Sunday, February 8, 2009

Section 13: Nothing can be done without God's Providence, though contrary to his Will.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 13 (p. 51-52)
Nothing can be done without God's Providence, though contrary to his Will.

How much the Holy Will of God is contradicted, by the Instigation and Actions of Devils and Wicked Men, is so notorious through the Word of God, and the whole World, that it needs no demonstration, seeing it is impossible for him that is perfected good to will any wicked thing. Jer. 2.5. "What Iniquity have your Fathers found in me?" Jam. 1.13, 14. "God tempteth not any Man, but every Man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own Lust, and enticed." It is granted, by those that hold the Secret Will of God dissonant from us, (which because Secret we shall not dispute) 1. That the revealed Will is good, because it commands Good only, and makes us good, and leads us to the Everlasting Good, even Heavenly Blessedness. 2. It is acceptable, because nothing is pleasing to God, which is not agreeable to His Will; and that doth highly please him, which accordeth with his Law and Gospel. 3. Perfect, because it containeth all things belonging to Perfection, &c. To all this we willing subscribe. But to call God's Permission, his Will, we suppose to be dangerous; for though he permit or suffer men to do evil, yet he in no wise willeth it, but willeth the direct contrary; as appears in his severe threatning of Adam, and in him all Mankind, with Death, if he did contrary to his Will, Gen 2.17. The like to Noah and his Sons, Gen. 9. and in them all Generations of Men that were to succeed them. How frequently doth he rebuke his Ancient People the Jews for this, and would divert them from that which is contrary to his Will (which yet he permitted) with great intreaty, Jer. 44.4. "O do not this abominable thing, which I hate." To which agrees the consent of all Holy Writers resulting in this, "That this is the Will of God, even your Sanctification; and that you abstain from Fornication," 1 Thess. 4.3.

2. When we say, that nothing comes to pass without God's Providence. We do not mean (as some) That God hath eternally determined, and that unalterably, all things to be that have been, and that all things are determined by him which are; and that all things shall be, which shall be. For who dare once imagine that God should unchangeably decree, or decree at all? The mainfold Acts of Villany that have been, are, and will yet be done in the World: this must unavoidly make him the Author of Sin, and Men, and Devils, the Executors only of his Decrees, which God forbid.

And though it is true, that a Sparrow falls not to the Ground without his Providence, i.e. not without his Permission; yet hath he not decreed eternally that it shall be at such or such a time, or in any cruel way, as it often falleth out directly contrary to his Will, Deut. 22.6. It hath pleased God so to constitute the Creation, especially Mankind, as that he is capable of doing well or ill, and hath left him to a certain kind of Liberty and Power in his Actions: and how he will exercise the same, is not unknown to God; yet Man is not inevitably compelled (ordinarily) to do this, or forceably restrained from doing that.

We therefore say, That the Providence of God, without which nothing is done, is only his fore-knowledg and permission, in respect of all the wickedness which is done; and after that manner may he only be said to determine in cases of that Nature; that is, he determines not to hinder by his restraining such Iniquity, knowing how to advance his Glory another way, even by punishing the disobedient. Levit. 26.23, 24. "And if ye will not be reformed by me, by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and punish you yet seven times for your sins."

But in all good Actions the case is far otherwise: for he doth not only will and command them to be done, but also co-operates to the doing thereof. "It is he that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Isa. 26.12. "O Lord, thou will ordain Peace for us, for thou hast wrought all our works in us."

"I can do all things through Christ strengthening me." Heb. 12.1, 2. "He is the Author and Finisher of our Faith." John 15. "For without me ye can do nothing." And therefore to him alone is the Glory due of all that is done well. But on the contrary, the dishonour of all evil Actions is due to Satan, and Wicked Men, the Authors and Actors thereof. 1 Sam. 24.13. "Wickedness proceedeth and cometh forth from the Wicked, as saith the Proverb of the Ancients." John 8.44. "You are of your Father the Devil; and the Lusts of your Father ye will do. He was a Murtherer from the beginning, and abide not in the Truth, because there is no Truth in him. When he speaketh a Lye, he speaketh it of his own, for he is a Lyer, and the Father of it."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Section 12: His place of Residence is in Heaven, yet not confin'd to Place.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 12 (p. 50-51)
His place of Residence is in Heaven, yet not confin'd to Place.

