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Discourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) online

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by a world of wickedness against the holiness of it. Nature renders
a man too feeble and indisposed, and custom renders a man more
weak and unwilling to change his hue (Jer. xiii. 23). To dispossess
man then of his self-esteem and self-excellency ; to make room for
God in the heart, where there was none but for sin, as dear to him
as himself; to hurl down the pride of nature ; to make stout ima-
ginations stoop to the cross ; to makes desires of self-advancement
sink into a zeal for the glorifying of God, and an overruling de-
sign for his honor, is not to be ascribed to any but an outstretched
arm wielding the sword of the Spirit. To have a heart full of the
fear of God, that was just before fiilled with a contempt of him ; to
have a sense of his power, an eye to his glory, admiring thoughts
of his wisdom, a faith in his truth, that had lower thoughts of him
and all his perfections, than he had of a creature ; to have a hatred
of his habitual lusts, that had brought him in much sensitive plea-
sure ; to loath them as much as he loved them ; to cherish the du-
ties he hated ; to live by faith in, and obedience to, the Kedeemer,
who was before so heartily under the conduct of Satan and self; to
chase the acts of sin from his members, and the pleasing thoughts of
sin from his mind ; to make a stout wretch willingly fall down, crawl
upon the ground, and adore that Saviour whom before he out-dared, is
a triumphant act of Infinite Power that can subdue all things to itself,
and break those multitudes of locks and bolts that were upon us.

3. Against a multitude of temptations and interests. The tempta-
tions rich men have in this world are so numerous and strong, that
the entrance of one of them into the kingdom of heaven, that is, the
entertainment of the gospel, is made by our Saviour an impossible
thing with men, and procurable only by the power of God (Luke
xviii. 24 — 26). The Divine strength only can separate the world
from the heart, and the heart from the world. There must be an in-
comprehensible power to chase away the devil, that had so long, so
strong a footing in the affections ; to render the soil he had sown
with so many tares and weeds, capable of good grain ; to make
spirits, that had found the sweetness of worldly prosperity, wrapt up
all their happiness in it, and not only bent down, but — as it were —
buried in earth and mud, to be loosened from those beloved cords,
to disrelish the earth for a crucified Christ ; I say, this must be the
effect of an almighty power.

4. The manner of conversion shews no less the power of God.
There is not only an irresistible force used in it, but an agreeable
sweetness. The power is so efiicacious, that nothing can vanquish
it ; and so sweet, that none did ever complain of it. The Almighty


virtue displays itself invincibly, yet without constraint ; compelling
the will without offering violence to it, and making it cease to be
will, not forcing it, but changing it: not dragging it, but drawing
it ; making it will where before it nilled ; removing the corrupt na-
ture of the will, without invading the created nature and rights of
the faculty ; not working in us against the physical nature of the
will, but working it " to will" (Phil, ii, 13). This work is therefore
called creation, resurrection, to shew its irresistible powei , it is called
illumination, persuasion, drawing, to shew the suitableness of its effi-
cacy to the nature of the human faculties : it is a drawing with
cords, which testifies an invincible strength ; but, with cords of love,
which testifies a delightful conquest. It is hard to determine
whether it be more powerful than sweet, or more sweet than power-
ful. It is no mean part of the power of God to twist together vic-
tory and pleasure ; to give a blow as delightful as strong, as pleasing
to the sufferer, as it is sharp to the sinner.

Secondly, The power of God, in the application of redemption, if
evident in the pardoning a sinner.

