|« Prev||Sermon CXXXI. The Happiness of God.||Next »|
THE HAPPINESS OF GOD.
The blessed God.—1 Tim. i. 11.
The whole verse runs thus:
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
SINCE all men naturally desire happiness, and thirst after it, methinks we should all desire to know what it is, where it is to be found, and how it is to be attained by us, in that degree in which creatures are capable of it. What Job says of wisdom, may be said also of happiness; “God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.” He only, who is perfectly possessed of it himself, knows wherein it consists, and what are the true ingredients of it.
So that to direct us in our search after happiness, the best way will be to contemplate and consider the Divine nature, which is the perfect pattern and idea of happiness, and the original spring and fountain of all the felicity that creatures are capable of. And to that end I have pitched upon these words, wherein the apostle attributes this perfection of blessedness or happiness to God; “The blessed God.”
And though this be as essential a part as any other of that notion which mankind have of God from the light of nature, yet I no where find in all the New Testament, this attribute of happiness given to God, but only twice in this Epistle, It is 326true, indeed, the title of blessedness is frequently given both to God and Christ, but in another sense and in a quite different notion: as (Mark xiv. 61.) where the high-priest asks our Saviour, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” τοῦ εὐλογητοῦ, of him that is to be celebrated and praised. (2 Cor. xi. 31.) “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore.” So likewise, (Rom. i. 25.) “The Creator blessed for evermore:” which likewise is said of Christ, (Rom. ix. 5.) “Of whom Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for evermore;” that is, for ever to be praised and celebrated. But in all these texts the Greek word is εὐλογητός, which though we translate blessed, yet it is a quite different notion from the title of blessedness, which is given to God in the text, where the word is not εὐλογητός but μακάριος, “the blessed (or happy) God;” and this title is not any where in all the New Testament (that I know of) given to God, but here in the text, and chap. vi. ver. 15. where our Lord Jesus Christ (who also is God) is called “the blessed and the only Potentate.” And whether this title of “the blessed (or the happy) God,” be here in the text given to God the Father, or to his eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is not so much material to my present purpose to inquire. For, suppose it be Christ who is here called “the blessed God;” this however is certain, that blessedness or happiness is a title belonging to God, which is all that is necessary for a foundation of my present discourse.
In speaking of this argument, I shall do these three things:
I. Shew what we are to understand by the happiness of God, and what are the essential ingredients of it.327
II. That this title doth belong to God, and that the Divine nature is perfectly blessed and happy.
III. How far creatures are capable of happiness, and by what ways and means they may be made partakers of it: and shall then make some inferences from my discourse upon this argument.
I. I will consider what we are to understand by the blessedness or happiness of God, and what are the essential ingredients of it. Now the notion of happiness, taken at its highest pitch (as we must necessarily do when we apply it to God) is no other than a fixed and immoveable state of contentment and satisfaction, of pleasure and delight, resulting from the secure possession and enjoyment of all that is good and desirable; that is, of all excellency and perfection; so that these following ingredients must go to make up a perfect state of happiness.
1. Perfect knowledge, to understand what it is that constitutes happiness, and to know when one is really possessed of it. For as he is not happy, who is so only in imagination or a dream, without any real foundation in the thing; for he may be pleased with his condition, and yet be far enough from being truly happy: so, on the other hand, he that has all other necessary ingredients of happiness, and only wants this, that he doth not think himself so, can not be happy. For this we often see in the imperfect felicity of this world, that many men who have all the materials and circumstances of a worldly happiness about them; yet, by the unskilful management of the matter, and from a lightness and injudiciousness of mind, not knowing when they are well, they make a hard shift, even when they are in as good circumstances as it is almost possible for men to be in this world, to be very discontented 328and miserable in their own opinions. But God perfectly knows both what makes happiness, and that he is possessed of it.
2. To perfect happiness is likewise required a full power to do whatever conduceth to happiness, and likewise to check and control whatever would be a hinderance and disturbance to it; and therefore no being is as happy as it can be, that is not all-sufficient, and hath not within its power and reach whatever is necessary to a happy condition, and necessary to secure and continue that happiness against all attempts and accidents whatsoever.
