Existence and Attributes of God



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Volumes 1 and 2, by Stephen Charnock

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Title: The Existence and Attributes of God, Volumes 1 and 2

Author: Stephen Charnock

Release Date: November 14, 2016 [EBook #53527]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Richard Hulse, Colin Bell, Jonathan Cone,
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                           STEPHEN CHARNOCK

                     WITH HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER
                         BY WILLIAM SYMINGTON

                          TWO VOLUMES IN ONE

                               Volume 1

                             Baker Books

                  A Division of Baker Book House Co
                     Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516

{a2}                Reprinted 1996 by Baker Books
                a division of Baker Book House Company
              P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516‒6287

                       Originally published as
        _Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God_
                  by Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853

                     Third printing, January 2000

               Printed in the United States of America

                         ISBN: 0‒8010‒1112‒4

         For information about academic books, resources for
        Christian leaders, and all new releases available from
                Baker Book House, visit our web site:


  │                      Transcriber’s Notes             
  │  Punctuation has been standardized.           
  │  Characters in small caps have been replaced by all caps.
  │  Non-printable characteristics have been given the following
  │  transliteration:                                             
  │      Italic text: --> _text_                                  
  │  This book was written in a period when many words had        
  │  not become standardized in their spelling. Words may have    
  │  multiple spelling variations or inconsistent hyphenation in  
  │  the text. These have been left unchanged unless indicated    
  │  with a Transcriber’s Note.                                   
  │  The page numbers from the original book are shown in braces  
  │  {} for reference purposes.                                   
  │  Footnotes are identified in the text with a number in        
  │  brackets [2] and have been accumulated in a single section   
  │  at the end of the text.                                      
  │  Transcriber’s Notes are used when making corrections to the
  │  text or to provide additional information for the modern
  │  reader. These notes are not identified in the text, but have
  │  been accumulated in a single section at the end of the book.


{a3}                      CONTENTS OF VOL. I

  LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.                              a5

  PREFACE.                                                      a19

                             DISCOURSE I.

                       ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.

  PSALM xiv. 1.――The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is
    none that doeth good.                                       a23

                            DISCOURSE II.

                        ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM.

  PSALM xiv. 1.――The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is
    none that doeth good.                                       a89

                            DISCOURSE III.

                       ON GOD’S BEING A SPIRIT.

  JOHN iv. 24.――God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must
    worship him in spirit and in truth.                        a176

                            DISCOURSE IV.

                        ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.

  JOHN iv. 24.――God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must
    worship him in spirit and in truth.                        a205

                             DISCOURSE V.

                       ON THE ETERNITY OF GOD.

  PSALM xc. 2.――Before the mountains were brought forth, or
    ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from
    everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.                  a276

{a4}                        DISCOURSE VI.

                     ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.

  PSALM cii. 26, 27.――They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea,
    all of them shall wax old as a garment; as a vesture shalt thou
    change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same,
    and thy years shall have no end.                           a310

                            DISCOURSE VII.

                        ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE.

  JEREMIAH xxiii. 24.――Can any hide himself in secret places, that
    I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and
    earth? saith the Lord.                                     a363

                           DISCOURSE VIII.

                         ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE.

  PSALM cxlvii. 5.――Great is our Lord, and of great power: his
    understanding is infinite.                                 a406

                            DISCOURSE IX.

                        ON THE WISDOM OF GOD.

  ROMANS xvi. 27.――To God only wise be glory, through Jesus Christ
    forever. Amen.                                             a498


                        BY WM. SYMINGTON, D.D.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK, B.D., was born in the year 1628, in the parish
of St. Katharine Cree, London. His father, Mr. Richard Charnock,
practised as a solicitor in the Court of Chancery, and was descended
from a family of some antiquity in Lancashire. Stephen, after a course
of preparatory study, entered himself, at an early period of life, a
student in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was placed under the
immediate tuition of the celebrated Dr. William Sancroft, who became
afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Although there is too much reason
to fear that colleges seldom prove the spiritual birthplaces of the
youth that attend them, it was otherwise in this case. The Sovereign
Spirit, who worketh where and how he wills, had determined that
this young man, while prosecuting his early studies, should undergo
that essential change of heart which, besides yielding an amount of
personal comfort, could not fail to exert a salutary influence on all
his future inquiries, sanctify whatever learning he might hereafter
acquire, and fit him for being eminently useful to thousands of his
fellow‑creatures. To this all‑important event we may safely trace the
eminence to which, both as a Preacher and as a Divine, he afterwards
attained,――as he had thus a stimulus to exertion, a motive to vigorous
and unremitting application, which could not otherwise have existed.

On his leaving the University he spent some time in a private family,
either as a preceptor or for the purpose of qualifying himself the
better for discharging the solemn and arduous duties of public life,
on which he was about to enter. Soon after this, just as the Civil War
broke out in England, he commenced his official labors as a minister
of the gospel of peace, somewhere in Southwark. He does not appear
to have held this situation long; but short as was his {a6} ministry
there, it was not altogether without fruit. He who had made the
student himself, while yet young, the subject of saving operations,
was pleased also to give efficacy to the first efforts of the youthful
pastor to win souls to Christ. Several individuals in this his first
charge were led to own him as their spiritual father. Nor is this a
solitary instance of the early ministry of an individual receiving
that countenance from on high which has been withheld from the labors
of his riper years. A circumstance this, full of encouragement to
those who, in the days of youth, are entering with much fear and
trembling on service in the Lord’s vineyard. At the time when they
may feel impelled to exclaim with most vehemence, _Who is sufficient
for these things?_ God may cheer them with practical confirmations of
the truth, that their _sufficiency is of God_.

In 1649, Charnock removed from Southwark to Oxford, where, through
favor of the Parliamentary Visitors, he obtained a fellowship in New
College; and, not long afterwards, in consequence of his own merits,
was incorporated Master of Arts. His singular gifts, and unwearied
exertions, so attracted the notice and gained the approbation of
the learned and pious members of the University, that, in 1652, he
was elevated to the dignity of Senior Proctor,――an office which he
continued to hold till 1656, and the duties of which he discharged
in a way which brought equal honor to himself and benefit to the

When the period of his proctorship expired, he went to Ireland, where
he resided in the family of Mr. Henry Cromwell, who had been appointed
by his father, the Protector, to the government of that country.
It is remarkable how many of the eminent divines, both of England
and Scotland, have spent some part of their time in Ireland, either
as chaplains to the army or as refugees from persecuting bigotry.
Charnock seems to have gone thither in the capacity of chaplain to the
Governor, an office which, in his case at least, proved no sinecure.
During his residence in Dublin, he appears to have exercised his
ministry with great regularity and zeal. He preached, we are told,
every Lord’s day, with much acceptance, to an audience composed of
persons of different religious denominations, and of opposite grades
in society. His talents and worth attracted the members of other
churches, and his connection with the family of the Governor secured
the attendance of persons of rank. By these his ministrations were
greatly esteemed and applauded; and it is hoped that to some of them
they were also blessed. But even many who had no respect for his
piety, and who reaped no saving benefits from his preaching, were
unable to withhold their admiration {a7} of his learning and his
gifts. Studying at once to be an “ensample to the flock,” and to “walk
within his house with a perfect heart,” his qualities, both public
and private, his appearances, whether in the pulpit or the domestic
circle, commanded the esteem of all who were privileged to form his
acquaintance. It is understood that the honorary degree of Bachelor
in Divinity, which he held, was the gift of Trinity College, Dublin,
conferred during his residence in that city.

The restoration of Charles, in 1660, put an end to Charnock’s
ministry in Ireland, and hindered his resuming it elsewhere for a
considerable time. That event, leading, as it could not but do, to
the re‑establishment of arbitrary power, was followed, as a natural
consequence, by the ejectment of many of the most godly ministers that
ever lived. Among these was the excellent individual of whom we are
now speaking. Accordingly, although on his return to England he took
up his residence in London, he was not permitted to hold any pastoral
charge there. Nevertheless, he continued to prosecute his studies
with ardor, and occasionally exercised his gifts in a private way for
fifteen years, during which time he paid some visits to the continent,
especially to France and Holland.

At length, in 1675, when the restrictions of the government were so
far relaxed, he accepted a call from a congregation in Crosby Square,
to become co‑pastor with the Rev. Thomas Watson, the ejected minister
of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, who, soon after the Act of Uniformity,
had collected a church in that place. Mr. Watson was an eminent
Presbyterian divine, and the society which he was instrumental in
founding became afterwards, under the ministry of Dr. Grosvenor, one
of the most flourishing in the city, in respect both of numbers and of
wealth. It may not be uninteresting here to insert a few brief notices
respecting the place of worship which this congregation occupied,
being the scene of Charnock’s labors during a principal part of his
ministry, and that in connection with which he closed his official

The place in which this humble Presbyterian congregation[1] assembled
was a large hall of Crosby House, an ancient mansion on the east side
of Bishopgate Street, erected by Sir John Crosby, Sheriff and Alderman
of London, in 1470. After passing through the hands of several
occupants, and, among others, those of Richard III., who thought
it not unfit for being a royal residence, it became, about the
{a8} year 1640, the property of Alderman Sir John Langham, a staunch
Presbyterian and Loyalist. A calamitous fire afterwards so injured
the building, as to render it unsuitable for a family residence;
but the hall, celebrated for its magnificent oaken ceiling, happily
escaped the conflagration, and was converted into a meeting‑house for
Mr. Watson’s congregation, of which the proprietor is supposed to have
been a member. The structure, though greatly dilapidated, still exists,
and is said to be regarded as one of the most perfect specimens of the
domestic architecture of the fifteenth century now remaining in the
metropolis. But, as an illustration of the vicissitudes such edifices
are destined to undergo, it may be stated that Crosby Hall, after
having witnessed the splendors of royalty, and been consecrated
to the solemnities of divine worship, was lately――perhaps it
is still――dedicated to the inferior, if not ignoble, uses of a

After saying so much about the building, a word or two respecting the
congregation which assembled for years under its vaulted roof, may
not be deemed inappropriate. It was formed, as we have already said,
by the Rev. Thomas Watson, the ejected minister of St. Stephen’s,
Walbrook. This took place in 1662, and Charnock was Mr. Watson’s
colleague for five years. Mr. Watson was succeeded by the son of an
ejected minister, the Rev. Samuel Slater, who discharged the pastoral
duties with great ability and faithfulness for twenty‑four years, and
closed his ministry and life with this solemn patriarchal sentence
addressed to his people:――“I charge you before God, that you prepare
to meet me at the day of judgment, as my crown of joy; and that
not one of you be wanting at the right hand of God.” Dr. Benjamin
Grosvenor succeeded Mr. Slater. His singular acumen, graceful
utterance, lively imagination, and fervid devotion, are said to have
secured for the congregation a greater degree of prosperity than it
had ever before enjoyed. A pleasing recollection has been preserved,
of perhaps one of the most touching discourses ever composed, having
been delivered by him in this Hall, on _The Temper of Christ_. In this
discourse the Saviour is introduced, by way of illustrating his own
command that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached
unto all nations, _beginning at Jerusalem_,” as giving the Apostles
directions how they are to proceed in carrying out this requirement.
Amongst other things, he is represented as saying to them:――“Go into
all nations and offer this salvation as you go; but lest the poor
house of Israel should think themselves abandoned to despair, the
seed of Abraham, mine ancient friend; as cruel and unkind as they have
been, go, make them the _first offer_ of grace; let them that struck
the rock, drink first of its refreshing streams; and {a9} they that
drew my blood, be welcome to its healing virtue. Tell them, that as I
was sent to the _lost sheep of the house of Israel_, so, if they will
be gathered, I will be their shepherd still. Though they despised my
_tears_ which I shed over them, and imprecated my _blood_ to be upon
them, tell them ’twas for their sakes I shed both; that by my tears
I might soften their hearts towards God, and by my blood I might
reconcile God to them.... Tell them, you have seen the prints of
the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my
side; and that those marks of their cruelty are so far from giving me
vindictive thoughts, that, if they will but repent, every wound they
have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for the
remission of their sins, and enables me to bestow it.... Nay, if you
meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him
there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart. If he will
repent, and _look upon him whom he has pierced, and will mourn_, I
will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the
blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell
him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing
this offer of my blood, than when he first drew it forth.” In Dr.
Grosvenor’s old age, notwithstanding that he was assisted, from time
to time, by eminent divines, the congregation began to decline. After
his death, the pastoral charge was held by Dr. Hodge and Mr. Jones
successively, but, under the ministry of the latter, the church had
become so enfeebled, that, on the expiration of the lease in 1769, the
members agreed to dissolve, and were gradually absorbed in other

From this digression we return, only to record the last circumstance
necessary to complete this brief sketch. The death of Charnock took
place July 27, 1680, when he was in the fifty‑third year of his age.
The particulars that have come down to us of this event, like those
of the other parts of his history, are scanty, yet they warrant us
to remark that he died in a frame of mind every way worthy of his
excellent character and holy life. He was engaged, at the time, in
delivering to his people, at Crosby Hall, that series of Discourses
on the Existence and Attributes of God, on which his fame as a writer
chiefly rests. The intense interest which he was observed to take in
the subjects of which he treated, was regarded as an indication that
he was nearly approaching that state in which he was to be “filled
with all the fulness of God.” Not unfrequently was he heard to
give utterance to a longing desire for that region for which he
gave evidence of his being so well prepared. These circumstances
were, naturally enough, looked upon as proofs that his mighty {a10}
mind, though yet on earth, had begun to “put off its mortality,” and
was fast ripening for the paradise of God. From his death taking place
in the house of Mr. Richard Tymns, in the parish of Whitechapel,
London, it may be inferred that his departure was sudden. The body
was immediately after taken to the meeting‑house at Crosby Square,
which had been so often the scene of his prayers and preaching. From
thence, accompanied by a long train of mourners, it was conveyed to
St. Michael’s Church, Cornhill, where it was deposited hard by the
Tower under the belfrey. The funeral sermon was preached by his early
friend and fellow‑student at Cambridge, Mr. John Johnson, from these
apposite words:――“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in
the kingdom of their Father.”

Such is an outline of the facts, as far as they are known, of the
life of this great man. There are none, it is true, of those striking
occurrences and marvellous incidents in the narrative, which attract
the notice of the multitude, and which are so gratifying to those who
are in quest of excitement more than of edification. But, let it not
be thought that, for this reason, the narrative must be destitute of
the materials of personal improvement. If the advantages to be derived
from a piece of biography are at all proportioned to the degree in
which the character and circumstances of the subject resemble those
of the reader, a greater number, at least, may be expected to obtain
benefit from a life, the incidents of which are more common, inasmuch
as there are but comparatively few, the events of whose history are of
an extraordinary and dazzling description. “When a character,” to use
the language of a profound judge of human nature,[2] “selected from
the ordinary ranks of life, is faithfully and minutely delineated,
no effort is requisite to enable us to place ourselves in the same
situation; we accompany the subject of the narrative, with an interest
undiminished by distance, unimpaired by dissimilarity of circumstances;
and, from the efforts by which he surmounted difficulties and
vanquished temptations, we derive the most useful practical lessons.
He who desires to strengthen his virtue and purify his principles,
will always prefer the solid to the specious; will be more disposed to
contemplate an example of the unostentatious piety and goodness which
all men may obtain, than of those extraordinary achievements to which
few can aspire; nor is it the mark of a superior, but rather a vulgar
and superficial taste, to consider nothing as great or excellent but
that which glitters with titles, or is elevated by rank.”

{a11} Let us endeavor to portray the character of Charnock.

The mental qualities by which he was most distinguished as a man,
were judgment and imagination. The reasoning faculty, naturally strong,
was improved by diligent training and habitual exercise. In tracing
the relations and tendencies of things, he greatly excelled; he could
compare and contrast with admirable ease and beautiful discrimination;
and his deductions, as was to be expected, were usually sound and
logical. Judgment was, indeed, the presiding faculty in his, as it
ought to be in all minds.

The more weighty qualities of intellect were in him united to a
brilliant fancy. By this means he was enabled to adorn the more solid
materials of thought with the attractive hues of inventive genius. His
fine and teeming imagination, ever under the strict control of reason
and virtue, was uniformly turned to the most important purposes.
This department of mental phenomena, from the abuses to which it is
liable, is apt to be undervalued; yet, were this the proper place, it
would not be difficult to show that imagination is one of the noblest
faculties with which man has been endowed――a faculty, indeed, the
sound and proper use of which is not only necessary to the existence
of sympathy and other social affections, but also intimately connected
with those higher exercises of soul, by which men are enabled
to realize the things that are not seen and eternal. Charnock’s
imagination was under the most cautious and skilful management――the
handmaid, not the mistress of his reason――and, doubtless, it
tended, in no small degree, to free his character from that cold
and contracted selfishness which is apt to predominate in those who
are deficient in this quality; to impart a generous warmth to his
intercourse with others; and to throw over his compositions as an
author an animating and delightful glow.

These qualities of mind were associated with habits of intense
application and persevering diligence, which alike tended to
invigorate his original powers, and enabled him to turn them all to
the best account. To the original vigor of his powers must be added
that which culture supplied. Charnock was a highly educated man. As
remarked by the first editors of his works, he was not only “a person
of excellent parts, strong reason, great judgment, and curious fancy,”
but “of high improvements and general learning, as having been all
his days a most diligent and methodical student.” An alumnus of both
the English universities, he may be said to have drawn nourishment
from each of these generous mothers. He had the reputation of being
a general scholar; his acquisitions being by no means limited to
the literature of his profession. Not only was his {a12} acquaintance
with the original languages of Scripture great, but he had made
considerable attainments in the study of medicine; and, indeed, there
was scarcely any branch of learning with which he was unacquainted.
All his mental powers were thus strengthened and refined by judicious
discipline, and, as we shall see presently, he knew well how to devote
his treasures, whether original or acquired, to the service of the
Redeemer; and to consecrate the richest stores of natural genius and
educational attainment, by laying them all at the foot of the Cross.

But that which gave the finish to Charnock’s intellectual character,
was not the predominance of any one quality so much as the harmonious
and nicely balanced union of all. Acute perception, sound judgment,
masculine sense, brilliant imagination, habits of reflection, and
a complete mastery over the succession of his thoughts, were all
combined in that comely order and that due proportion which go to
constitute a well‑regulated mind. There was, in his case, none of that
disproportionate development of any one particular faculty, which, in
some cases, serves, like an overpowering glare, to dim, if not almost
to quench the splendor of the rest. The various faculties of his soul,
to make use of a figure, rather shone forth like so many glittering
stars, from the calm and clear firmament of his mind, each supplying
its allotted tribute of light, and contributing to the serene and
solemn lustre of the whole. As has been said of another, so may it be
said of him――“If it be rare to meet with an individual whose mental
faculties are thus admirably balanced, in whom no tyrant faculty
usurps dominion over the rest, or erects a despotism on the ruins of
the intellectual republic; still more rare is it to meet with such a
mind in union with the far higher qualities of religious and moral

Nor were Charnock’s moral qualities less estimable than his
intellectual. He was a pre‑eminently holy man, distinguished at
once by personal purity, social equity, and habitual devotion. Early
the subject of saving grace, he was in his own person an excellent
example of the harmony of faith, with the philosophy of the moral
feelings. Strongly he felt that while “not without law to God,” he
was nevertheless “under law to Christ.” The motives from which he
acted in every department of moral duty were evangelical motives;
and so entirely was he imbued with the spirit, so completely
under the power of the gospel, that whatever he did, no matter how
humble in the scale of moral duty, he “served the Lord Christ.” The
regulating principle of his whole life is embodied in the apostolical
injunction:――“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and
not {a13} unto men.” The various talents with which he was gifted
by the God of nature, were all presided over by an enlightened and
deep‑toned piety, for which he was indebted to the sovereign grace
of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was this that struck the key‑note
of the intellectual and moral harmony to which we have adverted as a
prominent feature in his character. This at once directed each faculty
to its proper object, and regulated the measure of its exercise.
Devotion was the very element in which he lived and breathed, and had
his being. Devout communion with Supreme Excellence, the contemplation
of celestial themes, and preparation for a higher state of being,
constituted the truest pleasures of his existence, elevated him far
above the control of merely sentient and animal nature, and secured
for him an undisturbed repose of mind, which was itself but an
antepast of what awaited him in the unclouded region of glory. Nor was
his devotion transient or occasional merely; it was habitual as it was
deep, extending its plastic and sanctifying influence to every feature
of character, and every event of life; dictating at once ceaseless
efforts for the welfare of man, and intensest desires for the
glory of God; and securing that rarest perhaps of all combinations,
close communion with the future and the eternal, and the busy and
conscientious discharge of the ordinary duties of everyday life.

His natural temper appears to have been reserved, and his manners
grave. Regarding the advantages to be derived from general society as
insufficient to compensate for the loss of those to be acquired by
retirement, he cultivated the acquaintance of few, and these few
the more intelligent and godly, with whom, however, putting aside
his natural backwardness, he was wont to be perfectly affable and
communicative. But his best and most highly cherished companions
were his books, of which he had contrived to secure a valuable
though select collection. With these he held frequent and familiar
intercourse. Great part of his time, indeed, was spent in his study;
and when the calls of unavoidable duty compelled him to leave it, so
bent was he on redeeming time, that, not content with appropriating
the hours usually devoted to sleep, he cultivated the habit of
thinking while walking along the streets. So successful was he in his
efforts of abstraction, that, amid the most crowded and attractive
scenes, he could withdraw his mind easily from the vanities which
solicited his attention, and give himself up to close thinking and
useful meditation. The productions of his pen, and the character of
his pulpit services, bore ample evidence that the hours of retirement
were given neither to frivolous vacuity nor to self‑indulgent {a14}
sloth, but to the industrious cultivation of his powers, and to
conscientious preparation for public duty. He was not content, like
many, with the mere reputation of being a _recluse_; on the contrary,
he was set on bringing forth the fruits of a _hard student_. There
was always one day in the week in which he made it to appear that
the others were not misspent. His Sabbath ministrations were not the
loose vapid effusions of a few hours’ careless preparation, but were
rather the substantial, well‑arranged, well‑compacted products of much
intense thought and deep cogitation. “Had he been less in his study,”
says his editors quaintly, “he would have been less liked in the

To a person of these studious habits it may easily be conceived what
distress it must have occasioned to have his library swept away from
him. In that dreadful misfortune which befell the metropolis in 1666,
ever since known as “the fire of London,” the whole of Charnock’s
books were destroyed. The amount of calamity involved in such an
occurrence can be estimated aright only by those who know from
experience the strength and sacredness of that endearment with which
the real student regards those silent but instructive friends which
he has drawn around him by slow degrees; with which he has cultivated
a long and intimate acquaintance; which are ever at hand with their
valuable assistance, counsel and consolation, when these are needed;
which, unlike some less judicious companions, never intrude upon him
against his will; and with whose very looks and positions, as they
repose in their places around him, he has become so familiarized,
that it is no difficult thing for him to call up their appearance
when absent, or to go directly to them in the dark without the risk
of a mistake. Some may be disposed to smile at this love of books.
But where is the scholar who will do so? Where is the man of letters
who, for a single moment, would place the stately mansions and large
estates of the “sons of earth” in comparison with his own well‑loaded
shelves? Where the student who, on looking round upon the walls of
his study, is not conscious of a satisfaction greater and better far
than landed proprietor ever felt on surveying his fields and lawns――a
satisfaction which almost unconsciously seeks vent in the exclamation,
“My library! a dukedom large enough!” Such, and such only, can judge
what must have been Charnock’s feelings, when he found that his
much cherished volumes had become a heap of smouldering ashes. The
sympathetic regret is only rendered the more intense, when it is
thought that, in all probability, much valuable manuscript perished
in the conflagration.

{a15} Charnock excelled as a _Preacher_. This is an office which,
whether as regards its origin, nature, design, or effects, it
will be difficult to overrate. The relation in which it stands
to the salvation of immortal souls, invests it with an interest
overwhelmingly momentous. Our former remarks will serve to show how
well he of whom we now speak was qualified for acting in this highest
of all the capacities in which man is required to serve. His mental
and moral endowments, his educational acquirements, his habitual
seriousness, his sanctified imagination, and his vigorous faith,
pre‑eminently fitted him for discharging with ability and effect the
duties of a herald of the Cross. Of his style of preaching we may form
a pretty accurate idea from the writings he has left, which were all
of them transcribed from the notes of his sermons. We hence infer that
his discourses, while excelling in solid divinity and argumentative
power, were not by any means deficient in their practical bearing,
being addressed not more to the understandings than to the hearts
of his hearers. “Nothing,” it has been justly remarked, “can be
more nervous than his reasoning, nothing more affecting than his
applications.” While able to unravel with great acuteness and judgment
the intricacies of a nice question in polemics, he could with no less
dexterity and skill address himself to the business of the Christian
life, or to the casuistry of religious experience. Perspicuous
plainness, convincing cogency, great wisdom, fearless honesty, and
affectionate earnestness, are the chief characteristics of his sermons.

To this it must be added that his preaching was eminently evangelical.
So deeply imbued with gospel truth were his discourses, that, like the
Book of the Law of old, they might be said to be sprinkled with blood,
even the blood of atonement. The Cross was at once the basis on which
he rested his doctrinal statements, and the armory from which he drew
his most forcible and pointed appeals to the conscience. His aim seems
never once to have been to catch applause to himself by the enticing
words of man’s wisdom, by arraying his thoughts in the motley garb of
an affected and gorgeous style, or by having recourse to the tricks
of an inflated and meretricious oratory. His sole ambition appears to
have been to “turn sinners from the error of their ways;” and for this
end he wisely judged nothing to be so well adapted as “holding forth
the words of eternal life” in their native simplicity and power, and
in a spirit of sincere and ardent devotion. His object was to move his
hearers, not towards himself, but towards his Master; not to elicit
expressions of admiration for the messenger, but to make the message
bear on the salvation of those to whom it was delivered; not to please,
so {a16} much as to convert, his hearers; not to tickle their fancy,
but to save the soul from death, and thus to hide a multitude of sins.

The character of his preaching, it is true, was adapted to the higher
and more intelligent classes; yet was it not altogether unsuited to
those of humbler rank and pretensions. He could handle the mysteries
of the gospel with great perspicuity and plainness, using his profound
learning for the purpose, not of mystifying, but of making things
clear, so that persons even in the ordinary walks of life felt him to
be not beyond their capacity. The energy, gravity, and earnestness of
his manner, especially when young, contributed to render him a great
favorite with the public, and accordingly he drew after him large and
deeply interested audiences――a circumstance which, we can suppose,
was valued by him, not because of the incense which it ministered
to a spirit of vanity, but of the opportunity it afforded him of
winning souls to the Redeemer. When more advanced in life, this kind
of popularity, we are told, declined, in consequence of his being
compelled from an infirmity of memory to read his sermons, with the
additional disadvantage of requiring to supply defect of sight by the
use of a glass. But an increasing weight and importance in the matter,
fully compensated for any deficiency in the manner of his preaching.
If the more flighty of his hearers retired, others――among whom were
many of his brethren in the ministry――who knew how to prefer solidity
to show, crowded to supply their places. Reckoning it no ordinary
privilege to be permitted to sit devoutly at the feet of one so well
qualified to initiate them into the knowledge of the deep things of
God, they continued to listen to his instructions with as much
admiration and profit as ever.

It is as a _Writer_, however, that Charnock is best known, and this,
indeed, is the only character in which we can now come into contact
with him. His works are extensive, but, with a single exception,
posthumous. The only thing published by himself was the piece on “The
Sinfulness and Cure of Thoughts,” which appeared originally in the
Supplement to the Morning Exercise at Cripplegate. Yet such was the
quantity of manuscript left behind him at his death, that two large
folio volumes were soon transcribed, and published by his friends,
Mr. Adams and Mr. Veal, to whom he had committed his papers. The
Discourse on Providence was the first published; it appeared in 1680.
The Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God came next, in
1682. There followed in succession the treatises on Regeneration,
Reconciliation, The Lord’s Supper, &c. A second edition of the
whole works, in two volumes, folio, came out in 1684, and a third
in 1702――no slight proof of the estimation in which they {a17} were
held. Several of the treatises have appeared from time to time in a
separate form, especially those on Divine Providence, on Man’s Enmity
to God, and on Mercy for the Chief of Sinners. The best edition of
Charnock’s works is that published in 1815, in nine volumes, royal
8vo; with a prefatory Dedication, and a Memoir of the Author, by the
Rev. Edward Parsons of Leeds.

All Charnock’s writings are distinguished for sound theology, profound
thinking, and lively imagination. They partake of that massive
divinity for which the Puritan Divines were in general remarkable, and
are of course orthodox in their doctrinal statements and reasonings.
Everywhere the reader meets with the evidences and fruits of deep
thought, of a mind, indeed, of unusual comprehension and energy
of grasp, that could penetrate with ease into the very core, and
fathom at pleasure the profoundest depths of the most abstruse and
obscure subjects; while, from the rich stores of an exuberant and
hallowed fancy, he was enabled to throw over his compositions the most
attractive ornaments, and to supply spontaneously such illustrations
as were necessary to render his meaning more clear, or his lessons
more impressive. In a word, for weight of matter, for energy of
thought, for copiousness of improving reflection, for grandeur
and force of illustration, and for accuracy and felicitousness of
expression, Charnock is equalled by few, and surpassed by none of
the writers of the age to which he belonged. The eulogy pronounced
by a competent judge on the Treatise on the Attributes, applies with
equal justice to all his other writings:――“Perspicuity and depth;
metaphysical subtlety and evangelical simplicity; immense learning,
and plain but irrefragable reasoning, conspire to render that work
one of the most inestimable productions that ever did honor to the
sanctified judgment and genius of a human being.”[3]

The correctness of the composition, in these works, is remarkable,
considering that they were not prepared for the press by the author
himself, and that they must have been originally written amid scenes
of distraction and turmoil, arising out of the events of the times.
The latter circumstance may account for the manly vigor by which they
are characterized, but it only renders their accuracy and polish the
more wonderful. Refinement of taste and extensive scholarship can
alone explain the chasteness, ease, and elegance of style, so free
from all verbosity and clumsiness, which mark these productions. There
were giants in literature in those days, and STEPHEN CHARNOCK was not
the least of the noble fraternity.

Charnock may not have all the brilliancy of Bunyan, nor all the {a18}
metaphysical acumen and subtle analysis of Howe, nor all the awful
earnestness of Baxter; but he is not less argumentative, while he
is more theological than any of them, and his theology, too, is more
sound than that of some. “He was not,” say the original editors of
his works, “for that modern divinity which is so much in vogue with
some, who would be counted the only sound divines; having tasted the
old, he did not desire the new, but said the old is better.” There is,
therefore, not one of all the Puritan Divines whose writings can with
more safety be recommended to the attention of students of divinity
and young ministers. It is one of the happy signs of the times in
which we live, that a taste for reading such works is beginning
to revive; and we can conceive no better wish for the interests of
mankind in general, and of our country in particular, than that the
minds of our young divines were thoroughly impregnated with the good
old theology to be found in such writings as those which we now take
the liberty to introduce and recommend. “If a preacher wishes to
recommend himself by the weight of his doctrines,” to use the language
of Mr. Parsons, “he will find in the writings of Charnock the great
truths of Scripture illustrated and explained in the most lucid and
masterly manner. If he wishes to be distinguished by the evangelical
strain of his discourses, and by the continual exhibition of Christ
and him crucified, he will here find the characters of Christ, and the
adaptation of the gospel to the circumstances and wants of man as a
fallen creature, invariably kept in view. If he wishes for usefulness
in the Church of God, here he has the brightest example of forcible
appeals to the conscience, and of the most impressive applications of
Scripture truth, to the various conditions of mankind. And, finally,
if he reads for his own advantage as a Christian, his mind will
be delighted with the inexhaustible variety here provided for the
employment of his enlightened faculties, and his improvement in every
divine attainment.”

Happy shall we be, if what we have written shall, by the blessing
of God, prove the means of producing or reviving a taste for reading
the works of our author, being fully convinced with a former editor,
that, “while talent is respected, or virtue revered――while holiness
of conversation, consistency of character, or elevation of mind,
are considered as worthy of imitation――while uniform and strenuous
exertion for the welfare of man is honored, and constant devotedness
to the glory of God admired, the memory of CHARNOCK shall be held in
grateful remembrance.”

    ANNFIELD PLACE, Glasgow, June, 1846.

{a19}                       TO THE READER.

THIS long since promised and greatly expected volume of the reverend
author upon the Divine Attributes, being transcribed out of his own
manuscripts by the unwearied diligence of those worthy persons that
undertook it,[4] is now at last come to thy hands: doubt not but
thy reading will pay for thy waiting, and thy satisfaction make full
compensation for thy patience. In the epistle before his treatise on
Providence, it was intimated that his following discourses would not
be inferior to that; and we are persuaded that, ere thou hast perused
one half of this, thou wilt acknowledge that it was modestly spoken.
Enough, assure thyself, thou wilt find here for thy entertainment and
delight, as well as profit. The sublimeness, variety, and rareness of
the truths here handled, together with the elegancy of the composure,
neatness of the style, and whatever is wont to make any book desirable,
will all concur in the recommendation of this. What so high and
noble a subject, what so fit for his meditations or thine, as
the highest and noblest Being, and those transcendently glorious
perfections wherewith he is clothed! A mere contemplation of the
Divine excellencies may afford much pleasure to any man that loves
to exercise his reason, and is addicted to speculation: but what
incomparable sweetness, then, will holy souls find in viewing and
considering those perfections now, which they are more fully to behold
hereafter; and seeing what manner of God, how wise and powerful, how
great, and good, and holy is he, in whom the covenant interests them,
and in the enjoyment of whom their happiness consists! If rich men
delight to sum up their vast revenues, to read over their rentals,
look upon their hoards; if they bless themselves in their great wealth,
or, to use the prophet’s words (Jer. ix. 23), “glory in their riches,”
well may believers rejoice and glory in their “knowing the Lord”
(ver. 24), and please themselves in seeing how rich they are in having
an immensely full and all‑sufficient God for their inheritance. Alas!
how little do most men know of that Deity they profess to serve, and
own, not as their Sovereign only, but their Portion. To such this
author might say, as Paul to the Athenians, “Whom you ignorantly
worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts xvii. 23). These treatises,
reader, will inform thee who He is whom thou callest thine, {a20}

present thee with a view of thy chief good, and make thee value
thyself a thousand times more upon thy interest with God, than upon
all external accomplishments and worldly possessions. Who but delights
to hear well of one whom he loves! God is thy love, if thou be a
believer; and then it cannot but fill thee with delight and ravishment
to hear so much spoken in his praise. David desired to “dwell in the
house of the Lord,” that he might there behold his beauty: how much of
that beauty, if thou art but capable of seeing it, mayest thou behold
in this volume, which was our author’s main business, for about three
years before he died, to display before his hearers! True, indeed, the
Lord’s glory, as shining forth before his heavenly courtiers above,
is unapproachable by mortal men; but what of it is visible in his
works――creation, providence, redemption――falls under the cognizance of
his inferior subjects here. And this is, in a great measure, presented
to view in these discourses; and so much, we may well say, as may, by
the help of grace, be effectual to raise thy admiration, attract thy
love, provoke thy desires, and enable thee to make some guess at what
is yet unseen; and why not, likewise, to clear thy eyes, and prepare
them for future sight, as well as turn them away from the contemptible
vanities of this present life? Whatever is glorious in this world,
yet (as the apostle, in another case) “hath no glory, by reason of
the glory that excels” (2 Cor. iii. 10). This “excellent glory” is the
subject of this book, to which all created beauty is but mere shadow
and duskiness. If thy eyes be well fixed on this, they will not be
easily drawn to wander after other objects: if thy heart be taken with
God, it will be mortified to everything that is not God.

But thou hast in this book, not only an excellent subject in the
general, but great variety of matter for the employment of thy
understanding, as well as enlivening thy affections, and that, too,
such as thou wilt not find elsewhere: many excellent things which are
out of the road of ordinary preachers and writers, and which may be
grateful to the curious, no less than satisfactory to the wise and
judicious. It is not, therefore, a book to be played with or slept
over, but read with the most intent and serious mind; for though it
afford much pleasure for the fancy, yet much more work for the heart,
and hath, indeed, enough in it to busy all the faculties. The dress
is complete and decent, yet not garish nor theatrical; the rhetoric
masculine and vigorous, such as became a pulpit, and was never
borrowed from the stage; the expressions full, clear, apt, and such
as are best suited to the weightiness and spirituality of the truths
here delivered. It is plain he was no empty preacher, but was more for
sense than sound, filled up his words with matter, and chose rather to
inform his hearers’ minds than to claw any itching ears. Yet we will
not say but some little things, a word, or a phrase now and then he
may have, which, no doubt, had he lived to transcribe his own sermons,
he would have altered. If in some lesser matters he differ from thee,
it is but in such as godly and learned men do frequently, and may,
without breach of charity, differ in among themselves: in some things
he may differ from us too, and, it may be, we from {a21} each other;
and where are there any two persons who have in all, especially the
more disputable points of religion, exactly the same sentiments,――at
least, express themselves altogether in the same terms? But this
we must say, that though he treat of many of the most abstruse and
mysterious doctrines of Christianity, which are the subjects of great
debates and controversies in the world, yet we find no one material
thing in which he may justly be called heterodox (unless old heresies
be of late grown orthodox, and his differing from them must make him
faulty), but generally delivers, as in his former pieces,[5] what
is most consonant to the faith of this and other, the best reformed
churches. He was not, indeed, for that modern divinity which is so
much in vogue with some who would be counted the only sound divines;
having “tasted the old,” he did not desire “the new,” but said, “the
old is better.” Some errors, especially the Socinian, he sets himself
industriously against, and cuts the very sinews of them, yet sometimes
almost without naming them.

In the doctrinal part of several of his discourses thou wilt find
the depth of _polemical_ divinity, and in his inferences from thence,
the sweetness of _practical_; some things which may exercise the
profoundest scholar, and others which may instruct and edify the
weakest Christian. Nothing is more nervous than his reasonings, and
nothing more affecting than his applications. Though he make great use
of schoolmen, yet they are certainly more beholden to him than he to
them; he adopts their notions, but he refines them too, and improves
them and reforms them from the barbarousness in which they were
expressed, and dresseth them up in his own language (so far as the
nature of the matter will permit, and more clear terms are to be
found), and so makes them intelligible to vulgar capacities, which,
in their original rudeness, were obscure and strange even to learned

In a word, he handles the great truths of the gospel with that
perspicuity, gravity, and majesty, which best becomes the oracles of
God; and we have reason to believe, that no judicious and unbiassed
reader but will acknowledge this to be incomparably the best practical
treatise the world ever saw in English upon this subject. What Dr.
Jackson did, to whom our author gave all due respect, was more brief
and in another way. Dr. Preston did worthily upon the Attributes in
his day; but his discourses likewise, are more succinct, when this
author’s are more full and large. But whatever were the mind of God in
it, it was not his will that either of these two should live to finish
what he had begun, both being taken away when preaching upon this
subject. Happy souls! whose last breath was spent in so noble a work,
praising God while they had any being (Psal. cxlvi. 2).

His method is much the same in most of these discourses, both in the
doctrinal and practical part, which will make the whole more plain
and facile to ordinary readers. He rarely makes objections, and yet
frequently answers them, by implying them in those propositions he
lays down for the clearing up the truths he asserts. His dexterity
is admirable in the applicatory {a22} work, where he not only brings
down the highest doctrines to the lowest capacities, but collects
great variety of proper, pertinent, useful, and yet, many times,
unthought‑of inferences, and that from those truths, which however
they afford much matter for inquisition and speculation, yet might
seem, unless to the most intelligent and judicious Christians, to
have a more remote influence upon practice. He is not like some school
writers, who attenuate and rarefy the matter they discourse of to a
degree bordering upon annihilation, at least, beat it so thin, that a
puff of breath may blow it away; spin their thread so fine, that the
cloth, when made up, proves useless, solidity dwindles into niceties,
and what we thought we had got by their assertions, we lose by their
distinctions. But if our author have some subtilties and superfine
notions in his argumentations, yet he condenseth them again, and
consolidates them into substantial and profitable corollaries in his
applications; and in them his main business is, as to discipline a
profane world for its neglect of God, and contempt of him in his most
adorable and shining perfections, so likewise to show how the Divine
Attributes are not only infinitely excellent in themselves, but a
grand foundation for all true divine worship, and should be the great
motives to provoke men to the exercise of faith, and love, and fear,
and humility, and all that holy obedience they are called to by the
gospel; and this, without peradventure, is the great end of all those
rich discoveries God hath in his word made of himself to us. And,
reader, if these elaborate discourses of this holy man, through the
Lord’s blessing, become a means of promoting holiness in thee, and
stir thee up to love and live to the God of his praise (Ps. cix. 1),
we are well assured that his end in preaching them is answered, and
so is ours in publishing them.

                          Thine in the Lord,

                                                          EDW. VEEL.
                                                          RI. ADAMS.

{a23}                        DISCOURSE I.

                       ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.

  PSALM xiv. 1.――The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is
    none that doeth good.

THIS psalm is a description of the deplorable corruption by nature
of every son of Adam, since the withering of that common root. Some
restrain it to the Gentiles, as a wilderness full of briers and
thorns, as not concerning the Jews, the garden of God, planted by his
grace, and watered by the dew of heaven. But the apostle, the best
interpreter, rectifies this in extending it by name to Jews, as well
as Gentiles, (Rom. iii. 9). “We have before proved both Jews and
Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” and (ver. 10‒12) cites part
of this psalm and other passages of scripture for the further evidence
of it, concluding by Jews and Gentiles, every person in the world
naturally in this state of corruption.

The psalmist first declares the corruption of the faculties of
the soul, _The fool hath said in his heart_; secondly, the streams
issuing from thence, _they are corrupt_, &c.: the first in atheistical
principles, the other in unworthy practice; and lays all the evil,
tyranny, lust, and persecutions by men, (as if the world were only
for their sake) upon the neglects of God, and the atheism cherished
in their hearts.

_The fool_, a term in scripture signifying a wicked man, used also
by the heathen philosophers to signify a vicious person, נבל as coming
from נבל signifies the extinction of life in men, animals, and plants;
so the word נבל is taken, a plant that hath lost all that juice
that made it lovely and useful.[6] So a fool is one that hath lost
his wisdom, and right notion of God and divine things which were
communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so
much void of rational faculties as of grace in those faculties, not
one that wants reason, but abuses his reason. In Scripture the word
signifies foolish.[7]

_Said in his heart_; that is, he thinks, or he doubts, or he wishes.
The thoughts of the heart are in the nature of words to God, though
not to men. It is used in the like case of the atheistical person,
(Ps. x. 11, 13), “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten; he
hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.” He doth not form
a syllogism, as Calvin speaks, that there is no God: he dares not
{a24} openly publish it, though he dares secretly think it. He cannot
raze out the thoughts of a Deity, though he endeavors to blot those
characters of God in his soul. He hath some doubts whether there be a
God or no: he wishes there were not any, and sometimes hopes there is
none at all. He could not so ascertain himself by convincing arguments
to produce to the world, but he tampered with his own heart to bring
it to that persuasion, and smothered in himself those notices of a
Deity; which is so plain against the light of nature, that such a man
may well be called a fool for it.

_There is no God_[8] לית שולטנא _non potestas Domini_, Chaldæ. It is not
Jehovah, which name signifies the essence of God, as the prime and
supreme being; but Eloahia, which name signifies the providence of
God, God as a rector and judge. Not that he denies the existence
of a Supreme Being, that created the world, but his regarding the
creatures, his government of the world, and consequently his reward
of the righteous or punishments of the wicked.

There is a threefold denial of God,[9] 1. _Quoad existentiam_; this
is absolute atheism. 2. _Quoad Providentiam_, or his inspection into,
or care of the things of the world, bounding him in the heavens.
3. _Quoad naturam_, in regard of one or other of the perfections due
to his nature.

Of the denial of the providence of God most understand this, not
excluding the absolute atheist, as Diagoras is reported to be, nor
the skeptical atheist, as Protagoras, who doubted whether there were a
God.[10] Those that deny the providence of God, do in effect deny the
being of God; for they strip him of that wisdom, goodness, tenderness,
mercy, justice, righteousness, which are the glory of the Deity. And
that principle, of a greedy desire to be uncontrolled in their lusts,
which induceth men to a denial of Providence, that thereby they might
stifle those seeds of fear which infect and embitter their sinful
pleasures, may as well lead them to deny that there is any such being
as a God. That at one blow, their fears may be dashed all in pieces
and dissolved by the removal of the foundation: as men who desire
liberty to commit works of darkness, would not have the lights in
the house dimmed, but extinguished. What men say against Providence,
because they would have no check in their lusts, they may say in their
hearts against the existence of God upon the same account; little
difference between the dissenting from the one and disowning the other.

_They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none
that doeth good._ He speaks of the atheist in the singular, “the fool;”
of the corruption issuing in the life in the plural; intimating that
though some few may choke in their hearts the sentiments of God and
his providence, and positively deny them, yet there is something of
a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices
in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of a God, but a
denial or doubting of some of the rights of his nature. When men deny
the God of purity, they must needs be polluted in soul and body, and
grow brutish in their actions. When the sense of religion is {a25}
shaken off, all kinds of wickedness is eagerly rushed into, whereby
they become as loathsome to God as putrefied carcases are to men.[11]
Not one or two evil actions is the product of such a principle, but
the whole scene of a man’s life is corrupted and becomes execrable.

No man is exempted from some spice of atheism by the depravation of
his nature, which the psalmist intimates, “there is none that doeth
good:” though there are indelible convictions of the being of a God,
that they cannot absolutely deny it; yet there are some atheistical
bubblings in the hearts of men, which evidence themselves in their
actions. As the apostle, (Tit. i. 16), “They profess that they know
God, but in works they deny him.” Evil works are a dust stirred up by
an atheistical breath. He that habituates himself in some sordid lust,
can scarcely be said seriously and firmly to believe that there is
a God in being; and the apostle doth not say that they know God, but
they profess to know him: true knowledge and profession of knowledge
are distinct. It intimates also to us, the unreasonableness of atheism
in the consequence, when men shut their eyes against the beams of so
clear a sun, God revengeth himself upon them for their impiety, by
leaving them to their own wills, lets them fall into the deepest sink
and dregs of iniquity; and since they doubt of him in their hearts,
suffers them above others to deny him in their works, this the apostle
discourseth at large.[12] The text then is a description of man’s

1. Of his mind. _The fool hath said in his heart._ No better title
than that of a fool is afforded to the atheist.

2. Of the other faculties, 1. In sins of commission, expressed by
the loathsomeness (_corrupt_, _abominable_), 2. In sins of omission
(_there is none that doeth good_) he lays down the corruption of the
mind as the cause, the corruption of the other faculties as the effect.

I. It is a great folly to deny or doubt of the existence or being of
God: or, an atheist is a great fool.

II. Practical atheism is natural to man in his corrupt state. It
is against nature as constituted by God, but natural, as nature is
depraved by man: the absolute disowning of the being of a God is not
natural to men, but the contrary is natural; but an inconsideration of
God, or misrepresentation of his nature, is natural to man as corrupt.

III. A secret atheism, or a partial atheism, is the spring of all the
wicked practices in the world: the disorders of the life spring from
the ill dispositions of the heart.

For the first, every atheist is a grand fool. If he were not a
fool, he would not imagine a thing so contrary to the stream of the
universal reason of the world, contrary to the rational dictates of
his own soul, and contrary to the testimony of every creature, and
link in the chain of creation: if he were not a fool, he would not
strip himself of humanity, and degrade himself lower than the most
despicable brute. It is a folly; for though God be so inaccessible
that we cannot know him perfectly, yet he is so much in the light,
that {a26} we cannot be totally ignorant of him; as he cannot be
comprehended in his essence, he cannot be unknown in his existence; it
is as easy by reason to understand that he is, as it is difficult to
know what he is. The demonstrations reason furnisheth us with for the
existence of God, will be evidences of the atheist’s folly. One would
think there were little need of spending time in evidencing this truth,
since in the principle of it, it seems to be so universally owned, and
at the first proposal and demand, gains the assent of most men.

But, 1. Doth not the growth of atheism among us render this necessary?
may it not justly be suspected, that the swarms of atheists are more
numerous in our times, than history records to have been in any age,
when men will not only say it in their hearts, but publish it with
their lips, and boast that they have shaken off those shackles which
bind other men’s consciences? Doth not the barefaced debauchery of
men evidence such a settled sentiment, or at least a careless belief
of the truth, which lies at the root, and sprouts up in such venomous
branches in the world? Can men’s hearts be free from that principle
wherewith their practices are so openly depraved? It is true, the
light of nature shines too vigorously for the power of man totally
to put it out; yet loathsome actions impair and weaken the actual
thoughts and considerations of a Deity, and are like mists that
darken the light of the sun, though they cannot extinguish it:
their consciences, as a candlestick, must hold it, though their
unrighteousness obscure it, (Rom. i. 18). “Who hold the truth in
unrighteousness.” The engraved characters of the law of nature remain,
though they daub them with their muddy lusts to make them illegible:
so that since the inconsideration of a Deity is the cause of all
the wickedness and extravagances of men; and as Austin saith, the
proposition is always true, the fool hath said in his heart, &c. and
more evidently true in this age than any, it will not be unnecessary
to discourse of the demonstrations of this first principle. The
apostles spent little time in urging this truth; it was taken for
granted all over the world, and they were generally devout in the
worship of those idols they thought to be gods: that age run from
one God to many, and our age is running from one God to none at all.

2. The existence of God is the foundation of all religion. The whole
building totters if the foundation be out of course: if we have not
deliberate and right notions of it, we shall perform no worship,
no service, yield no affection to him. If there be not a God, it is
impossible there can be one, for eternity is essential to the notion
of a God; so all religion would be vain, and unreasonable to pay
homage to that which is not in being, nor can ever be. We must first
believe that he is, and that he is what he declares himself to be,
before we can seek him, adore him, and devote our affections to
him.[13] We cannot pay God a due and regular homage, unless we
understand him in his perfections, what he is; and we can pay him
no homage at all, unless we believe that he is.

3. It is fit we should know why we believe, that our belief of a
God may appear to be upon undeniable evidence, and that we may give
a better reason for his existence, than that we have heard our {a27}
parents and teachers tell us so, and our acquaintance think so. It
is as much as to say there is no God, when we know not why we believe
there is, and would not consider the arguments for his existence.

4. It is necessary to depress that secret atheism which is in the
heart of every man by nature. Though every visible object which offers
itself to our sense, presents a deity to our minds, and exhorts us to
subscribe to the truth of it; yet there is a root of atheism springing
up sometimes in wavering thoughts and foolish imaginations, inordinate
actions, and secret wishes. Certain it is, that every man that doth
not love God, denies God; now can he that disaffects him, and hath
a slavish fear of him, wish his existence, and say to his own heart
with any cheerfulness, there is a God, and make it his chief care to
persuade himself of it? he would persuade himself there is no God,
and stifle the seeds of it in his reason and conscience, that he might
have the greatest liberty to entertain the allurements of the flesh.
It is necessary to excite men to daily and actual considerations of
God and his nature, which would be a bar to much of that wickedness
which overflows in the lives of men.

5. Nor is it unuseful to those who effectually believe and love
him;[14] for those who have had a converse with God, and felt his
powerful influences in the secrets of their hearts, to take a prospect
of those satisfactory accounts which reason gives of that God they
adore and love; to see every creature justify them in their owning
of him, and affections to him: indeed the evidences of a God striking
upon the conscience of those who resolve to cleave to sin as their
chiefest darling, will dash their pleasures with unwelcome mixtures.

I shall further premise this, That the folly of atheism is evidenced
by the light of reason. Men that will not listen to Scripture, as
having no counterpart of it in their souls, cannot easily deny natural
reason, which riseth up on all sides for the justification of this
truth. There is a natural as well as a revealed knowledge, and the
book of the creatures is legible in declaring the being of a God, as
well as the Scriptures are in declaring the nature of a God; there are
outward objects in the world, and common principles in the conscience,
whence it may be inferred.

For, 1. God in regard of his existence is not only the discovery of
faith, but of reason. God hath revealed not only his being, but some
sparks of his eternal power and godhead in his works, as well as in
his word. (Rom. i. 19, 20), “God hath showed it unto them,”――how?[15]
in his works; by the things that are made, it is a discovery to our
reason, as shining in the creatures; and an object of our faith as
breaking out upon us in the Scriptures: it is an article of our faith,
and an article of our reason. Faith supposeth natural knowledge,
as grace supposeth nature. Faith indeed is properly of things above
reason, purely depending upon revelation. What can be demonstrated
by natural light, is not so properly the object of faith; though in
regard of the addition of a certainty by revelation it is so. The
belief that God is, which the apostle speaks of,[16] is not so much
of the bare existence of God, as what God is in relation to them that
{a28} seek him, viz. a rewarder. The apostle speaks of the faith of
Abel, the faith of Enoch, such a faith that pleases God: but the faith
of Abel testified in his sacrifice, and the faith of Enoch testified
in his walking with God, was not simply a faith of the existence of
God. Cain in the time of Abel, other men in the world in the time
of Enoch, believed this as well as they: but it was a faith joined
with the worship of God, and desires to please him in the way of his
own appointment; so that they believed that God was such as he had
declared himself to be in his promise to Adam, such an one as would
be as good as his word, and bruise the serpent’s head. He that seeks
to God according to the mind of God, must believe that he is such a
God that will pardon sin, and justify a seeker of him; that he is a
God of that ability and will, to justify a sinner in that way he hath
appointed for the clearing the holiness of his nature, and vindicating
the honor of his law violated by man. No man can seek God or love
God, unless he believe him to be thus; and he cannot seek God without
a discovery of his own mind how he would be sought. For it is not a
seeking God in any way of man’s invention, that renders him capable
of this desired fruit of a reward. He that believes God as a rewarder,
must believe the promise of God concerning the Messiah. Men under the
conscience of sin, cannot tell without a divine discovery, whether God
will reward, or how he will reward the seekers of him; and therefore
cannot act towards him as an object of faith. Would any man seek God
merely because he is, or love him because he is, if he did not know
that he should be acceptable to him? The bare existence of a thing is
not the ground of affection to it, but those qualities of it and our
interest in it, which render it amiable and delightful. How can men,
whose consciences fly in their faces, seek God or love him, without
this knowledge that he is a rewarder? Nature doth not show any way to
a sinner, how to reconcile God’s provoked justice with his tenderness.
The faith the apostle speaks of here is a faith that eyes the reward
as an encouragement, and the will of God as the rule of its acting; he
doth not speak simply of the existence of God.

I have spoken the more of this place, because the Socinians[17] use
this to decry any natural knowledge of God, and that the existence of
God is only to be known by revelation, so that by that reason any one
that lived without the Scripture hath no ground to believe the being
of a God. The Scripture ascribes a knowledge of God to all nations
in the world (Rom. i. 19); not only a faculty of knowing, if they
had arguments and demonstrations, as an ignorant man in any art hath
a faculty to know; but it ascribes an actual knowledge (ver. 10)
“manifest in them;” (ver. 21) “They knew God;” not they might know him;
they knew him when they did not care for knowing him. The notices of
God are as intelligible to us by reason, as any object in the world is
visible; he is written in every letter.

2. We are often in the Scripture sent to take a prospect of the
creatures for a discovery of God. The apostles drew arguments from
the topics of nature, when they discoursed with those that owned
the Scripture (Rom. i. 19), as well as when they treated with those
{a29} that were ignorant of it, as Acts xiv. 16, 17. And among the
philosophers of Athens (Acts xvii. 27, 29), such arguments the Holy
Ghost in the apostles thought sufficient to convince men of the
existence, unity, spirituality, and patience of God. Such arguments
had not been used by them and the prophets from the visible things in
the world to silence the Gentiles with whom they dealt, had not this
truth, and much more about God, been demonstrable by natural reason:
they knew well enough that probable arguments would not satisfy
piercing and inquisitive minds.[18]

In Paul’s account, the testimony of the creatures was without
contradiction. God himself justifies this way of proceeding by his
own example, and remits Job to the consideration of the creatures,
to spell out something of his divine perfections.[19] And this is
so convincing an argument of the existence of God, that God never
vouchsafed any miracle, or put forth any act of omnipotency, besides
what was evident in the creatures, for the satisfaction of the
curiosity of any atheist, or the evincing of his being, as he hath
done for the evidencing those truths which were not written in
the book of nature, or for the restoring a decayed worship, or the
protection or deliverance of his people. Those miracles in publishing
the gospel, indeed, did demonstrate the existence of some supreme
power; but they were not seals designedly affixed for that, but for
the confirmation of that truth, which was above the ken of purblind
reason, and purely the birth of divine revelation. Yet what proves the
truth of any spiritual doctrine, proves also in that act the existence
of the Divine Author of it. The revelation always implies a revealer,
and that which manifests it to be a revelation, manifests also the
supreme Revealer of it. By the same light the sun manifests other
things to us, it also manifests itself. But what miracles could
rationally be supposed to work upon an atheist, who is not drawn
to a sense of the truth proclaimed aloud by so many wonders of the
creation? Let us now proceed to the demonstration of the atheist’s

It is a folly to deny or doubt of a Sovereign Being, incomprehensible
in his nature, infinite in his essence and perfections, independent
in his operations, who hath given being to the whole frame of sensible
and intelligible creatures, and governs them according to their
several natures, by an unconceivable wisdom; who fills the heavens
with the glory of his majesty, and the earth with the influences of
his goodness.

It is a folly inexcusable to renounce, in this case, all appeal to
universal consent, and the joint assurances of the creatures.

_Reason I._ ’Tis a folly to deny or doubt of that which hath been the
acknowledged sentiment of all nations, in all places and ages. There
is no nation but hath owned some kind of religion, and, therefore,
no nation but hath consented in the notion of a Supreme Creator and

1. This hath been universal. 2. It hath been constant and
uninterrupted. 3. Natural and innate.

{a30} First, It hath been universally assented to by the judgments and
practices of all nations in the world.

1. No nation hath been exempt from it. All histories of former and
latter ages have not produced any one nation but fell under the force
of this truth. Though they have differed in their religions, they have
agreed in this truth; here both heathen, Turk, Jew, and Christian,
centre without any contention. No quarrel was ever commenced upon this
score; though about other opinions wars have been sharp, and enmities
irreconcilable. The notion of the existence of a Deity was the same
in all, Indians as well as Britons, Americans as well as Jews. It hath
not been an opinion peculiar to this or that people, to this or that
sect of philosophers; but hath been as universal as the reason whereby
men are differenced from other creatures, so that some have rather
defined man by _animal religiosum_, than _animal rationale_. ’Tis so
twisted with reason that a man cannot be accounted rational, unless
he own an object of religion; therefore he that understands not this,
renounceth his humanity when he renounceth a Divinity. No instance
can be given of any one people in the world that disclaimed it. It
hath been owned by the wise and ignorant, by the learned and stupid,
by those who had no other guide but the dimmest light of nature, as
well as those whose candles were snuffed by a more polite education,
and that without any solemn debate and contention. Though some
philosophers have been known to change their opinions in the concerns
of nature, yet none can be proved to have absolutely changed their
opinion concerning the being of a God. One died for asserting one God;
none, in the former ages upon record, hath died for asserting no God.
Go to the utmost bounds of America, you may find people without some
broken pieces of the law of nature, but not without this signature
and stamp upon them, though they wanted commerce with other nations,
except as savage as themselves, in whom the light of nature was as
it were sunk into the socket, who are but one remove from brutes,
who clothe not their bodies, cover not their shame, yet were they as
soon known to own a God, as they were known to be a people. They were
possessed with the notion of a Supreme Being, the author of the world;
had an object of religious adoration; put up prayers to the deity they
owned for the good things they wanted, and the diverting the evils
they feared. No people so untamed where absolute perfect atheism
had gained a footing. No one nation of the world known in the time
of the Romans that were without their ceremonies, whereby they
signified their devotion to a deity. They had their places of worship,
where they made their vows, presented their prayers, offered their
sacrifices, and implored the assistance of what they thought to be a
god; and in their distresses run immediately, without any deliberation,
to their gods: so that the notion of a deity was as inward and settled
in them as their own souls, and, indeed, runs in the blood of mankind.
The distempers of the understanding cannot utterly deface it; you
shall scarce find the most distracted bedlam, in his raving fits,
to deny a God, though he may blaspheme, and fancy himself one.

2. Nor doth the idolatry and multiplicity of gods in the world {a31}
weaken, but confirm this universal consent. Whatsoever unworthy
conceits men have had of God in all nations, or whatsoever degrading
representations they have made of him, yet they all concur in
this, that there is a Supreme Power to be adored. Though one people
worshipped the sun, others the fire,――and the Egyptians, gods out of
their rivers, gardens, and fields; yet the notion of a Deity existent,
who created and governed the world, and conferred daily benefits upon
them, was maintained by all, though applied to the stars, and in part
to those sordid creatures. All the Dagons of the world establish this
truth, and fall down before it. Had not the nations owned the being of
a God, they had never offered incense to an idol: had there not been
a deep impression of the existence of a Deity, they had never exalted
creatures below themselves to the honor of altars: men could not so
easily have been deceived by forged deities, if they had not had a
notion of a real one. Their fondness to set up others in the place of
God, evidenced a natural knowledge that there was One who had a right
to be worshipped. If there were not this sentiment of a Deity, no
man would ever have made an image of a piece of wood, worshipped it,
prayed to it, and said, “Deliver me, for thou art my God.”[20] They
applied a general notion to a particular image. The difference is in
the manner, and immediate object of worship, not in the formal ground
of worship. The worship sprung from a true principle, though it was
not applied to a right object: while they were rational creatures,
they could not deface the notion; yet while they were corrupt
creatures it was not difficult to apply themselves to a wrong object
from a true principle. A blind man knows he hath a way to go as well
as one of the clearest sight; but because of his blindness he may miss
the way and stumble into a ditch. No man would be imposed upon to take
a Bristol stone instead of a diamond, if he did not know that there
were such things as diamonds in the world: nor any man spread forth
his hands to an idol, if he were altogether without the sense of a
Deity. Whether it be a false or a true God men apply to, yet in both,
the natural sentiment of a God is evidenced; all their mistakes were
grafts inserted in this stock, since they would multiply gods rather
than deny a Deity.

How should such a general submission be entered into by all the
world, so as to adore things of a base alloy,[21] if the force of
religion were not such, that in any fashion a man would seek the
satisfaction of his natural instinct to some object of worship? This
great diversity confirms this consent to be a good argument, for it
evidenceth it not to be a cheat, combination or conspiracy to deceive,
or a mutual intelligence, but every one finds it in his climate, yea
in himself. People would never have given the title of a God to men or
brutes had there not been a pre‑existing and unquestioned persuasion,
that there was such a being;――how else should the notion of a God
come into their minds?――the notion that there is a God must be more

3. Whatsoever disputes there have been in the world, this of the {a32}
existence of God was never the subject of contention. All other things
have been questioned. What jarrings were there among philosophers
about natural things! into how many parties were they split! with what
animosities did they maintain their several judgments! but we hear of
no solemn controversies about the existence of a Supreme Being: this
never met with any considerable contradiction: no nation, that hath
put other things to question, would ever suffer this to be disparaged,
so much as by a public doubt. We find among the heathen contentions
about the nature of God and the number of gods, some asserted an
innumerable multitude of gods, some affirmed him to be subject to
birth and death, some affirmed the entire world was God; others
fancied him to be a circle of a bright fire; others that he was a
spirit diffused through the whole world:[23] yet they unanimously
concurred in this, as the judgment of universal reason, that there was
such a sovereign Being: and those that were skeptical in everything
else, and asserted that the greatest certainty was that there was
nothing certain, professed a certainty in this. The question was not
whether there was a First Cause, but what it was. It is much the same
thing, as the disputes about the nature and matter of the heavens,
the sun and planets, though there be great diversity of judgments, yet
all agree that there are heavens, sun, planets; so all the contentions
among men about the nature of God, weaken not, but rather confirm,
that there is a God, since there was never a public formal debate
about his existence.[24] Those that have been ready to pull out
one another’s eyes for their dissent from their judgments, sharply
censured one another’s sentiments, envied the births of one another’s
wits, always shook hands with an unanimous consent in this; never
censured one another for being of this persuasion, never called it
into question; as what was never controverted among men professing
Christianity, but acknowledged by all, though contending about other
things, has reason to be judged a certain truth belonging to the
christian religion; so what was never subjected to any controversy,
but acknowledged by the whole world, hath reason to be embraced as
a truth without any doubt.

4. This universal consent is not prejudiced by some few dissenters.
History doth not reckon twenty professed atheists in all ages in
the compass of the whole world: and we have not the name of any one
absolute atheist upon record in Scripture; yet it is questioned,
whether any of them, noted in history with that infamous name, were
downright deniers of the existence of God, but rather because they
disparaged the deities commonly worshipped by the nations where they
lived, as being of a clearer reason to discern that those qualities,
vulgarly attributed to their gods, as lust and luxury, wantonness and
quarrels, were unworthy of the nature of a god.[25] But suppose they
were really what they are termed to be, what are they to the multitude
of men that have sprung out of the loins of Adam? not so much as
one grain of ashes is to all that were ever turned into that form
by any fires in your chimneys. And many more were not sufficient to
weigh down the contrary consent of the whole world, and bear {a33}
down an universal impression. Should the laws of a country, agreed
universally to by the whole body of the people, be accounted vain,
because an hundred men of those millions disapprove of them, when
not their reason, but their folly and base interest, persuades them
to dislike them and dispute against them? What if some men be blind,
shall any conclude from thence that eyes are not natural to men? shall
we say that the notion of the existence of God is not natural to men,
because a very small number have been of a contrary opinion? shall a
man in a dungeon, that never saw the sun, deny that there is a sun,
because one or two blind men tell him there is none, when thousands
assure him there is.[26] Why should then the exceptions of a few, not
one to millions, discredit that which is voted certainly true by the
joint consent of the world? Add this, too, that if those that are
reported to be atheists had had any considerable reason to step aside
from the common persuasion of the whole world, it is a wonder it met
not with entertainment by great numbers of those, who, by reason of
their notorious wickedness and inward disquiets, might reasonably be
thought to wish in their hearts that there were no God. It is strange
if there were any reason on their side, that in so long a space of
time as hath run out from the creation of the world, there could not
be engaged a considerable number to frame a society for the profession
of it. It hath died with the person that started it, and vanished as
soon as it appeared.

To conclude this, is it not folly for any man to deny or doubt
of the being of a God, to dissent from all mankind, and stand in
contradiction to human nature? What is the general dictate of nature
is a certain truth. It is impossible that nature can naturally and
universally lie. And therefore those that ascribe all to nature, and
set it in the place of God, contradict themselves, if they give not
credit to it in that which it universally affirms. A general consent
of all nations is to be esteemed as a law of nature.[27] Nature cannot
plant in the minds of all men an assent to a falsity, for then the
laws of nature would be destructive to the reason and minds of men.
How is it possible, that a falsity should be a persuasion spread
through all nations, engraven upon the minds of all men, men of the
most towering, and men of the most creeping understanding; that they
should consent to it in all places, and in those places where the
nations have not had any known commerce with the rest of the known
world? a consent not settled by any law of man to constrain people to
a belief of it: and indeed it is impossible that any law of man can
constrain the belief of the mind. Would not he deservedly be accounted
a fool, that should deny that to be gold which hath been tried and
examined by a great number of knowing goldsmiths, and hath passed the
test of all their touch‑stones? What excess of folly would it be for
him to deny it to be true gold, if it had been tried by all that had
skill in that metal in all nations in the world!

Secondly, It hath been a constant and uninterrupted consent. It hath
been as ancient as the first age of the world; no man is able to
mention any time, from the beginning of the world, wherein this notion
hath not been universally owned; it is as old as mankind, {a34} and
hath run along with the course of the sun, nor can the date be fixed
lower than that.

1. In all the changes of the world, this hath been maintained. In
the overturnings of the government of states, the alteration of modes
of worship, this hath stood unshaken. The reasons upon which it was
founded were, in all revolutions of time, accounted satisfactory and
convincing, nor could absolute atheism in the changes of any laws
ever gain the favor of any one body of people to be established by
a law. When the honor of the heathen idols was laid in the dust, this
suffered no impair. The being of one God was more vigorously owned
when the unreasonableness of multiplicity of gods was manifest; and
grew taller by the detection of counterfeits. When other parts of the
law of nature have been violated by some nations, this hath maintained
its standing. The long series of ages hath been so far from blotting
it out, that it hath more strongly confirmed it, and maketh further
progress in the confirmation of it. Time, which hath eaten out the
strength of other things, and blasted mere inventions, hath not been
able to consume this. The discovery of all other impostures, never
made this by any society of men to be suspected as one. It will not be
easy to name any imposture that hath walked perpetually in the world
without being discovered, and whipped out by some nation or other.
Falsities have never been so universally and constantly owned without
public control and question. And since the world hath detected many
errors of the former age, and learning been increased, this hath been
so far from being dimmed, that it hath shone out clearer with the
increase of natural knowledge, and received fresh and more vigorous

2. The fears and anxieties in the consciences of men have given men
sufficient occasion to root it out, had it been possible for them to
do it. If the notion of the existence of God had been possible to have
been dashed out of the minds of men, they would have done it rather
than have suffered so many troubles in their souls upon the commission
of sin; since there did not want wickedness and wit in so many corrupt
ages to have attempted it and prospered in it, had it been possible.
How comes it therefore to pass, that such a multitude of profligate
persons that have been in the world since the fall of man, should not
have rooted out this principle, and dispossessed the minds of men of
that which gave birth to their tormenting fears? How is it possible
that all should agree together in a thing which created fear, and an
obligation against the interest of the flesh, if it had been free for
men to discharge themselves of it? No man, as far as corrupt nature
bears sway in him, is willing to live controlled.

The first man would rather be a god himself than under one:[28] why
should men continue this notion in them, which shackled them in their
vile inclinations, if it had been in their power utterly to deface
it? If it were an imposture, how comes it to pass, that all the wicked
ages of the world could never discover that to be a cheat, which
kept them in continual alarms? Men wanted not will to shake off such
apprehensions; as Adam, so all his posterity are desirous to hide
themselves from God upon the commission of sin,[29] and by the {a35}
same reason they would hide God from their souls. What is the reason
they could never attain their will and their wish by all their
endeavors? Could they possibly have satisfied themselves that there
were no God, they had discarded their fears, the disturbers of the
repose of their lives, and been unbridled in their pleasures. The
wickedness of the world would never have preserved that which was a
perpetual molestation to it, had it been possible to be razed out.

But since men under the turmoils and lashes of their own consciences
could never bring their hearts to a settled dissent from this truth,
it evidenceth, that as it took its birth at the beginning of the
world, it cannot expire, no not in the ashes of it, nor in anything
but the reduction of the soul to that nothing from whence it sprung.
This conception is so perpetual, that the nature of the soul must be
dissolved before it be rooted out, nor can it be extinct while the
soul endures.

3. Let it be considered also by us that own the Scripture, that the
devil deems it impossible to root out this sentiment. It seems to be
so perpetually fixed, that the devil did not think fit to tempt man to
the denial of the existence of a Deity, but persuaded him to believe
he might ascend to that dignity and become a god himself; Gen. iii. 1,
“Hath God said?” and he there owns him (ver. 5), “Ye shall become as
gods.” He owns God in the question he asks the woman, and persuades
our first parents to be gods themselves. And in all stories, both
ancient and modern, the devil was never able to tincture men’s minds
with a professed denial of the Deity, which would have opened a door
to a world of more wickedness than hath been acted, and took away
the bar to the breaking out of that evil, which is naturally in the
hearts of men, to the greater prejudice of human societies. He wanted
not malice to raze out all the notions of God, but power: he knew it
was impossible to effect it, and therefore in vain to attempt it. He
set up himself in several places of the ignorant world as a god, but
never was able to overthrow the opinion of the being of a God. The
impressions of a Deity were so strong as not to be struck out by the
malice and power of hell.

What a folly is it then in any to contradict or doubt of this truth,
which all the periods of time have not been able to wear out; which
all the wars and quarrels of men with their own consciences have not
been able to destroy; which ignorance and debauchery, its two greatest
enemies, cannot weaken; which all the falsehoods and errors which
have reigned in one or other part of the world, have not been able
to banish; which lives in the consents of men in spite of all their
wishes to the contrary, and hath grown stronger, and shone clearer,
by the improvements of natural reason!

Thirdly, Natural and innate; which pleads strongly for the perpetuity
of it. It is natural, though some think it not a principle writ in
the heart of man;[30] it is so natural that every man is born with
a restless instinct to be of some kind of religion or other, which
implies some object of religion. The impression of a Deity is as
common as reason, and of the same age with reason.[31] It is a
relic of knowledge after the fall of Adam, like fire under ashes,
which sparkles as soon {a36} as ever the heap of ashes is opened. A
notion sealed up in the soul of every man;[32] else how could those
people who were unknown to one another, separate by seas and mounts,
differing in various customs and manner of living, had no mutual
intelligence one with another, light upon this as a common sentiment,
if they had not been guided by one uniform reason in all their minds,
by one nature common to them all: though their climates be different,
their tempers and constitutions various, their imaginations in some
things as distant from one another as heaven is from earth, the
ceremonies of their religion not all of the same kind; yet wherever
you find human nature, you find this settled persuasion. So that the
notion of a God seems to be twisted with the nature of man, and is
the first natural branch of common reason, or upon either the first
inspection of a man into himself and his own state and constitution,
or upon the first sight of any external visible object. Nature within
man, and nature without man, agree upon the first meeting together to
form this sentiment, that there is a God. It is as natural as anything
we call a common principle. One thing which is called a common
principle and natural is, that the whole is greater than the parts. If
this be not born with us, yet the exercise of reason essential to man
settles it as a certain maxim; upon the dividing anything into several
parts, he finds every part less than when they were altogether. By
the same exercise of reason, we cannot cast our eyes upon anything in
the world, or exercise our understandings upon ourselves, but we must
presently imagine, there was some cause of those things, some cause
of myself and my own being; so that this truth is as natural to man
as anything he can call most natural or a common principle.

It must be confessed by all, that there is a law of nature writ upon
the hearts of men, which will direct them to commendable actions, if
they will attend to the writing in their own consciences. This law
cannot be considered without the notice of a Lawgiver. For it is but
a natural and obvious conclusion, that some superior hand engrafted
those principles in man, since he finds something in him twitching
him upon the pursuit of uncomely actions, though his heart be mightily
inclined to them; man knows he never planted this principle of
reluctancy in his own soul; he can never be the cause of that which
he cannot be friends with. If he were the cause of it, why doth he not
rid himself of it? No man would endure a thing that doth frequently
molest and disquiet him, if he could cashier it. It is therefore sown
in man by some hand more powerful than man, which riseth so high, and
is rooted so strong, that all the force that man can use cannot pull
it up. If therefore this principle be natural in man, and the law of
nature be natural, the notion of a Lawgiver must be as natural, as the
notion of a printer, or that there is a printer, is obvious upon the
sight of a stamp impressed. After this the multitude of effects in the
world step in to strengthen this beam of natural light, and the direct
conclusion from thence is, that that power which made those outward
objects, implanted this inward principle. This is sown in us, born
with us, and sprouts up with our growth, or as one saith; it is like
letters carved upon the bark of a {a37} young plant, which grows
up together with us, and the longer it grows the letters are more

This is the ground of this universal consent, and why it may well be
termed natural. This will more evidently appear to be natural, because,

1. This consent could not be by mere tradition. 2. Nor by any mutual
intelligence of governors to keep people in awe, which are two things
the atheist pleads; the first hath no strong foundation, and that
other is as absurd and foolish as it is wicked and abominable. 3. Nor
was it fear first introduced it.

First, It could not be by mere tradition. Many things indeed are
entertained by posterity which their ancestors delivered to them, and
that out of a common reverence to their forefathers, and an opinion
that they had a better prospect of things than the increase of the
corruption of succeeding ages would permit them to have. But if this
be a tradition handed from our ancestors, they also must receive it
from theirs; we must then ascend to the first man, we cannot else
escape a confounding ourselves with running into infinite. Was it then
the only tradition he left to them? Is it not probable he acquainted
them with other things in conjunction with this, the nature of God,
the way to worship him, the manner of the world’s existence, his own
state? We may reasonably suppose him to have a good stock of knowledge;
what is become of it? It cannot be supposed, that the first man should
acquaint his posterity with an object of worship, and leave them
ignorant of a mode of worship and of the end of worship. We find in
Scripture his immediate posterity did the first in sacrifices, and
without doubt they were not ignorant of the other: how come men to be
so uncertain in all other things, and so confident of this, if it were
only a tradition? How did debates and irreconcilable questions start
up concerning other things, and this remain untouched, but by a small
number? Whatsoever tradition the first man left besides this, is lost,
and no way recoverable, but by the revelation God hath made in his
Word. How comes it to pass this of a God is longer lived than all the
rest which we may suppose man left to his immediate descendants? How
come men to retain the one and forget the other? What was the reason
this survived the ruin of the rest, and surmounted the uncertainties
into which the other sunk? Was it likely it should be handed down
alone without other attendants on it at first? Why did it not expire
among the Americans, who have lost the account of their own descent,
and the stock from whence they sprung, and cannot reckon above eight
hundred or a thousand years at most? Why was not the manner of the
worship of a God transmitted as well as that of his existence? How
came men to dissent in their opinions concerning his nature, whether
he was corporeal or incorporeal, finite or infinite, omnipresent
or limited? Why were not men as negligent to transmit this of his
existence as that of his nature? No reason can be rendered for
the security of this above the other, but that there is so clear a
tincture of a Deity upon the minds of men, such traces and shadows
of him in the creatures, such indelible {a38} instincts within, and
invincible arguments without to keep up this universal consent. The
characters are so deep that they cannot possibly be rased out, which
would have been one time or other, in one nation or other, had it
depended only upon tradition, since one age shakes off frequently the
sentiments of the former. I cannot think of above one which may be
called a tradition, which indeed was kept up among all nations, viz.
sacrifices, which could not be natural but instituted. What ground
could they have in nature, to imagine that the blood of beasts could
expiate and wash off the guilt and stains of a rational creature? Yet
they had in all places (but among the Jews, and some of them only)
lost the knowledge of the reason and end of the institution, which the
Scripture acquaints us was to typify and signify the redemption by the
Promised Seed. This tradition hath been superannuated and laid aside
in most parts of the world, while this notion of the existence of a
God hath stood firm. But suppose it were a tradition, was it likely
to be a mere intention and figment of the first man? Had there been no
reason for it, this posterity would soon have found out the weakness
of its foundation. What advantage had it been to him to transmit
so great a falsehood to kindle the fears or raise the hopes of his
posterity, if there were no God? It cannot be supposed he should
be so void of that natural affection men in all ages bear to their
descendants, as so grossly to deceive them, and be so contrary to the
simplicity and plainness which appears in all things nearest their

Secondly, Neither was it by any mutual intelligence of governors
among themselves to keep people in subjection to them. If it were a
political design at first, it seems it met with the general nature of
mankind very ready to give it entertainment.

1. It is unaccountable how this should come to pass. It must be either
by a joint assembly of them, or a mutual correspondence. If by an
assembly, who were the persons? Let the name of any one be mentioned.
When was the time? Where was the place of this appearance? By what
authority did they meet together? Who made the first motion, and
first started this great principle of policy? By what means could
they assemble from such distant parts of the world? Human histories
are utterly silent in it, and the Scripture, the ancientest history,
gives an account of the attempt of Babel, but not a word of any design
of this nature. What mutual correspondence could such have, whose
interests are for the most part different, and their designs contrary
to one another? How could they, who were divided by such vast seas,
have this mutual converse? How could those who were different in their
customs and manners, agree so unanimously together in one thing to
gull the people? If there had been such a correspondence between the
governors of all nations, what is the reason some nations should be
unknown to the world till of late times? How could the business be so
secretly managed, as not to take vent, and issue in a discovery to the
world? Can reason suppose so many in a joint conspiracy, and no man’s
conscience in his life under sharp afflictions, or on his death‑bed,
when conscience is most awakened, constrain him to reveal openly the
cheat that beguiled the world? How came they to be so unanimous {a39}
in this notion, and to differ in their rites almost in every country?
why could they not agree in one mode of worship throughout all the
world, as well as in this universal notion? If there were not a
mutual intelligence, it cannot be conceived how in every nation such
a state‑engineer should rise up with the same trick to keep people in
awe. What is the reason we cannot find any law in any one nation to
constrain men to the belief of the existence of a God, since politic
stratagems have been often fortified by laws? Besides, such men make
use of principles received to effect their contrivances, and are
not so impolitic as to build designs upon principles that have no
foundation in nature. Some heathen lawgivers have pretended a converse
with their gods, to make their laws be received by the people with
a greater veneration, and fix with stronger obligation the observance
and perpetuity of them; but this was not the introducing a new
principle, but the supposition of an old received notion, that there
was a God, and an application of that principle to their present
design. The pretence had been vain had not the notion of a God been
ingrafted. Politicians are so little possessed with a reverence of God,
that the first mighty one in the Scripture (which may reasonably gain
with the atheist the credit of the ancientest history in the world),
is represented without any fear of God.[34] An invader and oppressor
of his neighbors, and reputed the introducer of a new worship, and
being the first that built cities after the flood (as Cain was the
first builder of them before the flood), built also idolatry with
them, and erected a new worship, and was so far from strengthening
that notion the people had of God, that he endeavored to corrupt it.
The first idolatry in common histories being noted to proceed from
that part of the world; the ancientest idol being at Babylon, and
supposed to be first invented by this person: whence, by the way,
perhaps Rome is in the Revelations called Babylon, with respect to
that similitude of their saint‑worship, to the idolatry first set up
in that place.[35] ’Tis evident politicians have often changed the
worship of a nation, but it is not upon record that the first thoughts
of an object of worship ever entered into the minds of people by any
trick of theirs.

But to return to the present argument, the being of a God is owned
by some nations that have scarce any form of policy among them. ’Tis
as wonderful how any wit should hit upon such an invention, as it is
absurd to ascribe it to any human device, if there were not prevailing
arguments to constrain the consent. Besides, how is it possible they
should deceive themselves? What is the reason the greatest politicians
have their fears of a Deity upon their unjust practices, as well as
other men they intend to befool? How many of them have had forlorn
consciences upon a death‑bed, upon the consideration of a God to
answer an account to in another world? Is it credible they should
be frighted by that wherewith they knew they beguiled others? No man
satisfying his pleasures would impose {a40} such a deceit upon himself
to render and make himself more miserable than the creatures he hath
dominion over.

