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

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It is sufficient that we gave yuo a command to be silent, and publ'^sb

' Trap, in he. • Faueheur, Vol. II. pp. 663, 664.


no more tliib doctrine of Jesus ; it is not for you to examine our de-
crees, but rest in our order as loyal subjects, and comply with youi
rulers ; they might have added, — though it be with the damnation
of your soids. How would those overrule the apostles by no other
reason but their absolute pleasure ! And though God had espoused
their cause, by delivering thsm out of the prison, wherein they had
locked them the day before, yet not one of all this council had the
wit or honesty to entitle it a fighting against God, but Gamaliel (ver.
29). So foolishly fond are men to put themselves in the place of
God, and usurp a jurisdiction over men's conscien ~i: and to pre-
smne that laws made against the interest and command of God, must
be of more force than the laws of God's enacting.

[2.] The sovereignty of God is contemned in making additions to
the laws of God. The authority of a sovereign Lawgiver is invaded and
vilified when an inferior presumes to make orders equivalent to his
edicts. It is a prcemunire against heaven to set up an authority dis-
tinct from that of God, or to enjoin anything as necessary in matter
of worship for which a Divine commission cannot be shown. God
was always so tender of this part of his prerogative, that he would
not have anything wrought in the tabernacle, not a vessel, not an
instrument, but what himself had prescribed. " According to all that
I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of
all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it" (Exod. xxv. 9) ;
Twhich is strictly urged again, ver. 40 : " Look that thou make them
after their pattern ;" look to it, beware of doing anything of thine
own head, and j iistling with my authority. It was so afterwards in
the matter of the temple, which succeeded the taberi.acle ; God gave
the model of it to David, and made him " understand in writing by
his hand upon him, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chron
xxviii. 19). Neither the royal authority in Moses, who was king i>
Jesurun ; nor in David, who was a man after God's own heart, and
called to the crown by a special and extraordinary providence ; noi
Aaron, and the high priests his successors, invested in the sacerdotal
office, had any authority from God, to do anything in the framing
the tabernacle or temple of their own heads. God baiTcd them from
anything of that nature, by giving them an exact pattern, so dear to
him was always this flower of his crown. And afterwards, the power
of appointing officers and ordinances in the church was delegated tc
Christ, and was among the rest of those royalties given to him, which
he fully completed "for the edifying of the body" (Eph. iv. 11, 12);
and he hath the eulogy by the Spirit of God, to be " faithful as
Moses was in all his house, to Him that appointed him" (Heb. iii. 2).
Faithfulness in a trust implies a punctual observing directions ; God
was still so tender of this, that even Christ, the Son, should no more
do anything in this concern without appointment and pattern, than
" Moses, a servant" (ver. 5, 6). It seems to be a vote of nature to
refer the original of the modes of all worship to God ; and therefore
in all those varieties of ceremonies among the heathens, there was
scarce any but were imagined by them to be the dictates and orders
oi some of their pretended deities, and not the resolves of mere hu-
man authority. What intrusion upon God's right hath the papacy

