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

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the immediate act of none but God, because he was the sole creditor.
A creditor is not bound to accept of another's suretyship, but it is at
his liberty whether he will or no ; and when he doth accept of him,
he may challenge the debt of him, as if he were the principal debtor
himself Christ made himself sin for us by a voluntary submission ;
and God made him sin for us by a full imputation, and treated him
penally, as he would have done those sinners in whose stead he suf-
fered. Without this act of sovereignty in Gt)d, we had forever
perished : for if we could suppose Christ lajdng down his life for us
without the pleasure and order of God, he could not have been said
to have borne our punishment. What could he have undergone in
his humanity but a temporal death ? But more than this was due
to us, even the wrath of God, which far exceeds the calamity of a
mere bodily death. The soul being principal in the crime, was to

ON god's dominion. 425

be principal in the punishment. The wrath of God could not have
dropped upon his soul, and rendered it so full of agonies, without
the hand of God : a creature is not capable to reach the soul, neither
as to comfort nor terror ; and the justice of God could not have made
him a sufferer, if it had not first considered him a sinner by imputa-
tion, or by inherency, and actual commission of a crime in his own
person. The latter was far from Christ, who was holy, harmless,
and undefiled. He must be considered then in the other state of
imputation, which could not be without a sovereign appointment, or
at least concession of God : for without it, he could have no more
authority to lay down his life for us, than Abraham could have had to
have sacrificed his son, or any man to expose himself to death without
a call ; nor could any plea have been entered in the court of heaven,
either by Christ for us, or by us for ourselves. And though the
death of" so great a person had been meritorious in itself, it had not
been meritorious for us, or accepted for us ; Christ is " dehvered up
by him" (Rom. viii. 32), in every part of that condition wherein he
was, and suffered ; and to that end, that " we might become the
righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. v. 21) : that we might havethe
righteousness of him that was God imputed to us, or that we might
have a righteousness as great and proportioned to the righteousness
of God, as God required. It was an act of Divine sovereignty to
account him that was righteous a sinner in our stead, and to account
us, who were sinners, righteous upon the merit of his death.

4. This was done by the command of God ; by God as a Lawgiver,
having the supreme legislative and preceptive authority : in which
respect, the whole work of Christ is said to be an answer to a law,
not one given him, but put into his heart, as the law of nature was
in the heart of man at first. (Ps. xl. 7, 8) : " Thy law is within my
heart." This law was not the law of nature or moral law, though
that was also in the heart of Christ, but the command of doing
those things which were necessary for our salvation, and not a com-
mand so much of doing, as of dying. The moral law in the heart
of Christ would have done us no good without the mediatory law ;
we had been where we were by the sole observance of the precepts
of the moral law, without his suffering the penalty of it : the law in
the heart of Christ was the law of suffering, or dying, the doing that
for us by his death which the blood of sacrifices was unable to effect.
Legal " sacrifices thou wouldest not ; thy law is within my heart ;"
t. e. thy law ordered me to be a sacrifice ; it was that law, his obedi-
ence to which was principally accepted and esteemed, and tliat was
principally his passive, his obedience to death (Phil. ii. 8) ; this was
the special command received from God, that he should die (John
X. 18). It is not so clearly manifested when this command was gi ven,
whether after the incarnation of Christ, or at the point of his consti-
tution as Mediator, upon the transaction between the leather and the
Son concerning the affiiir of redemption : the promise was given "be-
fore the world began" (Tit. i. 2). Might not the precept be given,
before the world began, to Christ, as considered in the quality of
Mediator and Eedeemer? Precepts and promises usually attend one
another ; every covenant is made up of both. Christ, considered


here as the Son of God in the Divine nature, was not capable of »
command or promise; but considered in the relation of Mediator be*
tween God and man, he was capable of both. Promises of assist-
ance were made before his actual incarnation, of which the Prophets
are full : why not precepts for his obedience, since long before his
incarnation this was his speech in the Prophet, " Thy law is witliin
my heart 1" however, a command, a law it was, which is a fruit of
the Divine sovereignty ; that as the sovereignty of God was im-
peached and violated by the disobedience of Adam, it might be
owned and vindicated by the obedience of Christ ; that as we fell by
disloyalty to it, we might rise by the highest submission to it in an-
other head, infinitely superior in his person to Adam, by whom
v/e fell

