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THE WISDOM, GLORY, AND SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever.—Jude, ver. 25.
I AM treating of the attributes of God, particularly of those which relate to the Divine understanding, his knowledge and wisdom. The knowledge of God, only implies his bare understanding of things; but his wisdom, implies the skill of ordering and disposing things to the best ends and purposes, the skill of making, and governing, and administering all things in number, weight, and measure. The knowledge of God rather considers things absolutely, and in themselves: the wisdom of God, considers rather the respects and relations of things, looks upon things under the notion of means and ends: accordingly, I describe them thus: the knowledge of God, is a perfect comprehension of the nature of all things, with all their qualities, powers, and circumstances. The wisdom of God, is a perfect comprehension of the respects and relations of things one to another; of their harmony and opposition, their fitness and unfitness to such and such ends. I have largely spoken to the first of these: I come now to the
Second, The wisdom of God in general; together with his majesty and sovereignty, as they are here joined together. I begin with the
First, That God is “the only wise God.” In handling of this, I shall shew,404
I. In what sense God may be said to be “the only wise God.”
II. Prove that this attribute belongs to God.
I. In what sense God may be said to be “the only wise God.” For answer to this, we may take notice, that there are some perfections of God that are in communicable to the creatures; as, his independency and eternity: these God only possesseth, and they are to be attributed to him alone; God only is independent and eternal: but there are other perfections which are communicable; that is, which the creatures may, in some measure and degree, partake of; as knowledge, and wisdom, and goodness, and justice, and power, and the like; yet these the Scriptures do peculiarly attribute to God; not that they are altogether incommunicable to the creature, but that they belong to God in such a peculiar and Divine manner, as doth shut out the creature from any claim or title to them, in that degree and perfection wherein God possesseth them. I shall give you some instances of this:—His goodness; this is reserved to God alone, (Matt. xix. 17.) “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God:” his power and immortality, (1 Tim. vi. 15, 16.) “Who is the blessed and only Potentate; who only hath immortality:” his wisdom, (1 Tim. i. 17.) “The only wise God:” (Rom. xvi. 27.) “To God only wise be glory:” his holiness, (Rev. xv. 14.) “For thou only art holy.” The transcendent degree and singularity of these Divine perfections which are communicable, is beyond what we are able to conceive; so that although the creatures partake of them, yet in that degree and perfection wherein God possesseth them, they are peculiar and proper to the Deity: so that, in this sense, “there is none good but 405God;” he only is holy, he is the only wise: in so in conceivable a manner doth God possess even those perfections, which in some degree he communicates; and we can only understand them as he communicates them, and not as he possesseth them; so that when we consider any of these Divine perfections, we must not frame notions of them contrary to what they are in the creature; but we must say, that the goodness and wisdom of God are all this which is in the creature, and much more, which I am not able to comprehend.
This being premised in general, God may be said to be only wise in these two respects:
1. As being originally and independently wise.
2. As being eminently and transcendently so.
1. God only is originally and independently wise. He derives it from none, and all derive it from him: (Rom. xi. 33, 34.) “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” He challengeth any creature to come forth and say, that they have given wisdom, or any other perfection, to God. No, all creatures that are partakers of it, derive it from him: (Prov. ii. 6.) “For the Lord giveth wisdom.” (Eccles. ii. 26.) “God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy.” (Dan. ii. 21.) “He giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.”
2. He is eminently and transcendently so: and 406this follows from the former, because God is the fountain of wisdom, therefore it is most eminently in him: (Psal. xciv. 9, 10.) “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?” In like manner, we may reason concerning all other attributes of God, that if he communicates them, he is much more eminently possessed of them himself; the greatest wisdom of the creatures is nothing in opposition to the wisdom of God, nothing in comparison of it.
Nothing in opposition to it: (Job v. 13.) “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (Job ix. 4.) “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him and prospered?” (Prov. xxi. 30.) “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (1 Cor. i. 19.) “He will destroy the wisdom of the wise;” (ver. 27.) “and by foolish things confound the wise.”