1. Did not the prodigious Opinions of some, give occasion to insist upon this Particular, yet were it necessary to understand somewhat herein; for it must needs be a great stay to the Soul, to know where to find his God. God therefore, by his Holy Child Jesus, hath fully set forth the verity of our Proposition, when he teacheth us to pray after this manner: Our Father which art in Heaven, &c. And by his own Example, who in Prayer, did frequently lift up his Eyes to Heaven, John 17.3 And by his Ascension declared the same, when a Cloud received him out of the sight of his Disciples, Acts. 1.9. whereby he fulfilled the Word which he spake, saying, "I ascend to your God, and my God, to your Father, and my Father." By Heaven, in the words of our Saviour, we must necessarily understand the Created Heaven, that which he made in the beginning of the World, Gen 1.1. sith the Circumstance of the Place, and the equity of the Words, will not bear a Figurative Interpretation; in which sense sometimes the word Heaven in used. For had our Saviour intended the Church, or the Heaven Vertues in himself, he needed not have lift up his Eyes. But I am not now to dispute Opinions, but to prove the Proposition: And thus saith the Lord by the Prophet, Isa. 66.1. "The Heaven in my Throne, and the Earth is my Footstool." So Acts 7.49. Our Blessed Saviour informs us, that there is joy in Heaven over one Sinner which repenteth, Luke 25.7. which he interprets himself, to be in the presence of the Angels of God, ver. 10. And when Stephen, lifting up his eyes stedfastly into Heaven, and saw Jesus Christ sitting on the Right-Hand of God; doubtless the Apparition was according to the common acceptation of such Expressions, God Almighty by these Passages giving us to understand, where his Glorious Presence is more especially resident. According to that in David, Psal. 123.1. "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the Heavens." And when Solomon had built an House for the Name of the Lord, he makes his prayer of Dedication to God in the Heavens, as his proper Dwelling-Place, 1 Kings 8.39. - "Then hear thou in Heaven, thy Dwelling-Place, and forgive," &c.

2. God is not Confin'd to place. Although the most High God hath chosen Heaven for the Place of his Glorious Presence and Residence, yet doth not that holy Habitation so contain him, but that according to his Pleasure, he is present in every Place, as David witnesseth, Psal. 139.8, 9, 10. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? And whither shall I flee from thy Presence? If I ascend to Heaven, thou art there; if I take the Wings of the Mornings, and well in the uttermost parts of the Sea, even there shall thy Hand lead me, and thy Right-Hand hold me." And truly, when we consider the Sun in the Firmament of Heaven, which is but a Created Body, yet presents it self by his radiant Beams to the Universe in so little time as we know; it cannot be incredible that he that made it, should and doth present Himself more universally. And this Solomon well understood, and therefore saith, 1 Kings 8.27. "The Heavens, even the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain thee." And though it is most true, that the High and lofty One inhabiteth Eternity, and dwelleth in the High and Holy Place, yet with him also that is of a humble and contrite Spirit, Isa. 57.15. In the first, he dwelleth by his Glorious Presence; in the latter, by the Spirit of Grace. Ephes. 2.22. Ye are built up an Habitation of God through the Spirit. After this manner his Church is his Rest, and there will he dwell for ever, Psal. 68.16.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Section 11: God only is Perfect, so as no Imperfection is in him.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 11 (p. 49-50)
God only is Perfect, so as no Imperfection is in him.

All created Beings are dependent upon their respective Causes, and therefore the most Perfect of them have their Imperfections, and yet all have Dependence upon God, Acts 17. "In him we live, move, and have our being." It is he that bears up the Universe, Psal. 75.3. "The Earth, and the Inhabitants thereof are dissolved; I hear up the Pillars of the Earth." We have shewed before, that the Perfection of the Almighty, cannot by searching be found out, whereas the perfection of Created Things is comprehensible and finite: Psal. 119.69. "I have seen an end of all Perfection, (saith David) but thy Commandment is exceeding broad." God and his Word, have a Perfection beyond the reach of David. Because therefore we cannot find out the Perfection of God, (though we know he is Perfect) we are referr'd for a competent Discovery thereof, to his Way and Word, Psal. 18.30. "As for God, his Way is Perfect, the Word of the Lord is Tried. Psal. 19.7, 8. The Law of the Lord is Perfect, converting the Soul: The Statutes of the Lord are pure, making Wise the Simple." And to his Works, Deut. 32. "He is a Rock, his Work is Perfect, for all his Ways are Judgment; a God of Truth, and without Iniquity, Just and Right is he."