UN god's dominion. 433

made in regard of ofl&cers, cardinals, patriarchs, &c., not known in
any Divine order? In regard of ceremonies in worship, pressed aa
necessary to obtain the favor of God, holy water, crucifixes, altars,
images, cringings, reviving many of the Jewish and Pagan ceremo-
nies, and adopting them into the family of Christian ordinances ; as
if God had been too absolute and arbitrary in repealing the one, and
dashing in pieces the other. When God had by his sovereign order
framed a religion for the heart, men are ready to usurp an authority
to frame one for the sense, to dress the ordinances of God in new
and gaudy habits, to take the eye by a vain pomp ; thus affecting a
Divine royalty, and acting a silly childishness ; and after this, to im-
pose the observation of those upon the consciences of men, is a bold
ascent into the throne of God ; to impose laws upon the conscience,
which Christ hath not imposed, hath deservedly been thought the
very spirit of antichrist ; it may be called also the spirit of anti-god.
God hath reserved to himself the sole sovereignty over the con-
science, and never indulged men any part of it ; he hath not given
man a power over his own conscience, much less one man a power
over another's conscience. Men have a power over outward things
to do this or that, where it is determined by the law of God, but not
the least authority to control any dictate or determination of con-
science : the sole empire of that is appropriate to God, as one of the
great marks of his royalty. What an usurpation is it of God's right
to make conscience a slave to man, which God hath solely, as the
Father of spirits, subjected to himself! — an usurpation which, though
the apostles, those extraordinary officers, might better have claimed,
yet they utterly disowned any imperious dominion over the faith of
others (2 Oor. i. 24). Though in this they do not seem to climb up
above God, yet they set themselves in the throne of God, envy him
an absolute monarchy, would be sharers with him in his legislative
power, and grasp one end of his sceptre in their own hands. They
do not pretend to take the crown from God's head, but discover a
bold ambition to shuffle their hairy scalps under it, and wear part of
it upon their own, that they may rule with him, not under him ; and
would be joint lords of his manor with him, who hath, by the apos-
tle, forbidden any to be "lords of his heritage" (1 Pet. v. 3): and
therefore they cannot assume such an authority to themselves till
they can show where God hath resigned this part of his authority to
them. If their exposition of that place (Matt. xvi. 18), "Upon this
rock I will build my church," be granted to be true, and that the
person and successors of Peter are meant by that rock, it could be no
apology for their usurpations ; it is not Peter and his successors shall
build, but "I will build;" others are instruments in building, but
they are to observe the directions of the grand Architect.

[3.] The sovereignty of God is contemned when men prefer obe-
dience to men's laws before obedience to God. As God hath an
undoubted right, as the Lawgiver and Ruler of the world, to enact
laws without consulting the pleasure of men, or requiring their con-
sent to the verifying and establishing his edicts, so are men obliged,
by their allegiance as subjects, to observe the laws of their Creator,
without consulting whether they be agreeable to the laws of his re-

VOL. II. — 28


volted creatures. To consult with flesh and blood whether we should
obey, is to authorize flesh and blood above the purest and most
sovereign Spirit. When men will obey their superiors, without tak-
ing in the condition the apostle prescribes to servants (Col. iii. 22),
" In singleness of heart fearing God," and postpone the fear of God
to the fear of man, it is to render God of less power with them than
the drop of a bucket, or dust of the balance. When we, out of fear
of punishment, will observe the laws of men against the laws of God,
it is like the Egyptians, to worship a ravenous crocodile instead of a
Deity ; when we submit to human laws, and stagger at Divine, it is
to set man upon the throne of God, and God at the footstool of man ;
to set man above, and God beneath ; to make him the tail, and not
the head, as God speaks in another case of Israel (Deut, xxviii. 13).
When we pay an outward observation to Divine laws, because they
are backed by the laws of man, and human authority is the motive
of our observance, we subject God's sovereignty to man's authority;
what he hath from us, is more owing to the pleasure of men than
any value we have for the empire of God : when men shall commit
murders, and imbrue their hands in blood by the order of a grandee ;
when the worst sins shall be committed by the order of papal dis-
pensations ; when the use of his creatures, which God hath granted
and sanctified, shall be abstained from for so many days in the week,
and so many weeks in the year, because of a Roman edict, the au-
thority of man is acknowledged, not only equal, but superior, to that
of God ; the dominion of dust and clay is preferred before the un-
doubted right of the Soverign of the world ; the commands of God
are made less than human, and the orders of men more authoritative
than Divine, and a grand rebel's usurpation of God's right is coun-
tenanced. When men are more devout in observance of uncertain
traditions, or mere human inventions, than at the hearing of the un-
questionable oracles of God ; when men shall squeeze their counte-
nances into a more serious figure, and demean themselves in a more
religious posture, at the appearance of some mock ceremony, clothed
in a Jewish or Pagan garb, which hath unhappUy made a rent in the
coat of Christ, and pay a more exact reverence to that which hath no
Divine, but only a human stamp upon it, than to the clear and plain
word of God, which is perhaps neglected with sleepy nods, or which
is worse, entertained with profane scoffs ; — this is to prefer the au-
thority of man employed in trifles, before the authority of the wise
Lawgiver of the world : besides, the ridiculousness of it is as great
as to adore a glow-worm, and laugh at the sun ; or for a courtier to
be more exact in his cringes and starched postures before a puppet
than before his sovereign prince. In all this we make not the will
and authority of God our rule, but the will of man ; disclaim oui
dependence on God, to hang upon the uncertain breath of a creature.
In all this God is made less than man, and man more than God ;
God is deposed, and man enthroned ; God made a slave, and man a
sovereign above him. To this we may refer the solemn addresses
of some for the maintenance of the Protestant religion according to
law, the law of man ; not so much minding the law of God, resolving
to make the law, the church, the state, the rule of their religion, and


