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from the heat thereof, (Ps. xix. 6). It imparts its virtue to every
corner of the world in its daily and yearly visits. Had it been fixed,
the fruits of the earth under it had been parched and destroyed before
their maturity ; but all those inconveniences are provided against by
the perpetual motion of the sun. This motion is orderly ; it makes
its daily course from east to west, its yearly motion from north to
south : it goes to the north, till it comes to the point God hath set it,
and then turns back to the south, and gains some point every day :
it never riseth nor sets in the same place one day, where it did the
day before. The world is never without its light ; some see it rising
the same moment we see it setting. ^ The earth also speaks the
Divine wisdom ; it is the pavement of the world, as the heaven is the
ceiling of fretwork. It is placed lowermost, as being the heaviest
body, and fit to receive the weightiest matter, and provided as an
habitation proper for those creatures which derive the matter of their
bodies from it, and partake of its earthly nature ; and garnished with
other creatures for the profit or pleasure of man.s The sea also
speaks the same Divine wisdom. " He strengthened the fountains
of the deep, and gave the sea a decree that it should not pass his

• Amyraut. Moral, VoL I. p. 257

' Mouiitag. against Seldea, p. 281. Plutai'ch calls God up/LcoviKdg koi /xovaiKog ; he saitl
nothing was made without music. • Charlton, Light of Nature, p. 67.

f Daille, Mel. Part I. p 483. ' Amyraut. Pj-edestia p. 9.



622 CHARNOCK ON THE ATTRIBUTES.

command" (Pro v. viii. 28, 29). He hatli given it certaiiL bounds that
it should not overflow the earth (Job xxviii. 11). It contains itself
in the situation wherein God hath placed it, and doth not transgress
its bounds. What if some part of a country, a little spot, hath been
oyerflowed by it, and groaned under its waves ? yet for the main, it
retains the same channels wherein it was at first lodged. All crea-
tures are clothed with an outward beauty, and endowed with an in-
ward harmony ; there is an agreement in all parts of this great body ;
■every one is beautiful and orderly ; but the beauty of the world re-
sults from all of them disposed and linked together,

3. This wisdom is seen in the fitness of everything for its end, and
the usefulness of it. Divine wisdom is more illustrious in the fitness
and usefulness of this great variety, than in the composure of their
distinct parts : as the artificer's skill is more eminent in fitting the
wheels, and setting them in order for their due motion, than in the
external fabric of the materials which compose the clock. After
the most diligent inspection, there can be found nothing in the cre-
ation unprofitable ; nothing but is capable of some service, either foi
the support of our bodies, recreation of our senses, or moral instruc-
tion of our minds : not the least creature but is formed, and shaped,
and furnished with members and parts, in a due proj)ortion for its
end and service in the world ; nothing is superfluous, nothing defec-
tive. The earth is fitted in its parts ;h the valleys are appointed for
granaries, the mountains to shadow them from the scorching heat
of the sun ; the rivers, like veins, carry refreshment to every member
of this body ; j^lants and trees thrive on the face of the earth, and
metals are engendered in the bowels of it, for materials for building,
and other uses for the service of man. " There he causes the grass
to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of man, that he may
bring forth food out of the earth" (Ps. civ. 14). The sea is fitted for
use ; it is a fish pond for the nourishment of man ; a boundary for
the dividing of lands and several dominions: it joins together nations
far distant : a great vessel for commerce (Ps. civ. 26), " there go the
ships." It affords vapors to the clouds, wherewith to water the
earth, which the sun draws up, separating the finer from the salter
parts, that the earth may be fruitful without being burdened with
barrenness by the salt. The sea hath also its salt, its ebbs, and
floods; the one as brine, the other as motion, to preserve it from
putrefaction, that it may not be contagious to the rest of the world.
Showers are appointed to refresh the bodies of living creatures, to
open the womb of the earth, and " water the ground to make it fruit-
ful" (Ps. civ. 3). The clouds, therefore, are called the chariots of
God ; he rides in them in the manifestation of his goodness and wis-
dom. Winds are fitted to purify the air, to preserve it from putre-
faction, to carry the clouds to several parts, to refresh the parched
earth, and assist her fruits : and also to serve for the commerce of
one nation Ti7"ith another by navigation.' God, in his wisdom and
goodness, " walks upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. civ. 3). Rivers''
are appointed to bathe the ground, and render it fresh and lively;

■ Amyraut. sur di verses Text. p. 127, • Lessius.

k Daille. M.Ian. I'art TT. pp. 472, 473.



