|« Prev||Lecture XVIII. Preached January 13, 1694.||Next »|
2. We may hence collect, that our constant, grateful adoration of God, i a most reasonable duty incumbent upon all of us. Nothing is more deeply fundamental in the law of our creation, than the law of worship. “Let us come and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.” It is a joyful homage 307that is claimed unto him on this account, the most complacential adoration. “Let us come before him with thanksgiving: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” Indeed, nothing can be more reasonable hereupon, than those two great parts of natural worship, to wit, supplication and thanksgiving. Supplication; Should not a people seek unto their God? Did he make us? did he give us being? from whom else are we to expect all the good we need? He that hath given us being; all the accessories of being are to be looked for only from him. And thanksgiving; these two parts of natural worship, are complicated in one another; in the institution of them, as they are in the reason of them, and root of them. “Let your requests and supplications be always made to him, with thanks giving,” as in divers texts of Scripture, which I might refer you to, and even upon that account, that he hath given us our very being itself, which is the fundamental unto all other good that we are any way capable of, that he hath given us being of such a kind. So God made man.
We should consider what is involved in the nature of man, and so bethink ourselves what we have to bless God for: that is, the primitive nature which God gave man at first, or where with he made him, every thing that he made was good, and so was that more excellently good. It is storied concerning Plato, a heathen, that dying, he gave God solemn thanks for three things: “That he made him a man, and not a brute; that he had made him a Grecian and not a barbarian, (there being much more light among them in his time, than with the rest of the world, to wit, the light of philosophy and cultivated reason;) and the third was, because he had ordered it so that he should live in Socrates’ days, who was reckoned so great a luminary in that part of the world among them, while yet they were over spread with paganism.” O! how awfully should we adore God that he hath given us a being; that he hath given us rational, intelligent natures, capable of knowing and enjoying so great things I that he hath assigned us our station in such a part of the world, and where we have opportunity to know a greater One than Socrates was! that he hath ordered our creation in such circumstances as he hath done, in such a time and such a part of the world! Nothing is a more equal law that can be upon us, than that we should have an habitual, adoring gratitude, possessing our souls upon such accounts.
And, upon the whole, Adoration! how correspondent a thing is it to creation; adoration on our part, unto creation on his part? How convictive a saying was that celebrated one of Austen? “If I (saith he) were capable of making a reasonable 308creature to stand forth out of nothing, endowed with the power of reason and understanding, the first thing sure that I should expect from him would be, that he should fall down and worship me.” In what an unnatural state, then, is this world upon this account, that being inhabited by so many reasonable creatures, it is inhabited by so few worshippers! Again,
3. Another practical deduction from hence, is, that we ought to live in a continual dependance on him that made us. So God made man. Hath he made us, and will not we depend upon him? trust in him? This is most essential homage due to our Maker, to place upon him, and exercise toward him, a continual, vital trust. This is a glory which he will not impart, but concerning which he is jealous. And, indeed, as to purely internal worship, this is the first, and most radical of it, trust in God: and so very natural to an intelligent creature, that I remember Philo Indaeus hath this expression concerning it: “That he is not fit to be called a man, that hath not in him hope towards God.” He seems to mean it of what is most natural to man, that he is not to be reckoned a man, that doth not trust in God, and doth not place a hope in him.
Natural dependance is reckoned, consequentively, essential to a creature; and it is so. A creature is naturally a depending thing; an explicit dependance, that doth as properly belong to an intelligent creature, as natural dependance doth to all other creatures. A creature, as such, taken at large, is a mere dependant upon him that made it. This whole creation is nothing else but a thing dependant upon God, upon divine power and upon divine pleasure; according to which it was determinable, whether it should be, or not be; and according to which, it is continually determinable, whether it should continue to be another moment, yea or no. And so suitable as natural dependance is to a creature, as a creature, so suitable is intellectual dependance to a reasonable creature, as such: that is, that it should consider its dependant state, and often recount with itself, How came I to be what I am from moment to moment, when I can not promise myself a moment’s breath or being? This is so appropriate a glory to the Deity, that when trust is supremely placed any where else, there is a curse pronounced upon it; “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man;” Jer. xvii. 5. for this is to rob God of his peculiarity; to place a homage on the creature, that is most appropriate and peculiar to the Creator.
