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I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.—Ver. 55.
WE often read and sing David’s psalms, but we have little of David’s spirit. A man’s employment is as the constitution of his mind is, for all things work according to their nature. A man addicted to God, that is to say, one who hath taken God for his happiness, his word for his rule, his Spirit for his guide, and his promises for his encouragement, his heart will always be working towards God day and night. In the day he will be studying God’s word; in the night, if his sleep be interrupted, he will be meditating on God’s name; still entertaining his soul with God. The predominant affection will certainly set the thoughts awork. The man of God had told us in the former verse what was his chief employment in the day-time, and now he telleth us how his heart wrought in the night. Night and day he was remembering God and his duty to him. In the day the statutes of God were his solace, and as songs to him in the house of his pilgrimage; in the night the name of God was his meditation: ‘I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.’ In which words observe—
1. David’s exercise, I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night.
2. The effect and fruit of it, and have kept thy law.
The one may be considered as the means, the other as the next and immediate end. Remembering and thinking is but a subservient help and means to promote some higher work.
1. In the first branch you have—
[1.] The act of his soul, I have remembered.
[2.] The object about which it was conversant, thy name, O Lord.
[3.] The season, in the night.
For the act of his soul, ‘I have remembered.’ Remembrance is an act of knowledge reiterated, or a second agitation of the mind unto that point unto which it had arrived before. Or, more plainly, remembering is a setting knowledge awork, or a reviving those notions which we have of things, and exercising our thoughts and meditations about them.
[2.] The object was God’s ‘name;’ that is, either God himself, as Ps. xx. 1, ‘The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;’ or that by which God is known, his wisdom, goodness, and power, especially those notions by which he hath manifested himself in the word.
[3.] The season, ‘In the night.’ Some take the night metaphorically for the time of trouble and affliction. It is often a dark time 77with the people of God, a very dark night, and then it is comfortable to them to think of his name, according to that of the prophet, Isa. l. 10, ‘He that walketh in darkness and hath no light, let him stay him self upon the name of his God.’ I think it is meant literally; that the man of God took such pleasure in the name of God, that what time others gave to sleep and rest he would give to the contemplation of his glory. In the solitude and darkness of the night he sustained and supported his spirit with the thoughts of God, and thereby took up a courage and constancy of resolution to keep his law.
2. The other branch, ‘I have kept thy law;’ that is, with a good and sincere heart set himself to the keeping of it; this is spoken partly to intimate his own seriousness in this work, and partly God’s blessing upon his endeavours therein.
[1.] His seriousness and sincerity in the work. There is a twofold remembrance of things:—
(1.) Notional and speculative.
(2.) Practical and affective.
The notional and speculative remembrance of things is when we barely think of them, without any further profit or benefit; but the practical, powerful and affective remembrance is to be affected with matters called to mind as the nature of them doth require: as when we remember God so as to love him, and fear him, and trust in him, and make him our delight, and cleave to him, and obey him. And we are said to remember his commandments, when our hearts are set upon the practice of them. Verba notitiae connotant affectus: we must not think of God indifferently, and by the by, but we must be answerably affected, and act accordingly. Thus did David, ‘I remembered thy name, and kept thy law.’
[2.] God’s blessing upon his endeavours; for he presently addeth in the next verse, ‘This I had, because I kept thy precepts.’ Our heavenly Father, who ‘seeth what is done in secret, will reward it openly,’ Mat. vi. 6. And the blessing of time well-spent in secret, or a few serious thoughts of God in the night, will publicly appear in their carriage before men. If we be frequently and seriously with God when we are solitary, the fruit and benefit of it will be manifest by our holiness and heavenliness when we are in company. Your most private duties do not lose their reward. As a man’s pains in study will appear in the accurate order, strength, and rationality of his discourse, so his converse with God in private will be seen in the fruits of it, in his holy, profitable and serious conversation.
The points are three:—
Doct. 1. Remembering God is an especial help to the keeping of his law.
