A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity-John Gill-2


Chapter 7:

Of The Life Of God

Having considered the attributes of Simplicity, Immutability, Infinity, Omnipresence, and Eternity, which belong to God, as an uncreated, infinite, and eternal Spirit; and which distinguish him from all other spirits; I shall now proceed to consider such as belong to him as an active and operative Spirit, as all spirits are, more or less; but he is infinitely so, being „actus, purus, et simplicissimus”; he is all act; and activity supposes life and operations; power, such as God performs, almighty power, or omnipotence; which are the attributes next to be considered; and first his „life”. Some think this is not a single perfection of God, but expressive of all the divine perfections: and, indeed, it is his nature and essence, it is himself; and so is every other attribute his nature, under different considerations, and as variously displayed; wherefore this may be treated of as a distinct attribute; and a very eminent and fundamental one it is; by which God exerts his nature and essence, and displays all his perfections.

And in order to apprehend somewhat of the life of God, for comprehend it we cannot, it may be necessary to consider life in the creatures, what that is; and by rising from the lowest degree of life to an higher, and from that to an higher still, we may form some idea of the life of God, though an inadequate one. Life is a principle in the creature by which it moves itself; what has motion has life, and what has not is without it; as long as a creature has any motion, it is supposed to have life; but when motionless, it is thought to be dead; the phrases, to move, and to have life, are synonymous, and express the same thing; see #Ge 7:21,22,23 but it is not any kind of motion that can lay a claim to life; the sun, moon, and planets move, yet they are inanimate; so a dead carcass may be moved, though it cannot move; it is self-motion only that shows a creature to be alive, that is under a divine agency; for all creatures live and move and have their being in and of God; and hence it is that such who only seem to have self-motion, are, in an improper sense, said to live; as a fountain, flowing with water, is called living, #Ge 26:19 to which the allusion is in #So 4:15 Jer 2:13 Joh 4:10 and water that is stagnated in pools and lakes, and remains unmoved, is dead. The lowest degree of real life is in vegetables, in herbs, plants, and trees; which are truly said to live, #Eze 47:7,9 for though they have not a local motion, yet a motion of growth and increase; they become bigger and larger, and rise up to a greater height, and put forth leaves and fruit; which shows life. In animals there is an higher degree of life; in them there is the breath of life, which is common with the bodies of men, who live the same animal life with them; these are possessed of sensitive powers, of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling; and perform the common functions of life, eating, drinking, walking, &c. But neither of these sorts of life can assist us in our ideas of the life of God; there being nothing in theirs similar to his. There is an higher degree of life still, which is in rational creatures, angels, and the souls of men; by which they are capable not only of operating on bodies, on matter, without them, but of performing acts within themselves, by a self-motion, suitable to their nature as spirits, and rational ones; such as to understand, to will, to choose, and refuse; love, and hate, &c. which may be called the motions of the mind; as the first thoughts of, and inclinations to sin, are called, „motions”, #Ro 7:5. And now these internal acts of the mind, which are good in angels or men, and show a rational life in them, most resemble what is in God; who can, in, and of, and by himself, understand all things, will and decree whatever he pleases; and loves and hates what is agreeable or disagreeable to him, &c. But what comes nearest to the life of God, that we can conceive of, is that which is in regenerated persons, who have a principle of spiritual life, grace, and holiness, implanted in them, by the Spirit of God, and are made partakers of the divine nature, have Christ formed in them; „and they live, yet not they, but Christ lives in them”; and, by having such a principle of life wrought in them, they understand divine and spiritual things; they will that which is spiritually good, and do what is such; the Spirit of God working in them a disposition thereunto, and giving them power to perform; „being in Christ, and created in him unto good works”, they perform vital spiritual acts, and live a life, a spiritual holy life, and which is called, „the life of God”, unconverted men are strangers to, #Eph 4:18. Now this most resembles the life of God, especially, as it will be perfect and eternal in a future state, though it comes abundantly short of what is in God; every imperfection in the life of angels and men, carried to its greatest height, must be removed from God; and everything that is great and excellent must be ascribed to him; and as infinitely transcending what is in finite creatures. God is life essentially, life eternally, and life efficiently.

1. God is life „essentially”, it is his nature and essence, it is himself, it is in and of himself. The natural life of creatures is not in and of themselves; but is in God, and from him: the spiritual and eternal life of the saints is not in and of themselves; but is from God, „hid with Christ in God”. But the life of God is in and of himself; „the Father has life in himself”, #Joh 5:26 and so has the Son and Word of God, #Joh 1:1,4 and likewise the Spirit, called, therefore, „the spirit of life”, #Re 11:11 and what is true of all the Persons in the Godhead, they partaking of the same undivided nature and essence, and living the same life, is true of God, essentially considered. And as the life of God is „of himself”, it is independent; there is no cause from whence it is, or on which it depends. The natural and spiritual life of men is of God, depends on him; they live not so much their own life as another’s; they have their life from God in every sense, and are supported in it by him; „he is thy life, and the length of thy days”, #De 30:20. But God lives his own life; which, as it is without a cause, has no dependence on any other. It does not arise from any composition of parts, and the union of them, as the life, even the natural life, of man does, who consists of soul and body; and his life is the result of the union of these, which when dissolved, it ceases; for „the body without”, or separate from, „the spirit”, or soul, „is dead”, #Jas 2:26. And the spiritual life of saints arises from the union of Christ and his Spirit, as a principle of life unto them; which, could it be dissolved, as it cannot, death would ensue, even death spiritual and eternal: but God is a Spirit, a simple and uncompounded Being; consists not of parts, from the union of which his life arises; and so his life is „infinite”, „eternal”, and „immutable”, as also „most perfect”. In the life of creatures, even in the highest degree; being finite and dependant, there is always something wanting; but in God there is none; he is „El-Shaddai”, God all-sufficient, blessed and happy in himself for evermore.

The scriptures frequently speak of God as the „living God” both in the Old and New Testament, #De 5:26 Jos 3:10 Ps 42:2 84:2 #Mt 16:16 2Co 6:16 who has life in himself, and gives life to all that have it; and not the Father only, but the Son of God also, is called the living God, #Heb 3:12 and the Spirit is called the Spirit of the living God, #2Co 3:3 each person is the living God, and God, essentially considered, is so; and this title and epithet he has in opposition to, and contradistinction from, them that are not by nature God: the living God is opposed to idols, lifeless and motionless, #Jer 10:10,5,15,16 Ac 14:15 1Th 1:9 he is distinguished by this essential attribute of his from the first objects of idolatrous worship, the sun, moon, and stars, which are inanimate; from heroes, kings, and emperors, deified after their death; which idolatry was very early; and worshipping them is called eating the sacrifices of the dead, #Ps 106:28 and from all images of wood, stone, brass, silver, and gold, which are dumb idols, and lifeless ones; see #Ps 115:4-7. And God is not only acknowledged to be the living God, and to live for ever and ever, by some of the greatest personages, and proudest monarchs that ever were upon earth, and who even had set up themselves for God, #Da 4:34 6:26 but he asserts it of himself, which must be true, and may be depended on; „And lift up my hand, and say, I live for ever”, #De 32:40. yea; it is an oath of his affirming the same, and it is the common form of swearing with him, „as I live, saith the Lord”; and which is very frequently used by him, see #Nu 14:28 and this is no other than swearing by his life, which is himself; „for when he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself”, #Heb 6:13 and so both men and angels swear by the living God; „by him that lives for ever and ever”, #Jer 5:2 12:16 Da 12:7 Re 10:5,6 which distinguishes him from, and prefers him to all other beings: and, indeed, he is „most properly” said to live; the life of creatures is no life in comparison of his; especially the life of man: what is it? „it is but a vapour, that appears for a while, and then vanishes away”, #Jas 4:14. But,

2. God is life eternally, without beginning, succession, or end; he is without beginning of life or end of days, and without any variableness; „the same today, yesterday and for ever”; he that is the „true God”, is also „eternal life”, #1Jo 5:20. It is indeed said of Christ, the Word and Son of God, that he is the „eternal life”, which was with „the Father” from eternity, before „manifested” unto men; and so lives from eternity to eternity; and, as before observed, what is true of God personally, is true of him essentially considered: he lived from eternity, and will live for ever and ever; as several of the above scripture testimonies assure us; and which may be concluded from the „simplicity” of his nature: what consists of parts may be resolved into those parts again, and so cease to be; but God is a simple and uncompounded Being, as has been established; not consisting of parts, and so not capable of being reduced to them, or being dissolved, and therefore must live for ever: and from his „independency”; he has no cause prior to him, from whom he has received his life, or on whom it depends; there is none above him, superior to him, that can take away his life from him, as he can from his creatures, who are below him, and dependent on him; but he is above all, and dependent on none. Likewise from his „immutability”; there is no change, nor shadow of change, in him; and yet, if his life was not eternal, he must be subject to the greatest of changes, death; but he is the same, and of his years there is no end, #Ps 102:27. The same arguments which prove his „eternity”, must prove also that he lives for ever; he „is the true God”, „the living God, and an everlasting King”, #Jer 10:10 he is called „immortal eternal”, #1Ti 1:17 the very heathens have such a notion of Deity as immortal; nothing is more common with them than to call their gods, „the immortal ones”. God, says Socrates {1}, is, I think, the very species or idea of life, and if anything else is immortal, and confessed by all that he cannot perish. Aristotle {2}, has this remarkable observation,

„The energy, act, or operation of God, is immortality, this is everlasting life; wherefore there must needs be perpetual motion in God.”

And he reports {3}, that Alcmaeon supposed that the soul was immortal, because it was like to the immortals. But our God, the true God, is he „who only hath immortality”, #1Ti 6:16 that is, who hath it in and of himself, and gives it to others. Angels are immortal, they die not; but then this immortality is not of themselves, but of God, who supports and continues them in their being; for as he made them out of nothing, he could, if he would, annihilate them, and bring them to nothing again: the souls of men are immortal; they cannot be killed, nor do they die with their bodies; but then what has been said of angels may be said of them. The bodies of men, after the resurrection, are immortal; this mortal then puts on immortality, and always is clothed with it, and ever continues; but this is the gift of God, and the effect of his will and power; yea, even the bodies of the wicked are immortal, but not of themselves, it is even against their wills; they choose and seek for death, but cannot have it; their torments are endless, and the smoke of them ascends for ever and ever. God only has immortality in and of himself.

3. God is life „efficiently”, the source and spring, the author and giver of life to others; „With thee is the fountain of life”, #Ps 36:9 which he would not be, if he had not life in and of himself, essentially, originally, independently, most properly, and in the most perfect manner.

God is the author and giver of life, from the lowest to the highest degree of it. The vegetative life that is in herbs, plants, and trees, is from him, and supported by him; and he takes it away, when his Spirit blows upon them, #Ge 1:11,12 Isa 40:7. The animal life is owing to him; the life of all animals, of the fishes in the sea, the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the field; and he gives them life and breath; and when he takes it away, they die, and return to the dust, #Ge 1:20,21,24,25 Ac 17:25 Ps 104:29. The rational life in angels and men, is from him; angels are made rational living spirits by him, and in him they consist: to men he grants life and favour, and his visitation preserves their spirit, and he is the God of their life, that gives it, and, continues it, and takes it away at pleasure, #Ps 42:8. No creature can give real life; men may paint to the life, as we say, but they cannot give life: no man can make a living fly; he may as soon make a world.

The spiritual life that is in any of the sons of men, is from God. Men, in a state of unregeneracy, are dead, dead in a moral and spiritual sense: and while they are corporally alive, they are dead in trespasses and sins; and because of them dead as to their understanding of, will to, affection for what is morally and spiritually good; and their very living in sin is no other than death: nor can they quicken themselves; nothing can give what it has not; the resurrection of the dead, in a corporal sense, requires almighty power; and, in a spiritual sense, the exceeding greatness of God’s power; so that it is not by might or power of man, but by the Spirit and Power of the living God. It is God, that of his rich mercy, and because of his great love, and by his almighty power, quickens men dead in sin, dead in law, and exposed unto eternal death; he speaks life into them, when he calls them by his grace, breathes into the dry bones the breath of life, and they live spiritually; a life of justification, through the righteousness of Christ, which is the justification of life, or adjudges and entitles them to eternal life; and a life of faith on Christ, and of holiness from him; they live in newness of life, soberly, righteously, and godly; which life is preserved in them, it springs up to everlasting life; it is hid and secured with Christ in God, is a never dying one, and shall issue in eternal life; in which all the three Persons in the Godhead are concerned, #Joh 5:21,25 11:25 Ro 8:2.

Eternal life, so often spoken of in scripture, as what the saints shall enjoy for evermore, is of God; it is what he has provided and prepared for them in his council and covenant: what they are foreordained unto in his purposes and decrees, and do most certainly enjoy; what he who cannot lie has promised to them before the world began, and which is his free gift, and flows from his free favour and good will, through Christ, #Ac 13:48 Tit 1:2 Ro 6:23 and in which the Son and Spirit have a concern; Christ came that his people might have it, and he gave his flesh for the life of them; it is put into his hands, and he has a power to dispose of it, and give it to his sheep; so that none of them shall perish, but have it, #1Jo 5:12 #Joh 17:2 10:28. And the Spirit, whose grace springs up to it, and issues in it; and he dwells in his people, as the earnest of it, and works them up for it, and brings them into the full enjoyment of it. Now God must have life in the highest degree of it, as explained; even essentially, originally, infinitely, and perfectly; or he could never give life in every sense unto his creatures; and he must live for ever, to continue eternal life, particularly to his people, and preserve them in it.

–End of Chapter–


{1} Apud Platon. in Phoedo, p. 79.

{2} De Coelo, l. 2. c. 3.

{3} De Anima, l. 1. c. 2.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 8:

Of The Omnipotence Of God

Some of the names of God, in the Hebrew language, are thought to be derived from words which signify firmness and stability, strength and power; as Adonai, El, El-Shaddai, which latter is always rendered almighty, #Ge 17:1 Ex 6:3 and very frequently in the book of Job; and the Greek word pantokratwr is used of God in the New Testament, and is translated almighty and omnipotent, #Re 1:8 4:8 19:6 and power is one of the names of God, #Mt 26:64 compared with #Heb 1:3 the angel said to the Virgin Mary, „with God nothing shall be impossible”, #Lu 1:37 and Epicharmus, the heathen, has the same expression {1}; and so Linus {2}: Omnipotence is essential to God, it is his nature; a weak Deity is an absurdity to the human mind: the very heathens suppose their gods to be omnipotent, though without reason; but we have reason sufficient to believe that the Lord our God, who is the true God, is Almighty; his operations abundantly prove it; though if he had never exerted his almighty power, nor declared it by any external visible works, it would have been the same in himself; for it being his nature and essence, was from eternity, before any such works were wrought, and will be when they shall be no more; and hence it is called, his „eternal power”, #Ro 1:20 and may be concluded from his being an uncreated eternal „Spirit”. All spirits are powerful, as their operations show; we learn somewhat of their power from our own spirits or souls, which are endowed with the power and faculties of understanding, willing, reasoning, choosing and refusing, loving and hating, &c. and not only so, but are able to operate upon the body; and to quicken, move, direct and guide it to do whatever they please, and that that is capable of; and angelic spirits are more powerful still, they excel in strength, and are called mighty angels, #Ps 103:20 2Th 1:7 and have done very strange and surprising things; one of them slew in one night one hundred and eighty five thousand men, in the Assyrian camp, #2Ki 19:35 and what then cannot God, the uncreated and infinite Spirit, do; who has endowed these with all their power, might, and strength? can less than omnipotence be ascribed to him? This may be inferred from his „infinity”. God is an infinite Being, and so is every perfection of his; his understanding is infinite, and such is his power; for, as a Jewish writer {3} argues, since power is attributed to God, it must be understood that it is infinite; for if it was finite, it might be conceived that there was a greater power than his; and so privation would fall on God; as if there was not in him the greater power that is to be conceived of. He is unlimited and unbounded, as to space, and so is omnipresent; and he is unlimited and unbounded as to time, and so is eternal; and he is unlimited and unbounded as to power, and so is omnipotent: to deny, or to call in question, his omnipotence, is to limit the Holy One of Israel, which ought not to be done; this the Israelites are charged with, for distrusting his power to provide for them in the wilderness, #Ps 78:19,20,41. The omnipotence of God may be argued from his „independency”; all creatures depend on him, but he depends on none; there is no cause prior to him, nor any superior to him, or above him, that can control him; none, who, if his hand is stretched out, can turn it back, or stop it from proceeding to do what he will; none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou? „he does what he pleases in heaven and in earth”, #Da 4:35. Moreover, this attribute of God may be confirmed by his „perfection”; God is a most perfect being; but that he would not be if anything was wanting in him: want of power in a creature is an imperfection, and would be so in God, was that his case; but as he is great, his power is great; there is an exuberance, an exceeding greatness of power in him, beyond all conception and expression; he is „able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think”, #Eph 1:19 3:20. And this may be strengthened yet more by observing the „uselessness” of many other „perfections” without it; for what though he knows all things fit and proper to be done, for his own glory, and the good of his creatures, what does it signify, if he cannot do them? and though he may, in the most sovereign manner, will, determine, and decree, such and such things to be done; of what avail is it if he cannot carry his will, determinations, and decrees into execution? what dependence can there be upon his faithfulness in his promises, if he is not able also to perform? and of what use is his goodness, or an inclination and disposition in him to do good, if he cannot do it? or where is his justice in rendering to every man according to his works, if he cannot execute it? So that, upon the whole, it is a most certain truth, that „power belongs to God”, as the Psalmist says, #Ps 62:11 and to whom he ascribes it, even „power” and „might”, by which two words he expresses the greatness of power, superlative power, power in the highest degree, even omnipotence, #1Ch 29:12 and it may be observed, that in all the doxologies or ascriptions of glory to God, by angels and men, power or might is put into them, #Re 4:10,11 5:13 7:11,12. And indeed it belongs to no other; it is peculiar to God: nor is it communicable to a creature; since that creature would then be God; for omnipotence is his nature; nor is it even communicable to the human nature of Christ, for the same reason; for though the human nature is united to a divine person, who is omnipotent, it does not become omnipotent thereby; though the two natures, divine and human, are closely united in Christ; yet the properties of each are distinct and peculiar; and it is easy to observe, that the human nature of Christ was subject to various infirmities, though sinless ones, and stood in need of help, strength, and deliverance; for which, as man, he prayed; and at last, he was crucified, through weakness, #Heb 4: 15 Ps 22:19,20 2Co 13:4. And as for #Mt 28:18 that is said not of the attribute of divine power, which is not „given” him, but is natural to him, as a divine person, but of his authority over all, and their subjection to him as Mediator.

The power of God reaches to all things, and therefore is, with propriety, called Omnipotence; all things are possible with God, and nothing impossible; this is said by an angel, and confirmed by Christ, #Lu 1:37 Mr 14:36 what is impossible with men is possible with God; what cannot be done according to the nature of things, the laws, rules, and course of nature, may be done by the God of nature, who is above these, and not bound by them, and sometimes acts contrary to them; as when he stopped the sun in its course, in the times of Joshua; made iron to swim by the hands of the prophet Elisha; and suffered not fire to burn in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, so that the three persons cast into it were not hurt by it, nor their clothes so much as singed, nor the smell of fire upon them: whereas, it is the nature of the sun to go on in its course, without stopping, nor can any creature stop it; and for ponderous bodies, as iron, to sink in water; and for fire to burn. There are some things, indeed, which God cannot do, and which the Scriptures express as, that „he cannot deny himself”, #2Ti 2:13 nor do anything that is contrary to his being, his honour and glory, or subversive of it; thus, for instance, he cannot make another God, that would be contrary to himself, to the unity of his Being, and the declaration of his Word; „Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”, #De 6:4 he cannot make a finite creature infinite; that would be to do the same, and there would be more infinites than one, which is a contradiction; he cannot raise a creature to such dignity as to have divine perfections ascribed to it, it has not, which would be a falsehood; or to have religious worship and adoration given it, which would be denying himself, detracting from his own glory, and giving it to another, when he only is to be served and worshipped: in such manner it is also said of him, that he „cannot lie”, #Tit 1:2 Heb 6:18 for this would be contrary to his truth and faithfulness; he can do nothing that is contrary to his attributes; he cannot commit iniquity, he neither will nor can do it; for that would be contrary to his holiness and righteousness; see #Job 34:10,12 36:23 he cannot do anything that implies a contradiction; he cannot make contradictions true; a thing to be, and not to be at the same time; or make a thing not to have been that has been {4}; he can make a thing not to be, which is, or has been; he can destroy his own works; but not make that not to have existed, which has existed; nor make an human body to be everywhere; nor accidents to subsist without subjects; with many other things which imply a manifest contradiction and falsehood: but then these are no prejudices to his omnipotence, nor proofs of weakness; they arise only out of the abundance and fulness of his power; who can neither do a weak thing nor a wicked thing, nor commit any falsehood; to do, or attempt to do, any such things, would be proofs of impotence, and not of omnipotence.

The power of God may be considered as absolute, and as actual or ordinate. According to his absolute power, he can do all things which are not contrary to his nature and perfections, and which does not imply a contradiction; even though he has not done them nor never will: thus he could have raised up children to Abraham out of stones, though he would not; and have sent twelve legions of angels to deliver Christ out of the hands of his enemies; but did not, #Mt 3:9 26:53. He that has made one world, and how many more we know not for certainty, #Heb 11:3 could have made ten thousand; he that has made the stars in the heaven innumerable, could have vastly increased their number; and he that has made an innumerable company of angels, and men on earth, as the sand of the sea, could have added to them infinitely more. The power of God has never been exerted to its uttermost; it is sufficient to entitle him to omnipotence, that he has done, and does, whatsoever he pleases, and that whatsoever is made, is made by him, and nothing without him; which is what may be called, his ordinate and actual power; or what he has willed and determined, is actually done; and of this there is abundant proof, as will appear by the following instances.

1. In creation; the heaven, earth, and sea, and all that in them are, were created by God, is certain; and these visible works of creation are proofs of the invisible attributes of God, and particularly, of his „eternal power”, #Ac 4:24 Ro 1:20. Creation is making something out of nothing; which none but omnipotence can effect; see #Heb 11:3 no artificer, though ever so expert, can work without materials, whether he works in gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, stone, or in anything else: the potter can cast his clay into what form and figure he pleases, according to his art, and make one vessel for one use, and another for another; but he cannot make the least portion of clay: but God created the first matter out of which all things are made; and which were made out of things not before existing by the omnipotent Being; whom the good woman animating her son to martyrdom, exhorted to acknowledge, in the Apocrypha:

„I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise.” (2 Maccabees 7:28)

Nor can any artificer work without tools; and the more curious his work, the more curious must his tools be: but God can work without instruments, as he did in creation; it was only by his all commanding word that everything sprung into being, #Ge 1:3 Ps 36:9 and everything created was done at once; creation is an instantaneous act, is without succession, and requires no length of time to do it in; everything on the several days of creation were done immediately: on the first day God said, „Let there be light”; and it immediately sprung out of darkness: on the second day he said, „Let there be a firmament”, an expanse; and at once the airy heaven was stretched out like a curtain around our earth: on the third day he said, „Let the earth bring forth grass, herbs, and fruit trees”; and they arose directly out of it, in all their greenness and fruitfulness: on the fourth day he said, „Let there be lights in the heavens”; and no sooner was it said, but the sun, moon, and stars, blazed forth in all their lustre and splendour: on the fifth and sixth days orders were given for the waters to bring forth fish, and fowl, and beasts, and cattle of every kind; and they accordingly brought them forth in full perfection immediately; and last of all, man was at once made, complete and perfect, out of the dust of the earth, and the breath of life was breathed into him: and though there were six days appointed, one for each of these works, yet they were instantaneously performed on those days; and this time was allotted not on account of God, who could have done them all in a moment; but for the sake of men, who, when they read the history of the creation, there is a stop and pause at each work, that they may stand still and meditate upon it, and wonder at it. Whereas the works of men require time; and those that are most curious, longer still. Add to all this, that the works of creation were done without weariness; no labour of men is free from it: if it be the work of the brain, the fruit of close reasoning, reading, meditation, and study; „much study”, the wise man says, „is a weariness of the flesh”, #Ec 12:12 or if it be manual operation, it is labour and fatigue; but the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, though he has wrought such stupendous works, „fainteth not, neither is weary”, #Isa 40:28 and though he is said to rest on the seventh day, yet not on account of fatigue; but to denote he had finished his work, brought it to perfection, and ceased from it. And now, to what can all this be ascribed but to omnipotence? Which,

2. Appears in the sustaining and support of all creatures, in the provision made for them, with other wonderful works done in providence: all creatures live, move, and have their being in God; as they are made by him, they consist by him; „he upholds all things by the word of his power”; the heavens, the earth, and the pillars thereof, #Ac 17:28 Col 1:16,17 Heb 1:3 Ps 75:3 which none but an almighty arm can do: and the manner in which the world, and all things in it, are preserved, and continue, is amazing and surprising, and cannot be accounted for, no other way than by the attribute of omnipotence; for „he stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing; he bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under him”; though these are no other than condensed air, which carry such burdens in them, and yet are not burst by them–he has „shut up the sea with doors”; with clifts and rocks, and even with so weak a thing as sand; „and said, hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed–and has caused the dayspring to know its place–divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, and a way for the lightning of thunder, to cause it to rain on the earth”; which none of the vanities of the Gentiles can do; he gives that „and fruitful seasons, filling mens’ hearts with food and gladness”, and provides for all the fowls of the air, and „the cattle on a thousand hills”; see #Job 26:7,8 #Job 38:10-12,25,26 Ac 14:17. But what hand can do all these but an almighty one? To which may be added, those wonderful events in providence, which can only be accounted for by recurring to omnipotence, and to supernatural power and aid; as the drowning of the whole world; the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain; the strange exploits of some particular persons, as Jonathan and David; the amazing victories obtained by a few over a multitude, sometimes by unarmed men, sometimes without fighting, and always by him that helps, whether with many, or with them that have no power, as the cases of Gideon, Jehoshaphat, and Asa show; with various other things too numerous to mention, as the removing of mountains, shaking the earth, and the pillars of it, commanding the sun not to rise, and sealing up the stars, #Job 9:5-7 etc.

3. The omnipotence of God may be seen in the redemption of men by Christ, in things leading to it, and in the completion of it: in the incarnation of Christ, and his birth of a virgin, which the angel ascribes to „the power of the Highest”, the most high God, with whom „nothing is impossible”, #Lu 1:35,37 and which was an expedient found out by infinite wisdom, to remove a difficulty which none but omnipotence could surmount, namely, to bring „a clean thing out of an unclean”; for it was necessary that the Saviour of men should be man, that the salvation should be wrought out in human nature, that so men might have the benefit of it; and it was necessary that he should be free from sin, who became a sacrifice for it; yet how it could be, since all human nature was defiled with sin, was the difficulty; which was got over, through omnipotence forming the human nature of Christ in the above manner: and which was also evident in the protection of him from the womb; in his infancy, from the malice of Herod; after his baptism, from the violence of Satan’s temptations, who put him upon destroying himself; and from the wild beasts of the wilderness; and from all the snares and attempts of the Scribes and Pharisees, to take away his life before his time: and in the miraculous works wrought by him, which were proofs of his Messiahship; such as causing the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk, and cleansing lepers, and even raising the dead to life; and which were such instances of omnipotence, as caused in those that saw them amazement at the mighty power of God, #Mt 11:5 Lu 9:43 and more especially this might be seen in making Christ, the man of God’s right hand, strong for himself; in strengthening him in his human nature to work out salvation, which neither men nor angels could have done, by fulfilling the law, and satisfying justice; in upholding him under the weight of sins and sufferings; in enabling him to bear the wrath of God, and the curses of a righteous law, and to grapple with all the powers of darkness, and to spoil them, and make a triumph over them; and in raising him from the dead for justification; without which salvation would not have been complete; and in which „the exceeding greatness of” the divine „power” was exerted; and whereby Christ was declared to be the Son of God „with power”, #Eph 1:19 #Ro 1:4.

4. Almighty power may be discerned in the conversion of sinners; that is a creation, which is an act of omnipotence, as has been proved. Men, in conversion, are made new creatures; „created in Christ, and after the image of God”; have new hearts and spirits, clean and upright ones, created in them; new principles of grace and holiness formed in them; „are turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God; and are made willing in the day of God’s power” upon them, to be saved by Christ, and serve him; to submit to his righteousness, and to part with their sins and sinful companions: all which are effects of the exceeding greatness of the power of God towards them and upon them: they are quickened when dead in sins, and raised by Christ the resurrection and the life, from a death of sin to a life of grace; the Spirit of life enters into them, and these dry bones live; conversion is a resurrection, and that requires almighty power. And if we consider the means of it, generally speaking, „the foolishness of preaching”, the gospel put into earthen vessels, for this end, „that the excellency of the power of God may appear to be of God”, and not of men; and when these means are effectual, they are „the power of God unto salvation”, #2Co 4:7 Ro 1:16. And also the great opposition made to this work, through the enmity and lusts of mens’ hearts, the malice of Satan, willing to keep possession; the snares of the world, and the influence of wicked companions; it cannot be thought to be any thing short of the omnipotent hand of God, that snatches men, as brands, out of the burning: and the same power that is put forth in the beginning of the work of grace, is requisite to the carrying of it on; the rise, progress, and finishing of it, are not by might and power of men, but by the mighty, efficacious, and all-powerful grace of God, #2Th 1:11 Zec 4:6.

5. That the Lord God is omnipotent, may be evinced from the rise and progress of Christianity, the success of the gospel, in the first times of it, and the continuance of it, notwithstanding the opposition of men and devils. The interest of Christ in the world rose from small beginnings; it was like the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth; and this by means of the preaching of the gospel; and that by such, who, for the most part, were men illiterate, mean, and contemptible, the foolish things of this world; and who were opposed by Jewish „rabbins”, and heathen philosophers, by monarchs, kings, and emperors, and by the whole world; yet these went forth, and Christ with them, conquering and to conquer, and were made to triumph in him over all their enemies everywhere; so that in a short time the universal monarchy of the earth, the whole Roman empire, became nominally Christian; and the Gospel has lived through all the persecutions of Rome pagan and papal, and still continues, notwithstanding the craft of false teachers, and the force of furious persecutors; and will remain and be the everlasting Gospel; all which is owing to the mighty power of God.

6. The final perseverance of every particular believer in grace and holiness, is a proof of the divine omnipotence; it is because he is great in power that not one of them fails; otherwise their indwelling sins and corruptions would prevail over them; Satan’s temptations be too powerful for them; and the snares of the world, the flatteries of it, would draw them aside; but they are „kept by the power of God”, the mighty power of God, as in a garrison, „through faith unto salvation”, #1Pe 1:5.

7. The almighty power of God will be displayed in the resurrection of the dead; which considered, it need not be thought incredible; though otherwise it might; for what but the all-commanding voice of the almighty God can rouse the dead, and raise them to life, and bring them out of their graves; „some to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of damnation?” What else but his almighty power can gather all nations before him, and oblige them to stand at the judgment seat of Christ, to receive each of their sentences? And what but his vengeful arm of omnipotence can execute the sentence on millions and millions of devils and wicked men, in all the height of wrath, rage, fury, and rebellion? see #Php 3:21 #Joh 5:28,29 Mt 25:32-46 Re 20:8-10.

–End of Chapter–


{1} Apud Clement, Stromat. l. 5. p. 597.

{2} radia panta yew telesai, kai adunaton ouden, Linus.

{3} Joseph Albo in Sepher Ikkarim, fol. 68. 2.

{4} So Agathon apud Aristot. Ethic. l. 6. c. 2.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 9:

Of The Omniscience Of God

Having considered such attributes of God, which belong to him as an active and operative Spirit; as the Life of God, and his Power, or Omnipotence; I proceed to consider such perfections, which may be ascribed to him as an intelligent Spirit; to which, rational spirits, endowed with understanding, will, and affections, bear some similarity. God is said to have a „mind” and „understanding”, #Ro 11:34 Isa 40:28 to which may be referred, the attributes of „knowledge” and „wisdom”, which go together, #Ro 11:33. I shall begin with the first of these. And,

1. Prove that knowledge belongs to God, which is objected to, and called in question, by impious and atheistical persons, #Ps 73:11 particularly with respect to human affairs; the grounds of which doubts about it, and objections to it, seem to arise, partly from the supposed distance of God in heaven, from men on earth, and partly from the thick and dark clouds which intervene between them, #Job 22:12-14 and which are easily answered by observing the omnipresence of God, or his presence in all places; and that the darkness hides not anything from his all-piercing, all-penetrating eye, the darkness and the light being alike to him, #Ps 139:7-12 #Jer 23:23,24. Let it be further observed, that in all rational creatures there is knowledge; there is much in angels, and so there was in man, before the fall, both of natural, divine, and civil things; and since the fall there is a remainder of it, notwithstanding the loss sustained by it; and there is more, especially divine and spiritual knowledge, in regenerate men, who are renewed in knowledge. Now if there is knowledge in any of the creatures of God, then much more in God himself. Besides, all that knowledge that is in angels or men, comes from God; he is a „God of knowledge”, or „knowledges”, of all knowledge, #1Sa 2:3 the source and fountain of it, and therefore it must be in him in its perfection: knowledge of all things, natural, civil, and spiritual, is from him, is taught and given by him; wherefore strong is the reasoning of the Psalmist, „He that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know?” #Ps 94:10. His knowledge may be inferred from his will, and the actings of it; that he has a will is most certain, and works all things after the counsel of his will, which cannot be resisted, #Eph 1:11 Ro 9:19 and this can never be supposed to be without knowledge; it is generally said and believed of the will of man, that it is determined by the last act of the understanding; and it cannot be imagined that God wills anything ignorantly and rashly; he must know what he wills and nills, and to whom he wills anything, or refuses, #Ro 9:15,18 and it appears from all his works, from the works of creation, the heavens, earth, and sea, and all in them; which are ascribed to his wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and could never be made without them, #Pr 3:19,20 the government of the world, and the judgment of the last day, suppose and require the same, #Ro 11:33 1Co 4:5. Without knowedge God would not be perfectly happy; the blessed one, and blessed for ever, as he is. It is knowledge that gives men the preference to the brute creation, and makes them happier than they, #Job 35:11 and the spiritual knowledge which good men have, gives them a superior excellency and felicity to bad men; and their happiness in a future state will lie, as in perfect holiness, so in perfect knowledge, or „to know”, as they „are known”, #1Co 13:12. In short, without knowledge, God would be no other than the idols of the Gentiles, who have eyes, but see not; are the work of errors, and are falsehood and vanity; but the portion of Jacob is not like them. #Jer 10:14-16. I go on,

2. To show the extent of the knowledge of God; it reaches to all things, #Joh 21:17 1Jo 3:20 and is therefore with great propriety called „omniscience”, and which the very heathens {1} ascribe to God; and extend it to thoughts. Thales {2} being asked, Whether a man doing ill, could lie hid to, or be concealed from God? answered, No, nor thinking neither. And Pindar {3} says, If a man hopes that anything will be concealed from God, he is deceived.

