Page images

understanding.) Now thy God, and my God, of his rich grace give thee a large heart to understand and consider the great things of thy peace; recompense the labour and travel of thy soul in reading the discourse here presented unto thee, with the precious returns of light and life and peace into thy bosom, that when thou shalt have read thou mayest say, I have been in the mount with God, and mayest return with thine heart rejoicing and with thy face shining unto men. This, good reader, is the unfeigned desire and fervent prayer of,

Thy brother in Christ,

Greatly devoted to the peace of thy soul,

From my study in Coleman-street, London,

Feb. 12, 1650.




There is no created being, or second cause whatsoever, but dependeth upon the first and supreme Cause or Being, which is God: and this as well in the second as in the first act; I mean as well in the motions and operations issuing from, or performed by, every of them, as in their simple existence or being itself.


We shall not need, I presume, to levy a dispute for the gathering or getting in that tribute due to the crown and sovereignty of being, from all beings besides, which consists in an acknowledgment of his free bounty, in calling them out of the abyss of vanity and nothing by the word of his power, hereby taking them into part and fellowship with himself in his prerogative of being, according to what was resolved by "the counsel of his will," as meet to be dispensed unto every of them, respectively, in this kind. Trees that are thoroughly and deeply rooted in the earth, will grow and flourish, though the dew or rain from heaven should seldom or never fall them: but grass, and herbs, and tender plants, whose roots have but a slender and thin protection of their element against the scorching violence of the sun, will soon wither and die away if the clouds of heaven should not ever and anon drop verdure upon them, and relieve them. In like manner, such notions and impressions in the soul, into which nature is deeply baptized and mightily possessed with their truth, are like to live and to maintain their interest and authority in men, though not seconded or relieved by argument or dispute; but those, which have only taken a fainter and looser hold of the judgments and consciences of men, are in danger of miscarrying, and proving like "the corn upon the house top, which," as David observeth, "withereth before it be grown up," Psal. cxxix. 6, unless they be timely, yea and frequently encouraged, backed, and strengthened by discourse. That there is a Being, which looks upon this universe, with all the host of it, as the workmanship of his own hands; and that every creature, or finite being, is lineally descended from him as their great and first progenitor, are, I conceive, such principles of light and truth, written in so fair and full a character in the tables of all men's hearts, that even whilst they run they may read them, yea, and cannot lightly depose or suffer the loss of them, though they be not bound upon their judgments and consciences with any other bands of argument or demonstration, than those of their own evidence and conviction. Therefore

what God hath made manifest and clear in men, we shall not cast any suspicion of darkness or obscurity upon by making it matter of disputation.

And though the dependence of things in actual and complete being upon God for sustentation and support, as well of their simple existences and beings themselves, as of their operations (respectively, which is the sense and substance of the thesis propounded) be not altogether of so pregnant an inspiration as dependence upon him for their production, and first bringing into being; yet conceiving it not to be of any difficult or remote speculation, nor finding it so much as controverted or questioned by any considering man, especially of latter times, we shall in these respects content ourselves with a brief and light inquiry upon it.

The Holy Ghost indeed judged the assertion of this truth, and that by one of his greatest instruments, worthy of him; yet not so much, I suppose, to commend it simply as a truth, or to secure the judgments and consciences of men of the veracity of it, as to enforce the practical consequences thereof upon them; upon which ground, doubtless, it is that we find so many common and ordinary truths, not only delivered, but some of them oft repeated and inculcated in the Scriptures. Principles and assertions that are very obvious and low for matter of truth and apprehension, may be transcendently weighty and high in those things, whether relating unto practice or opinion, which are enfolded and contained in them, and deducible from them. Mary was but a carpenter's wife, yet did she bring forth the Great Messiah and Saviour of the world. But this only occasionally. The truth held forth in the thesis is the clear doctrine of the apostle Paul, and that preached at Athens, amongst philosophers, for learning and knowledge, the princes of the world. "For in him," saith he, speaking of God, "we live, and move, and are, or subsist," (as the original lauv, importeth,) iv avrÿ, “in him," i. e. through him, or by means of him, (as the preposition frequently signifieth, Acts xvii. 28. We are not said to live, move, and have our beings in God in a way of permission only, as, viz., because he refrains the exercise of that power in him, by which he is as able to take away all our beings as he was at first to give them; or because he forbears to annihilate us: in such a sense as this, we might as well be said to live in every man, who having power and opportunity to kill us, yet suffereth us in the possession of our lives. But we are said to receive or have these accommodations in or through God in a positive way, viz., by means of a glorious supporting influence, which issuing from his power by the mediation of his goodness or will, is to the great body of the creation, and to the respective parts and members hereof, as the soul is to the natural body of a man, with the members thereof, which remaining in union with it, preserveth it from dissolution and putrefaction; or as the presence of the sun is to the light in the air, which retains its being, whilst the sun shines upon it, but vanisheth presently, and becomes that which is not as soon

as the fountain of light withdraweth his shining. The Holy Ghost himself expresseth the dependence of creatures upon God in a borrowed resemblance of very near affinity with this: "Thou hidest thy face," saith David unto God, "they," i. e. the creatures, "are are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return. to their dust." That great act of God, in itself so wonderful and inexpressibly glorious, the sustentation and upholding of the universe, with all the parts thereof, in being, is ascribed only to the setting or turning of his face towards it, to show, I conceive, that it is an act of special dignation and favour in him to preserve it, and yet withal an act of easy performance, and which costs him not the least labour or toil. A gracious look from him will do it effectually, as the contrary is enough to affright all things out of their beings, and (which is equivalent hereunto, and in some cases more,) out of all that is desirable in their beings.

The Lord Christ is said piper Tà Távтa, Heb. i. 3, i. e. to sustain, or bear up all things by the word of his power; which implies, 1. An utter impotency and weakness in the creature to stand alone, or to keep itself by its own strength from a recidivation, or relapse into its first vanity or nothing: for that which is able to preserve itself from falling needs no support, or bearing up by another. 2. That Christ feels no weight, or burden of the universe, whilst he supporteth it. The speaking of a word, especially within himself, and in his mind only, engageth no man's strength, nor putteth him to the least pain. This great act of bearing up the universe, is therefore, I conceive, appropriated unto Christ, though common to the other persons with him, because in his mediatory humiliation he laid a foundation of equity and reason, why God, notwithstanding that great provocation given by the sin of man, to dissolve it, should yet consent to the standing and supportation of it. Such executions which depend upon his mediation, and for which there had been no place otherwise, are elsewhere in Scripture peculiarly asserted to him in respect thereof: see John v. 27. Though in respect of the Divine nature, power, and will, being one and the same in all the three persons, there is a necessity of their joint concurrence in all actings, ad extra, as the schoolmen call them, yet such of these actings, for which way hath been made by any personal achievement or transaction of any of the three, may, witha good savour of reason, be in a more special and remarkable manner attributed to that person, who hath more peculiarly interposed for the procurement of them.

When the apostle affirmeth that we live and move in God, in the sense declared, as well as have our essence or being in him, his meaning seems to be, that it is through God, and his voluntary closing with us, that we have and do enjoy all manner of accommodations of being, as well the greater and lesser, as essence or being itself. To live, ofttimes in Scripture, signifies the enjoyment of an happy and contentful condition, which signification is no ways inconvenient for this place. Or if the apostle be conceived to speak of the life natural, which is not improbable, he must be sup

posed to include all those noble and desirable faculties and endowments, as of reason, memory, judgment, understanding, speech, &c. which are appropriate to the life of man: so that when he saith we live in God, his meaning is, not only or simply that that spring or fountain of vital actions or motions in men, which in a district sense is termed life, is possessed, enjoyed, and held by means of a gracious and loving comportment of God with them for such a purpose; but that all that honourable retinue likewise of those excellent powers and faculties named, which attend upon the principle of life in man, is maintained in being by the same compliance also.

Whereas, he adds, that in him, also, Kivośμela, we move, or are moved, as the word rather importeth, he implieth, not only that all our vital actions and motions are exercised and performed by the gracious concurrence and compliance of God with us, as well as our lives themselves, and principles of action preserved; but, further, that there is a further and appropriate concurrence of God required, and by him accordingly exhibited, to enable men to act those very principles of action and motion that are in them, distinct from that by which their lives, and principles of action in every kind are preserved: insomuch, that though men be never so well appointed or provided for action in one kind or other, in respect of suitable, proper, and sufficiently disposed principles thereunto; yet, upon a suspension of that particular influence or concurrence by God, which is appropriate and necessary, both for the leading forth unto, and for the supporting of these principles, in and under their proper actions, there is none of them will go forth into action, nor is able to maintain or support itself in acting. But whether such a concurrence of God supposed, and actually granted, as is sufficient both for the leading forth unto, and for the support of the principles we speak of, in their proper actings, these principles notwithstanding, at least such of them, whose actions lie under the command of the will, may not refuse or forbear to act, is another question, wherein more may be said hereafter.

In the meantime, that God may at any time separate between principles and their actings, even those that are most proper and connatural to them, only by withholding that compliance of his with them; which is appropriate and necessary for their conducting unto action, is evident from several passages in the Scriptures. Doubtless, the heat of the fire in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, being -heated seven times hotter than ordinary, was as proper, as likely a means to have consumed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, being cast into the midst of this furnace, as those who were employed by the king only to cast them into it. Nor can it reasonably be said, that God separated the heat or burning property from the fire, or annihilated it, all the time that these three men were in the furnace. For, 1. Unless we shall suppose the subject itself, I mean, the fire, to have been destroyed or annihilated, we cannot suppose that heat, or a burning property, being a property inseparable from such a subject, should be taken from it. 2. It appears by the story, that

« PreviousContinue »