|« Prev||Lecture XLVI. Preached, January 12, 1694.||Next »|
But now to go on to the second thing, the material import of these words; that is, that whereas, by universal consent, the glory of God is the end of all things, it must be very differently understood as it is his end, and as it is the creature’s end. It cannot be understood in reference to both the same way.
In reference to the creature, it ought to be their design (to wit, the design of all reasonable creatures) to glorify God, by owning and by diffusing his glory to the uttermost. Their glorifying God consists in these two things; the 15first whereof is fundamental to the second, the agnition of his glory, and the manifestation of his glory. The acknowledgment of it in their own minds and souls, owning him to be the most glorious one. They add no glory to him; it is not possible they can; but they only acknowledge and take notice of, and adore, that which is; confess him to be what he is, and what he should be. And the manifestation of his glory; the spreading and propagating of it, as much as is possible, from one to another, through the world, even to their uttermost, at least, in the wish and desire of their own hearts. “Be thou exalted above the heavens, and thy glory over all the earth,” as it is again and again found in Psalm lvii. and in multitudes of like passages of Scripture. “So is our light to shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our father which is in heaven.” Matt. v. 16. That his glory may be transmitted by some to others, and by them to others, and so spread to our uttermost universally unto all.
But the matter is quite otherwise to be understood, when we speak of God’s glory, as his own end. And it is very needful that we should state this matter to ourselves aright, lest we otherwise take tip thoughts very unsuitable, and very dishonourable, and very injurious, to the great and blessed God.. That design which hath been already mentioned, upon our first acknowledgment in our own minds and hearts, the excellent glory of the divine being, then to diffuse and spread it, is a most worthy and becoming end for creatures, nothing more. It ought to be their very terminative end; the end of ends with them; to wit, the end that must terminate all that they do. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God,” is that great practical maxim, 1 Cor. x. 31. Whatsoever we do, must be done, must be all consecrated unto this end, have a stamp of holiness put upon it, by a dedication “to the glory of God.” That is (as it were) to be the inscription upon every design, and upon every action, in pursuance of any of our designs. What can be expressed with larger and fuller universality. Whatsoever ye do (eating and drinking not excepted) is to have, and be levelled at this end, the glory of God, as being most suitable to the creature. But this is no end worthy of God, the matter being understood and taken so. Indeed, it is suitable enough for any one to design the praise of another; but it is not suitable to any one to design his own praise as his end. It would be thought unworthy of a wise and 16good man, to do such and such good actions for this as his principal end, that he may be well thought of, and may be well spoken of by others. But the goodness, and suitableness, and agreeableness, of good actions in themselves to his own spirit, is his great inducement to any one that doth partake of the image of God, and that is so far become God-like.
But when we speak of God’s having his own glory for his end, (whereas his glory as it is our end, doth but signify our agnition of it, or our manifestation of it, which is not his essential glory,) it is God’s essential glory that must be his end; for he can have no end but himself. He is his own first and last: his own Alpha and Omega: and so his glory is, then, his essential glory, which is the lustre of all the excellencies of his being, shining to his own eye, which is his end. For only wisdom can be a competent judge of infinite excellency. And glory doth import and carry in the notion of it, a reference to a judicative principle, as the word from whence esteem doth come, plainly enough imports. He only is capable of judging what is worthy of himself: and so it is the rectitude of his own designs, as they lie in his own eternal mind, that lies before him under the notion of his end.
But it must be understood, too, that this is not his end neither, to be pursued by a desiderative will, but only by a fruitive; not by a desiderative will, as if there were any thing wanting to him; with us, indeed, all our end is always looked upon by us, as a thing to be attained; and that is suitable to the state of a creature, to act for an end to be obtained, and which we are yet short of. But all things are always present to him, to his all-comprehending mind, and especially that which belongs only to his own being, to which there can be no addition. He doth will himself; not with a desiderative will, but with a fruitive, a complacential will; and so doth act within himself, not from indigency, (as creatures do,) but from a superabundant, all-sufficient, self-sufficient fulness: He enjoys himself in himself.