But it may be said, In our state of apostasy from God, what room or place is there left for trust in him?309
To that I answer, very certain it is. men are in an apostasy from God. But are they, therefore, always to continue so? especially when he is so intent upon a design for their recovery and reducement; and he insists still upon the right that he hath in his own creature. Because his creature is revolted and apostatized, and run away from him, hath he, therefore, lost his right in it? If there be an obligation upon an apostate creature to return, (and if it were a wicked thing to apostatize at first, it must needs be an increase of the wickedness, to continue in that slate of apostasy and not to return,) then, wherein stood our revolt, therein must stand our return. The revolt of a creature from God in his apostasy, lay in departing from him through “an evil heart of unbelief;” that it could not trust in him, did not trust in him; trusted the tempter and destroyer of souls, against him, and in opposition to him. And to come out of a state of apostasy must be by trust, if the going into the state of apostasy was by distrust. But this must he in God’s own prescribed and appointed way and method. When once it hath pleased him to signify the way in which he is pleased to admit of sinners’ return unto him, wherein he hath made the constitution of a Redeemer known, there must he a return in and through him, and trust in God through him: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” John xiv. I. Where this way of returning to God, so as to make him the supreme Object of our trust, is not known, there the state of a sinner is less capable of remedy. But where it is known, it admits of so much the greater and deeper guilt, if yet there be no thoughts of returning, and returning in this very act, by placing again our supreme and vital trust upon him who was the first great and commanding Object of it; that did most rightfully command it, and challenge it, for himself; Shall I have a creature that shall not trust in me? not make me its all in all? Therefore, to have our interest in God restored by Jesus Christ, that must be our great business, who live under the gospel of Christ.
And then, we are to trust in God under that very notion of the Author of our being, knowing, that because we are apostate creatures, therefore, that he will never, for our sakes, but he will, for Christ’s sake, do the part of a kind, benign Creator to us. Our interest in him as Creator being now renewed; not. lost and swallowed up, but renewed and restored: and therefore, is the charge laid upon Christians (I Peter iv. 19.) to “commit themselves to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” His interest in us, as our Creator, was never lost; our interest in him, as such, was; but being now restored, upon this restitution, we are continually to trust in him, and commit 310ourselves unto him under the same notion of Creator, still. To commit ourselves unto him as a faithful Creator, that is, he did put himself, at first, under obligation (implicitly at least) to his reasonable creatures: “Obey and thou shalt live,” shalt be happy, he freely putting himself under this obligation. But the creature, upon his revolt, forfeited all his interest in him, and all right to that promised felicity, which, as an obedient creature, he might have expected: by Christ this right is restored; and so God is to be considered now, by such as through Christ have returned to him, not merely according to the benignity of a Creator, but according to his fidelity also: “commit yourselves to him as a faithful Creator,” he having resumed the obligation upon himself to treat such kindly: and he doth it, not merely from unobliged goodness, but obliged, which the notion of faithfulness doth imply. He will be to you a faithful Creator, if you commit yourselves to him accordingly as such. And again,
4. Another piece of practice that we may induce, and should learn, hence, is a constant and most profound humility. What! am I a creature? So God made man: there had never been any such a thing as man if God had not freely made him. O! then how deep an impression of humility should this fix upon our souls! What am I? A creature depending upon will and pleasure; it was lately in the power of another, whether I should be, or not be. A proud creature is a monster in the creation of God; the most horrid monster in the creation. What have I to be proud of, who am of myself nothing, and should never have been any thing, but by vouchsafement, by the goodwill of another? It is to that only that I owe it, that I am any thing.
If one creature have more, or do think he hath more, of real excellency than another, that, with the whole of his being is all but a made thing. Thy whole being, whatsoever excellencies belong to it, either as common to that sort of creatures to which thou art annumerated, or more special and peculiar to itself; if it be any thing, (if it be not merely a concealed thing,) it is a made thing, as thou art: thou wast made, and it was made, and it was made to be thine; but all depending upon will and pleasure, therefore is pride a most monstrous thing in the creation of God. The continual sense of all creatures, of any intellectual sense, should be this, “We are all nothing but what it pleased our Creator we should be. We have nothing but by his pleasure; our being is a borrowed being: and the additions, and all the ornaments that have occurred to it, are all made things, all borrowed things.” Should any one be 311proud of that which he hath borrowed? To wear ornaments that every one knows were borrowed, and to be proud of them, what a madness is that? Our very being is a borrowed thing, and all that belongs to it.