3. There is wisdom also required to direct this power, and manage it in such a manner, as it may effectually conduce to this end; and this is very different from mere power abstractedly considered; for one may have all the materials of happiness, and yet want the wisdom and skill to put them so together, as to frame a happy condition out of them; and he is not happy, who doth not thoroughly understand the proper method and means of compassing and securing his own happiness.
4. Another most considerable and essential ingredient of happiness is goodness; without which, as there can be no true majesty and greatness, so neither can there be any felicity or happiness. Now goodness is a generous disposition of mind to communicate and diffuse itself, by making others partakers of its happiness, in such degrees as they are capable of it, and as wisdom shall direct: for he is not so happy as he may be, who hath not the plea sure of making others so, and of seeing them put into a happy condition by his means, which is the highest pleasure (I had almost said pride, but I may truly say glory) of a good and great mind: for by 329such communications of himself, an immense and all-sufficient Being doth not lessen himself, or put any thing out of his power, but doth rather enlarge and magnify himself; and does, as I may say, give great ease and delight to a full and fruitful being, without the least diminution of his power and happiness. For the Cause and Original of all other beings can make nothing so independent upon itself, as not still to maintain his interest in it, to have it always under his power and government; and no being can rebel against his Maker, without extreme hazard to himself.
5. Perfect happiness doth imply the exercise of all other virtues, which are suitable to so perfect a Being, upon all proper and fitting occasions; that is, that so perfect a Being do nothing that is contrary to or unbecoming his holiness and righteousness, his truth and faithfulness, which are essential to a perfect Being; and for such a Being to act contrary to them in any case, would be to create disquiet and disturbance to itself: for this is a certain rule, and never fails, that nothing can act contrary to its own nature without reluctancy and displeasure, which in moral agents is that which we call guilt; for guilt is nothing else but the trouble and disquiet which ariseth in one’s mind, from the consciousness of having done something which is contrary to the perfective principles of his being; that is, something that doth not become him, and which, being what he is, he ought not to have done; which we cannot imagine ever to befal so perfect and immutable a being as God is.
6. Perfect happiness implies in it the settled and secure possession of all those excellences and perfections; for if any of these were liable to fail, or be 330diminished, so much would be taken off from perfect and complete happiness. If the Deity were subject to any change or impairment of his condition, so that either his knowledge, or power, or wisdom, or goodness, or any other perfection, could any ways decline or fall off, there would be a proportionable abatement of happiness. And from all these does result, in the
7th, and last place, Infinite contentment and satisfaction, pleasure and delight, which is the very essence of happiness.
1. Infinite contentment and satisfaction in this condition. And well may happiness be contented with itself; that is, with such a condition, that he that is possessed of it, can neither desire it should be better, nor have any cause to fear it should be worse.
2. Pleasure and delight, which is something more than contentment: for one may be contented with an affliction, and painful condition, in which he is far from taking any pleasure and delight. “No affliction is joyous for the present, but grievous,” as the apostle speaks, (Heb. xii.) But there cannot be perfect happiness without pleasure in our condition. Full pleasure is a certain mixture of love and joy, hard to be expressed in words, but certainly known by inward sense and experience.
And thus I have endeavoured to describe to you, as well as I could, according to our imperfect conceptions and expressions of God, the happiness of the Divine nature, and wherein it consists. I proceed to the
II. Second thing I proposed, which was to shew. That this attribute of perfection doth belong to God, and that the Divine nature is perfectly blessed, and happy; and this is so universal an acknowledgment 331of natural light, that it would be a very superfluous and impertinent work, to trouble you with particular citations of heathen authors to this purpose; nothing being more frequent in them than to call the Deity, beatissimam et perfectissimam naturam, “the most happy and most perfect Being,” and therefore happy, because felicity doth naturally result from perfection. It shall suffice to take notice of these two things out of heathen writers, to my present purpose:
1. That they accounted happiness so essential to the notion of a God, that this was one of the ways which they took to find out what properties were fit to attribute to God, and what not; to consider, what things are consistent with happiness, or inconsistent with it; and whatever did signify happiness, and was a perfection consistent with it, they ascribed to God, as a suitable property of the Divine nature; and whatever was otherwise, they removed it from God, as unfit to be said of him.
