« AnteriorContinuar »
ther it shall be high or low, rich or poor, noble or ignoble, learned or unlearned. He hath determined the trade and employment they should follow, the particular business they shall betake themselves to. Many times God's providence over-rules mens purposes and designs, for fulfilling his own counsels. Matters are sometimes strangely wheeled about, so that not what we or our parents designed, but what God hath purposed, shall take place. Amos was meanly employed at first, but God designed him for a more honourable calling: he was taken from the office of a herdman, and gatherer of sycamore fruit, and invested with a commission to prophesy to the people of Israel, Amos vii. 14, 15. David followed the ewes, and it is like never raised his thoughts to higher things in the days of his youth; but God made him the royal shepherd of a better flock, Psal. Ixxviii. 70, 71, The most part of the apostles were fishermen ; but Christ called them to a more high and eminent station, even to be extraordinary officers in his church, and fishers of men.
(3.) God hath decreed what relations men shall have in the world. Their wives and children are appointed for them. Hence said Abraham's servant, Gen. xxiv. 44. Let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's son. That such a woman rather than any other, should be wife to such a man, is by the appointment of Heaven. Mens children are also decreed by God. Hence said Eve, Gen. iv. 24. God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And says the Psalmist, Psal. cxxvii. 3. “Lo children are the heritage of the Lord.' God determines the numbers and names of every man's children.
(4.) All the comforts of mens lives are under the divine appointment, both those temporal and spiritual. Hence says the prophet, Isa. xxvi. 1. “We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.'
5. All mens afflictions are determined by a decree of Heaven, Micah vi. 9. · Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.' Such are public calamities and distresses, as war, famine and pestilence, all bodily pains and sickness, poverties and pinching straits, and whatever is grievous and afflictive to men. None of these spring out of the dust, or come by chance. The kind and nature of people's troubles, their measure and degree, time and season, conținuance and dura
tion, and all the circumstances of them, ate determined, and weighed in the scale of his eternal counsel. Hence
Hence says the apostle, 1 Thess. iii. 3. . No man should be moved by these afflictions: for you yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.'
(6.) The time of every man's life in the world is appointed. Hence says Job, chap. vii. 1. • Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth ? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?' And says the same great man, chap. xiv. 5. His days are determined; and the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.' The term of our life is fixed and limited, our days are determined, and our months numbered. Hence David prays, Psal. xxxix. 4. 'Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am. Our days are measured; they are as the days of an hireling. As the hireling hath a set time to work in, so every man and woman hath an appointed time for acting and working in this world. We are all pilgrims and strangers on the earth, and in a little time we hence and be no more.
We are here like men upon a stage to act our parts, and in a short time we must retire within the curtain of death, and others will come in our room. Our glass is continually running, and the day and hour in which it will run out is settled and fixed by the order of Heaven. We find in scripture that God hath often foretold the precise term of particular men's lives. He set a hundred and twenty years to those who lived in the old world before the flood came upon them, Gen. vi. 3. He foretold the time of Moses' life, of that of Jeroboam's son, of that of Ahaziah king of Israel, and of many others. All this was from his own decree and counsel.
Thirdly, God hath determined the eternal state of all his rational creatures, both men and angels. Our Confession of Faith tells us, agreeably to scripture, chap. iii. art. 3. that' by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others are fore-ordained to everlasting death.' More ticularly, 1. We read of the elect angels, 1 Tim. v. 21. The
perseverance and standing of the holy angels in the state of their primitive integrity, and their confirmation therein, was de
termined by the purpose of God. In the morning of the creation heaven shined with innumerable glittering stars, the angels of light, of whoin a vast number are, by their rebellion against God, become wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. Now, the good angels are in a supernatural state, without the least danger of change, or any separation from the blessed presence of God in glory, flowing from the continual irradiations of divine
grace, which preserves their minds from errors, and their wills from irregular desires; and consequently they cannot sin, nor forfeit their felicity.