When God would humble a creature down into nothing, thereby to make it the capable receptacle of a Deity, a cohabiting Deity, that with such a one he might dwell, how doth he magnify himself the higher; “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.” Isa. lxvi. 1. All these things have I made, they are all the works of my own hands. Now, if I can find a creature sensible of this, to such a one will I look, that is of a poor and contrite spirit, that humbles himself into the dust before so mighty and glorious a Creator; with such a one will I dwell; he shall be my temple the habitation of a Deity;” for the Deity will suffer no diminution in uniting with such a one; be cause that will still be looked upon as the All in all, while he still looks upon himself as nothing. And,
5. We further learn, hence, the great equity of the law of self-denial; it is a most deeply natural law; and when it is made fundamental in Christianity, that is but the revival and re-inforcement of a natural law: “Except a man deny himself he cannot be Christ’s disciple.” Why so, why cannot he be Christ’s disciple? Pray consider what was Christ’s business, when he was to collect to himself disciples. His business, as a Redeemer, was to recover apostates back again to God ‘? and their discipleship to him, was only to put themselves under his conduct; that under the direction thereof, and through his mediation, they might return to God and be accepted. The very design for which a mediator was appointed, shews the necessity of his insisting upon this law as fundamental to the whole frame of Christianity. As if he had said, “My business as a Redeemer, as Mediator, is to recover and bring back apostate souls to their God again. Wherein were they apostates? In that they did set up themselves apart from God, and in opposition unto God. None can come to me and own me for their Head, and for their Lord, and Intercessor, and Mediator with God, but it must he under this notion; that is, that they look upon me as the only One by whom they are to be restored, and brought back into their primitive state, reduced to God, the great Author, and consequently the end of all things. And therefore, did Christ, in dying, “redeem us to God by his blood.” Rev. v. 9.
We are not to think, that we were, ourselves, the principal end of Christ’s redemption; that would be an injurious and absurd imagination; to think that the creature was Christ’s chief 312end, it were a horrid conception. God must be the chief end of all things; therefore, the design of Christ’s dying was to redeem us to God; to restore back such and such creatures to God, that the end for which they were made, might be served upon them. Our interest in him is a secondary thing; but his interest and right in us was the primary thing. Therefore, it was impossible to be otherwise, but that Christ’s designing the redemption and reduction of sinners to God back again, must lay this law as fundamental, at the bottom of all that religion he was to set up in the world; that is, self-denial. “You have lived in a separate state apart from God. If you are weary of that life, and will come off from yourselves, then you are for me; then you come under my conduct; I will make your peace; I will buy it out for you, (and he hath bought it out,) and procure your acceptance with God, upon your return.” But this can never be, if you have a mind to live separate still, to stand upon your own bottom, and make self your first and last. No, God must be your first and last; and he really is the first and the last. And therefore, “unless any one be willing to deny himself, he cannot be my disciple.” saith Christ; he cannot be a christian under any other notion than as one that is now willing that God in all his authority, and greatness, and excellency, and glory, shall entirely fill up that room which, before, self had usurped. And therefore,
6. We further learn, hence, how reasonable and necessary a thing it is to man, as he is a creature, a created thing, to seek an interest in, and union with, God, as his highest and best good; for of himself he is nothing. That he is any thing (as hath been said) did depend upon divine pleasure. Such a one, if he do recollect and use thoughts, must needs state his case thus: “Not only am I uncapable of doing any thing towards my own felicity, but I cannot preserve myself in being one moment. What good have I then, but what I must expect from him that made me? I have been severed from God, cut off from God, the great Author of my life and being; I have not, in this my separate state, my good in my own hand; I have not enough in me to make me a happy creature; a creature I am; but I still need to be a happy creature. And when my very being is not my own, what shall I be able to command for my self, or procure for myself, or raise up to myself, within me, that shall be able to be a felicity or satisfaction to me?” He that Is nothing of himself, it is the most reasonable and necessary thing to such a one to seek a union with him who is All, I am in myself nothing; there ought, therefore, to be in me a propension towards him who is my All. My soul ought to incline 313towards him, to adhere to him, as its supreme and hest good; “Whom have I in heaven but thee? who can I desire on earth in comparison of thee?” And,
7. A life of the most absolute devotedness to God, is the only righteous way of living; no man lives a righteous life that doth not live a devoted life. And what are we to deny ourselves for, as neither being able to procure a felicitating good to ourselves, nor as being allowed to design a supply for ourselves by any interest of our own? And why are we to deny ourselves in these respects, but that what we take off from ourselves, may be immediately placed upon God who is our All? As we are to seek a union with God for our real, present sup port, and for our final satisfaction, so are we to devote and addict ourselves to him in order to this service. When we adhere to him, (according to what was expressed in the foregoing head,) that refers to our support and satisfaction; when we devote ourselves to him, that refers to his service; that we may serve and glorify him: for that we are to devote ourselves to him.