1. In the pardon itself. The power of God is made the ground of
his patience ; or the reason why he is patient, is, because he would
" shew his power" (Rom. ix. 22). It is apart of magnanimity to pass
by injuries : as weaker stomachs cannot concoct the tougher food, so
weak minds cannot digest the harder injuries: he that passes over a
wrong is superior to his adversary that does it. When God speaks
of his own name as merciful^ he speaks first of himself as powerful
(Exod. xxxiv. 6), '' The Lord, The Lord God," that is, The Lord,
the strong Lord, Jehovah, the strong Jehovah. Let the power of
my Lord be great, saith Moses, when he prays for the forgiveness of
the people:? the word jigdal is written with a great jod^ or a jod
above the other letters. The power of God in pardoning is advanced
beyond an ordinary strain, beyond the creative strength. In the
creation, he had power over the creatures ; in this, power over him-
self: in creation, not himself, but the creatures were the object of his
power ; in that, no attribute of his nature could article against his
design. In the pardon of a sinner, after many overtures made to
him and refused by him^ God exerciseth a power over himself; for
the sinner hath dishonored God, provoked his justice, abused his
goodness, done injury to all those attributes which are necessary to
his relief : it was not so in creation, nothing was incapable of dis-
obliging God from bringing it into being. The dust, which was the
matter of Adam's body, needed only the extrinsic power of God to
form it into a man, and inspire it with a living soul : it had not ren-
dered itself obnoxious to Divine justice, nor was capable to excite
any disputes between his perfections. But after the entrance of sin,
and the merit of death, thereby there was a resistance in justice to
the free remission of man : God was to exercise a power over him-
self, to answer his justice, and pardon the sinner ; as well as a power
over the creature, to reduce the run away and rebel. Unless we
have recourse to the infiniteness of God's power, the infiniteness of
our guilt will weigh us down : we must consider not only that we

» Numb. xiv. 17. ^'nlKjdrjru, be exalted. Sept. Streugtb, <kc


have a mighty guilt to press us, but a mighty God to reheve us. In
the same act of his being our righteousness, he is our strength : "In
the Lord have I righteousness and strength" (Isa. xlv. 24).

2. In the sense of pardon. "When the soul hath been wounded
with the sense of sin, and its iniquities have stared it in the face, the
raising the soul from a despairing condition, and lifting it above those
waters which terrified it, to cast the light of comfort, as well as the
light of grace, into a heart covered with more than an Egyptian
darkness, is an act of his infinite and creating power (Isa. Ivii. 19);
" I create the fruit of the lips ; Peace." Men may wear out their "; : c i
with numbering up the promises of grace and arguments of p jaco,
but all will signify no more, without a creative power, than U' ail
men and angels should call to that white upon the wall to shi ao ar?
splendidly as the sun. God only can create Jerusalem, and every
child of Jerusalem a rejoicing (Isa. xlv. 18). A man is no more
able to apply to himself any word of comfort, under the sense of sin,
than he is able to convert himself, and turn the proposals of the
word into gracious affections in his heart. To restore the joy of sal-
vation, is, in David's judgment, an act of sovereign power, equal to
that of creating a clean heart (Ps. li. 10, 12). Alas ! it is a state like
to that of death ; as infinite power can only raise from natural death,
so from a spiritual death ; also f. om a. comfortless death : " In his fa-
vor there is life ;" in the want of his favor there is death. The
power of God hath so placed light in the sun, that all creatures in
the world, all the torches upon earth, kindled together, cannot make
it day, if that doth not rise ; so ail the angels iii heaven, and men
upon earth, are not competent chiriirgeons for a wounded spirit. The
cure of our spiritual ulcers, and the pouring in balm, is an act of
sovereign creative power : it is more visible in silencing a tempes-
tuous conscience than the power of our Saviour was in the stilling
the stormy winds and the roaring waves. As none but infinite
power can remove the guilt of sin, so none but infinite power can re-
move the despairing sense of it.

Thirdly, This power is evident in the preserving grace. As the
providence of God is a manifestation of his power in a continued
creation, so the preservation of grace is a manifestation of his power
in a continued regeneration. To keep a nation under the yoke, is an act
of the same power that subdued it. It is this that strengthens men in
suffering against the fury of hell (Col. i. 13) ; it is this that keeps them
from falling against the force of hell — the Father's hand (John x.
29). His strength abates and moderates the violence of temptations ;
his staff sustains his people under them ; his might defeats the power
of Satan, and bruiseth him under a believer's feet. The counter-
workings of indwelling corruption, the reluctances of the flesh
against the breathings of the spirit, the fallacy of the senses, and the
rovings of the mind, have ability quickly to stifle and extinguish
grace, if it were not maintained by that powerful blast that first im-
breathed it. No less power is seen in perlecting it, than was in
planting it (2 Pet. 13); no less in fulfilling the work of faith, than
in engrafting the word of faith (2 Thess. i. 11). The apostle well
unierstood the necessitv and efficacy of it in the preservation of faith,


