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THE POWER OF GOD.
God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God.—Psalm lxii. 11.
IN treating of the attributes of God, I have considered those which relate to the Divine understanding, to which I referred his knowledge and wisdom; those also which relate to the Divine will; viz. God’s justice, truth, holiness, and goodness: I come now to consider his power of acting, which is his omnipotency; this I shall speak to from these words.
In the beginning of this Psalm, David declares that God was the great object of his trust and confidence, and that all his hopes and expectation of safety and deliverance were from him, (ver. 1, 2.) And this makes him challenge his enemies for all their mischievous qualities and devices against him, as vain attempts, (ver. 3, 4.) Hereupon he chargeth himself to continue his trust and confidence in God, from whom was all his expectation, and who was able to save and deliver him, (ver. 5-7.) And from his example and experience, he encourageth and exhorts all others to trust in God, (ver. 8.) and that from two arguments.
1. Because all other objects of our trust and confidence are vain and insufficient, and will fail those that rely upon them. If we will rely upon any thing in this world, it must either be persons or things; but we cannot safely repose our trust in either of these. Not in persons: they may be reduced to one of 151these two heads, either high or low: those that are of a mean condition, it would be in vain to trust them; they that cannot secure themselves from meanness, cannot secure others from mischief; “Men of low degree are vanity:” but the great ones of the world, they seem to promise something of assistance and security to us; but if we depend upon them, they will frustrate us; “Men of high degree are a lie.” As for the things of the world, that which men usually place their confidence in, is riches; these are either got by unlawful or lawful means; if they be ill gotten, by oppression or robbery, they will be so far from securing us from evil, that they will bring it upon us; if they be well gotten, they are of such an uncertain nature, that we have little reason to place our hopes in them; “if riches increase, set not your hearts upon them;” that is, your hope; for heart in Scripture signifies any of the affections.
2. Because God is the proper object of our trust and confidence. We may safely rely upon any one, in whom these two things concur a power to help us, and goodness to incline him so to do. Now David tells us, that both these are eminently in God, and do in a peculiar manner belong to him; power, (ver. 11.) and goodness, (ver. 12.)
I shall speak to that which David makes the first ground of our confidence, the power of God; “power belongs to God:” for which he brings the testimony of God himself; “once hath God spoken, yea, twice have I heard this.” Some interpreters trouble themselves about the meaning of this expression, as if it did refer to some particular revelation of God: and then again, they are troubled how to reconcile God’s speaking this but once, with David’s hearing it twice: but I do not love to spy mysteries in those expressions, 152which are capable of a plain sense; for I understand no more by it but this, that God hath several times revealed this; he frequently declared himself by this attribute, .” once, yea twice;” that is, he hath spoken it often, and David had heard it often. This is answerable to that phrase of the Latins, Semel atque iterum; and it is usual in all writers, to use a certain number for an uncertain, and particularly among poets, Felices ter et amplius.—Horace. And so in the poetical writers of Scripture: (Job v. 19.) He hath “delivered thee in six troubles, yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee;” that is, in several and various troubles. (Eccles. xi. 2.) “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight;” that is, distribute thy charity to many: and, which is nearest to this, (Job xl. 5.) “Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no farther;” that is, I have had several discourses with my friends: and (xxxiii. 14.) “God speaketh once, yea, twice, in a dream, in a vision of the night;” that is, God reveals himself in several ways and manners to men: so here, “God hath spoken once, yea, twice;” that is, God hath often declared this. And if I would be so curious to refer to a particular declaration of God, I should think that it related either to the preface to the law, “I am the Lord thy God,” that is, the great and powerful God, “that brought thee out of the land of Egypt;” or rather to the declaration which God made of himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of the Almighty God, (Gen. xvii. 1.) Concerning which revelation of God, it is said expressly, (Exod. vi. 3.) “I appeared unto Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah, was I not known to them.”153
But that which I design to speak to is the proposition itself, that power belongs to God; that is, that the excellency of power, power in its highest degree and perfection, all power belongs to God; that is, that omnipotence is a property or perfection of the Divine nature.
In the handling of this I shall shew,
First, What we are to understand by the omnipotence of God.
Secondly, That this perfection belongs to God.
