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

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gospel shall be preached, and God shall reign gloriously in Sion.
Let us, therefore, shelter ourselves in the Divine sovereignty, regard
'God as the most high in our dangers and in our petitions. This was
David's resolution (Ps. Ivii. 1, 2) : "I will cry unto God most high ;"
this dominion of God is the true " tower of David, wherein there are
a thousand shields" for defence and encouragement (Cant. iv. 4).

Use IV. K God hath an extensive dominion over the whole world,
this ought to be often meditated on, and acknowledged by us. This
is the universal duty of mankind. If he be the Sovereign of all, we
should frequently think of our great Prince, and acknowledge our-
selves his subjects, and him our Lord. God will be acknowledged
the Lord of the whole earth ; the neglect of this is the cause of the
judgments which are sent upon the world. All the prodigies were
to this end, that they might know, or acknowledge, that " God was
the Lord". (Exod. x. 2) ; as God was proprietor, he demanded the
first-born of every Jew, and the first-born of every beast ; the one
was to be redeemed, and the other sacrificed ; this was the quit rent
they were to pay to him for their fruitful land. The first-fruits of


the earth were ordered to be paid to him, as a homage due to the
landlord, aud an acknowledgment they held all in chief of him. The
practice of offering first-fruits for an acknowledgment of Grod's sov-
ereignty, was among many of the heathens, and very ancient ; hence
they dedicated some of the chief of their spoils, owning thereby the
dominion and goodness of God, whereby they had gained the vic-
tory ; Cain owned this in offering the fruits of the earth, and it was
his sin he owned no more, w'z., his being a sinner, and meriting the
justice of God, as his brother Abel did in his bloody sacrifice. God
was a sovereign Proprietor aud Governor while man was in a state
of innocence ; but when man proved a rebel, the sovereignty of God
bore another relation towards him, that of a Judge, added to the
other. The first-fruits might have been offered to God in a state of
innocence, as a homage to him as Lord of the manor of the world ;
the design of them was to own God's propriety in all things, and
men's dependence on him for the influences of heaven in producing
the fruits of the earth, which he had ordered for their use. The de-
sign of sacrifices, and placing beasts instead of the criminal, was to
acknowledge their own guilt, and God as a sovereign Judge ; Cain
owned the first, but not the second ; he acknowledged his depend-
ence on God as a Proprietor, but not his obnoxiousness to God as a
Judge ; which may be probably gathered from his own speech, when
God came to examine him, and ask him for his brother (Gen. iv. 9) :
" Am I my brother's keeper ?" Why do you ask me ? though I own
thee as the Lord of my land and goods, yf^t I do not think myself
accountable to thee for all my actions. This sovereignty of God
ought to be acknowledged in all the parts of it, in all the manifesta-
tions of it to the creature ; we should bear a sense of this always
upon our spirits, and be often in the thoughts of it in our retirements ;
we should fancy that we saw God upon his throne in his royal garb,
and great attendants about him, and take a view of it, to imprint an
awe upon our spirits. The meditation of this would,

1. Fix us on him as an object of trust. It is upon his sovereign
dominion as much as upon anything, that safe and secure confidence
is built ; for if he had any superior above him to control him in his
designs and promises, his veracity and power would be of little effi-
cacy to form our souls to a close adherency to him. It were not fit
to make him the object of our trust that can be gainsay ed by a
higher than himself, and had not a full authority to answer our ex-
pectations ; if we were possessed with this notion fully and believ-
ingly, that God were high above all, that " his kingdom rules over
all," we should not catch at every broken reed, and stand gaping for
comforts from a pebble stone. He that understands the authority of
a kmg, would not waive a reliance on his promise to depend upon
the breath of a changeling favorite. None but an ignorant man
would change the security he may have upon the height of a rock,
to expect it from the dwarfishness of a molehill. To put confidence
in any inferior lord more than in the prince, is a folly in civil con-
verse, but a rebellion in divine ; God only being above all, can only
rule all ; can command things to help us, and check other things
which we depend on, and make them tall short of our expectations