2a. God knows himself, his nature and perfections: somewhat of this is known by creatures themselves, even by the very heathens, through the light of nature, and in the glass of the creatures, wherein God has showed it to them; even his invisible things, his eternal power and Godhead, #Ro 1:19,20 and which are more clearly displayed in Christ, and redemption by him; and more evidently seen by those who are favoured with a divine revelation: and if creatures know something of God, though imperfectly, then he must know himself in the most perfect manner: and rational creatures are endowed with knowledge of themselves, of their nature, and what belongs to them, as angels may reasonably be supposed to be; since even men, in their fallen and imperfect state, know something of themselves, of the constitution, temperament, and texture of their bodies, and of the powers and faculties of their souls; what is in them, in the inmost recesses of their minds, their thoughts, purposes, and intentions, #1Co 2:11. „Nosce teipsum, Know thyself”, has been reckoned a wise maxim with philosophers, and the first step to wisdom and knowledge; and good men, illuminated by the Spirit of God, attain to the highest degree of it; and if creatures know themselves in any degree, infinitely much more must the Creator of all know himself. God knows himself in all his persons, and each person fully knows one another; the Father knows the Son, begotten by him, and brought up with him; the Son knows the Father, in whose bosom he lay; and the Spirit knows the Father and Son, whose Spirit he is, and from whom he proceeds; and the Father and Son know the Spirit, who is sent by them as the Comforter; see #Mt 11:27 1Co 2:10,11. God knows the mode of each person’s subsistence in the Deity, the paternity of the Father, the generation of the Son, and the spiration of the Holy Ghost; that these three are one, and one in three; three persons, but one God; which is a mystery incomprehensible by us; but inasmuch as God, who knows his own nature best, has so declared it to be, it becomes us to yield the obedience of faith unto it: he knows his own thoughts, which are the deep things of God, and as much above us as the heavens are above the earth, and as much out of our reach; but he knows them, #Jer 29:11 that is, his decrees, purposes, and designs, as he needs must, since they are purposed in himself; he knows the things he has purposed, and the exact time of the accomplishment of them, which he has reserved in his own power, #Eph 1:11 Ec 3:1 Ac 1:7.

2b. God knows all his creatures, there is not any creature, not one excepted, „that is not manifest in his sight”, #Heb 4:13. Known unto him are all his works; all that his hand has wrought, #Ac 15:18 when he had finished his works of creation, „he saw everything that he had made”, looked over it and considered it, and pronounced it good, #Ge 1:31 and his eye sees all things in their present state and condition; he knows all things „inanimate”, all that is upon the earth, herbs, grass, trees, &c. and all in the bowels of it, metals and minerals; all that are in the heavens, not only the two great luminaries, the sun and moon, their nature, motion, rising, and setting, with everything belonging to them, but the stars innumerable; he „bringeth out their host by number”, or them as a mighty army, and numerous; and yet, as numerous as they are, „he calleth them all by names”; such a distinct and particular knowledge has he of them, and that because he „hath created” them; and he upholds them in being, „by the greatness of his might”, so that „not one faileth”, #Isa 40:26 he knows all the „irrational” creatures, the beasts of the field, „the cattle on a thousand hills”; „I know”, says he, „all the fowls of the mountains”, #Ps 50:10,11 as worthless a bird as the sparrow is, „not one of them falls” on the ground without the knowledge and will of God, #Mt 10:29 he knows all the fishes of the sea, and provided one to swallow Jonah, when thrown into it; and which, at his order, cast him on dry land again, #Jon 1:17 #Jon 2:10. And if Adam had such knowledge of all creatures, as to give them proper and suitable names, #Ge 2:19,20 and Solomon, a fallen son of his, could „speak of trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall”; and „of beasts, fowl, creeping things, and fishes”, #1Ki 4:33 even of their nature, properties, use, and end; can it be thought incredible that God, the Creator of them, should have a distinct and perfect knowledge of all these? he knows all „rational” beings, as angels and men; the angels, though innumerable, being his creatures, standing before him, beholding his face, and sent forth by him as ministring spirits: the elect angels, whom he must know, since he has chosen them and put them under Christ, the head of all principality and power; and confirmed them, by his grace, in their happy state; and who stand on his righthand and left, hearkening to his voice, and ready to obey his will; and are employed by him in providential affairs, and in things respecting the heirs of salvation. Yea, the apostate angels, devils, are known by him, and are laid up in chains of darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day, and are under the continual eye of God, and the restraints of his providence: the questions put to these by God, #Job 1:7 and by Christ, #Mr 5:9 do not imply any kind of ignorance of them; the one is put to lead on to a discourse concerning Job, and the other to show the greatness of the miracle wrought in casting them out. God knows all men, good and bad, all the sons of men, the inhabitants of the earth, wherever they are, in all places and in all ages, #Ps 33:14 Pr 15:3 he knows their hearts, for he has fashioned them alike, and is often said to be the searcher of them; he knows the thoughts of the heart; as his word, so is he a „discerner” of them, #Heb 4:12 Ps 139:2 which is peculiar to God, and a strong proof of the Deity of Christ, the essential Word, #Mt 9:4 #Joh 2:24,25 Heb 4:12,13 the evil thoughts of men, which are many and vain, #Ps 94:11 and the good thoughts of men, as he must, since they are of him, and not of themselves; and he takes such notice of them, as to write a book of remembrance of them, #2Co 3:5 Mal 3:16 he knows the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart, the first motions to thought, whether good or bad, #Ge 6:5 1Ch 28:9 he knows all the words of men, there is not one upon their tongues, or uttered by them, but he knows it altogether, #Ps 139:4 the words of wicked men, even every idle word, which must be accounted for in the day of judgment; and much more their blasphemies, oaths, and curses; and all their hard speeches spoken against Christ and his people, #Mt 12:36 Jude 1:15. And the words of good men, expressed in prayer and thanksgiving, and in spiritual conversation with one another, #Mal 3:16. And all the works and ways of men, #Job 34:21 their civil ones, their downsitting and uprising, going forth and coming in, #Ps 139:2,3 #Ps 121:3,8 and all their sinful ways and works, which will all be brought into judgment, and for which an account must be given at the bar of God, #Ec 12:14 2Co 5:10 as well as all the good works of God’s people, who knows from what principles they spring, in what manner they are done, and with what views, and for what ends, #Re 2:2,19.

2c. God knows all things whatever, as well as himself and the creatures: he knows all things possible to be done, though they are not, nor never will be done; such as have been observed under the preceding attribute; and this knowledge is what is called by the schoolmen, „Knowledge of simple intelligence” of things that are not actually done. He knows what „might” be, and in course, „would” be, should he not prevent them by the interposition of his power and providence, and which he determines to do: so he knew the wickedness and treachery of the men of Keilah to David, and that if he stayed there, they would deliver him up into the hands of Saul, and therefore gave him notice of it, that he might make his escape from them, and so prevent their giving him up, acccording to his determinate will, #1Sa 23:11,12. God knows the wickedness of some mens’ hearts, that they would be guilty of the most shocking crimes, and that without number, if suffered to live, and therefore he takes them away by death; and that such is the temper of some, that if they had a large share of riches, they would be so haughty and overbearing, there would be no living by them; and that even some good men, if they had them, would be tempted to abuse them, to their own hurt, and therefore he gives them poverty. Moreover, God knows all things that have been, are, or shall be; and which the schools call, „knowledge of vision”; an intuitive view of all actual things; things past, present, and to come; so called, not with respect to God, with whom nothing is past nor future, but all present; but with respect to us, and our measures of time. He knows all former things, from the beginning of the world; and which is a proof of Deity, and such a proof that the idols of the Gentiles cannot give, nor any for them, #Isa 41:22 43:9 all past transactions at the creation, the fall of Adam, and what followed on that; the original of nations, and their settlement in the world; with various other occurrences to be met with only in the Bible, inspired by God; which, as it is the most ancient, so the truest and best history in the world: nothing that has been can escape the knowledge of God, nor slip out of his mind and memory; oblivion cannot be ascribed to him; could he forget past facts, or they be lost to him, how could everything, open or secret, be brought into account, at the day of judgment, as it will? #Ec 12:14. Forgetting the sins of his people, and remembering them no more, are attributed to him after the manner of men; who, when they forgive one another, do, or should, forget offences. God sees and knows all things present; all are naked and open to him, he sees all in one view; all that is done everywhere; as he must, since he is present in all places; and all live, and move, and have their being in him. He knows all things future, all that will be, because he has determined they shall be; it is his will that gives futurition to them, and therefore he must certainly know what he wills shall be: and this is another proof of Deity wanting in heathen idols, #Isa 41:22,23 44:7 46:10. And this is what is called:

„Prescience” or „Foreknowledge”; and of which Tertullian {4}, many hundreds of years ago, observed, that there were as many witnesses of it as there are prophets; and I may add, as there are prophecies; for all prophecy is founded on God’s foreknowledge and predetermination of things; and of this there are numerous instances; as of the Israelites being in a strange land four hundred years, and then coming out with great substance, #Ge 15:13,14 of their seventy years captivity in Babylon, and deliverance from thence at the end of that time, #Jer 29:10 with many other things relating to that people, and other nations; the prophecies of Daniel, concerning the four monarchies; the predictions of the Old Testament, concerning the incarnation of Christ, his sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and session at God’s right hand. And what is the book of the Revelation but a prophecy, and so a proof of God’s foreknowledge of future events, which should be in the church and world, from the times of Christ to the end of the world? and this prescience, or foreknowledge of God, is not only of the effects of necessary causes, which necessarily will be, unless prevented by something extraordinary; and of which men themselves may have knowledge; as that things ponderous will fall downwards, and light things move upwards; and that fire put to combustible matter will burn; but of things contingent, which, as to their nature, may or may not be, and which even depend upon the wills of men; and which, with respect to second causes, are hap and chance. Indeed, with respect to God, there is nothing casual or contingent {5}; nothing comes to pass but what is decreed by him, what he has determined either to do himself, or by others, or suffer to be done, #La 3:37,38 that which is chance to others is none to him; what more a chance matter than a lot? yet though that is cast into the lap, and it is casual to men, how it will turn up, „the whole disposing of it is of the Lord”. #Pr 16:33. What more contingent than the imaginations, thoughts, and designs of men, what they will be? and yet these are foreknown before conceived in the mind, #De 31:21 Ps 139:2 or than the voluntary actions of men, yet these are foreknown and foretold by the Lord, long before they are done; as the names of persons given them, and what should be done by them; as of Josiah, that he should offer the priests, and burn the bones of men on the altar at Bethel, see #1Ki 13:2 2Ki 23:15,16 and of Cyrus, that he should give orders for the building of the temple, and city of Jerusalem; and let the captive Jews go free without price, #Isa 44:28 45:13 Ezr 1:1-3 all which were predicted of these persons by name, some hundreds of years before they were born: how all this is reconcileable with the liberty of man’s will, is a difficulty; and therefore objected to the certain foreknowledge and decree of God; but whether this difficulty can be removed, or no, the thing is not less certain: let it be observed, that God’s decrees do not at all infringe the liberty of the will, nor do they put anything in it, nor lay any force upon it; they only imply a necessity of the event, but not of coaction, or force on the will; nor do men feel any such force upon them; they act as freely, and with the full consent of their will, whether good men or bad men, in what they do, as if there were no foreknowledge and determination of them by God; good men willingly do what they do, under the influence of grace, though foreordained to it by the Lord, #Eph 2:10 Php 2:13 and so do wicked men; as Judas in betraying Christ, and the Jews in crucifying him; though both were „according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, #Lu 22:22 Ac 2:23.

There is another sort of „prescience”, or „foreknowledge”, the Scriptures speak of; on which the election of persons to eternal life is founded, and according to which it is, #Ro 8:30 1Pe 1:2 which is not a foreknowledge of faith, holiness, and good works, and perseverance therein, as causes of it; for these are effects and fruits of election, which flow from it; no bare foreknowledge of persons, but as joined with love and affection to the objects of it; and which is not general, but special; „The Lord knows them that are his”, #2Ti 2:19 not in general, as he knows all men; but distinctly, and particularly, he loves them, approves of them, and delights in them, and takes a particular care of them; while of others he says, „I know you not”, #Mt 7:23 that is, as his beloved and chosen ones. But as this belongs to the doctrine of predestination, I shall defer it to its proper place.

3. Though enough has been said to prove the omniscience of God, by the enumeration of the above things; yet this may receive further proof from the several attributes of God: as from his „infinity”; God is infinite; he is unlimited and unbounded as to space, and so omnipresent; he is unbounded as to time, and so eternal; and he is unbounded as to power, and so omnipotent; and he is unbounded as to knowledge, and so omniscient; there is no searching, no coming to the end of his understanding. From his eternity; he is from everlasting to everlasting, and therefore must know everything that has been, is, or shall be. Men are but of yesterday, and therefore, comparatively, know nothing; „ars longa, vita brevis”; science is of a large extent, and man’s life but short, and he can gain but little of it. Likewise from the „omnipresence” of God; he is every where, in heaven, earth, and hell; and therefore must know every creature, and everything that is done there, #Ps 139:7-12 and it may be observed, that what is said there of this attribute, follows upon an account of the onmiscience of God, and serves to confirm it: it may be argued from the „perfection” of God; if any thing was wanting in his knowledge, neither that, nor he himself, would be perfect. If the circuit of the sun is from one end of the heaven to the other, and nothing is hid on earth from its light and heat; and hence the heathens {6} represent it as seeing all things; then much more may be said of God, who is a sun, that „he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven”; see #Ps 19:6 Job 28:24. From each of the works of God his omniscience may be inferred; he has made all things, and therefore must perfectly know them; every artificer knows his own work, its nature, composition, parts, use, and end. God upholds all things, and is present with them, and therefore must have knowledge of them; he governs the world, orders, directs, and disposes of all things in it; provides for all his creatures; feeds them, and gives them their portion of meat in due season; and therefore must know them all: all the deeds of men, good and evil, public and private, will be all brought into judgment by him; which to do, requires onmiscience; see #Ec 12:14 1Co 4:5 Re 2:23.

4. The manner in which God knows all things, is incomprehensible by us; we can say but little of it, „such knowledge is too wonderful for us”, #Ps 139:6 we can better say in what manner he does not know, than in what he does: he does not know things by revelation, by instruction, and comnmnication from another; or any way by which men come at the knowledge of things from others; for „shall any teach God knowledge?” or „who has taught him?” #Job 21:22 Isa 40:13,14 all things were known to God from eternity, when there were none in being to inform him of anything: besides, to suppose this, is not only contrary to his eternity but to his independency; for this would make him beholden to, and dependent on another, for his knowledge; whereas „all things are of him, for him, and through him”. Nor is his knowledge attained by reasoning, discoursing, and inferring one thing from another, as man’s is; who not only apprehends simple ideas, but joins and compounds them, and infers other things from them; but then this implies some degree of prior ignorance; or at best, imperfect knowledge, till the premises are clear, and the conclusion formed; which is not to be said of God: and this method of knowledge would be contrary to the simplicity of his nature, which admits of no composition, as well as to his perfection: nor does he know things by succession, one after another; for then it could not be said, that „all things are naked and open to him”; only some at one time, and some at another; which would also argue ignorance of some things, in one instant and another; and imperfection of knowledge; and would be contrary to his immutability, since every accession of knowledge would make an alteration in him; whereas with him „there is no variableness”; he sees and knows all things at once and, together, in one eternal view. In a word, he knows all things in himself, in his own essence and nature; he knows all things possible in his power, and all that he wills to do in his will, and all creatures in himself, as the first cause of them; in whose vast and eternal mind are all the original ideas of them; so that the knowledge of God is essential to him, it is his nature and essence, and therefore is incommunicable to a creature, and even to the human nature of Christ; which, though united to a divine person that is omniscient, yet does not thereby become omniscient; and though the human soul of Christ may know more than the soul of any man, yet not everything; see #Mr 13:32. The knowledge of God is also infinite, #Ps 147:5 he knows himself, that is infinite; which he could not, unless his knowledge was infinite; for it is impossible, as a Jewish {7} writer observes, that he should know what is perfectly infinite, if his knowledge was not perfectly infinite; for what is finite, can never comprehend that which is infinite; and he knows all things „ad infinitum”; there is no searching of his knowledge; it is perfect, and nothing can be added to it, #Job 36:4 and it is not conjectural, but certain, depending on his will; he knew from all eternity, most certainly, that all things would be, that are, because he determined they should be; and his will cannot be frustrated, nor his power resisted, #Job 42:2.

–End of Chapter–


{1} panta idwn diov ofyalmov kai panta nohsav, Hesiod. Opera et Dies, l. 1. v. 263.

{2} Apud Laert. Vita ejus, Val. Maxim. l. 7. c. 2. extern. 8.

{3} Olymp. Ode l. so Epicharmus apud Clement. Stromat. l. 5. p. 597.

{4} Adv. Marcion. l. 2. c. 5.

{5} „Mihi ne in Deum quidem cadere videatur, ut sciat quid casu et fortuito futurum sit; si enim scit certe, illud eveniet; sin certe eveniet, nulla fortuna est, Cicero de Divinatione, l. 2.

{6} heliou, os pant’ efora, Homer. Odyss. 11. v. 108. & 12. v. 323. Vid. Sophoclis Trachin. v. 102.

{7} Joseph Albo in Sepher Ikkarim, fol. 68. 2.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 10:

Of The Wisdom Of God

The next attribute of God, which requires our attention, is, the Wisdom of God, which belongs to him as an intelligent Spirit; and is a more comprehensive attribute than that of knowledge; for it not only supposes that, but directs and uses it, in the best manner, and to the best ends and purposes; as well as his power and goodness. I shall,

1. Prove that wisdom is a perfection in God, and is in him in its utmost perfection; it is consummate and infinite wisdom he is possessed of. No one that believes the being of a God, can admit the least doubt of it. An unwise Being cannot be God. No man is wise, says Pythagoras {1}, but God only. That „with him is wisdom”, is frequently asserted in the sacred scriptures, #Job 12:12,13 #Da 2:20,21. And, indeed, if this is, and is expected to be with ancient men, who have lived long, and have had a large experience of things; then much more, infinitely more, may it be thought to be with him, who is „the ancient of days”, and from everlasting to everlasting God. He is no less than three times said to be „the only wise God”, #Ro 16:27 1Ti 1:17 Jude 1:25. Not to the exclusion of his Son, who is called „wisdoms”, plurally, because of the infinite fulness of wisdom that dwells in him, #Pr 1:20 nor of the Spirit, who is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him, #Eph 1:17 but with respect to creatures, who have no wisdom, in comparison of him; the angels, those knowing and wise beings, when compared with him, are chargeable with „folly”, #Job 4:18 and as for „man, though he would be wise, he is born like a wild ass’s colt”; and has very little wisdom in things civil, none in things spiritual; and though he is wise to do evil, to do good he has no knowledge. God is „all-wise”; he has all wisdom in him; there is no defect of it in him; there is nothing of it wanting in him, with respect to anything whatever. Men may be wise in some things, and not in others; but he is wise in everything; „nemo sapit omnibus horis”; no man is wise at all times; the wisest of men sometimes say a foolish word, and do a foolish thing: but God, neither in his word, nor in any of his works, can be charged with folly; not an unwise saying appears in all the scriptures; nor an unwise action in any of his works; „How manifold are thy works, O Lord, in wisdom hast thou made them all!” #Ps 104:24. God is essentially wise; there is the personal wisdom of God, which is Christ; who is often spoken of as wisdom, and as the wisdom of God; see #Pr 8:12-31 1Co 1:24 and there is his essential wisdom, the attribute now under consideration; which is no other than the nature and essence of God; it is himself; as he is love itself, and goodness itself, so he is wisdom itself; his wisdom cannot be separated from his essence; this would be contrary to his simplicity, and he would not be that simple and uncompounded Spirit he has been proved to be. God is wisdom „efficiently”; he is the source and fountain of it, the God and giver of it; all that is in the angels of heaven comes from him; all that Adam had, or any of his sons; or was in Solomon, the wisest of men; or is in the politicians and philosophers of every age; or in every mechanic; or appears in every art and science; all is the gift of God; and particularly, the highest and best of wisdom, spiritual wisdom, wisdom in the hidden part, the fear of God in the soul of man, is what God puts there; wherefore, as he that teacheth man knowledge, must have knowledge himself; so he that gives wisdom to the wise, must have infinite wisdom himself; for such is the wisdom of God, it is unsearchable; there is no tracing it; it has a bayov, „a depth”, which is unfathomable, #Ro 11:33 Job 11:6-9 #Job 28:12-23 yet; though it cannot be traced out to the full, or be found out to perfection, there are some shining appearances and striking instances of it; which clearly and plainly prove that wisdom, in its utmost extent, is with him. And which,

2. Will be next observed. And,

2a. First, The wisdom of God appears in his purposes and decrees, and which are therefore called his counsels, #Isa 25:1 not that they are the effects of consultation with himself or others; but because such resolutions and determinations with men are generally the wisest, which are formed on close thought, on mature deliberation, and on consultation with themselves and others. Hence the decrees of God, which are at once fixed with the highest wisdom, are called counsels; though his counsels are without consultation, and his determinations without deliberation; of which he has no need. As he sees in his understanding, what is fittest to be done, his wisdom directs his will to determine, at once, what shall be done; and this is seen in appointing the end for which they are to be, in ordaining means suitable and conducive to that end; and in pitching upon the most proper time for execution; and in guarding against every thing that may hinder that. The end for which God has appointed all that has been, or shall be, is himself, his own glory, the best end that can be proposed; „the Lord hath made”, that is, appointed „all things for himself”; for the glorifying of himself, one or other of the perfections of his nature; for as all things are of him, as the efficient cause; and are through him, as the wise orderer and disposer of them; so they are to him, as the final cause, or last end of them, his own glory, #Pr 16:4 Ro 11:36. The means he fixes on to bring it about, are either extraordinary or ordinary; which latter are second causes dependmg upon him, the first Cause, and which are linked together, and under his direction and influence most certainly attain the end; see #Ho 2:21,22 and which is effected in the most seasonable time; for as there is a purpose for everything done under the heavens, there is a time fixed for every purpose; and as the times and seasons are in the power of God, and at his disposal, he pitches upon that which is the most suitable; for he makes everything beautiful in his time, #Ec 3:1,11 Ac 1:7 and being the onmiscient God, he foresees all future events, the end from the beginning; so that nothing unforeseen by him can occur to hinder the execution of his purposes; wherefore his „counsel shall stand”, and he „will do all his pleasure”, #Isa 46:10 and though there may be many devices formed to counterwork his designs, they are all in vain; there is no wisdom nor counsel against the Lord; he disappoints the devices of the crafty, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong; so that his counsel always stands; and the thoughts of his heart, which are his decrees, are to all generations. All this is true of the decrees of God in general. And if the princes of this world, under a divine direction, form wise counsels, and make wise and righteous decrees; with what greater, with what consummate wisdom, must the counsels and decrees of God himself be made; concerning which the apostle breaks forth into this exclamation, „O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God?” #Ro 11:33 for he is there treating of the decrees of God, and particularly of the decree of election: and in which the wisdom of God appears, both in the end and means, and in the persons he has chosen: his end is the praise of his own grace, or the glorifying of his sovereign grace and mercy in the salvation of men, #Ro 9:23 Eph 1:5,6 to show the sovereignty of it, he passed this decree without any respect to the works of men, and before either good or evil were done; and to show that he is no respecter of persons, he chose some out of every nation, Jews and Gentiles; and to show the freeness of his grace, he chose the foolish and weak things of this world, and things that are not; that no flesh should glory in his presence: and as he chose those persons to be holy, and to bring them to a state of holiness and happiness, and in a way consistent with his justice; he has pitched upon means the wisest that could be devised, even „sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus”, the righteousness and death of Christ, #2Th 2:13 1Pe 1:2. So that this decree stands firm and stable; not on the ground of mens’ works, but upon the will of God; the election always obtains, or its end is answered: those that are ordained to eternal life most surely believe; and they that are predestinated to it, are most certainly „called, justitied and glorified”, #Ac 13:48 Ro 8:30. The subordinate end of election, is the salvation of the elect; that is what they are appointed to, #1Th 5:9 the scheme and plan of which salvation is so wisely formed, that it is called the „manifold wisdom of God”, in which there are various displays of it, #Eph 3:10 and particularly, „the counsel of peace”, which was between the Father and the Son, #Zec 6:13 for „God was in Christ reconciling the world of his elect unto himself”, planning the scheme of their peace and reconciliation; not imputing their trespasses unto them; for then no reconciliation could have been made; but to Christ, by whom atonement is made, and so salvation effected. But of the wisdom of God, in this decree of salvation, with respect to the Author, subjects, time, and manner, more hereafter, under another head. Moreover, the decree of God, respecting the leaving, passing by, and rejection of others, and punishing them for their sins, his end in which being for the glorifying of his justice in their condemnation, is without any imputation either of unrighteousness or folly; for „what if God, willing to show his wrath”, his indignation against sin, and „to make his power known”, in taking vengeance on sinners, „endured with much longsuffering”, their sinful course of life with much patience; even „the vessels of wrath”, justly deserving of it, „fitted for destruction” by their own sins, he appointed them to it, #Ro 9:22. What charge of injustice or folly can be brought against him? Yea, even such decrees of God as are about the sinful actions of men, are not destitute of wisdom, of the highest wisdom. The sin and fall of Adam, so momentous, and of such consequence as to affect all mankind, could never have been without the knowledge and will of God; he could have prevented it if he would; but he left, as he decreed to leave, man to the mutability of his will; the consequence of which was his fall: and, as he designed, so in his infinite wisdom, he has overruled this greatest of all evils; the source of all that has been in the world since, for the greatest good, the salvation of men by Christ; whereby all his perfections are glorified: so the sinful actions of men are, by the permissive will of God, suffered to be, and are sometimes apparently overruled for some important end; as the selling of Joseph into Egypt by his brethren: and especially the crucifixion of Christ by the wicked Jews; both decreed by God. And so wicked men are suffered to commit the grossest sins, as Pharaoh, that God may be glorified in his justice, through inflicting his judgments on them; by the execution of which he is known, and his name celebrated with praise and glory, #Ex 9:16. And likewise the failings and sins of God’s people serve for the humbling of them, and the exercise of their graces; and so are overruled for good. But then by this we are not authorised, nor encouraged to do evil, that good may come; God only can overrule it to serve any good purpose.

The wisdom of God is displayed in his secret transactions with Christ in the covenant of grace; it appears in making such a covenant which is „ordered in all things”, for his own glory, the glory of the three divine persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; and for the good of his people in time, and for their everlasting happiness, hereafter; being stored with promises and blessings of all sorts, peculiarly suitable for them: in appointing Christ to be the Mediator and Surety of it, and putting the said promises and blessings into his hands, and also their persons, for safety and security; all which were done in eternity. But,

2b. Secondly, The wisdom of God is more clearly manifested in his visible works in time; „O Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all!” #Ps 104:24. And,

2b1. It appears in the works of creation: the making of the heavens and the earth is always ascribed to the wisdom, understanding, and discretion of God, #Ps 136:5 Pr 3:19,20 #Jer 10:12. Whole volumes have been written on this subject, the wisdom of God in creation; and more might; the subject is not exhausted. If we look up to the starry heavens, and the luminaries, the work of his fingers, curiously wrought; as what are wrought with the fingers of men usually are; we may observe a wonderful display of divine wisdom; in the sun that rules by day, and in the moon that rules by night, and in the stars also; all which shed their benign influences on the earth: particularly in the sun, the fountain of heat and light; in the situation of it, not so far from the earth as to be of no use to it, nor so near as to hurt it; in its circular motion, either about our earth, or on its own axis, whereby nothing is hid from the heat and light of it, at one time or another; and which performs its revolutions so punctually, and with so much regularity, and so exactly answers the end of its destination, that it seems as if it was wise and knowing itself; „the sun knoweth his going down”, #Ps 104:19. If we descend into the airy region, and could but enter into the treasures of the snow and rain, which God has in reserve there, and wisely distributes on the earth at proper times; how he binds up the water in his thick cloud, and the cloud is not rent with the weight thereof; how he balances and poises these ponderous bodies, that they are not overset, and burst, and fall with their own weight; by which they would wash away cities, towns, and villages, and the fruits of the earth; but causes them to descend in gentle showers, and in small drops; whereby the earth becomes fruitful; we cannot but observe amazing wisdom. If we come down to the earth, we may behold, besides men, the innumerable inhabitants of it, placed on it to cultivate it; „the cattle on a thousand hills”; the pastures covered with flocks; the valleys clothed with grain; grass growing for the beasts, and vegetation for the service of man; „wine to make his heart glad; oil to cause his face to shine; and bread that strengthens his heart”: and in the bowels of it, metals and minerals of divers sorts, gold, silver, brass, and iron, for artificers that work in each of them; and all for the use, and to increase the wealth of men: the wisdom, as well as the goodness of God, must be discerned. The structure of the bodies of creatures is very wonderfully fitted for their different actions and uses; fishes for swimming, birds for flying, beasts for walking and running; some more slowly, and some more swiftly; but especially the texture of the human body, in all its parts, is very surprising, it being „curiously wrought”; no embroidery, or work with a needle, exceeding it: the organs of the eye are admirably fitted for seeing; the parts of the ear for hearing; the instruments of speech, the tongue, mouth, and lips, for speaking; the hands and arms for working, and feet for walking; as well as all the other parts of the body, framed and disposed for various services; to which may be added, the subserviency of all creatures to one another, and especially to man, for whose sake the world was made, and all things in it; it was designed for an habitation for him, and was made and furnished with every thing for his use and service, for his convenience and pleasure, before he was created; and when he was created, in the image of God, dominion was given him over the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field; the herbage of the earth was provided both for food and medicine; the cattle, some for food, some for clothing, some for transportation, and some for cultivation of the earth; and all were made for the glory of God, as the ultimate end; „for his pleasure they are and were created”, #Re 4:11 and all his works, in their way, praise him, declare his glory, and show forth his handywork.

2b2. Secondly, The wisdom of God appears in the works of providence. It may be observed in the various returning seasons; seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, night and day; which keep their constant revolutions and stated course; scarce anything ever preposterous. Rain is given from heaven, and fruitful seasons. In some of the Eastern countries, as in Canaan, rain fell but twice a year, called the former and latter rain; the one when the seed was sown, to bring it up, the other just before harvest, to fatten the grain; and both constantly fell at their usual and appointed times: and where rain is very scarce, as in Egypt, the river Nile overflows its banks at a certain time of the year; which leaving a slime, makes the earth fruitful, and answers all the purposes of rain. The provision made for all creatures, suitable to their natures, is an abundant proof of the wisdom of God: as it requires wisdom, as well as faithfulness, in a steward, to give to everyone under his care their portion of meat in due season; so the wisdom of God is wonderfully displayed, not only in filling mens’ hearts with food and gladness; but in giving to the beasts their food, everyone agreeable to their nature, „and to the young ravens that cry”; in opening his hand of providence and satisfying the desires of all living; in giving largely and liberally, and in a proper time, meat to all whose eyes wait on him; even his vast numerous family of creatures. He has the charge over the earth, and disposes of the whole world, and all things in it; he sits on the circle of the earth, and beholds all that are in it, and that are done in it; he places men in different stations of life, so as to have a dependance upon, and a connection with each other: he wisely governs, rules and overrules all things, for the mutual good of men, and his own glory: he does all things after the counsel of his will, in the wisest and best manner, and to answer the best ends and purposes; he orders the various scenes of prosperity and adversity, and sets the one against the other; so that there is no finding any thing after him, or making them otherwise and better than they are; particularly, he maketh all things work together for the good of his people; for the trial of their grace, and to make them meet for glory; nor is there anyone trial or exercise they meet with, but what there is a necessity of it, and is for the best; yea, there is infinite wisdom in the most intricate providences, and which are now difficult to account for, and to reconcile to the promises and perfections of God; but when the mystery of providence is finished, and the judgments of God are made manifest, and all are seen in one view, in an harmonious connection together; the wisdom of God, in every part, will appear striking and amazing; as when a man looks on the wrong side of a piece of tapestry, or only views it in detached pieces; he is scarcely able to make anything of it; nor can he discern art and beauty in it; but when it is all put together, and viewed on its right side, the wisdom, the contrivance, and art of the maker are observed with admiration.

2c. Thirdly, The wisdom of God is to be seen in the great work of redemption and salvation by Christ; „herein he hath abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence”, #Eph 1:7,8. Wisdom and prudence are displayed in other works of God; but in this „all” wisdom and prudence, and that in abundance, and which appear,

2c1. In settling upon the person to be the Redeemer; not any of the sinful race of men, for they all having sinned, all need a Redeemer; nor can anyone redeem himself, and much less redeem another: nor any of the angels; for whatever goodwill they might bear to such work, none were equal to it; and therefore God put no trust in them, nor committed any such trust unto them; but his own Son, him he appointed and foreordained to be the Redeemer of his chosen people; the middle person in the Trinity, and most proper to be the Mediator; the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God, and by whom all things were made, and so equal to such an undertaking; the Son of God; and it was more seemly and suitable to his relation and character, as a Son, to be appointed, to be sent, and to obey, than either of the other persons, and particularly the Father; and by having two natures, divine and human, united in one person, the Immanuel, God with us, God manifest in the flesh, he was the fittest person to be employed in this service; partaking of both natures, he was the only proper person to be the Mediator between God and Man, to be the man to do it, and lay his hand on both, and reconcile those two parties at variance, and to do what respected both, even „things pertaining to God, and to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”. Being man, he could have compassion, as he had, on the lost miserable race of men, and in his love and pity redeem them; he was capable of being made under the law, and yielding obedience to it; which, being broken by the sin of men, was necessary to his redemption of them, and of suffering the penalty of the law, death; both which have been done by him, and thereby the law is magnified, and made more honourable, than it could have been by the obedience of all the angels in heaven, or by the sufferings of all the damned in hell; and hereby also satistaction was made for sin, in the same nature that sinned, which seemed necessary, or, however, it was a wise disposition, that so it should be. But what most of all displays the wisdom of God in this affair, is, that since all human nature was depraved and corrupted with sin, how a clean and sinless nature could be produced out of an unclean one, which yet was necessary to making atonement for sin in it; which difficulty infinite wisdom, and almighty power, have surmounted by Christ’s birth of a virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; whence what was born of her was the Holy Thing, and so could be, and was offered up, without spot to God. Add to this, that it was not an human person, but an human nature, Christ assumed; it was flesh he took, the seed of Abraham, and is called the Holy Thing, but not a person; it never subsisted of itself, but from the moment of its production was taken into union with the person of the Son of God; which was wisely ordered for our good, and the glory of God; for had it been a distinct person of itself, the actions and sufferings of it would have been finite, and of no benefit to mankind; his righteousness would have been, though pure and spotless, but the righteousness of a creature; and could have been of no use, but to itself: whereas, through the union of the human nature to the person of the Son of God, it became the righteousness of God, and so imputable to many. Once more, through Christ’s being man, he became our near kinsman, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone; and so the right of redemption belonged to him; hence the same word „Goel”, in the Hebrew language, signifies both a redeemer and a near kinsman.
But then the person settled upon to be the Redeemer, is

God as well as man; and so as he had pity for men as man, he

had a zeal for God and his glory, as a divine person; and

would be, as he was, concerned for the glorifying all his

divine perfections, one as well as another. Being God, he

could put an infinite virtue into his actions and

sufferings, as man, whereby the end of them would be

sufficiently answered. Hence his righteousness is the

righteousness of God, and is unto all, and upon all them

that believe; his blood, the blood of the Son of God, which

cleanses from all sin; his sacrifice, the sacrifice of his

whole human nature, in union with himself, a divine person;

and so sufficient to put away sin, by a full satisfaction

for it; being God, he could support the human nature, under

the weight of all the sins of his people, and of all the

wrath and punishment due unto them; which otherwise must

have been intolerable. Being the mighty God, he was mighty

to save, and his own arm has wrought out salvation. The

great God is our Saviour. Now the finding out such a fit

person to be the Redeemer of men, is to be ascribed solely

to the wisdom of God: had all men been summoned together,

and this declared unto them, that God was willing they

should be redeemed, could they settle upon a proper person to

redeem them; and had the angels been called in to assist

with their counsel, after long consultation, they would

never have been able to have proposed one fit for this work;

for who could have thought of the Son of God, and proposed

his becoming man, and suffering, and dying in the stead of

men, to redeem them? this is „nodus deo vindice dignus”;

what God only could have found out; and he claims it to

himself; „I”, the only wise God, „have found a ransom”,

#Job 33:24 Ps 89:19,20.