5. This sovereignty of God appears in exalting Christ to such a
sovereign dignity as our Redeemer. Some, indeed, say, that this sov-
ereignty of Christ's human nature was natural, and the right of it
resulted from its union with the Divine ; as a lady of mean condi-
tion, when espoused and married to a prince, hath, by virtue of that,
a natural right to some kind of jurisdiction over the whole kingdom,
because she is one with the king." But to waive this ; the Scripture
placeth wholly the conferring such an authority upon the pleasure
and will of God. As Christ was a gift of God's sovereign will to us,
so this was a gift of God's sovereign will to Christ (Matt, xxviii. 28) :
" All power is given me." And he " gave him to be head over all
things to the churcli" (Eph. i. 22) ; " God gave him a name above
every name" (Phil. ii. 9) ; and, therefore, his throne he sits upon is
called "The throne of his Father" (Rev. iii. 21). And he " commit'
ted all judgment to the Son," ^. e. all government and dominion ; an
empire in heaven and earth (John, v. 22) ; and that because he is " the
Son of Man" (ver. 27) ; which may understood, that the Father hath
given him authority to exercise that judgment and government as
the Son of Man, which he originally had as the Son of God ; or
rather, because he became a servant, and humbled himself to death,
he gives him this authority as the reward of his obedience and hu-
mility, conformable to Phil. ii. 9. This is an act of the high sover-
eignty of God, to obscure his own authority in a sense, and take
into association with him, or vicarious subordination to him, the hu-
man nature of Christ as united to the Divine ; not only lifting it
above the heads of all the angels, but giving that person in our na-
ture an empire over them, whose nature was more excellent than
ours : yea, the sovereignty of God appears in the whole management
of this kingly office of Christ ; for it is managed in every part of it
according to God's order (Ezek. xxxvii. 24, 25): "David, my ser-
vant, shall be king over them," and " my servant David shall be
their prince forever :" he shall be a prince over them, but my servant
in that principality, in the exercise and duration of it. The sover-
eignty of God is paramount in all that Christ hath done as a priest.
or shall do as a king.

Use I. For instruction.

1. How great is the contempt of this sovereignty of God ! Man

• Lessius, de Perfect. Diviu. lib. x. p. 65;


naturally would be free from God's empire, to be a slave under the
dominion of his own lust ; the sovereignty of God, as a Lawgiver,
is most abhorred by man (Lev. xxvi. 43). The Israelites, the best
people in the world, were apt, by nature, not only to despise, but ab-
hor, his statutes ; there is not a law of God but the corrupt heart of
man hath an abhorrency of : how often do men wish that God had
not enacted this or that law that goes against the gTain ! and, in wish-
ing so, wish that he were no sovereign, or not such a sovereign as he
is in his own nature, but one according to their corrupt model. This
is the great quarrel between God and man, whether he or they shall be
the Sovereign Ruler. He should not, by the will of man, rule in any
one village in the world ; God's vote should not be predominant in
any one thing. There is not a law of his but is exposed to contempt
by the perverseness of man (Prov. i. 21) : " Ye have set at nought
aU my counsel, and would have none of my reproof:" Septuag. " Ye
have made all my counsels without authority." The nature of man
cannot endure one precept of God, nor one rebuke from him ; and
for this cause God is at the expense of judgments in the world, to
assert his own empire to the teeth and consciences of men (Ps. lix.
13): "Lord, consume them in wrath, and let them know that God
rules in Jacob, to the ends of the earth." The dominion of God is
not slighted by any creature of this world but man ; all others ob-
serve it by observing his order, whether in their natural motions or
preternatural irruptions ; they punctually act according to their com-
mission. Man only speaks a dialect against the strain of the whole
creation, and hath none to imitate him among all the creatures in
heaven and earth, but only among those in hell : man is more im-
patient of the yoke of God than of the yoke of man. There are
not so many rebellions committed by inferiors against their superi-
ors and fellow-creatures, as are committed against God. A willing
and easy sinning is an equalling the authority of God to that of man
(Hos. vi. 7) : " They, like men, have transgressed my covenant ;" they
have made no more account of breaking my covenant than if they
had broken some league or compact made with a mere man ; so
slightly do they esteem the authority of God ; such a disesteem of
the Divine authority is a virtual uncleifying of him.P To slight his
sovereignty is to stab his Deity ; since the one cannot be preserved
without the support of the other, his life would expire with his au-
thority. How base and brutish is it for vile dust and mouldering
clay to lift up itself against the majesty of God, whose throne is in
the heavens, who sways his sceptre over all parts of the world — a
Majesty before whom the devils shake, and the highest cherubims
tremble ! It is as if the thistle, that can presently be trod down by
the foot of a wild beast, should think itself a match for the cedar of
Lebanon, as the phrase is, 2 Kings, xiv. 9.

