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the dangers to which you can be exposed for the sake of God and of a good conscience, glorify his almighty power, who is able to deliver in the greatest extremities, and will (if it be best) find a way for you to escape.
(4thly) Glorify the almighty power of God, by fearing to provoke his wrath against you.
For who knoweth the power of his wrath? as the Psalmist speaks, Ps. xc. 11. Indeed, a weak impotent anger, that can only vent itself in exclamations and railings, is justly ridiculous and contemptible: but who would not tremble to provoke that God, whose anger, as it is always just, so it is almighty, and able to wreak its revenge upon the stoutest sinners in their .eternal ruin and destruction? It is a most desperate folly to incense that God, whom we cannot withstand: therefore the Apostle expostulates, 1 Cor. x. 21. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? as if he should say, " Indeed, if thou canst try it out with the Almighty, if thou canst wrest the sword of his justice out of his hands, if thou canst dash thyself against the Rock of Ages and be not broken in pieces, then thou mayest go on boldly in thy sins, and prosper: but, alas! for thee, a weak, feeble creature, who art crushed before the moth, as Job speaks, whose life is but a vapour, a poor thing who art just not nothing only by the creating word of God; it is a most deplorable madness for thee to muster up thy forces, and set thyself in battle-array against that Great God, who can look thee dead and speak thee into hell. And, yet, such is our wretched stupidity, that we dare this great and mighty God to the combat, every day and hour: every sin we commit is a challenge and defiance sent to heaven: we defy his power and wrath, and dare the Almighty to do his worst. Certainly, did sinners but seriously consider the infinite power of God, would they not fear lest the very next sin they commit, some remark* able vengeance should be inflicted upon them? lest God should suddenly smite them through; cause the earth to open its mouth, and swallow them up quick into hell; and make them know, by their own woeful experience, that dread power and justice, whiqh they now so vilify and despise? Be persuaded, therefore, O Christians, to glorify this power of the Great God, by your holy fear and caution not to provoke and arm it against yourselves. It is our Saviour's counsel, Mat. x. 28. Fear him, which is able to destroy both body and &oul in hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him. Know, that, when thou makest light of sin, thou dost but contemn the power and wrath of God: so often as thou swearest, or liest, or committest any other known wickedness so often thou openly declarest that thou accountest of the wrath of God, hell, and everlasting torments but as a trifle, not worth the regard of a generous and daring sinner. And thou, who perhaps art scared from the commission of many a sin, through fear of the magistrate's power to punish thee, but boldly committest others which cannot fall under his power or cognizance, what else dost thou, but openly testify that the power of God is not so tremendous and dreadful, as the power of a weak worm like thyself? and what a scorn and reproach dost thou hereby cast upon that glorious attribute! But, if thou wouldest glorify it, declare to all the world, that thou ownest his infinite power, which is able to destroy, to damn thee every moment, by thy holy fear to offend so great and so terrible a God.
(Sthty) Glorify the power and sovereignty of God, by a constant and conscientious obedience to all his laws. - He, who is the great Sovereign of the World, must needs have prescribed us some rules to direct us in our obedience. And this he hath done in his word, which is the statute-book of his kingdom: in the Scriptures, is contained the whole body and system of those laws, which our Great King hath enacted. Now the best way for us to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, is, by yielding all ready and cheerful obedience to those laws, which he hath imposed on us. Then do we indeed declare that we own him for our sovereign, when we resign up ourselves in an universal obedience unto him, and are careful to perform whatsoever he hath enjoined us; as well those duties which immediately concern the service of our Lord and Master, as those which concern our fellow-subjects and servants: but, if we willingly fail in the observance of any of these, we shake his yoke from off our necks, and withdraw ourselves from under his jurisdiction and command. And thou, who thus disownest him from being thy Sovereign Lord, wilt at last find him to be thy Severe Judge; and, although thou now refusest to submit thyself to the power of his grace, thou shalt be forced to bow, and sink, and eternally perish under the power of his wrath.
7thly. Another (and it is the last that I shall speak of) attribute of the divine essence, which we ought to glorify, is his Justice and Equity.
Now, although there be no other attribute more conversant with mankind than this of the divine justice, yet neither is there any that is of a more abstruse speculation, or more entangled with perplexed doubts and difficulties, whensoever we attempt a scholastical disquisition of it. It is like the sun, nothing more seen than its light, nothing less seen than itself: the most apparent, and yet the most hidden; the most obvious, and yet the most abstruse perfection of the divine nature.
It is not pertinent to my present design, to engage in those many critical distinctions and disputes, which are by divers diversely given us concerning the justice of God: my work is more immediately practical.
(1st) Yet because we ought to have right apprehensions of that object, which we are to glorify; and we cannot glorify God as a just God, unless we have beforehand conceived some proper notions what this justice is; therefore take notice briefly, that the justice of God is Twofold.
[1st] His Essential"Justice; which is nothing else but the infinite rectitude of his nature, according to his own eternal ideas of himself.
This is not that, which we are now taking into consideration. For as, among men, that, which Aristotle, Eth. 1. v. c. 1. lit. F. calls the vofj.ijx.ov Smxioirvv^v, an universal justice respecting the conformity of every action of our lives to law and reason, is not so much any one virtue, as all; so, likewise, this essential and absolute justice of God is not so much any one attribute of the divine nature, as a complexion of them all: for it is the due habitude and proportion of God's infinite perfections to the only rule of them, which is himself.
[2dly] There is a Moral, or Relative Justice in God, which respects his transactions and dealings with his creatures.
Now as, among men, justice is that virtue, which habitually sways them to render to every one his own; so, likewise, in God towards men, that disposition, which, if we may so speak, inclines him to render to every one his own, is that which we call the justice of God.
Here, Two things are to be observed.
That the Foundation of the divine Justice is the Divine
Sapience and Will.
a. The Foundation of his Justice is his Sapience and Will.
For God lies under no obligation to his creatures, antecedent to the free determinations of his own will. It is just with God, to punish some men with eternal torments: why? because they are sinners, and punishment is their due; and, therefore, in inflicting it, he doth but render unto them what is their owu. But, if you ask farther, whence it proceeds that wrath and punishment should be their due, we can give no other answer to this, but only because the will of God hath so constituted and ordained it, as a congruous reward for such actions. So that whatsoever God wills is just and equal; not simply as he wills it only, but as his will is guided by his infinite wisdom, which dictates such proceedings to be fitting and condecent to the divine nature; and therefore God wills them as just. For, because the divine wisdom sees it congruous that obstinate and impenitent sinners should be eternally punished, therefore the divine will determines to punish them, and their punishment is an act of justice.
b. The Rule of Divine Justice is his Word.
For God proceeds according to this word, in all his dealings with us. His word contains in it both promises and threatenings: and, to the fulfilling of both, God hath obliged himself by his truth and veracity. And, consequently, either the mercy promised or the punishment threatened is our due, according as we either obey or transgress his word: and, these being our due, it is but justice in God to render them unto us according as our works have been. Indeed, the Schools have well determined, that there can be no commutative justice in God: i. e. such justice, as consists in an equal exchange of things between party and party, giving and taking a like value: for the Apostle nath told us, Rom. xi. 35. Who hath first given to him? and it shall be recompensed unto him again. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.
But there is a distributive justice in God, whereby, as a judge, he recompenseth us proportionably to our actions; which justice is regulated by the promises and threatenings of his word.
And it is twofold;
Remunerative Justice, which assigns us a blessed reward, according to our faith and obedience. And
Punitive or Vindictive Justice, which inflicts upon us eternal and insupportable punishments, according to our impenitency and rebellions.'
And both these the Apostle mentions together, 2 Thess. i.J, f. It is a righteous, or a just thing with God to recompense iribula.tioti to them that trouble you: And to you, who are troubled, rest with us, xehen llie Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.
And thus I have, as plainly as I could with so much brevity, shewn you what this attribute of the divine justice is.
(2dly) Let us next consider how it ought to be glorified by us.
[1st] The first and chiefest way, is, by our Conformity to it.
For justice and equity is a communicable attribute of the divine nature: and the best way to glorify such, is not only to represent them to ourselves, by admiring and adoring them; but to represent them in ourselves, by transcribing and imitating them. Then dost thou glorify the justice of God, when thou endeavourest, within thy sphere and according to thy proportion, to be thyself just. God is just in rendering to every man his own; whether it be his own by merit, or by mercy, by desert, or by promise: He renders, saith the Apostle, to every man according to his deeds: Rom. ii. 6: according to the merit of their deeds: so, he renders indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, to every soul of man that doethevil: and, according to the mercy of his promise, he renders glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good. Imitate God, in rendering to every one their own: keep nothing from them which is their due, except it be the retribution of evil for evil; for this recompence God hath reserved to himself.
Now that is said to be another man's, to which he hath a title. And, if the title remain in him, but the possession in thee, so long thou art unjust, and dishonourest God, as well as wrongest thy brother; as thou detainest from him what is rightfully his, contrary to his will and desire.
There are two things, that give a man a title to any possession; law, and conscience.
First. Human Laws.
God's laws are the rule of his justice towards men, and men's laws are the rule of their justice one towards another. These set bounds to our property, and determine what is ours, and what not: and, whosoever he be, that breaks through this fence, and either violently or fraudulently seizes upon that, which the laws under which he lives hath assigned to his brother, he is an unjust person, and transgresseth not only the laws of men, but that sovereign law of God, Thou shalt not steal. God's law commands us not to take what is another's; but man's law shews us what is another's; man's law makes property, and God's law