« PreviousContinue »
11.) And it is the "presence where is fullness of joy," which they aspire after. (Psal. xvi. 11.) But there is also a presence that the “earth shall tremble at.” (Psal. cxiv. 7,) and that the “ wicked shall perish at;” (Psal. lxviii. 2 ;) so that a particular providence must be remembered by them that believe and remember the immensity of God.
CHAP. V. 4. The Eternity of God is the next attribute to be known, which also must have its work upon the soul. And, 1. This also sheweth us that God is incomprehensible; for man cannot comprehend eternity. When we go about to think of that which hath no beginning nor end, it is to our mind, as a place a thousand miles off is to our eye; even beyond our reach; we cannot say there is no such place, yea, we know there is ; but we cannot see it: so we know there is an Eternal Being; but our knowledge of his eternity is not intuitive, or comprehensive. Eternity therefore is the object of our faith, and reverence, and admiration, but forbids our busy, bold inquiries. O the arrogancy of those ignorantly-learned, and foolishly-wise disputing men, that have so long perplexed, if not torn in pieces the church, about the priority and posteriority of the knowledge and decrees of God, when they confess them all to be eternal! As if they knew not that terms of priority and presentiality, and posteriority, have not that significancy in or about eternity, as they have with us!
2. The eternity of God must draw the soul from transitory to eternal things. It is an everlasting blessedness, even the eternal God, that our souls are made for; the brutes are made for a mortal happiness; the immortal soul cannot be fully content with any thing that will have an end. As a capacity of this endless blessedness doth difference man from the beasts that perish ; so the disposition to it doth difference saints from the ungodly; and the fruition of it doth difference the glorified from the damned. Alas, what a silly thing were man, if he were capable of nothing but these transitory things! What were our lives worth, and what were our time worth, and what were all our mercies worth, or what were all the world worth to us, or what were we worth ourselves? I would not undervalue he works of God; but truly if man had no other life to live
but this, I should esteem him a very contemptible creature. If you say there is some excellency in the brutes, I answer, true; but their usefulness is their chiefest excellency; and what is their use but to be a glass in which we may see the Lord, and to be serviceable to man in his passage to eternity? They are not capable of knowing, or loving, or enjoying God themselves : but they are useful to man that is capable of this ; and so they have an everlasting end, and this is their excellency. And therefore the atheist that denieth an everlasting life to man, doth bring himself into a far baser state than the brutes are in ; for the brutes have an everlasting end, in promoting the happiness of man : but if man have no everlasting end himself, there is no other whose everlasting happiness he can promote. The unbeliever therefore doth debase his own soul, and the whole creation : and faith and holiness advance the soul and all things with it, that are useful to our advancement. The true believer honoureth his horse, his dog, his food and raiment, and the earth he treadeth on, and every creature, incomparably more than the infidel doth honour his own or any other's soul, or than 'he honoureth the greatest prince on earth. For the believer useth all things, even the vilest, in reference to eternity ; but the infidel useth his life and soul but to a transitory end; and takes the greatest prince on earth to be but for a transitory use. And as eternity is invaluable in comparison of time, so the use and excellency that a believer doth ascribe to a bit of bread, or the basest creature, in the sanctified improvement of it, is ten thousand times, even unspeakably above the use and excellency that an unbeliever ascribeth to his soul or his prince. He that stampeth the image of a dog or a toad upon gold, instead of the image of the prince, and would have ten thousand pounds worth go but for a farthing, doth not by a thousand degrees so much debase the gold, as the infidel doth debase his soul and all things. Infidelity is guilty of the destruction of all souls, and the destruction of all mercies, and the destruction of all divine revelations, of all graces, of all ordinances, and means, and of the destruction of the whole creation that was made for man: for he that destroyeth the end, destroyeth all the means : but the infidel destroyeth and denieth the end of every one of these, and holiness only doth give them up, and use them to their ends. 1. He is guilty of the destruction of all souls : For as much as in him lies they are destroyed, while they are all made useless to the end for which they were created. If there be no other life and happiness everlasting, what are souls good for? What is the reasonable creature good for? Is it to be happy here? In what? Here is no happiness. Is it in eating, and drinking, and sleeping? Why these are to strengthen us for our service which tendeth to our end, and therefore cannot be themselves our end. Is it not better be without either meat, or drink, or sleep, in point of happiness, so be it we also were without the need of them, than to need them and have them for our need, especially with the care and trouble which they cost us? I had an hundred times rather for my part, if it were lawful to desire it, never have meat, or drink, or sleep, and be without the need of them, as I had rather be without a sore, than to have a plaister that will ease it, and be every day at the pains to dress it. Brutes have some advantage in these above men, in that they have not the care, and fear, and sorrow of mind as we have, in the getting or keeping what they have or need. If you go downward, and say that men are made to govern brutes, then what are brutes made for, unless to dung the earth? And so the basest shall be the end of the noblest, and God may be as wisely said to be for man, because he is to govern him. Truly if there were no everlasting life, but man were a mere terrestrial animal, I had rather never have been born, or should wish I had never been a man: I knew not what to do with myself, nor how to employ the faculties of my soul or body, but they would all seem to me as useless things. What should I do with my reason, if I had no higher an end than beasts? What should I do with a mind that knoweth that there is a God, and another world, and that is capable of desiring him, seeking and enjoying him, if it must be frustrated of all ? What should I do with a heart that is capable of the love of God, and delighting in his love, if I have no God to love and delight in, when this life is ended? Why have I a heart that so desireth him, in fuller vision and fruition, if I be capable of no such thing? What then should I do with my time and life? Verily I know not, if I were fully of this sad opinion, whether I should turn brute in my life agreeably to my judgment, or whether I should make an end of
my life to be eased of a useless burden; but confident I am
2. The infidel and ungodly man that looks not after an eternal end, destroyeth all the mercies of God, and makes them as no mercies at all. Creation and our being is a mercy ; but it is in order to our eternal end. Redemption by Christ is an unspeakable mercy ; but it is denied by the infidel, and rejected by the ungodly. What is Christ worth, and all his mediation, if there be no life for man but this? Peace and liberty, health and life, friends and neighbours, food and raiment, are all mercies to us, as a ship and sails
are to the mariner, or a fair way, or horse, or inn to a traveller: but if by denying our eternal end, you make our voyage or our journey vain, these mercies then are little worth : no more than a ship on the land, or a plough in the sea, or a horse to him that hath no use for him. And O! what an ungrateful wretch is that, who will deny all the mercies of God to himself, and to all others ! For, once deny the use and the eternal end, and you deny the mercy.
3. He that believeth not, or seeks not after an eternal end, destroyeth all the doctrine, law and government of God: for all is but to lead us to this end. All the holy Scriptures, the precepts of Christ, and his holy example, the covenant of grace, the gifts and miracles of the Holy Ghost, the light and law of nature itself, are all to bring us to our eternal end : and therefore he that denieth that end, doth cancel them all, and cast them by as useless things.
4. And he denieth all the graces of the Spirit: For what use is there for faith, if the object of it be a falsehood ? What use for hope, if there be no life to be hoped for? What use for holy desires and love, if God be not to be enjoyed? Grace is but the delusion and deformity of the soul, if the infidel and ungodly be in the right.
5. They destroy also all the means of our salvation, if they deny salvation, which is the end. To what purpose should men study, or read, or hear, or pray, or use either sacraments or any
means, for an end that is not to be had ? To what end should men obey or suffer, for any such end that is not attainable ?
6. Yea, they do let loose the soul to sin, and take off all effectual restraint. If there be no eternal end, and no reward or punishment but here, what can effectually hinder the men of this opinion from stealing, whoredom, or any villany, when it may be done with secrecy? What should hinder the revengeful man from poisoning or secretly murdering his enemy, or setting his house on fire in the night? If I know a man or woman that believes no life to come, I take it for granted they are revengeful, thieves, deceivers, fornicators, or any thing that is bad, if they have but temptation, and secret opportunity. For what hath he to seek but the pleasing of his flesh, that thinks he hath no God to seek or please, or no future reward or punishment to expect? He that confesseth himself an infidel, to me, doth