by Stephen Charnock
EXODUS 15:11.—Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
THIS verse is one of the loftiest descriptions of the majesty and excellency of God in the whole Scripture. It is a part of Moses’ Επινίχιον, or “triumphant song,” after a great and real, and a typical victory; in the womb of which all the deliverances of the church were couched. It is the first song upon holy record, and it consists of gratulatory and prophetic matter; it casts a look backward to what God did for them in their deliverance from Egypt; and a look forward to what God shall do for the church in future ages. That deliverance was but a rough draught of something more excellent to be wrought towards the closing up of the world; when his plagues shall be poured out upon the anti-christian powers, which should revive the same song of Moses in the church, as fitted so many ages before for such a scene of affairs (Rev. 15:2, 3). It is observed, therefore, that many words in this song are put in the future tense, noting a time to come; and the very first word, ver. 1, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song;” ירשׁי, shall sing; implying, that it was composed and calculated for the celebrating some greater action of God’s, which was to be wrought in the world. Upon this account, some of the Jewish rabbins, from the consideration of this remark, asserted the doctrine of the resurrection to be meant in this place; that Moses and those Israelites should rise again to sing the same song, for some greater miracles God should work, and greater triumphs he should bring forth, exceeding those wonders at their deliverance from Egypt.
It consists of, 1. A preface (ver. 1); “I will sing unto the Lord.” 2. An historical narration of matter of fact (ver. 3, 4), “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the Red Sea;” which he solely ascribes to God (ver. 6), “Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy;” which he doth prophetically, as respecting something to be done in after- times; or further for the completing of that deliverance; or, as others think, respecting their entering into Canaan; for the words, in these two verses, are put in the future tense. The manner of the deliverance is described (ver. 8); “The floods stood up right as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.” In the 9th. verse, he magnifies the victory from the vain glory and security of the enemy; “The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil,” &c. And ver. 16, 17, He prophetically describes the fruit of this victory, in the influence it shall have upon those nations, by whose confines they were to travel to the promised land; “Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thy arm they shall be as still as a stone, till thy people pass over which thou hast purchased.” The phrase of this and the 17th and 18th verses, seems to be more magnificent than to design only the bringing the Israelites to the earthly Canaan; but seems to respect the gathering his redeemed ones together, to place them in the spiritual sanctuary’ which he had established, wherein the Lord should reign forever and ever, without any enemies to disturb his royalty; “The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (18th). The prophet, in the midst of his historical narrative, seems to be in an ecstasy, and breaks out in a stately exaltation of God in the text.
Who is thee unto thee, O Lard, among the gods? &c. Interrogations are, in Scripture, the strongest affirmations or negations; it is here a strong affirmation of the incomparableness of God, and a strong denial of the worthiness of all creatures to be partners with him in the degrees of his excellency; it is a preference of God before all creatures in holiness, to which the purity of creatures is but a shadow in desert of reverence and veneration, he being “fearful in praises.” The angels cover their faces when they adore him in his particular perfections.
Amongst the gods. Among the idols of the nations, say some; others say, it is not to be found that the Heathen idols are ever dignified with the title of “strong or mighty,” as the word translated gods, doth import; and therefore understand it of the angels, or other potentates of the world; or rather inclusively, of all that are noted for, or can lay claim to, the title of strength and might upon the earth or in heaven. God is so great and majestic, that no creature can share with him in his praise.
Fearful in praises. Various are the interpretations of this passage to be “reverenced in praises;” his praise ought to be celebrated with a religious fear. Fear is the product of his mercy as well as his justice; “He hath forgiveness that he may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Or, “fearful in praises;” whom none can praise without amazement at the considerations of his works. None can truly praise him without being affected with astonishment at his greatness. Or, “fearful in praises;” whom no mortal can sufficiently praise, since he is above all praise. Whatsoever a human tongue can speak, or an angelical understanding think of the excellency of his nature and the greatness of his works, falls short of the vastness of the Divine perfection. A creature’s praises of God are as much below the transcendent eminency of God, as the meanness of a creature’s being is below the eternal fulness of the Creator. Or, rather, “fearful,” or terrible, “in praises;” that is, in the matter of thy praise: and the learned Rivet concurs with me in this sense. The works of God, celebrated in this song, were terrible; it was the miraculous overthrow of the strength and flower of a mighty nation; his judgments were severe, as well as his mercy was seasonable. The word נורא signifies glorious and illustrious, as well as terrible and fearful. No man can hear the praise of thy name, for those great judicial acts, without some astonishment at thy justice, the stream, and thy holiness, the spring of those mighty works. This seems to be the sense of the following words, “doing wonders:” fearful in the matter of thy praise; they being wonders which thou hast done among us and for us.
Doing wonders. Congealing the waters by a wind, to make them stand like walls for the rescue of the Israelites; and melting them by a wind, for the overthrow of the Egyptians, are prodigies that challenge the greatest adorations of that mercy which delivered the one, and that justice which punished the other; and of the arm of that power whereby he effected both his gracious and righteous purposes.
Whence observe, that the judgments of God upon his enemies, as well as his mercies to his people, are matters of praise. The perfections of God appear in both. Justice and mercy are so linked together in his acts of providence, that the one cannot be forgotten whilst the other is acknowledged. He is never so terrible as in the assemblies of his saints, and the deliverance of them (Psalm 89:7). As the creation was erected by him for his glory; so all the acts of his government are designed for the same end: and his creatures deny him his due, if they acknowledge not his excellency in whatsoever dreadful, as well as pleasing garbs, it appears in the world. His terror as well as his righteousness appears, when he is a God of salvation (Psalm 65:5). “By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation.” But the expression I pitch upon in the text to handle, is glorious in holiness. He is magnified or honorable in holiness; so the word נאדר is translated (Isa. 42:21). “He will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” Thy holiness hath shone forth admirably in this last exploit, against the enemies and oppressors of thy people. The holiness of God is his glory, as his grace is his riches: holiness is his crown, and his mercy is his treasure. This is the blessedness and nobleness of his nature; it renders him glorious in himself, and glorious to his creatures, that understand any thing of this lovely perfection. Holiness is a glorious perfection belonging to the nature of God. Hence he is in Scripture styled often the Holy One, the Holy One of Jacob, the Holy One of Israel; and oftener entitled Holy, than Almighty, and set forth by this part of his dignity more than by any other. This is more affixed as an epithet to his name than any other: you never find it expressed, His mighty name, or his His wise name; but His great name, and most of all, His holy name. This is his greatest title of honor; in this doth the majesty and venerableness of his name appear. When the sinfulness of Sennacherib is aggravated, the Holy Ghost takes the rise from this attribute (2 Kings 19:22). “Thou hast lift up thine eyes on high, even against the Holy One of Israel;” not against the wise, mighty, &c., but against the Holy One of Israel, as that wherein the majesty of God was most illustrious. It is upon this account he is called light, as impurity is called darkness; both in this sense are opposed to one another: he is a pure and unmixed light, free from all blemish in his essence, nature, and operations.
1. Heathens have owned it. Proclus calls him, the undefiled Governor of the world. The poetical transformations of their false gods, and the extravagancies committed by them, was—in the account of the wisest of them—an unholy thing to report and hear. And some vindicate Epicurus from the atheism wherewith he was commonly charged; that he did not deny the being of God, but those adulterous and contentious deities the people worshipped, which were practices unworthy and unbecoming the nature of God. Hence they asserted, that virtue was an imitation of God, and a virtuous man bore a resemblance to God: if virtue were a copy from God, a greater holiness must be owned in the original. And when some of them were at a loss how to free God from being the author of sin in the world, they ascribe the birth of sin to matter, and run into an absurd opinion, fancying it to be uncreated, that thereby they might exempt God from all mixture of evil; so sacred with them was the conception of God, as a Holy God.
2. The absurdest heretics have owned it. The Maniches and Marchionites, that thought evil came by necessity, yet would salve God’s being the author of it, by asserting two distinct eternal principles, one the original of evil, as God was the fountain of good: so rooted was the notion of this Divine purity, that none would ever slander goodness itself with that which was so disparaging to it.
3. The nature of God cannot rationally be conceived without it. Though the power of God be the first rational conclusion, drawn from the sight of his works, wisdom the next, from the order and connexion of his works, purity must result from the beauty of his works: that God cannot be deformed by evil, who hath made every thing so beautiful in its time. The notion of a God cannot be entertained without separating from him whatsoever is impure and bespotting both in his essence and actions. Though we conceive him infinite in Majesty, infinite in essence, eternal in duration, mighty in power, and wise and immutable in his counsels; merciful in his proceedings with men, and whatsoever other perfections may dignify so sovereign a Being, yet if we conceive him destitute of this excellent perfection, and imagine him possessed with the least contagion of evil, we make him but an infinite monster, and sully all those perfections we ascribed to him before; we rather own him a devil than a God. It is a contradiction to be God and to be darkness, or to have one mote of darkness mixed with his light. It is a less injury to him to deny his being, than to deny the purity of it; the one makes him no god, the other a deformed, unlovely, and a detestable god. Plutarch said not amiss, That he should count himself less injured by that man, that should deny that there was such a man as Plutarch, than by him that should affirm that there was such a one indeed, but he was a debauched fellow, a loose and vicious person. It is a less wrong to God to discard any acknowledgments of his being, and to count him nothing, than to believe him to exist, but imagine a base and unholy Deity. he that with, God is not holy, speaks much worse than he that saith, There is no God at all. Let these two things be considered.
I. If any, this attribute hath an excellency above his other perfections. There are some attributes of God we prefer, because of our interest in them, and the relation they bear to us: as we esteem his goodness before his power, and his mercy whereby he relieves us, before his justice whereby he punisheth us; as there are some we more delight in, because of the goodness we receive by them; so there are some that God delights to honor, because of their excellency.
1. None is sounded out so, loftily, with such solemnity, and so frequently by angels that stand before his throne, as this. Where do you find any other attribute trebled in the praises of it, as this (Isa. 6:3)? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of is glory;” and (Rev. 4:8), “The four beasts rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” &c. His power or sovreignty, as Lord of hosts, is but once mentioned, but with a ternal repetition of his holiness. Do you hear, in any angelical song, any other perfection of the Divine Nature thrice repeated? Where do we read of the crying out Eternal, eternal, eternal; or, Faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God of Hosts? Whatsoever other attribute is left out, this God would have to fill the mouths of angels and blessed spirits for ever in heaven.
2. He singles it out to swear by (Psalm 89:35); “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David:” and (Amos 4:2), “The Lord will swear by his holiness:” he twice swears by his holiness; once by his power (Isa. 62:8); once by all, when he swears by his name (Jer. 44:26). He lays here his holiness to pledge for the assurance of his promise, as the attribute most dear to him, most valued by him, as though no other could give an assurance parallel to it in this concern of an everlasting redemption which is there spoken of: he that swears, swears by a greater than himself; God having no greater than himself, swears by himself: and swearing here by his holiness, seems to equal that single one to all his other attributes, as if he were more concerned in the honor of it, than of all the rest. It is as if he should have said, Since I have not a more excellent perfection to swear by, than that of my holiness, I lay this to pawn for your security, and bind myself by that which I will never part with, were it possible for me to be stripped of all the rest. It is a tacit imprecation of himself, If I lie unto David, let me never be counted holy, or thought righteous enough to be trusted by angels or men. This attribute he makes most of.
3. It is his glory and beauty. Holiness is the honor of the creature; sanctification and honor are linked together (1 Thess. 4:4); much more is it the honor of God; it is the image of God in the creature (Eph. 4:24). When we take the picture of a man, we draw the most beautiful part, the face, which is a member of the greatest excellency. When God would be drawn to the life, as much as can be, in the spirit of his creatures, he is drawn in this attribute, as being the most beautiful perfection of God, and most valuable with him. Power is his hand and arm; omniscience, his eye; mercy, his bowels; eternity, his duration; his holiness is his beauty (2 Chron. 20:21);—“should praise the beauty of holiness.” In Psalm 27:4, David desires “to behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his holy temple;” that is, the holiness of God manifested in his hatred of sin in the daily sacrifices. Holiness was the beauty of the temple (Isa. 46:11); holy and beautiful house are joined together; much more the beauty of God that dwelt in the sanctuary. This renders him lovely to all his innocent creatures, though formidable to the guilty ones. A heathen philosopher could call it the beauty of the Divine essence, and say, that God was not so happy by an eternity of life, as by an excellency of virtue. And the angels’ song intimate it to be his glory (Isa. 6:3); “The whole earth is full of thy glory;” that is, of his holiness in his laws, and in his judgments against sin, that being the attribute applauded by them before.
4. It is his very life. So it is called (Eph. 4:18), “Alienated from the life of God,” that is, from the holiness of God: speaking of the opposite to it, the uncleanness and profaneness of the Gentiles. We are only alienated from that which we are bound to imitate; but this is the perfection alway set out as the pattern of our actions, “Be ye holy, as I am holy;” no other is proposed as our copy; alienated from that purity of God, which is as much as his life, without which he could not live. If he were stripped of this, he would be a dead God, more than by the want of any other perfection. His swearing by it intimates as much; he swears often by his own life; “As I live, saith the Lord:” so he swears by his holiness, as if it were his life, and more his life than any other. Let me not live, or let me not be holy, are all one in his oath. His Deity could not outlive the life of his purity.
II. As it seems to challenge an excellency above all his other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest. As it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead. As his power is the strength of them, so his holiness is the beauty of them. As all would be weak, without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them. Should this be sullied, all the rest would lose their honor and their comfortable efficacy: as, at the same instant that the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the lustre of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendor of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice; his wisdom a holy wisdom; his arm of power a holy arm (Psalm 98:1); his truth or promise a holy promise (Psalm 105:42). Holy and true go hand in hand (Rev. 6:10). His name, which signifies all his attributes in conjunction, is holy (Psalm 103:1); yea, he is “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17): it is the rule of all his acts, the source of all his punishments. If every attribute of the Deity were a distinct member, purity would be the form, the soul, the spirit to animate them. Without it, his patience would be an indulgence to sin, his mercy a fondness, his wrath a madness,. his power a tyranny, his wisdom an unworthy subtilty. It is this gives a decorum to all. His mercy is not exercised without it, since he pardons none but those that have an interest, by union, in the obedience of a Mediator, which was so delightful to his infinite purity. His justice, which guilty man is apt to tax with cruelty and violence in the exercise of it, is not acted out of the compass of this rule. In acts of man’s vindictive justice there is something of impurity, perturbation, passion, some mixture of cruelty; but none of these fall upon God in the severest acts of wrath. When God appears to Ezekiel, in the resemblance of fire, to signify his anger against the house of Judah for their idolatry, “from his loins downward” there was “the appearance of fire;” but, from the loins upward, “the appearance of brightness, as the color of amber” (Ezek. 8:2). His heart is clear in his most terrible acts of vengeance; it is a pure flame, wherewith he scorcheth and burns his enemies: he is holy in the most fiery appearance. This attribute, therefore, is nevcr so much applauded, as when his sword hath been drawn, and he hath manifested the greatest fierceness against his enemies. The magnificent and triumphant expression of it in the text, follows just upon God’s miraculous defeat and ruin of the Egyptian army: “The sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters:” then it follows, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, glorious in holiness?” And when it was so celebrated by the seraphims (Isa. 6:3), it was when the “posts moved, and the house was filled with smoke” (ver. 4), which are signs of anger (Psalm 18:7, 8). And when he was about to send Isaiah upon a message of spiritual and temporal judgments, that he would make the “heart of that people fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut; waste their cities without inhabitant, and their houses without man, and make the land desolate” (ver. 9–12): and the angels which here applaud him for his holiness, are the executioners of his justice, and here called seraphims, from burning or fiery spirits, as being the ministers of his wrath. His justice is part of his holiness, whereby he doth reduce into order those things that are out of order. When he is consuming men by his fury, he doth not diminish, but manifest purity (Zeph. 3:5); “The just Lord is in the midst of her; he will do no iniquity.” Every action of his is free from all tincture of evil. It is also celebrated with praise, by the four beasts about his throne, when be appears in a covenant garb with a rainbow about his throne, and yet with thunderings and lightnings shot against his enemies (Rev. 4:8, compared with ver. 3, 5), to show that all his acts of mercy, as well as justice, are clear from any stain. This is the crown of all his attributes, the life of all his decrees, the brightness of all his actions: nothing is decreed by him, nothing is acted by him, but what is worthy of the dignity, and becoming the honor, of this attribute.
