« AnteriorContinuar »
doth this. Every atheist who is not mad, must | This puts a seriousness and life into the faith confess that there is an eternal being, that had no and holy affections of the believer. He knows beginning or cause ; the question is only, which whom he trusteth' He knows whom he loveth, this is ? Which ever it is, it is this that is the and in whom he hopeth. Atheists, and ungodtrue God. What now would the atheist have ly men, practically judge of God as the true it to be ? Certainly it is that Being that hath believer judges of the world. The atheist takes being itself from none, that is the first cause of the pleasures of the world to be the only suball other beings : and if it causes them, it must stance; and God to be but as a shadow, a notion, necessarily be every way more excellent than or a dream. The godly take the world to be they, and contain all the good that it hath caused; | as nothing, and know it is but a fancy and dream, for none can give that which he hath not to give ; and shadow of pleasures, honour, profit, and fenor make that which is better than itself; that licity, that men talk of, and seek so eagerly bebeing that hath made so glorious a creature as low; but that God is the substantial object and the sun, must needs itself be much more glorious. portion of the soul. If you put into the mouth It could not have put strength and power into of a hungry man, a little froth, or breath, or air, the creatures, if it had not itself more strength and bid him eat it, and feed upon it, he will tell and power. It could not have put wisdom and you, he finds no substance in it; so judges the goodness into the creature, if it had not more graceless soul of God, and so judges the gracious wisdom and goodness than all they. Whatever soul of the creature, as separated from God. it is therefore that hath more power, wisdom and Let this be the impression on thy soul, from goodness than all the world besides, that is it the consideration of God's transcendent being : which we call God. That cause that hath com- | O look upon thyself and all things as not being municated to all things else, the being, power, without him; and as nothing in comparison of and all perfections which they have, is the God him! Therefore let thy love to them be as whom we acknowledge and adore. If atheists nothing, and thy desires after them, and care for will ascribe all this to atoms, and think that the them, as nothing ; but let the being of thy love, motes made the sun; or if others will think desire, and endeavours, be let out upon the tranthat the sun is God, because it participates of scendent being. The creature hath its kind of so much of his excellency, let them be mad a being ; but if it would be to us instead of God, while, till judgment shall convince them. So it will be as nothing. The air hath its being, clear beyond all question to my soul, is the being but we cannot dwell in it, nor rest upon it to of the Godhead, that the devil hath much lost support us as the earth doth. The water hath the rest of his subtle temptations, when he hath its being, but it will not bear us, if we would foolishly and maliciously adjoined this, to draw walk upon it. The name of the great Jehovah me to question the being of my God, which is is, 'I am. Try any creature in thy need, and it more than to question whether there be a sun in will say, as Jacob to Rachel, “ Am I in God's the firmament.
stead, that hath withheld thy desire from thee ?» But what is the impress that the being of God Send to it, and it will say as John Baptist, who must make upon the soul ?
confessed I am not the Christ.' Let none of I answer, from hence, the holy soul discerns all the affections of thy soul have so much life that the beginning and the end of his religion, and being in them, as those that are exercised the substance of his hope, is the being of beings, upon God. Worms and motes are not regarded and not a shadow; and that his faith is not a in parison of mountains ; a drop is not refancy. The object is as it were the matter of garded in comparison of the ocean. Let the the act. If our faith, hope, love, and fear, be being of God take up thy soul, and draw off thy exercised in a delusory work, God is to the observation from deluding vanities, as if there atheist but an empty name ; he feels no life or were no such things before thee. When thou being in him; and accordingly he offers him a rememberest that there is a God, kings and noshadow of devotion, and a nominal service. But bles, riches and honours, and all the world, should to the holy soul there is nothing that hath life be forgotten in comparison of him; and thou and being but God, and that which receives a shouldst live as if there were no such things, if being from him, and leads to him. This real God appear not to thee in them. See them as object puts a reality into all the devotions of a if thou didst not see them, as thou seest a candle holy soul. They look upon the vanities of the before the sun; or a pile of grass, or particle of world as nothing ; therefore they look on worldly dust, in comparison with the earth. Hear them as men as on idle dreamers that are doing nothing. I if thou didst not hear them; as thou hearest the leaves of the shaken tree, at the same time with | tices. When holiness brings these distracted, a clap of thunder. As greatest things obscure scattered souls to God, in him they will be one. the least, so let the being of the infinite God so While they cavil at holiness, and cry up unity, take up all the powers of thy soul, as if there were they show themselves distracted men. For holinothing else but he, when any thing would draw ness is the only way to unity, because it is the thee from him. O if the being of this God were agreement of the soul with God. All countries, seen by thee, thy seducing friend would scarcely and persons cannot meet in any one interest or be seen, thy tempting baits would scarcely be seen, creature, but each hath a several interest of his thy riches and honours would be forgotten ; all own ; but they might all meet in God. If the things would be as nothing to thee in comparison pope were God and had his perfections, he would of him.