ON THE WISDOM OF GOD. 52S

they fortify cities, are the limits of countries, serve for commerce ;
they are the watering-pots of the earth, and the vessels for drink for
the living creatures that dwell upon the earth. God cut those chan-
nels for the wild asses, the beasts of the desert, which are his crea-
tures as well as the rest (Ps. civ. 10, 12, 13). Trees are appointed for
the habitations of birds, shadows for the earth, nourishment for the
creatures, materials for building, and fael for the relief of man against
cold. The seasons of the year have their use ; the winter makes
the juice retire into the earth, fortifies plants, and fixes their roots :
it moistens the earth that was dried before by the heat of summer,
and cleanseth and prepares it for a new fruitfulness. The spring
calls out the sap in new leaves and fruit. The summer consumes
the superfluous moisture, and produceth nourishment for the inhab-
tants of the world. i The day and night have also their usefulness:
the day gives life to labor, and is a guide to motion and action (Ps.
civ. 24), " The sun ariseth, man goeth forth to his labor until the
evening." It warms the air, and quickens nature ; without day the
world would be a chaos, an unseen beauty. The night indeed casts a
veil upon the bravery of the earth, but it draws the curtains from that.
of heaven ; though it darkens below, it makes us see the beauty of
the world above, and discovers to us a glorious part of the creation
of God, the tapestry of heaven, and the motions of the stars, hid from
us by the eminent light of the day. It procures a truce from labor,
and refresheth the bodies of creatures, by recruiting the spirits which
are scattered by watching. It prevents the ruin of life, by a repara-
tion of what was wasted in the day. It takes from us the sight of
flowers and plants, but it washeth their face with dews for a new
appearance next morning. The length of the day and night is not
without a mark of wisdom ; were they of a greater length, as the
length of a week or month, the one would too much dry, and the
other too much moisten ; and for want of action, the members would
be stupified. The peri^etual succession of day and night is an evi-
dence of the Divine wisdom in tempering the travel and rest of crea-
tures. Hence, the psalmist tells us (Ps. Ixxxiv. 16, 17), " The day
is thine, and the night is thine ; thou hast prepared the light of the
sun, and made summer and winter ;" i. e. they are of God's framing,
not without a wise counsel and end. Hence, let us ascend to the
bodies of living creatures, and we shall find every member fitted for
use. What a curiosity is there in every member! Every one fitted
to a particular use in their situation, form, temper, and mutual agree-
ment for the good of the whole : the eye to direct ; the ear to receive
directions from others ; the hands to act ; the feet to move. Every
creature hath members fitted for that element wherein it resides ; and
in the body, some parts are appointed to change the food into blood,
others to refine it, and others to distribute and convey it to several
parts for the maintenance of the whole : the heart to mint vital spirits
for preserving life, and the brain to coin animal spirits for life and
motion ; the lungs to serve for the cooling the heart, which else would
be parched as the ground in summer. The motion of the members
of the body l»y one act of the will, and also without the will by a

• Daille, Melau. II. p. 477, itc.



524 CHAKNOCK ON THE ATTRIBUTES.

natural instinct, is an admirable evidence of Divine skill in the struc
ture of the body ; so that well might the psalmist cry out (Ps. cxxxix.
1-i), "I am fearfully and wonderfully made !" But how much more
of this Divine perfection is seen in the soul ! A nature, furnished
with a faculty of understanding to judge of things, to gather in
things that are distant, and to reason and draw conclusions from one
thing to another, with a memory to treasure up things that are past,
with a will to apply itself so readily to what the mind judges fit and
comely, and fly so speedily from what it judges ill and hurtful. The
whole world is a stage ; every creature in it hath a part to act, and
a nature suited to that part and end it is designed for ; and all con-
cur in a joint language to publish the glory of Divine Avisdom ; they
have a voice to proclaim the "glory of God" (Ps. xix. 1, 3). And
it is not the least part of God's skill, in framing the creatures so, that
upon man's obedience, they are the channels of his goodness ; and
upon man's disobedience, they can, in their natures, be the ministers
of his justice for the punishing of oifending creatures.