And indeed, who can contemplate the mighty of Works of God, but must ascribe Perfection to him? whether we consider his Works of Creation, or Providence, the great and wonderful Frabrick of Heaven and Earth; the deep and wide Sea, which innumerable Creatures therein found, do abundantly set forth the Infinite Wisdom and Power of the great Architect, or Builder, of this admirable Fram.

We are referr'd also to his Will, according to the Counsel whereof all Things shall stand, and he will do all his Pleasure, Rom. 12.2. "Be not conformed to this Word, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your Minds; that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect Will of God": And so to acquiese therein, because it is Perfect. "Thy Will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven", Mat. 6.10.

We are also referr'd to the Gifts of the Spirit of God: for every good and perfect Gift is from him, James 1.17. And as the things of a Man are not know to any Man, but the Spirit of Man which is in Man; so the things of God knoweth none, but the Spirit of God, which searcheth into the deep things of God.

Which Spirit the Servents of God have received, that by it they may know the things that are freely given them of God, and so know more of the Perfection that is in God: Who is absolute in all the Perfections of Wisdom, Power, Mercy, Justice, &c. and none beside him; for there is none Perfect save the Lord.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Section 10: God is very gracious, full of Mercy, no Cruelty in him.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 10 (p. 47-49)
God is very gracious, full of Mercy, no Cruelty in him.

The Knowledg of God, as he is merciful, is the ground of all Hope to poor Sinners; without this there is no coming to God. Psal. 130. 3, 4, 7, 8. "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark Iniquity; O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is Mercy, and with him plenteous Redemption: and he shall redeem Israel from all his Iniquities."

As we have shewed that Righteousness belongeth to God, so 'tis said that Mercy belongeth to him also, Dan. 9.9. Which glorious Attribute he hath always displayed to the Children of Men, though not always in the same manner. To Adam, Gen. 3.15. yea, to Cain himself, Gen. 4.7. "If thou dost well, shalt thou not be accepted?" This Negative Interrogative concludes in the Affirmative, viz. Thou shall be accepted if thou dost well. Thus timely did God lay a Foundation, whereon to build a sure belief, that he is gracious to all Men, even so as to accept their Sacrifice is they do well.

It was the Grace of God that moved him to warn, and wait upon the Old World so many years as the Ark was a preparing, and therefore called the Long-suffering of God, 1 Pet. 3.20.

The Covenant made with Noah, is full of God's Grace, and established as a Merciful Covenant for ever, Gen. 9. and no part annulled to this day, but confirmed rather by the Covenants delieved since. When Men had greatly Corrupted themselves, and Darkness had spread it self over the Earth, God sets up the Light of his Grace in the Covenant made with Abraham, for the Comfort of all Nations. Gen. 12.3. "I will bless them that bless thee, and Curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all Families of the Earth be blessed."

When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, then again he proclaimed his Name to be the Lord: "The Lord God, Merciful, Gracious, abundant in Goodness and Truth," Exod. 34.6. David sets forth this Gracious Attribute, to be from Everlasting to Everlasting, Psal. 103. And his tender Mercies to be over all his Works, Psal. 145.9. His Works and good Providence shew forth the same, insomuch that all Nations are without Excuse, Acts 14.17. Yea, his making of one Blood all Nations, to dwell upon the face of the Earth; his appointing the bounds of their Habitations, is, that they might seek the Lord and find him, Acts 17.26, 27.

But the most ample Demonstration of the Grace and Mercy of God, is that which hath appeared in the Lord Jesus Christ, full of Grace and Truth, Joh. 1.14. And as it is written, "When we were without Strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly," Rom. 5.6. And again, "God commended his Love unto us, in that whilst we were Enemies, Christ died for us."

