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Of the Knowledge of God's Being. 1. “ He that cometh to God, must believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. xi. 6.) The first thing to be imprinted on the soul is, that there is a God; that he is a real most transcendent Being. As sure as the sun that shineth hath a being, and the earth that beareth us hath a being, so sure hath God that made them a being infinitely more excellent than theirs. As sure as the streams come from the fountain, and as sure as earth, and stones, and beasts, and men did never make themselves, nor do uphold themselves, or continue the course of nature in themselves and others, nor govern the world, so sure is there an Infinite Eternal Being that doth this. tery atheist that is not mad, must confess that there is an Eternal Being, that had no beginning or cause ; the question is only, Which this is? Which ever it is, it is this that is the true God. What now would the atheist have it to be ? Certainly it is that Being that hath being itself from none, that is the first cause of all other beings: and if it causeth them, it must necessarily be every way more excellent than they, and contain all the good that it hath caused; for none can give that which he hath not to give; nor make that which is better than itself; that Being that hath made so glorious a creature as the sun, must needs itself be much more glorious. It could not have put strength and power into the creatures, if it had not itself more strength and power. It could not have put wisdom and goodness into the creature, if it had not more wisdom and goodness than all they. Whatever it is therefore that hath more power, wisdom and goodness than all the world besides, that is it which we call God. That cause that hath communicated to all things else, the being, power, and all perfections which they have, is the God whom we acknowledge and adore ; if Democritists will ascribe all this to atoms, and think that the motes did make the sun; or if others will think that the sun is God, because it participateth of so much of his excellency, let them be mad awhile, till judgment shall convince them. So clear beyond all question to my soul, is the Being of the Godhead, that the devil hath much lost the rest of his more subtle temptations, when he hath foolishly and maliciously adjoined this, to draw me to question the Being of my
God; which is more than to question, whether there be a sun in the firmament.
But what is the impress that the Being of God must make upon the soul?
I answer, From hence the holy soul discerneth that the beginning and the end of his religion, the substance of his hope, is the Being of Beings, and not a shadow; and that his faith is not a fancy. The object is as it were the matter of the act. If our faith, and hope, and love, and fear, be exercised in a delusory work; God is to the atheist but an empty name; he feels no life or being in him; and accordingly he offereth him a shadow of devotion, and a nominal service. But to the holy soul there is nothing that hath life and being but God, and that which doth receive a being from him, and leadeth to him. This real object putteth a reality into all the devotions of a holy soul. They look upon the vanities of the world as nothing; and therefore they look on worldly men as on idle dreamers that are doing nothing. This puts a seriousness and life into the faith and holy affections of the believer. He knows whom he trusteth. (2 Tim. i. 12.) He knows whom he loveth, and in whom he hopeth. Atheists, and all ungodly men, do practically judge of God, as the true believer judgeth of the world. The atheist takes the pleasures of the world to be the only substance; and God to be but as a shadow, a notion, or a dream. The godly take the world to be as nothing, and know it is but a fancy and dream, and shadow of pleasures, and honour, and profit, and felicity, that men talk of and seek so eagerly below; but that God is the substantial object and portion of the soul. If you put into the mouth of a hungry man, a little froth, or breath, or air, and bid him eat it, and feed upon it, he will tell you, he finds no substance in it; so judgeth the graceless soul of God, and so judgeth the gracious soul of the creature, as separate from God.
Let this be the impression on thy soul, from the consideration of God's transcendent being! O look upon thyself and all things as nothing without him! and as nothing in comparison of him! and therefore let thy love to them be as nothing, and thy desires after them, and care for them, as nothing! But let the being of thy love, desire, and en
deavours, be let out upon the transcendent Being. The creature hath its kind of being; but if it would be to us instead of God, it will be as nothing. The air hath its being, but we cannot dwell in it, nor rest upon it to support us as the earth doth. The water hath its being, but it will not bear us if we would walk upon it. The name of the great Jehovah is “ I AM.” (Exod. iii. 14.) Try any creature in thy need, and it will say, as Jacob to Rachel, “Am I in God's stead, that hath withheld thy desire from thee?” (Gen. xxx. 2.) Send to it and it will say as John Baptist, that confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (John i. 20.) Let none of all the affections of thy soul, have so much life and being in them, as those that are exercised upon God. Worms and motes are not regarded in comparison with mountains; a drop is not regarded in comparison of the
Let the Being of God take up thy soul, and draw off thy observation from deluding vanities, as if there were no such things before thee. When thou rememberest that there is a God, kings and nobles, riches and honours, and all the world, should be forgotten in comparison of him; and thou shouldst live as if there were no such things, if God appear not to thee in them. See them as if thou didst not see them, as thou seest a candle before the sun; or a pile of grass, or single dust, in comparison with the earth. Hear them as if thou didst not hear them; as thou hearest the leaves of the shaken tree, at the same time with a clap of thunder. As greatest things obscure the least, so let the Being of the Infinite God so take up all the powers of thy soul, as if there were nothing else but he, when any thing would draw thee from him. 0! if the Being of this God were seen by thee, thy seducing friend would scarce be seen, thy tempting baits would scarce be seen, thy riches and honours would be forgotten; all things would be as nothing to thee in comparison of him.
CHAP. III. 2. As the Being of God should make this impression on thee, so the attributes that speak the perfection of that Being, must each one have their work; as his Unity or Indivisibility, his Immensity, and Eternity.
And first, the thought of God's unity should contract and unite thy straggling affections, and call them home from
multifarious vanity. It should possess thy mind with deep apprehensions of the excellency of holy unity in the soul, and in the church; and of the evil of division, and misery of distracting multiplicity. “ The Lord our God is one God.” (1 Cor. viii. 6.) Perfection hath unity and simplicity. We fell into divisions and miserable distraction when we departed from God unto the creatures, for the creatures are many, and of contrary qualities, dispositions and affections ;
, and the heart that is set on such an object, must needs be a divided heart; and the heart that is divided among so many and contrary or discordant objects, must needs be a distracted heart. The confusions of the world confound the heart that is set upon the world. He that maketh the world his God, hath so many Gods; and so discordant, that he will never please them all; and all of them together will never fully content and please him. And who would have a God
. that can neither please us, nor be pleased ? He that maketh himself his God, hath a compounded God (and now corrupted) of multifarious, and now of contrary desires, as hard to please as any without us. There is no rest or happiness but in unity. And therefore none in ourselves or any other creature; but in God the only centre of the soul. The further from the centre, the further from unity. It is only in God that differing minds can well be united. Therefore is the world so divided, because it is departed so far from God. Therefore have we so many minds and ways, and such diversity of opinions, and contrariety of affectious, because men forsake the centre of unity. There is no uniting in any worldly, carnal, self-devised principles or practices. When holiness brings these distracted, scattered souls to God, in him they will be one. While they bark at holiness, and cry up unity, they shew themselves distracted men. For holiness is the only way to unity, because it is the closure of the soul with God. All countries, and persons, cannot meet in any one interest or creature, but each hath a several interest of his own; but they might all meet in God. If the pope were God, and had his perfections, he would be fit for all the church to centre in; but being man, and yet pretending to this prerogative of God, he is the grand divider and distracter of the church. The proverb is too true, 'So many men, so many minds;' because that every man will be a god to himself, having a self-mind, and self-will, and
all men will not yield to be one in God. God is the common interest of the saints; and thereof all that are truly saints, are truly united in him. And if all the visible church, and all the world, would heartily make him their common interest, we should quickly have a common unity and peace, and the temple of double-faced Janus would be shut up. They that sincerely have one God, have also one Lord (and Saviour), one faith, one spirit, one baptism (or holy covenant with God), even because they have onę God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all.” And therefore they must "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. iv. 3–6.) Though yet they have different degrees of gifts, (ver. 7.) and therefore differences of opinion about abundance of inferior things. The further we go from the
. trunk or stock, the more numerous and small we shall find the branches. They are one in God, that are divided in many doubtful controversies. The weakest therefore in the faith must be received into this union and communion of the church; but not to doubtful disputations, (Rom, xiy. 1.) As the ancient baptism, contained no more but our engagement to God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, so the ancient profession of saving faith, was of the same extent. God is sufficient for the church to unite in, An union in other articles of faith is so far necessary to the unity of the church, as it is necessary to prove our faith and unity in God, and the sincerity of this ancient, simple belief in God the Father, Son and Spirit.
The Unity of God is the attribute to be first handled, and imprinted on the mind, even next unto his essence; “ The Lord our God is one Lord;” (Deut. vi. 4;) and the unity of the church is its excellency and attribute, that is first and most to be esteemed and preserved next unto its essence, If it be not a church, it cannot be one church; and if we be not saints, we cannot be united saints. If we be not members, we cannot make one body. But when once we have the essence of saints and of a church, we must next be solicitous for its unity; nothing below an essential point of faith will allow us to depart from the catholic unity, love, and peace that is due to saints; and because such essentials are never wanting in the catholic church, or any true member of it, therefore we are never allowed to divide from the catholic church, or any true and visible member. It is first