« Prev Lecture IV. Preached Dec. 12, 1690. Next »

LECT. IV.112112   Preached Dec. 12, 1690.

2. We come in the next place to prove to you the self-existence of such a Being. There is such a Being first, and now secondly, that eternal Being must be of itself, could no other way be, but of and from itself. Now here you must conjoin these two things in your own thoughts, that so (as you will see in the sequel) every thing that is thus proved, may be found to be proved of one and the same being. Now then it is evident, that this eternal Being is the first of all beings, there can be nothing before it, and therefore it cannot have its existence from another, there being nothing before it, from whence it could have its existence, and therefore it must have its existence from itself: not by once beginning to exist, for we have shewn already, it is impossible, that if there were nothing in being, any thing should of itself rise up out of nothing into being. And therefore this is such a Being, as must be understood by the excellency of its own nature, to have been always in being without beginning, and so it will appear to be an eternal Being, and to be a self-existing Being both at once: or (which is all one) a necessary Being, a Being that doth not depend upon will and pleasure, as all made things do. All made things depend upon will and pleasure; “for thy pleasure they are, and were created.” But the unmade Being must needs be self-existent, no way depending upon the pleasure of another, there being nothing before it, and so (which is the same thing) itself necessarily existing, as that excellency, that peculiar excellency of its own nature, to which it was simply repugnant not to exist. And so for the same reason if there have been an eternal self-subsisting Being, there must be still an eternal self-subsisting Being, for it is upon these terms, and for that reason for which it was impossible to it ever not to be. And so that nature which he is pleased to assume to himself is most admirably expressive of this peculiarity of his nature, “I AM THAT I AM,” or simply “I AM.” Exod. iii. 14. All beings besides, being but (as it were) shadows of being in comparison of this. And

We are further to conceive and to prove concerning this Being, its causation of all things else, this is an attribute of the Divine Being as it is itself without cause, so to be the Cause of every thing. Itself unmade, but the Maker of all things that are made. A thing the blessed God doth justly and often glory 409in, in sundry parts of Scripture: “The Maker of heaven and earth.” The first as well as the last. He of whom and from whom all things are; and we are told again and again how, in the beginning of Genesis, and the beginning of the gospel of John and elsewhere, to wit, by a word’s speaking. He spake and they were made. He commanded and they stood forth. That there are made things is a proof to us that he was their Maker. A made thing and a maker are relatives one to another, and there can be no maker of that which was of itself. Whence should that which was made not of itself come, but from that Being that was of itself?

4. We must conceive and may clearly prove from what is made, the vast power of the Eternal Being. The things that are made prove that he is a Being of the greatest conceivable power, the greatest that we can conceive, and indeed unspeakably greater than we can conceive. This appears in that, first, he hath made all things out of nothing: as nothing can of itself arise out of nothing, so it is the greatest power that is conceivable to bring any thing out of nothing: if all the contrivance and all the power of this world were put together to bring the least thing out of nothing, you would easily apprehend it impossible to all. If all the force that is in this whole earth, and even in the whole creation, should be exerted together to bring a grain of sand out of nothing, you would easily apprehend it would never be, and therefore how vast is that power of this Eternal Being! he to whom the eternal Godhead belongs, (as the text speaks) to bring things into being that were not; that were nothing immediately before. But then, secondly, consider also the vastness of the creation. To bring the least thing out of nothing must require the greatest power, but to bring so great a creation as this out of nothing, is that which doth render the power of the Creator, both perspicuous and admirable at once. To have such a frame of things as we behold with our eyes “from day to day made to rise up out of nothing, and only by a word speaking, how perspicuous and admirable doth it evidence his infinite power! But