This is the Root-Grace, from whence all our Graces spring, 1 John 4.10. "Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son into the World, to be a Propitiation for ours Sins." And again, "We love him, because he first loved us," 1 John 4.19.

This Grace, Favour, and Love of God, is of large Extent, every Man hath an Interest in it, Heb. 2.9. And truly, should any Man be born into the World, since Sin entered into the World, it had been happy for that Man he had never been Born, rather than to have no share in God as he is Gracious; the vilest Creature on Earth, would be more engaged to God than such a Man. But to divert all Conceits of that kind, viz. That there is no Grace extended to some Men. Let us hear what the Record of Truth saith: "The Grace of God which brings Salvation, hath appeared to all Men," Tit. 2.11. But after what manner, or measure, we need not much enquire (but rather to mind what it teacheth us, ver. 12) However, so Gracious was God to the whole World, as that the Propitiation, or Atonement in the Blood of Christ, is for them all, 1 John 2.2.

The Method in which God will judg the World, shews his Mercy, Grace, and Goodness to the whole World: For such as had not the Law, shall be judged without the Law, and they that sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law. See the Graciousness of God in this: He will not exact that of Men, they never had from him; he will not enter into Judgement with the Gentiles, on the same Terms that he will judg the Jews, they had five Talents to the Gentiles one; the Improved is not expected to be equal, but the Non-improvement according to each Mans proportion, shall justly incur the Censure of the Judg. Yet neither doth he in Judgment exact the utmost Mite; for if so, where were his Mercy? he remembreth that we are but Dust, Psal. 103.14.

Excellently doth the Apostle set out the Grace of God, in the Nature and Extent of it, Rom. 5.20, 21. where, having shewn how much, how greatly the Gift by the Second Adam, outvies the Loss we had by the First Adam; he then shews the use of the Law, That it entred, that Sin might abound, or appear exceeding Sinful (for by the Law is the knowledg of Sin). At length he displays the Mercy of God, saying, "But where Sin did abound, Grace did much more abound: That as Sin had raigned unto Death, (which sure is general enough) even so might Grace raign through Righteousness unto everlasting Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Whereas, we say, there is no Cruelty in God; hereby we do exclude in our Thoughts and Belief in God, all such Notions as tend to impeach the great Attribute of his Mercy and Grace, viz. As to think that he made any Men, or Angels, with purpose or design to cast them into Hell. Such Cruelty is so contrary to the Nature of God, that he doth not only disclaim it as a thing not in him, Isa. 27.4. but holds it in Execration by his Word, where ever it is found: Gen. 49.7. "Cursed be their Anger, for it was fierce, and their Wrath, for it was Cruel": Proclaiming the sentence of Death against such as exercise Cruelty, Ezek. 18.18. "As for his Father, because he cruelly oppressed, - he shall die in his Iniquity." He that thus severely condemns Cruelty in his Creature, must not be supposed to be cruel to him himself; for all the Vertues that are found in us, are originally in God. But more of these things in due place.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Section 9: God is Just, there is no Unrighteousness in him.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 9 (p. 46-47)
God is Just, there is no Unrighteousness in him.

It is a very important Question of the Apostle; "Is there Unrighteousness with God? how then should he judg the World?" Shewing the dreadful absurdity of not believing God to be Righteous altogether, an Opinion too common among Men.

1. This Justice or Righteousness whereof we now speak, must not be taken as a thing only attributed unto God, but as that which is essential to him, and without which he would cease to be God. Dan. 9.7. "O Lord, Righteousness belongeth unto thee. - Abscribe ye Righteousness unto our God." Our Blessed Saviour gives this Appellation to his Father with great solemnity, John 17.25. "O Righteous Father." And so do the Holy Angels, Rev. 16.5. "Thou art Righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be."

2. His Righteousness is and shall be best known by his Judgments; For wilst he suffereth long, Evil Men say in their Heart, the Lord will not do Good, neither will he do Evil: And God knowing their Thought, detects them, Psal. 50. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silent; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thy self; but I will reprove thee, and set thy sin in order before thine eye. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." And thus is the Lord known by the Judgment which he executeth. "Yea, the Heavens shall declare his Righteousness, for God is Judg himself," Psalm. 50.6.