I. The nature of Divine holiness in general. The holiness of God negatively, is a perfect and unpolluted freedom from all evil. As we call gold pure that is not embased by any dross, and that garment clean that is free from any spot, so the nature of God is estranged from all shadow of evil, all imaginable contagion. Positively, It is the rectitude or integrity of the Divine nature, or that conformity of it, in affection and action, to the Divine will, as to his eternal law, whereby he works with a becomingness to his own excellency, and whereby he hath a delight and complacency in everything agreeable to his will, and an abhorrency of everything contrary thereunto. As there is no darkness in his understanding, so there is no spot in his will: as his mind is possessed with all truth, so there is no deviation in his will from it. He loves all truth and goodness; he hates all falsity and evil. In regard of his righteousness, he loves righteousness (Psalm 11:7); “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness,” and “hath no pleasure in wickedness” (Psalm 5:4). He values purity in his creatures, and detests all impurity, whether inward or outward. We may, indeed, distinguish the holiness of God from his righteousness in our conceptions: holiness is a perfection absolutely considered in the nature of God; righteousness, a perfection, as referred to others, in his actions towards them and upon them.
In particular, this property of the Divine nature is, 1. An essential and necessary perfection: he is essentially and necessarily holy. It is the essential glory of his nature: his holiness is as necessary as his being; as necessary as his omniscience: as he cannot but know what is right, so he cannot but do what is just. His understanding is not as created understanding, capable of ignorance as well as knowledge; so his will is not as created wills, capable of unrighteousness, as well as righteousness. There can be no contradiction or contrariety in the Divine nature, to know what is right, and to do what is wrong; if so, there would be a diminution of his blessedness, be would not be a God alway blessed, “blessed forever,” as he is (Rom. 9:5). He is as necessarily holy, as he is necessarily God; as necessarily without sin, as without change. As he was God from eternity, so he was holy from eternity. he was gracious, merciful , just in his own nature, and also holy; though no creature had been framed by him to exercise his grace, mercy, justice, or holiness upon. If God had not created a world, he had, in his own nature, been Almighty, and able to create a world. If there never had been anything but himself, yet he had been omniscient, knowing everything that was within the verge and compass of his infinite power; so he was pure in his own nature, though he never had brought forth any rational creature whereby to manifest this purity. These perfections are so necessary, that the nature of God could not subsist without them. And the acts of those, ad intra, or within himself, are necessary; for being omniscient in nature, there must be an act of knowledge of himself and his own nature. Being infinitely holy, an act of holiness in infinitely loving himself, must necessarily flow from this perfection. As the Divine will cannot but be perfect, so it cannot be wanting to render the highest love to itself, to its goodness, to the Divine nature, which is due to him. Indeed, the acts of those, ad extra, are not necessary, but upon a condition. To love righteousness, without himself, or to detect sin, or inflict punishment for the committing of it, could not have been, had there been no righteous creature for him to love, no sinning creature for him to loathe, and to exercise his justice upon, as the object of punishment. Some attributes require a condition to make the acts of them necessary; as it is at God’s liberty, whether he will create a rational creature, or no; but when he decrees to make either angel or man, it is necessary, from the perfection of his nature, to make them righteous. It is at God’s liberty whether he will speak to man, or no; but if he doth, it is impossible for him to speak that which is false, because of his infinite perfection of veracity. It is at his liberty whether he will permit a creature to sin; but if he sees good to suffer it, it is impossible, but that he should detest that creature that goes cross to his righteous nature. His holiness is not solely an act of his will, for then he might be unholy as well as holy; he might love iniquity and hate righteousness; he might then command that which is good, and afterwards command that which is bad and unworthy; for what is only an act of his will, and not belonging to his nature, is indifferent to him. As the positive law he gave to Adam, of not eating the forbidden fruit, was a pure act of his will, he might have given him liberty to eat of it, if he had pleased, as well as prohibited him. But what is moral and good in its own nature, is necessarily willed by God, and cannot be changed by him, because of the transcendent eminency of his nature, and righteousness of his will. As it is impossible for God to command his creature to hate him, or to dispense with a creature for not loving him,—for this would be to command a thing intrinsically evil, the highest ingratitude, the very spirit of all wickedness, which consists in the hating God,—yet, though God be thus necessarily holy, he is not so by a bare and simple necessity, as the sun shines, or the fire burns; but by a free necessity, not compelled thereunto, but inclined from the fulness of the perfection of his own nature and will; so as by no means he can be unholy, because he will not be unholy; it is against his nature to be so.
2. God is only absolutely holy; “There is none holy as the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:2); it is the peculiar glory of his nature; as there is none good but God, so none holy but God. No creature can be essentially holy, because mutable; holiness is the substance of God, but a quality and accident in a creature. God is infinitely holy, creatures finitely holy. He is holy from himself, creatures are holy by derivation from him. He is not only holy, but holiness; holiness in the highest degree, is his sole prerogative. As the highest heaven is called the heaven of heavens, because it embraceth in its circle all the heavens, and contains the magnitude of them, and hath a greater vastness above all that it encloseth, so is God the Holy of holies; he contains the holiness of all creatures put together, and infinitely more. As all the wisdom, excellency, and power of the creatures if compared with the wisdom, excellency, and power of God, is but folly, vileness, and weakness; so the highest created purity, if set in parallel with God, is but impurity and uncleanness (Rev. 15:4): “Thou only art holy” It is like the light of a glow-worm to that of the sun (Job 13:15); “The heavens are not pure in his sight, and his angels he charged with folly” (Job 4:18). Though God hath crowned the angels with an unspotted sanctity, and placed them in a habitation of glory, yet, as illustrious as they are, they have an unworthiness in their own nature to appear before the throne of so holy a God; their holiness grows dim and pale in his presence. It is but a weak shadow of that Divine purity, whose light is so glorious, that it makes them cover their faces out of weakness to behold it, and cover their feet out of shame in themselves. They are not pure in his sight, because, though they love God (which is a principle of holiness) as much as they can, yet, not so much as he deserves; they love him with the intensest degree, according to their power; but not with the intensest degree, according to his own amiableness; for they cannot infinitely love God, unless they were as infinite as God, and had an understanding of his perfections equal with himself, and as immense as his own knowledge. God, having an infinite knowledge of himself, can only have an infinite love to himself, and, consequently, an infinite holiness without any defect; because he loves himself according to the vastness of his own amiableness, which no finite being can. Therefore, though the angels be exempt from corruption and soil, they cannot enter into comparison with the purity of God, without acknowledgment of a dimness in themselves.
Besides, he charges them with folly, and puts no trust in them; because they have the power of sinning, though not the act of sinning; they have a possible folly in their own nature to be charged with. Holiness is a quality separable from them, but it is inseparable from God. Had they not at first a mutability in their nature, none of them could have sinned, there had been no devils; but because some of them sinned, the rest might have sinned. And though the standing angels shall never be changed, yet they are still changeable in their own nature, and their standing is due to grace, not to nature; and though they shall be for ever preserved, yet they are not, nor ever can be, immutable by nature, for then they should stand upon the same bottom with God himself; but they are supported by grace against that changeableness of nature which is essential to a creature; the Creator only hath immortality, that is, immutability (1 Tim. 3:16). It is as certain a truth, that no creature can be naturally immutable and impeccable, as that God cannot create any anything actually polluted and imperfect. It is as possible that the highest creature may sin, as it is possible that it may be annihilated; it may become not holy, as it may become not a creature, but nothing. The holiness of a creature may be reduced into nothing, as well as his substance; but the holiness of the Creator cannot be diminished, dimmed, or overshadowed (James 1:17): “He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning.” It is as impossible his holiness should be blotted, as that his Deity should be extinguished: for whatsoever creature hath essentially such or such qualities, cannot be stripped of them, without being turned out of its essence. As a man is essentially rational; and if he ceaseth to be rational, he ceaseth to be man. The sun is essentially luminous; if it should become dark in its own body, it would cease to be the sun. In regard to this absolute and only holiness of God, it is thrice repeated by the seraphims (Isa. 6:3). The three-fold repetition of a word notes the certainty or absoluteness of the thing, or the irreversibleness of the resolve; as (Ezek. 21:27), “I will overturn, overturn, overturn,” notes the certainty of the judgment; also, (Rev. 8:8), “Woe, woe, woe;” three times repeated, signifies the same. The holiness of God is so absolutely peculiar to him, that it can no more be expressed in creatures, than his omnipotence, whereby they may be able to create a world; or his omniscience, whereby they may be capable of knowing all things, and knowing God as he knows himself:
3. God is so holy, that he cannot possibly approve of any evil done by another, but doth perfectly abhor it; it would not else be a glorious holiness (Psalm 5:3). “He hath no pleasure in wickedness.” He doth not only love that which is just, but abhor, with a perfect hatred, all things contrary to the rule of righteousness. Holiness can no more approve of sin than it can commit it: to be delighted with the evil in another’s act, contracts a guilt, as well as the commission of it; for approbation of a thing is a consent to it. Sometimes the approbation of an evil in another is a more grievous crime than the act itself, as appears in Rom. 1:32, who knowing the judgment of God, “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do it;” where the “not only” manifests it to be a greater guilt to take pleasure in them. Every sin is aggravated by the delight in it; to take pleasure in the evil of another’s action, shows a more ardent affection and love to sin, than the committer himself may have. This, therefore, can as little fall upon God, as to do an evil act himself; yet, as a man may be delighted with the consequences of another’s sin, as it may occasion some public good, or private good to the guilty person, as sometimes it may be an occasion of his repentance, when the horridness of a fact stares him in the face, and occasions a self-reflection for that, and other crimes, which is attended with an indignation against them, and sincere remorse for them; so God is pleased with those good things his goodness and wisdom bring forth upon the occasion of sin.
But in regard of his holiness, he cannot approve of the evil, whence his infinite wisdom drew forth his own glory, and his creature’s good. His pleasure is not in the sinful act of the creature, but in the act of his own goodness and skill, turning it to another end than what the creature aimed at.
(1.) He abhors it necessarily. Holiness is the glory of the Deity, therefore necessary. The nature of God is so holy, that he cannot but hate it (Hab. 1:13): “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:” he is more opposite to it than light to darkness, and, therefore, it can expect no countenance from him. A love of holiness cannot be without a hatred of everything that is contrary to it.
As God necessarily loves himself, so he must necessarily hate everything that is against himself: and as he loves himself for his own excellency and holiness, he must necessarily detest whatsoever is repugnant to his holiness, because of the evil of it. Since he is infinitely good, he cannot but love goodness, as it is a resemblance to himself, and cannot but abhor unrighteousness, as being most distant from him, and contrary to him. If he have any esteem for his own perfections, he must needs have an implacable aversion to all that is so repugnant to him, that would, if it were possible, destroy him, and is a point directed, not only against his glory, but against his life. If he did not hate it, he would hate himself: for since righteousness is his image, and sin would deface his image; if he did not love his image, and loathe what is against his image, he would loathe himself, he would be an enemy to his own nature. Nay, if it were possible for him to love it, it were possible for him not to be holy, it were possible then for him to deny himself, and will that he were no God, which is a palpable contradiction. Yet this necessity in God of hating sin, is not a brutish necessity, such as is in mere animals, that avoid, by a natural instinct, not of choice, what is prejudicial to them; but most free, as well as necessary, arising from an infinite knowledge of his own nature, and of the evil nature of sin, and the contrariety of it to his own excellency, and the order of his works.
(2.) Therefore intensely. Nothing do men act for more than their glory. As he doth infinitely, and therefore perfectly know himself, so he infinitely, and therefore perfectly knows what is contrary to himself, and, as according to the manner and measure of his knowledge of himself, is his love to himself, as infinite as his knowledge, and therefore inexpressible and unconceivable by us: so, from the perfection of his knowledge of the evil of sin, which is infinitely above what any creature can have, doth arise a displeasure against it suitable to that knowledge. In creatures the degrees of affection to, or aversion from a thing, are suited to the strength of their apprehensions of the good or evil in them. God knows not only the workers of wickedness, but the wickedness of their works (Job 11:11), for “he knows vain men, he sees wickedness also.” The vehemency of this hatred is expressed variously in Scripture; he loathes it so, that he is impatient of beholding it; the very sight of it affects him with detestation (Hab. 1:13); he hates the first spark of it in the imagination (Zech. 8:17); with what variety of expressions doth he repeat his indignation at their polluted services (Amos 5:21, 22); “I hate, I detest, I despise, I will not smell, I will not regard; take away from me the noise of thy songs, I will not hear.” So, (Isa. 1:14), “My soul hates, they are a trouble to me, I am weary to bear them.” It is the abominable thing that he hates (Jer. 44:4); he is vexed and fretted at it (Isa. 63:10; Ezek. 16:33). He abhors it so, that his hatred redounds upon the person that commits it. (Psalm 5:5), “He hates all workers of iniquity.” Sin is the only primary object of his displeasure: he is not displeased with the nature of man as man, for that was derived from him; but with the nature of man as sinful, which is from the sinner himself. When a man hath but one object for the exercise of all his anger, it is stronger than when diverted to many objects: a mighty torrent, when diverted into many streams, is weaker than when it comes in a full body upon one place only. The infinite anger and hatred of God, which is as infinite as his love and mercy, has no other object, against which he directs the mighty force of it, but only unrighteousness. He hates no person for all the penal evils upon him, though they were more by ten thousand times than Job was struck with, but only for his sin. Again, sin being only evil, and an unmixed evil, there is nothing in it that can abate the detestation of God, or balance his hatred of it; there is not the least grain of goodness in it, to incline him to the least affection to any part of it. This hatred cannot but be intense; for as the more any creature is sanctified, the more is he advanced in the abhorrence of that which is contrary to holiness; therefore, God being the highest, most absolute and infinite holiness, doth infinitely, and therefore intensely, hate unholiness; being infinitely righteous, doth infinitely abhor unrighteousness; being infinitely true, doth infinitely abhor falsity, as it is the greatest and most deformed evil. As it is from the righteousness of his nature that he hath a content and satisfaction in righteousness (Psalm 11:7), “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness;” so it is from the same righteousness of his nature, that he detests whatsoever is morally evil: as his nature therefore is infinite, so must his abhorrence be.
