. But is it a thing that came into being of itself? Is this pile of grass, or grain of sand, a self-subsisting thing? No, by no means; no reasonable thought can imagine that, that it can be a self-subsisting thing: for then it would have more perfection in it than all the world hath besides, that did not make itself, or come into being of itself: then it owes itself to a maker, and so we are unavoidably led to God. If you but so much as set yourself to contemplate a grain of sand f or a pile of grass, follow the train of your own thoughts but a little way and you are led to God, whether you will or no: this is either something or nothing; I find it to be a real something: well, but what is it? a thing that subsisted of itself? No, by no means; for then it would have all the perfections, all the excellencies of the universe in it; and infinitely more; this grain of sand, and pile of grass, would have more excellency in it than all the world: for it is plain, that this world did not make itself; why then we must refer it to the Maker; and so you are led to God, whether you will or no, by so mean a thing.
Therefore, I say, men’s ignorance of God is not necessary; because they cannot know him: it must, therefore, be voluntary, because they are willingly ignorant of him. And the more plainly so, because, whereas they have a sufficient demonstration of the being of a God, even in the meanest creature, they have a more abundant demonstration in themselves, and from themselves. If a grain of sand, or pile of grass, will prove a creature and a Deity to me, how much more must I myself who know I did not make myself. I know I came into being so many years ago: so that this work of giving an answer to this question “Who made you?” doth not lie remote: I do not need to fly up into heaven, or go down into the depth of the earth, or to cross the seas, for an answer to it; but only look into myself. The word is nigh me, in my mind, and in my mouth; if I will allow that to speak my mind: I have in me these powers, these faculties, that nature, that most expressly represent God to me. I find myself a creature that can use thoughts; I find I have a power in me of laying designs, of forming projects, of foreseeing things, of comparing thought with thought, of inferring and deducing one thought from another. 306How manifestly doth all this lead me to God, the perfectly intellectual Being!
Therefore, it is the most amazing thing, that our thoughts can reflect upon, that there should be such an indisposition and averseness in us to know him that made us. God made man; but man will not know God, though he be not a Creator, at large, only to him, but a Father; and man, in respect of his soul and spirit, his very offspring, he being the Father of spirits: upon the account whereof, pagans themselves have been wont to speak of God, as the paternal Mind, Father of all minds, and of all spirits, as some of them by the light that shone, even to them, could not avoid to see and say.
There is but one thing that leads to many more parts of the law of nature, and our condition which results in all the several parts of it, from the collation and putting together these two things—God and man: man being considered as the thing made, and God as his Maker; God made man. Sure, I say, in the first place, nothing can be more reasonable, and suitable to this state of the case, than that man should have a mighty thirst to know God, to know him that made him. One would think it should be an uneasy state of the spirit of man, to be in any such ignorance of God as should proceed from neglect: to be ignorant of God by neglect, by not caring to know him, by not concerning one’s self to have that knowledge, that should be the uneasiest thing in all the world to the spirit, to be capable to have that said to him, “So many years thou hast lived in the world, lived in the flesh, a tabernacle that thy Creator and Maker hath framed for thee, and put thee into it, and all this while thou hast not cared to know him, nor concerned thyself to get any acquaintance with him.” It very much becomes and concerns us to covet to know him. It is a very unnatural thing to be content to be ignorant of him that made us; but not to be willing to know him, that is much worse. But now,
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