Nothing in comparison of it. There are a great many that pretend to wisdom, but most are destitute of true wisdom; and those who have it, have it with many imperfections and disadvantages. Usually those who are destitute of true wisdom, pretend most to it: (Job xi. 12.) “Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass’s colt.” The high and the great of this world pretend to it: (Job xxxii. 9.) “Great men are not always wise.” Learned men, they pretend to it; the heathen philosophers were great professors of wisdom: (Rom. i. 22.) “Professing themselves to be wise, they be came fools:” they were “wise to do evil, but to do good they had no understanding,” as the prophet speaks, (Jer. iv.. 22.) The politicians of the world, they pretend to it; but theirs is rather a craftiness 407than a wisdom. Men call it prudence; but they are glad to use many arts to set it off, and make it look like wisdom; by silence, and secrecy, and formality, and affected gravity, and nods, and gestures. The Scripture calls it “the wisdom of this world,” (1 Cor. ii. 6.) and a “fleshly wisdom,” (2 Cor. i. 12.) It is wisdom misapplied: it is the pursuit of a wrong end. The petty plots and designs of this world are far from wisdom: (1 Cor. iii. 20.) “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” That cannot be wisdom, which mistakes its great end, which minds mean things, and neglects those which are of greatest concernment to them: (Job xxii. 2.) “He that is wise, is profitable to himself.” (Prov. ix. 12.) “If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself.” Tully tells us, Ennius was wont to say, Ne quicquam sapere sapientem, qui sibi ipsi prodesse non quiret. The wise sages of the world, as to the best things, are fools: (Matt. xi. 25.) “God hath hid these things from the wise and prudent.” There are many that are “wise in their own conceits; but there is more hope of a fool than of them,” (Prov. xxvi. 12.) So that the greatest part of that which passeth for wisdom among men, is quite another thing. Nihil tam valde vulgare quam nihil sapere; we talk much of prodigies, maximum portentum vir sapiens. Tully. Those few in the world that are “the children of true wisdom,” they have it in a very imperfect degree; they are not usually so wise for their souls, and for eternity, as men of this world. (Luke xvi. 8.) “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” It is attended with many inconveniences. (Eccl. i. 18.) “In much wisdom there is much grief:” he speaks of the wisdom about natural things.408
But we need not instance in the folly of wicked men, and worldly men, and in the imperfect degrees of wisdom, which are to be found in good men, in wisdom’s own children; the wisdom of God needs not these foils to set it off: the wisdom of man in innocency, or of the highest angel in heaven, bears no proportion to the unerring and infinite wisdom of God. We mortal men many times mistake our end out of ignorance, and apply unfit and improper means for accomplishing good ends; the angels in glory have not a perfect comprehension of the harmony and agreement of things, of the unfitness and opposition of them one to another: but the Divine wisdom propounds to itself the highest and best ends, an^hath a perfect comprehension of the fitness and unfitness of all things one to another; so that angels are but foolish beings to God. (Job iv. 18.) “His angels he chargeth with folly.” Job, upon a full inquiry after wisdom, concludes that it only belongs to God, that he is only perfectly possessed of it. (Job xxviii. 12, &c.) “But where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?” In such an eminent and transcendent degree it is not to be met with in any of the creatures; God only hath it, (ver. 23.) “God knoweth the place thereof.”
II. I shall prove that this perfection belongs to God.
1. From the dictates of natural reason; and
2. From Scripture.
1. From the dictates of natural reason. I have often told you the perfections of God are not to be proved by way of demonstration, because there is no cause of them; but by way of conviction, by shewing the absurdity and inconvenience of the contrary.409
The contrary is an imperfection, and argues many other imperfections; therefore wisdom belongs to God. Among men folly is looked upon as the greatest defect; it is accounted a greater reproach and disgrace than vice and wickedness; it is of so ill a report in the world, that there are not many but had rather be accounted knaves than fools; but in a true esteem and value of things, it is, next to wickedness, the greatest imperfection; and, on the contrary, wisdom is the highest perfection next to holiness and goodness; it is usually more cried up in the world than any thing else. Reason tells us, though the Scripture had not said it, that “wisdom excels folly as much as light doth darkness,” (Eccl. ii. 13.) “The wisdom of a man maketh his face to shine,” (Eccl. viii. 1.) “Wisdom is a defence,” (vii. 12.) and (ver. 19.) “Wisdom strengthened the wise more than ten mighty men that are in the city.”