5. We are to apprehend, and may prove the admirable beneficence of him that made them. If we cast our eye through the universe, and consider, that the first order of creatures that have life are made capable of pleasure; some kind of satisfaction to themselves, that is, that are capable of the meaner life, the sensitive life; and that the creatures beneath them are made to afford the matter of that pleasure, when it was very easily possible for a Being of vast, immense power to have made creatures only for self-torment; upon this account it appears that 410 the whole earth, the whole creation is full of his goodness. So that rising a little from the meanest sort and order of creatures, you immediately ascend to such a sort and order of creatures as hath, every one, its suitable delectation. That all the repasts of that life that are given to the several orders of creatures, are mingled and sweetened with so much delight, speaks all to be full of his goodness. Whatsoever is necessary for the support of it, is generally taken in with delight and complacency. If this Being who is the Author and Spring of all other beings, were not a being of admirable goodness and beneficence it had been as easy a thing to him, that what should have been necessary for the support of inferior beings should always have been accompanied with torture as well as pleasure. That whereas we and the creatures beneath us find it needful in order to the support of life to eat and drink, he might have ordered it so that there never should have been eating and drinking without torment: now we find it is with continued pleasure, for the greater part, with all sorts of creatures whose case doth require it. And again,

6. We must understand from the things that are made, this Eternal Being to have been their intelligent and designing Maker. We are to prove this intellectuality from the things that are made; that he is an intellectual Being, that he did not give rise to this creation by an effort of vast and resistless power alone; but by a power that was guided and governed by wisdom, so as to know and design all his work throughout. And (as I have told you) it being our business in speaking to this head, to evince and make out to you an object of religion, to give you a plain and satisfactory answer to this first question, Have we an object of religion yea or no? this is most absolutely necessary to the resolution of it. We have not an object of religion without this, that is, without the supposition of an intellectual designing Maker of all things. If we should suppose only an Almighty Maker of things, who made them without wisdom, without design, intending no such thing; if the effort of such a power as we could not resist, and it could not of itself withhold, had thrown up such a creation as this is, out of nothing into what it is, if that had been possible, here had been no object of worship, no object of religion, that is, there would have been nothing that would either deserve or could receive religious homage from us: nothing that could deserve it, because the thing was altogether (upon this supposition) without design. If a mighty violent storm had thrown in upon the coast some vessel full of rich treasure, and I was passing by it, and (it being without an owner, no one laying claim to it) it 411were thrown into my lap, would I fall down and worship the storm? though I might him that guided and directed it. Nor indeed as an undesigning cause of all things could not deserve religious homage, so neither could he receive it. It would be an absurd thing to pay a religious homage where there could be no reception of it, where no notice could be taken of it. But nothing is more evident from the things that are made, than that the Maker of them hath done all with most profound and wise counsel; he hath therein displayed an infinite understanding and thereby made known that his understanding is in finite. By wisdom are. the heavens stretched forth and the earth established and founded. Which appears several ways:

(1.) In the order which is every way observable in the creation of God. Wisdom only is the parent of order, and order the product of wisdom. It cannot be, that there should be accurate and continued order by chance. When the letters of the alphabet are put into such an order as to express such and such sense, will any man say this was by chance, and this was without design? especially when this is continued, when they are repeated over and over again, in such order as to make a volume: the very thing (1 remember) that the pagan, Cicero takes notice of and urgeth for the proving of a Deity; the creating of the world by a wise and designing cause, against the epicureans who would have it arise only out of the fortuitous jumble of several particles of matter, called atoms. “You might as well (saith he) suppose that the letters of the alphabet in great numbers shaken together in confusion, and thrown out, should fall into the order of Ennius’s poems, so as of themselves without design to compose such a history as his, all in verse.” When we consider the order that is between things and things, how exact a course and motion, the sun, moon, and planets and other stars do hold, so as that a man of weak understanding can tell you at what hour, in such a month and such a day of the month, the sun will rise and set, and so of the moon; and so (those that do observe them) of the planets and other stars besides; and then to see the constant succession of summer and winter, spring and autumn, day and night amongst us: whence comes all this order? What! from no designing cause? And again,

