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LECTURE III.111111   Preached December 5, 1690.—The preceding discourse was, doubtless, preached in two Lectures: but the division, and the time when the 2nd was delivered are not noticed in the manuscript. Edit.

Rom. i. 20.

For 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 God
head; so that they are without excuse

OUR business (as we have proposed you know) is, with God’s gracious assistance, to open to you the principles of religion. Christian religion (which we finally intend) is founded in natural: and the principles of the former must be understood, therefore, to comprehend the latter, as things at least necessarily pre-supposed unto the doctrine of Christ. Now it being our design, in the general, to open to you the principles that do any way belong to that doctrine, we choose (as it is most fit) to begin with HIM who is the beginning of all, the principle that is most firstly first, primo primum, as they use to speak. Such is the Deity whether we speak of principles of being or of knowledge: for there is no being that depends not upon the Divine Being, and no knowledge, rightly so called, which some way or other depends not upon divine knowledge. He is not only the first being, but the first and primary known, the primum esse and the primum cognoscible, as he is justly to be reckoned.


Now this text shews us the true method of arriving to the knowledge of him, the unmade Being, by the things that are made; and not only to the certainty of his existence, but of the excellency of his nature; both discoverable by the same light, by the same evidencing mediums, which that you may see, let us view the contents of this text briefly. We have in it

First, What is revealed concerning God, expressed first of all more indefinitely, “the invisible things of him.” This must not be understood distinctively, as if some things of God were visible and some invisible; that is, of things belonging to the divine nature; but it must be understood adversatively, that is, though they are invisible, and notwithstanding their in visibility, they are yet clearly demonstrable by the things that are made. And then, secondly, they are declared to us more expressly, first, in one great instance of his eternal power, the effects whereof we see (as is here said) in the things that are made. But the cause itself is still invisible. And this is most fitly instanced in reference to the creature and the creation, which is said to be demonstrative thereof. All this vast creation, with that great variety of creatures that do compose and make it up, having lain in that, as in the pregnant womb thereof, from all eternity; out of which it is at length produced by it as its mighty creative cause. And then, secondly, besides this instance of one peculiar excellency of the Divine Being, (his eternal power) to save a long and a particular enumeration, all the rest of the divine excellencies, are summed up in that one expression, “Godhead:” his eternal power and Godhead, comprehending all his other excellencies and perfections besides. This is the first thing we have to note to you from the text what is revealed concerning God, even the invisible things of him, particularly his eternal power, the immediate cause of all things, and his Godhead which comprehends all his excellencies together. And,

Secondly: We have to consider here the revelation hereof, these things “are clearly seen,” seen, and clearly seen. This indeed looks like a riddle; invisible things seen! and clearly seen! things seen that are invisible, or that cannot be seen! But the next words solve it, “being understood by the things that are made.” Seen! How are they seen? Not occularly, but intellectually, they are seen as being understood. They are seen by the eye of the mind, though they cannot be seen by the bodily eye. God, and every thing belonging to the nature of God, being in that respect by the excellency thereof invisible. But it may be said, How are they so seen and clearly seen by the 402 minds and understandings of men? when the complaint is concerning men generally, even in the very context, “their foolish hearts are darkened,” and “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not;” as it is in the beginning of John’s gospel. How then are they intellectually seen? Why nothing is more usual than to express a matter of right (where that right is most evident) by matter of fact, and by such forms of speech as signify the fact. “No man liveth to himself:” that is, no man should. It is so plain a case that no man should live to himself, that when the design is to speak the reason of the thing, this is the expression of it, “no man liveth to himself,” that is, is allowed to do so; and indeed in common language it is usual to express the passive future by the present or the preterit, as we say, vir spectatus, for vir spectabilis, or spectandus; one that is very much regarded, for one that ought to be or deserves to be so. And a thing that we say is indubitate fidei, of undoubted faith and certainty: we mean by it indubitande, that ought not to be doubted, or that there is no reason why it should be doubted. So “clearly seen” here, is clearly to be seen and understood, that is, such as might be understood, that ought to be understood, and there is no reason, why they are not understood, but because men will not under stand; shut their eyes and are willingly blind and ignorant, “not liking” (as it is afterwards expressed in the context) “to retain God in their knowledge.” Or, there are here things so clearly to be understood, that they are manifestly left (as the close of this verse is) without all excuse who understand them not. And upon that account, in the words presently following, “that which may be known:” (so we read it) the expression is, that which is known of God; but the meaning is, that which may be known of God, as we translate it. Then,

Thirdly: We are to consider the evidencing medium in the text, “by the things that are made:” the made things that are visible, are clearly demonstrative of their unmade Cause, of the excellency of the power and Godhead of that invisible Being, who is the unmade Maker of them. And

Fourthly: You have the constancy and continuedness of this concealment and revelation, “from the creation of the world.” It is not εκ out of, but αποfrom; and notes the term of time and not casualty, which is expressed in the other phrase of speech, we noted to you before, “the things that are made.” But all along, ever since the world began, ever since there was a world in being, the invisible things of God, his eternal power and Godhead: they have been concealed and revealed: concealed in one respect; that is, they have been invisible 403to mortal eyes: and revealed in another respect; that is, have been visible to mortal minds. And then you have

Fifthly: In the last place, (which will be fit to be considered as the use of all,) the inexcusableness of those that receive not this revelation; so that they are without excuse, that do not acknowledge and adore the invisible Godhead, so demonstrating himself by the things that are made.

