Life eternall or, A treatise of the knowledge of the divine essence and attributes Delivered in XVIII. sermons. By the late faithfull and worthy minister of Iesus Christ, Iohn Preston, D. in Divinity, chaplaine in ordinary to his Majestie, master of Emmanuel Colledge in Cambridge, and sometimes preacher of Lincolns Inne.
Preston, John, 1587-1628., Ball, Thomas, 1589 or 90-1659., Goodwin, Thomas, 1600-1680.
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The second Attribute of GOD.

The next Attribute,* which likewise may bee drawne from this place, is this:

That GOD is the first, without all causes,*having his being, and beginning from himselfe. This I finde set downe in Rev. 1.8.*I am ALPHA and O∣MEGA, the beginning and the ending, saith the LORD, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almightie, that is, what Alpha and Omega are in the letters, that I am to the creatures; I am the first, and the last; that is, if I should suffer the creatures to fall, then I should be the last; and I am He they would returne unto, Rev. 3.14.*Christ, according to his God-head, is said to be the begin∣ning of the creation of GOD, Isai. 44.6.*I am the first, and last: The meaning of it is, that he is without all causes, that he is from himselfe, and by himselfe, and of himselfe, and for himselfe, Rom. 11.36. that is,* he is the first, hee never had any efficient cause, as all the creatures have; that which hath no efficient cause, hath no end; that which hath no end, hath no forme; (for the forme doth but serve to carry a thing to such an end) that which hath no forme, hath no matter, for the matter is dependent on the forme; and so con∣sequently, he is without all cause. But wee will shew you the grounds of this, they are these three:

*He is without all cause: for, if there were any cause of him, that cause must needs be caused, Page  141 either from some other, or from it selfe, not from any other; for then there should be something that is before the Lord, that is better than he, from whom he receives all things; but that cannot be: for, then it should be God, and not the Lord; and it is not from it selfe, because nothing is the cause of it selfe, for then it should be before it selfe, and it should be better than it selfe; for the cause, though it give the same that is in it selfe, to the effect, as the father to the sonne; yet the cause is better, because that which gives, is better than that which receives.

Againe, it should be different from it selfe, for the cause is different from the effect: therefore it must needs be, that he is without all cause, and the first, and the beginning of all the creatures of God.

Wheresoever you see any thing,* that hath but a part of another, it must needs receive it from some whole; and if it doth receive it from that which is but a part; yet by degrees it must come to some whole, as to the fountaine; as for exam∣ple, if iron or wood be on fire, &c. they have but a part of that element, which argues that there is some whole.

But it may be said,*

[Answ.] That cannot be; because whatsoever hath any thing originally, must have the whole, and not a part; as the Sunne, because it hath the light origi∣nally, therefore it hath not a part, but the whole, though afterward it gives light to many; so a Page  142 fountaine, that hath water originally, hath not the part, but the whole, though afterwards it runnes into many brookes; and if there were but one fountaine, as there is but one Sunne, then all the water would be in that fountaine, as the light is in the Sunne.

Now to apply this, looke upon all the crea∣tures, and you shal find that they have all but part of being; the Angels have one part, men another, and other creatures another part, &c. which is an argument that there is a whole, which is GOD blessed for ever.

Besides, it argues that he hath that wholenesse of being from himselfe; for he that hath but part of a thing, doth borrow it, and therefore must come to the originall; for nothing is borrowed but it is from another, and not from it selfe; ther∣fore, seeing the creatures have but a part of being, it presupposeth that there is a whole, that there is an immense being, that is of himselfe, and from himselfe, and hath it not from any creature.

*Lastly, there is nothing that the eye hath seene, or that the eare hath heard, but it is possible not to be; there is almost nothing but is subject to corruption; but if it be not so, yet they have a possibility not to be; as the heavens, though they are not corrupted, yet they may be: now what∣soever hath a possibility not to be, it is certaine that it was not, & that which was not, is brought to a being by him that is; so that you must come to something which is, that is the cause, that is the beginning and ending, that is without cause, Page  143 that is α and ο, he that was, and that is to come.

Now we come to application.

[Vse 1] If the Lord be without all cause, this we may gather then, that he doth not will any thing, be∣cause it is just,* or desire it, because it is good, or love any thing, because it is pleasant; for there is no cause without him, all perfection is in him ori∣ginally.