Let us consider this in general ; and, also, in the ordinary practice
of men. First, In general.

(1.) All sin in its nature is a contempt of the Divine dominion.
As every act of obedience is a confirmation of the law, and conse-
quently a subscription of the authority of the Lawgiver (Deut. xxvii

P Munster.


26), SO every breacli to it is a conspiracy against tlie sovereignty of
the Lawgiver ; setting up our will against the will of God is an arti-
cling against his authority, as setting up our reason against the
methods of God is an articling against his wisdom ; the intendment
of every act of sin is to wrest the sceptre out of God's hand. The
authority of God is the first attribute in the Deity which it directs
its edge against ; it is called, therefore, a " transgression of his law"
(1 John, iii. 4), and, therefore, a slight, or neglect, of the majesty of
God ; and the not keeping his commands is called a " forgetting
God" (Deut. viii. 11), i. e. a forgetting him to be our absolute Lord.
As the first notion we have of God as a Creator is that of his sover-
eignty, so the first perfection that sin struck at, in the violation of
the law, was his sovereignty as a Lawgiver. " Breaking the law is
a dishonoring God" (Rom. ii. 23), a snatching off his crown ; to obey
our own wills before the will of God, is to prefer ourselves as our
own sovereigns before him. Sin is a wrong, and injury to God, not
in his essence, that is above the reach of a creature, nor in anything
profitable to him, or pertaining to his own intrinsic advantage ; not
an injury to God in himself, but in his authority, in those things
which pertain to his glory ; a disowning his due right, and not using
his goods according to his will. Thus the whole world may be
called, as God calls Chaldea, " a land of rebels" (Jer. 1, 21) : " Go
up against the land of Merathaim," or rebels : rebels, not against the
Jews, but against God. The mighty opposition in the heart of man
to the supremacy of God is discovered emphatically by the apostle
(Rom. viii. 7) in that expression, " The carnal mind is enmity against
God, i. e. against the authority of God, because " it is not subject to
the law of God, neither indeed can be." It refuseth not subjection
to this or that part, but to the whole ; to every mark of Divine au-
thority in it ; it will not lay down its arms against it, nay, it cannot
but stand upon its terms against it ; the law can no more be fulfilled
by a carnal mind, than it can be ' disowned by a sovereign God.
God is so holy, that he cannot alter a righteous law, and man is so
averse, that he cares not for, nay, cannot fulfil, one title ; so much
doth the nature of man swell against the majesty of God. Now an
enmity to the law, which is in every sin, implies a perversity against
the authority of God that enacted it.

(2.) All sin, in its nature, is the despoiling God of his sole sover-
eignty, which was probably the first thing the devil aimed at. That
pride was the sin of the devil, the Scripture gives us some account
of, when the apostle adviseth not a novice, or one that hath but
lately embraced the faith, to be chosen a bishop (1 Tim. iii. 6), "Lest,
being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the
devil ;" lest he fall into the same sin for which the devil was con-
demned. But in what particular thing this pride was manifest, is
not so easily discernible ; the ancients generally conceived it to be
an affecting the throne of God, grounding it on Isa. xiv. 12 : " How
art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning ! for thou hast said in
thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above
the stars of God." It is certain the prophet speaks there of the king
of Babylon, and taxeth him for his pride, and gives to him the title