oisr god's dominion. 4-55

The due consideration of this doctrine would make us pierce through
second causes to the first, and look further than to the smaller sort
of sailors, that climb the ropes, and dress the sails, to the pilot that
sits at the helm, the master, that, by an indisputable authority, orders
all their notions. We should not depend upon second causes for
our support, but look beyond them to the authority of the Deity,
and the dominion he hath over all the works of his hands (Zech. x.
1) : " Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain ;" when
the seasons of the year conspire for the producing such an effect,
when the usual time of rain is wheeled about in the j'car, stop not
your thoughts at the point of the heavens whence yon expect it, but
pierce the heavens, and solicit God, who must give order for it before
it comes. The due meditation of all things depending on the Divine
dominion would strike off our hands from all other holds, so that no
creature would engross the dependence and trust which is due to the
First Cause ; as we do not thank the heavens when they pour out
rain, so we are not to depend upon them when we want it ; God is
to be sought to when the womb of second causes is opened to relieve
us, as well as when the womb of second causes is barren, and brings
not forth its wonted progeny.

2. It would make us diligent in worship. The consideration of
God, as the Supreme Lord, is the foundation of all religion : " Our
Father, which art in heaven," prefaceth the Lord's prayer ; " Father''
is a name of authority ; " in heaven," the place where he hath fixed his
throne, notes his government; not "my Father," but " our Father,''
notes the extent of this authority. In all worship we acknowledge
the object of our worship our Lord, and ourselves his vassals ; if we
bear a sense that he is our Sovereign King, it would draw us to him
in every exigence, and keep us with him in a reverential posture, in
every address ; when we come, we should be careful not to violate
his right, but render him the homage due to his royalty. We should
not appear before him with empty souls, but filled with holy
thoughts : we should bring him the best of our flock, and preseni
him with the prime of our strength ; were we sensible we hold al]
of him, we should not withhold anything from him which is mort
worthy than another. Our hearts would be framed into an awfu'
regard of him, when we consider that glorious and " fearful name,
the Lord our God" (Deut. xxviii. 58). We should look to our feel
when we enter into his house ; if we considered him in .heaven upon
his throne, and ourselves on earth at his footstool (Eccles. v. 2),
lower before him than a worm before an angel, it would hinder gar-
nishness and lightness. The Jews, saith Capel, on 1 Tim. i. 17, re-
peat this expression, n^^-n -;b^, King of worlds, or Eternal King ;
probably the first original of it might be to stake them down from
wandering. When we consider the majesty of God, clothed with a
robe of light, sitting upon his high throne, adorned with his royal
ensigns, we should not enter into the presence of so great a Majesty
with the sacrifice of fools, with light motions and foolish thoughts,
as if he were one of our companions to be drolled with. We should
not hear his word as if it were the voice of some ordinary peasant.
The consideration of majesty would engender reverence in our sei


vice ; it would also make us speak of God with honor and respect,
as of a great and glorious king, and not use defaming expressions of
him, as if lie were an infamous being. And were he considered as
a terrible majesty, he would not be frequently solicited by some to
pronounce a damnation upon them upon every occasion.

3. It would make us charitable to others. Since he is our Lord,
the great Proprietor of the world, it is fit he should have a part of
our goods, as well as our time : he being the Lord both of our goods
and time. The Lord is to be honored with our substance (Prov. iii.
9) ; kings were not to be approached to without a present ; tribute
is due to kings : but because he hath no need of any from us to
bear up his state, maintain the charge of his wars, or pay his mili-
tary officers and hosts, it is a debt due to him to acknowledge him in
his poor, to sustain those that are a part of his substance ; though he
stands in no need of it himself, yet the poor, that we have always
with us, do ; as a seventh part of our weekly time, so some part of
our weekly gains, are due to him. There was to be a weekly laying
by in store somewhat of what God had prospered them, for the re-
lief of others (1 Cor. xvi. 1,2); the quantity is not determined, that
is left to every man's conscience, " according as God hath prospered
him" that week. If we did consider God as the Donor and Pro-
prietor, we should dispose of his gifts according to the design of the
true owner, and act in our places as stewards entrusted by him, and
not purse up his part, as well as our own, in our coffers. We should
not deny him a small quit rent, as an acknowledgement that we
hare a greater income from him ; we should be ready to give the
inconsiderable pittance he doth require of us, as an acknowledgment
of his propriety, as well as liberality.