And that hath its reason in this too, that we are his creatures, he hath made us: and what did he make us for? Did he ever make a creature to be its own end? He hath made all things for himself: “Of him, and to him, and through him, are all things, that he alone might have the glory. Therefore, is our own created being, (as it is such) our very being itself, a perpetual, standing testimony against us as long as it lasts: if we live not devoted lives; if he who hath been the Author of our being, be not the end of it, this very being of mine is a testimony against me; for what sort of being is it? Not a self-sprung being, but a created being: So God made man. I am a made being; therefore, is my being a testimony against me, (the kind and nature of it being considered.) I am a continual testimony against myself, as I stand a created thing, depending upon will and pleasure, if I live not a devoted life, so as my own heart can bear me record, in the sight of God, that I do live to God. Being to ask myself the question, (and it is a shame to us if we do not often ask ourselves the question,) “What do I live for?” what is my business here in this world? If I cannot answer it with a sincere conscience, “Lord, thou that knowest all things, thou knowest that I principally design to live to thee, and that I reckon my life, and my being, a vain and a lost thing, otherwise than as it is sacred unto thee: I continually testify against myself; I should think it living in vain, to please myself, and to serve an interest of mine own, when I have not a moment to command, but depend upon the 314pleasure of another for every moment’s sustentation in the being that I have.” Who can answer it to himself, to live that sacrilegious and ungodly life? that is, not to live devoted to him by whom we live?
8. We may again learn, hence, what reason there is why we should love God more than ourselves: you cannot but know, this is a thing most strictly charged upon us, and wherein we are upon no terms to be dispensed with; namely, that we are to love him above all. We owe unspeakably more to him than we can do to ourselves. We do not owe to ourselves that we are any thing. “He made us, and not we ourselves.” If there be any thing of real goodness in the being that we have, there is infinitely more in the Author of that being: and if goodness, as such, be the object of love, the greatest goodness must be the object of the greatest love, and the highest goodness, of the highest love. And therefore, do not think that we are hardly imposed upon, when the law of our creation doth require and claim this from us, that we love God more than ourselves. And therefore, when our Lord Jesus Christ takes upon him the great business of our redemption, and reconciliation unto God, (which it was impossible for him ever to have effected, if he had not been God as well as man, upon the account of the Deity that was united in the same person with his humanity,) he claims so much for himself from us, that is, he doth tell us, that, if any man do love father, or mother, or wife, or child, or his own life, more than him, he cannot be his disciple. We are to consider that there is Deity in his person, the fulness of the Godhead; and so that he is, as such, the supreme Object of our love, to wit, the Deity which is in him, common to the Father and Spirit, must be the supreme Object of our love. It is as if he should have said, “I come, in kindness, to redeem and save you as lost creatures: you are not to think in doing so, I have laid aside my Deity; for then I could not have been a Redeemer and a Saviour to you: and therefore, having that Godhead united with my humanity, in my own person, I require this of you, that is, that you love me more than your very being: and you cannot be my disciples upon any other terms,” He was Creator, in conjunction with the Father, and the Spirit; for li by him were all things made, visible and invisible; and without him, nothing was made that was made.” And therefore, we are not to think it a hard or an unreasonable imposition upon us, that we are to love God, and to love Christ, more than ourselves; more than this natural life or being of ours, so as that all must be a sacrifice to his pleasure, if he once say the word, or signify his will to that purpose.315
And that is the way, having lost ourselves, to find ourselves again, by loving him above ourselves. “If any man love his life,” (that is, supremely,) “he shall lose it; but if he will lose his life for my sake, he shall find it.” We find life, and all, in God through Christ, when we are lovers so as to make him the supreme Object of our love, as in that, John xii. 25. No man can really be a loser by so abandoning himself, as to place that love which he unjustly placed upon himself before, (that is, his supreme love,) now upon God, and upon Christ. No man can be a loser, but he finds himself again in this case. He had lost himself before; but now he is restored to himself and to his God both at once. Then,
9. We may further learn, hence, how reasonable a thing it is, that man should be under government: Is he a creature? then he ought to be a governed thing. The most reasonable thing in all the world it is, that he that hath given us being, should give us law. Hath he been the Author of being to us? and shall he not rule his own creature? Shall that be allowed to have a will against his will? To have been raised up out of the dust, but the other day, out of nothing, and now to dispute whose will shall be superior, mine or his that made me, what an insolency is it! We may again learn,