ot ' Lucifer," perhaps likening him in his pride to the devil, and
then it notes plainly the particular sin of the devil, attempting a
share in the sovereignty of God ; and some strengthen their conjec-
ture fi-om the name of the archangel who contended against Satan
(Jude, 9), which is Michael, which signifies, " Who as God ?" or,
" Who like God ?" the name of the angel giving the superiority to
God, intimating the contrary disposition in the devil, against whom
he contended. It is likely his sin was an affecting equality with
God in empire, or a freedom from the sovereign authority of God ;
because he imprinted such a kind of persuasion on man at his first
temptation : " Ye shall be as gods" (Gen. iii. 5) ; and though it be
restrained to the matter of knowledge, yet that being a fitness for
government, it may be extended to that also. But it is plainly a
persuading them, that they might be, in some sort, equal with God,
and independent on him as their superior. What he had found so
fatal to himself, he imagined would have the same success in the ruin
of man. And since the devil hath, in all ages of the world, usurped
a worship to himself which is only due to God, and would be served
by man, as if he were the God of the world ; since all his endeavor
was to be worshipped as the Supreme God on earth, it is not unrea-
sonable to think, that he invaded the supremacy of God in heaven,
and endeavored to be like the Most High before his banishment, as
he hath attempted to be like the Most High since. And since the
devil and antichrist are reputed by John, in the Revelation, to be so
near of kin, and so like in disposition, why might not that, which is
the sin of antichrist, the image of him, be also the sin of Satan, " to
exalt himself above all that is called God" (2 Thess. ii. 4), and "sit
as God in his temple," affecting a partnership in his throne and
worship ? Whether it was this, or attempting an unaccountable do-
minion over created things, or because he was the prime angel, and
the most illustrious of that magnificent corporation, he might think
himself fit to reign with God over all things else ? Or if his sin
were envy, as some think, at the felicity of man in paradise, it was
still a quarrelling with God's dominion, and right of disposing his
own goods and favors ; he is, therefore, called " Belial" (2 Cor. vi.
14, 15) : " What concord hath Christ with Belial ?" i. e. with the
devil, one " without yoke," as the word " Belial" signifies.

(3.) It is more plain, that this was the sin of Adam. The first
act oi Adam was to exercise a lordship over the lower creatures, in
giving names to them, — a token of dominion (Gen. ii. 19). The next
was to affect a lordship over God, in rebelhng against him. After
he had writ the first mark of his own delegated dominion, in the
names he gave the creatures, and owned their dependence on him as
their governor, he would not acknowledge his own dependence on
God. As soon as the Lord of the world had put him into possession
of the power he had allotted him, he attempted to strip his Lord of
that which he had reserved to himself; he was not content to lay a
yoke upon the other creatures, but desirous to shake off the Divine
yoke from himself, and be subject to none but his own will ; hence
Adam's sin is more particularly called " disobedience" (Eom. v. 19) :
for, in the eating the apple, there \N-as no moral evil in itself, but a


contradiction to the positive command and order of God, ■whereby he
did disown God's right of commanding him, or reserving anj'thing
from him to his own use. Tlie language all his posterity speaks,
*' Let us break his bands, and cast away his cords from us" (Ps. ii.
3), was learned from Adam in that act of his. The next act we read
of, was that of Cain's murdering Abel, which was an invading God's
right, in assuming an authority to disj)ose of the life of his brother,
— a life which God had given him, and reserved the period of it in
his own hands. And he persists in the same usurpation when God
came to examine him, and ask him where his brotlier was ; how
scornful was his answer ! (Gen. iv. 9) : " Am I my brother's keeper ?"
as much as if he had said. What have you to do to examine me ? or,
What obligation is there upon me to render an account of him ? or, as
one saith, it is as much as if he had said, " Go, look for him yourself."*!
The sovereignty of God did not remain undisturbed as soon as ever
it appeared in creation ; the devils rebelled against it in heaven, and
man would have banished it from the earth.