As to what we intend, you may take the ground of the whole discourse from this scripture thus,

That the sundry, excellencies of the Divine Being, all-comprehending Godhead, are clearly demonstrable by the things that are made. And you may take in (as that which gives the greater lustre to the truth) that which is put adversatively, if you please, notwithstanding their invisibility in themselves.

In speaking to this, these two things are principally to be insisted on:

I. They shew you what the Godhead comprehends, as far as is needful or possible unto us, or what are the excellencies that belong to the nature of God. And then,

II. To shew how these are demonstrable of him by the things that are made.

I shall not dispute the reasonableness of that method in Speaking to other subjects, first to inquire about the an sit, and then about the quod sit or rather the quid sit; to inquire first whether such a thing be, and then to inquire what it is. There may, indeed, as to some confused knowledge of a thing, be an inquiry concerning it’s existence, and afterwards a descent made to inquire more particularly into its precise nature. But simply speaking, it would be the most absurd thing in the world to inquire first whether this or that be, before there is any apprehension at all what it is: for then we inquire about a shadow; and neither he that demonstrates, nor he to whom the demonstration is made, can do other than beat the air; the one understands not himself, nor can the other understand what he goes about. But it would be much more absurd in this case, to follow such a method as that, because by universal consent, the divine nature includes existence in it, which some therefore rely upon as sufficient demonstration of the existence of God, that is, that his very idea doth include existence, so that it is impossible to conceive of the Divine Being, but we must conceive of it as existing, inasmuch as the very idea and notion of it is inclusive of all perfections, whereof existence cannot be but one. and a very fundamental one too to all the rest. And therefore it must be a manifest 404 contradiction, so much as but to suppose, that the most perfect Being must not exist, because a possibility of not existing is a very great and manifest imperfection.

But that is not the method of demonstration which I choose, but that which the text lays before us, that is, to demonstrate by that which is made, both the certainty of God’s existence, and the excellency of his nature. But the latter we must have some understanding of first, otherwise neither do I nor you know what we are doing, if we have no apprehension among us, who or what a one he is, whose existence we speak of.

I. This therefore comes to be considered and inquired into, what excellencies we must suppose the Godhead or divine nature (which is all one) doth comprehend. And here it must be acknowledged, we enter into a vast and most profound abyss; and you and I have all of us great reason to apprehend our need of much forgiveness, that after so great opportunity as we have had to learn better, we understand and know little yet of what we are to speak and hear of; and we have great need to supplicate and look up, that we may be enabled to speak and hear worthily concerning the blessed and eternal God, and to speak things of him fit to be spoken, and to hear them as it is fit to hear such things.

Why, in general it is certain the name of God doth import a Being absolutely perfect, a Being comprehensive of all perfections.

And now here it may be said, This throws us into a sort of despair; for certainly a Being comprehensive of all perfections, must be to us altogether incomprehensible; we can never comprehend what doth itself comprehend all things.

I answer, Very true indeed: and yet there is a knowledge of this incomprehensible and all-comprehending Being, which is necessary as our first step, not only in what we are now about, but in reference to whatsoever else we have to go about to do, or to enjoy in all time, or in all eternity. But to relieve our thoughts here a little, you must know that we are not to treat of this incomprehensible and all-comprehending Being, in the way of metaphysicians and philosophers, who must have notions of things, ideas of them (it is that which they profess and pretend to) adequate to the things themselves whereof they treat; but our business is to speak of this ever-blessed Being as persons professing religion; not as philosophers, but as religionists; and so we are to consider him as the Object of our religion, the first thing to be considered in all religion; and so the name of our inquiry comes to this: Have we an object for our religion, yea or no? And if we cannot reach to comprehend 405(as it is impossible we should) all that doth belong to the Godhead, if yet we can reach to apprehend, so much as will represent and recommend him to us, as a worthy, deserving Object of our religion, our business is done: that is what we design, and we may know so much concerning him as to know him to be a fit Object, or worthy of religion, without knowing all of him, which is impossible: and if it were possible it would undeify him. He could not be God if we could comprehend him. He could not be a Deity if a finite mind were comprehensive of him.