First, What we are to understand by the omnipotence of God. And this I shall consider,
I. As to the principle. And,
II. As to the exercise of it.
I. As to the principle; it is an ability to do all things, the doing of which speaks power and perfection; that is, whatever is not repugnant either to the nature of things, or of God; whatever does not imply a contradiction in the thing, or an imperfection in the doer; an ability to do all things which are consistent with itself, and with the Divine nature and perfection; by which we must mean an executive power, the effect whereof is without himself; for what he is said to do within himself, the acts of his understanding and will, as we conceive his will to be distinct from his power, are not to be referred to his omnipotence. To have a right conception of omnipotence, we must imagine the most perfect active principle that we can, and it is still something more perfect than that, or any thing we can imagine. To help our conception,
1. Let us imagine a principle from which all other power is derived, and upon which it depends, 154and to which it is perfectly subject and subordinate.
2. A perfect active principle, which can do, not only what any finite being or creature can do, but what all beings joined together can do; nay, more and greater things than they all can do.
3. A perfect active principle, to which nothing can make any considerable, much less effectual resistance, which can check and countermand at pleasure, and carry down before it, and annihilate all other powers that we can imagine besides this; because we cannot imagine any other power, that is not derived from this, and does not depend upon it.
4. A perfect active principle, which can do all things in a most perfect manner, and can do all things at once, and in an instant, and that with ease. We can but do one thing at once; and the greater and more considerable it is, the more time it will ask us to do it, and we find it the harder and more difficult to be done: but God, to whose knowledge all things are present at once, and together, and the acts of whose will are as quick and perfect as of his understanding, hath a power answerable to the perfection of both; and therefore it is as easy to him to do all things, as one thing; at once, as successively, and in time. For this is the privilege of an infinite Spirit, that it does not only act without hands and material engines or instruments, as every spirit doth, but without motion from one place to another; because he is every where, and fills all places; he acts per modum voluntatis, as if his actings were nothing else but a willing that such a thing be done; and, ipso facto, every thing is so, as he wills it should be, and when he wills it should be; as if things did start up into 155being, or vanish out of being, as if they did break forth into being, and sculk again into nothing, and undergo such and such changes, ad nutum voluntatis, “at the beck of his will.” And this is the most perfect way of acting that can be imagined, which the Scripture seems to express to us, when it represents God as making things by his word, up holding all things by the word of his power; as if he did but speak the word, and say, Let such a thing be, and it was so; as if there were nothing more required to the doing of any thing, but an express act of the Divine will, which is all we can understand by God’s speaking, by his word, and voice, and saying, Let things be; but the least that it can signify, is the quick and speedy manner of working, whereby God is able to do things in an instant, as soon as a word can be spoken.
And as he can do all things at once, and in an instant, so with ease, without any pain or laborious endeavour; for what is it that can object any difficulty to him? At the first creation of things, there was nothing to resist him; and since the creation, here is nothing but what was made by him, and consequently all, whose power is derived from him, and depends upon him, and is subject to him, and being finite and limited, is infinitely unequal to the infinite power of God; so that we may imagine the Divine power would pass through all the resistance hat all created power can make, and all the difficulties it can object to it, with more ease than a bullet passeth through the thin air, or a man would pass through a net of cobweb.
5. The most perfect active principle we can imagine, the utmost bounds and limits of whose perfection we cannot imagine, that is, when we have 156imagined it to be as perfect, and to act in as perfect a manner as we can imagine, yet we have not reached the perfection of it; but after all this, that it can do many things more than we can imagine, and in a manner much more perfect than we can imagine. This is the omnipotence of God as to the principle, which hath no bounds and limits. And,
II. As to the exercise of it, it is only limited by the Divine will and wisdom. The Divine will determines it to its exercise, the Divine wisdom directs and regulates the exercise of it; that is, God exerciseth his power willingly, and not by necessity, and in such manner, for the producing such effects, and in order to such ends and purposes, as seem best to his wisdom. Hence he is said to act all things according to his good pleasure, and according to the counsel of his will; that is, freely and wisely.
As to the extent of this power, I said it was an ability to do all things that are consistent with itself, and with the nature and perfection of God.