■change that if the laws be changed, steering their opinions by the
compass of the magistrate's judgment and interest.

(2.) The dominion of God, as a Proprietor, is practically con-

[1.] By envy. When we are not flush and gay, as well spread
and sparkling as others, this passion gnaws our souls, and we be-
come the executioners to rack ourselves, because God is the executor
of his own pleasure, The foundation of this passion is a quarrel
with God ; to envy others the enjoyment of their propriety is to envy
God his right of disposal, and, consequently, the proi^riety of his own
goods ; it is a mental theft committed against God ; we rob him of his
right in our will and wish ; it is a robbery to make ourselves equal
with God when it is not our due, which is implied (Phil. ii. 6), when
Christ is said " to think it no robbery to be equal with God." We
would wrest the sceptre out of his hand, wish he were not the con-
ductor of the world, and that he would resign his sovereignty, and
the right of the distribution of his own goods, to the capricios of our
humor, and ask our leave to what subjects he should dispense his
favors. All envy is either a tacit accusation of God as an usurper,
and assuming a right to dispose of that which doth not belong to
him, and so it is a denial of his propriety, or else charges him with
a blind or unjust distribution, and so it is a bespattering his wisdom
and righteousness. When God doth punish envy, he vindicates his
own sovereignty, as though this passion chiefly endeavored to blast
this perfection (Ezek. xxv. 11, 12): "As I live, saith the Lord, I will
do according to thy anger, and according to thy envy, and thou shall
know that I am the Lord." The sin of envy in the devils was im-
mediately against the crown of God, and so was the sin of envy in
the first man, envying God the sole prerogative in knowledge above
himself. This base humor in Cain, at the preference of Abel's sacri-
fice before his, was the cause that he deprived him of his life : deny-
ing God, first his right of choice and what he should accept, and
then invading God's right of propriety, in usurping a power over
the life and being of his brother, which solely belonged to God.

[2.] The dominion of God, as a proprietor, is practically contemned
by a violent or surreptitious taking away from any what God hath
given him the possession of Since God is the Lord of all, and may
give the possession and dominion of things to whom he pleaseth, all
theft and purloining, all cheating and cozening another of his right,
is not only a crime against the true possessor, depriving him of what
he is entrusted with, but against God, as the absolute and universal
proprietor, having a right thereby to confer his own goods upon
whom he pleaseth, as well as against God as a Lawgiver, forbidding
such a violence : the snatching away what is another's, denies man
the right of possession, and God the right of donation : the Israelites
taking the Egyptians' jewels had been theft had it not been by a
Divine license and order, but cannot be slandered with such a term,
after the Proprietor of the whole world had altered the title, and
ahenated them by his positive grant from the Egyptians, to confer
them upon the Israelites.