Doct. 2. God is best remembered when his name is studied.
Doct. 3. Those that have spiritual affections will take all occasions to remember his name. ‘I have remembered thy name in the night season,’ saith holy David.
Doct. 1. That remembering God is an especial help to the keeping of his law.
First, What it is to remember God.
1. It supposeth some knowledge of God, for what a man knoweth 78not he cannot remember. The memory is the cofferer and treasurer of the soul; what the understanding taketh in, the memory layeth up; and actually we are said to remember when we set the mind awork upon such notions as we have formerly received. And particularly to remember God is when we stir up in our minds clear and heart-warming apprehensions about his nature and will.
2. It supposeth some faith, that we believe him to be such as the word describeth him to be; for spiritual remembrance is the actuation of faith, or, in this case, the improvement of that wisdom, power, goodness, holiness, justice, and truth, which we believe to be in God. Otherwise, without faith, those thoughts which we have of the greatest matters affect us no more than a dream doth a sleeper.
These things are supposed in remembrance.
3. It expresseth a reviving of these thoughts, or an erection of the mind to think upon what we know and believe. Man, that hath an ingestive, hath also an egestive faculty, and can lay out as well as lay up, bring forth truths out of the mind when it is useful for us, and whet and inculcate them upon the heart; he may call to mind or ponder upon them.
4. Let us see the kinds of this remembrance.
[1.] I must repeat that distinction; it may be done notionally and speculatively, or else affectively and practically. Notionally, when men have a few barren notions, or dry sapless opinions or speculations about the nature of God; always men’s remembrance is as their knowledge is, and faith is. Now there is μόρφωσις της γνώσεως, a form of knowledge, Rom. ii. 10, and ‘dead faith,’ James ii. 20. Affectively and practically we remember God when there are such lively and powerful impressions of his name upon our hearts as produce reverence, love, and obedience. It is not enough to grant the doctrine, own the opinions that are sound and orthodox concerning God, but we must have a reverential and superlative, esteem of him. All men confess a God with their mouth, and think they believe in him; but ‘the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,’ Ps. xiv. 1. What testimony do their hearts and actions give? A man’s course of life and conversation is like an eye-witness; his profession is as a testimony by report. Now one eye-witness deserves more credit than many by hearsay. Plus valet unus oculatus testis, &c. How would you walk if you believed there were no God? Could you be more neglectful of God, and careless and mindless of heavenly things, than you are? Now your transgressions speak louder than your professions in the eye of an understanding believer: Ps. xxxvi. 1, ‘The transgression of the wicked saith within his heart that there is no fear of God before his eyes.’ Practice belies profession: Titus i. 16, ‘They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.’ Cold and dead opinions are easily taken up, and men talk by rote one after another, yea, and study to defend them, and yet count God an idol. Denial in works is the strongest way of denial, for actions are more weighty and deliberate than speeches.
[2.] There is a threefold remembrance of God for practical uses.
(1.) There is a constant remembrance. We should carry the thoughts 79of God along with us to all our businesses and affairs, and ever wall; as in his eye and presence: Prov. xxiii. 17, ‘Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long;’ not only in prayer, but at all times, in all our other occasions. Some graces, like the lungs, are always in use; so Ps. xvi. 8, ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ He that liveth always in the sight of God cannot be so secure and senseless as others are. A drowsy inattentive mind is easily deceived into sin, but he that doth often remember God, his conscience is kept waking; for he is all eye, and seeth all things; all hand, and toucheth all things; all foot, and walketh everywhere; all ear, and heareth all things. Sic agamus cum hominibus tanquam Deus videat; sic loquamur cum Deo tanquam homines audiant. The latter clause was the least that a heathen could think of; but surely, if there be any weight in the former part of the direction, the latter is needless. Thus we should never forget God.