be fit for all the church to centre in ; but being
man, and yet pretending to this prerogative of CHAP. III.
God, he is the grand divider and distracter of As the being of God should make this impres- the church. The proverb is too true ; ' so many sion on thee, so the attributes that speak the per- men, so many minds,' because that every man fection of that being must each one have their will be a god to himself, having a self-mind and work; as his unity or indivisibility, his immen- self-will, and all men will not yield to be one in sity and eternity.
God. God is the common interest of the saints ; The thought of God's Unity should contract and thereof all that are truly saints, are truly and unite thy straggling affections, and call them united in him. If all the visible church, and home from inultifarious vanity. It should pos- all the world, would heartily make him their sess thy mind with deep apprehensions of common interest, we should quickly have a comthe excellency of holy unity in the soul and mon unity and peace, and the temple of doublein the church ; and of the evil of division, and faced Janus would be shut up. They that sin. misery of distracting multiplicity. The Lord cerely have one God, have also one Lord and our God is one God.' Perfection hath unity and Saviour, one faith, one spirit, one baptism; (or simplicity. We fell into divisions and miserable holy covenant with God) even because they have distraction when we departed from God unto one God and Father of all, who is above all, and the creatures, for the creatures are many, and of through all, and in them all.' Therefore they contrary qualities, dispositions, and affections ; nust keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of and the heart that is set on such an object, must peace,' though yet they have different degrees of needs be a divided heart; and the heart that is gifts, and therefore differences in opinion about divided among so many and contrary or discord- abundance of inferior things. The further we ant objects, must needs be a distracted heart. go from the trunk or stock, the more numerous The confusions of the world confound the heart and small we shall find the branches. They are that is set upon the world. He that makes the one in God, that are divided in many doubtful world his god, hath so many gods, and so dis- controversies. The weakest therefore in the cordant, that he will never please them all ; and faith must be received into this union and comall of them together will never fully content and munion of the church ; but not to doubtful displease him. And who would have a God that putations. As the ancient baptism contained no can neither please us, nor be pleased ? He that more than our engagement to God, the Father, makes himself his god, hath a compounded god Son, and Holy Ghost, so the ancient profession (and now corrupted) of multifarious, and now of saving faith was of the same extent. God is of contrary desires, as hard to please as any with sufficient for the church to unite in. A union out us. There is no rest or happiness but in in other articles of faith is so far necessary to unity; and therefore none in ourselves or any the unity of the church, as it is necessary to other creature; but in God, the only centre of prove our faith and unity in God, and the sinthe soul. The further from the centre, the fur-cerity of this ancient, simple belief in God the ther from unity. It is only in God that differing Father, Son, and Spirit. minds can be well united. Therefore is the The unity of God is the attribute to be first world so divided, because it is departed so far handled and imprinted on the mind, even next from God. Therefore have we so many minds unto his essence ; • The Lord our God is one and ways, and such diversity of opinions, and Lord.' The unity of the church is its excelcontrariety of affections, because men forsake the lency and attribute, that is first and most to be centre of unity.' There is no uniting in any esteemed and preserved next unto its essence. If worldly, carnal, self-devised principles, or prac- l it be not a church, it cannot be one church; and if we be not saints, we cannot be united saints. men to be his disciples ? Which then is the If we be not members, we cannot make one body. stricter servant of the Lord ? He that loveth But when once we have the essence of saints and much, or he that loveth little? He that loveth all of a church, we must next be solicitous for its Christians, or he that loveth but a few, with the unity ; nothing below an essential point of faith special love? He that loveth a Christian as a will allow us to depart from the catholic unity, Christian ; or he that loveth him but as one of love, and peace that is due to saints; and because his party or opinion ? He that is one in the such essentials are never wanting in the catholic catholic body; or he that disowns communion church, or any true member of it, therefore we with the far greatest part of the body? Will are never allowed to divide from the catholic you say that Christ was loose and the pharisees church, or any true and visible member. It is strict, because Christ eat and drank with publifirst necessary that the church be a church, that cans and sinners, and the pharisees condemned is, a people separated from the world to Christ; him for it? It was Christ that was stricter in and that the Christian be a Christian in covenant holiness than they ; for he abounded more in with the Lord. But the next point of necessity love and good works ; but they were stricter than is, that the church be one and Christians be he in a proud, self-conceited moroseness and