The creatures indeed desire things, because they are good; and love them, because they are plea∣sant; because they seeke for perfection out of themselves, because they are caused by that which is out of themselves: but this is not so in God, who is the first cause, because, of the first cause there is no cause; and of the first reason there is no reason to be given. Looke whatsoever is in the creature, what justice or excellencie, it comes from God; and if he should will any thing for this cause; because it is good, there should be a reciprocation, which is impossible. I speake this for this end; that in our judging of the waies of God, we should take heed of framing a mo∣dell of our owne, as to thinke, because such a thing is just; therefore the Lord wils it: the rea∣son of this conceit is, because we thinke that God must goe by our rule; we forget this, that every thing is just because he wils it; it is not that God wils it, because it is good or just. But we should proceed after another manner, wee should finde out what the will of God is; for in that is the rule of justice and equity; for otherwise it was possi∣ble that the Lord could erre, though he did never Page  144 erre: that which goes by a rule, though it doth not swarve, yet it may; but if it be the rule it selfe, it is impossible to erre. As, if the Carpen∣ters hand be the rule, he strikes a right line. The Angels and creatures have a rule, and therefore may erre; but it is not so with God, and therefore what God wils is just, because he is the rule it selfe; therefore in the mysteries of predestination, we are to say thus with our selves; Thus I finde the Lord hath set it downe, thus he hath expressed himselfe in his Word, such is his pleasure; and therefore it is reason, and just such against which there can be no exception.

[Vse 2] If God be without all cause, then he may doe all things for himselfe, and for his owne glory;* because he that hath no cause above, or without himselfe, he needs not doe any thing but for him∣selfe. The Angels, they have a cause above, and without themselves, therefore they must doe nothing for themselves, but for another, Rom. 11. last, Of him are all things, therefore to him be glory: that place shewes us a ground of this, why wee must not expect, that God should doe any thing for any other end, for any other creature in the world; for having no end above himselfe, it is impossible that hee should have any end but himselfe, Prov. 16.4. The LORD hath made all things for himselfe; yea, even the wicked for the day of evill. Whereas this objection might be made; Will he cast men to hell? will hee damne them for his owne glory? Yes (saith he) all his acti∣ons even that also is for his own sake; Rom. 9.22. Page  145 there it is more large: What if GOD willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power knowne, endu∣red with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fil∣led to destruction? &c. This is enough, he hath no end, no cause above himselfe; and therefore it is reason enough, he doth it because he will doe it. And this is a thing to be observed out of the 19. and 20. verses, where the same reason is given that we now speake of, Who hath? &c. saith the Apostle, if you looke on God, and the creatures, you shall finde this difference betweene them; all the creatures are made, as pots are made by the potters; and therefore, as they have an author of their being, so they doe serve for another end; so that the potter he may appoint what end hee will, and no man can say, why doest thou it? So God, because hee is the first cause, hee may have what end he will, and no man can say, why doest thou so? hee may make some vessels of honour, and some of dishonour, and all for himselfe, and his owne glory: therefore, when you see that he did not spare the Angels, but cast them downe into hell, there to be reserved in chaines of darknesse till the last day; when you see him not sparing the old world, when you see him suffering the Gentiles to walke in their owne wayes; when you see him to suffer a great part of the world to be damned, and to perish; when you see him let the Churches to be made havocke of, you should be ready to say thus, To him be glory for ever: that is, you should not murmure against him, but glori∣fie him, and reverence him for ever: for he may Page  146 doe all things for himselfe. And this is the reason that is rendred, Matth. 20.15, 16.*May not I doe what I will with mine owne? He gives it there as the reason, why many are called and few chosen, why the Iewes were first, and the Gentiles last: why he let goes many probable men, and choo∣seth the worst; saith he, May not I doe with mine owne what I will? Beloved, this difference is to be observed betweene the creatures and God; there is no creature can say of any thing, that this is mine owne, because he made it not, they are not the masters of them; but God may doe what hee will, what he pleaseth, because they are his owne. If God will take a few out of a Nation, and de∣stroy all the rest, who can say any thing to him? they are his owne; as he is without all cause, so he is without all end. Now, as this is of use to justifie God, in that it is his property to be with∣out all cause; so it may teach us;

[Vse 3] That man may not doe any thing for his owne end,* but he is bound to doe all for an higher end, as hee that made us hath appointed, for the effi∣cient can make a thing to what end he please. You see it is so with men, as a knife is made to cut, a key to open, &c. and yet they are all of one ma∣teriall: so the Lord looking downe from heaven, he made of one heape of clay severall creatures, and appointed to every one his several end, which end they must observe and aime at; and if they doe not, they wrong him that made them; and therefore it is hee destroyes them. And so it is with every thing that is made for an end; as fire, Page  147 that is made to warme a man, if it doe burne the house, we put it out; a vessell that is made to keep wine or beare, if it doe corrupt it, we lay it aside, and put it into one more wholesome: so doth God, he puts to every man his severall end, and therefore he gives them severall gifts, and severall callings: himselfe, indeed, is the generall end, but besides the generall, he appoints to every calling a particular end; to a Minister he saith, Goe, and feed my sheepe; if he goes, and feeds himselfe, and not the people; if he feed them with stubble, and not with hay, hee doth not attaine his end; and so may I say of every thing else; of a schol∣ler, a Magistrate, a husband; they have severall places, and divers gifts given them, and all for their severall end, and if they aime not at their end, but worke for themselves, they are worthy to be destroyed: as a man, if hee hath an instru∣ment that is crooked, and unfit for use, then hee casts it away, and taketh another; but if it be fit, he will lay it up for use, and he will say, let it not be lost: so doth the Lord with men, if they be pliable to him, if they will worke for the end that he hath appointed them, then he saves and preserves them; but if they will doe things for their owne end, it is the next way to destruction.

For observe this; for any man to do any thing for his owne end, is to arrogate that to himselfe, which is the Lords, who is without cause, which is an high kinde of idolatry. Let them consider this therefore, that labour that they may be rich, that labour that they might have outward excel∣lencie, Page  148 and to be something in the flesh, that la∣bour only for outward honour, for places of im∣ployment, and credit in all things; so a scholler that is negligent, he saith, I shall make a shift to live; but hast thou not another end? art thou not made? art thou not a creature? is it enough for thee to live, and no more? so they that have their estates provided for them, they care not for lear∣ning, they say, they can live without it; but art not thou made? and is not this thine end, to serve God and men? So he that shall choose a calling or course of life, according to his owne fancie, not that which shall be serviceable to men, but that which pleaseth himselfe, let him aske himselfe this question; Am I not made? Am I not a crea∣ture? have I no other end, but my selfe? There∣fore let men consider this, and looke to it; have I not chosen this course of life, and have I not an end appointed to me? That end is to be service∣able to God, and profit men: But if a man shall thinke with himselfe, what is the best way to live and provide for my selfe, and to get profit and wealth; these are idolatrous and sinful thoughts. God may doe all things for himselfe, because he hath nothing above himselfe; [Object.] but if thou dost so, thou provokest him to wrath exceedingly.

[Answ.] *But you will say, I doe all for this end, to serve God and men?

Thou that doest pretend this, that thou doest things to be serviceable to God and men, and not to thy selfe, thou shalt know it by this:

[ 1] 1 If thou puttest thy selfe to things that are Page  149 above thee, it is a signe that thou doest it not for his sake, that hath appointed thee, but for thine owne.

2 If thou art fit for an higher place, if thou restest in things that are beneath thee, for thy greater profit, thou seekest thy selfe, and not the Lord.

3 If thou doest resist the providence of God, that when thou hast a calling, and art put in it, and thou puttest thy selfe out again for thy advantage, then thine end is thine owne selfe. Paul when he went to Macedonia, hee found but bad entertain∣ment there, yet he went, because he was sent. So Iohn, he went to Pathmos, where the people were but few, and barbarous, yet he obeyed God, and went. Eliah, when he was sent to Ahab, and to prophesie to the Israelites, among whom, for all that hee knew, there was not one soule, that did not bow his knee to Baal. Ezekiel and Isaiah, when they went to harden the people to destruction, yet they went willingly, because the Lord sent them; it was an argument that they did it not for them∣selves. A servant is not to doe his owne worke, he doth it as his master will have him to doe it; if he doth the things that his master bids him, and saith, I am his servant; and if he bid me to goe, I will goe, or if he bid me come, I will come; if he bid me to keepe within doore, and to doe the meanest works, I will doe them; this is an argu∣ment that he doth not seeke himselfe. When a man is thus dependent upon God, willing to take imployment, not above him, nor below him, nor Page  150 resist his providence, but willing to be guided by him, it is a signe that he seekes the Lord, and not himselfe.

4 Besides, let a man consider what he doth in these services that immediatly concerne the Lord himselfe. If a man shall study much, and pray lit∣tle; if a man shall spend all his time in his calling about worldly businesse, and little time for duties to build up himselfe in knowledge, as in prayer and reading, &c. it is a signe that he doth it, not for the Lord, but for himselfe; for he that seekes not the Lord, in that which is done to his person, he doth it not in that which is done in outward workes; he that will not be faithfull in the grea∣ter, and that which God doth immediately com∣mand in his worship, he will never be faithfull in those things which are further off, that are of lesse consequence, Act. 6.4.* It was an argument they gave themselves in integrity, to the ministry of the Word, because they gave themselves to prayer as well as it; they did, as it were, divide the time between both; if we were to preach on∣ly, say the Apostles, we could then wait upon Ta∣bles, but one halfe of our time is to be taken up in prayer, the other in preaching: and if you thus divide the time, it is a signe you look to the Lord.

5 Besides, consider what it is that troubles thee? what a man aimes at, if he lose his end, that grieves him, when his worke is done; if this be thy trouble that thou hast lost some credit, or profit, then thine end is thy selfe; but if this be thy griefe, that thou hast not done it in such m••∣sure, Page  151 that others may receive profit and advantage by it, it is a signe that thou diddest it not for thy selfe, but for Gods glory.

6 Besides, if a man considers what it is that doth make things pleasant, and gives amabilitie to that, which is harsh in it selfe. Labour in it selfe is sweet to no man, unlesse there be something in it that sweetens it: now consider what that is, if in it thy eye is upon thy wealth, that comes by it; if thou studiest hard, and if thou preachest much, and it is for the praise of men, thou seekest thy selfe, and thy reward is in it; but if thou lookest up to the Lord, if thou doest it, because he sees it, and knowes it, and that he may say; I know thy worke and thy labour; it is a signe that thy end in it, was the Lord, and not thy selfe.

7 From whence doest thou looke for wages? from God or from men? Whence come those complaints of the unthankfulnesse of friends and pupils, and those we doe good to? but because we looke to men, and not to God. For if we did looke to God for our reward, their thankfulnesse or unthankfulnesse would be of small moment to us: for doth the Nurse nurse the childe for it own sake only? doth shee looke for reward from the child, or from the mother that putteth it to nurse; if you look for your reward from men; they are your end; but if you looke for it from the Lord, their encouragements or discouragements will not much move you.

8 Againe, consider wherin thy minde resteth, for that which a man makes his end, therein his Page  152 minde resteth, and in nothing besides: a husband-man, though he doth plow and sow, &c. yet he rests not til he comes to the harvest: he that hews stone, and squares timber, doth it, and stayes not till the house be built: therefore, doe thou con∣sider with thy selfe, in all thy workes, what it is that gives rest to thy thoughts; if thou doest say, I have now wealth and riches enough, and means enough, I have gotten what I aimed at, and now my soule is at rest; if thou sayest, I have now ho∣nour and name enough, my children be well pro∣vided for; and therefore your soule rest in this; then this was your end, and not the Lord; wheras you ought to say, though I have provided for my children, yet doe they feare the Lord? are they brought home to him? My trade hath brought me home much, but how serviceable have I been with it? I have much credit and estate, but what glory hath it brought to IESVS CHRIST? So he that is a Minister; it is true, I have enough, enough credit, enough for estate; but what is this? have I brought any glory to the Lord? have I converted any? if thy heart can have no rest, but in the Lord, and in the things that belong to the Lord, it is an argument that thine eye was upon him.

Remember this, that seeing we are made, seeing we have an higher cause, and that to be without cause belongs to God alone; therefore wee must carry our selves as creatures; as it is said of Da∣vid, he served his time; hee did nothing for his owne end, but he carried himselfe as a servant, he Page  153 did not say; I will have so much pleasure, and then serve God; he did not cut the Lord short, but he served his time, he gave the Lord the whole day. It was the comfort that IESVS CHRIST had, when he was to goe out of the world, Iohn 17.4.*I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the worke that thou gavest me to doe; that is, I was as a servant, and I chose not my worke, but it is that which thou gavest me, and I have not done it by halfes, but I have finished it; therefore glo∣rifie thou me. So, if thou canst say it, when thou goest out of the world, that will be thy comfort at that day; but if not, remember that it is the Lords manner of dealing, when men will seeke themselves, and their owne end; he layes them aside, as we doe broken vessels, fit for no more use, and he takes another. If there be any here, that can say so, that the Lord hath laid thee aside, and taken thy gifts from thee; remember, consi∣der with thy selfe, that hadst thou used them to his glory, and made him thy end, be sure that he would not have laid thee aside, but that he would have used thee. Beloved, we see it by experience, that men of small parts, yet if they had humble hearts, and did use them in the simplicitie of their spirits to Gods glory, then he hath enlarged them, and used them in greatest imployments. Againe, on the contrary side; men of excellent parts, they have withered, because they did not use them to Gods glory, therefore he hath layd them aside as broken vessels.