4. It would make us watchful, and arm us against all temptations.
Had Eve stuck to her first argument against the serpent, she had not
been instrumental to that destruction which mankind yet feel the
smart of (Gen. iii. 3) : " God hath said. Ye shall not eat of it;" the
great Governor of the world hath laid his sovereign command upon
us in this point. The temptation gained no ground till her heart let
go the sense of this for the pleasure of her eye and palate. The re-
petition of this, the great Lord of the world hath said or ordered,
had both unargumented and disarmed the tempter. A sense of
God's dominion over us would discourage a temptation, and put it
out of countenance ; it would bring us with a vigorous strength to
beat it back to a retreat. If this were as strongly urged as the
temptation, it would make the heart of the tempted strong, and the
motion of the tempter feeble.

5. It would make us entertain afflictions as they ought to be en-
tertained, wz., with a respect to God. When men make light of
any affliction from God, it is a contempt of his sovereignty, as to
contemn tlie frown, displeasure, and check of a prince, is an affront
to majesty : it is as if they did not care a straw what God did with
them, but dare him to do his worst. There is a " despising the
chastening of the Almighty" (Job, v. 17). To be unhumbled under
his hnnd, is as much, or more, affrdht to him, than to be impatient
under it. Afflictions must be entertained as a check from heaven.


as a liown from the great Monarch of the world ; under the feeiing
of every stroke, we are to acknowledge his sovereignty and bounty ;
to despise it, is to make light of his authority over us ; as to despise
his favors is to make light of his kindness to us. A sense of God's
dominion would make us observe every check from him, and not
diminish his authority by casting off a due sense of his correction.

6. This dominion of God would make us resign up ourselves to
God in everything. He that considers himself a thing made by
God, a vassal under his authority, would not expostulate with him,
and call him to an account why he hath dealt so or so with him. It
would stab the vitals of all pleas against him. We should not then
contest with him, but humbly lay our cause at his feet, and say
with Eli, (1 Sam. iii. 18), "It is the Lord, let him do what seems
good." We should not commence a suit against God, when he doth
not answer our prayers presently, and send the mercy we want upon
the wings of the wind ; he is the Lord, the Sovereign. The consid-
eration of this would put an end to our quarrels with God ; should
I expect that the Monarch of the world should wait upon me ; or
I, a poor worm, wait upon him ? Must I take state upon me be-
fore the throne of heaven, and expect the King of kings should
lay by his sceptre, to gratiiy my humor ? Surely Jonah thought
God no more than his fellow, or his vassal, at that time when he
told him to his face he did well to be angry, as though God might
not do what he pleased with so small a thing as a gourd ; he
speaks as if he would have sealed a lease of ejectment, to exclude
him from any propriety in anything in the world.

7. This dominion of God would stop our vain curiosity. When
Peter was desirous to know the fate of John, the beloved disciple,
Christ answereth no more than this : (John, xxi. 22), " If I will that
he tarry till I come, what is that to thee ? follow thou me." Con-
sider your duty, and lay aside your curiosity, since it is my pleasure
not to reveal it. The sense of God's absolute dominion would
silence many vain disputes in the world. What if God will not re-
veal this or that? the manner and method of his resolves should
humble the creature under intruding inquiries.

UseY. Of exhortation.

1. The doctrine of the dominion of God may teach us humility.
We are never truly abased, but by the consideration of the emi-
nence and excellency of the Deity. Job never thought himself so
pitiful a thing, so despicable a creature, as after God's magnificent
declamation upon the theme of his own sovereignty (Job, xlii. 5, 6).
When God's name is regarded as the most excellent and sovereign
name in all the earth, then is the soul in the fittest temper to lie
low, and cry out. What is man, that so great a Majesty should be
mindful of him ? When Abraham considers God as the supreme
Judge of all the earth, he then owns " himself but dust and ashes '
(Gen. xviii. 25, 27). Indeed, how can vile and dusty man vaunt
before God, when angels, far more excellent creatures, cannot stand
before him, but with a veil on their faces ? How little a thing is
man in regard of all the earth I How mean a thing is the earth in
regard of the vaster heavens I How poor a thing is the whole


world in comparison of God! How pitiful a thing is man, if com-
pared with so excellent a Majesty ! There is as great a distance be-
tween God and man, as between being and not being ; and the more
man considers the Divine royalty, the more disesteem he will have
of himself ; it would make him stoop and disrobe himself, and fall
low before the throne of the King of kings, throwing down before
his throne any crown he gloried in (Rev. iv. 10).

