« السابقةمتابعة »
2. That this outward dispensation being presupposed, yet in effectual working upon particular persons, there is no less variety, for he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.'
3. Discover the rules of this whole administration.
1. For the first, The promise was at first made unto Adam, and by him doubtless conveyed to his issue, and preached to the several generations, which his eyes beheld, proceeding from his own loins; but yet the wickedness of the old world,' all flesh corrupting their ways, we may easily collect, that the knowledge of it quickly departed from the most, sin banishing the love of God from their hearts, hindered the knowledge of God from continuing in their minds. After many revivings," by visions, revelations, and covenants, it was at length called in from the wide world, and wholly restrained to the house, family, and seed of Abraham," with whom alone all the means of grace continued, for thrice fourteen generations; they alone were in Goshen, and all the world besides in thick darkness; the dew of heaven was on them as the fleece, when else all the earth was dry. 'God shewed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel, he hath not dealt so with any nation;' Psal. cxli. 19, 20. The prerogative of the Jews was chiefly in this, that to them were committed the oracles of God, Rom. iii. To them pertained the adoption, and the glory, the covenants, and the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;' Rom. ix. 4. But when the fulness of time came, the Son of God being sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all men unto him; and God, who had before winked at the time of their ignorance, then called them every where to repent, commanding the gospel to be preached to the universality of reasonable creatures, and the way of salvation to be proclaimed unto all; upon which, in few years, the sound of the gospel went out into all nations, and the sun of righteousness
Gen. iii. 15. iv. 26.
• Gen. xii. 1. xviii. 1, 2.
John xii. 32. Acts xvii. 30.
m Gen. vi. 5.
n Gen. v. 24. vi. 18. Psal. lxxvi. 1, 2. John iv. 22. Gal. iv. 4. Mark xvi. 15. Mal. iii. 4. Prov. viii. 31.
P See Tertullian, lib. ad. Jud. Reckoning almost all the known nations of the world, and affirming that they all, that is, some in them, in his days, submitted to the sceptre of Christ. He lived in the end of the second century.
displayed his beams upon the habitable parts of the earth. But yet once more this light, by Satan and his agents, persecutors, and seducers, is almost extinguished, as was foretold, 2 Thes. ii. remaining but in few places, and burning dim where it was, the kingdom of the beast being full of darkness; Rev. xvi. 10. Yet God again raiseth up reformers, and by them kindles a light, we hope, never to be put out. But alas, what a spot of ground doth this shine on, in comparison of the former vast extents and bounds of the Christian world! Now is all this variety, think you, to be ascribed unto chance, as the philosopher thought the world was made by a casual concurrence of atoms? Or hath the idol free-will, with the new goddess contingency, ruled in these dispensations? Truly neither the one nor the other, no more than the fly raised the dust by sitting on the chariot wheel; but all these things have come to pass, according to a certain unerring rule, given them by God's determinate purpose and counsel.
2. Presupposing this variety in the outward means, how is it that thereupon one is taken, another left? The promise is made known to Cain and Abel; one the first murderer, the other the first martyr. Jacob and Esau had the same outward advantages, but the one becomes Israel, the other Edom, the one inherits the promises, the other sells his right for a mess of pottage. At the preaching of our Saviour, some believed, some blasphemed; some said he was ' a good man, others said, nay, but he deceived the people.' Have we not the word in its power this day, and do we not see the like various effects, some continuing in impenitency, others in sincerity closing with Jesus Christ? Now what shall we say to these things? What guides these wheels? Who thus steers his word for the good of souls? Why this also, as I said before, is from some peculiarly distinguishing purpose of the will of God.
3. To open the third thing proposed, I shall shew, (1.) That all this variety is according to God's determinate purpose, and answereth thereunto. (2.) The particular purposes from whence this variety proceedeth.
(1.) Ephes. i. 11. He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.' As a man may be said to
erect a fabric according to the counsel of his will, when he frameth it before in his mind, and maketh all things in event answer his preconceived platform. All things (especially rà mάνra, all those things of which the apostle there treateth, gospel-things) have their futurition, and manner of being, from his eternal purpose: whence also is the idea in the mind of God, of all things with their circumstances, that shall be: that is the first mover, continuing itself immoveable, giving to every thing a regular motion, according to the impression which from that it doth receive: For known unto him are all his works from the beginning of the world;' Acts xv. 18.
If any attendants of actions might free and exempt them from the regular dependance we insist upon, they must be either contingency, or sin; but yet for both these we have, besides general rules, clear, particular instances. What seems more contingent and casual, than the unadvised slaying of a man, with the fall of the head of an axe from the helve, as a man was cutting wood by the way side? Deut. xix. 5. Yet God assumes this as his own work, Exod. xxiii. 13. The same may be said of free agents, and their actions. And for the other, see Acts iv. 27, 28. in the crucifying of the Son of God's love, all things came to pass according as his counsel had before determined that it should be done. Now how in the one of these liberty is not abridged, the nature of things not changed in the other, sin is not countenanced," belongs not to this discourse. 'The counsel of the Lord then standeth for ever, and the thoughts of his heart are unto all generations;' Psal. xxxiii. 12. His counsel standeth, and he will do all his pleasure;' Isa. xlvi. 10. For he is the Lord, and he changeth not;' Mal. iii. 6. With him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning;' James i. 17. All things that are, come to pass in
a Piscat. in loc.
· Πάντα δὲ λέγω, τὰ ουκ ἐφ ̓ ἡμῖν, τὰ γὰρ ἐφ' ἡμῖν, οὐ τῆς προνοίας, ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἡμετέρου autežovciou. Damascin. satis impie.
• Malt. x. 29. Job xiv. 5. Prov. xvi. 33. Prov. xxi. 1. 30. xix. 21. Nihil fit nisi omnipotens fieri velit, vel ipse faciendo, vel sinendo ut fiat. Aug. Gen. iv. 5-7. 1 Kings xxii. 19-21. 2 Kings v. 18, 19. Psal. lxxvi. 10. Eccles. vii. 26. Isa. vi. 9-11, &c.
Deus non operatur in malis, quod ei displicet; sed operatur per eos quod ei placet, recipientur vero non pro eo, quod Deus bene usus est ipsorum operibus malis, sed pro eo, quod ipsi male abusi sunt Dei operibus bonis. Fulgent. ad Monim.
that unchangeable method, in which he hath laid them down from all eternity.
(2.) Let us look peculiarly upon the purposes according to which the dispensations of the gospel, both in sending and withholding it, do proceed.
[1.] For the not sending of the means of grace unto any people, whereby they hear not the joyful sound of the gospel, but have in all ages followed dumb idols, as many do unto this day.
In this chapter of which we treat, the gospel is forbidden to be preached in Asia and Bithynia; which restraint, the Lord by his providence, as yet continues to many parts of the world. Now the purpose from whence this proceedeth, and whereby it is regulated, you have Rom. ix. 22. 'What if God willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of is wrath fitted to destruction:' compared with Matt. xi. 25, 26. Thou hast hid these things from the prudent and wise, even so, O Father, for so it seemed good before thee;' and with Acts xiv. 16. He suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." Now God's not sending the truth, hath the same design and aim with his sending the efficacy of error, viz. That they all may be damned,' who have it not: 'there being no other name under heaven, whereby they may be saved,' but only that which is not revealed unto them; God in the meantime, being no more the cause of their sins, for which they incur damnation, than the sun is the cause of cold and darkness, which follow the absence thereof or he is the cause of a man's imprisonment for debt, who will not pay his debt for him, though he be no way obliged so to do. So then the not sending of the gospel to any people, is an act regulated by that eternal purpose of God, whereby he determineth to advance the glory of his justice, by permitting some men to sin, to continue in their sin, and for sin to send them to their own place as a king's not sending a pardon to condemned malefactors, is an issue of his purpose, that they shall die
2 Thess. ii. Acts. iv.
* Liberatur pars hominum, parte pereunte. Sed cur horum misertus sit Deus, illorum non misertus, quæ scientia comprehendere potest? Latet discretionis ratio, sed non latet ipsa discretio. Prosp. de Vocat. Gen.
for their faults. When you see the gospel strangely, and through wonderful varieties, and unexpected providences, carried away from a people, know that the spirit which moves in those wheels, is that purpose of God which we have recounted.
[2.] To some people, to some nations, the gospel is sent: God calls them to repentance and acknowledgment of the truth, as in my text, Macedonia: and England, the day wherein we breathe. Now there is in this a twofold aim: 1. Peculiar, towards some in their conversion. 2. General, towards all for conviction. And therefore it is acted according to a twofold purpose, which carries it along, and is fulfilled thereby.
1st. His purpose of saving some in and by Jesus Christ, effectually to bring them unto himself, for the praise of his glorious grace. Upon whomsoever the seal of the Lord stamped, that God knows them, and owns them as his, to them he will cause his gospel to be revealed. Acts xviii. 10. Paul is commanded to abide at Corinth, and to preach there, because God had much people in that city: though the devil had them in present possession, yet they were God's in his eternal counsel. And such as these they were, for whose sake the man of Macedonia is sent on his message. Have you never seen the gospel hover about a nation, now and then about to settle, and anon scared and upon wing again; yet working through difficulties, making plains of mountains, and filling valleys, overthrowing armies, putting aliens to flight, and at length taking firm root like the cedars of God? Truly if you have not, you are strangers to the place wherein you live. Now what is all this, but the working of the purpose of God to attain its proposed end of gathering his saints to himself? In effectual working of grace also for conversion and salvation, whence do you think it takes its rule and determination, in respect of particular objects, that it should be directed to John, not Judas; Simon Peter, not Simon Magus? Why only from this discriminating counsel of God from eternity, to bring
■ Rom. viii. 28, 29. Ephes. i. 4. 2 Tim. ii. 19. c Non ob aliud dicit, non vos me elegistis, sed ego vos elegerunt eum, ut eligeret eos; sed ut eligerent eum, elegit eos. scivit eos credituros, sed quia facturus ipse fuerit credentes.
b Ephes. ii. 1. 11. elegi, nisi quia non Non quia præ... Electi sunt itaque