And this is obvious enough to every one that will use his understanding to consider, as well as it is a philosophical maxim, in which all sorts of considering and studious men have agreed. And, I say, it is apprehensible enough to others when it is considered, that ones end, and one’s good, are convertible terms, and signify the same thing. Finis et bonus, convertuntur, philosophers use to say; to wit, that 17which is any one’s ultimate end, which is so de jure, is his highest and chiefest good. Now nothing is plainer than that there is no good adequate to God, but himself: so that he cannot have his ultimate, final complacency, in any thing besides himself. And his glory, his essential glory, the lustre of all the excellencies of his being, is his end: not that which he covets and proposes as distant and unattained; but which he enjoyeth, and acquiesceth in, and which he cannot but have always in his own possession, as he cannot but be in the entire, uninterrupted, everlasting, possession of the excellencies of his own being.
And it ought seriously to be considered, that so we may not in our own thoughts debase the eternal, most excellent, and most blessed Being, by supposing that he proposeth it to himself as his end, to aim at that which would be thought unworthy of a wise and good man to aim at: that is, only to be well thought of, and applauded. This is a thing that is consequent, and which ought to be, and which we ought to propose to ourselves as our end. But it is too low and mean an end for God. We may design that for another man, to wit, his praise, which no other man, who is wise and good, will design for himself; but take pleasure in the rectitude of his design, and that goodness of his own actions; and enjoy them as every good man doth in bearing the image of God upon him. And therefore, this is a god-like thing; and so must be in the highest perfection in the ever blessed God himself, and in the excellency of his own being, and in the correspondent rectitude of all his own designs. But this is that which must consequently, and secondarily, come under the common notice of his intelligent and apprehensive creatures, whereupon it is their business, and indispensable duty, to own, and adore, and honour him, for the good that is in him; to wit, to think well and honourably of him, and speak well and honourably of him, upon this account, even as goodness in men, and amongst men, is a thing that claims and challenges acknowledgment and praises from them within whose notice it comes. And then,
2. That being the primary thing here spoken of, which is to result out of this great design, “Glory to God in the highest,” all capable and apprehensive creatures being obliged, to their uttermost, to celebrate and glorify him, upon the account of what he was now doing in reference to this wretched world; that being, I say, the first result of this undertaking, upon which our Lord Jesus Christ 18was now descending and coming down into this world, the second is—“Peace on earth.” And that former was to spring out of this latter, as the whole economy of grace in that mentioned 4th chapter to the Ephesians, a design for the glory of God’s grace; to wit, it is to be designed by all the subjects, and all the observers thereof.
And now concerning this peace on earth, I shall speak but very briefly to it, m my way to the third thing which I most principally intended, in my pitching upon this Scripture; to wit, the original and fountain or all the good-will after mentioned. This peace upon earth must be understood to design, first, somewhat more primarily; and then, secondly, somewhat more secondarily, and dependent upon the former.
The primary intendment of it must be peace between God and man, the inhabitants of this earth, its principal and more noble inhabitants, in relation to the state of war and hostility that was between him and them, they having revolted from him, agreed and combined in a rebellion against him; not only with one another, but with the other apostate creatures, who had made a defection before, the angels that fell and so drew man in as their accomplices in that horrid revolt. And this must be observed as spoken too with discrimination, as we shall have hereafter occasion to note to you: “Peace on earth”—not with hell: there is no proclamation of peace reaching that place. Those kind, benign creatures, this glorious host of angels, this celestial chorus, though it is like enough it might have been suitable to their inclinations (if that had been the design and counsel of heaven) to have carried tidings, and a message of peace, to their fellow creatures, of their own order and rank, in the creation of God; yet while it appears this had no place in the divine counsel, and they being so perfectly resigned creatures, and having the same will (objectively considered) with the divine, that is, not willing a different sort of objects from what he willed; they joyfully come on this errand to men on earth.