2c2. The wisdom of God appears in the persons fixed upon to be redeemed; not all men, but some; partly to show the sovereignty of God, in redeeming whom he pleases; and partly, since all had sinned, and were deserving of death, to glorify his grace and mercy in the redemption of some, and his justice in the destruction of others; and in both to show that he could, in right, have destroyed them all, if he pleased; and likewise, that it might appear he was no respecter of persons, he has not limited the grace of redemption to any particular family or nation; but has redeemed some out of every nation, tongue, kindred, and people; and whereas his view therein is to magnify the riches of his grace, in order to show the freeness of it; he sent Christ to die for, and redeem, not the good and the righteous, who appeared so to themselves and others, but ungodly sinners, the worst and chief of sinners, #Ro 5:6-8,10.

2c3. The wisdom of God may be observed in the way and manner in which redemption is obtained; which being by the price of the blood of Christ, and in a way of full satisfaction to law and justice; the different claims of mercy and justice, which seemed to clash with one another, are reconciled: mercy insisting that the sinner be pardoned and saved, that it might be glorified; and justice requiring that the law should take place, its sentence be executed, and punishment inflicted, that so the rights and honours of law and justice might be maintained; which, by this happy method wisdom has settled upon, they both agree; „mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Sin is condemned in the flesh of Christ, vengeance is taken on it, punishment inflicted for it, and yet the sinner saved from sin, from condemnation, wrath, and ruin. Redemption is also wrought out in a way most mortifying to Satan. Through envy he sought the ruin of men; contrived it, brought it about, and triumphed in it: but what a mortification must it be to that proud spirit, that one of the woman’s seed he had ruined, should bruise his head; that the Son of God should be manifested in human nature, to destroy his works, to destroy himself, to spoil his principalities, and redeem mankind; and be exalted in the same nature, to the highest pitch of honour and glory imaginable; to sit at the right hand of God; angels, authorities, principalities, and powers, subject to him!

2c4. The wisdom of God is to be discerned in the time of man’s redemption; which was the most opportune and seasonable; it was in due time; in the fulness of time fixed and agreed upon between the Father and the Son, and must be the fittest; it was after the faith and patience of God’s people had been sufficiently tried, even for the space of four thousand years from the first hint of a Redeemer; after the Saviour, and his sacrifice, had been prefigured, by types, shadows, and sacrifices, for so long a time, and the use, end, and efficacy of sacrifices had been sufficiently known, and God would have them no longer; then said Christ, „Lo, I come”, &c. when the Gentile world was covered with darkness, blindness, and ignorance, and abounded with all kind of wickedness; when immorality, formality, hypocrisy, and neglect of the word and worship of God among the Jews prevailed; by all which it may be most clearly seen, there was need of a Saviour and Redeemer; for „who can declare his generation”, the wickedness of it? then, in the infinite wisdom of God, Christ was sent to redeem sinners.

2d. Fourthly, The wisdom of God shines in the Gospel, the good news of salvation by Christ; in its doctrines, and in its ordinances; that itself is called, „the wisdom of God in a mystery; the hidden wisdom; the manifold wisdom of God”; #1Co 2:7 Eph 3:10 every doctrine is a display of it; to instance only in justification, and the pardon of sin. Justification is by the free grace of God, and yet in strict justice; grace provided Christ to work out a righteousness; grace accepts of it in the room and stead of sinners, and grace imputes it to them: the righteousness of Christ, by which men are justified, is commensurate to the law and justice of God; so that „God is just, while the justifier of him that believes in Jesus”: the grace of faith is wisely appointed to receive this righteousness; it is of faith, that it might appear to be of grace, and that pride and boasting might be excluded; which, had any other been appointed, would not have been so apparent; this being a soul humbling, a soul emptying grace, which receives all from God, and gives him all the glory: pardon of sin is of free grace, and yet through the blood of Christ; and is both an act of grace and of justice; God is just and faithful to forgive it, as well as gracious and merciful; he forgives sin, and takes vengeance on the inventions of the sinner: pardon proceeds upon the foot of satisfaction, which grace provides; and so both grace and justice agree in it, and are glorified by it: the ordinances of the Gospel are wisely instituted to answer the end of them; baptism to represent the overwhelming sufferings of Christ, his burial, and resurrection from the dead: the ordinance of the supper, to show forth his death; the bread broken is a proper emblem of his broken body; the wine poured out, of his blood shed, and his soul poured out unto death for sinners. Wisely has God appointed men, and not angels, to minister the word and administer ordinances; „men of the same passions with others”; who may be heard and conversed with, without dread and terror; frail, mortal men, earthen vessels, in which this treasure is put, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men; and a standing ministry is wisely fixed, to be continued to the end of the world, for the use, relief, refreshment, and comfort of God’s people, as well as the conversion of sinners; and all for the glory of God.

2e. Fifthly, The wisdom of God may be seen in the government and preservation of the church of God, in all ages; in guiding them by immediate revelation, without the written word, when the church was in a few families, and the lives of men long; then with written laws, statutes, and ordinances, suited to the infant state of the church, among the people of Israel; and now with ordinances, more agreeable to its adult state, under the gospel dispensation, throughout the world: and as it is a church and kingdom not of this world, it is supported, not by worldly, but spiritual means; and wonderfully has it been preserved, in all ages, and increased, amidst all the persecutions of men; no weapon formed against it has prospered; and God has made it, and will still more make it to appear, that he rules in Jacob unto the ends of the earth.

–End of Chapter–


{1} Laert. Vit. Philosoph. Proeem. p. 8.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 11:

Of The Will Of God, And The Sovereignty Of It

Having considered the attributes of God which belong to his understanding, as an intelligent Spirit, his knowledge and wisdom, I now proceed to consider his Will, and the sovereignty of it. And shall,

1. Prove that there is a Will in God; for in all intelligent beings there is a will, as well as an understanding; as in angels and men, so in God; as he has an understanding which is infinite and unsearchable; so he has a will, to do what he knows is most fitting to be done. His understanding influences and guides his will, and his will determines all his actions; and his will being thus wisely directed, is called, „the counsel of his will”, #Eph 1:11. A will is frequently ascribed to God in Scripture; „The will of the Lord be done”, #Ac 21:14. „Who has resisted his will”, #Ro 9:19. „Having made known unto us the mystery of his will”, #Eph 1:9 and in many other places; the will of God is no other than God himself willing; it is essential to him; it is his nature and essence; it is not to be separated, or to be considered as distinct from it, or as a part of it, of which it is composed; which would be contrary to the simplicity of God; or to his being a simple, uncompounded Spirit; which has been established. Will is ascribed to each of the divine persons; to the Father, #Joh 6:39,40 to the Son, as a divine person, #Joh 5:21 17:24 and who also, as man, has a will distinct from that, though subjected to it, #Joh 6:38 Lu 22:42 and to the Spirit, who is said to forbid, and not to suffer some things to be done; that is, to not allow them; and to not allow is an act of the will, as well as to will, #Ac 16:6,7 and he is said to divide his gifts to each men, as he „will”, #1Co 12:11. And these three, as they are the one God, they agree in one, in one mind and will.

2. I shall next show what the will of God is: there is but one will in God; but for our better understanding it, it may be distinguished. I shall not trouble the reader with all the distinctions of it made by men; some are false, and others vain and useless; such as into absolute and conditional, antecedent and consequent, effectual and ineffectual, &c. the distinction of the „secret” and „revealed” will of God has generally obtained among sound divines; the former is properly the will of God, the latter only a manifestation of it. Whatever God has determined within himself, whether to do himself, or to do by others, or to suffer to be done, while it is in his own breast, and is not made known by any event in providence, or by prophecy, that is his secret will; such are the deep things of God, the thoughts of his heart, the counsels and determinations of his mind; which are impenetrable to others; but when these open, by events in providence, or by prophecy, then they become the revealed will of God. God’s secret will becomes revealed by events in providence, whether it be considered general or special; the general providence of God, with respect to the world and church, is no other than the execution, and so the manifestation of his secret will, with respect to both: to the world, its production, the origin of nations, the settlement of them in the various parts of the world; the rise of states and kingdoms, and particularly the four monarchies, and the succession of them: to the church, in the line of Seth, from Adam, and in the line of Shem, from Noah, and in the people of Israel, from Abraham, to the coming of Christ: and the book of Revelation is a discovery of the secret will of God with respect to both, from the coming of Christ to the end of the world; the greatest part of which has been fulfilled, and the rest will be; as the destruction of antichrist, and the antichristian states; the conversion of the Jews, and the bringing in of the fulness of the Gentiles; and the spiritual and personal kingdom of Christ. These are now already revealed, though the time when they will take place is still in the secret will of God. The providence of God may be considered as special with respect to particular persons; there is a purpose or secret will of God, with respect to every man; and there is a time fixed for every purpose; a time to be born, and a time to die; and for everything that befalls men between their birth and death: all which open in time, in providence; and what was secret becomes revealed: so we know that we are born, who our parents, the time and circumstances of our birth, as related to us; we know what has befallen us, whether in an adverse or prosperous way; God has performed what is appointed for us, as Job says of himself; but then, as he observes, „many such things are with him”, in his secret will. We know not what shall befall us; and though we know that we shall die, that is revealed; but when and where, in what manner and circumstance, we know not; that remains in the secret will of God. Some things which belong to the secret will of God become revealed by prophecy; so it was made known to Abraham, that his seed, according to the secret will or purpose of God, should be in a land, not theirs, four hundred years, and be afflicted, and come out with great substance: nor did God hide from Abraham what he secretly willed to do, in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah: and, indeed, it has been usual for the Lord to do nothing but what he reveals to his servants the prophets; particularly all things concerning Christ, his incarnation, offices, obedience, sufferings, and death, and the glory that should follow, were all signified beforehand, to the prophets, by the Spirit of Christ in them.

The will of God, which he would have done by men, is revealed in the law, that is called „his will”, #Ro 2:18. This was made known to Adam, by inscribing it on his heart, whereby he knew his duty to God, to be performed by him; this, though sadly obliterated by sin, yet there are some remains of it in the Gentiles, who do by nature the things contained in it; which show the work of the law written in their hearts: a new edition of this law was delivered to the Israelites, written on tables of stone, by the finger of God; according to which they were to behave themselves, and hold the tenure of the land of Canaan, and enjoy the privileges of it: and in regeneration the law of God is put into the inward parts, and written on the hearts of God’s people; who being transformed, by the renewing of their minds, come to know what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God, #Ro 12:2. This respects man’s duty both to God and men.

There is the revealed will of God in the Gospel; which respects the kind intentions, and gracious regards of God to men; and discovers what before was his secret will concerning them; as, that he has chosen some to everlasting life and happiness; that he has appointed these to salvation by Christ; and appointed him to be their Saviour; that Christ undertook to do this will of God, and came from heaven to earth to do it, and has finished it; and that it is the will of God that these should be regenerated and sanctified; and „that they should never perish, but have everlasting life”, #Eph 1:4,5 Joh 6:38 1Th 4:3 Joh 6:39,40 Mt 18:14. But then, though all this is the revealed will of God, in the Gospel, yet as to particular persons interested herein, it is, in a great measure, a secret; election of God, and so the rest, may be known by the Gospel coming with power into the heart, and by a work of grace upon it; and the knowledge of it should be sought after; yet it is not attained to but by such who are favoured with a full assurance of faith; and as to others, though it may, in a judgment of charity, because of their declared experiences, their savoury discourses, and holy conversation, be concluded of them, that they are the elect of God, &c. yet it cannot be certainly known, but by divine revelation, as it might be by the apostle, that Clement, and other fellow labourers of his, had their names written in the book of life, #Php 4:3. It is the revealed will of God, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and that all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that after death there will be a judgment; and though it is revealed, that a day is fixed, as well as a person appointed to judge the world in righteousness; yet „of that day and hour knows no man”; no, not the angels; but God only. So that, upon the whole, though there is some foundation for this distinction of the secret and revealed will of God, yet it is not quite clear; there is a mixture, part of the will of God is, as yet, secret, and part of it revealed, with respect to the same subject, as what has been observed plainly shows.

The most accurate distinction of the will of God, is into that of precept and purpose; or the commanding and decreeing will of God.

God’s will of precept, or his commanding will, is that which is often spoken of in Scripture; as what should be done by men, and which is desirable they might have knowledge of, and be complete in, #Mt 7:21 12:50 Col 1:9 4:12. This is the rule of mens’ duty; which consists of the fear of God, and keeping his commands; this is done but by a few, and by none perfectly; every sin is a transgression of it; when it is done aright it is done in faith, from love, and to the glory of God: every good man desires to do it in the best manner, and, if it could be, perfectly; even as it is done by angels in heaven. God, by the declaration of this his will, shows what he approves of, and what is acceptable to him, when done aright; and is made to render men inexcusable that do it not, and to make it appear right in justice to inflict punishment on such persons.

The decreeing will of God is only, properly speaking, his Will; the other is his Word: this is the rule of his own actions; he does all things in heaven and earth after his will, the counsel of it; and this will is always done, cannot be resisted, frustrated, and made void; he does whatever he wills; „his counsel stands, and the thoughts of his heart are to all generations”; and this is sometimes fulfilled by those who have no regard to his will of precept, and have no knowledge of this, even while they are doing it; as Herod and Pontius Pilate, the Jews and Gentiles, in doing what they did against Christ, #Ac 4:27,28 and the ten kings, into whose hearts God put it to fulfil his will, in giving their kingdoms to the beast, #Re 17:17 and this will of God should be bore in mind in everything we intend to do or go about; saying, if the Lord will, we will do this, and that, and the other, #1Co 4:19 Jas 4:13-15 and this should be owned and acknowledged, and submitted to in every state and condition of life, whether of prosperity or adversity, or in whatsoever befalls us in our own persons, or in our friends and relations, #Ac 21:14 and this, properly speaking, is the one and only will of God. I shall next inquire,

3. What are the objects of it.

3a. First, God himself, not his Being, perfections, and modes of subsisting; as the paternity of the Father; the generation of the Son; and the breathing of the Spirit. These naturally and necessarily exist, and do not depend upon the will of God: but it is his own glory; „The Lord hath made all things for himself”; that is, for his own glory, #Pr 16:4. He wills his own glory in all he does; as „all things are of him”, as the efficient Cause; and „through him”, as the wise Disposer of them; so they are „to him”, to his glory, as the final Cause, and last end of all; and this he wills necessarily; he cannot but will his own glory; as „he will not give his glory to another”; he cannot will it to another; that would be to deny himself.

3b. Secondly, All things without himself, whether good or evil, are the objects of his will, or what his will is some way or other concerned in: there is a difference, indeed, between the objects of God’s knowledge and power and the objects of his will; for though he knows all things knowable, in his understanding, and his power reaches to all that is possible, though not made; yet he wills not all things willable, if the word may be allowed, or that might be willed; wherefore, as Amesius {1} observes, though God is said to be omniscient and omnipotent, yet not omnivolent or all willing.

3b1. First, All good things.

3b1a. All things in nature; all things are made by him, and all were originally good that were made by him, even „very good”; and all were made according to his will; „Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure”; or by thy will, „they are and were created”, #Re 4:11 even the heavens, earth, and sea, and all that in them are.

3b1b. All things in providence. God’s kingdom of providence rules over all, and extends to all creatures, angels and men, and every other, and to all events that befall them; not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of God; „He doth according to his will in the army of heaven”; in the heavenly host of angels; „and among the inhabitants of the earth”, #Da 4:35 there is nothing comes to pass but what God has willed, ordered, and appointed; „Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” #La 3:37.

3b1c. All things in grace are according to the will of God, all spiritual blessings in Christ, all grace given to the elect in Christ, before the world was; the choice of them in Christ; predestination to adoption by him; redemption through his blood; regeneration, sanctification, and the eternal inheritance; all are according to the good pleasure of his will, #2Ti 1:9 Eph 1:3-5,7,9,11 Jas 1:18 1Th 4:3.

3b2. Secondly, All evil things are the objects of God’s will; which are of two sorts.

3b2a. „Malum poenae”, the evil of afflictions; whether in a way of chastisement, or of punishment: if in a way of chastisement, as they are to the people of God, they are according to the will of God; they do not spring out of the dust, nor come by chance; but are by the will, order, and appointment of God; as to quality, quantity, duration, ends, and uses, #Job 23:14 Mic 6:9 1Th 3:3 and which are consistent with the justice, holiness, wisdom, love, and goodness of God. If they are in a way of punishment, as they are to wicked and ungodly men; there is no reason to complain of them, since they are less than their sins deserve; and not at all unworthy of a righteous God to will to inflict on them, #La 3:39 all judgments, calamities, and distresses, which come upon kingdoms, nations, cities, towns, and particular persons, are all of God, and according to his will, #Am 3:6. Not that God wills these things for the sake of them; or as taking delight in the afflictions and miseries of his creatures, #La 3:33 Eze 18:32 but for the sake of some good: the afflictions of his people are for their spiritual good, as well as for his own glory: and the punishment of the wicked is for the glorifying of his justice.

3b1b. There is „malum culpae”, or the evil of fault and blame, that is sin: about this there is some difficulty how the will of God should be concerned in it, consistent with his purity and holiness: that the will of God is some way or other concerned with it is most certain; for he either wills it or not wills it: the latter cannot be said, because nothing comes to pass, God not willing it, #La 3:37 or he neither wills it, nor not wills it; that is, he has no care about it, nor concern at all with it; and so it is outside the area of jurisdiction, and not within the reach of his providence; which cannot be admitted, and which none will say, but those who are atheistically inclined, see #Eze 9:9 #Zep 1:12. Besides, as Beza {2}, and other divines argue, unless God had voluntarily permitted sin to be, there could be no display, neither of his punitive justice, nor of his mercy: to which may be added, that God’s foreknowledge of sin most fully proves his will in it; that God foreknew sin would be, is certain; as the fall of Adam; since he made a provision, in Christ, for the saving of men out of it, before it was; and so other sins; see #2Sa 12:11 16:22. Now certain and immutable foreknowledge, such as the foreknowledge of God, is founded upon some certain and immutable cause; which can be no other than the divine will; God foreknows, certainly, that such and such things will be; because he has determined in his will they shall be. To set this affair in the best light, it will be proper to consider, what is in sin, and relative to it: there is the act of sin, and there is the guilt of sin, which is an obligation to punishment, and the punishment itself. Concerning the two last there can be no difficulty; that God should will that men that sin should become guilty; be reckoned, accounted, and treated as such; or lie under obligation to punishment; nor that he should will the punishment of them, and appoint and foreordain them to it for it, #Pr 16:4 Jude 1:4. The only difficulty is, about the act of sin; and this may be considered either as natural or moral; or the act, and the ataxy, disorder, irregularity, and vitiosity of it: as an action, barely considered, it is of God, and according to his will; without which, and the concourse of his providence, none can be performed; he is the fountain and source of all action and motion; in him all live, move, and have their being, #Ac 17:28 but then the vitiosity and irregularity of it, as it is an aberration from the law of God, and a transgression of it, is of men only; and God cannot be said to will this; he forbids it, he abhors and detests it; he takes no pleasure in it; he is of purer eyes than even to behold it with approbation and delight. God cannot will it as sin, or for the sake of itself; but for the sake of some good to be brought about through it; as the fall of Adam, for the glorifying of his justice and mercy, in punishing some of his posterity, and saving others: the sin of Joseph’s brethren selling him into Egypt, for the good of Joseph and his father’s family, and others; and the sin of the Jews, in crucifying Christ, for the redemption and salvation of men. And besides, God may will one sin as a punishment for another; as it is most certain he has in the case of the Israelites, #Ho 4:9,10,13 of the heathen philosophers, #Ro 1:28 and of the papists, #2Th 2:9-12. Once more, though God may be said, in such senses, to will sin, yet he wills it in a different way than he wills that which is good; he does not will to do it himself, nor to do it by others; but permits it to be done; and which is not a bare permission, but a voluntary permission; and is expressed by God’s „giving” up men to their own hearts’ lusts, and by „suffering” them to walk in their own sinful ways, #Ps 81:12 #Ac 14:16 he wills it not by his effective will, but by his permissive will; and therefore cannot be chargeable with being the author of sin; since there is a wide difference between doing it himself, and doing it by others, or ordering it to be done, winch only can make him the author of sin; and voluntarily permitting or suffering it to be done by others. I proceed to consider,

4. The nature and properties of the will of God. And,

4a. First, It is natural and „essential” to him; it is his very nature and essence; his will is himself willing; and therefore there can be but one will in God; for there is but one God, whose nature and essence is one; for though there are three persons in the Godhead, there is but one undivided nature common to them all, and so but one will: they are one, and they agree in one; God is „in one mind”, or will; though there may be distinctions of his will, and different objects of it, and divers ways in which he wills, yet it is by one single eternal act of will he wills all things. Hence also his will is incommunicable to a creature; the will of God cannot otherwise be a creature’s, but as that they approve of it, acquiesce in it, and submit unto it; even it was incommunicable to the human nature of Christ, though taken into union with the person of the Son of God; yet his divine will, and his human will, are distinct from each other, though the one is subject to the other, #Joh 6:38 Lu 22:42.

4b. Secondly, The will of God is „eternal”, as may be concluded from the attribute of „eternity”; for if God is eternal, as he certainly is, even from everlasting to everlasting God, then his will must he eternal, since it is his nature and essence: and from his „immutability”; who changes not, and with whom there is no shadow of turning; but if any new will arises in God in time, which was not in eternity, there would be a change in him; he would not be the same in time he was in eternity; nor the same in eternity he is in time; whereas, he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever: and from the „foreknowledge” of God, which is eternal; „Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world”, or from eternity, #Ac 15:18 and now as God’s foreknowledge arises from his will, God foreknows what will be, as has been observed, because he has determined, in his will, what shall be; so if his knowledge is eternal, his will must be eternal. Likewise, this may be illustrated by the decree of „election”; that was, certainly, before men had done either good or evil; was from the beginning, or from everlasting; even before the foundation of the world, #Eph 1:4 and as the decree and determination of the will of God was so early, the same may be concluded of all others: add to all which, the will of God is concerned with „all things” that have been „from the beginning” of the world, now are, or shall be to the end of it; and therefore must be prior to the existence of the world, and things in it; and if prior to them, then prior to time; and if prior to time, must be eternal; for we know of nothing before time but what is eternal.

4c. Thirdly, The will of God is „immutable”: immutability is expressly ascribed to the counsel of God; that is, to the will and purpose of God, #Heb 6:17 and may be established from the attribute of „immutability”; for if God is unchangeably the same, as he is, then his will must be the same, since it is his nature and essence: a change is made in the will of a creature, either by beginning to will what it did not before, or by ceasing to will what it has willed: now the cause of beginning a new will, or willing what it did not, supposes previous ignorance of the thing now begun to be willed; not knowing the fitness and propriety of it, being ignorant of its nature, excellence, and utility; for of an unknown thing there can be no desire and will: but such a change of will can never take place in God, on such a footing; since it is not only contrary to his eternity and immutability, but to his knowledge, whose understanding is infinite: or a creature changes its will, when it ceases to will what it has willed; which is either of choice, or of obligation to it; of choice, when something unforeseen occurs, which causes it to change its will, and take another course: but nothing of this kind can befall God, before whom all things are at once and together, naked and open; even from all eternity: or else of force, being obliged unto it, because it cannot accomplish its will, and therefore drops it, and takes another course: „But who hath resisted his will”, the will of God, so as to cause him to cease from it, and drop it? If God changes his will, it must be either for the better or the worse; and either way it would betray imperfection in him, and want of wisdom; God may change his outward dispensations of things, but he never changes his will: repentance attributed to him is no proof of it; „He is in one mind, and who can turn him?” his will is not to be turned nor altered, no not by the prayers of his people. But of these things see more under the attribute of „immutability”, before treated of.

4d. Fourthly, The will of God is always efficacious; there are no wishes, would-bes, or feeble degrees of volition in God; his will is always effected, never made null and void; he does whatever he pleases, or wills; his counsel always stands, and he ever does his pleasure; otherwise he would not be almighty, as he is: it must be for want of power, if his will is not fulfilled, which cannot be said; as he is omnipotent, so is his will; yea, Austin calls {3} it, his most omnipotent will: if this was not the case, there would be somewhat, or some one „superior” to him; whereas he is God over all, the most High, higher than the highest; and can never be contradicted by any: and was his will ineffectual, he would be „frustrated” and disappointed of his end: but as nothing comes to pass which man says, and the Lord commands it not; so everything the Lord says, wills, and orders, most certainly comes to pass; „For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” yea, he hath sworn, saying, „Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, it shall stand”, #Isa 14:24,27. Besides if his will was not efficacious, or it failed of accomplishment, he would not be happy: when a man’s will is ineffectual, and he cannot accomplish it, it gives him uneasiness, it makes him unhappy; but this can never be said of God, who is the blessed, the blessed God, blessed forevermore.

4e. Fifthly, The will of God has „no cause” out of himself; for then there would be something prior to him, and greater and more excellent than he; as every cause is before its effect, and more excellent than that; and his will would be dependent on another, and so he not be the independent Being he is: nor can there be any impulsive or moving cause of his will; because there is in him no passive power to work upon; he is purely act, „actus simplicissimus”, a pure, active Spirit: if he consisted of act and power, he would not be the simple and uncompounded Spirit he is; wherefore, to be impelled or moved by any cause, would be contrary to his simplicity, before established: he may indeed be said to will one thing for another; but then that which he wills for another, is no moving cause of his will; these may have the nature of cause and effect between themselves; but neither of them the cause of the will of God; nor is there any final cause of what he wills and does but his own glory; and it would be madness to seek for a cause of his willing that: and from this property of the will of God, it may be clearly discerned, that foreseen faith, holiness, and good works, cannot be the cause of God’s will in the election of any to eternal life; and so the contrary, no cause of his will in the rejection of others

4f. Sixthly, The will of God, for this same reason, is not conditional; for then it would be dependent on the condition to be performed; and not the will of God, but the performance of the condition, would be the first and chief in the attainment of the end thereby. And, to say no more, if, for instance, God willed to save all men conditionally; that is, on condition of faith and repentance; and to damn them if these conditions are wanting; who does not see that this conditional will, to save and to destroy, is equally the same? destruction is equally willed as salvation; and where is the general love of God to men, so much talked of? there is none at all to any.

4g. Seventhly, The will of God is most free and sovereign; as appears,

4g1. From the making of the world, and all things in it. That the world is eternal, few have asserted; that it was made, and made by God, is generally agreed; and by the will of God, as the scriptures assert, #Re 4:11 and the making of it, as to time and order, and things contained in it, is owing to the sovereign will of God; to what else but to his sovereignty can it be ascribed, that he has not made more worlds than he has, who could, if he would, have made ten thousand worlds? or that he should make this world when he did, and not sooner, when he could have made it millions of ages before, if he would? or that he should be six days making that, and all things in it, when he could have made them all in a moment, if he pleased? or that he made this world no larger than it is, and made no more kinds and species of creatures than he has, and those he has made no more numerous than they be? no reason can be assigned, but his sovereign will and pleasure.

4g2. The sovereignty of the will of God appears in providence, and in the various events of it; as in the births and deaths of men, which are neither of them of the will of men, but of the will of God; and there is a time for both fixed by his will; and in which his sovereignty may be seen; for to what else can it be ascribed, that such and such men should be born, and brought into the world, in such an age, and not before? and that they should go out of the world at the time, in the manner and circumstances they do? and that there should be such difference in men, in their states, conditions, and circumstances in life; that some should be rich, and others poor? riches and poverty are both at the disposal of God, as Agur’s prayer shows; and God is the maker both of the rich and poor, not only as men, but as rich and poor men: and to what can this difference be attributed, but to the sovereign will of God? some are raised to great honour and dignity; and others live in a very low, mean, and abject state; but promotion comes neither from the East, nor from the West, nor from the South; but God puts down one, and sets up another, as he pleases; and these differences and changes may be observed in the same persons, as in Job, who was for many years the greatest man in all the East, and, on a sudden, was stripped of all his riches, honour, and glory, and upon a dunghill; and then, after a while, restored to twice the wealth and riches he had before. So Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest monarch then on earth, and when in the most flourishing circumstances, and in the height of his grandeur, was degraded from his dignity, as a man and monarch, and driven to dwell among beasts, and to become and live like one of them; and, after all, was restored to his reason, and to his throne, and former greatness; which extorted from him such an acknowledgment of the sovereign will of God as perhaps is no where more strongly expressed; „He doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou?” #Da 4:35. Some are free from sickness and diseases of body all their days; their strength is firm, and no weaknesses in their death, but die in their full strength: while others drag on a life attended with a variety of infirmities and disorders, to their graves; and this is the case of the best of men: to what can it be imputed, but to the sovereign will of God? and how otherwise can be accounted for the many abortions, miscarriages, untimely births, infants that never saw light; and others, as soon as their eyes are opened in this world, are shut again; when others not only go through the stages of infancy, childhood, and manhood, but arrive to a full age, and come to their graves like a shock of corn fully ripe? And a multitude of other things might be observed, in providence; which, though God has wise reasons for them, are unaccountable to us, but are obliged to refer them to his sovereign will and pleasure; who gives no account of his matters to the children of men.

4g3. The will of God appears to be sovereign in things sacred, spiritual, and religious, both with respect to angels and men: as that some of the angels should be elect, and confirmed by the grace of Christ, in the estate in which they were created, and be preserved from apostasy, while a large number of them were suffered to rebel against God, and leave their first state; for which they were cast down from heaven to hell, and reserved in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day, and no mercy shown to any of them; as has been to many of the apostate race of Adam. What other reason can be given for all this, but the sovereign will of God? Among men, some God loves, and some he hates; and that before good or evil are done by them; some he chooses to everlasting happiness, and others he passes by and rejects; he has mercy on some, and hardens others; just as he, in his sovereignty, wills and pleases: some are redeemed from among men, by Christ, even out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, whom he wills, and resolves to save; when others are left to perish in their sins: for which no other cause can be assigned than the sovereign will and pleasure of God. According to which also he dispenses his gifts to men, and these of different sorts; some fitting for public service, as to ministers of the gospel; and such he makes whensoever he pleases, and gives them gifts differing from one another; to some greater to others less, to some one talent and to others five, dividing to every man individually as he wills, according to his sovereign pleasure: the means of grace, the ministry of the word and ordinances, in all ages, have been disposed of, just as seemed good in his sight; for many hundreds of years, God gave his word to Jacob, and his statutes unto Israel, and other nations knew them not; and these have been since distributed among the Gentiles, sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another; and how apparent is the sovereignty of God in favouring our British Isles, these Isles afar off, with the gospel, and gospel ordinances, when so great a part of the world is denied them, and is covered with Pagan, Papal, and Mahometan darkness? and still more it is manifest in that these outward means are, to some, „the savour of life unto life, and to others the savour of death unto death.” The special gifts of the grace of God, are bestowed upon men according to the sovereign will of God; of his own will he regenerates some, and not others; calls by his grace, whom he pleases, when and by what means, according to his purpose; reveals the gospel, and the great things of it, to whom he would make them known; and hides them from the wise and prudent; „even so Father”, says Christ, „for so it seemed good in thy sight”; nor does he give any other reason for such a conduct. The graces of the Spirit of God are given to some, and not to others; as for instance, repentance, which is a grant from God, a gift of Christ, was bestowed on Peter, who denied his Lord; and withheld from Judas, that betrayed him. Faith, which is the gift of God, all men have it not; to some it is only given, when others have a spirit of slumber, eyes that they see not, and ears that they hear not. In short, eternal life, which is the free gift of God, through Christ, is given only by him, to as many as the Father has given him, and to these alike; the penny, which seems to mean eternal happiness, in the parable, is given to those who were called to labour in the vineyard in the eleventh hour, as to those who bore the heat and burden of the day: some do much service for Christ, and others very little, and yet all share the same glory. To what can all this be resolved, but into the sovereign will of God? who says, „Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?” #Mt 20:15. But though the will of God is sovereign, it always acts wisely: some sovereign princes will things rashly and foolishly; but God wills nothing contrary to his perfections of wisdom, justice, holiness, &c. and his will is therefore called „counsel”, and „the counsel of his will”, #Isa 25:1 46:10 Eph 1:11.

–End of Chapter–


{1} Medulla Theolog. l. 1. c. 7. s. 47.

{2} Vide Maccov. Loc. Commun. c. 24. p. 195.