2. It is unaccountable how it should endure so long a time; that this
policy should be so fortunate as to gain ground in the consciences of
men, and exercise an empire over them, and meet with such an universal
success. If the notion of a God were a state‑engine, and introduced
by some political grandees, for the ease of government, and preserving
people with more facility in order, how comes it to pass the first
broachers of it were never upon record? There is scarce a false
opinion vented in the world, but may, as a stream, be traced to the
first head and fountain. The inventors of particular forms of worship
are known; and the reasons why they prescribed them known; but what
grandee was the author of this? Who can pitch a time and person that
sprung up this notion? If any be so insolent as to impose a cheat,
he can hardly be supposed to be so successful as to deceive the whole
world for many ages: impostures pass not free through the whole world
without examination and discovery: falsities have not been universally
and constantly owned without control and question. If a cheat imposeth
upon some towns and countries, he will be found out by the more
piercing inquiries of other places; and it is not easy to name any
imposture that hath walked so long in its disguise in the world,
without being unmasked and whipped out by some nation or other. If
this had been a mere trick, there would have been as much craft in
some to discern it as there was in others to contrive it. No man can
be imagined so wise in a kingdom, but others may be found as wise as
himself: and it is not conceivable, that so many clear‑sighted men in
all ages should be ignorant of it, and not endeavour to free the world
from so great a falsity. It cannot be found that a trick of state
should always beguile men of the most piercing insights, as well as
the most credulous: that a few crafty men should befool all the wise
men in the world, and the world lie in a belief of it and never like
to be freed from it.[36] What is the reason the succeeding politicians
never knew this stratagem; since their maxims are usually handed to
their successors.[37]

This persuasion of the existence of God, owes not itself to any
imposture or subtility of men: if it had not been agreeable to common
nature and reason, it could not so long have borne sway. The imposed
yoke would have been cast off by multitudes; men would not have
charged themselves with that which was attended with consequences
displeasing to the flesh, and hindered them from a full swing of their
rebellious passions; such a shackle would have mouldered of itself,
or been broke by the extravagances human nature is inclined unto. The
wickedness of men, without question, hath prompted them to endeavour
to unmask it, if it were a cosenage, but could never yet be so
successful as to free the world from a persuasion, or their own
consciences from the tincture of the existence of a Deity. It must
be therefore of an ancienter date than the craft of statesmen, and
descend into the world with the first appearance of human nature.
{a41} Time, which hath rectified many errors, improves this notion,
makes it shock down its roots deeper and spread its branches larger.

It must be a natural truth that shines clear by the detection of those
errors that have befooled the world, and the wit of man is never able
to name any human author that first insinuated it into the beliefs of

Thirdly, Nor was it fear first introduced it. Fear is the consequent
of wickedness. As man was not created with any inherent sin, so he
was not created with any terrifying fears; the one had been against
the holiness of the Creator, the other against his goodness: fear did
not make this opinion, but the opinion of the being of a Deity was
the cause of this fear, after his sense of angering the Deity by his
wickedness. The object of fear is before the act of fear; there could
not be an act of fear exercised about the Deity, till it was believed
to be existent, and not only so, but offended: for God as existent
only, is not the object of fear or love; it is not the existence of a
thing that excites any of those affections, but the relation a thing
bears to us in particular. God is good, and so the object of love, as
well as just, and thereby the object of fear. He was as much called
_Love_,[38] and _Mens_, or _Mind_, in regard of his goodness and
understanding, by the heathens, as much as by any other name. Neither
of those names were proper to insinuate fear; neither was fear the
first principle that made the heathens worship a God; they offered
sacrifices out of gratitude to some, as well as to other, out of fear;
the fear of evils in the world, and the hopes of relief and assistance
from their gods, and not a terrifying fear of God, was the principal
spring of their worship. When calamities from the hands of men, or
judgments by the influences of Heaven were upon them, they implored
that which they thought a deity; it was not their fear of him, but
a hope in his goodness, and persuasion of remedy from him, for the
averting those evils that rendered them adorers of a God: if they had
not had pre‑existing notions of his being and goodness, they would
never have made addresses to him, or so frequently sought to that they
only apprehended as a terrifying object.[39] When you hear men calling
upon God in a time of affrighting thunder, you cannot imagine that the
fear of thunder did first introduce the notion of a God, but implies,
that it was before apprehended by them, or stamped upon them, though
their fear doth at present actuate that belief, and engage them in a
present exercise of piety; and whereas the Scripture saith, “The fear
of God is the beginning of wisdom,”[40] or of all religion; it is not
understood of a distracted and terrifying fear, but a reverential fear
of him, because of his holiness; or a worship of him, a submission to
him, and sincere seeking of him.

Well, then, is it not a folly for an atheist to deny that which is the
reason and common sentiment of the whole world; to strip himself of
humanity, run counter to his own conscience, prefer a private before
an universal judgment, give the lie to his own nature and reason,
assert things impossible to be proved, nay, impossible to be acted,
forge irrationalities for the support of his fancy against the common
{a42} persuasion of the world, and against himself, and so much of God
as is manifest in him and every man?[41]

_Reason II._ It is a folly to deny that which all creatures or all
things in the world manifest.[42] Let us view this in Scripture,
since we acknowledge it, and after consider the arguments from natural

The apostle resolves it (Rom. i. 19, 20), “The invisible things of him
from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by
the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that
they are without excuse.” They know, or might know, by the things
that were made, the eternity and power of God; their sense might take
a circuit about every object, and their minds collect the being and
something of the perfections of the Deity. The first discourse of
the mind upon the sight of a delicate piece of workmanship, is the
conclusion of the being of an artificer, and the admiration of his
skill and industry. The apostle doth not say, the invisible things
of God are _believed_, or they have an opinion of them, but they are
_seen_, and _clearly seen_. They are like crystal glasses, which give
a clear representation of the existence of a Deity, like that mirror,
reported to be in a temple in Arcadia, which represented to the
spectator, not his own face, but the image of that deity which he
worshipped. The whole world is like a looking‑glass, which, whole
and entire, represents the image of God, and every broken piece of
it, every little shred of a creature doth the like; not only the
great ones, elephants and the leviathan, but ants, flies, worms, whose
bodies rather than names we know: the greater cattle and the creeping
things (Gen. i. 24); not naming there any intermediate creature, to
direct us to view him in the smaller letters, as well as the greater
characters of the world. His name is “glorious,” and his attributes
are excellent “in all the earth;”[43] in every creature, as the glory
of the sun is in every beam and smaller flash; he is seen in every
insect, in every spire of grass. The voice of the Creator is in
the most contemptible creature. The apostle adds, that they are so
clearly seen, that men are inexcusable if they have not some knowledge
of God by them; if they might not certainly know them, they might
have some excuse: so that his existence is not only probably, but
demonstratively proved from the things of the world.[44]

Especially the heavens declare him, which God “stretches out like
a curtain,”[45] or, as some render the word, a “skin,” whereby is
signified, that heaven is as an open book, which was anciently made
of the skins of beasts, that by the knowledge of them we may be taught
the knowledge of God. Where Scripture was not revealed, the world
served for a witness of a God; whatever arguments the Scripture uses
to prove it, are drawn from nature (though, indeed, it doth not so
much prove as suppose the existence of a God); but what arguments it
uses are from the creatures, and particularly the heavens, which are
the public preachers of this doctrine. The breath of God sounds to
all the world through those organ‑pipes. His being is visible in their
existence, his wisdom in their frame, his power in their {a43} motion,
his goodness in their usefulness. They have a voice, and their voice
is as intelligible as any common language.[46] And those are so
plain heralds of a Deity, that the heathen mistook them for deities,
and gave them a particular adoration, which was due to that God they
declared. The first idolatry seems to be of those heavenly bodies,
which began probably in the time of Nimrod. In Job’s time it is
certain they admired the glory of the sun, and the brightness of the
moon, not without kissing their hands, a sign of adoration.[47] It is
evident a man may as well doubt whether there be a sun, when he sees
his beams gilding the earth, as doubt whether there be a God, when he
sees his works spread in the world.

The things in the world declare the existence of a God. 1. In their
production. 2. Harmony. 3. Preservation. 4. Answering their several

First, In their production. The declaration of the existence of God
was the chief end for which they were created, that the notion of
a supreme and independent Eternal Being might easier incur into the
active understanding of man from the objects of sense, dispersed in
every corner of the world, that he might pay a homage and devotion
to the Lord of all (Isai. xl. 12, 13, 18, 19, &c.), “Have you not
understood from the foundation of the earth, it is he that sits upon
the circle of the heaven,” &c. How could this great heap be brought
into being, unless a God had framed it? Every plant, every atom, as
well as every star, at the first meeting, whispers this in our ears,
“I have a Creator; I am witness to a Deity.” Who ever saw statues or
pictures but presently thinks of a statuary and limner? Who beholds
garments, ships, or houses, but understands there was a weaver, a
carpenter, an architect?[48] Who can cast his eyes about the world,
but must think of that power that formed it, and that the goodness
which appears in the formation of it hath a perfect residence in some
being? “Those things that are good must flow from something perfectly
good: that which is chief in any kind is the cause of all of that
kind. Fire, which is most hot, is the cause of all things which are
hot. There is some being, therefore, which is the cause of all that
perfection which is in the creature; and this is God.” (_Aquin. 1
qu. 2. Artic. 3._) All things that are demonstrate something from
whence they are. All things have a contracted perfection, and what
they have is communicated to them. Perfections are parcelled out among
several creatures. Anything that is imperfect cannot exist of itself.
We are led, therefore, by them to consider a fountain which bubbles up
in all perfection; a hand which distributes those several degrees of
being and perfection to what we see. We see that which is imperfect;
our minds conclude something perfect to exist before it. Our eye sees
the streams, but our understanding riseth to the head; as the eye sees
the shadow, but the understanding informs us whether it be the shadow
of a man or of a beast.

God hath given us sense to behold the objects in the world, and
understanding to reason his existence from them. The understanding
cannot conceive a thing to have made itself; that is against all {a44}
reason. As they are made, they speak out a Maker,[49] and cannot be a
trick of chance, since they are made with such an immense wisdom, that
is too big for the grasp of all human understanding. Those that doubt
whether the existence of God be an implanted principle, yet agree that
the effects in the world lead to a supreme and universal cause; and
that if we have not the knowledge of it rooted in our natures, yet we
have it by discourse; since, by all masters of reason, a _processus
in infinitum_ must be accounted impossible in subordinate causes. This
will appear in several things.

I. The world and every creature had a beginning. The Scripture
ascertains this to us.[50] David, who was not the first man, gives
the praise to God of his being “curiously wrought,” &c. (Ps. cxxxix.
14, 15). God gave being to men, and plants, and beasts, before they
gave being to one another. He gives being to them now as the Fountain
of all being, though the several modes of being are from the several
natures of second causes.

It is true, indeed, we are ascertained that they were made by the true
God; that they were made by his word; that they were made of nothing;
and not only this lower world wherein we live, but, according to the
Jewish division, the world of men, the world of stars, and the world
of spirits and souls. We do not waver in it, or doubt of it, as the
heathen did in their disputes; we know they are the workmanship of
the true God, of that God we adore, not of false gods; “by his word,”
without any instrument or engine, as in earthly structures; “of
things which do not appear,” without any pre‑existent matter, as all
artificial works of men are framed. Yet the proof of the beginning of
the world is affirmed with good reason; and if it had a beginning, it
had also some higher cause than itself: every effect hath a cause.

The world was not eternal, or from eternity.[51] The matter of the
world cannot be eternal. Matter cannot subsist without form, nor put
on any form without the action of some cause. This cause must be in
being before it acted; that which is not cannot act. The cause of the
world must necessarily exist before any matter was endued with any
form; that, therefore, cannot be eternal before which another did
subsist; if it were from eternity, it would not be subject to mutation.
If the whole was from eternity, why not also the parts; what makes the
changes so visible, then, if eternity would exempt it from mutability?

1. Time cannot be infinite, and, therefore, the world not eternal.
All motion hath its beginning; if it were otherwise, we must say the
number of heavenly revolutions of days and nights, which are past to
this instant, is actually infinite, which cannot be in nature.[52] If
it were so, it must needs be granted that a part is equal to the whole;
because infinite being equal to infinite, the number of days past, in
all ages to the beginning of one year being infinite (as they would be,
supposing the world had no beginning) would by consequence be equal
to the number of days which shall pass to the end of the {a45} next;
whereas that number of days past is indeed but a part; and so a part
would be equal to the whole.

2. Generations of men, animals, and plants, could not be from
eternity. If any man say the world was from eternity, then there must
be propagations of living creatures in the same manner as are at this
day; for without this the world could not consist.[53] What we see
now done must have been perpetually done, if it be done by a necessity
of nature; but we see nothing now that doth arise but by a mutual
propagation from another. If the world were eternal, therefore, it
must be so in all eternity. Take any particular species. Suppose a man,
if men were from eternity; then there were perpetual generations――some
were born into the world, and some died. Now the natural condition of
generation is, that a man doth not generate a man, nor a sheep a lamb,
as soon as ever itself is brought into the world; but get strength and
vigor by degrees, and must arrive to a certain stated age before they
can produce the like; for whilst anything is little and below the due
age, it cannot increase its kind. Men, therefore, and other creatures,
did propagate their kind by the same law, not as soon as ever they
were born, but in the interval of some time; and children grew up
by degrees in the mother’s womb till they were fit to be brought
forth. If this be so, then there could not be an eternal succession
of propagating; for there is no eternal continuation of time. Time
is always to be conceived as having one part before another; but
that perpetuity of nativities is always after some time, wherein it
could not be for the weakness of age. If no man, then, can conceive
a propagation from eternity, there must be then a beginning of
generation in time, and, consequently, the creatures were made in time.

“If the world were eternal, it must have been in the same posture as
it is now, in a state of generation and corruption; and so corruption
must have been as eternal as generation, and then things that do
generate and corrupt must have eternally been and eternally not have
been: there must be some first way to set generation on work.”[54] We
must lose ourselves in our conceptions; we cannot conceive a father
before a child, as well as we cannot conceive a child before a father:
and reason is quite bewildered, and cannot return into a right way of
conception, till it conceive one first of every kind: one first man,
one first animal, one first plant, from whence others do proceed. The
argument is unanswerable, and the wisest atheist (if any atheist can
be called wise) cannot unloose the knot. We must come to something
that is first in every kind, and this first must have a cause, not of
the same kind, but infinite and independent; otherwise men run into
inconceivable labyrinths and contradictions.

Man, the noblest creature upon earth, hath a beginning. No man in
the world but was some years ago no man. If every man we see had a
beginning, then the first man had also a beginning, then the world
had a beginning: for the earth, which was made for the use of man, had
wanted that end for which it was made. We must pitch upon some one man
that was unborn; that first man must either be eternal; that cannot be,
for he that hath no beginning hath no end; or must {a46} spring out of
the earth as plants and trees do;[55] that cannot be; why should not
the earth produce men to this day, as it doth plants and trees? He was
therefore made; and whatsoever is made hath some cause that made it,
which is God. If the world were uncreated, it were then immutable,
but every creature upon the earth is in a continual flux, always
changing:[56] if things be mutable, they were created; if created,
they were made by some author: whatsoever hath a beginning must have
a maker; if the world hath a beginning, there was then a time when it
was not; it must have some cause to produce it. That which makes is
before that which is made, and this is God.

II. Which will appear further in this proposition, No creature can
make itself; the world could not make itself.

If every man had a beginning, every man then was once nothing; he
could not then make himself, because nothing cannot be the cause
of something; ‘The Lord he is God; he hath made us, and not we
ourselves.’ (Ps. c. 3.) Whatsoever begun in time was not; and when it
was nothing, it had nothing, and could do nothing; and therefore could
never give to itself, nor to any other, to be, or to be able to do:
for then it gave what it had not, and did what it could not. Since
reason must acknowledge a first of every kind, a first man, &c., it
must acknowledge him created and made, not by himself:[57] why have
not other men since risen up by themselves, not by chance? why hath
not chance produced the like in that long time the world hath stood?
If we never knew anything give being to itself, how can we imagine
anything ever could? If the chiefest part of this lower world cannot,
nor any part of it hath been known to give being to itself, then the
whole cannot be supposed to give any being to itself: man did not form
himself; his body is not from himself; it would then have the power
of moving itself, but that it is not able to live or act without the
presence of the soul. Whilst the soul is present, the body moves;
when that is absent, the body lies as a senseless log, not having
the least action or motion. His soul could not form itself. Can that
which cannot form the least mote, the least grain of dust, form itself
a nobler substance than any upon the earth? This will be evident to
every man’s reason, if we consider,

1. Nothing can act before it be. The first man was not, and therefore
could not make himself to be. For anything to produce itself is to act;
if it acted before it was, it was then something and nothing at the
same time; it then had a being before it had a being; it acted when it
brought itself into being. How could it act without a being, without
it was? So that if it were the cause of itself, it must be before
itself as well as after itself; it was before it was; it was as a
cause before it was as an effect. Action always supposeth a principle
from whence it flows; as nothing hath no existence, so it hath no
operation: there must be, therefore, something of real existence to
give a being to those things that are, and every cause must be an
effect of some other before it be a cause. To be and not to be at the
same time, is a manifest contradiction, which would be, if anything
made itself. That which makes is always before that {a47} which is
made. Who will say the house is before the carpenter, or the picture
before the limner? The world as a creator must be before itself as a

2. That which doth not understand itself and order itself could not
make itself. If the first man fully understood his own nature, the
excellency of his own soul, the manner of its operations, why was not
that understanding conveyed to his posterity? Are not many of them
found, who understand their own nature, almost as little as a beast
understands itself; or a rose understands its own sweetness; or a
tulip its own colors? The Scripture, indeed, gives us an account how
this came about, viz. by the deplorable rebellion of man, whereby
death was brought upon them (a spiritual death, which includes
ignorance, as well as an inability to spiritual action.[58]) Thus
he fell from his honor, and became like the beasts that perish, and
not retaining God in his knowledge, retained not himself in his own

But what reply can an atheist make to it, who acknowledges no higher
cause than nature? If the soul made itself, how comes it to be so
muddy, so wanting in its knowledge of itself, and of other things?
If the soul made its own understanding, whence did the defect arise?
If some first principle was settled by the first man in himself,
where was the stop that he did not implant all in his own mind, and,
consequently in the minds of all his descendants? Our souls know
little of themselves, little of the world, are every day upon new
inquiries, have little satisfaction in themselves, meet with many
an invincible rub in their way, and when they seem to come to some
resolution in some cases, stagger again, and, like a stone rolled up
to the top of the hill, quickly find themselves again at the foot.
How come they to be so purblind in truth? so short of that which they
judge true goodness? How comes it to pass they cannot order their
own rebellious affections, and suffer the reins they have to hold
over their affections to be taken out of their hands by the unruly
fancy and flesh? This no man that denies the being of a God, and the
revelation in Scripture, can give an account of. Blessed be God that
we have the Scripture, which gives us an account of those things, that
all the wit of men could never inform us of; and that when they are
discovered and known by revelation, they appear not contrary to reason!

3. If the first man made himself, how came he to limit himself? If he
gave himself being, why did he not give himself all the perfections
and ornaments of being? Nothing that made itself could sit down
contented with a little, but would have had as much power to give
itself that which is less, as to give itself being, when it was
nothing. The excellences it wanted had not been more difficult to gain
than the other which it possessed, as belonging to its nature. If the
first man had been independent upon another, and had his perfection
from himself, he might have acquired that perfection he wanted as well
as have bestowed upon himself that perfection he had; and then there
would have been no bounds set to him. He would have been omniscient
and immutable. He might have given {a48} himself what he would; if he
had had the setting his own bounds, he would have set none at all; for
what should restrain him? No man now wants ambition to be what he is
not; and if the first man had not been determined by another, but had
given himself being, he would not have remained in that determinate
being, no more than a toad would remain a toad, if it had power to
make itself a man, and that power it would have had, if it had given
itself a being. Whatsoever gives itself being, would give itself all
degrees of being, and so would have no imperfection, because every
imperfection is a want of some degree of being. He that could give
himself matter and life, might give himself everything.[59] The giving
of life is an act of omnipotence; and what is omnipotent in one thing
may be in all. Besides, if the first man had made himself, he would
have conveyed himself to all his posterity in the same manner;
every man would have had all the perfections of the first man, as
every creature hath the perfections of the same kind, from whence it
naturally issues; all are desirous to communicate what they can to
their posterity. Communicative goodness belongs to every nature. Every
plant propagates its kind in the same perfection it hath itself; and
the nearer anything comes to a rational nature, the greater affection
it hath to that which descends from it; therefore this affection
belongs to a rational nature much more. The first man, therefore,
if he had had power to give himself being, and, consequently, all
perfection, he would have had as much power to convey it down to his
posterity; no impediment could have stopped his way; then all souls
proceeding from that first man would have been equally intellectual.
What should hinder them from inheriting the same perfections?
Whence should they have divers qualifications and differences in
their understandings? No man then would have been subject to those
weaknesses, doubtings, and unsatisfied desires of knowledge and
perfection. But being all souls are not alike, it is certain they
depend upon some other cause for the communication of that excellency
they have. If the perfections of man be so contracted and kept within
certain bounds, it is certain that they were not in his own power,
and so were not from himself. Whatsoever hath a determinate being must
be limited by some superior cause. There is, therefore, some superior
power, that hath thus determined the creature by set bounds and
distinct measures, and hath assigned to every one its proper nature,
that it should not be greater or less than it is; who hath said of
every one as of the waves of the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but
no further;”[60] and this is God. Man could not have reserved any
perfection from his posterity; for since he doth propagate not by
choice, but nature, he could no more have kept back any perfection
from them, than he could, as he pleased, have given any perfection
belonging to his nature to them.

4. That which hath power to give itself being, cannot want power to
preserve that being. Preservation is not more difficult than creation.
If the first man made himself, why did he not preserve himself? He
is not now among the living in the world. How came he {a49} to be so
feeble as to sink into the grave? Why did he not inspire himself with
new heat and moisture, and fill his languishing limbs and declining
body with new strength? Why did he not chase away diseases and death
at the first approach? What creature can find the dust of the first
man? All his posterity traverse the stage and retire again; in a short
space their age departs, and is removed from them ‘as a shepherd’s
tent,’ and is ‘cut off with pining sickness.’[61] ‘The life of man is
as a wind, and like a cloud that is consumed and vanishes away. The
eye that sees him shall see him no more; he returns not to his house,
neither doth his place know him any more.’[62] The Scripture gives us
the reason of this, and lays it upon the score of sin against his
Creator, which no man without revelation can give any satisfactory
account of. Had the first man made himself, he had been sufficient
for himself, able to support himself without the assistance of any
creature. He would not have needed animals and plants, and other helps
to nourish and refresh him, nor medicines to cure him. He could not be
beholden to other things for his support, which he is certain he never
made for himself. His own nature would have continued that vigor,
which once he had conferred upon himself. He would not have needed
the heat and light of the sun; he would have wanted nothing sufficient
for himself in himself; he needed not have sought without himself for
his own preservation and comfort. What depends upon another is not
of itself; and what depends upon things inferior to itself is less of
itself. Since nothing can subsist of itself, since we see those things
upon which man depends for his nourishment and subsistence, growing
and decaying, starting into the world and retiring from it, as well as
man himself; some preserving cause must be concluded, upon which all

5. If the first man did produce himself, why did he not produce
himself before?

It hath been already proved, that he had a beginning, and could not
be from eternity. Why then did he not make himself before? Not because
he would not. For having no being, he could have no will; he could
neither be willing nor not willing. If he could not then, how could
he afterwards? If it were in his own power, he could have done it,
he would have done it; if it were not in his own power, then it was
in the power of some other cause, and that is God. How came he by
that power to produce himself? If the power of producing himself were
communicated by another, then man could not be the cause of himself.
That is the cause of it which communicated that power to it. But
if the power of being was in and from himself and in no other, nor
communicated to him, man would always have been in act, and always
have existed; no hindrance can be conceived. For that which had the
power of being in itself was invincible by anything that should stand
in the way of its own being.

We may conclude from hence, the excellency of the Scripture; that
it is a word not to be refused credit. It gives us the most rational
account of things in the 1st and 2d of Genesis, which nothing in the
world else is able to do.

III. No creature could make the world. No creature can create {a50}
another. If it creates of nothing, it is then omnipotent and so not
a creature. If it makes something of matter unfit for that which is
produced out of it, then the inquiry will be, Who was the cause of the
matter? and so we must arrive to some uncreated being, the cause of
all. Whatsoever gives being to any other must be the highest being,
and must possess all the perfections of that which it gives being to.
What visible creature is there which possesses the perfections of the
whole world? If therefore an invisible creature made the world, the
same inquiries will return whence that creature had its being? for he
could not make himself. If any creature did create the world, he must
do it by the strength and virtue of another, which first gave him
being, and this is God. For whatsoever hath its existence and virtue
of acting from another, is not God. If it hath its virtue from another,
it is then a second cause, and so supposeth a first cause. It must
have some cause of itself, or be eternally existent. If eternally
existent, it is not a second cause, but God; if not eternally existent,
we must come to something at length which was the cause of it, or else
be bewildered without being able to give an account of anything. We
must come at last to an infinite, eternal, independent Being, that
was the first cause of this structure and fabric wherein we and all
creatures dwell. The Scripture proclaims this aloud, “I am the Lord
and there is none else: I form the light, and I create darkness.”[63]
Man, the noblest creature, cannot of himself make a man, the chiefest
part of the world. If our parents only, without a superior power, made
our bodies or souls, they would know the frame of them; as he that
makes a lock knows the wards of it; he that makes any curious piece
of arras, knows how he sets the various colors together, and how many
threads went to each division in the web; he that makes a watch,
having the idea of the whole work in his mind, knows the motions of
it, and the reason of those motions. But both parents and children
are equally ignorant of the nature of their souls and bodies, and
of the reason of their motions. God only, that had the supreme hand
in forming us, in whose “book all our members are written, which in
continuance were fashioned,”[64] knows what we all are ignorant of. If
man hath in an ordinary course of generation his being chiefly from a
higher cause than his parents, the world then certainly had its being
from some infinitely wise intelligent Being, which is God. If it
were, as some fancy, made by an assembly of atoms, there must be some
infinite intelligent cause that made them, some cause that separated
them, some cause that mingled them together for the piling up so
comely a structure as the world. It is the most absurd thing to think
they should meet together by hazard, and rank themselves in that order
we see, without a higher and a wise agent. So that no creature could
make the world. For supposing any creature was formed before this
visible world, and might have a hand in disposing things, yet he must
have a cause of himself, and must act by the virtue and strength of
another, and this is God.

IV. From hence it follows, that there is a first cause of things,
which we call God. There must be something supreme in the order {a51}
of nature, something which is greater than all, which hath nothing
beyond it or above it, otherwise we must run _in infinitum_. We see
not a river, but we conclude a fountain; a watch, but we conclude an
artificer. As all number begins from unity, so all the multitude of
things in the world begins from some unity, oneness as the principle
of it. It is natural to arise from a view of those things, to the
conception of a nature more perfect than any. As from heat mixed
with cold, and light mixed with darkness, men conceive and arise in
their understandings to an intense heat and a pure light; and from a
corporeal or bodily substance joined with an incorporeal, (as man is
an earthly body and a spiritual soul), we ascend to a conception of
a substance purely incorporeal and spiritual: so from a multitude of
things in the world, reason leads us to one choice being above all.
And since in all natures in the world, we still find a superior nature;
the nature of one beast, above the nature of another; the nature of
man above the nature of beasts; and some invisible nature, the worker
of strange effects in the air and earth, which cannot be ascribed to
any visible cause, we must suppose some nature above all those, of
unconceivable perfection.

Every skeptic, one that doubts whether there be anything real or no
in the world, that counts everything an appearance, must necessarily
own a first cause.[65] They cannot reasonably doubt, but that there
is some first cause which makes the things appear so to them. They
cannot be the cause of their own appearance. For as nothing can have
a being from itself, so nothing can appear by itself and its own force.
Nothing can be and not be at the same time. But that which is not and
yet seems to be; if it be the cause why it seems to be what it is not,
it may be said to be and not to be. But certainly such persons must
think themselves to exist. If they do not, they cannot think; and if
they do exist, they must have some cause of that existence. So that
which way soever we turn ourselves, we must in reason own a first
cause of the world. Well then might the Psalmist term an atheist
a fool, that disowns a God against his own reason. Without owning a
God as the first cause of the world, no man can give any tolerable or
satisfactory account of the world to his own reason. And this first

1. Must necessarily exist. It is necessary that He by whom all things
are, should be before all things, and nothing before him.[66] And if
nothing be before him, he comes not from any other; and then he always
was, and without beginning. He is from himself; not that he once was
not, but because he hath not his existence from another, and therefore
of necessity he did exist from all eternity. Nothing can make itself,
or bring itself into being; therefore there must be some being which
hath no cause, that depends upon no other, never was produced by any
other, but was what he is from eternity, and cannot be otherwise;
and is not what he is by will, but nature, necessarily existing, and
always existing without any capacity or possibility ever not to be.

2. Must be infinitely perfect. Since man knows he is an imperfect
being, he must suppose the perfections he wants are seated in some
{a52} other being which hath limited him, and upon which he depends.
Whatsoever we conceive of excellency or perfection, must be in God.
For we can conceive no perfection but what God hath given us a power
to conceive. And he that gave us a power to conceive a transcendent
perfection above whatever we saw or heard of, hath much more in
himself; else he could not give us such a conception.

Secondly, As the production of the world, so the harmony of all
the parts of it declare the being and wisdom of a God. Without the
acknowledging God, the atheist can give no account of those things.
The multitude, elegancy, variety, and beauty of all things are steps
whereby to ascend to one fountain and original of them. Is it not a
folly to deny the being of a wise agent, who sparkles in the beauty
and motions of the heavens, rides upon the wings of the wind, and is
writ upon the flowers and fruits of plants? As the cause is known by
the effects, so the wisdom of the cause is known by the elegancy of
the work, the proportion of the parts to one another. Who can imagine
the world could be rashly made, and without consultation, which, in
every part of it, is so artificially framed? No work of art springs up
of its own accord.[67] The world is framed by an excellent art, and,
therefore, made by some skilful artist. As we hear not a melodious
instrument, but we conclude there is a musician that touches it,
as well as some skilful hand that framed and disposed it for those
lessons; and no man that hears the pleasant sound of a lute but will
fix his thoughts, not upon the instrument itself, but upon the skill
of the artist that made it, and the art of the musician that strikes
it, though he should not see the first, when he saw the lute, nor see
the other, when he hears the harmony: so a rational creature confines
not his thoughts to his sense when he sees the sun in its glory, and
the moon walking in its brightness; but riseth up in a contemplation
and admiration of that Infinite Spirit that composed, and filled them
with such sweetness. This appears,

1. In the linking contrary qualities together. All things are
compounded of the elements. Those are endued with contrary qualities,
dryness and moisture, heat and cold. These would always be contending
with and infesting one another’s rights, till the contest ended in the
destruction of one or both. Where fire is predominant, it would suck
up the water; where water is prevalent, it would quench the fire.
The heat would wholly expel the cold, or the cold overpower the heat;
yet we see them chained and linked one within another in every body
upon the earth, and rendering mutual offices for the benefit of that
body wherein they are seated, and all conspiring together in their
particular quarrels for the public interest of the body. How could
those contraries, that of themselves observe no order, that are always
preying upon one another, jointly accord together of themselves, for
one common end, if they were not linked in a common band, and reduced
to that order by some incomprehensible wisdom and power, which keeps
a hand upon them, orders their motions and directs their events, and
makes them friendly pass into one another’s natures? Confusion had
been the result of the discord and diversity of their natures; no
composition could have been of {a53} those conflicting qualities for
the frame of any body, nor any harmony arose from so many jarring
strings, if they had not been reduced into concord by one that is
supreme Lord over them, and knows how to dispose their varieties and
enmities for the public good. If a man should see a large city or
country, consisting of great multitudes of men, of different tempers,
full of frauds, and factions, and animosities in their natures against
one another, yet living together in good order and peace, without
oppressing and invading one another, and joining together for the
public good, he would presently conclude there were some excellent
governor, who tempered them by his wisdom, and preserved the public
peace, though he had never yet beheld him with his eye.[68] It is
as necessary to conclude a God, who moderates the contrarieties in
the world, as to conclude a wise prince who overrules the contrary
dispositions in a state, making every one to keep his own bounds
and confines. Things that are contrary to one another subsist in an
admirable order.

2. In the subserviency of one thing to another. All the members of
living creatures are curiously fitted for the service of one another,
destined to a particular end, and endued with a virtue to attain that
end, and so distinctly placed, that one is no hindrance to the other
in its operations.[69] Is not this more admirable than to be the
work of chance, which is incapable to settle such an order, and fix
particular and general ends, causing an exact correspondency of all
the parts with one another, and every part to conspire together for
one common end? One thing is fitted for another. The eye is fitted
for the sun, and the sun fitted for the eye. Several sorts of food are
fitted for several creatures, and those creatures fitted with organs
for the partaking that food.

(1.) Subserviency of heavenly bodies. The sun, the heart of the world,
is not for itself, but for the good of the world, as the heart of man
is for the good of the body.[70] How conveniently is the sun placed,
at a distance from the earth, and the upper heavens, to enlighten the
stars above, and enliven the earth below! If it were either higher
or lower, one part would want its influences. It is not in the higher
parts of the heavens; the earth, then, which lives and fructifies
by its influence would have been exposed to a perpetual winter and
chillness, unable to have produced anything for the sustenance of man
or beast. If seated lower, the earth had been parched up, the world
made uninhabitable, and long since had been consumed to ashes by the
strength of its heat. Consider the motion, as well as the situation of
the sun. Had it stood still, one part of the world had been cherished
by its beams, and the other left in a desolate widowhood, in a
disconsolate darkness. Besides, the earth would have had no shelter
from its perpendicular beams striking perpetually, and without any
remission, upon it. The same incommodities would have followed upon
its fixedness as upon its too great nearness. By a constant day, the
beauty of the stars had been obscured, the knowledge of their motions
been prevented, and a considerable part of the glorious wisdom of
the Creator, in those choice “works of his {a54} fingers,”[71] had
been veiled from our eyes. It moves in a fixed line, visits all parts
of the earth, scatters in the day its refreshing blessings in every
creek of the earth, and removes the mask from the other beauties of
heaven in the night, which sparkle out to the glory of the Creator.
It spreads its light, warms the earth, cherisheth the seeds, excites
the spirit in the earth, and brings fruit to maturity. View also the
air, the vast extent between heaven and earth, which serves for a
water‑course, a cistern for water, to bedew the face of the sun‑burnt
earth, to satisfy the desolate ground, and to cause the “bud of the
tender herb to spring forth.”[72] Could chance appoint the clouds of
the air to interpose as fans between the scorching heat of the sun,
and the faint bodies of the creatures? Can that be the “father of the
rain, or beget the drops of dew?”[73] Could anything so blind settle
those ordinances of heaven for the preservation of creatures on the
earth? Can this either bring or stay the bottles of heaven, when the
“dust grows into hardness, and the clouds cleave fast together?”[74]

(2.) Subserviency of the lower world, the earth, and sea, which was
created to be inhabited, (Isa. xlv. 18). The sea affords water to the
rivers, the rivers, like so many veins, are spread through the whole
body of the earth, to refresh and enable it to bring forth fruit for
the sustenance of man and beast, (Ps. civ. 10, 11). “He sends the
springs into the valleys, which run among the hills; they give drink
to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. He
causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service
of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” (ver. 14.) The
trees are provided for shades against the extremity of heat, a refuge
for the panting beasts, an “habitation for birds,” wherein to make
their nests (ver. 17), and a basket for their provision. How are
the valleys and mountains of the earth disposed for the pleasure and
profit of man! Every year are the fields covered with harvests for
the nourishing the creatures; no part is barren, but beneficial to
man. The mountains that are not clothed with grass for his food, are
set with stones to make him an habitation; they have their peculiar
services of metals and minerals, for the conveniency and comfort, and
benefit of man. Things which are not fit for his food, are medicines
for his cure, under some painful sickness. Where the earth brings not
forth corn, it brings forth roots for the service of other creatures.
Wood abounds more in those countries where the cold is stronger than
in others. Can this be the result of chance, or not rather of an
Infinite Wisdom? Consider the usefulness of the sea, for the supply
of rivers to refresh the earth: “Which go up by the mountains and down
by the valleys into the place God hath founded for them” (Ps. civ. 8):
a store‑house for fish, for the nourishment of other creatures, a
shop of medicines for cure, and pearls for ornament: the band that
ties remote nations together, by giving opportunity of passage to, and
commerce with, one another. How should that natural inclination of the
sea to cover the earth, submit to this subserviency to the creatures?
Who hath pounded in this fluid mass of water in certain limits,
and confined it to its {a55} own channel, for the accommodation of
such creatures, who, by its common law, can only be upon the earth?
Naturally the earth was covered with the deep as with a garment; the
waters stood above the mountains. “Who set a bound that they might not
pass over,”[75] that they return not again to cover the earth? Was it
blind chance or an Infinite Power, that “shut up the sea with doors,
and made thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and said, Hitherto
shall thou come and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be
stayed?”[76] All things are so ordered, that they are not _propter
se_, but _propter aliud_. What advantage accrues to the sun by its
unwearied rolling about the world? Doth it increase the perfection of
its nature by all its circuits? No; but it serves the inferior world,
it impregnates things by its heat. Not the most abject thing but hath
its end and use. There is a straight connection: the earth could not
bring forth fruit without the heavens; the heavens could not water the
earth without vapors from it.

(3.) All this subserviency of creatures centres in man. Other
creatures are served by those things, as well as ourselves, and
they are provided for their nourishment and refreshment, as well as
ours;[77] yet, both they, and all creatures meet in man, as lines in
their centres. Things that have no life or sense, are made for those
that have both life and sense; and those that have life and sense,
are made for those that are endued with reason. When the Psalmist
admiringly considers the heavens, moon and stars, he intimates man to
be the end for which they were created (Ps. viii. 3, 4): “What is man,
that thou art mindful of him?” He expresseth more particularly the
dominion that man hath “over the beasts of the field, the fowl of the
air, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the sea” (ver. 6‒8);
and concludes from thence, the “excellency of God’s name in all
the earth.” All things in the world, one way or other, centre in an
usefulness for man; some to feed him, some to clothe him, some to
delight him, others to instruct him, some to exercise his wit, and
others his strength. Since man did not make them, he did not also
order them for his own use. If they conspire to serve him who never
made them, they direct man to acknowledge another, who is the joint
Creator both of the lord and the servants under his dominion; and,
therefore, as the inferior natures are ordered by an invisible hand
for the good of man, so the nature of man is, by the same hand,
ordered to acknowledge the existence and the glory of the Creator of
him. This visible order man knows he did not constitute; he did not
settle those creatures in subserviency to himself; they were placed
in that order before he had any acquaintance with them, or existence
of himself; which is a question God puts to Job, to consider of (Job
xxxviii. 4): “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?
declare, if thou hast understanding.” All is ordered for man’s use;
the heavens answer to the earth, as a roof to a floor, both composing
a delightful habitation for man; vapors ascend from the earth, and
the heaven concocts them, and returns them back in welcome showers for
the supplying of the earth.[78] The light {a56} of the sun descends
to beautify the earth, and employs its heat to midwife its fruits,
and this for the good of the community, whereof man is the head;
and though all creatures have distinct natures, and must act for
particular ends, according to the law of their creation, yet there
is a joint combination for the good of the whole, as the common end;
just as all the rivers in the world, from what part soever they come,
whether north or south, fall into the sea, for the supply of that mass
of waters, which loudly proclaims some infinitely wise nature, who
made those things in so exact an harmony. “As in a clock, the hammer
which strikes the bell leads us to the next wheel, that to another,
the little wheel to a greater, whence it derives its motion, this
at last to the spring, which acquaints us that there was some artist
that framed them in this subordination to one another for this orderly

(4.) This order or subserviency is regular and uniform; everything is
determined to its particular nature.[80] The sun and moon make day and
night, months and years, determine the seasons, never are defective
in coming back to their station and place; they wander not from their
roads, shock not against one another, nor hinder one another in the
functions assigned them. From a small grain or seed, a tree springs,
with body, root, bark, leaves, fruit of the same shape, figure, smell,
taste; that there should be as many parts in one, as in all of the
same kind, and no more; and that in the womb of a sensitive creature
should be formed one of the same kind, with all the due members,
and no more; and the creature that produceth it knows not how it is
formed, or how it is perfected. If we say this is nature, this nature
is an intelligent being; if not, how can it direct all causes to
such uniform ends? if it be intelligent, this nature must be the same
we call God, “who ordered every herb to yield seed, and every fruit
tree to yield fruit after its kind, and also every beast, and every
creeping thing after its kind.” (Gen. i. 11, 12, 24.) And everything
is determined to its particular season; the sap riseth from the root
at its appointed time, enlivening and clothing the branches with a
new garment at such a time of the sun’s returning, not wholly hindered
by any accidental coldness of the weather, it being often colder at
its return, than it was at the sun’s departure. All things have their
seasons of flourishing, budding, blossoming, bringing forth fruit;
they ripen in their seasons, cast their leaves at the same time, throw
off their old clothes, and in the spring appear with new garments, but
still in the same fashion. The winds and the rain have their seasons,
and seem to be administered by laws for the profit of man.[81] No
satisfactory cause of those things can be ascribed to the earth,
the sea, or the air, or stars. “Can any understand the spreading
of his clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?” (Job xxxviii. 29).
The natural reason of those things cannot be demonstrated, without
recourse to an infinite and intelligent being; nothing can be rendered
capable of the direction of those things but a God.

This regularity in plants and animals is in all nations. The heavens
have the same motion in all parts of the world; all men have the same
law of nature in their mind; all creatures are stamped {a57} with the
same law of creation. In all parts the same creatures serve for the
same use; and though there be different creatures in India and Europe,
yet they have the same subordination, the same subserviency to one
another, and ultimately to man; which shows that there is a God, and
but one God, who tunes all those different strings to the same notes
in all places. Is it nature merely conducts these natural causes in
due measure to their proper effects, without interfering with one
another? Can mere nature be the cause of those musical proportions of
time? You may as well conceive a lute to sound its own strings without
the hand of an artist; a city well governed without a governor; an
army keep its stations without a general, as imagine so exact an order
without an orderer. Would any man, when he hears a clock strike, by
fit intervals, the hour of the day, imagine this regularity in it
without the direction of one that had understanding to manage it?
He would not only regard the motion of the clock, but commend the
diligence of the clock‑keeper.

(5.) This order and subserviency is constant. Children change the
customs and manners of their fathers; magistrates change the laws
they have received from their ancestors, and enact new ones in their
room: but in the world all things consist as they were created at the
beginning; the law of nature in the creatures hath met with no change.
Who can behold the sun rising in the morning, the moon shining in
the night, increasing and decreasing in its due spaces, the stars in
their regular motions night after night, for all ages, and yet deny a
President over them?[82] And this motion of the heavenly bodies, being
contrary to the nature of other creatures, who move in order to rest,
must be from some higher cause. But those, ever since the settling in
their places, have been perpetually rounding the world. What nature,
but one powerful and intelligent, could give that perpetual motion
to the sun,[83] which being bigger than the earth a hundred sixty‑six
times, runs many thousand miles with a mighty swiftness in the space
of an hour, with an unwearied diligence performing its daily task, and,
as a strong man, rejoicing to run its race, for above five thousand
years together, without intermission, but in the time of Joshua?[84]
It is not nature’s sun, but God’s sun, which he “makes to rise upon
the just and unjust.”[85] So a plant receives its nourishment from
the earth, sends forth the juice to every branch, forms a bud which
spreads it into a blossom and flower; the leaves of this drop off,
and leave a fruit of the same color and taste, every year, which,
being ripened by the sun, leaves seeds behind it for the propagation
of its like, which contains in the nature of it the same kind of buds,
blossoms, fruit, which were before; and being nourished in the womb
of the earth, and quickened by the power of the sun, discovers itself
at length, in all the progresses and motions which its predecessor
did. Thus in all ages, in all places, every year it performs the same
task, spins out fruit of the same color, taste, virtue, to refresh
the several creatures for which they are provided. {a58} This settled
state of things comes from that God who laid the “foundations of
the earth,” that it should “not be removed” forever;[86] and set
“ordinances for them” to act by a stated law;[87] according to which
they move as if they understood themselves to have made a covenant
with their Creator.[88]

3. Add to this union of contrary qualities, and the subserviency of
one thing to another, the admirable variety and diversity of things
in the world. What variety of metals, living creatures, plants! what
variety and distinction in the shape of their leaves, flowers, smell,
resulting from them! Who can number up the several sorts of beasts
on the earth, birds in the air, fish in the sea? How various are
their motions! Some creep, some go, some fly, some swim; and in all
this variety each creature hath organs or members, fitted for their
peculiar motion. If you consider the multitude of stars, which shine
like jewels in the heavens, their different magnitudes, or the variety
of colors in the flowers and tapestry of the earth, you could no more
conclude they made themselves, or were made by chance, than you can
imagine a piece of arras, with a diversity of figures and colors,
either wove itself, or were knit together by hazard.

How delicious is the sap of the vine, when turned into wine, above
that of a crab! Both have the same womb of earth to conceive them,
both agree in the nature of wood and twigs, as channels to convey it
into fruit. What is that which makes the one so sweet, the other so
sour, or makes that sweet which was a few weeks before unpleasantly
sharp? Is it the earth? No: they both have the same soil; the branches
may touch each other; the strings of their roots may, under ground,
entwine about one another. Is it the sun? both have the same beams.
Why is not the taste and color of the one as gratifying as the other?
Is it the root? the taste of that is far different from that of
the fruit it bears. Why do they not, when they have the same soil,
the same sun, and stand near one another, borrow something from one
another’s natures? No reason can be rendered, but that there is a
God of infinite wisdom hath determined this variety, and bound up the
nature of each creature within itself. “Everything follows the law
of its creation; and it is worthy observation, that the Creator of
them hath not given that power to animals, which arise from different
species, to propagate the like to themselves; as mules, that arise
from different species. No reason can be rendered of this, but the
fixed determination of the Creator, that those species which were
created by him should not be lost in those mixtures which are contrary
to the law of the creation?”[89] This cannot possibly be ascribed to
that which is commonly called nature, but unto the God of nature, who
will not have his creatures exceed their bounds or come short of them.

Now since among those varieties there are some things better than
other, yet all are good in their kind, and partake of goodness,[90]
there must be something better and more excellent than all those, from
whom they derive that goodness, which inheres in their nature and is
communicated by them to others: and this excellent Being must {a59}
inherit, in an eminent way in his own nature, the goodness of all
those varieties, since they made not themselves, but were made by
another. All that goodness which is scattered in those varieties must
be infinitely concentered in that nature, which distributed those
various perfections to them (Ps. xciv. 9): “He that planted the ear,
shall not he hear; he that formed the eye, shall not he see; he that
teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?” The Creator is greater
than the creature, and whatsoever is in his effects, is but an
impression of some excellency in himself: there is, therefore, some
chief fountain of goodness whence all those various goodnesses in the
world do flow.

From all this it follows, if there be an order, and harmony, there
must be an Orderer: one that “made the earth by his power, established
the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his
discretion” (Jer. x. 12). Order being the effect, cannot be the cause
of itself: order is the disposition of things to an end, and is not
intelligent, but implies an intelligent Orderer; and, therefore, it
is as certain that there is a God, as it is certain there is order in
the world. Order is an effect of reason and counsel; this reason and
counsel must have its residence in some being before this order was
fixed: the things ordered are always distinct from that reason and
counsel whereby they are ordered, and also after it, as the effect
is after the cause. No man begins a piece of work but he hath the
model of it in his own mind: no man builds a house, or makes a watch,
but he hath the idea or copy of it in his own head. This beautiful
world bespeaks an idea of it, or a model: since there is such a
magnificent wisdom in the make of each creature, and the proportion
of one creature to another, this model must be before the world, as
the pattern is always before the thing that is wrought by it. This,
therefore, must be in some intelligent and wise agent, and this is God.
Since the reason of those things exceed the reason and all the art of
man, who can ascribe them to any inferior cause? Chance it could not
be; the motions of chance are not constant, and at set seasons, as
the motions of creatures are. That which is by chance is contingent,
this is necessary; uniformity can never be the birth of chance. Who
can imagine that all the parts of a watch can meet together and put
themselves in order and motion by chance? “Nor can it be nature only,
which indeed is a disposition of second causes. If nature hath not
an understanding, it cannot work such effects. If nature therefore
uses counsel to begin a thing, reason to dispose it, art to effect it,
virtue to complete it, and power to govern it, why should it be called
nature rather than God?”[91] Nothing so sure as that which hath an end
to which it tends, hath a cause by which it is ordered to that end.
Since therefore all things are ordered in subserviency to the good of
man, they are so ordered by Him that made both man and them; and man
must acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of his Creator, and act in
subserviency to his glory, as other creatures act in subserviency to
his good. Sensible objects were not made only to gratify the sense of
man, but to hand something to his mind as he is a rational creature:
to discover God to {a60} him as an object of love and desire to be
enjoyed. If this be not the effect of it, the order of the creature,
as to such an one, is in vain, and falls short of its true end.[92]

To conclude this: As when a man comes into a palace, built according
to the exactest rule of art, and with an unexceptionable conveniency
for the inhabitants, he would acknowledge both the being and skill
of the builder; so whosoever shall observe the disposition of all
the parts of the world, their connection, comeliness, the variety of
seasons, the swarms of different creatures, and the mutual offices
they render to one another, cannot conclude less, than that it was
contrived by an infinite skill, effected by infinite power, and
governed by infinite wisdom. None can imagine a ship to be orderly
conducted without a pilot; nor the parts of the world to perform their
several functions without a wise guide; considering the members of the
body cannot perform theirs, without the active presence of the soul.
The atheist, then, is a fool to deny that which every creature in his
constitution asserts, and thereby renders himself unable to give a
satisfactory account of that constant uniformity in the motions of
the creatures.

Thirdly, As the production and harmony, so particular creatures,
pursuing and attaining their ends, manifest that there is a God. All
particular creatures have natural instincts, which move them for some
end. The intending of an end is a property of a rational creature;
since the lower creatures cannot challenge that title, they must act
by the understanding and direction of another; and since man cannot
challenge the honor of inspiring the creatures with such instincts,
it must be ascribed to some nature infinitely above any creature in
understanding. No creature doth determine itself. Why do the fruits
and grain of the earth nourish us, when the earth which instrumentally
gives them that fitness, cannot nourish us, but because their several
ends are determined by one higher than the world?

1. Several creatures have several natures. How soon will all creatures,
as soon as they see the light, move to that whereby they must live,
and make use of the natural arms God hath given their kind, for their
defence, before they are grown to any maturity to afford them that
defence! The Scripture makes the appetite of infants to their milk a
foundation of the divine glory, (Ps. viii. 3), “Out of the mouths of
babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength;” that is, matter of
praise and acknowledgment of God, in the natural appetite they have
to their milk and their relish of it. All creatures have a natural
affection to their young ones; all young ones by a natural instinct,
move to, and receive the nourishment that is proper for them; some
are their own physicians, as well as their own caterers, and naturally
discern what preserves them in life, and what restores them when
sick. The swallow flies to its celandine, and the toad hastens to
its plantain. Can we behold the spider’s nets, or silkworm’s web,
the bee’s closets, or the ant’s granaries, without acknowledging a
higher being than a creature who hath planted that genius in them?
The consideration of the nature of several creatures God commended to
Job, (chap. xxxix., where he discourseth {a61} to Job of the natural
instincts of the goat, the ostrich, horse, and eagle, &c.) to persuade
him to the acknowledgment and admiration of God, and humiliation of
himself. The spider, as if it understood the art of weaving, fits its
web both for its own habitation, and a net to catch its prey. The bee
builds a cell which serves for chambers to reside in, and a repository
for its provision. Birds are observed to build their nests with a
clammy matter without, for the firmer duration of it, and with a soft
moss and down within, for the conveniency and warmth of their young.
“The stork knows his appointed time,” (Jer. viii. 7), and the swallows
observe the time of their coming; they go and return according to the
seasons of the year; this they gain not by consideration, it descends
to them with their nature; they neither gain nor increase it by
rational deductions. It is not in vain to speak of these. How little
do we improve by meditation those objects which daily offer themselves
to our view, full of instructions for us! And our Saviour sends his
disciples to spell God in the lilies.[93] It is observed also, that
the creatures offensive to man go single; if they went by troops, they
would bring destruction upon man and beast; this is the nature of them,
for the preservation of others.

2. They know not their end. They have a law in their natures, but
have no rational understanding, either of the end to which they are
appointed, or the means fit to attain it; they naturally do what they
do, and move by no counsel of their own, but by a law impressed by
some higher hand upon their natures. What plant knows why it strikes
its root into the earth? doth it understand what storms it is to
contest with? Or why it shoots up its branches towards heaven? doth it
know it needs the droppings of the clouds to preserve itself, and make
it fruitful? These are acts of understanding; the root is downward
to preserve its own standing, the branches upward to preserve other
creatures; this understanding is not in the creature itself, but
originally in another. Thunders and tempests know not why they are
sent; yet by the direction of a mighty hand, they are instruments of
justice upon a wicked world. Rational creatures that act for some end,
and know the end they aim at, yet know not the manner of the natural
motion of the members to it.[94] When we intend to look upon a thing,
we take no counsel about the natural motion of our eyes, we know
not all the principles of their operations, or how that dull matter
whereof our bodies are composed, is subject to the order of our minds.
We are not of counsel with our stomachs about the concoction of our
meat, or the distribution of the nourishing juice to the several parts
of the body.[95] Neither the mother nor the fœtus sit in council how
the formation should be made in the womb. We know no more than a plant
knows what stature it is of, and what medicinal virtue its fruit hath
for the good of man; yet all those natural operations are perfectly
directed to their proper end, by an higher wisdom than any human
understanding is able to conceive, since they exceed the ability
of an inanimate or fleshly nature, yea, and the wisdom of a man.
Do we not often {a62} see reasonable creatures acting for one end,
and perfecting a higher than what they aimed at or could suspect?
When Joseph’s brethren sold him for a slave, their end was to be
rid of an informer;[96] but the action issued in preparing him to
be the preserver of them and their families. Cyrus’s end was to be
a conqueror, but the action ended in being the Jews’ deliverer (Prov.
xvi. 9). “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his

3. Therefore there is some superior understanding and nature which so
acts them. That which acts for an end unknown to itself, depends upon
some overruling wisdom that knows that end. Who should direct them in
all those ends, but He that bestowed a being upon them for those ends;
who knows what is convenient for their life, security and propagation
of their natures?[97] An exact knowledge is necessary both of what is
agreeable to them, and the means whereby they must attain it, which,
since it is not inherent in them, is in that wise God, who puts those
instincts into them, and governs them in the exercise of them to such
ends. Any man that sees a dart flung, knows it cannot hit the mark
without the skill and strength of an archer; or he that sees the hand
of a dial pointing to the hours successively, knows that the dial
is ignorant of its own end, and is disposed and directed in that
motion by another. All creatures ignorant of their own natures, could
not universally in the whole kind, and in every climate and country,
without any difference in the whole world, tend to a certain end, if
some overruling wisdom did not preside over the world and guide them:
and if the creatures have a Conductor, they have a Creator; all things
are “turned round about by his counsel, that they may do whatsoever
he commands them, upon the face of the world in the earth.”[98] So
that in this respect the folly of atheism appears. Without the owning
a God, no account can be given of those actions of creatures, that
are an imitation of reason. To say the bees, &c. are rational, is
to equal them to man: nay, make them his superiors, since they do
more by nature than the wisest man can do by art: it is their own
counsel whereby they act, or another’s; if it be their own, they are
reasonable creatures; if by another’s, it is not mere nature that is
necessary; then other creatures would not be without the same skill,
there would be no difference among them. If nature be restrained by
another, it hath a superior; if not, it is a free agent; it is an
understanding Being that directs them; and then it is something
superior to all creatures in the world; and by this, therefore, we
may ascend to the acknowledgment of the necessity of a God.

Fourthly. Add to the production and order of the world and the
creatures acting for their end, the preservation of them. Nothing
can depend upon itself in its preservation, no more than it could
in its being. If the order of the world was not fixed by itself,
the preservation of that order cannot be continued by itself. Though
the matter of the world after creation cannot return to that nothing
whence it was fetched, without the power of God that made it, (because
the same power is as requisite to reduce a thing to nothing as to
raise a thing from nothing), yet without the actual exerting of a {a63}
power that made the creatures, they would fall into confusion. Those
contesting qualities which are in every part of it, could not have
preserved, but would have consumed, and extinguished one another, and
reduced the world to that confused chaos, wherein it was before the
Spirit moved upon the waters: as contrary parts could not have met
together in one form, unless there had been one that had conjoined
them; so they could not have kept together after their conjunction
unless the same hand had preserved them. Natural contrarieties cannot
be reconciled. It is as great power to keep discords knit, as at first
to link them. Who would doubt but that an army made up of several
nations and humors, would fall into a civil war and sheathe their
swords in one another’s bowels, if they were not under the management
of some wise general; or a ship dash against the rocks without the
skill of a pilot? As the body hath neither life nor motion without
the active presence of the soul, which distributes to every part
the virtue of acting, sets every one in the exercise of its proper
function, and resides in every part; so there is some powerful cause
which doth the like in the world, that rules and tempers it.[99] There
is need of the same power and action to preserve a thing, as there
was at first to make it. When we consider that we are preserved, and
know that we could not preserve ourselves, we must necessarily run to
some first cause which doth preserve us. All works of art depend upon
nature, and are preserved while they are kept by the force of nature,
as a statue depends upon the matter whereof it is made, whether stone
or brass; this nature, therefore, must have some superior by whose
influx it is preserved. Since, therefore, we see a stable order in
the things of the world, that they conspire together for the good and
beauty of the universe; that they depend upon one another; there must
be some principle upon which they do depend; something to which the
first link of the chain is fastened, which himself depends upon no
superior, but wholly rests in his own essence and being. It is the
title of God to be the “Preserver of man and beast.”[100] The Psalmist
elegantly describeth it, (Psalm civ. 24, &c.) “The earth is full of
his riches: all wait upon him, that he may give them their meat in
due season. When he opens his hand, he fills them with good; when
he hides his face they are troubled; if he take away their breath,
they die, and return to dust. He sends forth his Spirit, and they are
created, and renews the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall
endure forever; and the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” Upon the
consideration of all which, the Psalmist (ver. 34) takes a pleasure
in the meditation of God as the cause and manager of all those things;
which issues into a joy in God, and a praising of him. And why should
not the consideration of the power and wisdom of God in the creatures
produce the same effect in the hearts of us, if he be our God? Or, as
some render it, “My meditation shall be sweet,” or acceptable _to_ him,
whereby I find matter of praise in the things of the world, and offer
it to the Creator of it.

_Reason III._ It is a folly to deny that which a man’s own nature
witnesseth to him. The whole frame of bodies and souls bears the {a64}
impress of the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator: a body framed
with an admirable architecture, a soul endowed with understanding,
will, judgment, memory, imagination. Man is the epitome of the world,
contains in himself the substance of all natures, and the fulness of
the whole universe; not only in regard of the universalness of his
knowledge, whereby he comprehends the reasons of many things; but as
all the perfections of the several natures of the world are gathered
and united in man, for the perfection of his own, in a smaller volume.
In his soul he partakes of heaven; in his body of the earth. There is
the life of plants, the sense of beasts, and the intellectual nature
of angels. “The Lord breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and
man,”[101] &c.: חיים, _of lives_. Not one sort of _lives_, but several;
not only an _animal_, but a _rational_ life; a soul of a nobler
extract and nature, than what was given to other creatures. So that
we need not step out of doors, or cast our eyes any further than
ourselves, to behold a God. He shines in the capacity of our souls,
and the vigor of our members. We must fly from ourselves, and be
stripped of our own humanity, before we can put off the notion of a
Deity. He that is ignorant of the existence of God, must be possessed
of so much folly, as to be ignorant of his own make and frame.

1. In the parts whereof he doth consist, body and soul.

First, Take a prospect of the body. The Psalmist counts it a matter
of praise and admiration (Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16): “I will praise thee,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, in thy book
all my members were written.” The scheme of man and every member was
drawn in his book. All the sinews, veins, arteries, bones, like a
piece of embroidery or tapestry, were wrought by God, as it were, with
deliberation; like an artificer, that draws out the model of what he
is to do in writing, and sets it before him when he begins his work.
And, indeed, the fabric of man’s body, as well as his soul, is an
argument for a Divinity. The artificial structure of it, the elegancy
of every part, the proper situation of them, their proportion one to
another, the fitness for their several functions, drew from Galen[102]
(a heathen, and one that had no raised sentiments of a Deity) a
confession of the admirable wisdom and power of the Creator, and that
none but God could frame it.

1. In the order, fitness, and usefulness of every part. The whole
model of the body is grounded upon reason. Every member hath its
exact proportion, distinct office, regular motion. Every part hath a
particular comeliness, and convenient temperament bestowed upon it,
according to its place in the body. The heart is hot, to enliven the
whole; the eye clear, to take in objects to present them to the soul.
Every member is presented for its peculiar service and action. Some
are for sense, some for motion, some for preparing, and others for
dispensing nourishment to the several parts: they mutually depend
upon and serve one another. What small strings fasten the particular
members together, “as the earth, that hangs {a65} upon nothing!”[103]
Take but one part away, and you either destroy the whole, or stamp
upon it some mark of deformity. All are knit together by an admirable
symmetry; all orderly perform their functions, as acting by a settled
law; none swerving from their rule, but in case of some predominant
humor. And none of them, in so great a multitude of parts, stifled
in so little a room, or jostling against one another, to hinder their
mutual actions; none can be better disposed. And the greatest wisdom
of man could not imagine it, till his eyes present them with the sight
and connection of one part and member with another.

(1.) The heart.[104] How strongly it is guarded with ribs like a
wall, that it might not be easily hurt! It draws blood from the liver,
through a channel made for that purpose; rarefies it, and makes it
fit to pass through the arteries and veins, and to carry heat and
life to every part of the body: and by a perpetual motion, it sucks
in the blood, and spouts it out again; which motion depends not upon
the command of the soul, but is pure natural.

(2.) The mouth takes in the meat, the teeth grind it for the stomach,
the stomach prepares it, nature strains it through the milky veins,
the liver refines it, and mints it into blood, separates the purer
from the drossy parts, which go to the heart, circuits through the
whole body, running through the veins, like rivers through so many
channels of the world, for the watering of the several parts; which
are framed of a thin skin for the straining the blood through, for the
supply of the members of the body, and framed with several valves or
doors, for the thrusting the blood forwards to perform its circular

(3.) The brain, fortified by a strong skull, to hinder outward
accidents, a tough membrane or skin, to hinder any oppression by the
skull; the seat of sense, that which coins the animal spirits, by
purifying and refining those which are sent to it, and seems like a
curious piece of needlework.

(4.) The ear, framed with windings and turnings, to keep any thing
from entering to offend the brain; so disposed as to admit sounds with
the greatest safety and delight; filled with an air within, by the
motion whereof the sound is transmitted to the brain:[105] as sounds
are made in the air by diffusing themselves, as you see circles made
in the water by the flinging in a stone. This is the gate of knowledge,
whereby we hear the oracles of God, and the instruction of men for
arts. It is by this they are exposed to the mind, and the mind of
another man framed in our understandings.

(5.) What a curious workmanship is that of the eye, which is in the
body, as the sun in the world; set in the head as in a watchtower,
having the softest nerves for the receiving the greater multitude
of spirits necessary for the act of vision! How is it provided with
defence, by the variety of coats to secure and accommodate the little
humor and part whereby the vision is made! Made of a round figure, and
convex, as most commodious to receive the species of objects; shaded
by the eyebrows and eyelids; secured by the eyelids, which are its
ornament and safety, which refresh it when it is {a66} too much dried
by heat, hinder too much light from insinuating itself into it to
offend it, cleanse it from impurities, by their quick motion preserve
it from any invasion, and by contraction confer to the more evident
discerning of things. Both the eyes seated in the hollow of the bone
for security, yet standing out, that things may be perceived more
easily on both sides. And this little member can behold the earth,
and in a moment view things as high as heaven.

(6.) The tongue for speech framed like a musical instrument; the
teeth serving for variety of sounds; the lungs serving for bellows to
blow the organs as it were, to cool the heart, by a continual motion
transmitting a pure air to the heart, expelling that which was smoky
and superfluous.[106] It is by the tongue that communication of truth
hath a passage among men; it opens the sense of the mind; there would
be no converse and commerce without it. Speech among all nations hath
an elegancy and attractive force, mastering the affections of men.
Not to speak of other parts, or of the multitude of spirits that act
every part; the quick flight of them where there is a necessity of
their presence. Solomon (Eccles. xii.) makes an elegant description
of them, in his speech of old age; and Job speaks of this formation of
the body (Job x. 9‒11), &c. Not the least part of the body is made in
vain. The hairs of the head have their use, as well as are an ornament.
The whole symmetry of the body is a ravishing object. Every member
hath a signature and mark of God and his wisdom. He is visible in the
formation of the members, the beauty of the parts, and the vigor of
the body. This structure could not be from the body; that only hath a
passive power, and cannot act in the absence of the soul. Nor can it
be from the soul. How comes it then to be so ignorant of the manner of
its formation? The soul knows not the internal parts of its own body,
but by information from others, or inspection into other bodies. It
knows less of the inward frame of the body than it doth of itself; but
he that makes the clock can tell the number and motions of the wheels
within, as well as what figures are without.

This short discourse is _useful_ to raise our admirations of the
wisdom of God, as well as to demonstrate that there is an infinite
wise Creator; and the consideration of ourselves every day, and
the wisdom of God in our frame, would maintain religion much in the
world; since all are so framed that no man can tell any error in the
constitution of him. If thus the body of man is fitted for the service
of his soul by an infinite God, the body ought to be ordered for the
service of this God, and in obedience to him.

2. In the admirable difference of the features of men; which is a
great argument that the world was made by a wise Being. This could
not be wrought by chance, or be the work of mere nature, since we find
never, or very rarely, two persons exactly alike. This distinction
is a part of infinite wisdom; otherwise what confusion would be
introduced into the world? Without this, parents could not know their
children, nor children their parents, nor a brother his sister, nor
a subject his magistrate. Without it there had been no comfort of
relations, no government, no commerce. Debtors {a67} would not have
been known from strangers, nor good men from bad. Propriety could
not have been preserved, nor justice executed; the innocent might
have been apprehended for the nocent; wickedness could not have been
stopped by any law. The faces of men are the same for parts, not for
features, a dissimilitude in a likeness. Man, like to all the rest in
the world, yet unlike to any, and differenced by some mark from all,
which is not to be observed in any other species of creatures. This
speaks some wise agent which framed man; since, for the preservation
of human society and order in the world, this distinction was

Secondly, As man’s own nature witnesseth a God to him in the structure
of his body, so also “in the nature of his soul.”[107] We know that we
have an understanding in us; a substance we cannot see, but we know it
by its operations; as thinking, reasoning, willing, remembering, and
as operating about things that are invisible and remote from sense.
This must needs be distinct from the body; for that being but dust and
earth in its original, hath not the power of reasoning and thinking;
for then it would have that power, when the soul were absent, as well
as when it is present. Besides, if it had that power of thinking, it
could think only of those things which are sensible, and made up of
matter, as itself is. This soul hath a greater excellency; it can know
itself, rejoice in itself, which other creatures in this world are not
capable of. The soul is the greatest glory of this lower world; and,
as one saith, “There seems to be no more difference between the soul
and an angel, than between a sword in the scabbard and when it is out
of the scabbard.”[108]

1. Consider the vastness of its capacity. The understanding can
conceive the whole world, and paint in itself the invisible pictures
of all things. It is capable of apprehending and discoursing of things
superior to its own nature. “It is suited to all objects, as the
eye to all colors, or the ear to all sounds.”[109] How great is the
memory, to retain such varieties, such diversities! The will also can
accommodate other things to itself. It invents arts for the use of man:
prescribes rules for the government of states; ransacks the bowels of
nature; makes endless conclusions, and steps in reasoning from one
thing to another, for the knowledge of truth. It can contemplate and
form notions of things higher than the world.

2. The quickness of its motion. “Nothing is more quick in the whole
course of nature. The sun runs through the world in a day; this can
do it in a moment. It can, with one flight of fancy, ascend to the
battlements of heaven.”[110] The mists of the air, that hinder the
sight of the eye, cannot hinder the flights of the soul; it can pass
in a moment from one end of the world to the other, and think of
things a thousand miles distant. It can think of some mean thing in
the world; and presently, by one cast, in the twinkling of an eye,
mount up as high as heaven. As its desires are not bounded by sensual
objects, so neither are the motions of it restrained by them. It will
break forth with the greatest vigor, and conceive things infinitely
above it; though it be in the body, it acts as if it were ashamed
to be cloistered in it. This could not be the result of any {a68}
material cause. Whoever knew mere matter understand, think, will? and
what it hath not, it cannot give. That which is destitute of reason
and will, could never confer reason and will. It is not the effect
of the body; for the body is fitted with members to be subject to it.
It is in part ruled by the activity of the soul, and in part by the
counsel of the soul; it is used by the soul, and knows not how it is
used.[111] Nor could it be from the parents, since the souls of the
children often transcend those of the parents in vivacity, acuteness
and comprehensiveness. One man is stupid, and begets a son with
a capacious understanding; one is debauched and beastly in morals,
and begets a son who, from his infancy, testifies some virtuous
inclinations, which sprout forth in delightful fruit with the ripeness
of his age. Whence should this difference arise,――a fool begat the
wise man, and a debauched the virtuous man? The wisdom of the one
could not descend from the foolish soul of the other; nor the virtues
of the son, from the deformed and polluted soul of the parent.[112]
It lies not in the organs of the body: for if the folly of the parent
proceeded not from their souls, but the ill disposition of the organs
of their bodies, how comes it to pass that the bodies of the children
are better organized beyond the goodness of their immediate cause?
We must recur to some invisible hand, that makes the difference, who
bestows upon one at his pleasure richer qualities than upon another.
You can see nothing in the world endowed with some excellent quality,
but you must imagine some bountiful hand did enrich it with that dowry.
None can be so foolish as to think that a vessel ever enriched itself
with that sprightly liquor wherewith it is filled; or that anything
worse than the soul should endow it with that knowledge and activity
which sparkles in it. Nature could not produce it. That nature is
intelligent, or not; if it be not, then it produceth an effect more
excellent than itself, inasmuch as an understanding being surmounts
a being that hath no understanding. If the supreme cause of the soul
be intelligent, why do we not call it God as well as nature? We must
arise from hence to the notion of a God; a spiritual nature cannot
proceed but from a spirit higher than itself, and of a transcendent
perfection above itself. If we believe we have souls, and understand
the state of our own faculties, we must be assured that there was some
invisible hand which bestowed those faculties, and the riches of them
upon us. A man must be ignorant of himself before he can be ignorant
of the existence of God. By considering the nature of our souls, we
may as well be assured that there is a God, as that there is a sun, by
the shining of the beams in at our windows; and, indeed, the soul is
a statue and representation of God, as the landscape of a country or a
map represents all the parts of it, but in a far less proportion than
the country itself is. The soul fills the body, and God the world;
the soul sustains the body, and God the world; the soul sees, but is
not seen; God sees all things, but is himself invisible. How base are
they {a69} then that prostitute their souls, an image of God, to base
things unexpressibly below their own nature!

3. I might add, the union of soul and body. Man is a kind of compound
of angel and beast, of soul and body; if he were only a soul, he were
a kind of angel; if only a body, he were another kind of brute. Now
that a body as vile and dull as earth, and a soul that can mount up
to heaven, and rove about the world, with so quick a motion, should be
linked in so strait an acquaintance; that so noble a being as the soul
should be inhabitant in such a tabernacle of clay; must be owned to
some infinite power that hath so chained it.

Thirdly, Man witnesseth to a God in the operations and reflections of
conscience. (Rom. ii. 15), “Their thoughts are accusing or excusing.”
An inward comfort attends good actions, and an inward torment follows
bad ones; for there is in every man’s conscience fear of punishment
and hope of reward; there is, therefore, a sense of some superior
judge, which hath the power both of rewarding and punishing. If man
were his supreme rule, what need he fear punishment, since no man
would inflict any evil or torment on himself; nor can any man be
said to reward himself, for all rewards refer to another, to whom the
action is pleasing, and is a conferring some good a man had not before;
if an action be done by a subject or servant, with hopes of reward, it
cannot be imagined that he expects a reward from himself, but from the
prince or person whom he eyes in that action, and for whose sake he
doth it.

1. There is a law in the minds of men which is a rule of good and
evil. There is a notion of good and evil in the consciences of men,
which is evident by those laws which are common in all countries,
for the preserving human societies, the encouragement of virtue, and
discouragement of vice; what standard should they have for those laws
but a common reason? the design of those laws was to keep men within
the bounds of goodness for mutual commerce, whence the apostle calls
the heathen magistrate a “minister of God for good” (Rom. xiii. 4):
and “the Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the law”
(Rom. ii. 14).

Man in the first instant of the use of reason, finds natural
principles within himself; directing and choosing them, he finds a
distinction between good and evil; how could this be if there were not
some rule in him to try and distinguish good and evil? If there was
not such a law and rule in man, he could not sin; for where there is
no law there is no transgression. If man were a law to himself, and
his own will his law, there could be no such thing as evil; whatsoever
he willed, would be good and agreeable to the law, and no action could
be accounted sinful; the worst act would be as commendable as the
best. Everything at man’s appointment would be good or evil. If there
were no such law, how should men that are naturally inclined to evil
disapprove of that which is unlovely, and approve of that good which
they practise not? No man but inwardly thinks well of that which
is good, while he neglects it; and thinks ill of that which is evil,
while he commits it. Those that are vicious, do praise those that
practise the contrary virtues. Those that are evil would seem to be
good, and those that are blameworthy {a70} yet will rebuke evil in
others. This is really to distinguish between good and evil; whence
doth this arise, by what rule do we measure this, but by some innate
principle? And this is universal, the same in one man as in another,
the same in one nation as in another; they are born with every man,
and inseparable from his nature (Prov. xxvii. 19): as in water, face
answers to face, so the heart of man to man. Common reason supposeth
that there is some hand which hath fixed this distinction in man;
how could it else be universally impressed? No law can be without a
lawgiver: no sparks but must be kindled, by some other. Whence should
this law then derive its original? Not from man; he would fain blot
it out, and cannot alter it when he pleases. Natural generation never
intended it; it is settled therefore by some higher hand, which, as
it imprinted it, so it maintains it against the violence of men, who,
were it not for this law, would make the world more than it is, an
aceldama and field of blood; for had there not been some supreme good,
the measure of all other goodness in the world, we could not have
had such a thing as good. The Scripture gives us an account that this
good was distinguished from evil before man fell, they were _objecta
scibilia_; good was commanded and evil prohibited, and did not depend
upon man. From this a man may rationally be instructed that there is
a God; for he may thus argue: I find myself naturally obliged to do
this thing, and avoid that; I have, therefore, a superior that doth
oblige me; I find something within me that directs me to such actions,
contrary to my sensitive appetite; there must be something above
me, therefore, that puts this principle into man’s nature; if there
were no superior, I should be the supreme judge of good and evil;
were I the lord of that law which doth oblige me, I should find no
contradiction within myself, between reason and appetite.

2. From the transgression of this law of nature, fears do arise in
the consciences of men. Have we not known or heard of men struck by
so deep a dart, that could not be drawn out by the strength of men, or
appeased by the pleasure of the world; and men crying out with horror,
upon a death‑bed, of their past life, when “their fear hath come as a
desolation, and destruction as a whirlwind?” (Prov. i. 27): and often
in some sharp affliction, the dust hath been blown off from men’s
consciences, which for a while hath obscured the writing of the law.
If men stand in awe of punishment, there is then some superior to whom
they are accountable; if there were no God, there were no punishment
to fear. What reason of any fear, upon the dissolution of the knot
between the soul and body, if there were not a God to punish, and
the soul remained not in being to be punished? How suddenly will
conscience work upon the appearance of an affliction, rouse itself
from sleep like an armed man, and fly in a man’s face before he is
aware of it! It will “surprise the hypocrites” (Isa. xxxviii. 14):
it will bring to mind actions committed long ago, and set them in
order before the face, as God’s deputy, acting by his authority and
omniscience. As God hath not left himself without a witness among
the creatures (Acts xiv. 17), so he hath not left himself without
a witness in a man’s own breast.

(1.) This operation of conscience hath been universal. No nation {a71}
hath been any more exempt from it than from reason; not a man but hath
one time or other more or less smarted under the sting of it. All over
the world conscience hath shot its darts; it hath torn the hearts of
princes in the midst of their pleasures; it hath not flattered them
whom most men flatter; nor feared to disturb their rest, whom no man
dares to provoke. Judges have trembled on a tribunal, when innocents
have rejoiced in their condemnation. The iron bars upon Pharaoh’s
conscience, were at last broke up, and he acknowledged the justice
of God in all that he did, (Exod. ix. 27): “I have sinned, the Lord
is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” Had they been like
childish frights at the apprehension of bugbears, why hath not reason
shaken them off? But, on the contrary, the stronger reason grows,
the smarter those lashes are; groundless fears had been short‑lived,
age and judgment would have worn them off, but they grow sharper with
the growth of persons. The Scripture informs us they have been of as
ancient a date as the revolt of the first man, (Gen. iii. 10): “I was
afraid,” saith Adam, “because I was naked;” which was an expectation
of the judgment of God. All his posterity inherit his fears, when God
expresseth himself in any tokens of his majesty and providence in the
world. Every man’s conscience testifies that he is unlike what he
ought to be, according to that law engraven upon his heart. In some,
indeed, conscience may be seared or dimmer; or suppose some men may
be devoid of conscience, shall it be denied to be a thing belonging
to the nature of man? Some men have not their eyes, yet the power of
seeing the light is natural to man, and belongs to the integrity of
the body. Who would argue that, because some men are mad, and have
lost their reason by a distemper of the brain, that therefore reason
hath no reality, but is an imaginary thing? But I think it is a
standing truth that every man hath been under the scourge of it, one
time or other, in a less or a greater degree; for, since every man is
an offender, it cannot be imagined, conscience, which is natural to
man, and an active faculty, should always lie idle, without doing this
part of its office. The apostle tells us of the thoughts accusing or
excusing one another, (or by turns), according as the actions were.
Nor is this truth weakened by the corruptions in the world, whereby
many have thought themselves bound in conscience to adhere to a false
and superstitious worship and idolatry, as much as any have thought
themselves bound to adhere to a worship commanded by God. This very
thing infers that all men have a reflecting principle in them; it is
no argument against the being of conscience, but only infers that it
may err in the application of what it naturally owns. We can no more
say, that because some men walk by a false rule, there is no such
thing as conscience, than we can say that because men have errors in
their minds, therefore they have no such faculty as an understanding;
or because men will that which is evil, they have no such faculty as a
will in them.

(2.) These operations of conscience are when the wickedness is most
secret. These tormenting fears of vengeance have been frequent in
men, who have had no reason to fear man, since their wickedness
being unknown to any but themselves, they could have no accuser
but themselves. They have been in many acts which their companions
{a72} have justified them in; persons above the stroke of human laws,
yea, such as the people have honored as gods, have been haunted by
them. Conscience hath not been frighted by the power of princes, or
bribed by the pleasures of courts. David was pursued by his horrors,
when he was, by reason of his dignity, above the punishment of the law,
or, at least, was not reached by the law; since, though the murder
of Uriah was intended by him, it was not acted by him. Such examples
are frequent in human records; when the crime hath been above any
punishment by man, they have had an accuser, judge, and executioner
in their own breasts. Can this be originally from a man’s self? He who
loves and cherishes himself, would fly from anything that disturbs him;
it is a greater power and majesty from whom man cannot hide himself,
that holds him in those fetters. What should affect their minds for
that which can never bring them shame or punishment in this world, if
there were not some supreme judge to whom they were to give an account,
whose instrument conscience is? Doth it do this of itself? hath it
received an authority from the man himself to sting him? It is some
supreme power that doth direct and commission it against our wills.

(3.) These operations of conscience cannot be totally shaken off by
man. If there be no God, why do not men silence the clamors of their
consciences, and scatter those fears that disturb their rest and
pleasures? How inquisitive are men after some remedy against those
convulsions! Sometimes they would render the charge insignificant,
and sing a rest to themselves, though they “walk in the wickedness
of their own hearts.”[113] How often do men attempt to drown it by
sensual pleasures, and perhaps overpower it for a time; but it revives,
reinforceth itself, and acts a revenge for its former stop. It holds
sin to a man’s view, and fixes his eyes upon it, whether he will or no.
“The wicked are like a troubled sea, and cannot rest,” (Isa. lvii. 20):
they would wallow in sin without control, but this inward principle
will not suffer it; nothing can shelter men from those blows. What
is the reason it could never be cried down? Man is an enemy to his
own disquiet; what man would continue upon the rack, if it were in
his power to deliver himself? Why have all human remedies been without
success, and not able to extinguish those operations, though all
the wickedness of the heart hath been ready to assist and second the
attempt? It hath pursued men notwithstanding all the violence used
against it; and renewed its scourges with more severity, as men deal
with their resisting slaves. Man can as little silence those thunders
in his soul, as he can the thunders in the heavens; he must strip
himself of his humanity, before he can be stripped of an accusing
and affrighting conscience; it sticks as close to him as his nature;
since man cannot throw out the process it makes against him, it is an
evidence that some higher power secures its throne and standing. Who
should put this scourge into the hand of conscience, which no man in
the world is able to wrest out?

(4.) We may add, the comfortable reflections of conscience. There are
excusing, as well as accusing reflections of conscience, when things
are done as works of the “law of nature,” (Rom. ii. 15): as it doth
{a73} not forbear to accuse and torture, when a wickedness, though
unknown to others, is committed; so when a man hath done well, though
he be attacked with all the calumnies the wit of man can forge, yet
his conscience justifies the action, and fills him with a singular
contentment. As there is torture in sinning, so there is peace and joy
in well‑doing. Neither of those it could do, if it did not understand
a Sovereign Judge, who punishes the rebels, and rewards the well‑doer.
Conscience is the foundation of all religion; and the two pillars
upon which it is built, are the being of God, and the bounty of God
to those that “diligently seek him.”[114] This proves the existence
of God. If there were no God, conscience were useless; the operations
of it would have no foundation, if there were not an eye to take
notice, and a hand to punish or reward the action. The accusations
of conscience evidence the omniscience and the holiness of God;
the terrors of conscience, the justice of God; the approbations of
conscience, the goodness of God. All the order in the world owes
itself, next to the providence of God, to conscience; without it the
world would be a Golgotha. As the creatures witness, there was a first
cause that produced them, so this principle in man evidenceth itself
to be set by the same hand, for the good of that which it had so
framed. There could be no conscience if there were no God, and man
could not be a rational creature, if there were no conscience. As
there is a rule in us, there must be a judge, whether our actions be
according to the rule. And since conscience in our corrupted state
is in some particular misled, there must be a power superior to
conscience, to judge how it hath behaved itself in its deputed office;
we must come to some supreme judge, who can judge conscience itself.
As a man can have no surer evidence that he is a being, than because
he thinks he is a thinking being; so there is no surer evidence
in nature that there is a God, than that every man hath a natural
principle in him, which continually cites him before God, and puts him
in mind of him, and makes him one way or other fear him, and reflects
upon him whether he will or no. A man hath less power over his
conscience, than over any other faculty; he may choose whether he will
exercise his understanding about, or move his will to such an object;
but he hath no such authority over his conscience: he cannot limit it,
or cause it to cease from acting and reflecting; and therefore, both
that, and the law about which it acts, are settled by some Supreme
Authority in the mind of man, and this is God.