as well as in the first infusion, when he expresses himself in thost
terms of a greatness or hyperbole of power, " His mighty power,"
or the power of his might (Eph. i. 19). The salvation he bestows,
and the strength wliereby he effects it, are joined together in the ])ro-
phet's song (Isa. xii. 2) : " The Lord is my strength and my salva-
tion." And indeed, God doth more magnify his power in continu-
ing a believer in the world, a weak and half-rigged vessel, in the
midst of so many sands wheron it might split, so many rocks whereon
it might dash, so many corruptions within, and so many temptations
wnhout, than if he did immediately transport him into heaven, and
clothe him with a perfect sanctified nature. — To conclude, what is
chere, then, in the world which is destitute of notices of Divine
])Ower ? Every creature affords us the lesson ; all acts of Divine gov-
ernment are the marks of it. Look into the word, and the manner of
its propagation instructs us in it ; your changed natures, your par-
doned guilt, your shining comfort, your quelled corruptions, the
standing of your staggering graces, are sufiicient to preserve a sense,
and to prevent a forgetfulness, of this great attribute, so necessary for
your sujiport, and conducing so much to your comfort.

Use L Of information and instruction.

Instruct. 1. If incomprehensible and infinite power belongs to the
nature of God, then Jesus Christ hath a divine nature, because the
acts of jiOY/or proper to God are ascribed to him. This perfection
of omnipotence ilcrh unquestionably pertain to the Deity, and is an
incommunicable pr(,>])erty, and the same with the essence of God : he,
therefore, to whoii5 rlii.s nttribuie is ascribed, is essentially God. This
is challenged by Christ, in conjiuicrion with eternity (Rev. i. 8); "I
am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saiththe Lord,
which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
This the Lord Christ speaks of himself He who was equal with
God, proclaims i.imself by the essential title of the Godhead, part of
which he repeats again (ver. 11), and this is the person which " walks
in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," the person that " was
dead and now lives" (ver. 17, 18), which cannot possibly be meant
of the Father, the First Person, who can never come under the de-
nomination of having been dead. Being, therefore, adorned with
the. same title, .i<» hath the same Deity ; and though his omnipotence
be only positively asserted ^•:■r. 8), yet, his eternity being asserted
(ver. 11, 17), it inferreth his immense power; for he that is eternal,
without limits of time, must needs be conceived powerful, without
any dash of infirmity. Again, when he is said to be a child born,
and a son given in the same breath he is called the Mighty God
(Isa. ix. 6). It is introduced as a ground of comfort to the church,
to preserve their hopes U' che accomplishment of the promises made
to them before. They should not imagine him to have only the
infirmity of a man, though he was veiled in the appearance of a man
No, they should look through the disguise of his flesh, to the might
of his Godhead. 'I'li"; attribute of mighty is added to the title of
God, because the conBideration of power is most capable to sustain
the drooping church in such a condition, and to prop up her hopes.
It is upon this account he saith of himself, " Whatsoever things the


Father doth, those also doth the Son hkewise" (John v. 19). In the
creation of heaven, earth, sea, and the preservation of all creatures^
the Son works with the same will, wisdom, virtue, power, as the
Father works : not as two may concur in an action in a different
manner, as an agent and an instrument, a carpenter and his tools,
but in the same manner of operation, uuoiuig, which we translate like-
ness, which doth not express so well the emphasis of the word.
There is no diversity of action between us ; what the Father doth,
that I do by the same power, with the same easiness in every re-
spect ; there is the same creative, productive, conservative power in
both of us ; and that not in one work that is done, ad extra, but in
all, in whatsoever the Father doth. In the same manner, not by a
delegated, but natural and essential power, by one undivided opera-
tion and manner of working.

1st. The creation, which is a work of Omnipotence, is more than
once ascribed to him. This he doth own himself; the creation of
the earth, and of man upon it ; the stretching out the heavens by hia
hands, and the forming of " all the hosts of them by his command"
(Isa. xlv. 12). He is not only the Creator of Israel, the church (ver.
12), but of the whole world, and every creature on the face of the
earth, and in the glories of the heavens ; which is repeated also ver.
18, where, in this act of creation, he is called God himself, and
speaks of himself in the term Jehovah ; and swears by himself (ver.
23). What doth he swear ? " That unto me every knee shall bow,
and every tongue shall swear." Is this Christ ? Yes, if the apostle
may be believed, who applies it to him (Eom. xiv. 11) to prove the
appearance of all men before the judgment-seat of Christ, whom the
prophet calls (ver. 15) " a God that hides himself;" and so he was a
hidden God when obscured in our fleshly infirmities. He was in
conjunction with the Father when the sea received his decree, and
the foundations of the earth were appointed ; not as a spectator, but
as an artificer, for so the word in Prov. viii. 80, signifies, " as one
brought up with him ;" it signifies also, " a cunning workman" (Cant,
vii. 1). He was the east, or the sun, from whence sprang all the
light of life and being to the creature ; so the word mp (ver. 22),
which is translated, "before his works of old," is rendered by some,,
and signifies the east as well as before : but if it notes only his ex-
istence before, it is enough to prove his Deity. The Scripture doth
not only allow him an existence before the world, but exalts him as
the cause of the world : a thing may precede another that is not the
cause of that which follows ; a precedency in age doth not entitle
one brother, or thing, the cause of another : but our Saviour is not
only ancienter than the world, but is the Creator of the world (Heb.
i. 10, 11). " Who laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens
are the work of his hands." So great an eulogy cannot be given to
one destitute of omnipotence ; since the distance between being and
not being is so vast a gulf that cannot be surmounded and stepped
over, but by an Infinite Power: he is the first and the last, that
called the " generations from the beginning" (Isa. xli. 4), and had
an almighty voice to call them out of nothing. In which regard he
Ls called the " everlasting Father" (Isa. ix. 6), as being the efficient


of creation ; as God is called the Father of the rain, or as father is
taken for the inventor of an art; as Jubal, the first franier and in-
ventor of music, is called " the father of such as handle the harp"
(Gen. iv. 21). And that Person is said to " make the sea, and form
the dry land by his hands" (Ps. xcv. 5, 6) against whom we are ex
horted not to harden our hearts, which is applied to Christ by the
apostle (Heb. iii. 8) ; in ver. 6, he is called '■ a great King." and a
great God our Maker." The places wherein the creation is attributed
to Christ, those that are the antagonists of his Deity, would evade
by understanding them of the new, or evangelical, not of the first,
old material creation : but what appearance is there for such a sense?

(1.) That of Heb. i. 10, 11, it is spoken of that earth and heavens
which were in the beginning of time ; it is that earth shall perish,
that heaven that shall be folded up, that creation that shall grow old
towards a decay ; that is, only the visible and material creation : the
spiritual shall endure forever ; it grows not old to decay, but grows
up to a perfection ; it sprouts up to its happiness, not to its detriment.
The same Person creates that shall destroy, and the same world is
created by him that shall be destroyed by him, as well as it subsisted
by virtue of his omnipotency.

(2.) Can that also (Heb. i. 2), " By whom also he made the worlds,"
sjjeaking of Christ, bear the same plea ? It was the same Person by
whom "God spake to us in these last times," the same Person which
he hath constituted " Heir of all things, by whom also he made the
worlds :" and the particle also, intimates it to be a distinct act from
his speaking or prophetical oifice, whereby he restored and new
created the world, as well as the rightful foundation God had to
make him " Heir of all things." It refers likewise, not to the time
of Christ's speaking upon earth, but to something past, and some-
thing different from the publication of the gospel: it is not " doth
make," which had been more likely if the apostle had meant only
the new creation; but "hath made, "q referring to time long since
past, something done before his appearance upon earth as a Prophet :
" By whom also he made the worlds," or ages, all things subjected
to, or measured by time ; which must be meant according to the
Jewish phrase of this material visible world : so they entitle God in
their Liturgy, the " Lord of Ages," that is, the Lord of the world,
and all ages and revolutions of the world, from the creation to the
last period of time. If anj'thing were in loemg before this frame of
heaven and earth, and within the compass of time, it received being
and duration from the Son of God. The apostle would give an ar-
gument to prove the equity of making him Heii' of all things as
Mediator, because he was the framer of all things as God. He may
well be the Heir or Lord of angels as well as men, who created
angels as well as men : all things were justly under his power aa
Mediator, since they derived their existence from him as Creator.

(3.) But what evasion can there be for that (Col. i. 16)? " By him
were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth,
whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,

'1 tTToiaev.


all things were created by liim and for liim." He is said to be tbe
Creator of material and visible things, as well as spiritual and invis-
ible ; of things in heaven, which needed no restoration, as well as
things on earth, which were polluted by sin, and stood in need of a
new creation. How could the angels belong to the new creation,
who had never put off the honor and purity of the first ? Since they
never divested themselves of their original integrity, they could not
be reinvested with that which they never lost. Besides, suppose the
holy angels be one way or other reduced as parts of the new crea
tion, as being under the mediatory government of our Saviour, as
their Head, and in regard of their confirmation by him in that happy
state. In what manner shall the devils be ranked among new crea-
tures? They are called principalities and powers as well as the
angels, and may come under the title of things invisible : that they
are called principalities and powers is plain (Eph. vi. 12): "For we
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and
powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world ; against spiritual
wickedness in high places." Good angels are not there meant, for
what war have believers with them, or they with believers ? They
are the guardians of them, since Christ hath taken away the enmity
between our Lord and theirs, in whose quarrel they were engaged
against us : and since the apostle, speaking of " all things created by
him," expresseth it so, that it cannot be conceived he should except
anything ; how come the finally impenitent and unbelievers, which
are things in earth, and visible, to be listed here in the roll of new
creatures ? None of these can be called new creatures, because they
are subjected to the government of Christ; no more than the earth
and sea, and the animals in it, are made new creatures, because they
are all under the dominion of Christ and his providential govern-
ment. Again, the apostle manifestly makes the creation he here
speaks of, to be the material, and not the new creation ; for that he
speaks of afterwards as a distinct act of our Lord Jesus, under the
title of Keconciliation (Col. i. 20, 21), which was the restoration of
the world, and the satisfying for that curse that lay upon it. His
intent is here to show that not an angel in heaven, nor a creature
upon earth, but was placed in their several degrees of excellency by
the power of the Son of God, who, after that act of creation, and the
entrance of sin, was the " reconciler" of the world through the blood
of his cross.

(4.) There is another place as clear (John i. 3) : " All things were
made by him, and without him was nothing made that was made."
The creation is here ascribed to him; affirmatively, "All things
were made by him ;" negatively, there was nothing made without
him : and the words are emphatical, ovdt er^ not one thing ; except-
ing nothing ; including invisible things, as well as things conspicu-
ous to sense only, mentioned in the story of the creation (Gen. i.) ;
not only the entire mass, but the distinct parcels, the smallest worm
and the highest angel, owe their original to him. And if not 07ie
thing, then the matter was not created to his hands ; and his work
consisted not only in the forming things from that matter : if that
one thing of matter were excepted, a chief thing were excepted ; if


not one tldng were excepted, tlien he created sometliing of noihing,
be(!ause spirits, as angels and souls, are not made of any pre existing
or fore-created matter. How could the evangelist pbrase it more
extensively and comprehensively ? This is a character of Omnipo-
tency ; to create the world, and everything in it, of nothing, requires
an infinite virtue and power. If all things were created by Him,
they were not created by him as man, because himself, as man, was
not in being before the creation ; if all things were made by him,
then himself was not made, himself was not created ; and to be ex-
istent without being made, without being created, is to be unbound-
edly omnipotent. And if we understand it of the new creation, as
they do that will not allow him an existence in his Deity before his
humanity, it cannot be true of that ; for how could he regenerate
Abraham, make Simeon and Anna new creatures, who " waited for
the salvation of Israel," and form John Baptist, and fill him with the
Holy Ghost, even from the womb (Luke i. 15), who belonged to the
new creation, and was to prepare the way, if Christ had not a being
before him? The evangelist alludes to, and explains the historj^ of

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 75)