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THE WISDOM OF GOD IN THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.
O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.—Psalm civ. 24.
I AM treating of the attributes and properties of God, particularly those which relate to the Divine understanding, which I told you are his knowledge and wisdom. I have finished the first, the knowledge of God. The last day I spake concerning the wisdom of God in general; but there are three eminent arguments and famous instances of God’s wisdom, which I have reserved for a more large and particular handling. The wisdom of God shines forth in the creation of the world, in the government of it, and in the redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ. Of these three I shall speak severally.
I begin with the first, the argument of God’s wisdom, which the creation doth furnish us withal. In this visible frame of the world, which we behold with our eyes, which way soever we look, we are encountered with ocular demonstrations of the wisdom of God. What the apostle saith of the power of God is true likewise of his wisdom: (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:” so the eternal wisdom of God is under stood by the things which are made. Now the 424creation is an argument of the wisdom of God, as it is an effect of admirable counsel and wisdom. As any curious work or rare engine doth argue the wit of the artificer; so the variety, and order, and regularity, and fitness of the works of God, argue the infinite wisdom of Him who made them; a work so beautiful and magnificent, such a stately pile, as heaven and earth is, so curious in the several pieces of it, so harmonious in all its parts, every part so fitted to the service of the whole, and each part for the service of another; is not this a plain argument that there was infinite wisdom in the contrivance of this frame?
Now I shall endeavour to prove to you, that this frame of things, which we see with our eyes, which we call the world or the creation, is contrived after the best manner, and hath upon it evident impressions of counsel and wisdom. I grant the wisdom of God is infinite, and that many of the ends and designs of his wisdom are “unsearchable, and past finding out,” both in the works of creation and providence; and, that “though a wise man seek to find out the work of God from the beginning to the end, he shall not be able to do it;” and we shall never be able to exhaust all the various wisdom and contrivance which is in the works of God; though the oftener and the nearer we meditate upon them, the more we shall see to admire in them; the more we study this book of the creation, the more we shall be astonished at the wisdom of the Author: but this doth not hinder but that we may discover something of the wisdom of God, though it be in finite. As the effects of infinite power may fall under our senses, so the designs of infinite wisdom may fall under our reason and understanding; and 425when things appear to our best reason plainly to be ordered for the best, and the greatest advantages of the world and mankind, so far as we are able to judge; and if they had been otherwise, as they might have been a hundred thousand ways, they would not have been so well; we ought to conclude, that things are thus, and not otherwise, is the result of wisdom.
Now the wisdom of God in the creation will appear by considering the works of God. Those who have studied nature, can discourse these things more exactly and particularly. It would require perfect skill in astronomy, to declare the motions and order of heavenly bodies; and in anatomy, to read lectures of the rare contrivance of the bodies of living creatures. But this, as it is beyond my ability, so it would probably be above most of your capacities; therefore, I shall content myself with some general and more obvious instances of the Divine wisdom, which shines forth so clear in his works, that “he that runs may read it.”
1. I shall take a short survey of the several parts of the world.
2. Single out man, the masterpiece of the visible creation.
1. If we survey the world, and travel over the several parts of it in our thoughts, we shall find that all things in it are made with the greatest exactness, ranged in the most beautiful order, and serve the wisest and best ends.
If we look up to heaven, and take notice only there of that which is most visible, the sun, you see how, by the wise order and constancy of its course, it makes day and night, winter and summer. This the Psalmist takes notice of: (Psal. xix. 1, 2.) “The 426heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” It may easily be imagined, many ways, how the sun might have had another course in reference to the earth; but no man can devise any other, that should not be very much to the prejudice of the world; so that this being the best, it is an argument that wisdom had the ordering and disposing of it.
If we look down to the earth, we shall see gods ascending and descending; I mean clear representations of Divine wisdom in the treasures that are hid in the bowels of it, and those fruits that grow upon the surface of it. What vast heaps, and what variety of useful materials and minerals, are scattered up and down in the earth as one would think with a careless hand, but yet so wisely dispersed, as is most proper for the necessities and uses of several countries! Look upon the surface of the earth, and you shall find it clothed and adorned with plants of various and admirable frame, and beauty, and usefulness. Look upon the vast ocean, and there you may see the wisdom of God in bridling and restraining that unruly element—I mean, in sinking it below the earth; whereas the water might have been above and covered the earth, and then the earth had been in a great measure useless, and incapable of those inhabitants which now possess it.
Look again upon the earth, and in the air and sea, and you shall find all these inhabited, and furnished with great store of living creatures of several kinds, wonderfully made in the frame of their bodies, endowed with strong inclination to increase 427their kinds, and with a natural affection and care towards their young ones; and every kind of these creatures armed either with strength or wit to oppose their enemy, or swiftness to fly from him, or strong holds to secure themselves. But the creation is a vast field, in which we may easily lose ourselves. I shall therefore call home our wandering thoughts; for we need not go out of ourselves for a proof of Divine wisdom. I shall therefore,
2. Select the choicest piece of it, man, who is the top and perfection of this visible world. What is said of the elephant, or behemoth, (Job xl. 19.) in respect of the vast bigness and strength of his body, is only absolutely true of man, that he is divini opificii caput, “the chief of the ways of God, and upon earth there is none like him.” Man is mundi utriusque nexus, “the bond of both worlds,” as Scaliger calls him, in whom the world of bodies, and the world of spirits, do meet and unite; for in respect to his body, he is related to this visible world, and is of the earth; but in respect of his soul, he is allied to heaven, and descended from above. We have looked above us, and beneath us, and about us, upon the several representations of God’s wisdom, and the several parts of the creation; but we have not yet considered the best piece of the visible world, which we may speak of, without flattery of ourselves, and to the praise of our Maker. God, when he had made the world, “he made man after his own image.” When he had finished the other part of the creation, he was pleased to set up this picture of himself in it, as a memorial of the work man. Now we shall a little more particularly consider this piece of God’s workmanship, being it is better known and more familiar to us, as it is more 428excellent than the rest, and, consequently, a higher instance of the Divine wisdom. It is observed by some, that, concerning the parts of the creation, God speaks the word, “Let there be light,” and “Let there be a firmament, and there was so:” but when he comes to make man, he doth, as it were, deliberate, and enter into consultation about him. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion;” (Gen. i. 26.) as if man, above all the rest, were the effect and result of Divine wisdom, and the creature of his counsel.
Man may be considered either in himself, and in respect of the parts of which he consists, soul and body; or with relation to the universe, and other parts of the creation.
1. Consider him in himself, as compounded of soul and body. Consider man in his outward and worse part, and you shall find that to be admirable, even to astonishment; in respect of which, the Psalmist cries out, (Psal. cxxxix. 14.) “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” The frame of our bodies is so curiously wrought, and every part of it so full of miracle, that Galen (who was otherwise backward enough to the belief of a God), when he had anatomized man’s body, and carefully surveyed the frame of it, viewed the fitness and usefulness of every part of it, and the many several intentions of every little vein, and bone, and muscle, and the beauty of the whole; he fell into a pang of devotion, and wrote a hymn to his Creator. And those excellent books of his, De Usu Partium, “of the usefulness and convenient contrivance of every part of the body,” are a most exact demonstration 429of the Divine wisdom, which appears in the make of our body; of which books, Gassendus saith, the whole work is writ with a kind of enthusiasm. The wisdom of God, in the frame of our bodies, very much appears by a curious consideration of the several parts of it; but that requiring a very accurate skill in anatomy, I choose rather wholly to forbear it, than by my unskilfulness to be injurious to the Divine wisdom.
But this domicilium corporis, “the house of our body,” though it be indeed a curious piece, yet it is nothing to the noble inhabitant that dwells in it. The cabinet, though it be exquisitely wrought, and very rich; yet it comes infinitely short in value of the jewel, that is hid and laid up in it. How does the glorious faculty of reason and understanding exalt us above the rest of the creatures! Nature hath not made that particular provision for man, which it hath made for other creatures, because it hath provided for him in general, in giving him a mind and reason. Man is not born clothed, nor armed with any considerable weapon for defence; but he hath reason and understanding to provide these things for himself; and this alone excels all the advantages of other creatures: he can keep himself warmer and safer; he can foresee dangers, and provide against them; he can provide weapons that are better than horns, and teeth, and paws, and, by the advantage of his reason, is too hard for all other creatures, and can defend himself against their violence.
If we consider the mind of man yet nearer, how many arguments of divinity are there in it! That there should be at once in our understandings distinct comprehensions of such variety of objects; 430that it should pass in its thoughts from heaven to earth in a moment, and retain the memory of things past, and take a prospect of the future, and look forward as far as eternity! Because we are familiar to ourselves, we cannot be strange and wonderful to ourselves; but the great miracle of the world is the mind of man, and the contrivance of it an eminent instance of God’s wisdom.
2. Consider man with relation to the universe, and you shall find the wisdom of God doth appear, in that all things are made so useful for man, who was designed to be the chief inhabitant of this visible world, the guest whom God designed principally to entertain in this house which he built. Not that we are to think, that God hath so made all things for man, that he hath not made them at all for himself, and possibly for many other uses than we can imagine; for we much overvalue ourselves, if we think them to be only for us; and we diminish the wisdom of God, in restraining it to one end: but the chief and principal end of many things is the use and service of man; and in reference to this end, you shall find that God hath made abundant and wise provision.
More particularly we will consider man,
1. In his natural capacity as a part of the world. How many things are there in the world for the ser vice and pleasure, for the use and delight of man, which, if man were not in the world, would be of little use? Man is by nature a contemplative creature, and God has furnished him with many objects to exercise his understanding upon, which would be so far useless and lost, if man were not. Who should observe the motions of the stars, and the courses of those heavenly bodies, and all the wonders of nature? 431Who should pry into the secret virtues of plants, and other natural things, if there were not in the world a creature endowed with reason and understanding? Would the beasts of the field study astronomy, or turn chymists, and try experiments in nature?
What variety of beautiful plants and flowers is there! which can be imagined to be of little other use but for the pleasure of man. And if man had not been, they would have lost their grace, and been trod down by the beasts of the field, without pity or observation; they would not have made them into garlands and nosegays. How many sorts of fruits are there which grow upon high trees, out of the reach of beasts! and, indeed, they take no plea sure in them. What would all the vast bodies of trees have served for, if man had not been to build with them, and make dwellings of them? Of what use would all the mines of metal have been, and of coal, and the quarries of stone? would the mole have admired the fine gold? would the beasts of the forest have built themselves palaces, or would they have made fires in their dens?
2. Consider man in his geographical capacity, as I may call it, in relation to his habitation in this or that climate or country. The wisdom of God hath so ordered things, that the necessities of every country are supplied one way or other. Egypt hath no rains; but the river Nil us overflows it, and makes it fruitful. Under the line, where there are excessive heats, every day there are constant gales and breezes of cool wind, to fan and refresh the scorched inhabitants. The hotter countries are furnished with materials for silk, a light clothing; we that are cooler here in England, with materials 432for cloth, a warmer clothing; Russia and Muscovy, which are extreme cold, are provided with warm furs and skins of beasts.
3. Consider man in his capacity of commerce and intercourse. Man is a sociable creature; besides the advantages of commerce with remoter nations, for supplying every country with those conveniences and commodities, which each doth peculiarly afford. And here the wisdom of God does plainly appear, in disposing the sea into several parts of the world, for the more speedy commerce and intercourse of several nations. Now if every country had brought forth all commodities, that had been needless and superfluous, because they might have been had without commerce; besides that, the great encouragement of intercourse among nations, which is so agreeable to human nature, would have been taken away: if every country had been, as now it is, destitute of many things other countries have, and there had been no sea to give an opportunity of traffic, the world had been very defective as to the use of man. Now here appears the wisdom of God, that the world, and all things in it, are contrived for the best.
Thus I have endeavoured to do something to ward the displaying of God’s wisdom in the workmanship of the world, although I am very sensible how much I have been mastered and oppressed by the greatness and weight of so noble an argument. For “who can declare the works of God! and who can shew forth all his praise!”
The use I shall make of what has been said, shall be in three particulars.
1. This confutes the Epicureans, who impute the world, and this orderly and beautiful frame of things 433to chance. Those things which are the proper effects of counsel, and bear the plain impression of wisdom upon them, ought not to be attributed to chance. What a madness is it to grant all things to be as well made, as if the wisest agent upon counsel and design had contrived them; and yet to ascribe them to chance! Now he that denies things to be so wisely framed, must pick holes in the creation, and shew some fault and irregularity in the frame of things, which no man ever yet pretended to do. Did ever any anatomist pretend to shew how the body of man might have been better contrived, and fitter for the uses of a reasonable creature, than it is? or any astronomer to rectify the course of the sun? As for the extravagant and blasphemous speech of Alphonsus, “That if he had stood at God’s elbow when he made the world, he could have told him how to have made it better;” besides his pride, it shews nothing but his ignorance; that he built his astronomy upon a false hypothesis, as is generally believed now by the learned in that science; and no wonder he found fault with the world, when he mistook the frame of it: but those who have been most versed in nature, and have most pried into the secrets of it, have most admired the workmanship both of the great world, and the less.
But if we must suppose the world to be as well made as wisdom could contrive it, which is gene rally granted, it is a monstrous folly to impute it to chance. A man might better say, Archimedes did not make any of his engines by skill, but by chance: and might more easily maintain, that Cardinal Richlieu did not manage affairs by any arts or policy; but they fell out by mere chance. What 434pitiful shifts is Epicurus put to, when the best account he can give of the world is this:—“That matter always was, and the parts of it, in motion, and after a great many trials, the parts of matter at length hampered themselves in this fortunate order wherein they now are; that men, at first, grew out of the earth, were nourished by the navel-string, and when they were strong enough, broke loose and weaned themselves; that the nostrils were made by the waters making themselves a passage out of the body; and the stomach and bowels by the waters forcing a passage downward; that the members of the body were not made for those uses for which they serve, but chanced to be so, and the uses afterwards found out.” Is it worth the while to advance such senseless opinions as these, to deny the wisdom of God? Is it not much easier, and more reasonable to say, that the wisdom of God made all these things, than to trouble ourselves to imagine how all things should happen thus conveniently by chance? Did you ever know any great work, in which there was variety of parts, and an orderly disposition of them required, done by chance, and without the direction of wisdom and counsel? How long time might a man take to jumble a set of four and twenty letters together, before they would fall out to be an exact poem: yea, or to make a book of tolerable sense, though but in prose? How long might a man sprinkle oil and colours upon canvas, with a careless hand, before this would produce the exact picture of a man? And is a man easier made by chance than his picture? He that tells me that this great and curious frame of the world was made by chance, I could much more believe him if he should tell me that Henry the Seventh’s chapel in 435Westminster was not built by any mortal man, but the stones did grow in those forms into which they seem to us to be cut and graven; that the stones, and timber, and iron, and brass, and all the other materials came thither by chance, and upon a day met all happily together, and put themselves into that delicate order, in which we see them so close compacted, that it must be a great chance that parts them again. Now, is it not much easier to imagine how a skilful workman should raise a building, and hew timber, and stones, than how that variety of materials, which is required to a great and stately building, should meet together all of a just bigness, and exactly fitted, and by chance take their places, and range themselves into that order? I insist the longer upon this, because I am sensible how much atheism hath gained in this age.
2. Let us admire, and adore, and praise the wisdom of God, “who hath established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his understanding; who hath made all things in number, weight, and measure;” that is, by exact wisdom. The wise works of God are the proper object of our praise; and this is a day proper for the work of praise and thanksgiving. Now under the gospel, since Christ was clearly revealed, we have new matter of praise and thanksgiving; but as God has given us Christ, so he hath given us our beings. We are not so to remember our Redeemer, as to forget our Creator. The goodness, and power, and wisdom of God, which appears in the creation of the world, ought still to be matter of admiration and praise to Christians. It is a great fault and neglect among Christians, that they are not more taken up with the works of God, and the contemplation 436of the wisdom which shines forth in them. We are apt enough to admire other things, little toys; but we overlook this vast curious engine of the world, and the great Artificer of all things. It was truly said by one, that most men are so stupid and inconsiderate, as to admire the works of a painter or a carver more than the works of God. There are many that have bestowed more eloquence in the praise of a curious picture, or an exact building, than ever they did upon this noble and exquisite frame of the world, or any of the other works of God. We can admire the wisdom, and design, and skill of petty artists, and little engineers; but here is wisdom in the beauty and order of the creation. Did we love God, and take pleasure in the effects of his wisdom and power, we should be more in the contemplation of them. (Psal. cxi. 2.) “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein:” let us then say with the Psalmist, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches,” &c.
More particularly let us, with a humble thank fulness, admire the wisdom which hath made and disposed all things so fitly for our use and service, and with so merciful a respect to us: the light and influence of heaven; the beasts and the fruits of the earth. We find the Psalmist often praising God upon this account, (Psal. cxxxvi. 4, 5, &c.) The wisdom which hath framed these bodies of ours, (Psal. cxxxix. 14-16.) Which hath endowed us with knowledge and understanding. Elihu complains, that men were apt to overlook these great blessings of God. (Job xxxv. 10-12.) “But none saith, Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the 437night? who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven? There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men.”
3. Use. Trust the wisdom of God, which made the world, to govern it, and the affairs of it; and the wisdom which hath framed thy body in so curious and exquisite a manner, and formed thy spirit with in thee, and hath made so many creatures with reference to thy necessity and comfort, trust him for thy future provision. (Matt. vi. 25.) “I say unto you, Take no thought for your lives, what ye shall eat,” &c. “Is not the life more than meat? and the body than raiment?” He hath given us our souls; he hath breathed into us the breath of life, and made these bodies without our care and thought; he hath done the greater, will he not do the less? When thou art ready anxiously and solicitously to say, What shall I do for the necessaries of life? consider whence thou didst receive thy life; who made this body of thine; thou mayest be assured, that the wisdom which hath created these, considered how to supply them; the wisdom of God knew that you would want all these, and hath accordingly provided for them, therefore “fear not.”438
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