2. Whatever differences there were among the philosophers concerning the perfections of the Divine nature, they all agreed in the perfect felicity of it; even Epicurus himself, who so boldly attempted to strip the Divine nature of most of its perfections, by denying that God either made or governed the world; whereby he took away at once his being the first cause and original of all things, and his goodness likewise, and wisdom, and power, and justice, or, at least, made all these useless, by taking away all occasion and opportunity for the exercise of them; yet this man does frequently own, and profess to believe, the happiness of the Divine nature; and then, out of an ignorant and officious kindness to the Deity, and (as he pretended) for the security 332of his felicity, did, in effect, take away his other perfections; he would, by no means, put God to the trouble and burden of making the world, or taking care of the affairs of it, lest this should discompose the Deity, or be an interruption or disturbance of his ease and felicity. For thus Lucretius, the great disciple of Epicurus, describes his opinion of the Divine nature:
Omnis enim divum, per se, natura necesse est,
Immortali aevo summa cum pace fruatur.
Semota a nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe.
Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri
Nec bene pro meritis capitur, nec tangitur ira.
That is, “It is necessary that the Divine nature should be happy, and therefore altogether unconcerned in our affairs; free from all grief and danger, sufficient for itself, and standing in need of nobody, neither pleased with our good actions, nor provoked by our faults.” This was a very false notion both of God and happiness, to imagine that the care of the world should be a pain and disturbance to in finite knowledge, and power, and goodness. But this is not now my business to consider; that which is to my present purpose is, that the happiness of the Divine nature was universally owned; and that blessedness is so inseparable from the notion of a Deity, that whoever professes to believe a God must acknowledge him to be perfectly happy.
As for the testimony of Scripture, I have already told you, that there are but two texts wherein this title of ὀμακάριος, “the happy,” or “blessed,” is given to God; but, by consequence, the Scripture every where declares the happiness of the Divine 333nature; viz. wherever it speaks of the excellency and perfection of his being, of his knowledge, and power, and wisdom, and goodness, and righteousness, and of the eternity and unchangeableness of these, and of the infinite delight and complacency which he takes in the enjoyment of these perfections. I shall now proceed to the
III. Third and last thing which I proposed to consider; viz. How far creatures are capable of happiness, and by what ways and means they may be made partakers of it. They are not capable of absolute and perfect happiness, because that results from infinite perfection, which is no where to be found but in God: it remains, then, that creatures are only capable of being happy in a finite and limited degree, by the resemblance of God, and by the enjoyment of him; by being like to him, and by our likeness to him, being qualified for his favour, and for the enjoyment of him.
As we are creatures of a finite power, and limited understandings, and a mutable nature, we do necessarily want many of those perfections, which are the cause and ingredients of a perfect happiness. We are far from being sufficient for our own happiness; we are neither so of ourselves, nor can we make ourselves so by our own power; for neither are we wise enough for our own direction, nor good enough for our own satisfaction. All the happiness that we are capable of is, by communication from Him, who is the original and fountain of it; by our being made “partakers of the Divine nature,” (as St. Peter speaks) by our resemblance of God in those perfections, which are the most essential ingredients of happiness, his goodness, and righteousness, and truth, and holiness; these do immediately 334qualify us for the favour and friendship of Almighty God, and for the blessed sight and enjoyment of him; and the favour of God, and the light of his countenance lifted up upon us, and his friendship and good-will to us, supplies all defects of power and wisdom in us; for, God being our friend, we have an interest in all his perfections, and a security that, as occasion requires, they will all be employed for our benefit and advantage; so that though we are “weak in ourselves,” we are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” and are “able to do all things through him strengthening us;” and though “we want wisdom,” we may have free recourse to the fountain of it, and “ask of God, who gives to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” And it is next to having these perfections in ourselves, to know where to have them for asking, whenever we stand in need of them, so far as is necessary to our happiness.