Fourthly. The evidence of a God results from the vastness of desires
in man, and the real dissatisfaction he hath in everything below
himself. Man hath a boundless appetite after some sovereign good;
as his understanding is more capacious than anything below, so is his
appetite larger. This affection of desire exceeds all other affections.
Love is determined to something known; fear, to something apprehended:
but desires approach nearer to infiniteness, and pursue, not only what
we know, or what we have a glimpse of, but what we find wanting in
what we already enjoy. That which the desire of man is most naturally
carried after is _bonum_; some fully satisfying good. We desire
knowledge by the sole impulse of reason, {a74} but we desire good
before the excitement of reason; and the desire is always after
good, but not always after knowledge. Now the soul of man finds
an imperfection in everything here, and cannot scrape up a perfect
satisfaction and felicity. In the highest fruitions of worldly things
it is still pursuing something else, which speaks a defect in what it
already hath. The world may afford a felicity for our dust, the body,
but not for the inhabitant in it; it is too mean for that. Is there
any one soul among the sons of men, that can upon a due inquiry say
it was at rest and wanted no more, that hath not sometimes had desires
after an immaterial good? The soul “follows hard after” such a thing,
and hath frequent looks after it (Ps. lxiii. 8). Man desires a stable
good, but no sublunary thing is so; and he that doth not desire such
a good, wants the rational nature of a man. This is as natural as
understanding, will, and conscience. Whence should the soul of man
have those desires? how came it to understand that something is still
wanting to make its nature more perfect, if there were not in it
some notion of a more perfect being which can give it rest? Can such
a capacity be supposed to be in it without something in being able to
satisfy it? if so, the noblest creature in the world is miserablest,
and in a worse condition than any other. Other creatures obtain
their ultimate desires, “they are filled with good,” (Ps. civ. 28):
and shall man only have a vast desire without any possibility
of enjoyment? Nothing in man is in vain; he hath objects for his
affections, as well as affections for objects; every member of his
body hath its end, and doth attain it; every affection of his soul
hath an object, and that in this world; and shall there be none for
his desire, which comes nearest to infinite of any affection planted
in him? This boundless desire had not its original from man himself;
nothing would render itself restless; something above the bounds
of this world implanted those desires after a higher good, and made
him restless in everything else. And since the soul can only rest in
that which is infinite, there is something infinite for it to rest in;
since nothing in the world, though a man had the whole, can give it
a satisfaction, there is something above the world only capable to
do it, otherwise the soul would be always without it, and be more in
vain than any other creature. There is, therefore, some infinite being
that can only give a contentment to the soul, and this is God. And
that goodness which implanted such desires in the soul, would not
do it to no purpose, and mock it in giving it an infinite desire of
satisfaction, without intending it the pleasure of enjoyment, if it
doth not by its own folly deprive itself of it. The felicity of human
nature must needs exceed that which is allotted to other creatures.

_Reason IV._ As it is a folly to deny that which all nations in the
world have consented to, which the frame of the world evidenceth,
which man in his body, soul, operations of conscience, witnesseth to;
so it is a folly to deny the being of God, which is witnessed unto by
extraordinary occurrences in the world.

1. In extraordinary judgments. When a just revenge follows abominable
crimes, especially when the judgment is suited to the sin by a strange
concatenation and succession of providences, methodized {a75} to bring
such a particular punishment; when the sin of a nation or person is
made legible in the inflicted judgment, which testifies that it cannot
be a casual thing. The Scripture gives us an account of the necessity
of such judgments, to keep up the reverential thoughts of God in
the world (Ps. ix. 16): “The Lord is known by the judgment which
he executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hand:”
and jealousy is the name of God, (Exod. xxxiv. 14), “Whose name is
jealous.” He is distinguished from false gods by the judgments which
he sends, as men are by their names. Extraordinary prodigies in many
nations have been the heralds of extraordinary judgments, and presages
of the particular judgments which afterwards they have felt, of
which the Roman histories, and others, are full. That there are such
things is undeniable, and that the events have been answerable to
the threatening, unless we will throw away all human testimonies,
and count all the histories of the world forgeries. Such things are
evidences of some invisible power which orders those affairs. And if
there be invisible powers, there is also an efficacious cause which
moves them; a government certainly there is among them, as well as
in the world, and then we must come to some supreme governor which
presides over them. Judgments upon notorious offenders have been
evident in all ages; the Scripture gives many instances. I shall
only mention that of Herod Agrippa, which Josephus mentions.[115] He
receives the flattering applause of the people, and thought himself a
God; but by the sudden stroke upon him, was forced by his torture to
confess another. “I am God,” saith he, “in your account, but a higher
calls me away; the will of the heavenly Deity is to be endured.” The
angel of the Lord smote him. The judgment here was suited to the sin;
he that would be a god, is eaten up of worms, the vilest creatures.
Tully Hostilius, a Roman king, who counted it the most unroyal thing
to be religious, or own any other God but his sword, was consumed
himself, and his whole house, by lightning from heaven. Many things
are unaccountable unless we have recourse to God. The strange
revelations of murderers, that have most secretly committed their
crimes; the making good some dreadful imprecations, which some
wretches have used to confirm a lie, and immediately have been struck
with that judgment they wished; the raising often unexpected persons
to be instruments of vengeance on a sinful and perfidious nation; the
overturning the deepest and surest counsels of men, when they have had
a successful progress, and come to the very point of execution; the
whole design of men’s preservation hath been beaten in pieces by some
unforeseen circumstance, so that judgments have broken in upon them
without control, and all their subtleties been outwitted; the strange
crossing of some in their estates, though the most wise, industrious,
and frugal persons, and that by strange and unexpected ways; and it
is observable how often everything contributes to carry on a judgment
intended, as if they rationally designed it: all those loudly proclaim
a God in the world; if there were no God, there would be no sin; if no
sin, there would be no punishment.

{a76} 2. In miracles. The course of nature is uniform; and when it is
put out of its course, it must be by some superior power invisible to
the world; and by whatsoever invisible instruments they are wrought,
the efficacy of them must depend upon some first cause above nature.
(Psalm lxxii. 18): “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth
wondrous things,” by himself and his sole power. That which cannot
be the result of a natural cause, must be the result of something
supernatural: what is beyond the reach of nature, is the effect of a
power superior to nature; for it is quite against the order of nature,
and is the elevation of something to such a pitch, which all nature
could not advance it to. Nature cannot go beyond its own limits; if it
be determined by another, as hath been formerly proved, it cannot lift
itself above itself, without that power that so determined it. Natural
agents act necessarily; the sun doth necessarily shine, fire doth
necessarily burn: that cannot be the result of nature, which is above
the ability of nature; that cannot be the work of nature which is
against the order of nature; nature cannot do anything against itself,
or invert its own course. We must own that such things have been, or
we must accuse all the records of former ages to be a pack of lies;
which whosoever doth, destroys the greatest and best part of human
knowledge. The miracles mentioned in the Scripture, wrought by our
Saviour, are acknowledged by the heathen, by the Jews at this day,
though his greatest enemies. There is no dispute whether such things
were wrought, “the dead raised,” the “blind restored to sight.”
The heathens have acknowledged the miraculous eclipse of the sun
at the passion of Christ, quite against the rule of nature, the moon
being then in opposition to the sun; the propagation of Christianity
contrary to the methods whereby other religions have been propagated,
that in a few years the nations of the world should be sprinkled with
this doctrine, and give in a greater catalogue of martyrs courting the
devouring flames, than all the religions of the world. To this might
be added, the strange hand that was over the Jews, the only people in
the world professing the true God, that should so often be befriended
by their conquerors, so as to rebuild their temple, though they were
looked upon as a people apt to rebel. Dion and Seneca observe, that
wherever they were transplanted, they prospered, and gave laws to
the victors; so that this proves also the authority of the Scripture,
the truth of christian religion, as well as the being of a God, and
a superior power over the world. To this might be added, the bridling
the tumultuous passions of men for the preservation of human societies,
which else would run the world into unconceivable confusions, (Psalm
lxv. 7): “Which stilleth the noise of the sea, and the tumults of
the people;” as also the miraculous deliverance of a person or nation,
when upon the very brink of ruin; the sudden answer of prayer when God
hath been sought to, and the turning away a judgment, which in reason
could not be expected to be averted, and the raising a sunk people
from a ruin which seemed inevitable, by unexpected ways.

3. Accomplishments of prophecies. Those things which are purely
contingent, and cannot be known by natural signs and in their causes,
as eclipses and changes in nations, which may be discerned {a77}
by an observation of the signs of the times; such things that fall
not within this compass, if they be foretold and come to pass, are
solely from some higher hand, and above the cause of nature. This in
Scripture is asserted to be a notice of the true God (Isa. xli. 23):
“Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you
are God,” and (Isa. xlvi. 10), “I am God declaring the end from the
beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done,
saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” And
prophecy was consented to by all the philosophers to be from divine
illumination: that power which discovers things future, which all
the foresight of men cannot ken and conjecture, is above nature. And
to foretell them so certainly as if they did already exist, or had
existed long ago, must be the result of a mind infinitely intelligent;
because it is the highest way of knowing, and a higher cannot be
imagined: and he that knows things future in such a manner, must
needs know things present and past. Cyrus was prophesied of by Isaiah
(xliv. 28, and xlv. 1) long before he was born; his victories, spoils,
all that should happen in Babylon, his bounty to the Jews came to pass,
according to that prophecy; and the sight of that prophecy which the
Jews shewed him, as other historians report, was that which moved him
to be favorable to the Jews.

Alexander’s sight of Daniel’s prophecy concerning his victories
moved him to spare Jerusalem. And are not the four monarchies plainly
deciphered in that book, before the fourth rose up in the world?
That power which foretells things beyond the reach of the wit of man,
and orders all causes to bring about those predictions, must be an
infinite power, the same that made the world, sustains it and governs
all things in it according to his pleasure, and to bring about his own
ends; and this being is God.

_Use I._ If atheism be a folly, it is then pernicious to the world
and to the atheist himself. Wisdom is the band of human societies, the
glory of man. Folly is the disturber of families, cities, nations; the
disgrace of human nature.

First, It is pernicious to the world.

1. It would root out the foundations of government. It demolisheth all
order in nations. The being of a God is the guard of the world: the
sense of a God is the foundation of civil order: without this there
is no tie upon the consciences of men. What force would there be in
oaths for the decisions of controversies, what right could there be
in appeals made to one that had no being? A city of atheists would
be a heap of confusion; there could be no ground of any commerce,
when all the sacred bands of it in the consciences of men were snapt
asunder, which are torn to pieces and utterly destroyed by denying
the existence of God. What magistrate could be secure in his standing?
What private person could be secure in his right? Can that then be
a truth that is destructive of all public good? If the atheist’s
sentiment, that there were no God, were a truth, and the contrary that
there were a God, were a falsity, it would then follow, that falsity
made men good and serviceable to one another; that error were the
foundation of all the beauty, and order, and outward {a78} felicity of
the world, the fountain of all good to man.[116] If there were no God,
to believe there is one, would be an error; and to believe there is
none, would be the greatest wisdom, because it would be the greatest
truth. And then as it is the greatest wisdom to fear God, upon the
apprehension of his existence, so it would be the greatest error to
fear him if there were none.[117] It would unquestionably follow, that
error is the support of the world, the spring of all human advantages;
and that every part of the world were obliged to a falsity for being
a quiet habitation, which is the most absurd thing to imagine. It is a
thing impossible to be tolerated by any prince, without laying an axe
to the root of the government.

2. It would introduce all evil into the world. If you take away God,
you take away conscience, and thereby all measures and rules of good
and evil. And how could any laws be made when the measure and standard
of them were removed? All good laws are founded upon the dictates of
conscience and reason, upon common sentiments in human nature, which
spring from a sense of God; so that if the foundation be demolished,
the whole superstructure must tumble down: a man might be a thief, a
murderer, an adulterer, and could not in a strict sense be an offender.
The worst of actions could not be evil, if a man were a god to himself,
a law to himself. Nothing but evil deserves a censure, and nothing
would be evil if there were no God, the Rector of the world against
whom evil is properly committed. No man can make that morally evil
that is not so in itself: as where there is a faint sense of God,
the heart is more strongly inclined to wickedness; so where there is
no sense of God, the bars are removed, the flood‑gates set open for
all wickedness to rush in upon mankind. Religion pinions men from
abominable practices, and restrains them from being slaves to their
own passions: an atheist’s arms would be loose to do anything.[118]
Nothing so villanous and unjust but would be acted if the natural fear
of a Deity were extinguished. The first consequence issuing from the
apprehension of the existence of God, is his government of the world.
If there be no God, then the natural consequence is that there is
no supreme government of the world: such a notion would cashier all
sentiments of good, and be like a Trojan horse, whence all impurity,
tyranny, and all sorts of mischiefs would break out upon mankind:
corruption and abominable works in the text are the fruit of the
fool’s persuasion that there is no God. The perverting the ways of
men, oppression and extortion, owe their rise to a forgetfulness of
God (Jer. iii. 21): “They have perverted their way, and they have
forgotten the Lord their God.” (Ezek. xxii. 12): “Thou hast greedily
gained by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord.” The whole
earth would be filled with violence, all flesh would corrupt their
way, as it was before the deluge, when probably atheism did abound
more than idolatry; and if not a disowning the being, yet denying the
providence of God by the posterity of Cain: those of the family of
Seth only “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. vi. 11, 12,
compared with Gen. iv. 26).

The greatest sense of a Deity in any, hath been attended with the
{a79} greatest innocence of life and usefulness to others; and a
weaker sense hath been attended with a baser impurity. If there were
no God, blasphemy would be praiseworthy; as the reproach of idols
is praiseworthy, because we testify that there is no divinity in
them.[119] What can be more contemptible than that which hath no
being? Sin would be only a false opinion of a violated law, and an
offended deity. If such apprehensions prevail, what a wide door is
opened to the worst of villanies! If there be no God, no respect is
due to him; all the religion in the world is a trifle, and error;
and thus the pillars of all human society, and that which hath made
commonwealths to flourish, are blown away.

Secondly, It is pernicious to the atheist himself. If he fear no
future punishment, he can never expect any future reward: all his
hopes must be confined to a swinish and despicable manner of life,
without any imaginations of so much as a drachm of reserved happiness.
He is in a worse condition than the silliest animal, which hath
something to please it in its life: whereas an atheist can have
nothing here to give him a full content, no more than any other man
in the world, and can have less satisfaction hereafter. He deposeth
the noble end of his own being, which was to serve a God and have a
satisfaction in him, to seek a God and be rewarded by him; and he that
departs from his end, recedes from his own nature. All the content
any creature finds, is in performing its end, moving according to its
natural instinct; as it is a joy to the sun to run its race.[120] In
the same manner it is a satisfaction to every other creature, and its
delight to observe the law of its creation. What content can any man
have that runs from his end, opposeth his own nature, denies a God by
whom and for whom he was created, whose image he bears, which is the
glory of his nature, and sinks into the very dregs of brutishness? How
elegantly it is described by Bildad,[121] “His own counsel shall cast
him down, terrors shall make him afraid on every side, destruction
shall be ready at his side, the first‑born of death shall devour
his strength, his confidence shall be rooted out, and it shall bring
him to the king of terrors. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his
habitation; he shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased
out of the world. They that come after him shall be astonished at his
day, as they that went before were affrighted. And this is the place
of him that knows not God.”[122] If there be a future reckoning (as
his own conscience cannot but sometimes inform him of), his condition
is desperate, and his misery dreadful and unavoidable. It is not
righteous a hell should entertain any else, if it refuse him.

_Use II._ How lamentable is it, that in our times this folly of
atheism should be so rife! That there should be found such monsters in
human nature, in the midst of the improvements of reason, and shinings
of the gospel, who not only make the Scripture the matter of their
jeers, but scoff at the judgments and providences of God in the world,
and envy their Creator a being, without whose goodness they had none
themselves; who contradict in their carriage what they assert to be
their sentiment, when they dreadfully imprecate {a80} damnation to
themselves! Whence should that damnation they so rashly wish be poured
forth upon them, if there were not a revenging God? Formerly atheism
was as rare as prodigious, scarce two or three known in an age; and
those that are reported to be so in former ages, are rather thought to
be counted so for mocking at the senseless deities the common people
adored, and laying open their impurities. A mere natural strength
would easily discover that those they adored for gods, could not
deserve that title, since their original was known, their uncleanness
manifest and acknowledged by their worshippers. And probably it was so;
since the Christians were termed ἄθεοι, because they acknowledged not
their vain idols.[123]

I question whether there ever was, or can be in the world, an
uninterrupted and internal denial of the being of God, or that men
(unless we can suppose conscience utterly dead) can arrive to such
a degree of impiety; for before they can stifle such sentiments in
them (whatsoever they may assert), they must be utter strangers to
the common conceptions of reason, and despoil themselves of their
own humanity. He that dares to deny a God with his lips, yet sets up
something or other as a God in his heart. Is it not lamentable that
this sacred truth, consented to by all nations, which is the band
of civil societies, the source of all order in the world, should
be denied with a bare face, and disputed against in companies, and
the glory of a wise Creator ascribed to an unintelligent nature, to
blind chance? Are not such worse than heathens? They worshipped many
gods, these none; they preserved a notion of God in the world under a
disguise of images, these would banish him both from earth and heaven,
and demolish the statutes of him in their own consciences; they
degraded him, these would destroy him; they coupled creatures with
him――(Rom. i. 25), “Who worshipped the creature with the Creator,” as
it may most properly be rendered――and these would make him worse than
the creature, a mere nothing. Earth is hereby become worse than hell.
Atheism is a persuasion which finds no footing anywhere else. Hell,
that receives such persons, in this point reforms them: they can never
deny or doubt of his being, while they feel his strokes. The devil,
that rejoices at their wickedness, knows them to be in an error; for
he “believes, and trembles at the belief.”[124] This is a forerunner
of judgment. Boldness in sin is a presage of vengeance, especially
when the honor of God is more particularly concerned therein; it
tends to the overturning human society, taking off the bridle from
the wicked inclinations of men: and God appears not in such visible
judgments against sin immediately committed against himself, as in
the case of those sins that are destructive to human society. Besides,
God, as Governor of the world, will uphold that, without which
all his ordinances in the world would be useless. Atheism is point
blank against all the glory of God in creation, and against all the
glory of God in redemption, and pronounceth at one breath, both the
Creator, and all acts of religion and divine institutions, useless and
insignificant. Since most have had, one time or other, some risings of
doubt, whether there be a God, though few do in expressions deny his
being, it may not be {a81} unnecessary to propose some things for the
further impressing this truth, and guarding themselves against such

1. It is utterly impossible to demonstrate there is no God. He
can choose no medium, but will fall in as a proof for his existence,
and a manifestation of his excellency, rather than against it. The
pretences of the atheist are so ridiculous, that they are not worth
the mentioning. They never saw God, and therefore know not how to
believe such a being; they cannot comprehend him. He would not be a
God, if he could fall within the narrow model of a human understanding;
he would not be infinite, if he were comprehensible, or to be
terminated by our sight. How small a thing must that be which is
seen by a bodily eye, or grasped by a weak mind! If God were visible
or comprehensible, he would be limited. Shall it be a sufficient
demonstration from a blind man, that there is no fire in the room,
because he sees it not, though he feel the warmth of it? The knowledge
of the effect is sufficient to conclude the existence of the cause.
Who ever saw his own life? Is it sufficient to deny a man lives,
because he beholds not his life, and only knows it by his motion? He
never saw his own soul, but knows he hath one by his thinking power.
The air renders itself sensible to men in its operations, yet was
never seen by the eye. If God should render himself visible, they
might question as well as now, whether that which was so visible were
God, or some delusion. If he should appear glorious, we can as little
behold him in his majestic glory, as an owl can behold the sun in its
brightness: we should still but see him in his effects, as we do the
sun by his beams. If he should show a new miracle, we should still
see him but by his works; so we see him in his creatures, every one of
which would be as great a miracle as any can be wrought, to one that
had the first prospect of them. To require to see God, is to require
that which is impossible (1 Tim. vi. 16): “He dwells in the light
which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.”
It is visible that he is, “for he covers himself with light as with
a garment” (Psalm civ. 2); it is visible what he is, “for he makes
darkness his secret place” (Psalm xviii. 11). Nothing more clear to
the eye than light, and nothing more difficult to the understanding
than the nature of it: as light is the first object obvious to the eye,
so is God the first object obvious to the understanding. The arguments
from nature do, with greater strength, evince his existence, than any
pretences can manifest there is no God. No man can assure himself by
any good reason there is none; for as for the likeness of events to
him that is righteous, and him that is wicked; to him that sacrificeth,
and to him that sacrificeth not (Eccles. ix. 2): it is an argument for
a reserve of judgment in another state, which every man’s conscience
dictates to him, when the justice of God shall be glorified in another
world, as much as his patience is in this.

2. Whosoever doubts of it, makes himself a mark, against which all
the creatures fight. All the stars fought against Sisera for Israel:
all the stars in heaven, and the dust on earth, fight for God against
the atheist. He hath as many arguments against him as there are
creatures in the whole compass of heaven and earth. He is most {a82}
unreasonable, that denies or doubts of that whose image and shadow he
sees round about him; he may sooner deny the sun that warms him, the
moon that in night walks in her brightness, deny the fruits he enjoys
from the earth, yea, and deny that he doth exist. He must tear his own
conscience, fly from his own thoughts, be changed into the nature of
a stone, which hath neither reason nor sense, before he can disengage
himself from those arguments which evince the being of a God. He that
would make the natural religion professed in the world a mere romance,
must give the lie to the common sense of mankind; he must be at an
irreconcilable enmity with his own reason, resolve to hear nothing
that it speaks, if he will not hear what it speaks in this case, with
a greater evidence than it can ascertain anything else. God hath so
settled himself in the reason of man, that he must vilify the noblest
faculty God hath given him, and put off nature itself, before he can
blot out the notion of a God.

3. No question but those that have been so bold as to deny that there
was a God, have sometimes been much afraid they have been in an error,
and have at least suspected there was a God, when some sudden prodigy
hath presented itself to them, and roused their fears; and whatsoever
sentiments they might have in their blinding prosperity, they have
had other kind of motions in them in their stormy afflictions, and,
like Jonah’s mariners, have been ready to cry to him for help, whom
they disdained to own so much as in being, while they swam in their
pleasures. The thoughts of a Deity cannot be so extinguished, but they
will revive and rush upon a man, at least under some sharp affliction.
Amazing judgments will make them question their own apprehensions. God
sends some messengers to keep alive the apprehension of him as a Judge,
while men resolve not to own or reverence him as a Governor. A man
cannot but keep a scent of what was born with him; as a vessel that
hath been seasoned first with a strong juice will preserve the scent
of it, whatsoever liquors are afterwards put into it.

4. What is it for which such men rack their wits, to form notions
that there is no God? Is it not that they would indulge some vicious
habit, which hath gained the possession of their soul, which they know
“cannot be favored by that holy God,” whose notion they would raze
out?[125] Is it not for some brutish affection, as degenerative of
human nature, as derogatory to the glory of God; a lust as unmanly
as sinful? The terrors of God are the effects of guilt; and therefore
men would wear out the apprehensions of a Deity, that they might
be brutish without control. They would fain believe there were no
God, that they might not be men, but beasts. How great a folly is
it to take so much pains in vain, for a slavery and torment; to
cast off that which they call a yoke, for that which really is one!
There is more pains and toughness of soul requisite to shake off
the apprehensions of God, than to believe that he is, and cleave
constantly to him. What a madness is it in any to take so much pains
to be less than a man, by razing out the apprehensions of God, when,
with less pains, he may be more than an earthly man, by cherishing the
notions of God, and walking answerably thereunto?

{a83} 5. How unreasonable is it for any man to hazard himself at
this rate in the denial of a God! The atheist saith he knows not that
there is a God; but may he not reasonably think there may be one for
aught he knows? and if there be, what a desperate confusion will he
be in, when all his bravadoes shall prove false! What can they gain
by such an opinion? A freedom, say they, from the burdensome yoke
of conscience, a liberty to do what they list, that doth not subject
them to divine laws. It is a hard matter to persuade any that they can
gain this. They can gain but a sordid pleasure, unworthy the nature
of man. But it were well that such would argue thus with themselves:
If there be a God, and I fear and obey him, I gain a happy eternity;
but if there be no God, I lose nothing but my sordid lusts, by firmly
believing there is one. If I be deceived at last, and find a God,
can I think to be rewarded by him, for disowning him? Do not I run a
desperate hazard to lose his favor, his kingdom, and endless felicity
for an endless torment? By confessing a God I venture no loss; but
by denying him, I run the most desperate hazard, if there be one. He
is not a reasonable creature, that will not put himself upon such a
reasonable arguing. What a doleful meeting will there be between the
God who is denied, and the atheist that denies him, who shall meet
with reproaches on God’s part, and terrors on his own! All that he
gains is a liberty to defile himself here, and a certainty to be
despised hereafter, if he be in an error, as undoubtedly he is.

6. Can any such person say he hath done all that he can to inform
himself of the being of God, or of other things which he denies?
Or rather they would fain imagine there is none, that they may
sleep securely in their lusts, and be free (if they could) from
the thunder‑claps of conscience. Can such say they have used their
utmost endeavors to instruct themselves in this, and can meet with no
satisfaction? Were it an abstruse truth it might not be wondered at;
but not to meet with satisfaction in this which everything minds us of,
and helpeth, is the fruit of an extreme negligence, stupidity, and a
willingness to be unsatisfied, and a judicial process of God against
them. It is strange any man should be so dark in that upon which
depends the conduct of his life, and the expectation of happiness
hereafter. I do not know what some of you may think, but I believe
these things are not useless to be proposed for ourselves to answer
temptations; we know not what wicked temptation in a debauched and
skeptic age, meeting with a corrupt heart, may prompt men to; and
though there may not be any atheist here present, yet I know there is
more than one, who have accidentally met with such, who openly denied
a Deity; and if the like occasion happen, these considerations may
not be unuseful to apply to their consciences. But I must confess,
that since those that live in this sentiment, do not judge themselves
worthy of their own care, they are not worthy of the care of others;
and a man must have all the charity of the christian religion, which
they despise, not to contemn them, and leave them to their own folly.
As we are to pity madmen, who sink under an unavoidable distemper, we
are as much to abominate them, who wilfully hug this prodigious frenzy.

{a84} _Use III._ If it be the atheist’s folly to deny or doubt of
the being of God, it is our wisdom to be firmly settled in this truth,
that God is. We should never be without our arms in an age wherein
atheism appears barefaced without a disguise. You may meet with
suggestions to it, though the devil formerly never attempted to
demolish this notion in the world, but was willing to keep it up,
so the worship due to God might run in his own channel, and was
necessitated to preserve it, without which he could not have erected
that idolatry, which was his great design in opposition to God;
yet since the foundations of that are torn up, and never like to be
rebuilt, he may endeavor, as his last refuge, to banish the notion of
God out of the world, that he may reign as absolutely without it, as
he did before by the mistakes about the divine nature. But we must not
lay all upon Satan; the corruption of our own hearts ministers matter
to such sparks. It is not said Satan hath suggested to the fool, but
“the fool hath said in his heart,” there is no God. But let them come
from what principle soever, silence them quickly, give them their
dismiss; oppose the whole scheme of nature to fight against them,
as the stars did against Sisera. Stir up sentiments of conscience
to oppose sentiments of corruption. Resolve sooner to believe that
yourselves are not, than that God is not; and if you suppose they
at any time come from Satan, object to him that you know he believes
the contrary to what he suggests. Settle this principle firmly in you,
“let us behold Him that is invisible,” as Moses did;[126] let us have
the sentiments following upon the notion of a God, to be restrained
by a fear of him, excited by a love to him, not to violate his laws
and offend his goodness. He is not a God careless of our actions,
negligent to inflict punishment, and bestow rewards, “he forgets not
the labor of our love,”[127] nor the integrity of our ways; he were
not a God, if he were not a governor; and punishments and rewards are
as essential to government, as a foundation to a building. His being
and his government in rewarding, which implies punishment, (for the
neglects of him are linked together)[128] are not to be separated in
our thoughts of him.

1. Without this truth fixed in us, we can never give him the worship
due to his name. When the knowledge of anything is fluctuating and
uncertain, our actions about it are careless. We regard not that
which we think doth not much concern us. If we do not firmly believe
there is a God, we shall pay him no steady worship; and if we believe
not the excellency of his nature, we shall offer him but a slight
service.[129] The Jews call the knowledge of the being of God the
foundation and pillar of wisdom.[130] The whole frame of religion is
dissolved without this apprehension, and totters if this apprehension
be wavering. Religion in the heart is as water in a weather‑glass,
which riseth or falls according to the strength or weakness of this
belief. How can any man worship that which he believes not to be, or
doubts of? Could any man omit the paying a homage to one, whom he did
believe to be an omnipotent, wise being, possessing {a85} (infinitely
above our conceptions) the perfections of all creatures? He must
either think there is no such being, or that he is an easy, drowsy,
inobservant God, and not such an one as our natural notions of him,
if listened to, as well as the Scripture, represents him to be.

2. Without being rooted in this, we cannot order our lives. All
our baseness, stupidity, dulness, wanderings, vanity, spring from
a wavering and unsettledness in this principle. This gives ground
to brutish pleasures, not only to solicit, but conquer us. Abraham
expected violence in any place where God was not owned (Gen. xx. 11),
“Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me
for my wife’s sake.” The natural knowledge of God firmly impressed,
would choke that which would stifle our reason and deface our souls.
The belief that God is, and what he is, would have a mighty influence
to persuade us to a real religion, and serious consideration, and
casting about how to be like to him and united with him.

3. Without it we cannot have any comfort of our lives. Who would
willingly live in a stormy world, void of a God? If we waver in this
principle, to whom should we make our complaints in our afflictions?
Where should we meet with supports? How could we satisfy ourselves
with the hopes of a future happiness? There is a sweetness in the
meditation of his existence, and that he is a Creator.[131] Thoughts
of other things have a bitterness mixed with them: houses, lands,
children, now are, shortly they will not be; but God is, that made the
world: his faithfulness as he is a Creator, is a ground to deposit our
souls and concerns in our innocent sufferings.[132] So far as we are
weak in the acknowledgment of God, we deprive ourselves of our content
in the view of his infinite perfections.

4. Without the rooting of this principle, we cannot have a firm belief
of Scripture. The Scripture will be a slight thing to one that hath
weak sentiments of God. The belief of a God must necessarily precede
the belief of any revelation; the latter cannot take place without
the former as a foundation. We must firmly believe the being of a God,
wherein our happiness doth consist, before we can believe any means
which conduct us to him. Moses begins with the Author of creation,
before he treats of the promise of redemption. Paul preached God as
a Creator to a university, before he preached Christ as Mediator.[133]
What influence can the testimony of God have in his revelation upon
one that doth not firmly assent to the truth of his being? All would
be in vain that is so often repeated, “Thus saith the Lord,” if we
do not believe there is a Lord that speaks it. There could be no
awe from his sovereignty in his commands, nor any comfortable taste
of his goodness in his promises. The more we are strengthened in
this principle, the more credit we shall be able to give to divine
revelation, to rest in his promise, and to reverence his precept; the
authority of all depends upon the being of the Revealer.

To this purpose, since we have handled this discourse by natural

{a86} 1. Study God in the creatures as well as in the Scriptures. The
primary use of the creatures, is to acknowledge God in them; they were
made to be witnesses of himself in his goodness, and heralds of his
glory, which glory of God as Creator “shall endure forever” (Psalm
civ. 31): that whole psalm is a lecture of creation and providence.
The world is a sacred temple; man is introduced to contemplate it, and
behold with praise the glory of God in the pieces of his art. As grace
doth not destroy nature, so the book of redemption blots not out that
of creation. Had he not shown himself in his creatures, he could never
have shown himself in his Christ; the order of things required it.
God must be read wherever he is legible; the creatures are one book,
wherein he hath writ a part of the excellency of his name,[134] as
many artists do in their works and watches. God’s glory, like the
filings of gold, is too precious to be lost wherever it drops: nothing
so vile and base in the world, but carries in it an instruction for
man, and drives in further the notion of a God. As he said of his
cottage, Enter here, _Sunt hic etiam Dii_, God disdains not this place:
so the least creature speaks to man, every shrub in the field, every
fly in the air, every limb in a body; Consider me, God disdains not
to appear in me; he hath discovered in me his being and a part of his
skill, as well as in the highest. The creatures manifest the being of
God and part of his perfections. We have indeed a more excellent way,
a revelation setting him forth in a more excellent manner, a firmer
object of dependence, a brighter object of love, raising our hearts
from self‑confidence to a confidence in him. Though the appearance
of God in the one be clearer than in the other, yet neither is to
be neglected. The Scripture directs us to nature to view God; it had
been in vain else for the apostle to make use of natural arguments.
Nature is not contrary to Scripture, nor Scripture to nature; unless
we should think God contrary to himself who is the Author of both.

2. View God in your own experiences of him. There is a taste and
sight of his goodness, though no sight of his essence.[135] By the
taste of his goodness you may know the reality of the fountain, whence
it springs and from whence it flows; this surpasseth the greatest
capacity of a mere natural understanding. Experience of the sweetness
of the ways of Christianity is a mighty preservative against atheism.
Many a man knows not how to prove honey to be sweet by his reason, but
by his sense; and if all the reason in the world be brought against
it, he will not be reasoned out of what he tastes. Have not many found
the delightful illapses of God into their souls, often sprinkled with
his inward blessings upon their seeking of him; had secret warnings in
their approaches to him; and gentle rebukes in their consciences upon
their swervings from him? Have not many found sometimes an invisible
hand raising them up when they were dejected; some unexpected
providence stepping in for their relief; and easily perceived that
it could not be a work of chance, nor many times the intention of the
instruments he hath used in it? You have often found that {a87} he is,
by finding that he is a rewarder, and can set to your seals that he is
what he hath declared himself to be in his word (Isa. xliii. 12): “I
have declared, and have saved; therefore you are my witnesses, saith
the Lord, that I am God.” The secret touches of God upon the heart,
and inward converses with him, are a greater evidence of the existence
of a supreme and infinitely good Being, than all nature.

_Use IV._ Is it a folly to deny or doubt of the being of God? It is a
folly also not to worship God, when we acknowledge his existence; it
is our wisdom then to worship him. As it is not indifferent whether
we believe there is a God or no; so it is not indifferent whether we
will give honor to that God or no. A worship is his right as he is the
Author of our being, and fountain of our happiness. By this only we
acknowledge his Deity; though we may profess his being, yet we deny
that profession in neglects of worship. To deny him a worship is as
great a folly, as to deny his being. He that renounceth all homage to
his Creator, envies him the being which he cannot deprive him of. The
natural inclination to worship is as universal as the notion of a God;
idolatry else had never gained footing in the world. The existence of
God was never owned in any nation, but a worship of him was appointed.
And many people who have turned their backs upon some other parts
of the law of nature, have paid a continual homage to some superior
and invisible being. The Jews give a reason why man was created in
the evening of the Sabbath, because he should begin his being with
the worship of his Maker. As soon as ever he found himself to be
a creature, his first solemn act should be a particular respect to
his Creator. “To fear God and keep his commandment,” is the whole of
man,[136] or is whole man;[137] he is not a man but a beast, without
observance of God. Religion is as requisite as reason to complete
a man: he were not reasonable if he were not religious; because by
neglecting religion, he neglects the chiefest dictate of reason.
Either God framed the world with so much order, elegancy, and variety
to no purpose, or this was his end at least, that reasonable creatures
should admire him in it, and honor him for it. The notion of God
was not stamped upon men, the shadows of God did not appear in the
creatures, to be the subject of an idle contemplation, but the motive
of a due homage to God. He created the world for his glory, a people
for himself, that he might have the honor of his works; that since we
live and move in him, and by him, we should live and move to him and
for him. It was the condemnation of the heathen world, that when they
knew there was a God, they did not give him the glory due to him.[138]
He that denies his being, is an atheist to his essence: he that denies
his worship, is an atheist to his honor.

If it be a folly to deny the being of God, it will be our wisdom,
then, since we acknowledge his being, often to think of him. Thoughts
are the first issue of a creature as reasonable:[139] He that hath
given us the faculty whereby we are able to think, should be the
principal object about which the power of it should be exercised.
It is a justice to God, the author of our understandings, a justice
to {a88} the nature of our understandings, that the noblest faculty
should be employed about the most excellent object. Our minds are
a beam from God; and, therefore, as the beams of the sun, when they
touch the earth, should reflect back upon God. As we seem to deny the
being of God not to think of him; we seem also to unsoul our souls
in misemploying the activity of them any other way, like flies, to
be oftener on dunghills than flowers. It is made the black mark of
an ungodly man, or an atheist, that “God is not in all his thoughts”
(Psalm x. 4). What comfort can be had in the being of God without
thinking of him with reverence and delight? A God forgotten is as good
as no God to us.

{a89}                       DISCOURSE II.

                        ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM.

  PSALM xiv. 1.――The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
    They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is
    none that doeth good.

PRACTICAL atheism is natural to man in his depraved state, and very
frequent in the hearts and lives of men.

_The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God._ He regards him
as little as if he had no being. He said in his _heart_, not with
his tongue, nor in his head: he never firmly thought it, nor openly
asserted it. Shame put a bar to the first, and natural reason to the
second; yet, perhaps, he had sometimes some doubts whether there were
a God or no. He wished there were not any, and sometimes hoped there
were none at all. He could not raze out the notion of a Deity in his
mind, but he neglected the fixing the sense of God in his heart, and
made it too much his business to deface and blot out those characters
of God in his soul, which had been left under the ruins of original
nature. Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads.
Their reasons may defend the notion of a Deity, while their hearts
are empty of affection to the Deity. Job’s children may curse God
_in their hearts_, though not with their lips.[140]

_There is no God._ Most understand it of a denial of the providence
of God, as I have said in opening the former doctrine. He denies some
essential attribute of God, or the exercise of that attribute in the
world.[141] He that denies any _essential_ attribute, may be said to
deny the being of God. Whosoever denies angels or men to have reason
and will, denies the human and angelical nature, because understanding
and will are essential to both those natures; there could neither
be angel nor man without them. No nature can subsist without the
perfections essential to that nature, nor God be conceived of without
his. The apostle tells us (Eph. ii. 12), that the Gentiles were
“without God in the world.” So, in some sense, all unbelievers may
be termed atheists; for rejecting the Mediator appointed by God, they
reject that God who appointed him. But this is beyond the intended
scope, natural atheism being the only subject; yet this is deducible
from it. That the title of ἄθεοι doth not only belong to those who
deny the existence of God, or to those who contemn all sense of a
Deity, and would root the conscience and reverence of God out {a90}
of their souls; but it belongs also to those who give not that worship
to God which is due to him, who worship many gods, or who worship
one God in a false and superstitious manner, when they have not right
conceptions of God, nor intend an adoration of him according to the
excellency of his nature. All those that are unconcerned for any
particular religion fall under this character: though they own a
God in general, yet are willing to acknowledge any God that shall be
coined by the powers under whom they live. The Gentiles were without
God in the world; without the true notion of God, not without a God of
their own framing. This general or practical atheism is natural to men.

1. Not natural by created, but by corrupted nature. It is against
nature, as nature came out of the hand of God; but universally
natural, as nature hath been sophisticated and infected by the
serpent’s breath. Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his
nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being
of a God is contrary to common reason. God is not denied, _naturâ, sed

2. It is universally natural: “The wicked are estranged from the womb
(Psalm lviii. 3). They go astray as soon as they be born: their poison
is like the poison of a serpent.” _The wicked_, (and who by his birth
hath a better title?) they go astray from the dictates of God and the
rule of their creation as soon as ever they be born. Their poison is
like the poison of a serpent, which is radically the same in all of
the same species. It is seminally and fundamentally in all men, though
there may be a stronger restraint by a divine hand upon some men than
upon others. This principle runs through the whole stream of nature.
The natural bent of every man’s heart is distant from God. When we
attempt anything pleasing to God, it is like the climbing up a hill,
against nature; when anything is displeasing to him, it is like
a current running down the channel in its natural course; when we
attempt anything that is an acknowledgment of the holiness of God,
we are fain to rush, with arms in our hands, through a multitude of
natural passions, and fight the way through the oppositions of our
own sensitive appetite. How softly do we naturally sink down into that
which sets us at a greater distance from God! There is no active,
potent, efficacious sense of a God by nature. “The heart of the sons
of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. viii. 11). _The heart_,
in the singular number, as if there were but one common heart beat in
all mankind, and bent, as with one pulse, with a joint consent and
force to wickedness, without a sense of the authority of God in the
earth, as if one heart acted every man in the world. The great apostle
cites the text to verify the charge he brought against all mankind.
[143] In his interpretation, the Jews, who owned one God, and were
dignified with special privileges, as well as the Gentiles that
maintained many gods, are within the compass of this character. The
apostle leaves out the first part of the text, “The fool hath said in
his heart,” but takes in the latter part, and the verses following. He
charges _all_, because all, every man of them, was under sin――“There
is none that seeks God;” and, {a91} ver. 19, he adds, “What the law
saith, it speaks to those that are under the law,” that none should
imagine he included only the Gentiles, and exempted the Jews from this
description. The leprosy of atheism had infected the whole mass of
human nature. No man, among Jews or Gentiles, did naturally seek God;
and, therefore, all were void of any spark of the practical sense of
the Deity. The effects of this atheism are not in all externally of
an equal size; yet, in the fundamentals and radicals of it, there
is not a hair’s difference between the best and the worst men
that ever traversed the world. The distinction is laid either in
common grace, bounding and suppressing it; or in special grace,
killing and crucifying it. It is in every one either triumphant or
militant, reigning or deposed. No man is any more born with sensible
acknowledgments of God, than he is born with a clear knowledge of
the nature of all the stars in the heavens, or plants upon the earth.
None seeks after God.[144] None seek God as his rule, as his end,
as his happiness, which is a debt the creature naturally owes to
God. He desires no communion with God; he places his happiness in
anything inferior to God; he prefers everything before him, glorifies
everything above him; he hath no delight to know him; he regards not
those paths which lead to him; he loves his own filth better than
God’s holiness; his actions are tinctured and dyed with self, and are
void of that respect which is due from him to God.

The noblest faculty of man, his understanding, wherein the remaining
lineaments of the image of God are visible; the highest operation of
that faculty, which is wisdom, is, in the judgment of the Spirit of
God, devilish, whilst it is earthly and sensual;[145] and the wisdom
of the best man is no better by nature; a legion of impure spirits
possess it; devilish, as the devil, who, though he believe there is
a God, yet acts as if there were none, and wishes he had no superior
to prescribe him a law, and inflict that punishment upon him which
his crimes have merited. Hence the poison of man by nature is said
to be like the poison of a serpent,[146] alluding to that serpentine
temptation which first infected mankind, and changed the nature of
man into the likeness of that of the devil; so that, notwithstanding
the harmony of the world, that presents men not only with the notice
of the being of a God, but darts into their minds some remarks of
his power and eternity; yet the thoughts and reasonings of man are
so corrupt, as may well be called diabolical, and as contrary to
the perfection of God, and the original law of their nature, as the
actings of the devil are; for since every natural man is a child of
the devil, and is acted by the diabolical spirit, he must needs have
that nature which his father hath, and the infusion of that venom
which the spirit that acts him is possessed with, though the full
discovery of it may be restrained by various circumstances (Eph.
ii. 2). To conclude: though no man, or at least very few, arrive to
a round and positive conclusion in their hearts that there is no God,
yet there is no man that naturally hath in his heart any reverence
of God. In general, before I come to a particular proof, take some

{a92} _Prop. I._ Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than
words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words;
and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they
do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the
tongue and the heart, but a course of actions is as little guilty
of lying as interest is, according to our common saying. All outward
impieties are the branches of an atheism at the root of our nature, as
all pestilential sores are expressions of the contagion in the blood;
sin is therefore frequently called ungodliness in our English dialect.
Men’s practices are the best indexes of their principles: the current
of a man’s life is the counterpart of the frame of his heart. Who can
deny an error in the spring or wheels, when he perceives an error in
the hand of the dial? Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so
much is visible in the life? The taste of the water discovers what
mineral it is strained through. A practical denial of God is worse
than a verbal, because deeds have usually more of deliberation than
words; words may be the fruit of a passion, but a set of evil actions
are the fruit and evidence of a predominant evil principle in the
heart. All slighting words of a prince do not argue an habitual
treason; but a succession of overt treasonable attempts signify a
settled treasonable disposition in the mind. Those, therefore, are
more deservedly termed atheists, who acknowledge a God, and walk as if
there were none, than those (if there can be any such) that deny a God,
and walk as if there were one. A sense of God in the heart would burst
out in the life; where there is no reverence of God in the life, it is
easily concluded there is less in the heart. What doth not influence
a man when it hath the addition of the eyes, and censures of outward
spectators, and the care of a reputation (so much the god of the
world) to strengthen it and restrain the action, must certainly
have less power over the heart when it is single, without any other
concurrence. The flames breaking out of a house discover the fire
to be much stronger and fiercer within. The apostle judgeth those
of the circumcision, who gave heed to Jewish fables, to be deniers
of God, though he doth not tax them with any notorious profaneness:
(Tit. i. 16), “They profess that they know God, but in works they
deny him.” He gives them epithets contrary to what they arrogated
to themselves.[147] They boasted themselves to be holy; the apostle
calls them abominable: they bragged that they fulfilled the law,
and observed the traditions of their fathers; the apostle calls them
disobedient, or unpersuadable: they boasted that they only had the
rule of righteousness, and a sound judgment concerning it; the apostle
said they had a reprobate sense, and unfit for any good work; and
judges against all their vain‑glorious brags, that they had not a
reverence of God in their hearts; there was more of the denial of God
in their works than there was acknowledgment of God in their words.
Those that have neither God in their thoughts, nor in their tongues,
nor in their works, cannot properly be said to acknowledge him. Where
the honor of God is not practically owned in the lives of men, the
being of God is not sensibly acknowledged in the hearts of men. The
{a93} principle must be of the same kind with the actions; if the
actions be atheistical, the principle of them can be no better.

_Prop. II._ All sin is founded in a secret atheism. Atheism is the
spirit of every sin; all the floods of impieties in the world break in
at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree
with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join
hand in hand against the interest of God. Though lusts and pleasures
be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him.[148] All
the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret
repinings, self‑applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength,
&c., envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the
language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and
would not have a God superior to me. The variety of sins against the
first and second table, the neglects of God, and violences against man,
are derived from this in the text; first, “The fool hath said in his
heart,” and then follows a legion of devils. As all virtuous actions
spring from an acknowledgment of God, so all vicious actions rise from
a lurking denial of him: all licentiousness goes glib down where there
is no sense of God. Abraham judged himself not secure from murder,
nor his wife from defilement in Gerar, if there were no fear of God
there.[149] He that makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the
honor, and, consequently, none to the being of God. “By the fear of
God men depart from evil” (Prov. xvi. 6); by the non‑regarding of God
men rush into evil. Pharaoh oppressed Israel because he “knew not the
Lord.” If he did not deny the being of a Deity, yet he had such an
unworthy notion of God as was inconsistent with the nature of a Deity;
he, a poor creature, thought himself a mate for the Creator. In sins
of omission we own not God, in neglecting to perform what he enjoins;
in sins of commission we set up some lust in the place of God, and
pay to that the homage which is due to our Maker. In both we disown
him; in the one by not doing what he commands, in the other by doing
what he forbids. We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws;
we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face; we
disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our
actions than that law he hath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when
we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone; and
his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him.
Every sin invades the rights of God, and strips him of one or other of
his perfections. It is such a vilifying of God as if he were not God;
as if he were not the supreme Creator and Benefactor of the world; as
if we had not our being from him; as if the air we breathed in, the
food we lived by, were our own by right of supremacy, not of donation.
For a subject to slight his sovereign, is to slight his royalty; or a
servant his master, is to deny his superiority.

_Prop. III._ Sin implies that God is unworthy of a being. Every sin is
a kind of cursing God in the heart;[150] an aim at the destruction of
the being of God; not actually, but virtually; not in the intention
of every sinner, but in the nature of every sin. That affection which
{a94} excites a man to break His law, would excite him to annihilate
his being if it were in his power. A man in every sin aims to set up
his own will as his rule, and his own glory as the end of his actions
against the will and glory of God; and could a sinner attain his end,
God would be destroyed. God cannot outlive his will and his glory;
God cannot have another rule but his own will, nor another end but his
own honor. Sin is called a turning the back upon God,[151] a kicking
against him,[152] as if he were a slighter person than the meanest
beggar. What greater contempt can be shown to the meanest, vilest
person, than to turn the back, lift up the heel, and thrust away with
indignation? all which actions, though they signify that such a one
hath a being, yet they testify also that he is unworthy of a being,
that he is an unuseful being in the world, and that it were well the
world were rid of him. All sin against knowledge is called a reproach
of God.[153] Reproach is a vilifying a man as unworthy to be admitted
into company. We naturally judge God unfit to be conversed with. God
is the term turned from by a sinner; sin is the term turned to, which
implies a greater excellency in the nature of sin than in the nature
of God; and as we naturally judge it more worthy to have a being in
our affections, so consequently more worthy to have a being in the
world, than that infinite nature from whom we derive our beings and
our all, and upon whom, with a kind of disdain, we turn our backs.
Whosoever thinks the notion of a Deity unfit to be cherished in his
mind by warm meditation, implies that he cares not whether he hath a
being in the world or no. Now though the light of a Deity shines so
clearly in man, and the stings of conscience are so smart, that he
cannot absolutely deny the being of a God, yet most men endeavor to
smother this knowledge, and make the notion of a God a sapless and
useless thing (Rom. i. 28): “They like not to retain God in their
knowledge.” It is said, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord”
(Gen. iv. 16); that is, from the worship of God. Our refusing or
abhorring the presence of a man implies a carelessness whether he
continue in the world or no; it is a using him as if he had no being,
or as if we were not concerned in it. Hence all men in Adam, under
the emblem of the prodigal, are said to go into a far country; not
in respect of place, because of God’s omnipresence, but in respect
of acknowledgment and affection: they mind and love anything but God.
And the descriptions of the nations of the world, lying in the ruins
of Adam’s fall, and the dregs of that revolt, is that they know not
God. They forget God, as if there were no such being above them; and,
indeed, he that doth the works of the devil, owns the devil to be more
worthy of observance, and, consequently, of a being, than God, whose
nature he forgets, and whose presence he abhors.

_Prop. IV._ Every sin in its own nature would render God a foolish and
impure being. Many transgressors esteem their acts, which are contrary
to the law of God, both wise and good: if so, the law against which
they are committed, must be both foolish and impure. What a reflection
is there, then, upon the Lawgiver! The moral law is not properly a
mere act of God’s will considered in itself, or a tyrannical {a95}
edict, like those of whom it may well be said, _stat pro ratione
voluntas_: but it commands those things which are good in their own
nature, and prohibits those things which are in their own nature evil;
and therefore is an act of his wisdom and righteousness; the result
of his wise counsel, and an extract of his pure nature; as all the
laws of just lawgivers, are not only the acts of their will, but of
a will governed by reason and justice, and for the good of the public,
whereof they are conservators. If the moral commands of God were
only acts of his will, and had not an intrinsic necessity, reason
and goodness, God might have commanded the quite contrary, and made
a contrary law, whereby that which we now call vice, might have been
canonized for virtue: He might then have forbid any worship of him,
love to him, fear of his name: He might then have commanded murders,
thefts, adulteries. In the first he would have untied the link of
duty from the creature, and dissolved the obligations of creatures to
him, which is impossible to be conceived; for from the relation of a
creature to God, obligations to God, and duties upon those obligations,
do necessarily result. It had been against the rule of goodness and
justice to have commanded the creature not to love him, and fear and
obey him: this had been a command against righteousness, goodness,
and intrinsic obligations to gratitude. And should murder, adulteries,
rapines have been commanded instead of the contrary, God would have
destroyed his own creation; he would have acted against the rule
of goodness and order; he had been an unjust tyrannical governor of
the world: public society would have been cracked in pieces, and the
world become a shambles, a brothel‑house, a place below the common
sentiments of a mere man. All sin, therefore, being against the law of
God, the wisdom and holy rectitude of God’s nature is denied in every
act of disobedience. And what is the consequence of this, but that
God is both foolish and unrighteous in commanding that, which was
neither an act of wisdom, as a governor, nor an act of goodness, as
a benefactor to his creature? As was said before, presumptuous sins
are called reproaches of God (Numb. xv. 30): “The soul that doth aught
presumptuously reproacheth the Lord.” Reproaches of men are either
for natural, moral, or intellectual defects. All reproaches of God
must imply a charge, either of unrighteousness or ignorance: if of
unrighteousness, it is a denial of his holiness; if of ignorance, it
is a blemishing his wisdom. If God’s laws were not wise and holy, God
would not enjoin them: and if they are so, we deny infinite wisdom and
holiness in God by not complying with them. As when a man believes not
God when he promises, he makes him a liar (1 John v. 10); so he that
obeys not a wise and holy God commanding, makes him guilty either of
folly or unrighteousness. Now, suppose you knew an absolute atheist
who denied the being of a God, yet had a life free from any notorious
spot or defilement; would you in reason count him so bad as the other
that owns a God in being, yet lays, by his course of action, such a
black imputation of folly and impurity upon the God he professeth to
own――an imputation which renders any man a most despicable creature?

_Prop. V._ Sin in its own nature endeavors to render God the most
{a96} miserable being. It is nothing but an opposition to the will of
God: the will of no creature is so much contradicted as the will of
God is by devils and men; and there is nothing under the heavens that
the affections of human nature stand more point blank against, than
against God. There is a slight of him in all the faculties of man; our
souls are as unwilling to know him, as our wills are averse to follow
him (Rom. viii. 7): “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not
subject to the law of God, nor can be subject.” It is true, God’s will
cannot be hindered of its effect, for then God would not be supremely
blessed, but unhappy and miserable: all misery ariseth from a want
of that which a nature would have, and ought to have: besides, if
anything could frustrate God’s will, it would be superior to him: God
would not be omnipotent, and so would lose the perfection of the Deity,
and consequently the Deity itself; for that which did wholly defeat
God’s will, would be more powerful than he. But sin is a contradiction
to the will of God’s revelation, to the will of his precept: and
therein doth naturally tend to a superiority over God, and would
usurp his omnipotence, and deprive him of his blessedness. For if God
had not an infinite power to turn the designs of it to his own glory,
but the will of sin could prevail, God would be totally deprived
of his blessedness. Doth not sin endeavor to subject God to the
extravagant and contrary wills of men, and make him more a slave than
any creature can be? For the will of no creature, not the meanest and
most despicable creature, is so much crossed, as the will of God is by
sin (Isa. xliii. 24): “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins:” thou
hast endeavored to make a mere slave of me by sin. Sin endeavors to
subject the blessed God to the humor and lust of every person in the

_Prop. VI._ Men sometimes in some circumstances do wish the not being
of God. This some think to be the meaning of the text, “The fool hath
said in his heart, There is no God,” that is, he wishes there were no
God. Many tamper with their own hearts to bring them to a persuasion
that there is no God: and when they cannot do that, they conjure up
wishes that there were none. Men naturally have some conscience of
sin, and some notices of justice (Rom. i. 32): “They know the judgment
of God,” and they know the demerit of sin; “they know the judgment of
God, and that they which do such things are worthy of death.” What is
the consequent of this but fear of punishment; and what is the issue
of that fear, but a wishing the Judge either unwilling or unable
to vindicate the honor of his violated law? When God is the object
of such a wish, it is a virtual undeifying of him: not to be able
to punish, is to be impotent; not to be willing to punish, is to
be unjust: imperfections inconsistent with the Deity. God cannot
be supposed without an infinite power to act, and an infinite
righteousness as the rule of acting. Fear of God is natural to all
men; not a fear of offending him, but a fear of being punished by him:
the wishing the extinction of God has its degree in men, according
to the degree of their fears of his just vengeance: and though such a
wish be not in its meridian but in the damned in hell, yet it hath its
starts and motions in affrighted and awakened consciences on the earth:
under this rank of wishers, that there were no God, or that God were
destroyed, do fall.

{a97} 1. Terrified consciences, that are _Magor‑missabib_, see nothing
but matter of fear round about. As they have lived without the bounds
of the law, they are afraid to fall under the stroke of his justice:
fear wishes the destruction of that which it apprehends hurtful: it
considers him as a God to whom vengeance belongs, as the Judge of
all the earth.[154] The less hopes such an one hath of his pardon,
the more joy he would have to hear that his judge should be stripped
of his life: he would entertain with delight any reasons that might
support him in the conceit that there were no God: in his present
state such a doctrine would be his security from an account: he would
as much rejoice if there were no God to inflame an hell for him, as
any guilty malefactor would if there were no judge to order a gibbet
for him. Shame may bridle men’s words, but the heart will be casting
about for some arguments this way, to secure itself: such as are at
any time in Spira’s case, would be willing to cease to be creatures,
that God might cease to be Judge. “The fool hath said in his heart,
there is no Elohim, no Judge;” fancying God without any exercise of
his judicial authority. And there is not any wicked man under anguish
of spirit, but, were it within the reach of his power, would take
away the life of God, and rid himself of his fears by destroying his

2. Debauched persons are not without such wishes sometimes: an
obstinate servant wishes his master’s death, from whom he expects
correction for his debaucheries. As man stands in his corrupt nature,
it is impossible but one time or other most debauched persons at least
have some kind of velleities, or imperfect wishes. It is as natural
to men to abhor those things which are unsuitable and troublesome,
as it is to please themselves in things agreeable to their minds and
humors; and since man is so deeply in love with sin, as to count it
the most estimable good, he cannot but wish the abolition of that law
which checks it, and, consequently, the change of the Lawgiver which
enacted it; and in wishing a change in the holy nature of God, he
wishes a destruction of God, who could not be God if he ceased to
be immutably holy. They do as certainly wish that God had not a holy
will to command them, as despairing souls wish that God had not a
righteous will to punish them, and to wish conscience extinct for the
molestations they receive from it, is to wish the power conscience
represents out of the world also. Since the state of sinners is a
state of distance from God, and the language of sinners to God is,
“Depart from us;”[155] they desire as little the continuance of his
being, as they desire the knowledge of his ways; the same reason which
moves them to desire God’s distance from them, would move them to
desire God’s not being: since the greatest distance would be most
agreeable to them, the destruction of God must be so too; because
there is no greater distance from us, than in not being. Men would
rather have God not to be, than themselves under control, that
sensuality might range at pleasure; he is like a “heifer sliding from
the yoke” (Hosea iv. 16). The cursing of God in the heart, feared
by Job of his children, intimates a wishing God despoiled of his
authority, that their pleasure might not be damped by his law. Besides,
{a98} is there any natural man that sins against actuated knowledge,
but either thinks or wishes that God might not see him, that God might
not know his actions? And is not this to wish the destruction of God,
who could not be God unless he were immense and omniscient?

3. Under this rank fall those who perform external duties only
out of a principle of slavish fear. Many men perform those duties
that the law enjoins, with the same sentiments that slaves perform
their drudgery; and are constrained in their duties by no other
considerations but those of the whip and the cudgel. Since, therefore,
they do it with reluctancy, and secretly murmur while they seem to
obey, they would be willing that both the command were recalled, and
the master that commands them were in another world. The spirit of
adoption makes men act towards God as a father, a spirit of bondage
only eyes him as a judge. Those that look upon their superiors as
tyrannical, will not be much concerned in their welfare; and would be
more glad to have their nails pared, than be under perpetual fear of
them. Many men regard not the Infinite Goodness in the service of him,
but consider him as cruel, tyrannical, injurious to their liberty.
Adam’s posterity are not free from the sentiments of their common
father, till they are regenerate. You know what conceit was the hammer
whereby the hellish Jael struck the nail into our first parents, which
conveyed death, together with the same imagination to all their
posterity (Gen. iii. 5): “God knows that in the day you eat thereof,
your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and
evil.” Alas, poor souls! God knew what he did when he forbade you that
fruit; he was jealous you should be too happy; it was cruelty in him
to deprive you of a food so pleasant and delicious. The apprehension
of the severity of God’s commands riseth up no less in desires that
there were no God over us, than Adam’s apprehension of envy in God
for the restraint of one tree, moved him to attempt to be equal with
God: fear is as powerful to produce the one in his posterity, as
pride was to produce the other in the common root. When we apprehend
a thing hurtful to us, we desire so much evil to it, as may render it
incapable of doing us the hurt we fear. As we wish the preservation
of what we love or hope for, so we are naturally apt to wish the
not being of that whence we fear some hurt or trouble. We must not
understand this as if any man did formally wish the destruction of
God, as God. God in himself is an infinite mirror of goodness and
ravishing loveliness; he is infinitely good, and so universally good,
and nothing but good; and is therefore so agreeable to a creature,
as a creature, that it is impossible that the creature, while it
bears itself to God as a creature, should be guilty of this, but
thirst after him and cherish every motion to him. As no man wishes the
destruction of any creature, as a creature, but as it may conduce to
something which he counts may be beneficial to himself; so no man doth,
nor perhaps can wish the cessation of the being of God, as God; for
then he must wish his own being to cease also; but as he considers
him clothed with some perfections, which he apprehends as injurious
to him, as his holiness in forbidding sin, his justice in punishing
sin; and God being judged in those perfections, contrary {a99} to what
the revolted creature thinks convenient and good for himself, he may
wish God stripped of those perfections, that thereby he may be free
from all fear of trouble and grief from him in his fallen state. In
wishing God deprived of those, he wishes God deprived of his being;
because God cannot retain his deity without a love of righteousness,
and hatred of iniquity; and he could not testify his love to the
one, or his loathing of the other, without encouraging goodness, and
witnessing his anger against iniquity. Let us now appeal to ourselves,
and examine our own consciences. Did we never please ourselves
sometimes in the thoughts, how happy we should be, how free in our
vain pleasures, if there were no God? Have we not desired to be our
own lords, without control, subject to no law but our own, and be
guided by no will but that of the flesh? Did we never rage against
God under his afflicting hand? Did we never wish God stripped of his
holy will to command, and his righteous will to punish? &c.

Thus much for the general. For the proof of this, many considerations
will bring in evidence; most may be reduced to these two generals: Man
would set himself up, first, as his own rule; secondly, as his own end
and happiness.

I. Man would set himself up as his own rule instead of God. This will
be evidenced in this method.

1. Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him. 2. He owns any other
rule rather than that of God’s prescribing. 3. These he doth in order
to the setting himself up as his own rule. 4. He makes himself not
only his own rule, but he would make himself the rule of God, and give
laws to his Creator.

First, Man naturally disowns the rule God sets him. It is all one to
deny his royalty, and to deny his being. When we disown his authority,
we disown his Godhead. It is the right of God to be the sovereign of
his creatures, and it must be a very loose and trivial assent that
such men have to God’s superiority over them, (and consequently to
the excellency of his being, upon which that authority is founded)
who are scarce at ease in themselves, but when they are invading his
rights, breaking his bands, casting away his cords, and contradicting
his will. Every man naturally is a son of Belial, would be without a
yoke, and leap over God’s enclosures; and in breaking out against his
sovereignty, we disown his being, as God, for to be God and sovereign
are inseparable; he could not be God, if he were not supreme; nor
could he be a Creator without being a Lawgiver. To be God and yet
inferior to another, is a contradiction. To make rational creatures
without prescribing them a law, is to make them without holiness,
wisdom and goodness.

1. There is in man naturally an unwillingness to have any
acquaintance with the rule God sets him (Psalm xiv. 2): “None that
did understand and seek God.” The refusing instruction and casting
his Word behind the back is a part of atheism.[156] We are heavy in
hearing the instructions either of law or gospel,[157] and slow in
the apprehension of what we hear. The people that God had hedged in
from the wilderness of the world for his own garden, were foolish
{a100} and did not know God; were sottish and had no understanding of
him.[158] The law of God is accounted a strange thing;[159] a thing
of a different climate, and a far country from the heart of man;
wherewith the mind of man had no natural acquaintance, and had no
desire to have any; or they regarded it as a sordid thing: what God
accounts great and valuable, they account mean and despicable. Men
may show a civility to a stranger, but scarce contract an intimacy:
there can be no amicable agreement between the holy will of God and
the heart of a depraved creature: one is holy, the other unholy; one
is universally good, the other stark naught. The purity of the Divine
rule renders it nauseous to the impurity of a carnal heart. Water and
fire may as well friendly kiss each other and live together without
quarrelling and hissing, as the holy will of God and the unregenerate
heart of a fallen creature.

The nauseating a holy rule is an evidence of atheism in the heart, as
the nauseating wholesome food is of putrefied phlegm in the stomach.
It is found more or less in every Christian, in the remainders,
though not in a full empire. As there is a law in his mind whereby he
delights in the law of God, so there is a law in his members whereby
he wars against the law of God (Rom. vii. 22, 23, 25). How predominant
is this loathing of the law of God, when corrupt nature is in its full
strength, without any principle to control it! There is in the mind of
such a one a darkness, whereby it is ignorant of it, and in the will
a depravedness, whereby it is repugnant to it. If man were naturally
willing and able to have an intimate acquaintance with, and delight
in the law of God, it had not been such a signal favor for God to
promise to “write the law in the heart.” A man may sooner engrave
the chronicle of a whole nation, or all the records of God in the
Scripture upon the hardest marble with his bare finger, than write one
syllable of the law of God in a spiritual manner upon his heart. For,

(1.) Men are negligent in using the means for the knowledge of God’s
will. All natural men are fools, who know not how to use the price
God puts into their hands;[160] they put not a due estimate upon
opportunities and means of grace, and account that law folly which is
the birth of an infinite and holy wisdom. The knowledge of God which
they may glean from creatures, and is more pleasant to the natural
gust of men, is not improved to the glory of God, if we will believe
the indictment the apostle brings against the Gentiles.[161] And most
of those that have dived into the depths of nature, have been more
studious of the qualities of the creatures, than of the excellency of
the nature, or the discovery of the mind of God in them; who regard
only the rising and motions of the star, but follow not with the wise
men, its conduct to the King of the Jews. How often do we see men
filled with an eager thirst for all other kind of knowledge, that
cannot acquiesce in a twilight discovery, but are inquisitive into
the causes and reasons of effects, yet are contented with a weak and
languishing knowledge of God and his law, and are easily tired with
the proposals of them! He now that nauseates the means whereby he
may come to know and obey God, has no intention to make the {a101}
law of God his rule. There is no man that intends seriously an end,
but he intends means in order to that end: as when a man intends the
preservation or recovery of his health, he will intend means in order
to those ends, otherwise he cannot be said to intend his health; so
he that is not diligent in using means to know the mind of God, has
no sound intention to make the will and law of God his rule. Is not
the inquiry after the will of God made a work by the bye, and fain
to lacquey after other concerns of an inferior nature, if it hath
any place at all in the soul? which is a despising the being of God.
The notion of the sovereignty of God bears the same date with the
notion of his Godhead; and by the same way that he reveals himself, he
reveals his authority over us: whether it be by creatures without, or
conscience within. All authority over rational creatures consists in
commanding and directing: the duty of rational creatures in compliance
with that authority consists in obeying. Where there is therefore a
careless neglect of those means which convey the knowledge of God’s
will and our duty, there is an utter disowning of God as our Sovereign
and our rule.

(2.) When any part of the mind and will of God breaks in upon men,
they endeavor to shake it off: as a man would a sergeant that comes
to arrest him, “they like not to retain God in their knowledge”
(Rom. i. 28). “A natural man receives not the things of the Spirit
of God;” that is, into his affection; he pusheth them back as men do
troublesome and importunate beggars: they have no kindness to bestow
upon it: they thrust with both shoulders against the truth of God,
when it presseth in upon them; and dash as much contempt upon it as
the Pharisees did upon the doctrine our Saviour directed against their
covetousness. As men naturally delight to be without God in the world,
so they delight to be without any offspring of God in their thoughts.
Since the spiritual palate of man is depraved, divine truth is
unsavory and ungrateful to us, till our taste and relish is restored
by grace: hence men damp and quench the motions of the Spirit to
obedience and compliance with the dictates of God; strip them of their
life and vigor, and kill them in the womb. How unable are our memories
to retain the substance of spiritual truth; but like sand in a glass,
put in at one part and runs out at the other! Have not many a secret
wish, that the Scripture had never mentioned some truths, or that they
were blotted out of the Bible, because they face their consciences,
and discourage those boiling lusts they would with eagerness and
delight pursue? Methinks that interruption John gives our Saviour
when he was upon the reproof of their pride, looks little better than
a design to divert him from a discourse so much against the grain,
by telling him a story of their prohibiting one to cast out devils,
because he followed not them.[162] How glad are men when they can
raise a battery against a command of God, and raise some smart
objection whereby they may shelter themselves from the strictness
of it!

(3.) When men cannot shake off the notices of the will and mind of God,
they have no pleasure in the consideration of them; which could not
possibly be, if there were a real and fixed design to own {a102} the
mind and law of God as our rule. Subjects or servants that love to
obey their prince and master, will delight to read and execute their
orders. The devils understand the law of God in their minds, but they
loathe the impressions of it upon their wills: those miserable spirits
are bound in chains of darkness, evil habits in their wills, that they
have not a thought of obeying that law they know. It was an unclean
beast under the law that did not chew the cud: it is a corrupt heart
that doth not chew truth by meditation. A natural man is said not to
know God, or the things of God; he may know them nationally, but he
knows them not affectionately. A sensual soul can have no delight
in a spiritual law. To be sensual and not to have the Spirit are
inseparable (Jude 19). Natural men may indeed meditate upon the law
and truth of God, but without delight in it; if they take any pleasure
in it, it is only as it is knowledge, not as it is a rule; for we
delight in nothing that we desire, but upon the same account that
we desire it. Natural men desire to know God and some part of his
will and law, not out of a sense of their practical excellency, but
a natural thirst after knowledge: and if they have a delight, it is
in the act of knowing, not in the object known, not in the duties
that stream from that knowledge; they design the furnishing their
understandings, not the quickening their affections,――like idle
boys that strike fire, not to warm themselves by the heat, but sport
themselves with the sparks; whereas a gracious soul accounts not only
his meditation, or the operations of his soul about God and his will
to be sweet, but he hath a joy in the object of that meditation.[163]
Many have the knowledge of God, who have no delight in him or his will.
Owls have eyes to perceive that there is a sun, but by reason of the
weakness of their sight have no pleasure to look upon a beam of it:
so neither can a man by nature love, or delight in the will of God,
because of his natural corruption. That law that riseth up in men
for conviction and instruction, they keep down under the power of
corruption; making their souls not the sanctuary, but prison of truth
(Rom. i. 18). They will keep it down in their hearts, if they cannot
keep it out of their heads, and will not endeavor to know and taste
the spirit of it.

(4.) There is, further, a rising and swelling of the heart against
the will of God. 1st. Internal. God’s law cast against a hard
heart, is like a ball thrown against a stone wall, by reason of the
resistance rebounding the further from it; the meeting of a divine
truth and the heart of man, is like the meeting of two tides, the
weaker swells and foams. We have a natural antipathy against a divine
rule, and therefore when it is clapped close to our consciences,
there is a snuffing at it, high reasonings against it, corruption
breaks out more strongly: as water poured on lime sets it on fire
by an _antiperistasis_, and the more water is cast upon it, the more
furiously it burns; or as the sunbeams shining upon a dunghill make
the steams the thicker, and the stench the noisomer, neither being
the positive cause of the smoke in the lime, or the stench in the
dunghill, but by accident the causes of the eruption: (Rom. vii. 8),
“But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner
of concupiscence, for {a103} without the law sin was dead.” Sin was
in a languishing posture, as if it were dead, like a lazy garrison
in a city, till, upon an alarm from the adversary, it takes arms, and
revives its courage; all the sin in the heart gathers together its
force to maintain its standing, like the vapors of the night, which
unite themselves more closely to resist the beams of the rising
sun. Deep conviction often provokes fierce opposition; sometimes
disputes against a divine rule end in blasphemies: (Acts xiii. 45),
“contradicting and blaspheming” are coupled together. Men naturally
desire things that are forbidden, and reject things commanded, from
the corruption of nature, which affects an unbounded liberty, and
is impatient of returning under that yoke it hath shaken off, and
therefore rageth against the bars of the law, as the waves roar
against the restraint of a bank. When the understanding is dark, and
the mind ignorant, sin lies as dead; “A man scarce knows he hath such
motions of concupiscence in him, he finds not the least breath of wind,
but a full calm in his soul; but when he is awakened by the law, then
the viciousness of nature being sensible of an invasion of its empire,
arms itself against the divine law, and the more the command is urged,
the more vigorously it bends its strength, and more insolently lifts
up itself against it;”[164] he perceives more and more atheistical
lusts than before; “all manner of concupiscence,” more leprous and
contagious than before. When there are any motions to turn to God, a
reluctancy is presently perceived; atheistical thoughts bluster in the
mind like the wind, they know not whence they come, nor whither they
go; so unapt is the heart to any acknowledgment of God as his ruler,
and any re‑union with him. Hence men are said to resist the Holy Ghost
(Acts vii. 51), to fall against it, as the word signifies, as a stone,
or any ponderous body falls against that which lies in its way: they
would dash to pieces, or grind to powder that very motion which is
made for their instruction, and the Spirit too which makes it, and
that not from a fit of passion, but an habitual repugnance; “Ye always
resist,” &c. 2d. External. It is a fruit of atheism in the fourth
verse of this psalm, “Who eat up my people as they eat bread.” How
do the revelations of the mind of God meet with opposition! and the
carnal world like dogs bark against the shining of the moon; so much
men hate the light, that they spurn at the lanthorns that bear it;
and because they cannot endure the treasure, often fling the earthen
vessels against the ground wherein it is held. If the entrance of
truth render the market worse for Diana’s shrines, the whole city will
be in an uproar.[165] When Socrates upon natural principles confuted
the heathen idolatry, and asserted the unity of God, the whole cry of
Athens, a learned university, is against him; and because he opposed
the public received religion, though with an undoubted truth, he must
end his life by violence. How hath every corner of the world steamed
with the blood of those that would maintain the authority of God in
the world! The devil’s children will follow the steps of their father,
and endeavor to bruise the heel of divine truth, that would endeavor
to break the head of corrupt lust.

{a104} (5.) Men often seem desirous to be acquainted with the will of
God, not out of any respect to his will, and to make it their rule,
but upon some other consideration. Truth is scarce received as truth.
There is more of hypocrisy than sincerity in the pale of the church,
and attendance on the mind of God. The outward dowry of a religious
profession, makes it often more desirable than the beauty. Judas was a
follower of Christ for the bag, not out of any affection to the divine
revelation. Men sometime pretend a desire to be acquainted with the
will of God, to satisfy their own passions, rather than to conform to
God’s will; the religion of such is not the judgment of the man, but
the passion of the brute. Many entertain a doctrine for the person’s
sake, rather than a person for the doctrine’s sake, and believe a
thing because it comes from a man they esteem, as if his lips were
more canonical than Scripture. The Apostle implies in the commendation
he gives the Thessalonians,[166] that some receive the word for human
interest, not as it is in truth the word and will of God to command
and govern their consciences by its sovereign authority; or else they
have the “truth of God” (as St. James speaks of the faith of Christ)
“with respect of persons;”[167] and receive it not for the sake of
the fountain, but of the channel; so that many times the same truth
delivered by another, is disregarded, which, when dropping from the
fancy and mouth of a man’s own idol, is cried up as an oracle. This
is to make not God, but man the rule; for though we entertain that
which materially is the truth of God, yet not formally as his truth,
but as conveyed by one we affect; and that we receive a truth and
not an error, we owe the obligation to the honesty of the instrument,
and not to the strength and clearness of our own judgment. Wrong
considerations may give admittance to an unclean, as well as a clean
beast into the ark of the soul. That which is contrary to the mind of
God, may be entertained, as well as that which is agreeable. It is all
one to such that have no respect to God, what they have, as it is all
one to a sponge to suck up the foulest water or the sweetest wine,
when either is applied to it.

(6.) Many that entertain the notions of the will and mind of God,
admit them with unsettled and wavering affections. There is a great
levity in the heart of man. The Jews that one day applaud our Saviour
with hosannahs as their king, vote his crucifixion the next, and use
him as a murderer. We begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh. Our
hearts, like lute‑strings, are changed with every change of weather,
with every appearance of a temptation; scarce one motion of God in a
thousand prevails with us for a settled abode. It is a hard task to
make a signature of those truths upon our affections, which will with
ease pass current with our understandings; our affections will as soon
lose them, as our understandings embrace them. The heart of man is
“unstable as water.”[168] Some were willing to rejoice in John’s
light, which reflected a lustre on their minds; but not in his heat,
which would have conveyed a warmth to their hearts; and the light was
pleasing to them but for a season,[169] while their corruptions lay
as if they were dead, not when they were awakened. {a105} Truth may
be admitted one day, and the next day rejected; as Austin saith of
a wicked man, he loves the truth shining, but he hates the truth
reproving. This is not to make God, but our own humor, our rule and

(7.) Many desire an acquaintance with the law and truth of God, with
a design to improve some lust by it; to turn the word of God to be a
pander to the breach of his law. This is so far from making God’s will
our rule, that we make our own vile affections the rule of his law.
How many forced interpretations of Scripture have been coined to give
content to the lusts of men, and the divine rule forced to bend, and
be squared to men’s loose and carnal apprehensions! It is a part of
the instability or falseness of the heart, to “wrest the Scriptures to
their own destruction;”[170] which they could not do, if they did not
first wring them to countenance some detestable error or filthy crime.
In Paradise the first interpretation made of the first law of God,
was point blank against the mind of the Lawgiver, and venomous to the
whole race of mankind. Paul himself feared that some might put his
doctrine of grace to so ill a use, as to be an altar and sanctuary to
shelter their presumption (Rom. vi. 1, 15): “Shall we then continue
in sin, that grace may abound?” Poisonous consequences are often
drawn from the sweetest truths; as when God’s patience is made a topic
whence to argue against his providence,[171] or an encouragement to
commit evil more greedily; as though because he had not presently a
revenging hand, he had not an all‑seeing eye: or when the doctrine
of justification by faith is made use of to depress a holy life; or
God’s readiness to receive returning sinners, an encouragement to
defer repentance till a death‑bed. A liar will hunt for shelter
in the reward God gave the midwives that lied to Pharaoh for the
preservation of the males of Israel, and Rahab’s saving the spies by
false intelligence. God knows how to distinguish between grace and
corruption, that may lie close together; or between something of moral
goodness and moral evil, which may be mixed; we find their fidelity
rewarded, which was a moral good; but not their lie approved, which
was a moral evil. Nor will Christ’s conversing with sinners, be a
plea for any to thrust themselves into evil company. Christ conversed
with sinners, as a physician with diseased persons, to cure them, not
approve them; others with profligate persons, to receive infection
from them, not to communicate holiness to them. Satan’s children have
studied their father’s art, who wanted not perverted Scripture to
second his temptations against our Saviour.[172] How often do carnal
hearts turn divine revelation to carnal ends, as the sea fresh water
into salt! As men subject the precepts of God to carnal interests,
so they subject the truths of God to carnal fancies. When men
will allegorize the word, and make a humorous and crazy fancy the
interpreter of divine oracles, and not the Spirit speaking in the
word; this is to enthrone our own imaginations as the rule of God’s
law, and depose his law from being the rule of our reason; this is to
rifle truth of its true mind and intent. ’Tis more to rob a man of his
reason, the essential constitutive part of man, than of his estate;
this is to refuse an intimate acquaintance with his will. We shall
{a106} never tell what is the matter of a precept, or the matter of
a promise, if we impose a sense upon it contrary to the plain meaning
of it; thereby we shall make the law of God to have a distinct sense
according to the variety of men’s imaginations, and so make every
man’s fancy a law to himself. Now that this unwillingness to have a
spiritual acquaintance with divine truth is a disowning God as our
rule, and a setting up self in his stead, is evident; because this
unwillingness respects truth.

1st. As it is most spiritual and holy. A fleshly mind is most
contrary to a spiritual law, and particularly as it is a searching
and discovering law, that would dethrone all other rules in the soul.
As men love to be without a holy God in the world, so they love to
be without a holy law, the transcript and image of God’s holiness in
their hearts; and without holy men, the lights kindled by the Father
of lights. As the holiness of God, so the holiness of the law most
offends a carnal heart (Isa. xxx. 11): “Cause the Holy One of Israel
to cease from before us, prophesy to us right things.” They could not
endure God as a holy one. Herein God places their rebellion, rejecting
him as their rule (ver. 9), “Rebellious children, that will not hear
the law of the Lord.” The more pure and precious any discovery of God
is, the more it is disrelished by the world: as spiritual sins are
sweetest to a carnal heart, so spiritual truths are most distasteful.
The more of the brightness of the sun any beam conveys, the more
offensive it is to a distempered eye.

2d. As it doth most relate to, or lead to God. The devil directs his
fiercest batteries against those doctrines in the word, and those
graces in the heart, which most exalt God, debase man, and bring men
to the lowest subjection to their Creator; such is the doctrine and
grace of justifying faith. That men hate not knowledge as knowledge,
but as it directs them to choose the fear of the Lord, was the
determination of the Holy Ghost long ago (Prov. i. 29): “For that they
hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Whatsoever
respects God, clears up guilt, witnesses man’s revolt to him, rouseth
up conscience, and moves to a return to God, a man naturally runs from,
as Adam did from God, and seeks a shelter in some weak bushes of error,
rather than appear before it. Not that men are unwilling to inquire
into and contemplate some divine truths which lie furthest from the
heart, and concern not themselves immediately with the rectifying
the soul: they may view them with such a pleasure as some might take
in beholding the miracles of our Saviour, who could not endure his
searching doctrine. The light of speculation may be pleasant, but the
light of conviction is grievous; that which galls their consciences,
and would affect them with a sense of their duty to God. Is it not
easy to perceive, that when a man begins to be serious in the concerns
of the honor of God and the duty of his soul, he feels a reluctancy
within him, even against the pleas of conscience; which evidenceth
that some unworthy principle has got footing in the hearts of men,
which fights against the declarations of God without, and the
impressions of the law of God within, at the same time when a man’s
own conscience takes part with it, which is the substance of the
apostle’s discourse, Rom. vii. 15, 16, {a107} &c. Close discourses
of the honor of God, and our duty to him, are irksome when men are
upon a merry pin: they are like a damp in a mine, that takes away
their breath; they shuffle them out as soon as they can, and are
as unwilling to retain the speech of them in their mouths, as the
knowledge of them in their hearts. Gracious speeches, instead of
bettering many men, distemper them, as sometimes sweet perfumes affect
a weak head with aches.