{3} De Civitate Dei, l. 13. c. 18.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 12:

Of The Love Of God

Next to the attributes which belong to God, as an intelligent Spirit, to his understanding and will, may be considered, those which may be called „Affections”; for though, properly speaking, there are none in God, he being a most pure and simple act, free from all confusion and disorder; yet there being some things said and done by him, which are similar to affections in intelligent beings, they are ascribed to him; as love, pity, hatred, anger, &c. from which must be removed everything that is carnal, sensual, or has any degree of imperfection in it; and among these, Love stands in the first place; and this enters so much into the nature of God, that it is said, „God is love”, #1Jo 4:8,16. So the Shekinah, or the divine majesty and glory, is, by the Jews, {1} called hbha „Love”; and the heathens give the same name to God; Plato {2} expressly calls him „Love”: and Hesiod {3} speaks of love as the fairest and most beautiful among the immortal gods. In treating of this divine attribute, I shall,

1. Consider the objects of it. And,

1a. The principal object of the love of God is himself. Self-love is in all intelligent beings; nor is it discommendable, when it Is not carried to a criminal excess, and to the neglect of others; none are obliged to love others more than themselves, but as themselves, #Mt 22:39. God first and chiefly loves himself; and hence he has made himself, that is, his glory, the ultimate end of all he does in nature, providence, and grace, #Pr 16:4 Ro 11:36 #Re 4:11 Eph 1:6 and his happiness lies in contemplating himself, his nature and perfections; in that love, complacency and delight he has in himself; nor needs he, nor can he have anything out of himself that can add to his essential happiness.

The three divine Persons in the Godhead mutually love each other; the Father loves the Son and the Spirit, the Son loves the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. That the Father loves the Son, is more than once said, #Joh 3:35 5:20 and the Son is sometimes called the well beloved and dear Son of God, #Mt 3:17 17:5 Col 1:13 he was from all eternity as „one brought up with him”; and was loved by him before the foundation of the world; and that with a love of complacency and delight; as he must, since „he is the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person”, and is of the same nature, and possessed of all the same perfections with him, #Pr 8:30,31 #Joh 17:24 Heb 1:3 Col 2:9 yea, he loved him as his Servant, as the Mediator, in his state of humiliation, and obedience, and under all his sufferings, and on account of them; and even while he bore his wrath as the sinner’s surety, he was the object of his love, as his Son, #Isa 42:1 Mt 3:17 Joh 10:17 and now he is at his right hand, in human nature, he looks upon him with delight, and is well pleased with his sacrifice, satisfaction, and righteousness. The Father loves the Spirit; being the very breath of him, from whence he has his name, and proceeding from him, and possessing the same nature and essence with him, #Job 33:4 Ps 33:6 #Joh 15:26 1Jo 5:7. The Son loves the Father, of whom he is begotten, with whom he was brought up, in whose bosom he lay from all eternity, as his own and only begotten Son; and as man, the law of God was in his heart; the sum of which is to love the Lord God with all the heart and soul; and as Mediator he showed his love to him by an obedience to his commandment, even though that was to suffer death for his people, #Ps 40:8 Joh 14:31 10:18 #Php 2:8. The Son also loves the Spirit, since he proceeds from him, as from the Father, and is called the Spirit of the Son, #Ga 4:6 and Christ often speaks of him with pleasure and delight, #Isa 48:16 61:1 Joh 14:16,17,26 15:26 16:7,13. And the Spirit loves the Father and the Son, and sheds abroad the love of them both in the hearts of his people; he searches into the deep things of God, and reveals them to them; and takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto them; and so is both the Comforter of them, and the Glorifier of him, #1Co 2:10-12 Joh 16:14.

1b. All that God has made is the object of his love; all the works of creation, when he had made them, he looked over them, and saw that they were good, „very good”, #Ge 1:31 he was well pleased, and delighted with them; yea, he is said to „rejoice in his works”, #Ps 104:31 he upholds all creatures in their beings, and is the Preserver of all, both men and beasts; and is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works, #Ps 36:6 145:9 and particularly, rational creatures are the objects of his care, love, and delight: he loves the holy angels, and has shown his love to them in choosing them to happiness; hence they are called „elect angels”, #1Ti 5:21 by making Christ the head of them, by whom they are confirmed in the estate in which they were created, #Col 2:10 and by admitting them into his presence, allowing them to stand before him, and behold his face, #Mt 18:10 yea, even the devils, as they are the creatures of God, are not hated by him, but as they are apostate spirits from him: and so he bears a general love to all men, as they are his creatures, his offspring, and the work of his hands; he supports them, preserves them, and bestows the bounties of his providence in common upon them, #Ac 17:28 14:17 Mt 5:45 but he bears a special love to elect men in Christ; which is called his „great love”, #Eph 2:4 whom he has chosen and blessed with all spiritual blessings in him, #Eph 1:3,4 and which love is distinguishing and discriminating, #Mal 1:1,2 Ro 9:11,12. I go on to,

2. Give some instances of the love of God, particularly to chosen men in Christ, and who share in the love of Father, Son, and Spirit.

The love of the Father has appeared in thinking of them, thoughts of peace; in contriving and forming the scheme of their peace and reconciliation in Christ, from eternity, #2Co 5:18,19 in choosing them in him from the beginning, even from everlasting, to salvation, by him, #2Th 2:13 in putting their persons into the hands of Christ, and securing and preserving them in him, #De 33:3 Jude 1:1 in laying up all blessings in him for them, and blessing them with them so early, #Eph 1:3,4 in appointing Christ to be the Saviour of them; in providing, promising, and sending him into the world, to work out their salvation, #Joh 3:16 1Jo 4:9,10 Tit 3:4,5 in the pardon of their sins through the blood of Christ, #Isa 38:17 Eph 1:7 in their adoption, #1Jo 3:1 in their regeneration and conversion, #Jer 31:3 Eph 2:4,5 and in the gift of eternal life unto them, #Ro 6:23.

The love of the Son of God appears in espousing the persons of the elect, those sons of men, in whom his delights were before the world was, #Pr 8:31 Ho 2:19 in becoming their Surety for good, undertaking their cause, engaging to do the will of God with that cheerfulness he did; which was to work out their salvation, #Ps 40:6-8 Heb 7:22 in assuming their nature, in the fulness of time, to redeem them, work out a righteousness, and make reconciliation for them, #Ga 4:4,5 Ro 8:3,4 Heb 2:14,17 by giving himself a Sacrifice for them; laying down his life on their account; and shedding his blood for the cleansing of their souls, and the remission of their sins, #Eph 5:2,25 Tit 2:14 1Jo 3:16 Re 1:5.

The love of the Spirit, of which mention is made in #Ro 15:30 appears in his coming into the hearts of God’s elect, to convince them of sin and righteousness, and to comfort them; by showing the grace of the covenant, and the blessings of it to them; by opening and applying the promises of it; and by shedding abroad the love of God and Christ in their hearts; by implanting every grace in them, and drawing them forth into exercise; by witnessing to their spirits their adoption; by assisting them in every duty, particularly in prayer, making intercession for them, according to the will of God; and in being the earnest, pledge, and seal of them to the day of redemption, #Joh 16:7,8 Ro 8:15,16,26,27 Eph 1:13,14.

3. It may be proper next to consider the properties of the love of God towards chosen men, which will lead more into the nature of it. And,

3a. There is no cause of it out of God; there is no motive or inducement to it in them, no loveliness in them to excite it; all men by nature are corrupt and abominable; rather to be loathed than loved; and those that are loved, are no better than others, all being under sin; and are, „by nature, children of wrath, as others”; as deserving of that as those that are not loved, #Ro 3:9 Eph 2:3 what loveliness or beauty is in saints, is owing to the righteousness of Christ, imputed to them; which is that comeliness that is put upon them, whereby they are made perfectly comely; and to the sanctifying grace of the Spirit, whereby they are all glorious within, and appear in the beauties of holiness: so that all this is the fruit of the love of God, and not the cause of it. Nor can it be any love in them to God, that is the cause of his to them; for they had no love in them when Christ died for them; nor until regenerated by the Spirit of God; and when they love him, it is because he first loved them, #1Jo 4:10,19 and though Christ is said to love them that love him, and the Father is said to love them too; yet this must not be understood of the first love of God and Christ, unto them, nor of the first display of it; but of further and larger manifestations of it to them; and is descriptive of the persons who are most certainly and evidently the objects of their love; but not as being the cause of it, #Pr 8:17 Joh 14:21,23 16:27. Nor are good works the cause of this love; for this, at least, in one instance of it, was before either good or evil were done, #Ro 9:11,12 and in other instances it broke forth towards them, and broke in upon them while they were yet in their sins, and before they were capable of performing good works, #Ro 5:8 Tit 3:3,4 Eph 2:2-4 and how can it be thought, that since the best works of men are so impure and imperfect as to be reckoned as filthy rags, that these should be the cause of God’s love to men? no, even faith itself is not; that „is the gift of God”, and flows from electing love, and is a fruit and evidence of it, #Eph 2:8 Ac 13:48 #Tit 1:1. God loves men, not because they have faith; but they have faith given them, because God loves them; it is true indeed, that „without faith it is impossible to please God”; that is, to do those things which are pleasing in his sight; but then the persons of God’s elect, may be, and are, well pleasing to God, in Christ, before faith, and without it. In short, the love of God purely flows from his good will and pleasure; who „is gracious to whom he will be gracious”, #Ex 33:19 it is that pure river that proceeds out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb, as an emblem of sovereignty, #Re 22:1 as God loved the people of Israel because he loved them, or would love them; and for no other reason, #De 7:7,8 in like manner he loves his spiritual and mystical Israel.

3b. The love of God is eternal, it does not commence in time, it is without beginning, it is from eternity: this is evident from the love of God to Christ, which was before the foundation of the world; and with the same love he loved him, he loved his people also, and as early, #Joh 17:23,24 and from various acts of love to them in eternity; as the election of them in Christ, which supposes the love of them, #Eph 1:4 the covenant of grace made with them, in which, grants of grace, and promises of glory, were made before the world began; and Christ was set up as the Mediator of it from everlasting: all which are strong proofs of love to them, #2Ti 1:9 Tit 1:2 Pr 8:22,23.

3c. The love of God is immutable, unalterable, and invariable; it is like himself, „the same today, yesterday, and for ever”: and, indeed, God is love; it is his nature; it is himself; and therefore must be without any variableness, or shadow of turning. It admits of no distinctions, by which it appears to alter and vary. Some talk of a love of benevolence, by which God wishes or wills good to men; and then comes on a love of beneficence, and he does good to them, and works good in them: and then a love of complacency and delight takes place, and not till then. But this is to make God changeable, as we are: the love of God admits of no degrees, it neither increases nor decreases; it is the same from the instant in eternity it was, without any change: it is needless to ask whether it is the same before as after conversion, since there were as great, if not greater gifts of love, bestowed on the object loved, before conversion, as after; such as the gift of God himself, in the everlasting covenant; the gift of his Son to die for them when in their sins; and the gift of the Spirit to them, in order to regenerate, quicken, and convert them; heaven itself, eternal life, is not a greater gift than these; and yet they were all before conversion. There never were any stops, lets, or impediments to this love; not the fall of Adam, nor the sad effects of it; nor the actual sins and transgressions of God’s people, in a state of nature; nor all their backslidings, after called by grace; for still he loves them freely, #Ho 14:4 for God foreknew that they would fall in Adam, with others, that they would be transgressors from the womb, and do as evil as they could; yet this hindered not his taking up thoughts of love towards them, his choice of them, and covenant with them. Conversion makes a change in them; brings them from the power of Satan to God, from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty; from fellowship with evil men to communion with God: but it makes no change in the love of God; God changes his dispensations and dealings with them, but never changes his love; he sometimes rebukes and chastises them, but still he loves them; he sometimes hides his face from them, but his love continues the same, #Ps 89:29-33 Isa 54:7-10 the manifestations of his love are various; to some they are greater, to others less; and so to the same persons, at different times; but love in his own heart is invariable and unchangeable.

3d. The love of God endures for ever; it is an everlasting love, in that sense, #Jer 31:3 it is the bond of union between God and Christ, and the elect; and it can never be dissolved; nothing can separate it, nor separate from it, #Ro 8:35,38,39. The union it is the bond of, is next to that, and like it, which is between the three divine persons, #Joh 17:21,23. The union between soul and body, may be, and is dissolved, at death; but neither death nor life can separate from this; this lovingkindness of God never departs; though health, and wealth, and friends, and life itself may depart, this never will, #Isa 54:10 whatever God takes away, as all the said things may be taken away by him, he will never take away this, #Ps 89:33 having loved his own which were in the world, he loves them to the end, to the end of their lives, to the end of time, and to all eternity, #Joh 13:1.

–End of Chapter–


{1} Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 15. l. & Lex. Cabal. p. 43, 44.

{2} Theogonia, v. 120.

{3} „Praeclarum illud est et si quaeris rectum quoque et verum, ut eos qui nobis carissimi esse debeant, aeque ac nosmetipsos amemus; at vero plus fieri nulio facto potest, ne optaedum quidem est in amicitia, ut me ille plus quam se amet”, Cicero. Tusc. Quaest. l. 3.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 13:

Of The Grace Of God

This attribute may be considered, both as it is in God himself, and as displayed in acts towards his creatures; as in himself, it is himself; it is his nature and essence; he is „Grace” itself, most amiable and lovely; hence so often called „gracious” in Scripture: it is a character expressive of the amiableness and loveliness of his nature: and thus he was before he had, and would have been for ever the same if he never had displayed his grace towards any of his creatures. And this appears from the loveliness of Christ, the image of the Father, the express image of his person; who, to them that believe, is exceeding precious, and altogether lovely; when they behold his glory, as the only begotten of the Father; the fulness of grace in him, as Mediator; the purity, perfection, and beauty of his human nature, as in union with his divine person, in which he was in high favour with God and men. Now if Christ, under these several considerations, is so graceful and amiable, he must needs be infinitely so, whose image he is, and who has all virtues, all excellencies, all perfections in him; he is said to be „glorious in holiness”, #Ex 15:11. And if he is so glorious and graceful, viewed in one perfection of his, what must he be when all put together, and he is viewed in them all, his goodness, wisdom, power, justice, truth, &c.? and therefore is to be loved above all, and with all the heart, soul, and strength; and hence it is that good men, as Moses, David, and others, desired to see the „face” of God, so far as could be admitted, and they were capable of, #Ex 33:14,15 #Ps 27:7,8 105:4 and what a lovely sight had Moses of him in the clift of the rock, when he caused his goodness to pass, and proclaimed his name, a God gracious before him, #Ex 33:19 34:6 and to see the lovely face of God, so far as creatures are capable of, is the happiness of angels, will be the happiness of saints to all eternity, #Mt 18:10 #1Co 13:12 1Jo 3:2 Re 22:4.

The grace of God may be considered as displayed in acts of goodness towards his creatures, especially men; and is no other than his free favour and good will to men; it is no other than love unmerited and undeserved, exercising and communicating itself to them in a free and generous manner; which they are altogether unworthy of. There are many things called grace, and the grace of God, because they flow from his grace, and are the effects of it; as the gospel, #2Co 6:1 Ga 5:4 #Tit 2:11 gifts for preaching the gospel, #Ro 12:6 Eph 3:7,8 the blessings of grace, as justification, adoption, &c. #Ps 84:11 2Ti 1:9 in each of the graces of the Spirit in regeneration, as faith, hope, love, &c. #2Co 9:8 Ga 2:9 but then these are to be distinguished from grace in God; as the Giver and the gift, the Fountain and the streams, the Cause and the effect. The grace of God arises from the goodness of his nature, and not from anything in the creature; and is exercised according to his sovereign will and pleasure; „I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”, #Ex 33:19. It is „independent” of all merit and worth in creatures, and of all works done by them, and is always opposed to them in scripture, #Ro 11:6 2Ti 1:9 Eph 2:8,9 it is quite entirely „free”, as Austin {1} said long ago, grace is not grace, unless it is altogether free. As an attribute, it wholly and only „resides” in God; and is only in men, as to the sense and perception of it, and the effects of it upon them and in them, #Ro 5:5 8:37 and it is only exhibited and displayed through Christ, in and through whom men are elected, adopted, redeemed, justified, pardoned, regenerated, and sanctified, #Eph 1:4-7 Ro 3:24 Tit 3:5,6. And though there are various gifts and blessings, and effects of it, it is but one in God: there is but one Fountain, from whence they all flow. With respect to creatures, the objects of it, some distinctions are made concerning it, as of natural and „supernatural” grace. Natural grace seems to sound oddly, and unless guarded against, may tend to confound nature and grace together; but rightly applied and understood, may be admitted. What Adam enjoyed, in a state of integrity, above the rest of creatures, was all owing to the unmerited kindness and goodness of God, and so may be called grace; as the image of God, in which he was created; his holiness and righteousness; knowledge and understanding; the communion he had with God, and his dominion over the creatures; and yet it was all natural: so many things which his posterity in their fallen state enjoy, being altogether owing to the free favour and undeserved goodness of God, may be called grace: to have a being, and life, and the preservation of it, and the mercies of life, as food and raiment, which men are altogether unworthy of, are gifts and favours; and so may bear the name of grace, though only natural blessings. „Supernatural” grace includes all the blessings of grace bestowed upon any of the sons of fallen Adam; and all the graces of the Spirit wrought in them; and which will easily be allowed to be supernatural. But that Adam had any such, in a state of innocence, for my own part, I cannot see; though some are of this opinion. Again, grace is, by some, distinguished into „common” or „general”, and „special” or „particular”. „Common” or „general” grace, if it may be so called, is what all men have; as the light of nature and reason, which every man that comes into the world is enlightened with; the temporal blessings of life, the bounties of providence, called the riches of God’s goodness, or grace, #Ro 2:4 which all partake of, more or less; and the continuance and preservation of life; for „God is the Saviour of all men”, #1Ti 4:10. „Special” or „particular” grace, is that which is peculiar to some persons only; such as electing, redeeming, justifying, pardoning, adopting, and sanctifying grace, #Ro 8:30 and this special grace is, by some, distinguished into „imputed” and „inherent” grace: „imputed” grace is the holiness, obedience, and righteousness of Christ imputed to justification: „inherent” grace is what is wrought in the heart, by the Spirit of God, in regeneration. But these distinctions, with others, only concern the effects of the grace of God; that itself is but one in God; and is sure, firm, and immutable, as his nature is; and is the efficient cause, source, and spring, of all good things enjoyed by men; and should be acknowledged, as it was by the apostle, „By the grace of God I am what I am”, #1Co 15:10 whether as a man, or as a minister, or as a Christian; and this is the final cause, or ultimate end of all, that God does towards, upon, or in his elect, through Christ; all is „to the glory of his grace”, #Eph 1:6 and is what appears, shines forth, and is illustrious in every part and branch of their salvation; and therefore they are said to be „saved by grace”, #Eph 2:5,8 as will be evident by an enumeration of them.

1. The grace of God appears in the election of men to everlasting life; and is therefore called the election of grace; and is denied to be of works, #Ro 11:5,6 and, indeed, this act of the grace of God, passed in his eternal mind, before any works were done, good or evil, and without any consideration of them, #Ro 9:11 nor can any works truly good be done, until men become the workmanship of God in regeneration; and then they are the fruits and effects of divine preordination, #Eph 2:10 nor were men chosen in Christ because they were holy, but that they might be holy, #Eph 1:4. And sanctification, both internal and external, is a means fixed in the decree of election; and is as absolute, unconditional, and certain, as the end, salvation, #2Th 2:13 and all the true holiness that is, has been, or will be in the world, flows from electing grace; had it not been for this, the world had been as Sodom and Gomorrah, #Ro 9:29. Election is also irrespective of faith; that is likewise a means fixed in the decree, and most certainly follows upon it, and is therefore called the faith of God’s elect, #2Th 2:13 Ac 13:17 #Tit 1:1. It remains, therefore, that election must be ascribed to the free favour, good will, and pleasure of God, to his unmerited grace and goodness, the true spring and cause of it; and to show forth which is the design of it, #Ro 9:18,23 Eph 1:4-6.

2. The grace of God is displayed in the covenant he has made with his elect in Christ; this, with great propriety, is commonly called by us, „the covenant of grace”; though the phrase is not in so many words to be met with in scripture; it is founded in the unmerited grace and mercy of God; and is made to establish and secure the glory of it, #Ps 89:2,3. It was free grace that moved God to make one, to which he was not otherwise obliged: it was free grace that called, and that moved Christ to engage with his Father in it, and which „gave” him to be the covenant of the people, #Ps 40:6,7 #Isa 42:6 it was free grace that stored it with all spiritual blessings; by which it appears to be ordered in all things for the glory of God, and the good of his covenant people; and these are grants of grace, made in it to them in Christ, #2Ti 1:9 and it was free grace that filled it with exceeding great and precious promises; promises of grace and glory, made before the world began; and which made them sure by an oath to the heirs of them; and who become heirs of them, not through any merit of theirs, but through the undeserved favour of God towards them.

3. The grace of God is very manifest in the adoption of the chosen ones; the cause of which is, the good pleasure of the will of God; and the end of it, the glory of his grace, #Eph 1:5,6. God, the adopter, stood not in any need of sons; he had a Son, an only begotten Son, a beloved Son, the dear Son of his love, who always pleased him, his Son and Heir; the adopted are altogether unworthy of such a favour, being „by nature children of wrath, as others”; and these men, and not angels, who are only servants in the family, to wait upon the children, the heirs of salvation, and minister unto them: and not all the race of men, only some, and these no better in themselves than others; and therefore their adoption cannot be ascribed to anything else but the free and distinguishing grace of God; and into which relation they were taken before time, in the everlasting covenant; and Christ was sent to open the way, that they might receive this blessing of grace, and which they do by faith, the gift of God; for faith does not make them, only manifests them to be the sons of God; which relation is the ground of their having the Spirit, faith, and every other grace, #Ga 4:4-6.

4. The grace of God shines very illustrious in redemption by Jesus Christ; free grace set infinite wisdom to work, to find out a proper person to be the redeemer and saviour; and it found out Christ to be the ransom, and provided him to be the sacrifice, #Job 33:24 his incarnation was owing to God’s good will to men, #Lu 2:14 and his mission to his unmerited love, #1Jo 4:10 and it was by the grace of God he tasted death for men, #Heb 2:9 and this for sinners, the chief of sinners, ungodly men, enemies in their minds by wicked works. In short, all that are redeemed and saved, whether Old or New Testament saints, are saved by the grace of God and Christ, #Ac 15:11.

5. The grace of God is very conspicuous in the justification of men before God, and acceptance with him; which, in the strongest terms, is said to be of grace, to be by „his grace”, the grace of God, and „freely” by his grace, and that through the redemption that is in Christ, #Tit 3:7 Ro 3:24. Free grace, by infinite wisdom, found out the way whereby sinful men might be just with God; which otherwise never could have been; namely, by not imputing their trespasses to them, but to Christ, the Surety free grace provided, whereby „God is just, and yet the justifier of him that believes in Jesus”, #2Co 5:19 Ro 3:25,26 free grace appears in appointing Christ to work out, and bring in everlasting righteousness; and in sending him in the likeness of sinful flesh to do it, #Da 9:24 Ro 8:3,4 and it was free grace moved Christ to come to do this will of God, and „become the end of the law for righteousness”; and it was free grace in God the Father to accept of this righteousness, in the room and stead of sinners, and to impute it, without works, unto them, as their justifying righteousness; and in appointing faith to be the recipient of it, that so it might clearly appear to be of grace; as the persons who are justified by it, being in themselves ungodly, more clearly shows it, #Ro 4:5,6,16. Justification is always denied to be of works; and the righteousness by which men are justified, is represented as a gift, a free gift, a gift by grace, as faith that receives it also is, #Ro 3:20,28 5:15-17 Eph 2:8.

6. Pardon of sin is according to the riches, fulness, and freeness of the grace of God, #Eph 1:7 the promise of it in the covenant is free, absolute, and unconditional, #Heb 8:12 the proclamation of it in the gospel, bore witness to by all the prophets, is the same, #Ex 34:6 Ac 10:43 13:38 the blood of Christ was shed freely for it; and though it cost him dear, it is all of free grace to sinners, without money and without price. Christ is exalted as a prince to „give” it; and God, for Christ’s sake, frankly forgives all trespasses, #Ac 5:31 Lu 7:41,42 Col 2:13 and it is vouchsafed to the worst and chief of sinners, #1Ti 1:13 and to great backsliders, ungrateful persons, guilty of sins of omission and commission, #Ho 14:4 Isa 43:22-25.

7. The grace of God is abundantly evident in regeneration, calling, and sanctification; God regenerates men by his grace, and of his own good will and pleasure, #Jas 1:18 and he calls them by his grace, and according to it, #Ga 1:15 2Ti 1:9 and which always becomes effectual. There are some things which bear the name of grace, which fall short of true sanctifying grace, at least what men call so, as „restraining grace”; whereby some of God’s people, before conversion, and some others, are kept from the commission of gross sins others fall into; and external „gifts” of grace, as a rational knowledge of the gospel, historical faith, and even gifts for the public ministry; which persons may have, and yet be unknown by Christ, and be castaways. And also what some call „sufficient grace”, though wrongly; rather it should be called, insufficient; for that can never be sufficient which is ineffectual; as the means of grace often are. There are other distinctions of grace, which are not very material, yet, if rightly explained and understood, may be allowed, as grace „preparing, anticipating, operating”, and „co-operating”, and „subsequent”. „Preparing” grace must be understood not of preparations, and previous dispositions in men, and of them, to the grace of God; but what is of God himself, who prepares the heart, and makes it, by his grace, good ground, fit to receive the seed of the word cast into it, where it becomes the ingrafted word, #Pr 16:1 Mt 13:23. „Anticipating” grace is that in which God goes beforehand with men, and enlightens their minds, teaches and instructs them in the knowledge of themselves, and of Christ, and guides, directs, and draws them to him, #Joh 6:44,45 „Operating” grace is that by which God works in men, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, #Php 2:13. „Co-operating” grace is that by which men act, being acted or wrought upon, and by which they run, being drawn, #So 1:4. And „subsequent” grace is that by which the work of grace is carried on, and performed until the day of Christ, #Php 1:6. Though there seems to be no great need of these distinctions; the most proper epithet of the grace of God, as displayed in regeneration, calling, and conversion, is, that it is „efficacious”; it never fails of its effects: and it is always „persevering” grace, and is never lost or comes to nothing; but issues in everlasting salvation; and all is owing to unmerited goodness. Every grace implanted in regeneration, flows from the free favour and good will of God. Faith is a gift, a free grace gift, a distinguishing gift; not given to all men, only to whom the Lord pleases, #Eph 2:8 2Th 3:2. Repentance is a grant of God’s grace, a gift of Christ, and a blessing of the covenant, #Ac 5:31 11:18 #Eze 36:26. Hope is a good hope through grace; what men, in a state of nature, are without; and which God, of his free grace, gives, #2Th 2:16. The same may be said of every other grace, love, humility, patience, &c.

8. Lastly, Eternal life is the free gift of God, through Christ, a free grace gift through him, #Ro 6:23. The introduction of all the Lord’s people into the enjoyment of it, will be attended with shouts and acclamations, crying „grace, grace, unto it!” #Zec 4:7 and which will be the employment of saints to all eternity; and so the great and ultimate end of God in their salvation, will be answered, namely, „the glory of his grace”, #Eph 1:6.

–End of Chapter–


{1} „Non enim Dei gratia, gratia erit ullo modo, nisi gratuita fuerit omnimodo”, Aug. contra Pelag. de Peccat. Original. l. 2. p. 338.

.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 14:

Of The Mercy Of God

The Mercy of God differs, in some respects; both from the love and grace of God; from the love of God in its objects, and order of operation: in its objects; which, though the same, are regarded under different considerations. Love pitched itself originally on objects, in the pure mass of creatureship, as unfallen, though it continues with them in their fallen state, and through all the imperfections of this life, to eternal happiness; mercy supposes its objects miserable, and so fallen: in order of operation; for though they are together in God, the one as early as the other, yet love seems to work by mercy, and mercy from it; the objects being viewed as dead in sin, and for it, love stirs up mercy to quicken them with Christ, and in themselves; God, „who is rich in mercy, for the great love”, &c. #Eph 2:4,5. Mercy also differs from grace; for though all mercy is grace, because it is free, unmerited, undeserved; yet all grace is not mercy {1}: much grace and favour are shown to the elect angels; in the choice of them in Christ; in the preservation of them from the apostasy others of their species fell into; in constituting Christ the head of them, by whose grace they are confirmed in the state in which they were created; and in their being indulged with the presence of God, and communion with him; they always beholding his face in heaven; all which is abundant grace, but not mercy; since they never were miserable, and so not objects of mercy. The things to be considered respecting this attribute, are,

1. The properties of it, which will lead more clearly into its nature, and the knowledge of it.

1a. Mercy is natural and essential to God; yea, it is his nature and essence: hence he is often described as „merciful”, #Ex 34:6 #Ne 9:17 Ps 116:5 indeed it is not to be considered as a passion, or affection in God, as it is in men; attended with grief and sorrow, with anguish and anxiety of mind for the party in misery; which become the more vehement, the nearer the relation is, and the stronger the love and affection is, bore to the object. Hence the stoic philosophers {2} denied mercy to belong to good men, and so not to God; and, indeed, it does not, in such sense, unless by an anthropopathy, or speaking after the manner of men; since he is free from all passion and perturbation of mind. The Latin word „Misericordia” signifies, as one {3} observes, having another’s misery at heart; but not a miserable heart, or one made so by the misery of another, especially as applied to God; with whom it is no other than a propensity of his will to help persons in distress, whether in a temporal or spiritual way; and this is as essential to him as is his goodness; of which it is a branch: and therefore as God is essentially, originally, independently, and underivatively good, so is he in like manner merciful. This is one of the perfections which are in some measure imitable by creatures; „Be ye merciful as your Father is merciful”, #Lu 6:36. The Socinians {4} deny that mercy is essential to God, supposing that mercy and justice are opposite, whereas they are not, not even in men; a man may be just, and yet merciful, merciful and yet just: and not caring to allow justice to be essential to God, which they think they must grant, if mercy is; which would establish the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction, and make that necessary which they do not choose to embrace. But though mercy is natural and essential to God, it is not naturally and necessarily bore towards, and exercised on every object in misery: for then all would share in it, that are in misery, even all wicked men and devils; whereas it is certain they do not; but it is guided in the exercise of it by the love of God; and is governed and influenced by his sovereign will; who „hath mercy on whom he will have mercy”, #Ro 9:15,18 just as omnipotence is essential to God, but is not necessarily put forth to do everything it could; but is directed and guided by the will of God; who does whatsoever he pleases.

1b. Mercy being essential to God, or his nature and essence, nothing out of himself can be the cause of it; for then there would be a cause prior to him, the Cause of himself, and that would be god, and not he: the misery of a creature is not the cause of mercy in God; who is not to be moved and wrought upon as creatures are; being a most simple act, and having no passive power to work upon; besides, was this the case, all must partake of mercy, since all are miserable; which they do not; see #Isa 27:11 nor are the merits of the creature, or works of righteousness, the cause of mercy; these are opposed to each other in the business of salvation, #Tit 3:5 nor are those to whom mercy is shown, more deserving than those to whom it is not; and oftentimes less deserving, or more vile and sinful; see #Ro 3:9 Eph 2:3 1Co 6:11 #1Ti 1:13. Nor are even the merits of Christ, or his obedience, sufferings, and death, the cause of mercy in God; for they are the fruits and effects of it, and flow from it; it is „through the tender mercy of our God, that the dayspring from on high hath visited us”, #Lu 1:78 that is, it is owing to mercy, that Christ, who is meant by „the dayspring from on high”, became incarnate, obeyed, suffered, and died, in our room and stead, and wrought out salvation for us. The mercy of God arises from the goodness of his nature, from his special love to his people, and from his sovereign will and pleasure; who, as he loves whom he pleases, and „is gracious to whom he will be gracious”; so „he has mercy on whom he will have mercy”, #Ex 33:19.

1c. The mercy of God is infinite; as his nature is infinite, so are each of his attributes. His „understanding is infinite”, #Ps 147:5 and so his knowledge, wisdom, justice, holiness, and goodness, and likewise his mercy; it is so in its nature, and in its effects; and this appears both by bestowing an infinite good on men, which is Christ, who is the gift of God, and owing to the love, grace, and mercy of God; and who though, as man, is finite; yet, in his divine person, infinite; and as such given, #Isa 9:6 and by his delivering them from an infinite evil, sin: sin, as an act of the creature, is finite; but objectively, infinite, as it is committed against God, the infinite Being, #Ps 51:4 and therefore is not only infinite with respect to number, #Job 22:5 but with respect to its object, and also with respect to punishment for it; the demerit of it is eternal death; and this cannot be endured at once, or answered for in a short time; it is carried on „ad infinitum”, without end; and therefore spoken of as everlasting and eternal. Now mercy has provided for the forgiveness of sin, and for the deliverance of men from the punishment of it, and from being liable to it, #Heb 8:12.

1d. The mercy of God is eternal; the eternity of mercy is expressed in the same language as the eternity of God himself; and, indeed, since it is his nature, it must be as eternal as he himself is; see #Ps 90:2 103:17 it is from everlasting, as his love is; which is to be proved by the instances of it, called his „tender mercies”, which „have been ever of old”, or from everlasting, #Ps 25:6 the council and covenant of peace were in eternity; in which the scheme of reconciliation to God was formed, and the method of it settled, which supposed them enemies, and so considered them as fallen creatures, and objects of mercy: and, indeed, the covenant of grace, which was from everlasting, is a superstructure of mercy, #Ps 89:1-3 and since mercy is from everlasting, not anything in time can be the cause of it; not the misery of the creature, by the fall of Adam, nor works of righteousness done after conversion; nor the obedience and sufferings of Christ; things in time: and the mercy of God is to everlasting, in its fruits and effects; it is kept with Christ, and for him, the Mediator of the covenant; into whose hands are put all the promises and blessings of mercy; called, therefore, „the sure mercies of David”, #Ps 89:24,28 Isa 55:3 even temporal blessings, which flow from the mercy of God, are new every morning, and are daily continued; and spiritual ones always remain; the mercy of God never departs from his people, notwithstanding their backslidings; and though he chides them for them, and hides his face from them, yet still he has mercy on them, #Ps 89: 30-33 Isa 54:6-10 Jer 3:12,14. Hence,

1e. The mercy of God is immutable, as he himself is, and his love also; and therefore the objects of it are not consumed, #Mal 3:6 it is invariably the same in every state and condition into which they come; it is, as the Virgin Mary expresses it, „from generation to generation”, without any variation or change, #Lu 1:50.

1f. It is common to all the three divine persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; for as there is one common undivided essence, of which each equally partakes, the same divine perfections and attributes belong to them, and so this of mercy: mercy is ascribed to the God and Father of Christ, #1Pe 1:3 and to our Lord Jesus Christ; not only as Man and Mediator, but as the true God and eternal life; to whose mercy we are to look for it, #Jude 1:21 and to the blessed Spirit, who helps the infirmities of the saints, „and makes intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered”, #Ro 8:26.

1g. Mercy is displayed only in and through Christ; God out of Christ is a consuming fire; it is only in him God proclaims his name, „a God gracious and merciful”; he is the mercy seat, and throne of grace, at which men obtain mercy and find grace; he is the channel through which it flows, and through whom it, in its effects, is conveyed to the sons of men: they are right who cast themselves not on the absolute mercy of God out of Christ; but upon his mercy, as displayed in him, as the Publican did, #Lu 18:13. In a word, it is represented, as great, large, and ample, and very abundant; we read of a „multitude” of tender mercies; and God is said to be „rich” and „plenteous” in it; as will appear more fully by considering the objects and instances of it, #Ps 103:11 51:1 1Pe 1:3 Eph 2:4 Ps 86:5.