So that, though our happiness depend upon another, yet if we be careful to qualify ourselves for it (and God is always ready to assist us by his grace to this purpose), it is really and in effect in our own power; and we are every whit as safe and happy in God’s care and protection of us, as if we were sufficient for ourselves. However, this is the highest happiness that the condition of a creature is capable of, to have all our defects supplied in so liberal a manner by the bounty of another, and to have a free recourse to the fountain of happiness, and at last to be admitted to the blessed sight and enjoyment of Him, “in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for ever more.” I have done with the three things I proposed to speak to.335
But to what purpose, may some say, is this long description and discourse of happiness? How are we the wiser and the better for it? I answer, very much, in several respects.
1. This plainly shews us that atheism is a very melancholy and mischievous thing; it would take away the fountain of happiness, and the only perfect pattern of it; it endeavours at once to extinguish the being of God, and all the life and comfort of mankind, so that we could neither form any idea of happiness, or be in any possibility of attaining it. For it is plain, we are not sufficient for it of ourselves; and if there be not a God, there is nothing that can make us so. God is “the true light of the world,” and a thousand times more necessary to the comfort and happiness of mankind than the sun itself, which is but a dark shadow of that infinitely more bright and glorious Being; “the happy and only Potentate (as the apostle describes him in the latter end of this Epistle), who only hath immortality, dwelling in that light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see,” meaning in this mortal state.
So that the greatest enemies, and most injurious of all others to mankind, are those who would banish the belief of a God out of the world; because this is to “lay the axe to the root of the tree,” and at one blow to cut off all hopes of happiness from mankind. So that he is a fool, indeed, that “says in his heart, There is no God;” that is, that wisheth there were none; because it is not possible for a man to wish worse to himself, and more effectually to destroy his own happiness.
2. If the Divine nature be so infinitely and completely happy, this is u very great confirmation of 336our faith and hope concerning the happiness of another life, which the Scripture describes to us, by the sight and enjoyment of God. As we are creatures, we are not capable of the happiness that is absolutely and infinitely perfect; because our nature is but finite and limited; but “the blessed God,” who is infinitely happy himself, can also make us happy according to our finite measure and capacity. For as he that is the first and original Being can communicate being to other things, so he that is the fountain of happiness, can derive and convey happiness to his creatures.
And we shall the more easily believe this, when we consider that goodness, as it is the prime perfection, so is it likewise the chief felicity of the Divine nature. It is his glory and delight to communicate himself, and shed abroad his goodness; and the highest expression of the Divine goodness is to communicate happiness to his creatures, and to be willing that they should share and partake with him in it. Base and envious natures are narrow and contracted, and love to confine their enjoyments and good things to themselves, and are loath that others should take part with them: but the most noble and most generous minds are most free and enlarged, and cannot be happy themselves unless they find or make others so.
This is the highest pitch of goodness, and consequently the highest contentment, and the supreme delight of the Divine nature. Now it is natural to every being, to be most frequent and abundant in those acts in which it finds the greatest pleasure; to be good, and to do good, is the supreme felicity of God himself; therefore we may easily believe, that he is very ready and forward to make us happy 337by all the ways that are agreeable to his wisdom and righteousness; and that he is also willing to make us abundantly so, and to advance us to the highest degree of felicity, of which our nature is capable, if we do not render ourselves incapable of such a blessing, by an obstinate refusal of it, and utter indisposition for it.
This, I say, is very credible, because the happiness of God himself consists in that propension and disposition of nature, which tends to make others happy. And if there can be any accession to that which is infinite, God himself finds a new pleasure and felicity in the communication of his goodness to his creatures; and therefore is represented in Scripture as glad of the conversion of a sinner, because the sinner hereby becomes capable of the happiness which God designed for his creatures, and is always ready to confer upon them, whenever they are qualified for it, and he can, with the honour of his own perfections, bestow it upon them.