3d. As it is most contrary to self. Men are unwilling to acquaint
themselves with any truth that leads to God, because it leads from
self. Every part of the will of God is more or less displeasing, as it
sounds harsh against some carnal interest men would set above God, or
as a mate with him. Man cannot desire any intimacy with that law which
he regards as a bird of prey, to pick out his right eye or gnaw off
his right hand, his lust dearer than himself. The reason we have such
hard thoughts of God’s will is, because we have such high thoughts
of ourselves. It is a hard matter to believe or will that which hath
no affinity with some principle in the understanding, and no interest
in our will and passions: our unwillingness to be acquainted with
the will of God ariseth from the disproportion between that and our
corrupt hearts; “We are alienated from the life of God in our minds”
(Eph. iv. 18, 19). As we live not like God, so we neither think or
will as God; there is an antipathy in the heart of man against that
doctrine which teaches us to deny ourselves and be under the rule of
another; but whatsoever favors the ambition, lusts, and profits of
men, is easy entertainable. Many are fond of those sciences which may
enrich their understandings, and grate not upon their sensual delights.
Many have an admirable dexterity in finding out philosophical reasons,
mathematical demonstrations, or raising observations upon the records
of history; and spend much time and many serious and affectionate
thoughts in the study of them. In those they have not immediately
to do with God, their beloved pleasures are not impaired; it is a
satisfaction to self without the exercise of any hostility against it.
But had those sciences been against self, as much as the law and will
of God, they had long since been rooted out of the world. Why did the
young man turn his back upon the law of Christ? because of his worldly
self. Why did the Pharisees mock at the doctrine of our Saviour, and
not at their own traditions? because of covetous self. Why did the
Jews slight the person of our Saviour and put him to death, after the
reading so many credentials of his being sent from heaven? because
of ambitious self, that the Romans might not come and take away their
kingdom. If the law of God were fitted to the humors of self, it would
be readily and cordially observed by all men: self is the measure of a
world of seeming religious actions; while God seems to be the object,
and his law the motive, self is the rule and end (Zech. vii. 5): “Did
you fast unto me,” &c.

2. As men discover their disowning the will of God as a rule by
unwillingness to be acquainted with it, so they discover it, by
the contempt of it after they cannot avoid the notions and some
impressions of it. The rule of God is burthensome to a sinner; he
flies from it as from a frightful bugbear, and unpleasant yoke: sin
against {a108} the knowledge of the law is therefore called a going
back from the commandment of God’s lips (Job xxiii. 12): “A casting
God’s word behind them,”[173] as a contemptible thing, fitter to be
trodden in the dirt than lodged in the heart; nay it is a casting it
off as an abominable thing, for so the word זנח signifies, Hos. viii. 3.
“Israel hath cast off the thing that is good;” an utter refusal of
God (Jer. xliv. 16): “As for the word which thou hast spoken to us
in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken.” In the slight of his
precepts his essential perfections are slighted. In disowning his
will as a rule, we disown all those attributes which flow from his
will, as goodness, righteousness, and truth. As an act of the divine
understanding is supposed to precede the act of the divine will, so we
slight the infinite reason of God. Every law, though it proceeds from
the will of the lawgiver, and doth formally consist in an act of the
will, yet it doth pre‑suppose an act of the understanding. If the
commandment be holy, just, and good, as it is (Rom. vii. 12); if it
be the image of God’s holiness, a transcript of his righteousness,
and the efflux of his goodness; then in every breach of it, dirt is
cast upon those attributes which shine in it; and a slight of all
the regards he hath to his own honor, and all the provisions he makes
for his creature. This atheism, or contempt of God, is more taken
notice of by God than the matter of the sin itself; as a respect
to God in a weak and imperfect obedience is more than the matter of
the obedience itself, because it is an acknowledgment of God; so a
contempt of God in an act of disobedience, is more than the matter
of the disobedience. The creature stands in such an act not only in a
posture of distance from God, but defiance of him; it was not the bare
act of murder and adultery which Nathan charged upon David, but the
atheistical principle which spirited those evil acts. The despising
the commandment of the Lord was the venom of them.[174] It is possible
to break a law without contempt; but when men pretend to believe there
is a God, and that this is the law of God, it shows a contempt of his
majesty:[175] men naturally account God’s laws too strict, his yoke
too heavy, and his limits too strait; and he that liveth in a contempt
of this law, curseth God in his life. How can they believe there is
a God, who despise him as a ruler? How can they believe him to be a
guide, that disdain to follow him? To think we firmly believe a God
without living conformable to his law, is an idle and vain imagination.
The true and sensible notion of a God cannot subsist with disorder and
an affected unrighteousness. This contempt is seen,

1. In any presumptuous breach of any part of his law. Such sins are
frequently called in Scripture, rebellions, which are a denial of
the allegiance we owe to him. By a wilful refusal of his right in one
part, we root up the foundation of that rule he doth justly challenge
over us; his right is as extensive to command us in one thing, as in
another; and if it be disowned in one thing, it is virtually disowned
in all, and the whole statute book of God is contemned (James ii. 10,
11): “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point,
is guilty of all.” A willing breaking one part, though there be a
willing observance of all the other points of it, is a breach {a109}
of the whole; because the authority of God, which gives sanction to
the whole, is slighted: the obedience to the rest is dissembled: for
the love, which is the root of all obedience, is wanting; for “love
is the fulfilling the whole law.”[176] The rest are obeyed because
they cross not carnal desire so much as the other, and so it is an
observance of himself, not of God. Besides, the authority of God,
which is not prevalent to restrain us from the breach of one point,
would be of as little force with us to restrain us from the breach
of all the rest, did the allurements of the flesh give us as strong a
diversion from the one as from the other; and though the command that
is transgressed be the least in the whole law, yet the authority which
enjoins it is the same with that which enacts the greatest: and it is
not so much the matter of the command, as the authority commanding
which lays the obligation.

2. In the natural averseness to the declarations of God’s will and
mind, which way soever they tend. Since man affected to be as God,
he desires to be boundless; he would not have fetters, though they
be golden ones, and conduce to his happiness. Though the law of God
be a strength to them, yet they will not (Isa. xxx. 15): “In returning
shall be your strength, and you would not.” They would not have a
bridle to restrain them from running into the pit, nor be hedged in by
the law, though for their security; as if they thought it too slavish
and low‑spirited a thing to be guided by the will of another. Hence
man is compared to a wild ass, that loves to “snuff up the wind in
the wilderness at her pleasure,” rather than come under the guidance
of God;[177] from whatsoever quarter of the heavens you pursue her
she will run to the other. The Israelites “could not endure what was
commanded,”[178] though in regard of the moral part, agreeable to what
they found written in their own nature, and to the observance whereof
they had the highest obligations of any people under heaven, since
God had, by many prodigies, delivered them from a cruel slavery, the
memory of which prefaced the Decalogue (Exod. xx. 2), “I am the Lord
thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage.” They could not think of the rule of their duty, but
they must reflect upon the grand incentive of it in their redemption
from Egyptian thraldom; yet this people were cross to God, which way
soever he moved. When they were in the brick kilns, they cried for
deliverance; when they had heavenly manna, they longed for their
onions and garlic. In Num. xiv. 3, they repent of their deliverance
from Egypt, and talk of returning again to seek the remedy of their
evils in the hands of their cruellest enemies, and would rather put
themselves into the irons, whence God had delivered them, than believe
one word of the promise of God for giving them a fruitful land; but
when Moses tells them God’s order, that they should turn back by the
way of the Red Sea,[179] and that God had confirmed it by an oath,
that they should not see the land of Canaan,[180] they then run cross
to this command of God, and, instead of marching towards the Red
Sea, which they had wished for before, they will go up to Canaan,
as in spite of God and his threatening: “We will go to the place
{a110} which the Lord hath promised” (ver. 40), which Moses calls
a transgressing the commandment of the Lord (ver. 41). They would
presume to go up, notwithstanding Moses’ prohibition, and are smitten
by the Amalekites. When God gives them a precept, with a promise to
go up to Canaan, they long for Egypt; when God commands them to return
to the Red Sea, which was nearer to the place they longed for, they
will shift sides, and go up to Canaan;[181] and when they found they
were to traverse the solitudes of the desert, they took pet against
God, and, instead of thanking him for the late victory against the
Canaanites, they reproach him for his conduct from Egypt, and the
manna wherewith he nourished them in the wilderness. They would not
go to Canaan, the way God had chosen, nor preserve themselves by
the means God had ordained. They would not be at God’s disposal, but
complain of the badness of the way, and the lightness of manna, empty
of any necessary juice to sustain their nature. They murmuringly
solicit the will and power of God to change all that order which he
had resolved in his counsel, and take another, conformable to their
vain foolish desires; and they signified thereby that they would
invade his conduct, and that he should act according to their fancy,
which the psalmist calls a “tempting of God, and limiting the Holy One
of Israel” (Psalm lxxviii. 41). To what point soever the declarations
of God stand, the will of man turns the quite contrary way. Is not
the carriage of this nation the best then in the world? a discovery
of the depth of our natural corruption, how cross man is to God?
And that charge God brings against them, may be brought against all
men by nature, that they despise his judgments, and have a rooted
abhorrency of his statutes in their soul (Lev. xxvi. 43). No sooner
had they recovered from one rebellion, but they revolted to another;
so difficult a thing it is for man’s nature to be rendered capable of
conforming to the will of God. The carriage of this people is but a
copy of the nature of mankind, and is “written for our admonition”
(1 Cor. x. 11). From this temper men are said to make “void the law of
God;”[182] to make it of no obligation, an antiquated and moth‑eaten
record. And the Pharisees, by setting up their traditions against the
will of God, are said to make his law of “none effect;” to strip it of
all its authority, as the word signifies, (Matt. xv. 6), ἠκυρώσατε.

3. We have the greatest slight of that will of God which is most for
his honor and his greatest pleasure. It is the nature of man, ever
since Adam, to do so (Hos. vi. 6, 7). God desired mercy and not a
sacrifice; the knowledge of himself more than burnt offering; but they,
like men as Adam, have transgressed the covenant, invade God’s rights,
and not let him be Lord of one tree. We are more curious observers of
the fringes of the law than of the greater concerns of it. The Jews
were diligent in sacrifices and offerings, which God did not urge upon
them as principals, but as types of other things; but negligent of
the faith which was to be established by him. Holiness, mercy, pity,
which concerned the honor of God, as governor of the world, and were
imitations of the holiness and goodness of God, they were strangers
to. This is God’s complaint {a111} (Isa. i. 11, 12, xvi. 17). We shall
find our hearts most averse to the observation of those laws which are
eternal, and essential to righteousness; such that he could not but
command, as he is a righteous Governor; in the observation of which we
come nearest to him, and express his image more clearly; as those laws
for an inward and spiritual worship, a supreme affection to him. God,
in regard of his righteousness and holiness of his nature, and the
excellency of his being, could not command the contrary to these. But
this part of his will our hearts most swell against, our corruption
doth most snarl at; whereas those laws which are only positive, and
have no intrinsic righteousness in them, but depend purely upon the
will of the Lawgiver, and may be changed at his pleasure (which the
other, that have an intrinsic righteousness in them, cannot), we
better comply with, than that part of his will that doth express more
the righteousness of his nature;[183] such as the ceremonial part of
worship, and the ceremonial law among the Jews. We are more willing
to observe order in some outward attendances and glavering devotions,
than discard secret affections to evil, crucify inward lusts and
delightful thoughts. A “hanging down the head like a bullrush” is not
difficult; but the “breaking the heart,” like a potter’s vessel, to
shreds and dust (a sacrifice God delights in, whereby the excellency
of God and the vileness of the creature is owned), goes against the
grain; to cut off an outward branch is not so hard as to hack at the
root. What God most loathes, as most contrary to his will, we most
love: no sin did God so severely hate, and no sin were the Jews more
inclined unto, than that of idolatry. The heathen had not changed
their God, as the Jews had changed their glory (Jer. ii. 11); and all
men are naturally tainted with this sin, which is so contrary to the
holy and excellent nature of God. By how much the more defect there is
of purity in our respects to God, by so much the more respect there is
to some idol within or without us, to humor, custom, and interest, &c.
Never did any law of God meet with so much opposition as Christianity,
which was the design of God from the first promise to the exhibiting
the Redeemer, and from thence to the end of the world. All people
drew swords at first against it. The Romans prepared yokes for their
neighbors, but provided temples for the idols those people worshipped;
but Christianity, the choicest design and most delightful part of the
will of God, never met with a kind entertainment at first in any place;
Rome, that entertained all others, persecuted this with fire and sword,
though sealed by greater testimonies from heaven than their own
records could report in favor of their idols.

4. In running the greatest hazards, and exposing ourselves to more
trouble to cross the will of God, than is necessary to the observance
of it. It is a vain charge men bring against the divine precepts, that
they are rigorous, severe, difficult; when, besides the contradiction
to our Saviour, who tells us his “yoke is easy,” and his “burthen
light,” they thwart their own calm reason and judgment. Is there not
more difficulty to be vicious, covetous, violent, cruel, than to be
virtuous, charitable, kind? Doth the will of God enjoin that that
is {a112} not conformable to right reason, and secretly delightful
in the exercise and issue? And on the contrary, what doth Satan and
the world engage us in, that is not full of molestation and hazard?
Is it a sweet and comely thing to combat continually against our
own consciences, and resist our own light, and commence a perpetual
quarrel against ourselves, as we ordinarily do when we sin? They in
the Prophet (Micah vi. 6‒8) would be at the expense of “thousands of
rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil,” if they could compass them; yea,
would strip themselves of their natural affection to their first‑born
to expiate the “sin of their soul,” rather than to “do justice, love
mercy, and walk humbly with God;” things more conducible to the honor
of God, the welfare of the world, the security of their souls, and
of a more easy practice than the offerings they wished for. Do not
men then disown God when they will walk in ways hedged with thorns,
wherein they meet with the arrows of conscience, at every turn, in
their sides; and slide down to an everlasting punishment, sink under
an intolerable slavery, to contradict the will of God? when they will
prefer a sensual satisfaction, with a combustion in their consciences,
violation of their reasons, gnawing cares and weary travels before the
honor of God, the dignity of their natures, the happiness of peace and
health, which might be preserved at a cheaper rate, than they are at
to destroy them?

5. In the unwillingness and awkwardness of the heart, when it is
to pay God a service. Men “do evil with both hands earnestly,”[184]
but do good with one hand faintly; no life in the heart, nor any
diligence in the hand. What slight and loose thoughts of God doth
this unwillingness imply? It is a wrong to his providence, as though
we were not under his government, and had no need of his assistance;
a wrong to his excellency, as though there were no amiableness in him
to make his service desirable; an injury to his goodness and power,
as if he were not able or willing to reward the creatures’ obedience,
or careless not to take notice of it; it is a sign we receive little
satisfaction in him, and that there is a great unsuitableness between
him and us.

(1.) There is a kind of constraint in the first engagement. We are
rather pressed to it than enter ourselves volunteers. What we call
service to God is done naturally much against our wills; it is not a
delightful food, but a bitter potion; we are rather haled, than run
to it. There is a contradiction of sin within us against our service,
as there was a contradiction of sinners without our Saviour against
his doing the will of God. Our hearts are unwieldy to any spiritual
service of God; we are fain to use a violence with them sometimes:
Hezekiah, it is said, “walked before the Lord, with a perfect heart”
(2 Kings xx. 9); he walked, he made himself to walk: man naturally
cares not for a walk with God; if he hath any communion with him, it
is with such a dulness and heaviness of spirit as if he wished himself
out of his company. Man’s nature, being contrary to holiness, hath an
aversion to any act of homage to God, because holiness must at least
be pretended. In every duty wherein we have a communion with God,
holiness is requisite: now as men are against {a113} the truth of
holiness, because it is unsuitable to them, so they are not friends
to those duties which require it, and for some space divert them from
the thoughts of their beloved lusts. The word of the Lord is a yoke,
prayer a drudgery, obedience a strange element. We are like fish, that
“drink up iniquity like water,”[185] and come not to the bank without
the force of an angle; no more willing to do service for God, than
a fish is of itself to do service for man. It is a constrained act to
satisfy conscience, and such are servile, not son‑like performances,
and spring from bondage more than affection; if conscience, like a
task‑master, did not scourge them to duty, they would never perform
it. Let us appeal to ourselves, whether we are not more unwilling to
secret, closet, hearty duty to God, than to join with others in some
external service; as if those inward services were a going to the rack,
and rather our penance than privilege. How much service hath God in
the world from the same principle that vagrants perform their task in
Bridewell! How glad are many of evasions to back them in the neglect
of the commands of God, of corrupt reasonings from the flesh to waylay
an act of obedience, and a multitude of excuses to blunt the edge of
the precept! The very service of God shall be a pretence to deprive
him of the obedience due to him. Saul will not be ruled by God’s will
in the destroying the cattle of the Amalekites, but by his own; and
will impose upon the will and wisdom of God, judging God mistaken in
his command, and that the cattle God thought fittest to be meat to
the fowls, were fitter to be sacrifices on the altar.[186] If we do
perform any part of his will, is it not for our own ends, to have
some deliverance from trouble? (Isa. xxvi. 16): “In trouble have
they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was
upon them.” In affliction, he shall find them kneeling in homage and
devotion; in prosperity, he shall feel them kicking with contempt;
they can pour out a prayer in distress, and scarce drop one when they
are delivered.

(2.) There is a slightness in our service of God. We are loth to come
into his presence; and when we do come, we are loth to continue with
him. We pay not an homage to him heartily, as to our Lord and Governor;
we regard him not as our Master, whose work we ought to do, and whose
honor we ought to aim at. 1. In regard of the matter of service. When
the torn, the lame, and the sick is offered to God;[187] so thin and
lean a sacrifice, that you may have thrown it to the ground with a
puff; so some understand the meaning of “you have snuffed at it.”
Men have naturally such slight thoughts of the majesty and law of God,
that they think any service is good enough for him, and conformable
to his law. The dullest and deadest time we think fittest to pay God
a service in; when sleep is ready to close our eyes, and we are unfit
to serve ourselves, we think it a fit time to open our hearts to God.
How few morning sacrifices hath God from many persons and families!
Men leap out of their beds to their carnal pleasures or worldly
employments, without any thought of their Creator and Preserver, or
any reflection upon his will as the rule of our daily obedience. And
as many reserve the dregs of their lives, their old age, to offer up
their souls to {a114} God, so they reserve the dregs of the day, their
sleeping time, for the offering up their service to him. How many
grudge to spend their best time in the serving the will of God, and
reserve for him the sickly and rheumatic part of their lives; the
remainder of that which the devil and their own lusts have fed upon!
Would not any prince or governor judge a present half eaten up by
wild beasts, or that which died in a ditch, a contempt of his royalty?
A corrupt thing is too base and vile for so great a King as God is,
whose name is dreadful.[188] When by age men are weary of their own
bodies, they would present them to God; yet grudgingly, as if a tired
body were too good for him, snuffing at the command for service. God
calls for our best, and we give him the worst. 2. In respect of frame.
We think any frame will serve God’s turn, which speaks our slight
of God as a Ruler. Man naturally performs duty with an unholy heart,
whereby it becomes an abomination to God (Prov. xxviii. 9): “He that
turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayers shall be
an abomination to God.” The services which he commands, he hates for
their evil frames or corrupt ends (Amos v. 21): “I hate, I despise
your feast‑days, I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.” God
requires gracious services, and we give him corrupt ones. We do not
rouse up our hearts, as David called upon his lute and harp to awake
(Psalm lvii. 8). Our hearts are not given to him; we put him off with
bodily exercise. The heart is but ice to what it doth not affect.
[1.] There is not that natural vigor in the observance of God, which
we have in worldly business. When we see a liveliness in men in other
things, change the scene into a motion towards God, how suddenly doth
their vigor shrink and their hearts freeze into sluggishness! Many
times we serve God as languishingly as if we were afraid he should
accept us, and pray as coldly as if we were unwilling he should
hear us, and take away that lust by which we are governed, and which
conscience forces us to pray against; as if we were afraid God should
set up his own throne and government in our hearts. How fleeting are
we in divine meditation, how sleepy in spiritual exercises! but in
other exercises active. The soul doth not awaken itself, and excite
those animal and vital spirits, which it will in bodily recreations
and sports; much less the powers of the soul: whereby it is evident
we prefer the latter before any service to God. Since there is a
fulness of animal spirits, why might they not be excited in holy
duties as well as in other operations, but that there is a reluctancy
in the soul to exercise its supremacy in this case, and perform
anything becoming a creature in subjection to God as a Ruler?
[2.] It is evident also in the distractions we have in his service.
How loth are we to serve God fixedly one hour, nay a part of an hour,
notwithstanding all the thoughts of his majesty, and the eternity
of glory set before our eye! What man is there, since the fall of
Adam, that served God one hour without many wanderings and unsuitable
thoughts unfit for that service? How ready are our hearts to start
out and unite themselves with any worldly objects that please us!
[3.] Weariness in it evidenceth it. To be weary of our dulness
signifies a desire, {a115} to be weary of service signifies a
discontent, to be ruled by God. How tired are we in the performance
of spiritual duties, when in the vain triflings of time we have a
perpetual motion! How will many willingly revel whole nights, when
their hearts will flag at the threshold of a religious service! like
Dagon,[189] lose both our heads to think, and hands to act, when the
ark of God is present. Some in the Prophet wished the new moon and
the Sabbath over, that they might sell their corn, and be busied again
in their worldly affairs.[190] A slight and weariness of the Sabbath,
was a slight of the Lord of the Sabbath, and of that freedom from the
yoke and rule of sin, which was signified by it. The design of the
sacrifices in the new moon was to signify a rest from the tyranny of
sin, and a consecration to the spiritual service of God. Servants that
are quickly weary of their work, are weary of the authority of their
master that enjoins it. If our hearts had a value for God, it would
be with us as with the needle to the loadstone; there would be upon
his beck a speedy motion to him, and a fixed union with him. When the
judgments and affections of the saints shall be fully refined in glory,
they shall be willing to behold the face of God, and be under his
government to eternity, without any weariness: as the holy angels have
owned God as their sovereign near these six thousand years, without
being weary of running on his errands. But, alas, while the flesh
clogs us, there will be some relics of unwillingness to hear his
injunctions, and weariness in performing them; though men may excuse
those things by extrinsic causes, yet God’s unerring judgment calls it
a weariness of himself (Isaiah xliii. 22): “Thou hast not called upon
me, O Jacob, but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” Of this he
taxeth his own people, when he tells them he would have the beasts
of the field, the dragons and the owls――the Gentiles, that the Jews
counted no better than such――to honor him and acknowledge him their
rule in a way of duty (ver. 20, 21).

6. This contempt is seen in a deserting the rule of God, when our
expectations are not answered upon our service. When services are
performed from carnal principles, they are soon cast off when carnal
ends meet not with desired satisfaction. But when we own ourselves
God’s servants and God our Master, “our eyes will wait upon him till
he have mercy on us.”[191] It is one part of the duty we owe to God
as our Master in heaven to continue in prayer (Col. iv. 1, 2); and
by the same reason in all other service, and to watch in the same
with thanksgiving: to watch for occasions of praise, to watch with
cheerfulness for further manifestations of his will, strength to
perform it, success in the performance, that we may from all draw
matter of praise. As we are in a posture of obedience to his precepts,
so we should be in a posture of waiting for the blessing of it. But
naturally we reject the duty we owe to God, if he do not speed the
blessing we expect from him. How many do secretly mutter the same as
they in Job xxi. 15: “What is the Almighty that we should serve him,
and what profit shall we have if we pray to him?” They serve not God
out of conscience to his commands, but for some carnal profit; and if
God make them to wait for it, they will not {a116} stay his leisure,
but cease soliciting him any longer. Two things are expressed;――that
God was not worthy of any homage from them,――“What is the Almighty
that we should serve him?” and that the service of him would not bring
them in a good revenue or an advantage of that kind they expected.
Interest drives many men on to some kind of service, and when they do
not find an advance of that, they will acknowledge God no more; but
like some beggars, if you give them not upon their asking, and calling
you good master, from blessing they will turn to cursing. How often
do men do that secretly, practically, if not plainly, which Job’s wife
advised him to, curse God, and cast off that disguise of integrity
they had assumed! (Job ii. 9): “Dost thou still retain thy integrity?
curse God. ” What a stir, and pulling, and crying is here! Cast off
all thoughts of religious service, and be at daggers drawing with
that God, who for all thy service of him has made thee so wretched
a spectacle to men, and a banquet for worms. The like temper is
deciphered in the Jews (Mal. iii. 14), “It is in vain to serve God,
and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances, that we have
walked mournfully before the Lord?” What profit is it that we have
regarded his statutes, and carried ourselves in a way of subjection
to God, as our Sovereign, when we inherit nothing but sorrow, and the
idolatrous neighbors swim in all kind of pleasures? as if it were the
most miserable thing to acknowledge God? If men have not the benefits
they expect, they think God unrighteous in himself, and injurious to
them, in not conferring the favor they imagine they have merited; and
if they have not that recompense, they will deny God that subjection
they owe to him as creatures. Grace moves to God upon a sense of duty;
corrupt nature upon a sense of interest. Sincerity is encouraged by
gracious returns, but is not melted away by God’s delay or refusal.
Corrupt nature would have God at its back, and steers a course of duty
by hope of some carnal profit, not by a sense of the sovereignty of

7. This contempt is seen in breaking promises with God. “One while
the conscience of a man makes vows of new obedience, and perhaps
binds himself with many an oath; but they prove like Jonah’s gourd,
withering the next day after their birth. This was Pharaoh’s temper:
under a storm he would submit to God, and let Israel go; but when
the storm is ended, he will not be under God’s control, and Israel’s
slavery shall be increased. The fear of Divine wrath makes many
a sinner turn his back upon his sin, and the love of his ruling
lust makes him turn his back upon his true Lord. This is from the
prevalency of sin, that disputes with God for the sovereignty.”[192]
When God hath sent a sharp disease, as a messenger to bind men to
their beds, and make an interruption of their sinful pleasures, their
mouths are full of promises of a new life, in hope to escape the just
vengeance of God: the sense of hell, which strikes strongly upon them,
makes them full of such pretended resolutions when they howl upon
their beds. But if God be pleased in his patience to give them a
respite, to take off the chains wherewith he seemed to be binding
them for destruction, and recruit their strength, {a117} they are
more earnest in their sins than they were in their promises of a
reformation, as if they had got the mastery of God, and had outwitted
him. How often doth God charge them of not returning to him after a
succession of judgments![193] So hard it is, not only to allure, but
to scourge men, to an acknowledgment of God as their Ruler!

Consider then, are we not naturally inclined to disobey the known
will of God? Can we say, Lord, for thy sake we refrain the thing to
which our hearts incline? Do we not allow ourselves to be licentious,
earthly, vain, proud, revengeful, though we know it will offend him?
Have we not been peevishly cross to his declared will? run counter to
him and those laws which express most of the glory of his holiness?
Is not this to disown him as our rule? Did we never wish there were
no law to bind us, no precept to check our idols? What is this, but
to wish that God would depose himself from being our governor, and
leave us to our own conduct? or else to wish that he were as unholy
as ourselves, as careless of his own laws as we are; that is, that
he were no more a God than we, a God as sinful and unrighteous as
ourselves? He whose heart riseth against the law of God to unlaw it,
riseth against the Author of that law to undeify him. He that casts
contempt upon the dearest thing God hath in the world, that which is
the image of his holiness, the delight of his soul; that which he hath
given a special charge to maintain, and that because it is holy, just,
and good, would not stick to rejoice at the destruction of God himself.
If God’s holiness and righteousness in the beam be despised, much more
will an immense goodness and holiness in the fountain be rejected:
he that wisheth a beam far from his eyes, because it offends and
scorcheth him, can be no friend to the sun, from whence that beam
doth issue. How unworthy a creature is man, since he only, a rational
creature, is the sole being that withdraws itself from the rule of
God in this earth! And how miserable a creature is he also, since,
departing from the order of God’s goodness, he falls into the order
of his justice; and while he refuseth God to be the rule of his life,
he cannot avoid him being the Judge of his punishment! It is this is
the original of all sin, and the fountain of all our misery. This is
the first thing man disowns, the rule which God sets him.

Secondly, Man naturally owns any other rule rather than that of God’s
prescribing. The law of God orders one thing, the heart of man desires
another. There is not the basest thing in the world, but man would
sooner submit to be guided by it, rather than by the holiness of God;
and when anything that God commands crosses our own wills, we value
it no more than we would the advice of a poor despicable beggar. How
many are “lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God!”[194] To make
something which contributes to the perfection of nature, as learning,
wisdom, moral virtues, our rule, would be more tolerable; but to pay
that homage to a swinish pleasure, which is the right of God, is an
inexcusable contempt of him. The greatest excellency in the world
is infinitely below God; much more a bestial delight, which is both
disgraceful and below the nature of {a118} man. If we made the vilest
creature on earth our idol, it is more excusable than to be the slave
of a brutish pleasure. The viler the thing is that doth possess the
throne in our heart, the greater contempt it is of him who can only
claim a right to it, and is worthy of it. Sin is the first object
of man’s election, as soon as the faculty whereby he chooses comes
to exercise its power; and it is so dear to man, that it is, in the
estimate of our Saviour, counted as the right hand, and the right eye,
dear, precious, and useful members.

1. The rule of Satan is owned before the rule of God. The natural
man would rather be under the guidance of Satan than the yoke of his
Creator. Adam chose him to be his governor in Paradise. No sooner had
Satan spoke of God in a way of derision (Gen. iii. 1, 5), “Yea, hath
God said,” but man follows his counsel and approves of the scoff; and
the greatest part of his posterity have not been wiser by his fall,
but would rather ramble in the devil’s wilderness, than to stay in
God’s fold. It is by the sin of man that the devil is become the god
of the world, as if men were the electors of him to the government;
sin is an election of him for a lord, and a putting the soul under his
government. Those that live according to the course of the world, and
are loth to displease it, are under the government of the prince of
it. The greatest part of the works done in the world is to enlarge
the kingdom of Satan. For how many ages were the laws whereby the
greatest part of the world was governed in the affairs of religion,
the fruits of his usurpation and policy? When temples were erected
to him, priests consecrated to his service; the rites used in most
of the worship of the world were either of his own coining, or the
misapplying the rites God had ordained to himself, under the notion
of a God: whence the apostle calls all idolatrous feasts the table
of devils, the cup of devils, sacrifice to devils, fellowship with
devils;[195] devils being the real object of the pagan worship, though
not formally intended by the worshipper; though in some parts of the
Indies, the direct and peculiar worship is to the devil, that he might
not hurt them. And though the intention of others was to offer to God,
and not the devil, yet since the action was contrary to the will of
God, he regards it as a sacrifice to devils. It was not the intention
of Jeroboam to establish priests to the devil, when he consecrated
them to the service of his calves, for Jehu afterwards calls them “the
servants of the Lord” (2 Kings x. 23), “See if there be here none of
the servants of the Lord,” to distinguish them from the servants of
Baal; signifying that the true God was worshipped under those images,
and not Baal, nor any of the gods of the heathens; yet the Scripture
couples the calves and devils together, and ascribes the worship given
to one to be given to the other: “He ordained him priests for the high
places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made;”[196]
so that they were sacrifices to devils, notwithstanding the intention
of Jeroboam and his subjects that had set them up and worshipped them,
because they were contrary to the mind of God, and agreeable to the
doctrine and mind of Satan, though the object of their worship in
their own intention were not the devil, but some deified man or some
canonized saint. {a119} The intention makes not a good action; if so,
when men kill the best servants of God with a design to do God service,
as our Saviour foretells,[197] the action would not be murder; yet
who can call it otherwise, since God is wronged in the persons of his
servants? Since most of the worship of the world, which men’s corrupt
natures incline them to, is false and different from the revealed will
of God, it is a practical acknowledgment of the devil, as the governor,
by acknowledging and practising those doctrines, which have not the
stamp of divine revelation upon them, but were minted by Satan to
depress the honor of God in the world. It doth concern men, then,
to take good heed, that in their acts of worship they have a divine
rule; otherwise it is an owning the devil as the rule: for there is no
medium; whatsoever is not from God, is from Satan. But to bring this
closer to us, and consider that which is more common among us: men
that are in a natural condition, and wedded to their lusts, are under
the paternal government of Satan (John viii. 44): “Ye are of your
father, the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” If we
divide sin into spiritual and carnal, which division comprehends all,
the devil’s authority is owned in both; in spiritual, we conform to
his example, because those he commits; in carnal, we obey his will,
because those he directs: he acts the one, and sets us a copy; he
tempts to the other, and gives us a kind of a precept. Thus man by
nature being a willing servant of sin, is more desirous to be bound
in the devil’s iron chain, than in God’s silken cords. What greater
atheism can there be, than to use God as if he were inferior to the
devil? to take the part of his greatest enemy, who drew all others
into the faction against him? to pleasure Satan by offending God, and
gratify our adversary with the injury of our Creator? For a subject
to take arms against his prince with the deadliest enemy both himself
and prince hath in the whole world, adds a greater blackness to the

2. The more visible rule preferred before God in the world, is man.
The opinion of the world is more our rule than the precept of God;
and many men’s abstinence from sin is not from a sense of the Divine
will, no, nor from a principle of reason, but from an affection to
some man on whom they depend, or fear of punishment from a superior;
the same principle with that in a ravenous beast, who abstains from
what he desires, for fear only of a stick or club. Men will walk with
the herds, go in fashion with the most, speak and act as the most
do. While we conform to the world, we cannot perform a reasonable
service to God, nor prove, nor approve practically what the good and
acceptable will of God is; the apostle puts them in opposition to one
another.[198] This appears,

1. In complying more with the dictates of men, than the will of God.
Men draw encouragement from God’s forbearance to sin more freely
against him; but the fear of punishment for breaking the will of man
lays a restraint upon them. The fear of man is a more powerful curb,
to restrain men in their duty, than the fear of God; so we may please
a friend, a master, a governor, we are regardless whether we please
God or no; men‑pleasers are more than God‑pleasers; {a120} man is
more advanced as a rule, than God, when we submit to human orders, and
stagger and dispute against divine. Would not a prince think himself
slighted in his authority, if any of his servants should decline his
commands, by the order of one of his subjects? And will not God make
the same account of us, when we deny or delay our obedience, for fear
of one of his creatures? In the fear of man, we as little acknowledge
God for our sovereign, as we do for our comforter (Isa. li. 12, 13):
“I, even I, am he that comforteth you; who art thou, that thou
shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die,” &c. “and forgettest
the Lord thy maker?” &c. We put a slight upon God, as if he were not
able to bear us out in our duty to him, and incapable to balance the
strength of an arm of flesh.

2. In observing that which is materially the will of God, not because
it is his will, but the injunctions of men. As the word of God may be
received, yet not as his word, so the will of God may be performed,
yet not as his will; it is materially done, but not formally obeyed.
An action, and obedience in that action, are two things; as when man
commands the ceasing from all works of the ordinary calling on the
Sabbath, it is the same that God enjoins: the cessation, or attendance
of his servants on the hearing of the word, are conformable in the
matter of it to the will of God; but it is only conformable in the
obediential part of the acts to the will of man, when it is done only
with respect to a human precept. As God hath a right to enact his
laws without consulting his creature in the way of his government, so
man is bound to obey those laws, without consulting whether they be
agreeable to men’s laws or no. If we act the will of God because the
will of our superiors concurs with it, we obey not God in that, but
man, a human will being the rule of our obedience, and not the divine;
this is to vilify God, and make him inferior to man in our esteem, and
a valuing the rule of man above that of our Creator. Since God is the
highest perfection and infinitely good, whatsoever rule he gives the
creature must be good, else it cannot proceed from God. A base thing
cannot be the product of an infinite excellency, and an unreasonable
thing cannot be the product of an infinite wisdom and goodness;
therefore, as the respecting God’s will before the will of man is
excellent and worthy of a creature, and is an acknowledging the
excellency, goodness, and wisdom of God, so the eying the will of man
before and above the will of God, is on the contrary, a denial of all
those in a lump, and a preferring the wisdom, goodness, and power of
man in his law, above all those perfections of God in his. Whatsoever
men do that looks like moral virtue or abstinence from vices, not
out of obedience to the rule God hath set, but because of custom,
necessity, example, or imitation, they may, in the doing of it, be
rather said to be apes than Christians.

3. In obeying the will of man when it is contrary to the will of
God; as the Israelites willingly “walked after the commandment,”[199]
not of God, but of Jeroboam in the case of the calves, and “made
the king’s heart glad with their lies.”[200] They cheered him with
their ready obedience to his command for idolatry (which was a lie
in itself, and a lie in them) against the commandment of God, and the
{a121} warnings of the prophets, rather than cheer the heart of God
with their obedience to his worship instituted by him; nay, and when
God offered them to cure them their wound, their iniquity breaks
out afresh; they would neither have him as a lord to rule them, nor
a physician to cure them (Hosea vii. 1): “When I would have healed
Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered.” The whole
Persian nation shrunk at once from a duty due by the light of nature
to the Deity, upon a decree that “neither God or man should be
petitioned to for thirty days, but only their king;”[201] one only,
Daniel, excepted against it, who preferred his homage to God, above
obedience to his prince. An adulterous generation is many times made
the rule of men’s professions, as is implied in those words of our
Saviour (Mark viii. 38): “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my
words in this adulterous and sinful generation:” own him among his
disciples, and be ashamed of him among his enemies. Thus men are
said to deny God (Tit. i. 16), when they “attend to Jewish fables
and the precepts of men rather than the word of God;” when the
decrees or canons of fallible men are valued at a higher rate, and
preferred before the writings of the Holy Ghost by his apostles. As
man naturally disowns the rule God sets him, and owns any other rule
than that of God’s prescribing, so,

Thirdly, He doth this in order to the setting himself up as his own
rule; as though our own wills, and not God’s, were the true square and
measure of goodness. We make an idol of our own wills, and as much as
self is exalted, God is deposed; the more we esteem our own wills, the
more we endeavor to annihilate the will of God; account nothing of him,
the more we account of ourselves, and endeavor to render ourselves his
superiors, by exalting our own wills. No prince but would look upon
his authority as invaded, his royalty derided, if a subject should
resolve to be a law to himself, in opposition to his known will; true
piety is to hate ourselves, deny ourselves, and cleave solely to the
service of God. To make ourselves our own rule, and the object of
our chiefest love, is atheism. If self‑denial be the greatest part
of godliness, the great letter in the alphabet of religion; self‑love
is the great letter in the alphabet of practical atheism. Self is the
great antichrist and anti‑God in the world, that sets up itself above
all that is called God; self‑love is the captain of that black band
(2 Tim. iii. 2): it sits in the temple of God, and would be adored as
God. Self‑love begins; but denying the power of godliness, which is
the same with denying the ruling power of God, ends the list. It is so
far from bending to the righteous will of the Creator, that it would
have the eternal will of God stoop to the humor and unrighteous will
of a creature; and this is the ground of the contention between the
flesh and spirit in the heart of a renewed man; flesh wars for the
godhead of self, and spirit fights for the godhead of God; the one
would settle the throne of the Creator, and the other maintain a
law of covetousness, ambition, envy, lust, in the stead of God. The
evidence of this will appear in these propositions:

1. This is natural to man as he is corrupted. What was the venom
{a122} of the sin of Adam, is naturally derived with his nature to
all his posterity. It was not the eating a forbidden apple, or the
pleasing his palate that Adam aimed at, or was the chief object of
his desire, but to live independently on his Creator, and be a God
to himself (Gen. iii. 5): “You shall be as gods.” That which was the
matter of the devil’s temptation, was the incentive of man’s rebellion;
a likeness to God he aspired to in the judgment of God himself, an
infallible interpreter of man’s thoughts; “Behold, man is become
as one of us, to know good and evil,” in regard of self‑sufficiency
and being a rule to himself. The Jews understand the ambition of man
to reach no further than an equality with the angelical nature; but
Jehovah here understands it in another sense; God had ordered man by
this prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the “tree of knowledge
of good and evil;” not to attempt the knowledge of good and evil of
himself, but to wait upon the dictates of God; not to trust to his own
counsels, but to depend wholly upon him for direction and guidance.
Certainly he that would not hold off his hand from so small a thing
as an apple, when he had his choice of the fruit of the garden, would
not have denied himself anything his appetite had desired, when that
principle had prevailed upon him; he would not have stuck at a greater
matter to pleasure himself with the displeasing of God, when for so
small a thing he would incur the anger of his Creator. Thus would he
deify his own understanding against the wisdom of God, and his own
appetite against the will of God. This desire of equality with God,
a learned man[202] thinks the apostle intimates (Phil. ii. 6): “Who
being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;”
the Son’s being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be
equal with God, implies that the robbery of sacrilege committed by our
first parents, for which the Son of God humbled himself to the death
of the cross, was an attempt to be equal with God, and depend no more
upon God’s directions, but his own conduct; which could be no less
than an invasion of the throne of God, and endeavor to put himself
into a posture to be his mate. Other sins, adultery, theft, &c. could
not be committed by him at that time, but he immediately puts forth
his hand to usurp the power of his Maker; this treason is the old Adam
in every man. The first Adam contradicted the will of God to set up
himself; the second Adam humbled himself, and did nothing but by the
command and will of his Father. This principle wherein the venom of
the old Adam lies, must be crucified to make way for the throne of the
humble and obedient principle of the new Adam, or quickening Spirit;
indeed sin in its own nature is nothing else but “a willing according
to self, and contrary to the will of God;” lusts are therefore called
the wills of the flesh and of the mind.[203] As the precepts of God
are God’s will, so the violation of these precepts is man’s will; and
thus man usurps a godhead to himself, by giving that honor to his own
will which belongs to God, appropriating the right of rule to himself,
and denying it to his Creator. That servant that acts according to
his own will, with a neglect of his master’s, refuseth the duty of
a servant, and invades the right of his master. {a123} This self‑love
and desire of independency on God has been the root of all sin in the
world. The great controversy between God and man hath been, whether he
or they shall be God; whether his reason or theirs, his will or theirs,
shall be the guiding principle. As grace is the union of the will
of God and the will of the creature, so sin is the opposition of the
will of self to the will of God; “Leaning to our own understanding,”
is opposed as a natural evil to “trusting in the Lord,”[204] a
supernatural grace. Men commonly love what is their own, their
own inventions, their own fancies; therefore the ways of a wicked
man are called the “ways of his own heart.”[205] and the ways of a
superstitious man his own devices (Jer. xviii. 11): “We will walk
after our own devices;” we will be a law to ourselves; and what the
Psalmist saith of the tongue, Our tongues are our own, who shall
control us? is as truly the language of men’s hearts, Our wills are
our own, who shall check us?

2. This is evident in the dissatisfaction of men with their own
consciences when they contradict the desires of self. Conscience is
nothing but an actuated or reflex knowledge of a superior power and
an equitable law; a law impressed, and a power above it impressing
it. Conscience is not the lawgiver, but the remembrancer to mind
us of that law of nature imprinted upon our souls, and actuate the
considerations of the duty and penalty, to apply the rule to our
acts, and pass judgment upon matter of fact: it is to give the charge,
urge the rule, enjoin the practice of those notions of right, as part
of our duty and obedience. But man is as much displeased with the
directions of conscience, as he is out of love with the accusations
and condemning sentence of this officer of God: we cannot naturally
endure any quick and lively practical thoughts of God and his will,
and distaste our own consciences for putting us in mind of it: they
therefore “like not to retain God in their knowledge,”[206] that is,
God in their own consciences; they would blow it out, as it is the
candle of the Lord in them to direct them, and their acknowledgments
of God, to secure themselves against the practice of its principles:
they would stop all the avenues to any beam of light, and would not
suffer a sparkle of divine knowledge to flutter in their minds, in
order to set up another directing rule suited to the fleshly appetite:
and when they cannot stop the light of it from glaring in their faces,
they rebel against it, and cannot endure to abide in its paths.[207]
He speaks not of those which had the written word, or special
revelations; but only a natural light or traditional, handed from Adam:
hence are all the endeavors to still it when it begins to speak, by
some carnal pleasures, as Saul’s evil spirit with a fit of music; or
bribe it with some fits of a glavering devotion, when it holds the
law of God in its commanding authority before the mind: they would
wipe out all the impressions of it when it presses the advancement
of God above self, and entertain it with no better compliment than
Ahab did Elijah, “Hast thou found me, O my enemy?” If we are like
to God in anything of our natural fabric, it is in the superior and
more spiritual part of our souls. The resistance of that which is
most like to God, and instead of God in us, is a disowning of the
Sovereign represented by {a124} that officer. He that would be without
conscience, would be without God, whose vicegerent it is, and make
the sensitive part, which conscience opposes, his lawgiver. Thus a
man, out of respect to sinful self, quarrels with his natural self,
and cannot comport himself in a friendly behavior to his internal
implanted principles: he hates to come under the rebukes of them, as
much as Adam hated to come into the presence of God, after he turned
traitor against him: the bad entertainment God’s deputy hath in us,
reflects upon that God whose cause it pleads: it is upon no other
account that men loathe the upright language of their own reasons in
those matters, and wish the eternal silence of their own consciences,
but as they maintain the rights of God, and would hinder the idol of
self from usurping his godhead and prerogative. Though this power be
part of a man’s self, rooted in his nature, as essential to him and
inseparable from him as the best part of his being; yet he quarrels
with it, as it is God’s deputy, and stickling for the honor of God in
his soul, and quarrelling with that sinful self he would cherish above
God. We are not displeased with this faculty barely as it exerciseth a
self‑reflection; but as it is God’s vicegerent, and bears the mark of
his authority in it. In some cases this self‑reflecting act meets with
good entertainment, when it acts not in contradiction to self, but
suitable to natural affections. As suppose a man hath in his passion
struck his child, and caused thereby some great mischief to him, the
reflection of conscience will not be unwelcome to him; will work some
tenderness in him, because it takes the part of self and of natural
affection; but in the more spiritual concerns of God it will be rated
as a busy‑body.

3. Many, if not most actions, materially good in the world, are done
more because they are agreeable to self, than as they are honorable
to God. As the word of God may be heard not as his word,[208] but as
there may be pleasing notions in it, or discourses against an opinion
or party we disaffect; so the will of God may be performed, not as his
will, but as it may gratify some selfish consideration, when we will
please God so far as it may not displease ourselves, and serve him as
our Master, so far as his command may be a servant to our humor; when
we consider not who it is that commands, but how short it comes of
displeasing that sin which rules in our heart, pick and choose what is
least burdensome to the flesh, and distasteful to our lusts. He that
doth the will of God, not out of conscience of that will, but because
it is agreeable to himself, casts down the will of God, and sets his
own will in the place of it; takes the crown from the head of God,
and places it upon the head of self. If things are done, not because
they are commanded by God, but desirable to us, it is a disobedient
obedience; a conformity to God’s will in regard of the matter, a
conformity to our own will in regard of the motive; either as the
things done are agreeable to natural and moral self, or sinful self.

(1). As they are agreeable to natural or moral self. When men will
practise some points of religion, and walk in the track of some divine
precepts; not because they are divine, but because they are {a125}
agreeable to their humor or constitution of nature; from the sway
of a natural bravery, the bias of a secular interest, not from an
ingenuous sense of God’s authority, or a voluntary submission to his
will; as when a man will avoid excess in drinking, not because it is
dishonorable to God, but as it is a blemish to his own reputation,
or an impair of the health of his body: doth this deserve the name
of an observance of the divine injunction, or rather an obedience
to ourselves? Or when a man will be liberal in the distribution of
his charity, not with an eye to God’s precept, but in compliance
with his own natural compassion, or to pleasure the generosity of
his nature: the one is obedience to a man’s own preservation; the
other an obedience to the interest or impulse of a moral virtue. It
is not respect to the rule of God, but the authority of self, and, at
the best, is but the performance of the material part of the divine
rule, without any concurrence of a spiritual motive or a spiritual
manner. That only is a maintaining the rights of God, when we pay
an observance to his rule, without examining the agreeableness of
it to our secular interest, or consulting with the humor of flesh and
blood; when we will not decline his service, though we find it cross,
and hath no affinity with the pleasure of our own nature: such an
obedience as Abraham manifested in his readiness to sacrifice his
son; such an obedience as our Saviour demands in cutting off the right
hand. When we observe anything of divine order upon the account of its
suitableness to our natural sentiments, we shall readily divide from
him, when the interest of nature turns its point against the interest
of God’s honor; we shall fall off from him according to the change
we find in our own humors. And can that be valued as a setting up the
rule of God, which must be deposed upon the mutable interest of an
inconstant mind? Esau had no regard to God in delaying the execution
of his resolution to shorten his brother’s days, though he was awed by
the reverence of his father to delay it; he considered, perhaps, how
justly he might lie under the imputation of hastening crazy Isaac’s
death, by depriving him of a beloved son. But had the old man’s head
been laid, neither the contrary command of God, nor the nearness of a
fraternal relation, could have bound his hands from the act, no more
than they did his heart from the resolution (Gen. xxvii. 41): “Esau
hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him;
and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are
at hand, then will I slay my brother.” So many children, that expect
at the death of their parents great inheritances of portions, may be
observant of them, not in regard of the rule fixed by God, but to
their own hopes, which they would not frustrate by a disobligement.
Whence is it that many men abstain from gross sins, but in love to
their reputation? Wickedness may be acted privately, which a man’s
own credit puts a bar to the open commission of. The preserving his
own esteem may divert him from entering into a brothel house, to which
he hath set his mind before, against a known precept of his Creator.
As Pharaoh parted with the Israelites, so do some men with their
blemishing sins; not out of a sense of God’s rule, but the smart
of present judgments, or fear of a future wrath. Our security then,
{a126} and reputation, is set up in the place of God. This also may be,
and is in renewed men, who have the law written in their hearts, that
is, an habitual disposition to an agreement with the law of God; when
what is done is with a respect to this habitual inclination, without
eying the divine precept, which is appointed to be their rule. This
also is to set up a creature, as renewed self is, instead of the
Creator, and that law of his in his word, which ought to be the rule
of our actions. Thus it is when men choose a moral life, not so much
out of respect to the law of nature, as it is the law of God, but
as it is a law become one with their souls and constitutions. There
is more of self in this than consideration of God; for if it were
the latter, the revealed law of God would, upon the same reason, be
received as well as his natural law. From this principle of self,
morality comes by some to be advanced above evangelical dictates.

(2.) As they are agreeable to sinful self. Not that the commands of
God are suited to bolster up the corruptions of men, no more than
the law can be said to excite or revive sin:[209] but it is like a
scandal taken, not given; an occasion taken by the tumultuousness of
our depraved nature. The Pharisees were devout in long prayers, not
from a sense of duty, or a care of God’s honor; but to satisfy their
ambition, and rake together fuel for their covetousness,[210] that
they might have the greater esteem and richer offerings, to free by
their prayers the souls of deceased persons from purgatory; an opinion
that some think the Jewish synagogue had then entertained,[211]
since some of their doctors have defended such a notion. Men may
observe some precepts of God to have a better conveniency to break
others. Jehu was ordered to cut off the house of Ahab. The service
he undertook was in itself acceptable, but corrupt nature misacted
that which holiness and righteousness commanded. God appointed it to
magnify his justice, and check the idolatry that had been supported
by that family; Jehu acted it to satisfy his revenge and ambition:
he did it to fulfil his lust, not the will of God who enjoined him:
Jehu applauds it as zeal; and God abhors it as murder, and therefore
would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu (Hos. i. 4).
Such kind of services are not paid to God for his own sake, but to
ourselves for our lusts’ sake.

4. This is evident in neglecting to take God’s direction upon emergent
occasions. This follows the text, “None did seek God.” When we consult
not with him, but trust more to our own will and counsel, we make
ourselves our own governors and lords independent upon him; as though
we could be our own counsellors, and manage our concerns without
his leave and assistance; as though our works were in our own hands,
and not in the “hands of God;”[212] that we can by our own strength
and sagacity direct them to a successful end without him. If we must
“acquaint ourselves with God” before we decree a thing,[213] then
to decree a thing without acquainting God with it, is to prefer our
purblind wisdom before the infinite wisdom of God: to resolve without
consulting God, is to depose {a127} God and deify self, our own wit
and strength. We would rather, like Lot, follow our own humor and stay
in Sodom, than observe the angel’s order to go out of it.

5. As we account the actions of others to be good or evil, as they
suit with, or spurn against our fancies and humors. Virtue is a crime,
and vice a virtue, as it is contrary or concurrent with our humors.
Little reason have many men to blame the actions of others, but
because they are not agreeable to what they affect and desire; we
would have all men take directions from us, and move according to our
beck, hence that common speech in the world, Such an one is an honest
friend. Why? because he is of their humor, and lackeys according to
their wills. Thus we make self the measure and square of good and evil
in the rest of mankind, and judge of it by our own fancies, and not
by the will of God, the proper rule of judgment. Well then, let us
consider: Is not this very common? are we not naturally more willing
to displease God than displease ourselves, when it comes to a point
that we must do one or other? Is not our own counsel of more value
with us, than conformity to the will of the Creator? Do not our
judgments often run counter to the judgment of God? Have his laws
a greater respect from us, than our own humors? Do we scruple the
staining his honor when it comes in competition with our own? Are
not the lives of most men a pleasing themselves, without a repentance
that ever they displeased God? Is not this to undeify God, to deify
ourselves, and disown the propriety he hath in us by the right of
creation and beneficence? We order our own ways by our own humors, as
though we were the authors of our own being, and had given ourselves
life and understanding. This is to destroy the order that God hath
placed between our wills and his own, and a lifting up of the foot
above the head; it is the deformity of the creature. The honor of
every rational creature consists in the service of the First Cause
of his being; as the welfare of every creature consists in the orders
and proportionable motion of its members, according to the law of
its creation. He that moves and acts according to a law of his own,
offers a manifest wrong to God, the highest wisdom and chiefest good;
disturbs the order of the world; nulls the design of the righteousness
and holiness of God. The law of God is the rule of that order he
would have observed in the world; he that makes another law his rule,
thrusts out the order of the Creator, and establishes the disorder of
the creature. But this will yet be more evident, in the fourth thing.

Fourthly, Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to
his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our
ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship,
provided he will walk by our rule. “This commits a riot upon his
nature, To think him to be what we ourselve ‘would have him, and wish
him to be’ (Psalm l. 21), we would amplify his mercy and contract his
justice; we would have his power enlarged to supply our wants, and
straitened when it goes about to revenge our crimes; we would have
him wise to defeat our enemies, but not to disappoint our unworthy
projects; we would have him all eye to regard our indigence, and
blind not to discern our guilt; we would have him {a128} true to his
promises, regardless of his precepts, and false to his threatenings;
we would new mint the nature of God according to our models, and shape
a God according to our own fancies, as he made us at first according
to his own image;” instead of obeying him, we would have him obey
us; instead of owning and admiring his perfections, we would have him
strip himself of his infinite excellency, and clothe himself with a
nature agreeable to our own. This is not only to set up self as the
law of God, but to make our own imaginations the model of the nature
of God.[214] Corrupted man takes a pleasure to accuse or suspect the
actions of God: we would not have him act conveniently to his nature;
but act what doth gratify us, and abstain from what distastes us. Man
is never well but when he is impeaching one or other perfection of
God’s nature, and undermining his glory, as if all his attributes must
stand indicted at the bar of our purblind reason: this weed shoots up
in the exercise of grace. Peter intended the refusal of our Saviour’s
washing his feet, as an act of humility, but Christ understands it to
be a prescribing a law to himself, a correcting his love (John xiii.
8, 9). This is evidenced,

1. In the strivings against his law. How many men imply by their
lives, that they would have God deposed from his government, and some
unrighteous being step into his throne; as if God had or should change
his laws of holiness into laws of licentiousness: as if he should
abrogate his old eternal precepts, and enact contrary ones in their
stead? What is the language of such practices, but that they would be
God’s lawgivers and not his subjects? that he should deal with them
according to their own wills, and not according to his righteousness?
that they could make a more holy, wise, and righteous law than the
law of God? that their imaginations, and not God’s righteousness,
should be the rule of his doing good to them? (Jer. ix. 31): “They
have forsaken my law, and walked after the imaginations of their own
heart.” When an act is known to be a sin, and the law that forbids it
acknowledged to be the law of God, and after this we persist in that
which is contrary to it, we tax his wisdom as if he did not understand
what was convenient for us; “we would teach God knowledge;”[215] it is
an implicit wish that God had laid aside the holiness of his nature,
and framed a law to pleasure our lusts. When God calls for weeping
and mourning, and girding with sackcloth upon approaching judgments,
then the corrupt heart is for joy and gladness, eating of flesh and
drinking of wine, because to‑morrow they should die;[216] as if God
had mistaken himself when he ordered them so much sorrow, when their
lives were so near an end; and had lost his understanding when he
ordered such a precept: disobedience is therefore called contention
(Rom. ii. 8): “Contentious, and obey not the truth:” contention
against God, whose truth it is that they disobey; a dispute with him,
which hath more of wisdom in itself, and conveniency for them, his
truth of their imaginations. The more the love, goodness, and holiness
of God appears in any command, the more are we naturally averse from
it, and cast an imputation on him, as if he were foolish, unjust,
cruel, {a129} and that we could have advised and directed him better.
The goodness of God is eminent to us in appointing a day for his own
worship, wherein we might converse with him, and he with us, and our
souls be refreshed with spiritual communications from him; and we
rather use it for the ease of our bodies, than the advancement of
our souls, as if God were mistaken and injured his creature, when he
urged the spiritual part of duty. Every disobedience to the law is
an implicit giving law to him, and a charge against him that he might
have provided better for his creature.

2. In disapproving the methods of God’s government of the world.
If the counsels of Heaven roll not about according to their schemes,
instead of adoring the unsearchable depths of his judgments, they call
him to the bar, and accuse him, because they are not fitted to their
narrow vessels, as if a nut‑shell could contain an ocean. As corrupt
reason esteems the highest truths foolishness, so it counts the most
righteous ways unequal. Thus we commence a suit against God, as though
he had not acted righteously and wisely, but must give an account
of his proceedings at our tribunal. This is to make ourselves God’s
superiors, and presume to instruct him better in the government of the
world; as though God hindered himself and the world, in not making us
of his privy council, and not ordering his affairs according to the
contrivances of our dim understandings. Is not this manifest in our
immoderate complaints of God’s dealings with his church, as though
there were a coldness in God’s affections to his church, and a glowing
heat towards it only in us? Hence are those importunate desires for
things which are not established by any promise, as though we would
overrule and over persuade God to comply with our humor. We have an
ambition to be God’s tutors and direct him in his counsels: “Who hath
been his counsellor?” saith the apostle.[217] Who ought not to be his
counsellor? saith corrupt nature. Men will find fault with God in what
he suffers to be done according to their own minds, when they feel
the bitter fruit of it. When Cain had killed his brother, and his
conscience racked him, how saucily and discontentedly doth he answer
God! (Gen. iv. 9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since thou dost own
thyself the rector of the world, thou shouldst have preserved his
person from my fury; since thou dost accept his sacrifice before my
offering, preservation was due as well as acceptance. If this temper
be found on earth, no wonder it is lodged in hell. That deplorable
person under the sensible stroke of God’s sovereign justice, would
oppose his nay to God’s will (Luke xvi. 30): “And he said, Nay, father
Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent.”
He would presume to prescribe more effectual means than Moses and
the prophets, to inform men of the danger they incurred by their
sensuality. David was displeased, it is said (2 Sam. vi. 8), when the
Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah, not with Uzzah, who was the object
of his pity, but with God, who was the inflicter of that punishment.
When any of our friends have been struck with a rod, against our
sentiments and wishes, have not our hearts been apt to swell in
complaints against God, as though he disregarded the goodness {a130}
of such a person, did not see with our eyes, and measure him by our
esteem of him? as if he should have asked our counsel, before he had
resolved, and managed himself according to our will, rather than his
own. If he be patient to the wicked, we are apt to tax his holiness,
and accuse him as an enemy to his own law. If he inflict severity upon
the righteous, we are ready to suspect his goodness, and charge him to
be an enemy to his affectionate creature. If he spare the Nimrods of
the world, we are ready to ask, “Where is the God of judgment?”[218]
If he afflict the pillars of the earth, we are ready to question,
where is the God of mercy? It is impossible, since the depraved nature
of man, and the various interests and passions in the world, that
infinite power and wisdom can act righteously for the good of the
universe, but he will shake some corrupt interest or other upon the
earth; so various are the inclinations of men, and such a weather‑cock
judgment hath every man in himself, that the divine method he applauds
this day, upon a change of his interest, he will cavil at the next.
It is impossible for the just orders of God to please the same person
many weeks, scarce many minutes together. God must cease to be God,
or to be holy, if he should manage the concerns of the world according
to the fancies of men. How unreasonable is it thus to impose laws upon
God! Must God revoke his own orders? govern according to the dictates
of his creature? Must God, who hath only power and wisdom to sway the
sceptre, become the obedient subject of every man’s humor, and manage
everything to serve the design of a simple creature? This is not to
be God, but to set the creature in his throne: though this be not
formally done, yet that it is interpretatively and practically done,
is every hour’s experience.

3. In impatience in our particular concerns. It is ordinary with man
to charge God in his complaints in the time of affliction. Therefore
it is the commendation the Holy Ghost gives to Job (ch. i. 22), that
in all this, that is, in those many waves that rolled over him, he did
not charge God foolishly, he never spake nor thought anything unworthy
of the majesty and righteousness of God; yet afterwards we find
him warping; he nicknames the affliction to be God’s oppression of
him, and no act of his goodness (x. 3): “Is it good for thee, that
thou shouldst oppress?” He seems to charge God with injustice, for
punishing him when he was not wicked, for which he appeals to God:
“Thou knowest that I am not wicked” (ver. 7), and that God acted
not like a Creator (ver. 8). If our projects are disappointed, what
fretfulness against God’s management are our hearts racked with!
How do uncomely passions bubble upon us, interpretatively at least
wishing that the arms of his power had been bound, and the eye of his
omniscience been hoodwinked, that we might have been left to our own
liberty and designs? and this oftentimes when we have more reason to
bless him than repine at him. The Israelites murmured more against
God in the wilderness, with manna in their mouths, than they did at
Pharaoh in the brick‑kilns, with their garlic and onions between their
teeth. Though we repine at instruments in our afflictions, yet God
counts it a reflection upon himself. The Israelites speaking against
Moses, was, in God’s interpretation, {a131} a rebellion against
himself:[219] and rebellion is always a desire of imposing laws
and conditions upon those against whom the rebellion is raised. The
sottish dealings of the vine‑dressers in Franconia with the statue of
St. Urban, the protector of the vines, upon his own day, is an emblem
of our dealing with God: if it be a clear day and portend a prosperous
vintage, they honor the statue and drink healths to it; if it be
a rainy day, and presage a scantiness, they daub it with dirt in
indignation. We cast out our mire and dirt against God when he acts
cross to our wishes, and flatter him when the wind of his providence
joins itself to the tide of our interest. Men set a high price upon
themselves, and are angry God values them not at the same rate, as if
their judgment concerning themselves were more piercing than his. This
is to disannul God’s judgment, and condemn him and count ourselves
righteous, a ’tis Job xl. 8. This is the epidemical disease of human
nature; they think they deserve caresses instead of rods, and upon
crosses are more ready to tear out the heart of God, than reflect
humbly upon their own hearts. When we accuse God, we applaud ourselves,
and make ourselves his superiors, intimating that we have acted more
righteously to him than he to us, which is the highest manner of
imposing laws upon him; as that emperor accused the justice of God
for snatching him out of the world too soon.[220] What a high piece
of practical atheism is this, to desire that infinite wisdom should
be guided by our folly, and asperse the righteousness of God rather
than blemish our own! Instead of silently submitting to his will
and adoring his wisdom, we declaim against him, as an unwise and
unjust governor: we would invert his order, make him the steward and
ourselves the proprietors of what we are and have: we deny ourselves
to be sinners, and our mercies to be forfeited.

4. It is evidenced in envying the gifts and prosperities of others.
Envy hath a deep tincture of practical atheism, and is a cause of
atheism.[221] We are unwilling to leave God to be the proprietor and
do what he will with his own, and as a Creator to do what he pleases
with his creatures. We assume a liberty to direct God what portions,
when and how, he should bestow upon his creatures. We would not let
him choose his own favorites, and pitch upon his own instruments for
his glory; as if God should have asked counsel of us how he should
dispose of his benefits. We are unwilling to leave to his wisdom the
management of his own judgments to the wicked, and the dispensation
of his own love to ourselves. This temper is natural: it is as ancient
as the first age of the world. Adam envied God a felicity by himself,
and would not spare a tree that he had reserved as a mark of his
sovereignty. The passion that God had given Cain to employ against
his sin, he turns against his Creator. He was wroth with God and with
Abel;[222] but envy was at the root, because his brother’s sacrifice
was accepted and his refused. How could he envy his accepted person,
without reflecting upon the {a132} Acceptor of his offering? Good men
have not been free from it. Job questions the goodness of God, that he
should shine upon the counsel of the wicked (Job x. 3). Jonah had too
much of self, in fearing to be counted a false prophet, when he came
with absolute denunciations of wrath;[223] and when he could not bring
a volley of destroying judgments upon the Ninevites, he would shoot
his fury against his Master, envying those poor people the benefit,
and God the honor of his mercy; and this after he had been sent into
the whale’s belly to learn humiliation, which, though he exercised
there, yet those two great branches of self‑pride and envy were
not lopped off from him in the belly of hell; and God was fain to
take pains with him, and by a gourd scarce makes him ashamed of his
peevishness. Envy is not like to cease till all atheism be cashiered,
and that is in heaven. This sin is an imitation of the devil, whose
first sin upon earth was envy, as his first sin in heaven was pride.
It is a wishing that to ourselves, which the devil asserted as his
right, to give the kingdoms of the world to whom he pleased:[224]
it is an anger with God, because he hath not given us a patent for
government. It utters the same language in disparagement of God, as
Absalom did in reflection on his father: If I were king in Israel,
justice should be better managed; if I were Lord of the world,
there should be more wisdom to discern the merits of men, and more
righteousness in distributing to them their several portions. Thus
we impose laws upon God, and would have the righteousness of his
will submit to the corruptions of ours, and have him lower himself to
gratify our minds, rather than fulfil his own. We charge the Author
of those gifts with injustice, that he hath not dealt equally; or with
ignorance, that he hath mistook his mark. In the same breath that we
censure him by our peevishness, we would guide him by our wills. This
is an unreasonable part of atheism. If all were in the same state and
condition, the order of the world would be impaired. Is God bound to
have a care of thee, and neglect all the world besides? “Shall the
earth be forsaken for thee?”[225] Joseph had reason to be displeased
with his brothers, if they had muttered because he gave Benjamin a
double portion, and the rest a single. It was unfit that they, who had
deserved no gift at all, should prescribe him rules how to dispense
his own doles; much more unworthy it is to deal so with God; yet this
is too rife.

5. It is evidenced in corrupt matter or ends of prayer and praise.
When we are importunate for those things that we know not whether the
righteousness, holiness, and wisdom of God can grant, because he hath
not discovered his will in any promise to bestow them, we would then
impose such conditions on God, which he never obliged himself to grant;
when we pray for things not so much to glorify God, which ought to be
the end of prayer, as to gratify ourselves. We acknowledge, indeed,
by the act of petitioning, that there is a God; but we would have him
ungod himself to be at our beck, and debase himself to serve our turns.
When we desire those things which are repugnant to those attributes
whereby he doth manage the government of the world; when, by some
superficial services, we think we have {a133} gained indulgence to
sins, which seems to be the thought of the strumpet, in her paying her
vows, to wallow more freely in the mire of her sensual pleasures――“I
have peace‑offerings with me; this day I have paid my vows, I have
made my peace with God, and have entertainment for thee;”[226] or when
men desire God to bless them in the commission of some sin, as when
Balak and Balaam offered sacrifices, that they might prosper in the
cursing of the Israelites (Numb. xxv. 1, &c.) So for a man to pray to
God to save him, while he neglects the means of salvation appointed
by God, or to renew him when he slights the word, the only instrument
to that purpose; this is to impose laws upon God, contrary to the
declared will and wisdom of God, and to desire him to slight his own
institutions. When we come into the presence of God with lusts reeking
in our hearts, and leap from sin to duty, we would impose the law
of our corruption on the holiness of God. While we pray “the will of
God may be done,” self‑love wishes its own will may be performed, as
though God should serve our humors, when we will not obey his precepts.
And when we make vows under any affliction, what is it often but a
secret contrivance to bend and flatter him to our conditions? We will
serve him if he will restore us; we think thereby to compound the
business with him, and bring him down to our terms.

6. It is evidenced in positive and bold interpretations of the
judgments of God in the world. To interpret the judgments of God to
the disadvantage of the sufferer, unless it be an unusual judgment,
and have a remarkable hand of God in it, and the sin be rendered
plainly legible in the affliction, is a presumption of this nature.
When men will judge the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with
the sacrifices, greater sinners than others, and themselves righteous,
because no drops of it were dashed upon them; or when Shimei, being
of the house of Saul, shall judge according to his own interest, and
desires David’s flight upon Absalom’s rebellion to be a punishment
for invading the rights of Saul’s family, and depriving him of the
succession in the kingdom,[227] as if he had been of God’s privy
council, when he decreed such acts of justice in the world. Thus we
would fasten our own wills as a law or motive upon God, and interpret
his acts according to the motions of self. Is it not too ordinary,
when God sends an affliction upon those that bear ill‑will to us, to
judge it to be a righting of our cause, to be a fruit of God’s concern
for us in revenging our wrongs, as if we “had heard the secrets of
God,” or, as Eliphaz saith, “had turned over the records of heaven?”
(Job xv. 8.) This is a judgment according to self‑love, not a divine
rule; and imposeth laws upon heaven, implying a secret wish that God
would take care only of them, make our concerns his own, not in ways
of kindness and justice, but according to our fancies; and this is
common in the profane world, in those curses they so readily spit out
upon any affront, as if God were bound to draw his arrows and shoot
them into the heart of all their offenders at their beck and pleasure.

7. It is evidenced, in mixing rules for the worship of God with those
which have been ordered by him. Since men are most prone {a134} to
live by sense, it is no wonder that a sensible worship, which affects
their outward sense with some kind of amazement, is dear to them, and
spiritual worship most loathsome. Pompous rites have been the great
engine wherewith the devil hath deceived the souls of men, and wrought
them to a nauseating the simplicity of divine worship, as unworthy the
majesty and excellency of God.[228] Thus the Jews would not understand
the glory of the second temple in the presence of the Messiah, because
it had not the pompous grandeur of that of Solomon’s erecting. Hence
in all ages men have been forward to disfigure God’s models, and dress
up a brat of their own; as though God had been defective in providing
for his own honor in his institutions, without the assistance of his
creature. This hath always been in the world; the old world had their
imaginations, and the new world hath continued them. The Israelites in
the midst of miracles, and under the memory of a famous deliverance,
would erect a calf. The Pharisees, that sate in Moses’ chair, would
coin new traditions, and enjoin them to be as current as the law of
God.[229] Papists will be blending the christian appointments with
pagan ceremonies, to please the carnal fancies of the common people.
“Altars have been multiplied” under the knowledge of the law of
God.[230] Interest is made the balance of the conveniency of God’s
injunctions. Jeroboam fitted a worship to politic ends, and posted up
calves to prevent his subjects revolting from his sceptre, which might
be occasioned by their resort to Jerusalem, and converse with the body
of the people from whom they were separated.[231] Men will be putting
in their own dictates with God’s laws, and are unwilling he should be
the sole Governor of the world without their counsel; they will not
suffer him to be Lord of that which is purely and solely his concern.
How often hath the practice of the primitive church, the custom
wherein we are bred, the sentiments of our ancestors, been owned as
a more authentic rule in matters of worship, than the mind of God
delivered in his Word! It is natural by creation to worship God; and
it is as natural by corruption for man to worship him in a human way,
and not in a divine; is not this to impose laws upon God, to esteem
ourselves wiser than he? to think him negligent of his own service,
and that our feeble brains can find out ways to accommodate his honor,
better than himself hath done? Thus do men for the most part equal
their own imaginations to God’s oracles: as Solomon built a high place
to Moloch and Chemoch, upon the Mount of Olives, to face on the east
part Jerusalem and the temple;[232] this is not only to impose laws
on God, but also to make self the standard of them.

8. It is evidenced, in suiting interpretations of Scripture to
their own minds and humors. Like the Lacedæmonians, that dressed the
images of their gods according to the fashion of their own country,
we would wring Scripture to serve our own designs, and judge the law
of God by the law of sin, and make the serpentine seed in us to be
the interpreter of divine oracles: this is like Belshazzar to drink
healths out of the sacred vessels. As God is the author of his law
{a135} and word, so he is the best interpreter of it; the Scripture
having an impress of divine wisdom, holiness, and goodness, must be
regarded according to that impress, with a submission and meekness of
spirit and reverence of God in it; but when, in our inquiries into the
word, we inquire not of God, but consult flesh and blood, the temper
of the times wherein we live, or the satisfaction of a party we side
withal, and impose glosses upon it according to our own fancies,
it is to put laws upon God, and make self the rule of him. He that
interprets the law to bolster up some eager appetite against the will
of the lawgiver, ascribes to himself as great an authority as he that
enacted it.

9. In falling off from God after some fair compliances, when his will
grateth upon us, and crosseth ours. They will walk with him as far
as he pleaseth them, and leave him upon the first distaste, as though
God must observe their humors more than they his will. Amos must
be suspended from prophesying, because the “land could not bear his
words,” and his discourses condemned their unworthy practices against
God.[233] The young man came not to receive directions from our
Saviour, but expected a confirmation of his own rules, rather than
an imposition of new.[234] He rather cares for commendations than
instructions, and upon the disappointment turns his back; “he was
sad,” that Christ would not suffer him to be rich, and a Christian
together; and leaves him because his command was not suitable to
the law of his covetousness. Some truths that are at a further
distance from us, we can hear gladly; but when the conscience
begins to smart under others, if God will not observe our wills, we
will, with Herod, be a law to ourselves.[235] More instances might be
observed.――Ingratitude is a setting up self, and an imposing laws on
God. It is as much as to say, God did no more than he was obliged to
do; as if the mercies we have were an act of duty in God, and not of
bounty.――Insatiable desires after wealth: hence are those speeches
(James iv. 13), “We will go into such a city, and buy and sell, &c. to
get gain;” as though they had the command of God, and God must lacquey
after their wills. When our hearts are not contented with any supply
of our wants, but are craving an overplus for our lust; when we are
unsatisfied in the midst of plenty, and still like the grave, cry,
Give, give.――Incorrigibleness under affliction, &c.

II. The second main thing: As man would be a law to himself, so he
would be his own end and happiness in opposition to God. Here four
things shall be discoursed on. 1. Man would make himself his own end
and happiness. 2. He would make anything his end and happiness rather
than God. 3. He would make himself the end of all creatures. 4. He
would make himself the end of God.

First, Man would make himself his own end and happiness. As God ought
to be esteemed the first cause, in point of our dependence on him, so
he ought to be our last end, in point of our enjoyment of him. When
we therefore trust in ourselves, we refuse him as the first cause; and
when we act for ourselves, and expect a blessedness from ourselves, we
refuse him as the chiefest good, and last end, which is an undeniable
piece of atheism; for man is a creature of a higher rank than others
in the world, and was not made as animals, {a136} plants, and other
works of the divine power, materially to glorify God, but a rational
creature, intentionally to honor God by obedience to his rule,
dependence on his goodness, and zeal for his glory. It is, therefore,
as much a slighting of God, for man, a creature, to set himself up as
his own end, as to regard himself as his own law. For the discovery of
this, observe that there is a three‑fold self‑love.

1. Natural, which is common to us by the law of nature with other
creatures, inanimate as well as animate, and so closely twisted with
the nature of every creature, that it cannot be dissolved but with
the dissolution of nature itself. It consisted not with the wisdom and
goodness of God to create an unnatural nature, or to command anything
unnatural, nor doth he; for when he commands us to sacrifice ourselves,
and dearest lives for himself, it is not without a promise of a more
noble state of being in exchange for what we lose. This self‑love is
not only commendable, but necessary, as a rule to measure that duty
we owe to our neighbor, whom we cannot love as ourselves, if we do not
first love ourselves. God having planted this self‑love in our nature,
makes this natural principle the measure of our affection to all
mankind of the same blood with ourselves.

2. Carnal self‑love: when a man loves himself above God, in opposition
to God, with a contempt of God; when our thoughts, affections, designs,
centre only in our own fleshly interest, and rifle God of his honor,
to make a present of it to ourselves: thus the natural self‑love, in
itself good, becomes criminal by the excess, when it would be superior
and not subordinate to God.

3. A gracious self‑love: when we love ourselves for higher ends than
the nature of a creature, as a creature dictates, viz. in subserviency
to the glory of God. This is a reduction of the revolted creature to
his true and happy order; a Christian is therefore said to be “created
in Christ to good works.”[236] As all creatures were created, not
only for themselves, but for the honor of God; so the grace of the
new creation carries a man to answer this end, and to order all his
operations to the honor of God, and his well‑pleasing. The first is
from nature, the second from sin, the third from grace; the first is
implanted by creation, the second the fruit of corruption, and the
third is by the powerful operation of grace. This carnal self‑love is
set up in the stead of God as our last end; like the sea, which all
the little and great streams of our actions run to and rest in. And
this is, 1. Natural. It sticks as close to us as our souls; it is
as natural as sin, the foundation of all the evil in the world. As
self‑abhorrency is the first stone that is laid in conversion, so an
inordinate self‑love was the first inlet to all iniquity. As grace
is a rising from self to centre in God, so is sin a shrinking from
God into the mire of a carnal selfishness; since every creature is
nearest to itself and next to God, it cannot fall from God, but must
immediately sink into self;[237] and, therefore, all sins are well
said to be branches or modifications of this fundamental passion. What
is wrath, but a defence and strengthening self against the attempts of
some real or imaginary evil? Whence springs envy, but from a self‑love,
grieved {a137} at its own wants in the midst of another’s enjoyment,
able to supply it? What is impatience, but a regret that self is not
provided for at the rate of our wish, and that it hath met with a
shock against supposed merit? What is pride, but a sense of self‑worth,
a desire to have self of a higher elevation than others? What is
drunkenness, but a seeking a satisfaction for sensual self in the
spoils of reason? No sin is committed as sin, but as it pretends
a self‑satisfaction. Sin, indeed, may well be termed a man’s self,
because it is, since the loss of original righteousness, the form
that overspreads every part of our souls. The understanding assents
to nothing false but under the notion of true, and the will embraceth
nothing evil but under the notion of good; but the rule whereby
we measure the truth and goodness of proposed objects, is not the
unerring Word, but the inclinations of self, the gratifying of which
is the aim of our whole lives. Sin and self are all one: what is
called a living to sin in one place,[238] is called a living to self
in another: “That they that live should not live unto themselves.”[239]
And upon this account it is that both the Hebrew word, חטא, and the
Greek word, ἁμαρτάνειν, used in Scripture to express sin, properly
signify to miss the mark, and swerve from that _white_ to which all
our actions should be directed, viz. the glory of God. When we fell
to loving ourselves, we fell from loving God; and, therefore, when
the Psalmist saith (Psalm xiv. 2), there were none that sought God,
viz. as the last end; he presently adds, “They are all gone aside,”
viz. from their true mark, and therefore become filthy. 2. Since
it is natural, it is also universal.[240] The not seeking God is as
universal as our ignorance of him. No man in a state of nature but
hath it predominant; no renewed man on this side heaven but hath it
partially. The one hath it flourishing, the other hath it struggling.
If to aim at the glory of God as the chief end, and not to live to
ourselves, be the greatest mark of the restoration of the divine
image,[241] and a conformity to Christ, who glorified not himself,[242]
but the Father;[243] then every man, wallowing in the mire of corrupt
nature, pays a homage to self, as a renewed man is biassed by the
honor of God. The Holy Ghost excepts none from this crime (Phil.
ii. 21): “All seek their own.” It is rare for them to look above or
beyond themselves. Whatsoever may be the immediate subject of their
thoughts and inquiries, yet the utmost end and stage is their profit,
honor, or pleasure. Whatever it be that immediately possesses the mind
and will, self sits like a queen, and sways the sceptre, and orders
things at that rate, that God is excluded, and can find no room in
all his thoughts (Psalm x. 4): “The wicked, through the pride of his
countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts.”
The whole little world of man is so overflowed with a deluge of self,
that the dove, the glory of the Creator, can find no place where to
set its foot; and if ever it gain the favor of admittance, it is to
disguise and be a vassal to some carnal project, as the glory of God
was a mask for the murdering his servants. It is from the power of
this principle that the difficulty of conversion ariseth: as there
is no greater pleasure to a believing {a138} soul than the giving
itself up to God, and no stronger desire in him, than to have a fixed
and unchangeable will to serve the designs of his honor; so there is
no greater torment to a wicked man, than to part with his carnal ends,
and lay down the Dagon of self at the feet of the ark. Self‑love and
self‑opinion in the Pharisees waylaid all the entertainment of truth
(John v. 44): “They sought honor one of another, and not the honor
which comes from God.” It is of so large an extent, and so insinuating
nature, that it winds itself into the exercise of moral virtues,
mixeth with our charity (Matt. vi. 2), and finds nourishment in the
ashes of martyrdom (1 Cor. xiii. 3).

This making ourselves our end will appear in a few things.