2. The objects of mercy may be next observed: and that this may appear in a plain and clear light, it will be proper to remark, that the mercy of God is general and special: with respect to the general mercy of God, all creatures are the objects of it; „the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works”, #Ps 145:9 there is not a creature in all the earth but partakes of it; hence says the Psalmist, „The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy!” #Ps 119:64 even the brute creation, the mute animals, share in it; it is owing to mercy that they are preserved in their beings, #Ps 36:5,6 and that a provision of food is made for their sustenance; and who sometimes are in great distress, and when they cry to God he gives them their food, #Joe 1:18-20 Ps 104:27,28 147:9 Job 38:41. All men, good and bad, partake of the providential goodness and mercy of God; he is kind to the unthankful and unholy, and makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, #Lu 6:35 Mt 5:45. He preserves and supports all men in their beings, and so is the Saviour of all, and especially of them that believe, #1Ti 4:10 and gives them the necessaries of life, food and raiment, and all things richly to enjoy, both for convenience and pleasure: yea, even the devils themselves partake of mercy, in some sense; for though God has not spared them, so as to save them, and not condemn them; yet he has given them a kind of reprieve, and reserved them to the judgment of the great day; so that they are not yet in full torments, as their sins have deserved; and as God punishes none more but less than their sins require, this may be reasonably supposed to be the case of devils, even hereafter.

As to the special mercy of God, none are the objects of that but elect men, who are called „vessels of mercy”, #Ro 9:23 because they are filled with it, even with all spiritual blessings, which flow from it, and which are bestowed on them according as they are chosen in Christ, #Eph 1:3,4 and so particularly regeneration, which is according to the abundant mercy of God, they are favoured with, being the elect of God, #1Pe 1:2,3 and these, as they are redeemed by Christ, share in the special mercy and goodness of God; and therefore are under obligation to say, with wonder and thankfulness, „the Lord is good; his mercy endures for ever”, #Ps 107:1,2 and especially, being effectually called by the grace of God, they appear to be the objects of mercy; then they who „had not obtained mercy”, did not know their interest in it, nor actually enjoyed the blessings of it, „now have obtained mercy”; are blessed both with knowledge of interest in it, and with the open possession of the blessings of it, #1Pe 2:10. These are described sometimes by them „that call upon” the Lord, to whom he is plenteous in mercy, #Ps 86:5 by „them that love him, and keep his commandments; to whom he shows his mercy”, #Ex 20:6 Ne 1:5 Da 9:4 and by them that fear him, and towards whom his mercy always is, #Ps 103:11,13,17. Not that calling upon God, love to him, and observance of his commands, and the fear of him, are the causes of his mercy to them, since that is prior to all these, and is the cause of them; but these describe the persons who openly, and manifestly, share in the mercy of God, and to whom the effects of it have been applied, and who may expect a continuance of it, and larger discoveries and displays thereof to be made unto them; as well as they show that the mercy of God is special and distinguishing, and yet that it is not limited to any family or nation, but is enjoyed by all that love and fear the Lord in every nation, #Ac 10:34,35.

3. The instances of mercy, to the objects of it, are many and various.

3a. It appears in election: it is, indeed, a controversy among divines, whether election is an act of love or of mercy: I am inclined to be of the opinion of those who take it to be an act of love, and not mercy; as God chose literal Israel, because he loved them, #De 7:7,8 so spiritual Israel are first beloved, and then chosen, #2Th 2:13 „electio praesupponit dilectionem”; but then, though the decree of election flows from love, and not mercy; yet God has in it decreed to show mercy; he has resolved within himself, saying, „I will have mercy, and will save”; and therefore in this decree he has appointed them not unto wrath, which they deserve, but to obtain salvation by Christ; which supposes them fallen creatures, and so objects of mercy; for the decree of election may be distinguished into the decree of the end and the decree of the means: with respect to the end, the glory of God, men were considered as unfallen, in the pure mass out of which God designed to make them for himself: but with respect to the means, redemption by Christ, and faith in him, the Redeemer, and sanctification of the Spirit; here they were considered as fallen creatures; and so, with propriety, those chosen ones may be called vessels of mercy.

3b. The covenant of grace is a display of the mercy of God, as before observed; it is built upon mercy, and built up with it; it is stored with it, and is full of it. Mercy called Christ to engage in it, and set him up as the Mediator of it, and came before him with the blessings of goodness: the provisions of Christ, as a Redeemer and Saviour in it; of forgiveness of sins through his blood; and of reconciliation and atonement by his sacrifice; and of regeneration and sanctification by his Spirit, are so many displays of mercy.

3c. Redemption itself is a signal instance of the mercy of God. Mercy resolved upon the redemption and salvation of the elect; being viewed as fallen in Adam, and as sinners, mercy provided a Redeemer and Saviour of them, and laid their help upon him; mercy called Christ to undertake the work of redemption, and engaged him in it; mercy sent him, in the fulness of time, to visit them, and perform it; mercy delivered them up into the hands of justice and death, in order to obtain it, and it is most illustriously glorified in it; „mercy and truth have met together”, #Ps 85:10 yea, Christ himself, in his love and pity, has redeemed his people, #Isa 63:9.

3d. The forgiveness of sin is another instance of the mercy of God, to which it is frequently ascribed, #Ps 51:1 Da 9:9 Lu 1:77,78. God has promised it in covenant, as the effect of his mercy; „I will be merciful to their unrighteousness”, #Heb 8:12. He has set forth Christ, in his purposes, to be the propitiation for the remission of sins; and has sent him, in time, to shed his blood for it, #Ro 3:25 and it is the mercy of God, which is the foundation of hope of it; and encourages sensible sinners to ask, and through which they obtain it, #Ps 103:8 Lu 18:13 1Ti 1:13.

3e. The mercy of God is displayed in regeneration, to which that is ascribed in #1Pe 1:3 and it is wonderful and special mercy, to quicken a sinner dead in trespasses and sins; to enlighten such that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death; to deliver from the bondage of Satan those, that are led captive by him at his will; to snatch them as brands out of the burning, and save from everlasting fire; to bring men out of a pit, wherein there was no water, no relief and comfort, and in which they must otherwise die; and to reveal Christ to them, and in them, the hope of glory; and give them a good hope, through grace, of being for ever happy. These are some of the great and good things which God does for his people in the effectual calling, having compassion on them.

3f. Complete salvation, and eternal life itself, flow from the mercy of God; he saves, „not by works of righteousness, but according to his mercy”, #Tit 3:5 and when he shall put his people into the full possession of salvation, then they shall find and obtain mercy in that day, even in the day of judgment, when they shall go into life eternal; and therefore are now directed to look unto the mercy of Christ for it, #2Ti 1:18 Jude 1:21.
–End of Chapter–

[Previous Chapter] [Next Chapter]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


{1} Vid. Maccov. Theolog. Quaest. loc. 13. p. 32.

{2} Zeno apud Cicero. Orat. 23. pro Muraena, Laert. in Vita ejus, l. 7. p. 512. Seneca de Clementia, l. 2. c. 4, 5, 6.

{3} Zanchius de Natura Dei, l. 4. c. 4. p. 372.

{4} Socinus de Servatore, l. 1. par. 1. c. 1. Praelectiones, c. 16. Racov. Catechism, c. 8. qu. 20.

.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 15:

Of The Longsuffering Of God

The longsuffering of God, the same with his forbearance and patience, arises from his mercy, is a display of it, or is one way in which mercy shows itself; and so, by the Cabalistic Jews, it is said to belong to the predicament of „Chesed”, or mercy, as they express themselves {1}; and it may be observed, that wherever God is said to be longsuffering, he is represented as gracious and merciful, or as of great mercy and kindness; and by this attribute, as by them and with them, he is pleased to describe and make known himself, for the encouragement of faith and hope in him, #Ex 34:6 Nu 14:18 Ps 86:15 and therefore the consideration of it very properly follows that of mercy. The Hebrew word Mypa Kra which literally signifies „long of both nostrils”, is sometimes rendered „longsuffering”, as in the places referred to; and sometimes „slow to anger”, #Ne 9:17 Ps 103:8 and to which the Greek words makroyumew, and makroyumia, in the New Testament, answer, #Ro 2:4 2Pe 3:9,15 the allusion is to the nose, the seat of anger, which restrains or shows it, as it is long or contracted.

God is sometimes called, „the God of patience”, #Ro 15:5 not only because he is the author and object of the grace of patience, and that is grateful to him; but because he is patient, or longsuffering in himself, and towards his creatures, and is a pattern of patience to them; for this is one of the attributes of God, in which he may in some measure be imitated; see #Eph 4:1,2 Col 3:12. This is not to be considered as a quality, accident, passion, or affection in God, as in creatures; who bear with patience things grievous, distressing, and torturing to them, #Col 1:11 but it is the very nature and essence of God, which is free from all passion and perturbation, from all suffering, grief, and pain; it springs from his goodness, and is as essential to him as that, and is joined with it, #Ro 2:4 it is no other than a moderation of his anger, a restraint of that, a deferring the effects of it, at least for a while, according to his sovereign will; it is an extension and prolongation of mercy for a season; for mercy is always in it and with it; and in this it differs from it, that the mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting; but the longsuffering of God, as to the exercise of it, is only for a time, until some certain end is answered, and in which it issues; either in the damnation and destruction of the wicked, when they are fitted for it, #Ro 9:22 or in the salvation of God’s elect, #2Pe 3:15 for it is exercised towards both, till each take place; which will be distinctly considered.

1. The longsuffering of God is exercised towards his chosen people; they are the „us” towards whom he is said to be „longsuffering”, #2Pe 3:9 even who are called beloved, #2Pe 3:8 not only beloved of the apostle, and by one another, but by the Lord; and the elect according to the foreknowledge of God, #1Pe 1:2 for to the same persons are both epistles written; and therefore being the beloved and chosen of God, it was his will that none of them should perish, but come to repentance; even all of the same character, and of the same company and society, the whole election of grace; and until everyone of these are called and brought to repentance, God is, and will be, longsuffering towards them; and longsuffering to the world for their sakes; wherefore Christ’s not coming to judgment sooner than he will, is not owing to any negligence, dilatoriness, or slackness in God, concerning the promise of it, but to the longsuffering of God; which has been eminently displayed with respect to the people of God.

1a. In the saints of the Old Testament dispensation, which time is expressly called „the forbearance of God”, #Ro 3:25. The case stood thus; Christ became the Surety for them in eternity, engaged to assume their nature, pay their debts, and make satisfaction for their sins: this was notified immediately after the fall of Adam, #Ge 3:15 but it was four thousand years from thence to the time fixed in Daniel’s prophecy, „to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness”; to the fulness of time when Christ should come to redeem all his people, and particularly, to obtain the redemption of transgressions that were under the first Testament, #Da 9:24 Ga 4:4 Heb 9:15. Now all this time was a time of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering with God, in respect to his people under this dispensation; he did not stir up his wrath, and execute it on them; but reserved it for his Son, their Surety; he forbore to inflict the punishment on them their sins deserved; he did not impute sin to them, place it to their account, charge it on them, and demand of them satisfaction for it; but placed it to his Son’s account, and expected satisfaction from him: he accepted of the sacrifices of slain beasts, as vicarious ones in their stead, though they had no true value, nor real efficacy in them, to atone for sin; only were typical of Christ’s sacrifice; and were to continue, and did, until that should be offered up; God waited till he should come and make his soul an offering for sin; and, upon his credit, bore with them, and bestowed the blessings of his grace on them: they were justified by him on the foundation of Christ’s righteousness to be wrought out; and their sins pardoned, through his atoning sacrifice to be offered up; they were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, even as we are, and we as they; they were carried to heaven, and glorified, before the payment of their debts were made by their Surety, before satisfaction for their sins was given to justice, and before the actual redemption of them was obtained. All which, as it shows the trust and confidence God put in his Son, so his forbearance and longsuffering towards Old Testament saints; which also has appeared, and does appear.

1b. In and towards everyone of his people in their state of unregeneracy, in every age and period of time, or of whatsoever nation, or under whatsoever dispensation they be; the Lord bears with them, while in a state of nature, and waits patiently all that while, to be gracious to them, #Isa 30:18. There was much grace in his heart, in his Son, and in his covenant, laid up for them. This is abundantly displayed in conversion, when there is an abounding and a superabounding of it. But then the calling and conversion of them is according to purpose; and as there is a time for every purpose, for the execution of it, so for this; and till that time comes, the Lord waits, forbears, suffers much and long; he does not cut them off in their sins, as they deserve; but saves them, and sometimes from very imminent dangers, to be called, #2Ti 1:9 and with some he bears and waits a long time, who are called at the ninth and eleventh hours, and, as the thief on the cross, at the last day and hour of his life; and he waits, as it were, in a longing manner; speaking after the manner of men, „When will it once be?” #Jer 13:27.

1c. The apostle Paul is a remarkable instance of God’s longsuffering; which was exercised towards him throughout all his blasphemy of Christ, his persecution of his people, and the injuries he did unto them; he waited, through all, to be gracious to him; his eye was upon him, and his heart was towards him; and hence such notice is taken of him in that state, before the account is given of his calling; see #Ac 7:58 8:1,3 9:1 yea, he himself says, „For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting”, #1Ti 1:16 meaning the people of the Jews, in the latter day: his sense seems to be this, that as Christ bore much, and exercised great longsuffering towards him, and at last showed him mercy; so he would bear with, and show much longsuffering to the people of the Jews, of which that towards him was a pattern, and which should issue in their salvation, as it had in his; when „all Israel shall be saved”, #Ro 11:26 God’s longsuffering towards them is very great and very remarkable; as it was towards him; though they are under the marks of his displeasure, he has not stirred up all his wrath, so as to cut them off from being a people; but has reserved them for future times, and good things for them, and waits to be gracious to them.

2. The longsuffering of God is exercised towards the ungodly, even towards „the vessels of wrath” whom he „endures with much longsuffering”, till they are „fitted to destruction”, #Ro 9:22 and this appears by his supporting them in their beings, notwithstanding their grievous provocations of him; which are such, that it is amazing he does not at once strike them, dead, as he did Ananias and Sapphira; or that the earth does not open and swallow them up, as it did Dathan and Abiram. This can be attributed to nothing else but, to his patience, forbearance, and longsuffering: and by the multitude of his mercies bestowed upon them, who have many of them, more than other men; and which are called „the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering”; see #Job 21:7-13 #Ps 73:4-7 Ro 2:4 and by granting to many of them the outward means of grace, which are despised and rejected by them; and by deferring his judgments on them; which, because they are not speedily executed, their hearts are set in them to do evil; they are more and more hardened, and promise themselves impunity in sin. Now the ends of God’s thus dealing with them, are partly for his own glory; „to show his wrath, and make his power known”; to vindicate him from all cruelty and injustice, when he righteously executes his wrath, and exerts his power in their destruction: as in the instance of Pharaoh, #Ro 9:17,22 and partly for the sake of his own people who dwell among them, that they may not suffer with them; thus he would have spared Sodom, had there been ten righteous men in it, for their sakes: and he forbears to take vengeance on those that have shed the blood of his saints, until the number of his elect, in like manner, is fulfilled; and he spares a wicked world from being burnt up and destroyed, until all his chosen ones are brought to repentance, #Ge 18:32 Re 6:11 2Pe 3:9 and another end is for their sakes, that they may be rendered inexcusable, and the execution of wrath on them at last, appear just and righteous, #Ro 2:1,4,5.

There are many instances of the patience, forbearance, and longsuffering of God, with respect to the wicked; as in the men of the old world, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, #1Pe 3:20 see #Ge 6:3 and in the inhabitants of Sodom, daring sinners, who had first hints of God’s displeasure, yet had mercy shown them, a respite for a while, and then destroyed by fire from heaven, #Ge 13:13 14:11,21 18:21 19:24 in Pharaoh, refusing to let Israel go, whom God had spared some time, beginning with lighter judgments, then executed heavier ones; and at last drowned him, and his host, in the Red Sea, #Ex 5:2,7 &c. #Ex 14:17,18,28 in the people of Israel, in the wilderness, whose manners God suffered and bore with, and was grieved with them forty years, #Ac 13:18 in the Amorites and Canaanites, until their sin was full, and till the land itself would bear them no longer; but spewed them out of it, #Ge 15:16 Le 18:28 in the Gentile world, during their times of ignorance, #Ac 17:30 in fruitless professors of religion, signified by the barren fig tree, #Lu 13:6-9 and in antichrist, during the time of his reign, and no longer, #Re 2:21 13:6 18:8.
–End of Chapter–


{1} Lexic. Cabalist. p. 155.

.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 15:

Of The Longsuffering Of God

The longsuffering of God, the same with his forbearance and patience, arises from his mercy, is a display of it, or is one way in which mercy shows itself; and so, by the Cabalistic Jews, it is said to belong to the predicament of „Chesed”, or mercy, as they express themselves {1}; and it may be observed, that wherever God is said to be longsuffering, he is represented as gracious and merciful, or as of great mercy and kindness; and by this attribute, as by them and with them, he is pleased to describe and make known himself, for the encouragement of faith and hope in him, #Ex 34:6 Nu 14:18 Ps 86:15 and therefore the consideration of it very properly follows that of mercy. The Hebrew word Mypa Kra which literally signifies „long of both nostrils”, is sometimes rendered „longsuffering”, as in the places referred to; and sometimes „slow to anger”, #Ne 9:17 Ps 103:8 and to which the Greek words makroyumew, and makroyumia, in the New Testament, answer, #Ro 2:4 2Pe 3:9,15 the allusion is to the nose, the seat of anger, which restrains or shows it, as it is long or contracted.

God is sometimes called, „the God of patience”, #Ro 15:5 not only because he is the author and object of the grace of patience, and that is grateful to him; but because he is patient, or longsuffering in himself, and towards his creatures, and is a pattern of patience to them; for this is one of the attributes of God, in which he may in some measure be imitated; see #Eph 4:1,2 Col 3:12. This is not to be considered as a quality, accident, passion, or affection in God, as in creatures; who bear with patience things grievous, distressing, and torturing to them, #Col 1:11 but it is the very nature and essence of God, which is free from all passion and perturbation, from all suffering, grief, and pain; it springs from his goodness, and is as essential to him as that, and is joined with it, #Ro 2:4 it is no other than a moderation of his anger, a restraint of that, a deferring the effects of it, at least for a while, according to his sovereign will; it is an extension and prolongation of mercy for a season; for mercy is always in it and with it; and in this it differs from it, that the mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting; but the longsuffering of God, as to the exercise of it, is only for a time, until some certain end is answered, and in which it issues; either in the damnation and destruction of the wicked, when they are fitted for it, #Ro 9:22 or in the salvation of God’s elect, #2Pe 3:15 for it is exercised towards both, till each take place; which will be distinctly considered.

1. The longsuffering of God is exercised towards his chosen people; they are the „us” towards whom he is said to be „longsuffering”, #2Pe 3:9 even who are called beloved, #2Pe 3:8 not only beloved of the apostle, and by one another, but by the Lord; and the elect according to the foreknowledge of God, #1Pe 1:2 for to the same persons are both epistles written; and therefore being the beloved and chosen of God, it was his will that none of them should perish, but come to repentance; even all of the same character, and of the same company and society, the whole election of grace; and until everyone of these are called and brought to repentance, God is, and will be, longsuffering towards them; and longsuffering to the world for their sakes; wherefore Christ’s not coming to judgment sooner than he will, is not owing to any negligence, dilatoriness, or slackness in God, concerning the promise of it, but to the longsuffering of God; which has been eminently displayed with respect to the people of God.

1a. In the saints of the Old Testament dispensation, which time is expressly called „the forbearance of God”, #Ro 3:25. The case stood thus; Christ became the Surety for them in eternity, engaged to assume their nature, pay their debts, and make satisfaction for their sins: this was notified immediately after the fall of Adam, #Ge 3:15 but it was four thousand years from thence to the time fixed in Daniel’s prophecy, „to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness”; to the fulness of time when Christ should come to redeem all his people, and particularly, to obtain the redemption of transgressions that were under the first Testament, #Da 9:24 Ga 4:4 Heb 9:15. Now all this time was a time of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering with God, in respect to his people under this dispensation; he did not stir up his wrath, and execute it on them; but reserved it for his Son, their Surety; he forbore to inflict the punishment on them their sins deserved; he did not impute sin to them, place it to their account, charge it on them, and demand of them satisfaction for it; but placed it to his Son’s account, and expected satisfaction from him: he accepted of the sacrifices of slain beasts, as vicarious ones in their stead, though they had no true value, nor real efficacy in them, to atone for sin; only were typical of Christ’s sacrifice; and were to continue, and did, until that should be offered up; God waited till he should come and make his soul an offering for sin; and, upon his credit, bore with them, and bestowed the blessings of his grace on them: they were justified by him on the foundation of Christ’s righteousness to be wrought out; and their sins pardoned, through his atoning sacrifice to be offered up; they were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, even as we are, and we as they; they were carried to heaven, and glorified, before the payment of their debts were made by their Surety, before satisfaction for their sins was given to justice, and before the actual redemption of them was obtained. All which, as it shows the trust and confidence God put in his Son, so his forbearance and longsuffering towards Old Testament saints; which also has appeared, and does appear.

1b. In and towards everyone of his people in their state of unregeneracy, in every age and period of time, or of whatsoever nation, or under whatsoever dispensation they be; the Lord bears with them, while in a state of nature, and waits patiently all that while, to be gracious to them, #Isa 30:18. There was much grace in his heart, in his Son, and in his covenant, laid up for them. This is abundantly displayed in conversion, when there is an abounding and a superabounding of it. But then the calling and conversion of them is according to purpose; and as there is a time for every purpose, for the execution of it, so for this; and till that time comes, the Lord waits, forbears, suffers much and long; he does not cut them off in their sins, as they deserve; but saves them, and sometimes from very imminent dangers, to be called, #2Ti 1:9 and with some he bears and waits a long time, who are called at the ninth and eleventh hours, and, as the thief on the cross, at the last day and hour of his life; and he waits, as it were, in a longing manner; speaking after the manner of men, „When will it once be?” #Jer 13:27.

1c. The apostle Paul is a remarkable instance of God’s longsuffering; which was exercised towards him throughout all his blasphemy of Christ, his persecution of his people, and the injuries he did unto them; he waited, through all, to be gracious to him; his eye was upon him, and his heart was towards him; and hence such notice is taken of him in that state, before the account is given of his calling; see #Ac 7:58 8:1,3 9:1 yea, he himself says, „For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting”, #1Ti 1:16 meaning the people of the Jews, in the latter day: his sense seems to be this, that as Christ bore much, and exercised great longsuffering towards him, and at last showed him mercy; so he would bear with, and show much longsuffering to the people of the Jews, of which that towards him was a pattern, and which should issue in their salvation, as it had in his; when „all Israel shall be saved”, #Ro 11:26 God’s longsuffering towards them is very great and very remarkable; as it was towards him; though they are under the marks of his displeasure, he has not stirred up all his wrath, so as to cut them off from being a people; but has reserved them for future times, and good things for them, and waits to be gracious to them.

2. The longsuffering of God is exercised towards the ungodly, even towards „the vessels of wrath” whom he „endures with much longsuffering”, till they are „fitted to destruction”, #Ro 9:22 and this appears by his supporting them in their beings, notwithstanding their grievous provocations of him; which are such, that it is amazing he does not at once strike them, dead, as he did Ananias and Sapphira; or that the earth does not open and swallow them up, as it did Dathan and Abiram. This can be attributed to nothing else but, to his patience, forbearance, and longsuffering: and by the multitude of his mercies bestowed upon them, who have many of them, more than other men; and which are called „the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering”; see #Job 21:7-13 #Ps 73:4-7 Ro 2:4 and by granting to many of them the outward means of grace, which are despised and rejected by them; and by deferring his judgments on them; which, because they are not speedily executed, their hearts are set in them to do evil; they are more and more hardened, and promise themselves impunity in sin. Now the ends of God’s thus dealing with them, are partly for his own glory; „to show his wrath, and make his power known”; to vindicate him from all cruelty and injustice, when he righteously executes his wrath, and exerts his power in their destruction: as in the instance of Pharaoh, #Ro 9:17,22 and partly for the sake of his own people who dwell among them, that they may not suffer with them; thus he would have spared Sodom, had there been ten righteous men in it, for their sakes: and he forbears to take vengeance on those that have shed the blood of his saints, until the number of his elect, in like manner, is fulfilled; and he spares a wicked world from being burnt up and destroyed, until all his chosen ones are brought to repentance, #Ge 18:32 Re 6:11 2Pe 3:9 and another end is for their sakes, that they may be rendered inexcusable, and the execution of wrath on them at last, appear just and righteous, #Ro 2:1,4,5.

There are many instances of the patience, forbearance, and longsuffering of God, with respect to the wicked; as in the men of the old world, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, #1Pe 3:20 see #Ge 6:3 and in the inhabitants of Sodom, daring sinners, who had first hints of God’s displeasure, yet had mercy shown them, a respite for a while, and then destroyed by fire from heaven, #Ge 13:13 14:11,21 18:21 19:24 in Pharaoh, refusing to let Israel go, whom God had spared some time, beginning with lighter judgments, then executed heavier ones; and at last drowned him, and his host, in the Red Sea, #Ex 5:2,7 &c. #Ex 14:17,18,28 in the people of Israel, in the wilderness, whose manners God suffered and bore with, and was grieved with them forty years, #Ac 13:18 in the Amorites and Canaanites, until their sin was full, and till the land itself would bear them no longer; but spewed them out of it, #Ge 15:16 Le 18:28 in the Gentile world, during their times of ignorance, #Ac 17:30 in fruitless professors of religion, signified by the barren fig tree, #Lu 13:6-9 and in antichrist, during the time of his reign, and no longer, #Re 2:21 13:6 18:8.
–End of Chapter–


{1} Lexic. Cabalist. p. 155.

.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 16:

Of The Goodness Of God

Having treated of the love, grace, mercy, and longsuffering of God, it will be proper to take some notice of his „goodness”, from whence they all proceed; for that God loves any of his creatures, in the manner he does, bestows favours upon them, shows mercy to them, and bears much with them, is owing to the goodness of his nature. Hence one of his names and titles by which he is described and made known, is, that of Good; „thou, Lord, art good”, #Ps 86:5 and in many other places; when God proclaimed his name before Moses, this was one part of it, „abundant in goodness”, #Ex 34:6. Philo says {1}, God is the name of goodness. And our English word God seems to be a contraction of the word „Good”; or, however, is the same with the German „Gott” and „Godt”; which came, as it is thought {2}, from the Arabic word „Gada”, which so signified; so that the German and English name of the divine Being, in common use, is taken from the attribute of his goodness. The name the heathens give to their supreme deity, is „optimus” {3}, the „best”; he being not only good, as they supposed, and better than others, but the best of beings. Our Jehovah, the true God, is superlatively good; good in the highest degree, good beyond all conception and expression. Cotta in Cicero {4}, charges Epicurus with taking away from God the property of the best and most excellent nature, by denying the grace and goodness of God; for what, says he, is better, or what is more excellent, than goodness and beneficence? It is a common notion, Sallustius says {5}, that God is good; and Simplicius {6} calls him, the Goodness of goodnesses. Concerning the goodness of God, let the following things be observed:

1. Goodness is essential to God; without which he would not be God; he, is by nature good {7}. The evil god of Cerdon and Marcion is not the true God; and this goodness being wanting in heathen deities, whatever pretensions may be made unto it, excludes them from the claim of deity; yea, goodness is itself the nature and essence of God; as he is love itself, wisdom itself, &c. so he is goodness itself, and it is himself, it includes his whole nature and essence. When God promised Moses that he would make „all [his] goodness” pass before him, it was not a single attribute only which was proclaimed and made known; but the several attributes of mercy, grace, longsuffering, truth, faithfulness, justice, and holiness, #Ex 33:19 #Ex 34:6,7. The goodness of God is not distinct from his essence; for then he must be compounded of that, and his essence; which is contrary to his simplicity: he is good in and of himself, and by his own essence; and not by participation of another; for if he was not good of himself, and by his own essence, but of and by another; then there would be some being both better than him, and prior to him; and so he would not be the eternal God, nor an independent Being, since he must depend on that from whence he receives his goodness; nor would he be the most perfect being, since what communicates goodness to him must be more perfect than he: all which, to say of God, is very unbecoming. It remains, then, that he is essentially good; is so in and of himself, by his own nature and essence.

2. Goodness only belongs to God; he is solely good; „There is none good but one; that is, God”; is the assertion of Christ, #Mt 19:17 which is to be understood not to the exclusion of the Son, and Spirit of God, who are, with the Father, the one God; and so equally good: but with respect to creatures, who are not of themselves inderivatively and independently good; this is only true of God. Whatever goodness is in creatures, it is all from him, who made them good originally; or put into them, or bestowed upon them, what goodness they have: what goodness there is in the elect angels, who never sinned; what goodness was in Adam, in a state of innocence; what goodness is in any good man, who partakes of the grace of God, or is or will be in the saints in heaven, is all from God; every good and perfect gift comes from him; nor have creatures anything but what they receive from him; he is the source and fountain of all, and therefore all goodness, originally, ultimately, and solely, is to be referred to God.

3. God is the „summum bonum”, he is t’ agayon, as Plato calls him, „the Good” {8}; the chiefest good; the sum and substance of all felicity. Unwearied have been the pursuits of men to attain this; but have always failed, when they place it or expect it in anything out of God, and short of him: innumerable have been the sentiments of men about it. Solomon seems to have reduced them to these three, wisdom, riches, and pleasure; and he made an experiment of them, what happiness could be enjoyed in them, as far as a king, a wise man, and a good man, could go; and when he had finished it, pronounced all „vanity and vexation of spirit”. God only can make men happy; he is the Father of mercies, the Fountain of all goodness, the Source of all felicity. There may be a show of happiness in such and such outward circumstances of life, some may be in, with respect to the above things; but there is no solidity in them; he is the only „happy man whose God is the Lord”, #Ps 144:12-15 wherefore good men, who are sensible of the vanity of the creature, and all creature enjoyments, pant after him, and are importunately desirous of the enjoyment of him, and cannot be satisfied without him, placing all their happiness in him: while others are saying, „Who will show us any good?” taking up their contentment in worldly good; they say, „Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us”; which gives the greatest pleasure, joy, and satisfaction, that can be had, #Ps 4:6,7 52:1 73:25.

4. There is nothing but goodness in God, and nothing but goodness comes from him; there is no iniquity in him, nothing evil in his nature, no unrighteousness in any of his ways and works; he is „light” itself; all purity, holiness, truth, and goodness; „and in him is no darkness at all”, of sin, error, and ignorance, #1Jo 1:5 nor does anything that is evil come from him; he is not the author of sin, nor does he impel, nor persuade to it, nor tempt with it; but strongly forbids it, under pain of his displeasure, #Jas 1:13,14 indeed, his decree is concerned about it; for it could not be, he not willing it by his permissive will; but then, though he suffers it to be, he overrules it for good; as in the case of the selling of Joseph, #Ge 50:20 the evil of punishment of sin, or of affliction, is from God; in this sense „there is no evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it”, #Am 3:6 but then punishment of sin is a good, as it is a vindication of the honour of divine justice, and of the righteous law of God; and the affliction of the people of God is for their good; and all evil things of that kind work for their good, both here and hereafter.

5. God is infinitely good; as his understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and other perfections of his, are infinite; so is his goodness; he is abundant in it; it is so great, that it cannot be said how great it is; finite minds cannot comprehend it; the height, depth, length, and breadth of it, are unmeasurable; it knows no bounds nor limits; it is so perfect that nothing can be added to it: the goodness of a creature extends not to God, nor is it capable of communicating any to him, „who hath first given to him”, &c. #Ro 11:35,36.

6. God is immutably and eternally good; the goodness of creatures is but as the morning cloud, and early dew, which soon passes away; of which there has been instances in angels and men: but the goodness of God is invariably the same, and endures continually; and though there has been, and are, such large communications of it to creatures, it is the same as ever, and remains an inexhaustible fountain.

7. The goodness of God is communicative and diffusive; he is good, and he does good; „the whole earth is full of his goodness”, #Ps 119:68 #Ps 33:5 there is not a creature but what partakes of it, more or less, in some manner or another; but then it is communicated according to his sovereign will and pleasure. A heathen writer {9} argues the goodness of God from the existence of the world; since it is by the goodness of God the world is, God must be always good.

8. This attribute of goodness belongs to each divine person, Father, Son, and Spirit; when Christ says, as quoted above, „there is none good but one, that is, God”, it is to be understood not of God personally considered, or of one person, to the exclusion of the other; but of God essentially considered: and the design of Christ was, to raise the mind of the young man to whom he spoke, to an higher opinion of himself than what he had; even of him, not as a mere man, whom, as such, he called good; but as the true God, to whom this epithet, in its highest sense, only belongs: and it is predicated of the Father, #2Ch 30:18 of Christ, #Joh 10:11 and of the Spirit, #Ne 9:20 Ps 143:10 and they must, indeed, in the same sense, be good, since they partake of one common undivided nature and essence, #1Jo 5:7.

The goodness of God, with respect to each of the objects of it, may be considered as general and special; in like manner as his love and mercy. There is the general goodness of God, which is as extensive as his mercy; „The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works”, #Ps 145:9. All creatures are made by God, and as they came from him, they are all very good; there is a goodness put into them, whereby they become good and beneficial to others, and especially to men: there is a goodness in inanimate creatures, in the metals and minerals of the earth; in the luminaries of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; they are pleasant, good to look at, their form, magnitude, and splendour: they are profitably good; by their light they themselves are seen, and other objects; by this men see to walk and work, and do the several businesses of life; and through their kind and benign influences shed on the earth, many precious fruits are brought forth, and the advantages of them all men share in; God „makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good”, #Mt 5:45, which is one great instance of his general goodness. In the vegetable creation there is a large display of the goodness of God; some herbs, plants, and trees, being good for medicine, others for food, both for the cattle of the field and for the service of men, #Ps 104:14,15. Among the animals, some are for one use, and some for another, and many are meat for men; and even every creature of God is good, and to be received with thanksgiving, #1Ti 4:4 and all creatures, both men and beast, partake of the goodness of God in the preservation of them, #Ps 36:6 #1Ti 4:10 and in the provision of food for them, #Ps 104:27,28 #Ps 145:15,16 147:8 Ac 14:16,17 17:25,28 1Ti 4:8.