(2.) Occasional, when God is brought to mind either by some special occasion offered, or by some notable discovery of himself in his word or works. Occasion offered; as when Ahasuerus could not sleep, Esther vi. 1, it was the providence of God he should read in the chronicles, and so come to the knowledge of Mordecai. So it befalleth God’s children; they cannot sleep sometimes, and so occasion is offered in the silence and solitude of the night to invite them to holy thoughts of God, which may be of great use and comfort: Job xxxvii. 7, ‘He sealeth up the hand of every man, that all men may know his work.’ In deep snow or rain their work is hindered, that they, sitting at home, may have time to consider of God and his providence. Sometimes it falleth out so that we know not what to do with our thoughts, and it will look strangely in the review if we should prostitute them to vanity rather than give them to God, like the act of a spiteful man, that will rather destroy and waste a commodity than let another have it. Or when some notable discovery of God is in his ordinances and providences, word, or works; we should always season our hearts with the thoughts of God, we should see him in every creature, and observe him in his daily providences. The name of God is upon all things that he hath made, but especially any notable providence that falleth out, which is an especial demonstration of his wisdom, justice, and power: Ps. cxi. 4, ‘He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.’ So in his ordinances, when God maketh any nearer approach to us by way of conviction, counsel, or comfort: 1 Cor. xiv. 25, ‘And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest, and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.’ Many times our minds in reading or hearing are illustrated with a heavenly light, or our hearts touched with some delightful relish, and the word cometh in with more than ordinary authority and power upon the heart; these are especial occasions which we must take to consider God and the great affairs of our souls.
(3.) Set and solemn, when from the bent, purpose, and inclination of our own hearts, without any outward impulsion, we set ourselves to remember the God that made us. From first to last there is great use of meditation and serious thoughts of God in the spiritual life. 80Our first awaking is occasioned by them: Ps. xxii. 27, ‘They shall remember and turn to the Lord.’ For a great while we live without God in the world, till we recollect ourselves, and consider where we are and whither we are going. We are like men drunk or asleep, and do not make use of our reason and common principles that may be learned from the inspection of the creature and everything about us; and when once we are brought into the communion of the life of God, and have grace planted in our hearts, it cannot be carried on unless we take time to remember God. Our faith, our love, our desires, our delight, they are all acted and exercised by our thoughts; so that the spiritual life is but an imagination, unless we do frequently and often take time for serious meditation of him. It is not consistent with any of the three vital graces, faith, hope, and love, that a man should be a stranger to the remembrance of God; therefore God complaineth of it as a strange thing: Jer. ii. 32, ‘My people have forgotten me days without number;’ do no more regard me than if they had never known me, Besides, the habits of grace are so weak, and our temptations so strong, and the difficulties of obedience so great, that I cannot see how we can keep afoot any interest of God in ourselves, if we seldom think of God, and do not sometimes sequester ourselves to revive this memorial upon our souls. Can a sluggish heart be quickened, or weak and inconstant resolutions be strengthened, or the sparks of love ever blown up into a flame, and fainting hopes cherished, unless we seriously set our minds awork to consider of God and our obligations to him? Will a sleepy profession, without constant and lively thoughts do it? It cannot be. Oh, no! If you mean to keep in the fire, you must ply the bellows and blow hard. Whet truths upon the understanding, and agitate your minds in this holy work.
Secondly, My next work is to show that this is a notable help to godliness; and that appeareth enough in that forgetting God is assigned as the cause of all mischief, and remembering God the engagement to all duty. We forget God, do not meditate upon his name, and so fall into sin: Ps. ix. 17, ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.’ Some deny God, but most forget him; they cast away the knowledge of God out of their minds. So Ps. l. 22, ‘Consider this, all ye that forget God;’ that is the description of the wicked. So it is the charge upon Israel, as their great sin and cause of their defection: Deut. xxxii. 18, ‘Thou art unmindful of the rock that begat thee; thou hast forgotten the God that formed thee.’ Oblivion is an ignorance for the time. Truths lose their efficacy when not remembered. On the other side, remembering God is made to be the immediate and next cause of our duty: Eccles. xii. 1, ‘Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.’ Youth would not miscarry so shamefully if they did oftener remember God, nor be led away by vain and sensual delights, if the thoughts of God did more dwell in their minds. So Deut. viii. 11, 12, ‘Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments.’ Our lives will declare whether we do remember God. Those that do often and seriously keep God in their thoughts, will be most careful to keep his commandments.81
Thirdly, The reasons of the point.