He that for the sake of lower points, how separation. Certainly he that is highest true soever, will break this holy bond of unity, is highest in grace, and not he that confines his shall find at last, to his shame and sorrow, that love to few. Was it not the weak Christian that he understood not the excellency or necessity of was the stricter in point of meats, drinks and unity. The
prayer of Christ for the perfection days ? But the stronger that were censured by of his saints is, ' that they all may be one, as thou then, did more strictly keep the commandment Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also of God. may be one in us: that the world may believe Christian reader, let the unity of God have that thou hast sent me : and the glory which thou this effect upon thy soul, 1. To draw thee from gavest me I have given them, that they may be the distracting multitude of creatures, and make one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in thee long to be all in God. That thy soul may me, that they may be made perfect in one, that be still working toward him, till thou find no the world may know that thou hast sent me, and thing but God alone within thee. In the multi hast loved them as thou hast loved me.' Here it tude of thy thoughts within thee, let his comforts appears that the unity of the church or saints is delight thy soul. The multitude distracts thee ; necessary to convince the world of the truth of retire into unity, that thy soul may be composed, Christianity, and of the love of God to his peo- quieted, and delighted. 2. Let it make thee long ple, and necessary to the glory and perfection for the unity of saints, and endeavour it to the of the saints. The nearer any churches or mem- utmost of thy power, that the church in unity bers are to the divine perfections, and the more may be more like the Head. 3. Let it cause strictly conformable to the mind of God, the thee to admire the happiness of the saints, who more they are one, and replenished with catholic are freed from the bondage of the distractivg love to all saints, and desirous of unity and com- creature, and have but one to love, fear, trust, munion with them. It is a most lamentable de serve, seek, and know ; one thing is needful,' lusion of some Christians that think their ascend-which should be chosen, but it is many that we ing to higher degrees of holiness, doth partly are troubled about. consist in their withdrawing from the catholic church, or from the communion of most of the
CHAP. IV. saints on earth, upon the account of some smaller The Immensity of God, which is the next differing opinions; and they think that they attribute to be considered, must have this effect should become more loose, and leave their strict- upon thy soul : 1. The infinite God that is every ness, if they should hold a catholic communion, where, comprehending all places and things, and and leave their state of separation and division ! comprehended by none, must raise admiring, reIs there any strictness amiable or desirable, ex- verent thoughts in the soul of the believer. We cept a strict conformity to God ? Surely a strict wonder at the magnitude of the sun and the way of sin and wickedness is not desirable to a heavens, and of the whole creation ; but when saint. And is not God one, and his church one, we begin to think what is beyond the heavens, and hath he not commanded all his servants to and all created being, we are perplexed. Why be one : and is not love the new and great com- it is God that is in all, above all, beyond all, mandment, by which they must be known to all and beneath all, and where there is no place, because no creature, there is God: and if thy and yet are as nothing to himself: should he thoughts should imagine millions of millions of take the busy inquirer in hand, but as he did miles beyond all place and measure, all is but begin with Job. “Who is this that darkeneth God; and go as far as thou canst in thy thoughts, counsel with words without knowledge? Gird and thou canst not go beyond him. Reverently up thy loins like a man, for I will demand of admire the immensity of God. The world and thee, and answer thou me,' &c. Alas ! how soon all the creatures in it, are not to God