There is indeed a difference made by God in the distribution of his general goodness, in the effects of it; which are not imparted to all creatures alike. God gives more of his goodness to men than to brutes; since he gives them reason and understanding; whereby they become more knowing, and to be wiser than the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heavens, #Job 35:11 and angels have a greater share of his goodness than men; who excel as in strength, so in wisdom and knowledge; hence man is said to be made a little lower than the angels, #Ps 8:5 and some men have a greater share in the general and providential goodness of God than others; either have larger endowments of mind, are the wise and prudent of the world; or have more comeliness, strength, and health of body; or are possessed of greater wealth and riches, #Ec 9:11.

The special goodness of God, as to the effects of it, elect angels, and elect men, only partake of, which is sovereign and distinguishing; God is good to the elect angels, in choosing them in Christ, preserving them from apostasy, confirming them in the estate they were created in, granting them nearness to himself, and many other peculiar favours; when the angels that sinned are not spared by him, but are reserved to judgment, #1Ti 5:21 2Pe 2:4. Elect men, the spiritual and mystical Israel of God, have a share in his special goodness; „truly God is good to Israel”, #Ps 73:1 and that in a very distinguishing manner, as he is not to reprobates; „the election hath obtained” all the special blessings of goodness, grace here, and glory hereafter; light, life, and happiness; while „the rest” are „blinded”, #Ro 11:7 they are made to differ from others thereby in time, and to all eternity; and yet among them there are different displays of divine goodness in the present state; some have greater spiritual gifts for usefulness than others; some have larger measures of grace; though they have all the same grace, yet not to the same degree; they have all alike precious faith, but in some it is weaker, in others stronger; and some have more spiritual light in the Gospel, and more spiritual peace and joy, and larger discoveries of the love of God, and have more communion with him. All which must be referred to his sovereign good will and pleasure.

Many are the acts and instances of divine goodness to the people of God in common. It has been observed, that the attribute of „goodness”, and the epithet of „good”, belong to each of the three divine persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; and they have each of them manifested their goodness in acts of it.

Jehovah the Father, has displayed his goodness to his special people, in his good designs towards them, and thoughts of them; in setting them apart for himself, his own glory, and their good; in laying up all good things for them in Christ, and in the covenant of his grace; in making promises of good things to them, both for this life, and that which is to come; and in bestowing good gifts on them, the gift of himself, the gift of his Son, and the gift of his Spirit; and all the blessings of goodness, as of adoption, justification, pardon of sin, &c. and all the graces of the Spirit, as the gift of faith, of repentance, of a good hope of eternal life, and also the gift of eternal life itself. Jehovah the Son, has manifested his goodness to the same persons; in becoming a Surety, and undertaking for their good; in partaking of their nature, in which good will to men was expressed; and in working out the great and good work of their redemption and salvation; he is the good Shepherd, and has shown himself to be so, by laying down his life for the sheep, and by providing a good fold, and good pasture for them: he is, and has been, in all ages, the Fountain of goodness and grace to all his people, for the supply of all their wants; and he ever lives to speak a good word, and intercede for good things for them. Jehovah the Spirit, is good unto them, as a Teacher, Sanctifier, and Comforter of them, as a Spirit of adoption, grace, and supplication; as the author of the good work of grace in them; as the guide of them through this world; and as the earnest and pledge of their future glory, and a sealer of them up unto the day of redemption.
–End of Chapter–


{1} Leg. Alleg. l. 2. p. 74.

{2} Vid. Hinckelman. Praefat. ad Alkoran.

{3} „Optimus maximus quidem ante optimus, id est, beneficentissimus quam maximus”, Cicero de Natura Deorum, l. 2.

{4} Ibid. l. 1. prope finem.

{5} De Diis, c. 1.

{6} In Epictetum.

{7} agayov gar hn fusei, Hierocles in Carmin. Pythag. p. 21.

{8} De Republica, l. 6. p. 687.

{9} Sallust de Diis, c. 7.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 17:

Of The Anger And Wrath Of God

Besides the love and kindness of God, his grace, favour, and good will, his mercy, pity, and compassion; and his longsuffering and forbearance; which flow from the goodness of his nature; there are other things to be considered, which may come under the notion of affections; as anger, wrath, hatred, &c. The anger and wrath of God are often used promiscuously in Scripture, to signify the same thing, and yet they sometimes seem to be distinct; and according to our notion of them, as in men, they may be distinguished: anger is a lower and lesser degree of wrath, and wrath is the height of anger; and accordingly I shall distinctly consider them, as in God.

1. The Anger of God. And shall, first, show that it belongs to God; and in what sense, and on what account. And, secondly, with whom he is angry; or on whom his anger is exercised.

1a. First, That Anger belongs to God, or may be predicated of him. This is denied by some philosophers of the Cynic and Stoic sects, because it is a passion; they allow grace, good will, and beneficence in God to men, but not anger; this they suppose to be a weakness, and even a sort of madness {1}, and what is unbecoming a wise and good man, and much more unbecoming Deity. The Epicureans deny that either is in God; neither favour and good will, nor anger and wrath {2}; for they imagine he has no concern in the affairs of men, and neither regards their good actions, nor their bad ones; and so is neither pleased nor displeased with them; and is neither kind and favourable to them; nor is angry with them, nor resents what is done by them. But the scriptures everywhere ascribe anger to God; and often speak of it, as being kindled against particular persons, and against whole bodies of men; and give many particular instances of it: to produce the whole proof of this, would be to transcribe a great part of the Bible. But then anger is to be considered not as a passion, or affection in God, as it is in men; and especially as it may be defined from the etymology of the Latin word for it „ira”, as given by a learned grammarian {3}, deriving it from „ire”, „to go”; as if a man, when in anger, goes out of himself; and when he lays it down, returns to himself again; this cannot, in any sense, be ascribed to God: rather it may be, as if it was „ura”, and so is „ab urendo”, from burning; or rather from the Hebrew word hrx which signifies to burn; and the anger of God is compared to fire in Scripture, and is often said to be kindled; but then we are not to imagine, when God is said to be angry, that there is any commotion or perturbation in God’s mind; that he is ruffled and discomposed, or that there is any pain or uneasiness in him, as in human minds; so it may be in finite created spirits, but not in an infinite and uncreated one, as God is: and much less is this to be considered as a criminal passion in him, as it too often is in men; for God is a pure and holy being; without iniquity: besides, there may be anger in men without sin; we are exhorted to be angry and sin not, #Eph 4:26 and it is certain there was anger in the human nature of Christ, in whom there was no sin, nor was he conscious of any, #Mr 3:5 and so there may be in the divine mind, without an imputation of weakness or sin. Anger in God is no other than a disgust with sin, and with sinners, on account of it; it is often said in Scripture, that such and such a thing displeased him, or was evil, and not right in his sight, #Nu 11:1 2Sa 11:27 Ps 60:1 Isa 59:15. All sin is displeasing to God; he cannot take any pleasure in it, nor look upon it with delight; it is so contrary to his nature, and repugnant to his will, he cannot but have an aversion to it, and an abhorrence of it; and there are some sins more especially which provoke him to anger; as the sins against the first table of the law, particularly idolatry; which, of all sins, is the most provoking to him: since it strikes at his very being, and robs him of his glory; see #De 32:16,21 Jud 2:12,13 #1Ki 16:33. Likewise distrust of the power and providence of God, murmuring at it, and complaining of it; which was often the case of the Israelites; and by which they provoked the Lord to anger; so perjury, false swearing, the taking of the name of God in vain, and blasphemy of it; profanation of the Lord’s day, and neglect of his word, worship, and ordinances: and not these only, but sins against the second table of the law, are highly displeasing to God, and resented by him; as disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, covetousness, and every evil thing, see #Isa 5:24,25. Now „who knoweth the power of God’s anger?” #Ps 90:11 nothing can resist it, nor stand before it; not rocks and mountains, which are overturned and cast down by it; nor the mightiest monarchs, nor the proudest mortals, nor the stoutest and adamantine hearts; none can stand before God when once he is angry, #Job 9:5,13 Ps 76:7 Na 1:6.

1b. Secondly, The objects of the anger of God, or on whom it is exercised. „God is angry with the wicked every day”, #Ps 7:11 because they are daily sinning against him; their whole lives are one continued series and course of wickedness; all they do is sin; their very actions in civil life, the ploughing of the wicked, is sin; and all their religious services are but „splendida peccata”, „shining sins”, and so are displeasing to God, and resented by him; their sacrifices, brought with a wicked mind, without a right principle, and a right end, are an abomination to him, #Pr 21:4,27 being in the flesh, in an unregenerate state, they cannot please God, nor do the things which are pleasing in his sight; being destitute of the grace of God, and particularly of faith; „without which it is impossible to please him.” These, though God is angry with them continually, yet they do not always appear under the visible and public tokens of his resentment; the „rod of God” is not on them; nor are they in trouble, as other men, and have more than heart can wish; oftentimes their families, flocks, and herds, increase; and they spend their days in health, wealth, and pleasure, #Job 21:7-13 #Ps 73:3-12 and seem as if they were the favourites of heaven, and think themselves to be such. But though God is slow to anger, as he is often described, moves slowly to express his anger; yet he will most certainly do it in the issue of things; and though men may promise themselves impunity in sin, and fancy they shall have peace when they walk after the imagination of their evil hearts, and add sin to sin; yet at length God will not spare them; but his anger and jealousy shall smoke against them, and all the curses written in the law shall come upon them, #De 29:19,20.

Moreover, God is angry with his own special people, holy and good men; we read of his anger being kindled against Aaron and Miriam, for speaking against Moses; and against Moses and Aaron, for not sanctifying him before the children of Israel; insomuch that neither of them were admitted to enter the land of Canaan; and against David, Solomon, and others, for sins committed by them. And this is not at all inconsistent with the love of God unto them: anger is not opposite to love; there may be anger in the nearest and dearest relatives; and where there is the most affectionate regard to each other: the anger of Jacob was kindled against his beloved Rachel; a father may be angry with his son, and chastise him for a fault, and yet dearly love him; and a son may be angry with a father, as Jonathan was with Saul, yet bear a true filial affection for him. God loves his people with an everlasting and unchangeable love, and never alters and varies in it; and yet may be angry, that is, displeased with them, and show his resentment at sin committed by them, by his chastisement of them, and still continue his love to them; for even that is done in love. Besides, the anger of God towards them, is often only in their sense and apprehension of it; when God goes forth towards them, in some dispensations of his, which are not agreeable to them, they conclude he is angry with them; and when these dispensations are varied, then they suppose his anger is turned away from them, #Isa 12:1 so when he hides his face from them, and unbelief prevails, they interpret it, putting them away in anger, and shutting up his tender mercies in anger, #Ps 27:9 77:9 when he seems to turn a deaf ear to their prayers, and does not give an immediate answer to them; this they call being angry against the prayer of his people, #Ps 80:4 and when he afflicts them, in one way or another, then they apprehend he comes forth in anger against them; and „they have no soundness in their flesh, because of his anger; nor rest in their bones, because of their sins”, #Ps 38:3 but when he takes off his afflicting hand, grants his gracious presence, and manifests his pardoning love and grace, then they conclude he has turned himself from the fierceness of his anger, #Ps 85:2,3. Now this apparent anger, or appearance of anger, „endures but for a moment”, #Ps 30:5 a very short space of time indeed; though God hides his face from his people, and chides them for their sins: yet he does not keep anger for ever: this is the criterion by which he is distinguished from other gods, in that he retains not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy, #Ps 103:9 Mic 7:18 and in this the anger of God towards his people, differs from his anger to wicked men, since the one is but for a moment, and the other is continual.

2. The Wrath of God is the heat of his great anger, #De 29:24 it is his anger not only kindled and incensed, but blown up into a flame; it is the „indignation” of his anger, the „fury” and „fierceness” of it, #Isa 30:30 42:25 Ho 11:9 and it seems to be no other than his punitive justice, and includes his will to punish sinners according to the demerit of their sins in strict justice; his threatenings to do it, and the actual execution of it; which is the vengeance that belongs to him, and he will recompense; even his vindictive wrath, or vengeful judgment; „What if God willing to show his wrath”, &c.? #Ro 9:22. Now the wrath of God may be considered,

2a. As temporary, or what is executed in the present life; of which there have been many instances and examples, and there will be more; and a brief review of them will give a more enlarged idea of the wrath of God. Not to take notice of the apostate angels, whom God has cast down to hell; where, though they may not be in full torment, yet are dreadful instances of the wrath of God against sin; since not one of them have been spared, or have shared in pardoning grace and mercy. I shall only observe what examples of it have been, or will be, among men. The first instance of it is in the condemnation of Adam, and all his posterity, for the first sin, and for only one single sin of his. How great must that sin be! what sinfulness must there be in it! how greatly must the divine Being be incensed by it! in that, for it, he has caused death, that is, his wrath to pass in judgment on him, and all his offspring; so that, in consequence of it, all the children of Adam are the children of God’s wrath. The next is the drowning of the old world, when full of violence and corruption; so that God repented he had made man in it, and it grieved him to the heart; and in his wrath he determined to destroy man and beast in it; and which he did, by bringing a flood on the world of the ungodly. Then follows another, though not so general; but limited and restrained to a part of the world; the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and others of the plain; whose inhabitants being notorious sinners, provoked the eyes of God’s glory to such a degree, that he rained fire and brimstone from heaven upon them; and set them as an example and emblem of mens’ suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, for not letting Israel go, when demanded of them, is another instance of the wrath of God; for by inflicting these on them, he not only made a way to his anger, to show it forth, as the Psalmist says; but, as he also observes, „he cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble”, #Ps 78:49,50. The children of Israel themselves often provoked the Lord to wrath; and brought it down upon them, for their sins; as at Horeb, when they made the calf; at Taberah, Massah, and Kibrothhattaavah, where they murmured against the Lord, #De 9:8,19,22 as they did likewise at the report of the spies, concerning the land of Canaan; when „God swore in his wrath, they should not enter into his rest.” And again, upon the affair of Korah, and his accomplices, when wrath went forth from the Lord, and the plague began, #Nu 14:23 16:46. Witness, also, each of their captivities; particularly their captivity in Babylon, through their mocking at, and misuse of the prophets of the Lord; so that wrath arose against them; and there was no remedy; and their last captivity, and destruction, by the Romans; when wrath came upon them to the uttermost; and under which wrath, and in which captivity they are to this day. Whenever the four sore judgments of God, the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, have been exercised in the world, as they often have been; they are always in wrath; and these with earthquakes, and such like uncommon events, are presignifications, and foretokens of greater wrath yet to come; and in a little while, the seven vials full of the wrath of God, will be poured forth on antichrist, and on the antichristian states; and the judgment of God will come on Babylon in one day. And when the end of all things is come, the earth, and all in it will be burnt with fire, and the heavens melt away with fervent heat; the day of the Lord will burn like an oven, and the wicked, like stubble, will be burnt up by it, and will have neither root nor branch left: all which will be expressive of the great wrath of God. But there is no greater instance of it, or what more fully demonstrates it, than what our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and endured as the Surety of his people, in their room and stead; when, their sins being imputed to him, were found on him, and he was stricken for them; the sword of justice was sheathed in him; the vindictive wrath of God was poured forth upon him, to the uttermost of the demerit of sin; God spared him not: how inconceivably great must his wrath be against sin, when God spared not in the least his own dearly beloved Son, but suffered him to be put to the most exquisite pain, both in body and soul, for the sins of his people!

2b. There is the wrath of God that is yet to come: the Scriptures speak of future wrath; wrath that will take place in the life which is to come; which in part, commences at the death of wicked men; and will be complete at their resurrection from the dead, #Mt 3:7 1Th 1:10. This is expressed by fire, than which nothing is more intolerable; even devouring fire and everlasting burnings, not to be endured; this is no other than the curse of the law that is broken; which not only reaches to this life, but to that which is to come; it is the same with the second death; which lies in a separation from God, and, in a sense of his hot displeasure; it is called hell and hell fire; the word for which, in the New Testament, is taken from Gehinnom, or the valley of Hinnom; where the Jews burnt their children in sacrifice to Molech; and which place, from the beating of drums in it, that the shrieks of the children might not be heard by their parents, was called Tophet; of which the prophet says, as an emblem of hell fire, or the fire of divine wrath; „Tophet is ordained of old–the pile thereof is fire, and much wood: the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it”, #Isa 30:33 which is an awful representation of the wrath of God. And by whatsoever term this state of wrath is expressed, it is always spoken of as what will continue for ever: it is called everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, everlasting destruction, „the smoke of torment, that ascends for ever and ever”; and for the commencement of which, in its full extent, there is a day fixed, called, „the day of wrath, and righteous judgment of God”; until which time God reserves wrath for his adversaries; it is laid up in store with him, among his treasures, and will be ever laying out, and pouring forth.

As to the objects of this wrath, seeing it is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; it lies against all that are unrighteous and ungodly; and as all have sinned, and are under sin, all are „children of wrath”, #Eph 2:3 Ro 1:18 3:9,23 but there are some particularly described, on whom this wrath comes, and they are called „children of disobedience”, #Eph 5:5,6 #Col 3:5,6 such who are disobedient to the light of nature, rebel against it, and hold truth in unrighteousness, which that discovers; and so as they sin without law, they perish without law, #Ro 1:18,19,21,28 2:12 and who also are disobedient to the law of God, break it, and are convicted by it, as transgressors, whom it pronounces guilty, and is the ministration of condemnation and death unto them; and who are disobedient to the gospel of Christ, obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, and are slaves to their sinful lusts and pleasures; on these come indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; even on every soul of man that does evil, #2Th 1:8 #Ro 2:8,9 they are also represented as unbelievers: „He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”: he that does not believe that Christ is the Son of God, that he is the Messiah and Saviour of men, the sentence of wrath, which the law has passed on him, as a transgressor of that, remains; and since he denies divine revelation, rejects the gospel scheme, and disbelieves Christ as a Saviour, and salvation by him, there is no help for him; wrath is on him, and that without remedy, it must abide: now it is not any sort of unbelief for which this wrath is, and abides; not for that which is through the want of the means of faith, such as in heathens; for „how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?” #Ro 10:14,17 nor which is through the want of the special grace of faith, which is the gift of God, and peculiar to his elect, and which he only can give, and yet denies it; and which, without his grace vouchsafed, they can never have: but it is the disbelief of the report of the gospel, by such who have the opportunity of reading and hearing it, and yet either attend not to the evidence of it; or, notwithstanding that, reject it; they receive not the record God has given of his Son, and so make him a liar, than which nothing is more provoking to wrath, #1Jo 5:10. This was the case of the Jews of old, #Joh 3:19 and is of the deists of the present age. In short, the wrath of God comes upon men either for their sins against the light of nature, or against the law of God, or against the gospel of Christ.

There are some on whom no wrath comes here, nor hereafter; who are the vessels of mercy, afore prepared for glory: concerning whom Jehovah says, „fury is not in me”; and to whom he is all love, „love” itself, #Isa 27:4 1Jo 4:16 being sinners indeed, and transgressors of the law of God, they are children of wrath as others, #Eph 2:3 which phrase not only means that they are serving of wrath, but that, as they are sinners, they are found guilty of it; and not only found guilty, but are condemned unto it; they are really under the sentence of wrath, condemnation, and death; they are obnoxious to the curse of the law, which is no other than the wrath of God; they are liable to it, and in danger of it; and being so near it, how is it that they escape it, and are secured from it? They are secured from it by the decree of God, who has appointed them not to wrath, but to obtain salvation, #1Th 5:9 which decree is unfrustrable by the oath of God, who has swore that he will not be wrath with them, #Isa 54:9 which is immutable: by the suretyship engagements of Christ for them, to bear it in their room; and till that was done, God forbore to execute the sentence; called the forbearance of God, #Ro 3:25 by Christ’s actually bearing the chastisement of their peace; by being made a curse for them, and enduring the wrath of God in their room; whereby he delivered them from wrath to come, #Ps 89:38 1Th 5:10 and by his righteousness imputed to them, through which, being justified, they are saved from wrath, #Ro 5:9 though even these persons may have, at times, some apprehensions of the wrath of God; as, particularly, under first awakenings, and convictions of sin; when the law works a sense of wrath in them, and leaves in them a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation; when they flee to Christ, from wrath to come, and say, „Lord, save us, or we perish”; and afterwards, when under the hiding of God’s face, or his afflicting hand is upon them, they imagine that the wrath of God lies hard upon them, and his fierce wrath goes over them, #Ps 88:7,16 La 3:1 but in reality, there is no wrath comes upon them now; their afflictions and chastisements are all in love; and there will be no curse hereafter; but they shall always see the face of God, and be „in his presence, where are fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore”, #Re 3:19 22:3,4.
–End of Chapter–


{1} Vide Senecam de Ira, l. 1. c. 1. Sallustium de Diis, c. 14. & Demophili Sentent. p. 8. Ed. Gale.

{2} Vide Lactantium de ira Dei. c. 4. & 5.

{3} Donatus apud Zanchium de Natura Dei, l. 4. c. 6. p. 407.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 18:

Of The Hatred Of God

There are some {1} that deny that hatred belongs to God; or that he hates anything; and urge a passage in the Apocrypha,

„Thou lovest all beings, and hatest none of these that thou hast made; ” (Wisdom 11:24)

which is true of the creatures of God, as such; for as they are made by him they are all very good; and are loved, delighted in, and not hated by him. Nor is hatred to be considered as a passion in him, as it is in men; who is a pure, active Spirit, and is solely agent, and not a patient; is not capable of suffering anything: much less as it is a criminal passion, by which men, in their worst estate, are described, „hateful”, and „hating one another”, #Tit 3:3 since he is a perfectly holy Being, and without iniquity. Yet the scriptures do, in many places, attribute to him hatred both of persons and things, #Ps 5:5 Zec 8:17 and most truly and rightly; and this may be concluded from love being in God, as has been shown; though this is made use of as an argument against it, because opposite to it; but where there is love of any person or thing, there will be an hatred of that which is contrary to the object loved: thus good men, as they love those that are good, like themselves, and good things, so they hate that which is evil; they love God, the chiefest good; and they hate sin, the chiefest evil, as diametrically opposite to him, #Ps 97:10 Am 5:15. So the righteous Lord, as he loves righteousness and righteous men, his people; as they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and found in the ways of righteousness, so he hates unrighteousness, and unrighteous men; for to the Son of God he saith, „thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows”, #Ps 45:7 besides, it is a virtue, yea grace, in good men, to hate sin that dwells in them, and is committed by them, as the apostle did, #Ro 7:15 for without the grace of God it is not hated; and also to hate them that hate the Lord, as David did, and for the truth of which he appeals to God, „Do not I hate them, O Lord that hate thee? I hate them with perfect hatred”, #Ps 139:21,22. Now if it is a virtue, or owing to the grace of God in them, that they do hate sin and sinners, then this must come from God, from whom all grace, and every good gift comes; and consequently must be in him, in a higher degree, even in the most perfect manner; to all which may be added, that hatred, when ascribed to God, sometimes signifies no other than his will to punish sin and sinners, and his execution of it, #Ps 5:5,6 and so is an act of justice, of punitive justice; „And is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance?” No; he is righteous in that, as he is in all his works, #Ro 3:5. For the further illustration of this point, I shall consider both what that is; and who they are God is said to hate.

1. What that is he hates, that is sin; and this is consistent with his not hating any of his creatures; for sin is no creature of his; he is not the author of sin; all the creatures he made were very good; but sin was not among them; every creature of God is good, and not to be refused, rejected, and hated by men; as none are by God, as such; but sin is not any of them. Sin must be hateful to God, since it is so contrary to his nature, to his will, and to his righteous law. All sin is an abomination to him; but there are some sins that are particularly observed as hated by him, as idolatry, #De 16:22 #Jer 44:3-5 perjury, #Zec 8:17 all insincere and hypocritical acts of worship, #Isa 1:14,15 Am 5:21 sins against the two tables of the law; as murder, which stands among the six things which God hates, #Pr 6:16-18 fornication, adultery, community of wives; the deeds of the Nicolaitans he is said to hate, #Re 2:6,15 theft, robbery, rapine, and violence of every sort; all kind of injury to the persons and properties of men, #Ps 11:5 Isa 61:8 and every evil thing a man may imagine against his neighbour, #Zec 8:17. And all this is true of each of the divine persons. God the Father has shown his hatred of sin by the judgments he has executed in casting down from heaven to hell the angels that sinned, driving Adam and Eve out of paradise, bringing a flood upon the world of the ungodly, raining fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah; with other instances in following ages, and later ones; and by the chastisements of his own people, when they sin and transgress his law; but in nothing more than by the condemnation of sin in the flesh of Christ, when he suffered in the room and stead of his people, as their Surety and Saviour; and so by the punishment of wicked men to all eternity. The Son of God has given sufficient proof of his loving righteousness, and hating iniquity, of whom these things are expressly said, #Ps 45:7 Heb 1:8,9 and are true of him as a divine person, and as Mediator, and as man; and this he has done by inveighing against the sins of the Jews in his time; by his severe usage of the buyers and sellers in the temple; and by his exhortations and threatenings to men to sin no more, lest worse things came unto them: and the Holy Ghost is not only grieved by the sinful actions and behaviour of men; but may be vexed by them, so as to turn to be their enemy, and fight against them, #Isa 63:10. Which leads me to consider,

2. Who they are that God hates; and they are sinners, „workers of iniquity”, #Ps 5:5 not men, as men, but as sinful men; and not all that sin, or have sin in them; for then all would be hated, for all have sinned in Adam, and by; actual transgressions; and none, even the best of men, are without it, #Ro 3:23 1Jo 1:8 but „workers” of it, traders in it, whose whole lives are one continued series of sinning; to those it will be said, I „never knew you”; I never loved you, I always hated you; „depart from me, ye that work iniquity”, #Mt 7:23, make a trade of it; make it the business of their lives, continually and constantly commit it, #Joh 8:34 1Jo 3:8,9 and God is impartial, he hates „all the workers of iniquity; and brings down his indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile”, #Ro 2:8,9. The scriptures speak of an hatred of some persons antecedent to sin, and without the consideration of it; which, though it may be attended with some difficulty to account for; yet may be understood in a good sense, and consistent with the perfections of God, and with what has been said of his hatred of sin and sinners; for thus it is said of Jacob and Esau, personally considered; „Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”, #Mal 1:2 and which was before the one had done any good, or the other done any evil; as the apostle expressly says, #Ro 9:11-13. „The children not being yet born, neither having done any good or evil; that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand; not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her”, to Rebekah, the mother of them, while they were in her womb, „the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”. And what is said of these, is true of all the objects of election and non-election. And now let it be observed, that this hatred is to be understood, not of any positive hatred in the heart of God towards them, but of a negative and comparative hatred of them; that whereas while some are chosen of God, and preferred by him, and are appointed to obtain grace and glory, and to be brought to great dignity and honour; others are passed by, neglected, postponed, and set less by; which is called an hatred of them; that is, a comparative one, in comparison of the love shown, and the preference given to others; in this sense the word is used in #Lu 14:26. „If any man hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple”: the meaning of which cannot be, that a man must have positive hatred of such near relations, and of his own life; but that he should be negligent of these in comparison of Christ; postpone them to him, set less by them, have a less affection for them than him, and so prefer him unto them; in like sense are we to understand the above expression concerning Esau, and all reprobates: and that this may appear yet clear, it should be observed, that in this business there are two acts of the divine will; the one is a will not to bestow benefits of special goodness; not to give grace, nor to raise to honour and glory: and this God may do antecedent to, and without any consideration of sin; but act according to his sovereign will and pleasure, since he is under no obligation to confer benefits, but may bestow them on whom he pleases; as he himself says, „Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” #Mt 20:15. The other act of the divine will is, to inflict evil; and that is always for sin, and in consideration of it; for though sin is not the cause of the act of the will, it is the cause of the thing willed, which is not willed without the consideration of it; they are the wicked God has made, or appointed to the day of evil, and no other; ungodly men, whom he has foreordained to that condemnation, vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction by sin; on whom it is the will of God to show his wrath, and make his power known, #Pr 16:4 Jude 1:4 Ro 9:22. In the one act, hatred, or a denial of grace, is without the consideration of sin; in the other, hatred, or a will to punish, is with it; punishment being only willed for it: but then God never hates his elect in any sense; they are always loved by him; to which hatred is opposite: he may be angry with them, and chastise them for their sins; yea, he may, as he says, and as they apprehend, in a little wrath hide his „face” from them; but he never hates them; though he hates their sins, and shows his resentment at them, he still loves them freely; renews, and raises them up by repentance, when fallen into sin, and manifests and applies his pardoning grace to them, and never bears any hatred to their persons.
–End of Chapter–


{1} Aquinas contr. Gentiles, l. 1. c. 96. Vid. Francisc. Silvester. in ibid.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 19:

Of The Joy Of God

Joy, which is often attributed to God in the scriptures, bears some resemblance to the affection of joy in men; but is, by some philosophers {1}, denied of him; and, indeed, is not to be considered as a passion in him, as in them; and particularly, when in its height, or at an excess; as it is a transport of the mind, and carries it out of, and beyond itself, as it were; as in the cases of Jacob, when the news of his son Joseph’s being alive were brought him; and of the disciples, when they heard of the resurrection of Christ, believed not for joy: and, indeed, all affections that are ascribed to God, are ascribed to him, not as in themselves, but as to their effects; such and such effects being done by men, when so and so affected. Hence when similar ones are done by God, the like affections are ascribed to him; and this of joy is expressed by him in very different effects; as in inflicting punishment, as well as in conferring benefits; in the one he rejoices in the glory of his justice and holiness; and in the other, in the displays of his grace and goodness; see #De 28:63. Though joy, as ascribed to God, seems to be no other than delight and complacency in persons and things; so some philosophers and schoolmen make them to be the same; or, however, take joy to be a species of delight; only they observe a difference, with respect to brute animals, in whom there is delight, but not joy {2}; it is also made a question with them {3} whether delight is a passion? but my business with it is only as it concerns God, and is predicated of him; and who may be said,

1. To rejoice and take delight and complacency in himself, in his own nature, and the perfections of it; in which there is an all-sufficiency, and so a fulness of content and satisfaction; and he rests infinitely well pleased in himself. Hence Aquinas {4}, who defines joy and delight a certain quietation, or rest of the will, in what is willed by it; observes, that God must greatly rest quiet and satisfied in himself, which is his principal „volitum”, or what is willed by him, as having all-sufficiency in him, and therefore by his own will greatly rejoices and delights in himself: and though he makes joy and delight in some respect to differ; delight flowing from a good really conjoined; and joy being not only of that, but of something exterior; hence, he says, it is plain God properly delights in himself; but rejoices in himself and others. So the Jews {5} interpret #1Ch 16:27 „gladness in his place”, of joy in himself.

2. He rejoices and takes delight and complacency in his works, #Ps 104:31. In the works of creation, which, when he had finished, he not only rested from them, but rested in them, with delight and pleasure; he looked them over, and pronounced them all very good; and he still appears to have pleasure in them, by his continuance of them in being, by upholding all things by the word of his power: he rejoices and delights in the works of his providence, in which he is always concerned, #Joh 5:17. These, so far as they are known by men, yield an unspeakable delight and pleasure in the contemplation of them; and especially when they will be manifest; and though they are now, many of them, unsearchable and past finding out, yet there is a depth of riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God in them; but what delight must God take in them, being all according to his sovereign will and pleasure; by whom they are seen and known in their beauty, harmony, and connection; and the springs and causes of them, and the several ends answered by them? God rejoices and takes delight particularly in the great work of redemption, contrived by his infinite wisdom, and wrought out by his Son; partly because of his own glory displayed therein; as of his love, grace, and mercy, so of his truth and faithfulness, holiness and justice; and partly because of the salvation of his people, secured thereby; a thing his heart was set upon from everlasting; what he resolved should be, and what he appointed them to: he rejoices and delights in his work of grace on the hearts of his people: this is their beauty, even the beauty of holiness, which he, the king, greatly desires; by which they are all glorious within, and well pleasing in his sight; he delights in the graces which he himself, by his Spirit, has wrought in them, and in the exercise of those graces, as drawn forth by him, their faith, hope, love, fear, &c. „The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy”, #Ps 147:11 #So 4:9,10. And so all his people, as they are his workmanship, his poem, curiously wrought by him; the works of his hands, in whom, and whereby he is glorified; he rejoices in them, and blesses on account of them, #Isa 19:25 60:21. Wherefore,

3. He may be truly said to rejoice, delight, and take pleasure in his people, as he often is; they are his Hephzibah, in whom he delights; his Beulah, to whom he is married; and therefore, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so does the Lord rejoice over them, #Ps 149:4 Isa 62:4,5 not in all men; for there are some in whom he has no joy, vessels in whom he has no delight and pleasure, #Isa 9:17 27:11 Mal 1:10 but his special covenant people, #Jer 32:38-41 and these not as creatures, and still less as sinful creatures, either as considered in Adam, or in themselves, guilty and defiled; but as in Christ, in whom God is well pleased, and in all that are in him, as chosen in him, and given to him; so God the Father rejoiced in them from everlasting; for as his love to them, so his joy in them, is so early, it being a love of complacency and delight; and of which joy there are new expressions in conversion; see #Lu 15:7,9,22-24. And likewise the Son of God, was from all eternity rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth; and his delights were with the sons of men, #Pr 8:31 and which joy he felt under all his sorrows and sufferings, when working out their salvation, #Heb 12:2 and which he expresses at their conversion; that being the time of finding his lost people; and, indeed, the day of his open espousals to them, and so of the gladness of his heart, #Lu 15:3-5 So 3:11 and they will also be his joy, and crown of rejoicing, in the last day; when they shall be introduced into his presence, not only with joy and gladness in themselves, but with it in him, who will present them before his Father and himself, with exceeding joy, #Ps 45:13,14 Jude 1:24 and this joy over them, both in him and his divine Father, is to do them good, and issues in it; to bestow benefits upon them, grace here, and glory hereafter; to beautify them with salvation; to make them prosperous, especially in spiritual things, in which prosperity he takes pleasure; and in making all things work together for their good, #Jer 32:41 #Ps 149:4 35:27 which joy is full; there is a redundancy, an overflow of it; it is hearty and sincere, is the strength and security of the saints, and will remain for ever, #Ne 8:10 Zep 3:17.
–End of Chapter–

[Previous Chapter] [Next Chapter]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


{1} Sallustius de Diis, c. 14. Plato in Philebo. p. 384.

{2} Aquin. Sum. Theolog. prima 2 par. Quaest. 31. art. 3. & Avicenna in ibid.

{3} Ibid. art. 1. & Aristot. apud ibid.

{4} Contr. Gentiles, l. 1. c. 90.

