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witnesses of God, “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter: If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hands, O king : But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan. iii. 16, 17.)
What I have said of magistrates, in the two last cases, I mean also of pastors of the church. They must be obeyed in and for the Lord; but not against the Lord. Saith Paul of
. the churches of Macedonia, “ They gave their ownselves to the Lord, and unto us, by the will of God.” (2 Cor. viii. 5.) See Acts xx. 28; 1 Thess. v. 12. • He that heareth you heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me.” (Luke x. 16.) And yet the leaven of the Pharisees must be avoided: And " an angel from heaven be held as accursed, if he should preach another Gospel.” (Gal. i. 8.) And I would not have flatterers to set either princes or pastors above the angels of heaven. Though yet in other respects, we may be still obliged, as I said before, to hear and obey them.
8. And the knowledge of God's Sovereignty must teach us to fear his righteous threatenings, and reverence his justice, and prepare ourselves to be judged by him. He ruleth by his laws, and so by threatenings and promises, which he will make good. It is not a painted fire that he threateneth. Judgment is a part of government. Laws are but shadows if there be no execution. “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness ; fear before him all the earth. Say among the heathen, that the Lord reigneth” (Psal. xcvi. 9, 10.) As his promises, so his peremptory threatenings shall be fulfilled. He will not revoke his established laws for fear of hurting wilful sinners, that will not fear his judgments till they feel them. “Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him: for he spake, and it wasd one; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psal. xxxiii. 8.) Mark also the present judgments of the Lord, and rush not on his indignation. For “the Lord is known by the judgments which he executeth: the wicked is (oft) snared in the work of his own hands.” (Psal. ix. 16.) Though the wicked contemn God, and
say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it;" (Psal. x. 13 ;) yet they shall find that " he beholdeth mischief to requite
it with his hand, and that he is the helper of the fatherless and poor that commit themselves unto him.” (ver. 14.) “ The Lord's throne is in heaven : his eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men : the Lord trieth the righteous ; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth.” (Psal. xi. 4,5.)
9. The Sovereignty of God is a comfort to his loyal subjects. They may be sure that he will protect them, and make good his word. “Behold he cometh, and his reward is with him.” (Rev. xxii. 12.) “The righteous Judge at his appearing will give the crown of righteousness to all them that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. 18.) “O let the
O nations be glad and sing for joy, for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.” (Psal. lxvii. 4.) “Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad-before the Lord ; for he cometh, for he cometh
to judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (Psal. lxix. 11. 13.)
10. Lastly, The Knowledge of God as our Sovereign King, must cause us to desire and pray for and promote the glory of his kingdom, and the obedience of his subjects in the world; that his name may be hallowed, by the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will on earth as it is in heaven, must be the matter of our daily requests to God. It must be the grief of every subject of the Lord, to think of the heathen and infidel parts of the world; and to see the rebellion of the profane among us; and that the laws of God are unknown or despised by the most of men. Alas! what abundance are ruled by their lusts, and self-conceitedness, and corrupted wills, and the customs of the world, or the wills of men ! but how few are ruled by the laws of God! O how should it grieve an honest heart, to see God's kingdom hindered by infidelity, and weakened, divided, and disturbed by popery, and heresy, and dishonoured by scandal and impiety, as it is! And to see the multitude, and the violence and industry of corrupters, dividers, and destroyers: and the fewness, the coldness, and the remissness of the builders, the healers and restorers! All you that are loyal subjects to your Lord, lament these ways of rebellion and disobedience, and the diminutions and distempers of the subjects of his kingdom, and the unfaithfulness and negligence of his ministers : and bend your cares, desires,
and prayers, to the promoting of God's kingdom in you, and in the world, and befriend not any thing that hindereth its prosperity.