4. This wisdom is apparent in the linking of all these useful parts
together, so that one is subordinate to the other for a common end.
All parts are exactly suited to one another, and every part to the
whole, though they are of different natures, as lines distant in them-
selves, yet they meet in one common centre, the good and the preserva-
tion of the universe ; they are all jointed together, as the word trans-
lated framed (Heb, xi. 2) signifies ; knit by fit hands and ligaments
to contribute mutual beauty, strength, and assistance to one another ;
like so many links of a chain coupled together, that though there be
a distance in place, there is a unity in regard of connection and end,
there is a consent in the whole (Hos. ii. 21, 22). " The heavens hear
the earth ; and the earth hears the corn, and the wine, and the oil."
The heavens communicate their qualities to the earth, and the earth
conveys them to the fruits she bears.'" The air distributes light,
wind and rain to the earth ; the earth and the sea render to the air
exhalations and vapors, and altogether charitably give to the plants
and animals that which is necessary for their nourishment and re
freshment. The influences of the heavens animate the earth ; and
the earth affords matter, in part, for the influences it receives from
the regions above. Living creatures are maintained by nourishment ;
nourishment is conveyed to them by the fruits of the earth ; the
fruits of the earth are produced by means of rain and heat ; matter
for rain and dew is raised by the heat of the sun ; and the sun by
its motion distributes heat and quickening virtue to all parts of the
earth. So colors are made for the pleasure of the eye, sounds for
the delight of the ear; light is formed, whereby the ej^e may see the
one, and air to convey the species of colors to the eye, and sound to
the ear ; all things are like the wheels of a watch compacted : and
though many of the creatures be endowed with contrary qualities,
yet they are joined in a marriage-knot for the public security, and
subserviency to the preservation and (3rder of the universe ; as the
variet}' of strings upon an instrument, sending forth various and
distinct sounds, are tempered together, for the framing excellent and

"> Duille Sermon XV. p. 170.



OISi THE WISDOM OF GOD. 625

deiiglitftLl airs. In this universal conspiring of the creature-s 1 jgetlier
to one end, is the -wisdom of the Creator apparent; in tuning so
many contraries as the elements are, and preserving them in their
order, which if once broken, the whole fi^ame of nature would crack,
and fall in pieces ; all are so interwoven and inlaid together, by the
Divine workmanship, as to make up one entire beauty in the whole
fabric : as every part in the body of man hath a distinct comeliness,
yet there is besides, the beauty of the whole, that results from the
union of divers parts exactly fashioned to one another, and linked
together.

By the way. Use. How much may we see of the perfection of God
in everything that presents itself to our eyes ! And how should we
be convinced of our unworthy neglect of ascending to him with
reverend and admiring thoughts, upon the prospect of the creatures!
What dull scholars are we, when every creature is our teacher, every
part of the creature a lively instruction ! Those things that we tread
under our feet, if used by us according to the foil design of their
creation, would afford rich matter, not only for our heads, but our
hearts. As grace doth not destroy nature, but elevate it, so neither
should the fresher and fuller discoveries of Divine wisdom in re-
demption deface all our thoughts of his wisdom in creation. Though
the greater light of the sun obscures the lesser sparkling of the stars,
vet it gives way in the night to the discovery of them, that God may
be seen, known, and considered, in all his works of wonder, and
miracles of nature. No part of Scripture is more spiritual than the
Psalms; none filled with clearer discoveries of Christ in the Old
Testament ; yet how often do the penmen consider the creation of
God, and find their meditations on him to be sweet, as considered in
his works (Ps. civ. 34) ! " My meditation of him shall be sweet."
When ? why, after a short history of the goodness and wisdom of
God in the frame of the world, and the species of the creatures.

Secondly. The wisdom of God appears in his government of his
creatures. The regular motion of the creatures speaks for this per
fection, as well as the exact composition of them. If the exquisite-
Tiess of the frame conducts us to the skill of the Contriver, the ex-
actness of their order, according to his will and law, speaks no less
the wisdom of the Governor. It cannot be thought that a rash and
irrational power presides over a world so well disposed : the disposi
tion of things hath no less characters of skill, than the creation of
them. No man can hear an excellent lesson upon a lute, but must
presently reflect upon the art of the person that touches it. The
prudence of man appears in wrapping up the concerns of a kingdom
m his mind, for the well-ordering of it ; and shall not the wisdom
of God shine forth, as he is the director of the world ? I shall omit
his government of inanimate creatures, and confine the discourse to
his government of man, as rational, as sinful, as restored.

1st. In his government of man as a rational creature.

1. In the law he gives to man. Wisdom framed it, though will
enacted it. The will of God is the rule of righteousness to us, but
the wisdom of God is the foundation of that rule of righteousness
which he prescribes us. The composure of a musician is the rule



526 CHARNOCK ON THE ATTRIBUTES.

of singing to Ms scholars ; yet the consent and harmony in that com
posure derives not itself from his will, but from his understanding;
he would not be a musician if his composures were contrary to the
rules of true harmon}' : so the laws of men are composed by wis-
dom, though they are enforced by will and authority." The moral
law, which was the law of nature, the law imprinted upon Adam, is
80 framed as to secure the rights of God as supreme, and the rights
of men in their distinctions of superiority and equality : it is there-
fore called " holy and good" (Rom. vii. 12) ; holy, as it prescribes
our duty to God in his worship ; good, as it regulates the offices of
hmnan life, and preserves the common interest of mankind.

(1.) It is suited to the nature of man. As God hath given a law
of nature, a fixed order to inanimate creatures, so he hath given a
law of reason to rational creatures : other creatures are not capable
of a law differencing good and evil, because they are destitute of
faculties and capacities to make distinction between them. It had
not been agreeable to the wisdom of God to propose any moral law
to them, who had neither understanding to discern, nor will to
choose. It is therefore to be observed, that whilst Christ exhorted
others to the embracing his doctrine, yet he exhorted not little chil-
dren, though he took them in his arms, because, though they had
faculties, yet they were not come to such a maturity as to be capable
of a rational instruction. But there was a necessity for some com-
mand for the government of man ; since God had made him a ra-
tional creature, it was not agreeable to his wisdom to govern him as
a brute, but as a rational creature, capable of knowing his precepts,
and voluntarily walking in them ; and without a law, he had not
been capable of any exercise of his reason in services respecting
God. He therefore gires him a law, with a covenant annexed to it,
whereby man is obliged to obedience, and secured of a reward.
This was enforced with severe penalties, death, with all the horrors
attending it, to deter him fcom transgression (Gen. ii. 17) ; wherem
is implied a promise of continuance of life, and all its felicities, to
allure him to a mindfulness of his obligation. So perfect a hedge
did Divine wisdom set about him, to keep him within the bounds of
that obedience, which was both his debt and security, that whereso-
ever he looked, he saw either something to invite him, or something
to drive him to the payment of his duty, and perseverance in it.
Thus the law was exactly framed to the nature of man ; man had
twisted in him a desire of happiness ; the promise was suited to
cherish this natural desire. He had also the passion of fear; the
proper object of this was any thing destructive to his being, nature,
and felicity ; this the threatening met with. In the whole it was
accommodated to man as rational; precepts to the law in his mind,
promises to the natural appetite, threatenings to the most prevailing
affection, and to the implanted desires of preserving both his being
and happiness in that being. These were rat'onal motives, fitted to
the nature of Adam, which was above the life God had given plants,
and the sense he had given animals. The command given man in
innocence was suit-ed to his strength and power. God gave him not

=^ Caztellio, Dialog. 1. 4, p 46



ON THE WISDOM OF GOD. 527

any command but wliat he had abihty to observe : and since we
■want not power to forbear an apple in our corrupted and impotent
state, he wanted not strength in his state of integrity. The ^nsdom
of God commanded nothing but what was very easy to be observed
by him, and inferior to his natural ability. It had been both unjust
and unwise to have commanded him to fly up to the sun, when
he had not wings ; or stop the course of the sea, when he had not
strength.

(2.) It is suited to the happiness and benefit of man. God's laws
are not an act of mere authority respecting his own glory, but of
wisdom and goodness respecting man's benefit. They are perfective
of man's nature, conferring a wisdom upon him, "rejoicing his
heart, enlightening his eyes" (Ps. xix. 7, 8), affording him both a
Knowledge of God and of himself. To be without a law, is for men
to be as beasts, without justice and without religion : other things
are for the good of the body, but the laws of God for the good of
the soul ; the more perfect the law, the greater the benefit. The
laws given to the Jews were the honor and excellency of that na-
tion (Deut i. 8); " What nation is there so great, that hath statutes
and judgments so righteous?" They were made statesmen in the
judicial law, ecclesiastics in the ceremonial, honest men in the se-
cond table, and divine in the first. All his laws are suited to the
true satisfaction of man, and the good of human society. Had God
framed a law only for one nation, there would have been the char-
acters of a particular wisdom ; but now an universal wisdom ap-
pears, in accommodating his law, not only to this or that particular
society or corporation of men, but to the benefit of all mankind, in
the variety of climates and countries wherein they live ; everything
that is disturbing to human society is provided against ; nothing is
enjoined but what is sweet, rational, and useful : it orders us not to
attempt anything against the life of our neighbor, the honor of his
bed, propriety in his goods, and the clearness of his reputation ; and,
if well observed, would alter the face of the world, and make it
look with another hue. The world would be altered from a brutish
to a human world ; it would change lions and wolves, men of lion-
like and wolfish disposition, into reason and sweetness. And be
cause the whole law is summed up in love, it obligeth us to endea-
vor the preservation of one another's beings, the favoring of one
another's inierests, and increasing the goods, as much as justice will
permit, and keeping up one another's credits, because love, which is
the soul of the law, is not shown by a cessation from action, but
signifies an ardor, upon all occasions, in doing good. I say, were
this law well observed, the world would be another thing than it is :
it would become a religious fraternity ; the voice of enmity, and
the noise of groans and cursings, would not be heard in our
streets ; peace would be in all borders ; plenty of charity in the
midst of cities and countries ; joy and singing would sound in all
habitations. Man's advantage was designed in God's laws, and doth
naturally result from the observance of them. God so ordered
them, bv his wisdom, that the obedience of man should draw forth
his goodness, and prevent those smarting judgments which were ne-



528 OHARNOCK ON THE ATTRIBUTES.

cessarv to reduce the creature to order that would not voluntarilv
continue in the order Grod had appointed. The laws of men are
often unjust, oppressive, cruel, sometimes against the law of na-
ture; but an universal wisdom and righteousness glitters in the
Divine law ; there is nothing in it but is worth}^ of God, and useful
for the creature; so that we may well say, with Job, "Who teaches
like God" (Job xxxvi. 22)? or as some render it, "Who is a law-
giver like God ? Who can saj'- to him, Thou hast wrought iniquity
or folly among men ? His precepts were framed for the preserva-
tion of man in that rectitude wherein he was created, in that like-
ness to God wherein he was first made, that there might be a corres-
pondence between the integrity of the creature and the goodness
of his Creator, by the obedience of man ; that man might exer-
cise his faculties in operation worthy of him, and beneficial to the
world.

(3.) The wisdom of God is seen in suiting his laws to the con-
sciences as well as the interests of all mankind (Eom. ii. 14) ; " The
Gentiles do, bv nature, the thins's contained in the law ;" so great
an afl&nitv there is between the wise law and the reason of man.
There is a natural beauty emerging from them, and darting upon
the reasons and consciences of men, which dictates to them that this
law is worthy to be observed in itself. The two main priDciples of
the law, the love and worship of God, and doing as we would be
done by, have an indelible impression in the consciences of all men,
in regard of the principle, though they are not suitably expressed
in the practice. Were there no law outwardly published, yet every
man's conscience would dictate to him that God was to be acknowl-
edged, worshipped, loved, as naturally as his reason would acquaint
him that there was such a being as God. This suitableness of them
to the consciences of men is manifest, in that the laws of the best
governed nations among the heathen have had an agreement with
them. Nothing can be more exactly composed, according to the
rules of right and exact reason, than this ; no man but approves of
something in it, yea, of the whole, when he exerciseth that dim rea-
son which he hath. Suppose any man, not an absolute atheist, he
cannot but acknowledge the reasonableness of worshipping God.
Grant him to be a spirit, and it will presently appear absurd to re-
present him by any corporeal image, and derogate from his excel-



Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God → online text (page 71 of 82)