{5} R. Joseph Albo in Sepher Ikkarim, l. 2. c. 15.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 20:

Of The Holiness Of God

Having considered those attributes of God which bear a likeness to affections in men; I proceed to consider those which in them may be called virtues; as holiness, justice, or righteousness, truth, or faithfulness; and shall begin with the holiness of God. And,

1. First, show that it is in God, and belongs to him, and what it is. The scriptures most abundantly ascribe it to him; he is very frequently called „holy”, and „the Holy One”; this title he takes to himself, #Isa 40:25 Hos 11:9 and is often given him by others, angels and men; and, indeed, without holiness he would not be that perfect being he is; unholiness is the imperfection of every rational being in whom it is; it is what has made angels and men both impure and imperfect; and since no men, even the best, are without sin; therefore none are in themselves perfect. But as for God, his ways and works are perfect, and so is his nature; being just and true, and without iniquity, #De 32:4. Holiness is the purity and rectitude of his nature; whose nature is so pure, as to be without spot or stain, or anything like it: he is light and purity itself, and in him is no darkness or impurity at all; as „he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity”, so he is of a purer heart and mind than to have one sinful thought in it: his thoughts are not as ours; he is the pattern of purity and holiness, and to be copied after: men should be holy, as and because he is holy; it is one of the imitable perfections of God, in which he is to be followed; though it cannot be attained to, as it is in him, #Le 11:44,45 19:2 #1Pe 1:15,16.

Holiness is an essential attribute of God; it is his nature and essence; it is himself; he is holiness itself; „he swears by himself, because he can swear by no greater”; and he will not swear by any less, and yet he swears by his holiness, #Heb 6:13 Ps 89:35 #Am 4:2 6:8 which places put and compared together show that the holiness of God is himself; and it has been thought to be not so much a particular and distinct attribute of itself, as the lustre, glory, and harmony of all the rest; and is what is called „the beauty of the Lord”, #Ps 27:4 as it is the beauty of the good angels, and of regenerate men; and, indeed, what is wisdom or knowledge, without holiness, but craft and cunning? or what is power, without it, but tyranny, oppression, and cruelty? but God is „glorious in holiness”, #Ex 15:11 this dives a lustre to all his perfections, and is the glory of them; and therefore none of them are or can be exercised in a wrong manner, or to any bad purpose. And as it is his nature and essence, it is infinite and unbounded; it cannot be greater than it is, and can neither be increased nor diminished; when, therefore, men are exhorted to „sanctify” the Lord, and are directed to pray that his „name” may be „hallowed”, or sanctified, #Isa 8:13 Mt 6:9 the meaning is not as if he was to be, or could be made more holy than he is; but that his holiness be declared, manifested, and celebrated more and more; it is so perfect that nothing can be added to it. And as it is his nature and essence, it is immutable and invariable; the holiness of a creature is changeable, as the holiness of angels and men; which has appeared by the apostasy of the one, and the fall of the other; and the holiness of saints, though its principle is the same, the acts and exercises are variable. But God is always the same holy Being, without any variableness, or shadow of turning. He is originally holy, he is so in and of himself, and of no other; there is none prior and superior to him, from whom he could derive or receive any holiness; as his Being is of himself, so is his holiness, which is himself: the holiness of angels and men is not of themselves, but of God; he is the fountain of holiness to all rational creatures that partake of it; it is peculiar to him, yea, only in him; Hannah says, in her song, „There is none holy as the Lord”, #1Sa 2:2. In another song yet to be sung, the song of Moses and of the Lamb, it is said, „Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy”, #Re 15:4. The holiness of creatures is but a shadow of holiness, in comparison of the holiness of God; the holy angels are chargeable with folly in his sight, and they cover their faces with their wings, while they celebrate the perfection of God’s holiness; as conscious to themselves, that theirs will not bear to be compared with his, #Job 4:17,18 Isa 6:2,3. God only is essentially, originally, underivatively, perfectly, and immutably holy.

This must be understood not of one person in the Deity, to the exclusion of the rest; as not of the Spirit, though he is peculiarly called the „Holy Ghost”, and the Holy Spirit, yet not to the exclusion of the Father and Son; so not of the Father, to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit; for as they are the one God, who is a Spirit, they partake of the same common and undivided nature, and all the perfections of it, and of this with the rest. Hence we read of the holy Elohim, or divine Persons, in the plural number; and of the Holy Ones, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit, #Jos 24:19 Pr 30:5 Da 4:17. And no doubt respect is had to the holiness of the three divine persons, by the seraphim, when they said, „holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!” #Isa 6:3 and by the four beasts, or living creatures, continually employed in the same divine service, celebrating the perfections of God in much the same language, saying, „Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty!” #Re 4:8. As there is no doubt made of the Deity of the Father, there can be none of his holiness: our Lord addresses him under the relation of „Father”, and under the epithet of „Holy Father”, #Joh 17:11 and all that has been said of the holiness of God belongs to him; of which there can be no question made: and it is as true of the Son as of the Father; for as the Father is the holy Father, he must be the holy Son, since he is of the same nature, and is „the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person”; and as the Father is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, so is the Son; as the Father loves righteousness and hates iniquity, this is expressly said of the Son, #Heb 1:8,9 he is eminently called „the Holy One of God”, #Ps 16:10 and „the Holy One of Israel”, more than thirty times in the prophecy of Isaiah; and particularly is so called along with the titles of Redeemer and Husband, which are peculiar to the second Person, the Son of God, the Redeemer of his people, and the Husband of his church, #Isa 47:4 54:5 yea, he is called the „most holy”, who was anointed with the Holy Ghost above his fellows, and „having the Spirit without measure”, #Da 9:24 the title of holy he takes to himself when addressing the church, which is an emblem of the purest state of the church militant on earth, the church of Philadelphia; „These things saith he that is holy”, #Re 3:7. Nay, the devil himself gives it to him; „I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God”, #Lu 4:34. Besides, Christ is not only holy in his human nature, even perfectly so, and sanctified and set apart to his office as Mediator, by his Father; for which office holiness is a necessary requisite and qualification; but he is the Fountain of holiness to his church and people; they are sanctified in him and by him; he is made sanctification to them, and all the holiness, or holy graces that are in them, are all from him, #Joh 1:14,16 which could not be, if he was not holy, and even holiness itself. And as for the blessed Spirit, the third Person in the Deity, the epithet of „holy” is commonly given to him, as before observed; and very truly, since he is of the same nature with the Father and the Son; and so he is holy by nature and essence, and as appears by his graces, operations, and influences; and by his being grieved, speaking after the manner of men, with the sins and impurities of men; the reason of which is, because they are so contrary to his pure and holy nature, that he cannot bear them, but expresses his dislike and displeasure at them, #Eph 4:29,30. And all this will be still more clear and manifest, by considering,

2. Secondly, The instances whereto and whereby the holiness of God is displayed, which are his works, and actions, and proceedings towards his creatures; God is holy in all his works; or his holiness is manifest in them, and by them, #Ps 145:17.

2a. The holiness of God the Father; which is visible,

2a1. In the works of creation; for as he made all things by his Son, not as an instrument, but as co-efficient with him, so when he overlooked them, he pronounced them very good; which he would not have done, had there been anything impure or unholy in them. Angels, not only those that stood, but those that fell, were originally holy, as made by him: the elect angels continue in the holiness in which they were created; and the angels that sinned are not in the estate in which they were at their creation; they kept not their first estate, which was an estate of purity and holiness; and abode not in the truth, in the uprightness and integrity in which they were formed, #Jude 1:6 Joh 8:44. And as for man, he was made after the image, and in the likeness of God, which greatly consisted in holiness; a pure, holy, and upright creature he was; and had a law given him, holy, just, and good, as the rule of his obedience, and which was inscribed on his heart; some remains of which are to be found in his fallen posterity, and even in the Gentiles.

2a2. The holiness of God appears in his works of providence; which, though many of them are dark and intricate, not easily penetrated into, and to be accounted for; yet there is nothing criminal and sinful in them: the principal thing objected to the holiness of God in his providences, is his suffering sin to be in the world; but then, though it is by his voluntary permission, or permissive will, yet he is neither the author nor abettor of it; he neither commands it, nor approves of it, nor persuades to it, nor tempts nor forces to it; but all the verse, forbids it, disapproves of it, dissuades from it, threatens to punish for it, yea, even chastises his own people for it; and, besides, overrules it for great good, and for his own glory; as the fall of Adam, the sin of Joseph’s brethren, the Jews crucifixion of Christ; which have been instanced in, and observed under a former attribute: wherefore the dispensations of God, in his providence, are not to be charged with unholiness on this account.

2a3. The holiness of Jehovah the Father is to be observed in those acts of grace which are peculiar to him; as in choosing some in Christ his Son to everlasting life, before the world began. Now though not the holiness of the creature, nor even the foresight of it, is the cause of this act; yet holiness, or the sanctification of the Spirit, is fixed as a means in it; and it is the will of God, that those whom he chooses and appoints to salvation should partake of it, or come to salvation through it; nay, he has not only chosen them „through” it, as a means, but he has chosen them to it, as a subordinate end; he has chosen them to be holy in part, in this life, and perfectly in the life to come; and holiness of heart and life, is the evidence of interest in it, and nothing more powerfully excites and engages to it. The covenant which he has made with his Son Jesus Christ, on the behalf of the chosen ones, provides abundantly for their holiness, both internal and external; see #Eze 36:25-27 and the promises of it serve greatly to promote it, and to influence the saints to be „perfecting holiness in the fear of God”, #2Co 7:1. And in this covenant is laid up a rod of correction, in love, to chastize with it the sins of God’s people, #Ps 89:29-34. Justification is an act of God’s grace towards them; it is God, even God the Father, that justifies, through the imputation of his Son’s righteousness to them; by which the holy law of God is so far from being made void, that it is established, magnified, and made honourable: nor are justified persons exempted from obedience to it, but are more strongly bound and constrained to serve it; and though God justifies the ungodly, yet not without a righteousness provided for them, and imputed to them: nor does he justify, vindicate, or approve of their ungodliness, nor connive at it; but turns it from them, and them from that: and faith, which receives the blessing of justification from the Lord, by which men perceive their interest in it, and enjoy the comfort of it, is an operative grace, works by love to God, to Christ, and his people; and is attended with good works, the fruits of righteousness: the like may be observed with respect to other acts of the Father’s grace; as adoption, pardon, &c.

2b. Secondly, The holiness of the Son of God is to be seen in all his works; in the works of creation and providence, in common with his divine Father; and in all his works of grace; in giving himself to sanctify his church, and make it a glorious one, without spot or wrinkle, through his blood and righteousness; in redeeming his people from all iniquity, to purify them to himself a peculiar people; in bearing their sins, and making satisfaction for them, that they might live unto righteousness, and that the body of sin might be destroyed, #Eph 5:25,27 Tit 2:14 1Pe 2:24 #Ro 6:6 and so in the execution of all his offices; as a Prophet, he has appeared to be an Holy One; the faith delivered by him to the saints, is a most holy faith, wholesome words, doctrines according to godliness: as a Priest, he is holy and harmless, separate from sinners, and has offered up himself without spot to God; and though he makes intercession for transgressors, it is upon the foot of his sacrifice and righteousness: as a King, all his administrations are in purity and righteousness; and his laws, commands, and ordinances, are Holy Ones; and when he comes as judge of the world, he will appear without sin, and „judge the world in righteousness”.

2c. Thirdly, The holiness of the blessed Spirit, is visible in the formation of the human nature of Christ; in separating that mass out of which it was framed in the virgin; in sanctifying it, and preserving it from the taint and contagion of original sin; in filling the human nature, when formed, with his holy gifts and graces, and that without measure; and through him it was offered up without spot; and he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the Spirit of holiness, through the resurrection from the dead. Moreover, his holiness is manifest in the sanctification of the chosen of God, and the redeemed of the Lamb, which is therefore called, „the sanctification of the Spirit”, #2Th 2:13 1Pe 1:2 in convincing them of sin, of the evil nature and just demerit of it; in converting them from it; in calling them with an holy calling, and to holiness; in implanting principles of grace and holiness in them; in purifying their hearts by faith, through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; in leading them in the way of holiness, in which men, though fools, shall not err; and in carrying on, and perfecting the work of sanctification in them, „without which none shall see the Lord”.
–End of Chapter–


Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 21:

Of The Justice Or Righteousness Of God

Concerning this attribute of God, I shall,

1. First, Show that it does belong to him, and is natural and essential to him. The scriptures do abundantly ascribe it to him; all rational creatures, angels and men, good and bad, acknowledge it in him, #Re 16:5 Ex 9:27 Jer 12:1 Da 9:9 Ps 145:7 and remove all unrighteousness from him, and affirm there is none in him, #Ps 92:15 #Ro 9:14. And, indeed, without this attribute, he would not be fit to be the Governor of the world, and the judge of the whole earth; his government would be tyranny, and not yield that pleasure and delight to the inhabitants of it, it does; the reason of which is, because „righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne”, #Ps 97:1,2. And from his love of righteousness, and constant performance of it, it may be concluded it is natural to him; as what is loved by men, and constantly done by them, shows it to be agreeable to the nature of them, #Ps 11:7 9:4 and, indeed, it is originally and essentially in God; it is in and of himself, and not of another; it is his nature and essence, and is not derived from another. Adam was righteous, but not of himself, God made him upright, or righteous; saints are righteous, not by their own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. But God is righteous in and of himself; his righteousness is essential and inderivative, and is incommunicable to a creature; it is not that by which men are made righteous, as Osiander dreamed; for though he who is Jehovah is their righteousness, yet not as he is Jehovah; for then they would be deified by him: the righteousness of God being his nature, is infinite and immutable; the righteousness of angels and men, in which they were created, was mutable; Adam lost his, and many of the angels lost theirs; but the „righteousness” of God is „like the great mountains”, as high, firm, and stable as they, and much more so, #Ps 36:6. Righteousness in creatures, is according to some law, which is the rule of it, and to which it is conformed, and is adequate so the law of God, which is holy, just, and true, is a rule of righteousness to men; but God has no law without himself, he is a law to himself; his nature and will the law and rule of righteousness to him. Some things are just, because he wills them, as such that are of a posture kind; and others he wills them because they are just, being agreeable to his nature and moral perfections. This is an attribute common to the three Persons in the Godhead, as it must be, since it is essential to Deity, and they partake of the same undivided nature and essence: hence the Father of Christ is called by him „righteous Father”, #Joh 17:25 and Christ, his Son; is called Jesus Christ „the righteous”, #1Jo 2:1 and no doubt can be made of its being proper to the Holy Spirit, who convinces men „of righteousness and of judgment”, #Joh 16:8. But,

2. Secondly, I shall next consider the various sorts, or branches of righteousness, which belong to God; for though it is but one in him, being his nature and essence; yet it may be considered as diversified, and as admitting of distinctions, with respect to creatures. Some distinguish it into righteousness of words, and righteousness of deeds. Righteousness of words lies in the fulfilment of his words, sayings, prophecies, and promises; and is no other than his veracity, truth, and faithfulness; which will be considered hereafter, as a distinct attribute. Righteousness of deeds, is either the rectitude, purity, and holiness of his nature; which appears in all his works and actions, and which has been treated of in the preceding chapter; or it is a giving that which belongs to himself, and to his creatures, what is each their due. So justice is defined by Cicero {1}, an affection of the mind, „Suum cuique tribuens”; giving to everyone his own. Thus God gives or takes to himself what is his due; or does himself justice, by making and doing all things for his own glory; and by not giving his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images: and he gives to his creatures what is due to them by the laws of creation, and governs them in justice and equity, and disposes of them and dispenses to them, in the same manner. Justice, among men, is sometimes distinguished into commutative and retributive. Commutative justice lies in covenants, compacts, agreements, commerce, and dealings with one another, in which one gives an equivalent in money or goods, for what he receives of another; and when integrity and uprightness are preserved, this is justice. But such sort of justice cannot have place between God and men; what he gives, and they receive from him, is of free favour and good will; and what they give to him, or he receives from them, is no equivalent for what they have from him; „What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” #Ps 116:12 nothing that is answerable to them. Besides, God has a prior right to everything a creature has or can give; „Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” #Ro 11:35. Retributive justice is a distribution either of rewards or punishments; the one may be called remunerative justice, the other punitive justice; and both may be observed in God.

2a. Remunerative justice, or a distribution of rewards; the rule of which is not the merits of men, but his own gracious promise; for he first, of his own grace and good will, makes promises, and then he is just and righteous in fulfilling them; for God, as Austin {2} expresses it,

„makes himself a debtor, not by receiving anything from us, but by promising such and such things to us.”

And his justice lies in fulfilling his promises made to such and such persons, doing such and such things; and not in rewarding any supposed merits of theirs. Thus, for instance, „The man that endures temptation shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him”, #Jas 1:12 but the crown of life is not given according to any merit of it arising from enduring temptation, or loving the Lord; but in consequence of the promise of God graciously made to such persons, for their encouragement thereunto. Moreover, the reward is not of debt, but of grace; or God, in the distribution of rewards to men, rewards not their works, but his own grace; he first gives grace, and then rewards that grace with glory; called, „the reward of the inheritance”, #Col 3:24. And this seems to be no other than the inseparable connection between grace and glory, adopting grace, and the heavenly inheritance; which, he having of his own grace put, does in justice inviolably maintain. Indeed, the remunerative justice of God is sometimes represented in scripture, as rendering to every man according to his deeds, or as his work shall be, #Ro 2:5, -7,10 Re 22:12. But still it is to be observed, that the reward given or rendered, is owing, to the promise that is made to them for godliness, whether as a principle of grace, or as practised under the influence of grace; or godly persons have „the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come”, #1Ti 4:8 which promise is punctually and righteously performed. Besides, God does not reward the works and godly actions of men, as meritorious in themselves; but as they are the fruits of his own grace; who works in them both „to will and to do” of his own pleasure; and therefore he is „not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love”; which springs from love, is done in faith, and with a view to his glory, #Heb 6:10. Moreover, the works according to which God renders eternal life, are not mens’ own personal works; between which, and eternal life, there is no proportion; but the works of righteousness done by Christ, of which his obedience and righteousness consist; and which being done by him, on their account, as their Head and Representative, are reckoned to them; and, according to these, the crown of righteousness is given them by the Lord, as a righteous Judge, in a way of righteousness, #2Ti 4:8.

2b. Punitive, or vindictive justice, belongs to God; It is a righteous thing with God to render tribulation to them that trouble” his people, #2Th 1:6 and so to inflict punishment for any other sin committed by men; and this has been exercised by him in all ages from the beginning of the world; and has appeared in casting down from heaven to hell the angels that sinned; in drowning the old world; in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah; in the plagues on Egypt, on Pharaoh and his host; the righteousness of which was acknowledged, in some of the instances of it, by that wicked king, #Ex 9:27 in each of the captivities of the Jews, and in the destruction of that people; and in the judgments of God on many other nations, in each of the periods of time; and as will be seen in the destruction of antichrist and the antichristian states; the righteousness of which will be ascribed to God by the angel of the waters, and by all his people, #Re 16:5,6 19:1,2 and in the eternal punishment and everlasting destruction of ungodly men: and this righteousness is natural and essential to God; but this the Socinians {3} deny, because they do not choose to embrace the doctrine of the necessity of Christ’s satisfaction for sin, which, if granted, they must give into. But that punitive, or vindictive justice, is essential to God, or that he not only will not let sin go unpunished, but that he cannot but punish sin, is manifest,

2b1. From the light of nature: hence the accusations of the natural conscience in men for sins committed; the fears of divine vengeance falling upon them for it, here or hereafter; the many ways and means devised to appease angry Deity, and to avert punishment, some absurd, and others shocking; to which may be added, the name of dikh, vengeance, or justice, punitive justice, the heathens give to deity; see #Ro 2:14,15 Ac 28:4.

2b2. From the word of God, and the proclamation which God himself has made; in which, among other essential perfections of his, this is one, that he will by no means clear the guilty, and not at all acquit the wicked, #Ex 34:6,7 Nu 14:18 Na 1:3.

2b3. From the nature of God, „who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity”; cannot bear it, but hates it, and the workers of it; which hatred is no other than his punishment of it, #Heb 1:13 Isa 1:13, 14 Ps 5:5, 6. Now as his love of righteousness is natural and essential to him; so must hatred of sin be; to which may be added, that „he is a consuming fire”, #Heb 12:29.

2b4. From the nature of sin, and the demerit of it, eternal death, everlasting punishment and destruction. Now if sin of itself, in its own nature, merits such punishment at the hands of God, he is obliged to inflict it; or otherwise there can be no demerit in it.

2b5. From the law of God; the sanction of it, and the veracity of God in it: sin is a transgression of the law; which God, as a lawgiver, cannot but punish; otherwise his legislative power and authority is of no effect, and would be despised: he has annexed a sanction to his law, which is death; and his veracity obliges him to inflict it; nor is it any objection to all this, that then all sinners must be necessarily punished; since the perfections of God, though natural to him, the acts and exercises of them are according to his will; as has been instanced in his omnipotence and mercy. Besides, it will be readily allowed, and even affirmed, that no sin goes unpunished; but is either punished in the sinner himself, or in his Surety. The reason why some are not punished in themselves, is, because Christ has made satisfaction for their sins, by bearing the punishment due unto them. Hence,

2b6. From sin being punished in Christ, the Surety of his people, it may be strongly concluded, that punitive justice is essential to God; or otherwise, where is the goodness of God to his own Son, that he should not spare him, but awake the sword of justice against him, and inflict the whole of punishment on him, due to the sins of those for whom he suffered, if he could not have punished sin, or this was not necessary? and, indeed, where is his wisdom in being at such an expense as the blood and life of his Son, if sin could have been let go unpunished, and the salvation of his people obtained without it? and where is the love of God to men, in giving Christ for them, for their remission and salvation, so much magnified, when all this might have been without it? but without shedding of blood, as there is no remission, so none could be, consistent with the justice of God; no pardon nor salvation, without satisfaction to that: could it have been in another way, the prayer of Christ would have brought it out, „Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass me”, #Mt 26:39. But,

3. Thirdly, I shall next consider the displays of the righteousness of God in his works; and vindicate his justice in them; for „the Lord is righteous in all his ways”, #Ps 145:17.

3a. In his ways and works of providence: he governs the world in righteousness, orders and disposes of all things in judgment; and though he does according to his sovereign will and pleasure in heaven and in earth, yet he acts according to the strictest rules of justice and equity; „Just and true are his ways”; „he is the Judge of all the earth, who will do right”, #Re 15:3 Ge 18:25 and does do it; nor is he chargeable with any unrighteousness in any of his ways and works: men may wrongly charge him, and say, as the house of Israel did; „the way of the Lord is not equal”; when it is their ways that are unequal, and not his, #Eze 18:29 nor is it any sufficient objection to the righteousness of God in his providences, that good men are often afflicted, and wicked men are frequently in very prosperous circumstances: these things have been stumbling and puzzling to good men, and they have not been able to reconcile them to the justice of God; see #Ps 73:4-13 #Jer 12:1,2. As for the afflictions of God’s people, these are not punishments for sins, but chastisements of them; were they indeed punishments for sin, it would argue injustice, for it would be unjust to punish twice for the same sins; once in their Surety, and again in themselves: but so it is not; their afflictions come not from God as a judge, but as a father; and not from his justice, but his love; and not to their detriment and injury, but for their good. In short, they are chastened by the Lord, that they might not be condemned with the world, #1Co 11:32. And as for the prosperity of the wicked, though their eyes stand out with fatness, and they have more than heart can wish, yet they are like beasts that are fattened for the slaughter; their judgment may seem to linger, and their damnation to slumber, but they do not; sudden destruction will come upon them; the tables will, ere long, be turned, and the saints, who have now their evil things, will be comforted; and the wicked, who have now their good things, will be tormented: justice, though it may not so apparently take place now, it will hereafter; when all things will be set to rights, and the judgments of God will be manifest. There is a future state, when the justice of God will shine in all its glory.

3b. God is righteous in all his ways and works and acts of grace; in the predestination of men, the choice of some, and the preterition of others. While the apostle is treating on this sublime subject, he stops and asks this question, „Is there unrighteousness with God?” and answers it with the utmost abhorrence and detestation, „God forbid!” Election is neither an act of justice nor of injustice, but of the sovereign will and pleasure of God, who does what he will with his own; gives it to one, and not to another, without any imputation of injustice: if he may give grace and glory to whom he will, without such a charge, then he may determine to give it without any. If it is no injustice in men to choose their own favourites, friends, confidants, and companions; it can be none in God to choose whom he pleases to bestow his favours on; to indulge with communion with himself now, and to dwell with him to all eternity: if it was no injustice to choose some of the angels, called elect angels, and pass by others; and even to condemn all that sinned, without showing mercy to one individual of them; it can be no injustice in him to choose some of the race of men, and save them, and pass by others, when he could have condemned them all. Nor can the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, be accounted an unrighteous action. God made man upright, he made himself a sinner: God gave him a righteous law, and abilities to keep it; he voluntarily broke it: God constituted the first man the federal head and representative of all his posterity; and who so fit for this as their natural head and common parent, with and in whom they were to stand and fall; and what injustice could be in that; since had he stood they would have partook of the benefits of it; as now he fell they share in the miseries of it? and since they sinned in him, it can be no unrighteous thing to reckon it to them; or that they should be made and constituted sinners, by his disobedience. It is not reckoned unjust, among men, for children to be punished for the sins of their parents, and particularly treason; and what else is sin against God? #Ex 20:5. The justice of God shines brightly in redemption by Christ; „Zion, and her converts, are redeemed in righteousness”; a full price is paid for the redemption of them; and in it „mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other”: and though it is not for all men, no injustice is done to them that are not redeemed; for if God could in justice have condemned all, it can be no act of injustice to redeem and save some. Suppose one hundred slaves in Algiers, and a man out of his great generosity, lays down a ransom price for fifty of them, does he, by this act of distinguished goodness and generosity, do any injustice to the others? or can they righteously complain of him for not ransoming them? In the justification of men, by the righteousness of Christ, the justice of God is very conspicuous; for though God justifies the ungodly, yet not without a perfect righteousness, such as is adequate to the demands of his righteous law; even the righteousness of his own Son, in the imputation of which, and justification by it, he appears to be „just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus”, #Ro 3:26. Though God forgives sin, yet not without a satisfaction made to his justice; though it is according to the riches of his grace, yet through the blood of Christ shed for it; and upon the ground of the shedding of that blood, God „is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, #1Jo 1:9 and so it is both an act of grace and of justice; as is eternal glory and happiness, being the free gift of God, through Christ and his righteousness.
–End of Chapter–


{1} De Finibus, l. 5.

{2} Enarrat. in Psalm cix. tom. 8. p. 521.

{3} Socin. de Servatore, par. 1. c. 1. Praelection. Theolog. c. 16. Crellius de Deo, „ejusqque attributis”, c. 25. in fine.

Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 22:

Of The Veracity Of God

The apostle says, „Let God be true, and every man a liar”, #Ro 3:4 this must be affirmed of him, whatever is said of creatures, he is true and truth itself.

1. God is true in and of himself: this epithet, or attribute, is expressive,

1a. Of the reality of his being; he truly and really exists: this is what every worshipper of him must believe, #Heb 11:6. Creatures have but a shadow of being, in comparison of his; „Every man walks in a vain show”, or image; rather in appearance than in reality, #Ps 39:6 but the existence of God is true, real, and substantial; hence he has the name Jehovah, „I AM that I AM”; which denotes the truth, eternity, and immutability of his essence. What seems to be, and is not, is not true; what seems to be, and is, is true.

1b. Of the truth of his Deity; he is the true and the living God; so he is often called, #2Ch 15:3 Jer 10:10 1Th 1:9 in opposition to fictitious deities; who either have reigned themselves such, or are feigned so by others; gods only by name, not by nature; of which there have been many: but the true God is but one, and in distinction from such who are called gods in a figurative and metaphorical sense, gods by office under God; as Moses was to Pharaoh, and as kings, judges, and civil magistrates be, #Ex 7:1 #Ps 82:1,6,7. But the Lord is God in a true and proper sense.

1c. This title includes the truth and reality of all his perfections; he is not only omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, and immutable, but he is truly so: what is falsely claimed by others, or wrongly given to them, is really in him; he is not only good and gracious, holy and just, but he is truly so; what others only appear to be, he is really.

1d. This may be predicated of each Person in the Godhead; the Father is the only true God, #Joh 17:3 though not to the exclusion of the Son, who is also the true God and eternal life; nor of the holy Spirit, who is truth; and who, with the Father and the Son, is the one true and living God, #1Jo 5:20,6,7. –This attribute of truth removes from the divine nature everything imperfect and sinful: it is opposed to unrighteousness, #De 32:4 and has the epithet of just or holy along with it, when God is spoken of in his persons, ways, and works, #Re 3:7 6:10 15:3 16:7 19:2 it removes from him all imputation of lying and falsehood; he is not a man, that he should lie, as men do; the Strength of „Israel will not” lie; yea, he is God that „cannot” lie; it is even „impossible” that he should, #Nu 23:19 1Sa 15:29 Tit 1.2 Heb 6:18 this frees him from all deception, he can neither deceive nor be deceived; Jeremiah, indeed, says, „O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived”, #Jer 20:7 but this must be understood either as a misapprehension and mistake of the prophet; or the sense is, if I am deceived, God has deceived me; but as that cannot be, therefore I am not deceived: though rather the words may be rendered, „thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded”, to enter upon his prophetic office, and to proceed on in the execution of it. Moreover this attribute clears God of the charge of insincerity, hypocrisy, and dissimulation, which, if in him, he could not be true. Nor on the supposition of his decree to save some men, and not all, are his declarations chargeable with anything of that kind; as that he has no pleasure in the death of him that dies, and that he will have all men to be saved, #Eze 18:32 1Ti 2:4 since the former respects not eternal death, but the captivity of the Jews, their return from it, upon their obedience, to their own land, and living in it. And the latter respects the will of God to save some of all sorts, of every rank and condition in life, and particularly Gentiles as well as Jews. In short, it removes all unfaithfulness from God, or any shadow of it: it strongly expresses the faithfulness of God; hence „true” and „faithful” are joined together, when the sayings or words of God are spoken of; nor is it any objection to the veracity of God, when what he has promised or threatened is not done; since thereunto a condition is either openly annexed or secretly understood; see #Jer 18:7-10 but the faithfulness of God, in his promises, &c. will be distinctly considered hereafter. Concerning the veracity of God, let the following things be observed:

1d1. That it is essential to him, it is his very nature and essence; he is truth itself; he is not only called the God of truth, but „God the truth”, #De 32:4 and so Christ asserts himself to be the „truth”, #Joh 14:6 and the Spirit is likewise so called, #1Jo 5:6. To be false, fallacious, and insincere, would be to act contrary to his nature, even to deny himself; which he cannot do.

1d2. It is most pure and perfect in him; as in him is light, and no darkness at all; he is righteous, and no unrighteousness is in him; is holy, and no unholiness in him; is good, and no evil in him; is wisdom, and no folly nor weakness in him; so he is truth, and no falsehood in him, not the least mixture nor appearance of it.

1d3. It is first, chief, and original in him; it is first in him, as he is the first cause; it is chief, as it is perfect in him, and all truth is originally from him; natural and rational truth, which is clear and self-evident to the mind: as the Being of God, from the works of his hands, called the truth of God made manifest in men, and showed unto them, #Ro 1:18-20,25. Moral truth, by which men know, in some measure, though sadly depraved, the difference between moral good and moral evil, #Ro 2:14,15. Spiritual truth, truth in the inward parts, or the true grace of God; and evangelical truth, the word of truth, and the several doctrines of it; these are not of men, but of God. All untruth is from Satan, the father of lies; but all truth is from the God of truth, and from the Spirit, who leads into all truth, as it is in Jesus.

1d4. Truth, as in God, is eternal; what is truth now, was always truth with him in his eternal mind; for „known to him are all his works from the beginning”, or from eternity, #Ac 15:18 as also his „word is true from the beginning”, or from eternity, #Ps 119:160. What is true with us today, might not be true yesterday, and will not be true tomorrow, because things are in a succession with us, and are so known by us; but not so with God, in whose eternal mind all things stand in one view; and besides, as veracity is his nature, his essence, it must be eternal, since that is, which contains all truth in it; and his truth will be to all generations, even for ever, #Ps 100:5 117:2.

1d5. It is immutable and invariable, as he himself, as his nature is; truth does not always appear in the same light to men; at first more obscurely, then more clearly; it has its gradations and increase; but in God is always the same: creatures are mutable, fallacious, and deceitful; but God is the same, true and faithful, yesterday, today, and for ever. An attribute on account of which he is greatly to be praised and celebrated, #Ps 89:5 Isa 38:19.

2. God is true in his works; or all his works are true, and his veracity is displayed in them; and these are either internal or external.

2a. Internal acts within himself; some relative to himself, to the divine persons, their modes of subsisting, and distinction from each other; as paternity, filiation, and spiration; which are true and real things: the Father is truly and properly the Father of Christ, and not in name only; and Christ is his own proper Son, not in a figurative sense, or by office, as magistrates are called the children of the most High; but the Son of the Father „in truth” and love, #2Jo 1:3 and the Spirit of truth is really breathed, and proceeds from the Father and the Son, #Joh 15:26 others are relative to creatures; the decrees of God within himself, which are the secret actings and workings of his mind, the thoughts of his heart, the deep things of God, his counsels of old, which are „faithfulness” and „truth”; truly made, and truly performed, #Isa 25:1.

2b. External works, as the works of creation, providence, and grace, which are all true, and real things; and in which the veracity of God appears, both in making and in continuing them.

2b1. The works of creation, the heavens and the earth, which are both his handy work, and all that are in them; in which the invisible perfections of his nature are displayed and discerned, his eternal power and Godhead, and his veracity among the rest. The heavens above us, the sun, moon, and stars we behold, and the earth on which we live, are real, and not imaginary, they truly exist. Satan pretended to show to Christ „all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them”, #Mt 4:8 but this was a false and delusive representation, a „deceptio visus”, by which he would have imposed on Christ, but could not.

2b2. The works of providence; those in an ordinary way, by which God governs the world, and disposes of all things according to truth and righteousness; and such as are of an extraordinary kind, as those done by the hands of Moses, in Egypt; and by Christ and his apostles: these were real things, to answer some wise ends and purposes in the world; when those done by the magicians were only in show, in appearance, and by a sort of legerdemain; as those done by antichrist, in the sight of men, as they imagine, whereby he deceives them that dwell on the earth; and therefore are called „lying wonders”, feigned things, which have no truth in them, #Re 13:13,14 2Th 2:9, 10 but the wonderful works of God are true, and without deceit, as are all his judgments he executes by the sword, famine, pestilence, &c.

2b3. The works of grace done by him, his acts of grace, both in eternity and time; his choice of persons to eternal life, is true, firm, and real, the foundation of God, which stands sure; the covenant of grace, made in Christ, full of blessings and promises, faithfully performed; the mission of Christ into the world, and his incarnation, who was really made flesh, and dwelt among men; the truth of which the apostle confirms by the various senses of seeing, hearing, and handling, #1Jo 1:1. Justification by his righteousness is really imputed to his people, and by which they truly become righteous; and not in a putative and imaginary sense; pardon by his blood, which is not merely typical, as by the blood of slain beasts, but real; atonement by the sacrifice of himself, which he really and truly offered up to God; and sanctification by the Spirit, which is the new man, created in righteousness and true holiness; and not outward, typical, and ceremonial, nor feigned and hypocritical: and adoption, by which the saints are now really the sons of God; though it does not yet appear what they shall be; and to which the Spirit bears a true and real witness; and which is unto an inheritance, real, solid, and substantial.