(3.) Therefore universally, because necessarily and intensely. He doth not hate it in one, and indulge it in another, but loathes it wherever he finds it; not one worker of iniquity is exempt from it (Psalm 5:5): “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” For it is not sin, as in this or that person, or as great or little; but sin, as sin is the object of his hatred; and, therefore, let the person be never so great, and have particular characters of his image upon him, it secures him not from God’s hatred of any evil action he shall commit. He is a jealous God, jealous of his glory (Exod. 20:5); a metaphor, taken from jealous husbands, who will not endure the least adultery in their wives, nor God the least defection of man from his law.
Every act of sin is a spiritual adultery, denying God to be the chief good, and giving that prerogative by that act to some vile thing. He loves it no more in his own people than he doth in his enemies; he frees them not from his rod, the testimony of his loathing their crimes: whosoever sows iniquity, shall reap affliction. It might be thought that he affected their dross, if he did not refine them, and loved their filth, if he did not cleanse them; because of his detestation of their sin, he will not spare them from the furnace, though because of love to their persons in Christ, he will exempt them from Tophet. How did the sword ever and anon drop down upon David’s family, after his unworthy dealing in Uriah’s case, and cut off ever and anon some of the branches of it? He doth sometimes punish it more severely in this life in his own people, than in others. Upon Jonah’s disobedience a storm pursues him, and a whale devours him, while the profane world lived in their lusts without control. Moses, for one act of unbelief, is excluded from Canaan, when greater sinners attained that happiness. It is not a light punishment, but a vengeance he takes on their inventions (Psalm 99:8), to manifest that he hates sin as sin, and not because the worst persons commit it. Perhaps, had a profane man touched the ark, the hand of God had not so suddenly reached him; but when Uzzah, a man zealous for him, as may be supposed by his care for the support of the tottering ark, would step out of his place, he strikes him down for his disobedient action, by the side of the ark, which he would indirectly (as not being a Levite) sustain (2 Sam. 6:7). Nor did our Saviour so sharply reprove the Pharisees, and turn so short from them as he did from Peter, when he gave a carnal advice, and contrary to that wherein was to be the greatest manifestation of God’s holiness, viz. the death of Christ (Matt. 16:23). He calls him Satan, a name sharper than the title of the devil’s children wherewith he marked the Pharisees, and given (besides him) to none but Judas, who made a profession of love to him, and was outwardly ranked in the number of his disciples. A gardener hates a weed the more for being in the bed with the most precious flowers. God’s hatred is universally fixed against sin, and he hates it as much in those whose persons shall not fall under his eternal anger, as being secured in the arms of a Redeemer, by whom the guilt is wiped off, and the filth shall be totally washed away: though he hates their sin, and cannot but hate it, yet he loves their persons, as being united as members to the Mediator and mystical Head. A man may love a gangrened member, because it is a member of his own body, or a member of a dear relation, but he loathes the gangrene in it more than in those wherein he is not so much concerned. Though God’s hatred of believers’ persons is removed by faith in the satisfactory death of Jesus Christ, yet his antipathy against sin was not taken away by that blood; nay, it was impossible it should. It was never designed, nor had it any capacity to alter the unchangeable nature of God, but to manifest the unspottedness of his will, and his eternal aversion to anything that was contrary to the purity of his Being, and the righteousness of his laws.
(4.) Perpetually: this must necessarily follow upon the others. He can no more cease to hate impurity than he can cease to love holiness: if he should in the least instant approve of anything that is filthy, in that moment he would disapprove of his own nature and being; there would be an interruption in his love of himself, which is as eternal as it is infinite. How can he love any sin which is contrary to his nature, but for one moment, without hating his own nature, which is essentially contrary to sin? Two contraries cannot be loved at the same time; God must first begin to hate himself before he can approve of any evil which is directly opposite to himself. We, indeed, are changed with a temptation, sometimes bear an affection to it, and sometimes testify an indignation against it; but God is always the same without any shadow of change, and “is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11), that is, uninterruptedly in the nature of his anger, though not in the effects of it. God indeed may be reconciled to the sinner, but never to the sin; for then he should renounce himself, deny his own essence and his own divinity, if his inclinations to the love of goodness, and his aversion from evil, could be changed, if he suffered the contempt of the one, and encouraged the practice of the other.
4. God is so holy, that he cannot but love holiness in others. Not that he owes anything to his creature, but from the unspeakable holiness of his nature, whence affections to all things that bear a resemblance of him do flow; as light shoots out from the sun, or any glittering body: it is essential to the infinite righteousness of his nature to love righteousness wherever he beholds it (Psalm 11:7): “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” He cannot, because of his nature, but love that which bears some agreement with his nature, that which is the curious draught of his own wisdom and purity: he cannot but be delighted with a copy of himself: he would not have a holy nature, if he did not love holiness in every nature: his own nature would be denied by him, if he did not affect everything that had a stamp of his own nature upon it. There was indeed nothing without God, that could invite him to manifest such goodness to man, as he did in creation: but after he had stamped that rational nature with a righteousness convenient for it, it was impossible but that he should ardently love that impression of himself, because he loves his own Deity, and consequently all things which are any sparks and images of it: and were the devils capable of an act of righteousness, the holiness of his nature would incline him to love it, even in those dark and revolted spirits.
5. God is so holy, that he cannot positively will or encourage sin in any. How can he give any encouragement to that which he cannot in the least approve of, or look upon without loathing, not only the crime, but the criminal? Light may sooner be the cause of darkness than holiness itself be the cause of unholiness, absolutely contrary to it: it is a contradiction, that he that is the Fountain of good should be the source of evil; as if the same fountain should bubble up both sweet and bitter streams, salt and fresh (James 3:11); since whatsoever good is in man acknowledges God for its author, it follows that men are evil by their own fault. There is no need for men to be incited to that to which the corruption of their own nature doth so powerfully bend them. Water hath a forcible principle in its own nature to carry it downward; it needs no force to hasten the motion: “God tempts no man, but every man is drawn away by his own lust” (James 1:13, 14). All the preparations for glory are from God (Rom. 9:23); but men are said to “be fitted to destruction” (ver. 22); but God is not said to fit them; they, by their iniquities, fit themselves for ruin, and he, by his long-suffering, keeps the destruction from them for awhile.
(1.) God cannot command any unrighteousness. As all virtue is summed up in a love to God, so all iniquity is summed up in an enmity to God: every wicked work declares a man an enemy to God (Col. 1:21): “enemies in your minds by wicked works.” If he could command his creature anything which bears an enmity in its nature to himself, he would then implicitly command the hatred of himself, and he would be, in some measure, a hater of himself: he that commands another to deprive him of his life, cannot be said to bear any love to his own life. God can never hate himself, and therefore cannot command anything that is hateful to him and tends to a hating of him, and driving the creature further from him; in that very moment that God should command such a thing, he would cease to be good. What can be more absurd to imagine, than that Infinite Goodness should enjoin a thing contrary to itself, and contrary to the essential duty of a creature, and order him to do anything that bespeaks an enmity to the nature of the Creator, or a deflouring and disparaging his works? God cannot but love himself, and his own goodness; he were not otherwise good; and, therefore, cannot order the creature to do anything opposite to this goodness, or anything hurtful to the creature itself, as unrighteousness is.
(2.) Nor can God secretly inspire any evil into us. It is as much against his nature to incline the heart to sin as it is to command it as it is impossible but that he should love himself, and therefore impossible to enjoin anything that tends to a hatred of himself; by the same reason it is as impossible that he should infuse such a principle in the heart, that might carry a man out to any act of enmity against him. To enjoin one thing, and incline to another, would be an argument of such insincerity, unfaithfulness, contradiction to itself, that it cannot be conceived to fall within the compass of the Divine nature (Deut. 32:4), who is a “God without iniquity,” because “a God of truth” and sincerity, “just and right is he.” To bestow excellent faculties upon man in creation, and incline him, by a sudden impulsion, to things contrary to the true end of him, and induce an inevitable ruin upon that work which he had composed with so much wisdom and goodness, and pronounced good with so much delight and pleasure, is inconsistent with that love which God bears to the creature of his own framing: to incline his will to that which would render him the object of his hatred, the fuel for his justice, and sink him into deplorable misery, it is most absurd, and unchristian-like to imagine.
(3.) Nor can God necessitate man to sin. Indeed sin cannot be committed by force; there is no sin but is in some sort voluntary; voluntary in the root, or voluntary in the branch; voluntary by an immediate act of the will, or voluntary by a general or natural inclination of the will. That is not a crime to which a man is violenced, without any concurrence of the faculties of the soul to that act; it is indeed not an act, but a passion; a man that is forced is not an agent, but a patient under the force: but what necessity can there be upon man from God, since he hath implanted such a principle in him, that he cannot desire anything but what is good, either really or apparently; and if a man mistakes the object, it is his own fault; for God hath endowed him with reason to discern, and liberty of will to choose upon that judgment. And though it is to be acknowledged that God hath an absolute sovereign dominion over his creature, without any limitation, and may do what he pleases, and dispose of it according to his own will, as a “potter doth with his vessel” (Rom. 9:21); according as the church speaks (Isa. 64:8), “We are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand;” yet he cannot pollute any undefiled creature by virtue of that sovereign power, which he hath to do what he will with it; because such an act would be contrary to the foundation and right of his dominion, which consists in the excellency of his nature, his immense wisdom, and unspotted purity; if God should therefore do any such act, he would expunge the right of his dominion by blotting out that nature which renders him fit for that dominion, and the exercise of it. Any dominion which is exercised without the rules of goodness, is not a true sovereignty, but an insupportable tyranny. God would cease to be a rightful Sovereign if he ceased to be good; and he would cease to be good, if he did command, necessitate, or by any positive operation, incline inwardly the heart of a creature directly to that which were morally evil, and contrary to the eminency of his own nature. But that we may the better conceive of this, let us trace man in his first fall, whereby he subjected himself and all his posterity to the curse of the law and hatred of God; we shall find no footsteps, either of precept, outward force, or inward impulsion. The plain story of man’s apostasy dischargeth God from any interest in the crime as an encouragement, and excuseth him from any appearance of suspicion, when he showed him the tree he had reserved, as a mark of his sovereignty, and forbad him to eat of the fruit of it; he backed the prohibition with the threatening the greatest evil, viz. death; which could be understood to imply nothing less than the loss of all his happiness; and in that couched an assurance of the perpetuity of his felicity, if he did not, rebelliously, reach forth his hand to take and “eat of the fruit” (Gen. 2:16, 17). It is true God had given that fruit an excellency, “a goodness for food, and a pleasantness to the eye” (Gen. 3:6). He had given man an appetite, whereby he was capable of desiring so pleasant a fruit; but God had, by creation, arranged it under the command of reason, if man would have kept it in its due obedience; he had fixed a severe threatening to bar the unlawful excursions of it; he had allowed him a multitude of other fruits in the garden, and given him liberty enough to satisfy his curiosity in all, except this only. Could there be anything more obliging to man, to let God have his reserve of that one tree, than the grant of all the rest; and more deterring from any disobedient attempt than so strict a command, spirited with so dreadful a penalty? God did not solicit him to rebel against him; a solicitation to it, and a command against it, were inconsistent. The devil assaults him, and God permitted it, and stands, as it were, a spectator of the issue of the combat. There could be no necessity upon man to listen to, and entertain the suggestions of the serpent; he had a power to resist him, and he had an answer ready for all the devil’s arguments, had they been multiplied to more than they were; the opposing the order of God had been a sufficient confutation of all the devil’s plausible reasonings; that Creator, who hath given me my being, hath ordered me not to eat of it. Though the pleasure of the fruit might allure him, yet the force of his reason might have quelled the liquorishness of his sense; the perpetual thinking of, and sounding out, the command of God, had silenced both Satan and his own appetite; had disarmed the tempter, and preserved his sensitive part in its due subjection. What inclination can we suppose there could be from the Creator, when, upon the very first offer of the temptation, Eve opposes to the tempter the prohibition and threatening of God, and strains it to a higher peg than we find God had delivered it in? For in Gen. 2:17, it is, “You shall not eat of it;” but she adds (Gen. 3:3), “Neither shall you touch it;” which was a remark that might have had more influence to restrain her. Had our first parents kept this fixed upon their understandings and thoughts, that God had forbidden any such act as the eating of the fruit, and that he was true to execute the threatening he had uttered, of which truth of God they could not but have a natural notion, with what ease might they have withstood the devil’s attack, and defeated his design! And it had been easy with them, to have kept their understandings by the force of such a thought, from entertaining any contrary imagination. There is no ground for any jealousy of any encouragements, inward impulsions, or necessity from God in this affair. A discharge of God from this first sin will easily induce a freedom of him from all other sins which follow upon it. God doth not then encourage, or excite, or incline to sin. How can he excite to that which, when it is done, he will be sure to condemn? How can he be a righteous Judge to sentence a sinner to misery for a crime acted by a secret inspiration from himself? Iniquity would deserve no reproof from him, if he were any way positively the author of it. Were God the author of it in us, what is the reason our own consciences accuse us for it, and convince us of it? that, being God’s deputy, would not accuse us of it, if the sovereign power by which it acts, did incline us to it. How can he be thought to excite to that which be hath enacted such severe laws to restrain, or incline man to that which he hath so dreadfully punished in his Son, and which it is impossible but the excellency of his nature must incline him eternally to hate? We may sooner imagine, that a pure flame shall engender cold, and darkness be the offspring of a sunbeam, as imagine such a thing as this. “What shall we say, is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” The apostle execrates such a thought (Rom. 9:14.)
6. God cannot act any evil, in or by himself. If he cannot approve of sin in others, nor excite any to iniquity, which is less, he cannot commit evil himself, which is greater; what he cannot positively will in another, can never be willed in himself; he cannot do evil through ignorance, because of his infinite knowledge; nor through weakness, because of his infinite power; nor through malice, because of his infinite rectitude. He cannot will any unjust thing, because, having an infinitely perfect understanding, he cannot judge that to be true which is false; or that to be good which is evil: his will is regulated by his wisdom. If he could will any unjust and irrational thing, his will would be repugnant to his understanding; there would be a disagreement in God, will against mind, and will against wisdom; he being the highest reason, the first truth, cannot do an unreasonable, false, defective action. It is not a defect in God that he cannot do evil, but a fulness and excellency of power; as it is not a weakness in the light, but the perfection of it, that it is unable to produce darkness; “God is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness” (James 1:17). Nothing pleases him, nothing is acted by him, but what is beseeming the infinite excellency of his own nature; the voluntary necessity whereby God cannot be unjust, renders him a God blessed forever; he would hate himself for the chief good, if, in any of his actions, he should disagree with his goodness. He cannot do any unworthy thing, not because he wants an infinite power, but because he is possessed of an infinite wisdom, and adorned with an infinite purity; and being infinitely pure, cannot havc the least mixture of impurity. As if you can suppose fire infinitely hot, you cannot suppose it to have the least mixture of coldness; the better anything is, the more unable it is to do evil; God being the only goodness, can as little be changed in his goodness as in his essence.