It was by an eternal decree of God, that he passed by the angels that fell, and doomed them to everlasting misery. The apostle tells us, 2 Pet. ii. 4. that “God spared not the an. gels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved into judgment." And saith Jude, ver. 6. “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. Mercy did not interpose to avert or suspend their judgment; but immediately they were expelled from the Divine Presence. Their present misery is insupportable, and worse awaits them. Their judgment is irreversible; they are under the blackness of darkness for ever. They have not the least glimpse of hope to allay their sorrows, and no star-light to sweeten the horrors of their eternal night. It were a kind of mercy to them to be capable of death; but God will never be so far reconciled to them as to annihilate them. Immortality, which is the privilege of their nature, infinitely increases their torment.
2. God hath likewise appointed the final and eternal state of men and women. It is said, Rom. ix. 21, 22, 23. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction : and that he might me known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?
(1.) He hath elected some to everlasting life by an irreversible decree, Rom. viii. 29, 30. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his
Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, then he also called : and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' Eph. i. 4. • According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.' 2 Thess. ii. 13. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation. From eternity God elected some from among the lost posterity of Adam to everlasting life and glory,, according to the good pleasure of his own will. Therefore all is referred by our Saviour to the good pleasure of God, Matth. xi. 25, 26. And all the means for accomplishing the ends of election are likewise of divine appointment; particularly the redemption of ruined sinners by the death and sufferings of Christ : He hath chosen us in Christ,' Eph. i. 4.
The Father did first, in order of nature, chuse Christ to the - Mediatory office, and as the chief corner-stone to bear up the
whole building; whence he is called God's elect, Isa. xlii. í. And then he chose a company of lost sinners to be saved by and through Christ ; and therefore he is said to predestinate them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
2. God hath passed by the rest of mankind, according to i the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendi eth or with-holdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his
sovereign power over his creatures, and hath ordained them to dishonour and wrath for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice. Hence Christ is said to be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to them that stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appoint.
ed,' i Pet. ii. 8. • The foundation of God standeth sure, ü having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And,
Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from s iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of
gold, and of silver, but also of wood, and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour,' 2 Tim. ii. 19, 20. In Jude, ver. 4. we read of ungodly men, who were before of old ordained to condemnation. And in Rom. ix. 22, 23. we read of • vessels of mercy, which God had afore prepared unto glory; and of vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.'
III. I come to consider the end of God's decrees. And this is no other than his own glory. Every rational agent acts for an end; and God being the most perfect agent, and Vol. I.
his glory the highest end, there can be no doubt but all his decrees are directed to that end. For-to him are all things,' Rom. xi. 36. “That we should be to the praise of his glory, Eph. i. 12. In all, he aims at his glory; and seeing he aims at it, he gets it even from the most sinful actions he has decreed to permit. Either the glory of his mercy or of his justice he draws therefrom. Infinite wisdom directs all to the end intended. More particularly,
1. This was God's end in the creation of the world. The divine perfections are admirably glorified here, not only in regard of the greatness of the effect, which comprehends the heavens and the earth, and all things therein ; but in regard of the marvellous way of its production. For he made the vast universe without the concurrence of any
material cause; brought it forth from the womb of nothing by an act of his efficacious will. And as he began the creation by proceeding from nothing to real existence, so informing the other parts he drew them from infirm and indisposed matter, as from a second nothing, that all his creatures might bear the signatures of infinite power. Thus he commanded light to arise out of darkness, and sensible creatures from an insensible element. The lustre of the divine glory appears eminently here. Hence says David, Psal. xix. 1. The heavens declare the glory of God.' They declare and manifest to the world the attributes and perfections of their great Creator, even in his infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. All the creatures have some prints of God stamped upon them, whereby they loudly proclaim and shew to the world his wisdom and goodness in framing them. Hence says Paul, 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.'
2. The glory of God was his chief end and design in mak. ing men and angels. The rest of the creatures glorified God in an objective way, as they are evidences and manifestation : of his infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. But this higher rank of beings are endued with rational faculties, and so are capable to glorify God actively. Hence it is said, Prov. xvi.
• The Lord hath made all things for himself.' If all things were made for him, then man and angels especially, who are the master-pieces of the whole creation. We have our rise and being from the pure fountain of God's infinite