10. How foolish a thing is self-designing, when men lay their designs apart from God; forming their projects, as the apostle James speaks, chap. iv. 15, 16. “I will go to such a city, and buy and sell and get gain. And I will reside there for such a time.” This all proceeds from our forgetting that we are creatures, made things. God hath made us; so that our breath is in his hands. How great an absurdity is it, as well as an injury, that I should talk of forming projects, and laying designs, when I am but a made thing, and there is an arbitrary hand underneath me, which sustains me; but that may let me drop and sink, in the next moment, if it be withdrawn. We ought to say, “If God will, we will do so and so.” If your being depend upon his will, certainly your actions and affairs depend upon his will too. But for men to design so and so, without consulting God, or referring themselves to God, is to take upon them as if they were not creatures. And,
11. We may hence learn, further, (as that which is fundamental to all the rest,) how indispensable an obligation there lies upon us to preserve a continual, awful remembrance of God upon our minds and hearts, from time to time, all the day long. “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” I pray, let us but use our own understanding in considering this. When it is said, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy 316youth.” (Eccles. xii. 1.) Is the meaning of it, that we are only when we are young to remember him, and forget him all our days afterwards? No, the meaning is, that those days of our youth are not to be exempted, we are not at liberty to for get him even then, but that he claims an early and first interest in our time and thoughts, and in the truth and vigour of our spirits, and that we are to begin then, when we are young, as we are to continue all our days afterwards. And how is he to be remembered? Why under the very notion of Creator: that suggests to us the very reason why we are to remember him; because he is our Creator, and our breath is continually in his hands. What! do we think a man can subsist without God, any better when he is grown up, or when he is grown old, than he could when he was young? No, the reason upon which the obligation rests, is still the same upon us all our days; that, therefore, it is a most monstrous thing, to consider how men come to dispense with themselves in this fundamental duty, that virtually comprehends all the rest. All is lost and gone, if we do not so much as remember God. How can we dispense with ourselves to rise up in the morning, without a serious thought of God, and run after our common affairs all the day long, and still forget him? And lie down at night (it may be) without any serious remembrance of him? and yet lie down with the apprehension that we are innocent in all this; we have passed over this day well if we have succeeded in our business, if there hath been no disaster that hath befallen us, all hath been well; though there hath been no serious thought of God; no minding of God at all; that is to live in a downright rebellion against God, through a whole day; and also from day to day, through a whole life’s time hitherto: for it must be entire and universal rebellion, inasmuch as all duty towards him depends upon remembering him: we can do nothing besides if we do not do that Therefore, is that given us as the character and diagnostic of wicked men, of men that are designed for hell, and allotted to hell for their final and eternal inheritance and residence. Ck The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God.” Psalm ix. 17. And they, accordingly, are characterised as such, who more peculiarly belong to God, and as those whom he owns for his own, and counts his jewels; “In the day that I make up my jewels, saith God, they shall be mine:”’ Who? why “They that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.” Mal. iii. 16, 17. “And the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.” This is the profession of his holy ones. Isa. xxvi. 8. And, again we may add,317
12. Since God made man, you see how easy it is for him to prevent all the evil designs of ill men, if he see good: for they are all his creatures: and hath he made a creature that he cannot govern? If then we see wicked men, at any time, bring their wicked devices to pass, it is not because God cannot rule them; but because he hath deeper designs that they understand not, and we understand not. And therefore, their insolency, and good men’s despondency, upon that account, are equally unreasonable. They triumph; and good men are dejected; their hearts sink, and they hang down their heads; and why? be cause wicked men prevail, and prosper in their way, many times, ages together; and, it may be, in many parts of the world. But,
(1.) Their confidence, on the one hand, is so unreasonable as to be even ridiculous. “He that sitteth in the heavens, laughs, the Most High hath them in derision.” ‘A company of bubbles of being, that I can let drop into nothing in a moment, if I please: and yet they please themselves in the hopes and imaginations of succeeding in such and such designs as they have laid.’ “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh” at them. He knows how soon he can let such bubbles drop into nothing; and he sees that their day is coming. And,
(2.) Good men’s despondency is, upon this account, equally unreasonable. “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.” Isai. xl. 28. Thou dost not know the counsels of God, what that all-comprehending mind and understanding of his doth design, in letting creatures awhile run such a course. But we are to be assured, he hath his own creatures in his own hand and power, both men and devils, and can govern them as he pleaseth. He hath a hook in their nostrils, that they themselves are unapprehensible of. He knows their coming in, and their going out, (as he said of that proud Assyrian,) and even all the rage which they have against him. But, I say, he hath a hook in their nostrils, and can turn them as he pleaseth, and when he will: we shall have done a great thing towards the whole business of our religion if we can but get this truth impressed upon, and deeply wrought into our souls; So God made man; if we will but learn to look upon ourselves as made things, and look upon all men as made things, continually in the hands, and at the command of their great Creator.318
|« Prev||Lecture XVIII. Preached January 13, 1694.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version