II. . The next inquiry is, The proof that God is holy, or the manifestation of it. Purity is as requisite to the blessedness of God, as to the being of God; as he could not be God without being blessed, so he could not be blessed without being holy. He is called by the title of Blessed, as well as by that of holy (Mark 14:61); “Art thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed?” Unrighteousness is a misery and turbulencv in any spirit wherein it is; for it is a privation of an excellency which ought to be in every intellectual being, and what can follow upon the privation of an excellency but unquietness and grief, the moth of happiness? An unrighteous man, as an unrightcous man, can never be blessed, though he were in a local heaven. Had God the least spot upon his purity, it would render him as miserable in the midst of his infinite sufficiency, as iniquity renders a man in the confluence of his earthly enjoyments. The holiness and felicity of God are inseparable in him. The apostle intimates that the heathen made an attempt to sully his blessedness, when they would liken him to corruptible, mutable, impure man (Rom. 1:23, 25): “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man;” and after, he entitles God a “God blessed forever.” The gospel is therefore called, “The glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11), in regard of the holiness of the gospel precepts, and in regard of the declaration of the holiness of God in all the streams and branches, wherein his purity, in which his blessedness consists, is as illustrious as any other perfection of the Divine Being. God hath highly manifested this attribute in the state of nature; in the legal administration; in the dispensation of the gospel. His wisdom, goodness, and power, are declared in creation; his sovereign authority in his law; his grace and mercy in the gospel, and his righteousness in all. Suitable to this threefold state, may be that eternal repetition of his holiness in the prophecy (Isa. 6:3); holy, as Creator and Benefactor; holy, as Lawgiver and Judge; holy, as Restorer and Redeemer.
First, His holiness appears, as he is Creator, in framing man in a perfect uprightness. Angels, as made by God, could not be evil; for God beheld his own works with pleasure, and could not have pronounced them all good, had some been created pure, and others impure; two moral contrarieties could not be good. The angels had a first estate, wherein they were happy (Jude 6); and had they not left their own habitation and state, they could not have been miserable. But, because the Scripture speaks only of the creation of man, we will consider, that the human nature was well strung and tuned by God, according to the note of his own holiness (Eccles. 7:29); “God hath made man upright:” he had declared his power in other creatures, but would declare in his rational creature, what he most valued in himself; and, therefore, created him upright, with a wisdom which is the rectitude of the mind, with a purity which is the rectitude of the will and affections. He had declared a purity in other creatures, as much as they were capable of, viz. in the exact tuning them to answer one another. And that God, who so well tuned and composed other creatures, would not make man a jarring instrument, and place a cracked creature to be Lord of the rest of his earthly fabric. God, being holy, could not set his seal upon any rational creature, but the impression would be like himself, pure and holy also; he could not be created with an error in his understanding; that had been inconsistent with the goodness of God to his rational creature; if so, the erroneous motion of the will, which was to follow the dictates of the understanding, could not have been imputed to him as his crime, because it would have been, not a voluntary, but a necessary effect of his nature; had there been an error in the first wheel, the error of the next could not have been imputed to the nature of that, but to the irregular motion of the first wheel in the engine. The sin of men and angels, proceeded not from any natural defect in their understandings, but from inconsideration; he that was the author of harmony in his other creatures, could not be the author of disorder in the chief of his works. Other creatures were his footsteps, but man was his image (Gen. 1:26, 27): “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;” which, though it seems to imply no more in that place, than an image of his dominion over the creatures, yet the apostle raises it a peg higher, and gives us a larger interpretation of it (Col. 3:10): “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him;” making it to consist in a resemblance to his righteousness. Image, say some, notes the form, as man was a spirit in regard of his soul; likeness, notes the quality implanted in his spiritual nature; the image of God was drawn in him, both as he was a rational, and as he was a holy creature. The creatures manifested the being of a superior power, as their cause, but the righteousness of the first man evidenced, not only a sovereign power, as the donor of his being, but a holy power, as the pattern of his work. God appeared to be a holy God in the righteousness of his creature, as well as an understanding God in the reason of his creature, while he formed him with all necessary knowledge in his mind and all necessary uprightness in his will. The law of love to God, with his whole soul, his whole mind, his whole heart and strength, was originally written upon his nature; all the parts of his nature were framed in a moral conformity with God, to answer this law, and imitate God in his purity, which consists in a love of himself, and his own goodness and excellency. Thus doth the clearness of the stream point us to the purer fountain, and the brightness of the beam evidence a greater splendor in the sun which shot it out. Secondly, His holiness appears in his laws, as he is a Lawgiver and a Judge. Since man was bound to be subject to God, as a creature, and had a capacity to be ruled by the law, as an understanding and willing creature; God gave him a law, taken from the depths of his holy nature, and suited to the original faculties of man. The rules which God hath fixed in the world, are not the resolves of bare will, but result particularly from the goodness of his nature; they are nothing else but the transcripts of his infinite detestation of sin, as he is the unblemished governor of the world. This being the most adorable property of his nature, he hath impressed it upon that law which he would have inviolably observed as a perpetual rule for our actions, that we may every moment think of this beautiful perfection. God can command nothing but what hath some similitude with the rectitude of his own nature; all his laws, every paragraph of them, therefore, scent of this, and glitter with it (Deut.
4:8): “What nation hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law I set before you this day?” and, therefore, they are compared to fine gold, that hath no speck or dross (Psalm 19:10).
This purity is evident—1. In the moral law, or law of nature. 2. In the ceremonial law. 3. In the allurements annexed to it, for keeping it, and the affrightments to restrain from the breaking of it. 4. In the judgments inflicted for the violation of it.
1. In the moral law: which is therefore dignified with the title of Holy, twice in one verse (Rom. 7:12): “Wherefore, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good;” it being the express image of God’s will, as our Saviour was of his person, and bearing a resemblance to the purity of his nature. The tables of this law were put into the ark, that, as the mercy seat was to represent the grace of God, so the law was to represent the holiness of God (Psalm 19:1). The Psalmist, after he had spoken of the glory of God in the heavens, wherein the power of God is exposed to our view, introduceth the law, wherein the purity of God is evidenced to our minds (ver. 7, 8, &c.): “Perfect, pure, clean, righteous,” are the titles given to it. It is clearer in holiness than the sun is in brightness; and more mighty in itself, to command the conscience, than the sun is to run its race. As the holiness of the Scripture demonstrates the divinity of its Author; so the holiness of the law doth the purity of the Lawgiver.
(1.) The purity of this law is seen in the matter of it. It prescribes all that becomes a creature towards God, and all that becomes one creature towards another of his own rank and kind. The image of God is complete in the holiness of the first table, and the righteousness of the second; which is intimated by the apostle (Eph. 4:24), the one being the rule of what we owe to God, the other being the rule of what we owe to man: there is no good but it enjoins, and no evil but it disowns. It is not sickly and lame in any part of it; not a good action, but it gives it its due praise; and not an evil action, but it sets a condemning mark upon. The commands of it are frequently in Scripture called judgments, because they rightly judge of good and evil; and are a clear light to inform the judgment of man in the knowledge of both. By this was the understanding of David enlightened to know every false way, and to “hate it” (Psalm 119:104). There is no case can happen, but may meet with a determination from it; it teaches men the noblest manner of living a life like God himself; honorably for the Lawgiver, and joyfully for the subject. It directs us to the highest end; sets us at a distance from all base and sordid practices; it proposeth light to the understanding, and goodness to the will. It would tune all the strings, set right all the orders of mankind: it censures the least mote, countenanceth not any stain in the life. Not a wanton glance can meet with any justification from it (Matt. 5:28); not a rash anger but it frowns upon (ver. 22). As the Lawgiver wants nothing as an addition to his blessedness, so his law wants nothing as a supplement to its perfection (Deut. 4:2). What our Saviour seems to add, is not an addition to mend any defects, but a restoration of it from the corrupt glosses, wherewith the Scribes and Pharisees had eclipsed the brightness of it: they had curtailed it, and diminished part of its authority, cutting off its empire over the least evil, and left its power only to check the grosser practices. But Christ restores it to the due extent of its sovereignty, and shows it those dimensions in which the holy men of God considered it as “exceeding broad” (Psalm 119:96), reaching to all actions, all motions, all circumstances attending them; full of inexhaustible treasures of righteousness. And though this law, since the fall, doth irritate sin, it is no disparagement, but a testimony to the righteousness of it; which the apostle manifests by his “Wherefore (Rom. 7:8), sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence;” and repeating the same sense (ver. 11), subjoins a, “Wherefore” (ver. 12), “Wherefore the law is holy.” The rising of men’s sinful hearts against the law of God, when it strikes with its preceptive and minatory parts upon their consciences, evidenceth the holiness of the law and the Lawgiver. In its own nature it is a directing rule, but the malignant nature of sin is exasperated by it; as an hostile quality in a creature will awaken itself at the appearance of its enemy. The purity of this beam, and transcript of God, bears witness to a greater clearness and beauty in the sun and original. Undefiled streams manifest an untainted fountain.
(2.) It is seen in the manner of its precepts. As it prescribes all good, and forbids all evil, so it doth enjoin the one, and banish the other as such. The laws of men command virtuous things; not as virtuous in themselves, but as useful for human society; which the magistrate is the conservator of, and the guardian of justice. The laws of men contain not all the precepts of virtue, but only such as. are accommodated to their customs, and are useful to preserve the ligaments of their government. The design of them is not so much to render the subjects good men, as good citizens: they order the practice of those virtues that may strengthen civil society, and discountenance those vices only which weaken the sinew’s of it: but God, being the guardian of universal righteousness, doth not only enact the observance of all righteousness, but the observance of it as righteousness. He commands that which is just in itself, enjoins virtues as virtues, and prohibits vices as vices: as they are profitable or injurious to ourselves, as well as to others. Men command temperance and justice; not as virtues in themselves, but as they prevent disorder and confusion in a commonwealth; and forbid adultery and theft, not as vices in themselves, but as they are intrenchments upon property; not as hurtful to the person that commits them, but as hurtful to the person against whose right they are committed. Upon this account, perhaps, Paul applauds the holiness of the law of God in regard of its own nature, as considered in itself; more than he doth the justice of it in regard of man, and the goodness and conveniency of it to the world (Rom. 7:12); the law is holy twice, and just and good but once.
(3.) In the spiritual extent of it. The most righteous powers of the world do not so much regard in their laws what the inward affections of their subjects are: the external acts are only the objects of their decrees, either to encourage them if they be useful, or discourage them if they be hurtful to the community. And, indeed, they can do no other, for they have no power proportioned to inward affections, since the inward disposition falls not under their censure; and it would be foolish for any legislative power to make such laws, which it is impossible for it to put in execution. They can prohibit the outward acts of theft and murder, but they cannot command the love of God, the hatred of sin, the contempt of the world; they cannot prohibit unclean thoughts, and the atheism of the heart. But the law of God surmounts in righteousness all the laws of the best-regulated commonwealths in the world: it restrains the licentious heart, as well as the violent hand; it damps the very first bubblings of corrupt nature, orders a purity in the spring, commands a clean fountain, clean streams, clean vessels. It would frame the heart to an inward, as well as the life to an outward righteousness, and make the inside purer than the outside. It forbids the first belchings of a murderous or adulterous intention: it obligeth a man as a rational creature, and therefore exacts a conformity of every rational faculty, and of whatsoever is under the command of them. It commands the private closet to be free from the least cobweb, as well as the outward porch to be clean from mire and dirt. It frowns upon all stains and pollutions of the most retired thoughts: hence the apostle calls it a “spiritual law” (Rom. 7:14), as not political, but extending its force further than the frontiers of the man; placing its ensigns in the metropolis of the heart and mind, and curbing with its sceptre the inward motions of the spirit, and commanding over the secrets of every man’s breast.
(4). In regard of the perpetuity of it. The purity and perpetuity of it are linked together by the Psalmist (Psalm 19:9): “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;” the fear of the Lord, that is, that law which commands the fear and worship of God, and is the rule of it. And, indeed, God values it at such a rate, that rather than part with a tittle, or let the honor of it he in the dust, he would not only let “heaven and earth pass away,” but expose his Son to death for the reparation of the wrong it had sustained. So holy it is, that the holiness and righteousness of God cannot dispense with it, cannot abrogate it, without despoiling himself of his own being: it is a copy of the eternal law. Can he ever abrogate the command of love to himself, without showing some contempt of his own excellency and very being? Before he can enjoin a creature not to love him, he must make himself unworthy of love, and worthy of hatred; this would be the highest unrighteousness, to order us to hate that which is only worthy of our highest affections. So God cannot change the first command, and order us to worship many gods; this would be against the excellency and unity of God: for God cannot constitute another God, or make anything worthy of an honor equal with himself. Those things that are good, only because they are commanded, are alterable by God those things that are intrinsically and essentially good, and therefore commanded, are unalterable as long as the holiness and righteousness of God stand firm. The intrinsic goodness of the moral law, the concern God hath for it; the perpetuity of the precepts of the first table, and the care he hath had to imprint the precepts of the second upon the minds and consciences of men, as the Author of nature for the preservation of the world, manifests the holiness of the Lawmaker and Governor.
2. His holiness appears in the ceremonial law: in the variety of sacrifices for sin, wherein he writ his detestation of unrighteousness in bloody characters. His holiness was more constantly expressed in the continual sacrifices, than in those rarer sprinklings of judgments now and then upon the world; which often reached, not the worst, but the most moderate sinners, and were the occasions of the questioning of the righteousness of his providence both by Jews and Gentiles. In judgments his purity was only now and then manifest: by his long patience, he might be imagined by some reconciled to their crimes, or not much concerned in them; but by the morning and evening sacrifice he witnessed a perpetual and uninterrupted abhorrence of whatsoever was evil. Besides those, the occasional washings and sprinklings upon ceremonial defilements, which polluted only the body, gave an evidence, that everything that had a resemblance to evil, was loathsome to him. Add, also, the prohibitions of eating such and such creatures that were filthy; as the swine that wallowed in the mire, a fit emblem for the profane and brutish sinner; which had a moral signification, both of the loathsomeness of sin to God, and the aversion themselves ought to have to everything that was filthy.
3. This holiness appears in the allurements annexed to the law for keeping it, and the affrightments to restrain from the breaking of it. Both promises and threatenings have their fundamental root in the holiness of God, and are both branches of this peculiar perfection. As they respect the nature of God, they are declarations of his hatred of sin, and his love of righteousness; the one belong to his threatenings, the other to his promises; both join together to represent this divine perfection to the creature, and to excite to an imitation in the creature. In the one, God would render sin odious, because dangerous, and curb the practice of evil, which would otherwise be licentious; in the other, he would commend righteousness, and excite a love of it, which would otherwise be cold. By there God suits the two great affections of men, fear and hope; both the branches of self-love in man: the promises and threatenings are both the branches of holiness in God. The end of the promises is the same with the exhortation the apostle concludes from them (2 Cor. 7:1); “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” As the end of precept is to direct, the end of threatenings is to deter from iniquity, so that the promises is to allure to obedience. Thus God breathes out his love to righteousness in every promise; his hatred of sin in every threatening. The rewards offered in the one, are the smiles of pleased holiness; and the curses thundered in the other, are the sparklings of enraged righteousness.