so much would he nonplus and confound us, and make as a sand or atom is to all the world. The point us say as Job, · Behold I am vile! What shall of a needle is more to all the world, than the I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my world to God. For between that which is finite mouth : once have I spoken, but I will not and that which is infinite, there is no comparison. answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further.' • Who hath measured the waters in the hollow Indeed there is mentioned in Eph. iii. 11. the of his hand ? and meted out heaven with the saints' comprehending the dimensions of the love span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in of Christ, but as the next verse saith, “it passeth a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, knowledge;' so comprehending there, signifies no and the hills in a balance ? Behold the nations more but a knowing according to our measure; are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the an attainment of what we are capable to attain; small dust of the balance : behold he taketh up nay, nor all that either, but such a prevalent the isles as a very little thing. All nations be- knowledge of the love of Christ as is common fore him are as nothing : and they are counted to all the saints; as there is nothing more visible to him less than nothing, and vanity.'
than the sun, and yet no visible being less com2. From this greatness and immensity of God prehended by the sight; so is there nothing more also, thy soul must reverently stay all its busy, intelligible than God (for he is all in all things,) bold inquiries, and know that God is to us and and yet nothing so incomprehensible to the mind to every creature incomprehensible. If thou that knows him. It satisfies me not to be ignorcouldst fathom or measure him, and know his ant of God, or to know so little as I know, or to greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he be short of the measure that I am capable of ; were not God. A creature can comprehend but it satisfies me to be incapable of comprenothing but a creature. You may know God, hending him; or else I must be unsatisfied bebut not comprehend him; as your foot treads on cause I am not God. O the presumptuous arrothe earth, but doth not cover all the earth. The gancy of those men, if I may call them men, sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon. that dare prate about the infinite God such things Thou canst not comprehend the sun which thou as never were revealed to them, in his works or seest, and by which thou seest all things else, word! Who dare pretend to measure him by nor the sea, or earth, no, nor a worm or pile of their shallow understandings, and question, if grass : thy understanding knows not all that not deny and censure, that of God which they God hath put into any the least of these; thou cannot reach ; and sooner suspect the word that art a stranger to thyself, and to somewhat in reveals him, than their shallow understandings, every part of thyself, both body and soul. And that should better conceive of him. Saith Elihu, thinkest thou to comprehend God, that perfectly · Behold God is great, and we know him not, comprehendest nothing ? Stop then thy over- neither can the number of his years be searched bold inquiries, and remember that thou art a out. Though the knowledge of him be our life shallow, finite worm, and God is infinite. First eternal, yet we know him not by any full and reach to comprehend the heaven and earth and adequate conception. We know an infinite God, whole creation, before thou think of comprehend- and therefore with an excellent knowledge obing him, to whom the world is nothing, or vanity; jectively considered, but with a poor degree and or so small a dust, or drop, or point. Saith Elihu, kind of knowledge next to none, as to the act ; • At this my heart trembleth, and is moved out and it is a thousand thousand fold more that we of its place : hear attentively the noise of his know not of him, than that we know: for indeed voice. God thundereth marvellously with his there is no comparison to be here made. voice ; great things doth he which we cannot 3. The immensity of God, as it proves hiin comprehend.' How then should we comprehend incomprehensible, so it contains his omnipresence ; himself? When God pleads his cause with Job and therefore should continually affect us, as men himself, what doth he but convince him of his that believe that God stands by them. As we infinitude and absoluteness, even from the great would compose our thoughts, minds, and passions, ness of his works, which are beyond our reach, if we saw, were it possible, the Lord stand over
us, so should we now labour to compose them. this is, because they consider not the immensity As we would restrain and use our tongues, and or infinite greatness of the Lord. It is true, that order our behaviour, if we saw his majesty, so God hath framed the nature of all things, and should we do now, when we know that he is with delights to maintain and use the frame of second