1. It doth encourage us, and quicken us to diligence in our work. As soldiers fight best in their general’s presence, and scholars ply their books when under their master’s eye, so by living always in the sight of God we study to please him. The oftener we consider him the more we see no service can be holy and good enough for such a God as he is; a God not to be provoked and resisted, so not to be neglected and slighted: Mal. i. 14, ‘Cursed be the deceiver that hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen:’ implying that when they came with a sickly sacrifice, they did not remember his excellency and greatness. Either they had no or mean thoughts of God; but if they had remembered what an one he is, they would employ the best of their strength, time, and affection in his service.
2. The madness of our natures is bridled and restrained by thoughts of God: 3 John 11, ‘He that doth evil hath not seen God.’ ‘Will he force the queen before my face?’ Esther vii. 8. You will not sport with sin, nor play with the occasions of it, nor dare to venture upon God’s restraints. It is said of an archangel, οὐκ ἐτόλμησε, ‘he durst not bring against him a railing accusation,’ Jude 9, because they be held the face of God. So if we had a deep sense of God impressed upon our hearts, we would be more awe-ful. You make very bold with God when you dare knowingly venture upon the least sin. Will you affront God to his face? Children that are quarrelling or falling out, when the father or mother cometh, all is hush and silent.
3. It comforts and reviveth us in the midst of our faintings and discouragements, because of the evils of the present world: Jonah ii. 7, ‘When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord.’ When the burden of affliction presseth us sore, the stoutest hearts are broken and lose all courage; but when we come to ponder seriously what God is, or what he will be to his people, or hath at any time been to ourselves, it cheereth and reviveth the heart. So Ps. xlii. 6, ‘O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember thee.’ By this way the saints recover themselves, Ps. lxxvii. 10, ‘And I said, This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ So also, Mat. xvi. 9, ‘Do ye not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, nor the seven loaves of the four thousand?’
Use. To press us to remember God more. When we will not look upon another, we take it to be a great sign of aversation and hatred. The devils, that are most opposite to God, abhor their own thoughts of God, for they ‘believe and tremble.’ God thinketh of us; he is not far from every one of us; why are we so far from him? We cannot open our eyes but one object or other will represent God to us. What dost thou see, hear, and feel, but the effects of his power and goodness? He is before thee, behind thee, within thee, round about thee; and shall he not find room in thy heart, when every trifle findeth room there? He that filleth every place, shall thy heart be empty of all thoughts of him? To press you to this—
1. Consider we are naturally apt to forget God, do not like to retain 82him in our knowledge, Rom. i. 28, backward to any remembrance of him: Ps. x. 4, ‘The wicked, through the pride of their countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all their thoughts.’
2. How much God hath done to put us in remembrance of him, by creatures, providences, ordinances, and his Spirit.
[1.] Creatures, all of them, sun, moon, stars, worms, grass, put us in mind of him: Ps. xix. 1, 2, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.’ The creatures have a double use—their natural use and their spiritual use. Their natural use is the special end for which they were made; their spiritual use is to set forth God to us. We look upon them amiss if we look upon them as separated from and independent of God. Our food is not only to nourish nature, but that we may taste the sweetness and goodness of God in it. All the creatures bring this message to our consciences: Remember God that made us and all things else. They all read a divinity lecture to those that have a mind to hear it, and preach the goodness, power, and wisdom of God by a loud and audible voice. It is true we are deaf, but they cease not to cry to us: Job xii. 8, ‘Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and to the beasts of the field, and they shall declare to thee. Not only the shining heavens, but the dull earth, that heaviest and grossest element; the brute creatures that have no reason, the mute fishes that can make no sound, we must ask them, parley with them by our own thoughts; and so, though they have neither voice nor ears, they will answer us, and resolve our consciences the question we put to them, Is there a God? Yea, and declare his excellent attributes, that he is eternal, infinite, wise, powerful, and good. We may easily make out these collections. Christ saith the stones would cry if these held their peace. We should hear the creature as we would hear God himself speaking to us. They speak to all countries in their own language. At first God spake to the world not by words but things. Thus hath God engraven his name upon his works, as those that make watches, or any curious pieces, write their names upon them; as he that carved a buckler for Minerva had so curiously inlaid his own name that it could not be rased out without defacing the whole work. So the creatures are but a draught and portraiture of ‘God’s glory.