4. His holiness appears in the judgment inflicted for the violation of this law. Divine holiness is the root of Divine justice, and Divine justice is the triumph of Divine holiness. Hence both are expressed in Scripture by one word of righteousness, which sometimes signifies the rectitude of the Divine nature, and sometimes the vindicative stroke of his arm (Psalm 103:6); “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” So (Dan. 9:7) “Righteousness (that is, justice) belongs to thee.” The vials of his wrath are filled from his implacable aversion to iniquity. All penal evils shower down upon the heads of wicked men, spread their root in, and branch out from, this perfection. All the dreadful storms and tempests in the world are blown up by it. Why doth he “rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest!” Because “the righteous Lord loveth righteousness” (Psalm 11:6, 7). And, as was observed before, when he was going about the dreadfulest work that ever was in the world, the overturning the Jewish state, hardening the hearts of that unbelieving people, and cashiering a nation, once dear to him, from the honor of his protection; his holiness, as the spring of all this, is applauded by the seraphims (Isa. 6:3, compared with ver. 9–11), &c. Impunity argues the approbation of a crime, and punishment the abhorrency of it. The greatness of the crime, and the righteousness of the Judge, are the first natural sentiments that arise in the minds of men upon the appearance of Divine judgments in the world, by those that are near them; as, when men see gibbets erected, scaffolds prepared, instruments of death and torture provided, and grievous punishments inflicted, the first reflection in the spectator is the malignity of the crime, and the detestation the governors are possessed with.
(1). How severely Hath he punished his most noble creatures for it. The once glorious angels, upon whom he had been at greater cost than upon any other creatures, and drawn more lively lineaments of his own excellency, upon the transgression of his law, are thrown into the furnace of justice, without any mercy to pity them (Jude 6). And though there were but one sort of creatures upon the earth that bore his image, and were only fit to publish and keep up his honor below the heavens, yet, upon their apostasy, though upon a temptation from a subtle and insinuating spirit, the man, with all his posterity, is sentenced to misery in life, and death at last; and the woman, with all her sex, have standing punishments inflicted on them, which, as they begun in their persons, were to reach as far as the last member of their successive generations. So holy is God, that he will not endure a spot in his choicest work. Men, indeed, when there is a crack in an excellent piece of work, or a stain upon a rich garment, do not cast, it away; they value it for the remaining excellency, more than hate it for the contracted spot; but God saw no excellency in his creature worthy regarding, after the image of that which he most esteemed in himself was defaced.
(2). How detestable to him are the very instruments of sin! For the ill use the serpent, an irrational creature, was put to by the devil, as an instrument in the fall of man, the whole brood of those animals are cursed (Gen. 3:14), “cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field.” Not only the devil’s head is threatened to be for ever bruised, and, as some think, rendered irrecoverable upon this further testimony of his malice in the seduction of man, who, perhaps, without this new act, might have been admitted into the arms of mercy, notwithstanding his first sin; “though the Scripture gives us no account of this, only this is the only sentence we read of pronounced against the devil, which puts him into an irrecoverable state by a mortal bruising of his head.” But, I say, he is not only punished, but the organ, whereby he blew in his temptation, is put into a worse condition than it was before. Thus God hated the sponge, whereby the devil deformed his beautiful image: thus God, to manifest his detestation of sin, ordered the beast, whereby any man was slain, to be slain as well as the malefactor (Lev. 20:15). The gold and silver that had been abused to idolatry, and were the ornaments of images, though good in themselves, and incapable of a criminal nature, were not to be brought into their houses, but detested and abhorred by them, because they were cursed, and an abomination to the Lord. See with what loathing expressions this law is enjoined to them (Deut. 7:25, 26). So contrary is the holy nature of God to every sin, that it curseth everything that is instrumental in it.
(3.) How detestable is everything to him that is in the sinner’s possession! The very earth, which God had made Adam the proprietor of, was cursed for his sake (Gen. 3:17, 18). It lost its beauty, and lies languishing to this day; and, notwithstanding the redemption by Christ, hath not recovered its health, nor is it like to do, till the completing the fruits of it upon the children of God (Rom. 8:20–22). The whole lower creation was made subject to vanity, and put into pangs, upon the sin of man, by the righteousness of God detesting his offence. How often hath his implacable aversion from sin been shown, not only in his judgments upon the offender’s person, but by wrapping up, in the same judgment, those which stood in a near relation to them! Achan, with his children and cattle, are overwhelmed with stones, and burned together (Josh. 7:24, 25). In the destruction of Sodom, not only the grown malefactors, but the young spawn, the infants, at present incapable of the same wickedness, and their cattle, were burned up by the same fire from heaven; and the place where their habitations stood, is, at this day, partly a heap of ashes, and partly an infectious lake, that chokes any fish that swims into it from Jordan, and stifles, as is related , by its vapor, any bird that attempts to fly over it. O, how detestable is sin to God, that causes him to turn a pleasant land, as the “garden of the Lord” (as it is styled Gen. 13:10), into a lake of sulphur; to make it, both in his word and works, as a lasting monument of his abhorence of evil.
(4.) What design hath God in all these acts of severity and vindictive justice, but to set off the lustre of his holiness? He testifies himself concerned for those laws, which he hath set as hedges and limits to the lusts of men; and, therefore, when he breathes forth his fiery indignation against a people, he is said to get himself honor: as when he intended the hued Sea, should swallow up the Egyptian army (Exod. 14:17, 18), which Moses, in his triumphant song, echoes back again (Exod. 15:1): “Thou hast triumphed gloriously;” gloriously in his holiness, which is the glory of his nature, as Moses himself interprets it in the text. When men will not own the holiness of God, in a way of duty, God will vindicate it in a way of justice and punishment. In the destruction of Aaron’s sons, that were will-worshippers, and would take strange fire, “sanctified” and “glorified” are coupled (Lev. 10:3): he glorified himself in that act, in vindicating his holiness before all the people, declaring that he will not endure sin and disobedience. He doth therefore, in this life, more severely punish the sins of his people, when they presume upon any act of disobedience, for a testimony that the nearness and dearness of any person to him shall not make him unconcerned in his holiness, or be a plea for impurity. The end of all his judgments is to witness to the world his abominating of sin. To punish and witness against men, are one and the same thing (Micah 1:2): “The Lord shall witness against you;” and it is the witness of God’s holiness (Hos. 5:5): “And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face:” one renders it the excellency of Israel, and understands it of God: the word נאון, which is here in our translation, “pride,” is rendered “excellency” (Amos 8:7): “The Lord God hath sworn by his excellency;” which is interpreted “holiness” (Amos 4:2) “The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness.” What is the issue or end of this swearing by “holiness,” and of his “excellency” testifying against them? In all those places, you will find them to be sweeping judgments: in one, Israel and Ephraim shall “fall in their iniquity;” in another, he will “take them away with hooks,” and “their posterity with fish-hooks;” and in another, he would “never forget any of their works.” He that punisheth wickedness in those he before used with the greatest tenderness, furnisheth the world with an undeniable evidence of the detestableness of it to him. Were not judgments sometimes poured out upon the world, it would be believed that God were rather an approver than an enemy to sin. To conclude, since God hath made a stricter law to guide men, annexed promises above the merit of obedience to allure them, and threatenings dreadful enough to affright men from disobedience, he cannot be the cause of sin, nor a lover of it. How can he be the author of that which he so severely forbids; or love that which he delights to punish; or be fondly indulgent to any evil, when he hates the ignorant instruments in the offences of his reasonable creatures?
Thirdly. The holiness of God appears in our restoration. It is in the glass of the gospel we behold the “glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18); that is, the glory of the Lord, into whose image we are changed; but we are changed into nothing, as the image of God, but into holiness: we bore not upon us by creation, nor by regeneration, the image of any other perfection: we cannot be changed into his omnipotence, omniscience , &c., but into the image of his righteousness. This is the pleasing and glorious sight the gospel mirror darts in our eyes. The whole scene of redemption is nothing else but a discovery of judgment and righteousness (Isa. 1:27): “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.”
1. This holiness of God appears in the manner of our restoration, viz. by the death of Christ. Not all the vials of judgments, that have, or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner’s conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious devils, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon his Son. Never did Divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely, than at the time our Saviour’s countenance was most marred in the midst of his dying groans. This himself acknowledges in that prophetical psalm (22:1, 2), when God had turned his smiling face from him, and thrust his sharp knife into his heart, which forced that terrible cry from him, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He adores this perfection of holiness (ver. 3), “But thou art holy;” thy holiness is the spring of all this sharp agony, and for this thou inhabitest, and shalt forever inhabit, the praises of all thy Israel.
Holiness drew the veil between God’s countenance and our Saviour’s soul. Justice indeed gave the stroke, but holiness ordered it. In this his purity did sparkle, and his irreversible justice manifested that all those that commit sin are worthy of death; this was the perfect index of his “righteousness” (Rom. 3:25), that is, of his holiness and truth; then it was that God that is holy, was “sanctified in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). It appears the more, if you consider,
(1.) The dignity of the Redeemer’s person. One that had been from eternity; had laid the foundations of the world; had been the object of the Divine delight: he that was God blessed forever, become a curse; he who was blessed by angels, and by whom God blessed the world, must be seized with horror; the Son of eternity must bleed to death! When did ever sin appear so irreconcileable to God? Where did God ever break out so furiously in his detestation of iniquity? The Father would have the most excellent person, one next in order to himself, and equal to him in all the glorious perfections of his nature (Phil. 2:6), die on a disgraceful cross, and be exposed to the flames of Divine wrath, rather than sin should live, and his holiness remain forever disparaged by the violations of his law.
(2.) The near relation he stood in to the Father. He was his “own Son that he delivered up” (Rom.
8:32); his essential image, as dearly beloved by him as himself; yet he would abate nothing of his hatred of those sins imputed to one so dear to him, and who never had done anything contrary to his will. The strong cries uttered by him could not cause him to cut off the least fringe of this royal garment, nor part with a thread the robe of his holiness was woven with. The torrent of wrath is opened upon him, and the Father’s heart beats not in the least notice of tenderness to sin, in the midst of his Son’s agonies. God seems to lay aside the bowels of a father, and put on the garb of an irreconcileable enemy, upon which account, probably, our Saviour in the midst of his passion gives him the title of God; not of Father, the title he usually before addressed to him with, (Matt. 27:46), “My God, my God;” not, My Father, my Father; “why hast thou forsaken me?” He seems to hang upon the cross like a disinherited son, while he appeared in the garb and rank of a sinner. Then was his head loaded with curses, when he stood under that sentence of “Cursed is every one that hangs upon a tree” (Gal. 3:13), and looked as one forlorn and rejected by the Divine purity and tenderness. God dealt not with him as if he had been one in so near a relation to him. He left him not to the will only of the instruments of his death; he would have the chiefest blow himself of bruising of him (Isa. 53:10): “It pleased the Lord to bruise him:” the Lord, because the power of creatures could not strike a blow strong enough to satisfy and secure the rights of infinite holiness. It was therefore a cup tempered and put into his hands by his Father; a cup given him to drink. In other judgments he lets out his wrath against his creatures; in this he lets out his wrath, as it were, against himself, against his Son, one as dear to him as himself. As in his making creatures, his power over nothing to bring it into being appeared; but in pardoning sin he hath power over himself; so in punishing creatures, his holiness appears in his wrath against creatures, against sinners by inherency; but by punishing sin in his Son, his holiness sharpens his wrath against him who was his equal, and only a reputed sinner; as if his affection to his own holiness surmounted his affection to his Son: for he chose to suspend the breakings out of his affections to his Son, and see him plunged in a sharp and ignominious misery, without giving him any visible token of his love, rather than see his holiness he groaning under the injuries of a transgressing world.
(3.) The value he puts upon his holiness appears further, in the advancement of this redeeming person, after his death. Our Saviour was advanced, not barely for his dying, but for the respect he had in his death to this attribute of God (Heb. 1:9): “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness,” &c. By righteousness is meant this perfection, because of the opposition of it to iniquity. Some think “therefore” to be the final cause; as if this were the sense, “Thou art anointed with the oil of gladness, that thou mightest love righteousness and hate iniquity.” But the Holy Ghost seeming to speak in this chapter not only of the Godhead of Christ but of his exaltation; the doctrine whereof he had begun in ver. 3, and prosecutes in the following verses, I would rather understand “therefore,” for “this cause, or reason, hath God anointed thee;” not “to this end.” Christ indeed had an unction of grace, whereby he was fitted for his mediatory work; he had also an unction of glory, whereby he was rewarded for it. In the first regard, it was a qualifying him for his office; in the second regard, it was a solemn inaugurating him in his royal authority. And the reason of his being settled upon a “throne for ever and ever,” is, “because he loved righteousness.” He suffered himself to be pierced to death, that sin, the enemy of God’s purity, might be destroyed, and the honor of the law, the image of God’s holiness, might be repaired and fulfilled in the fallen creature. He restored the credit of Divine holiness in the world, in manifesting, by his death, God an irreconcileable enemy to all sin; in abolishing the empire of sin, so hateful to God, and restoring the rectitude of nature, and new framing the image of God in his chosen ones. And God so valued this vindication of his holiness, that he confers upon him, in his human nature, an eternal royalty and empire over angels and men. Holiness was the great attribute respected by Christ in his dying, and manifested in his death; and for his love to this, God would bestow an honor upon his person, in that nature wherein he did vindicate the honor of so dear a perfection. In the death of Christ, he showed his resolution to preserve its rights; in the exaltation of Christ, be evinced his mighty pleasure for the vindication of it; in both, the infinite value he had for it, as dear to him as his life and glory.
(4.) It may be further considered, that in this way of redemption, his holiness in the hatred of sin seems to be valued above any other attribute. He proclaims the value of it above the person of his Son; since the Divine nature of the Redeemer is disguised, obscured, and vailed, in order to the restoring the honor of it. And Christ seems to value it above his own person, since he submitted himself to the reproaches of men, to clear this perfection of the Divine nature, and make it illustrious in the eyes of the world. You heard before, at the beginning of the handling this argument, it was the beauty of the Deity, the lustre of his nature, the link of all his attributes, his very life; he values it equal with himself, since he swears by it, as well as by his life; and none of his attributes would have a due decorum without it; it is the glory of power, mercy, justice, and wisdom, that they are all holy; so that though God had an infinite tenderness and compassion to the fallen creature, yet it should not extend itself in his relief to the prejudice of the rights of his purity: he would have this triumph in the tenderness of his mercy, as well as the severities of his justice. His merey had not appeared in its true colors, nor attained a regular end, without vengeance on sin. It would have been a compassion that would, in sparing the sinner, have encouraged the sin, and affronted holiness in the issues of it: had he dispersed his compassions about the world, without the regard to his hatred of sin, his mercy had been too cheap, and his holiness had been contemned; his mercy would not have triumphed in his own nature, whilst his holiness had suffered; he had exercised a mercy with the impairing his own glory; but now, in this way of redemption, the rights of both are secured, both have their due lustre: the odiousness of sin is equally discovered with the greatest of his compassions; an infinite abhorrence of sin, and an infinite love to the world, march hand in hand together. Never was so much of the irreconcileableness of sin to him set forth, as in the moment he was opening his bowels in the reconciliation of the sinner. Sin is made the chiefest mark of his displeasure, while the poor creature is made the highest object of Divine pity. There could have been no motion of mercy, with the least injury to purity and holiness. In this way mercy and truth, mercy to the misery of the creature, and truth to the purity of the law, “have met together;” the righteousness of God, and the peace of the sinner, “have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).