1. In frequent self‑applauses, and inward overweening reflections.
Nothing more ordinary in the natures of men, than a dotage on their
own perfections, acquisitions, or actions in the world: “Most think of
themselves above what they ought to think” (Rom. xii. 3, 4). Few think
of themselves so meanly as they ought to think: this sticks as close
to us as our skin; and as humility is the beauty of grace, this is the
filthiest soil of nature. Our thoughts run more delightfully upon the
track of our own perfections, than the excellency of God; and when we
find anything of a seeming worth, that may make us glitter in the eyes
of the world, how cheerfully do we grasp and embrace ourselves! When
the grosser profanenesses of men have been discarded, and the floods
of them dammed up, the head of corruption, whence they sprang, will
swell the higher within, in self‑applauding speculations of their
own reformation, without acknowledgment of their own weaknesses, and
desires of divine assistance to make a further progress. “I thank God
I am not like this publican;”[244] a self‑reflection, with a contempt
rather than compassion to his neighbor, is frequent in every Pharisee.
The vapors of self‑affections, in our clouded understandings, like
those in the air in misty mornings, alter the appearance of things,
and make them look bigger than they are. This is thought by some to be
the sin of the fallen angels, who, reflecting upon their own natural
excellency superior to other creatures, would find a blessedness in
their own nature, as God did in his, and make themselves the last
end of their actions. It is from this principle we are naturally so
ready to compare ourselves rather with those that are below us, than
with those that are above us; and often think those that are above
us inferior to us, and secretly glory that we are become none of the
meanest and lowest in natural or moral excellencies. How far were
the gracious penmen of the Scripture from this, who, when possessed
and directed by the Spirit of God, and filled with a sense of him,
instead of applauding themselves, publish upon record their own faults
to all the eyes of the world! And if Peter, as some think, dictated
the Gospel which Mark wrote as his amanuensis, it is observable that
his crime in denying his Master is aggravated in that Gospel in some
circumstances, and less spoken of his repentance than in the other
evangelists: “When he thought thereon, he wept;”[245] but in the other,
“He went out and wept bitterly.”[246] This is one part {a139} of
atheism and self‑idolatry, to magnify ourselves with the forgetfulness,
and to the injury of our Creator.

2. In ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves, to our
own wisdom, power, virtue, &c. How flaunting is Nebuchadnezzar at
the prospect of Babylon, which he had exalted to be the head of so
great an empire! (Dan. iv. 30): “Is not this great Babylon that I
have built? For,” &c. He struts upon the battlements of his palace,
as if there were no God but himself in the world, while his eye
could not but see the heavens above him to be none of his own framing,
attributing his acquisitions to his own arm, and referring them to
his own honor, for his own delight; not for the honor of God, as a
creature ought, nor for the advantage of his subjects, as the duty of
a prince. He regards Babylon as his heaven, and himself as his idol,
as if he were all, and God nothing. An example of this we have in the
present age. But it is often observed, that God vindicates his own
honor, brings the most heroical men to contempt and unfortunate ends,
as a punishment of their pride, as he did here (Dan. iv. 31): “While
the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven,”
&c. This was Herod’s crime, to suffer others to do it:[247] he had
discovered his eloquence actively, and made himself his own end
passively, in approving the flatteries of the people, and offered not
with one hand to God the glory he received from his people with the
other.[248] Samosatenus is reported to put down the hymns which were
sung for the glory of God and Christ, and caused songs to be sung
in the temple for his own honor. When anything succeeds well, we are
ready to attribute it to our own prudence and industry: if we meet
with a cross, we fret against the stars and fortune, and second
causes, and sometimes against God: as they curse God as well as their
king (Isa. viii. 21), not acknowledging any defect in themselves. The
Psalmist, by his repetition of, “Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy
name give glory” (Psalm cxv. 1), implies the naturality of this temper,
and the difficulty to cleanse our hearts from those self‑reflections.
If it be angelical to refuse an undue glory stolen from God’s throne
(Rev. xxii. 8, 9), it is diabolical to accept and cherish it. To
seek our own glory is not glory (Prov. xxv. 27). It is vile, and the
dishonor of a creature, who by the law of his creation is referred
to another end. So much as we sacrifice to our own credit, to the
dexterity of our hands, or the sagacity of our wit, we detract from

3. In desires to have self‑pleasing doctrines. When we cannot endure
to hear anything that crosses the flesh; though the wise man tells us,
it is better to hear the “rebuke of the wise, than the song of fools”
(Eccles. vii. 5). If Hanani the seer reprove king Asa for not relying
on the Lord, his passion shall be armed for self against the prophet,
and arrest him a prisoner (2 Chron. xvi. 10). If Micaiah declare to
Ahab the evil that shall befall him, Amon the governor shall receive
orders to clap him up in a dungeon. Fire doth not sooner seize upon
combustible matter than fury will be kindled, if self be but pinched.
This interest of lustful self barred the heart of Herodias against the
entertainment of the truth, and caused her {a140} savagely to dip her
hands in the blood of the Baptist, to make him a sacrifice to that
inward idol.[249]

4. In being highly concerned for injuries done to ourselves, and
little or not at all concerned for injuries done to God. How will
the blood rise in us, when our honor and reputation is invaded, and
scarce reflect upon the dishonor God suffers in our sight and hearing!
Violent passions will transform us into Boanerges in the one case, and
our unconcernedness render us Gallios in the other. We shall extenuate
that which concerns God, and aggravate that which concerns ourselves.
Nothing but the death of Jonathan, a first‑born and a generous son,
will satisfy his father Saul, when the authority of his edict was
broken by his tasting of honey, though he had recompensed his crime
committed in ignorance by the purchase of a gallant victory. But when
the authority of God was violated in saving the Amalekites’ cattle,
against the command of a greater sovereign than himself, he can daub
the business, and excuse it with a design of sacrificing. He was not
so earnest in hindering the people from the breach of God’s command,
as he was in vindicating the honor of his own:[250] he could hardly
admit of an excuse to salve his own honor; but in the concerns of
God’s honor, pretend piety, to cloak his avarice. And it is often
seen, when the violation of God’s authority, and the stain of
our own reputation are coupled together, we are more troubled for
what disgraces us than for what dishonors God. When Saul had thus
transgressed, he is desirous that Samuel would turn again to preserve
his own honor before the elders, rather than grieved that he had
broken the command of God (ver. 30).

5. In trusting in ourselves. When we consult with our own wit and
wisdom, more than inquire of God, and ask leave of him: as the
Assyrian (Isa. x. 13), “By the strength of my hands I have done it,
and by my wisdom; for I am prudent.” When we attempt things in the
strength of our own heads, and parts, and trust in our own industry,
without application to God for direction, blessing, and success, we
affect the privilege of the Deity, and make gods of ourselves. The
same language in reality with Ajax in Sophocles: “Others think to
overcome with the assistance of the gods, but I hope to gain honor
without them.” Dependence and trust is an act due from the creature
only to God. Hence God aggravates the crime of the Jews in trusting in
Egypt (Isa. xxxi. 3), “the Egyptians are men and not gods.” Confidence
in ourselves is a defection from God (Jer. xvii. 5). And when we
depart from and cast off God to depend upon ourselves, which is but
an arm of flesh, we choose the arm of flesh for our God; we rob God of
that confidence we ought to place in him, and that adoration which is
due to him, and build it upon another foundation; not that we are to
neglect the reason and parts God hath given us, or spend more time
in prayer than in consulting about our own affairs, but to mix our
own intentions in business, with ejaculations to heaven, and take
God along with us in every motion: but certainly it is an idolizing
of self, when we are more diligent in our attendance on our own wit,
than fervent in our recourses to God.

6. The power of sinful self, above the efficacy of the notion
of God, {a141} is evident in our workings for carnal self against
the light of our own consciences. When men of sublime reason, and
clear natural wisdom, are voluntary slaves to their own lusts, row
against the stream of their own consciences, serve carnal self with a
disgraceful and disturbing drudgery, making it their God, sacrificing
natural self, all sentiments of virtue, and the quiet of their lives,
to the pleasure, honor, and satisfaction of carnal self: this is a
prostituting God in his deputy, conscience, to carnal affections, when
their eyes are shut against the enlightenings of it, and their ears
deaf to its voice, but open to the least breath and whisper of self; a
debt that the creature owes supremely to God. Much more might be said,
but let us see what atheism lurks in this, and how it entrencheth upon

1. It is usurping God’s prerogative. It is God’s prerogative to be his
own end, and act for his own glory; because there is nothing superior
to him in excellency and goodness to act for: he had not his being
from anything without himself, whereby he should be obliged to act
for anything but himself. To make ourselves then our last end, is to
corrival God in his being the supreme good, and blessedness to himself:
as if we were our own principle, the author of our own being, and were
not obliged to a higher power than ourselves, for what we are and have.
To direct the lines of all our motions to ourselves, is to imply that
they first issued only from ourselves. When we are rivals to God in
his chief end, we own or desire to be rivals to him in the principle
of his being: this is to set ourselves in the place of God. All things
have something without them, and above them as their end; all inferior
creatures act for some superior order in the rank of creation; the
lesser animals are designed for the greater, and all for man: man,
therefore, for something nobler than himself. To make ourselves
therefore our own end, is to deny any superior, to whom we are to
direct our actions. God alone being the supreme Being, can be his
own ultimate end: for if there were anything higher and better than
God, the purity and righteousness of his own nature would cause him
to act for and toward that as his chiefest mark: this is the highest
sacrilege, to alienate the proper good and rights of God, and employ
them for our own use; to steal from him his own honor, and put it into
our own cabinets; like those birds that ravished the sacrifice from
the altar and carried it to their own nests.[251] When we love only
ourselves, and act for no other end but ourselves, we invest ourselves
with the dominion which is the right of God, and take the crown from
his head. For as the crown belongs to the king, so to love his own
will, to will by his own will and for himself, is the property of
God; because he hath no other will, no other end above him to be the
rule and scope of his actions. When therefore we are by self‑love
transformed wholly into ourselves, we make ourselves our own
foundation, without God and against God; when we mind our own glory
and praise, we would have a royal state equal with God, who created
all things for himself.[252] What can man do more for God than he
naturally doth for himself, since he doth all those things for himself
which he should do for God? We {a142} own ourselves to be our own
creators and benefactors, and fling off all sentiments of gratitude
to him.

2. It is a vilifying of God. When we make ourselves our end, it is
plain language that God is not our happiness; we postpone God to
ourselves, as if he were not an object so excellent and fit for our
love as ourselves are (for it is irrational to make that our end,
which is not God, and not the chiefest good); it is to deny him to be
better than we, to make him not to be so good as ourselves, and so fit
to be our chiefest good as ourselves are; that he hath not deserved
any such acknowledgment at our hands by all that he hath done for us:
we assert ourselves his superiors by such kind of acting, though we
are infinitely more inferior to God than any creature can be to us.
Man cannot dishonor God more than by referring that to his own glory,
which God made for his own praise, upon account whereof he only hath a
right to glory and praise, and none else. He thus “changeth the glory
of the incorruptible God into a corruptible image;”[253] a perishing
fame and reputation, which extends but little beyond the limits of his
own habitation; or if it doth, survives but a few years, and perishes
at last with the age wherein he lived.

3. It is as much as in us lies a destroying of God. By this temper
we destroy that God that made us, because we destroy his intention
and his honor. God cannot outlive his will and his glory: because he
cannot have any other rule but his own will, or any other end but his
own honor. The setting up self as our end puts a nullity upon the true
Deity; by paying to ourselves that respect and honor which is due to
God, we make the true God as no God. Whosoever makes himself a king of
his prince’s rights and territories, manifests an intent to throw him
out of his government. To choose ourselves as our end is to undeify
God, since to be the last end of a rational creature is a right
inseparable from the nature of the Deity; and therefore not to set God,
but self always before us, is to acknowledge no being but ourselves to
be God.

Secondly. The second thing, Man would make anything his end and
happiness rather than God. An end is so necessary in all our actions,
that he deserves not the name of a rational creature that proposeth
not one to himself. This is the distinction between rational creatures
and others; they act with a formal intention, whereas other creatures
are directed to their end by a natural instinct, and moved by nature
to what the others should be moved by reason: when a man, therefore,
acts for that end which was not intended him by the law of his
creation, nor is suited to the noble faculties of his soul, he acts
contrary to God, overturns his order, and merits no better a title
than that of an atheist. A man may be said two ways to make a thing
his last end and chief good.

1. Formally. When he actually judges this or that thing to be his
chiefest good, and orders all things to it. So man doth not formally
judge sin to be good, or any object which is the incentive of sin
to be his last end: this cannot be while he hath the exercise of his
rational faculties.

2. Virtually and implicitly. When he loves anything against the {a143}
command of God, and prefers in the stream of his actions the enjoyment
of that, before the fruition of God, and lays out more strength and
expends more time in the gaining that, than answering the true end
of his creation: when he acts so as if something below God could make
him happy without God, or that God could not make him happy without
the addition of something else. Thus the glutton makes a god of his
dainties; the ambitious man of his honor; the incontinent man of his
lust; and the covetous man of his wealth; and consequently esteems
them as his chiefest good, and the most noble end, to which he directs
his thoughts: thus he vilifies and lessens the true God, which can
make him happy, in a multitude of false gods, that can only render
him miserable. He that loves pleasure more than God, says in his heart
there is no God but his pleasure. He that loves his belly more than
God, says in his heart there is no God but his belly: their happiness
is not accounted to lie in that God that made the world, but in the
pleasure or profit they make their god. In this, though a created
object be the immediate and subordinate term to which we turn, yet
principally and ultimately, the affection to it terminates in self.
Nothing is naturally entertained by us, but as it affects our sense
or mingles with some promise of advantage to us. This is seen,

1. In the fewer thoughts we have of God than of anything else. Did
we apprehend God to be our chiefest good and highest end, should we
grudge him the pains of a few days’ thoughts upon him? Men in their
travels are frequently thinking upon their intended stage: but our
thoughts run upon new acquisitions to increase our wealth, rear up our
families, revenge our injuries, and support our reputation: trifles
possess us; but “God is not in all our thoughts;”[254] seldom the
sole object of them. We have durable thoughts of transitory things,
and flitting thoughts of a durable and eternal good. The covenant of
grace engageth the whole heart to God, and bars anything else from
engrossing it: but what strangers are God and the souls of most men!
Though we have the knowledge of him by creation, yet he is for the
most part an unknown God in the relations wherein he stands to us,
because a God undelighted in: hence it is, as one observes, that
because we observe not the ways of God’s wisdom, conceive not of him
in his vast perfections, nor are stricken with an admiration of his
goodness, that we have fewer good sacred poems, than of any other
kind.[255] The wits of men hang the wing when they come to exercise
their reasons and fancies about God. Parts and strength are given us,
as well as corn and wine to the Israelites, for the service of God;
but those are consecrated to some cursed Baal.[256] Like Venus in the
Poet, we forsake heaven to follow some Adonis.

2. In the greedy pursuit of the world.[257] When we pursue worldly
wealth or worldly reputation with more vehemency than the riches of
grace, or the favor of God;――when we have a foolish imagination, that
our happiness consists in them, we prefer earth before heaven, broken
cisterns which can hold no water, before an ever‑springing fountain
of glory and bliss; and, as though there were a defect in {a144} God,
cannot be content with him as our portion, without an addition of
something inferior to him;――when we make it our hopes, and say to the
wedge, “Thou art my confidence;” and rejoice more because it is great,
and because “our hand hath gotten much,” than in the privilege of
communion with God and the promise of an everlasting fruition of
him;[258] this is so gross, that Job joins it with the idolatry of
the sun and moon, which he purgeth himself of (xxxi. 26). And the
apostle, when he mentions covetousness or covetous men, passes it not
over without the title of idolatry to the vice, and idolater to the
person;[259] in that it is a preferring clay and dirt as an end more
desirable than the original of all goodness, in regard of affection
and dependence.

3. In a strong addictedness to sensual pleasures (Phil. iii. 19).
Who make their “belly their god;” subjecting the truths of God to
the maintenance of their luxury. In debasing the higher faculties to
project for the satisfaction of the sensitive appetite as their chief
happiness, whereby many render themselves no better than a rout of
sublimated brutes among men, and gross atheists to God. When men’s
thoughts run also upon inventing new methods to satisfy their bestial
appetite, forsaking the pleasures which are to be had in God, which
are the delights of angels, for the satisfaction of brutes. This is an
open and unquestionable refusal of God for our end, when our rest is
in them, as if they were the chief good, and not God.

4. In paying a service, upon any success in the world, to instruments
more than to God, their sovereign Author. When “they sacrifice to
their net, and burn incense to their drag.”[260] Not that the Assyrian
did offer a sacrifice to his arms, but ascribed to them what was due
only to God, and appropriated the victory to his forces and arms. The
prophet alludes to those that worshipped their warlike instruments,
whereby they had attained great victories; and those artificers who
worshipped the tools by which they had purchased great wealth, in
the stead of God; preferring them as the causes of their happiness,
before God who governs the world. And are not our affections, upon
the receiving of good things, more closely fixed to the instruments
of conveyance, than to the chief Benefactor, from whose coffers they
are taken? Do we not more delight in them, and hug them with a greater
endearedness, as if all our happiness depended on them, and God were
no more than a bare spectator? Just as if when a man were warmed by
a beam, he should adore that and not admire the sun that darts it out
upon him.

5. In paying a respect to man more than God. When in a public
attendance on his service, we will not laugh, or be garish, because
men see us; but our hearts shall be in a ridiculous posture, playing
with feathers and trifling fancies, though God see us; as though
our happiness consisted in the pleasing of men, and our misery in
a respect to God. There is no fool that saith in his heart, There is
no God, but he sets up something in his heart as a god. This is,

1. A debasing of God, (1.) In setting up a creature. It speaks God
less amiable than the creature, short of those perfections which
some silly, sordid thing, which hath engrossed their affections,
is possessed {a145} with; as if the cause of all being could be
transcended by his creature, and a vile lust could equal, yea,
surmount the loveliness of God. It is to say to God, as the rich
to the poor (James ii. 3), “Stand thou there, or sit here under my
footstool;” it is to sink him below the mire of the world, to order
him to come down from his glorious throne, and take his place below
a contemptible creature, which, in regard of its infinite distance, is
not to be compared with him. It strips God of the love that is due to
him by the right of his nature and the greatness of his dignity; and
of the trust that is due to him, as the First Cause and the chiefest
good, as though he were too feeble and mean to be our blessedness.
This is intolerable, to make that which is God’s footstool, the earth,
to climb up into his throne; to set that in our heart which God hath
made even below ourselves and put under our feet; to make that which
we trample upon to dispose of the right God hath to our hearts.[261]
It is worse than if a queen should fall in love with the little image
of the prince in the palace, and slight the beauty of his person; and
as if people should adore the footsteps of a king in the dirt, and
turn their backs upon his presence. (2.) It doth more debase him to
set up a sin, a lust, a carnal affection as our chief end. To steal
away the honor due to God, and appropriate it to that which is no work
of his hands, to that which is loathsome in his sight, hath disturbed
his rest, and wrung out his just breath to kindle a hell for its
eternal lodging, a God‑dishonoring and a soul‑murdering lust, is worse
than to prefer Barabbas before Christ. The baser the thing, the worse
is the injury to him with whom we would associate it. If it were some
generous principle, a thing useful to the world, that we place in an
equality with, or a superiority above him, though it were a vile usage,
yet it were not altogether so criminal; but to gratify some unworthy
appetite with the displeasure of the Creator, something below the
rational nature of man, much more infinitely below the excellent
majesty of God, is a more unworthy usage of him. To advance one of
the most virtuous nobles in a kingdom as a mark of our service and
subjection, is not so dishonorable to a despised prince as to take
a scabby beggar or a rotten carcase to place in his throne. Creeping
things, abominable beasts, the Egyptian idols, cats and crocodiles,
were greater abominations, and a greater despite done to God, than
the image of jealousy at the gate of the altar.[262] And let not any
excuse themselves, that it is but one lust or one creature which is
preferred as the end: is not he an idolater that worships the sun or
moon, one idol, as well as he that worships the whole host of heaven?
The inordinacy of the heart to one lust may imply a stronger contempt
of him, than if a legion of lusts did possess the heart. It argues a
greater disesteem, when he shall be slighted for a single vanity. The
depth of Esau’s profaneness in contemning his birth‑right, and God in
it, is aggravated by his selling it for one morsel of meat,[263] and
that none of the daintiest, none of the costliest――a mess of pottage;
implying, had he parted with it at a greater rate, it had been more
tolerable, and his profaneness more excusable. And it is reckoned
as a high aggravation of the corruption of the Israelite judges (Amos
ii. 6), {a146} that they sold the poor for a pair of shoes; that is,
that they would betray the cause of the poor for a bribe of no greater
value than might purchase them a pair of shoes. To place any one thing
as our chief end, though never so light, doth not excuse. He that
will not stick to break with God for a trifle, a small pleasure, will
leap the hedge upon a greater temptation. Nay, and if wealth, riches,
friends, and the best thing in the world, our own lives, be preferred
before God, as our chief happiness and end but one moment, it is an
infinite wrong, because the infinite goodness and excellency of God
is denied; as though the creature or lust we love, or our own life,
which we prefer in that short moment before him, had a goodness in
itself, superior to, and more desirable than the blessedness in God.
And though it should be but one minute, and a man in all the period
of his days, both before and after that failure, should actually and
intentionally prefer God before all other things; yet he doth him an
infinite wrong, because God in every moment is infinitely good, and
absolutely desirable, and can never cease to be good, and cannot have
the least shadow or change in him and his perfections.

2. It is a denying of God (Job xxxi. 26‒28): “If I beheld the sun
when it shined, or the moon walking in its brightness, and my heart
hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also
were iniquity to be punished by the judge, for I should have denied
the Lord above.” This denial of God is not only the act of an open
idolater, but the consequent of a secret confidence, and immoderate
joy in worldly goods. This denial of God is to be referred to ver. 24,
25. When a man saith to gold, “Thou art my confidence,” and rejoices
because his wealth is great; he denies that God which is superior to
all those, and the proper object of trust. Both idolatries are coupled
here together; that which hath wealth and that which hath those
glorious creatures in heaven for its object. And though some may think
it a light sin, yet the crime being of deeper guilt, a denial of God,
deserves a severer punishment, and falls under the sentence of the
just Judge of all the earth, under that notion which Job intimates in
those words, “This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge.”
The kissing the hand to the sun, moon, or any idol, was an external
sign of religious worship among those and other nations. This is far
less than an inward hearty confidence, and an affectionate trust. If
the motion of the hand be, much more the affection of the heart to an
excrementitious creature, or a brutish pleasure, is a denial of God,
and a kind of an abjuring of him, since the supreme affection of the
soul is undoubtedly and solely the right of the Sovereign Creator,
and not to be given in common to others, as the outward gesture may
in a way of civil respect. Nothing that is an honor peculiar to God
can be given to a creature, without a plain exclusion of God to be
God; it being a disowning the rectitude and excellency of his nature.
If God should command a creature such a love, and such a confidence
in anything inferior to him, he would deny himself his own glory, he
would deny himself to be the most excellent being. Can the Romanists
be free from this, when they call the cross _spem unicam_, and
{a147} say to the Virgin, _In te Domina speravi_, as Bonaventure?
&c. Good reason, therefore, have worldlings and sensualists, persons
of immoderate fondness to anything in the world, to reflect upon
themselves; since though they own the being of God, they are guilty
of so great disrespect to him, that cannot be excused from the title
of an unworthy atheism; and those that are renewed by the spirit
of God, may here see ground of a daily humiliation for the frequent
and too common excursions of their souls in creature confidences and
affections, whereby they fall under the charge of an act of practical
atheism, though they may be free from a habit of it.

Thirdly, Man would make himself the end of all creatures. Man would
sit in the seat of God, and set his heart as the heart of God, as the
Lord saith of Tyrus (Ezek. xxviii. 2). What is the consequence of this,
but to be esteemed the chief good and end of other creatures? a thing
that the heart of God cannot but be set upon, it being an inseparable
right of the Deity, who must deny himself if he deny this affection
of the heart. Since it is the nature of man, derived from his root,
to desire to be equal with God, it follows that he desires no creature
should be equal with him, but subservient to his ends and his glory.
He that would make himself God, would have the honor proper to God.
He that thinks himself worthy of his own supreme affection, thinks
himself worthy to be the object of the supreme affection of others.
Whosoever counts himself the chiefest good and last end, would have
the same place in the thoughts of others. Nothing is more natural
to man than a desire to have his own judgment the rule and measure
of the judgments and opinions of the rest of mankind. He that sets
himself in the place of the prince, doth, by that act, challenge all
the prerogatives and dues belonging to the prince; and apprehending
himself fit to be a king, apprehends himself also worthy of the homage
and fealty of the subjects. He that loves himself chiefly, and all
other things and persons for himself, would make himself the end of
all creatures. It hath not been once or twice only in the world that
some vain princes have assumed to themselves the title of gods, and
caused divine adorations to be given to them, and altars to smoke with
sacrifices for their honor. What hath been practised by one, is by
nature seminally in all; we would have all pay an obedience to us,
and give to us the esteem that is due to God. This is evident,

1. In pride. When we entertain a high opinion of ourselves, and act
for our own reputes, we dispossess God from our own hearts; and while
we would have our fame to be in every man’s mouth, and be admired in
the hearts of men, we would chase God out of the hearts of others, and
deny his glory a residence anywhere else, that our glory should reside
more in their minds than the glory of God; that their thoughts should
be filled with our achievements, more than the works and excellency
of God, with our image, and not with the divine. Pride would paramount
God in the affections of others, and justle God out of their souls;
and by the same reason that man doth thus in the place where he lives,
he would do so in the whole world, and press the whole creation from
the service of their true Lord, to his own service. Every proud man
would be counted by {a148} others as he counts himself, the highest,
chiefest piece of goodness, and be adored by others, as much as
he adores and admires himself. No proud man, in his self‑love, and
self‑admiration, thinks himself in an error; and if he be worthy of
his own admiration, he thinks himself worthy of the highest esteem
of others, that they should value him above themselves, and value
themselves only for him. What did Nebuchadnezzar intend by setting up
a golden image, and commanding all his subjects to worship it, upon
the highest penalty he could inflict, but that all should aim only at
the pleasing his humor?

2. In using the creatures contrary to the end God has appointed. God
created the world and all things in it, as steps whereby men might
ascend to a prospect of him, and the acknowledgment of his glory; and
we would use them to dishonor God, and gratify ourselves: he appointed
them to supply our necessities, and support our rational delights,
and we use them to cherish our sinful lusts. We wring groans from
the creature in diverting them from their true scope to one of our
own fixing, when we use them not in his service, but purely for our
own, and turn those things he created for himself, to be instruments
of rebellion against him to serve our turns, and hereby endeavor to
defeat the ends of God in them, to establish our own ends by them:
this is a high dishonor to God, a sacrilegious undermining of his
glory,[264] to reduce what God hath made to serve our own glory
and our own pleasure; it perverts the whole order of the world, and
directs it to another end than what God hath constituted, to another
intention contrary to the intention of God; and thus man makes himself
a God by his own authority. As all things were made by God, so they
are for God; but while we aspire to the end of the creation, we deny
and envy God the honor of being Creator; we cannot make ourselves the
chief end of the creatures against God’s order, but we imply thereby
that we were their first principle; for if we lived under a sense of
the Creator of them while we enjoy them for our use, we should return
the glory to the right owner. This is diabolical; though the devil,
for his first affecting an authority in heaven, has been hurled down
from the state of an angel of light into that of darkness, vileness,
and misery, to be the most accursed creature living, yet he still
aspires to mate God, contrary to the knowledge of the impossibility of
success in it. Neither the terrors he feels, nor the future torments
he doth expect, do a jot abate his ambition to be competitor with his
Creator; how often hath he, since his first sin, arrogated to himself
the honor of a God from the blind world, and attempted to make the Son
of God, by a particular worship, count him as the “chiefest good and
benefactor of the world!”[265] Since all men by nature are the devil’s
children, the serpent’s seed, they have something of this venom in
their natures, as well as others of his qualities. We see that there
may be, and is a prodigious atheism, lurking under the belief of a
God; the devil knows there is a God, but acts like an atheist; and so
do his children.

Fourthly, Man would make himself the end of God. This necessarily
follows upon the former; whosoever makes himself his own law and his
own end in the place of God, would make God the subject {a149} in
making himself the sovereign; he that steps into the throne of a
prince, sets the prince at his footstool; and while he assumes the
prince’s prerogative, demands a subjection from him. The order of the
creation has been inverted by the entrance of sin.[266] God implanted
an affection in man with a double aspect, the one to pitch upon
God, the other to respect ourselves; but with this proviso, that
our affection to God should be infinite, in regard of the object,
and centre in him as the chiefest happiness and highest end. Our
affections to ourselves should be finite, and refer ultimately to God
as the original of our being; but sin hath turned man’s affections
wholly to himself, whereas he should love God first, and himself in
order to God; he now loves himself first, and God in order to himself;
love to God is lost, and love to self hath usurped the throne. As God
by “creation put all things under the feet of man,”[267] reserving
the heart for himself, man by corruption hath dispossessed God of his
heart, and put him under his own feet. We often intend ourselves when
we pretend the honor of God, and make God and religion a stale to some
designs we have in hand; our Creator a tool for our own ends. This is

1. In our loving God, because of some self‑pleasing benefits
distributed by him. There is in men a kind of natural love to God,
but it is but a secondary one, because God gives them the good things
of this world, spreads their table, fills their cup, stuffs their
coffers, and doth them some good turns by unexpected providences; this
is not an affection to God for the unbounded excellency of his own
nature, but for his beneficence, as he opens his hand for them; an
affection to themselves, and those creatures, their gold, their honor,
which their hearts are most fixed upon, without a strong spiritual
inclination that God should be glorified by them in the use of those
mercies. It is rather a disowning of God, than any love to him,
because it postpones God to those things they love him for; this would
appear to be no love, if God should cease to be their benefactor, and
deal with them as a judge; if he should change his outward smiles into
afflicting frowns, and not only shut his hand, but strip them of what
he sent them. The motive of their love being expired, the affection
raised by it must cease for want of fuel to feed it; so that God
is beholden to sordid creatures of no value (but as they are his
creatures) for most of the love the sons of men pretend to him. The
devil spake truth of most men, though not of Job, when he said (Job i.
9): “They love not God for naught;” but while he makes a hedge about
them and their families, whilst he blesseth the works of their hands,
and increaseth their honor in the land. It is like Peter’s sharp
reproof of his Master, when he spake of the ill‑usage, even to death,
he was to meet with at Jerusalem: “This shall not be unto thee.” It
was as much out of love to himself, as zeal for his Master’s interest,
knowing his Master could not be in such a storm without some drops
lighting upon himself. All the apostasies of men in the world are
witnesses to this; they fawn whilst they may have a prosperous
profession, but will not bear one chip of the cross for the interest
of God; they would partake of his blessings, {a150} but not endure the
prick of a lance for him, as those, that admired the miracles of our
Saviour, and shrunk at his sufferings. A time of trial discovers these
mercenary souls to be more lovers of themselves than their Maker. This
is a pretended love of friendship to God, but a real love to a lust,
only to gain by God. A good man’s temper is contrary: “Quench hell,
burn heaven,” said a holy man, “I will love and fear my God.”

2. It is evident, in abstinence from some sins, not because they
offend God, but because they are against the interest of some other
beloved corruption, or a bar to something men hunt after in the world.
When temperance is cherished not to honor God, but preserve a crazy
carcase; prodigality forsaken, out of a humor of avarice; uncleanness
forsaken, not out of a hatred of lust, but love to their money;
declining a denial of the interest and truth of God, not out of
affection to them, but an ambitious zeal for their own reputation.
There is a kind of conversion from sin, when God is not made the term
of it (Jer. iv. 1): “If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto me,
saith the Lord.”[268] When we forbear sin as dogs do the meat they
love: they forbear not out of a hatred of the carrion, but fear of
the cudgel; these are as wicked in their abstaining from sin, as
others are in their furious committing it. Nothing of the honor of
God and the end of his appointments is indeed in all this, but the
conveniences self gathers from them. Again, many of the motives the
generality of the world uses to their friends and relations to draw
them from vices, are drawn from self, and used to prop up natural or
sinful self in them. Come, reform yourself, take other courses, you
will smut your reputation and be despicable; you will destroy your
estate, and commence a beggar; your family will be undone, and you may
rot in a prison: not laying close to them the duty they owe to God,
the dishonor which accrues to him by their unworthy courses, and the
ingratitude to the God of their mercies; not that the other motives
are to be laid aside and slighted. Mint and cummin may be tithed,
but the weightier concerns are not to be omitted; but this shows that
self is the bias, not only of men in their own course, but in their
dealings with others; what should be subordinate to the honor of God,
and the duty we owe to him, is made superior.

3. It is evident, in performing duties merely for a selfish interest:
making ourselves the end of religious actions, paying a homage to that,
while we pretend to render it to God (Zech. vii. 5): “Did you at all
fast unto me, even unto me?” Things ordained by God may fall in with
carnal ends affected by ourselves; and then religion is not kept up by
any interest of God in the conscience, but the interest of self in the
heart: we then sanctify not the name of God in the duty, but gratify
ourselves: God may be the object, self is the end; and a heavenly
object is made subservient to a carnal design. Hypocrisy passes a
compliment on God, and is called flattery (Psalm lxxviii. 36): “They
did flatter him with their lips,” &c. They gave him a parcel of good
words for their own preservation. Flattery, in the old notion among
the heathens, is a vice more peculiar to serve our own turn and purvey
for the belly: they knew they could not {a151} subsist without God,
and therefore gave him a parcel of good words, that he might spare
them, and make provision for them. Israel is an empty vine,[269] a
vine, say some, with large branches and few clusters, but brings forth
fruit to himself: while they professed love to God with their lips,
it was that God should promote their covetous designs, and preserve
their wealth and grandeur;[270] in which respect a hypocrite may be
well termed a religious atheist, an atheist masked with religion. The
chief arguments which prevail with many men to perform some duties
and appear religious, are the same that Hamor and Shechem used to the
people of their city to submit to circumcision, viz. the engrossing
of more wealth (Gen. xxxiv. 21, 22): “If every male among us be
circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle and
their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours?” This is seen,

(1.) In unwieldiness to religious duties where self is not concerned.
With what lively thoughts will many approach to God, when a revenue
may be brought in to support their own ends! But when the concerns of
God only are in it, the duty is not the delight, but the clog; such
feeble devotions, that warm not the soul, unless there be something
of self to give strength and heat to them. Jonah was sick of his work,
and run from God, because he thought he should get no honor by his
message: God’s mercy would discredit his prophecy.[271] Thoughts of
disadvantage cut the very sinews of service. You may as well persuade
a merchant to venture all his estate upon the inconstant waves without
hopes of gain, as prevail with a natural man to be serious in duty,
without expectation of some warm advantage. “What profit should we
have if we pray to him?” is the natural question (Job xxi. 15). “What
profit shall I have if I be cleansed from my sin?” (Job xxxv. 3).
I shall have more good by my sin than by my service. It is for God
that I dance before the ark, saith David, therefore I will be more
vile (2 Sam. vi. 22). It is for self that I pray, saith a natural
man, therefore I will be more warm and quick. Ordinances of God are
observed only as a point of interest, and prayer is often most fervent,
when it is least godly, and most selfish; carnal ends and affections
will pour out lively expressions. If there be no delight in the means
that lead to God, there is no delight in God himself; because love
is _appetitus unionis_, a desire of union; and where the object is
desirable, the means that brings us to it would be delightful too.

(2.) In calling upon God only in a time of necessity. How officious
will men be in affliction, to that God whom they neglect in their
prosperity! “When he slew them, then they sought him, and they
returned and inquired after God, and they remembered that God was
their rock” (Psalm lxxviii. 34). They remembered him under the scourge,
and forgot him under his smiles: they visit the throne of grace,
knock loud at heaven’s gates, and give God no rest for their early
and importunate devotions when under distress: but when their desires
are answered, and the rod removed, they stand aloof from him, and rest
upon their own bottom, as Jer. ii. 31: “We are lords; we will come
no more unto thee.” When we have need {a152} of him, he shall find
us clients at his gate; and when we have served our turn, he hears no
more of us: like Noah’s dove sent out of the ark, that returned to him
when she found no rest on the earth, but came not back when she found
a footing elsewhere. How often do men apply themselves to God, when
they have some business for him to do for them! And then too, they are
loth to put it solely into his hand to manage it for his own honor;
but they presume to be his directors, that he may manage it for their
glory. Self spurs men on to the throne of grace; they desire to be
furnished with some mercy they want, or to have the clouds of some
judgments which they fear blown over: this is not affection to God,
but to ourselves: as the Romans worshipped a quartan ague as a goddess,
and Timorem and Pallorem, fear and paleness, as gods; not out of any
affection they had to the disease or the passion, but for fear to
receive any hurt by them. Again, when we have gained the mercy we need,
how little do we warm our souls with the consideration of that God
that gave it, or lay out the mercy in his service! We are importunate
to have him our friend in our necessities, and are ungratefully
careless of him, and his injuries he suffers by us or others. When
he hath discharged us from the rock where we stuck, we leave him, as
having no more need of him, and able to do well enough without him;
as if we were petty gods ourselves, and only wanted a lift from him
at first. This is not to glorify God as God, but as our servant; not
an honoring of God, but a self‑seeking: he would hardly beg at God’s
door, if he could pleasure himself without him.

(3.) In begging his assistance to our own projects. When we lay the
plot of our own affairs, and then come to God, not for counsel but
blessing, self only shall give us counsel how to act; but because we
believe there is a God that governs the world, we will desire him to
contribute success. God is not consulted with till the counsel of
self be fixed; then God must be the executor of our will. Self must be
the principal, and God the instrument to hatch what we have contrived.
It is worse when we beg of God to favor some sinful aim; the Psalmist
implies this (Psalm lxvi. 18): “If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me.” Iniquity regarded as the aim in prayer,
renders the prayer successless, and the suppliant an atheist, in
debasing God to back his lust by his holy providence. The disciples
had determined revenge; and because they could not act it without
their Master, they would have him be their second in their vindictive
passion (Luke ix. 55): “Call for fire from heaven.” We scarce seek
God till we have modelled the whole contrivance in our own brains,
and resolved upon the methods of performance; as though there were
not a fulness of wisdom in God to guide us in our resolves, as well
as power to breathe success upon them.

(4.) In impatience upon the refusal of our desires. How often do men’s
spirits rise against God, when he steps not in with the assistance
they want! If the glory of God swayed more with them than their
private interest, they would let God be judge of his own glory, and
rather magnify his wisdom than complain of his want of goodness.
Selfish hearts will charge God with neglect of them, if he be {a153}
not as quick in their supplies as they are in their desires; like
those in Isa. lviii. 3, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou
seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest
no knowledge?” When we aim at God’s glory in our importunities, we
shall fall down in humble submissions when he denies us; whereas self
riseth up in bold expostulations, as if God were our servant, and
had neglected the service he owed us, not to come at our call. We
over‑value the satisfactions of self above the honor of God. Besides,
if what we desire be a sin, our impatience at a refusal is more
intolerable: it is an anger, that God will not lay aside his holiness
to serve our corruption.

(5.) In the actual aims men have in their duties. In prayer for
temporal things, when we desire health for our own ease, wealth
for our own sensuality, strength for our revenge, children for the
increase of our family, gifts for our applause; as Simon Magus did
the Holy Ghost: or, when some of those ends are aimed at, this is
to desire God not to serve himself of us, but to be a servant to our
worldly interest, our vain glory, the greatening of our names, &c. In
spiritual mercies begged for; when pardon of sin is desired only for
our own security from eternal vengeance; sanctification desired only
to make us fit for everlasting blessedness; peace of conscience, only
that we may lead our lives more comfortably in the world; when we have
not actual intentions for the glory of God, or when our thoughts of
God’s honor are overtopped by the aims of self‑advantage: not but
that as God hath pressed us to those things by motives drawn from the
blessedness derived to ourselves by them, so we may desire them with
a respect to ourselves; but this respect must be contained within the
due banks, in subordination to the glory of God, not above it, nor in
an equal balance with it.[272] That which is nourishing or medicinal
in the first or second degree, is in the fourth or fifth degree mere
destructive poison. Let us consider it seriously; though a duty be
heavenly, doth not some base end smut us in it? [1.] How is it with
our confessions of sin? Are they not more to procure our pardon, than
to shame ourselves before God, or to be freed from the chains that
hinder us from bringing him the glory for which we were created; or
more to partake of his benefits, than to honor him in acknowledging
the rights of his justice? Do we not bewail sin as it hath ruined us,
not as it opposed the holiness of God? Do we not shuffle with God,
and confess one sin, while we reserve another; as if we would allure
God by declaring our dislike of one, to give us liberty to commit
wantonness with another; not to abhor ourselves, but to daub with
God. [2.] Is it any better in our private and family worship? Are not
such assemblies frequented by some, where some upon whom they have
a dependence may eye them, and have a better opinion of them, and
affection to them? If God were the sole end of our hearts, would
they not be as glowing under the sole eye of God, as our tongues or
carriages are seemingly serious under the eye of man? Are not family
duties performed by some that their voices may be heard, and their
reputation supported among godly neighbors? [3.] Is not the charity
of many men tainted with this {a154} end――self,[273] as the Pharisees
were, while they set the miserable object before them, but not the
Lord; bestowing alms not so much upon the necessities of the people,
as the friendship we owe them for some particular respects; or casting
our bread upon those waters which stream down in the sight of the
world, that our doles may be visible to them, and commended by them;
or when we think to oblige God to pardon our transgressions, as if
we merited it and heaven too at his hands, by bestowing a few pence
upon indigent persons? And [4.] Is it not the same with the reproofs
of men? Is not heat and anger carried out with full sail when our
worldly interest is prejudiced and becalmed in the concerns of God?
Do not many masters reprove their servants with more vehemency for the
neglect of their trade and business, than the neglect of divine duties;
and that upon religious arguments, pretending the honor of God that
they may mind their own interest? But when they are negligent in what
they owe to God, no noise is made, they pass without rebuke; is not
this to make God and religion a stale to their own ends? It is a part
of atheism not to regard the injuries done to God, as Tiberius,[274]
“Let God’s wrongs be looked to or cared for by himself.” [5.] Is
it not thus in our seeming zeal for religion? as Demetrius and the
craftsmen at Ephesus cried up aloud the greatness of Diana of the
Ephesians, not out of any true zeal they had for her, but their gain,
which was increased by the confluence of her worshippers, and the sale
of her own shrines (Acts xix. 24, 28).

4. In making use of the name of God to countenance our sin. When we
set up an opinion that is a friend to our lusts, and then dig deep
into the Scripture to find crutches to support it, and authorize our
practices; when men will thank God for what they have got by unlawful
means, fathering the fruit of their cheating craft, and the simplicity
of their chapmen upon God; crediting their cozenage by his name, as
men do brass money, with a thin plate of silver, and the stamp and
image of the prince. The Jews urge the law of God for the crucifying
his Son (John xix. 7): “We have a law, and by that law he is to die,”
and would make him a party in their private revenge. Thus often when
we have faltered in some actions, we wipe our mouths, as if we sought
God more than our own interest, prostituting the sacred name and
honor of God, either to hatch or defend some unworthy lust against
his word.[275] Is not all this a high degree of atheism?

1. It is a vilifying God, an abuse of the highest good. Other
sins subject the creature and outward things to them, but acting
in religious services for self, subjects not only the highest
concernments of men’s souls, but the Creator himself to the creature,
nay, to make God contribute to that which is the pleasure of the
devil, a greater slight than to cast the gifts of a prince to a herd
of nasty swine. It were more excusable to serve ourselves of God upon
the higher accounts, such that materially conduce to his glory; but
it is an intolerable wrong to make him and his ordinances caterers for
our own bellies, as they did:[276] they sacrificed the נדבות of which
the offerer {a155} might eat, not out of any reference to God, but
love to their gluttony; not to please him, but feast themselves. The
belly was truly made the god, when God was served only in order to
the belly; as though the blessed God had his being, and his ordinances
were enjoined to pleasure their foolish and wanton appetites; as
though the work of God were only to patronize unrighteous ends, and be
as bad as themselves, and become a pander to their corrupt affections.

2. Because it is a vilifying of God, it is an undeifying or dethroning
God. It is an acting as if we were the lords, and God our vassal; a
setting up those secular ends in the place of God, who ought to be our
ultimate end in every action; to whom a glory is as due, as his mercy
to us is utterly unmerited by us. He that thinks to cheat and put the
fool upon God by his pretences, doth not heartily believe there is
such a being. He could not have the notion of a God, without that
of omniscience and justice; an eye to see the cheat, and an arm to
punish it. The notion of the one would direct him in the manner of
his services, and the sense of the other would scare him from the
cherishing his unworthy ends. He that serves God with a sole respect
to himself, is prepared for any idolatry; his religion shall warp with
the times and his interest; he shall deny the true God for an idol,
when his worldly interest shall advise him to it, and pay the same
reverence to the basest image, which he pretends now to pay to God; as
the Israelites were as real for idolatry under their basest princes,
as they were pretenders to the true religion under those that were
pious. Before I come to the use of this, give me leave to evince this
practical atheism by two other considerations.

1. Unworthy imaginations of God. “The fool hath said in his heart,
There is no God:” that is, he is not such a God as you report him
to be; this is meant by their being “corrupt,” in the second verse,
corrupt being taken for playing the idolaters (Exod. xxxii. 7). We
cannot comprehend God; if we could, we should cease to be finite; and
because we cannot comprehend him, we erect strange images of him in
our fancies and affections. And since guilt came upon us, because we
cannot root out the notions of God, we would debase the majesty and
nature of God, that we may have some ease in our consciences, and
lie down with some comfort in the sparks of our own kindling. This
is universal in men by nature. “God is not in all his thoughts;”[277]
not in any of his thoughts, according the excellency of his nature
and greatness of his majesty. As the heathen did not glorify God as
God, so neither do they conceive of God as God; they are all infected
with some one or other ill opinion of him, thinking him not so holy,
powerful, just, good, as he is, and as the natural force of the human
understanding might arrive to. We join a new notion of God in our vain
fancies, and represent him not as he is, but as we would have him to
be, fit for our own use, and suited to our own pleasure. We set that
active power of imagination on work, and there comes out a god (a calf)
whom we own for a notion of God. Adam cast him into so narrow a mould,
as to think that himself, who had newly sprouted up by his almighty
power, was fit to be his corrival in knowledge, and had vain hopes to
grasp as {a156} much as infiniteness; if he, in his first declining,
begun to have such a conceit, it is no doubt but we have as bad under
a mass of corruption. When holy Agur speaks of God, he cries out
that he had not “the understanding of a man, nor the knowledge of
the holy;”[278] he did not think rationally of God, as man might by
his strength at his first creation. There are as many carved images
of God as there are minds of men, and as monstrous shapes as those
corruptions into which they would transform him. Hence sprang,

1. Idolatry. Vain imaginations first set afloat and kept up this in
the world. Vain imaginations of the God “whose glory they changed
into the image of corruptible man.”[279] They had set up vain images
of him in their fancy, before they set up idolatrous representations
of him in their temples; the likening him to those idols of wood and
stone, and various metals, were the fruit of an idea erected in their
own minds. This is a mighty debasing the Divine nature, and rendering
him no better than that base and stupid matter they make the visible
object of their adoration; equalling him with those base creatures
they think worthy to be the representations of him. Yet how far did
this crime spread itself in all corners of the world, not only among
the more barbarous and ignorant, but the more polished and civilized
nations! Judea only, where God had placed the ark of his presence,
being free from it, in some intervals of time only after some sweeping
judgment. And though they vomited up their idols under some sharp
scourge, they licked them up again after the heavens were cleared over
their heads: the whole book of Judges makes mention of it. And though
an evangelical light hath chased that idolatry away from a great part
of the world, yet the principle remaining coins more spiritual idols
in the heart, which are brought before God in acts of worship.

2. Hence all superstition received its rise and growth. When we mint
a god according to our own complexion, like to us in mutable and
various passions, soon angry and soon appeased, it is no wonder that
we invent ways of pleasing him after we have offended him, and think
to expiate the sin of our souls by some melancholy devotions and
self‑chastisements. Superstition is nothing else but an unscriptural
and unrevealed dread of God.[280] When they imagined him a rigorous
and severe master, they cast about for ways to mitigate him whom they
thought so hard to be pleased: a very mean thought of him, as if a
slight and pompous devotion could as easily bribe and flatter him out
of his rigors, as a few good words or baubling rattles could please
and quiet little children; and whatsoever pleased us, could please
a God infinitely above us. Such narrow conceits had the Philistines,
when they thought to still the anger of the God of Israel, whom they
thought they possessed in the ark, with the present of a few golden
mice.[281] All the superstition this day living in the world is built
upon this foundation: so natural it is to man to pull God down to
his own imaginations, rather than raise his imaginations up to God.
Hence doth arise also the diffidence of his mercy, though they repent;
measuring God by the contracted models of their own spirits; as though
his nature were as difficult to pardon {a157} their offences against
him, as they are to remit wrongs done to themselves.

3. Hence springs all presumption, the common disease of the world.
All the wickedness in the world, which is nothing else but presuming
upon God, rises from the ill interpretations of the goodness of God,
breaking out upon them in the works of creation and providence. The
corruption of man’s nature engendered by those notions of goodness
a monstrous birth of vain imaginations; not of themselves primarily,
but of God; whence arose all that folly and darkness in their minds
and conversations (Rom. i. 20, 21). They glorified him not as God,
but, according to themselves, imagined him good that themselves might
be bad; fancied him so indulgent, as to neglect his own honor for
their sensuality. How doth the unclean person represent him to his own
thoughts, but as a goat; the murderer as a tiger; the sensual person
as a swine; while they fancy a God indulgent to their crimes without
their repentance! As the image on the seal is stamped upon the wax, so
the thoughts of the heart are printed upon the actions. God’s patience
is apprehended to be an approbation of their vices, and from the
consideration of his forbearance, they fashion a god that they believe
will smile upon their crimes. They imagine a god that plays with them;
and though he threatens doth it only to scare, but means not as he
speaks. A god they fancy like themselves, that would do as they would
do, not be angry for what they count a light offence (Psalm l. 21):
“Thou thoughtest I was such a one as thyself;” that God and they were
exactly alike as two tallies. “Our wilful misapprehensions of God are
the cause of our misbehavior in all his worship. Our slovenly and lazy
services tell him to his face what slight thoughts and apprehensions
we have of him.”[282] Compare these two together. Superstition
ariseth from terrifying misapprehensions of God: presumption from
self‑pleasing thoughts. One represents him only rigorous, and the
other careless. One makes us over‑officious in serving him by our
own rules; and the other over‑bold in offending him according to our
humors. The want of a true notion of God’s justice makes some men
slight him; and the want of a true apprehension of his goodness makes
others too servile in their approaches to him. One makes us careless
of duties, and the other makes us look on them rather as physic
than food; an unsupportable penance, than a desirable privilege.
In this case hell is the principle of duty performed to heaven.
The superstitious man believes God hath scarce mercy to pardon; the
presumptuous man believes he hath no such perfection as justice to
punish. The one makes him insignificant to what he desires, kindness
and goodness; the other renders him insignificant to what he fears,
his vindictive justice. What between the idolater, the superstitious,
the presumptuous person, God should look like no God in the world.
These unworthy imaginations of God are likewise,

2. A vilifying of him. Debasing the Creator to be a creature of their
own fancies; putting their own stamp upon him; and fashioning him not
according to that beautiful image he impressed upon {a158} them by
creation; but the defaced image they inherit by their fall, and which
is worse, the image of the devil which spread itself over them at
their revolt and apostasy. Were it possible to see a picture of God,
according to the fancies of men, it would be the most monstrous being,
such a God that never was, nor ever can be. We honor God when we have
worthy opinions of him suitable to his nature; when we conceive of him
as a being of unbounded loveliness and perfection. We detract from him
when we ascribe to him such qualities as would be a horrible disgrace
to a wise and good man as injustice and impurity. Thus men debase God
when they invert his order, and would create him according to their
image, as he first created them according to his own; and think him
not worthy to be a God, unless he fully answer the mould they would
cast him into, and be what is unworthy of his nature. Men do not
conceive of God as he would have them; but he must be what they would
have him, one of their own shaping.

1. This is worse than idolatry. The grossest idolater commits not a
crime so heinous, by changing his glory into the image of creeping
things and senseless creatures, as the imagining God to be as one of
our sinful selves, and likening him to those filthy images we erect in
our fancies. One makes him an earthly God, like an earthly creature;
the other fancies him an unjust and impure God, like a wicked creature.
One sets up an image of him in the earth, which is his footstool;
the other sets up an image of him in the heart, which ought to be his

2. It is worse than absolute atheism, or a denial of God. “_Dignius
credimus non esse, quodcunque non ita fuerit, ut esse deberet_,”[283]
was the opinion of Tertullian. It is more commendable to think him not
to be, than to think him such a one as is inconsistent with his nature.
Better to deny his existence, than deny his perfection. No wise man
but would rather have his memory rot, than be accounted infamous, and
would be more obliged to him that should deny that ever he had a being
in the world, than to say he did indeed live, but he was a sot, a
debauched person, and a man not to be trusted. When we apprehend God
deceitful in his promises, unrighteous in his threatenings, unwilling
to pardon upon repentance, or resolved to pardon notwithstanding
impenitency: these are things either unworthy of the nature of God,
or contrary to that revelation he hath given of himself. Better for
a man never to have been born than be forever miserable; so better to
be thought no God, than represented impotent or negligent, unjust or
deceitful; which are more contrary to the nature of God than hell can
be to the greatest criminal. In this sense perhaps the apostle affirms
the Gentiles (Eph. ii. 12) to be such as are “without God in the
world;” as being more atheists in adoring God under such notions as
they commonly did, than if they had acknowledged no God at all.

3. This is evident by our natural desire to be distant from him, and
unwillingness to have any acquaintance with him. Sin set us first at
a distance from God; and every new act of gross sin estrangeth us more
from him, and indisposeth us more for him: it makes us {a159} both
afraid and ashamed to be near him. Sensual men were of this frame
that Job discourseth of (ch. xxi. 7‒9, 14, 15). Where grace reigns,
the nearer to God the more vigorous the motion; the nearer anything
approaches to us, that is the object of our desires, the more eagerly
do we press forward to it: but our blood riseth at the approaches of
anything to which we have an aversion. We have naturally a loathing
of God’s coming to us or our return to him: we seek not after him as
our happiness; and when he offers himself, we like it not, but put
a disgrace upon him in choosing other things before him. God and we
are naturally at as great a distance, as light and darkness, life
and death, heaven and hell. The stronger impression of God anything
hath, the more we fly from it. The glory of God in reflection upon
Moses’ face scared the Israelites; they who had desired God to speak
to them by Moses, when they saw a signal impression of God upon
his countenance, were afraid to come near him, as they were before
unwilling to come near to God.[284] Not that the blessed God is in
his own nature a frightful object; but our own guilt renders him so
to us, and ourselves indisposed to converse with him; as the light of
the sun is as irksome to a distempered eye, as it is in its own nature
desirable to a sound one. The saints themselves have had so much
frailty, that they have cried out, that they were undone, if they had
any more than ordinary discoveries of God made unto them; as if they
wished him more remote from them. Vileness cannot endure the splendor
of majesty, nor guilt the glory of a judge.

We have naturally, 1. No desire of remembrance of him, 2. Or converse
with him, 3. Or thorough return to him, 4. Or close imitation of him:
as if there were not any such being as God in the world; or as if
we wished there were none at all; so feeble and spiritless are our
thoughts of the being of a God.

1. No desire for the remembrance of him. How delightful are other
things in our minds! How burdensome the memorials of God, from whom
we have our being! With what pleasure do we contemplate the nature
of creatures, even of flies and toads, while our minds tire in the
search of Him, who hath bestowed upon us our knowing and meditating
faculties! Though God shows himself to us in every creature, in the
meanest weed as well as the highest heavens, and is more apparent in
them to our reasons than themselves can be to our sense; yet though we
see them, we will not behold God in them: we will view them to please
our sense, to improve our reason in their natural perfections; but
pass by the consideration of God’s perfections so visibly beaming
from them. Thus we play the beasts and atheists in the very exercise
of reason, and neglect our Creator to gratify our sense, as though
the pleasure of that were more desirable than the knowledge of God.
The desire of our souls is not towards his name and the remembrance
of him,[285] when we set not ourselves in a posture to feast our souls
with deep and serious meditations of him; have a thought of him, only
by the bye and away, as if we were afraid of too intimate acquaintance
with him. Are not the thoughts of God rather our invaders than our
guests; seldom invited to reside and take up their home in our hearts?
Have we not, when {a160} they have broke in upon us, bid them depart
from us,[286] and warned them to come no more upon our ground; sent
them packing as soon as we could, and were glad when they were gone?
And when they have departed, have we not often been afraid they should
return again upon us, and therefore looked about for other inmates,
things not good, or if good, infinitely below God, to possess the room
of our hearts before any thoughts of him should appear again? Have we
not often been glad of excuses to shake off present thoughts of him,
and when we have wanted real ones, found out pretences to keep God
and our hearts at a distance? Is not this a part of atheism, to be so
unwilling to employ our faculties about the giver of them, to refuse
to exercise them in a way of a grateful remembrance of him; as though
they were none of his gift, but our own acquisition; as though the
God that truly gave them had no right to them, and he that thinks on
us every day in a way of providence, were not worthy to be thought on
by us in a way of special remembrance? Do not the best, that love the
remembrance of him, and abhor this natural averseness, find, that when
they would think of God, many things tempt them and turn them to think
elsewhere? Do they not find their apprehensions too feeble, their
motions too dull, and the impressions too slight? This natural atheism
is spread over human nature.

2. No desire of converse with him. The word “remember” in the command
for keeping holy the Sabbath‑day, including all the duties of the day,
and the choicest of our lives, implies our natural unwillingness to
them, and forgetfulness of them. God’s pressing this command with more
reasons than the rest, manifests that man hath no heart for spiritual
duties. No spiritual duty, which sets us immediately face to face
with God, but in the attempts of it we find naturally a resistance
from some powerful principle; so that everyone may subscribe to the
speech of the apostle, that “when we would do good, evil is present
with them.” No reason of this can be rendered, but the natural
temper of our souls, and an affecting a distance from God under
any consideration: for though our guilt first made the breach, yet
this aversion to a converse with him steps up without any actual
reflections upon our guilt, which may render God terrible to us as
an offended judge. Are we not often also, in our attendance upon
him, more pleased with the modes of worship which gratify our fancy,
than to have our souls inwardly delighted with the object of worship
himself? This is a part of our natural atheism. To cast such duties
off by total neglect, or in part, by affecting a coldness in them, is
to cast off the fear of the Lord.[287] Not to call upon God, and not
to know him, are one and the same thing (Jer. x. 25). Either we think
there is no such Being in the world, or that he is so slight a one,
that he deserves not the respect he calls for; or so impotent and poor,
that he cannot supply what our necessities require.

3. No desire of a thorough return to him. The first man fled from
him after his defection, though he had no refuge to fly to but the
grace of his Creator. Cain went from his presence, would be a fugitive
{a161} from God rather than a suppliant to him; when by faith in, and
application of the promised Redeemer, he might have escaped the wrath
to come for his brother’s blood, and mitigated the sorrows he was
justly sentenced to bear in the world. Nothing will separate prodigal
man from commoning with swine; and make him return to his father,
but an empty trough: have we but husks to feed on, we shall never
think of a father’s presence. It were well if our sores and indigence
would drive us to him; but when our strength is devoured, we will not
“return to the Lord our God, nor seek him for all this.”[288] Not his
drawn sword, as a God of judgment, nor his mighty power, as a Lord,
nor his open arms, as the Lord their God, could move them to turn
their eyes and their hearts towards him. The more he invites us to
partake of his grace, the further we run from him to provoke his wrath:
the louder God called them by his prophets, the closer they stuck to
their Baal.[289] We turn our backs when he stretches out his hand,
stop our ears when he lifts up his voice. We fly from him when he
courts us, and shelter ourselves in any bush from his merciful hand
that would lay hold upon us; nor will we set our faces towards him,
till our way be hedged up with thorns, and not a gap left to creep
out any by‑way.[290] Whosoever is brought to a return, puts the Holy
Ghost to the pain of striving; he is not easily brought to a spiritual
subjection to God, nor persuaded to a surrender at a summons, but
sweetly overpowered by storm, and victoriously drawn into the arms
of God. God stands ready, but the heart stands off; grace is full
of entreaties, and the soul full of excuses; Divine love offers,
and carnal self‑love rejects. Nothing so pleases us as when we are
farthest from him; as if anything were more amiable, anything more
desirable, than himself.

4. No desire of any close imitation of him. When our Saviour was to
come as a refiner’s fire, to purify the sons of Levi, the cry is, “Who
shall abide the day of his coming?” (Mal. iii. 2, 3.) Since we are
alienated from the life of God, we desire no more naturally to live
the life of God, than a toad, or any other animal, desires to live
the life of a man. No heart that knows God but hath a holy ambition
to imitate him. No soul that refuseth him for a copy, but is ignorant
of his excellency. Of this temper is all mankind naturally. Man in
corruption is as loth to be like God in holiness, as Adam, after his
creation, was desirous to be like God in knowledge; his posterity are
like their father, who soon turned his back upon his original copy.
What can be worse than this? Can the denial of his being be a greater
injury than this contempt of him; as if he had not goodness to deserve
our remembrance, nor amiableness fit for our converse; as if he were
not a Lord fit for our subjection, nor had a holiness that deserved
our imitation? For the use of this:――

_Use I._ It serves for information.

1. It gives us occasion to admire the wonderful patience and mercy
of God. How many millions of practical atheists breathe every day in
his air, and live upon his bounty who deserve to be inhabitants in
hell, rather than possessors of the earth! An infinite holiness is
offended, an infinite justice is provoked; yet an infinite patience
{a162} forbears the punishment, and an infinite goodness relieves our
wants: the more we had merited his justice and forfeited his favor,
the more is his affection enhanced, which makes his hand so liberal
to us. At the first invasion of his rights, he mitigates the terror of
the threatening which was set to defend his law, with the grace of a
promise to relieve and recover his rebellious creature.[291] Who would
have looked for anything but tearing thunders, sweeping judgments,
to raze up the foundations of the apostate world? But oh, how great
are his bowels to his aspiring competitors! Have we not experimented
his contrivances for our good, though we have refused him for our
happiness? Has he not opened his arms, when we spurned with our feet;
held out his alluring mercy, when we have brandished against him
a rebellious sword? Has he not entreated us while we have invaded
him, as if he were unwilling to lose us, who are ambitious to destroy
ourselves? Has he yet denied us the care of his providence, while we
have denied him the rights of his honor, and would appropriate them
to ourselves? Has the sun forborne shining upon us, though we have
shot our arrows against him? Have not our beings been supported by
his goodness, while we have endeavored to climb up to his throne; and
his mercies continued to charm us, while we have used them as weapons
to injure him? Our own necessities might excite us to own him as our
happiness, but he adds his invitations to the voice of our wants. Has
he not promised a kingdom to those that would strip him of his crown,
and proclaimed pardon upon repentance to those that would take away
his glory? and hath so twisted together his own end, which is his
honor, and man’s true end, which is his salvation, that a man cannot
truly mind himself and his own salvation, but he must mind God’s
glory; and cannot be intent upon God’s honor, but by the same act
he promotes himself and his own happiness? so loth is God to give
any just occasion of dissatisfaction to his creature, as well as
dishonor to himself. All those wonders of his mercy are enhanced by
the heinousness of our atheism; a multitude of gracious thoughts from
him above the multitude of contempts from us.[292] What rebels in
actual arms against their prince, aiming at his life, ever found that
favor from him; to have all their necessaries richly afforded them,
without which they would starve, and without which they would be
unable to manage their attempts, as we have received from God? Had
not God had riches of goodness, forbearance, and long‑suffering, and
infinite riches too, the despite the world had done him, in refusing
him as their rule, happiness, and end, would have emptied him long

2. It brings in a justification of the exercise of his justice. If
it gives us occasion loudly to praise his patience, it also stops
our mouths from accusing any acts of his vengeance. What can be too
sharp a recompense for the despising and disgracing so great a Being?
The highest contempt merits the greatest anger; and when we will not
own him for our happiness, it is equal we should feel the misery of
separation from him. If he that is guilty of treason deserves to lose
his life, what punishment can be thought great enough for him that
is so disingenuous as to prefer himself before a God so infinitely
{a163} good, and so foolish as to invade the rights of one infinitely
powerful? It is no injustice for a creature to be forever left to
himself, to see what advantage he can make of that self he was so
busily employed to set up in the place of his Creator. The soul of
man deserves an infinite punishment for despising an infinite good;
and it is not unequitable, that that self which man makes his rule
and happiness above God, should become his torment and misery by the
righteousness of that God whom he despised.

3. Hence ariseth a necessity of a new state and frame of soul,
to alter an atheistical nature. We forget God; think of him with
reluctancy; have no respect to God in our course and acts: this cannot
be our original state. God, being infinitely good, never let man come
out of his hands with this actual unwillingness to acknowledge and
serve him; he never intended to dethrone himself for the work of his
hands, or that the creature should have any other end than that of
his Creator: as the apostle saith, in the case of the Galatians’ error
(Gal. v. 8), “This persuasion came not of Him that called you;” so
this frame comes not from him that created you: how much, therefore,
do we need a restoring principle in us! Instead of ordering ourselves
according to the will of God, we are desirous to “fulfil the wills of
the flesh:”[294] there is a necessity of some other principle in us
to make us fulfil the will of God, since we were created for God, not
for the flesh. We can no more be voluntarily serviceable to God, while
our serpentine nature and devilish habits remain in us, than we can
suppose the devil can be willing to glorify God, while the nature
he contracted by his fall abides powerfully in him. Our nature and
will must be changed, that our actions may regard God as our end,
that we may delightfully meditate on him, and draw the motives of our
obedience from him. Since this atheism is seated in nature, the change
must be in our nature; since our first aspirings to the rights of
God were the fruits of the serpent’s breath which tainted our nature,
there must be a removal of this taint, whereby our natures may be
on the side of God against Satan, as they were before on the side
of Satan against God. There must be a supernatural principle before
we can live a supernatural life, _i. e._ live to God, since we are
naturally alienated from the life of God: the aversion of our natures
from God, is as strong as our inclination to evil; we are disgusted
with one, and pressed with the other; we have no will, no heart, to
come to God in any service. This nature must be broken in pieces and
new moulded, before we can make God our rule and our end: while men’s
“deeds are evil” they cannot comply with God;[295] much less while
their natures are evil. Till this be done, all the service a man
performs riseth from some “evil imagination of the heart, which is
evil, only evil, and that continually;”[296] from wrong notions of
God, wrong notions of duty, or corrupt motives. All the pretences of
devotion to God are but the adoration of some golden image. Prayers to
God for the ends of self, are like those of the devil to our Saviour,
when he asked leave to go into the herd of swine: the object was right,
Christ; the end was the destruction of the swine, and the satisfaction
of their malice to the owners; there {a164} is a necessity then that
depraved ends should be removed, that that which was God’s end in our
framing, may be our end in our acting, viz. his glory, which cannot
be without a change of nature. We can never honor him supremely whom
we do not supremely love; till this be, we cannot glorify God as God,
though we do things by his command and order; no more, than when God
employed the devil in afflicting Job.[297] His performance cannot be
said to be good, because his end was not the same with God’s; he acted
out of malice, what God commanded out of sovereignty, and for gracious
designs; had God employed an holy angel in his design upon Job, the
action had been good in the affliction, because his nature was holy,
and therefore his ends holy; but bad in the devil, because his ends
were base and unworthy.

4. We may gather from hence, the difficulty of conversion, and
mortification to follow thereupon. What is the reason men receive no
more impression from the voice of God and the light of his truth, than
a dead man in the grave doth from the roaring thunder, or a blind mole
from the light of the sun? It is because our atheism is as great as
the deadness of the one, or the blindness of the other. The principle
in the heart is strong to shut the door both of the thoughts and
affections against God. If a friend oblige us, we shall act for him as
for ourselves; we are won by entreaties; soft words overcome us; but
our hearts are as deaf as the hardest rock at the call of God; neither
the joys of heaven proposed by him can allure us, nor the flashed
terrors of hell affright us to him, as if we conceived God unable to
bestow the one or execute the other: the true reason is, God and self
contest for the deity. The law of sin is, God must be at the footstool;
the law of God is, sin must be utterly deposed. Now it is difficult
to leave a law beloved for a law long ago discarded. The mind of man
will hunt after anything; the will of man embrace anything: upon the
proposal of mean objects the spirit of man spreads its wings, flies to
catch them, becomes one with them: but attempt to bring it under the
power of God, the wings flag, the creature looks lifeless, as though
there were no spring of motion in it; it is as much crucified to God,
as the holy apostle was to the world. The sin of the heart discovers
its strength the more God discovers the “holiness of his will.”[298]
The love of sin hath been predominant in our nature, has quashed a
love to God, if not extinguished it. Hence also is the difficulty of
mortification. This is a work tending to the honor of God, the abasing
of that inordinately aspiring humor in ourselves. If the nature of man
be inclined to sin, as it is, it must needs be bent against anything
that opposes it. It is impossible to strike any true blow at any
lust till the true sense of God be re‑entertained in the soil where
it ought to grow. Who can be naturally willing to crucify what is
incorporated with him――his flesh? what is dearest to him――himself? Is
it an easy thing for man, the competitor with God, to turn his arms
against himself, that self should overthrow its own empire, lay aside
all its pretensions to, and designs for, a godhead; to hew off its
own members, and subdue its own affections? It is the nature of man to
“cover his sin,” {a165} to hide it in his bosom,[299] not to destroy
it; and as unwillingly part with his carnal affections, as the legion
of devils were with the man that had been long possessed; and when he
is forced and fired from one, he will endeavor to espouse some other
lust, as those devils desired to possess swine, when they were chased
from their possession of that man.

5. Here we see the reason of unbelief. That which hath most of God
in it, meets with most aversion from us; that which hath least of
God, finds better and stronger inclinations in us. What is the reason
that the heart of man is more unwilling to embrace the gospel, than
acknowledge the equity of the law? because there is more of God’s
nature and perfection evident in the gospel than in the law; besides,
there is more reliance on God, and distance from self, commanded
in the gospel. The law puts a man upon his own strength, the gospel
takes him off from his own bottom; the law acknowledges him to have
a power in himself, and to act for his own reward; the gospel strips
him of all his proud and towering thoughts,[300] brings him to his due
place, the foot of God; orders him to deny himself as his own rule,
righteousness, and end, “and henceforth not to live to himself.”[301]
This is the true reason why men are more against the gospel than
against the law; because it doth more deify God, and debase man. Hence
it is easier to reduce men to some moral virtue than to faith; to make
men blush at their outward vices, but not at the inward impurity of
their natures. Hence it is observed, that those that asserted that all
happiness did arise from something in a man’s self, as the Stoics and
Epicureans did, and that a wise man was equal with God, were greater
enemies to the truths of the gospel than others (Acts xvii. 18),
because it lays the axe to the root of their principal opinion,
takes the one from their self‑sufficiency, and the other from their
self‑gratification; it opposeth the brutish principle of the one,
which placed happiness in the pleasures of the body, and the more
noble principle of the other, which placed happiness in the virtue
of the mind; the one was for a sensual, the other for a moral self;
both disowned by the doctrine of the gospel.

6. It informs us, consequently, who can be the Author of grace and
conversion, and every other good work. No practical atheist ever yet
turned to God, but was turned by God; and not to acknowledge it to God
is a part of this atheism, since it is a robbing God of the honor of
one of his most glorious works. If this practical atheism be natural
to man ever since the first taint of nature in Paradise, what can be
expected from it, but a resisting of the work of God, and setting up
all the forces of nature against the operations of grace, till a day
of power dawn and clear up upon the soul?[302] Not all the angels in
heaven, or men upon earth, can be imagined to be able to persuade a
man to fall out with himself; nothing can turn the tide of nature, but
a power above nature. God took away the sanctifying Spirit from man,
as a penalty for the first sin; who can regain it but by his will and
pleasure? who can restore it, but he that removed it? Since every man
hath the same fundamental atheism {a166} in him by nature, and would
be a rule to himself and his own end, he is so far from dethroning
himself, that all the strength of his corrupted nature is alarmed up
to stand to their arms upon any attempt God makes to regain the fort.
The will is so strong against God, that it is like many wills twisted
together (Eph. ii. 3), “Wills of the flesh;” we translate it the
“desires of the flesh;” like many threads twisted in a cable, never
to be snapped asunder by a human arm; a power and will above ours,
can only untwist so many wills in a knot. Man cannot rise to an
acknowledgment of God without God; hell may as well become heaven, the
devil be changed into an angel of light. The devil cannot but desire
happiness; he knows the misery into which he is fallen, he cannot be
desirous of that punishment he knows is reserved for him. Why doth he
not sanctify God, and glorify his Creator, wherein there is abundantly
more pleasure than in his malicious course? Why doth he not petition
to recover his ancient standing? he will not; there are chains of
darkness upon his faculties; he will not be otherwise than he is; his
desire to be god of the world sways him against his own interest, and
out of love to his malice, he will not sin at a less rate to make a
diminution of his punishment. Man, if God utterly refuseth to work
upon him, is no better; and to maintain his atheism would venture a
hell. How is it possible for a man to turn himself to that God against
whom he hath a quarrel in his nature; the most rooted and settled
habit in him being to set himself in the place of God? An atheist by
nature can no more alter his own temper, and engrave in himself the
divine nature, than a rock can carve itself into the statue of a man,
or a serpent that is an enemy to man could or would raise itself to
the nobility of the human nature. That soul that by nature would strip
God of his rights, cannot, without a divine power, be made conformable
to him, and acknowledge sincerely and cordially the rights and glory
of God.

7. We may here see the reason why there can be no justification by
the best and strongest works of nature. Can that which hath atheism at
the root justify either the action or person? What strength can those
works have which have neither God’s law for their rule, nor his glory
for their end? that are not wrought by any spiritual strength from
him, nor tend with any spiritual affection to him? Can these be a
foundation for the most holy God to pronounce a creature righteous?
They will justify his justice in condemning, but cannot sway his
justice to an absolution. Every natural man in his works picks and
chooses; he owns the will of God no further than he can wring it to
suit the law of his members, and minds not the honor of God, but as it
jostles not with his own glory and secular ends. Can he be righteous
that prefers his own will and his own honor before the will and honor
of the Creator? However men’s actions may be beneficial to others,
what reason hath God to esteem them, wherein there is no respect
to him, but themselves; whereby they dethrone him in their thoughts,
while they seem to own him in their religious works? Every day
reproves us with something different from the rule; thousands of
wanderings offer themselves to {a167} our eyes: can justification
be expected from that which in itself is matter of despair?

8. See here the cause of all the apostasy in the world. Practical
atheism was never conquered in such; they are still “alienated from
the life of God,” and will not live to God, as he lives to himself and
his own honor.[303] They loathe his rule, and distaste his glory; are
loth to step out of themselves to promote the ends of another; find
not the satisfaction in him as they do in themselves; they will be
judges of what is good for them and righteous in itself, rather than
admit of God to judge for them. When men draw back from truth to error,
it is to such opinions which may serve more to foment and cherish
their ambition, covetousness, or some beloved lust that disputes with
God for precedency, and is designed to be served before him (John xii.
42, 43): “They love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” A
preferring man before God was the reason they would not confess Christ,
and God in him.

9. This shows us the excellency of the gospel and christian religion.
It sets man in his due place, and gives to God what the excellency of
his nature requires. It lays man in the dust from whence he was taken,
and sets God upon that throne where he ought to sit. Man by nature
would annihilate God and deify himself; the gospel glorifies God and
annihilates man. In our first revolt we would be like him in knowledge;
in the means he hath provided for our recovery, he designs to make
us like him in grace; the gospel shows ourselves to be an object of
humiliation, and God to be a glorious object for our imitation. The
light of nature tells us there is a God; the gospel gives us a more
magnificent report of him; the light of nature condemns gross atheism,
and that of the gospel condemns and conquers spiritual atheism in the
hearts of men.

_Use II._ Of exhortation.

First, Let us labor to be sensible of this atheism in our nature, and
be humbled for it. How should we lie in the dust, and go bowing under
the humbling thoughts of it all our days! Shall we not be sensible of
that whereby we spill the blood of our souls, and give a stab to the
heart of our own salvation? Shall we be worse than any creature, not
to bewail that which tends to our destruction? He that doth not lament
it, cannot challenge the character of a Christian, hath nothing of the
divine life and love planted in his soul. Not a man but shall one day
be sensible, when the eternal God shall call him out to examination,
and charge his conscience to discover every crime, which will then
own the authority whereby it acted; when the heart shall be torn open,
and the secrets of it brought to public view; and the world and man
himself shall see what a viperous brood of corrupt principles and ends
nested in his heart. Let us, therefore, be truly sensible of it, till
the consideration draw tears from our eyes and sorrow from our souls;
let us urge the thoughts of it upon our hearts till the core of that
pride be eaten out, and our stubbornness changed into humility; till
our heads become waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, and be a
spring of prayer to God to change the heart, and mortify the atheism
in it; and consider {a168} what a sad thing it is to be a practical
atheist: and who is not so by nature?

1. Let us be sensible of it in ourselves. Have any of our hearts been
a soil wherein the fear and reverence of God hath naturally grown?
Have we a desire to know him, or a will to embrace him? Do we delight
in his will, and love the remembrance of his name? Are our respects to
him, as God, equal to the speculative knowledge we have of his nature?
Is the heart, wherein he hath stamped his image, reserved for his
residence? Is not the world more affected than the Creator of the
world; as though that could contribute to us a greater happiness than
the Author of it? Have not creatures as much of our love, fear, trust,
nay, more, than God that framed both them and us? Have we not too
often relied upon our own strength, and made a calf of our own wisdom,
and said of God, as the Israelites of Moses, “As for this Moses we
wot not what is become of him?” (Exod. xxxii. 1) and given oftener the
glory of our good success to our drag and our net, to our craft and
our industry, than to the wisdom and blessing of God? Are we, then,
free from this sort of atheism?[304] It is as impossible to have two
Gods at one time in one heart, as to have two kings at one time in
full power in one kingdom. Have there not been frequent neglects
of God? Have we not been deaf whilst he hath knocked at our doors?
slept when he hath sounded in our ears, as if there had been no such
being as a God in the world? How many strugglings have been against
our approaches to him! Hath not folly often been committed, with
vain imaginations starting up in the time of religious service, which
we would scarce vouchsafe a look to at another time, and in another
business, but would have thrust them away with indignation? Had
they stept in to interrupt our worldly affairs, they would have been
troublesome intruders; but while we are with God they are acceptable
guests. How unwilling have our hearts been to fortify themselves with
strong and influencing considerations of God, before we addressed
to him! Is it not too often that our lifelessness in prayer proceeds
from this atheism; a neglect of seeing what arguments and pleas may
be drawn from the divine perfections, to second our suit in hand, and
quicken our hearts in the service? Whence are those indispositions
to any spiritual duty, but because we have not due thoughts of the
majesty, holiness, goodness, and excellency of God? Is there any duty
which leads to a more particular inquiry after him, or a more clear
vision of him, but our hearts have been ready to rise up and call
it cursed rather than blessed? Are not our minds bemisted with an
ignorance of him, our wills drawn by aversion from him, our affections
rising in distaste of him? more willing to know anything than his
nature, and more industrious to do anything than his will? Do we not
all fall under some one or other of these considerations? Is it not
fit, then, that we should have a sense of them? It is to be bewailed
by us, that so little of God is in our hearts, when so many evidences
of the love of God are in the creatures; that God should be so little
our end, who hath been so much our benefactor; that he should be
so {a169} little in our thoughts, who sparkles in everything which
presents itself to our eyes.

2. Let us be sensible of it in others. We ought to have a just
execration of the too open iniquity in the midst of us; and imitate
holy David, whose tears plentifully gushed out, “because men kept
not God’s law.”[305] And is it not a time to exercise this pious
lamentation? Hath the wicked atheism of any age been greater, or
can you find worse in hell, than we may hear of and behold on earth?
How is the excellent Majesty of God adored by the angels in heaven,
despised and reproached by men on earth, as if his name were published
to be matter of their sport! What a gasping thing is a natural sense
of God among men in the world! Is not the law of God, accompanied with
such dreadful threatenings and curses, made light of, as if men would
place their honor in being above or beyond any sense of that glorious
Majesty? How many wallow in pleasures, as if they had been made men
only to turn brutes, and their souls given them only for salt, to
keep their bodies from putrefying? It is as well a part of atheism not
to be sensible of the abuses of God’s name and laws by others, as to
violate them ourselves: what is the language of a stupid senselessness
of them, but that there is no God in the world whose glory is worth
a vindication, and deserves our regards? That we may be sensible of
the unworthiness of neglecting God as our rule and end, consider,

1. The unreasonableness of it as it concerns God.

1st. It is a high contempt of God. It is an inverting the order of
things; a making God the highest to become the lowest; and self the
lowest to become the highest: to be guided by every base companion,
some idle vanity, some carnal interest, is to acknowledge an
excellency abounding in them which is wanting in God; an equity in
their orders, and none in God’s precepts; a goodness in their promises,
and a falsity in God’s; as if infinite excellency were a mere vanity,
and to act for God were the debasement of our reason; to act for
self or some pitiful creature, or sordid lust, were the glory and
advancement of it. To prefer any one sin before the honor of God,
is as if that sin had been our creator and benefactor, as if it were
the original cause of our being and support. Do not men pay as great
a homage to that as they do to God? Do not their minds eagerly pursue
it? Are not the revolvings of it, in their fancies, as delightful
to them as the remembrance of God to a holy soul? Do any obey the
commands of God with more readiness than they do the orders of their
base affections? Did Peter leap more readily into the sea to meet his
Master, than many into the jaws of hell to meet their Dalilahs? How
cheerfully did the Israelites part with their ornaments for the sake
of an idol, who would not have spared a moiety for the honor of their
Deliverer![306] If to make God our end is the principal duty in nature,
then to make ourselves, or anything else, our end, is the greatest
vice in the rank of evils.

2d. It is a contempt of God as the most amiable object. God is
infinitely excellent and desirable (Zech. ix. 17): “How great is his
{a170} goodness, and how great is his beauty!” There is nothing in
him but what may ravish our affections; none that knows him but finds
attractives to keep them with him; He hath nothing in him which can
be a proper object of contempt, no defects or shadow of evil; there
is infinite excellency to charm us, and infinite goodness to allure
us,――the Author of our being, the Benefactor of our lives. Why then
should man, which is his image, be so base as to slight the beautiful
Original which stamped it on him? He is the most lovely object;
therefore to be studied, therefore to be honored, therefore to be
followed. In regard of his perfection he hath the highest right to our
thoughts. All other beings were eminently contained in his essence,
and were produced by his infinite power. The creature hath nothing
but what it hath from God. And is it not unworthy to prefer the copy
before the original――to fall in love with a picture, instead of the
beauty it represents? The creature which we advance to be our rule and
end, can no more report to us the true amiableness of God, than a few
colors mixed and suited together upon a piece of cloth, can the moral
and intellectual loveliness of the soul of man. To contemn God one
moment is more base than if all creatures were contemned by us forever;
because the excellency of creatures is, to God, like that of a drop to
the sea, or a spark to the glory of unconceivable millions of suns. As
much as the excellency of God is above our conceptions, so much doth
the debasing of him admit of unexpressible aggravations.