(2.) Consider the aptitude of things to their end, the several ends they are appointed to serve for, #s, who can comprehend that such a thing as our eye was made for any thing else but to see with, and our foot but to walk with, and our hand but to work with, and such a thing as the ear was made for any thing else but to hear with? Who can comprehend that there should be that strange and exact aptitude in every thing for the ends and 412 purposes that they do serve for, without a design that they should serve those purposes? And this would be a great deal more convictive, if it were so obvious to every one to take notice of, and observe many things that are more latent, and lie out of common view: to think how the several veins and arteries do receive and distribute and return back again the blood from its fountain, the heart, so as continually to renew strength and vigour in the body as the matter doth require: to think of the admirable variety and suitableness of those things that we have in our bodies, called muscles, and all the several sorts of motion that are to be performed; about six (as is observed) belonging to the eye itself, without which it were impossible it should move in the several ways it doth: and about four hundred and thirty of these in one human body. If any man did by chance see a watch, who had never seen one before; but he finds upon observation, what uses and purposes it serves for in the general, and what purposes the several parts it was composed of do serve for, in order to that general end, will he not with the greatest confidence imaginable pronounce, “this was made with a design:” or would a man blame him for his confidence? Or if a man take upon him to pretend to such an excessive measure of wit as to say, “these things serve to such a purpose, for this general end, the measuring of time; and the several parts serve for several ends, this and that motion by which the whole is made useful to that common end: but this was never made by any human art or with a design, but the several parts of which it is composed being agitated variously by the wind, or motion of the air were thrown by mere chance into this figure, and so there resulted out of the whole such a little engine as this, that now you see serves these purposes;” who would not think that man with his pretences to wit, a madman that should give such an account as this, how a watch came to be made, when he sees what it serves for, and what its several parts do serve for, in subserviency and reference to the common end? And which way would you judge and pronounce with confidence that such a thing was made with a design, but by having so manifest characters upon it of a designing cause? so as that every one but a madman would presently say, this was done with a design and for such a purpose. But there is no one that hath given himself but to look a little into the composition of a human body but could see a hundred times more curiosity in so many hundreds of things that go to the composition of it. As I have told you, in each several muscle of a human body there is as much curiosity as can be taken notice of in a watch, and much more in the fabric and structure of the eye and of the ear. So that nothing can be imagined a greater absurdity 413than to suppose such things as those that we see are made, were made without design or otherwise than with design, and by a wise cause that was first productive of them and continues to be productive of them in the stated way that he hath set for them. And,

(3.) We may conclude an intellectual designing cause of the things that are made, from very many of the things themselves, that not only have characters of a design upon them, and so thence appear to be made with design, but are made capable of design themselves; that is, the whole order of intelligent reasonable creatures. We are all of us convinced that we are not of ourselves, that we are made things, that our minds and spirits which we carry about with us are made things by one unmade. It is but a little while ago that they were not. But besides, they are things themselves capable of design: you know we lay our designs this way and that, we have our contrivance what we will do to-day and to-morrow and (it may be) the third day. And whence should a designing effect proceed but from a designing cause? If there be such a thing as wisdom among the things that are made, there must certainly be a wise maker; otherwise that wisdom being itself a made thing, was made by that which had nothing in it, out of which it could arise. But (as I told you before) it is altogether impossible for something to arise out of nothing itself. Therefore wisdom being somewhat and a made thing, it doth not arise of itself out of nothing, or that is of late beginning. A little while ago they were not, how comes wisdom into such a created kind of being? Why it shews the wisdom of an uncreated Being from whence it came. And,