2. The holiness of God in his hatred of sin appears in our justification, and the conditions he requires of all that would enjoy the benefit of redemption. His wisdom hath so tempered all the conditions of it, that the honor of his holiness is as much preserved, as the sweetness of his mercy is experimented by us; all the conditions are records of his exact purity, as well as of his condescending grace. Our justification is not by the imperfect works of creatures, but by an exact and infinite righteousness, as great as that of the Deity which had been offended: it being the righteousness of a Divine person, upon which account it is called the righteousness of God; not only in regard of God’s appointing it, and God’s accepting it, but as it is a righteousness of that person that was God, and is God. Faith is the condition God requires to justification; but not a dead, but an active faith, such a “faith as purifies the heart” (James 2:20; Acts 15:9). He calls for repentance, which is a moral retracting our offences, and an approbation of contemned righteousness and a violated law; an endeavor to gain what is lost, and to pluck out the heart of that sin we have committed. He requires mortification, which is called crucifying; whereby a man would strike as full and deadly a blow at his lusts, as was struck at Christ upon the cross, and make them as certainly die, as the Redeemer did. Our own righteousness must be condemned by us, as impure and imperfect: we must disown everything that is our own, as to righteousness, in reverence to the holiness of God, and the valuation of the righteousness of Christ. He hath resolved not to bestow the inheritance of glory without the root of grace. None are partakers of the Divine blessedness that are not partakers of the Divine nature: there must be a renewing of his image before there be a vision of his face (Heb. 12:14). He will not have men brought only into a relative state of happiness by justification, without a real state of grace by sanctification; and so resolved he is in it, that there is no admittance into heaven of a starting, but a persevering holiness (Rom. 2:7), “a patient continuance in well-doing:” patient, under the sharpness of affliction, and continuing, under the pleasures of prosperity. Hence it is that the gospel, the restoring doctrine, hath not only the motives of rewards to allure to good, and the danger of punishments to scare us from evil, as the law had; but they are set forth in a higher strain, in a way of stronger engagement; the rewards are heavenly, and the punishments eternal: and more powerful motives besides, from the choicer expressions of God’s love in the death of his Son. The whole design of it is to reinstate us in a resemblance to this Divine perfection; whereby he shows what an affection he hath to this excellency of his nature, and what a detestation he hath of evil, which is contrary to it.
3. It appears in the actual regeneration of the redeemed souls, and a carrying it on to a full perfection. As election is the effect of God’s sovereignty, our pardon the fruit of his mercy, our knowledge a stream from his wisdom, our strength an impression of his power; so our purity is a beam from his holiness. The whole work of sanctification, and the preservation of it, our Saviour begs for his disciples of his Father, under this title (John 17:11, 17): “Holy Father, keep them through thy own name,” and “sanctify them through thy truth;” as the proper source whence holiness was to flow to the creature: as the sun is the proper fountain whence light is derived, both to the stars above, and the bodies here below. Whence He is not only called Holy, but the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 43:15), “I am the Lord your Holy One, the Creator of Israel:” displaying his holiness in them, by a new creation of them as his Israel. As the rectitude of the creature at the first creation was the effect of his holiness, so the purity of the creature, by a new creation, is a draught of the same perfection. He is called the Holy One of Israel more in Isaiah, that evangelical prophet, in erecting Zion, and forming a people for himself; than in the whole Scripture besides. As he sent Jesus Christ to satisfy his justice for the expiation of the guilt of sin, so he sends the Holy Ghost for the cleansing of the filth of sin, and overmastering the power of it: Himself is the fountain, the Son is the pattern, and the Holy Ghost the immediate imprinter of this stamp of holiness upon the creature. God hath such a value for this attribute, that he designs the glory of this in the renewing the creature, more than the happiness of the creature; though the one doth necessarily follow upon the other, yet the one is the principal design, and the other the consequent of the former: whence our salvation is more frequently set forth, in Scripture, by a redemption from sin, and sanctification of the soul, than by a possession of heaven. Indeed, as God could not create a rational creature, without interesting this attribute in a special manner, so he cannot restore the fallen creature without it. As in creating a rational creature, there must be holiness to adorn it, as well as wisdom to form the design, and power to effect it; so in the restoration of the creature, as he could not inake a reasonable creature unholy, so he cannot restore a fallen creature, and put him in a meet posture to take pleasure in him, without communicating to him a resemblance of himself. As God cannot be blessed in himself without this perfection of purity, so neither can a creature be blessed without it. As God would be unlovely to himself without this attribute, so would the creature be unlovely to God, without a stamp and mark of it upon his nature. So much is this perfection one with God, valued by hiin, and interested in all his works and ways!
III. he third thing I am to do, is to lay down some proposition in the defence of God’s holiness in all his acts, about, or concerning sin. It was a prudent and pious advice of Camero, not to be too busy and rash in inquiries and conclusions about the reason of God’s providence in the matter of sin. The Scripture hath put a bar in the way of such curiosity, by telling us, that the ways of God’s wisdom and righteousness in his judgments are “unsearchable” (Rom. 11:33): much more the ways of God’s holiness , as he stands in relation to sin, as a Governor of the world; we cannot consider those things without danger of slipping: our eyes are too weak to look upon the sun without being dazzled: too much curiosity met with a just check in our first parent. To be desirous to know the reason of all God’s proceedings in the matter of sin, is to second the ambition of Adam, to be as wise as God, and know the reason of his actings equally with himself. It is more easy, as the same author saith, to give an account of God’s providence since the revolt of man, and the poison that hath universally seized upon human nature, than to make guesses at the manner of the fall of the first man. The Scripture hath given us but a short account of the manner of it, to discourage too curious inquiries into it. It is certain that God made man upright; and when man sinned in paradise, God was active in sustaining the substantial nature and act of the sinner while he was sinning, though not in supporting the sinfulness of the act: he was permissive in suffering it: he was negative in witholding that grace which might certainly have prevented his crime, and consequently his ruin; though he withheld nothing that was sufficient for his resistance of that temptation wherewith he was assaulted. And since the fall of man, God, as a wise governor, is directive of the events of the transgression, and draws the choicest good out of the blackest evil, and limits the sins of men, that they creep not so far as the evil nature of men would urge them to; and as a righteous Judge, he takes away the talent from idle servants, and the light from wicked ones, whereby they stumble and fall into crimes, by the inclinations and proneness of their own corrupt natures, leaves them to the bias of their own vicious habits, denies that grace which they have forfeited, and have no right to challenge, and turns their sinful actions into punishments, both to the committers of them and others.
Prop. I. God’s holiness is not chargeable with any blemish for his creating man in a mutable state. It is true, angels and men were created with a changeable nature; as though there was a rich and glorious stamp upon them by the hand of God, yet their natures were not incapable of a base and vile stamp from some other principle: as the silver which bears upon it the image of a great prince, is capable of being melted down, and imprinted with no better an image than that of some vile and monstrous beast. Though God made man upright, yet he was capable of seeking “many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29); yet the hand of God was not defiled by forming man with such a nature. It was suitable to the wisdom of God to give the rational creature, whom he had furnished with a power of acting righteously, the liberty of choice, and not fix him in an unchangeable state without a trial of him in his natural; that if he did obey, his obedience might be the more valuable; and if he did freely offend, his offence might be more inexcusable.
1. No creature can be capable of immutability by nature. Mutability is so essential to a creature, that a creature cannot be supposed without it; you must suppose it a Creator, not a creature, if you allow it to be of an immutable nature. Immutability is the property of the Supreme Being. God “only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16); immortality, as opposed not only to a natural, but to a sinful death; the word only appropriates every sort of immortality to God, and excludes every creature, whether angel or man, from a partnership with God in this by nature. Every creature, therefore, is capable of a death in sin. “None is good but God,” and none is naturally free from change but God, which excludes every creature from the same prerogative; and certainly, if one angel sinned, all might have sinned, because there was the same root of mutability in one as well as another: It is as possible for a creature to be a Creator, as for a creature to have naturally an incommunicable property of the Creator. All things, whether angels or men, are made of nothing, and therefore, capable of defection; because a creature being made of nothing, cannot be good, per essentiam, or essentially good, but by participation from another. Again, every rational creature, being made of nothing, hath a superior which created him and governs him, and is capable of a precept; and, consequently, capable of disobedience as well as obedience to the precept, to transgress it, as well as obey it. God cannot sin, because he can have no superior to impose a precept on him. A rational creature, with a liberty of will and power of choice, cannot be made by nature of such a mould and temper, but he must be as well capable of choosing wrong, as of choosing right; and, therefore, the standing angels, and glorified saints, though they are immutable, it is not by nature that they are so, but by grace, and the good pleasure of God; for though they are in heaven, they have still in their nature a remote power of sinning, but it shall never be brought into act, because God will always incline their wills to love him, and never concur with their wills to any evil act. Since, therefore, mutability is essential to a creature as a creature, this changeableness cannot properly be charged upon God as the author of it; for it was not the term of God’s creating act, but did necessarily result from the nature of the creature, as unchangeableness doth result from the essence of God. The brittleness of a glass is no blame to the art of him that blew up the glass into such a fashion; that imperfection of brittleness is not from the workman, but the matter; so, though unchangeableness be an imperfection, yet it is so necessary a one, that no creature can be naturally without it; besides, though angels and men were mutable by creation, and capable to exercise their wills , yet they were not necessitated to evil, and this mutability did not infer a necessity that they should fall, because some angels, which had the same root of changeableness in their natures with those that fell, did not fall, which they would have done, if capableness of changing, and necessity of changing, were one and the same thing.
2. Though God made the creature mutable, yet he made him not evil. There could be nothing of evil in him that God created after his own image, and pronounced “good” (Gen. 1:27, 31). Man had an ability to stand, as well as a capacity to fall: he was created with a principal of acting freely, whereby he was capable of loving God as his chief good, and moving to him as his last end; there was a beam of light in man’s understanding to know the rule he was to conform to, a harmony between his reason and his affections, an original righteousness: so that it seemed more easy for him to determine his will to continue in obedience to the precept, than to swerve from it; to adhere to God as his chief good, than to listen to the charms of Satan. God created him with those advantages, that he might with more facility have kept his eyes fixed upon the Divine beauty, than turn his back upon it, and with greater ease have kept the precept God gave him, than have broken it. The very first thought darted, or impression made, by God, upon the angelical or human nature, was the knowledge of himself as their Author, and could be no more than such whereby both angels and men might be excited to a love of that adorable Being, that had framed them so gloriously out of nothing; and if they turned their wills and affections to another object it was not by the direction of God, but contrary to the impression God had made upon them, or the first thought he flashed into them. They turned themselves to the admiring their own excellency, or affecting an advantage distinct from that which they were to look for only from God (1 Tim. 3:6). Pride was the cause of the condemnation of the devil. Though the wills of angels and men were created mutable, and so were imperfect, yet they were not created evil. Though they might sin, yet they might not sin, and, therefore, were not evil in their own nature. What reflection, then, could this mutability of their nature be upon God?
So far is it from any, that he is fully cleared, by storing up in the nature of man sufficient provision against his departure from him. God was so far from creating him evil, that he fortified him with a knowledge in his understanding, and a strength in his nature to withstand any invasion. The knowledge was exercised by Eve, in the very moment of the serpent’s assaulting her (Gen. 3:3); Eve said to the serpent, “God hath said, ye shall not eat of it:” and had her thoughts been intent upon this, “God hath said,” and not diverted to the motions of the sensitive appetite and liquorish palate, it had been sufficient to put by all the passes the devil did, or could have made at her. So that you see, though God made the creature mutable, yet he made him not evil. This clears the holiness of God.
3. Therefore it follows, That though God created man changeable, yet he was not the cause of his change by his fall. Though man was created defectible, yet he was not determined by God influencing his will by any positive act to that change and apostasy. God placed him in a free posture, set life and happiness before him on the one hand, misery and death on the other; as he did not draw him into the arms of perpetual blessedness, so he did not drive him into the gulf of his misery. He did not incline him to evil. It was repugnant to the goodness of God to corrupt the righteousness of those faculties he had so lately beautified him with. It was not likely he should deface the beauty of that work he had composed with so much wisdom and skill. Would he, by any act of his own, make that bad, which, but a little before, he had acquiesced in as good? Angels and men were left to their liberty and conduct of their natural faculties; and if God inspired them with any motions, they could not but be motions to good, and suited to that righteous nature he had endued them with. But it is most probable that God did not, in a supernatural way, act inwardly upon the mind of man, but left him wholly to that power, which he had, in creation, furnished him with. The Scripture frees God fully from any blame in this, and lays it wholly upon Satan, as the tempter, and upon man, as the determiner of his own will (Gen. 3:6); Eve “took of the fruit, and did eat;” and Adam took from her of the fruit, “and did eat.” And Solomon (Eccles. 7:29)
distinguisheth God’s work in the creation of man “upright,” from man’s work in seeking out those ruining inventions. God created man in a righteous state, and man cast himself into a forlorn state. As he was a mutable creature, he was from God; as he was a changed and corrupted creature, it was from the devil seducing, and his own pliableness in admitting. As silver, and gold, and other metals, were created by God in such a form and figure, yet capable of receiving other forms by the industrious art of man; when the image of a man is put upon a piece of metal, God is not said to create that image, though he created the substance with such a property, that it was capable of receiving it; this capacity is from the nature of the metal by God’s creation of it, but the carving the figure of this or that man is not the act of God, but the act of man. As images, in Scripture, are called the work of men’s hands, in regard of the imagery , though the matter, wood or stone, upon which the image was carved, was a work of God’s creative power. When an artificer frames an excellent instrument, and a musician exactly tunes it, and it comes out of their hands without a blemish, but capable to be untuned by some rude hand, or receive a crack by a sudden fall, if it meet with a disaster, is either the workman or musician to be blamed? The ruin of a house, caused by the wastefulness or carelessness of the tenant, is not to be imputed to the workman that built it strong, and left it in a good posture.
Prop. II. God’s holiness is not blemished by enjoining man a law, which he knew he would not observe.
1. The law was not above his strength. Had the law been impossible to be observed, no crime could have been imputed to the subject, the fault had lain wholly upon the Governor; the non-observance of it had been from a want of strength, and not from a want of will. Had God commanded Adam to fly up to the sun, when he had not given him wings, Adam might have a will to obey it, but his power would be too short to perform it. But the law set him for a rule, had nothing of impossibility in it; it was easy to be observed; the command was rather below, than above his strength; and the sanction of it was more apt to restrain and scare him from the breach of it, than encourage any daring attempts against it; he had as much power, or rather more, to conform to it, than to warp from it; and greater arguments and interest to be observant of it, than to violate it; his all was secured by the one, and his ruin ascertained by the other. The commands of God are not grievous (1 John 5:3); from the first to the last command, there is nothing impossible, nothing hard to the original and created nature of man, which were all summed up in a love to God, which was the pleasure and delight of man, as well as his duty, if he had not, by inconsiderateness, neglected the dictates and resolves of his own understanding. The law was suited to the strength of man, and fitted for the improvement and perfection of his nature; in which respect, the apostle calls it “good,”
as it refers to man, as well as “holy,” as it refers to God (Rom. 7:12). Now, since God created man a creature capable to be governed by a law, and as a rational creature endued with understanding and will, not to be governed, according to his nature, without a law; was it congruous to the wisdom of God to respect only the future state of man, which, from the depth of his infinite knowledge, he did infallibly foresee would be miserable, by the wilful defection of man from the rule? Had it been agreeable to the wisdom of God, to respect only this future state, and not the present state of the creature; and therefore leave him lawless, because he knew be would violate the law? Should God forbear to act like a wise governor, because he saw that man would cease to act like an obedient subject? Shall a righteous magistrate forbear to make just and good laws, because he foresees, either from the dispositions of his subjects, their ill-humor, or some circumstances which will intervene, that multitudes of them will incline to break those laws, and fall under the penalty of them? No blame can be upon that magistrate who minds the rule of righteousness, and the necessary duty of his government, since he is not the cause of those turbulent affections of men, which he wisely foresees will rise up against his just edicts.