2. Consider the ingratitude in it. That we should resist that God with
our hearts who made us the work of his hands, and count him as nothing,
from whom we derive all the good that we are or have. There is no
contempt of man but steps in here to aggravate our slighting of God;
because there is no relation one man can stand in to another, wherein
God doth not more highly appear to man. If we abhor the unworthy
carriage of a child to a tender father, a servant to an indulgent
master, a man to his obliging friend, why do men daily act that
toward God which they cannot speak of without abhorrency, if acted
by another against man? Is God a being less to be regarded than man,
and more worthy of contempt than a creature?――“It would be strange
if a benefactor should live in the same town, in the same house with
us, and we never exchange a word with him; yet this is our case, who
have the works of God in our eyes, the goodness of God in our being,
the mercy of God in our daily food”[307]――yet think so little of him,
converse so little with him, serve everything before him, and prefer
everything above him? Whence have we our mercies but from his hand?
Who, besides him, maintains our breath this moment? Would he call
for our spirits this moment, they must depart from us to attend
his command. There is not a moment wherein our unworthy carriage is
not aggravated, because there is not a moment wherein he is not our
Guardian, and gives us not tastes of a fresh bounty. And it is no
light aggravation of our crime, that we injure him without whose
bounty, in giving us our being, we had not been capable of casting
contempt upon him: that he that hath the greatest stamp of his image,
man, {a171} should deserve the character of the worst of his rebels:
that he who hath only reason by the gift of God to judge of the equity
of the laws of God, should swell against them as grievous, and the
government of the Lawgiver as burdensome. Can it lessen the crime to
use the principle wherein we excel the beasts to the disadvantage of
God, who endowed us with that principle above the beasts?

1. It is a debasing of God beyond what the devil doth at present.
He is more excusable in his present state of acting, than man is in
his present refusing God for his rule and end. He strives against
a God that exerciseth upon him a vindictive justice; we debase a
God that loads us with his daily mercies. The despairing devils are
excluded from any mercy or divine patience; but we are not only under
the long‑suffering of his patience, but the large expressions of
his bounty. He would not be governed by him when he was only his
bountiful Creator: we refuse to be guided by him after he hath given
us the blessing of creation from his own hand, and the more obliging
blessings of redemption by the hand and blood of his Son. It cannot be
imagined that the devils and the damned should ever make God their end,
since he hath assured them he will not be their happiness; and shut up
all his perfections from their experimental notice, but those of his
power to preserve them, and his justice to punish them. They have no
grant from God of ever having a heart to comply with his will, or ever
having the honor to be actively employed for his glory. They have some
plea for their present contempt of God, not in regard of his nature,
for he is infinitely amiable, excellent and lovely, but in regard of
his administration toward them. But what plea can man have for his
practical atheism, who lives by his power, is sustained by his bounty,
and solicited by his Spirit? What an ungrateful thing is it to put off
the nature of man for that of devils, and dishonor God under mercy, as
the devils do under his wrathful anger!

2. It is an ungrateful contempt of God, who cannot be injurious to us.
He cannot do us wrong, because he cannot be unjust (Gen. xviii. 25):
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” His nature doth as
much abhor unrighteousness, as love a communicative goodness: he never
commanded anything but what was highly conducible to the happiness
of man. Infinite goodness can no more injure man than it can dishonor
itself: it lays out itself in additions of kindness, and while we
debase him, he continues to benefit us; and is it not an unparalleled
ingratitude to turn our backs upon an object so lovely, an object
so loving, in the midst of varieties of allurements from him? God
did create intellectual creatures, angels and men, that he might
communicate more of himself and his own goodness and holiness to
man, than creatures of a lower rank were capable of. What do we
do, by rejecting him as our rule and end, but cross, as much as in
us lies, God’s end in our creation, and shut our souls against the
communications of those perfections he was so willing to bestow? We
use him as if he intended us the greatest wrong, when it is impossible
for him to do any to any of his creatures.

3. Consider the misery which will attend such a temper if it continue
{a172} predominant. Those that thrust God away as their happiness
and end, can expect no other but to be thrust away by him, as to any
relief and compassion. A distance from God here can look for nothing,
but a remoteness from God hereafter. When the devil, a creature of
vast endowments, would advance himself above God, and instruct man
to commit the same sin, he is “cursed above all creatures.”[308] When
we will not acknowledge him a God of all glory, we shall be separated
from him as a God of all comfort: “All they that are afar off shall
perish” (Psalm lxxiii. 27). This is the spring of all woe. What the
Prodigal suffered, was because he would leave his father, and live
of himself. Whosoever is ambitious to be his own heaven, will at
last find his soul to become its own hell. As it loved all things for
itself, so it shall be grieved with all things for itself. As it would
be its own god against the right of God, it shall then be its own
tormentor by the justice of God.

Secondly, Watch against this atheism, and be daily employed in the
mortification of it. In every action we should make the inquiry,
What is the rule I observe? Is it God’s will or my own? Whether do my
intentions tend to set up God or self? As much as we destroy this, we
abate the power of sin: these two things are the head of the serpent
in us, which we must be bruising by the power of the cross. Sin is
nothing else but a turning from God, and centering in self, and most
in the inferior part of self: if we bend our force against those two,
self‑will and self‑ends, we shall intercept atheism at the spring head,
take away that which doth constitute and animate all sin: the sparks
must vanish if the fire be quenched which affords them fuel. They
are but two short things to ask in every undertaking: Is God my rule
in regard of his will? Is God my end in regard of his glory? All sin
lies in the neglect of these, all grace lies in the practice of them.
Without some degree of the mortification of these; we cannot make
profitable and comfortable approaches to God. When we come with idols
in our hearts, we shall be answered according to the multitude and
the baseness of them too.[309] What expectation of a good look from
him can we have, when we come before him with undeifying thoughts of
him, a petition in our mouths, and a sword in our hearts, to stab his
honor? To this purpose,

1. Be often in the views of the excellencies of God. When we have
no intercourse with God by delightful meditations, we begin to be
estranged from him, and prepare ourselves to live without God in the
world. Strangeness is the mother and nurse of disaffection: we slight
men sometimes because we know them not. The very beasts delight in the
company of men; when being tamed and familiar, they become acquainted
with their disposition. A daily converse with God would discover so
much of loveliness in his nature, so much of sweetness in his ways,
that our injurious thoughts of God would wear off, and we should count
it our honor to contemn ourselves and magnify him. By this means a
slavish fear, which is both a dishonor to God and a torment to the
soul,[310] and the root of atheism, will be cast out, and an ingenuous
fear of him wrought in the heart. Exercised thoughts on him would
issue out in affections to him, which {a173} would engage our hearts
to make him both our rule and our end. This course would stifle any
temptations to gross atheism, wherewith good souls are sometimes
haunted, by confirming us more in the belief of a God, and discourage
any attempts to a deliberate practical atheism. We are not like to
espouse any principle which is confuted by the delightful converse we
daily have with him. The more we thus enter into the presence chamber
of God, the more we cling about him with our affections, the more
vigorous and lively will the true notion of God grow up in us, and be
able to prevent anything which may dishonor him and debase our souls.
Let us therefore consider him as the only happiness; set up the true
God in our understandings; possess our hearts with a deep sense of his
desirable excellency above all other things. This is the main thing
we are to do in order to our great business: all the directions in the
world, with the neglect of this, will be insignificant ciphers. The
neglect of this is common, and is the basis of all the mischiefs which
happen to the souls of men.

2. Prize and study the Scripture. We can have no delight in meditation
on him, unless we know him; and we cannot know him but by the means of
his own revelation; when the revelation is despised, the revealer will
be of little esteem. Men do not throw off God from being their rule,
till they throw off Scripture from being their guide; and God must
needs be cast off from being an end, when the Scripture is rejected
from being a rule. Those that do not care to know his will, that love
to be ignorant of his nature, can never be affected to his honor. Let
therefore the subtleties of reason veil to the doctrine of faith, and
the humor of the will to the command of the word.

3. Take heed of sensual pleasures, and be very watchful and cautious
in the use of those comforts God allows us. Job was afraid, when his
“sons feasted, that they should curse God in their hearts.”[311] It
was not without cause that the apostle Peter joined sobriety with
watchfulness and prayer (1 Pet. iv. 7): “The end of all things is at
hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”――A moderate use
of worldly comforts.――Prayer is the great acknowledgment of God, and
too much sensuality is a hindrance of this, and a step to atheism.
Belshazzar’s lifting himself up against the Lord, and not glorifying
of God, is charged upon his sensuality (Dan. v. 23). Nothing is more
apt to quench the notions of God, and root out the conscience of him,
than an addictedness to sensual pleasures. Therefore take heed of that

4. Take heed of sins against knowledge. The more sins against
knowledge are committed, the more careless we are, and the more
careless we shall be of God and his honor; we shall more fear his
judicial power; and the more we fear that, the more we shall disaffect
that God in whose hand vengeance is, and to whom it doth belong.
Atheism in conversation proceeds to atheism in affection, and that
will endeavor to sink into atheism in opinion and judgment.

_The sum of the whole._――And now consider in the whole what has been

{a174} 1. Man would set himself up as his own rule. He disowns the
rule of God, is unwilling to have any acquaintance with the rule God
sets him, negligent in using the means for the knowledge of his will,
and endeavors to shake it off when any notices of it break in upon
him; when he cannot expel it, he hath no pleasure in the consideration
of it, and the heart swells against it. When the notions of the will
of God are entertained, it is on some other consideration, or with
wavering and unsettled affections. Many times men design to improve
some lust by his truth. This unwillingness respects truth as it is
most spiritual and holy; as it most relates and leads to God; as it
is most contrary to self. He is guilty of contempt of the will of God,
which is seen in every presumptuous breach of his law; in the natural
aversions to the declaration of his will and mind, which way soever he
turns; in slighting that part of his will which is most for his honor;
in the awkwardness of the heart when it is to pay God a service.
A constraint in the first engagement, slightness in the service, in
regard of the matter, in regard of the frame, without a natural vigor.
Many distractions, much weariness, in deserting the rule of God,
when our expectations are not answered upon our service, in breaking
promises with God. Man naturally owns any other rule rather than that
of God’s prescribing: the rule of Satan; the will of man; in complying
more with the dictates of men than the will of God; in observing
that which is materially so, not because it is his will, but the
injunctions of men; in obeying the will of man when it is contrary
to the will of God. This man doth in order to the setting up himself.
This is natural to man as he is corrupted. Men are dissatisfied with
their own consciences when they contradict the desires of self. Most
actions in the world are done, more because they are agreeable to self,
than as they are honorable to God; as they are agreeable to natural
and moral self, or sinful self. It is evident in neglects of taking
God’s directions upon emergent occasions; in counting the actions
of others to be good or bad, as they suit with, or spurn against our
fancies and humors. Man would make himself the rule of God, and give
laws to his Creator, in striving against his law; disapproving of his
methods of government in the world; in impatience in our particular
concerns; envying the gifts and prosperity of others; corrupt matter
or ends of prayer or praise; bold interpretations of the judgments
of God in the world; mixing rules in the worship of God with those
which have been ordained by him; suiting interpretations of Scripture
with our own minds and humors; falling off from God after some fair
compliances, when his will grates upon us, and crosseth ours.

2. Man would be his own end. This is natural and universal. This is
seen in frequent self‑applauses and inward overweening reflections; in
ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves; in desire of
self‑pleasing doctrines; in being highly concerned in injuries done
to ourselves, and little or not at all concerned for injuries done to
God; in trusting in ourselves; in workings for carnal self against the
light of our own consciences: this is a usurping God’s prerogative,
vilifying God, destroying God. Man would make anything his end or
happiness rather than God. This appears in the {a175} fewer thoughts
we have of him than of anything else; in the greedy pursuit of the
world; in the strong addictedness to sensual pleasures; in paying
a service, upon any success in the world, to instruments more than
to God: this is a debasing God in setting up a creature, but more
in setting up a base lust; it is a denying of God. Man would make
himself the end of all creatures. In pride; using the creatures
contrary to the end God hath appointed: this is to dishonor God, and
it is diabolical. Man would make himself the end of God; in loving
God, because of some self‑pleasing benefits distributed by him; in
abstinence from some sins, because they are against the interest
of some other beloved corruption; in performing duties merely for
a selfish interest, which is evident in unwieldiness in religious
duties, where self is not concerned; in calling upon God only in
a time of necessity; in begging his assistance to our own projects
after we have by our own craft, laid the plot; in impatience upon
a refusal of our desires; in selfish aims we have in our duties: this
is a vilifying God, a dethroning him; in unworthy imaginations of
God, universal in man by nature. Hence spring idolatry, superstition,
presumption, the common disease of the world. This is a vilifying God;
worse than idolatry, worse than absolute atheism. Natural desires to
be distant from him; no desires for the remembrance of him; no desires
of converse with him; no desires of a thorough return to him; no
desire of any close imitation of him.

{a176}                      DISCOURSE III.

                       ON GOD’S BEING A SPIRIT.

  JOHN iv. 24――God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must
    worship him in spirit and in truth.

THE words are part of the dialogue between our Saviour and the
Samaritan woman.[312] Christ, intending to return from Judea to
Galilee, passed through the country of Samaria, a place inhabited not
by Jews, but a mixed company of several nations, and some remainders
of the posterity of Israel, who escaped the captivity, and were
returned from Assyria; and being weary with his journey, arrived
about the sixth hour or noon (according to the Jews’ reckoning the
time of the day), at a well that Jacob had digged, which was of great
account among the inhabitants for the antiquity of it, as well as the
usefulness of it, in supplying their necessities: he being thirsty,
and having none to furnish him wherewith to draw water, at last comes
a woman from the city, whom he desires to give him some water to
drink. The woman, perceiving him by his language or habit to be a Jew,
wonders at the question, since the hatred the Jews bore the Samaritans
was so great, that they would not vouchsafe to have any commerce with
them, not only in religious, but civil affairs, and common offices
belonging to mankind. Hence our Saviour takes occasion to publish to
her the doctrine of the gospel; and excuseth her rude answer by her
ignorance of him; and tells her, that if she had asked him a greater
matter, even that which concerned her eternal salvation, he would
readily have granted it, notwithstanding the rooted hatred between
the Jews and Samaritans; and bestowed a water of a greater virtue,
the “water of life.”[313] The woman is no less astonished at his reply
than she was at his first demand. It was strange to hear a man speak
of giving living water to one of whom he had begged the water of that
spring, and had no vessel to draw any to quench his own thirst. She
therefore demands whence he could have this water that he speaks
of,[314] since she conceived him not greater than Jacob, who had
digged that well and drank of it. Our Saviour, desirous to make a
progress in that work he had begun, extols the water he spake of,
above this of the well, from its particular virtue fully to refresh
those that drank of it, and be as a cooling and comforting fountain
within them, of more efficacy than that without.[315] The woman,
conceiving a good opinion of our Saviour, {a177} desires to partake
of this water, to save her pains in coming daily to the well, not
apprehending the spirituality of Christ’s discourse to her:[316]
Christ finding her to take some pleasure in his discourse, partly
to bring her to a sense of her sin, before he did communicate the
excellency of his grace, bids her return back to the city and bring
her husband with her to him. [317] She freely acknowledges that she
had no husband; whether having some check of conscience at present for
the unclean life she led, or loth to lose so much time in the gaining
this water so much desired by her:[318] our Saviour takes an occasion
from this to lay open her sin before her, and to make her sensible of
her own wicked life and the prophetic excellency of himself; and tells
her she had had five husbands, to whom she had been false, and by whom
she was divorced, and the person she now dwelt with was not her lawful
husband, and in living with him she violated the rights of marriage,
and increased guilt upon her conscience.[319] The woman being affected
with this discourse, and knowing him to be a stranger that could not
be certified of those things but in an extraordinary way, begins to
have a high esteem of him as a prophet.[320] And upon this opinion
she esteems him able to decide a question, which had been canvassed
between them and the Jews, about the place of worship.[321] Their
fathers worshipping in that mountain, and the Jews affirming Jerusalem
to be a place of worship, she pleads the antiquity of the worship in
this place, Abraham having built an altar there (Gen. xii. 7), and
Jacob, upon his return from Syria. And, surely, had the place been
capable of an exception, such persons as they, and so well acquainted
with the will of God, would not have pitched upon that place to
celebrate their worship. Antiquity hath, too, too often bewitched the
minds of men, and drawn them from the revealed will of God. Men are
more willing to imitate the outward actions of their famous ancestors,
than conform themselves to the revealed will of their Creator. The
Samaritans would imitate the patriarchs in the place of worship, but
not in the faith of the worshippers. Christ answers her, that this
question would quickly be resolved by a new state of the church, which
was near at hand; and neither Jerusalem, which had now the precedency,
nor that mountain, should be of any more value in that concern, than
any other place in the world:[322] but yet, to make her sensible of
her sin and that of her countrymen, tells her, that their worship
in that mountain was not according to the will of God, he having
long after the altars built in this place, fixed Jerusalem as the
place of sacrifices; besides, they had not the knowledge of that
God which ought to be worshipped by them, but the Jews had the “true
object of worship,” and the “true manner of worship, according to
the declaration God had made of himself to them.”[323] But all that
service shall vanish, the veil of the temple shall be rent in twain,
and that carnal worship give place to one more spiritual; shadows
shall fly before substance, and truth advance itself above figures;
and the worship of God shall be with the strength of the Spirit: such
a worship, and such worshippers doth the Father seek;[324] for “God is
a {a178} Spirit: and those that worship him must worship him in spirit
and in truth.” The design of our Saviour is to declare, that God is
not taken with external worship invented by men, no, nor commanded by
himself; and that upon this reason, because he is a spiritual essence,
infinitely above gross and corporeal matter, and is not taken with
that pomp which is a pleasure to our earthly imaginations.

Πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός. Some translate it just as the words lie: “Spirit is
God.”[325] But it is not unusual, both in the Old and New Testament
languages, to put the predicate before the subject, as Psalm v. 9,
“Their throat is an open sepulchre;” in the Hebrew, “A sepulchre open
their throat;” so Psalm cxi. 3, “His work is honorable and glorious;”
Heb. “Honor and glory is his work;” and there wants not one example
in the same evangelist (John i. 1), “And the Word was God;” Greek,
“And God was the Word:” in all, the predicate, or what is ascribed,
is put before the subject to which it is ascribed. One tells us, and
he, a head of a party that hath made a disturbance in the church of
God,[326] that this place is not aptly brought to prove God to be a
Spirit; and the reason of Christ runs not thus,――God is of a spiritual
essence, and therefore must be worshipped with a spiritual worship;
for the essence of God is not the foundation of his worship, but his
will; for then we were not to worship him with a corporeal worship,
because he is not a body; but with an invisible and eternal worship,
because he is invisible and eternal. But the nature of God is the
foundation of worship; the will of God is the rule of worship; the
matter and manner is to be performed according to the will of God.
But is the nature of the object of worship to be excluded? No; as the
object is, so ought our devotion to be, spiritual as he is spiritual.
God, in his commands for worship, respected the discovery of his
own nature; in the law, he respected the discovery of his mercy and
justice, and therefore commanded a worship by sacrifices; a spiritual
worship without those institutions would not have declared those
attributes which was God’s end to display to the world in Christ;
and though the nature of God is to be respected in worship, yet the
obligations of the creature are to be considered. God is a Spirit,
therefore must have a spiritual worship; the creature hath a body as
well as a soul, and both from God; and therefore ought to worship God
with the one as well as the other, since one as well as the other is
freely bestowed upon him. The spirituality of God was the foundation
of the change from the Judaical carnal worship to a more spiritual
and evangelical.

_God is a Spirit_; that is, he hath nothing corporeal, no mixture of
matter, not a visible substance, a bodily form.[327] He is a Spirit,
not a bare spiritual substance, but an understanding, willing Spirit,
holy, wise, good, and just. Before, Christ spake of the Father,[328]
the first person in the Trinity; now he speaks of God essentially: the
word Father is personal, the word God essential; so that our Saviour
would render a reason, not from any one person in the blessed Trinity,
but from the Divine nature, why we should worship in spirit, and
therefore makes use of the word God, the being a Spirit being common
{a179} to the other persons with the Father. This is the reason of
the proposition (ver. 23), “_Of a spiritual worship_.” Every nature
delights in that which is like it, and distastes that which is most
different from it. If God were corporeal, he might be pleased with the
victims of beasts, and the beautiful magnificence of temples, and the
noise of music; but being a Spirit, he cannot be gratified with carnal
things; he demands something better and greater than all those,――that
soul which he made, that soul which he hath endowed, a spirit of a
frame suitable to his nature. He indeed appointed sacrifices, and a
temple, as shadows of those things which were to be most acceptable
to him in the Messiah, but they were imposed only “till the time of

_Must worship him_; not they may, or it would be more agreeable to
God to have such a manner of worship; but they _must_. It is not
exclusive of bodily worship; for this were to exclude all public
worship in societies, which cannot be performed without reverential
postures of the body.[330] The gestures of the body are helps to
worship, and declarations of spiritual acts. We can scarcely worship
God with our spirits without some tincture upon the outward man; but
he excludes all acts merely corporeal, all resting upon an external
service and devotion, which was the crime of the Pharisees, and the
general persuasion of the Jews as well as heathens, who used the
outward ceremonies, not as signs of better things, but as if they did
of themselves please God, and render the worshippers accepted with
him, without any suitable frame of the inward man.[331] It is as if
he had said, Now you must separate yourselves from all carnal modes
to which the service of God is now tied, and render a worship chiefly
consisting in the affectionate motions of the heart, and accommodated
more exactly to the condition of the object, who is a Spirit.

_In spirit and truth._[332] The evangelical service now required has
the advantage of the former; that was a shadow and figure, this the
body and truth.[333] Spirit, say some, is here opposed to the legal
ceremonies; truth, to hypocritical services; or, rather truth is
opposed to shadows,[334] and an opinion of worth in the outward action;
it is principally opposed to external rites, because our Saviour saith
(ver. 23): “The hour comes, and now is,” &c. Had it been opposed to
hypocrisy, Christ had said no new thing; for God always required truth
in the inward parts, and all true worshippers had served him with a
sincere conscience and single heart. The old patriarchs did worship
God in spirit and _truth_, as taken for sincerity; such a worship
was always, and is perpetually due to God, because he always was, and
eternally will be, a Spirit.[335] And it is said, “The Father seeks
such to worship him,” not, shall seek; he always sought it; it always
was performed to him by one or other in the world: and the prophets
had always rebuked them for resting upon their outward solemnities
(Isa. lviii. 7, and Micah vi. 8): but a worship without legal rites
was proper to an evangelical state and the times of the gospel, God
having then exhibited Christ, and brought into the world the substance
of those {a180} shadows, and the end of those institutions; there was
no more need to continue them when the true reason of them was ceased.
All laws do naturally expire when the true reason upon which they were
first framed is changed. Or by spirit may be meant, such a worship as
is kindled in the heart by the breath of the Holy Ghost. Since we are
dead in sin, a spiritual light and flame in the heart, suitable to the
nature of the object of our worship, cannot be raised in us without
the operation of a supernatural grace; and though the fathers could
not worship God without the Spirit, yet in the gospel‑times, there
being a fuller effusion of the Spirit, the evangelical state is called,
“the administration of the Spirit,” and “the newness of the Spirit,”
in opposition to the legal economy, entitled the “oldness of the
letter.”[336] The evangelical state is more suited to the nature
of God than any other; such a worship God must have, whereby he is
acknowledged to be the true sanctifier and quickener of the soul. The
nearer God doth approach to us, and the more full his manifestations
are, the more spiritual is the worship we return to God. The gospel
pares off the rugged parts of the law, and heaven shall remove what is
material in the gospel, and change the ordinances of worship into that
of a spiritual praise.

In the words there is: 1. A proposition,――“God is a Spirit;” the
foundation of all religion. 2. An inference,――“They that worship
him,” &c.

As God, a worship belongs to him; as a Spirit, a spiritual worship
is due to him: in the inference we have, 1. The manner of worship,
“in spirit and truth;” 2. The necessity of such a worship, “must.”

The proposition declares the nature of God; the inference, the duty
of man. The observations lie plain.

_Obs._ 1. God is a pure spiritual being: “he is a Spirit.” 2. The
worship due from the creature to God must be agreeable to the nature
of God, and purely spiritual. 3. The evangelical state is suited to
the nature of God.

I. For the first: “God is a pure spiritual being.” It is the
observation of one,[337] that the plain assertion of God’s being a
Spirit is found but once in the whole Bible, and that is in this place;
which may well be wondered at, because God is so often described
with hands, feet, eyes, and ears, in the form and figure of a man.
The spiritual nature of God is deducible from many places; but not
anywhere, as I remember, asserted _totidem verbis_, but in this text:
some allege that place (2 Cor. iii. 17), “The Lord is that Spirit,”
for the proof of it; but that seems to have a different sense: in the
text, the nature of God is described; in that place, the operations
of God in the gospel. “It is not the ministry of Moses, or that old
covenant, which communicates to you that Spirit it speaks of; but it
is the Lord Jesus, and the doctrine of the gospel delivered by him,
whereby this Spirit and liberty is dispensed to you; he opposes here
the liberty of the gospel to the servitude of the law;”[338] it is
from Christ that a divine virtue diffuseth itself by the gospel;
it is by him, not by the law, that we partake of that Spirit. The
spirituality of God is {a181} as evident as his being.[339] If
we grant that God is, we must necessarily grant that he cannot be
corporeal, because a body is of an imperfect nature. It will appear
incredible to any that acknowledge God the first Being and Creator of
all things, that he should be a massy, heavy body, and have eyes and
ears, feet and hands, as we have.――For the explication of it,

1. Spirit is taken various ways in Scripture. It signifies sometimes
an aërial substance, as Psalm xi. 6; a horrible tempest (Heb. a
spirit of tempest); sometimes the breath, which is a thin substance
(Gen. vi. 17): “All flesh, wherein is the breath of life” (Heb. spirit
of life). A thin substance, though it be material and corporeal, is
called spirit; and in the bodies of living creatures, that which is
the principle of their actions is called spirits, the animal and vital
spirits. And the finer parts extracted from plants and minerals we
call spirits, those volatile parts separated from that gross matter
wherein they were immersed, because they come nearest to the nature
of an incorporeal substance; and from this notion of the word, it is
translated to signify those substances that are purely immaterial, as
angels and the souls of men. Angels are called spirits (Psalm civ. 4):
“Who makes his angels spirits;”[340] and not only good angels are so
called, but evil angels (Mark i. 27); souls of men are called spirits
(Eccles. xii.); and the soul of Christ is called so (John xix. 30);
whence God is called “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numb. xxii.
16). And spirit is opposed to flesh (Isa. xxxi. 3): “The Egyptians
are flesh, and not spirit.” And our Saviour gives us the notion of
a spirit to be something above the nature of a body (Luke xxiv. 39),
“not having flesh and bones,” extended parts, loads of gross matter.
It is also taken for those things which are active and efficacious;
because activity is of the nature of a spirit: Caleb had another
spirit (Numb. xiv. 24), an active affection. The vehement motions
of sin are called spirit (Hos. iv. 12): “the spirit of whoredoms,”
in that sense that Prov. xxix. 11, “a fool utters all his mind,” all
his spirit; he knows not how to restrain the vehement motions of his
mind. So that the notion of a spirit is, that it is a fine, immaterial
substance, an active being, that acts itself and other things. A mere
body cannot act itself; as the body of man cannot move without the
soul, no more than a ship can move itself without wind and waves. So
God is called a Spirit, as being not a body, not having the greatness,
figure, thickness, or length of a body, wholly separate from anything
of flesh and matter. We find a principle within us nobler than that of
our bodies; and, therefore, we conceive the nature of God, according
to that which is more worthy in us, and not according to that which is
the vilest part of our natures. God is a most spiritual Spirit, more
spiritual than all angels, all souls.[341] As he exceeds all in the
nature of being, so he exceeds all in the nature of spirit: he hath
nothing gross, heavy, material, in his essence.

2. When we say God is a Spirit, it is to be understood by way of
negation. There are two ways of knowing or describing God: by way
of affirmation, affirming that of him by way of eminency, which is
excellent in the creature, as when we say God is wise, good; the {a182}
other, by way of negation, when we remove from God in our conceptions
what is tainted with imperfection in the creature.[342] The first
ascribes to him whatsoever is excellent; the other separates from
him whatsoever is imperfect. The first is like a limning, which adds
one color to another to make a comely picture; the other is like
a carving, which pares and cuts away whatsoever is superfluous, to
make a complete statue. This way of negation is more easy; we better
understand what God is not, than what he is; and most of our knowledge
of God is by this way; as when we say God is infinite, immense,
immutable, they are negatives; he hath no limits, is confined to
no place, admits of no change.[343] When we remove from him what is
inconsistent with his being, we do more strongly assert his being,
and know more of him when we elevate him above all, and above our own
capacity. And when we say God is a Spirit, it is a negation; he is
not a body; he consists not of various parts, extended one without
and beyond another. He is not a spirit, so as our souls are, to be
the form of any body; a spirit, not as angels and souls are, but
infinitely higher. We call him so, because, in regard of our weakness,
we have not any other term of excellency to express or conceive of
him by; we transfer it to God in honor, because spirit is the highest
excellency in our nature: yet we must apprehend God above any spirit,
since his nature is so great that he cannot be declared by human
speech, perceived by human sense, or conceived by human understanding.

II. The second thing, that “God is a Spirit.” Some among the heathens
imagined God to have a body;[344] some thought him to have a body
of air; some a heavenly body; some a human body;[345] and many of
them ascribed bodies to their gods, but bodies without blood, without
corruption, bodies made up of the finest and thinnest atoms; such
bodies, which, if compared with ours, were as no bodies. The Sadducees
also, who denied all spirits, and yet acknowledged a God, must
conclude him to be a body, and no spirit. Some among Christians have
been of that opinion. Tertullian is charged by some, and excused by
others; and some monks of Egypt were so fierce for this error, that
they attempted to kill one Theophilus, a bishop, for not being of
that judgment. But the wiser heathens were of another mind,[346] and
esteemed it an unholy thing to have such imaginations of God.[347]
And some Christians have thought God only to be free from anything of
body, because he is omnipresent, immutable, he is only incorporeal and
spiritual; all things else, even the angels, are clothed with bodies,
though of a neater matter, and a more active frame than ours; a pure
spiritual nature they allowed to no being but God. Scripture and
reason meet together to assert the spirituality of God. Had God had
the lineaments of a body, the Gentiles had not fallen under that
accusation of changing his glory into that of a corruptible man.[348]
This is signified by the name God gives himself (Exod. iii. 14): “I
am that I am;” a simple, pure, uncompounded {a183} being, without
any created mixture; as infinitely above the being of creatures as
above the conceptions of creatures (Job xxxvii. 23): “Touching the
Almighty, we cannot find him out.” He is so much a Spirit, that he
is the “Father of spirits” (Heb. xii. 9). The Almighty Father is not
of a nature inferior to his children. The soul is a spirit; it could
not else exert actions without the assistance of the body, as the act
of understanding itself, and its own nature, the act of willing, and
willing things against the incitements and interest of the body. It
could not else conceive of God, angels, and immaterial substances;
it could not else be so active, as with one glance to fetch a
compass from earth to heaven, and by a sudden motion, to elevate the
understanding from an earthly thought, to the thinking of things as
high as the highest heavens. If we have this opinion of our souls,
which, in the nobleness of their acts, surmount the body, without
which the body is but a dull inactive piece of clay, we must needs
have a higher conception of God, than to clog him with any matter,
though of a finer temper than ours: we must conceive of him by the
perfections of our souls, without the vileness of our bodies. If God
made man according to his image, we must raise our thoughts of God
according to the noblest part of that image, and imagine the exemplar
or copy not to come short, but to exceed the thing copied by it.
God were not the most excellent substance if he were not a Spirit.
Spiritual substances are more excellent than bodily; the soul of man
more excellent than other animals; angels more excellent than men.
They contain, in their own nature, whatsoever dignity there is in the
inferior creatures; God must have, therefore, an excellency above all
those, and, therefore, is entirely remote from the conditions of a
body. It is a gross conceit, therefore, to think that God is such a
spirit as the air is; for that is to be a body as the air is, though
it be a thin one; and if God were no more a spirit than that, or than
angels, he would not be the most simple being.[349] Yet some think
that the spiritual Deity was represented by the air in the ark of
the testament.[350] It was unlawful to represent him by any image
that God had prohibited. Everything about the ark had a particular
signification. The gold and other ornaments about it signified
something of Christ, but were unfit to represent the nature of God: a
thing purely invisible, and falling under nothing of sense, could not
represent him to the mind of man. The air in the ark was the fittest;
it represented the invisibility of God, air being imperceptible to our
eyes. Air diffuseth itself through all parts of the world; it glides
through secret passages into all creatures; it fills the space between
heaven and earth. There is no place wherein God is not present. To
evidence this,

1. If God were not a Spirit, he could not be Creator. All multitude
begins in, and is reduced to unity. As above multitude there is
an absolute unity, so above mixed creatures there is an absolute
simplicity. You cannot conceive number without conceiving the
beginning of it in that which was not number, viz. a unit. You cannot
conceive any mixture, but you must conceive some simple thing to
be the original and basis of it. The works of art done by {a184}
rational creatures have their foundation in something spiritual. Every
artificer, watchmaker, carpenter, hath a model in his own mind of the
work he designs to frame: the material and outward fabric is squared
according to an inward and spiritual idea. A spiritual idea speaks
a spiritual faculty as the subject of it. God could not have an idea
of that vast number of creatures he brought into being, if he had not
had a spiritual nature.[351] The wisdom whereby the world was created
could never be the fruit of a corporeal nature; such natures are
not capable of understanding and comprehending the things which are
within the compass of their nature, much less of producing them; and
therefore beasts which have only corporeal faculties move to objects
by the force of their sense, and have no knowledge of things as they
are comprehended by the understanding of man. All acts of wisdom speak
an intelligent and spiritual agent. The effects of wisdom, goodness,
power, are so great and admirable, that they bespeak him a more
perfect and eminent being than can possibly be beheld under a bodily
shape. Can a corporeal substance put “wisdom in the inward parts, and
give understanding to the heart?”[352]

2. If God were not a pure Spirit, he could not be one. If God had a
body, consisting of distinct members, as ours; or all of one nature,
as the water and air are, yet he were then capable of division, and
therefore could not be entirely one. Either those parts would be
finite or infinite: if finite, they are not parts of God; for to be
God and finite is a contradiction; if infinite, then there are as many
infinite as distinct members, and therefore as many Deities. Suppose
this body had all parts of the same nature, as air and water hath,
every little part of air is as much air as the greatest, and every
little part of water is as much water as the ocean; so every little
part of God would be as much God as the whole; as many particular
Deities to make up God, as little atoms to compose a body. What can be
more absurd? If God had a body like a human body, and were compounded
of body and soul, of substance and quality, he could not be the most
perfect unity; he would be made up of distinct parts, and those of
a distinct nature, as the members of a human body are. Where there
is the greatest unity, there must be the greatest simplicity; but God
is one. As he is free from any change, so he is void of any multitude
(Deut. vi. 4): “The Lord our God is one Lord.”

3. If God had a body as we have, he would not be invisible. Every
material thing is not visible: the air is a body yet invisible, but
it is sensible; the cooling quality of it is felt by us at every
breath, and we know it by our touch, which is the most material sense.
Everybody that hath members like to bodies, is visible; but God is
invisible.[353] The apostle reckons it amongst his other perfections
(1 Tim. i. 17): “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible.”
He is invisible to our sense, which beholds nothing but material
and colored things; and incomprehensible to our understanding, that
conceives nothing but what is finite. God is therefore a Spirit
incapable of being seen, and infinitely incapable of being understood.
{a185} If he be invisible, he is also spiritual. If he had a body, and
hid it from our eyes, he might be said not to be seen, but could not
be said to be invisible. When we say a thing is visible, we understand
that it hath such qualities which are the objects of sense, though we
may never see that which is in its own nature to be seen. God hath no
such qualities as fall under the perception of our sense. His works
are visible to us, but not his Godhead.[354] The nature of a human
body is to be seen and handled; Christ gives us such a description of
it (Luke xxiv. 39): “Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh
and bones as you see me have;” but man hath been so far from seeing
God, “that it is impossible he can see him” (1 Tim. vi. 16). There
is such a disproportion between an infinite object and a finite sense
and understanding, that it is utterly impossible either to behold or
comprehend him. But if God had a body more luminous and glorious than
that of the sun, he would be as well visible to us as the sun, though
the immensity of that light would dazzle our eyes, and forbid any
close inspection into him by the virtue of our sense. We have seen
the shape and figure of the sun, but “no man hath ever seen the shape
of God.”[355] If God had a body, he were visible, though he might not
perfectly and fully be seen by us;[356] as we see the heavens, though
we see not the extension, latitude, and greatness of them. Though
God hath manifested himself in a bodily shape (Gen. xviii. 1), and
elsewhere Jehovah appeared to Abraham, yet the substance of God was
not seen, no more than the substance of angels was seen in their
apparitions to men. A body was formed to be made visible by them, and
such actions done in that body, that spake the person that did them
to be of a higher eminency than a bare corporeal creature. Sometimes
a representation is made to the inward sense and imagination, as to
Micaiah,[357] and to Isaiah (vi. 1); but they saw not the essence of
God, but some images and figures of him proportioned to their sense
or imagination. The essence of God no man ever saw, nor can see. John
i. 18. Nor doth it follow that God hath a body,[358] because Jacob
is said to “see God face to face” (Gen. xxxii. 30); and Moses had the
like privilege (Deut. xxxiv. 10). This only signifies a fuller and
clearer manifestation of God by some representations offered to the
bodily sense, or rather to the inward spirit. For God tells Moses he
could not see his face (Exod. xxxiii. 20); and that none ever saw the
similitude of God (Deut. iv. 15). Were God a corporeal substance, he
might in some measure be seen by corporeal eyes.

4. If God were not a Spirit, he could not be infinite. All bodies are
of a finite nature; everybody is material, and every material thing
is terminated. The sun, a vast body, hath a bounded greatness; the
heavens, of a mighty bulk, yet have their limits. If God had a body he
must consist of parts, those parts would be bounded and limited, and
whatsoever is limited is of a finite virtue, and therefore below an
infinite nature. Reason therefore tells us, that the most excellent
nature, as God is, cannot be of a corporeal condition; because of the
limitation and other actions which belong to every {a186} body. God
is infinite, “for the heaven of heavens cannot contain him” (2 Chron.
ii. 6). The largest heavens, and those imaginary spaces beyond the
world, are no bounds to him. He hath an essence beyond the bounds of
the world, and cannot be included in the vastness of the heavens. If
God be infinite, then he can have no parts in him; if he had, they
must be finite or infinite: finite parts can never make up an infinite
being. A vessel of gold, of a pound weight, cannot be made of the
quantity of an ounce. Infinite parts they cannot be, because then
every part would be equal to the whole, as infinite as the whole,
which is contradictory. We see in all things every part is less than
the whole bulk that is composed of it; as every member of a man is
less than the whole body of man. If all the parts were finite, then
God in his essence were finite; and a finite God is not more excellent
than a creature: so that if God were not a Spirit, he could not be

5. If God were not a Spirit, he could not be an independent being.
Whatsoever is compounded of many parts depends either essentially or
integrally upon those parts; as the essence of a man depends upon the
conjunction and union of his two main parts, his soul and body; when
they are separated, the essence of a man ceaseth: and the perfection
of a man depends upon every member of the body; so that if one be
wanting the perfection of the whole is wanting: as if a man hath lost
a limb, you call him not a perfect man, because that part is gone upon
which his perfection as an entire man did depend. If God therefore
had a body, the perfection of the Deity would depend upon every part
of that body; and the more parts he were compounded of, the more
his dependency would be multiplied according to the number of those
parts of the body: for that which is compounded of many parts is more
dependent than that which is compounded of fewer. And because God
would be a dependent being if he had a body, he could not be the first
being; for the compounding parts are in order of nature before that
which is compounded by them; as the soul and body are before the man
which results from the union of them. If God had parts and bodily
members as we have, or any composition, the essence of God would
result from those parts, and those parts be supposed to be before
God. For that which is a part, is before that whose part it is. As
in artificial things you may conceive it: all the parts of a watch
or clock are in time before that watch which is made by setting those
parts together. In natural things you must suppose the members of a
body framed before you can call it a man; so that the parts of this
body are before that which is constituted by them. We can conceive no
other of God, if he were not a pure, entire, unmixed Spirit. If he had
distinct parts, he would depend upon them; those parts would be before
him; his essence would be the effect of those distinct parts, and so
he would not be absolutely and entirely the first being; but he is so
(Isa. xliv. 6): “I am the first, and I am the last.” He is the first;
nothing is before him. Whereas, if he had bodily parts, and those
finite, it would follow, God is made up of those parts which are not
God; and that which is not God, is in order of nature before that
which is God. So that we see if God were not a Spirit he could not
be independent.

{a187} 6. If God were not a Spirit, he were not immutable and
unchangeable. His immutability depends upon his simplicity. He
is unchangeable in his essence, because he is a pure and unmixed
spiritual Being. Whatsoever is compounded of parts may be divided
into those parts, and resolved into those distinct parts which make
up and constitute the nature. Whatsoever is compounded is changeable
in its own nature, though it should never be changed. Adam, who was
constituted of body and soul, had he stood in innocence, had not died;
there had been no separation made between his soul and body whereof he
was constituted, and his body had not resolved into those principles
of dust from whence it was extracted. Yet in his own nature he was
dissoluble into those distinct parts whereof he was compounded; and so
the glorified saints in heaven, after the resurrection, and the happy
meeting of their souls and bodies in a new marriage knot, shall never
be dissolved; yet in their own nature they are mutable and dissoluble,
and cannot be otherwise, because they are made up of such distinct
parts that may be separated in their own nature, unless sustained by
the grace of God: they are immutable by will, the will of God, not
by nature. God is immutable by nature as well as will: as he hath
a necessary existence, so he hath a necessary unchangeableness (Mal.
iii. 6), “I, the Lord, change not.” He is as unchangeable in his
essence as in his veracity and faithfulness: they are perfections
belonging to his nature. But if he were not a pure Spirit, he could
not be immutable by nature.

7. If God were not a pure Spirit, he could not be omnipresent. He
is in heaven above, and the earth below;[359] he fills heaven and
earth.[360] The divine essence is at once in heaven and earth; but
it is impossible a body can be in two places at one and the same time.
Since God is everywhere, he must be spiritual. Had he a body, he could
not penetrate all things; he would be circumscribed in place. He could
not be everywhere but in parts, not in the whole; one member in one
place, and another in another; for to be confined to a particular
place, is the property of a body: but, since he is diffused through
the whole world, higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the
earth, broader than the sea,[361] he hath not any corporeal matter.
If he had a body wherewith to fill heaven and earth, there could be no
body besides his own: it is the nature of bodies to bound one another,
and hinder the extending of one another. Two bodies cannot be in the
same place in the same point of earth: one excludes the other; and it
will follow hence that we are nothing, no substances, mere illusions;
there could be no place for anybody else.[362] If his body were as big
as the world, as it must be if with that he filled heaven and earth,
there would not be room for him to move a hand or a foot, or extend
a finger; for there would be no place remaining for the motion.

8. If God were not a Spirit, he could not be the most perfect being.
The more perfect anything is in the rank of creatures, the more
spiritual and simple it is, as gold is the more pure and perfect that
hath least mixture of other metals. If God were not a Spirit, {a188}
there would be creatures of a more excellent nature than God, as
angels and souls, which the Scripture call spirits, in opposition to
bodies. There is more of perfection in the first notion of a spirit
than in the notion of a body. God cannot be less perfect than his
creatures, and contribute an excellency of being to them which he
wants himself. If angels and souls possess such an excellency, and
God want that excellency, he would be less than his creatures, and
the excellency of the effect would exceed the excellency of the cause.
But every creature, even the highest creature, is infinitely short of
the perfection of God; for whatsoever excellency they have is finite
and limited; it is but a spark from the sun――a drop from the ocean;
but God is unboundedly perfect, in the highest manner, without any
limitation; and therefore above spirits, angels, the highest creatures
that were made by him: an infinite sublimity, a pure act, to which
nothing can be added, from which nothing can be taken. “In him there
is light and no darkness,”[363] spirituality without any matter,
perfection without any shadow or taint of imperfection. Light pierceth
into all things, preserves its own purity, and admits of no mixture of
anything else with it.

_Question._ It may be said, If God be a Spirit, and it is impossible
he can be otherwise than a Spirit, how comes God so often to have such
members as we have in our bodies ascribed to him, not only a soul, but
particular bodily parts, as heart, arms, hands, eyes, ears, face, and
back parts? And how is it that he is never called a Spirit in plain
words, but in this text by our Saviour?

_Answer._ It is true, many parts of the body, and natural affections
of the human nature, are reported of God in Scripture. Head,[364] eyes,
and eye‑lids,[365] apple of the eye, mouth, &c.; our affections also,
grief, joy, anger, &c. But it is to be considered,

1. That this is in condescension to our weakness. God being desirous
to make himself known to man, whom he created for his glory, humbles,
as it were, his own nature to such representations as may suit and
assist the capacity of the creature; since by the condition of our
nature nothing erects a notion of itself in our understanding, but
as it is conducted in by our sense.[366] God hath served himself of
those things which are most exposed to our sense, most obvious to
our understandings, to give us some acquaintance with his own nature,
and those things which otherwise we were not capable of having any
notion of. As our souls are linked with our bodies, so our knowledge
is linked with our sense; that we can scarce imagine anything, at
first, but under a corporeal form and figure, till we come, by great
attention to the object, to make, by the help of reason, a separation
of the spiritual substance from the corporeal fancy, and consider it
in its own nature. We are not able to conceive a spirit, without some
kind of resemblance to something below it, nor understand the actions
of a spirit, without considering the operations of a human body in
its several members. As the glories of another life are signified
to us by the pleasures of this; so the nature of God, by a gracious
condescension to our capacities, is {a189} signified to us by a
likeness to our own. The more familiar the things are to us which
God uses to this purpose, the more proper they are to teach us what
he intends by them.

2. All such representations are to signify the acts of God, as they
bear some likeness to those which we perform by those members he
ascribes to himself. So that those members ascribed to him rather note
his visible operations to us, than his invisible nature; and signify
that God doth some works like to those which men do by the assistance
of those organs of their bodies. So the wisdom of God is called
his eye, because he knows that with his mind which we see with our
eyes.[367] The efficiency of God is called his hand and arm; because
as we act with our hands, so doth God with his power. The divine
efficacies are signified:――by his eyes and ears, we understand his
omniscience; by his face, the manifestation of his favor; by his
mouth, the revelation of his will; by his nostrils, the acceptation
of our prayers; by his bowels, the tenderness of his compassion; by
his heart, the sincerity of his affections; by his hand, the strength
of his power; by his feet, the ubiquity of his presence. And in this,
he intends instruction and comfort: by his eyes, he signifies his
watchfulness over us; by his ears, his readiness to hear the cries
of the oppressed;[368] by his arm, his power――an arm to destroy
his enemies, and an arm to relieve his people.[369] All those are
attributed to God to signify divine actions, which he doth without
bodily organs as we do with them.

3. Consider also, that only those members which are the instruments
of the noblest actions, and under that consideration, are used
by him to represent a notion of him to our minds. Whatsoever is
perfect and excellent is ascribed to him, but nothing that savors
of imperfection.[370] The heart is ascribed to him, it being the
principle of vital actions, to signify the life that he hath in
himself; watchful and discerning eyes, not sleepy and lazy ones; a
mouth to reveal his will, not to take in food. To eat and sleep are
never ascribed to him, nor those parts that belong to the preparing or
transmitting nourishment to the several parts of the body, as stomach,
liver, reins, nor bowels under that consideration, but as they are
significant of compassion; but only those parts are ascribed to him
whereby we acquire knowledge, as eyes and ears, the organs of learning
and wisdom; or to communicate it to others, as the mouth, lips, tongue,
as they are instruments of speaking, not of tasting; or those parts
which signify strength and power, or whereby we perform the actions of
charity for the relief of others; taste and touch, senses that extend
no farther than to corporeal things, and are the grossest of all the
senses, are never ascribed to him.

4. It were worth consideration, “whether this describing God by the
members of a human body were so much figuratively to be understood,
as with respect to the incarnation of our Saviour, who was to assume
the human nature, and all the members of a human body?”[371] Asaph,
speaking in the person of God (Psalm lxxviii. 1), {a190} “I will
open my mouth in parables;” in regard of God it is to be understood
figuratively, but in regard of Christ literally, to whom it is applied
(Matt. xiii. 34, 35); and that apparition (Isa. vi.) which was the
appearance of Jehovah, is applied to Christ (John xii. 40, 41). After
the report of the creation, and the forming of man, we read of God’s
speaking to him, but not of God’s appearing to him in any visible
shape.[372] A voice might be formed in the air to give man notice of
his duty; some way of information he must have what positive laws he
was to observe, besides that law which was engraven in his nature,
which we call the law of nature; and without a voice the knowledge
of the divine will could not be so conveniently communicated to man.
Though God was heard in a voice, he was not seen in a shape; but after
the fall we several times read of his appearing in such a form; though
we read of his speaking before man’s committing of sin, yet not of
his walking, which is more corporeal, till afterwards.[373] “Though
God would not have man believe him to be corporeal, yet he judged it
expedient to give some pre‑notices of that divine incarnation which
he had promised.”[374]

5. Therefore, we must not conceive of the visible Deity according to
the letter of such expressions, but the true intent of them. Though
the Scripture speaks of his eyes and arm, yet it denies them to be
“arms of flesh.”[375] We must not conceive of God according to the
letter, but the design of the metaphor. When we hear things described
by metaphorical expressions, for the clearing them up to our fancy,
we conceive not of them under that garb, but remove the veil by an
act of our reason. When Christ is called a sun, a vine, bread, is
any so stupid as to conceive him to be a vine with material branches,
and clusters, or be of the same nature with a loaf? But the things
designed by such metaphors are obvious to the conception of a mean
understanding. If we would conceive God to have a body like a man,
because he describes himself so, we may conceit him to be like a bird,
because he is mentioned with wings;[376] or like a lion, or leopard,
because he likens himself to them in the acts of his strength and
fury.[377] He is called a rock, a horn, fire, to note his strength
and wrath; if any be so stupid as to think God to be really such,
they would make him not only a man but worse than a monster. Onkelos,
the Chaldee paraphrast upon parts of the Scripture, was so tender of
expressing the notion of any corporeity in God, that when he meets
with any expressions of that nature, he translates them according to
the true intent of them; as when God is said to descend (Gen. xi. 5),
which implies a local motion, a motion from one place to another, he
translates it, “And God revealed himself.”[378] We should conceive of
God according to the design of the expressions; when we read of his
eyes, we should conceive his omniscience; of his hand, his power;
of his sitting, his immutability; of his throne, his majesty; and
conceive of him as surmounting, not only the grossness of bodies,
but the spiritual excellency {a191} of the most dignified creatures;
something so perfect, great, spiritual, as nothing can be conceived
higher and purer. “Christ,” saith one, “is truly _Deus figuratus_; and
for his sake, was it more easily permitted to the Jews to think of God
in the shape of a man.”[379]

_Use._ If God be a pure spiritual being, then

1. Man is not the image of God, according to his external bodily form
and figure. The image of God in man consisted not in what is seen,
but in what is not seen; not in the conformation of the members, but
rather in the spiritual faculties of the soul; or, most of all, in
the holy endowments of those faculties (Eph. iv. 24): “That ye put
on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and
true holiness.”[380] The image which is restored by redeeming grace,
was the image of God by original nature. The image of God cannot be
in that part which is common to us with beasts, but rather in that
wherein we excel all living creatures, in reason, understanding, and
an immortal spirit. God expressly saith, that none “saw a similitude”
of him (Deut. iv. 15, 16); which had not been true, if man, in regard
of his body, had been the image and similitude of God, for then a
figure of God had been seen every day, as often as we saw a man or
beheld ourselves. Nor would the apostle’s argument stand good (Acts
xvii. 29), “That the Godhead is not like to stone graven by art,” if
we were not the offspring of God, and bore the stamp of his nature in
our spirits rather than our bodies.[381] It was a fancy of Eugubinus,
that when God set upon the actual creation of man, he took a bodily
form for an exemplar of that which he would express in his work, and
therefore that the words of Moses[382] are to be understood of the
body of man; because there was in man such a shape which God had then
assumed. To let alone God’s forming himself a body for that work as
a groundless fancy, man can in no wise be said to be the image of God,
in regard of the substance of his body; but beasts may as well be said
to be made in the image of God, whose bodies have the same members as
the body of man for the most part, and excel men in the acuteness of
the senses and swiftness of their motion, agility of body, greatness
of strength, and in some kind of ingenuities also, wherein man hath
been a scholar to the brutes, and beholden to their skill. The soul
comes nearest the nature of God, as being a spiritual substance; yet
considered singly, in regard of its spiritual substance, cannot well
be said to be the image of God; a beast, because of its corporeity,
may as well be called the image of a man, for there is a greater
similitude between man and a brute, in the rank of bodies, than there
can be between God and the highest angels in the rank of spirits. If
it doth not consist in the substance of the soul, much less can it in
any similitude of the body. This image consisted partly in the state
of man, as he had dominion over the creatures; partly in the nature of
man, as he was an intelligent being, and thereby was capable of having
a grant of that dominion; but principally in the conformity of the
soul with {a192} God, in the frame of his spirit, and the holiness of
his actions; not at all in the figure and form of his body, physically,
though morally there might be, as there was a rectitude in the body
as an instrument to conform to the holy motions of the soul, as the
holiness of the soul sparkled in the actions and members of the body.
If man were like God because he hath a body, whatsoever hath a body
hath some resemblance to God, and may be said to be in part his image;
but the truth is, the essence of all creatures cannot be an image of
the immense essence of God.

2. If God be a pure Spirit, “it is unreasonable to frame any image or
picture of God.”[383] Some heathens have been wiser in this than some
Christians; Pythagoras forbade his scholars to engrave any shape of
him upon a ring, because he was not to be comprehended by sense, but
conceived only in our minds: our hands are as unable to fashion him,
as our eyes to see him.[384] The ancient Romans worshipped their gods
one hundred and seventy years before any material representations
of them;[385] and the ancient idolatrous Germans thought it a wicked
thing to represent God in a human shape; yet some, and those no
Romanists, labor to defend the making images of God in the resemblance
of man, because he is so represented in Scripture: “He may be,” saith
one,[386] “conceived so in our minds, and figured so to our sense.” If
this were a good reason, why may he not be pictured as a lion, horn,
eagle, rock, since he is under such metaphors shadowed to us? The
same ground there is for the one as for the other. What though man
be a nobler creature, God hath no more the body of a man than that
of an eagle; and some perfections in other creatures represent some
excellencies in his nature and actions which cannot be figured by a
human shape, as strength by the lion, swiftness and readiness by the
wings of the bird. But God hath absolutely prohibited the making “any
image” whatsoever of him, and that with terrible threatenings (Exod.
xx. 5): “I, the Lord, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the
fathers upon their children,” and Deut. v. 8, 9. After God had given
the Israelites the commandment wherein he forbade them to have any
other gods before him, be forbids all figuring of him by the hand of
man;[387] not only images, but any likeness of him, either by things
in heaven, in the earth, or in the water. How often doth he discover
his indignation by the prophets, against them that offer to mould
him in a creature form! This law was not to serve a particular
dispensation, or to endure a particular time, but it was a declaration
of his will, invariable in all places and all times; being founded
upon the immutable nature of his being, and therefore agreeable to
the law of nature, otherwise not chargeable upon the heathens; and
therefore when God had declared his nature and his works in a stately
and majestic eloquence, he demands of them, “To whom they would liken
him, or what likeness they would compare unto him?” (Isa. xl. 18);
{a193} where they could find anything that would be a lively image
and resemblance of his infinite excellency? founding it upon the
infiniteness of his nature, which necessarily implies the spirituality
of it, God is infinitely above any statue: and those that think to
draw God by a stroke of a pencil, or form him by the engravings of
art, are more stupid than the statues themselves. To show the
unreasonableness of it, consider,

1. It is impossible to fashion any image of God. If our more capacious
souls cannot grasp his nature, our weaker sense cannot frame his image;
it is more possible, of the two, to comprehend him in our minds, than
to frame him in an image to our sense. He inhabits inaccessible light;
as it is impossible for the eye of man to see him, it is impossible
for the art of man to paint him upon walls, and carve him out of wood.
None knows him but himself, none can describe him but himself.[388]
Can we draw a figure of our own souls, and express that part of
ourselves, wherein we are most like to God? Can we extend this to any
bodily figure, and divide it into parts? How can we deal so with the
original copy, whence the first draught of our souls was taken, and
which is infinitely more spiritual than men or angels? No corporeal
thing can represent a spiritual substance; there is no proportion
in nature between them. God is a simple, infinite, immense, eternal,
invisible, incorruptible being; a statue is a compounded, finite,
limited, temporal, visible, and corruptible body. God is a living
spirit; but a statue nor sees, nor hears, nor perceives anything. But
suppose God had a body, it is impossible to mould an image of it in
the true glory of that body; can the statue of an excellent monarch
represent the majesty and air of his countenance, though made by the
skilfullest workman in the world? If God had a body in some measure
suited to his excellency, were it possible for man to make an exact
image of him, who cannot picture the light, heat, motion, magnitude,
and dazzling property of the sun? The excellency of any corporeal
nature of the least creature, the temper, instinct, artifice, are
beyond the power of a carving tool; much more is God.

2. To make any corporeal representations of God is unworthy of God.
It is a disgrace to his nature. Whosoever thinks a carnal corruptible
image to be fit for a representation of God, renders God no better
than a carnal and a corporeal being. It is a kind of debasing an angel,
who is a spiritual nature, to represent him in a bodily shape, who is
as far removed from any fleshliness as heaven from earth; much more to
degrade the glory of the divine nature to the lineaments of a man. The
whole stock of images is but a lie of God (Jer. x. 8, 14); a doctrine
of vanities and falsehood; it represents him in a false garb to the
world, and sinks his glory into that of a corruptible creature.[389]
It impairs the reverence of God in the minds of men, and by degrees
may debase men’s apprehensions of God, and be a means to make
them believe he is such a one as themselves; and that not being
free from the figure, he is not also free from the imperfections
of the bodies.[390] Corporeal images of God were the fruits of base
imaginations of him; and as they sprung from them, so {a194} they
contribute to a greater corruption of the notions of the divine nature:
the heathens begun their first representations of him by the image
of a corruptible man, then of birds, till they descended not only to
four‑footed beasts but creeping things, even serpents, as the apostle
seems to intimate in his enumeration (Rom. i. 23): it had been more
honorable to have continued in human representations of him, than have
sunk so low as beasts and serpents, the baser images; though the first
had been infinitely unworthy of him, he being more above a man, though
the noblest creature, than man is above a worm, a toad, or the most
despicable creeping thing upon the earth. To think we can make an
image of God of a piece of marble, or an ingot of gold, is a greater
debasing of him, than it would be of a great prince, if you should
represent him in the statue of a frog. When the Israelites represented
God by a calf, it is said “they sinned a great sin” (Exod. xxxii. 31):
and the sin of Jeroboam, who intended only a representation of God by
the calves at Dan and Bethel, is called more emphatically,[391] “the
wickedness of your wickedness,” the very scum and dregs of wickedness.
As men debased God by this, so God debased men for this; he degraded
the Israelites into captivity, under the worst of their enemies, and
punished the heathens with spiritual judgments, as uncleanness through
the lusts of their own hearts (Rom. i. 24); which is repeated again
in other expressions (ver. 26, 27), as a meet recompense for their
disgracing the spiritual nature of God. Had God been like to man, they
had not offended in it; but I mention this, to show a probable reason
of those base lusts which are in the midst of us, that have scarce
been exceeded by any nation, viz., the unworthy and unspiritual
conceits of God, which are as much a debasing of him as material
images were when they were more rife in the world; and may be as well
the cause of spiritual judgments upon men, as the worshipping molten
and carved images were the cause of the same upon the heathen.

3. Yet this is natural to man. Wherein we may see the contrariety
of man to God. Though God be a Spirit, yet there is nothing man is
more prone to, than to represent him under a corporeal form. The
most famous guides of the heathen world have fashioned him, not only
according to the more honorable images of men, but bestialized him
in the form of a brute. The Egyptians, whose country was the school
of learning to Greece, were notoriously guilty of this brutishness in
worshipping an ox for an image of their God; and the Philistines their
Dagon, in a figure composed of the image of a woman and a fish:[392]
such representations were ancient in the oriental parts. The gods of
Laban, that he accuseth Jacob of stealing from him, are supposed to
be little figures of men.[393] Such was the Israelites’ golden calf;
their worship was not terminated on the image, but they worshipped the
true God under that representation; they could not be so brutish as to
call a calf their deliverer, and give him so great a title (“These be
thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,”
Exod. xxxii. 4): or that which they knew belonged to the true God,
“the God of Abraham, Isaac, {a195} and Jacob.”[394] They knew the calf
to be formed of their ear‑rings, but they had consecrated it to God
as a representation of him; though they chose the form of the Egyptian
idol, yet they knew that Apis, Osiris, and Isis, the gods of the
Egyptians adored in that figure, had not wrought their redemption from
bondage, but would have used their force, had they been possessed of
any, to have kept them under the yoke, rather than have freed them
from it; the feast also which they celebrated before that image, is
called by Aaron the feast of the Lord (Exod. xxxii. 5); a feast to
Jehovah, the incommunicable name of the creator of the world; it is
therefore evident, that both the priest and the people pretended to
serve the true God, not any false divinity of Egypt; that God who
had rescued them from Egypt, with a mighty hand, divided the Red
Sea before them, destroyed their enemies, conducted them, fed them
by miracle, spoken to them from Mount Sinai, and amazed them by his
thunderings and lightnings when he instructed them by his law; a God
whom they could not so soon forget. And with this representing God
by that image, they are charged by the Psalmist (Psalm cvi. 19, 20),
“they made a calf in Horeb, and changed their glory into a similitude
of an ox that eateth grass:” they changed their glory, that is, God,
the glory of Israel; so that they took this figure for the image of
the true God of Israel, their own God; not the God of any other nation
in the world. Jeroboam intended no other by his calves, but symbols of
the presence of the true God; instead of the ark and the propitiatory
which remained among the Jews. We see the inclination of our natures
in the practice of the Israelites; a people chosen out of the whole
world to bear up God’s name, and preserve his glory; and in that the
images of God were so soon set up in the Christian church; and to this
day, the picture of God, in the shape of an old man, is visible in the
temple of the Romanists. It is prone to the nature of man,

4. To represent God by a corporeal image; and to worship him in and
by that image, is idolatry. Though the Israelites did not acknowledge
the calf to be God, nor intended a worship to any of the Egyptian
deities by it; but worshipped that God in it, who had so lately and
miraculously delivered them from a cruel servitude; and could not in
natural reason judge him to be clothed with a bodily shape, much less
to be like an ox that eateth grass; yet the apostle brings no less
a charge against them than that of idolatry (1 Cor. x. 7); he calls
them idolaters, who before that calf kept a feast to Jehovah, citing
Exod. xxxii. 5. Suppose we could make such an image of God as might
perfectly represent him; yet since God hath prohibited it, shall we
be wiser than God? He hath sufficiently manifested himself in his
works without images: He is seen in the creatures, more particularly
in the heavens, which declare his glory. His works are more excellent
representations of him, as being the works of his own hands, than
anything that is the product of the art of man. His glory sparkles in
the heavens, sun, moon, and stars, as being magnificent pieces of his
wisdom and power; yet the kissing the hand to the sun or the heavens,
as representatives of the {a196} excellency and majesty of God,
is idolatry in Scripture account, and a denial of God;[395] a
prostituting the glory of God to a creature. Either the worship is
terminated on the image itself, and then it is confessed by all to
be idolatry, because it is a giving that worship to a creature which
is the sole right of God, or not terminated in the image, but in
the object represented by it; it is then a foolish thing; we may as
well terminate our worship on the true object without, as with an
image.[396] An erected statue is no sign or symbol of God’s special
presence, as the ark, tabernacle, temple were. It is no part of divine
institution; has no authority of a command to support it; no cordial
of a promise to encourage it; and the image being infinitely distant
from, and below the majesty and spirituality of God, cannot constitute
one object of worship with him. To put a religious character upon any
image formed by the corrupt imagination of man, as a representation of
the invisible and spiritual Deity, is to think the Godhead to be like
silver and gold, or stone graven by art and man’s device.[397]

III. This doctrine will direct us in our conceptions of God, as a pure
perfect Spirit, than which nothing can be imagined more perfect, more
pure, more spiritual.

1. We cannot have an adequate or suitable conception of God: He dwells
in inaccessible light; inaccessible to the acuteness of our fancy,
as well as the weakness of our sense. If we could have thoughts of
him, as high and excellent as his nature, our conceptions must be as
infinite as his nature. All our imaginations of him cannot represent
him, because every created species is finite; it cannot therefore
represent to us a full and substantial notion of an infinite Being. We
cannot speak or think worthily enough of him, who is greater than our
words, vaster than our understandings. Whatsoever we speak or think
of God, is handed first to us by the notice we have of some perfection
in the creature, and explains to us some particular excellency of God,
rather than the fulness of his essence. No creature, nor all creatures
together, can furnish us with such a magnificent notion of God, as can
give us a clear view of him. Yet God in his word is pleased to step
below his own excellency, and point us to those excellencies in his
works, whereby we may ascend to the knowledge of those excellencies
which are in his nature. But the creatures, whence we draw our lessons,
being finite, and our understandings being finite, it is utterly
impossible to have a notion of God commensurate to the immensity and
spirituality of his being. “God is not like to visible creatures, nor
is there any proportion between him and the most spiritual.”[398] We
cannot have a full notion of a spiritual nature, much less can we have
of God, who is a Spirit above spirits. No spirit can clearly represent
him: the angels, that are great spirits, are bounded in their extent,
finite in their being, and of a mutable nature. Yet though we cannot
have a suitable conception of God, we must not content ourselves
without any conception of him. It is our sin not to endeavor after
a true notion of {a197} him: it is our sin to rest in a mean and
low notion of him, when our reason tells us we are capable of having
higher: but if we ascend as high as we can, though we shall then
come short of a suitable notion of him, this is not our sin, but our
weakness. God is infinitely superior to the choicest conceptions, not
only of a sinner, but of a creature. If all conceptions of God below
the true nature of God were sin, there is not a holy angel in heaven
free from sin; because, though they are the most capacious creatures,
yet they cannot have such a notion of an infinite Being as is fully
suitable to his nature, unless they were infinite as he himself is.

2. But, however, we must by no means conceive of God under a human or
corporeal shape. Since we cannot have conceptions honorable enough for
his nature, we must take heed we entertain not any which may debase
his nature; though we cannot comprehend him as he is, we must be
careful not to fancy him to be what he is not. It is a vain thing to
conceive him with human lineaments: we must think higher of him than
to ascribe to him so mean a shape: we deny his spirituality when we
fancy him under such a form. He is spiritual, and between that which
is spiritual and that which is corporeal, there is no resemblance.[399]
Indeed, Daniel saw God in a human form (Dan. vii. 9): “The Ancient
of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hairs of
his head like pure wool:” he is described as coming to judgment; it
is not meant of Christ probably, because Christ (ver. 13) is called
the Son of Man coming near to the Ancient of days. This is not the
proper shape of God, for no man hath seen his shape. It was a vision
wherein such representations were made, as were accommodated to
the inward sense of Daniel; Daniel saw him in a rapture or ecstacy,
wherein outward senses are of no use. God is described, not as he is
in himself, of a human form, but in regard of his fitness to judge:
“white,” notes the purity and simplicity of the Divine nature;
“Ancient of days,” in regard of his eternity; “white hair,” in regard
of his prudence and wisdom, which is more eminent in age than youth,
and more fit to discern causes and to distinguish between right and
wrong. Visions are riddles, and must not be understood in a literal
sense. We are to watch against such determinate conceptions of God.
Vain imaginations do easily infest us; tinder will not sooner take
fire than our natures kindle into wrong notions of the Divine Majesty.
We are very apt to fashion a god like ourselves; we must therefore
look upon such representations of God, as accommodated to our weakness:
and no more think them to be literal descriptions of God, as he is in
himself, than we will think the image of the sun in the water, to be
the true sun in the heavens. We may, indeed, conceive of Christ as man,
who hath in heaven the vestment of our nature, and is _Deus figuratus_,
though we cannot conceive the godhead under a human shape.

1. To have such a fancy is to disparage and wrong God. A corporeal
fancy of God is as ridiculous in itself, and as injurious to God,
as a wooden statue. The caprices of our imagination are often
more mysterious than the images which are the works of art; it is
as irreligious {a198} to measure God’s essence by our line, his
perfections by our imperfections, as to measure his thoughts and
actings by the weakness and unworthiness of our own. This is to limit
an infinite essence, and pull him down to our scanty measures, and
render that which is unconceivably above us, equal with us. It is
impossible we can conceive God after the manner of a body, but we
must bring him down to the proportion of a body, which is to diminish
his glory, and stoop him below the dignity of his nature. God is a
pure Spirit, he hath nothing of the nature and tincture of a body;
whosoever, therefore, conceives of him as having a bodily form, though
he fancy the most beautiful and comely body, instead of owning his
dignity, detracts from the super‑eminent excellency of his nature and
blessedness. When men fancy God like themselves in their corporeal
nature, they will soon make a progress, and ascribe to him their
corrupt nature; and while they clothe him with their bodies, invest
him also in the infirmities of them. God is a jealous God, very
sensible of any disgrace, and will be as much incensed against an
inward idolatry as an outward: that command which forbade corporeal
images,[400] would not indulge carnal imaginations; since the nature
of God is as much wronged by unworthy images, erected in the fancy,
as by statues carved out of stone or metals: one as well as the other
is a deserting of our true spouse, and committing adultery; one with
a material image, and the other with a carnal notion of God. Since
God humbles himself to our apprehensions, we should not debase him
in thinking him to be that in his nature, which he makes only a
resemblance of himself to us.

2. To have such fancies of God, will obstruct and pollute our worship
of him. How is it possible to give him a right worship, of whom we
have so debasing a notion? We shall never think a corporeal deity
worthy of a dedication of our spirits. The hating instruction, and
casting God’s word behind the back, is charged upon the imagination
they had, that “God was such a one as themselves” (Psalm l. 17, 21).
Many of the wiser heathens did not judge their statues to be their
gods, or their gods to be like their statues; but suited them to
their politic designs; and judged them a good invention to keep people
within the bounds of obedience and devotion, by such visible figures
of them, which might imprint a reverence and fear of those gods upon
them; but these are false measures; a despised and undervalued God is
not an object of petition or affection. Who would address seriously
to a God he has low apprehensions of? The more raised thoughts we have
of him, the viler sense we shall have of ourselves; they would make us
humble and self‑abhorrent in our supplications to him (Job xlii. 6):
“wherefore I abhor myself,” &c.

3. Though we must not conceive of God, as of a human or corporeal
shape; yet we cannot think of God, without some reflection upon our
own being. We cannot conceive him to be an intelligent being, but we
must make some comparison between him and our own understanding nature
to come to a knowledge of him. Since we are enclosed in bodies, we
apprehend nothing but what comes in {a199} by sense, and what we in
some sort measure by sensible objects. And in the consideration of
those things which we desire to abstract from sense, we are fain to
make use of the assistance of sense and visible things: and therefore
when we frame the highest notion, there will be some similitude of
some corporeal thing in our fancy; and though we would spiritualize
our thoughts, and aim at a more abstracted and raised understanding,
yet there will be some dregs of matter sticking to our conceptions;
yet we still judge by argument and reasoning, what the thing is we
think of under those material images. A corporeal image will follow
us, as the shadow doth the body.[401] While we are in the body, and
surrounded with fleshly matter, we cannot think of things without some
help from corporeal representations: something of sense will interpose
itself in our purest conceptions of spiritual things;[402] for the
faculties which serve for contemplation, are either corporeal, as the
sense and fancy, or so allied to them, that nothing passes into them
but by the organs of the body; so that there is a natural inclination
to figure nothing but under a corporeal notion, till by an attentive
application of the mind and reason to the object thought upon, we
separate that which is bodily from that which is spiritual, and by
degrees ascend to that true notion of that we think upon, and would
have a due conception of in our mind. Therefore God tempers the
declaration of himself to our weakness, and the condition of our
natures. He condescends to our littleness and narrowness, when he
declares himself by the similitude of bodily members. As the light of
the sun is tempered, and diffuseth itself to our sense through the air
and vapors, that our weak eyes may not be too much dazzled with it;
without it we could not know or judge of the sun, because we could
have no use of our sense, which we must have before we can judge of
it in our understanding; so we are not able to conceive of spiritual
beings in the purity of their own nature, without such a temperament,
and such shadows to usher them into our minds. And therefore we find
the Spirit of God accommodates himself to our contracted and teddered
capacities, and uses such expressions of God as are suited to us in
this state of flesh wherein we are. And therefore because we cannot
apprehend God in the simplicity of his own being, and his undivided
essence, he draws the representations of himself from several
creatures and several actions of those creatures: as sometimes he is
said to be angry, to walk, to sit, to fly; not that we should rest in
such conceptions of him, but take our rise from this foundation, and
such perfections in the creatures, to mount up to a knowledge of God’s
nature by those several steps, and conceive of him by those divided
excellencies, because we cannot conceive of him in the purity of
his own essence. We cannot possibly think or speak of God, unless we
transfer the names of created perfections to him;[403] yet we are to
conceive of them in a higher manner when we apply them to the Divine
nature, than when we consider them in the several creatures formally,
exceeding those perfections and excellencies which are in the creature,
and in a more excellent manner: “as one saith, though {a200} we cannot
comprehend God without the help of such resemblances, yet we may,
without making an image of him; so that inability of ours excuseth
those apprehensions of him from any way offending against his Divine
nature.”[404] These are not notions so much suited to the nature of
God as the weakness of man. They are helps to our meditations, but
ought not to be formal conceptions of him. We may assist ourselves in
our apprehensions of him, by considering the subtilty and spirituality
of air; and considering the members of a body, without thinking him
to be air, or to have any corporeal member. Our reason tells us,
that whatsoever is a body, is limited and bounded; and the notion
of infiniteness and bodiliness, cannot agree and consist together:
and therefore what is offered by our fancy should be purified by our

4. Therefore we are to elevate and refine all our notions of God, and
spiritualize our conceptions of him. Every man is to have a conception
of God; therefore he ought to have one of the highest elevation. Since
we cannot have a full notion of him, we should endeavor to make it as
high and as pure as we can. Though we cannot conceive of God, but some
corporeal representations or images in our minds will be conversant
with us, as motes in the air when we look upon the heavens, yet our
conceptions may and must rise higher. As when we see the draught of
the heavens and earth in a globe, or a kingdom in a map, it helps our
conceptions, but doth not terminate them: we conceive them to be of a
vast extent, far beyond that short description of them. So we should
endeavor to refine every representation of God, to rise higher and
higher, and have our apprehensions still more purified; separating the
perfect from the imperfect, casting away the one, and greatening the
other; conceive him to be a Spirit diffused through all, containing
all, perceiving all. All the perfections of God are infinitely
elevated above the excellencies of the creatures; above whatsoever
can be conceived by the clearest and most piercing understanding.
The nature of God as a Spirit is infinitely superior to whatsoever
we can conceive perfect in the notion of a created spirit. Whatsoever
God is, he is infinitely so: he is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness,
infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely
distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above
the excellencies of creatures: as easy to be known that he is,
as impossible to be comprehended what he is. Conceive of him as
excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit without parts; great
without quantity; perfect without quality; everywhere without place;
powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise
without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling
the beauty of all creatures, than the light in the sun, pure and
unviolated, exceeds the splendor of the sun dispersed and divided
through a cloudy and misty air: and when you have risen to the highest,
conceive him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit,
and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever
conception comes into your minds, say, This is not God; God is more
than this: if I could conceive {a201} him, he were not God; for God
is incomprehensibly above whatsoever I can say, whatsoever I can think
and conceive of him.

_Inference 1._ If God be a Spirit, no corporeal thing can defile
him. Some bring an argument against the omnipresence of God, that it
is a disparagement to the Divine essence to be everywhere, in nasty
cottages as well as beautiful palaces and garnished temples. What
place can defile a spirit? Is light, which approaches to the nature of
spirit, polluted by shining upon a dunghill, or a sunbeam tainted by
darting upon a quagmire? Doth an angel contract any soil, by stepping
into a nasty prison to deliver Peter? What can steam from the most
noisome body to pollute the spiritual nature of God? As he is “of
purer eyes than to behold iniquity,”[405] so he is of a more spiritual
substance than to contract any physical pollution from the places
where he doth diffuse himself. Did our Saviour, who had a true body,
derive any taint from the lepers he touched, the diseases he cured, or
the devils he expelled? God is a pure Spirit; plungeth himself into no
filth; is dashed with no spot by being present with all bodies. Bodies
only receive defilement from bodies.

_Inference 2._ If God be a Spirit, he is active and communicative.
He is not clogged with heavy and sluggish matter, which is cause of
dulness and inactivity. The more subtle, thin, and approaching nearer
the nature of a spirit anything is, the more diffusive it is. Air
is a gliding substance; spreads itself through all regions, pierceth
into all bodies; it fills the space between heaven and earth; there is
nothing but partakes of the virtue of it. Light, which is an emblem of
spirit, insinuates itself into all places, refresheth all things. As
spirits are fuller, so they are more overflowing, more piercing, more
operative than bodies. The Egyptian horses were weak things, because
they were “flesh, and not spirit.”[406] The soul being a spirit,
conveys more to the body than the body can to it. What cannot so
great a spirit do for us? What cannot so great a spirit work in us?
God, being a spirit above all spirits, can pierce into the centre of
all spirits; make his way into the most secret recesses; stamp what
he pleases. It is no more to him to turn our spirits, than to make a
wilderness become waters, and speak a chaos into a beautiful frame of
heaven and earth. He can act our souls with infinite more ease than
our souls can act our bodies; he can fix in us what motions, frames,
inclinations he pleases; he can come and settle in our hearts with
all his treasures. It is an encouragement to confide in him, when
we petition him for spiritual blessings: as he is a spirit, he is
possessed with “spiritual blessings.”[407] A spirit delights to bestow
things suitable to its nature, as bodies do to communicate what is
agreeable to theirs. As he is a Father of spirits, we may go to him
for the welfare of our spirits; he being a Spirit, is as able to
repair our spirits as he was to create them. As he is a Spirit, he is
indefatigable in acting. The members of the body tire and flag; but
who ever heard of a soul wearied with being active? who ever heard of
a weary angel? In the purest simplicity, there is the greatest power,
the most efficacious goodness, the most reaching justice to affect
the spirit, that can insinuate itself everywhere {a202} to punish
wickedness without weariness, as well as to comfort goodness. God
is active, because he is spirit; and if we be like to God, the more
spiritual we are, the more active we shall be.

_Inference 3._ God being a Spirit, is immortal. His being immortal,
and being invisible, are joined together.[408] Spirits are in their
nature incorruptible; they can only perish by that hand that framed
them. Every compounded thing is subject to mutation; but God, being
a pure and simple Spirit, is without corruption, without any shadow
of change.[409] Where there is composition, there is some kind
of repugnancy of one part against the other; and where there is
repugnancy, there is a capability of dissolution. God, in regard of
his infinite spirituality, hath nothing in his own nature contrary
to it; can have nothing in himself which is not himself. The world
perishes; friends change and are dissolved; bodies moulder, because
they are mutable. God is a Spirit in the highest excellency and glory
of spirits; nothing is beyond him; nothing above him; no contrariety
within him. This is our comfort, if we devote ourselves to him;
this God is our God; this Spirit is our Spirit; this is our all,
our immutable, our incorruptible support; a Spirit that cannot die
and leave us.

_Inference 4._ If God be a Spirit, we see how we can only converse
with him by our spirits. Bodies and spirits are not suitable to one
another: we can only see, know, embrace a spirit with our spirits. He
judges not of us by our corporeal actions, nor our external devotions
by our masks and disguises: he fixes his eye upon the frame of the
heart, bends his ear to the groans of our spirits. He is not pleased
with outward pomp. He is not a body; therefore the beauty of temples,
delicacy of sacrifices, fumes of incense, are not grateful to him;
by those, or any external action, we have no communion with him.
A spirit, when broken, is his delightful sacrifice;[410] we must
therefore, have our spirits fitted for him, “be renewed in the spirit
of our minds,”[411] that we may be in a posture to live with him, and
have an intercourse with him. We can never be united to God but in
our spirits: bodies unite with bodies, spirits with spirits. The more
spiritual anything is, the more closely doth it unite. Air hath the
closest union; nothing meets together sooner than that, when the parts
are divided by the interposition of a body.

_Inference 5._ If God be a Spirit, he can only be the true
satisfaction of our spirits: spirit can only be filled with spirit:
content flows from likeness and suitableness. As we have a resemblance
to God in regard of the spiritual nature of our soul, so we can have
no satisfaction but in him. Spirit can no more be really satisfied
with that which is corporeal, than a beast can delight in the company
of an angel. Corporeal things can no more fill a hungry spirit, than
pure spirit can feed an hungry body. God, the highest Spirit, can only
reach out a full content to our spirits. Man is lord of the creation:
nothing below him can be fit for his converse; nothing above him
offers itself to his converse but God. We have no correspondence with
angels. The influence they have upon us, the protection they {a203}
afford us, is secret and undiscerned; but God, the highest Spirit,
offers himself to us in his Son, in his ordinances, is visible in
every creature, presents himself to us in every providence; to him
we must seek; in him we must rest. God had no rest from the creation
till he had made man; and man can have no rest in the creation till
he rests in God. God only is our dwelling place;[412] our souls should
only long for him:[413] our souls should only wait upon him. The
spirit of man never riseth to its original glory, till it be carried
up on the wings of faith and love to its original copy. The face
of the soul looks most beautiful, when it is turned to the face of
God, the Father of spirits; when the derived spirit is fixed upon
the original Spirit, drawing from it life and glory. Spirit is only
the receptacle of spirit. God, as Spirit, is our principle; we must
therefore live upon him. God, as Spirit, hath some resemblance to us
as his image; we must, therefore, only satisfy ourselves in him.