3. In that we say there is nothing Unrighteous in him, we hold that Unrighteousness had no being from God, being indeed a privation, as the shutting out of Light causeth Darkness; but there is no privation in God, he is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever. The Righteousness of Men is mutable, it being no part of their Essence or Being; but in God to be Righteous, is the same as to be God, and therefore he is called Righteousness it self, "the Lord our Righteousness". Like it is truly said, That "God is Light, and in him is no Darkness at all," 1 John 1.5.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Section 8: God is Omniscient, nothing can be hid from him.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 8 (p. 45-46)
God is Omniscient, nothing can be hid from him.

When we say God is Omniscient, we intend both his Prescience, and immediate observation of all things, whether projected or done. As to God's fore-knowledg, thus saith God by the Prophet, Isa 44.7. "Who, as I, shall call, and declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the Ancient People? and the things that are coming, let them shew unto them." By this Speech God proves himself to be the only true God, declaring hereby that no other could know these things as He, they being the things determined by his own Will, and wholly inscrutable as to any created being. To the same purpose is that passage, Isa. 45.21. "Tell ye, and bring them near, let them take counsel together; who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and Saviour, there is none beside me." David setteth forth the Omniscience and Prescience of God very fully, Psal. 139 throughout; "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me; thou understandest my thoughts afar off. - For there is not a word in my Tongue, but loe, thou knowest it altogether." And excludes all created Beings in respect of this Knowledg; Such Knowledg (saith he) is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. - Yea, the Darkness and the Light are both alike to thee. Herein is the Wonderful Wisdom of God held forth, in that he knoweth our Thoughts before they be ours, yea, hundred of years before the Creature hath any being at all; "Thine Eyes did see my Substance, yet being unperfect, and in thy Book all were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when yet there was none of them", vers. 16.

As to his present observation of all things, we do not suppose that God knoweth things gradually, or by degrees, for that would argue imperfection in God: But when we find things spoken to us, founding that way, as in Gen. 18.21. "I will go down now, and see now whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come up unto me; and if not, I will know." For these words are fitted to our capacity, and do teach us that God is slow to anger; and therefore seems to take no notice of many things; not that he is in any-wise ignorant, for it is written, Heb. 4.12. All things are naked and open before him with whom we have to do. And Prov. 15.11. "Hell and Destruction are before him," i.e. he knows whatsoever is there. "How much more the Hearts of the Children of Men." And what can be supposed more occult or hidden than Hell, Destruction, and the Hearts of Men? and if all things be naked and open before him, then nothing can be hid from him. And the same is confirmed by rational demonstration; He that made the Ear, shall not he hear? He that gives Man Understanding, shall not he know? And he that made the Eye, shall not he see? It is therefore irrational to think, that are Ignorance is incident to the most High; wherefore he is Omniscient.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Section 7: Of the Omnipotency of God.

Book 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Section 7 (p. 44-45)
Of the Omnipotency of God.

That God is Omnipotent, he doth whatsoever he pleaseth. God hath spoken once, yea, twice have I heard this, saith David, "That Power belongeth to God," Psal. 62.11. God was known to the Fathers, more especially by his Name, Almighty, Exod. 6.3. "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the Name of God Almighty." And with great frequency the Holy Scripture gives that Title unto God; from whence we understand that God is in no wise to be opposed by any Power, there is nothing too hard for God; by his Power he made the World, Jer. 10.12. and by his Power he ruleth for ever, Psal. 66.35. He hath power to cast into Hell, Luke 12.5. and by his Power he is able to subdue all things to himself; And saith the Prophet, our God is in Heaven; he hath done whatsoever he pleaseth, in Heaven, in Earth, and in all Places. This is that mighty One who challengeth the most Just in Acts of Power, Job. Chap. 38, 39, 40, 41. This is he who outvieth the greatest Tyrants; raising up Pharaoh, that he might shew on him his Power, Exod. 9. This is he to whom the Righteous ascribe Power and Dominion, Rule, and Government; His Kingdom ruleth over all, Psal. 103.19. This is he, who though he delegates Power as it pleaseth him, yet shall have all Power delivered up to him, and be all in all: Therefore let us say as we are taught by Christ, "Thine (O God) is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, for ever." Amen.