« 上一頁繼續 »
they are kept from returning into nothing by the same powerful word, command, and decree of God. “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled : thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created ; and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm civ. 29, 30). All things hold their life of him : if God withdraweth in any measure the wonted influence of his power from them, they presently find a change in themselves. It is even with the being and faculties of the creature as with the image of the glass, which when the face removeth it is seen no more. The Lord doth, as it were, breathe into them a being; and, when he taketh in his breath, they perish; and, when he sendeth it out again, they are renewed. Now, though God doth constantly discover his wisdom, power, and goodness, yet in some providence one of these doth more especially appear. His wisdom, in some notable contrivance and chain of causes, which to a common eye seemed to have no tendency to such effects as are produced by them; as when, out of the sins and perverse doings of men, or the disorders and confusions of the world, he raiseth his own glory ; or, by some unthought of, unheard of means, bringeth about the deliverance of his people, taking the wise in their own craftiness. Sometimes his power, when by weak and contemptible means he bringeth great things to pass, and a straw becometh a spear in the hand of the Almighty. Sometimes in his goodnes, in filling us with blessings, or doing notable acts of grace for his people's sake.
4. These three attributes suit with God's threefold relation to us : by his almighty power, he becometh our Creator; as most wise, our supreme Governor; as most good, our gracious Benefactor. We depend upon him for our present supplies, and from him we expect our future hopes. His creation gives him a right to govern us; his wisdom, a fitness; and his bounty doth encourage us voluntarily to give up ourselves to his service.
5. These three attributes do most bind our duty on us, as they beget in us love, fear, and faith; or esteem, reverence, and trust; which are the three radical graces that result from the very being and owning of God, and are the cultus naturalis enjoined in the first commandment. His wisdom as a law-giver begets reverence and fear; his goodness is the object of love, and his power of trust. If he be most wise, there is all the reason in the world that he should rule and govern us; for who is fitter to govern and make laws than he that is most wise? If he be most good, infinitely good, there is all the reason in the world that you should love him, and no show of reason why you should love the world and sin before him. If powerful and all-sufficient, there is all the reason you should believe in him, as one that is able to make good his word, either by promise or threatening. Faith goeth upon that: “ Strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. iv. 20, 21). He is God all-sufficient; there. fore his promises are not to be distrusted, his threatenings not to be slighted. There is no resisting or standing out against him : in the twinkling of an eye, he can tear you in pieces, pluck away the guilty soul from the embraces of the unwilling body. A spark of his wrath makes thee a burthen to thyself. So for promises, one word of his mouth can accomplish all the good that is contained in them. And it is observable, that the respects of the creature that are peculiarly due to one of these attributes, are sometimes in Scripture directed to another. It is said, “ And shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days” (Hos. iii. 5); and love him for his power and greatness, and believe in him for his wisdom. Again, they trust him for his goodness, love him for his wisdom, fear him for his power. All these changes are in Scripture.
Secondly, Why God is best remembered when his name is studied ? The reason is, because the study of his name doth increase those three fundamental radical graces before mentioned.
Ist, The studying of his name increaseth our love: “ Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee” (Cant. i. 3). Ointment kept close in the box doth not diffuse its savour; but ointment poured forth is full of fragrancy and reviving, it perfumeth the whole house: “ The house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John xii. 3). So, when the name of God is not considered, we are not comforted and strengthened, and quickened; but pour it forth, take it abroad in your serious thoughts and believing meditations, and that doth attract and draw hearts to him. When we consider the mercy, grace, power, wisdom, truth, and justice of God, these affect all those that have any spiritual discerning, This is the way to draw esteem from carnal hearts. He hath authority to make laws, for he is the wise God; power to back this authority, for he is the almighty Creator, who can frown thee into nothing; but yet he is good and gracious, ready to receive you, and pardon and do you good, though you have rebelled against him. To pour out this name, is our duty; and then poor creatures will be prevailed with : it is our duty to do it in the discoveries of the Gospel, your duty to ponder upon it in your private meditations. The wisdom of God in the word showeth your duty; his power, what need you have to bind it on your hearts; and your case is not without hope, for you have to do with a good God. There is no mercy to such as fear not his powerful justice, and no justice for such as flee from it to his mercy. See how God poureth out his name : “ And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and pro. claimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exod. xxxiv. 5-7).