[2.] Providences, these do more awaken us. God’s daily benefits should bring him to our remembrance: Acts xiv. 17, ‘Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness;’ Deut. viii. 18, ‘But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for he it is that giveth thee power to get wealth.’ Especially the sanctified remembrance of God’s dealing with his people is the way to keep the heart in the faith, love, and fear of God; and the forgetting his works is the cause of all defection and falling off to carnal courses and confidences: Ps. lxxviii. 11, ‘They forgat his works and wonders that he showed them,’ Ps. cvi. 21, ‘They forgat God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;’ Judges viii. 34, ‘And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them 83out of the hands of their enemies on every side.’ It is a base ingratitude not to remember, prize, and esteem God for all this.
[3.] Ordinances. Ministry was instituted to put you in remembrance, and give you still new and fresh occasions to think of God: 2 Peter i. 12, ‘I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance.’ Our business is not always to inform you of what you know not, but to inculcate and revive known truths, there being much forgetfulness, stupidness, and senselessness upon our spirits: 2 Peter iii. 1, ‘That I may stir up your minds by way of remembrance.’ The impressions of God on our minds are soon defaced; we need to quicken and awaken your affections and resolutions to choose and cleave to God: 1 Tim. iv. 6, ‘If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.’ So sacraments are instituted to bring God to remembrance: 1 Cor. xi. 24, ‘This do in remembrance of me:’ that we may remember his love and our covenanted duty. The sabbath was instituted for a remembrance and memorial of his creating, redeeming goodness.
[4.] The great office and work of the Spirit is to bring to remembrance: John xiv. 26, ‘He shall bring all things to your remembrance.’ We are apt to forget God, and instructions, and rebukes in their season: the Holy Ghost is our monitor.
3. God will not forget them that remember him. He will remember them at every turn: Mal. iii. 16, ‘Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.’ If he do not openly reward you with temporal deliverances, yet he taketh notice of every thought and every word you speak for him, and taketh pleasure in you. It is upon record; if you have not the comfort of it now, you shall have it in a little time. Because they thought of him they spake of him, and owned him in an evil time; and therefore God is represented as hearing and booking: and the books shall one day be opened, and then you shall have your public reward.
Doct. 2. God is best remembered when his name is studied.
First, When is his name studied? In the general, when we look upon him as he hath manifested himself in his word and works. More particularly, God is discovered sometimes by the name of his essence, sometimes by his attributes.