CHAP. XV. 14. The third of these Relations, and the next point in the Knowledge of God, to be spoken of, is, That he is our Most Loving Father, or Bountiful Benefactor. As he is Good, so he doth Good. (Psal. cxix. 68.) And as he is the chiefest Good, so he bestoweth the greatest benefits : and therefore is thence by a necessary resultancy, our Most Bountiful Benefactor. The term Father comprehendeth in it all his three great relations to us. 1. A father gives being to his children, and therefore hath some propriety in them; and God is the first cause of our whole being, and therefore we are his own. 2. A father is the governor
of his children: and God is our chief governor. 3. A father tenderly loveth his children that are childlike, loving, and obedient to him; and seeketh their felicity: and so doth God love, and will make happy, his loving and obedient children, who have not only their being from him as their maker, but their new being, or holy nature, from him as their sanctifier. And this last being the end and perfection of the rest, doth communicate its nature to the rest, as the means. And so, 1. The new nature that God thus giveth us in our regeneration, is not from his common love, but is an act of special grace, proceeding from his special Fatherly love. 2. The government that he exerciseth over them, as his regenerate children, is not a common government, such as is that of the mere law of nature, or of works; but it is a special government by a law of grace, a justifying, remedying, saving law, or covenant ; together with an internal illuminating, quickening, guiding Spirit, with church-state, and officers and ordinances, all suited to this way of grace: Even as his dominion or pro
: priety by redemption, and our sanctification and resignation, is not a common propriety, but a gracious relation to us as our own Father, who hath the endeared relation to him of being his own children. Aļl is from love, and in a way of love, and for the exercise and demonstration of love; So that when I call God our Benefactor, I precisely dis
tinguish this last part of his relation to us, from the rest : But when I call him a Father, I mean the same thing, or relation which a benefactor signifieth ; but with fuller aspect on the foregoing relations, and connotation of them as they are perfected all in this.
And here, I. I shall briefly name the benefits on which this relation of God is founded. And, 1. Even in creating us, he acted as a benefactor, giving us the fundamental good of being, and the excellency of manhood. 2. By setting us in a well-furnished world, and putting all things under our feet, and giving us the use of creatures. 3. By entering into the relation of a governor to us, and consequently engaging himself to terms of justice in his dealing with us, and to protect us, and reward us, if we did obey; and making us capable of an everlasting happiness as our end, and appointing us sufficient means thereto. These benefits denominated God the Great Benefactor or Father unto man, in the state of his creation.
But then moreover he is a common benefactor also. 4. By so loving the world, as to give his only begotten Son, to be their Redeemer; a sufficient sacrifice for sin. 5. By giving out his promise or covenant of grace, and making a common deed of gift of pardon, reconciliation, and eternal life, to all that will accept it in and with Christ, to Gospel ends. 6. By sending forth the messengers of this grace, commanding them to preach to every creature the Gospel, or word of reconciliation committed to them, and to beseech men in Christ's stead, as his ambassadors; as if God himself did entreat by them, to be reconciled to God." (Matt. xxviii. 18, 19; Mark xvi. 16; 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.) 7. By affording some common mercies without, and motions of his Spirit within, to second these invitations. But though by this much God hath a title to their dearest love, yet they have no title to his highest benefits, nor are in the nearest relation of children or beneficiaries to him.
But, 8. When he begetteth us again to a lively hope, by his incorruptible Seed, and giveth us both to will and to do, and when the Father effectually draweth us to the Son, and reneweth us according to his image, and taketh away our old and stony hearts, and giveth us new and tender hearts, and giveth us to know him, and love him as a Father; then is he our Father in the dearest and most comfortable sense,
and we are his children, that have interest in his dearest love. 9. And therefore we have his Spirit, and pardon, justification, and reconciliation with him. 10. And also we have special communion with him in prayers, praises, sacraments, and all holy ordinances and conversation. 11. And we and our services are pleasing to him, and so we are in the light of his countenance, and under a special promise of his protection and provision, and that “all things shall work together for our good.” 12. And we have the promise of perfection in everlasting glory.
II. And now as you see how God is our benefactor, or most gracious and loving Father, let us next see what this must work on us.
And, 1. Goodness and bounty should shame men from their sin, and lead them to repentance. (Rom. ii. 4, 5.) Love is not to be abused and requited with unkindness and provocation. He that can turn grace into wantonness, and do evil because grace hath abounded, or that it may abound, shall be forced to confess that his damnation is just. He that will not hate his sin, when he seeth such exceeding benefits stand by, and heareth mercy, and wonderful mercy plead against it, and upbraid the sinner with ingratitude, is like to die a double death, and shall have no more sacrifice for sin,
2. The fatherly love and benefits of God, do call for our best returns of love. The benefits of creation, oblige all to love him with all their heart, and soul, and might: much more the benefits of redemption, and especially (as applied by sanctifying grace to them that shall be heirs of life, it obligeth them by multiplied strongest obligations : The worst are obliged to as much love of God, as the best (for none can be obliged to more than to love him with all their heart, &c.); but they are not as much obliged to that love. We have new and special obligations; and therefore must return a hearty love, or we are doubly guilty. Mercies are love's messengers, sent from heaven to win up our hearts to love again, and entice us thither. All mercies therefore should be used to this end. That mercy that doth not increase, or excite and help our love, is abused and lost, as seed that is buried when it is sowed, and never more appeareth. Earthly mercies point to heaven, and tell us whence they come, and for what. Like the flowers of the