The will of God is perfectly complied with in heaven; that will which our desires, while we are here on earth, are to be guided by; in our measure we are to desire God’s will may be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. It is perfectly complied with in heaven: they cannot have a dissentient will from their Maker; and, therefore, must 19be understood to have been contented employed upon this errand, to proclaim peace, peace to the inhabitants of this earth, when they had none to proclaim for the inhabitants of that other horrid region; knowing that they, who were their brethren, and of their own order, in the creation of God, were bound up in the chains of everlasting darkness, without remedy or mercy, and reserved unto the judgment of the great day, they willingly come upon this errand, to proclaim peace to the inhabitants of this earth, and are made use of as heralds in this proclamation.
And as this peace must principally be between God and man, so it must be understood to be mutual in the intendment of it between both, that God should be reconciled to them, and they should be reconciled unto God. And, indeed, there can be no such thing as peace between God and man upon other terms: for if he were willing upon other terms to be reconciled to man, it would be altogether insignificant, and to no purpose. He would be reconciled to an unreconciled or irreconcileable man, whose heart should still remain filled with enmity, poisoned with malignity and venom against God. It would be to no purpose to him, for man would be no nearer felicity: and it is impossible for me to be happy in what I hate: and it is also impossible for the children of men to be happy in any thing but God.
.Now supposing this peace to be mutual between God and man; to wit, he is reconciled to them, and they are reconciled to him, the prosecution of his justice doth cease, and their enmity towards him ceaseth; there is no longer a contest kept up between his justice and their injustice; then this mutual peace must carry in it two things, agreeable to what is carried in the notion of peace between one nation, or sort of people, and another that have been mutually at war with one another; that is, there is somewhat privative, and somewhat positive, carried in such cases in the notion of peace;—1st. a cessation of hostility, and, 2ndly, freedom of commerce.
1. A cessation of hostility. They no longer war with one another; God doth no longer pursue them with revenge, with hostile acts in that kind; that is, if once a peace be brought about, whenever this peace obtains, and hath its effect, he doth no longer follow them with acts of vengeance. And they do no longer rise up against him in acts of hatred and aversion: they no longer say to him, 20“Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways:” they are no longer. fighting against the righteousness and equity of his holy precepts, as the carnal mind is “enmity against God, and is not subject to his law, nor indeed can be.” All this ceaseth; that is, it cannot be now in any prevalency, in a prevailing degree. And thereupon,
2. That which is positive doth ensue. As it was between nation and nation, which were at war, there is not only a cessation of hostilities, but there is a setting on foot a commerce, an amicable commerce, a free commerce; so it is between God and man now: there is not only no war, but there is a communion, there is a friendly intercourse: God freely flows in upon them in acts of grace, kindness, and goodness. His Spirit was under a restraint before, (according to the doom and judgment past—“My Spirit shall no longer strive,”) is now at liberty, set at liberty, from under these restraints. It now freely breathes upon those souls, emits its light, lets it shine in upon them, pours in the influence of the Sun of Righteousness, the vital, sanative influences of that Sun, who is said to “arise with healing in his wings,” or beams. These vital, healing beams are, by the Spirit of Christ, freely transmitted, let into the very hearts and souls of such creatures, as were at utmost distance from God before.