1. By the name of his essence. When Moses was very inquisitive to know his name—and God can best tell his own name—let us see what answer was made him: Exod. iii. 12, 13, ‘When they shall say unto me, What is his name? and God said, I am that I am.’ God was sending Moses upon a strange message; he was giving him commission to go and speak to a king to dismiss and let go six hundred thousand of his subjects, to lead them to a place which God should show. Now Moses thought for such a message he had need have good authority, therefore desireth a significant name. ‘I am that I am.’ The form of the words showeth it was a wonderful incomprehensible name: ‘Ask not my name, for it is Wonderful,’ Judges xiii. 18. This is enough to satisfy sober inquiry, though not wanton curiosity, enough for faith to work upon: the great I AM hath sent me. It showeth 84his unsearchableness. It is our manner of speech when we would cover anything and not answer distinctly, we say. It is what it is; I have said what I have said. Finite understandings cannot comprehend him that is infinite, no more than you can empty the sea with a cockleshell. He is the great and only being, in comparison of whom all else is nothing: Isa. xl. 17, ‘All nations before him are nothing, they are counted less than nothing and vanity.’ You have not a true and full notion of God if you conceive him only as the most eminent of all beings: no being must appear as being in his sight and in comparison of him. As long as you only conceive God to be the best, you still attribute something to the creature, for all comparatives include the positive. The creature is nothing in comparison with God; all the glory, perfection, and excellency of the whole world do not amount to the value of a unit in regard of God’s attributes: join never so many of them together, they cannot make up one number, they are nothing in his regard, and less than nothing. All created beings must utterly vanish out of sight when we think of God. As the sun doth not annihilate the stars, and make them nothing, yet it annihilates their appearance to our sight; some are of the first magnitude, some of the second, some of the third, but in the day-time all are alike, all are darkened by the sun’s glory: so it is here; there are degrees of perfection and excellency if we compare one creature with another, but let once the glorious brightness of God shine upon the soul, and in that light all their differences are unobserved. Angels, men, worms, they are all nothing, less than nothing to be set up against God: this magnificent title, I am, darkeneth all, as if nothing else were. God did not tell Moses that he was the best, the highest, and the most glorious, but ‘I am, and there is none else besides me:’ nothing that hath its being of itself, nothing that can be properly called its own. Thus the incomprehensible self-existence of God puts man into his original nothing: none but God can say, I am, because all things else are but borrowed drops of this self-sufficient fountain; other things are near to nothing. God most properly is, who never was nothing, never shall be nothing, who may always in all difference of time say, I am, and nothing else but God can say so. The heaven and earth six thousand years ago could not say, We are. Adam could once have said, I am, as to his existence in the compounded nature of man, but now he cannot say it. All the gene rations past were but are not, and the present is but will not be; and within a little while who of us can say, I am? No; our ‘place will know us no more:’ but God eternally saith, ‘I am:’ not, I have been, or I shall be, but ‘I am.’ Look a little backward, and you shall find man’s beginning; step a little forward, and you shall overtake his dissolution. But God is still I am; he is one that is before all, after all, and in all. He beholdeth from the mount of eternity all the successions and changes of the creature, and there is no succession or mutation in his knowledge. Well, then, here is an answer for Pharaoh, and the Israelites, and all of you to study on, ‘I am that I am.’ I am the fountain of all being, that do unchangeably and eternally exist in myself, and from myself.
2. God hath described his name by his attributes. To go over all, 85the compass of a sermon will not permit. I shall single out three from all the rest—his power, wisdom, and goodness; they are manifested in all that God doth.
[1.] In creation. Basil, Ἐποίησεν ὡς ἀγαθὸς τὸ χρήσιμον, ὡς σοφὸς τὸ κάλλιστον, ὡς δυνατὸς τὸ μέγιστον—the goodness of God is seen in the usefulness of the creatures to man; the power of God in the stupendousness and wonderfulness of his works; his wisdom in the apt structure, constitution, and order of all things: first he createth, then distinguished, then adorneth. The first work was to create the heavens and earth out of nothing; there is his power: his next work is a wise destination and ordination of all things; he distinguisheth night from day, darkness from light, waters above the firmament from waters beneath the firmament, the sea from the dry land; there is his wisdom: then he decketh the earth with plants, and furnisheth it with beasts, and storeth the sea with fishes, the firmament with stars; there is his goodness. Let us examine these more particularly, beginning—
(1.) With his goodness. The creation is nothing else but an effusion of the bounty and goodness of God. He made the world, not that he might be happy, but that he might be liberal; he made the world not by necessity, but at his pleasure: Rev. iv. 11, ‘Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ God was happy enough without us; fee had a fulness and absolute sufficiency within himself; his great aim was to raise up objects out of nothing, to whom he would communicate his goodness. The heavens and earth were made that man might have a place for his exercise, and a dwelling for his rest, and in both might love, honour, serve, and glorify his Creator. God sits in his palace among his best creatures, and thither also will he translate man at length, if he be obedient, and observe the ends of his creation: thus his goodness appeareth.