2ndly, The studying of God's name increaseth our faith or trust : “They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee' (Psalm ix. 10). God is first known, and then trusted, and then served. If God were known more, he would be more trusted ; and, if he were more trusted, we should not be so double-minded and unstable in the profession and practice of godliness. We little study God; and, because we study his name so little, our faith is weak, and therefore we are so uncertain in our conversations. It is well when all our comfort and duty are immediately fetched out of the name of God, or his nature considered by us.
3dly, The studying of God's name increaseth our reverence and fear : “Holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm cxi, 9); " Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm lxxxvi. 11). The more you study the nature of God, the more awful, serious, humble, watchful will you grow. Thus, you see, serious and becoming thoughts of God do much increase our faith, fear, and love.
USE.—The use is to exhort you more
1. To study the name of God, and to dwell upon the meditations of the Almighty, and to possess your mind with him till no place be left for sin or vanity.
1. The name of his being. God is not only the best of beings, but properly that which is; because he is a self-being, that gave being to all things else, and from everlasting to everlasting. We are but, as it were, of yesterday; and our being is from him, and our life in his hands : we cannot live an hour without him, nor fetch a breath without him, nor think a thought, nor speak a word, nor stir a hand or foot, without him. There is a continual providential influence and supportation : as the beams of the sun vanish as soon as the sun is clouded, so do we fail when God suspends his influence. A watch goeth of itself, a mill of itself, when the workman taketh off his hand from them: it is not so with us and God : for, “ In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts xvii. 28). What Paul said of spiritual life (Gal. ii. 10), is true also of life natural : I am; yet not I, but God is all in all. He is in us, and liveth in us, or we could not subsist for a moment. We need not seek God without, in the workmanship of Heaven and earth ; for we have God within ourselves, and may feel him and find him in our own life and motion. As the child in the womb liveth by the life of the mother, before it is quickened and liveth apart by a life and soul of its own; or as a pipe sounds by the blowing of the musician, if he stop his breath, it is altogether silent; so do we live ard breathe in God, and all the tunable variety of our motions cometh from his breathing in us. Now, if God be so near us, shall we not take notice of his presence, and carry ourselves accordingly? Shall we offend him and affront him to his face, and displease him without whom we cannot live? But, alas! how seldom do we reflect upon this! How is it that we move and think not with wonder of the first mover in whom we move? How is it that we live and persevere in being, and do not consider of this fountain and self-being who gave our life to us, and still continues it? Oh! the negligence of many souls professing the knowledge of God and godliness! We speak, walk, eat, and drink, and go about all our business, as if we had a self-being and independent; never thinking of that all-present and quickening Spirit that acts us, moveth in us, speaketh in us, maketh us to walk, eat, drink, and do all the functions of nature ; like the barbarous people, who see, hear, speak, and reason, and never once reflect upon the principle of all these, a soul within.
2. Let us think often of the name of God, his attributes.
(1.) Of his wisdom; that we may compose ourselves to worship, adore him, serve him according to his will and pleasure, and may admire him in the justice and equity of his laws, and the excellent contrivance of his providence, that so we may submit to the directions of the one and the determinations of the other. To the directions of his word : can we count God to be a wise God, and refuse his counsel ? Doth not our practice give our profession the lie, when we rather walk after our heart's counsels, and the examples and fashions of the world, than observe the course God bath prescribed to us in the word? Who, then, is thought wise, God or men ? So for submission to the determination of his providence; the flesh would fain be pleased, and therefore quarrelleth many times at God's dispensations as harsh and severe; but, in good earnest, who is wiser, God or men? Do we think we are fitter to sit at the helm, and govern and steer all affairs, than the wise Creator of Heaven and earth? Shall we sit as
judges upon his actions, and think that might have been prevented, this might have been better ordered, either fur God's interest or our own comfort ? Men will be teaching God how to govern the world; for we prescribe to him as if he did not understand what were fit for us. He pleaseth us not in his wiscst dispensations, and we bear it out as if we could mend his works: “Shall we teach God knowledge?” (Job xxi. 22.) Those that disallow of God's proceedings, take upon them to be God's teachers. It was a blasphemous speech of Alphonsus, si Deo a consiliis adfuisset in creatione mundi, multa se consultius ordinaturum ; if he had been of God's council when he made the world, he would have ordered many things better. Many abhor such a gross speech, yet think almost to the same effect: if they had the governing of the world, such men should not prosper, such and such things should not be done.