[3.] The dominion of God, as a proprietor, is practically contemned


by not using what God liath given us fur those ends for which he
gave them to us. God passeth things over to us with a condition to
use that for his glory wliich he hath bestowed upon us by his boun-
ty : he is Lord of the end for which lie gives, as well as Lord of what
he gives ; the donor's right of propriety is infringed when the lands
and legacies he leaves to a particular use are not employed to those
ends to which he bequeathed them : the right of the lord of a manor
is violated when the copyhold is not used according to the condition
of the conveyance. So it is an invasion of God's sovereignty not to
use the creatures for those ends for which we are entrusted with
them : when we deny ourselves a due and lawful support from them ;
hence covetousness is an invasion of his right : or when we unneces-
sarily waste them ; hence prodigality disowns his propriety : or when
we bestow not anything upon the relief of others ; hence uncharita-
bleness comes under the same title, appropriating that to ourselves,
as if we were the lords, when we were but the usufructuaries for our-
selves, and stewards for others ; this is to be " rich to ourselves, not
to God" (Luke xii. 21), for so are they who employ not their wealth
for the service, and according to the intent, of the donor. Thus the
Israelites did not own God the true proprietor of their corn, wine,
and oil, which God had given them for his worship, when they pre-
pared offerings for Baal out of his stock : " For she did not know
that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her gold and
silver, which they prepared for Baal" (Hos. ii. 8) ; as if they had been
sole proprietors, and not factors by commission, to improve the
goods for the true owner. It is the same invasion of God's right to
use the parts and gifts that God hath given us, either as fuel for our
pride, or advancing self, or a witty scofl&ng at God and religion ;
when we use not religion for the honor of our Sovereign, but a stool
to rise by, and observe his precepts outwardly, not out of regard to
his authority, but as a stale to our interest, and furnishing self with
a little concern and trifle ; when men will wrest his word for the favor
of their lusts, which God intended for the checking of them, and
make interpretations of it according to their humors, and not according
to his will discovered in the Scripture, this is to pervert the use of the
best goods and deposiium he hath put into our hands, even Divine
revelations. Thus hypocrisy makes the sovereignty of God a nullity.

(3.) The dominion of God, as a Oovernor, is practically con-

[1.] In idolatry. Since worship is an acknowledgment of God's
sovereignty, to adore any creature instead of God, or to pay to any-
thing that homage of trust and confidence which is due to God,
though it be the highest creature in heaven or earth, is to acknowl-
edge that sovereignty to pertain to a creature, which is challenged
by God ; as to set up the greatest lord in a kingdom in the govern-
ment, instead of the lawful prince, is rebellion and usurpation ;
and that woman incurs the crime of adultery, who commits it with
a person of great port and honor, as well as with one of a mean
condition. While men create anytliing a god, they own themselves
supreme above the true God, yea, and above that which they a'>
count a god ; for, by the right of creation, they have a superiority,


tifl it is a deiiy blown up by the breath of their own imagination^
The authority of God is in this sin acknowledged to belong to an
idol ; it is called loathing of God as a husband (Ezek. xvi. 45), all
the authority of God as a husband and Lord over them : so when
we make anything or any person in the world the chief object and
prop of our trust and confidence, we act the same part. Trust in an
idol is the formal part of idolatry ; "so is every one that trusts in
them" (Ps. cxv. 8), ^. e. in idols : whatsoever thing we make the ob
ject of our trust, we rear as an idol. It is not unlawful to have the
image of a creature, but to bestow divine adoration upon it ; it was
not unlawful for the Egyptians to possess and use oxen, but to dub
them gods to be adored, it was : it is not unlawful to have wealth
and honor, nor to have gifts and parts, they are the presents of
God ; but to love them above God, to fix our reliance upon them
more than upon God, is to rob God of his due, who, being our
Creator, ought to be our confidence. What we want we are to de-
sire of him, and expect from him. When we confide in anything
else we deny God the glory of his creation ; we disown him to be
Lord of the world ; imply that our welfare is in the hands of, and
depends upon, that thing wherein we confide ; it is not only to
"•equal it to God" in sovereign power, which is his own phrase (Isa.
xl. 25), but to prefer it before him in a reproach of him. When the
hosts of heaven shall be served instead of the Lord of those hosts ;
when we shall lackey af^er the stars, depend barely upon their in-
fluences, without looking up to the great Director of the sun, it
is to pay an adoration unto a captain in a regiment which is due to
the general. When we shall " make gold our hope, and say to the
fine gold. Thou art my confidence," it is to deny the supremacy of
that God that is above ; as well as if we kiss our hands, in a way of
adoration, to the sun in its splendor, or " the moon walking in its
brightness," for Job couples them together (ch. xxxi. 25 — 28) ; it is
to prefer the authority of earth before that of heaven, and honor
clay above the Sovereign of the world : as if a soldier should con-
fide more in the rag of an ensign, or the fragment of a drum, for his
safety, than in the orders and conduct of his general ; it were as
much as is in his power to uncommission him, and snatch from him
his commander's staff. When we advance the creature in our love
above God, and the altar of our soul smokes with more thoughts
and affections to a petty interest than to God, we lift up that which
was given us as a servant in the place of the Sovereign, and bestow
that throne upon it which is to be kept undefiled for the rightful
Lord, and subject the interest of God to the demands of the crea-
ture. So much respect is due to God, that none should be placed in
the throne of our affections equal with him, much less anything to
perk above him.