(1), In regard of authority. How unreasonable is pride in the
presence of majesty ! How foolish is it for a country justice of
peace to think himself as great as his prince that commissioned him !
How unreasonable is pride in the presence of the greatest sov-
ereignty ! What, is human greatness before Divine ? The stars
discover no light when the sun appears, but in a humble posture
withdraw in their lesser beam?, to give the sole glory of enlighten-
ing the world to the sun, who is, as it were, the sovereign of those
stars, and imparts a light unto them. The greatest prince is in-
finitely less, if compared with God, than the meanest scullion in his
kitchen can be before him. As the wisdom, goodness, and holiness^
of a man is a mere mote compared to the goodness and holiness of
God, so is the authority of a man a mere trifle in regard of the
sovereignty of God : and who but a simple child would be proud
of a mote or trifle ? Let man be as great as he can, and command
others, he is still a subject to One greater than himself. Pride would
then vanish like smoke at the serious consideration of this sov-
ereignty. One of the kings of this country did very handsomely
shame the flattery of his courtiers, that cried him up as lord of sea
and land, by ordering his chair to be set on the sand of the sea
shore, when the tide was coming in, and commanding the waters
not to touch his feet, which when they did without any regard to
his authorit}', he took occasion thereby to put his flatterers out of
countenance, and instruct himself in a lesson of humility. " See,"
saith he, " how I rule all things, when so mean a thing as the water
will not obey me !" It is a ridiculous pride that the Turk and
Persian discover in their swelling titles. What poor sovereigns are
they, that cannot command a cloud, give out an effectual order for
a drop of rain, in a time of drought, or cause the bottles of heaven
to turn their mouth another way in a time of too much moisture !
Yet their own prerogatives are so much in their minds, that they
jostle out all thoughts of the supreme prerogative of God, and give
thereby occasion to frequent rebellions against him.

(2). In regard of propriety. And this doctrine is no less an
abatement of pride in the highest, as well as in the meanest; it
lowers pride in point of propriety, as well as in point of authority..
Is any proud of his possessions ? how many lords of those posses-
sions have gone before you! how many are to follow youl'^ Your
dominion lasts but a short time, too short to be a cause of any
pride and glory in it. God by a sovereign power can take you
from them, or them from you, when he pleaseth. The traveller re-
fresheth himself in the heat of summer under a shady tree ; how
many have done so before him the same day he knows not, and

« Kaynard, de Deo, p. 766.


HOW many will have tlie benefit after before nignt comes, ho is a?
much ignorant of; he, and the others that went before him and
follow after him, use it for their refreshment, but none of them can
say, that they are the lords of it ; the property is invested in some
other person, whom perhaps they know not. The propriety of all
you have is in God, not truly in yourselves. Doth not that man
deserve scorn from you, who will play the proud fool in gay clothes
and attire, which are known to be none of his own, but borrowed ?
Is it not the same case with every proud man, though he hath a
property in his goods by the law of the land ? Is anything you
have your own truly ? Is it not lent you by the great Lord ? Is
it not the same vanity in any of you, to be proud of what you have
as God's loan to you, as for such a one to be proud of what he hath
borrowed of man ? And do you not make yourselves as ridiculous
to angels and good men, who know that though it is yours in op-
position to man, yet it is not yours in opposition to God ? they are
granted you only for your use, as the collar of esses and sword, ■
and other ensigns of the chief magistrate in the city, pass through
many hands in regard of the use of them, but the propriety remains
in the community and body of the city : or as the silver plate of a
person that invites you to a feast is for your use during the time
of the invitation. What ground is there to be proud of those things
you are not the absolute lords and proprietors of, but only have
the use of them granted to you during the pleasure of the Sov*
ereign of the world !

2. Praise and thankfulness result from this doctrine of the sov-
ereignty of God.

(1). He is to be praised for his royalty. (Ps. cxlv. 1), "I will ex-
toll thee, my God, O King." The Psalmist calls upon men five
times to sing praise to him as King of all the earth. (Ps. xlvii.
6, 7), " Sing praises to God, sing praises : sing praises to our king,
sing praises : for God is the King of all the earth ; sing ye praises
with understanding." All creatures, even the inanimate ones, are
called upon to praise him because of the excellency of his name
and the supremacy of his glory, in the 148th Psalm throughout,
and ver. 13. That Sovereign Power that gave us hearts and
tongues, deserves to have them employed in his praises, especially
since he hath by the same hand given us so great matter for it. As
he is a Sovereign we owe him thankfulness ; he doth not deal with
us in a way of absolute dominion ; he might then have annihilated
us, since he hath as full a dominion to reduce us to nothing. Con-
sider the absoluteness of his sovereignty in itself, and you must
needs acknowledge that he might have multiplied precepts, enjoined
us the observance of more than he hath done ; he might have made
our tether much shorter ; he might exact obedience, and promise
no reward for it ; he might dash us against the walls, as a potter
doth his vessel, and no man have any just reason to say. What dost
thou ? or. Why dost thou use me so ? A greater right is in him to
use us in such a manner as we do sensible as well as insensible
things. And if you consider his dominion as it is capable to be ex-
ercised in a way of unquestionable justice, and submitted to the


reason and judgments of creatures, lie might have dealt with us II
a smarter way than he hath hitherto done ; instead of one affliction,
we might have had a thousand : he might have shut his own hands
from pouring out any good upon us, and ordered innumerable
scourges to be prepared for us ; but he deals not with us according
to the rights of his dominion. He doth not oppress us by the great-
ness of his majesty ; he enters into covenant with us, and allures us
by the chords of a man, and shows himself as much a merciful as
an absolute Sovereign.

(2.) As he is a Proprietor, we owe him thankfulness. He is at his
own choice whether he will bestow upon us any blessings or no ; the
more value, therefore, his benefits deserve from us, and the Donor
the more sincere returns. If we have anything from the creature to
serve our turn, it is by the order of the chief Proprietor. He is the
spring of honor, and the fountain of supplies : all creatures are but
as the conduit pipes in a great city, which serve several houses with
water, but from the great spring. All things are conveyed originally
from his own hand, and are dispensed from his exchequer. If this
great Sovereign did not order them, you would have no more sup-
plies from a creature than you could have nourishment from a chip :
it is the Divine will in everything that doth us good ; every favor
from creatures is but a smile from God, an evidence of his royalty
to move us to pay a respect to him as the great Lord. Some hea-
thens had so much respect for God, as to conclude that his will, and
not their prudence, was the chief conductor of their affairs. His
goodness to us calls for our thankfulness, but his sovereignty calls
for a higher elevation of it : a smile from a prince is more valued,
and thought worth}^ of more gratitude, than a present from a peasant ;
a small gift from a great person is more gratefully to be received
than a larger from an inferior person : the condescension of royalty
magnifies the gift. What is man, that thou, so great a Majesty, art
mindful of him, to bestow this or that favor upon him ? — ^is but a
due reflection upon every blessing we receive. Upon every fresh
blessing we should acknowledge the Donor and true Proprietor, and
give him the honor of his dominion : his property ought to be thank-
fully owned in everything we are capable of consecrating to him ; as
David, after the liberal collection he had made for the building of
the temple, owns in his dedication of it to that use the propriety of
God : " Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able
to offer so willingly after this sort ? for all things come of tliee, and
of thine own have we given thee" (1 Chron. xxix. 14) : it was but a
return of God's own to him, as the waters of the river are no other
than the return to the sea of what was taken from it. Praise and
thankfulness is a rent due from all mankind, and from every crea-
ture, to the great Landlord, since all are tenants, and hold by him
at his will. " Every creature in heaven and earth, and under the
earth, and in the sea," were heard, by John, to ascribe " blessing,
honor, glory, and power, to Him that sits on the throne" (Rev. v. 13).
We are as much bound to the sovereignty of God for his preserva

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) → online text (page 63 of 75)