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ability of ours, in respect to the perfection of those things in him? how weak, silly, narrow, poor and wretched things must we needs appear to ourselves, when seriously we consider the immense excellences displayed in the world's creation! how should this depress and debase us in our conceits about ourselves! Especially if we reflect on our own unprofitableness, our ingratitude, and our injustice toward our Creator; how none, or how scant returns we have made to him, who gave unto us, and to all things for us, our being and theirs, our all and theirs; how faint in our acknowlegements, how negligent in our services we have been; yea how preposterously, instead of our due homage and tribute, we have repaid him affronts and injuries; frequently opposing his will, and abusing his goodness!
4. This consideration is farther a proper inducement unto trust and hope in God; and withal a fit ground of consolation to us in all our needs and distresses. He that was able to do so great things, and hath been willing to do so much for us; he that having made all things, can dispose of all, and ‘doeth (as king Nebuchadnezzar, taught by experience, confessed) according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?' how can we distrust his protection or succor in our exigencies? This consideration good men have been wont to apply to such purposes: 'My help,' saith the psalmist, 'cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth' well might he be assured, having so potent and faithful an aid: and, Happy,' saith he again, is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help; whose hope is in the Lord his God, which made heaven and earth; the sea, and all that therein is happy indeed he surely is; no disappointment or disaster can befall him, who doth with reason confide in him that made the world, and can manage it to his advantage. The prophet Jeremiah begins his prayer thus: O Lord God, behold, thou hast made heaven and earth by thy great power and stretched out arm; and there is nothing too hard for thee.' The creation of the world is such an experiment of God's power and goodness, as may support our faith in all encounters; so that we should not think any thing so difficult, but
that God is able; nor so high, but that God is willing to perform for us, if it make toward our real good.
5. Finally, this consideration ministereth a general incitement unto all obedience; which from God's production of all things doth appear, on several accounts, due and reasonable; all other things do constantly obey the law imposed on them, insist in the course defined to them; and shall we only be disobedient and refractory, irregular and exorbitant? shall all the hosts of heaven most readily and punctually obey God's summons? shall the pillars of heaven tremble, and be astonished at his reproof?' shall the sea, with its proud waves' be curbed and confined by his decree? shall fire and hail, snow and vapor, and stormy winds, (such rude and boisterous things,) fulfil his word?' as they are all said to do; and shall we be unruly and rebellious? we, who are placed in the top of nature, from whom all nature was made, to whom all nature serves; shall we only, of all things in nature, transgress against the Author and Governor of nature?
But I leave the farther improvement of this grand point to your meditation, concluding with the exhortation of that angel in the Apocalypse: Fear God, and give glory to him; worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water:' even to him be all obedience, and adoration, and praise for ever and ever.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XIII.
EPHESIANS, CHAP I.-VERSE 13.
THAT our religion is true and agreeable to reason, is a ground on which the truth of its single doctrines and articles of faith leans it is therefore requisite that we be well assured thereof. In the words of the text St. Paul styles the Christian doctrine, as elsewhere, the word of truth, and the gospel of our salvation, that is, a most true doctrine, brought from heaven to secure our eternal happiness.
It was anciently objected by Celsus and others, that Christianity exacted a bare groundless faith, or imposed laws uncapable of proof; debarring all inquiries, &c.
This mistake arose from their not distinguishing that belief, whereby we embrace Christianity itself in the gross, from that whereby, consequently on the former, we assent to the particular doctrines thereof. For as to the first kind, so far from obstructing inquiry, it obliges men to it; it refuses ordinarily a precipitate assent, and provokes a fair trial: it inveigles no man; but proclaims to all men, examine all things; hold fast that which is good.
Indeed, after it hath convinced men of its truth in general, it then requires a full and cordial assent to its particular doctrines : the propriety of this fully shown.
This proceeding, proper to Christianity, is in itself very plausible, &c. The first principle of Christianity (common to it and to all religions) is, that there is one God, Maker and Governor of all things. The next (which no religion denies) is, that God is perfectly veracious, so that whatever appears to
be asserted by him, is certainly true. A third is, that God is the Author of the Christian doctrine and law; that he hath revealed this doctrine to mankind, and confirmed it by his testi mony; that he hath imposed this law on us, and established it by his authority. This principle (the foundation of our faith) involves matter of fact, and consequently requires a rational probation. This then is to be shown by several steps or degrees.
I. It is reasonable to suppose that God should at some time or season fully and clearly reveal unto men the truth concerning himself and them, as they stand related to each other, &c.
It is apparent to common experience, that mankind being left to itself, in such matters, is very insufficient to direct itself, &c. The two only remedies of this ignorance and of its consequent evils, natural light and primitive tradition, did little avail to cure them: this fully shown. The miserable state of mankind under such endurance described.
Hence the necessity of another light to guide men out of this darkness. And is it not reasonable to suppose that God, who is alone able, will also be willing in due time to afford it? Reasons why he would be so disposed, assigned.
1. His goodness. Can a woman forget her sucking child? Yea; though it be unnatural, it is yet possible she may; because nature in her is not unalterably constant and the same : but the immutable God cannot so cease to be mindful of, and compassionate toward, his children; this subject enlarged on.
2. Moreover his wisdom enforces the same. God made the world to express his goodness, and to display his glory and who can be sensible of and promote these, but man? but he who is endued with reason and intelligence, &c.? which purposes would be frustrated, should God for ever suffer men to continue in ignorance, doubt, or mistake concerning himself: this topic dilated on.
3. God's justice also seems not a little to favor it: every
good governor thinks it just to take care that his subjects should understand his pleasure, and be acquainted with his laws, &c. : and is it likely that the sovereign Governor and Judge of all the world should be less equitable in his administration? &c.
4. It might be added, that generally it seems unbecoming the Divine Majesty, that he should endure the world, his kingdom, to continue under a perpetual usurpation and tyranny, &c.
We cannot indeed judge concerning the special circumstances or limits of God's dealing towards man in this particular; or concerning the time when, the manner how, the measure according to which he will dispense any particular revelation of himself. That he should for a while connive at men's ignorance, for various purposes, some plain, and others inscrutable to us, is not strange or unlikely: but that for ever he should leave mankind in so forlorn a condition, in such ignorance, under such a captivity to sin, and subjection to misery, seems not probable; much less can it seem improbable that he hath done it. This may tend to remove all obstruction to belief, and dispose us more readily to admit the reasons for it which follow. So much for the first step of our discourse.