(4.) The sovereignty of God hath not been less invaded by the
usurpations of men. One single order of the Eoman episcopacy
hath endeavored to usurp the prerogatives of God ; the Pope will
prohibit what God hath allowed ; the marriage of priests ; the re-
ceiving of the cup, as well as of the bread, in the sacrament ; the
eating of this or that sort of meat at special times, meats which God
hath sanctified ; and forbid them, too, upon pain of damnation. It
is an invasion of God's right to forbid the use of what God hath
granted, as though the earth, and the fulness thereof, were no longer
the Lord's, but the Pope's ; much more to forbid what God hath
commanded, as if Christ overreached his own authority, when he en-
joined all to drink of the sacramental wine, as well as eat of the
sacramental bread. No lord but will think his right usurped by that
steward who shall permit to others what his lord forbids, and forbid
that v/hich his master allows, and act the lord instead of the servant.
Add to this the pardons of many sins, as if he had the sole key to
the treasures of Divine mercy ; the disposing of crowns and domin-
ions at his pleasure, as if God had divested himself of the title of
King of kings, and transferred it u]3on the see of Eome. The allow-
ing public stews, dispensing with incestuous marriages, as if God had
acted more the part of a tyrant than of a righteous Sovereign in for-
bidding them, depriving the Jews of the propriety in their estates
upon their conversion to Christianity, as if the pilfering men's goods
were the way to teach them self-denial, the first doctrine of Christian
religion ; and God shall have no honor from the Jew without a
breach of his law by theft from the Christian. Granting many
years' indulgences upon slight performances, the repeating so many
Ave-Marias and Pater-Nosters in a day, canonizing saints, claiming
the keys of heaven, and disposing of the honors and glory of it, and
proposing creatures as objects of religious worship, wherein he an-
swers the character of the apostle (2 Thess. ii. 4), " showing himself
that he is God," in challenging that power which is only the right
of Divine sovereignty ; exalting himself above God, in indulging

(1 Ti-ap. in Inc.


those tMngs wTiicTi tlie law of God never allowed, but hath severely
prohibited. This controlling the sovereignty of God, not allowing
him the rights of his crown, is the soul and spirit of many errors.
Why are the decrees of election and preterition denied ? Because
men wil-^ not acknowledge God the Sovereign Disposer of his crea-
ture. Why is effectual calling and efficacious grace denied ? Be-
cause they will not allow God the proprietor and distributer of his
own goods. Why is the satisfaction of Christ denied? Because
they will not allow God a power to vindicate his own law in what
way he pleaseth. Most of the errors of men may be resolved into a
denial of God's sovereignty ; all have a tincture of the first evil sen-
timent of Adam.

Secondly. The sovereignty of God is contemned in the practices of
men — (1.) As he is a Lawgiver.

[1.] When laws are made, and urged in any state contrary to the
law of God. It is part of God's sovereignty to be a Lawgiver ; not
to obey his law is a breach made upon his right of government ; but
it is treason in any against the crown of God, to mint laws with a
stamp contrary to that of heaven, whereby they renounce their due
subjection, and vie with God for dominion, snatch the supremacy
from him, and account themselves more lords than the Sovereign
Monarch of the world. When men will not let God be the judge
of good and evil, but put in their own vote, controlling his to estab-
lish their own ; such are not content to be as gods, subordinate to
the supreme God, to sit at his feet ; nor co-ordinate with him, to sit
equal upon his throne ; but paramount to him, to over-top and shadow
his crown ; — a boldness that leaves the serpent, in the first temp-
tation, under the character of a more commendable modesty ; who
advised our first parents to attempt to be as gods, but not above
him, and would enervate a law of God, but not enact a contrary one
to be observed by them. Such was the usurpation of Nebuchad-
nezzar, to set up a golden image to be adored (Dan. iii.), as if he had
power to mint gods, as well as to conquer men ; to set the stamp of
a Deity upon a piece of gold, as well as his own effigies upon his
current coin. Much of the same nature was that of Darius, by the
motion of his flatterers, to prohibit any petition to be made to God
for the space of thirty days, as though God was not to have a wor-
ship without a license from a doting piece of clay (Dan. vi. 7). So
Henry the Third of France, by his edict, silenced masters of families
from praying with their households. ^ And it is a farther contempt
of God's authority, when good men are oppressed by the sole weight
of power, for not observing such laws, as if they had a real sover-
eignty over the consciences of men, more than God himself.^ When
the apostles were commanded by an angel from God, to preach in
the Temple the doctrine o"^ Christ (Acts, v. 19, 20), they were fetched
from thence with a guard before the council (ver. 6). And what is
the language of those statesmen to them ? as absolute as God him-
self could speak to any transgressors of his law. " Did not we straitly
command you, that you should not teach in this name?" (ver, 28).

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) → online text (page 59 of 75)