_Inference 6._ If God be a Spirit, we should take most care of that
wherein we are like to God. Spirit is nobler than body; we must,
therefore, value our spirits above our bodies. The soul, as spirit,
partakes more of the divine nature, and deserves more of our choicest
cares. If we have any love to this Spirit, we should have a real
affection to our own spirits, as bearing a stamp of the spiritual
Divinity, the chiefest of all the works of God; as it is said of
behemoth (Job xl. 19). That which is most the image of this immense
spirit, should be our darling; so David calls his soul (Psalm xxxv.
17). Shall we take care of that wherein we partake not of God, and not
delight in the jewel which hath his own signature upon it? God was not
only the Framer of spirits, and the End of spirits; but the Copy and
Exemplar of spirits. God partakes of no corporeity; he is pure Spirit.
But how do we act, as if we were only matter and body! We have but
little kindness for this great Spirit as well as our own, if we take
no care of his immediate offspring, since he is not only Spirit, but
the Father of spirits.[414]

_Inference 7._ If God be a Spirit, let us take heed of those sins
which are spiritual. Paul distinguisheth between the filth of the
flesh, and that of the spirit.[415] By the one we defile the body;
by the other we defile the spirit, which, in regard of its nature, is
of kin to the Creator. To wrong one who is near of kin to a prince,
is worse than to injure an inferior subject. When we make our spirits,
which are most like to God in their nature, and framed according
to his image, a stage to act vain imaginations, wicked desires, and
unclean affections, we wrong God in the excellency of his work, and
reflect upon the nobleness of the pattern; we wrong him in that part
where he hath stamped the most signal character of his own spiritual
nature; we defile that whereby we have only converse with him as a
Spirit, which he hath ordered more immediately to represent him in
this nature, than all corporeal things in the world can, and make that
Spirit with whom we desire to be joined unfit for such a knot. God’s
spirituality is the root of his other perfections. We have already
heard he could not be infinite, omnipresent, immutable, without {a204}
it. Spiritual sins are the greatest root of bitterness within us.
As grace in our spirits renders us more like to a spiritual God, so
spiritual sins bring us into a conformity to a degraded devil.[416]
Carnal sins change us from men to brutes, and spiritual sins divest
us of the image of God for the image of Satan. We should by no means
make our spirits a dunghill, which bear upon them the character of
the spiritual nature of God, and were made for his residence. Let us,
therefore, behave ourselves towards God in all those ways which the
spiritual nature of God requires us.

{a205}                      DISCOURSE IV.

                        ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.

  JOHN iv. 24.――God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must
    worship him in spirit and in truth.

HAVING thus despatched the first proposition, “God is a Spirit,” it
will not be amiss to handle the inference our Saviour makes from that
proposition, which is the second observation propounded.

_Doct._ That the worship due from us to God ought to be spiritual, and
spiritually performed. Spirit and truth are understood variously. We
are to worship God,

1. Not by legal ceremonies. The evangelical administration being
called spirit, in opposition to the legal ordinances as carnal; and
truth in opposition to them as typical. As the whole Judaical service
is called flesh, so the whole evangelical service is called spirit; or
spirit may be opposed to the worship at Jerusalem, as it was carnal;
truth, to the worship on the Mount Gerizim, because it was false. They
had not the true object of worship, nor the true medium of worship
as those at Jerusalem had. Their worship should cease, because it was
false; and the Jewish worship should cease, because it was carnal.
There is no need of a candle when the sun spreads his beams in the air;
no need of those ceremonies when the Sun of righteousness appeared;
they only served for candles to instruct and direct men till the time
of his coming. The shadows are chased away by displaying the substance,
so that they can be of no more use in the worship of God, since the
end for which they were instituted is expired; and that discovered to
us in the gospel, which the Jews sought for in vain among the baggage
and stuff of their ceremonies.

2. With a spiritual and sincere frame. _In spirit_, _i. e._ with
spirit; with the inward operations of all the faculties of our souls,
and the cream and flower of them; and the reason is, because there
ought to be a worship suitable to the nature of God; and as the
worship was to be spiritual, so the exercise of that worship ought
to be in a spiritual manner.[417] It shall be a worship “in truth,”
because the true God shall be adored without those vain imaginations
and fantastic resemblances of him,[418] which were common among the
blind Gentiles, and contrary to the glorious nature of God, and
unworthy ingredients in religious services. It shall be a worship “in
spirit,” without those carnal rites the degenerate Jews rested on;
such a {a206} posture of soul which is the life and ornament of every
service God looks for at your hands. There must be some proportion
between the object adored, and the manner in which we adore it; it
must not be a mere corporeal worship, because God is not a body; but
it must rise from the centre of our soul, because God is a Spirit. If
he were a body, a bodily worship might suit him, images might be fit
to represent him; but being a Spirit, our bodily services enter us not
into communion with him. Being a spirit, we must banish from our minds
all carnal imaginations of him, and separate from our wills all cold
and dissembled affections to him. We must not only have a loud voice,
but an elevated soul; not only a bended knee, but a broken heart;
not only a supplicating tone, but a groaning spirit; not only a ready
ear for the word, but a receiving heart; and this shall be of greater
value with him, than the most costly outward services offered at
Gerizim or Jerusalem. Our Saviour certainly meant not by worshipping
in spirit, only the matter of the evangelical service, as opposed
to the legal administration, without the manner wherein it was to
be performed. It is true, God always sought a worship in spirit; he
expected the heart of the worshipper should join with his instituted
rights of adoration in every exercise of them; but he expects such a
carriage more under the gospel administration, because of the clearer
discoveries of his nature made in it, and the greater assistances
conveyed by it.

I shall, therefore, 1. Lay down some general propositions. 2. Show
what this spiritual worship is. 3. Why we must offer to God a
spiritual service. 4. The use.

1. Some general propositions.

_Prop. I._ The right exercise of worship is founded upon, and riseth
from, the spirituality of God.[419] The first ground of the worship
we render to God, is the infinite excellency of his nature, which
is not only one attribute, but results from all; for God, as God, is
the object of worship; and the notion of God consists not in thinking
him wise, good, just, but all those infinitely beyond any conception;
and hence it follows that God is an object infinitely to be loved and
honored. His goodness is sometimes spoken of in Scripture as a motive
of our homage (Psalm cxxx. 4): “There is forgiveness with thee that
thou mayest be feared.” Fear, in the Scripture dialect, signifies the
“whole worship of God” (Acts x. 35): but in every nation, “he that
fears him” is accepted of him.[420] If God should act towards men
according to the rigors of his justice due to them for the least of
their crimes, there could be no exercise of any affection but that
of despair, which could not engender a worship of God, which ought to
be joined with love, not with hatred. The beneficence and patience of
God, and his readiness to pardon men, is the reason of the honor they
return to him; and this is so evident a motive, that generally the
idolatrous world ranked those creatures in the number of their gods,
which they perceived useful and beneficial to mankind, as the sun
and moon, the Egyptians the ox, &c. And the more beneficial anything
appeared to mankind, the higher station men gave it in the rank
of their deities, and bestowed a more peculiar and solemn worship
{a207} upon it. Men worshipped God to procure and continue his favor,
which would not have been acted by them, had they not conceived it
a pleasing thing to him to be merciful and gracious. Sometimes his
justice is proposed to us as a motive of worship (Heb. xii. 28, 29):
“Serve God with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming
fire;” which includes his holiness, whereby he doth hate sin, as well
as his wrath, whereby he doth punish it. Who but a mad and totally
brutish person, or one that was resolved to make war against heaven,
could behold the effects of God’s anger in the world, consider him
in his justice as a “consuming fire,” and despise him, and rather be
drawn out by that consideration to blasphemy and despair, than to seek
all ways to appease him? Now though the infinite power of God, his
unspeakable wisdom, his incomprehensible goodness, the holiness of
his nature, the vigilance of his providence, the bounty of his hand,
signify to man that he should love and honor him, and are the motives
of worship; yet the spirituality of his nature is the rule of worship,
and directs us to render our duty to him with all the powers of our
soul. As his goodness beams out upon us, worship is due in justice to
him; and as he is the most excellent nature, veneration is due to him
in the highest manner with the choicest affections. So that indeed
the spirituality of God comes chiefly into consideration in matter of
worship: all his perfections are grounded upon this: he could not be
infinite, immutable, omniscient, if he were a corporeal being;[421] we
cannot give him a worship unless we judge him worthy, excellent, and
deserving a worship at our hands; and we cannot judge him worthy of
a worship, unless we have some apprehensions and admirations of his
infinite virtues; and we cannot apprehend and admire those perfections,
but as we see them as causes shining in their effects. When we see,
therefore, the frame of the world to be the work of his power, the
order of the world to be the fruit of his wisdom, and the usefulness
of the world to be the product of his goodness, we find the motives
and reasons of worship; and weighing that this power, wisdom, goodness,
infinitely transcend any corporeal nature, we find a rule of worship,
that it ought to be offered by us in a manner suitable to such a
nature as is infinitely above any bodily being. His being a Spirit
declares what he is; his other perfections declare what kind of Spirit
he is. All God’s perfections suppose him a Spirit; all centre in
this; his wisdom doth not suppose him merciful, or his mercy suppose
him omniscient; there may be distinct notions of those, but all
suppose him to be of a spiritual nature. How cold and frozen will our
devotions be, if we consider not his omniscience, whereby he discerns
our hearts! How carnal will our services be, if we consider him not as
a pure Spirit![422] In our offers to, and transactions with men, we
deal not with them as mere animals, but as rational creatures; and we
debase their natures if we treat them otherwise; and if we have not
raised apprehensions of God’s spiritual nature in our treating with
him, but allow him only such frames as we think fit enough for men, we
debase his spirituality to the littleness of our own being. We must,
therefore, possess our souls with {a208} this; we shall else render
him no better than a fleshly service. We do not much concern ourselves
in those things of which we are either utterly ignorant, or have but
slight apprehensions of. That is the first proposition;――The right
exercise of worship is grounded upon the spirituality of God.

_Prop. II._ This spiritual worship of God is manifest by the light of
nature, to be due to him. In reference to this, consider,

1. The outward means or matter of that worship which would be
acceptable to God, was not known by the light of nature. The law for a
worship, and for a spiritual worship by the faculties of our souls was
natural, and part of the law of creation; though the determination of
the particular acts, whereby God would have this homage testified, was
of positive institution, and depended not upon the law of creation.
Though Adam in innocence knew God was to be worshipped, yet by nature
he did not know by what outward acts he was to pay this respect, or at
what time he was more solemnly to be exercised in it than at another:
this depended upon the directions God, as the sovereign Governor
and Lawgiver, should prescribe. You therefore find the positive
institutions of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and the
determination of the time of worship (Gen. ii. 3, 17). Had there been
any such notion in Adam naturally, as strong as that other, that a
worship was due to God, there would have been found some relics of
these modes universally consented to by mankind, as well as of the
other. But though all nations have by an universal consent concurred
in the acknowledgment of the being of God, and his right to adoration,
and the obligation of the creature to it; and that there ought to be
some public rule and polity in matters of religion (for no nation hath
been in the world without a worship, and without external acts and
certain ceremonies to signify that worship); yet their modes and rites
have been as various as their climates, unless in that common notion
of sacrifices, not descending to them by nature, but tradition from
Adam; and the various ways of worship have been more provoking than
pleasing. Every nation suited the kind of worship to their particular
ends and polities they designed to rule by. How God was to be
worshipped is more difficult to be discerned by nature with its eyes
out than with its eyes clear.[423] The pillars upon which the worship
of God stands cannot be discerned without revelation, no more than
blind Samson could tell where the pillars of the Philistines’ theatre
stood, without one to conduct him. What Adam could not see with his
sound eyes, we cannot with our dim eyes; he must be told from heaven
what worship was fit for the God of heaven. It is not by nature that
we can have such a full prospect of God as may content and quiet us;
this is the noble effect of Divine revelation; He only knows himself,
and can only make himself known to us. It could not be supposed that
an infinite God should have no perfections but what were visible
in the works of his hands; and that these perfections should not
be infinitely greater, than as they were sensible in their present
effects: this had been to apprehend God a limited Being, meaner than
he is. Now it is impossible to honor God as we ought, {a209} unless we
know him as he is; and we could not know him as he is, without divine
revelation from himself; for none but God can acquaint us with his
own nature: and therefore the nations void of this conduct, heaped up
modes of worship from their own imaginations, unworthy of the majesty
of God, and below the nature of man. A rational man would scarce
have owned such for signs of honor, as the Scripture mentions in the
services of Baal and Dagon; much less an infinitely wise and glorious
God. And when God had signified his mind to his own people, how
unwilling were they to rest satisfied with God’s determination, but
would be warping to their own inventions, and make gods, and ways of
worship to themselves![424] as in the matter of the golden calf, as
was lately spoken of.

2. Though the outward manner of worship acceptable to God could not be
known without revelation, and those revelations might be various; yet
the inward manner of worship with our spirits was manifest by nature:
and not only manifest by nature to Adam in innocence, but after his
fall, and the scales he had brought upon his understanding by that
fall. When God gave him his positive institutions before the fall,
or whatsoever additions God should have made, had he persisted in
that state; or, when he appointed him, after his fall, to testify his
acknowledgment of him by sacrifices, there needed no command to him
to make those acknowledgments by those outward ways prescribed to
him, with the intention and prime affection of his spirit: this nature
would instruct him in without revelation; for he could not possibly
have any semblance of reason to think that the offering of beasts, or
the presenting the first fruits of the increase of the ground, as an
acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over him and his bounty to him,
was sufficient, without devoting to him that part wherein the image
of his Creator did consist: he could not but discern, by a reflection
upon his own being, that he was made for God as well as by God: for it
is a natural principle of which the apostle speaks (Rom. xi. 36), “For
of him, and through him, and to him are all things,” &c.: that the
whole whereof he did consist was due to God; and that his body, the
dreggy and dusty part of his nature, was not fit to be brought alone
before God, without that nobler principle, which he had, by creation,
linked with it. Nothing in the whole law of nature, as it is informed
of religion, was clearer, next to the being of a God, than this manner
of worshipping God with the mind and spirit. And as the Gentiles
never sunk so low into the mud of idolatry, as to think the images
they worshipped were really their gods, but the representations, or
habitations of their gods; so they never deserted this principle in
the notion of it, that God was to be honored with the best they were,
and the best they had: as they never denied the being of a God in
the notion, though they did in the practice, so they never rejected
this principle in notion, though they did, and now most men do, in
the inward observation of it: it was a maxim among them that God was
_mens animus_, mind and spirit, and therefore was to be honored with
the mind and spirit: that religion did not consist in the ceremonies
of the body, but the work of the soul; whence the speech of one
of them: {a210} “Sacrifice to the gods, not so much clothed with
purple garments as a pure heart:”[425] and of another: “God regards
not the multitude of the sacrifices, but the disposition of the
sacrificer.”[426] It is not fit we should deny God the cream and the
flower, and give him the flotten part and the stalks. And with what
reverence and intention of mind they thought their worship was to be
performed, is evident by the priests crying out often, _Hoc age_, Mind
this, let your spirits be intent upon it. This could not but result,

(1.) From the knowledge of ourselves. It is a natural principle,
“God hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm c. 1, 2). Man knows
himself to be a rational creature; as a creature he was to serve
his Creator, and as a rational creature with the best part of that
rational nature he derived from him. By the same act of reason that
he knows himself to be a creature, he knows himself to have a Creator;
that this Creator is more excellent than himself, and that an honor
is due from him to the Creator for framing of him; and, therefore,
this honor was to be offered to him by the most excellent part
which was framed by him. Man cannot consider himself as a thinking,
understanding, being, but he must know that he must give God the
honor of his thoughts, and worship him with those faculties whereby
he thinks, wills, and acts.[427] He must know his faculties were given
him to act, and to act for the glory of that God who gave him his soul,
and the faculties of it; and he could not in reason think they must be
only active in his own service, and the service of the creature, and
idle and unprofitable in the service of his Creator. With the same
powers of our soul, whereby we contemplate God, we must also worship
God; we cannot think of him but with our minds, nor love him but with
our will; and we cannot worship him without the acts of thinking and
loving, and therefore cannot worship him without the exercise of our
inward faculties: how is it possible then for any man that knows his
own nature, to think that extended hands, bended knees, and lifted up
eyes, were sufficient acts of worship, without a quickened and active

(2.) From the knowledge of God. As there was a knowledge of God by
nature, so the same nature did dictate to man, that God was to be
glorified as God; the apostle implies the inference in the charge he
brings against them for neglecting it.[428] “We should speak of God
as he is,” said one;[429] and the same reason would inform them that
they were to act towards God as he is. The excellency of the object
required a worship according to the dignity of his nature, which could
not be answered but by the most serious inward affection, as well
as outward decency; and a want of this cannot but be judged to be
unbecoming the majesty of the Creator of the world, and the excellency
of religion. No nation, no person, did ever assert, that the vilest
part of man was enough for the most excellent Being, as God is; that a
bodily service could be a sufficient acknowledgment for the greatness
of God, or a sufficient return for the bounty of God. Man could not
but know that he was to act in religion conformably to the object
of religion, and to the excellency of his own {a211} soul:[430]
the notion of a God was sufficient to fill the mind of man with
admiration and reverence, and the first conclusion from it would be
to honor God, and that he have all the affection placed on him that so
infinite and spiritual a Being did deserve: the progress then would be,
that this excellent Being was to be honored with the motions of the
understanding and will, with the purest and most spiritual powers in
the nature of man, because he was a spiritual being, and had nothing
of matter mingled with him. Such a brutish imagination, to suppose
that blood and fumes, beasts and incense, could please a Deity,
without a spiritual frame, cannot be supposed to befall any but those
that had lost their reason in the rubbish of sense. Mere rational
nature could never conclude that so excellent a Spirit would be put
off with a mere animal service; an attendance of matter and body
without spirit, when they themselves, of an inferior nature, would
be loth to sit down contented with an outside service from those that
belong to them; so that this instruction of our Saviour, that God is
to be worshipped in spirit and truth, is conformable to the sentiments
of nature, and drawn from the most undeniable principles of it. The
excellency of God’s nature, and the excellent constitution of human
faculties, concur naturally to support this persuasion; this was as
natural to be known by men, as the necessity of justice and temperance
for the support of human societies and bodies. It is to be feared,
that if there be not among us such brutish apprehensions, there are
such brutish dealings with God, in our services, against the light of
nature; when we place all our worship of God in outward attendances
and drooping countenances, with unbelieving frames and formal
devotions; when prayer is muttered over in private, slightly, as
a parrot learns lessons by rote, not understanding what it speaks,
or to what end it speaks it; not glorifying God in thought and spirit,
with understanding and will.

_Prop. III._ Spiritual worship therefore was always required by
God, and always offered to him by one or other. Man had a perpetual
obligation upon him to such a worship from the nature of God; and
what is founded upon the nature of God is invariable. This and that
particular mode of worship may wax old as a garment, and as a vesture
may be folded up and changed, as the expression is of the heavens;[431]
but God endures forever; his spirituality fails not, therefore a
worship of him in spirit must run through all ways and rites of
worship. God must cease to be Spirit, before any service but that
which is spiritual can be accepted by him. The light of nature is
the light of God; the light of nature being unchangeable, what was
dictated by that, was alway, and will alway be, required by God.
The worship of God being perpetually due from the creature, the
worshipping him as God is as perpetually his right. Though the outward
expressions of his honor were different, one way in Paradise (for
a worship was then due, since a solemn time for that worship was
appointed), another under the law, another under the gospel; the
angels also worship God in heaven, and fall down before his throne;
yet, though they differ in rites, they agree in this necessary
ingredient, all rites, though of a different shape, {a212} must be
offered to him, not as carcasses, but animated with the affections of
the soul. Abel’s sacrifice had not been so excellent in God’s esteem,
without those gracious habits and affections working in his soul.[432]
Faith works by love; his heart was on fire as well as his sacrifice.
Cain rested upon his present; perhaps thought he had obliged God;
he depended upon the outward ceremony, but sought not for the inward
purity: it was an offering brought to the Lord;[433] he had the right
object, but not the right manner (Gen. iv. 7): “If thou doest well,
shalt thou not be accepted?” And in the command afterwards to Abraham,
“Walk before me, and be thou perfect,” was the direction in all our
religious acts and walkings with God. A sincere act of the mind and
will, looking above and beyond all symbols, extending the soul to
a pitch far above the body, and seeing the day of Christ through
the veil of the ceremonies, was required by God: and though Moses,
by God’s order, had instituted a multitude of carnal ordinances,
sacrifices, washings, oblations of sensible things, and recommended
to the people the diligent observation of those statutes, by the
allurements of promises and denouncing of threatenings; as if there
were nothing else to be regarded, and the true workings of grace were
to be buried under a heap of ceremonies; yet sometimes he doth point
them to the inward worship, and, by the command of God, requires of
them the “circumcision of the heart” (Deut. x. 16), the turning to
God with “all their heart and all their soul” (Deut. xxx. 10): whereby
they might recollect, that it was the engagement of the heart and the
worship of the Spirit that was most agreeable to God; and that he took
not any pleasure in their observance of ceremonies, without true piety
within, and the true purity of their thoughts.

_Prop. IV._ It is, therefore, as much every man’s duty to worship God
in spirit, as it is their duty to worship him. Worship is so due to
him as God, as that he that denies it disowns his deity; and spiritual
worship is so due, that he that waives it denies his spirituality. It
is a debt of justice we owe to God, to worship him; and it is as much
a debt of justice to worship him according to his nature. Worship is
nothing else but a rendering to God the honor that is due to him; and,
therefore, the right posture of our spirits in it is as much, or more,
due, than the material worship in the modes of his own prescribing:
that is, grounded both upon his nature and upon his command; this
only upon his command, that is perpetually due; whereas, the channel
wherein outward worship runs may be dried up, and the river diverted
another way; such a worship wherein the mind thinks of God, feels a
sense of God, has a spirit consecrated to God, the heart glowing with
affections to God; it is else a mocking God with a feather. A rational
nature must worship God with that wherein the glory of God doth most
sparkle in him. God is most visible in the frame of the soul, it is
there his image glitters; he hath given us a jewel as well as a case,
and the jewel as well as the case we must return to him; the spirit
is God’s gift, and must “return to him;”[434] it must return to him
in every service morally, as well as it must return to him at last
physically. It is not fit we should serve {a213} our Maker only with
that which is the brute in us, and withhold from him that which doth
constitute us reasonable creatures; we must give him our bodies, but
a “living sacrifice.”[435] If the spirit be absent from God when the
body is before him, we present a dead sacrifice; it is morally dead in
the duty, though it be naturally alive in the posture and action. It
is not an indifferent thing whether we shall worship God or no; nor is
it an indifferent thing whether we shall worship him with our spirits
or no; as the excellency of man’s knowledge consists in knowing things
as they are in truth, so the excellency of the will in willing things
as they are in goodness. As it is the excellency of man, to know God
as God; so it is no less his excellency, as well as his duty to honor
God as God. As the obligation we have to the power of God for our
being, binds us to a worship of him; so the obligation we have to his
bounty for fashioning us according to his own image, binds us to an
exercise of that part wherein his image doth consist. God hath “made
all things for himself” (Prov. xvi. 4), that is, for the evidence of
his own goodness and wisdom; we are therefore to render him a glory
according to the excellency of his nature, discovered in the frame of
our own. It is as much our sin not to glorify God as God, as not to
attempt the glorifying of him at all; it is our sin not to worship
God as God, as well as to omit the testifying any respect at all to
him. As the Divine nature is the object of worship, so the Divine
perfections are to be honored in worship; we do not honor God if we
honor him not as he is; we honor him not as a Spirit, if we think him
not worthy of the ardors and ravishing admirations of our spirits. If
we think the devotions of the body are sufficient for him, we contract
him into the condition of our own being; and not only deny him to be
a spiritual nature, but dash out all those perfections which he could
not be possessed of were he not a Spirit.

_Prop. V._ The ceremonial law was abolished to promote the
spirituality of divine worship. That service was gross, carnal,
calculated for an infant and sensitive church. It consisted in
rudiments, the circumcision of the flesh, the blood and smoke of
sacrifices, the steams of incense, observation of days, distinction
of meats, corporal purifications; every leaf of the law is clogged
with some rite to be particularly observed by them. The spirituality
of worship lay veiled under a thick cloud, that the people could not
behold the glory of the gospel, which lay covered under those shadows
(2 Cor. iii. 13): “They could not steadfastly look to the end of
that which is abolished:” They understood not the glory and spiritual
intent of the law, and therefore came short of that spiritual frame in
the worship of God, which was their duty. And therefore in opposition
to this administration, the worship of God under the gospel is called
by our Saviour in the text, a worship in spirit; more spiritual for
the matter, more spiritual for the motives, and more spiritual for
the manner and frames of worship.

1. This legal service is called flesh in Scripture, in opposition to
the gospel, which is called spirit. The ordinances of the law, though
of divine institution, are dignified by the apostle with no better a
{a214} title than carnal ordinances,[436] and a carnal command:[437]
but the gospel is called the ministration of the Spirit, as being
attended with a special and spiritual efficacy on the minds of
men.[438] And when the degenerate Galatians, after having tasted of
the pure streams of the gospel, turned about to drink of the thicker
streams of the law, the apostle tells them, that they begun in the
spirit and would now be made perfect in the flesh;[439] they would
leave the righteousness of faith for a justification by works. The
moral law, which is in its own nature spiritual,[440] in regard of
the abuse of it, in expectation of justification by the outward works
of it, is called flesh: much more may the ceremonial administration,
which was never intended to run parallel with the moral, nor had any
foundation in nature as the other had. That whole economy consisted
in sensible and material things, which only touched the flesh: it
is called the letter and the oldness of the letter;[441] as letters,
which are but empty sounds of themselves, but put together and formed
into words, signify something to the mind of the hearer or reader:
an old letter, a thing of no efficacy upon the spirit, but as a law
written upon paper. The gospel hath an efficacious spirit attending it,
strongly working upon the mind and will, and moulding the soul into
a spiritual frame for God, according to the doctrine of the gospel;
the one is old and decays, the other is new and increaseth daily. And
as the law itself is called flesh, so the observers of it and resters
in it are called Israel after the flesh;[442] and the evangelical
worshipper is called a Jew after the spirit (Rom. ii. 29). They were
Israel after the flesh as born of Jacob, not Israel after the spirit
as born of God; and therefore the apostle calls them Israel and not
Israel;[443] Israel after a carnal birth, not Israel after a spiritual;
Israel in the circumcision of the flesh, not Israel by a regeneration
of the heart.

2. The legal ceremonies were not a fit means to bring the heart
into a spiritual frame. They had a spiritual intent; the rock and
manna prefigured the salvation and spiritual nourishment by the
Redeemer.[444] The sacrifices were to point them to the justice of God
in the punishment of sin, and the mercy of God in substituting them
in their steads, as types of the Redeemer and the ransom by his blood.
The circumcision of the flesh was to instruct them in the circumcision
of the heart: they were flesh in regard of their matter, weakness and
cloudiness, spiritual in regard of their intent and signification;
they did instruct, but not efficaciously work strong spiritual
affections in the soul of the worshipper. They were weak and beggarly
elements;[445] had neither wealth to enrich nor strength to nourish
the soul: they could not perfect the comers to them, or put them
into a frame agreeable to the nature of God,[446] nor purge the
conscience from those dead and dull dispositions which were by nature
in them:[447] being carnal they could not have an efficacy to purify
the conscience of the offerer and work spiritual effects: had they
continued without the exhibition of Christ, they could never have
wrought any change in us or purchased {a215} any favor for us.[448]
At the best they were but shadows, and came inexpressibly short of the
efficacy of that person and state whose shadows they were. The shadow
of a man is too weak to perform what the man himself can do, because
it wants the life, spirit, and activity of the substance: the whole
pomp and scene was suited more to the sensitive than the intellectual
nature; and, like pictures, pleased the fancy of children rather than
improved their reason. The Jewish state was a state of childhood,[449]
and that administration a pedagogy.[450] The law was a schoolmaster
fitted for their weak and childish capacity, and could no more
spiritualize the heart, than the teachings in a primer‑school can
enable the mind, and make it fit for affairs of state; and because
they could not better the spirit, they were instituted only for a time,
as elements delivered to an infant age, which naturally lives a life
of sense rather than a life of reason. It was also a servile state,
which doth rather debase than elevate the mind; rather carnalize
than spiritualize the heart: besides, it is a sense of mercy that
both melts and elevates the heart into a spiritual frame: “There is
forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;”[451] and they
had, in that state, but some glimmerings of mercy in the daily bloody
intimations of justice. There was no sacrifice for some sins, but
a cutting off without the least hints of pardon; and in the yearly
remembrance of sin there was as much to shiver them with fear, as to
possess them with hopes; and such a state which always held them under
the conscience of sin, could not produce a free spirit, which was
necessary for a worship of God according to his nature.

3. In their use they rather hindered than furthered a spiritual
worship. In their own nature they did not tend to the obstructing a
spiritual worship, for then they had been contrary to the nature of
religion, and the end of God who appointed them; nor did God cover the
evangelical doctrine under the clouds of the legal administration, to
hinder the people of Israel from perceiving it, but because they were
not yet capable to bear the splendor of it, had it been clearly set
before them. The shining of the face of Moses was too dazzling for
their weak eyes, and therefore there was a necessity of a veil, not
for the things themselves, but the “weakness of their eyes.”[452] The
carnal affections of that people sunk down into the things themselves;
stuck in the outward pomp, and pierced not through the veil to the
spiritual intent of them; and by the use of them without rational
conceptions, they besotted their minds and became senseless of those
spiritual motions required of them. Hence came all their expectations
of a carnal Messiah; the veil of ceremonies was so thick, and the film
upon their eyes so condensed, that they could not look through the
veil to the Spirit of Christ; they beheld not the heavenly Canaan for
the beauty of the earthly; nor minded the regeneration of the spirit,
while they rested upon the purifications of the flesh; the prevalency
of sense and sensitive affections diverted their minds from inquiring
into {a216} the intent of them. Sense and matter are often clogs to
the mind, and sensible objects are the same often to spiritual motions.
Our souls are never more raised than when they are abstracted from
the entanglements of them. A pompous worship, made up of many sensible
objects, weakens the spirituality of religion. Those that are most
zealous for outward, are usually most cold and indifferent in inward
observances; and those that overdo in carnal modes, usually underdo
in spiritual affections. This was the Jewish state.[453] The nature
of the ceremonies being pompous and earthly by their show and beauty,
meeting with their weakness and childish affections, filled their eyes
with an outward lustre, allured their minds and detained them from
seeking things higher and more spiritual; the kernel of those rights
lay concealed in a thick shell; the spiritual glory was little seen;
and the spiritual sweetness little tasted. Unless the Scripture be
diligently searched, it seems to transfer the worship of God from the
true faith and the spiritual motions of the heart, and stake it down
to outward observances, and the _opus operatum_. Besides, the voice
of the law did only declare sacrifices, and invited the worshippers to
them with a promise of the atonement of sin, turning away the wrath of
God. It never plainly acquainted them that those things were types and
shadows of something future; that they were only outward purifications
of the flesh; it never plainly told them, at the time of appointing
them, that those sacrifices could not abolish sin, and reconcile them
to God. Indeed, we see more of them since their death and dissection,
in that one Epistle to the Hebrews, than can be discerned in the five
books of Moses. Besides, man naturally affects a carnal life, and
therefore affects a carnal worship; he designs the gratifying his
sense, and would have a religion of the same nature. Most men have
no mind to busy their reasons about the things of sense, and are
naturally unwilling to raise them up to those things which are allied
to the spiritual nature of God; and therefore the more spiritual any
ordinance is, the more averse is the heart of man to it. There is a
simplicity of the gospel from which our minds are easily corrupted
by things that pleasure the sense, as Eve was by the curiosity of her
eyes, and the liquorishness of her palate.[454] From this principle
hath sprung all the idolatry in the world. The Jews knew they had a
God who had delivered them, but they would have a sensible God to go
before them;[455] and the papacy at this day is a witness of the truth
of this natural corruption.

4. Upon these accounts, therefore, God never testified himself well
pleased with that kind of worship. He was not displeased with them,
as they were his own institution, and ordained for the representing
(though in an obscure manner) the glorious things of the gospel; nor
was he offended with those people’s observance of them; for, since
he had commanded them, it was their duty to perform them, and their
sin to neglect them; but he was displeased with them as they were
practised by them, with souls as morally carnal in the practices, as
the ceremonies were materially carnal {a217} in their substance. It
was not their disobedience to observe them; but it was a disobedience,
and a contempt of the end of the institution to rest upon them; to be
warm in them, and cold in morals; they fed upon the bone and neglected
the marrow; pleased themselves with the shell, and sought not for the
kernel; they joined not with them the internal worship of God; fear
of him, with faith in the promised Seed, which lay veiled under those
coverings (Hos. vi. 6); “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the
knowledge of God more than burnt‑offerings;” and therefore he seems
sometimes weary of his own institutions, and calls them not his own,
but their sacrifices, their feasts (Isa. i. 11, 14): they were his by
appointment, theirs by abuse; the institution was from his goodness
and condescension, therefore his; the corruption of them was from the
vice of their nature, therefore theirs. He often blamed them for their
carnality in them; showed his dislike of placing all their religion
in them; gives the sacrificers, on that account, no better a title
than that of the princes of Sodom and Gomorrah;[456] and compares
the sacrifices themselves to the “cutting off a dog’s neck,” “swine’s
blood,” and “the murder of a man.”[457] And indeed God never valued
them, or expressed any delight in them; he despised the feasts of the
wicked (Amos v. 21); and had no esteem for the material offerings of
the godly (Psalm l. 13): “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the
blood of goats?” which he speaks to his saints and people, before he
comes to reprove the wicked; which he begins (ver. 16), “But to the
wicked, God said,” &c. So slightly he esteems them, that he seems to
disown them to be any part of his command, when he brought his people
out of the land of Egypt (Jer. vii. 21): “I spake not to your fathers,
nor commanded them concerning burnt‑offerings and sacrifices.” He did
not value and regard them, in comparison with that inward frame which
he had required by the moral law; that being given before the law
of ceremonies, obliged them, in the first place, to an observance of
those precepts. They seemed to be below the nature of God, and could
not of themselves please him. None could in reason persuade themselves
that the death of a beast was a proportionable offering for the sin of
a man, or ever was intended for the expiation of transgression. In the
same rank are all our bodily services under the gospel; a loud voice
without spirit, bended bulrushes without inward affections, are no
more delightful to God, than the sacrifices of animals; it is but a
change of one brute for another of a higher species; a mere brute for
that part of man which hath an agreement with brutes; such a service
is a mere animal service, and not spiritual.

5. And therefore God never intended that sort of worship to be durable,
and had often mentioned the change of it for one more spiritual. It
was not good or evil in itself; whatsoever goodness it had was solely
derived to it by institution, and therefore it was mutable. It had no
conformity with the spiritual nature of God who was to be worshipped,
nor with the rational nature of man who was to worship; and therefore
he often speaks of taking away the new {a218} moons, and feasts,
and sacrifices, and all the ceremonial worship, as things he took no
pleasure in, to have a worship more suited to his excellent nature;
but he never speaks of removing the gospel administration, and the
worship prescribed there, as being more agreeable to the nature and
perfections of God, and displaying them more illustriously to the
world. The apostle tells us, it was to be “disannulled because of its
weakness;”[458] a determinate time was fixed for its duration, till
the accomplishment of the truth figured under that pedagogy.[459] Some
of the modes of that worship being only typical, must naturally expire
and be insignificant in their use, upon the finishing of that by the
Redeemer, which they did prefigure: and other parts of it, though God
suffered them so long, because of the weakness of the worshipper, yet
because it became not God to be always worshipped in that manner, he
would reject them, and introduce another more spiritual and elevated.
“Incense and a pure offering” should be offered everywhere unto his
name.[460] He often told them he would make a “new covenant by the
Messiah,” and the old should be rejected;[461] that the “former things
should not be remembered, and the things of old no more considered,”
when he should do “a new thing in the earth.”[462] Even the ark of
the covenant, the symbol of his presence, and the glory of the Lord in
that nation, should not any more be remembered and visited;[463] that
the temple and sacrifices should be rejected, and others established;
that the order of the Aaronical priesthood should be abolished, and
that of Melchizedek set up in the stead of it, in the person of the
Messiah, to endure forever;[464] that Jerusalem should be changed;
a new heaven and earth created; a worship more conformable to heaven,
more advantageous to earth. God had proceeded in the removal of some
parts of it, before the time of taking down the whole furniture of
this house; the pot of manna was lost; Urim and Thummim ceased; the
glory of the temple was diminished; and the ignorant people wept at
the sight of the one, without raising their faith and hope in the
consideration of the other, which was promised to be filled with
a spiritual glory. And as soon as ever the gospel was spread in the
world, God thundered out his judgments upon that place in which he
had fixed all those legal observances; so that the Jews, in the letter
and flesh, could never practise the main part of their worship, since
they were expelled from that place where it was only to be celebrated.
It is one thousand six hundred years since they have been deprived
of their altar, which was the foundation of all the Levitical worship,
and have wandered in the world without a sacrifice, a prince, or
priest, an ephod or teraphim.[465] And God fully put an end to it
in the command he gave to the apostles, and in them to us, in the
presence of Moses and Elias, to hear his Son only (Matt. xvii. 5):
“Behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And at the death of
our Saviour, testified it to that whole nation and the world, by
the rending in twain the veil of the temple. The whole frame of that
service, {a219} which was carnal, and, by reason of the corruption of
man, weakened, is nulled; and a spiritual worship is made known to the
world, that we might now serve God in a more spiritual manner, and
with more spiritual frames.

_Prop. VI._ The service and worship the gospel settles is spiritual,
and the performance of it more spiritual. Spirituality is the genius
of the gospel, as carnality was of the law; the gospel is therefore
called spirit; we are abstracted from the employments of sense, and
brought nearer to a heavenly state. The Jews had angels’ bread poured
upon them; we have angels’ service prescribed to us, the praises
of God, communion with God in spirit, through his Son Jesus Christ,
and stronger foundations for spiritual affections. It is called a
“reasonable service;”[466] it is suited to a rational nature, though
it finds no friendship from the corruption of reason. It prescribes
a service fit for the reasonable faculties of the soul, and advanceth
them while it employs them. The word reasonable may be translated
“word‑service,”[467] as well as reasonable service; an evangelical
service, in opposition to a law service. All evangelical service is
reasonable, and all truly reasonable service is evangelical.

The matter of the worship is spiritual; it consists in love of
God, faith in God, recourse to his goodness, meditation on him, and
communion with him. It lays aside the ceremonial, spiritualizeth the
moral. The commands that concerned our duty to God, as well as those
that concerned our duty to our neighbor, were reduced by Christ to
their spiritual intention. The motives are spiritual; it is a state
of more grace, as well as of more truth,[468] supported by spiritual
promises, beaming out in spiritual privileges; heaven comes down in
it to earth, to spiritualize earth for heaven. The manner of worship
is more spiritual; higher flights of the soul, stronger ardors
of affection, sincerer aims at his glory; mists are removed from
our minds, clogs from the soul, more of love than fear; faith in
Christ kindles the affections, and works by them. The assistances
to spiritual worship are greater. The Spirit doth not drop, but is
plentifully poured out. It doth not light sometimes upon, but dwells
in the heart. Christ suited the gospel to a spiritual heart, and the
Spirit changeth the carnal heart to make it fit for a spiritual gospel.
He blows upon the garden, and causes the spices to flow forth; and
often makes the soul in worship like the chariots of Aminadab, in a
quick and nimble motion. Our blessed Lord and Saviour, by his death,
discovered to us the nature of God; and after his ascension sent his
Spirit to fit us for the worship of God, and converse with him. One
spiritual evangelical believing breath is more delightful to God than
millions of altars made up of the richest pearls, and smoking with
the costliest oblations, because it is spiritual; and a mite of spirit
is of more worth than the greatest weight of flesh: one holy angel is
more excellent than a whole world of mere bodies.

_Prop. VII._ Yet the worship of God with our bodies is not to be
rejected upon the account that God requires a spiritual worship.
Though we must perform the weightier duties of the law, yet we are
{a220} not to omit and leave undone the lighter precepts, since both
the _magnalia_ and _minutula legis_, the greater and the lesser duties
of the law, have the stamp of divine authority upon them. As God under
the ceremonial law did not command the worship of the body and the
observation of outward rites without the engagement of the spirit,
so neither doth he command that of the spirit without the peculiar
attendance of the body. The Schwelksendians denied bodily worship;
and the indecent postures of many in public attendance intimate no
great care either of composing their bodies or spirits. A morally
discomposed body intimates a tainted heart. Our bodies as well as our
spirits are to be presented to God.[469] Our bodies in lieu of the
sacrifices of beasts, as in the Judaical institutions; body for the
whole man; a living sacrifice, not to be slain, as the beasts were,
but living a new life, in a holy posture, with crucified affections.
This is the inference the apostle makes of the privileges of
justification, adoption, co‑heirship with Christ, which he had before
discoursed of; privileges conferred upon the person, and not upon a
part of man.

1. Bodily worship is due to God. He hath a right to an adoration by
our bodies, as they are his by creation; his right is not diminished,
but increased, by the blessing of redemption: (1 Cor. vi. 20) “For
you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and
your spirits, which are God’s.” The body, as well as the spirit, is
redeemed, since our Saviour suffered crucifixion in his body, as well
as agonies in his soul. Body is not taken here for the whole man, as
it may be in Rom xii.; but for the material part of our nature, it
being distinguished from the spirit. If we are to render to God an
obedience with our bodies, we are to render him such acts of worship
with our bodies as they are capable of. As God is the Father of
spirits, so he is the God of all flesh; therefore the flesh he hath
framed of the earth, as well as the noble portion he hath breathed
into us, cannot be denied him without a palpable injustice. The
service of the body we must not deny to God, unless we will deny him
to be the author of it, and the exercise of his providential care
about it. The mercies of God are renewed every day upon our bodies
as well as our souls, and, therefore, they ought to express a fealty
to God for his bounty every day. “Both are from God; both should be
for God. Man consists of body and soul; the service of man is the
service of both. The body is to be sanctified as well as the soul;
and, therefore, to be offered to God as well as the soul. Both are
to be glorified, both are to glorify. As our Saviour’s divinity was
manifested in his body, so should our spirituality in ours. To give
God the service of the body and not of the soul, is hypocrisy; to
give God the service of the spirit and not of the body, is sacrilege;
to give him neither, atheism.”[470] If the only part of man that
is visible were exempted from the service of God, there could be
no visible testimonies of piety given upon any occasion. Since not
a moiety of man, but the whole is God’s creature, he ought to pay
a homage with the whole, and not only with a moiety of himself.

{a221} 2. Worship in societies is due to God, but this cannot be
without some bodily expressions. The law of nature doth as much direct
men to combine together in public societies for the acknowledgment of
God, as in civil communities for self‑preservation and order; and a
notice of a society for religion is more ancient than the mention of
civil associations for politic government (Gen. iv. 26): “Then began
men to call upon the name of the Lord,” viz., in the time of Seth.
No question but Adam had worshipped God before, as well as Abel, and
a family religion had been preserved; but, as mankind increased in
distinct families, they knit together in companies to solemnize the
worship of God.[471] Hence, as some think, those that incorporated
together for such ends, were called the “sons of God;” sons by
profession, though not sons by adoption; as those of Corinth were
saints by profession, though in such a corrupted church they could
not be all so by regeneration; yet saints, as being of a Christian
society, and calling upon the name of Christ, that is, worshipping God
in Christ, though they might not be all saints in spirit and practice.
So Cain and Abel met together to worship (Gen. iv. 3) “at the end of
the days,” at a set time. God settled a public worship among the Jews,
instituted synagogues for their convening together, whence called the
“synagogues of God.”[472] The Sabbath was instituted to acknowledge
God a common benefactor. Public worship keeps up the memorials of God
in a world prone to atheism, and a sense of God in a heart prone to
forgetfulness. The angels sung in company, not singly, at the birth
of Christ,[473] and praised God not only with a simple elevation of
their spiritual nature, but audibly, by forming a voice in the air.
Affections are more lively, spirits more raised in public than private;
God will credit his own ordinance. Fire increaseth by laying together
many coals on one place; so is devotion inflamed by the union of
many hearts, and by a joint presence; nor can the approach of the
last day of judgment, or particular judgments upon a nation, give
a writ of ease from such assemblies. (Heb. x. 25): “Not forsaking the
assembling ourselves together; but so much the more as you see the
day approaching.” Whether it be understood of the day of judgment,
or the day of the Jewish destruction and the Christian persecution,
the apostle uses it as an argument to quicken them to the observance,
not to encourage them to a neglect. Since, therefore, natural
light informs us, and divine institution commands us, publicly to
acknowledge ourselves the servants of God, it implies the service of
the body. Such acknowledgments cannot be without visible testimonies,
and outward exercises of devotion, as well as inward affections. This
promotes God’s honor, checks others’ profaneness, allures men to the
same expressions of duty; and though there may be hypocrisy and an
outward garb without an inward frame, yet better a moiety of worship
than none at all; better acknowledge God’s right in one than disown it
in both.

3. Jesus Christ, the most spiritual worshipper, worshipped God
with his body. He prayed orally, and kneeled, “Father, if it be
{a222} thy will,”[474] &c. He blessed with his mouth, “Father, I thank
thee.”[475] He lifted up his eyes as well as elevated his spirit, when
he praised his Father for mercy received, or begged for the blessings
his disciples wanted.[476] The strength of the spirit must have vent
at the outward members. The holy men of God have employed the body in
significant expressions of worship; Abraham in falling on his face,
Paul in kneeling, employing their tongues, lifting up their hands.
Though Jacob was bed‑rid, yet he would not worship God without some
devout expression of reverence; it is in one place “leaning upon his
staff;”[477] in another, “bowing himself upon his bed’s head.”[478]
The reason of the diversity is in the Hebrew word, which, without
vowels, may be read _mittah_, a bedor _matteh_, a staff; however, both
signify a testimony of adoration by a reverent gesture of the body.
Indeed, in angels and separated souls, a worship is performed purely
by the spirit; but while the soul is in conjunction with the body, it
can hardly perform a serious act of worship without some tincture upon
the outward man and reverential composure of the body. Fire cannot be
in the clothes but it will be felt by the members, nor flames be pent
up in the soul without bursting out in the body. The heart can no
more restrain itself from breaking out, than Joseph could inclose his
affections without expressing them in tears to his brethren.[479] “We
believe, and therefore speak.”[480]

To conclude: God hath appointed some parts of worship which cannot
be performed without the body, as sacraments; we have need of them
because we are not wholly spiritual and incorporeal creatures. The
religion which consists in externals only is not for an intellectual
nature; a worship purely intellectual is too sublime for a nature
allied to sense, and depending much upon it. The christian mode of
worship is proportioned to both; it makes the sense to assist the
mind, and elevates the spirit above the sense. Bodily worship helps
the spiritual: the members of the body reflect back upon the heart,
the voice bars distractions, the tongue sets the heart on fire in good
as well as in evil. It is as much against the light of nature to serve
God without external significations, as to serve him only with them
without the intention of the mind. As the invisible God declares
himself to men by visible works and signs, so should we declare our
invisible frames by visible expressions. God hath given us a soul and
body in conjunction; and we are to serve him in the same manner he
hath framed us.

II. The second thing I am to show is, what spiritual worship is. In
general, the whole spirit is to be employed; the name of God is not
sanctified but by the engagement of our souls. Worship is an act of
the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency
of God and actual thoughts of his majesty; recognizing him as the
supreme Lord and Governor of the world, which is natural knowledge;
beholding the glory of his attributes in the Redeemer, which is
evangelical knowledge. This is the sole act of the spirit of man. The
same reason is for all our worship as for our thanksgiving. This must
be done with understanding: (Psalm xlvii. 7) {a223} “Sing ye praise
with understanding;” with a knowledge and sense of his greatness,
goodness, and wisdom. It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul
adores and reverences his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness,
embraceth his goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with
this most lovely object, and pitcheth all his affections upon him. We
must worship God understandingly; it is not else a reasonable service.
The nature of God and the law of God abhor a blind offering; we must
worship him heartily, else we offer him a dead sacrifice. A reasonable
service is that wherein the mind doth truly act something with God.
All spiritual acts must be acts of reason, otherwise they are not
human acts, because they want that principle which is constitutive of
man, and doth difference him from other creatures. Acts done only by
sense are the acts of a brute; acts done by reason are the acts of a
man. That which is only an act of sense cannot be an act of religion.
The sense, without the conduct of reason, is not the subject of
religious acts; for then beasts were capable of religion as well as
men. There cannot be religion where there is not reason; and there
cannot be the exercise of religion where there is not an exercise of
the rational faculties; nothing can be a christian act that is not a
human act. Besides, all worship must be for some end; the worship of
God must be for God. It is by the exercise of our rational faculties
that we only can intend an end. An ignorant and carnal worship is a
brutish worship. Particularly,

1. Spiritual worship is a worship from a spiritual nature. Not only
physically spiritual, so our souls are in their frame; but morally
spiritual, by a renewing principle. The heart must be first cast into
the mould of the gospel, before it can perform a worship required by
the gospel. Adam living in Paradise might perform a spiritual worship;
but Adam fallen from his rectitude could not: we, being heirs of his
nature, are heirs of his impotence. Restoration to a spiritual life
must precede any act of spiritual worship. As no work can be good,
so no worship can be spiritual, till we are created in Christ.[481]
Christ is our life.[482] As no natural action can be performed without
life in the root or heart, so no spiritual act without Christ in the
soul. Our being in Christ is as necessary to every spiritual act as
the union of our soul with our body is necessary to natural action.
Nothing can exceed the limits of its nature; for then it should
exceed itself in acting, and do that which it hath no principle to do.
A beast cannot act like a man, without partaking of the nature of a
man; nor a man act like an angel, without partaking of the angelical
nature. How can we perform spiritual acts without a spiritual
principle? Whatsoever worship proceeds from the corrupted nature,
cannot deserve the title of spiritual worship, because it springs
not from a spiritual habit. If those that are evil cannot speak good
things, those that are carnal cannot offer a spiritual service. Poison
is the fruit of a viper’s nature (Matt. xii. 34): “O generation of
vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” As the root is, so is the
fruit. If the soul be habitually carnal, {a224} the worship cannot
be actually spiritual. There may be an intention of spirit, but there
is no spiritual principle as a root of that intention. A heart may
be sensibly united with a duty, when it is not spiritually united
with Christ in it. Carnal motives and carnal ends may fix the mind
in an act of worship, as the sense of some pressing affliction may
enlarge a man’s mind in prayer. Whatsoever is agreeable to the nature
of God must have a stamp of Christ upon it; a stamp of his grace
in performance, as well as of his mediation in the acceptance. The
apostle lived not, but Christ lived in him;[483] the soul worships
not, but Christ in him. Not that Christ performs the act of worship,
but enables us spiritually to worship, after he enables us spiritually
to live. As God counts not any soul living but in Christ, so he
counts not any a spiritual worshipper but in Christ. The goodness and
fatness of the fruit come from the fatness of the olive wherein we are
engrafted. We must find healing in Christ’s wings, before God can find
spirituality in our services. All worship issuing from a dead nature
is but a dead service. A living action cannot be performed, without
being knit to a living root.

2. Spiritual worship is done by the influence and with the assistance
of the Spirit of God. A heart may be spiritual, when a particular act
of worship may not be spiritual. The Spirit may dwell in the heart,
when he may suspend his influence on the act. Our worship is then
spiritual, when the fire that kindles our affections comes from heaven,
as that fire upon the altar wherewith the sacrifices were consumed.
God tastes a sweetness in no service, but as it is dressed up by the
hand of the Mediator, and hath the air of his own Spirit in it; they
are but natural acts, without a supernatural assistance; without
an actual influence, we cannot act from spiritual motives, nor for
spiritual ends, nor in a spiritual manner. We cannot mortify a lust
without the Spirit,[484] nor quicken a service without the Spirit.
Whatsoever corruption is killed, is slain by his power; whatsoever
duty is spiritualized, is refined by his breath. He quickens our
dead bodies in our resurrection;[485] he renews our dead souls in our
regeneration; he quickens our carnal services in our adorations; the
choicest acts of worship are but infirmities without his auxiliary
help.[486] We are logs, unable to move ourselves, till he raise our
faculties to a pitch agreeable to God; puts his hand to the duty, and
lifts that up and us with it. Never any great act was performed by the
apostles to God, or for God; but they are said to be filled with the
Holy Ghost. Christ could not have been conceived immaculate as that
“holy thing,” without the Spirit’s overshadowing the Virgin; nor any
spiritual act conceived in our heart, without the Spirit’s moving
upon us, to bring forth a living religion from us. The acts of worship
are said to be in the Spirit, “supplication in the Spirit;”[487]
not only with the strength and affection of our own spirits, but
with the mighty operation of the Holy Ghost, if Jude may be the
interpreter;[488] the Holy Ghost exciting us, impelling us, and firing
our souls by his divine flame; raising up the affections, and making
the {a225} soul cry with a holy importunity, Abba, Father. To render
our worship spiritual, we should, before every engagement in it,
implore the actual presence of the Spirit, without which we are not
able to send forth one spiritual breath or groan; but be wind‑bound
like a ship without a gale, and our worship be no better than carnal.
How doth the spouse solicit the Spirit with an “Awake, O north wind,
and come, thou south wind,”[489] &c.

3. Spiritual worship is done with sincerity. When the heart stands
right to God, and the soul performs what it pretends to perform; when
we serve God with our spirits, as the apostle (Rom. i. 9), “God is
my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son:”
this is not meant of the Holy Ghost; for the apostle would never have
called the Spirit of God his own spirit; but with my spirit, that
is, a sincere frame of heart. A carnal worship, whether under the law
or gospel, is, when we are busied about external rites, without an
inward compliance of soul. God demands the heart; “My son, give me thy
heart;”[490] not give me thy tongue, or thy lips, or thy hands; these
may be given without the heart, but the heart can never be bestowed
without these as its attendants. A heap of services can be no more
welcome to God, without our spirits, than all Jacob’s sons could be
to Joseph, without the Benjamin he desired to see. God is not taken
with the cabinet, but the jewel; he first respected Abel’s faith and
sincerity, and then his sacrifice; he disrespected Cain’s infidelity
and hypocrisy, and then his offering. For this cause he rejected the
offerings of the Jews, the prayers of the Pharisees, and the alms of
Ananias and Sapphira, because their hearts and their duties were at
a distance from one another. In all spiritual sacrifices, our spirits
are God’s portion. Under the law, the reins were to be consumed by
the fire on the altar, because the secret intentions of the heart were
signified by them (Psalm vii. 9), “The Lord trieth the heart and the
reins.” It was an ill omen among the heathen, if a victim wanted a
heart. The widow’s mites, with her heart in them, were more esteemed
than the richer offerings without it.[491] Not the quantity of service,
but the will in it, is of account with this infinite Spirit. All
that was to be brought for the framing of the tabernacle was to be
offered “willingly with the heart.”[492] The more of will, the more of
spirituality and acceptableness to God (Psalm cxix. 108), “Accept the
free‑will offering of my lips.” Sincerity is the salt which seasons
every sacrifice. The heart is most like to the object of worship; the
heart in the body is the spring of all vital actions; and a spiritual
soul is the spring of all spiritual actions. How can we imagine God
can delight in the mere service of the body, any more than we can
delight in converse with a carcass? Without the heart it is no worship;
it is a stage play; an acting a part without being that person really
which is acted by us: a hypocrite, in the notion of the word, is a
stage‑player. We may as well say a man may believe with his body, as
worship God only with his body. Faith is a great ingredient in worship;
and it is “with the heart man believes unto righteousness.”[493] We
may be truly said to worship God, {a226} though we want perfection;
but we cannot be said to worship him, if we want sincerity; a statue
upon a tomb, with eyes and hands lifted up, offers as good and true
a service; it wants only a voice, the gestures and postures are the
same; nay, the service is better; it is not a mockery; it represents
all that it can be framed to; but to worship without our spirits, is
a presenting God with a picture, an echo, voice, and nothing else;
a compliment; a mere lie; a “compassing him about with lies.”[494]
Without the heart the tongue is a liar; and the greatest zeal
a dissembling with him. To present the spirit, is to present with
that which can never naturally die; to present him only the body, is
to present him that which is every day crumbling to dust, and will at
last lie rotting in the grave; to offer him a few rags, easily torn; a
skin for a sacrifice, a thing unworthy the majesty of God; a fixed eye
and elevated hands, with a sleepy heart and earthly soul, are pitiful
things for an ever‑blessed and glorious Spirit: nay, it is so far
from being spiritual, that it is blasphemy; to pretend to be a Jew
outwardly, without being so inwardly, is, in the judgment of Christ,
to blaspheme.[495] And is not the same title to be given with as much
reason to those that pretend a worship and perform none? Such a one is
not a spiritual worshipper, but a blaspheming devil in Samuel’s mantle.

4. Spiritual worship is performed with an unitedness of heart.
The heart is not only now and then with God, but “united to fear or
worship his name.”[496] A spiritual duty must have the engagement
of the spirit, and the thoughts tied up to the spiritual object. The
union of all the parts of the heart together with the body is the
life of the body; and the moral union of our hearts is the life of any
duty. A heart quickly flitting from God makes not God his treasure; he
slights the worship, and therein affronts the object of worship. All
our thoughts ought to be ravished with God; bound up in him as in a
bundle of life; but when we start from him to gaze after every feather,
and run after every bubble, we disown a full and affecting excellency,
and a satisfying sweetness in him. When our thoughts run from God, it
is a testimony we have no spiritual affection to God; affection would
stake down the thoughts to the object affected; it is but a mouth love,
as the prophet praiseth it;[497] but their hearts go “after their
covetousness;” covetous objects pipe, and the heart danceth after them;
and thoughts of God are shifted off to receive a multitude of other
imaginations; the heart and the service staid awhile together, and
then took leave of one another. The Psalmist[498] still found his
heart with God when he awaked; still with God in spiritual affections
and fixed meditations. A carnal heart is seldom with God, either in or
out of worship; if God should knock at the heart in any duty, it would
be found not at home, but straying abroad. Our worship is spiritual
when the door of the heart is shut against all intruders, as our
Saviour commands in closet‑duties.[499] It was not his meaning to
command the shutting the closet‑door, and leave the heart‑door open
for every thought that would be apt to haunt us. Worldly affections
are to be laid aside if we would have {a227} our worship spiritual;
this was meant by the Jewish custom of wiping or washing off the
dust of their feet before their entrance into the temple, and of not
bringing money in their girdles. To be spiritual in worship, is to
have our souls gathered and bound up wholly in themselves, and offered
to God. Our loins must be girt, as the fashion was in the eastern
countries, where they wore long garments, that they might not waver
with the wind, and be blown between their legs, to obstruct them in
their travel: our faculties must not hang loose about us. He is a
carnal worshipper that gives God but a piece of his heart, as well as
he that denies him the whole of it; that hath some thoughts pitched
upon God in worship, and as many willingly upon the world. David
sought God, not with a moiety of his heart, but with his “whole heart;”
with his entire frame;[500] he brought not half his heart, and left
the other in the possession of another master. It was a good lesson
Pythagoras gave his scholars,[501] “Not to make the observance of God
a work by the bye.” If those guests be invited, or entertained kindly,
or if they come unexpected, the spirituality of that worship is lost;
the soul kicks down what it wrought before: but if they be brow‑beaten
by us, and our grief rather than our pleasure, they divert our
spiritual intention from the work in hand, but hinder not God’s
acceptance of it as spiritual, because they are not the acts of our
will, but offences to our wills.

5. Spiritual worship is performed with a spiritual activity, and
sensibleness of God; with an active understanding to meditate on his
excellency, and an active will to embrace him when he drops upon the
soul. If we understand the amiableness of God, our affections will be
ravished; if we understand the immensity of his goodness, our spirits
will be enlarged. We are to act with the highest intention suitable
to the greatness of that God with whom we have to do (Psalm cl. 2):
“Praise him according to his excellent greatness;” not that we can
worship him equally, but in some proportion the frame of the heart is
to be suited to the excellency of the object; our spiritual strength
is to be put out to the utmost, as creatures that act naturally do.
The sun shines, and the fire burns to the utmost of their natural
power. This is so necessary, that David, a spiritual worshipper,
prays for it before he sets upon acts of adoration (Psalm lxxx. 18):
“Quicken us, that we may call upon thy name;” as he was loth to have
a drowsy faculty, he was loth to have a drowsy instrument, and would
willingly have them as lively as himself (Psalm lvii. 8): “Awake up,
my glory; awake, psaltery and harp; I myself will awake early.” How
would this divine soul screw himself up to God, and be turned into
nothing but a holy flame! Our souls must be boiling hot when we serve
the Lord.[502] The heart doth no less burn when it spiritually comes
to God, than when God doth spiritually approach to it;[503] a Nabal’s
heart, one as cold as a stone, cannot offer up a spiritual service.
Whatsoever is enjoined us as our duty, ought to be performed with the
greatest intenseness of our spirit. As it {a228} is our duty to pray,
so it is our duty to pray with the most fervent importunity. It is
our duty to love God, but with the purest and most sublime affections;
every command of God requires the whole strength of the creature to be
employed in it. That love to God wherein all our duty to God is summed
up, is to be with all our strength, with all our might, &c.[504]
Though in the covenant of grace he hath mitigated the severity of the
law, and requires not from us such an elevation of our affections as
was possible in the state of innocence, yet God requires of us the
utmost moral industry to raise our affections to a pitch, at least
equal to what they are in other things. What strength of affection
we naturally have, ought to be as much and more excited in acts of
worship, than upon other occasions and our ordinary works. As there
was an inactivity of soul in worship, and a quickness to sin, when
sin had the dominion; so when the soul is spiritualized, the temper is
changed; there is an inactivity to sin, and an ardor in duty; the more
the soul is “dead to sin,” the more it is “alive to God,”[505] and
the more lively too in all that concerns God and his honor; for grace
being a new strength added to our natural, determines the affections
to new objects, and excites them to a greater vigor. And as the
hatred of sin is more sharp, the love to everything that destroys the
dominion of it is more strong; and acts of worship may be reckoned as
the chiefest batteries against the power of this inbred enemy. When
the Spirit is in the soul, like the rivers of waters flowing out of
the belly, the soul hath the activity of a river, and makes haste to
be swallowed up in God, as the streams of the river in the sea. Christ
makes his people “kings and priests to God;”[506] first kings, then
priests; gives first a royal temper of heart, that they may offer
spiritual sacrifices as priests, kings and priests to God, acting
with a magnificent spirit in all their motions to him. We cannot be
spiritual priests, till we be spiritual kings. The Spirit appeared in
the likeness of fire, and where he resides, communicates, like fire,
purity and activity. Dulness is against the light of nature. I do not
remember that the heathen ever offered a snail to any of their false
deities, nor an ass, but to Priapus, their unclean idol; but the
Persians sacrificed to the sun a horse, a swift and generous creature.
God provided against those in the law, commanding an ass’ firstling,
the offspring of a sluggish creature, to be redeemed, or his neck
broke, but by no means to be offered to him.[507] God is a Spirit
infinitely active, and therefore frozen and benumbed frames are
unsuitable to him; he “rides upon a cherub” and flies; he comes upon
the “wings of the wind;” he rides upon a “swift cloud;”[508] and
therefore demands of us not a dull reason, but an active spirit. God
is a living God, and therefore must have a lively service. Christ is
life, and slothful adorations are not fit to be offered up in the name
of life. The worship of God is called wrestling in Scripture; and Paul
was a striver in the service of his Master,[509] “in an agony.”[510]
Angels worshipped God spiritually with their wings on; and when God
commands them to worship Christ, the next Scripture quoted is, that
he makes them {a229} “flames of fire.”[511] If it be thus, how may
we charge ourselves? What Paul said of the sensual widow,[512] that
she is “dead while she lives,” we may say often of ourselves, we are
dead while we worship. Our hearts are in duty as the Jews were in
deliverances, as those “in a dream;”[513] by which unexpectedness
God showed the greatness of his care and mercy; and we attend him as
men in a dream, whereby we discover our negligence and folly. This
activity doth not consist in outward acts; the body may be hot, and
the heart may be faint, but in an inward stirring, meltings, flights.
In the highest raptures the body is most insensible. Strong spiritual
affections are abstracted from outward sense.

6. Spiritual worship is performed with acting spiritual habits. When
all the living springs of grace are opened, as the fountains of the
deep were in the deluge, the soul and all that is within it, all the
spiritual impresses of God upon it, erect themselves to “bless his
holy name.”[514] This is necessary to make a worship spiritual. As
natural agents are determined to act suitable to their proper nature,
so rational agents are to act conformable to a rational being. When
there is a conformity between the act and the nature whence it flows,
it is a good act in its kind; if it be rational, it is a good rational
act, because suitable to its principle; as a man endowed with reason
must act suitable to that endowment, and exercise his reason in his
acting; so a Christian endued with grace, must act suitable to that
nature, and exercise his grace in his acting. Acts done by a natural
inclination are no more human acts than the natural acts of a beast
may be said to be human; though they are the acts of a man, as he is
the efficient cause of them, yet they are not human acts, because they
arise not from that principle of reason which denominates him a man.
So acts of worship performed by a bare exercise of reason, are not
christian and spiritual acts, because they come not from the principle
which constitutes him a Christian; reason is not the principle, for
then all rational creatures would be Christians. They ought, therefore,
to be acts of a higher principle, exercises of that grace whereby
Christians are what they are; not but that rational acts in worship
are due to God, for worship is due from us as men, and we are settled
in that rank of being by our reason. Grace doth not exclude reason,
but ennobles it, and calls it up to another form; but we must not rest
in a bare rational worship, but exert that principle whereby we are
Christians. To worship God with our reason, is to worship him as men;
to worship God with our grace is to worship him as Christians, and
so spiritually; but to worship him only with our bodies, is no better
than brutes. Our desires of the word are to issue from the regenerate
principle (1 Pet. ii. 2): “As new‑born babes desire the sincere milk
of the word;” it seems to be not a comparison, but a restriction.
All worship must have the same spring, and be the exercise of that
principle, otherwise we can have no communion with God. Friends that
have the same habitual dispositions, have a fundamental fitness for an
agreeable converse with one another; but if the temper wherein their
likeness consists be languishing, and the string out of tune, there is
not an actual fitness; {a230} and the present indisposition breaks the
converse, and renders the company troublesome. Though we may have the
habitual graces which compose in us a resemblance to God, yet for want
of acting those suitable dispositions, we render ourselves unfit for
his converse, and make the worship, which is fundamentally spiritual,
to become actually carnal. As the will cannot naturally act to any
object but by the exercise of its affections, so the heart cannot
spiritually act towards God but by the exercise of graces. This is
God’s music (Eph. v. 19): “Singing and making melody to God in your
hearts.” Singing and all other acts of worship are outward, but the
spiritual melody is “by grace in the heart” (Col. iii. 16): this
renders it a spiritual worship; for it is an effect of the fulness of
the spirit in the soul, as (ver. 19), “But be filled with the Spirit.”
The overflowing of the Spirit in the heart, setting the soul of a
believer thus on work to make a spiritual melody to God, shows that
something higher than bare reason is put in tune in the heart. Then
is the fruit of the garden pleasant to Christ, when the Holy Spirit,
“the north and south wind, blow upon the spices,” and strike out the
fragrancy of them.[515] Since God is the Author of graces, and bestows
them to have a glory from them, they are best employed about him and
his service. It is fit he should have the cream of his own gifts.
Without the exercise of grace we perform but a work of nature, and
offer him a few dry bones without marrow. The whole set of graces must
be one way or other exercised. If any treble be wanting in a lute,
there will be great defect in the music. If any one spiritual string
be dull, the spiritual harmony of worship will be spoiled. And

1. Faith must be acted in worship; a confidence in God. A natural
worship cannot be performed without a natural confidence in the
goodness of God; whosoever comes to him, must regard him as a rewarder,
and a faithful Creator.[516] A spiritual worship cannot be performed
without an evangelical confidence in him as a gracious Redeemer. To
think him a tyrant, meditating revenge, damps the soul; to regard him
as a gracious king, full of tender bowels, spirits the affections to
him. The mercy of God is the proper object of trust (Psalm xxxiii. 18):
“The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that
hope in his mercy.” The worship of God in the Old Testament is most
described by fear; in the New Testament by faith. Fear, or the worship
of God, and hope in his mercy are linked together; when they go hand
in hand, the accepting eye of God is upon us; when we do not trust,
we do not worship. Those of Judah had the temple‑worship among them,
especially in Josiah’s time (Zeph. iii. 2), the time of that prophecy;
yet it was accounted no worship, because no trust in the worshippers.
Interest in God cannot be improved without an exercise of faith. The
gospel‑worship is prophesied of, to be a confidence in God, as in a
husband more than in a lord (Hos. ii. 16): “Thou shalt call me Ishi,
and shalt call me no more Baali.” “Thou shalt call me;” that is, thou
shalt worship me, worship being often comprehended under invocation.
More confidence is to be exercised in a husband or father, than in a
lord {a231} or master. If a man have not faith, he is without Christ;
and though a man be in Christ by the habit of faith, he performs a
duty out of Christ without an act of faith: without the habit of faith,
our persons are out of Christ; and without the exercise of faith,
the duties are out of Christ. As the want of faith in a person is
the death of the soul, so the want of faith in a service is the death
of the offering. Though a man were at the cost of an ox, yet to kill
it without bringing it to the “door of the tabernacle,” was not a
sacrifice, but a murder (Lev. xvii. 3, 4). The tabernacle was a type
of Christ, and a look to him is necessary in every spiritual sacrifice.
As there must be faith to make any act an act of obedience, so there
must be faith to make any act of worship spiritual. That service is
not spiritual that is not vital; and it cannot be vital without the
exercise of a vital principle; all spiritual life is “hid in Christ,”
and drawn from him by faith (Gal. ii. 20). Faith, as it hath relation
to Christ, makes every act of worship a living act, and, consequently,
a spiritual act. Habitual unbelief cuts us off from the body of Christ
(Rom. xi. 20): “Because of unbelief they were broken off;” and a want
of actuated belief breaks us off from a present communion with Christ
in spirit. As unbelief in us hinders Christ from doing any mighty work,
so unbelief in us hinders us from doing any mighty spiritual duty; so
that the exercise of faith, and a confidence in God, is necessary to
every duty.

2. Love must be acted to render a worship spiritual. Though God
commanded love in the Old Testament, yet the manner of giving the law
bespoke more of fear than love. The dispensation of the law was with
fire, thunder, &c., proper to raise horror, and benumb the spirit;
which effect it had upon the Israelites, when they desired that God
would speak no more to them. Grace is the genius of the gospel, proper
to excite the affection of love. The law was given by the “disposition
of angels,” with signs to amaze; the gospel was ushered in with the
“songs of angels,” composed of peace and good‑will, calculated to
ravish the soul. Instead of the terrible voice of the law, “Do this
and live,” the comfortable voice of the gospel is, “Grace, grace!”
Upon this account the principle of the Old Testament was fear, and the
worship often expressed by the fear of God. The principle of the New
Testament is love. The Mount Sinai gendereth to bondage (Gal. iv. 44);
Mount Sion, from whence the gospel or evangelical law goes forth,
gendereth to liberty; and therefore the “spirit of bondage unto fear,”
as the property of the law, is opposed to the state of adoption, the
principle of love, as the property of the gospel (Rom. viii. 15);
and therefore the worship of God under the gospel, or New Testament,
is oftener expressed by love than fear, as proceeding from higher
principles, and acting nobler passions. In this state we are to serve
him without fear (Luke i. 74); without a bondage fear; not without
a fear of unworthy treating him; with a “fear of his goodness” as it
is prophesied of (Hos. ix. 5). Goodness is not the object of terror,
but reverence; God, in the law, had more the garb of a judge; in the
gospel, of a father; the name of a father is sweeter and bespeaks more
of affection. As their services were with a feeling of the thunders
of the law in their consciences, {a232} so is our worship to be with
a sense of gospel grace in our spirits; spiritual worship is that,
therefore, which is exercised with a spiritual and heavenly affection,
proper to the gospel. The heart should be enlarged according to the
liberty the gospel gives of drawing near to God as a father. As he
gives us the nobler relation of children, we are to act the nobler
qualities of children. Love should act according to its nature, which
is desired of union; desire of a moral union by affections, as well as
a mystical union by faith; as flame aspires to reach flame, and become
one with it. In every act of worship we should endeavor to be united
to God, and become one spirit with him. This grace doth spiritualize
worship; in that one word, love, God hath wrapt up all the devotion
he requires of us; it is the total sum of the first table, “Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God:” it is to be acted in everything we do; but
in worship our hearts should more solemnly rise up and acknowledge
him amiable and lovely, since the law is stripped of its cursing
power, and made sweet in the blood of the Redeemer. Love is a thing
acceptable of itself, but nothing acceptable without it; the gifts
of one man to another are spiritualized by it. We would not value a
present without the affection of the donor; every man would lay claim
to the love of others, though he would not to their possessions.
Love is God’s right in every service, and the noblest thing we can
bestow upon him in our adorations of him. God’s gifts to us are
not so estimable without his love; nor our services valuable by him
without the exercise of a choice affection. Hezekiah regarded not his
deliverance without the love of the Deliverer; “In love to my soul
thou hast delivered me” (Isa. xxxviii. 17). So doth God say, In love
to my honor thou hast worshipped me: so that love must be acted, to
render our worship spiritual.

3. A spiritual sensibleness of our own weakness is necessary to make
our worship spiritual. Affections to God cannot be without relentings
in ourselves. When the eye is spiritually fixed upon a spiritual God,
the heart will mourn that the worship is no more spiritually suitable.
The more we act love upon God, as amiable and gracious, the more
we should exercise grief in ourselves, as we are vile and offending.
Spiritual worship is a melting worship, as well as an elevating
worship; it exalts God, and debaseth the creature. The Publican was
more spiritual in his humble address to God, when the Pharisee was
wholly carnal with his swelling language. A spiritual love in worship
will make us grieve that we have given him so little, and could give
him no more. It is a part of spiritual duty to bewail our carnality
mixed with it; as we receive mercies spiritually, when we receive
them with a sense of God’s goodness and our own vileness; in the same
manner we render a spiritual worship.

4. Spiritual desires for God render the service spiritual; when the
soul “follows hard after him” (Psalm lxiii. 8); pursues after God as
a God of infinite and communicative goodness, with sighs and groans
unutterable. A spiritual soul seems to be transformed into hunger and
thirst, and becomes nothing but desire. A carnal worshipper is taken
with the beauty and magnificence of the temple; a spiritual worshipper
desires to see the glory of God in the sanctuary (Psalm lxiii. 2),
{a233} he pants after God: as he came to worship, to find God, he
boils up in desires for God, and is loth to go from it without God,
“the living God” (Psalm xlii. 2). He would see the Urim and the
Thummim; the unusual sparkling of the stones upon the high‑priest’s
breast‑plate. That deserves not the title of spiritual worship, when
the soul makes no longing inquiries: “Saw you him whom my soul loves?”
A spiritual worship is when our desires are chiefly for God in the
worship; as David desires to dwell in the house of the Lord; but his
desire is not terminated there, but to behold the beauty of the Lord
(Psalm xxvii. 4), and taste the ravishing sweetness of his presence.
No doubt but Elijah’s desires for the enjoyment of God while he
was mounting to heaven, were as fiery as the chariot wherein he was
carried. Unutterable groans acted in worship are the fruit of the
Spirit, and certainly render it a spiritual service (Rom. viii. 26).
Strong appetites are agreeable to God, and prepare us to eat the fruit
of worship. A spiritual Paul presseth forward to know Christ, and the
power of his resurrection; and a spiritual worshipper actually aspires
in every duty to know God, and the power of his grace. To desire
worship as an end is carnal; to desire it as a means, and act desires
in it for communion with God in it, is spiritual, and the fruit of
a spiritual life.

5. Thankfulness and admiration are to be exercised in spiritual
service. This is a worship of spirits; praise is the adoration of the
blessed angels (Isa. vi. 3), and of glorified spirits (Rev. iv. 11):
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor, and power;” and
(Rev. v. 13, 14), they worship him ascribing “Blessing, honor, glory,
and power to Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever
and ever.” Other acts of worship are confined to this life, and leave
us as soon as we have set our foot in heaven; there, no notes but
this of praise are warbled out; the power, wisdom, love, and grace in
the dispensation of the gospel, seat themselves in the thoughts and
tongues of blessed souls. Can a worship on earth be spiritual, that
hath no mixture of an eternal heavenly duty with it? The worship of
God in innocence had been chiefly an admiration of him in the works
of creation; and should not our evangelical worship be an admiration
of him in the works of redemption, which is a restoration to a better
state? After the petitioning for pardoning grace (Hos. xiv. 2), there
is a rendering the calves or heifers of our lips, alluding to the
heifers used in eucharistical sacrifices. The praise of God is the
choicest sacrifice and worship under a dispensation of redeeming grace;
this is the prime and eternal part of worship under the gospel. The
Psalmist (Psalm cxlix. cl.), speaking of the gospel times, spurs on to
this kind of worship; “Sing to the Lord a new song; let the children
of Zion be joyful in their king; let the saints be joyful in glory,
and sing aloud upon their beds; let the high praises of God be in
their mouths;” he begins and ends both psalms with “Praise ye the
Lord.” That cannot be a spiritual and evangelical worship, that hath
nothing of the praise of God in the heart. The consideration of God’s
adorable perfections, discovered in the gospel, will make us come to
him with more seriousness; beg blessings of him with more confidence;
fly to him with a winged {a234} faith and love, and more spiritually
glorify him in our attendances upon him.

6. Spiritual worship is performed with delight. The evangelical
worship is prophetically signified by keeping the feast of tabernacles;
“They shall go up from year to year, to worship the King, the Lord
of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. xiv. 16):
why that feast, when there were other feasts observed by the Jews?
That was a feast celebrated with the greatest joy; typical of the
gladness which was to be under the exhibition of the Messiah, and a
thankful commemoration of the redemption wrought by him. It was to be
celebrated five days after the “solemn day of atonement” (Lev. xxiii.
34, compared with ver. 27), wherein there was one of the solemnest
types of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. In this feast they
commemorated their exchange of Egypt for Canaan; the manna wherewith
they were fed; the water out of the rock wherewith they were refreshed;
in remembrance of this, they poured water on the ground, pronouncing
those words in Isaiah, they shall “draw waters out of the wells
of salvation;” which our Saviour refers to himself (John vii. 37),
inviting them to him, to drink “upon the last day, the great day of
the feast of tabernacles,” wherein the solemn ceremony was observed.
Since we are freed by the death of the Redeemer from the curses of the
law, God requires of us a joy in spiritual privileges. A sad frame in
worship gives the lie to all gospel liberty, to the purchase of the
Redeemer’s death, the triumphs of his resurrection: it is a carriage,
as if we were under the influences of the legal fire and lightning,
and an entering a protest against the freedom of the gospel. The
evangelical worship is a spiritual worship; and praise, joy, and
delight are prophesied of, as great ingredients in attendance on
gospel ordinances (Isaiah xii. 3‒5). What was occasion of terror in
the worship of God under the law, is the occasion of delight in the
worship of God under the gospel. The justice and holiness of God, so
terrible in the law, becomes comfortable under the gospel; since they
have feasted themselves on the active and passive obedience of the
Redeemer. The approach is to God as gracious, not to God as unpacified;
as a son to a father, not as a criminal to a judge. Under the law, God
was represented as a judge; remembering their sin in their sacrifices,
and representing the punishment they had merited: in the gospel as
a father, accepting the atonement, and publishing the reconciliation
wrought by the Redeemer. Delight in God is a gospel frame; therefore
the more joyful, the more spiritual: “The sabbath is to be a delight;”
not only in regard of the day, but in regard to the duties of it (Isa.
lviii. 13); in regard of the marvellous work he wrought on it; raising
up our blessed Redeemer on that day, whereby a foundation was laid for
the rendering our persons and services acceptable to God (Psalm cxviii.
24); “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will be glad and
rejoice in it.” A lumpish frame becomes not a day and a duty, that
hath so noble and spiritual a mark upon it. The angels, in the first
act of worship after the creation, were highly joyful (Job xxxviii. 7):
“They shouted for joy,” &c. The saints have particularly acted this in
their worship. David would not content himself with an approach to the
altar, without going to {a235} God as his “exceeding joy” (Psalm xliii.
4). My triumphant joy: when he danced before the ark, he seems to be
transformed into delight and pleasure (2 Sam. vi. 14, 16). He had as
much delight in worship, as others had in their harvest and vintage.
And those that took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, would as
joyfully attend upon the communications of God. Where there is a
fulness of the Spirit, there is a “waking melody to God in the heart”
(Eph. v. 18, 19); and where there is an acting of love (as there is
in all spiritual services), the proper fruit of it is joy in a near
approach to the object of the soul’s affection. Love is _appetitus
unionis_; the more love, the more delight in the approachings of
God to the soul, or the outgoings of the soul to God. As the object
of worship is amiable in a spiritual eye, so the means tending to a
communion with this object are delightful in the exercise. Where there
is no delight in a duty, there is no delight in the object of the duty;
the more of grace, the more of pleasure in the actings of it; as the
more of nature there is in any natural agent, the more of pleasure in
the act, so the more heavenly the worship, the more spiritual. Delight
is the frame and temper of glory. A heart filled up to the brim with
joy, is a heart filled up to the brim with the Spirit; joy is the
fruit of the Holy Ghost (Gal. v. 22). (1.) Not the joy of God’s
dispensation flowing from God, but a gracious active joy streaming
to God. There is a joy, when the comforts of God are dropped into the
soul, as oil upon the wheel; which indeed makes the faculties move
with more speed and activity in his service, like the chariots of
Aminadab; and a soul may serve God in the strength of this taste,
and its delight terminate in the sensible comfort. This is not the
joy I mean, but such a joy that hath God for its object, delighting
in him as the term, in worship as the way to him; the first is God’s
dispensation, the other is our duty; the first is an act of God’s
favor to us, the second a sprout of habitual grace in us. The comforts
we have from God may elevate our duties; but the grace we have within
doth spiritualize our duties. (2.) Nor is every delight an argument of
a spiritual service. All the requisites to worship must be taken in. A
man may invent a worship and delight in it; as Micah in the adoration
of his idol, when he was glad he had got both an Ephod and a Levite
(Judges xvii). As a man may have a contentment in sin, so he may have
a contentment in worship; not because it is a worship of God, but the
worship of his own invention, agreeable to his own humor and design,
as (Isa. lviii. 2) it is said, they “delighted in approaching to God;”
but it was for carnal ends. Novelty engenders complacency; but it
must be a worship wherein God will delight; and that must be a worship
according to his own rule and infinite wisdom, and not our shallow
fancies. God requires a cheerfulness in his service, especially under
the gospel, where he sits upon a throne of grace; discovers himself
in his amiableness, and acts the covenant of grace, and the sweet
relation of a father. The priests of old were not to sully themselves
with any sorrow, when they were in the exercise of their functions.
God put a bar to the natural affections of Aaron and his sons, when
Nadab and Abihu had been cut off by a severe hand of God (Lev. x. 6).
Every true Christian in a higher order of priesthood, is a person
{a236} dedicated to joy and peace, offering himself a lively sacrifice
of praise and thanksgiving; and there is no christian duty, but is to
be set off and seasoned with cheerfulness: he that loves a cheerful
giver in acts of charity, requires no less a cheerful spirit in acts
of worship; as this is an ingredient in worship, so it is the means
to make your spirits intent in worship. When the heart triumphs in the
consideration of divine excellency and goodness, it will be angry at
anything that offers to jog and disturb it.

7. Spiritual worship is to be performed, though with a delight in
God, yet with a deep reverence of God. The gospel, in advancing the
spirituality of worship, takes off the terror, but not the reverence
of God; which is nothing else in its own nature, but a due and high
esteem of the excellency of a thing according to the nature of it; and,
therefore, the gospel presenting us with more illustrious notices of
the glorious nature of God, is so far from indulging any disesteem of
him, that it requires of us a greater reverence suitable to the height
of its discovery, above what could be spelt in the book of creation;
the gospel worship is therefore expressed by trembling (Hos. xi. 10):
“They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when
he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the West.” When
the lion of the tribe of Judah shall lift up his powerful voice
in the gospel, the western Gentiles shall run trembling to walk
after the Lord. God hath alway attended his greatest manifestations
with remarkable characters of majesty, to create a reverence in
his creature: he caused the “wind to march before him,” to cut the
mountain, when he manifested himself to Elijah (1 Kings xix. 11); “A
wind and a cloud of fire,” before that magnificent vision to Ezekiel
(chap. i. 4, 5); “Thunders and lightnings” before the giving the law
(Exod. xix. 18); and a “mighty wind” before the giving the Spirit
(Acts ii.): God requires of us an awe of him in the very act of
performance. The angels are pure, and cannot fear him as sinners, but
in “reverence they cover their faces” when they stand before him (Isa.
vi. 2): his power should make us reverence him, as we are creatures;
his justice, as we are sinners; his goodness, as we are restored
creatures. “God is clothed with unspeakable majesty; the glory of his
face shines brighter than the lights of heaven in their beauty. Before
him the angels tremble, and the heavens melt; we ought not therefore
to come before him with the sacrifice of fools, nor tender a duty to
him, without falling low upon our faces, and bowing the knees of our
hearts in token of reverence.”[517] Not a slavish fear, like that
of devils; but a “godly fear,” like that of saints (Heb. xii. 28);
joined with a sense of an unmovable kingdom, becometh us; and this
the apostle calls a grace necessary to make our service acceptable,
and therefore the grace necessary to make it spiritual, since nothing
finds admission to God, but what is of a spiritual nature. The
consideration of his glorious nature should imprint an awful respect
upon our souls to him; his goodness should make his majesty more
adorable to us, as his majesty makes his goodness more admirable in
his condescensions to us. As God is a Spirit, our worship must be
spiritual; and being, as he is, the supreme Spirit, our worship {a237}
must be reverential; we must observe the state he takes upon him in
his ordinances; “He is in heaven, we upon the earth;” we must not
therefore be “hasty to utter anything before God” (Eccles. v. 7).
Consider him a Spirit in the highest heavens, and ourselves spirits
dwelling in a dreggy earth. Loose and garish frames debase him to our
own quality; slight postures of spirit intimate him to be a slight and
mean being; our being in covenant with him, must not lower our awful
apprehensions of him; as he is the Lord thy God, it is a glorious and
fearful name, or wonderful (Deut. xxviii. 58); though he lay by his
justice to believers, he doth not lay by his majesty; when we have a
confidence in him, because he is the Lord our God, we must have awful
thoughts of his majesty, because his name is glorious. God is terrible
from his holy places, in regard of the great things he doth for his
Israel (Psalm lxviii. 35); we should behave ourselves with that inward
honor and respect of him, as if he were present to our bodily eyes;
the higher apprehensions we have of his majesty, the greater awe will
be upon our hearts in his presence, and the greater spirituality in
our acts. We should manage our hearts so, as if we had a view of God
in his heavenly glory.

8. Spiritual worship is to be performed with humility in our spirits.
This is to follow upon the reverence of God. As we are to have high
thoughts of God, that we may not debase him; we must have low thoughts
of ourselves, not to vaunt before him. When we have right notions of
the Divine Majesty, we shall be as worms in our own thoughts, and
creep as worms into his presence; we can never consider him in his
glory, but we have a fit opportunity to reflect upon ourselves, and
consider how basely we revolted from him, and how graciously we are
restored by him. As the gospel affords us greater discoveries of God’s
nature, and so enhanceth our reverence of him, so it helps us to a
fuller understanding of our own vileness and weakness, and therefore
is proper to engender humility; the more spiritual and evangelical
therefore any service is, the more humble it is. That is a spiritual
service that doth most manifest the glory of God; and this cannot
be manifested by us, without manifesting our own emptiness and
nothingness. The heathens were sensible of the necessity of humility
by the light of nature;[518] after the name of God, signified by Εἶ
inscribed on the temple at Delphos, followed Γνῶθί σεαυτον, whereby
was insinuated, that when we have to do with God, who is the only
_Ens_, we should behave ourselves with a sense of our own infirmity,
and infinite distance from him. As a person, so a duty leavened
with pride, hath nothing of sincerity, and therefore nothing of
spirituality in it (Hab. ii. 4): “His soul which is lifted up, is not
upright in him.” The elders that were crowned by God to be kings and
priests, to offer spiritual sacrifices, uncrown themselves in their
worship of him, and cast down their ornaments at “his feet”[519] the
Greek word to worship, προσκυνεῖν, signifies to creep like a dog upon
his belly before his master; to lie low. How deep should our sense be
of the privilege of God’s admitting us to his worship, and affording
us such a mercy under our deserts of wrath! How mean should be our
thoughts, both of our persons {a238} and performances! How patiently
should we wait upon God for the success of worship! How did Abraham,
the father of the faithful, equal himself to the earth, when he
supplicated the God of heaven, and devote himself to him under the
title of very “dust and ashes!” (Gen. xviii. 27.) Isaiah did but
behold an evangelical apparition of God and the angels worshipping him,
and presently reflects upon his “own uncleanness” (Isa. vi. 5). God’s
presence both requires and causes humility. How lowly is David in his
own opinion, after a magnificent duty performed by himself and his
people (1 Chron. xxix. 14): “Who am I? and what is my people, that we
should be able to offer so willingly?” The more spiritual the soul is
in its carriage to God, the more humble it is; and the more gracious
God is in his communications to the soul, the lower it lies. God
commanded not the fiercer creatures to be offered to him in sacrifices,
but lambs and kids, meek and lowly creatures; none that had stings
in their tails, or venom in their tongues[520] The meek lamb was the
daily sacrifice; the doves were to be offered by pairs; God would not
have honey mixed with any sacrifice (Lev. ii. 11), that breeds choler,
and choler pride; but oil he commanded to be used, that supples and
mollifies the parts. Swelling pride and boiling passions render our
services carnal; they cannot be spiritual, without a humble sweetness
and an innocent sincerity; one grain of this transcends the most
costly sacrifices: a contrite heart puts a gloss upon worship (Psalm
li. 16, 17). The departure of men and angels from God, began in pride;
our approaches and return to him must begin in humility; and therefore
all those graces, which are bottomed on humility, must be acted in
worship, as faith, and a sense of our own indigence. Our blessed
Saviour, the most spiritual worshipper, prostrated himself in the
garden with the greatest lowliness, and offered himself upon the cross
a sacrifice with the greatest humility. Melted souls in worship have
the most spiritual conformity to the person of Christ in the state of
humiliation, and his design in that state; as worship without it is
not suitable to God, so neither is it advantageous for us. A time of
worship is a time of God’s communication. The vessel must be melted
to receive the mould it is designed for; softened wax is fittest to
receive a stamp, and a spiritually melted soul fittest to receive a
spiritual impression. We cannot perform duty in an evangelical and
spiritual strain, without the meltingness and meanness in ourselves
which the gospel requires.

9. Spiritual worship is to be performed with holiness. God is a holy
Spirit; a likeness to God must attend the worshipping of God as he
is; holiness is alway in season; “It becomes his house forever” (Psalm
xci. 5). We can never serve the living God till we “have consciences
purged from dead works” (Heb. ix. 14). Dead works in our consciences
are unsuitable to God, an eternal living Spirit. The more mortified
the heart, the more quickened the service. Nothing can please an
infinite purity but that which is pure; since God is in his glory, in
his ordinances, we must not be in our filthiness. The holiness of his
Spirit doth sparkle in his ordinances; the holiness of our spirits
ought also to sparkle in our observance of them. The {a239} holiness
of God is most celebrated in the worship of angels;[521] spiritual
worship ought to be like angelical; that cannot be with souls totally
impure. As there must be perfect holiness to make a worship perfectly
spiritual; so there must be some degree of holiness to make it in any
measure spiritual. God would have all the utensils of the sanctuary
employed about his service to be holy; the inwards of the sacrifice
were to be rinsed thrice.[522] The crop and feathers of sacrificed
doves were to be hung eastward towards the entrance of the temple, at
a distance from the holy of holies, where the presence of God was most
eminent (Lev. i. 16). When Aaron was to go into the holy of holies,
he was to “sanctify himself” in an extraordinary manner (Lev. xvi. 4).
The priests were to be bare‑footed in the temple, in the exercise of
their office; shoes alway were to be put off upon holy ground: “Look
to thy foot when thou goest to the house of God,” saith the wise man
(Eccles. v. 1). Strip the affections, the feet of the soul, of all the
dirt contracted; discard all earthly and base thoughts from the heart.
A beast was not to touch the Mount Sinai, without losing his life; nor
can we come near the throne with brutish affections, without losing
the life and fruit of the worship. An unholy soul degrades himself
from a spirit to a brute, and the worship from spiritual to brutish.
If any unmortified sin be found in the life, as it was in the comers
to the temple, it taints and pollutes the worship (Isa. i. 15). All
worship is an acknowledgment of the excellency of God as he is holy;
hence it is called, a “sanctifying God’s name” (Jer. vii. 9, 10); how
can any person sanctify God’s name that hath not a holy resemblance
to his nature? If he be not holy as he is holy, he cannot worship
him according to his excellency in spirit and in truth; no worship
is spiritual wherein we have not a communion with God. But what
intercourse can there be between a holy God, and an impure creature;
between light and darkness? We have no fellowship with him in any
service, unless “we walk in the light,” in service and out of service,
as he is light (1 John i. 7). The heathen thought not their sacrifices
agreeable to God without washing their hands; whereby they signified
the preparation of their hearts, before they made the oblation: clean
hands without a pure heart, signify nothing; the frame of our hearts
must answer the purity of the outward symbols (Psalm xxvi. 6): “I will
wash my hands in innocence, so will I compass thine altar, O Lord;” he
would observe the appointed ceremonies, but not without “cleansing his
heart as well as his hands.” Vain man is apt to rest upon outward acts
and rites of worship; but this must alway be practised; the words are
in the present tense, “I wash,” “I compass.” Purity in worship ought
to be our continual care. If we would perform a spiritual service,
wherein we would have communion with God, it must be in holiness;
if we would walk with Christ, it must be in “white” (Rev. iii. 4),
alluding to the white garments the priests put on, when they went to
perform their service; as without this we cannot see God in heaven,
so neither can we see the beauty of God in his own ordinances.

10. Spiritual worship is performed with spiritual ends, with raised
{a240} aims at the glory of God. No duty can be spiritual that hath a
carnal aim; where God is the sole object, he ought to be the principal
end; in all our actions he is to be our end, as he is the principle
of our being; much more in religious acts, as he is the object of our
worship. The worship of God in Scripture is expressed by the “seeking
of him” (Heb. xi. 6); him, not ourselves; all is to be referred to God.
As we are “not to live to ourselves, that being the sign of a carnal
state, so we are not to worship for ourselves” (Rom. xiv. 7, 8). As
all actions are denominated good from their end, as well as their
object, so upon the same account they are denominated spiritual.
The end spiritualizeth our natural actions, much more our religious;
then are our faculties devoted to him when they centre in him. If the
intention be evil, there is nothing but darkness in the whole service
(Luke xi. 34). The first institution of the Sabbath, the solemn day
for worship, was to contemplate the glory of God in his stupendous
works of creation, and render him a homage for them (Rev. iv. 11):
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive honor, glory, and power; for
thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and
were created.” No worship can be returned without a glorifying of
God; and we cannot actually glorify him, without direct aims at the
promoting his honor. As we have immediately to do with God, so we
are immediately to mind the praise of God. As we are not to content
ourselves with habitual grace, but be rich in the exercise of it in
worship, so we are not to acquiesce in the habitual aims at the glory
of God, without the actual overflowings of our hearts in those aims.
It is natural for man to worship God for self; self‑righteousness is
the rooted aim of man in his worship since his revolt from God, and
being sensible it is not to be found in his natural actions, he seeks
for it in his moral and religious. By the first pride we flung God off
from being our sovereign, and from being our end, since a pharisaical
spirit struts it in nature, not only to do things to be seen of
men, but to be admired by God (Isa. lviii. 3): “Wherefore have we
fasted and thou takest no knowledge?” This is to have God worship
them, instead of being worshipped by them. Cain’s carriage after his
sacrifice testified some base end in his worship; he came not to God
as a subject to a sovereign, but as if he had been the sovereign, and
God the subject; and when his design is not answered, and his desire
not gratified, he proves more a rebel to God, and a murderer of his
brother. Such base scents will rise up in our worship from the body
of death which cleaves to us, and mix themselves with our services,
as weeds with the fish in the net. David, therefore, after his people
had offered willingly to the temple, begs of God that their “hearts
might be prepared to him” (1 Chron. xxix. 18); that their hearts might
stand right to God, without any squinting to self‑ends. Some present
themselves to God, as poor men offer a present to a great person; not
to honor him, but to gain for themselves a reward richer than their
gift. “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance?” &c. (Mal.
iii. 14). Some worship him, intending thereby to make him amends for
the wrong they have done him; wipe off their scores, and satisfy their
debts; as though a spiritual wrong could be {a241} recompensed with a
bodily service, and an infinite Spirit be outwitted and appeased by a
carnal flattery. Self is the spirit of carnality; to pretend a homage
to God, and intend only the advantage of self, is rather to mock
him than worship him. When we believe that we ought to be satisfied,
rather than God glorified, we set God below ourselves, imagine that he
should submit his own honor to our advantage; we make ourselves more
glorious than God, as though we were not made for him, but he hath a
being only for us; this is to have a very low esteem of the majesty
of God. Whatsoever any man aims at in worship above the glory of God,
that he forms as an idol to himself instead of God, and sets up a
golden image, God counts not this as a worship. The offerings made in
the wilderness for forty years together, God esteemed as not offered
to him (Amos v. 25): “Have you offered to me sacrifices and offerings
in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?” They did it not to
God, but to themselves; for their own security, and the attainment of
the possession of the promised land. A spiritual worshipper performs
not worship for some hopes of carnal advantage; he uses ordinances as
means to bring God and his soul together, to be more fitted to honor
God in the world, in his particular place; when he hath been inflamed
and humble in any address or duty, he gives God the glory; his heart
suits the doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, ascribes the
kingdom, power, and glory to God alone, and if any viper of pride
starts out upon him, he endeavors presently to shake it off. That
which was the first end of our framing, ought to be the chief end of
our acting towards God; but when men have the same ends in worship as
brutes, the satisfaction of a sensitive part, the service is no more
than brutish. The acting for a sensitive end is unworthy the majesty
of God to whom we address, and unbecoming a rational creature. The
acting for a sensitive end is not a rational, much less can it be a
spiritual service; though the act may be good in itself, yet not good
in the agent, because he wants a due end. We are, then, spiritual,
when we have the same end in our redeemed services, as God had in his
redeeming love, viz., his own glory.

11. Spiritual service is offered to God in the name of Christ. Those
are only “spiritual sacrifices, that are offered up to God by Jesus
Christ” (1 Pet. ii. 5); that are the fruits of the sanctification
of the Spirit, and offered in the mediation of the Son: as the altar
sanctifies the gift, so doth Christ spiritualize our services for
God’s acceptation; as the fire upon the altar separated the airy and
finer parts of the sacrifice from the terrene and earthly; this is
the golden altar upon which the prayers of the saints are offered
up “before the throne” (Rev. viii. 3). As all that we have from God
streams through his blood, so all that we give to God ascends by
virtue of his merits. All the blessings God gave to the Israelites
came out of Sion,[523] that is, from the gospel hid under the law;
all the duties we present to God are to be presented in Sion, in an
evangelical manner; all our worship must be bottomed on Christ. God
hath intended that we should “honor the Son, as we honor the Father;”
as we honor the Father by offering our service only to him, so we
{a242} are to honor the Son by offering it only in his name; in him
alone God is well pleased, because in him alone he finds our services
spiritual and worthy of acceptation; we must therefore take fast
hold of him with our spirits, and the faster we hold him, the more
spiritual is our worship. To do anything in the name of Christ, is not
to believe the worship shall be accepted for itself, but to have our
eye fixed upon Christ for the acceptance of it, and not to rest upon
the work done, as carnal people are apt to do. The creatures present
their acknowledgments to God by man; and man can only present his
by Christ. It was utterly unlawful after the building of the temple,
to sacrifice anywhere else; the temple being a type of Christ, it is
utterly unlawful for us to present our services in any other name than
his. This is the way to be spiritual. If we consider God out of Christ,
we can have no other notions but those of horror and bondage. We
behold him a Spirit, but environed with justice and wrath for sinners;
but the consideration of him in Christ, veils his justice, draws forth
his mercy, represents him more a father than a judge. In Christ the
aspect of justice is changed, and by that the temper of the creature;
so that in and by this Mediator, we “can have a spiritual boldness,
and access to God with confidence” (Eph. iii. 12), whereby the spirit
is kept from benumbness and distraction, and our souls quickened and
refined. The thoughts kept upon Christ in a duty of worship quickly
elevates the soul, and benumbness the whole service. Sin makes our
services black, and the blood of Christ makes both our persons and
services white.

To conclude this head. God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore
we must approach to him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite
majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a
Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with
the deepest humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we
must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we
must therefore acknowledge his excellency in all that we do, and in
our measures contribute to his glory, by having the highest aims in
his worship; he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we
must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and

III. The third general is, Why a spiritual worship is due to God,
and to be offered to him. We must consider the object of worship,
and the subject of worship; the worshipper and the worshipped. God
is a spiritual Being; man is a reasonable creature. The nature of God
informs us what is fit to be presented to him; our own nature informs
us what is fit to be presented by us.

_Reason I._ The best we have is to be presented to God in worship.

1. Since God is the most excellent Being, he is to be served by
us with the most excellent thing we have, and with the choicest
veneration. God is so incomprehensibly excellent, that we cannot
render him what he deserves: we must render him what we are able to
offer: the best of our affections; the flower of our strength; the
cream and top of our spirits. By the same reason that we are bound to
give God the best worship, we must offer it to him in the best manner.
We cannot give to God anything too good for so blessed {a243} a Being;
God being a “great king,” slight services become not his majesty
(Mal. i. 13, 14); it is unbecoming the majesty of God, and the reason
of a creature, to give him a trivial thing; it is unworthy to bestow
the best of our strength on our lust, and the worst and weakest in
the service of God. An infinite Spirit should have affections as near
to infinite as we can; as he is a Spirit without bounds, so he should
have a service without limits; when we have given him all, we cannot
serve him according to the excellency of his nature (Josh. xxiv. 19);
and shall we give him less than all? His infinite excellency, and our
dependence on him as creatures, demands the choicest adoration; our
spirits, being the noblest part of our nature, are as due to him as
the service of our bodies, which are the vilest; to serve him with the
worst only, is to diminish his honor.

2. Under the law, God commanded the best to be offered him. He
would have the males, the best of the kind; the fat, the best of the
creature;[524] he commanded them to offer him the firstlings of the
flock; not the firstlings of the womb, but the firstlings of the year:
the Jewish cattle having two breeding‑times, in the beginning of the
spring and the beginning of September; the latter breed was the weaker,
which Jacob knew (Gen. xxx.) when he laid the rods before the cattle
when they were strong in the spring, and withheld them when they were
feeble in the autumn. One reason (as the Jews say) why God accepted
not the offering of Cain was, because he brought the meanest, not the
best of the fruit; and therefore, it is said, only that he brought of
the “fruit” of the ground (Gen. iv. 3), not the first of the fruit,
or the best of the fruit, as Abel, who brought the “firstling” of his
flock, and the fat thereof (ver. 4).

3. And this the heathen practised by the light of nature. They for the
most part offered males, as being more worthy; and burnt the male, not
the female frankincense, as it is divided into those two kinds; they
offered the best, when they offered their children to Moloch. Nothing
more excellent than man, and nothing dearer to parents than their
children, which are part of themselves. When the Israelites would have
a golden calf for a representation of God, they would dedicate their
jewels, and strip their wives and children of their richest ornaments,
to show their devotion. Shall men serve their dumb idols with the best
of their substance, and the strength of their souls; and shall the
living God have a duller service from us, than idols had from them?
God requires no such hard, but delightful worship from us, our spirits.

4. All creatures serve man, by the providential order of God, with the
best they have. As we, by God’s appointment, receive from creatures
the best they can give, ought we not with a free will to render to God
the best we can offer? The beasts give us their best fat; the trees
their best fruit; the sun its best light; the fountains their best
streams; shall God order us the best from creatures, and we put him
off with the worst from ourselves?

5. God hath given us the choicest thing he had――a Redeemer that was
the power of God, and the wisdom of God; the best he had in {a244}
heaven, his own Son, and in himself a sacrifice for us, that we might
be enabled to present ourselves a sacrifice to him. And Christ offered
himself for us, the best he had, and that with the strength of the
Deity through the eternal Spirit; and shall we grudge God the best
part of ourselves? As God would have a worship from his creature,
so it must be with the best part of his creature. If we have “given
ourselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. viii. 5), we can worship with no less
than ourselves. What is the man without his spirit? If we are to
worship God with all that we have received from him, we must worship
him with the best part we have received from him; it is but a small
glory we can give him with the best, and shall we deprive him of his
right by giving him the worst? As what we are is from God, so what we
are ought to be for God. Creation is the foundation of worship (Psalm
c. 2, 3): “Serve the Lord with gladness; know ye that the Lord he is
God; it is he that hath made us.” He hath ennobled us with spiritual
affections; where is it fittest for us to employ them, but upon him?
and at what time, but when we come solemnly to converse with him? Is
it justice to deny him the honor of his best gift to us? our souls
are more his gift to us, than anything in the world; other things
are so given that they are often taken from us, but our spirits
are the most durable gift. Rational faculties cannot be removed
without a dissolution of nature. Well then, as he is God, he is to be
honored with all the propensions and ardor that the infiniteness and
excellency of such a Being require, and the incomparable obligations
he hath laid upon us in this state deserve at our hands. In all our
worship, therefore, our minds ought to be filled with the highest
admiration, love, and reverence. Since our end was to glorify God, we
answer not our end, and honor him not, unless we give him the choicest
we have.[525]

_Reason II._ We cannot else act towards God according to the nature
of rational creatures. Spiritual worship is due to God, because of his
nature; and due from us, because of our nature. As we are to adore God,
so we are to adore him as men; the nature of a rational creature makes
this impression upon him; he cannot view his own nature without having
this duty striking upon his mind. As he knows, by inspection into
himself, that there was a God that made him; so, that he is made to be
in subjection to God, subjection to him in his spirit as well as his
body, and ought morally to testify this natural dependence on him. His
constitution informs him that he hath a capacity to converse with God;
that he cannot converse with him, but by those inward faculties; if
it could be managed by his body without his spirit, beasts might as
well converse with God as men. It can never be a “reasonable service”
(Rom. xii. 1), as it ought to be, unless the reasonable faculties be
employed in the management of it; it must be a worship prodigiously
lame, without the concurrence of the chiefest part of man with it.
As we are to act conformably to the nature of the object, so also
to the nature of our own faculties. Our faculties, in the very gift
of them to us, were destined to be exercised, about what? What? All
other things but the Author of them. It is a conceit cannot enter into
the heart {a245} of a rational creature, that he should act as such
a creature in other things, and as a stone in things relating to the
donor of them; as a man, with his mind about him in the affairs of the
world; as a beast, without reason in his acts towards God. If a man
did not employ his reason in other things, he would be an unprofitable
creature in the world: if he do not employ his spiritual faculties
in worship, he denies them the proper end and use for which they were
given him; it is a practical denial that God hath given him a soul,
and that God hath any right to the exercise of it. If there were no
worship appointed by God in the world, the natural inclination of man
to some kind of religion would be in vain; and if our inward faculties
were not employed in the duties of religion they would be in vain;
the true end of God in the endowment of us with them would be defeated
by us, as much as lies in us, if we did not serve him with that
which we have from him solely at his own cost. As no man can with
reason conclude, that the rest commanded on the Sabbath and the
sanctification of it, was only a rest of the body, that had been
performed by the beasts as well as men, but some higher end was aimed
at for the rational creature; so no man can think that the command for
worship terminated only in the presence of the body; that God should
give the command to man as a reasonable creature, and expect no other
service from him than that of a brute. God did not require a worship
from man for any want he had, or any essential honor that could
accrue to him, but that men might testify their gratitude to him,
and dependence on him. It is the most horrid ingratitude not to have
lively and deep sentiments of gratitude after such obligations, and
not to make those due acknowledgments that are proper for a rational
creature. Religion is the highest and choicest act of a reasonable
creature; no creature under heaven is capable of it that wants reason.
As it is a violation of reason not to worship God, so it is no less a
violation of reason not to worship him with the heart and spirit; it
is a high dishonor to God, and defeats him not only of the service due
to him from man, but that which is due to him from all the creatures.
Every creature, as it is an effect of God’s power and wisdom, doth
passively worship God; that is, it doth afford matter of adoration
to man that hath reason to collect it, and return it where it is due.
Without the exercise of the soul, we can no more hand it to God, than
without such an exercise, we can gather it from the creature; so that
by this neglect, the creatures are restrained from answering their
chief end; they cannot pay any service to God without man; nor can
man, without the employment of his rational faculties, render a homage
to God, any more than beasts can. This engagement of our inward power
stands firm and inviolable, let the modes of worship be what they
will, or the changes of them by the sovereign authority of God never
so frequent; this could not expire or be changed as long as the nature
of man endured. As man had not been capable of a command for worship,
unless he had been endued with spiritual faculties; so he is not
active in a true practice of worship, unless they be employed by
him in it. The constitution of man makes this manner of worship
perpetually obligatory, and the oblation can never cease, till man
{a246} cease to be a creature furnished with such faculties; in our
worship, therefore, if we would act like rational creatures, we should
extend all the powers of our souls to the utmost pitch, and essay
to have apprehensions of God, equal to the excellency of his nature,
which, though we may attempt, we can never attain.

_Reason III._ Without this engagement of our spirits no act is an
act of worship. True worship, being an acknowledgment of God and the
perfections of his nature, results only from the soul, that being
only capable of knowing God and those perfections which are the object
and motive of worship. The posture of the body is but to testify the
inward temper and affection of the mind; if, therefore, it testifies
what it is not, it is a lie, and no worship; the cringes a beast may
be taught to make to an altar may as well be called worship, since a
man thinks as little of that God he pretends to honor, as the beast
doth of the altar to which he bows. Worship is a reverent remembrance
of God, and giving some honor to him with the intention of the soul;
it cannot justly have the name of worship, that wants the essential
part of it; it is an ascribing to God the glory of his nature, an
owning subjection and obedience to him as our sovereign Lord; this is
as impossible to be performed without the spirit, as that there can be
life and motion in a body without a soul; it is a drawing near to God,
not in regard of his essential presence, so all things are near to God,
but in an acknowledgment of his excellency, which is an act of the
spirit; without this, the worst of men in a place of worship are as
near to God as the best. The necessity of the conjunction of our soul
ariseth from the nature of worship, which being the most serious thing
we can be employed in, the highest converse with the highest object
requires the choicest temper of spirit in the performance. That
cannot be an act of worship, which is not an act of piety and virtue;
but there is no act of virtue done by the members of the body,
without the concurrence of the powers of the soul. We may as well
call the presence of a dead carcass in a place of worship, an act of
religion, as the presence of a living body without an intent spirit;
the separation of the soul from one is natural, the other moral; that
renders the body lifeless, but this renders the act loathsome to God;
as the being of the soul gives life to the body, so the operation of
the soul gives life to the actions. As he cannot be a man that wants
the form of a man, a rational soul; so that cannot be a worship that
wants an essential part, the act of the spirit; God will not vouchsafe
any acts of man so noble a title without the requisite qualifications
(Hos. v. 6): “They shall go with their flocks and their herds to
seek the Lord,” &c. A multitude of lambs and bullocks for sacrifice,
to appease God’s anger. God would not give it the title of worship,
though instituted by himself, when it wanted the qualities of such
a service. “The spirit of whoredom was in the midst of them” (v. 4).
In the judgment of our Saviour, it is a “vain worship, when the
traditions of men are taught for the doctrines of God” (Matt. xv. 9);
and no less vain must it be, when the bodies of men are presented
to supply the place of their spirits. As an omission of duty is a
contempt of God’s sovereign authority, so the omission of the manner
of it is a contempt of it, and of his {a247} amiable excellency; and
that which is a contempt and mockery, can lay no just claim to the
title of worship.

_Reason IV._ There is in worship an approach of God to man. It was
instituted to this purpose, that God might give out his blessings to
man; and ought not our spirits to be prepared and ready to receive his
communications? We are, in such acts, more peculiarly in his presence.
In the Israelites hearing the law, it is said, God was to “come among
them” (Exod. xix. 10, 11). Then, men are said to stand before the
Lord (Deut. x. 8): “God, before whom I stand” (1 Kings, xvii. 1):
that is, whom I worship; and therefore when Cain forsook the worship
of God settled in his father’s family, he is said, “to go out from the
presence of the Lord” (Gen. iv. 16). God is essentially present in the
world; graciously present in his church. The name of the evangelical
city is Jehovah Shammah (Ezek. xlviii. 35), “the Lord is there.” God
is more graciously present in the evangelical institutions than in
the legal; he “loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings
of Jacob” (Ps. lxxxvii. 2); his evangelical law and worship which was
to go forth from Zion, as the other did from Sinai (Mic. iv. 2). God
delights to approach to men, and converse with them in the worship
instituted in the gospel, more than in all the dwellings of Jacob. If
God be graciously present, ought not we to be spiritually present? A
lifeless carcass service becomes not so high and delectable a presence
as this; it is to thrust him from us, not invite him to us; it is
to practise in the ordinances what the prophet predicts concerning
men’s usage of our Saviour (Isa. liii. 2): “There is no form, no
comeliness, nor beauty that we should desire him.” A slightness in
worship reflects upon the excellency of the object of worship. God
and his worship are so linked together, that whosoever thinks the
one not worth his inward care, esteems the other not worth his inward
affection. How unworthy a slight is it of God, who proffers the
opening his treasure; the re‑impressing his image; conferring his
blessings; admits us into his presence, when he hath no need for us;
who hath millions of angels to attend him in his court, and celebrate
his praise! He that worships not God with his spirit, regards not
God’s presence in his ordinances, and slights the great end of God in
them, and that perfection he may attain by them. We can only expect
what God hath promised to give, when we tender to him what he hath
commanded us to present. If we put off God with a shell, he will put
us off with a husk. How can we expect his heart, when we do not give
him ours; or hope for the blessing needful for us, when we render not
the glory due to him? It cannot be an advantageous worship without
spiritual graces; for those are uniting, and union is the ground of
all communion.

_Reason V._ To have a spiritual worship is God’s end in the
restoration of the creature, both in redemption by his Son and
sanctification by his spirit. A fitness for spiritual offerings was
the end of the “coming of Christ” (Mal. iii. 3); he should purge them
as gold and silver by fire, a spirit burning up their dross, melting
them into a holy compliance with and submission to God. To what
purpose? That they may offer to the lord an offering in righteousness;
a pure {a248} offering from a purified spirit; he came to “bring us
to God” (1 Pet. iii. 18) in such a garb, as that we might be fit to
converse with him. Can we be thus, without a fixedness of our spirits
on him? The offering of spiritual sacrifices is the end of making
any a “spiritual habitation” and a “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. ii. 5).
We can no more be worshippers of God without a worshipper’s nature,
than a man can be a man without human nature. As man was at first
created for the honor and worship of God, so the design of restoring
that image which was defaced by sin tends to the same end. We are not
brought to God by Christ, nor are our services presented to him, if
they be without our spirits; would any man that undertakes to bring
another to a prince, introduce him in a slovenly and sordid habit,
such a garb that he knows hateful to him? or bring the clothes or
skin of a man stuffed with straw, instead of the person? to come with
our skins before God, without our spirits, is contrary to the design
of God in redemption and regeneration. If a carnal worship would
have pleased God, a carnal heart would have served his turn, without
the expense of his Spirit in sanctification. He bestows upon man a
spiritual nature, that he may return to him a spiritual service; he
enlightens the understanding, that he may have a rational service;
and new moulds the will, that he may have a voluntary service. As it
is the milk of the word wherewith he feeds us, so it is the service
of the word wherewith we must glorify him. So much as there is of
confusedness in our understanding, so much of starting and levity in
our wills, so much of slipperiness and skipping in our affections; so
much is abated of the due qualities of the worship of God, and so much
we fall short of the end of redemption and sanctification.

_Reason VI._ A spiritual worship is to be offered to God, because
no worship but that can be acceptable. We can never be secured of
acceptance without it; he being a Spirit, nothing but the worship
in spirit can be suitable to him: what is unsuitable, cannot be
acceptable; there must be something in us, to make our services
capable of being presented by Christ for an actual acceptation.
No service is “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” but as it is a
spiritual sacrifice, and offered by a spiritual heart (1 Pet. ii. 5).
The sacrifice is first spiritual, before it be acceptable to God by
Christ; when it is “an offering in righteousness,” it is then, and
only then, pleasant to the Lord (Mal. iii. 3, 4). No prince would
accept a gift that is unsuitable to his majesty, and below the
condition of the person that presents it. Would he be pleased with
a bottle of water for drink, from one that hath his cellar full of
wine? How unacceptable must that be that is unsuitable to the Divine
Majesty! And what can be more unsuitable than a withdrawing the
operations of our souls from him, in the oblation of our bodies? We as
little glorify God as God, when we give him only a corporeal worship,
as the heathen did, when they represented him in a corporeal shape
(Rom. i. 21); one as well as the other denies his spiritual nature:
this is worse, for had it been lawful to represent God to the eye, it
could not have been done but by a bodily figure suited to the sense;
but since it is necessary to worship him, it cannot be by a corporeal
attendance, {a249} without the operation of the Spirit. A spiritual
frame is more pleasing to God than the highest exterior adornments,
than the greatest gifts, and the highest prophetic illuminations.
“The glory of the second temple” exceeded the glory of the first
(Hag. ii. 8, 9). As God accounts the spiritual glory of ordinances
most beneficial for us, so our spiritual attendance upon ordinances
is most pleasing to him; he that offers the greatest services without
it, offers but flesh (Hos. viii. 13): “They sacrifice flesh for the
sacrifices of my offerings, but the Lord accepts them not.” Spiritual
frames are the soul of religious services; all other carriages without
them are contemptible to this spirit: we can never lay claim to that
promise of God, none shall “seek my face in vain.” We affect a vain
seeking of him, when we want a due temper of spirit for him; and vain
spirits shall have vain returns: it is more contrary to the nature of
God’s holiness to have communion with such, than it is contrary to the
nature of light to have communion with darkness. To make use of this:

_Use 1._ First it serves for information.

1. If spiritual worship be required by God, how sad is it for them
that they are so far from giving God a spiritual worship, that they
render him no worship at all! I speak not of the neglect of public,
but of private; when men present not a devotion to God from one year’s
end to the other. The speech of our Saviour, that we must worship God
in spirit and truth, implies that a worship is due to him from every
one; that is the common impression upon the consciences of all men
in the world, if they have not by some constant course in gross sins,
hardened their souls, and stifled those natural sentiments. There
was never a nation in the world without some kind of religion; and
no religion was ever without some modes to testify a devotion; the
heathens had their sacrifices and purifications; and the Jews, by
God’s order, had their rites, whereby they were to express their
allegiance to God. Consider,

(1.) Worship is a duty incumbent upon all men. It is a homage mankind
owes to God, under the relation wherein he stands obliged to him; it
is a prime and immutable justice to own our allegiance to him; it is
as unchangeable a truth that God is to be worshipped, as that God is;
he is to be worshipped as God, as creator, and therefore by all, since
he is the Creator of all, the Lord of all, and all are his creatures,
and all are his subjects. Worship is founded upon creation (Psalm c.
2, 3): it is due to God for himself and his own essential excellency,
and therefore due from all; it is due upon the account of man’s nature;
the human rational nature is the same in all. Whatsoever is due to
God upon the account of man’s nature, and the natural obligations
he hath laid upon man, is due from all men; because they all enjoy
the benefits which are proper to their nature. Man in no state
was exempted, nor can be exempted from it; in Paradise he had his
Sabbath and sacraments; man therefore dissolves the obligation of a
reasonable nature, by neglecting the worship of God. Religion is in
the first place to be minded. As soon as Noah came out of the ark, he
contrived not a habitation for himself, but an altar for the Lord, to
acknowledge him the author of his preservation from the deluge (Gen.
viii. 20): and wheresoever {a250} Abraham came, his first business was
to erect an altar, and pay his arrears of gratitude to God, before he
ran upon the score for new mercies (Gen. xii. 7; xiii. 4, 18): he left
a testimony of worship wherever he came.

(2.) Wholly therefore to neglect it, is a high degree of atheism.
He that calls not upon God, “saith in his heart, There is no God;”
and seems to have the sentiments of natural conscience, as to God,
stifled in him (Psalm xiv. 1, 4): it must arise from a conceit that
there is no God, or that we are equal to him, adoration not being due
from persons of an equal state; or that God is unable, or unwilling to
take notice of the adoring acts of his creatures: what is any of these
but an undeifying the supreme Majesty? When we lay aside all thoughts
of paying any homage to him, we are in a fair way opinionatively to
deny him, as much as we practically disown him. Where there is no
knowledge of God, that is, no “acknowledgment of God,” a gap is opened
to all licentiousness (Hos. iv. 1, 2); and that by degrees brawns the
conscience, and razeth out the sense of God. Those forsake God that
“forget his holy mountain” (Isa. lxv. 11); they do not practically
own him as the Creator of their souls or bodies. It is the sin of
Cain, who turning his back upon worship, is said to “go out from
the presence of the Lord” (Gen. iv. 16). Not to worship him with our
spirits, is against his law of creation: not to worship him at all, is
against his act of creation; not to worship him in truth, is hypocrisy;
not to worship him at all, is atheism; whereby we render ourselves
worse than the worms in the earth, or a toad in a ditch.

(3.) To perform a worship to a false God, or to the true God in a
false manner, seems to be less a sin than to live in perpetual neglect
of it. Though it be directed to a false object instead of God, yet it
is under the notion of a God, and so is an acknowledgment of such a
Being as God in the world; whereas the total neglect of any worship,
is a practical denying of the existence of any supreme Majesty.
Whosoever constantly omits a public and private worship, transgresses
against an universally received dictate; for all nations have agreed
in the common notion of worshipping God, though they have disagreed in
the several modes and rites whereby they would testify that adoration.
By a worship of God, though superstitious, a veneration and reverence
of such a being is maintained in the world; whereas by a total neglect
of worship, he is virtually disowned and discarded, if not from his
existence, yet from his providence and government of the world; all
the mercies we breathe in are denied to flow from him. A foolish
worship owns religion, though it bespatters it; as if a stranger
coming into a country mistakes the subject for the prince, and pays
that reverence to the subject which is due to the prince; though
he mistakes the object, yet he owns an authority; or if he pays any
respect to the true prince of that country after the mode of his own,
though appearing ridiculous in the place where he is, he owns the
authority of the prince; whereas the omission of all respect would
be a contempt of majesty: and, therefore, the judgments of God have
been more signal upon the sacrilegious contemners of worship among
the heathens, than upon {a251} those that were diligent and devout in
their false worship; and they generally owned the blessings received
to the preservation of a sense and worship of a Deity among them.
Though such a worship be not acceptable to God, and every man is
bound to offer to God a devotion agreeable to his own mind; yet it
is commendable, not as worship, but as it speaks an acknowledgment of
such a being as God, in his power and creation, and his beneficence
in his providence. Well, then, omissions of worship are to be avoided.
Let no man execute that upon himself which God will pronounce at last
as the greatest misery, and bid God depart from him, who will at last
be loth to hear God bid him depart from him. Though man hath natural
sentiments that God is to be worshipped, yet having an hostility in
his nature, he is apt to neglect, or give it him in a slight manner;
he therefore sets a particular mark and notice of attention upon the
fourth command, “Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.” Corrupt
nature is apt to neglect the worship of God, and flag in it. This
command, therefore, which concerns his worship, he fortifies with
several reasons. Nor let any neglect worship, because they cannot
find their hearts spiritual in it. The further we are from God, the
more carnal shall we be. No man can expect heat by a distance from the
sunbeams, or other means of warmth. Though God commanded a circumcised
heart in the Jewish services, yet he did not warrant a neglect of the
outward testimonies of religion he had then appointed. He expected,
according to his command, that they should offer the sacrifices, and
practise the legal purification he had commanded; he would have them
diligently observed, though he had declared that he imposed them only
for a time; and our Saviour ordered the practice of those positive
rites as long as the law remained unrepealed, as in the case of
the leper (Mark xiv. 4). It is an injustice to refuse the offering
ourselves to God according to the manner he hath in his wisdom
prescribed and required. If spiritual worship be required by God, then,

2. It informs us, that diligence in outward worship is not to be
rested in. Men may attend all their days on worship, with a juiceless
heart and unquickened frame, and think to compensate the neglect
of the manner with abundance of the matter of service.[526] Outward
expressions are but the badges and liveries of service, not the
service itself. As the strength of sin lies in the inward frame
of the heart, so the strength of worship in the inward complexion
and temper of the soul. What do a thousand services avail, without
cutting the throat of our carnal affections? What are loud prayers,
but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, without divine charity?
A pharisaical diligence in outward forms, without inward spirit, had
no better a title vouchsafed by our Saviour than that of hypocritical.
God desires not sacrifices, nor delights in burnt‑offerings: shadows
are not to be offered instead of substance. God required the heart
of man for itself, but commanded outward ceremonies as subservient to
inward worship, and goads and spurs unto it. They were never appointed
as the substance of religion, but auxiliaries to it. What value had
the offering of the human nature of Christ been of, if he {a252} had
not had a divine nature to qualify him to be the Priest? and what is
the oblation of our bodies, without a priestly act of the spirit in
the presentation of it? Could the Israelites have called themselves
worshippers of God according to his order, if they had brought a
thousand lambs that had died in a ditch, or been killed at home? They
were to be brought living to the altar; the blood shed at the foot
of it. A thousand sacrifices killed without had not been so valuable
as one brought alive to the place of offering: one sound sacrifice
is better than a thousand rotten ones. As God took no pleasure in
the blood of beasts without its relation to the Antitype; so he takes
no pleasure in the outward rites of worship, without faith in the
Redeemer. To offer a body with a sapless spirit, is a sacrilege of the
same nature with that of the Israelites when they offered dead beasts.
A man without spiritual worship is dead while he worships, though by
his diligence in the externals of it, he may, like the angel of the
church of Sardis, “have a name to live” (Rev. iii. 1). What security
can we expect from a multitude of dead services? What weak shields are
they against the holy eye and revenging wrath of God! What man, but
one out of his wits, would solicit a dead man to be his advocate or
champion? Diligence in outward worship is not to be rested in.

_Use II._ shall be for examination. Let us try ourselves concerning
the manner of our worship. We are now in the end of the world, and
the dregs of time; wherein the apostle predicts there may be much of
a form, and little of the power of godliness (2 Tim. iii. 1, 5); and,
therefore, it stands us in hand to search into ourselves, whether it
be not thus with us? whether there be as much reverence in our spirits
as there may be devotion in our countenances and outward carriages.

1. How, therefore, are our hearts prepared to worship? Is our
diligence greater to put our hearts in an adoring posture, than our
bodies in a decent garb? or are we content to have a muddy heart,
so we may have a dressed carcass? To have a spirit a cage of unclean
birds, while we wipe the filth from the outside of the platter, is
no better than a pharisaical devotion, and deserves no better a name
than that of a whited sepulchre. Do we take opportunities to excite
and quicken our spirits to the performance, and cry aloud with David,
“Awake, awake, my glory!” Are not our hearts asleep when Christ
knocks? When we hear the voice of God, “Seek my face;” do we answer
him with warm resolutions, “Thy face, Lord, we will seek?” (Ps. xxvii.
8.) Do we comply with spiritual motions, and strike whilst the iron is
hot? Is there not more of reluctancy than readiness? Is there a quick
rising of the soul in reverence to the motion, as Eglon to Ehud; or a
sullen hanging the head at the first approach of it? Or if our hearts
seem to be engaged and on fire, what are the motives that quicken
that fire? Is it only the blast of a natural conscience, fear of
hell, desires of heaven, as abstracted from God? or is it an affection
to God; an obedient will to please him; longings to enjoy him, as a
holy and sanctifying God in his ordinances, as well as a blessed and
glorified God in heaven? What do we expect in our approaches from
him? that which may make {a253} divine impressions upon us, and more
exactly conform us to the Divine nature? or do we design nothing but
an empty formality, a rolling eye, and a filling the air with a few
words, without any openings of heart to receive the incomes, which,
according to the nature of the duty, might be conveyed to us? Can this
be a spiritual worship? The soul then closely waits upon him, when its
expectation is only from him (Psalm lxii.6). Are our hearts seasoned
with a sense of sin; a sight of our spiritual wants; raised notions
of God; glowing affections to him; strong appetite after a spiritual
fulness? Do we rouse up our sleepy spirits, and make a covenant with
all that is within us to attend upon him? So much as we want of this,
so much we come short of a spiritual worship. In Ps. lvii. 7 (“My
heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed”), David would fix his heart,
before he would engage in a praising act of worship. He appeals to God
about it, and that with doubling the expression, as being certain of
an inward preparedness. Can we make the same appeals in a fixation of

2. How are our hearts fixed upon him; how do they cleave to him in
the duty? Do we resign our spirits to God, and make them an entire
holocaust, a whole burnt‑offering in his worship? or do we not
willingly admit carnal thoughts to mix themselves with spiritual
duties, and fasten our minds to the creature, under pretences of
directing them to the Creator? Do we not pass a mere compliment
upon God, by some superficial act of devotion; while some covetous,
envious, ambitious, voluptuous imagination may possess our minds?
Do we not invert God’s order, and worship a lust instead of God with
our spirits, that should not have the least service, either from
our souls or bodies, but with a spiritual disdain be sacrificed to
the just indignation of God? How often do we fight against his will,
while we cry, “Hail, Master!” instead of crucifying our own thoughts,
crucifying the Lord of our lives; our outward carriage plausible, and
our inward stark naught! Do we not often regard iniquity more than
God in our hearts, in a time of worship?――roll some filthy imagination
as a sweet morsel under our tongues, and taste more sweetness in that
than in God? Do not our spirits smell rank of earth, while we offer
to heaven; and have we not hearts full of thick clay, as their “hands
were full of blood?” (Isa. i. 15.) When we sacrifice, do we not wrap
up our souls in communion with some sordid fancy, when we should
entwine our spirits about an amiable God? While we have some fear of
him, may we not have a love to something else above him? This is to
worship, or swear by the Lord, and by Malcham (Zeph. i. 5). How often
doth an apish fancy render a service inwardly ridiculous, under a
grave outward posture; skipping to the shop, warehouse, counting‑house,
in the space of a short prayer! and we are before God as a Babel, a
confusion of internal languages; and this in those parts of worship
which are, in the right use, most agreeable to God, profitable for
ourselves, ruinous to the kingdom of sin and Satan, and means to bring
us into a closer communion with the Divine Majesty. Can this be a
spiritual worship?

3. How do we act our graces in worship? Though the instrument {a254}
be strung, if the strings be not wound up, what melody can be the
issue? All readiness and alacrity discover a strength of nature; and
a readiness in spirituals discovers a spirituality in the heart. As
unaffecting thoughts of God are not spiritual thoughts, so unaffecting
addresses to God are not spiritual addresses. Well, then, what
awakenings, and elevations of faith and love have we? What strong
outflowings of our souls to him? What indignation against sin?
What admirations of redeeming grace? How low have we brought our
corruptions to the footstool of Christ, to be made his conquered
enemies? How straitly have we clasped our faith about the cross and
throne of Christ, to become his intimate spouse? Do we in hearing hang
upon the lips of Christ; in prayer take hold of God, and will not let
him go; in confessions rend the caul of our hearts, and indite our
souls before him with a deep humility? Do we act more by a soaring
love than a drooping fear? So far as our spirits are servile, so far
they are legal and carnal; so much as they are free and spontaneous,
so much they are evangelical and spiritual. As men under the law
are subject to the constraint of “bondage all their life‑time” (Heb.
ii. 15), in all their worship; so under the gospel they are under a
constraint of love (2 Cor. v. 14): how then are believing affections
exercised, which are alway accompanied with holy fear; a fear of his
goodness that admits us into his presence, and a fear to offend him in
our act of worship? So much as we have of forced or feeble affection,
so much we have of carnality.

4. How do we find our hearts after worship? By an after carriage we
may judge of the spirituality of it.

(1.) How are we as to inward strength? When a worship is spiritually
performed, grace is more strengthened, corruption more mortified;
the soul, like Samson after his awakening, goes out with a renewed
strength; as the inward man is renewed day by day, that is, every day;
so it is renewed in every worship. Every shower makes the grass and
fruit grow in good ground where the root is good, and the weeds where
the ground is naught; the more prepared the heart is to obedience
in other duties after worship, the more evidence there is that it
hath been spiritual in the exercise of it. It is the end of God in
every dispensation, as in that of John Baptist, “to make ready a
people prepared for the Lord” (Luke i. 17): when the heart is by
worship prepared for fresh acts of obedience, and hath a more exact
watchfulness against the encroachments of sin. As carnal men after
worship sprout up in spiritual wickedness, so do spiritual worshippers
in spiritual graces; spiritual fruits are a sign of a spiritual frame.
When men are more prone to sin after duty, it is a sign there was
but little communion with God in it; and a greater strength of sin,
because such an act is contrary to the end of worship which is the
subduing of sin. It is a sign the physic hath wrought well, when the
stomach hath a better appetite to its appointed food; and worship
hath been well performed, when we have a stronger inclination to
other acts well pleasing to God, and a more sensible distaste of
those temptations we too much relished before. It is a sign of a good
concoction, {a255} when there is a greater strength in the vitals of
religion, a more eager desire to know God. When Moses had been praying
to God, and prevailed with him, he puts up a higher request to “behold
his glory” (Exod. xxxiii. 13, 18): when the appetite stands strong to
fuller discoveries of God, it is a sign there hath been a spiritual
converse with him.

(2.) How is it especially as to humility? The Pharisees’ worship was,
without dispute, carnal; and we find them not more humble after all
their devotions, but overgrown with more weeds of spiritual pride;
they performed them as their righteousness. What men dare plead before
God in his day, they plead before him in their hearts in their day;
but this men will do at the day of judgment: “We have prophesied in
thy name,” &c. (Matt. vii. 21). They show what tincture their services
left upon their spirits; that which excludes them from any acceptation
at the last day, excludes them from any estimation of being spiritual
in this day. The carnal worshippers charge God with injustice in not
rewarding them, and claim an acceptation as a compensation due to
them (Isa. lviii. 3): “Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou
takest no knowledge?” A spiritual worshipper looks upon his duties
with shame, as well as he doth upon his sins with confusion; and
implores the mercy of God for the one as well as the other. In Psalm
cxliii. 2, the prophet David, after his supplications, begs of God
not to enter into judgment with him; and acknowledges any answer that
God should give him, as a fruit of his faithfulness to his promise,
and not the merit of his worship: “In thy faithfulness answer me,” &c.
Whatsoever springs from a gracious principle, and is the breath of the
Spirit, leaves a man more humble; whereas, that which proceeds from
a stock of nature, hath the true blood of nature running in the veins
of it; viz., that pride which is naturally derived from Adam. The
breathing of the Divine Spirit is, in everything, to conform us to
our Redeemer; that being the main work of his office, is his work in
every particular christian act influenced by him. Now Jesus Christ,
in all his actions, was an exact pattern of all humility. After the
institution and celebration of the supper, a special act of worship in
the church, though he had a sense of all the authority his Father had
given him, yet he “humbles himself to wash his disciples’ feet” (John
xiii. 2‒4); and after his sublime prayer (John xvii.), “He humbles
himself to the death, and offers himself” to his murderers, because
of his Father’s pleasure. (John xviii. 1): “When he had spoken those
words, he went over the brook Kedron into the garden.” What is the
end of God in appointing worship, is the end of a spiritual heart in
offering it; not his own exaltation, but God’s glory. Glorifying the
name of God is the fruit of that evangelical worship the Gentiles were
in time to give to God (Ps. lxxxvi. 9): “All nations which thou hast
made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify
thy name.” Let us examine, then, what debasing ourselves there is in
a sense of our own vileness, and distance from so glorious a Spirit.
Self‑denial is the heart of all gospel grace. Evangelical, {a256}
spiritual worship cannot be without the ingredient of the main
evangelical principle.

(3.) What delight is there after it? What pleasure is there, and what
is the object of that pleasure? Is it the communion we have had with
God, or a fluency in ourselves? Is it something which hath touched
our hearts, or tickled our fancies? As the strength of sin is known
by the delightful thoughts of it after the commission; so is the
spirituality of duty, by the object of our delightful remembrance
after the performance. It was a sign David was spiritual in the
worship of God in the tabernacle, when he enjoyed it, because he
longed for the spiritual part of it, when he was exiled from it; his
desires were not only for liberty to revisit the tabernacle, but to
see the “power and glory of God in the sanctuary,” as he had seen
it before (Ps. lxiii. 2): his desires for it could not have been so
ardent, if his reflection upon what had past had not been delightful;
nor could his soul be poured out in him, for the want of such
opportunities, if the remembrance of the converse he had had with
God, had not been accompanied with a delightful relish (Ps. xlii. 4).
Let us examine what delight we find in our spirits after worship.

_Use III._ is of comfort. And it is very comfortable to consider,
that the smallest worship with the heart and spirit, flowing from
a principle of grace, is more acceptable than the most pompous
veneration; yea, if the oblation were as precious as the whole circuit
of heaven and earth without it. That God that values a cup of cold
water given to any as his disciple, will value a sincere service above
a costly sacrifice. God hath his eye upon them that honor his nature;
he would not “seek such to worship him,” if he did not intend to
accept such a worship from them; when we therefore invoke him, and
praise him, which are the prime parts of religion, he will receive
it as a sweet savor from us, and overlook infirmities mixed with
the graces. The great matter of discomfort, and that which makes
us question the spirituality of worship, is the many starts of our
spirits, and rovings to other things. For answer to which,

1. It is to be confessed that these starts are natural to us. Who is
free from them? We bear in our bosoms a nest of turbulent thoughts,
which, like busy gnats, will be buzzing about us while we are in our
most inward and spiritual converses. Many wild beasts lurk in a man’s
heart, as in a close and covert wood, and scarce discover themselves
but at our solemn worship. No duty so holy, no worship so spiritual,
that can wholly privilege us from them; they will jog us in our most
weighty employments, that, as God said to Cain, sin lies at the door,
and enters in, and makes a riot in our souls. As it is said of wicked
men, “they cannot sleep” for multitude of thoughts (Eccles. v. 12);
so it may be of many a good man, he cannot worship for multitude of
thoughts; there will be starts, and more in our religious than natural
employments; it is natural to man. Some therefore think, the bells
tied to Aaron’s garments, between the pomegranates, were to warn the
people, and recall their fugitive minds to the present service, when
they heard the sound of them, upon the least motion of the high‑priest.
The sacrifice of Abraham, the father or the faithful, was not exempt
from the fowls {a257} pecking at it (Gen. xv. 11). Zechariah himself
was drowsy in the midst of his visions, which being more amazing,
might cause a heavenly intentness (Zech. iv. 1): “The angel that
talked with me, came again and awaked me, as a man is awaked out of
sleep.” He had been roused up before, but he was ready to drop down
again; his heart was gone, till the angel jogged him. We may complain
of such imaginations, as Jeremiah doth of the enemies of the Jews
(Lam. iv. 19). Our persecutors are swifter than eagles; they light
upon us with as much speed as eagles upon a carcass; they pursue us
upon the mountain of divine institutions, and they lay wait for us in
the wilderness, in our retired addresses to God. And this will be so

(1.) There is natural corruption in us. There are in a godly man
two contrary principles, flesh and spirit, which endeavor to hinder
one another’s acts, and are alway stirring upon the offensive or
defensive part (Gal. v. 17). There is a body of death, continually
exhaling its noisome vapors: it is a body of death in our worship,
as well as in our natures; it snaps our resolutions asunder (Rom.
vii. 19); it hinders us in the doing good, and contradicts our
wills in the stirring up evil. This corruption being seated in all
the faculties, and a constant domestic in them, has the greater
opportunity to trouble us, since it is by those faculties that we
spiritually transact with God; and it stirs more in the time of
religious exercises, though it be in part mortified; as a wounded
beast, though tired, will rage and strive to its utmost, when the
enemy is about to fetch a blow at it. All duties of worship tend to
the wounding of corruption; and it is no wonder to feel the striving
of sin to defend itself and offend us, when we have our arms in our
hands to mortify it, that the blow may be diverted which is directed
against it. The apostles had aspiring thoughts; and being persuaded of
an earthly kingdom, expected a grandeur in it; and though we find some
appearance of it at other times, as when they were casting out devils,
and gave an account of it to their Master, he gives them a kind of
a check (Luke x. 20), intimating that there was some kind of evil in
their rejoicing upon that account; yet this never swelled so high, as
to break out into a quarrel who should be greatest, until they had the
most solemn ordinance, the Lord’s supper, to quell it (Luke xxii. 24).
Our corruption is like lime, which discovers not its fire by any smoke
or heat, till you cast water, the enemy of fire, upon it; neither doth
our natural corruption rage so much, as when we are using means to
quench and destroy it.

(2.) While there is a devil, and we in his precinct. As he accuseth
us to God, so he disturbs us in ourselves; he is a bold spirit, and
loves to intrude himself when we are conversing with God: we read,
that when the angels presented themselves before God, Satan comes
among them (Job i. 6). Motions from Satan will thrust themselves
in with our most raised and angelical frames; he loves to take off
the edge of our spirits from God; he acts but after the old rate; he
from the first envied God an obedience from man, and envied man the
felicity of communion with God; he is unwilling God should have the
honor of worship, and that we should have the fruit of it; {a258} he
hath himself lost it, and therefore is unwilling we should enjoy it;
and being subtle, he knows how to make impressions upon us suitable to
our inbred corruptions, and assault us in the weakest part. He knows
all the avenues to get within us (as he did in the temptation of Eve),
and being a spirit, he wants not a power to dart them immediately upon
our fancy; and being a spirit, and therefore active and nimble, he
can shoot those darts faster than our weakness can beat them off. He
is diligent also, and watcheth for his prey, and seeks to devour our
services as well as our souls, and snatch our best morsels from us. We
know he mixed himself with our Saviour’s retirements in the wilderness,
and endeavored to fly‑blow his holy converse with his Father in the
preparation to his mediatory work. Satan is God’s ape, and imitates
the Spirit in the office of a remembrancer; as the Spirit brings good
thoughts and divine promises to mind, to quicken our worship, so the
devil brings evil things to mind, and endeavors to fasten them in
our souls to disturb us; and though all the foolish starts we have in
worship are not purely his issue, yet being of kin to him, he claps
his hands, and sets them on like so many mastiffs, to tear the service
in pieces. And both those distractions, which arise from our own
corruption and from Satan, are most rife in worship, when we are under
some pressing affliction. This seems to be David’s case, Ps. lxxxvi.
when in ver. 11 he prays God to unite his heart to fear and worship
his name; he seems to be under some affliction, or fear of his enemies:
“O free me from those distractions of spirit, and those passions which
arise in my soul, upon considering the designs of my enemies against
me, and press upon me in my addresses to thee, and attendances on
thee. ” Job also in his affliction complains (Job xvii. 11) that
“his purposes were broken off;” he could not make an even thread
of thoughts and resolutions; they were frequently snapt asunder,
like rotten yarn when one is winding it up. Good men and spiritual
worshippers have lain under this trouble. Though they are a sign of
weakness of grace, or some obstructions in the acting of strong grace,
yet they are not alway evidences of a want of grace; what ariseth from
our own corruption, is to be matter of humiliation and resistance;
what ariseth from Satan, should edge our minds to a noble conquest of
them. If the apostle did comfort himself with his disapproving of what
rose from the natural spring of sin within him, with his consent to
the law, and dissent from his lust; and charges it not upon himself,
but upon the sin that dwelt in him, with which he had broken off the
former league, and was resolved never to enter into amity with it;
by the same reason we may comfort ourselves, if such thoughts are
undelighted in, and alienate not our hearts from the worship of God
by all their busy intrusions to interrupt us.

2. These distractions (not allowed) may be occasions, by an holy
improvement, to make our hearts more spiritual after worship, though
they disturb us in it, by answering those ends for which we may
suppose God permits them to invade us. And that is,

First, When they are occasions to humble us,

(1.) For our carriage in the particular worship. There is nothing
so dangerous as spiritual pride; it deprived devils and men of the
{a259} presence of God, and will hinder us of the influence of God.
If we had had raised and uninterrupted motions in worship, we should
be apt to be lifted up; and the devil stands ready to tempt us to
self‑confidence. You know how it was with Paul (2 Cor. xii. 1‒7);
his buffetings were occasions to render him more spiritual than his
raptures, because more humble. God suffers those wanderings, starts,
and distractions, to prevent our spiritual pride; which is as a worm
at the root of spiritual worship, and mind us of the dusty frame of
our spirits, how easily they are blown away; as he sends sickness to
put us in mind of the shortness of our breath, and the easiness to
lose it. God would make us ashamed of ourselves in his presence; that
we may own, that what is good in any duty, is merely from his grace
and Spirit, and not from ourselves; that with Paul we may cry out,
“By grace we are what we are,” and by grace we do what we do; we may
be hereby made sensible, that God can alway find something in our
exactest worship, as a ground of denying us the successful fruit of it.
If we cannot stand upon our duties for salvation, what can we bottom
upon in ourselves? If therefore they are occasions to make us out of
love with any righteousness of our own, to make us break our hearts
for them, because we cannot keep them out; if we mourn for them as
our sins, and count them our great afflictions, we have attained
that brokenness which is a choice ingredient in a spiritual sacrifice.
Though we have been disturbed by them, yet we are not robbed of the
success; we may behold an answer of our worship in our humiliation,
in spite of all of them.

(2.) For the baseness of our nature. These unsteady motions help us
to discern that heap of vermin that breeds in our nature. Would any
man think he had such an averseness to his Creator and Benefactor;
such an unsuitableness to him; such an estrangedness from him, were
it not for his inspection into his distracted frame? God suffers this
to hang over us as a rod of correction, to discover and fetch out the
folly of our hearts. Could we imagine our natures so highly contrary
to that God who is so infinitely amiable, so desirable an object;
or that there should be so much folly and madness in the heart, as
to draw back from God in those services which God hath appointed
as pipes through which to communicate his grace, to convey himself,
his love and goodness to the creature? If, therefore, we have a deep
sense of, and strong reflections upon our base nature, and bewail that
mass of averseness which lies there, and that fulness of irreverence
towards the God of our mercies, the object of our worship, it is a
blessed improvement of our wanderings and diversions. Certainly, if
any Israelite had brought a lame and rotten lamb to be sacrificed to
God, and afterward had bewailed it, and laid open his heart to God
in a sensible and humble confession of it, that repentance had been a
better sacrifice, and more acceptable in the sight of God, than if he
had brought a sound and a living offering.

Secondly, When they are occasions to make us prize duties of worship.
When we argue, as rationally we may, that they are of singular use,
since our corrupt hearts and a malicious devil doth chiefly endeavor
to hinder us from them, and that we find we have not those gadding
thoughts when we are upon worldly business, or {a260} upon any sinful
design which may dishonor God and wound our souls. This is a sign
sin and Satan dislike worship, for he is too subtle a spirit to
oppose that which would further his kingdom. As it is an argument the
Scripture is the word of God, because the wickedness of the world doth
so much oppose it, so it is a ground to believe the profitableness
and excellency of worship, because Satan and our own unruly hearts
do so much interrupt us in it: if, therefore, we make this use of our
cross‑steps in worship, to have a greater value for such duties, more
affections to them, and desires to be frequent in them, our hearts are
growing spiritual under the weights that would depress them to

Thirdly, When we take a rise from hence, to have heavenly admirations
of the graciousness of God, that he should pity and pardon so many
slight addresses to him, and give any gracious returns to us. Though
men have foolish rangings every day, and in every duty, yet free
grace is so tender as not to punish them (Gen. viii. 21): “And the
Lord smelt a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not
curse the ground for man’s sake, for the imagination of man’s heart
is evil from his youth.” It is observable, that this was just after
a sacrifice which Noah offered to God (ver. 20): but probably not
without infirmities common to human nature, which may be grounded upon
the reason God gives, that though he had destroyed the earth before,
because of the “evil of man’s imaginations” (Gen. vi. 5), he still
found evil imaginations; he doth not say in the heart of Cham, or
others of Noah’s family, but in man’s heart, including Noah also, who
had both the judgments of God upon the former world, and the mercy
of God in his own preservation, before his eyes; yet God saw evil
imaginations rooted in the nature of man, and though it were so, yet
he would be merciful. If, therefore, we can, after finding our hearts
so vagrant in worship, have real frames of thankfulness that God hath
spared us, and be heightened in our admirations at God’s giving us
any fruit of such a distracted worship, we take advantage from them
to be raised into an evangelical frame, which consists in the humble
acknowledgments of the grace of God. When David takes a review of
those tumultuous passions which had ruffled his mind, and possessed
him with unbelieving notions of God in the persons of his prophets
(Ps. cxvi. 11), how high doth his soul mount in astonishment and
thankfulness to God for his mercy! (ver. 12.) Notwithstanding his
distrust, God did graciously perform his promise, and answer his
desire: then it is, “What shall I render to the Lord?” His heart was
more affected for it, because it had been so passionate in former
distrusts. It is indeed a ground of wondering at the patience of the
Spirit of God, that he should guide our hearts when they are so apt to
start out, as it is the patience of a master to guide the hand of his
scholar, while he mixes his writing with many blots. It is not one
or two infirmities the Spirit helps us in, and helps over, but many
(Rom. viii. 26). It is a sign of a spiritual heart, when he can take
a rise to bless God for the renewing and blowing up his affections,
in the midst of so many incursions from Satan to the contrary, and
the readiness of the heart too much to comply with them.

{a261} Fourthly, When we take occasion from thence to prize the
mediation of Christ. The more distractions jog us, the more need
we should see of going out to a Saviour by faith. One part of our
Saviour’s office is to stand between us and the infirmities of our
worship. As he is an advocate, he presents our services, and pleads
for them and us (1 John ii. 1), for the sins of our duties, as well as
for our other sins. Jesus Christ is an High‑priest, appointed by God
to take away the “iniquities of our holy things,” which was typified
by Aaron’s plate upon his mitre (Exod. xxviii. 36, 38). Were there
no imperfections, were there no creeping up of those frogs into our
minds, we should think our worship might merit acceptance with God
upon its own account; but if we behold our own weakness, that not
a tear, a groan, a sigh, is so pure, but must have Christ to make
it entertainable; that there is no worship without those blemishes;
and upon this, throw all our services into the arms of Christ for
acceptance, and solicit him to put his merits in the front, to make
our ciphers appear valuable; it is a spiritual act, the design of God
in the gospel being to advance the honor and mediation of his Son.
That is a spiritual and evangelical act which answers the evangelical
design. The design of Satan, and our own corruption is defeated, when
those interruptions make us run swifter, and take faster hold on the
High‑priest who is to present our worship to God, and our own souls
receive comfort thereby. Christ had temptations offered to him by
the devil in his wilderness retirement, that, from an experimental
knowledge, he might be able more “compassionately to succor us” (Heb.
ii. 18); we have such assaults in our retired worship especially,
that we may be able more highly to value him and his mediation.

3. Let us not, therefore, be discouraged by those interruptions and
starts of our hearts.

(1.) If we find in ourselves a strong resistance of them. The flesh
will be lusting; that cannot be hindered; yet if we do not fulfil the
lusts of it, rise up at its command, and go about its work, we may be
said to walk in the Spirit (Gal. v. 16, 17): we “walk in the Spirit,”
if we “fulfil not the lusts of the flesh,” though there be a lusting
of the flesh against the Spirit; so we worship in the Spirit, though
there be carnal thoughts arising if we do not fulfil them; though
the stirring of them discovers some contrariety in us to God, yet the
resistance manifests that there is a principle of contrariety in us
to them; that as there is something of flesh that lusts against the
spirit, so there is something of spirit in worship which lusts against
the flesh: we must take heed of omitting worship, because of such
inroads, and lying down in the mire of a total neglect. If our spirits
are made more lively and vigorous against them; if those cold vapors
which have risen from our hearts make us, like a spring in the midst
of the cold earth, more warm, there is, in this case, more reason
for us to bless God, than to be discouraged. God looks upon it as
the disease, not the wilfulness of our nature; as the weakness of the
flesh, not the willingness of the spirit. If we would shut the door
upon them, it seems they are unwelcome company; men do not use to lock
their doors upon those they love; if they break in and disturb {a262}
us with their impertinences, we need not be discomforted, unless we
give them a share in our affections, and turn our back upon God to
entertain them; if their presence makes us sad, their flight would
make us joyful.

(2.) If we find ourselves excited to a stricter watch over our
hearts against them; as travellers will be careful when they come to
places where they have been robbed before, that they be not so easily
surprised again. We should not only lament when we have had such
foolish imaginations in worship breaking in upon us, but also bless
God that we have had no more, since we have hearts so fruitful of
weeds. We should give God the glory when we find our hearts preserved
from these intruders, and not boast of ourselves, but return him our
praise for the watch and guard he kept over us, to preserve us from
such thieves. Let us not be discomforted; for as the greatness of our
sins, upon our turning to God, is no hindrance to our justification,
because it doth not depend upon our conversion as the meritorious
cause, but upon the infinite value of our Saviour’s satisfaction,
which reaches the greatest sins as well as the least; so the multitude
of our bewailed distractions in worship are not a hindrance to our
acceptation, because of the uncontrollable power of Christ’s

_Use IV._ is for exhortation. Since spiritual worship is due to God,
and the Father seeks such to worship him, how much should we endeavor
to satisfy the desire and order of God, and act conformable to the law
of our creation and the love of redemption! Our end must be the same
in worship which was God’s end in creation and redemption; to glorify
his name, set forth his perfections, and be rendered fit, as creatures
and redeemed ones, to partake of that grace which is the fruit of
worship. An evangelical dispensation requires a spiritual homage; to
neglect, therefore, either the matter or manner of gospel duties, is
to put a slight upon gospel privileges. The manner of duty is ever
of more value than the matter; the scarlet dye is more precious than
the cloth tinctured with it. God respects more the disposition of
the sacrificer than the multitude of the sacrifices.[527] The solemn
feasts appointed by God were but dung as managed by the Jews (Mal.
ii. 3). The heart is often welcome without the body, but the body
never grateful without the heart. The inward acts of the spirit
require nothing from without to constitute them good in themselves;
but the outward acts of devotion require inward acts to render them
savory to God. As the goodness of outward acts consists not in the
acts themselves, so the acceptableness of them results not from the
acts themselves, but from the inward frame animating and quickening
those acts, as blood and spirits running through the veins of a duty
to make it a living service in the sight of God. Imperfections in
worship hinder not God’s acceptation of it, if the heart, spirited
by grace, be there to make it a sweet savor. The stench of burning
flesh and fat in the legal sacrifices might render them noisome to the
outward senses; but God smelt a sweet savor in them, as they {a263}
respected Christ. When the heart and spirit are offered up to God, it
may be a savory duty, though attended with unsavory imperfections; but
a thousand sacrifices without a stamp of faith, a thousand spiritual
duties with an habitual carnality, are no better than stench with God.
The heart must be purged, as well as the temple was by our Saviour, of
the thieves that would rob God of his due worship. Antiquity had some
temples wherein it was a crime to bring any gold; therefore those that
came to worship laid their gold aside before they went into the temple.
We should lay aside our worldly and trading thoughts before we address
to worship (Isa. xxvi. 9): “With my spirit within me will I seek thee
early.” Let not our minds be gadding abroad, and exiled from God and
themselves. It will be thus when the “desire of our soul is to his
name, and the remembrance of him” (ver. 8). When he hath given so
great and admirable a gift as that of his Son, in whom are all things
necessary to salvation, righteousness, peace, and pardon of sin, we
should manage the remembrance of his name in worship with the closest
unitedness of heart, and the most spiritual affections. The motion
of the spirit is the first act in religion; to this we are obliged in
every act. The devil requires the spirit of his votaries; should God
have a less dedication than the devil?

Motives to back this exhortation.

I. Not to give God our spirit is a great sin. It is a mockery of God,
not worship, contempt, not adoration, whatever our outward fervency or
protestations may be.[528] Every alienation of our hearts from him is
a real scorn put upon him. The acts of the soul are real, and more the
acts of the man than the acts of the body; because they are the acts
of the choicest part of man, and of that which is the first spring of
all bodily motions; it is the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος, the internal speech
whereby we must speak with God. To give him, therefore, only an
external form of worship without the life of it, is a taking his name
in vain. We mock him, when we mind not what we are speaking to him, or
what he is speaking to us; when the motions of our hearts are contrary
to the motions of our tongues; when we do anything before him slovenly,
impudently, or rashly. As in a lutinist it is absurd to sing one tune
and play another; so it is a foul thing to tell God one thing with
our lips, and think another with our hearts. It is a sin like that
the apostle chargeth the heathens with (Rom. i. 28): “They like not to
retain God in their knowledge.” Their stomachs are sick while they are
upon any duty, and never leave working till they have thrown up all
the spiritual part of worship, and rid themselves of the thoughts of
God, which are as unwelcome and troublesome guests to them. When men
behave themselves in the sight of God, as if God were not God, they
do not only defame him, but deny him, and violate the unchangeable
perfections of the Divine nature.

1. It is against the majesty of God, when we have not awful thoughts
of that great Majesty to whom we address; when our souls cleave
not to him when we petition him in prayer, or when he gives out his
orders to us in his Word. It is a contempt of the majesty of a prince,
if, whilst he is speaking to us, we listen not to him with {a264}
reverence and attention, but turn our backs on him, to play with one
of his hounds, or talk with a beggar; or while we speak to him, to
rake in a dunghill. Solomon adviseth us to “keep our foot when we go
to the house of God” (Eccles. v. 1). Our affections should be steady,
and not slip away again; why? (ver. 2) because “God is in heaven,”
&c. He is a God of majesty; earthly, dirty frames are unsuitable
to the God of heaven; low spirits are unsuitable to the Most High.
We would not bring our mean servants or dirty dogs into a prince’s
presence chamber; yet we bring not only our worldly, but our profane
affections into God’s presence. We give in this case those services
to God which our Governor would think unworthy of him (Mal. i. 8). The
more excellent and glorious God is, the greater contempt of him it is
to suffer such foolish affections to be competitors with him for our
hearts. It is a scorn put upon him to converse with a creature, while
we are dealing with him; but a greater to converse in our thoughts
and fancies with some sordid lust, which is most hateful to him; and
the more aggravation it attracts, in that we are to apprehend him the
most glorious object sitting upon his throne in time of worship, and
ourselves standing as vile creatures before him, supplicating for our
lives, and the conveyance of grace and mercy to our souls; as if a
grand mutineer, instead of humbly begging the pardon of his offended
prince, should present his petition not only scribbled and blotted,
but besmeared with some loathsome excrement. It is unbecoming both the
majesty of God, and the worship itself, to present him with a picture
instead of a substance, and bring a world of nasty affections in
our hearts, and ridiculous toys in our heads before him, and worship
with indisposed and heedless souls. He is a great King (Mal. i. 14):
therefore address to him with fear and reverence.

2. It is against the life of God. Is a dead worship proportioned
to a living God? The separation of heavenly affections from our
souls before God, makes them as much a carcass in his sight, as the
divorce of the soul makes the body a carcass. When the affections
are separated, worship is no longer worship, but a dead offering,
a lifeless bulk; for the essence and spirit of worship is departed.
Though the soul be present with the body in a way of information, yet
it is not present in a way of affection, and this is the worst; for
it is not the separation of the soul from informing that doth separate
a man from God, but the removal of our affections from him. If a
man pretend an application to God, and sleep and snore all the time,
without question such a one did not worship. In a careless worship
the heart is morally dead while the eyes are open: the heart of the
spouse (Cant. v. 2) waked while her eyes slept; and our hearts, on the
contrary, sleep while our eyes wake. Our blessed Saviour hath died to
purge our consciences from dead works and frames, that we may serve
the living God (Heb. ix. 14); to serve God as a God of life. David’s
soul cried and fainted for God under this consideration (Ps. xlii. 2);
but to present our bodies without our spirits, is such a usage of
God, that implies he is a dead image, not worthy of any but a dead
and heartless service, like one of those idols the Psalmist speaks of
(Ps. cxv. 5), that have “eyes, and see not; ears, {a265} and hear not;”
no life in it. Though it be not an objective idolatry, because the
worship is directed to the true God; yet I may call it a subjective
idolatry in regard of the frame, fit only to be presented to some
senseless stock. We intimate God to be no better than an idol, and
to have no more knowledge of us and insight into us, than an idol can
have. If we did believe him to be the living God, we durst not come
before him with services so unsuitable to him, and reproaches of him.

3. It is against the infiniteness of God. We should worship God with
those boundless affections which bear upon them a shadow or image
of his infiniteness; such are the desires of the soul which know no
limits, but start out beyond whatsoever enjoyment the heart of man
possesses. No creeping creature was to be offered to God in sacrifice,
but such as had legs to run, or wings to fly. For us to come before
God with a light creeping frame, is to worship him with the lowest
finite affections, as though anything, though never so mean or torn,
might satisfy an infinite Being; as though a poor shallow creature
could give enough to God without giving him the heart, when, indeed,
we cannot give him a worship proportionable to his infiniteness, did
our hearts swell as large as heaven in our desires for him in every
act of our duties.

4. It is against the spirituality of God. God being a Spirit, calls
for a worship in spirit; to withhold this from him implies him to
be some gross corporeal matter. As a Spirit, he looks for the heart;
a wrestling heart in prayer, a trembling heart in the Word (Isa.
lxvi. 2). To bring nothing but the body when we come to a spiritual
God to beg spiritual benefits, to wait for spiritual communications,
which can only be dispensed to us in a spiritual manner, is unsuitable
to the spiritual nature of God. A mere carnal service implicitly
denies his spirituality, which requires of us higher engagements than
mere corporeal ones. Worship should be rational, not an imaginative
service, wherein is required the activity of our noblest faculties;
and our fancy ought to have no share in it, but in subserviency to
the more spiritual part of our soul.

5. It is against the supremacy of God. As God is one and the only
Sovereign; so our hearts should be one, cleaving wholly to him, and
undivided from him. In pretending to deal with him, we acknowledge his
deity and sovereignty; but in withholding our choicest faculties and
affections from him, and the starting of our minds to vain objects,
we intimate their equality with God, and their right as well as his
to our hearts and affections. It is as if a princess should commit
adultery with some base scullion while she is before her husband,
which would be a plain denial of his sole right to her. It intimates
that other things are superior to God; they are true sovereigns that
engross our hearts. If a man were addressing himself to a prince, and
should in an instant turn his back upon him, upon a beck or nod from
some inconsiderable person; is it not an evidence that that person
that invited him away hath a greater sovereignty over him than that
prince to whom he was applying himself? And do we not discard God’s
absolute dominion over us, when, at the least beck of a corrupt
inclination, we can dispose of our hearts to it, and alienate {a266}
them from God? as they, in Ezek. xxxiii. 32, left the service of God
for the service of their covetousness, which evidenced that they owned
the authority of sin more than the authority of God. This is not to
serve God as our Lord and absolute Master, but to make God serve our
turn, and submit his sovereignty to the supremacy of some unworthy
affection. The creature is preferred before the Creator, when the
heart runs most upon it in time of religious worship, and our own
carnal interest swallows up the affections that are due to God. It is
“an idol set up in the heart” (Ezek. xiv. 4) in his solemn presence,
and attracts that devotion to itself which we only owe to our
Sovereign Lord; and the more base and contemptible that is to which
the spirit is devoted, the more contempt there is of God’s dominion.
Judas’s kiss, with a “Hail Master!” was no act of worship, or an
owning his Master’s authority, but a designing the satisfaction of
his covetousness in the betraying of him.

6. It is against the wisdom of God. God, as a God of order, has put
earthly things in subordination to heavenly; and we, by this unworthy
carriage, invert this order, and put heavenly things in subordination
to earthly; in placing mean and low things in our hearts, and bringing
them so placed into God’s presence, which his wisdom at the creation
put under our feet. A service without spiritual affections is a
“sacrifice of fools” (Eccles. v. 1), which have lost their brains and
understandings: a foolish spirit is very unsuitable to an infinitely
wise God. Well may God say of such a one, as Achish of David, who
seemed mad, “Why have you brought this fellow to play the madman in
my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Sam. xxi. 15.)

7. It is against the omnisciency of God. To carry it fair without,
and impertinently within, is as though God had not an all‑seeing eye
that could pierce into the heart, and understand every motion of the
inward faculties; as though God were easily cheated with an outward
fawning service, like an apothecary’s box with a gilded title, that
may be full of cobwebs within. What is such a carriage, but a design
to deceive God, when, with Herod, we pretend to worship Christ, and
intend to murder all the motions of Christ in our souls? A heedless
spirit, an estrangement of our souls, a giving the reins to them to
run out from the presence of God to see every reed shaken with the
wind, is to deny him to be the Searcher of hearts, and the Discerner
of secret thoughts; as though he could not look through us to the
darkness and remoteness of our minds, but were an ignorant God, who
might be put off with the worst as well as the best in our flock. If
we did really believe there were a God of infinite knowledge, who saw
our frames and whether we came dressed with wedding garments suitable
to the duties we are about to perform, should we be so garish, and put
him off with such trivial stuff, without any reverence of his Majesty?

8. It is against the holiness of God. To alienate our spirits is to
offend him while we pretend to worship him; though we may be mighty
officious in the external part, yet our base and carnal affections
make all our worship but as a heap of dung; and who would not look
upon it as an affront to lay dung before a prince’s throne? {a267}
(Prov. xxi. 27), “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;” how
much more when he brings it with a wicked mind? A putrefied carcass
under the law had not been so great an affront to the holiness of God,
as a frothy unmelted heart, and a wanton fancy, in a time of worship.