First, That are consistent with itself; that is, with a power to do all things. It is a contradiction to imagine that omnipotence can do that, which, if it could be done, would render all power insignificant. Upon this account, the Divine power is not said to extend to the working of any thing which implies a contradiction, and the terms whereof speak a repugnancy to one another, and mutually destroy one another, and the doing whereof is contrary to the nature of the thing which is supposed to be done; that is, is nonsense, and cannot be imagined to be. For example, that a thing should be, and not be, at the same time. For a power to make a thing to be, 157so as it should not be while it is, signifies nothing, because such a being as is not, is nothing; and to make such a being, would be to do nothing, and consequently such a power would signify nothing. So likewise we cannot say, that the Divine power can cause that the same thing should be made and not be made; that that which hath been, should not have been; for the power which makes a thing, so as that it was not made, and causeth a thing to have been, so as that it hath not been, does nothing; and consequently is no power. Nor can we say, that the Divine power can effect that any thing should be made by itself; that is, be the cause of its own being; for that would be to cause that a thing should be before it is; that is, be when it is not, which signifies nothing. We cannot say, that the Divine power can effect, that twice two should not make four; for that would be to cause that things should not be what they are, if they be at all; which is to cause that things should be, and not be at all, when they are, which amounts to nothing.
We cannot say, the Divine power can make a sound to be seen, and colour to be heard; for that would be to make colour and sound all one; that is, things that differ, to be the same while they differ, which is to make colour and sound not to be colour and sound while they are so; which is to do nothing, and consequently argues no power.
We cannot say, that the Divine power can make that which is intrinsically and essentially good to be evil; and on the contrary: or that which is necessarily true to be false; and on the contrary. For to make that which is intrinsically and essentially to be evil, is to make that which is always 158good to be sometimes evil; that is, to be evil whilst it is good; that is, to make good and evil all one; which is to bring two things together, which so soon as they do exist, destroy one another, which is to no purpose, because it is to do just nothing; and there is the same reason of true and false.
We cannot say, that the power of God can cause that the same thing should be hot and cold, dead and alive, at the same time, because these destroy one another; and if they were both, neither of them would be, and so the effect we attribute to this power would be nothing.
We cannot say, that the Divine power can effect that the same impression should give a thing two contrary motions, upward and downward, at the same time; that the same body should be in two contrary postures, in motion and at rest, and in several places, which are the contradictions of transubstantiation; for the same body to be at the same time in two several places, is to be limited and circumscribed by each of these; that is, so to be in each of them, as not to be in the other, or in any other; so that if it be in this place, it is not in that, nor in any other besides this; if it be in that place, it is not in this, nor any other besides that; but if it be in two, it is both in this and in that, and therefore in neither of them, nor any where else; so that a power to make a body to be in two places at once, is a power to make it to be no where; that is, not to be at all, which is no power; and there is the same reason of the same bodies being in contrary motion, or in motion and at rest, or in two contrary postures at the same time.
So that by all these instances, it appears, that a power to do any thing which implies a contradiction, 159and is repugnant to the nature of things, signifies nothing; and the supposed effect of it is only to bring terms together, which, if they could be brought together, so soon as they meet, will mutually take away and destroy one another, which would be vain, and to no purpose.
I have the more explicitly laid open these contradictions, with relation to the gross doctrine of transubstantiation, in which all or most of the contradictions which I have mentioned, are involved. I know they stiffly deny that these contradictions follow from that doctrine, and use pitiful shifts to avoid them; but being not able to satisfy themselves that way, if the worst should come to the worst, they can grant these contradictions, but then they fly to the power of God, which can do things which we call contradictions; or else they say, there are as many contradictions in the doctrine of the trinity, which all Christians believe. And thus they reproach Christianity to defend popery; and if they cannot persuade men to be papists, do what they can to make them atheists, or at least to hinder them from being Christians; but there is not so much malice in this objection, but there is as little strength. Is it any contradiction, that the same thing should be three and one in several respects? which is all that the Scripture teacheth concerning the Trinity: but if men will undertake to explain this more particularly than God thought fit to do, and do it in such a manner, as that they cannot free themselves from contradiction, let them look to it; the Christian religion is not at all concerned in this farther than to censure such men’s boldness and curiosity.
But against this exemption of things that imply a 160contradiction from the compass and extent of the Divine power, there are two objections which are more considerable, and deserve to be taken notice of.
I. We grant God’s fore-knowledge of future events, which seem to us to be impossible to be foreknown. Now, why may we not as well grant that God can do things which seem to us impossible to be done by any other power, as foreknow things which it is impossible for any understanding to know? For why should we pretend to know the utmost of what infinite power can do, any more than the utmost of what infinite understanding can know?
