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necessary that the church be a church, that is, a people separated from the world to Christ; and that the Christian be a Christian in covenant with the Lord. But the next point of necessity is that the church be one, and Christians be
And he that for the sake of lower points, how true soever, will break this holy bond of unity, shall find at last, to his shame and sorrow, that he understood not the excellency or necessity of unity. The prayer of Christ for the perfection of his saints is, “That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me: and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, that the world
may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Here it appeareth that the unity of the church or saints is necessary, to convince the world of the truth of Christianity, and of the love of God to his people, and necessary to the glory and perfection of the saints. The nearer any churches, or members, are to the divine perfections, and the more strictly conformable to the mind of God, the more they are one, and replenished with catholic love to all saints, and desirous of unity and communion with them. It is a most lamentable delusion of some Christians that think their ascending to higher degrees of holiness doth partly consist in their withdrawing from the catholic church, or from the communion of most of the saints on earth, upon the account of some smaller differing opinions; and they think that they should become more loose and leave their strictness, if they should hold a catholic communion, and leave their state of separation and division! Is there any strictness amiable or desirable, except a strict conformity to God? Surely a strict way of sin and wickedness is not desirable to a saint. And is not God one, and his church one, and hath he not commanded all his servants to be one, and is not love the new and great commandment, by which they must be known to all men to be his disciples. Which then is the stricter servant of the Lord; he that loveth much, or he that loveth little; he that loveth all Christians, or he that loveth but a few, with the special love; he that loveth a Christian as a Christian, or he that loveth him but as one of his party or opinion; he that is one in the catholic body, or he that disowneth communion with the far greatest part of the body? Will you say that Christ was loose, and Pharisees strict, because Christ eat and drank with publicans and sinners, and the Pharisees condemned him for it? It was Christ that was more strict in holiness than they ; for he abounded more in love and good works : but they were stricter than he in a proud, self-conceited morosity and separation. Certainly he that is highest in love, is highest in grace, and not he that confineth his love to few. Was it not in the weak Christian that was most strict in point of meats, and drinks, and days ? (Rom. xiv. xv.) But the stronger that were censured by them, did more strictly keep the commandment of God.
Christian reader, let the unity of God have this effect upon thy soul: 1. To draw thee from the distracting multitude of creatures, and make thee long to be all in God; that thy soul may be still working toward him, till thou find nothing but God alone within thee. In the multitude of thy thoughts within thee, let his comforts delight thy soul. (Psal. xciv. 19.) The multitude distracteth thee; re
e tire into unity, that thy soul may be composed, quieted and delighted.
2. And let it make thee long for the unity of saints, and endeavour it to the utmost of thy power, that the church in unity may be more like the Head.
3. And let it cause thee to admire the happiness of the saints, that are freed from the bondage of the distracting creature, and have but one to love, and fear, and trust, and serve, and seek, and know; one thing is needful, which should be chosen, but it is many that we are troubled about. (Luke xi. 42.)
CHAP. IV. 3. The Immensity of God (which is the next attribute to be considered) must have this effect upon thy soul: 1. The infinite God that is every where, comprehending all places and things, and comprehended by none, must raise admiring, reverent thoughts in the soul of the believer. We wonder at the magnitude of the sun, and the heavens, and the whole creation ; but when we begin to think what is beyond the heavens, and all created being, we are at a kind of loss. Why
it is God that is in all, and above all, and beyond all, and beneath all; and where there is no place, because no creature, there is God: and if thy thoughts should imagine millions of millions of miles beyond all place and measure, all is but God; and go as far as thou canst in thy thoughts and thou canst not go beyond him. Reverently admire the immensity of God. The world and all the creatures in it, are not to God so much as a sand or atom is to all the world. The point of a needle is more to all the world, than the world to God. For between that which is finite, and that which is infinite, there is no comparison. “Who hath measured
, the waters in the hollow of his hand; and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure; and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold he taketh up the isles as a very little thing ---All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” (Isa. xl. 12. 15. 17.)