Alas! there was nothing to do between God and them, in a way of kindness or friendliness: his Spirit was a stranger to them; no beams of holy light ever shone upon them; no influence of grace; they went with barren and desolate souls, wrapt up in darkness and death: but now the way is open and free; there is no law against it, no bar, but the communications of the Holy Ghost may be without obstruction. And, thereupon, their spirits are set at liberty towards God, and his Spirit is at liberty towards them, and \not withheld. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Cor. iii. 17. Their soul was under restraint and clouds before, a prisoner under the divine wrath and justice. They could not act, could not move, could not stir, God-ward; not so much as breathe, nor direct a breath towards God; no holy desires, no holy motions. But now when commerce is restored, as the Divine Spirit freely breathes on them, it enables them freely to breathe after God, to send forth desires, and take up their highest delight in him, so as to enable them to say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, or whom can I desire on earth in 21comparison of thee?” Psalm lxxiii. 25. This is the primary intendment of this peace, proclaimed by this glorious host of angels: this is the thing primarily intended to be brought about, and which shall have its effect, more or less, and more largely, before the world ends. But then, there is,
2. That which is consequential thereunto, to be considered, and that is—peace upon earth, among the inhabitants of it towards one another. This is not the primary design, but it is the secondary, consequential aim and effect of the great Peace-Maker’s undertaking, whereof there was a precedent and a leading case in the reconciliation that was first to be brought about between Jew and Gentile. “He is our peace, having made both one,” Ephes. ii. 13. so as that the highest enmities and animosities that ever were between one sort of people and another, were to be taken up between these Jews and Gentiles. How contumeliously were the Jews wont to speak of the Gentiles; and how ignominously did they again speak of them. And the fraction was yet more fierce between the Jews and the Samaritans, that were all Israelites, all of one house: insomuch that common courtesies could not pass between them, as appears by that in the 4th chapter of John. “How dost thou,” (saith the Samaritan woman to Christ,) being a Jew, ask water of me, that am a Samaritan? How strange is it, how can you expect that I, being a Samaritan, should give drink to you that are a Jew?” And so great was the distance between the Jews and other nations, that pagan writers have taken much notice of it. Non monstrare vias (saith a pagan poet) cadem insi sacra volenti; that a few would not so much as shew the way to one that was not of their own religion; no, not that common courtesy to tell a traveller his way. Why, he is our peace, he that brings it about, that shall finally, sooner or later, bring about an universal peace, not only between Jew and Gentile, (which was a precedent, a ruling case,) but among the several nations of the earth.
“He is our peace, when the Assyrian is in our land,” and it is to be an universal thing foretold and prophesied; to wit, that “swords are to be beaten into plough shares, and spears into pruning hooks, and that men should learn war no more,” when once the peaceful tendency of the kingdom of the Messiah doth reach its final and full effect; when it hath effect according to its tendency, so that, at the same time that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge 22of God, as the waters cover the seas, then is there to be that universal peace on earth too, among men towards one another; not only no more hurting or destroying in all the mountain of his holiness, but nation shall not lift up sword or hand against nation, and men shall be untaught that fierceness of nature, which a continued enmity against God had inferred on them: for when the union was once broken between God and man, it must appear, they must be made to understand and know to their cost, that that was central. And that union being dissolved, all union was dissolved besides, that they can never be at peace one with another, when they have broken with God, and the breach remains between him and them. According to what was emblematically held forth in reference to God, and the people of Israel and Judah; that is, by the two staves of beauty and of bands; the staff of beauty signifying the union between him and them; and the staff of bands the union between them with one another. But when one of these staves is broken, the other is shivered and shaken all to pieces.
Why this is the import of what is here proclaimed, the final and ultimate import of it—“Glory to God in the highest,” and then, “peace on earth.” This is the double effect of this great undertaking, upon which our Lord did now descend and come down into this world. But here comes next to be considered,
The principle, the well-spring, the eternal well-spring of this glorious and kind design; a design so glorious to God, and so kind to man, what is the fountain and wellspring of all? Nothing else but his own good-will. And this is the thing I mainly intended to insist upon from this scripture. That having so largely discoursed to you of the apostacy, the fall of the first man, and then of the fallen state of man; and of the way wherein man hath been continued in this fallen state, from age to age, and from generation to generation, I might afterwards come to speak of his designed restitution and recovery. And being so to do, (as the order of discourse should lead,) I shall tell you briefly what the scheme of our discourse now must be; to wit,
I. To speak of the original and fountain of this designed restitution of such fallen and lapsed creatures. And,23
II. Of the constitution of a Redeemer and a Mediator in order hereunto. And,
III. To shew what sort of person this Redeemer or Mediator must be; to wit, to treat of his person, of his nature, of his offices, and of his performances. And then,
IV. To lay before you the doctrine of the Covenant of God in Christ. And,
V. The office and operations of the Holy Ghost in the dispensation, and pursuantly to the design of the Covenant. And then,
VI. The effects wrought in all that shall actually appertain and belong to God, and be brought home to him, in and by Christ, this Great Head of the reducees, of returning souls. And then,
VII. The way and course of such as shall be thus savingly wrought upon, that holy work in which they are thereupon to be engaged, and wherein they are to persist, till they reach the end of that way. And then, lastly,
VIII. The end of all things, with the several things that shall be coincident thereunto.
The first thing in the course and order of discourse comes naturally to be insisted upon, (when we are to consider this business of the restitution of man,) is the original of such a design. Whence sprung it? What is the fountain, the well-head and spring of this great design? Why, good-will towards men. This is the summary account that the matter admits of. It can be from nothing else but mere good-will towards men. And in speaking to this, I have a two-fold subject of discourse; to wit, first, God’s general good-will, and, 2ndly, his special good-will. His good-will wherein it doth appear and is expressed towards men generally and indefinitely considered; and his good will in its more peculiar expressions, and exertions of itself towards a select sort of men. And so two things to be evinced.
1. That God’s good-will, it hath some reference unto all. But,24
2. That it hath not equal reference to all alike. There will be that two-fold subject of discourse distinctly to be pursued. And the former of these I chiefly intend from this scripture; the latter I intend from another more suitable scripture.
But, in the mean time, pray well inlay this in your own minds, that there are two such distinct sorts of divine good will, or benignity, respecting men generally, and respecting some men especially; and that these two are by no means in the world opposed to one another. The doing of which, as it is a most unreasonable thing in itself, so it is a thing of the worst consequence that can be supposed; that is, it tends to confound the whole Christian Economy, to break the frame of Christianity, and make it an unintelligible scheme, as incoherent with itself; and this without any pretence, or shadow of a pretence. For these two things—general good-will, and special good-will; or as the generality of divines are wont to distinguish, common and special grace; these two, I say, are as distinguishable things, and as capable of being distinctly apprehended, as the general and special natures of any thing else that we can think of.
Now nothing could be more absurd to pretend, that because I have the notion of such and such a general nature, therefore, I must not admit the notion of a special nature, that is narrower than that; and superadds distinguishing to the former. As if when a person hath under stood that God hath made such a sort of creatures as we are wont to call animals, living creatures, (that being the notion of a living creature at large,) that therefore, I should pretend there should be a difficulty of understanding the nature of man, one particular under that general; because I have the notion of a living creature taken at large, to wit, a creature that useth sense, that can see, and hear, and exerciseth spontaneous motion, can move this way and that, this, therefore, should be an hindrance to me in conceiving the special nature of man, a nobler sort of creature, that can do all this and something else; to wit, can reason and understand, and lay designs and pursue them, and is a subject susceptible of religion too, as well as ratiocination, would any man of ordinary understanding pretend an inconsistency between these two; or that I cannot fitly conceive the one sort of nature, because I do conceive the other? Because I do conceive the general notion of a living creature, an animal taken at large, therefore, 25I can the less conceive or take in the special notion of a particular sort of living creatures, that can do more than an ordinary living creature, taken at large.
And the difficulty is not greater if we carry the matter higher or further, and consider that man, as man, having the natural image of God upon him, as such, may be conceived accordingly. And so that object, God’s natural image remaining in him, terminates a general divine benignity. And consider, also, the same sort of creatures having, likewise somewhat beyond and superadded to the mere natural image of God, to wit, his holy image; this is the effect, (wherever it is, as the case of man is now become,) and can be the effect of nothing else, but special grace: but this I only lay before you by the way to that which we are to insist upon particularly.
|« Prev||Lecture XLVI. Preached, January 12, 1694.||Next »|