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self of the paramount title and propriety therein; all things have an immutable relation to him as Lord, and cannot be alienated from him; whence he may justly, when he pleaseth, recal or resume them into his hand.
4. Yea, hence we are obliged to be heartily thankful for all we ever have or enjoy ; for that nothing is on any account ours, or can be due to us from him; all proceeding from pure kindness and goodness.
5. We are hence obliged carefully to manage and employ all which is put into our hands, for his interest and service; as honest tenants and faithful stewards, making just returns and improvements ; not embezzling nor abusing any of his goods committed to us.
6. Lastly, we may learn hence to be humble and sober ; not to be conceited or elevated in mind, or apt to glory, in regard to any thing we have; since we have nothing that we can justly esteem or properly call our own.
IV. That sense, according to which the word doth signify Ġod's containing all things by his immense presence, is also of most excellent use and influence on our practice. We thereby may learn with what care and circumspection, with what reverence and modesty, with what innocence and integrity, we ought always and in all places to manage our conversation and behavior; since we continually do think, and speak, and act in the immediate presence and under the inspection of God; whose eyes are on the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings;' who ' searcheth and trieth our hearts,' and ' possesseth our reins;' who 'encompasseth our path,' and is acquainted with all our ways;' to whose eyes all things are naked and dissected ;' according to the significant and emphatical expressions of Scripture. Did we stand in the sight of our king, we should not dare to behave ourselves rudely and indecently; were a virtuous person conscious of our doings, we should be ashamed to do any base or filthy thing ; the oversight of a grave or a wise person would restrain us from practising vanities and impertinences; how much more should the glorious majesty of the most wise and holy God, being ever present to all our thoughts, words, and actions, if duly considered and reflected on, keep us within awe and compass ! how can we, if
we remember that we abide always in a temple sanctified by God's presence, not contain ourselves in a careful and devout posture of soul !
This consideration also prompteth us to frequent addresses of prayer, thanksgiving, and all kind of adoration toward God : for all reason dictateth it to be unseemly to be in his presence with our back turned unto him, without demonstrations of regard and reverence to him, without answering him when he speaketh to us ; that is, without corresponding to the invitations which he frequently by his providence maketh to us, of conversing with him, of seeking his favor and imploring his help, and returning thanks for his mercies.
V. Lastly, the consideration that God doth uphold all things, and consequently ourselves, in being, may on several good accounts be influential on our practice; particularly it may powerfully deter us from offending and displeasing him ; for put case our life, our livelihood, all the conveniences and comforts of our being, should wholly depend on the bounty and pleasure of any person, should we not be very wary and fearful to affront, or injure, or displease such a person? It is in the highest degree so with us in respect to God; and why are we so inconsiderate, that the same reason hath not the same effect on us?
This consideration also should mind us how infinitely we are obliged to the goodness of God, who when he may by the bare withdrawing his conservative influence utterly destroy us, and suffer us to fall to nothing, doth, notwithstanding our many provocations, the many neglects and injuries he receiveth from us, continually preserve us in his hand, and every moment imparteth a new being to us. For which, and all his infinite mercies and favors toward us, let us for ever yield unto him all thanks and praise. Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XII.
ACTS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 24.
It may be demanded; why, besides that of Almighty, no other attribute of God is expressed in our Creed ? Three reasons for this assigned. Maker of heaven and earth. This clause was of later times inserted in the Creed, to obviate the heresies of Marcion, Manichæus, &c. The ancient Hebrews having no word properly expressing the universe, used this phrase, adding sometimes the sea also. What is to be understood by heaven explained, and illustrated from Scripture : opinions of the ancient philosophers on this subject, in which they seem to have in great part agreed with the tenets of revelation. One particular however in which they dissented from what Christian piety inclines us to acknowlege, that is, the origin of matter, which they generally supposed to have existed from all eternity: their opinions on this head cited. Our reason shown to be deficient on this and other such topics. That in truth all the matter of things both could be, and really was, created by God, may appear from several reasons.
1. It is often in general terms affirmed in Scripture, that God did make all things; all things in heaven and earth. Now it is never, without urgent reason, allowable to make limitations of universal propositions, especially of such as are frequently so set down : this subject enlarged on.
2. Again, God is in Scripture affirmed to be the true proprietary and possessor of all things, none excepted: but how could be be so, if he did not make them ? &c.
3. The supposing any thing to be eternal, uncreated, and independent of God, advances that being in those respects unto an equality with God, depriving him of those special perfections, independency and all-sufficiency, &c.
4. It may be asked, if God produced and inserted an active principle into nature, why might he not produce a passive one, such as matter is ? what greater difficulty is there in this?
5. Yea farther, if he hath produced immaterial beings, such as angels and the souls of men, merely out of nothing, why might he not so produce matter?
6. The manner of God's making the world by mere will and command, argues that matter, or any other thing possible, might easily by the divine power be so produced : this explained.
7. Lastly, the holy text, describing the manner and order of creation, insinuates this truth : this shown. From these premises we may conclude, against the ancient philosophers, and those Christian sects who followed them, that God did in the strictest sense create all things out of nothing; and that this is the meaning of the title, Maker of heaven and earth.
Which title, as due to the true God only, divers heretics of old (especially those of the Gnostic sect) did contradict: their opinion, that the God who made the world and enacted the law, was different from him by whom the gospel was sent; the first being an angry and implacable Deity, the second a mild and beneficent one.
Akin to this error was that of the Manichæans, who supposed two first causes of things, from one of which proceeded good, and from the other evil : origin of this error, &c: strongly stated and laid down by Plutarch. His discourse however has two faulty suppositions : it supposes some things to be imperfect and evil which are not truly such; and to those which are truly such it assigns an imaginary and wrong cause.
1. First supposition shown to be false ; for there is no sort of creature, which did not at first receive the Divine approbation : there are degrees indeed of perfection; but every thing contributes to the use and ornament of the whole. That which we call poison, is such only relatively: that which we call a monster, is not unnatural with regard to the whole contexture of causes : pain and grief, incident to the nature of things, are not properly evils, but adherences to the less perfect nature of things, &c.
2. But as for those real imperfections and evils, truly so called, habitual distempers of the soul, &c.; the true cause of them, is not the will or power of the Creator, but the wilfulness or impotency of creatures : the mischief also of pain and grief, consequent on those distempers, are partly to be imputed to us, and partly attributed to God; we by our faults deserve and draw them to ourselves; God in justice and wisdom inflicts them on us : this enlarged on.
Considerations on the manner how, and the reason why, God made the world.
He created it from a wise and free choice : he so made the world, that he could wholly have abstained from making it, or could have made it otherwise. He could not be fatally determined, since there was no superior cause to guide or constrain him, &c. And how he produced it, the Scripture teaches us : it was not by any laborious care and toil, but solely by his will and word, &c.
But since God did not only make the world freely but wisely; and since all wise agents act for some purpose, why (it may be asked) did God make the world ? We may answer with Plato, He was good ; and he that is good doth not envy any good to any thing. His natural benignity and munificence was the pure motive : this subject enlarged on. Some points of application stated.