Answer.—I know no reason but that the argument should be granted, if there were an equal necessity of granting the possibility of those things which seem to us impossible to be done, that there is of granting the possibility of foreknowing future contingencies, though they seem to us impossible to be known. We must grant the possibility of foreknowing future contingencies, because the Scripture, which we believe to be a Divine revelation, expressly tells us, that God doth foreknow them, and gives us instances of it in several prophecies and predictions. Now, if any man can shew me as express texts, which say, that God can make a body to be in two places at once, I would believe it, though I do not see how it is possible; because it is reasonable I should believe that infinite power can do many things, the possibility of which my finite understanding cannot reach. Now, whereas the papists say, the Scripture hath said, that from which this necessarily follows, viz. “This is my body;” this is not enough, unless they could either prove that it is necessary to understand all texts of 161Scripture in a rigorous and strict propriety of the letter, without admitting of any trope or figure in the words, which they do not pretend; or else shew a clear reason why this should be understood so, more than a thousand others; which they have not done, and I think never can do.
But if it be farther argued; if we grant in one case, that those things which seem to be contradictions to us, may be possible, why not in all cases; unless we had some certain way of distinguishing between seeming contradictions and real ones? And if we grant all contradictions possible, then there is no reason to exempt these from the extent of the Divine power; but we may safely say, that the Divine power can make a thing to be, and not to be, at the same time. To this I answer,
1. I do not grant that any thing which seems to me to be a contradiction, ought to be granted by me to be possible, unless I have higher assurance and greater reason to believe it to be possible, than I have to believe it to be a contradiction: for example, suppose it were clearly revealed in Scripture, that two bodies may be in the same place, and at the same time (which is not, nor any thing like it); then, having a revelation for this, and no revelation that it is not a contradiction, I have higher assurance, and greater reason to believe it possible, than that it is a contradiction; and consequently, I have reason to believe it is no contradiction, and that from thence it would not follow, that the same thing may be, and not be, at the same time: but though in case of Divine revelation, I may believe that to be no contradiction, which seems to me to be a contradiction; yet I am not, without great necessity and clear evidence, to offer violence to reason, 162and affront the faculty of understanding which God hath endowed me withal, by entertaining any thing which seems to me to be a contradiction; which the papists do in the business of transubstantiation, without any evidence of revelation, and consequently without necessity.
2. But if this were revealed in Scripture, that the same thing may be, and not be, at the same time, I could have no reason to believe that, because I could have no assurance, if that were true, that the Scriptures were a Divine revelation, or that it were to be believed if it were; for if it were true, that the same thing may be and not be, then a Divine revelation may be no Divine revelation; and when I am bound to believe a thing, I may be bound at the same time not to believe it; and so all things would fall into uncertainty, and the foundation of all assurance, and of all duty and obedience, both of faith and practice, would be taken away.
The second objection is from the power of creation, which is generally acknowledged to be a making of something out of nothing. Now, say the objectors, this seems as palpable a contradiction as any thing else.
Answer.—To us, indeed, who converse with material things, and never saw any thing made but out of pre-existent matter, it is very hard to conceive how any thing should be created, that is, produced out of nothing: but every thing that is strange is not a contradiction. It is strange to us, and hard to conceive, that there should be such a thing as a spirit, who never saw, nor can see any thing but matter; and yet we grant there are spirits. It is hard to us to conceive how any thing should be made but out of matter; and yet spirit, if it were 163made of any thing pre-existent, cannot be made of matter: but if we will attend to those common dictates of reason, which every man, whether he will or no, must assent to, we may easily understand creation to be possible, and free from contradiction. For the clearing of this, I will proceed by these steps:
1. The true notion of creation is, the bringing of something into being, which before had no being at all; for the phrase of making something out of no thing, or out of no pre-existent matter, does mislead our understandings into odd conceits, as if nothing could be the material cause of something, or as if nothing could be what is material.
2. Every one must grant, that something is; for we see that things are, however they came to be.
3. Every one must grant, that something is of itself, whether matter, or that being which we call God.
4. Every one must grant, that that which was of itself, was always; for nothing can begin of itself.
5. It is much more easy to conceive how a thing, that once was not, might sometimes be brought into being by another, than how a thing should be always of itself; for that which once was not, is supposed to have something before it, by which it might be made, though not out of which it was made; but that which was always, neither had, nor could have any thing, by which or out of which it could be made. And why cannot a thing come into being, when there was nothing before it out of which it was made, as well as a thing be always, when there could not be any thing before it out of which it should be?