An eye servant will work hard in his mas- causes which he hath made; and will not easily ter's presence, whatever he doth behind his back. and ordinarily work against or without this order Bestir thee then, Christian, for God stands by ; of causes : but it is as true and certain, both that
in him we live, and move, and have our being, sometimes he makes use of miracles, and that in Loiter not till thou canst truly say that God is the very course of natural causes he is able to gone, or absent from thee ; sin not by wilfulness exercise a particular providence, as well as withor negligence, till thou canst say thou art be out them, by himself alone. The creature doth hind his back. Alas, that we should have no nothing but by him. All things move as he first more awakened, serious souls, and no more fer-moves them, in their natural agency. His wisvent, lively prayers, and no more serious, holy dom guides, his will intends and commands ; speech, and no more careful, heavenly lives, when bis power moves and disposes all. The sun we stand before the living God, and do all in his would not shine, if he were not the light of it; sight, and speak all in his hearing? O why and he is no less himself the light of the world, should sense so much affect us, and faith and than if he did illuminate it without a sun. God knowledge work no more ? We can be awed is never the further off, because the creatures are with the presence of a man, and would not do near us; or never the less in the effect, because before a prince what most men do before the he uses a second cause, than if there were no Lord. Yea, other things affect us when we see second cause at all. What influence second them not; and shall not God? But of this more causes have upon the souls of men, he hath for afterwards.
the most part kept unknown to us; but that him4. The immensity of God assures us much of self disposes of us and all things after the counsel his all-sufficiency. He that is every where, is of his own will, is beyond all question. Can be easily able to hear all prayers, to help us in all that is most mean with thy thougats, be regardstraits, to supply all wants, to punish all sins. less of them ? Can he be regardless of thy words A blasphemous conceit of God as finite, and and ways that is with thee, and sees and hears as absent from us, is one of the causes of our all ? If thou believe not that he is as verily distrust. He that distrusts an absent friend, with thee as thou art there thyself, thou art then as thinking he may forget him, or neglect him, an atheist. If thou believe him not to be infinwill trust him when he is with him ; cannot he ite, thou believest him not to be God. It is not hear thee, pity thee, and help thee, that is God that can be absent, limited or finite. If still with thee? O what an awe is this to the thou be not such a senseless atheist but knowest careless! What a support to faith; what a that God is everywhere, how is it possible thou quickener to duty; what a comfort to the afflicted, shouldst doubt of his care or observance, or partroubled soul! God is in thy poor cottage, ticular providence about every thing? Christian, and well acquainted with thy wants : No child is so foolish that will think his father God is at thy bedside when thou art sick, and cares not what he saith or doth, when he stands nearer thee than the nearest of thy friends. before him. Wouldst thou doubt of God's parWhat would thou do in want or pain if God ticular providence, whether he regard thy heart, stood by ? Wouldst thou not pray and trust talk and practice, if thou didst see him with him if thou sawest him? So do though thou thee? Surely it is scarcely possible. Why then see bim not, for he is surely there.
dost thou question it when thou knowest that he 5. The immensity and infinite grealuess of is with thee? If thou be an atheist and knowest God assure
of his particular providence. not, look about thee on the world, and bethink Some blasphemous infidels imagine that he hath thee whether stones, trees, and eartlı, whether only a general providence, and hath left all to beasts, or birds, or men, make themselves ; if some inferior powers, and meddles not with they do, thou hadst better uphold thyself, and particular things himself: they think that as he be not sick, and do not die. If thou madest hath left it to the sun to illuminate the world, so thyself, thou canst surely preserve thyself; but hath he left all other inferior things and events if any thing else made thee and all these lower to nature or inferior Causes ; and that he doth things, either it was somewhat greater or less not himself regard, observe, reward, or punish than they ; either it was somewhat better or the thoughts, words, and ways of men. And all' worse than they. If less, or worse, how could 769