[2.] Impatience is a contempt of God as a governor. When we
meet with rubs in the way of any design, when our expectations are
crossed, we will break through all obstacles to accomplish our pro-
jects, whether God will or no. When we are too much dejected at
some unexpected providence, and murmur at the instruments of it,
as if God divested himself of his prerogative of conducting human


affairs ; when a little cross blows us into a mutiny, and swells Uff'
into a sauciness to implead Grod, or make us fret against him (as the
expression is, Isa, viii. 21), wishing him out of his throne ; no sin is-
so devilish as this ; there is not anv strikes more at all the attributes-
of God than this, against his goodness, righteousness, holiness, wis-
dom, and doth as little spare his sovereignty as any of the rest :
what can it be else, but an impious invasion of his dominion, to
quarrel with him for what he doth, and to say. What reason hast
thou to deal thus with me ? This language is in the nature of all
impatience, whereby we question his sovereignty, and parallel our-
dominion with his. When men have not that confluence of wealth
or honor they greedily desired, they bark at God, and revile his
government : they are an^ry God doth not more respectfully ob-
serve them, a£ though he had nothing to do in their matters, and
were wanting in that becoming reverence which they think him bound
to pay to such great ones as they are ; they would have God obedient
to their minds, and act nothing but what he receives a commission
for from their wills. When we murmur, it is as if we would com-
mand his will, and wear his crown ; a wresting the sceptre out of his
hands to sway it ourselves ; we deny him the right of government,
disown his power over us, and would be our own sovereigns : you
may find the character of it in the language of Jehoram (as many
understand it), " Behold, this evil is of the Lord ; what should I
wait for the Lord any longer?" (2 Kings, vi. 33). This is an evil of
such a nature, that it could come from none but the hand of God ;
why should I attend upon him, as my Sovereign, that delights to do
me so much mischief, that throws curses upon me when I expected
blessings ? I will no more observe his directions, but follow my
own sentiments, and regard not his authority in the lips of his do-
ting prophet. The same you find in the Jews, when they were un-
der God's lash ; " And they said, There is no hope : but we will
walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagina-
tion of his evil heart" (Jer. xviii. 12) : we can expect no good from
him, and therefore we will be our own sovereigns, and prefer the
authority of our own imaginations before that of his precejjts. Men
would be their own carvers, and not suffer God to use his right ; as
if a stone should order the mason in what manner to hew it, and in
what part of the building to place it. We are not ordinarily con-
cerned so much at the calamities of our neighbors, but swell against
heaven at a light drop upon ourselves. We are content God should
be the sovereign of others, so that he will be a servant to us : let
him deal as he will himself with others, so he will treat us, and
what relates to us, as we will ourselves. We would have God re
sign his authority to our humors, and our humors should be in the
place of a God to him, to direct him what was tit to do in our cause.
When things go not according to our vote, our impatience is a wish
that God was deposed from his throne, that he would surrender his
Beat to some that would deal more favorably, and be more punctual
observers of our directions. Let us look to ourselves in regard of
this sin, which is too common, and the root of much mischief. This
seems to be the first bubbling of Adam's will ; he was not content


witli the condition wherein God had placed him, but affected an-
other, which ended in the ruin of himself, and of mankind.

[3.] Limiting God in his way of working to our methods, is an-
other part of the contempt of his dominion. When we will pre-
scribe him methods of acting, that he should deliver us in this or
that way, we would not suffer him to be the Lord of his own favors,
and have the privilege to be his own dkector. When we will limit

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) → online text (page 60 of 75)