There are two things which raise our hopes and expectation of good from any person, if he be able and willing to bestow upon us what we hope for from him. Now if any one can confer happiness upon us, it is he who is infinitely possessed of it, and hath all the treasures of it in himself, and that God only is, who as he is able, so he is willing to make us happy, if we be qualified for it; and it is no impairing of his happiness to make others happy, for even that, goodness which inclines him to communicate happiness to others, is a great part of his own felicity; so that, as our Saviour argues, “because I live, you shall live also,” we may reason in like manner, that because God is happy, we shall be happy also; if we do but sincerely desire and 338endeavour to qualify ourselves for it. The goodness of God does strongly incline him to desire our happiness, and makes him willing and ready to bestow it upon us, whenever we are capable to receive it.
So that the goodness of God is the great foundation of all our hopes, and the firmest ground of our assurance of a blessed immortality. It is the happiness of the Divine nature to communicate himself; and the communications of God’s goodness to us are the cause of our happiness; and therefore, both for our example and encouragement, the goodness of God ought always to be represented to the greatest advantage, and we should endeavour to possess our minds with a firm belief and persuasion of it, and to remove from the Divine nature (which we all acknowledge to have infinitely more goodness than is to be found in any of the sons of men) whatever we would not attribute to a good man, and to vindicate God from all suspicion of envy and ill-will, of cruelty and arbitrary dealing with his creatures. And I cannot apprehend why men should be averse from these so agreeable and delightful apprehensions of God; or how it should be any man’s interest to lessen the goodness of God: for most certainly the better God is in himself, the better and happier it will be for us all, if it be not our own fault.
3. From what hath been said concerning the happiness of the Divine nature, we may learn wherein our happiness must consist; namely, in the image and in the favour of God: in the favour of God, as the cause of our happiness; and in the image of God, as a necessary inward disposition and qualification for it. Unless God love us, we cannot be happy; for miserable are they whom he hates: for 339God to say of any man, that his “soul hath no plea sure in him,” imports as great misery, and as dreadful a curse, as can be imagined, and his soul can have no pleasure in a bad man; “for he loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity: he is not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him: the wicked shall not stand in his sight; he hateth all the workers of iniquity.” Nay, if we could suppose that he could love and take pleasure in any person that is unlike to him (which is impossible), yet that person could not be happy, because he would want that inward frame and disposition of mind, which is necessary to happiness; for the very same causes and ingredients which make up the happiness of God, must, in an inferior degree, be found in us, otherwise we cannot be happy; no, though a man were in heaven, if he be still a bad man, Coelium, non animum mutavit; he hath only changed the climate, and is gone into another country, but he bears himself still about him, and his mind is not changed; which would signify a thousand times more to his happiness, than any place or out ward circumstance whatsoever. A bad man, where soever he goes, hath a root of gall and bitterness within him, and is miserable from himself; he hath a fiend in his own breast, and the fuel of hell in a guilty conscience.
For there is a certain temper and disposition of mind that is necessary and essential to happiness, and that is holiness and goodness, which is the nature of God; and so much as any person departs from this temper, so far he removes himself, and runs away from happiness: and as sin is a departure from God, so the punishment of it is likewise expressed by departing from him; “Depart from 340me, ye cursed; depart from me, all ye that work iniquity, I know you not.”