(2.) The name of his power. Oh! think often of that almighty power that maketh and conserveth all things, that giveth a being to you and every creature, aud will do so to his promises, though never so unlikely ; for what cannot he do that bringeth all things out of nothing by his word? Therefore our confidence in him should be more strong and steadfast; for why should we have any jealousies and distrusts of him who is omnipotent? In your greatest wants, he is all-sufficient, and can supply you: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. xvii. 1). In your greatest dangers, he can deliver you: “Our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning tiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king” (Dan. iii. 17). In your lowest estate, he is able to raise you up: “And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in ; for God is able to graff them in again” (Rom. xi. 23). Whatever difficulties oppose themselves against the thing promised, he can remove them; for nothing is too hard for the Almighty : “He is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. iii. 21). How weak and despicable soever the visible means may be, God can work by them: “ It is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power" (2 Chron. xiv. 11). All is alike to Omnipotency. Instruments or means may be too great for God's honour to be used, never too small or weak for him to work by.
(3.) The name of his goodness. God is infinitely good, effectually good, independently good, and all-sufficiently good. If good be amiable in our eyes, so should God be. He hath all that is lovely in the creatures in a more eminent degree; and therefore our affections, that are scattered to them, should be united in God. He is the supreme good and the fountain of all goodness. Oh! how should we love this God! and that abore all things in the world, or else we do not love him aright. This is that which draweth in your hearts to him, and upon this should your thoughts dwell: he showed his goodness to you in creation, when he made you a little lower than the angels ; but much more in redemption, when he preferred you above the angels ; for “ he took not on hiin the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” What should you be doing, but admiring of this, and showing forth the virtue and force of this love God is love, and dwelleth in love (1 John iv. 16). Oh! shall the paltry things of this world draw off your love from God, who is goodness itself ? Let this prevail with you to lay down all your doting upon the creature, that you may no more follow the shadow, but cleave to the substance. We owe all that we are, all that we have, all that we hope for, to his good.
ness; and therefore let us consecrate and dedicate ourselves to his service and glory
II. To study it so as some good may come of it. We should keep our thoughts on this holy subject,
1. Till we admire God. The degree of the saints' knowledge here below, is only to proceed to admiration : “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth !” (Psalm viji. 1.) When we have studied God, silence will be the best eloquence, and admiration advance him more than speech. Admire the name of his being. Creatures, in their highest glory, may be described, an account may be given of them; but his name is wonderful, can be admired, but not told. Admire his wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all” (Psalm civ. 24). Admire his lore: “ How excellent is thy loving-kindness!" (Psalm xxxvi. 7;) Oh! how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men !" (Psalm xxxi. 19.) The name of his power: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm cxlv. 3). The object is too big for the faculty: it is a contempt of God, when we think of him and do not admire him. Oh! the riches of his wisdom, height of his power, breadth of his lore!
2. Till we make some practical improvement of him. Otherwise, to know God is but a vain speculation, a work of curiosity rather than of profit. By the sight of God, the heart must be
(1.) Drawn off from the creature, self, and sin.
(i.) From the creature. That is a true sight of God which abaseth all things besides God, not only in opinion but affection; that attracteth and uniteth the soul to God, and draweth it off from all created excellences. The sight of God's purity darkens the purity of the angels, and staineth the pride of all created glory : “ Behold, he put no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly” (Job iv. 18). So that is a true sight of God's excellency that draweth off the heart from the vain, changeable, and empty shadow of the creature; and God is not truly amiable to us till this effect be in some measure wrought in us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John ii. 15); so that our love to God will be known by the decay of our love to earthly things.
(ii.) From self. A sight of God will best discover thyself unto thyself, that in the light of God's glorious majesty thou mayest distinctly behold thine own vileness and misery. Isaiah, when he saw God in vision, " Then said I, Wo is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isa. vi. 5); that is the use he made of this glorious sight. He knew, doubtless, something of this before, but now is affected as if he had never seen it. The glory of God shining on him, doth not lift him up in arrogancy and conceit of the knowledge of such profound mysteries; but he is more abased in himself: this light made him see his own uncleanness. So, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job xlii. 5, 6). As long as it was VOL. I.