2. From this greatness and immensity of God also thy soul must reverently stay all its busy, bold inquiries, and know that God is to us, and to every creature, incomprehensible. If thou couldst fathom or measure him, and know his greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he were not God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. You may know God, but not comprehend him; as your foot treadeth on the earth, but doth not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon. Thou canst not comprehend the sun which thou seest, and by which thou seest all things else, nor the sea, or earth, no nor a worm, or pile of grass : thy understanding knoweth not all that God hath put into any the least of these ; thou art a stranger to thyself, and to somewhat in every part of thyself, both body and soul. And thinkest thou to comprehend God, that perfectly comprehendest nothing! Stop then thy over bold inquiries, and remember that thou art a shallow, finite worm, and God is infinite. First reach to comprehend the heaven and earth and whole creation, before thou think of comprehending Him, to whom the world is nothing, or vanity; or so small a dust, or drop, or point. Saith Elihu, “ At this my heart trembleth, and is moved out of its place : hear attentively the noise of his voice,—-God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doth he which we
cannot comprehend." (Job xxxvii. 1.5.) How then should we comprehend himself! When God pleadeth his cause with Job himself, what doth he but convince him of his infiniteness and absoluteness, even from the greatness of his works which are beyond our reach and yet are as nothing to himself! Should he take the busy inquirer in hand, but as he did begin with Job, (xxxviii. 1, 2, &c.,) “ Who is this that
“ darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up thy loins like a man, for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me," &c. alas, how soon would he nonplus and confound us, and make us say with Job, (xl. 4,)“ Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth : once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea twice, but I will proceed no further.” Indeed there is mentioned Ephes. iii. 11, the saints comprehending the dimensions of the love of Christ; but as the next verse saith, it passeth knowledge; so comprehending there, signifieth no more, but a knowing according to our measure; an attainment of what we are capable to attain; nay, nor all that neither, but such a prevalent knowledge of the love of Christ as is common to all the saints; as there is nothing more visible than the sun, and yet no visible being less comprehended by the sight; so is there nothing more intelligible than God (for he is all in all things), and yet nothing so incomprehensible to the mind that knoweth him. It satisfieth me not to be ignorant of God, nor to know so little as I know, nor to be short of the measure that I am capable of; but it satisfieth me to be incapable of comprehending him: or else I must be unsatisfied because I am not God. O the presumptuous arrogancy of those men, if I may call them men, that dare prate about the infinite God such things as never were revealed to them in his works or word ! and dare pretend to measure him by their shallow understandings, and question, if not deny and censure, that of God which they cannot reach! and sooner suspect the word that doth reveal him than their own muddy brains, that should better conceive of him! Saith Elihu, “Behold God is
, great, and we know him not; neither can the number of his years be searched out.” (Job xxxvi. 26.) Though the knowledge of him be our life eternal, yet we know him not by any full and adequate conception. We know an infinite God, and therefore with an excellent knowledge objectively
considered ; but with a poor degree and kind of knowledge next to none, as to the act; and it is a thousand thousandfold that we know not of him, than that we know: for indeed there is no comparison to be here made.
3. The immensity of God, as it proveth him incomprehensible, so it containeth his omnipresence, and therefore should continually affect us, as men that believe that God stands by them. As we would compose our thoughts, and minds, and passions, if we saw (were it possible) the Lord stand over us, so should we now labour to compose them As we would restrain and use our tongues, and order our behaviour, if we saw his Majesty, so should we do now, when we know that he is with us. An eye-servant will work hard in his master's presence, whatever he doth behind his back. Bestir thee then, Christian, for God stands by ; “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts xvii. 28.) Loiter not till thou canst truly say that God is gone, or absent from thee; sin not by wilfulness or negligence, till thou canst say, thou art behind his back. Alas, that we should have no more awakened, serious souls, and no more fervent, lively prayers, and no more serious, holy speech, and no more careful, heavenly lives, when we stand before the living God, and do all in his sight, and speak all in his hearing! O why should sense so much affect us, and faith, and knowledge work no more? We can be awed with the presence of a man, and would not do before a prince, what most men do before the Lord. Yeà other things affect us when we see them not; and shall not God? But of this
4. The immensity of God assuréth us much of his allsufficiency. He that is every where, is easily able to hear all prayers, to help us in all straits, to supply all wants, to punish all sins. A blasphemous conceit of God as finite, and as absent from us, is one of the causes of our distrust. He that doth distrust an absent friend, as thinking he may forget him, or neglect him, will trust him when he is with him ; cannot he hear thee, and pity thee, and help thee, that is still with thee? O what an awe is this to the careless! what a support to faith! what a quickener to duty! what a comfort to the afflicted, troubled soul! God is in thy poor cottage, Christian, and well acquainted with thy wants : God is at thy bedside when thou art sick, and nearer thee