2. Though the law now be above the strength of man, yet is not the holiness of God blemished by keeping it up. It is true, God hath been graciously pleased to mitigate the severity and rigor of the law, by the entrance of the gospel; yet where men refuse the terms of the gospel, they continue themselves under the condemnation of the law, and are justly guilty of the breach of it, though they have no strength to observe it. The law, as I said before, was not above man’s strength, when he was possessed of original righteousness, though it be above man’s strength, since he was stripped of original righteousness. The command was dated before man had contracted his impotency, when he had a power to keep it as well as to break it. Had it been enjoined to man only after the fall, and not before, he might have had a better pretence to excuse himself, because of the impossibility of it; yet he would not have had sufficient excuse, since the impossibility did not result from the nature of the law, but from the corrupted nature of the creature. It was “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), but it was promulged when man had a strength proportioned to the commands of it. And now, since man hath unhappily made himself incapable of obeying it, must God’s holiness in his law be blemished for enjoining it? Must he abrogate those commands, and prohibit what before he enjoined, for the satisfaction of the corrupted creature? Would not this be his “ceasing to be holy,” that his creature might be unblameably unrighteous? Must God strip himself of his holiness, because man will not discharge his iniquity? He cannot be the cause of sin, by keeping up the law, who would be the cause of all the unrighteousness of men, by removing the authority of it. Some things in the law that are intrinsically good in their own nature, are indispensable, and it is repugnant to the nature of God not to command them. If he were not the guardian of his indispensable law, he would be the cause and countenancer of the creatures’ iniquity. So little reason have men to charge God with being the cause of their sin, by not repealing his law to gratify their impotence, that he would be unholy if he did. God must not lose his purity, because man hath lost his, and cast away the right of his sovereignty, because man hath cast away his power of obedience.
3. God’s foreknowledge that his law would not be observed, lays no blame upon him. Though the foreknowledge of God be infallible, yet it doth not necessitate the creature in acting. It was certain from eternity, that Adam would fall, that men would do such and such actions, that Judas would betray our Saviour; God foreknew all those things from eternity; but, it is as certain that this foreknowledge did not necessitate the will of Adam, or any other branch of his posterity, in the doing those actions that were so foreseen by God; they voluntarily run into such courses, not by any impulsion. God’s knowledge was not suspended between certainty and uncertainty; he certainly foreknew that his law would be broken by Adam; he foreknew it in his own decree of not hindering him, by giving Adam the efficacious grace which would infallibly have prevented it; yet Adam did freely break this law, and never imagined that the foreknowledge of God did necessitate him to it; he could find no cause of his own sin, but the liberty of his own will; he charges the occasion of his sin upon the woman, and consequently upon God in giving the woman to him (Gen. 3:12). He could not be so ignorant of the nature of God, as to imagine him without a foresight of future things: since his knowledge of what was to be known of God by creation, was greater than any man’s since, in all probability. But, however, if he were not acquainted with the notion of God’s foreknowledge, he could not be ignorant of his own act; there could not have been any necessity upon him, any kind of constraint of him in his action, that could have been unknown to him; and he would not have omitted a plea of so strong a nature, when he was upon his trial for life or death; especially when he urgeth so weak an argument, to impute his crime to God, as the gift of the woman; as if that which was designed him for a help, were intended for his ruin. If God’s prescience takes away the liberty of the creature, there is no such thing as a free action in the world (for there is nothing done but is foreknown by God, else we render God of a limited understanding), nor ever was, no, not by God himself, ad extra; for whatsoever he hath done in creation, whatsoever he hath done since the creation, was foreknown by him: he resolved to do it, and, therefore, foreknew that he would do it. Did God do it, therefore, necessarily, as necessity is opposed to liberty? As he freely decrees what he will do, so he effects what he freely decreed. Foreknowledge is so far from intrenching upon the liberty of the will, that predetermination, which in the notion of it speaks something more, doth not dissolve it; God did not only foreknow, but determine the suffering of Christ (Acts 4:27, 28). It was necessary, therefore, that Christ should suffer, that God might not be mistaken in his foreknowledge, or come short of his determinate decree; but did this take away the liberty of Christ in suffering? (Eph. 5:2)
“Who offered himself up to God;” that is, by a voluntary act, as well as designed to do it by a determinate counsel. It did infallibly secure the event, but did not annihilate the liberty of the action, either in Christ’s willingness to suffer, or the crime of the Jews that made him suffer. God’s prescience is God’s provision of things arising from their proper causes; as a gardener foresees in his plants the leaves and the flowers that will arise from them in the spring, because he knows the strength and nature of their several roots which he under ground; but his foresight of these things is not the cause of the rise and appearance of those flowers. If any of us see a ship moving towards such a rock or quicksand, and know it to be governed by a negligent pilot, we shall certainly foresee that the ship will be torn in pieces by the rock, or swallowed up by the sands; but is this foresight of ours from the causes, any cause of the effect; or can we from hence be said to be the authors of the miscarriage of the ship, and the loss of the passengers and goods? The fall of Adam was foreseen by God to come to pass by the consent of his free will, in the choice of the proposed temptation. God foreknew Adam would sin, and if Adam would not have sinned, God would have foreknown that he would not sin. Adam might easily have detected the serpents fraud, and made a better election; God foresaw that he would not do it; God’s foreknowledge did not make Adam guilty or innocent: whether God had foreknown it or no, he was guilty by a free choice, and a willing neglect of his own duty. Adam knew that God foreknew that he might eat of the fruit, and fall and die, because God had forbidden him; the foreknowledge that he would do it, was no more a cause of his action, than the foreknowledge that he might do it. Judas certainly knew that his Master foreknew that he would betray him, for Christ had acquainted him with it (John 13:21, 26); yet he never charged this foreknowledge of Christ with any guilt of his treachery.
Prop. III. The holiness of God is not blemished by decreeing the eternal rejection of some men.
Reprobation, in its first notion, is an act of preterition, or passing by man is not made wicked by the the act of God; but it supposeth him wicked; and so it is nothing else but God’s leaving a man in that guilt and filth wherein he beholds him. In its second notion, it is an ordination, not to a crime, but to a punishment (Jude 4): “an ordaining to condemnation.” And though it be an eternal act of God, yet, in order of nature, it follows upon the foresight of the transgression of man, and supposeth the crime. God considers Adam’s revolt, and views the whole mass of his corrupted posterity, and chooses some to reduce to himself by his grace, and leaves others to he sinking in their ruins. Since all mankind fell by the fall of Adam, and have corruption conveyed to them successively by that root, whereof they are branches; all men might justly be left wallowing in that miserable condition to which they are reduced by the apostasy of their common head; and God might have passed by the whole race of man, as well as he did the fallen angels, without any hope of redemption. He was no more bound to restore man, than to restore devils, nor bound to repair the nature of any one son of Adam; and had he dealt with men as he dealt with the devils, they had had, all of them, as little just ground to complain of God; for all men deserved to be left to themselves, for all were concluded under sin; but God calls out some to make monuments of his grace, which is an act of the sovereign mercy of that dominion, whereby “he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy” (Rom. 9:18); others he passes by, and leaves them remaining in that corruption of nature wherein they were born. If men have a power to dispose of their own goods, without any unrighteousness, why should not God dispose of his own grace, and bestow it upon whom he pleases; since it is a debt to none, but a free gift to any that enjoy it? God is not the cause of sin in this, because his operation about this is negative; it is not an action, but a denial of action, and therefore cannot be the cause of the evil actions of men. God acts nothing, but withholds his power; he doth not enlighten their minds, nor incline their wills so powerfully, as to expel their darkness, and root out those evil habits which possess them by nature. God could, if he would, savingly enlighten the minds of all men in the world, and quicken their hearts with a new life by an invincible grace; but in not doing it, there is no positive act of God, but a cessation of action. We may with as much reason say, that God is the cause of all the sinful actions that are committed by the corporation of devils, since their first rebellion, because he leaves them to themselves, and bestows not a new grace upon them,—as say, God is the cause of the sins of those that he overlooks and leaves in that state of guilt wherein he found them. God did not pass by any without the consideration of sin; so that this act of God is not repugnant to his holiness, but conformable to his justice.
Prop. IV. The holiness of God is not blemished by his secret will to suffer sin to enter into the world. God never willed sin by his preceptive will. It was never founded upon, or produced by any word of his, as the creation was. He never said, Let there be sin under the heaven, as he said, “Let there be water under the heaven.” Nor doth he will it by infusing any habit of it, or stirring up inclinations to it; no, “God tempts no man” (James 1:13). Nor doth he will it by his approving will; it is detestable to him, nor ever can he be otherwise; he cannot approve it either before commission or after.
1. The will of God is in some sort concurrent with sin. He doth not properly will it, but he wills not to hinder it, to which, by his omnipotence, he could put a bar. If he did positively will it, it might be wrought by himself, and so could not be evil. If he did in no sort will it, it would not be committed by his creature; sin entered into the world, either God willing the permission of it, or not willing the permission of it. The latter cannot be said; for then the creature is more powerful than God, and can do that which God will not permit. God can, if he be pleased, banish all sin in a moment out of the world: he could have prevented the revolt of angels, and the fall of man; they did not sin whether he would or no: he might, by his grace, have stepped in the first moment, and made a special impression upon them of the happiness they already possessed, and the misery they would incur by any wicked attempt. He could as well have prevented the sin of the fallen angels, and confirmed them in grace, as of those that continued in their happy state: he might have appeared to man, informed him of the issue of his design, and made secret impressions upon his heart, since he was acquainted with every avenue to his will. God could have kept all sin out of the world, as well as all creatures from breathing is it; he was as well able to bar sin forever out of the world, as to let creatures be in the womb of nothing, wherein they were first wrapped. To say God doth will sin as he doth other things, is to deny his holiness; to say it entered without anything of his will, is to deny his omnipotence. If he did necessitate Adam to fall, what shall we think of his purity? If Adam did fall without any concern of God’s will in it, what shall we say of his sovereignty? The one taints his holiness, and the other clips his power. If it came without anything of his will in it, and he did not foresee it, where is his omniscience If it entered whether he would or no, where is his omnipotence (Rom. 9:19)? “Who hath resisted his will?” There cannot be a lustful act in Abimelech, if God will withhold his power (Gen. 20:6); “I withheld thee:” nor a cursing word in Balaam’s mouth, unless God give power to speak it (Num. 22:38): “Have I now any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.” As no action could be sinful, if God had not forbidden it; so no sin could be committed, if God did not will to give way to it.
2. God doth not will directly, and by an efficacious will. He doth not directly will it, because he hath prohibited it by his law, which is a discovery of his will: so that if he should directly will sin, and directly prohibit it, he would will good and evil in the same manner, and there would be contradictions in God’s will: to will sin absolutely, is to work it (Psalm 115:3): “God hath done whatsoever hes pleased.” God cannot absolutely will it, because he cannot work it. God wills good by a positive decree, because he hath decreed to effect it. He wills evil by a private decree, because he hath decreed not to give that grace which would certainly prevent it. God doth not will sin simply, for that were to approve it, but he wills it, in order to that good his wisdom will bring forth from it. He wills not sin for itself, but for the event. To will sin as sin, or as purely evil, is not in the capacity of a creature, neither of man nor devil. The will of a rational creature cannot will anything but under the appearance of good, of some good in the sin itself, or some good in the issue of it. Much more is this far from God, who, being infinitely good, cannot will evil as evil; and being infinitely knowing, cannot will that for good which is evil. Infinite wisdom can be under no error or mistake: to will sin as sin, would be an unanswerable blemish on God; but to will to suffer it in order to good, is the glory of his wisdom; it could never have peeped up its head, unless there had been some decree of God concerning it. And there had been no decree of God concerning it, had he not intended to bring good and glory out of it. If God did directly will the discovery of his grace and mercy to the world, he did in some sort will sin, as that without which there could not have been any appearance of mercy in the world; for an innocent creature is not the object of mercy, but a miserable creature and no rational creature but must be sinful before it be miserable.
3. God wills the permission of sin. He doth not positively will sin, but he positively wills to permit it. And though he doth not approve of sin, yet he approves of that act of his will, whereby he permits it. For since that sin could not enter into the world without some concern of God’s will about it, that act of his will that gave way to it, could not be displeasing to him: God could never be diseased with his own act: “He is not as man, that he should repent” (1 Sam. 15:29). What God cannot repent of, he cannot but approve of: it is contrary to the blessedness of God to disapprove of; and be displeased with any act of his own will. If he hated any act of his own will, he would hate himself, he would be under a torture every one that hates his own acts, is under some disturbance and torment for them. That which is permitted by him, is in itself, and in regard of the evil of it, hateful to him: but as the prospect of that good which he aims at in the permission of it is pleasing to him, so that act of his will, whereby he permits it, is ushered in by an approving act of his understanding. Either God approved of the permission, or not; if he did not approve his own act of permission, he could not have decreed an act of permission. It is inconceivable that God should decree such an act which he detested, and positively will that which he hated. Though God hated sin, as being against his holiness, yet he did not hate the permission of sin, as being subservient by the immensity of his wisdom to his own glory. He could never be displeased with that which was the result of his eternal counsel, as this decree of permitting sin was, as well as any other decree, resolved upon in his own breast. For as God acts nothing in time, but what he decreed from eternity, so he permits nothing in time but what he decreed from eternity to permit. To speak properly, therefore, God doth not will sin, but he wills the permission of it, and this will to permit is active and positive in God.
4. This act of permission is not a mere and naked permission, but such an one as is attended with a certainty of the event. The decrees of God to make use of the sin of man for the glory of his grace in the mission and passion of his Son, hung upon this entrance of sin. Would it consist with the wisdom of God to decree such great and stupendous things, the event whereof should depend upon an uncertain foundation which he might be mistaken in? God would have sat in counsel from eternity to no purpose, if he had only permitted those things to be done, without any knowledge of the event of this permission.
God would not have made such provision for redemption to no purpose, or an uncertain purpose, which would have been, if man had not fallen; or if it had been an uncertainty with God whether he would fall or no. Though the will of God about sin was permissive, yet the will of God about that glory he would promote by the defect of the creature, was positive; and, therefore, he would not suffer so many positive acts of his will to hang upon an uncertain event; and, therefore, he did wisely and righteously order all things to the accomplishment of his great and gracious purposes.