(2.) His power. He brought all things out of the womb of nothing. The powerful fiat was enough: Isa. xl. 26, ‘Lift up your eyes on high, who hath created these things, and bringeth out their host by number, and calleth all things by their names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power?’ The force of the cause appeareth in the effect, and God’s power in the life and being of the creature. There is no artificer but he must have matter to work upon, or else his art will fail him and he can do nothing; all that man can do is to give some shape and form, or to fashion that in some new model which had a being before: but God made all things out of nothing; the inclination and beck of his will sufficeth for his great works. We have great toil and sweat in all things that we do, but behold what a great work is done without any pain and travail! It is troublesome to us to carry up a little piece of stone or timber to any building of ours, but God stretched out all these heavens in such an infinite compass by the word of his power, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
(3.) His wisdom. The admirableness and comely variety of God’s works doth easily offer it to our thoughts. In the frame of the work you may easily find out a wise workman: Ps. cxxxvi. 5, ‘Sing praises to him that by wisdom hath made the heaven and the earth, for his mercy endureth for ever:’ so Prov. iii. 19, ‘The Lord by wisdom hath 86founded the earth, by understanding hath established the heavens: ‘the wisdom of God appeareth in the order of making, and order of placing all the creatures. In making them, in simple things God began with those that were most perfect; as his first creature was light, which of all qualities is the most pure and defecate, and is not stained by passing through places most impure: then all the other elements. In mixed bodies God took another method, from imperfect to perfect; first things that have a being, as the firmament, then life, as plants, then sense, as beasts, then reason, as men: first God would provide the places of heaven and earth, then the creatures to dwell in them; first the food, then the creatures to be sustained by it. Provision was made for the inhabitants of the earth, as grass for beasts, and light for all living and moving creatures. Plants have a growing life, beasts a feeling life. Then man was made, last of all creatures, as most excellent. Thus God would teach us to go on from good to better. Man’s palace was furnished with all things necessary, and they were placed and disposed in their apt cells for the beauty and service of the whole, and then like a prince he was sent into the world to rule and reign. There are not so many animals in the earth as in the sea, to avoid the great waste of food which would be consumed by the beasts of the land to the prejudice of man. But there is no end of these considerations. Only let me tell you, power is most eminently discovered in the creation: Rom. i. 20, ‘The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.’ The first apprehensions which we are possessed with, and which are most obvious, are the infinite greatness and power of the Creator.
[2.] These are manifested in the whole structure of his word; his power in the histories and prophecies, which declare what God hath and shall do; his wisdom in the precepts and counsels, and discovery of such mysteries; his goodness in promises, institutions, and provisional helps. More particularly in the law part of his word, his goodness; that showeth man what is good: Micah vi. 8, ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good:’ his power, in threatening such punishments and promising such rewards, and in the wonderful efficacy of his word in the conscience; his wisdom, in stating such a rule, that hath such an admirable fitness for the governing and regulating of mankind. But though all three shine forth in the law, and all in each part, yet his wisdom is most eminent: Deut. iv. 6, ‘Keep these statutes, for this is your wisdom and understanding.’ In the gospel, still these three attributes appear—the wonderful wisdom, power, and goodness of God. His wisdom in the orderly disposure of the covenant of grace: 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, ‘Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.’ And contriving the excellent design and plot of salvation by Christ: 1 Tim. iii. 16, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up to glory.’ His power in the incarnation, resurrection, and miracles of 87Christ; therefore Christ is called ‘the wisdom and power of God.’ But above all his love is magnified in the gospel: Rom. v. 8, ‘God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us:’ 1 John iv. 9, 10, ‘In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him: herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins;’ Titus iii. 4, ‘But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeareth.’
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