And this is one great part of the misery of those degenerate and accursed spirits, the devils, who are for ever banished from the presence of God, that they are of a temper quite contrary to God, wicked and impure, envious and malicious, mischievous and cruel; and such a temper is naturally a torment and disquiet to itself. And here the foundation of hell is laid in the evil disposition of our minds; and till this be cured, and set right, it is as impossible for any of us to be happy, as it is for a limb that is out of joint to be at ease. And the external presence of God and a local heaven (if we could imagine such a person to be admitted into it, and see all the glories of that place, and the pleasures and delights of that state); all this, I say, would signify no more to make a bad man happy, than heaps of gold and diamonds, and concerts of the most delicious music, and a well-spread table, and a rich and costly bed, would contribute to a man’s ease in the paroxysm of a fever, or in a violent fit of the stone; because the man hath that within which torments him, and till that be removed he cannot possibly be at ease. The man’s spirit is out of order, and off the hinges, and tossed from its centre; and till that be set right, and restored to its proper place and state by goodness and holiness, the man will be perpetually restless, and cannot possibly have any ease or peace in his mind: for how can there be peace, how can there be happiness to him, who is of a temper directly opposite to it? “The wicked,” saith the prophet, (Isa. lvii. 20, 21.) “is like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” So long as there is impurity in 341our hearts, and guilt upon our consciences, they will be restlessly working: “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” The Hebrew word which we translate peace, signifies all kind of happiness; there can be no felicity to a bad man. The consideration whereof should put us upon the most serious and earnest endeavours to be like God, that we may be capable of his favour, and partakers of his felicity. The Divine nature is the only perfect idea of happiness, and nothing but our conformity to it can make us happy.
I have been so long upon this argument, on purpose to convince men of the necessity of holiness and goodness, and all other virtues, to our present and future happiness. They understand not the nature of happiness, who hope for it, or imagine they can attain it, in any other way. The Author and the Fountain of happiness, he that made us, and alone can make us happy, cannot make us so in any other way, than by planting in us such a disposition of mind, as is in truth a participation of the Divine nature, and by endowing us with such qualities as are the necessary materials and ingredients of happiness. There is no way to partake of the felicity of God, blessed for ever, but by becoming holy and righteous, good and merciful, as he is.
All men naturally desire happiness, and seek after it, and are, as they think, travelling towards it, but generally they mistake their way. Many are eager in the pursuit of the things of this world, and greedily catch at pleasures, and riches, and honour, as if these could make them happy; but when they come to embrace them, they find that they are but clouds and shadows, and that there is no real and substantial felicity in them. “Many say, Who will 342shew us any good?” meaning the good things of this? world, corn, and wine, and oil: but wouldest thou be happy indeed, endeavour to be like the Pattern of happiness, and the Fountain of it; address thyself to him in the prayer of the Psalmist, “Lord, lift thou up upon me the light of thy countenance, and that shalt put more joy and gladness into my heart,” than the men of the world can have, “when their corn and their wine increaseth.”
Many say, “Lo here!” and “Lo there!” that happiness is in a great place, or in a plentiful estate, or in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures and delights; but “believe them not;” happiness is something that is nearer and more intimate to us, than any of the things of this world; it is “within thee, in thine heart,” and in the very inward frame and disposition of thy mind.
In a word, if ever we would be happy, we must be like “the blessed God,” we must be holy, and merciful, and good, and just, as he is, and then we are secure of his favour; for “the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and his countenance will behold the upright.” Then we shall be qualified for the enjoyment of him, and take pleasure in communion with him, because we shall be like him. For the surest foundation of love and friendship, is a similitude of temper and disposition; every thing naturally affects its own likeness, and moves towards it, and greedily catcheth at it, and gladly runs into the embraces of it. God and man must be like one another, before they can take pleasure in one another; if we be unlike to God, it is in the nature of the thing impossible that we should be happy in one another, and therefore there must be a change either in God or us, to bring about this likeness. The nature of God 343is inflexible, fixed, and unchangeable; therefore change thyself, sinner, and endeavour to be like God; for since he cannot depart from his holiness and purity, thou must leave thy sins, and “be holy as he is holy,” if ever thou hopest to be happy, as he is; “Every man that hath this hope in him,” must “purify himself, even as he is pure.”
Now to this “happy and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, and dwelleth in that light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to him be honour and power everlasting.—Amen.”344
|« Prev||Sermon CXXXI. The Happiness of God.||Next »|