And that you may a little understand the reasonableness of what I now say, do but consider what knowledge of man it is necessary for you to have in order to your conversing with men. Is it not possible for one man to converse with another, without having a full and entire knowledge of the full and entire guidity (as I may so speak) of human nature? must a man know all the properties and attributes of human nature, or he cannot converse with men? I hope there are many men converse one with another besides philosophers. And so, I say, it is equally possible for you to converse with God, without knowing every thing belonging to his nature. It is enough in order hereunto, and that so you may be in a possibility of conversing with him by religion, as the great Object of your religion: the only Object of your religion, that you know him to be more perfect than any thing else, or all things else, though you do not fully know how excellent or perfect he is,. or ever can. But this our conception of him in the general, that he is a Being absolutely perfect, or universally perfect, must comprehend all that can be thought, and all that can be said concerning him. Yet, in the mean time, this is too general to denote to us the Object of our religion. We must have more particular and more distinct thoughts of him whom we are to worship, to whom we are to pay all duty, and from whom we are to expect all felicity, than only this one general notion doth furnish us with. That is, that he is one that is universally or absolutely perfect; we must necessarily descend and come down to particulars; and think what particulars are necessary to constitute and make up for us the object of our worship and religion. And so you may take this more particular (though yet short) account.

When we inquire, What doth the idea or notion of God include? what are we to conceive of the nature of God, as he is the Object of our religion? we must have such a representation of him as this in our minds; that he is an eternal, self-subsisting Being, himself unmade, and the intelligent and free Author 406 and Original of every thing that is made. Conceive him so, and you have before you the Object of your worship, the Object of religion, one that claims by a natural right that you fall down and adore him. This is some answer to the former of these inquiries, What we are to conceive by that name of God as represented and held forth to us under that name, or what is it that the Godhead doth comprehend, so far as is answerable to our purpose, that is, of stating before you an object of religion.

II. And now the second thing we have to do, is to demonstrate all this concerning God, by the things that are made: which is that method of demonstration that the text furnishes us with, and directs us unto. If such a Being as this doth exist in reality, have actual existence in such a Being, or he doth exist such and as such, then we can be in no further doubt, whether we have an object of worship, an object of religion yea or no. But now the demonstration of the existence of such a Being, by things that are made, must be done by parts, according as there are parts, that this representation of the object of religion is made up of, and so we shall proceed gradually part by part. As

1 We have this to demonstrate to you, that there is existing an ETERNAL BEING, that was of itself, depending upon nothing for its being or existence; and this we have to demonstrate to you by the things that arc made; that is thus; though that eternal Being is invisible; you see him not with your eyes; it is a Being of too high an excellency ever to be seen of mortal eyes, or by the eyes of the flesh, or by external sense; yet there are things in being that are visible, and of the existence whereof you can be sure. You are sure that yourselves are, and that you are some of the things that are made; for you very well know, that you began to be, that you have not been always, and that you have been but a little while; then I say, from that which you may be sure of, that it is a being, you may be likewise sure, there is an eternal Being that was from everlasting of itself. And I would not have you herein to debase your own minds and understandings, as if they could not be at a certainty about such a thing as this, though the matter falls not under the sight of the eye. As to what is to be inferred, to be collected and concluded, it would be too great a debasement of human nature and the mind and spirit of a man, to suppose or imagine that this mind and spirit cannot be as certain of its object, as external sense can be of its object. You think you are very sure of what you see with your eyes, and you have reason to think you are so: and you are so. But I would have you to 407apprehend too, that you may be as sure of something that you only know with your mind as you can be of any thing that you see with your eyes: and you wrong your own understandings if you will not think the one sort of things to be as certain as the other sort. You think (for instance) we are all very sure that we see one another, and are here present together at this time: you see me and I see you. No man but will think this a very absolute certainty of what falls under sight. But let me appeal to you now, whether you cannot be certain of something that only falls under the view of your mind, and not under your sight at all. Are you not as sure that two and two make four, as you are that you and I see one another? the one as an object of the mind only, the other as an object of sense. And pray is not the one of these as certain as the other? Am I not as certain that two and two make four, as that we see one another? Have you not as much satisfaction of the truth of the one as of the truth of the other? Well, that being now laid, I doubt not but if you will use your understandings, you will see and confess that you are as certain, that an eternal Being is, which you see not, as you are that any being is, that you do see.

Why! How can we be as certain? you will say.

Why, plainly and shortly thus, from this consequence, If any thing is, something hath always been. Do but consider and weigh in your own minds the clearness of this consequence. If you can be sure that something now is, you may be as sure that something hath ever been, been from eternity, or (which is all one) that there is an eternal Being. Well but how will this consequence be made out? Why, plainly, by taking the reverse of it. Do but suppose with yourselves, nothing more is; then the manifest consequence will be, that to eternity nothing can ever be, and of this (if you will think) you may be as sure, as you can of this, that two and two make four. That is, do but lay down this, and suppose it: there is nothing now in being no where, or any where; whatsoever there was, there is now nothing of one sort or another in being; you then may. be sure, that to all eternity nothing can ever happen to be: for nothing can spring, or start up out of nothing into being of itself. Can you be surer of any thing than of this, that if you could suppose the whole universe of being not to be, or that from eternity it was not, to all eternity it would never be, it could never be. Then how plain a consequence is this, if something now is, something hath always been: if there be any being, there is an eternal Being. For if there had been any time, or any moment, in all conceivable eternity wherein there was nothing in being, nothing had ever come into being, 408 or could possibly have done so. This then is the first step, there is an ETERNAL BEING, and nothing can be plainer. But now,

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