« 前へ次へ »
thereby preserve and increase its longings and desires after him. This experience teaches ; as we remit or are diligent in these exercises, we are cold or earnest after Christ.
Secondly.-We must hear, read, and meditate on the Scriptures, in a dependence on divine illumination to make out to us from them more evidently God's testimony concerning his Son Jesus Christ. God's word must be our study as often as we can; and, when it is not, we must be recollecting what we have learnt from it, and pondering upon it on all occasions ; else, as I may say, we do not give the Spirit opportunity to explain and fix on our minds the testimony of God.
Thirdly.—We must use the faith we have. This is a special means of increase. Behold, he giveth more grace. Stir up your faith to oppose all sinful fears ; keep it in exercise upon God as he appears in his glorious majesty, and mercy in Jesus Christ. Lose not the sight of the great Redeemer, seated, as he now is, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and manifested, as he will soon be, in the clouds of heaven. Let
faith in the divine promises, such as it is, be constantly kept at work in opposing the whole body of sin, and the special lusts thereof. Stir yourself up unto every duty. See that faith have the chief place in all you do, and in all your approaches unto God. See that your
faith be working, and you will find God giving you increase.
Lastly.-Be thankfully observant of God's faithfulness to his promises in Jesus Christ, manifest in his gracious daily dealings with you in soul and body. Compare his dealings with his declarations. Through grace it will wonderfully confirm you to see how they agree. How, as he has said, he hears your prayers ; does not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able ; heals your backslidings ; corrects you in measure ; comforts you in all your tribulations. O, my friends! to see by long experience from of old how he has carried us in his hand, and still to this day has not left nor forsaken us; how through his mercies we are not consumed, and still his compassions fail not; to see how his mercies are new to us every morning ; and every day he blesses us according to his word, in body, that we live and have health, and everything needful, and everything convenient, and
every comfortable thing, as it is this day; in soul he keeps us, preventing us with gracious motions, upholding us against our enemies, stirring us up to good, and preserving us from sin. What shall we say to these things ? Were the mercies of God but one day duly remembered, how should we be forced to own the faithfulness of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ! The Lord enable you so to do, to the increase of your faith and joy, and of his praise and glory through Jesus Christ.
Acts xvi. 30, 31.
What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
You have had the nature of divine faith laid before you, and it was seen to be believing upon divine testimony, which testimony lies in the holy Scriptures, and is made out from them by
I am now to speak of the object of this divine faith, which is God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And at present more generally of the divine nature, I believe in God. And here we must inquire,
1.-What God is.
II.-What it is to believe in him. First.- What God is.—God is a Spirit. I have no comprehension of what I say when I call God a Spirit, because I am quite a stranger to the nature of Spirit ; but when I say, God is a Spirit, I mean hereby that he is quite contrary to body, that he has neither eyes, nor hands, nor other bodily members, like myself; but that he is something to which my reasonable soul is not absolutely unlike, of which I know that it has certain powers of understanding and willing, though I have not the least notion what the substance of it is. This Spirit is a living Spirit ; all creatures, whether spiritual or visible, have their life from other, even from him ; he has his life from none. I am is his name; he hath life in himself; and all creatures in heaven, hell, and earth, as at first they received their life from him, so every moment do they live and subsist by him. God is life in himself, and therefore life in all. This living Spirit is infinite ; he is not limited by place or time, as creatures are, who can only be at one certain place, and who subsist by succession of time. Of them all it must be said, they are here in this place, and nowhere else; they had at such a time a beginning, still they are, and the future, when it comes, shall make addition to their days : but of God it is said, he is everywhere at once, yet not a part of him here, and another part of him ten millions of miles on the other side the sun, but inconceivably everywhere at once in his whole essence.
The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. As also it must be said of God, he is eternal; he knows neither beginning, nor end; neither past, nor to come. Time is no measure of his existence ; he was, or he will be, cannot be applied to his life. There is no conceiving the manner of his existing, nor hardly power in language to express what it is not. He lives without succession ; and therefore, were it not improper to apply terms expressive of time to his life, you might invert the order of past and to come, and as well say, he will be from everlasting, he hath been to everlasting, as he hath been and will be, since time is not the measure of his being. He is almighty; he can do what he pleases. He hath done whatever is. With him the power is as easy as the will. What he wills he does, and that without the least difficulty, even as if to will and to do were the same act. When he said in his heart, Let worlds be, all came forth into being with infinitely greater ease than you move your finger. When he wills again, heaven and earth, with all their furniture, shall pass away; and, at a third command, a new heaven and a new earth shall rise up in their place. He is blessed ; infinitely happy in himself, incapable of addition or diminution to his happiness. The malice or misery of devils do not take from, the glory and services of angels do not add to, his happiness. Considered in his moral character, as governing the world, he is holy, just, and good. All his commands are holy and right, resulting not from an arbitrary exercise of power, but from his own excellency and supremacy, and our dependence upon him. All his dispensations are just and equal ; there is no unrighteousness in anything that he does ; they who serve him shall not be forsaken by him, and they who suffer have but their deserts. Both his commands and his dispensations display his goodness and good will towards us, as the one and the other tend to the happiness of his creatures. To obey his orders is liberty, to enjoy his favour is life. His
afflictions are calculated to reclaim, his greatest judgments are suited to warn others; and, seeing sin and misery are inseparable, his greatest judgments, those that are eternal, have a tendency to the general good of his subjects, by forcing some to return from their evil ways, lest they perish after the example of others. Finally, God is unchangeable. Respecting his natural perfections, he must be so by the excellency and necessity of his nature ; he cannot cease from being a living, omnipresent, eternal, almighty, blessed God, without ceasing to be God. And, in his moral character, he is incapable of change, because of his infinite wisdom, whereby he adjusts all things at once by weight and measure, without possibility of mistake, or need of alteration. His determinations are ordered in all things and sure, and therefore they stand fast for ever. Let this suffice for the first point, what God is.
Secondly.- What it is to believe in him. There is a wide difference between believing that God is, and believing in him. The latter includes (which the former does not) a proper disposition of the heart towards him as God. Angels in heaven believe that God is, and also believe in him by a right disposition of heart towards him. So did A dam in innocence. But devils, though they believe God is, yet have no belief in him ; and the sons of men, in the sinful state into which we are fallen, though they should believe God to be everything that he is, yet cannot believe in him, but in that peculiar way by which he offers himself to them as their God For the explaining of this, three things must be observed, as being implied in this first article of Christian faith, “I believe in God."
1.-It implies a believing God to be what he is. For it is impossible to be disposed to God in love, trust, and service, or, which is the same thing, to believe in him, any further than he is believed to be that excellent Being who has a right to our hearts, and, by his all-sufficiency, is able to support the claim he makes upon our affections. “ He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek him.” Where, although it is manifest that believing that such a Being as God is can have no influence to engage and encourage us sinners to come unto him, unless also we believe that he is a gracious rewarder of those who seek him ;