And the denial of this perfection to God, would argue many other imperfections; it would be an universal blemish to the Divine nature, and would darken all his other perfections. It would weaken the power of God. How impotent and ineffectual would power be without wisdom! what irregular things would it produce! what untoward combinations of effects would there be, if infinite power should act without the conduct and direction of in finite wisdom! it would eclipse the providence of God, and put out the eyes that are in the wheels, as the prophet represents God’s providence. There can be no counsel, no forecast, no orderly government of the world without wisdom. The goodness, and mercy, and justice, and truth of God, could not shine with that lustre, were it not for his wisdom, which doth illustrate these with so much advantage.410
I need not bring testimonies from heathen writers to confirm this; their books are full of expressions of their admiration of God’s wise government, of the world. I will not trouble you with quotations of particular testimonies. Epicurus, indeed, denied that God either made or governed the world: but he must needs acknowledge him to have been a very wise being, because he made him happy, which can not be without wisdom, though he had taken away all other evidence of his wisdom. Aristotle seems to have supposed the world to be a necessary result and emanation from God: but then the other sects of philosophers did suppose the world to be the free product of God’s goodness and wisdom.
2. From Scripture; (Job ix. 4.) “He is wise in heart;”—(xxxvi. 5.) “He is mighty in strength and wisdom.” (Dan. ii. 20.) “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his.” Hither we may refer those texts, which attribute wisdom to God in a singular and peculiar manner; (Rom. xvi.27.) and those which speak of God as the fountain of it, who communicates and bestows it upon his creatures; (Dan. ii. 21. James i. 5.) and those texts which speak of the wisdom of God in the creation of the world; (Psal. civ. 24.) “O Lord, how wonderful are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all!” (Jer. x. 12.) “Who hath established the world by his wisdom, and stretched forth the heavens by his discretion;” in the providence and government of the world. (Dan. ii. 20.) “Wisdom and strength are his, and he changeth times and seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings;” and in many other places, in the redemption of mankind. Therefore Christ is called “the wisdom of God,” (1 Cor. i. 24.) and the dispensation of the 411gospel, “the hidden wisdom of God, and the manifold wisdom of God,” (Eph. iii. 10.)
If then God be only wise, the original and only fountain of it, from thence we learn,
1. To go to him for it: (Jam. i. 5.) “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God.” There are many conceited men that think they are rich and increased, and stand in need of nothing. The apostle doth not speak, as if there were some that did not want wisdom, but because there are some so proud and conceited, that they think they lack no thing; those are stark fools, and God resists such foolish and proud men; but if any man, sensible of his defect and imperfection, cometh to God, “he gives liberally, and upbraids no man.” We are ashamed to learn wisdom of men, lest they should contemn and upbraid us with our folly: men are envious and unwilling that others should be as wise as themselves; but God’s goodness makes him willing to impart wisdom; “he gives liberally, and up braids no man.”
This is the most desirable accomplishment and perfection; “Happy is the man that getteth wisdom; wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom:” it is better than those things that are of the highest value among men, as Solomon often makes the comparison. Now because “it comes down from above,” we should look up for it; it is by the revelation of his will, and the wise counsels of his word, that we are made “wise unto salvation;” therefore we should beg of him, that “he would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of himself,” (Eph. i. 17.)
2. If God be only wise in such an eminent and transcendent degree, then let us be humble. There 412is no cause of boasting, seeing “we have nothing but what we have received.” The lowest instance, the least specimen of Divine wisdom out shines the highest pitch of human wisdom; “the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” (1 Cor. i. 25.) therefore “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,” (Jer. ix. 23.) Of all things we should not be proud of wisdom; the proud man throws down the reputation of his wisdom, by the way that he would raise it. No such evidence of our folly, as a conceit that we are wise; Sapientis animus nunquam turgescit, nunquam tumet.—Cicero. To pride ourselves in our own wisdom, is the way to have our folly made manifest. God threatens to “destroy the wisdom of the wise men,” and to “turn their wisdom into foolishness.”
3. We should labour to partake of the wisdom of God, so far as it is communicable. The greatest wisdom that we are capable of, is to distinguish between good and evil; “to be wise to that which is good,” as the apostle speaks; (Rom. xvi. 19.) that is, to provide for the future in time, to make provision for eternity, to think of our latter end, to fear God and obey him, to be pure and peaceable, to receive instruction, and to win souls; these are the characters which the Scripture gives of wisdom. When Job had declared, that the excellency of the Divine wisdom was not to be attained by men; he tells us what that wisdom is, which is proper for us: “And unto man he said, The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding.” There are many that are wise to worldly ends and purposes, as our Saviour tells us; wise to get riches, and to ascend to honours; but this is not the wisdom which we are to labour after; this is 413but a short-witted prudence, to serve a present turn without any prospect to the future, without regard to the next world, and the eternity which we are to live in; this is to be wise for a moment, and fools for ever.
4. If God be only wise, then put your trust and confidence in him. Whom should we trust rather than infinite wisdom, which manageth and directs infinite goodness and power? In all cases of difficulty trust him for direction; “acknowledge him in all thy ways,” that he may direct thy steps; “commit thy way unto the Lord, and lean not to thine own understanding. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” but the providence of God disposeth all these things. And if we rely upon our own wisdom, that will prove a broken reed. And as our wisdom is a broken reed, so the wisdom of other men. (Isa. xxxi. 1, 2.) God curseth “them that go down into Egypt, and trust to their strength and wisdom, but look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord: yet he also is wise,” saith the prophet.
5. Let us adore the wisdom of God, and say with St. Paul, (1 Tim. i. 17.) “To the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen:” and with Daniel, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his.” Veneration is the acknowledgment of an infinite excellency and perfection. We reverence any extraordinary degree of wisdom in men; but the Divine wisdom, which is perfect and infinite, is matter of our adoration, and blessing, and praise. Thanksgiving respects the benefits we receive; but we bless God when we acknowledge any excellency: for as God’s blessing us, is to do us good; so our blessing him, 414is to speak good of him: as all God’s perfections are the objects of our blessing, so more especially his wisdom is of our praise; for to praise God is to take notice of the wise design and contrivance of his goodness and mercy towards us.
Before I pass on to the other particulars contained in these words, I cannot but take notice, that this wise God here spoken of is styled “our Saviour,” which some understand of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and bring this place as an argument to prove his divinity: and if that were so, it were all one to my purpose, which is in the next place to shew, that glory, and majesty, and dominion, and power, belong to the Divine Being. But although I would not willingly part with any place that may fairly be brought for the proof of the divinity of Christ, yet, seeing there are so many plain texts in Scripture for the proof of it, we have the less reason to stretch doubtful places; and that this is so, will appear to any one who considers that the title of Saviour is several times in Scripture attributed to God the Father; be sides that, in a very ancient and authentic copy, we find the words read somewhat otherwise, and so as to put this out of all controversy, μόνῳ θεῷ σωτῆρι ἡμῶν διὰ Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν δόξα, &c.
Having premised thus much for the clearing of these words, I shall briefly consider, first, God’s glory and majesty, and then his dominion and sovereignty.
First, God’s glory and majesty. By majesty, we may understand the greatness, or eminent excellency of the Divine nature, which results from his perfections, and whereby the Divine nature is set and placed infinitely above all other beings; I say, the eminent excellency of the Divine nature, which results 415from his perfections, more especially from those great perfections, his goodness, and wisdom, and power, and holiness.
And his glory is a manifestation of this excellency, and a just acknowledgment and due opinion of it. Hence it is, that in Scripture, God is said to be “glorious in power,” and “glorious in holiness,” and his goodness is called his glory; and here, in the text, glory and majesty are ascribed to him upon the account of his wisdom and goodness.
That these belong to God, I shall prove,
1. From the acknowledgment of natural light. The heathens did constantly ascribe greatness to God, and that as resulting chiefly from his goodness, as appears by their frequent conjunction of these two attributes, goodness and greatness; opt. max. were their most familiar titles of the Deity; to which I will add that known place of Seneca, Primus deorum cultus est deos credere, dein reddere illis majestatem suam, reddere bonitatem, sine qua nulla majestas.
2. From Scripture. It were endless to produce all those texts wherein greatness and glory are ascribed to God. I shall mention two or three: (Deut. x. 17.) “The Lord is a great God.” (Ps. xxiv. 10.) He is called “the King of glory;” (civ. 1.) he is said to be “clothed with majesty and honour.” “The whole earth is full of his glory.” Hither belong all those doxologies in the Old and New Testament, wherein greatness, and glory, and majesty, are ascribed to God.
From all which we may learn,
1. What it is that makes a person great and glorious, and what is the way to majesty; viz. real worth and excellency, and particularly that kind of 416excellency which creatures are capable of in a very eminent degree, and that is goodness; this is that which advanceth a person, and gives him a pre-eminence above all others; this casts a lustre upon a man, and makes his face to shine. Aristotle tells us, that honour is nothing else but the signification of the esteem which we have of a person for his goodness; “For, (saith he) to be good, and to do good, is the highest glory.” God’s goodness is his highest glory; and there is nothing so glorious in any creature, as herein to belike God.
2. Let us give God the glory which is due to his name: “Ascribe ye greatness to our God,” (Deut. xxxii. 3.) “Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and power,” (Psal. xxix. 1.) The glory and majesty of God calls for our esteem and honour, our fear and reverence of him. Thus we should glorify God in our spirits, by an inward esteem and reverence of his majesty. The thoughts of earthly majesty will compose us to reverence; how much more should the apprehensions of the Divine Majesty strike an awe upon our spirits in all our addresses to him! His excellency should make us afraid, and keep us from all saucy boldness and familiarity with him. Reverence is an acknowledgment of the distance which is between the majesty of God, and our meanness. And we should “glorify him in our bodies,” with outward worship and adoration; that is, by all external significations of reverence and respect; and we should glorify him in our lives and actions. The highest glory a creature can give to God, is to endeavour to be like him, Satis illos coluit, quisquis imitatus est. Seneca. Hereby we manifest and shew forth his excellency to the world, when we endeavour to be conformed 417to the Divine perfections. And in case of sin and provocation, we are to give glory to God by repentance, which is an acknowledgment of his holiness, who hates sin; and of his justice, which will punish it; and of the mercy of God, which is ready to pardon it; for it is “the glory of God to pass by a provocation.”
3. He should take heed of robbing God of his glory, by giving it to any creature, by ascribing those titles, or that worship, to any creature, which is due to God alone. This is the reason which is given of the second commandment: “I the Lord am a jealous God.” God is jealous of his honour, “and will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images,” (Isa. xlii. 8.) Upon this account we find the apostle reproves the idolatry of the heathens, because thereby they debased the esteem of God, and did shew they had unworthy thoughts of him: (Rom. i. 21. 23.) “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations: and changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” Hereby they denied the glorious excellency of the Divine nature; that is, that he is a Spirit, and so incapable of being represented by any material or sensible image.
Secondly, I come now to speak of the sovereignty and dominion of God: in which I shall shew,
1st, What we are to understand by the sovereignty and dominion of God. By these we mean the full and absolute right, and title, and authority which God hath to and over all his creatures, as his creatures, and made by him. And this right results from the effects of that goodness, and power, and wisdom, whereby all things are and were made; from whence 418there doth accrue to God a sovereign right and title to all his creatures, and a full and absolute authority over them; that is, such a right and authority, which doth not depend upon any superior, nor is subject and accountable to any, for any thing that he does to any of his creatures. And this is that which is called summum imperium, because there is no power above it to check or control it, and, therefore, there can be no greater than this. And it is absolute, because all the creatures have what they have from God, and all depend upon his goodness, and therefore they owe all possible duty and perpetual subjection so long as they continue in being, because it is solely by his power and goodness that they continue; and, therefore, whatever right or title any one can pretend to any person or thing, that God hath to all things; in Deo omnes tituli, omnia jura concurrunt.
So that sovereignty and dominion signifies a full right, and title, and propriety in all his creatures, and an absolute authority over them, to govern them and dispose of them, and deal with them in any way he pleaseth, that is not contrary to his essential dignity and perfection, or repugnant to the natural state and condition of the creature.
And for our better understanding of this, and the preventing of mistakes, which men are apt to fall into about the sovereignty of God, I will shew,
I. Wherein it doth not consist. And,
II. Wherein it doth consist.
I. Wherein it doth not consist.
1. Not in a right to gratify and delight himself in the extreme misery of innocent and undeserving creatures: I say, not in a right; for the right that God hath in his creatures, is founded in the benefits he hath conferred upon them, and the obligations 419they have to him upon that account. Now, there is none, who, because he hath done a benefit, can have, by virtue of that, a right to do a greater evil than the good which he hath done amounts to; and I think it next to madness, to doubt whether extreme and eternal misery be not a greater evil than simple being is a good. I know they call it physical goodness; but I do not understand how any thing is the better for being called by a hard name. For what can there be that is good or desirable in being, when it only serves to be a foundation of the greatest and most lasting misery? and we may safely say, that the just God will never challenge more than an equitable right. God doth not claim any such sovereignty to himself, as to crush and oppress innocent creatures without a cause, and to make them miserable without a provocation. And because it seems some have been very apt to entertain such groundless jealousies and unworthy thoughts of God, he hath given us his oath to assure us of the contrary. “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn and live.” So far is he from taking pleasure in the misery and ruin of innocent creatures, that in case of sin and provocation, he would be much rather pleased, if sinners would, by repentance, avoid and escape his justice, than that they should fall under it. The good God cannot be glorified or pleased in doing evil to any, where justice doth not require it; nothing is further from infinite goodness, than to rejoice in evil. We account him a tyrant and a monster of men, and of a devilish temper, that can do so; and we cannot do a greater injury to the good God, than to paint him out after such a horrid and deformed manner.420
2. The sovereignty of God doth not consist in imposing laws upon his creatures, which are impossible either to be understood or observed by them. For this would not only be contrary to the dignity of the Divine nature, but contradict the nature of a reasonable creature, which, in reason, cannot be obliged by any power to impossibilities.
3. The sovereignty of God doth not consist in a liberty to tempt men to evil, or by any inevitable decree to necessitate them to sin, or effectually to procure the sins of men, and to punish them for them. For as this would be contrary to the holiness, and justice, and goodness of God, so to the nature of a reasonable creature, who cannot be guilty or deserve punishment for what it cannot help. And men cannot easily have a blacker thought of God, than to imagine that he hath, from all eternity, carried on a secret design to circumvent the greatest part of men into destruction, and underhand to draw men into a plot against heaven, that by this unworthy practice he may raise a revenue of glory to his justice. There is no generous and good man, but would spit in that man’s face, that should charge him with such a design; and if they who are but very drops of goodness, in comparison of God, the infinite ocean of goodness, would take it for such a reproach, shall we attribute that to the best Being in the world, which we would detest and abominate in ourselves?
II. Wherein the sovereignty of God doth consist.
1. In a right to dispose of, and deal with, his creatures in any way that doth not contradict the essential perfections of God, and the natural condition of the creature.421
2. In a right to impose what laws he pleaseth upon his creatures, whether natural and reasonable; or positive, of trial of obedience, provided they contradict not the nature of God, or of the creature.
3. In a right to inflict due and deserved punishment in a case of provocation.
4. In a right to afflict any of his creatures, so the evil he inflicts be short of the benefits he hath conferred on them; yea, and farther in a right when he pleaseth to annihilate the creature, and turn it out of being, if it should so seem good to him, though that creature have not offended him; because what he gave was his own, and he may, without injury, take it away again when he pleaseth. In these the sovereignty of God consists; and if there be any thing else that can be reconciled with the essential perfections of God.
2dly, For the proof and confirmation of this. This is universally acknowledged by the heathens, that God is “the Lord and Sovereign of the world, and of all creatures.” Hence, Plato calls him τῶν πάντων ἡγεμόνα; and Tully, omnium rerum Dominum, “Lord of all;” and this the Scripture doth every where attribute to him, calling him “Lord of all, King of kings, and Lord of lords;” to which we may refer all those doxologies, in which power, and dominion, and authority are ascribed to God. I will only mention that eminent confession of Nebuchadnezzar, a great king, who, when his understanding came to him, was forced to acknowledge, that God was “the Most High,” (Dan. iv. 34, 35.) I infer,
First, negatively, We cannot, from the sovereignty of God, infer a right to do any thing that is unsuitable to the perfection of his nature; and consequently, 422 that we are to rest satisfied with such a notion of dominion and sovereignty in God, as doth not plainly and directly contradict all the notions that we have of justice and goodness: nay, it would be little less than a horrid and dreadful blasphemy, to say that God can, out of his sovereign will and pleasure, do any thing that contradicts the nature of God, and the essential perfections of the Deity; or to imagine that the pleasure and will of the holy, and just, and good God, is not always regulated and determined by the essential and indispensable laws of goodness, and holiness, and righteousness.
Secondly, positively; We may infer from the sovereignty and dominion of God,
1. That we ought to own and acknowledge God for our lord and sovereign, who, by creating us, and giving us all that we have, did create to himself a right in us.
2. That we owe to him the utmost possibility of our love, to “love him with all our hearts, and souls, and strength;” because the souls that we have he gave us; and that we are in a capacity to love him, is his gift; and when we render these to him, we do but give him of his own.
3. We owe to him all imaginable subjection, and observance, and obedience; and are with all diligence, to the utmost of our endeavours, to conform ourselves to his will, and to those laws which he hath imposed upon us.
4. In case of offence and disobedience, we are, without murmuring, to submit to what he shall inflict upon us, “to accept of the punishment of our iniquity,” and “patiently to bear the indignation of the Lord,” because we have sinned against him, who is our Lord and Sovereign.423
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