5. This act of permission doth not taint the holiness of God. That there is such an act as permission, is clear in Scripture (Acts 14:16): “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.” But that it doth not blemish the holiness of God, will appear,
1st. From the nature of this permission.
1. It is not a moral permission, a giving liberty of toleration by any law to commit sin with impunity; when, what one law did forbid, another law doth leave indifferent to be done or not, as a man sees good in himself. As when there is a law made among men, that no man shall go out of such a city or country without license, to go out without license is a crime by the law; but when that law is repealed by another, that gives liberty for men to go and come at their pleasure, it doth not make their going or coming necessary, but leaves those which were before bound, to do as they see good in themselves. Such a permission makes a fact lawful, though not necessary; a man is not obliged to do it, but he is left to his own discretion to do as he pleases, without being chargeable with a crime for doing it. Such a permission there was granted by God to Adam of eating of the fruits of the garden, to choose any of them for food, except the tree of “knowledge of good and evil.” It was a precept to him, not to “eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;” but the other was a permission, whereby it was lawful for him to feed upon any other that was most agreeable to his appetite but there is not such a permission in the case of sin; this had been an indulgence of it, which had freed man from any crime, and, consequently, from punishment; because, by such a permission by law, he would have had authority to sin if he please God did not remove the law, which he had before placed as a bar against evil, nor ceased that moral impediment of his threatening: such a permission as this, to make sin lawful or indifferent, had been a blot upon God’s holiness.
2. But this permission of God, in the case of sin, is no more than the not hindering a sinful action, which he could have prevented. It is not so much an action of God, as a suspension of his influence, which might have hindered an evil act, and a forbearing to restrain the faculties of man from sin; it is, properly, the not exerting that efficacy which might change the counsels that are taken, and prevent the action intended; as when one man sees another ready to fall, and can preserve him from falling by reaching out his hand, he permits him to fall, that is, he hinders him not from falling. So God describes his act about Abimelech (Gen. 20:6); “I withheld thee from sinning against me, therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.” If Abimelech had sinned, he had sinned by God’s permission; that is, by God’s not hindering, or not restraining him by making any impressions upon him. So that permission is only a withholding that help and grace, which, if bestowed, would have been an effectual remedy to prevent a crime; and it is rather a suspension, or cessation, than properly a permission, and sin may be said to be committed, not without God’s permission, rather than by his permission. Thus, in the fall of man, God did not hold the reins strict upon Satan, to restrain him from laying the bait, nor restrain Adam from swallowing the bait: he kept to himself that efficacious grace which he might have darted out upon man to prevent his fall. God left Satan to his malice of tempting, and Adam to his liberty of resisting, and his own strength, to use that sufficient grace he had furnished him with, whereby he might have resisted and overcome the temptation. As he did not drive man to it, so he did not secretly restrain him from it. So, in the Jews crucifying our Saviour, God did not imprint upon their minds, by his Spirit, a consideration of the greatness of the crime, and the horror of his justice due to it; and, being without those impediments, they run furiously, of their own accord, to the commission of that evil; as, when a man lets a wolf or dog out upon his prey, he takes off the chain which held them, and they presently act according to their natures. In the fall of angels and men, God’s act was leaving them to their own strength; in sins after the fall, it is God’s giving them up to their own corruption; the first is a pure suspension of grace; the other hath the nature of a punishment (Psalm 81:12): “So I gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts.” The first object of this permissive will of God was to leave angels and men to their liberty, and the use of their free will, which was natural to them, not adding that supernatural grace which was necessary, not that they should not at all sin, but that they should infallibly not sin: they had a strength sufficient to avoid sin, but not sufficient infallibly to avoid sin; a grace sufficient to preserve them, but not sufficient to confirm them.
3. Now this permission is not the cause of sin, nor doth blemish the holiness of God. It doth not intrench upon the freedom of men, but supposeth it, establisheth it, and leaves man to it. God acted nothing, but only ceased to act; and therefore could not be the efficient cause of man’s sin. As God is not the author of good, but by willing and effecting it, so he is not the author of evil, but by willing and effecting it, but he doth not positively will evil, nor effect it by any efficacy of his own. Permission is no action, nor the cause of that action which is permitted; but the will of that person who is permitted to do such an action is the cause. God can no more be said to be the cause of sin, by suffering a creature to act as it will, than he can be said to be the cause of the not being of any creature, by denying it being, and letting it remain nothing; it is not from God that it is nothing, it is nothing in itself. Though God be said to be the cause of creation, yet he is never by any said to be the cause of that nothing which was before creation. This permission of God is not the cause of sin, but the cause of not hindering sin. Man and angels had a physical power of sinning from God, as they were created with freewill, and supported in their natural strength; but the moral power to sin was not from God; he counselled them not to it, laid no obligation upon them to use their natural power for such an end; he only left them to their freedom, and not hindered them in their acting what he was resolved to permit.
2d. The holiness of God is not tainted by this, because he was under no obligation to hinder their commission of sin. Ceasing to act, whereby to prevent a crime or mischief, brings not a person permitting it under guilt, unless where he is under an obligation to prevent it; but God, in regard of his absolute dominion, cannot be charged with any such obligation. One man, that doth not hinder the murder of another, when it is in his power, is guilty of the murder in part; but, it is to be considered, that he is under a tie by nature, as being of the same kind, and being the other’s brother, by a communion of blood, also under an obligation of the law of charity, enacted by the common Sovereign of the world: but what he was there upon God, since the infinite transcendancy of his nature, and his sovereign dominion, frees him from any such obligation (Job 9:12)? “If he takes away, who shall say, What dost thou?” God might have prevented the fall of men and angels; he might have confirmed them all in a state of perpetual innocency; but where is the obligation? He had made the creature a debtor to himself, but he owed nothing to the creature. Before God can be charged with any guilt in this case, it must be proved, not only that he could, but that he was bound to hinder it. No person can be justly charged with another’s fault, merely for not preventing it, unless he be bound to prevent it; else, not only the first sin of angels and man would be imputed to God, as the Author, but all the sins of men. He could not be obliged by any law, because he had no superior to impose any law upon him; and it will be hard to prove that he was obliged, from his own nature, to prevent the entrance of sin, which he would use as an occasion to declare his own holiness, so transcendent a perfection of his nature, more than ever it could have been manifested by a total exclusion of it, viz. in the death of Christ. He is no more bound, in his own nature, to preserve, by supernatural grace, his creature from falling, after he had framed him with a sufficient strength to stand, than he was obliged, in his own nature, to bring his creature into being when it was nothing. He is not bound to create a rational creature, much less bound to create him with supernatural gifts; though, since God would make a rational creaturc, he could not but make him with a natural uprightness and rectitude.
God did as much for angels and men as became a wise governor: he had published his law, backed it with severe penalties, and the creature wanted not a natural strength to observe and obey it. Had not man power to obey all the precepts of the law, as well as one? How was God bound to give him more grace, since what he had already was enough to shield him, and keep up his resistance against all the power of hell? It had been enough to have pointed his will against the temptation, and he had kept off the force of it. Was there any promise past to Adam of any further grace which he could plead as a tie upon God? No such voluntary limit upon God’s supreme dominion appears upon record. Was anything due to man which he had not? anything promised him which was not performed? What action of debt, then, can the creature bring against God? Indeed, when man began to neglect the light of his own reason, and became inconsiderate of the precept, God might have enlightened his understanding by a special flash, a supernatural beam, and imprinted upon him a particular consideration of the necessity of his obedience, the misery he was approaching to by his sin, the folly of any apprehension of an equality in knowledge; he might have convinced him of the falsity of the serpent’s arguments, and uncased to him the venom that lay under those baits. But how doth it appear that God was bound to those additional acts when he had already lighted up in him a “spirit, which was the candle of the Lord” (Prov. 20:27), whereby he was able to discern all, if he had attended to it. It was enough that God did not necessitate man to sin, did not counsel him to it; that he had given him sufficient warning in the threatening, and sufficient strength in his faculties, to fortify him against temptation. He gave him what was due to him as a creature of his own framing; he withdrew no help from him, that was due to him as a creature, and what was not due he was not bound to impart. Man did not beg preserving grace of God, and God was not bound to offer it, when he was not petitioned for it especially: yet if he had begged it, God having before furnished him sufficiently, might, by the right of his sovereign dominion, have denied it without any impeachment of his holiness and righteousness. Though he would not in such a case have dealt so bountifully with his creature as he might have done, yet he could not have been impleaded, as dealing unrighteously with his creature. The single word that God bad already uttered, when he gave him his precept, was enough to oppose against all the devil’s wiles, which tended to invalidate that word: the understanding of man could not imagine that the word of God was vainly spoken; and the very suggestion of the devil, as if the Creator should envy his creature, would have appeared ridiculous, if he had attended to the voice of his own reason. God had done enough for him, and was obliged to do no more, and dealt not unrighteously in leaving him to act according to the principles of his nature. To conclude, if God’s permission of sin were enough to charge it upon God, or if God had been obliged to give Adam supernatural grace, Adam, that had so capacious a brain, could not be without that plea in his mouth, “Lord thou mightest have prevented it; the commission of it by me could not have been without thy permission of it:” or, “Thou hast been wanting to me, as the author of my nature.” No such plea is brought by Adam into the court, when God tried and cast him; no such pleas can have any strength in them. Adam had reason enough to know, that there was sufficient reason to overrule such a plea.
Since the permission of sin casts no dirt upon the holiness of God, as I think hath been cleared, we may under this head consider two things more.
1. That God’s permission of sin is not so much as his restraint or limitation of it. Since the entrance of the first sin into the world by Adam, God is more a hinderer than a permitter of it. If he hath permitted that which he could have prevented, he prevents a world more, that he might, if he pleased, permit: the hedges about sin are larger than the outlets; they are but a few streams that glide about the world, in comparison of that mighty torrent he dams up both in men and devils. He that understands what a lake of Sodom is in every man’s nature, since the universal infection of human nature, as the apostle describes it (Rom. 3:9, 10, &c.), must acknowledge, that if God should cast the reins upon the necks of sinful men, they would run into thousands of abominable crimes, more than they do the impression of all natural laws would be raced out, the world would be a public stew, and a more bloody slaughter house; human society would sink into a chaos; no starlight of commendable morality would be seen in it; the world would be no longer an earth, but an hell, and have lain deeper in wickedness than it doth. If God did not limit sin, as he doth the sea, and put bars to the waves of the heart, as well as those of the waters, and say of them, “Hitherto you shall go, and no further;” man hath such a furious ocean in him, as would overflow the banks; and where it makes a breach in one place, it would in a thousand, if God should suffer it to act according to its impetuous current. As the devil hath lust enough to destroy all mankind, if God did not bridle him; deal with every man as he did with Job, ruin their comforts, and deform their bodies with scabs; infect religion with a thousand more errors; fling disorders into commonwealths, and make them as a fiery furnace, full of nothing but flame; if he were not chained by that powerful arm, that might let him loose to fulfil his malicious fury; what rapines, murders, thefts, would be committed, if he did not stint him! Abimelech would not only lust after Sarah, but deflour her; Laban not only pursue Jacob, but rifle him; Saul not only hate David, but murder him; David not only threaten Nabal, but root him up, and his family, did not God girdle in the wrath of man: a greater remainder of wrath is pent in, than flames out , which yet swells for an outlet. God may be concluded more holy in preventing men’s sins, than the author of sin in permitting some; since, were it not for his restraints by the pull-back of conscience, and infused motions and outward impediments, the world would swarm more with this cursed brood.
2. His permission of sin is in order to his own glory, and a greater good. It is no reflection upon the Divine goodness to leave man to his own conduct, whereby such a deformity as sin sets foot in the world; since he makes his wisdom illustrious in bringing good out of evil, and a good greater than that evil he suffered to spring up. God did not permit sin, as sin, or permit it barely for itself: As sin is not lovely in its own nature, so neither is the permission of sin intrinsically good or amiable for itself, but for those ends aimed at in the permission of it. God permitted sin, but approved not of the object of that permission, sin; because that, considered in its own nature, is solely evil: nor can we think that God could approve of the act of permission, considered only in itself as an act; but as it respected that event which his wisdom would order by it. We cannot suppose that God should permit sin, but for some great and glorious end: for it is the manifestation of his own glorious perfections he intends in all the acts of his will (Prov. 16:4), “The Lord hath made all things for himself”—פעל hath wrought all things; which is not only his act of creation, but ordination: “for himself;” that is, for the discovery of the excellency of his nature, and the communication of himself to his creature. Sin indeed, in its own nature, hath no tendency to a good end; the womb of it teems with nothing but monsters; it is a spurn at God’s sovereignty, and a slight of his goodness: it both deforms and torments the person that acts it; it is black and abominable, and hath not a mite of goodness in the nature of it. If it ends in any good, it is only from that Infinite transcendency of skill, that can bring good out of evil, as well as light out of darkness. Therefore God did not permit it as sin, but as it was an occasion for the manifestation of his own glory. Though the goodness of God would have appeared in the preservation of the world, as well as it did in the creation of it, yet his mercy could not have appeared without the entrance of sin, because the object of mercy is a miserable creature; but man could not be miserable as long as he remained innocent. The reign of sin opened a door for the reign and triumph of grace (Rom. 5:21), “As sin hath reigned unto death, so might grace reign through righteousness to eternal life;” without it, the bowels of mercy had never sounded, and the ravishing music of Divine grace could never have been heard by the creature. Mercy, which renders God so amiable, could never else have beamed out to the world. Angels and men upon this occasion beheld the stirrings of Divine grace, and the tenderness of Divine nature, and the glory of the Divine persons in their several functions about the redemption of man, which had else been a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed; the song of glory to God, and good will to men in a way of redemption had never been sung by them. It appears in his dealing with Adam, that he permitted his fall, not only to show his justice in punishing, but principally his mercy in rescuing; since he proclaims to him first the promise of a Redeemer to “bruise the serpent’s head,” before he settled the punishment he should smart under in the world (Gen. 3:15–17). And what fairer prospect could the creature have of the holiness of God, and his hatred of sin, than in the edge of that sword of justice, which punished it in the sinner; but glittered more in the punishment of a Surety so near allied to him? Had not man been criminal, he could not have been punishable, nor any been punishable for him: and the pulse of Divine holiness could not have eaten so quick, and been so visible, without an exercise of his vindicative justice. He left man’s mutable nature, to fall under righteousness, that thereby he might commend the righteousness of his own nature (Rom. 3:7). Adam’s sin in its nature tended to the ruin of the world, and God takes an occasion from it for the glory of his grace in the redemption of the world; he brings forth thereby a new scene of wonders from heaven, and a surprising knowledge on earth; as the sun breaks out more strongly after a night of darkness and tempest. As God in creation framed a chaos by his power, to manifest his wisdom in bringing order out of disorder, light out of darkness, beauty out of confusion and deformity, when he was able by a word to have made all creatures stand up in their beauty, without the precedency of a chaos; so God permitted a moral chaos to manifest a greater wisdom in the repairing a broken image, and restoring a deplorable creature, and bringing out those perfections of his nature, which had else been wrapt up in a perpetual silence in his own bosom. It was therefore very congruous to the holiness of God to permit that which he could make subservient for his own glory, and particularly for the manifestation of this attribute of holiness, which seems to be in opposition to such a permission.
Excerpt from The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock