Joseph Stennett.

The Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 28)
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God is the author and original of the being
of man. And may alfo include,

(2.) That he is the upholder and freferver
of our being.

(3.) That he is the reftorer and reformer
of man.

(4.) That he is the fove'reign arbiter and
difpofer of our being.

(i.) God is our creator, as he is the origi-
nal and author of our being : for

[i.] He created the matter of which we
are compofed, as well as that of all the other
parts of the univerfe. All beings of which
the world confifls, all that we have any
notices of, either from reafon or fcripture,
are either fpiritual or corporeal, and all thefe
are the works of God. Now man is a crea-
ture compounded of both thefe kinds of
being ; his foul is a fpirit, and his body is a
material fubflance : and both thefe conftitu-
ent parts of mankind were created by God the
author of the whole univerfe.

And here we confider the term create
in its ftrifteft fenfe, namely, the giving a
being to that which had none before-, the


Serm. I. of an early converfion. \ 5

producing of fomething out of nothing, i. e,
without any preexiftent matter to work

Now it muft be granted that the foul and
body of man either are from eternity, or
elfe had a beginning in time j and if they had
a beginning, that it muft be either from
themfelves, or from fome other being inferior
to God, or from God himfelf

I fhall therefore briefly prove, both from
reafon and fcripture, that they are not eter-
nal, but had a beginning ; and this not of
themfelves, nor of any other being but God
himfelf, as our text imports, by ftyling him
our creator.

I.) Our fubftance is not frOm eternity:
there is no plaufible colour for fuch a wild
conceit, feeing there are no characters of
eternity engraven on our fouls, the nobler
part of man , much lefs are there any vefti-
ges of it imprinted on that clay, of which our
bodies are compofed.

The memory we have of our own exift-
ence, extends but to a very few years j there-
fore we cannot pretend, that we remember our
felves to have been from eternity ; nor has
any eternal being revealed to us that our fub-
ftance is eternal, tho we knew it not, or had
forgotten it. And is it likely that a being,
to which thinking is eflential,. (hould have fo
excellent a property as to exift eternally, and
yet labour under fo' great a defe(5t, as the
entire oblivion of its own eternal duration ?
2 Is

1 6 The rcafonablencfs and advantages

Is it to be imagin d that if the minds of men
had been eternal, there would have been any
room left for thofe many new and great im-
provements of arts and fciences, which have
been fo often feen in the world ? how could
part eternity be fo deficient, as to leave any
thing to future invention to difcover or culti-
vate ? Is it probable that our knowledg, even
of things much inferior to our felves, would
be fo inconfiderable as it is, and that the
vileft infed, nay the moft defpicable portion
of inanimate matter, fhould fo puzzle the
moft fpeculative and ingenious minds, that
enquire into their nature, if thofe minds
were from eternity ? is it not much more
reafonable to conclude, that lae are but of
yejlerday^ hecaufe we kjiow nothing ^ f And can
it be thought that a being that wanted no
caufe for its exiftence, fliould need a caufe to
give it properties far below that of eternity ?
that a being which cannot be meafured by
time, fhould yet be liable to fo many changes
and troubles, as we fee the fouls of men are
continually expofed to ?

And if the foul cannot juftly claim this pro-
perty ; how can the body, which cohfifts of
dull unadive matter, and wants thofe lefler
qualities which the foul pofTefTes, be imagined
to have that greater excellency of eternity,
to which the foul her felf cannot reafonably
pretend ?

» Job 8. 9. .


Scrm. I. of an early cciiverjlon* i y

No this is the divine prerogative, and

is not to be attributed to any other being than
the fupreme J who calls himfelf, / AM^^
i. e. being in the abftract, being it felf j and
J EHOVAH^ i.e. the eternal one 3 who
only hath immortality "^ in this abfolute fenle,
and of whom alone it can be laid, He is from
everlajiifig to everlafing ^.

For what is eternal is infinite and inde-
pendent. Infinite in duration : for that
which had no caufe to produce it does ne-
ceflarily exift ; and that which necefiarily
exifts is infinitely durable, and independent
by the fame reafon : and that which is inde-
pendent, and infinite in duration, may be
juftly accounted infinite in all other refpedls,
and fo infinitely perfect ; which is the fole
prerogative of God, and incommunicable to
any being inferior to him.

It therefore follows, that we had once
no being ; that our fouls and bodies, as well
as all other beings, except God, had a be-
ginning. .

And if we had a beginning,

2.) We could not be the authors of our
own being j we could not give our felves a
being before we had being. Nothing can be
thought on more abfurd, than that nothing,
which cannot adt in any fenfe, fhould be
capable of creating. That nothing is made
of nothing *=, if taken in this fenfe, is a true

b Exod. 5. 14. rd pfal. 90. 2. Ifa. 6j. i^.

" I Tim. 5. 1^. I e Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Vol.1. jC maxim,

1 8 The reafonablenefs and advantages

maxim, ''oiz. that nothing can make its no-
felf to be ; but is not to be conftrued fo as to
exempt God, whofe power is infinite, from
being able to make a being, which did not
exifl before. And,

3.) No other bejng, except God, could
make us, or any thing elfe, out of nothing :
for how can lefs than an infinite power tran-
fport any thing from nullity to exiftence,
feeing there is an infinite diftance betwixt
them ? as appears, in that, if you multiply
nothing to infinity, it will never mount to
any real being j and if in thought you di-
mini{h any thing that exiils to the loweft de-
gree of being imaginable, you can never make
it appear a mere nothing. This dilfance
therefore being infinite, it mufl needs be
proper only to an infinite power, to make
that exift which is not yet in being j as it
muil needs be only the withdrawment of that
power from fupporting the being of a crea-
ture, that can annihilate it.

Befides, if no being, that has had a be-
ginning, could give it felf exiftence, and all
things inferior to God had a beginning, as
we have prov'di then no being inferior to him
could make us exift : for how ftiould that,
which does neither necelTarily exift, nor could
give it felf a being, be capable of giving being
to any thing elfe, when it wholly depends on
God for Its o\yn ?

And as being, ftmply confider'd, is the
moft univerfal effed, all creatures partaking


Scrm. i. of an early converjiou. 19

of it in common j it mufi: be owing to the
moft univerfal caufe, which is no other than
God himfelf : therefore he only can create,
or make that to be which was not before.

Nor have we only the light of reafon in
this cafe j but that of divine revelation too,
which aflures us, that i?i the beginnmg God
created the heave?2s a/id the earth \ i. e. the
whole univerfe. He made the firfl matter,
out of which this curious fabric was built ;
he made the earth, which was without form
and void ^ ; and then raifed a beautiful flruc-
ture out of it. 'Thro' faith^ as well as reafon,
ive underfiand that the worlds were fra?n d
by the word of God^ fo that things which are
J'een^ were not made of things which do appear ^.

[2.] As God is the author of the matter of
which we confifl j fo is he alfo of our form
and compofition, as well as of that of the
reft of the univerfe. It was a vain fuppo-
lition of Ariftotle, that this frame of the
world had no beginning, and confequently
that the fpecies of mankind has exifted from
eternity. This fancy has been fufficiently dif-
prov'd by the reafons before alledg'd againft
the eternity of the firft matter of the world ;
for if that be not eternal, much lefs can the
form of it be fo.

Nor is the Epicurean whimfy lefs abfurd,
which fuppofes, that from a fortuitous
ihuffling of an infinite liumber of ' felf-exift-

f Gen. 1. I, I h Heb. 1 1, j,

K Ver. 2. I

C 2 ent,

20 The reafonahlenefs and advantages

ent, and felf-moving atoms, this ftately
frame of the world did emerge ; and that
mankind, and all other animals, fprung out
of the earth by fuch a cafual way of genera-
tion as this. As if dead matter could move
it felf, and as if the coUifion of material par-
ticles could produce a fubftance capable of
reafoning and judging, willing and defiring,
fuch as the foul of man is. And what can
be more abfurd than to imagine, that the
accidental motions of thofe minute particles
could frame the curious ftrudture of a human
body ; nay the whole fyftem of the univerfe,
and every fpecies in it ? 'Tia lefs unreafona-
ble to imagine, when one fees a magnificent
palace, that it was built by the cafual
jumbling together of the materials that
compofe it ; or that the moft curious watch
was fram'd after this odd manner j that an
elegant picture may have refulted from the
accidental and unheeded mixture of colours ,
or an elaborate oration or poem, as many
have obferv'd, from a confus'd fhuffling of
the letters of the alphabet.

'Tis evident from the harmonious. combi-
nation of the feveral parts of the world, and
the curious frame of each fpecies in it, and
particularly of mankind, that all has been
difpos'd in number, weight and meafure, by
the infinite wifdom and power of that God,
who is wonderful in counj'el^ and excellent in
working '.

' Ifa. 18.29.

' And

Serm. I. of an early converjioti. 2 1

And this truth is fo very clear, that the
minds of the generality of the heathens them-
felves have been penetrated with the light of
it. And therefore the apoftle Paul cites to
the Athenians one of their celebrated authors,
to prove, what others of them generally con-
fefs'd, that God is the original author of man-
kind^. So that it is manifeft from reafon
that God has form'd us.

And this the facred hillorian of the crea-
tion exprefly alTerts : God f aid, let us ?nake man
in our image, after our likenefs -, fo God created
man in his own image ; in the itnage of God
created he him, male and female created he
them ^ And again, T^he Lord God formed man
of the dufi of the ground, and breathed into his
?2ofrils the breath of life, and man became a
living foul ^. 'Tis God, who is the former of
all things ", that hath made us, and not we our
Jehes °. He both made the matter of which
we conlift, and moulded it into that form
which we bear, and by which our fpecies is
diftinguifhed from thofe of other creatures.

[3.] God is our creator, or the author of
our being, in that, as he has fram'd the fpecies
of mankind in general ; fo he is the former
of every individual human creature that
comes into the world. The multiplication of
creatures according to their kind by natural
propagation, is a bleffing of God pronounc'd

^ Aft. 17. a 8. T» >ctf 9 ylvos 1 "" Gen, 1.7/
iff^iv. Aratus. "'I ° Jer. 10. 16^.

I Gen. 1. 1^, 27. I o Pfal. 100. 3.

C 3 on

2 2 The reafonahlenefs and advantages

on them at their creation p. But this way
ordain'd by God for the confervation and in-
creafe of each fpecies is very myflcrious and
wonderful, and is in the fcripture term'd crea-
tion, and attributed to God as fuch. The
pfalmift calls the generation to come, the peo-
ple that flail be created "^ ; and fpeaking of the
fucceffive dilTolution and propagation of ani-
mals, he fays. Thou takcjl away their breathy
they die, and return to their dufi. Thou fend-
eji forth thy fpiritj they are created ; and thou
reneweji the face of the earth'. Here the term
creation is ufed to fignify the confervation
and multiplication of animals in the ordinary
courfe of nature ; and that, as well as the
iirft formation of each fpecies, is afcribed to
the Spirit of God ^. And God threatens the
Ammonites by the prophet Ezekiel, to judge
them in the place where they were created;
that is, as he explains it in the next words,
in the land of their nativity ^

And God is the creator in this refpedl, in
a fenfe beyond what is ordinarily imagin'd.
For it has in vain been attempted by men to
explain the formation of plants and animals,
by the natural laws of motion : and fo many
infuperable difficulties meet them, when they
would {hew how their organs are mechani-
cally form'd in natural generation, that they
appear impoffible to be folv'd, without attri-

P Gen, I, I f Gen. i. 2.

^ Pfal. 102. 1$. I ' Ezek. 21. 30,

* Pfal. 104.19, 30. J .

, buting

Serm. I. of an early converjioru 23

buting to an almighty power the formation of
every individual creature, as well as of every
fpecies, and that in a way more imm.ediate,
at leafl more myilerious than is commonly

Nor does the conje(5ture of the equivocal
generation of fome plants and infects, tho it
has generally prevailed in the world as an
undoubted truth, feem well founded ; lince
that fuppofition has been of late years greatly
difcredited by many experiments ^^ which
render it very improbable, that any plant is
rais'd without feed by a formative power in
the earth, as many have pretended, or any
animal fpontaneoufly produc'd without pa-
rents. For tho God ufes thefe as inflrumental
or occalional caufes, himfelf is the efficient
caufe of all generation ; who in this refpedl,
as the apoftle fays in another, ivorketh all in
all " j and tho he finifhed the creation in fix
days, yet may be faid to create flill, or, as
our Saviour fpeaks, to work hitherto ".

So that it appears to be a work proper to
the creator of man, to form him in the
womb, and that after a method too myfteri-
ous to be trac'd by a human underftanding ;
fince the natural laws of motion, at leaft fo
far as known by men, are not capable of pro-
ducing fo curious a piece as a human body.
And as it is generally fuppofed that the fouls

* Malpigh. de GalHs. Swam- " i Cor. iz.6.
merdam de Generat. Infed. . " John 5.17.
Lewenhoeck. Epiftol.

C A Of

24 ^^'^ rcafonablenefs and advantages-

of men are individually form'd, and infus'd
into their bodies by the hand of God, fince
no tolerable account can be otherwife given
of their production ; fo it muil be granted,
that the form of each individual human body
is to be attributed to the fame divine power ;
which operates after fo unfearchable a man-
ner, that every man may well fay, not only
as to the origin of mankind in general, but
as to the formation of himfelf in particular,
as Job did, T^hy hands have made tJie^ and
fajkioned me round about — T'hoii haji made me
as the clay — hafi thou not pour d me out as milk,
and crudled me like cheefe?- Thou haft clothed
me with skin andfeJJj \ and haji fenced me with
hones and finews : thou haji granted me life ^,
&c. And with the pfalmift, Thou hafi cover d
me in my mother s womb. I will praije thee ;
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Mar-
vellous are thy works, and that my foul know-
eth right well. My fubflance was not hid from
thee, when I was made in fee ret, and curioufly
wrought in the lowefi farts of the earth. Thy
eyes did fee my fub fiance yet being imperfe5i,
{ind in thy book all my me7nbers were written,
which in continuance were faffjiond, 'when a:,
yet there was none of them ^.

(2.) It hence follows, that God is the
upholder and preferver of our being. For
this is included in the term creator. Vv'hen
God by the prophet addrefles himfelf to the

;«; Job 10. 8, p, 10, II, 12. I * Pfal. 13?. 13, 14, 15^16.


Serm. I. of an early converjion. 25

Ifraelites, to encourage them to truft In him
for their prefervationj and to diffipate their
fears of danger, he fpeaks to them under this
title ', ^hiis faith the Lord that created thee^
O 'Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Ifrael,
fear not y, &c. And to this exhortation he
adds a promife, to preferve them when fur-
rounded with the greatefl difficukies, to be
with them in paffing thro the water, and
thro the fire. And the pfalmift makes the
relation he flood in to God, as his creature,
a plea for his prefervation, when he fays
in his prayer, O Lord, forfake not the works
of thy own hands ^. The apoftle Peter like-
wife exhorts thofe that are perfecuted, to
commit the keeping of their fouh to God, in
well doing, as to a faithful ere at or \ So that
from hence it is evident, that the relation
God bears to us as our creator, includes his
providential care for our prefervation : that
God who is our maker, is alfo the preferver of
men ^. As it was impoffible that we fhould
give being to our felves ; fo it is beyond our
power to continue our felves in being : and as
we owe not our exiftence to any being infe-
rior to God ; fo neither does the duration of
our being depend upon any other than him.
It was the will of God that produc'd us, con-
fequently it is the fame will that preferves us.
Before he actually will'd our production, we
could not exift 5 and if he fhould ceafe to

y Ifa. 4J.I. ra I Pet. 4. 19.

^Pfal. 138.8.


2 6 The 7'eafona(ilenefs and advantages

will the continuance of our being, it would
immediately difcontinue, and be annihilated:
it is but for him to withdraw his hand, to
fufpend the influence of his power, and we
fink into nothing. So that we are kept by the
power of God in regard of our natural, as the
apoftle affirms we are in refped: of our fpiri-
tual ftate ^ ; and fmce the divine will is
equally the caufe of our being, and of the
duration of it j the term creator attributed to
God in our text, may be fitly extended to
both 5 our prefervation being a continuation
of God's creating work : for in this refped:,
as well as that mention'd before of the for-
mation of fucceffive generations of men, ac-
cording to the words of Chrift, God worh
hitherto^. And as from him our being is
deriv'd j fo in him alone "-voe li^-ce^ and move,
and have our being ftill ^ j who upholds all
things by the word of his power ^. And not
only we, but all other creatures lean on that
almighty hand for their prefervation, to
which they all equally owe their exiflence.

(3.) The term creator may further include
that God is the reftorer and reformer of man.
'Tis true, it does not neceflarily follow, that,
becaufe he has made and preferves us, there-
fore, after we had undone our felves by fin,
and effac'd the image of holinefs he imprefs'd
on us in our original frame and conftitution,
he alfo muft needs adually reform us : but it

«^ 1 Pet. 1.5. I

Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 28)