3. God is true in his words, in his essential Word, his Son, who was „in the beginning with God”; had a true and real existence with him, and was God, really and truly God; he is true in his person and natures, the true God and eternal life, who took unto him a true body and a reasonable soul; and whose human nature is the true tabernacle God pitched, and not man: true in his offices he bears; the true prophet raised up and sent of God, the true light, that lightens men in every sense; the true priest, not of the order of Aaron, but of the order of Melchizedek; the true and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords; the true Mediator between God and men, and not a typical one, as Moses.

God is true in his written word; the scriptures are the scriptures of truth, even the whole of them, #Da 10:21 they are given by inspiration from God, are the breath of God, who is the God of truth, and therefore to be received, „not as the word of man, but as in truth the word of God”, #1Th 2:13 the legal part of them is truth; the apostle speaks of the „truth in the law”, known by men, #Ro 2:20 there is not a precept in it but what is true and right; „The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether”, #Ps 19:9. And the gospel part of them is eminently the word of truth, #Eph 1:13 and all the doctrines of it, which are „pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times”, #Ps 12:6. And the truth and veracity of God appears in the fulfilment of the predictions, promises, and threatenings contained in his word, which is the same with his faithfulness; which we shall particularly treat of in the next chapter, being naturally led to it; the veracity of God is the foundation of his faithfulness; and his faithfulness is a branch of that; and they are often put one for the other, and signify the same thing.
–End of Chapter–


Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 23:

Of The Faithfulness Of God

Faithfulness is an attribute that belongs to God; from whence he is denominated the „faithful God”, #De 7:9. It is essential to him, and without which he would not be God; to be unfaithful, would be to act contrary to his nature, to deny himself, #2Ti 2:13 an unfaithful God would be no God at all; it is a most glorious perfection of his nature; it is „great”, like himself; yea, it is infinite; „Great is thy faithfulness”, #La 3:23 it relies to all persons and things God has any concern with; it is all around him; he is, as it were, clothed and covered with it; and there is none in any creature like unto it, #Ps 89:8. There is faithfulness in the holy angels, and in good men, but not like what is in God; and therefore he puts no trust in them, #Job 4:18 his faithfulness is invariably the same; it has never failed in anyone instance, nor never will; it is established in the heavens, and will continue to all generations, #Ps 89:2,24,33 119:90 Jos 23:14 otherwise there would be no firm foundation for trust and confidence in him; but he is the „faithful Creator”, and covenant God and Father of his people; to whom they may safely commit themselves, and depend upon him for all mercies promised, both temporal and spiritual, #1Pe 4:19 1Th 5:23,24 for the faithfulness of God chiefly lies in the performance of his word, which is certain, with respect to all that is spoken by him; for „hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Verily he will, #Nu 23:19 Lu 1:45. And it appears,

1. First, In the performance of what he has said with respect to the world in general; as, that it shall never more be destroyed by a flood, as it once was; and for a token and confirmation of it, God has set the rainbow in the cloud; and now four thousand years are gone since the covenant was made; and God has been faithful to it, though the earth has been sometimes threatened with destruction by violent storms, and sudden inundations; see #Ge 9:11-16 Isa 54:9. Also that the ordinances of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, shall not depart, but always continue in their being, use, and influence; and now they have kept their course, or station, and have done their office, exactly and punctually, for almost six thousand years; see #Jer 31:35,36 33:25. Likewise that the revolutions of the time, and seasons of the year, should keep their constant course; that, „while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease”, #Ge 8:22 and so it has always been, and still is, in one part of the world or another, according to the different climates. Remarkable was the faithfulness of God to the Jewish nation, in that their land required rain only at two seasons of the year, and God promised it to them, and which they always had; though sometimes so ungrateful as not to fear him who gave them rain, „both the former and the latter, in his season”, and „reserved” for them „the appointed weeks of the harvest”, #Jer 5:24 see #De 11:14,15 and whereas God has given reason to expect that his creatures should be preserved in their being, and provided for by him, with the necessaries of life; he has not left himself without a witness to his faithfulness, in all ages and nations, giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons; and so filling the hearts of his creatures with food and gladness; whose eyes all of them wait upon him, and he gives them their meat in due season, #Ac 14:17 Ps 36:5,6 145:15,16. And from all this it may be strongly concluded, that whatsoever God has said concerning the world, which is yet to be fulfilled, shall be most certainly done; as the judgment of it, the end and consummation of all things in it, the conflagration of it, and the making new heavens and a new earth, wherein will dwell righteousness, #2Pe 3:7-13.

2. Secondly, The faithfulness of God appears in the fulfilment of what he has said with respect to Christ, and the salvation of men by him; both of what he has said of him, and of what he has said to him: and, indeed, the faithfulness of God is displayed in Christ as in a mirror.

2a. In the performance of what he has said of him; as that he should be born of a woman, be of the seed of Abraham, spring from the tribe of Judah, arise out of the family of David, be born of a virgin at Bethlehem, and converse much in Galilee, #Ge 3:15 22:18 #Ge 49:10 2Sa 7:12,13 Mic 5:2 Isa 7:14 9:1,2 and suffer, and die, and work out the salvation of his people, #Ps 22:1-31 Isa 53:1-12 #Isa 25:9 35:4 49:6 all which has been fully accomplished, #Mt 1:1,18-23 2:5,6,8,11,22,23 4:13-16 Lu 1:68-72 1Co 15:3.

2b. In the performance of what he said to Christ, or promised him; as that he would help him, and strengthen him, as man and mediator, in the great work of redemption and salvation; and which help and strength Christ expected, and believed he should have, and had it, #Ps 89:21 Isa 50:7,9 49:8 and that though he should die, and be laid in the grave and buried; yet he would raise him from the dead, and that on the third day; and which was accordingly done, #Ps 16:10 Ho 6:2 1Co 15:4 and that when he had done his work, being delivered unto death for the sins of his people, and raised again for their justification, he should be glorified at his right hand, in his human nature; and accordingly, Christ having done his work, pleaded this promise, and it was fulfilled, #Ps 110:1 Joh 17:4,5 Php 2:9,10 and that he should see his seed have a numerous offspring, which should continue to the end of the world, #Isa 53:10 Ps 89:4,29,36 and which has been accomplished in the numerous conversions both among Jews and Gentiles, in the first ages of Christianity; and which have continued, more or less, ever since; and will still more manifestly appear when the nation of the Jews shall be born at once, and the fulness of the Gentiles be brought in.

2c. The faithfulness of God is displayed in the person, office, and works of Christ. This, as all other divine perfections, is common to each person in the Godhead, and shines resplendently in the Son of God, „the brightness of his Father’s glory”, who has every perfection the Father has; so that he that has seen the Son has seen the Father, the same perfections being in the one as in the other, and this of faithfulness among the rest; which is to be seen in Christ as in a mirror, or glass; and an estimate may in some measure be taken, and judgment made of the faithfulness of God, by what appears in his Son; who has been „faithful to him that appointed him” to his office as Mediator. Moses was faithful in the house of God, as a servant; but Christ as a Son over his own house, #Heb 3:2-6 and whose faithfulness may be observed,

2c1. In the performance of his engagements: he engaged to be the Surety of his people; to stand in their place and stead; to do and suffer for them what should be required, and to take care of all their affairs and concerns for time and eternity; and accordingly, he is become the Surety of the better testament, #Heb 7:22 he engaged to be the Saviour and Redeemer of them; he is often spoken of as such in the Old Testament; that is, as one who had engaged to work out their redemption and salvation; and which he has now obtained, and become the author of, #Heb 5:9 9:12 he engaged to come into the world, in order to do this work, saying, „Lo, I come”; and he is come, and has done it; and that he came into the world, and has done this for sinners, the chief of sinners, is a „faithful saying”; in which the faithfulness of God in his promises, and of Christ in his engagements, is abundantly displayed, #1Ti 1:15 he engaged to come and fulfil the law, both its precepts and its penalty, and to become a sacrifice for sin; ceremonial sacrifices being insufficient, #Ps 40:6-8 and he is accordingly become the fulfilling „end of the law for righteousness to all that believe”; and has offered himself, soul and body, without spot to God; „a Sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour”; and whereby sin has been fully expiated and put away, #Ro 10:4 #Heb 9:14, 26 Heb 10:5-10 he engaged to pay off the debts of his people, and by being their Surety, become responsible for them, and to clear off all their scores; which he has done to the uttermost farthing, and blotted out the handwriting of ordinances against them. In short, he engaged to feed the flock of God, to take the whole care and oversight of it; and he does feed his flock like a shepherd, and has shown himself to be the good and faithful one, by laying down his life for the sheep, #Zec 11:4,7 Isa 40:11 #Joh 10:14.

2c2. The faithfulness of Christ is seen in his discharge of the trust reposed in him, which is very large and great; the Father hath „given all things into his hand”, #Joh 3:35 all the persons of his elect to be kept, preserved, and saved by him; and so they are and shall be, even everyone of them, whom Christ will present to his Father, and say, „Behold, I, and the children which God hath given me”; not one is lost, #Heb 2:13. Christ is entrusted with a fulness of grace, to supply the wants of his people; it has been his Father’s pleasure, that it should dwell in him for their use; he has deposited it with him, to communicate it to them, as they need it; and he has been faithful to do it, in all ages and generations; he has been to all his churches, and to all his saints, in every period of time, „A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon”, #So 4:15 saints both of the Old and New Testament, have „all received of his fulness, and grace for grace”, #Joh 1:16. Eternal life and happiness is in his hands, and he has a power to give it to as many as the Father has given him; and he is faithful in the use of that power, and does give it to all his sheep, so that none of them shall ever perish, #1Jo 5:11 Joh 17:2 10:28 yea, the glory of all the divine perfections, as concerned in the salvation of men, was entrusted with Christ; and he has been faithful „in things pertaining to God”, as well as in making „reconciliation for the sins of the people”; and in doing the one he has taken care of the other. The glory of God is great in the salvation of men, even of his justice and holiness; as well as of his wisdom, power, faithfulness, grace, and mercy, #Heb 2:17 Ps 20:5 85:10.

2c3. Christ has appeared to be faithful in the exercise of his offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King: in the exercise of his prophetical office; for which he was abundantly qualified, by lying in the bosom of his Father, and so privy to his whole mind and will, which he has faithfully declared; all that he heard of the Father, all the words and doctrines he gave him, as man, he made known to his disciples; in doing which, he sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him; and therefore must be true and faithful, and no unrighteousness or unfaithfulness in him, #Joh 1:18 7:16-18 15:15 17:8 and therefore is justly entitled to be called the Amen, and faithful Witness, #Re 3:14. In the exercise of his priestly office; in which he is faithful to him that appointed him; and rightly bears the character of a faithful high priest, in that he has offered up himself to make atonement for the sins of his people; and as the Advocate for them, even Jesus Christ the righteous, faithful, and true; and takes perfect care, in all things, of the house of God, over which he is a priest, #Heb 2:17 #Heb 3:1,2 10:21 9:14 1Jo 2:1. And in the exercise of his kingly office; all whose administrations in it are just and true; righteousness being the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins; and with great propriety is he called „faithful and true, since in righteousness he doth judge and make war”, #Re 15:3 19:11 #Isa 11:5.

2c4. The faithfulness of Christ is manifest in the fulfilment of his promises, which he made to his disciples; as, that he would not leave them comfortless, but come and see them; as he did, after his resurrection, and comforted them with his presence, and filled them with joy at the sight of him, #Joh 14:18 20:20 that they should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and therefore were bid to wait at Jerusalem for it, and where it was bestowed upon them, on the day of Pentecost, in a very large and extraordinary manner, #Ac 1:4 2:4,33, that he would be with them in the administration of his word and ordinances; and accordingly did go forth and work with them, confirming the word by signs following, #Mt 28:19, 20 Mr 16:20 yea, he has promised his presence with his ministers and churches to the end of the world, and that even „where two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be in the midst of them”, #Mt 18:20 28:20 and he makes his word good, which the experience of his ministers and people in all ages confirms: he has promised also to come again, and take his disciples and faithful followers to himself, that where he is they may be also; and which was not only verified in his immediate disciples, but in his saints in all ages, whom, when they have served their generation according to the will of God, he comes and takes them to himself, by death; and „to them that look for him, will he appear a second time, without sin, unto salvation”. #Joh 14:2,3 Heb 9:28.

2c5. The faithfulness of Christ may be observed in his concern with the covenant of grace, and the promises of it; the covenant was made with him as the Head and Representative of his people, and stands fast with him; all the blessings of it are lodged with him, and faithfully dispensed by him; the promises were made to him, who only actually existed when they were made, and to whom only they could be given; he was the Amen, and faithful Witness of them, of their being made; and they are Yea and Amen in him; by whose blood the blessings and promises of it are ratified and confirmed; and therefore called, „the blood of the everlasting covenant”: and it is in and through him that believers come to have an interest in the promises, a right unto them, and to be partakers of them, #Ps 89:3,24 Re 3:14 2Co 1:20 Heb 13:20 #Eph 3:6. And now by the faithfulness of Christ thus manifestly displayed, may be learnt somewhat more of the attribute of faithfulness, as it is in God. Which leads on to consider,

3. Thirdly, The faithfulness of God in the performance of what he has said in the covenant, and the promises of it, with respect to his special people. God is denominated „faithful”, from his keeping covenant and mercy with them, #De 7:9 every covenant God has made with man, he has been faithful in: he made a covenant with Adam, as the head and representative of his posterity, promising a continuance of happiness to him and his, provided he remained in his state of innocence; and threatening with death, in case of disobedience. Adam was unfaithful, and broke the covenant; „they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant”, #Ho 6:7. But God was faithful to it, and deprived him of his happiness, and pronounced the sentence of death on him and his. God made a covenant with Noah, and all the creatures, promising that he would no more destroy the world by a flood; and he has faithfully kept it, as before observed. He made a covenant with Abraham, that he would make him the father of many nations, and that kings should spring from him, and that he would give to his posterity the land of Canaan: the former part of which was verified in the Ishmaelites, Israelites, Edomites, Midianites, and others, with their kings, which were of him: and the latter part, by putting the people of Israel in possession of Canaan, by Joshua; which they held long by the tenure of their obedience, according to his promise; but when they broke the covenant, he destroyed them from it, as he threatened, #Ge 17:5,6 #Jos 21:43 23:16. He made a covenant at Sinai, with all the people of Israel; and, according to his engagements, continued to them their blessings, natural, civil, and religious; but they were not steadfast in his covenant, and he dispossessed them of them. But the grand and principal covenant, is the covenant of grace; which God has made in Christ with all his elect, and is ordered in all things, and sure; and which he will never break, and they cannot; and which will never be removed, but ever be inviolably kept; and there are promises of various sorts, which God has graciously made to his people, and which are faithfully performed by him.

3a. Some of a temporal nature; for „godliness” and godly men have „the promise of the life that now is”, of things belonging to it, as well as „of that which is to come”, #1Ti 4:8 these their heavenly Father knows they have need of, and therefore provides them for them, and promises them unto them. He has said, „that they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing”, #Ps 34:10 they shall have that which is good, as every creature of God is good, good food and good raiment; though it may be but mean, yet it is good, and better than the best of men deserve; and they want not any, that God, in his infinite wisdom, sees is good for them; for though they and others may think it would be better for them if they had a greater affluence of the things of this life; but God thinks otherwise, and knows it would be to their hurt, as sometimes riches are: he has bid his people „trust in the Lord, and do good”, and has promised, they „shall be fed”, #Ps 37:3 not all of them with dainties and delicious food, but with food convenient for them; he has assured them, their „bread shall be given them”, and their: „waters shall be sure”, #Isa 33:16 and this is sufficient to support and confirm his faithfulness: nor is the poverty of some of God’s people any objection to it, since he has nowhere promised them the riches of this world, and has given them no reason to expect them; but he has promised them better riches, durable riches, and righteousness, the riches of grace and glory, and these he gives to them; see a testimony from David’s experience of the faithfulness of God, with respect to temporal things, #Ps 37:25. God has not promised his people security from outward afflictions; but rather has suggested to them that they may look for them; since his people are described as a poor and afflicted people; and it is their common case; many are the afflictions of the righteous; it is what they are appointed to, and what are appointed for them; but then God has promised that they shall work for their good; either for their temporal good, as Jacob’s afflictions worked for his; or for their spiritual good, the exercise and increase of grace and holiness; and always for their eternal good, #2Co 4:17 and also that he will be with them in them, support them under them, and deliver out of them in due time: all which is faithfully performed by him, #1Co 10:13.

3b. Others are of a spiritual nature; and the principal of these is, and which is the sum of the covenant, „They shall be my people, and I will be their God”, #Jer 32:38 and which appears in their election, redemption, and the effectual calling; which is saying, that he has a special love and affection for them, and will continue it, as he does: nor are his chastisements of them, his hiding his face from them for a time, his displeasure at them, and being angry with them, any objection to the perpetuity of his love; since these are not contrary to it, but rather the fruits of it, and for their good: it signifies, that they shall have his gracious presence with them, and may expect it, and which they have; nor do their doubts, and fears, and complaints disprove it, #Isa 41:10 49:14-16 which are generally owing to their ignorance and unbelief; God is with them, and they know it; however, he is never far from them, nor long; he does not depart from them, nor withdraw his gracious presence from them totally and finally: it assures them of his protection, that he will be all around them, guard them, and secure them, preserve and keep them by his power, through faith unto salvation, as he does; for though they may fall into sin, yet they rise again by his grace; and though they fall into temptation, and by it, yet they are delivered out of it; they are kept from a final and total falling away; they are not of them that draw back unto perdition: in a word, this promise is expressive of their enjoyment of God here, and for evermore; and he is their shield, and exceeding great reward; their portion in life, at death, and for ever; their all in all.

There are many particular spiritual promises made to the people of God; and which are made good by him; as, that he will sprinkle clean water upon them, and cleanse them from all their sins; which is to be understood of justifying grace, through the blood of Christ; that he will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more; and he is just in doing it, upon the account of the blood of his Son, and faithful to his own promise, #1Jo 1:9 that he will give them new hearts and new spirits, which he does in regeneration; and take away the heart of stone, and give an heart of flesh; as he does, when he removes the hardness of the heart, and gives evangelical repentance unto life; that he will put his laws in them, and write them in their minds; not only give knowledge of them, but both a disposition and grace to observe them; working in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure: that he will put his Spirit into them, and give them spiritual strength to keep his statutes, and perform every duty; that he will carry on his good work of grace in them, and perform it, until the day of Christ; of which they may be confident, since he has promised it; that he will give them more grace, a sufficiency of it, and supply all their need out of the fulness in Christ; and that his fear shall be continually in their hearts; and they shall not depart from him, but persevere in faith and holiness to the end. All which promises, and more, are faithfully and truly performed in all his people; see #Jer 31:33,34 #Jer 32:38-40 Eze 36:25-27.

3c. There are other promises which respect the life to come; the eternal happiness of the saints in another world: the apostle speaks of the promise of this, „as the promise”, by way of eminency, as if it was the only promise, or, however, the principal one, in which all others issue and end; „This is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life”, #1Jo 2:25 and this is an ancient one, made before the world began, and by God, that „cannot lie”, #Tit 1:2 who is faithful and true, and will most certainly perform it; wherefore, „Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him”, #Jas 1:12.

4. Fourthly, The faithfulness of God appears in fulfilling his threatenings, as well as his promises. God threatened Adam, that in the day he eat of the forbidden fruit, he should surely die; and he immediately became mortal, death began at once to work in him; his soul was seized directly with a spiritual or moral death, guilt, and terror of conscience, a sense of divine wrath, and deprivation of the divine presence, and he became liable to eternal death; nor had he any reason to expect any other, until he heard that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head; and the sentence of death passed on him, and all his posterity in him, as soon as he had sinned, according to the divine threatening, #Ro 5:12. God threatened the inhabitants of the old world with a flood to destroy them, for their impiety and wickedness; and though his patience and forbearance were for a long time exercised, yet he was faithful to his word, and brought it upon the world of the ungodly, and destroyed them all. God threatened the people of Israel with captivity, and other judgments, if they walked not in his ways, and broke his statutes; of which see #Le 26:1-46 De 28:1-68 all which grievous threatenings, and sore judgments, have been exactly fulfilled in that people, and remain to this day; who are a standing proof of God’s faithfulness in this respect. And as God has threatened men with the burning of the world, and the works of it, and the wicked in it; and damnation to all unbelieving and impenitent sinners, they may be assured of it, and expect it; for as it is most true, and may be depended upon, that „he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved”; so it is equally as true, and as surely to be depended on, that „he that believeth not, shall be damned”, #Mr 16:16. Nor is it any objection to the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his threatenings, that Nineveh was spared, when it was threatened, that in forty days it should be overthrown; since there was a condition implied, a secret proviso made, „except they repented”; and which their hope of mercy, and the mercy shown them upon their repentance, fully confirm; and so the veracity and faithfulness of God is sufficiently secured; and, indeed, in many promises and threatenings, respecting temporal things, a condition is either openly expressed, or secretly understood; according to which God in providence proceeds, #Jer 18:7-10.
–End of Chapter–


Doctrinal Divinity~Book 1

Chapter 24:

Of The Sufficiency And Perfection Of God

From this attribute of God, he has one of his names, „Shaddai”, which signifies, who is sufficient, or all-sufficient; of which see 4topic on 780. Three things may be observed under this attribute.

1. That God is a self-sufficient Being, and needs not anything from without himself to support himself, or to make himself happy. He is the „first” of Beings, the first and the last; before him there was no God formed, nor will be any after him; from everlasting to everlasting he is God; and therefore his existence is not owing to any; nor has he received any assistance or support from any; being self-existent, he must be self-subsistent; as he existed of himself, and subsisted in and of himself, millions and millions of ages, even an eternity, inconceivable to us, alone, before any other existed, he must be self-sufficient, and as then, so to all eternity {1}. He is an „infinite” and „all-comprehending” Being; to what is infinite nothing can be added: if anything was wanting in him he would be finite; if there was any excellency in another, which is not in him, he would not be infinite, and so not God: being infinite, he is incomprehensible by others; and comprehends in himself all excellencies, perfections, and happiness; and therefore self-sufficient; „Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again for of him, and through him, and for him are all things”, #Ro 11:35,36. God is the „summum bonum”, the chief good, and has all that is good in him; he is good essentially, originally, and inderivatively; the source and fountain of all goodness; every good and perfect gift comes from him, #Jas 1:17 and therefore must have a fulness of goodness in him sufficient for himself, as well as for his creatures, and can receive nothing from them; otherwise he would not be the independent Being he is: all have their dependence on him, and owe their being, and the preservation of it, to him; but he depends on none; which he would, if he stood in need of, or received anything from them. He is possessed of all perfections, as has been abundantly showed in the preceding chapters, and is sufficiently happy in them; he is perfect and entire, wanting nothing, and therefore self-sufficient {2}: he is the Fountain; creatures, and what they have, are streams; and it would be as absurd for him to need them, or anything from them, as for the fountain to need its streams. Besides, God in his divine persons, God Father, Son and Spirit, have enough within themselves, to give the utmost, yea, infinite complacency, delight, and satisfaction among themselves, and to one another, and had before any creatures were made, and would have had if none had been made, and so ever will; the Father delighted in the Son, „the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”; the Son in the Father, before whom he was always rejoicing, when as yet no creature existed; and both in the blessed Spirit, proceeding from them; and he in them, see #Pr 8:30 for creation adds nothing at all to the perfection and happiness of God, nor makes the least alteration in him. It is indeed said, „Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”, #Re 4:11 but pleasure there does not signify delight, satisfaction, and happiness; as if they were made for the sake of that in God; to add unto it, and increase it; but the good will and pleasure of God; it is dia to yelhma sou, and should be rendered, „by thy will they are and were created: God has made all things for himself; that is, for his glory, his manifestative glory; but then this adds nothing to his essential glory and happiness; the heavens, and so the other parts of the creation, declare his glory; but to whom? not to himself, he needs no such declaration; he knows perfectly his own glory, which is always invariably the same; but to angels and men, that they may contemplate it, and receive benefit by it. The invisible perfections of God, his eternal power and Godhead, are seen and understood by the things that are made; but not by God himself, who needs no such glass to view them in; but by men; and the design thereof is, to make some better and happier, and others inexcusable. All creatures stand in need of God to supply them and support them; they consist in him, are upheld by the word of his power, live, and move, and have their beings in him; but he stands in need of none of them, being self-sufficient.

And as he does not stand in need of the creation in general, so not of men and angels in particular; not of men, nor of any services of theirs, which can add nothing to his perfection and happiness; not of their worship, for he is „not worshipped with mens’ hands, as though he needed anythings” {3}, no not their worship, #Ac 17:25 he is and ought to be the sole object of their worship; it is their duty to worship him, and that in a spiritual manner, suitable to his nature as a Spirit; but then not he, but they are the gainers by it; the ordinances of divine service under the former dispensation were, and those under the present are, for the instruction, edification, comfort, and peace of the worshippers, who are hereby led into communion with God, and the enjoyment of his gracious presence; and so find it is good for them to wait upon him in them. But what benefit does he receive thereby? he stands in no need of their prayers; it is both their duty and privilege to pray to him, the God of their life, for the mercies of it, temporal and spiritual; and he is pleased to express his approbation of it, and to resent a contrary behaviour: but who has the advantage of it? not he, but they; for whose sake is the throne of grace set up? not for his own sake, but for the sake of his people, that they may come to it and find grace and mercy to help them in their time of need: nor does he want their praises, nor is he benefited by them; they are his due, and it becomes men to give them to him; and he condescends to accept of them, and express his well pleasedness in them; but then the celebration of his praises adds nothing to his perfection and happiness, but to the perfection and happiness of men, who are made better thereby: nor is the obedience and righteousness of men of any profit to God; obedience to his commands ought to be yielded, and works of righteousness enjoined by him ought to be performed; but then when we have done all we can, we are but „unprofitable servants” to him; „if thou be righteous what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?” such works and such righteousness may be profitable to men, and is a reason why they are to be done; but „can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable to himself, or to others? is it any pleasure to the almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect?” #Job 22:2,3 35:7,8 Lu 17:10 Tit 3:8. Should it be said, that God is glorified by men in the worship of him, by prayer to him, and praising of him; by obedience to his will, and by living soberly, righteously, and godly, #Joh 15:9 Mt 5:16 it is very true, these make for the manifestation and display of his glory among men, but make no addition to his essential glory and happiness; the same may be said of the worship and services of angels, of the imperfection and unprofitableness of which to God they are sensible themselves, and blush and cover their faces while performing them, #Isa 6:2,3 and though they are indeed made use of as instruments in providence (but not in creation) in the preservation of God’s people, and in the destruction of their enemies, and in other affairs of this world, yet not of necessity, but of choice; it is not because God needs them, and cannot do without them, but because it is his will and pleasure; just as he makes use of the ministry, and ministers of the word, for the conversion of sinners and comfort of saints; not that he needs them, nor could not convert the one and comfort the other without them; for it is certain he can, and often does, but because these are the means and instruments he chooses to make use of, #1Co 3:5-7.

There is a very remarkable expression in #Ps 16:2,3. My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight: which if spoken by David of himself only, indeed confirms what has been before asserted, that the goodness of men, even of the best of men, is of no advantage to God himself, but to others. The goodness of David in preparing for the building of the temple, and providing for the worship of God in it, in composing hymns and psalms to be sung by men, and in the whole of his life and conversation, was of no avail to the essential happiness of God; but was of use to the saints, both for their profit and by way of example to them: but if spoken by him in the person of Christ, as it is clear the words are, then they carry in them an higher sense still; as, that the holiness of Christ, as man, added nothing to the perfection of God and his nature; that the obedience he yielded in it was for the sake of men, who had the advantage of it, and not God; that the satisfaction he made to divine justice for his people, God stood in no need of; he could have glorified his justice in the destruction of them, as well as in the apostate angels, the old world, and Sodom and Gomorrah: though the debt of obedience paid to the law, and the debt of punishment paid to justice in their room, has magnified the law and made it honourable; the benefit of this redounds to men only; who hereby have their debts paid, their scores cleared, and they stand free and discharged in open court. Though the glory of God is greatly displayed in salvation by Christ, the good will is to men; and all the good things he is come an high priest of, and that come thereby, come not to God, but to men; as peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life. God is then a self-sufficient being, and needs nothing from without himself; nor does he receive anything.

2. God is an all-sufficient Being, and has enough within himself to communicate to his creatures. He is able to do whatsoever he pleases, to fulfil all his engagements and promises, and to do exceeding abundantly above all that men ask or think. And so communicative and diffusive is his goodness, that it extends to all his creatures, and every good and perfect gift comes from him; which is a full proof of his all-sufficiency: and which appears,

2a. In his gifts of nature and providence; for he „gives life, and breath, and all things” to his creatures, #Ac 17:25. A painter may paint as near to life as can be, and a sculptor may give a statue its just features, and frame its limbs in proper symmetry and proportion, but neither of them can give life and breath; but God is sufficient to do this, and has done it: he breathed into Adam the breath of life; and gives life to all his posterity; and is, with great propriety, called the God of their life, #Ps 42:8 and he is sufficient to support, maintain, and preserve the life he has given, and does, as long as he pleases, #Job 10:12 12:10 #Ps 66:9 and to provide for men all the necessaries of life, as food and raiment; which Jacob was fully satisfied of, and therefore covenanted with God for them, #Ge 28:20 and to take care of all the creatures; the fowls of heaven, and of the mountains; the beasts of the field and forest; and „the cattle on a thousand hills”; which, as they are his property, they are his care; and a large family they be to provide for every day, and food suitable to them; and yet this he is sufficient to do, and does; all wait upon him, and he gives them their portion of meat in due season, #Ps 50:10,11 104:27,28 145:15 147:9 yea, he is sufficient to govern the whole world; nor does he need any wisdom, counsel, advice, and assistance in it, from any of his creatures, #Isa 40:13,14 he disposes and overrules all things as he pleases; and not only influences, directs, and manages, in matters of the greatest importance, which concern kings and governors, kingdoms and states, but even those of the lowest consideration and use; and so in all things intervening, or of a class between the one and the other, #Ps 22:28 Pr 8:15,16 #Mt 10:29,30 in a view of which it may well be said, „O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” &c. What an all-sufficiency must he be possessed of! #Ro 11:33.

2b. God appears to be all-sufficient in the communications of his grace; he is the God of all grace, and is able to cause all grace to abound towards his people, and to supply all their wants out of that rich and glorious plenitude, and all-sufficiency in himself, by Jesus Christ; he has stored the covenant with all the blessings of grace; he has prevented Christ, the head and mediator of it with all the blessings of goodness; he has blessed his people in him with all spiritual blessings, and given them grace in him before the world began; and caused the fulness of it to dwell in him, which is always sufficient for them, sufficient for them in all ages and periods of time; for them of all nations and kingdoms throughout the world; for them in every state and condition of life; for all believers, weak or strong: and he has a sufficiency of it for all saving purposes; for their acceptance with God, and justification before him; for the remission of their sins, and the cleansing of their souls, and for the supply of all their wants while they are in this state of imperfection; and he has a sufficiency of it to communicate to them at all times, when they are called to service, ordinary or extraordinary, to do or suffer for his name’s sake; in times of affliction, temptation, desertion, and in the hour of death, to bear up under, and carry them through all, and bring them safe to his kingdom and glory, #Joh 1:14,16 2Co 12:9 Php 4:19.

3. God is a perfect Being; entirely perfect, and wanting nothing; „Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”, #Mt 5:48 his nature is perfect; the more simple and uncompounded any being is, the more perfect it is. God is a Spirit, „actus simplicissimus”, the most pure, spiritual, simple, and uncompounded Being, and therefore the most perfect. No perfection of Deity is wanting in him; as appears from what has been under consideration. There is a fulness of the Godhead which dwells in Christ, and the same therefore must be in each divine person, and especially in God, essentially considered; and every „attribute” of his is „perfect”; he is perfectly immutable; there is no variableness in him, nor shadow of turning, #Jas 1:17 he is perfect in knowledge, knows himself, and all creatures and things perfectly, #Job 37:16 and there is a depth in his wisdom, as well as in his knowledge, which are unfathomable, #Ro 11:33 and as for his power, nothing is too hard for him; nor is his hand shortened that it cannot save, #Isa 40:26, 28 59:1 and his holiness is without the least tarnish; in him are „light”, purity, and holiness, and „no darkness” of sin „at all”, #1Jo 1:5 all the perfections and excellencies that are in creatures, angels, and men, are, in the most perfect manner, in him, agreeable to his nature; as they must, since they all come from him, #Jas 1:17 and though there are some things which are excellencies in creatures, as the reasoning faculty in men, and faith in the Christian, which, properly speaking, cannot be said to be in God; yet these are such as would be imperfections in him; since the former supposes some want of knowledge, which the reasoning power is employed to find out, and the latter is but an obscure knowledge, and proceeds upon the authority of another; neither of which can be supposed in God, whose knowledge is clear and perfect, and to whom no authority is superior; and therefore the want of them does not infer any imperfection in him, but, on the contrary, the highest perfection. Once more, he is a rock, and „his work is perfect”, #De 32:4 his work of creation is finished, and so is the work of redemption, and, ere long, the mystery of providence will be finished, and the work of grace on the heart of everyone of his elect; and as for God, his way is perfect, #Ps 18:30 his ways of providence are without any just blame; every path of mercy and truth he pursues, he never leaves till he has finished it; and the way he prescribes to his people to walk in, is perfect; and the scriptures, which are of him, are able to make the man of God perfect, #Re 15:4 Ps 25:10 19:7 2Ti 1:16, 17.
–End of Chapter–


{1} thn aristhn econta zwhn kai thn autarkestathn diatelei ton apanta aiwna, Aristot. de Coelo, l. 1. c. 9. and this name, he says, is pronounced by the ancients.

{2} to gar teleion agayon autarkev einai dokei, Aristot. Ethic. l. 1. c. 5.

{3} It is a notion of the heathens themselves, that God stands in no need of anything; auto men gar to yeion anendeev, Sallust. de Diis, c. 15. yewn men idion einai mhdenov deiyai, Diogenes apud Laert. l. 6. in Vita Menedem.

Lasă un răspuns

Completează mai jos detaliile despre tine sau dă clic pe un icon pentru autentificare:

Logo WordPress.com

Comentezi folosind contul tău WordPress.com. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Poză Twitter

Comentezi folosind contul tău Twitter. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Fotografie Facebook

Comentezi folosind contul tău Facebook. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Fotografie Google+

Comentezi folosind contul tău Google+. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Conectare la %s

%d blogeri au apreciat asta: