« PreviousContinue »
ters to satisfy them whether they have the true love of God; they plainly sce and feel it; and the Spirit of God then witnesseih with their spirits, that they are the children of God.Therefore, if you would be satisfied upon this point, earnestly scek such attainments ; seek, that you may have such clear and lively exercises of this spirit. To this end, you must labour to grow in grace. Though you have had such experiences in times past, and they satisfied you then, yet you may again doubt. You should, therefore, seek, that you may have them more frequently; and the way to that is, earnestly to press forward, that you may have more acquaintance with God, and have the principles of grace strengthened. This is the way to have the excrcises of grace stronger, more lively, and more frequent, and so to be satisfied that you have a spirit of supreme love to God.
2. The other way is, to inquire, whether you prefer God to all other things in practice; i. e. when you have occasion to manifest by your practice which you prefer—when you must either cleave to one or the other, and must either forsake other things, or forsake God—whether then it be your manner practically to prefer God to all other things whatever, even to those earthly things to which your hearts are most wedded. Are your lives those of adherence to God, and of serving him in this manner ?
He who sincerely prefers God to all other things in his heart, will do it in his practice. For, when God, and all other things, come to stand in competition, that is the proper trial what a man chooses ; and the manner of acting in such cases must certainly determine what the choice is in all free agents, or those who act on choice. Therefore, there is no sign of sincerity so much insisted on in the Bible as this, that we deny ourselves, sell all, forsake the world, take up the cross, and follow Christ whithersoever he goeth. Therefore, so run, not as uncertainly; so fight, not as those that beat the air; but keep under your bodies, and bring them into subjection. Act not as though you counted yourselves to have apprehended; but this one thing do, “ forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 2 Pet. i. 5, &c. “ And, besides this, giving diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For, if these things be in you, and abound, they make you, that ye shall neither be barren por unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE SOLE CONSIDERATION, THAT GOD IS GOD, SUF
FICIENT TO STILL ALL OBJECTIONS
TO HIS SOVEREIGNTY.
Psalm XLVI. 10.
This psalm seems to be a song of the church in a time of great revolutions and desolations in the world. Therefore the church glories in God as her refuge, and strength, and present help, even in times of the greatest troubles and overturnings, ver. 1-3. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." The church makes her boast of God, not only as being her help, by defending her from the desolations and calamities in which the rest of the world were involved, but also by supplying her, as a neverfailing river, with refreshment, comfort and joy, in the times of public calamities. See ver. 4, 5, “ 'There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.".
In the 6th and 8th verses are set forth the terrible changes and calamities which were in the world : “The Heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. Come, behold the works of God, what desolation he hath made in the earth.” In the verse preceding the text, is elegant
* Dated June, 1735.
ly set forth the manner in which God delivers the church from these calamities, and especially from the desolations of war, and the rage of their enemies : “Ile maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire ;" i. e. he maketh wars to cease when they are against his people ; he breaketh the bow when bent against bis saints.
Then follow the words of the text : Be still, and know that I am God." "The great works of God, wherein his sovereignty appeared, had been described in the foregoing verses. In the awful desolations that he made, and by delivering his people by terrible things, he showed his greatness and dominion. Herein he manifested his power and sovereignty, and so commands all to be still, and know that he is God. For says he, “ I will be exalted among the heathen ; I will be exalted in the earth."
In the words may be observed,
1. A duty described to be still before God, and under the dispensations of bis providence; which implies that we must be still as to words; not speaking against the sovereign dispensations of Providence, or complaining of them; not darkening counsel by words without knowledge, or justifying ourselves, and speaking great swelling words of vanity. We must be still as to actions and outward behaviour, so as not to oppose God in his dispensations; and as to the inward frame of our hearts, cultivating a calm and quiet submission of soul to the sovereign pleasure of God, whatever it be.
2. We may observe the ground of this duty, viz. the divinity of God. Éis being God is a sufficient reason why we should be still before him, in no wise murmuring, or objecting, or opposing, but calmly and humbly submitting to him.
3. How we must fulfil this duty, of being still before God, viz. with a sense of his divinity, as seeing the ground of this duty, in that we know him to be God. Our submission is to be such as becomes rational creatures. God doth not require us to submit contrary to reason, but to submit as seeing the reason and ground of submission. Hence the bare consideration that God is God, may well be sufficient to still all objections and opposition against the divine sovereign dispensations.
This may appear by the following things :
1. In that he is God, be is an absolutely and infinitely perfect being; and it is impossible that he should do amiss. As he is eternal, and receives not his existence from any other, he cannot be limited in his being, or any attribute, to any certain determinate quantity. If any thing have bounds fixed to it, there must be some cause or reason why those bounds are fixed just where they are. Whence it will follow, that every limited thing must have some cause; and therefore that being which has no cause must be unlimited.
It is most evident by the works of God, that his understanding and power are infinite; for he that hath made all things out of nothing, and upholds, and governs, and manages all things every moment, in all ages, without growing weary, must be of intinite power. He must also be of infinite knowledge; for if he made all things, and upholds and governs all things continually, it will follow, that he knows and perfectly sees all things, great and small, in heaven and earth, continually at one view;
v which cannot be without infinite understanding.
Being thus infinite in understanding and power, he must also be perfectly holy; for unholiness always argues some defect, some blindness. Where there is no darkness or delusion, there can be no unholiness. It is impossible that wickedness should consist with infinite light. God being infinite in power and knowledge, he inust be self-sufficient and all-sufficient; therefore it is impossible that he should be under any temptation to do any thing amiss; for he can have no end in doing it. When any are tempted to do amiss, it is for seltish ends. But how can an all-sufficient Being, who wants nothing, be tempted to do evil for selfish ends? So that God is essentially holy, and nothing is more impossible than that God should do amiss.
2. As be is God, he is so great, that he is infinitely above all comprehension; and therefore it is unreasonable in us to quarrel with his dispensations, because they are mysterious. lf he were a being that we could comprehend, he would not be . God. It would be unreasonable to suppose any other, than that there should be many things in the nature of God, and in his works and government, to us mysterious, and which we never can fully find out.
What are we? and what do we make of ourselves, when . we expect that God and his
ways should be upon
level with our understandings? We are infinitely unequal to any such thing, as comprehending God. We may less unreasonably expect that a nut-shell should contain the ocean : Job xi. 7, &c. - Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as bigh as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." If we were sensible of the distance which there is between God and us, we should see the reasonableness of that interrogation of the apostle, Rom. ix. 20. “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God.”
If we find fault with God's government, we virtually suppose ourselves fit to be God's counsellors ; whereas it becomes
us rather, with great humility and adoration, to cry out with the apostle, Rom. ix. 33, &c. "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again ? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things : to whom be glory for ever,” If little children should rise up and find fault with the supreme legislature of a nation, or quarrel with the mysterious administrations of the sovereign, would it not be looked upon that they meddled with things too high for them? And what are we but babes ? Our understandings are infinitely less than those of babes, in comparison with the wisdom of God. It becomes us therefore to be sensible of it, and to behave ourselves accordingly. Psalm cxxxi. 1, 2. " Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too bigh for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child."
This consideration alone of the infinite distance between God and us, and between God's understanding and ours, should be enough to still and quiet us concerning all that God does, however mysterious and unintelligible to us.-Nor have we any right to expect, that God should particularly explain to us the reason of his dispensations. It is fit that God should not give any account of his matters to us, worms of the dust, that we may be sensible of our distance from him, and adore and submit to him in humble reverence.
Therefore we find, that when Job was so full of difficulty about the divine dispensations, God did not answer him by particularly explaining the reasons of his mysterious providence; but by showing him what a poor worm, what a nothing he was, and how much he himself was above him. This more became God than it would have done to enter into a particular debate with him, or to unfold the mysterious difficulties : it became Job to submit to God in those things that he could not understand, and to this the reply tended to bring him. It is fit that God should dwell in thick darkness, or in light to which no man can approach, which no man hath seen or can see. No wonder that a God of infinite glory shines with a brightness too strong for mortal eyes. For the angels themselves, those mighty spirits, are represented as covering their faces in this light; Isa. vi.
3. As he is God, all things are his own, and he hath a right to dispose of them according to his own pleasure. All things in this lower world are his; Job xli. 11. “Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine. Yea, the whole universe is God's; Deut. x. 14. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's ; the earth also, with all that is therein." All things are his, because all things are from him; they are