Secondly, I exempt those things from the extent of omnipotence, which imply imperfection, which 164are contrary to the nature and perfection of God, both natural and moral imperfections; for these also destroy power, because they are not arguments of power, but of impotence. Natural imperfections; as, to die, to be sick, to be in want, to eat, to sleep, to forget, &c. Moral imperfections, those which contradict the holiness of God, as sin and vice, or to compel any to sin; which contradict his goodness, as to be cruel; which contradict his truth, as to lie, to deceive, to break his promise, to deny himself. (Tit. i. 2; 2 Tim. ii. 13; Jam. i. 12.) He is said to be ἀπείραστος κακῶν, contrary to the constancy and immutability of his nature, as to change his decree, to repent; contrary to justice and equity, as for ever to spare and to pardon obstinate sinners, eternally to punish innocent and good men; for these are moral imperfections, and contradict the holiness, and truth, and goodness, and justice, and immutability of the Divine nature; and that distinction between God’s absolute and ordinate power, that is, that God hath an absolute power of doing some things, which yet, upon supposition of his decree, or promise, or goodness, or justice, he cannot do, is vain and frivolous, unless men mean by it only this, that some things which argue an imperfection, do not imply a contradiction, which is most true; but both these are absolutely and equally impossible to God. I proceed to the
Second thing I proposed, that this perfection be longs to God: and this I shall shew,
I. From the dictates of natural light.
II. From Scripture or Divine revelation.
I. From the dictates of natural light. This was one of the most usual titles which the heathens gave to their supreme Deity, Optimus Maximus; next to 165his goodness they placed his greatness, which does chiefly appear in his power; and they did not only attribute a great power to him, but an omnipotence. Nihil est quod Deus efficere, non potest, (saith Tully de Div.) Now their natural reason did convince them, that this perfection did belong to God by these three arguments:
1. From those two great instances and expressions of his power, creation and providence; for the heathens did generally acknowledge the making of the world, and the preservation and government of it, to be the effects of power, determined by goodness, and regulated by wisdom. Hence they gave those titles to God of Opifex Rerum, and Rector Mundi. I say generally; I except Aristotle, who supposed the world not to have been made, but to have been from eternity; and Epicurus with his followers, who ascribed the regular and orderly frame of nature to a happy casualty and fortunate concourse of atoms: but, generally, the wiser did look upon the vast frame of nature, this stately fabric of the world, and the upholding and preserving of it, as an argument of a Divine and invisible power. And so the apostle tells us, (Rom. i. 20.) that by the light of nature “the invisible things of God were clearly seen by the things that were made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”
2. Because all other perfections, without this, would be insignificant and ineffectual, or else could not be at all. Without this, goodness would be an empty piece of good meaning, and not able to give any demonstration of itself; knowledge would be an idle speculation; and wisdom to contrive things, without power to effect them, would be an useless thing. There would be no such thing as 166justice, if the Divine nature were without a power to reward and punish; no such thing as faithfulness, if he had not a power to perform what he promises; no providence, for it would be in vain for him that hath no power, to take upon him to govern and to intermeddle in the affairs of the world.
3. Without this there could be no religion. Take away the power of God, and there can be no foundation of faith and trust, no reason for fear; all arguments from hope and fear would be taken away; we could not expect any good, nor fear any harm, from an impotent being that could do nothing. The sanction of God’s laws would be taken away. To give authority to laws, there must not only be a right to command, but power to back those commands; the grand security and last resort of all government and authority is power. (James iv. 12.) “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save, and to destroy.” None can be a lawgiver, but he that hath this power, to reward and punish, to make men happy or miserable, “to save, or to destroy.” Men would not pray to God, nor make any address to him, if they did not believe he was able to supply their wants, and relieve them in their straits; Nec in hunc furorem omnes mortales consensissent alloquendi surda numina et inefficaces deos.—Seneca. There would be no encouragement for men to serve God, if they did not believe that he was able to reward them, and bring them to happiness, and to defend them against all the enemies of their welfare, so that it should not be in the power of the most malicious spirits to hinder them of their happiness.
II. From Scripture, or Divine revelation. In producing texts to this purpose, I will proceed by these steps:167
1. Take notice of those which in general ascribe power, and might, and strength to God. (Psal. xxiv. 8.) “The Lord, strong and mighty.” “So girt with power; the mighty God; thine is the greatness and the power; thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” Of the same nature are those places which call upon all creatures to ascribe this to God; “Give unto the Lord, ye mighty; give unto the Lord glory and strength.”
2. Those which ascribe this to God in an eminent degree. (Job ix. 4.) “He is mighty in strength; excellent in power; who is like unto him? The Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”
3. Those texts which ascribe such a power as transcends any human or created power. Such as those which express all the power which men have to be derived from God: (John xix. 11.) “Thou couldest have no power at all, except it were given thee from above.” And those which advance the power of God above the power of men: (Luke xviii. 27.) “The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God: he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.” (Eph. iii. 20. 2 Chron. xx. 6. Job ix. 4.) “According to his mighty power, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (Phil. iii. 21. Dan. iv. 35.) Those which declare all things to be equally easy to him, and nothing difficult: “There is no thing too hard for thee.” (Jer. xxxii. 17. 2 Chron. xiv. 11. 1 Sam. xiv. 6.)
4. Those which ascribe all power to him, by the titles of “Almighty, All-sufficient.” (Gen. xvii. 1. Rev. iv. 8. 11; xv. 3; xvi. 7; xix. 16. Job xlii. 2.) “Thou canst do all things.” (Matt. xix. 6. Mark x. 27. Luke i. 37)168
I have dispatched what I proposed upon this argument; give me leave to apply all in the following particulars.
Use. First, The consideration of God’s omnipotence may cause terror to wicked men. All this power which I have described, or rather which is so great that I cannot describe it, is engaged against sinners; “his power and his wrath is against all that forsake him:” (Ezra viii. 22.) And who knows what those words signify, (Psal. xc. 11.) “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? as is thy fear, so is thy wrath.” There is no passion in the heart of man more infinite than our fear, it troubles us with jealousy and suspicion of the utmost that may happen; but when we have extended our fears to the utmost, the power of God’s wrath reacheth farther. Whenever we sin, we challenge the Almighty, and dare infinite power to do its worst to us. (Job xv. 25.) Speaking of the wicked man, “He stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengthened! himself against the Almighty.” Whom wilt thou fear, if not him who can make thee extremely happy or miserable for ever? “Will ye provoke the Lord to jealousy? are ye stronger than he?” Because he doth nothing against thee for the present, thinkest thou he can do nothing? (Nah. i. 3.) “He is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not acquit the wicked.” There is a day coming, when “the Son of man shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
Secondly, The consideration of God’s omnipotence should check the pride and vain confidence of men. What have we to be proud of? “What have we that we have not received? Where then is cause of boasting? Who may glory in his sight?” 169Those that have the greatest power, should remember whence it is derived, and render back the glory of it to the fountain of it. (Psal. xxix. 1.) “Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.” So likewise it should take men off from relying upon their own strength, which at the best is but “an arm of flesh,” as the Scripture calls it, for the weakness of it. Do we not see, that many times “the battle is not to the strong?” that things are not done “by might and by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord?” When he appears against the most potent, “their hearts melt within them, and there is no more spirit left in them,” as it is said of the mighty inhabitants of Canaan, (Josh. v. 1.)
Thirdly, We should make this omnipotence of God the object of our trust and confidence. This is the most proper use we can make of this doctrine, as David does in this Psalm; and this was used for a form of blessing the people in the name of God; (Psal. cxxxiv. 3.) “The Lord that made heaven and earth, bless thee.” And David, when he magnifies God’s deliverance of his people from the multitude of their enemies, resolves it into this, “our help standeth in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Thus did the great pattern and example of faith encourage and support his confidence in God in a very difficult trial; he staggered not at it, because “he believed God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things that be not as though they were: therefore against hope he believed in hope,” &c. (Rom. iv. 17, &c.) This gives life to all our devotion, to be persuaded that “God is able to do for us exceedingly above what we can ask or think,” and that “his is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.”170
I shall only caution two things, as to our reliance on the power of God.
I. Labour to be such persons, to whom God hath promised that he will engage and employ his omni potence for their good. If we hope for any good from the Almighty, we must walk before him, and be perfect, as he said to Abraham. Good men have a peculiar interest in God’s power; hence he is called “the Strength of Israel,” and “the mighty One of Israel.” If we do what God requires of us, we may expect that he will put forth his power, and exert his arm for us; but if we disobey, we must expect he will manifest his power against us, (Ez. viii. 22.) When we do well, we may “commit the keeping of our souls to him,” (1 Pet. iv. 19.)
II. Our expectations from the omnipotence of God must be with submission to his pleasure, and goodness, and wisdom; we must not expect that God will manifest his power when we think there is occasion for it; but when it seems best to him, he will so employ his omnipotence, as to manifest his goodness and wisdom.
And with these two cautions, we may rely upon him in all our wants, both spiritual and temporal; for his Divine power can “give us all things that pertain to life and goodness,” (2 Pet. i. 3.) We may trust him at all times, for the omnipotent God “neither slumbereth nor sleepeth; the Almighty fainteth not, neither is he weary. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”171
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