7. We may further hence collect the spirituality of this Being, that this Being is a Spirit, an eternal Spirit, an eternal mind; otherwise it were not capable of design. There are but two sorts of beings in general that we can so much as conceive of. These are mind and matter. Since we have proved to you, this Being is a designing Being, a wise intelligent Being, that proves it to be a mind, and spiritual Being, because matter is capable of no such thing as design: some indeed may apprehend that though gross matter cannot design, (a clod of clay we know can design nothing,) yet perhaps some finer sort of matter, pure and defected matter may. But I would have it considered what nearer approach to wisdom and reason there is in a flame of fire, than in a clod of clay. Can any man conceive that there is any greater disposition to reason or the exercise of wisdom in a blast of wind or a flame of fire than in a piece of dirt? Therefore we are here to attribute to the Deity that, that God is pleased to attribute to himself; to wit, that 414 he is a Spirit, which further represents him to us as the Object of worship, and of suitable worship, forasmuch as he is to be worshipped, and worshipped in spirit and in truth. John iv. 24. And indeed, otherwise it had been altogether impossible that this world should be made by a cause that were not purely mental, in its own being a mental and spiritual thing: for most manifest it is; matter as such is altogether inactive; and if you could suppose never so vast a collection of mere matter it would always remain a mere dead lump, as even the light of more intelligent and considering heathens could dictate to them: Mens agigat molem; it is the mind that doth actuate, and did at first this mighty moles of matter, so as to bring things out of it, appearing in such an order as we do behold, and that we may not go on further in particular enumerations, which we see the apostle, in the text, cuts much shorter, summing up all in the word Godhead,

8. In the last place we may collect from the things that are made that this Being is absolutely perfect, or such as wherein all excellencies do concur in their highest perfection whether they be natural, intellectual, or moral, or those that we may conceive under these distinct notions.

(1.) Natural, as life, original self-sprung life in the highest perfection of it, as it imports both a self-active and self-fruitive principle. And again, pure simplicity and uncompoundedness; the necessary exclusion of all composition that may import any thing of diminution or debasement, to that Being we are speaking of. And again, most absolute immutability and unchangeableness, as that mentioned name; “I AM THAT I AM” imports. Arid again, immensity, unconfinedness to any space whatsoever; so that “heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain” this Being. These are natural perfections that we must understand do belong to him. And then,

(2.) All sorts of intellectual perfection that are truly such; as perfect knowledge of all things, even of minds and spirits themselves; and of future things that no eye can look into, but the divine eye. Most exact wisdom in all things else, as well as what appears in the making of this world, there is also requisite what doth appear in the continual government of it in changing the times and seasons, ordering things so as that they shall hit into their proper juncture, and meet in all their necessary circumstances that were needful to concur for such and such purposes. And then,

(3.) Those that are called moral excellencies, such as truth and righteousness, and holiness and the like: these must be understood, upon the same grounds, all of them to meet and concur 415in their highest perfection in this Being. And the demonstration whereof is still too, from the things that are made, because there are ideas, images, vestiges of these things to be found up and down in the creation among the things that are made. We find that some things are more fickle than others, and some things more steady. And we find (as I said before) there is such a thing as wisdom, as knowledge, as holiness, as righteousness, to be found among the creatures; and this shews all these things must be in the highest perfection in the unmade Being.

And I might add hereupon (as that which will be most necessarily consequent) that this Being must be infinite in all these perfections, because there is nothing in being, and nothing supposable ever to come into being, that doth not result and proceed from it. And that which comprehends all being and all perfection and all excellency, actual and possible, cannot be less than infinite; for there can be nothing more than all: but it is altogether impossible that there should be any thing, either that is in actual being now, or that can hereafter come into being, that comes not from this radical Being. This Being; therefore, which must virtually comprehend all that is actual and all that is possible, within the compass of its own power, cannot be less than infinite, because there can be nothing more than all, nothing beyond all.

And for the same reason it will be most evident that this Being can be but one. But that I shall not now insist upon: it will fall into the discourse most suitably when we come to shew, though it be essentially but one, it is personally three, and that is only to be shewn from the Scripture. The unity of the Deity is indeed demonstrable from reason, but that there should be a trinity in it, is only to be known from his saying so who best knows his own nature. As “the things of a man” are only to be known by “the spirit of a man that is in him,” so the things of God, and what is in his holy nature (otherwise not revealed) can only be known by the Spirit of God, as he shall think fit to reveal and make it known to us. But first, it will be needful to lay the foundation thereof in revealed religion, which is the great superstructure that is raised upon natural religion, or the natural notices of God, to wit, to evince to you that the Scriptures are of divine revelation which will fee the next work we have to do.

« Prev Lecture IV. Preached Dec. 12, 1690. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection