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.

The third Attribute of GOD.

WE come now to a third Attribute, and that is the Eternity of GOD;* for God doth not say, He that was, but He that is, hath sent me unto you. He that is without all cause, the effi∣cient and finall, he must needs be eternall; he that hath no beginning nor end, must needs be eter∣nall: and besides, in that he saith, I am that I am, not, I am that I was, it must needs be that hee is without succession.

Therefore from hence we may gather, that

GOD is Eternall.

*In handling of this point, we will shew you,

[ 1] First, wherein this consists.

[ 2] The reason, why it must be so.

[ 3] The differences.

Page  157 [ 4] The consectaries, that flow from these distin∣ctions of eternitie.

[ 1] For the first, you must know, that to eternitie these five things are required:*

[ 1] It must not only have a simple, but a living and most perfect being. For eternity is a transcendent property, and therefore can be in none, but in the most excellent and perfect being, and therefore it must be a living being. This we have expressed in Isai. 57.15.*Thus saith the high and loftie one, that inhabiteth eternitie, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, &c. As if he should say; there is no house fit for him to dwell in, that is high and excellent, but only the house of eterni∣tie. Where eternity is compared to an house or habitation, to which none can enter, but God him∣selfe, because he onely is high and excellent; all the creatures are excluded out of this habitation.

[ 2] It is required to eternity, that there be no be∣ginning; which description you shall see of it in Psal. 90.2.* LORD, thou hast beene our dwelling place in all generations; before the mountaines were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth, or the world; even from everlasting to everlasting thou art GOD.

[ 3] And here also you have the third expression; and that is, to have no ending, he is not only from everlasting, but to everlasting.

[ 4] There is no succession: as, suppose all the plea∣sures that are in a long banquet, were drawne to∣gether into one moment; suppose all the acts of mans understanding, and will, from the begin∣ning Page  158 of his life to the end, could be found in him in one instant; such is eternity. God possesseth all things altogether, he hath all at once, Ioh. 8.58.*Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am: As if hee should say, there is no time past, present, or to come with me; he doth not say, be∣fore Abraham was, I was, but I am, and therefore he is eternall.

[ 5] He is the dispenser of all time to others; he is Lord of all time, al times do but issue out of him, as rivers from the sea; he dispenseth them as it plea∣seth him, Psal. 90. compare verse 2. and 3. toge∣ther,*Before the Mountaines were brought forth, &c. even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art GOD. Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest; returne yee children of men. He sets time to the sonnes of men; where we shall see that this is the property of him, that is eternall, to set times and seasons to men, &c.

[ 2] The reason why God must be eternall,* is this, because he is what he is of himselfe, he is with∣out all cause, and therefore can have no beginning or ending; and therefore he must of necessitie be without all motion, and without all succession, for all succession presupposeth motion, and all motion presupposeth a cause and effect; for what∣soever is moved, is either moved from no being to a being, or from an imperfect, to a more per∣fect being; that is, to be moved to an higher de∣gree: now God that hath nothing in him to be perfected, is not capable of a further and higher degree.

Page  159 [ 3] The third thing is the difference betweene the eternitie of God, and the duration of all creatures,* which consists in these particulars:

[ 1] They, even the best of them, have but an halfe eternitie, they are not from everlasting, though they are to everlasting.

[ 2] That eternall duration that they have, is not intrinsecall to them, it is dependent, they receive it from another.

[ 3] They cannot communicate it to another, nor extend it beyond themselves; the Angels, though they bee eternall, yet they cannot make other things to be eternall; God onely can doe this.

[ 4] All the acts of the creatures, all their pleasures and thoughts, and whatsoever is in them doe ad∣mit a succession, a continuall flux and motion; but in God it is not so; he is as a rocke in the wa∣ter that stands fast though the waves move about it; so is it with God: and though the creatures ad∣mit of a continuall flux and succession about him, as the waves doe; yet there is none in him. And these are the differences betweene the eternity of God, and the duration of all the creatures. Now followes the fourth thing.

[ 4] The consectaries that flow from hence, they are these two:

If this be the eternity of God,* then to him all time, that is to come, is, as it were, past, Psal. 90.4.*A thousand yeares in his sight are but as yester∣day, when it is past: that is, a thousand yeares that are to come, thay are to him as past; they are no∣thing to him. And againe, a thousand yeeres that Page  160 are past, are as it were, present to him, as we heard before: Before Abraham was, I am: For he pos∣sesseth all things together; by reason of the vast∣nesse of his being, to him all things are present. As he that stands upon an high mountaine, and lookes downe (it is a simile that the Schoole-men often use;) though to the passenger that goes by, some are before, some behinde, yet to him they are all present. So though one generation pas∣seth, and another commeth; yet to God, that in∣habits and stands upon eternity, they are the same, they are all present, there is no difference. And then this followes from hence, that to God no time is either long or short,* but all times are alike to him; therefore he is not subject to any delayes or expectances; he is not subject to any feares, for they are of things to come; nor to the translation of griefe, or pleasure, or the losse of any excellencie, that before hee had not, as all creatures are; therfore we should consider of the excellencie of God, to give him the praise of it: this use is made of it, in 1 Tim. 1.17.*Now unto the King eternall, immortall, invisible, and the only wise GOD, be honour, and glory for ever and ever, A∣men: As if he should say; this very considera∣tion, that God is eternall, should cause us to give him praise: and so is that in Isai. 57.15.*

*Eternitie makes that which is good, to be infi∣nitely more good than it is, and that which is evill,* to be much more evill; and that not onely in respect of duration (that which is good for a weeke, is better for a yeare; and an evill, when it Page  161 continues an infinite time, it is infinitely more evill,) but also in regard of that collection into one, which is found in those things that continue to eternitie: as when all joyes are collected into one heape, and all griefe into one center; so that you shall joy as much in one instant, as ever here∣after; so that though the thing be still but the same, yet the continuance makes it infinitely more good.

[Vse 1] Seeing eternitie is a propertie of God; wee should learne hence, to minde most the things that are eternall,* for they are, of all other things, of the greatest moment, because they doe most participate of this transcendent propertie of the almightie. God is eternall, the soule is eternall, heaven and hell are eternall; therefore they are more to be regarded of us. You shall see this in 1 Ioh. 2.17. as a reason why we should not minde the things of the world;* because the world va∣nisheth, it passeth away, and the lusts thereof (saith the Apostle;) that is, looke upon all the things below, and both the things passe, and your affe∣ctions and desires passe, that which you love to day, to morrow you will not love; therefore love them not, regard them not, for they are of a flitting and passing nature, but he that doth the will of the LORD abides for ever; and therefore we are to minde such things most: such as the King is, such are his subjects, and such are the rewards and punishments that he gives. Now God, hee is eternall, 1 Tim. 1.17.*To the King eternall, immor∣tall, invisible, and only wise GOD, be honour and Page  162 glory for ever. And as he is an eternall King, so he hath given to us, his subjects, to be eternall, as the soule is; and he hath given punishments, and rewards eternall; hell is an everlasting prison, and heaven is an eternall Palace; therefore these are the things most to be regarded of us. And if wee would but throughly consider that these things are eternall, it would effectually draw our mindes to the things that are above. A man that comes to an Inne, if he can get a better roome, he will; if not, hee can be content with it, for hee saith, it is but for a night; so your habitation here is but for a night: if you can have a better condition, use it rather, but if not, be not much moved, for it is but for a night. In worldly things the shortnesse of them makes us to undergoe them cheerefully. An apprentiship that is hard, a man will indure it, for hee saith it is but for a time; so things that are pleasant, if they be but of short continuance, wee regard them the lesse. Now our time that we have here, in respect of eternity, is shorter than an apprentiship, nay, than a night, nay, shorter than an houre. Now put the case, that a man should have an houre given him; and it should be said to him; as thou spen∣dest this houre, so thou shalt live all thy dayes; what would not a man doe, or what would he not suffer? how carefull would he be to spend this houre well? Now this life is not so much as an houre to eternitie; and therefore why should we not be carefull how we spend this houre, see∣ing it shall be with us for ever according as wee Page  163 spend it? 1 Cor. 9.25.*Every one that striveth for the mastery is temperate; now they doe it to ob∣taine a corruptible crowne, but we an incorruptible. Thus he reasoneth, If men that use these Olympi∣an gaines, if they will endure so much hardship and abstinence, accustome their bodies to heat and cold for the race before-hand, and doe all but for a crowne, that will last but this life at the most; and shall not we (saith he) for an incor∣ruptible crowne? Beloved; If wee would sit downe but one halfe houre, and consider serious∣ly what eternity is, it would make us to neglect all temporary things, which now we are so affe∣cted with. It is eternitie, my brethren, and the consideration of it, that doth set an high price upon grace, and gives the just weight to sinne, but it makes all other things exceeding light; for this is a true rule; that untill we come to appre∣hend sinne, as the greatest evill in the world, we are not truly humbled, and it is eternitie that makes it to be so; for (as was said before) eter∣nitie makes an evill infinitely the greater. Now if you looke upon all other things, as honour, and disgrace, and the favour of men, they reach but a little way, but to the end of this life, at the utmost; but if you looke to the reach of grace and sin, they reach (as it were) a thousand thou∣sand miles beyond it. Grace reacheth to eterni∣tie, and sinne reaches to eternitie, and therefore these are the things that a man should be busied about. What a shame is it for a man to grieve for some outward crosses, and to rejoyce much Page  164 for some preferment here; and not to regard or be affected with eternity: It is the phrase that the Apostle Paul useth, he cals it mans day; I care not to be judged by mans day; and indeed it is but a short day; and what is it to that eternitie I looke for? What is it to that God, with whom I must live for ever? therefore I care not what men say of me, but I rather thinke what the eternall God thinkes of me, and what will be thought of mee in that Kingdome where I must live for ever. If a man were in Turkie, or in some other remote place, to trafficke there a while, hee would not care what the men of that place thought of him, for hee saith, this is not the place where I must live: so doe you but consider, that this is not the place where you must live, and then of what mo∣ment will it appeare to you, what men say of you? Beloved, if the soule were mortall, there were some reason that you should make provision for it here; but seeing it is immortall, you ought to make a proportionable provision for it, even for ever: for the body you are apt to make pro∣vision, a viaticum beyond the journey; but con∣sider, that you have an immortall soule, which must live for ever, and you must make some pro∣vision for it, to carry it so long a journey. It is our Saviours exhortation, Ioh. 6.27.*Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat that en∣dures to everlasting life, &c. As if he should say; if you had no other life to live but this, then you might seeke the things of this life, as glory, ho∣nour, pleasure, &c, but these things perish, and Page  165 the taste of them perisheth, as the sweetnesse of meat in the eating; but (saith our Saviour) seeke those things that will abide for ever: you have an everlasting life to live, therefore you must make some provision answerable thereunto: As for the body, the soule weares it but as a garment, and when it is worne out, the soule must have a new suit of apparell one day.

Well, seeing God hath brought this point to our hands this day, let me but prevaile with you so farre, as to set some time apart the following weeke, where you may enter into a serious consi∣deration of eternitie, the very thinking of it, will be of great moment to you; for looke what the object is, such is the soule, about which it is con∣versant; high objects lift up the soule to the Lord, and make the minde answerable to them, and low objects make the minde like to them. Now eter∣nitie is an high object, and it will worke in men high mindes; and hence it is, for the want of this consideration, that when a man comes to die, and sees eternitie before him, how it doth then so amaze the soule of man? I have seene it by ex∣perience: I knew one who said, If it were but for a thousand yeares, I could beare it, but seeing it is to eternitie, this amazeth me. Behold, if you would consider, that after many thousands of yeares are past, yet you are to begin as at the first; if men did consider this seriously, would they let their eter∣nall estate depend so upon uncertainties. And let them consider this, that are yet strangers to the life of God, that if death should come, they should Page  166 not escape eternall death: it is good to keepe our thoughts upon this, and it would make us not to hasten after the things of the world, as we doe; and for thy sinne thou dotest on so, there are three things to be considered in it: First, the pleasure of it; is as the speckled skin of the Serpent: Second∣ly, the sting of sinne: and thirdly, the eternity of that sting. Now looke not thou upon the plea∣sure of sinne, that endures but for a season, but con∣sider the hurt that comes from sinne, and then consider the eternity of it: a candle in a darke night makes a great shew, but when the Sunne comes, it vanisheth, and is nothing; so would all these things that wee doe so affect now, if they come before eternity in our thoughts: it is great wisdome in this kinde to husband our thoughts well, 1 Cor. 7.29, 30, 31.*Vse this world, as not using it, for the fashion of this world passeth away: that is, minde them not much, be not much affe∣cted with them, one way or other, either in joy or griefe, let them be such as if they were not; for why? they are temporall things, passing things, things that continue not: for that is the thing I gather out of that place, that the Lord would not have our thoughts to be bestowed upon them, but so remissely, as if not at all, because there are eternall things, and set your minde upon them, for the time is short: As if he should say, thou hast not so much time to spare; the time is short, and you have businesse enough another way; there is water little enough to runne in the right channel, therefore let none runne beside; and the things Page  167 that should take up your minds, are sin, and grace, things that are eternall. It is a pitifull thing that the noble intentions of eternall mindes should be bestowed so ill upon these flitting things, which are nothing to eternity? A man that hath not much mony in his purse, but onely for to provide necessaries; when one comes and askes him to borrow any, he will say; I have no more than to buy me food and rayment, or if he hath his rent to pay, and no more; if one should come to bor∣row any of him, he saith, no, I have no more than to pay my rents. So saith the Apostle there; you have no such spare time, no such spare affections, that you can bestow them else-where, but bestow them upon things that endure to eternall life.

[ 1] And further to move you to this, consider the shortnesse and vanity of this life,* how all man∣kinde are hurried and rapt with a sudden motion to the west of their dayes. Our fathers went be∣fore us, we follow them, and our children follow us at the heeles, as one wave followes another, and at last we are all dashed on the shore of death: and withal, consider the vanity that al conditions are subject unto; whether they be mountaines or valleyes; if mountaines, they are subject to blasts, to be envied; or if valleyes, to be over-drow∣ned, oppressed, and contemned; yea, the things that we prize most, honour and pleasure; what doe they but weary us, and then whet our appe∣tite to a new edge? Consider the men that have beene before us; many men that have beene like a greene tree, but now the floud of their wealth is Page  168 dried up, they and their goods have perished to∣gether.

[ 2] Consider in the second place, what eternity is; here the body is corrupted with diseases, and the soule subject to vexation; but that life is sure, composed and constant, and there is no varia∣blenesse in it; and if we desire life so much, why doe we esteeme this life that is but a span long, and neglect that which is so spacious.

[ 3] Consider the errand, upon which you are sent into this world, and be not put aside from it, by any needlesse occasions (as they are all when they come into competition with this) which hinder our thoughts, and our actions, as farre as they be∣long to eternity: and indeed all the world spend too much of their time upon by-businesses, and they are hampered with them before they are aware, still making our selves new worke; so that we make this life, which is short enough of it selfe, shorter than it is, wearying our selves with anxious griefes, labour and care: thus men did before us, and thus we are ready to doe, there∣fore we had the more need to take heed unto it.

[Vse 2] If God be eternall, then be not you offended, because you see that he stayes long,* either in gi∣ving reward, or in executing judgement on men for their sinnes; for with him no time is long, there is no succession with him; therefore say not, because you feele nothing for the present, there are great promises made, but you finde no performance; and there bee many judgements threatned, but none executed; doe not you there∣fore Page  169 say, that your rewards are neglected, or judgement passed over, and that God hath forgot∣ten. For here you see, that with God no time is long or short, there is no succession with him: you have the same use made of it, Isai. 40.27, 28.*Why sayest thou O Iacob, and speakest O Israel; My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgement is passed over from my GOD? There is the objecti∣on, that which is in the hearts of men: Now you shall see what answer is made to it in the follow∣ing verse, Hast thou not knowne? hast thou not heard that the everlasting GOD the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is wea∣ry? there is no searching of his understanding. The meaning is this; To us indeed the time is long, either when reward is deferred, or when the pu∣nishment, or the execution of sentence against evill works is deferred; but with God it is not so. Now that which makes it seeme long to us, is,

1 Partly the passions, and restlesnesse of the mind, (for that is motion) but God, he is without al motion or passion, and therefore nothing is long.

2 Againe, not only we are subject to motion, but the things that we have to doe with, they are subject to motion, and passe away, and therefore they seeme long to us: for time, you know is no∣thing else but the measure of motion; and there∣fore where there is motion, there is time, and no while else. Now to us that are in motion, and to the things that we have to doe with, a thousand yeares are a thousand yeares; but in God there is no motion, nor flux; and therefore a thousand Page  170 yeares with him, are but as one day: God is nei∣ther in motion himselfe, nor are other things as in motion to him; but wee are moved, and the things we have to doe with, are moved; and if ei∣ther, there must be motion, for if the ship moves: though the waters stand still; or if the waters move, though the ship stand still, there is motion; but God stands still, and all things stand still to him likewise. Doe not wonder therefore that the Churches lye so long in misery, that the in∣juries of the Saints are so long unrevenged, doe not accuse God, doe not mistake him, doe not thinke amisse of him, doe not thinke that hee is forgetfull, and doth not remember, that hee is slacke, and doth not regard, that hee cannot, or will not helpe. Beloved, it is not so; you shall see the very same use made of it, 2 Pet. 3. if you compare vers. 4, and 8, 9. together:*In the latter dayes there shall come scoffers, &c. saying, where is the promise of his comming? for since the Fathers fell asleepe, all things continue as they were from the creation, vers. 8, 9. But be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the LORD as a thousand yeares, and a thousand yeares as one day. The LORD is not slacke concerning his promise (as some men count slacknesse) but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It is not slacknesse in God: For (saith the Apostle) a thousand yeares with him are as one day. We thinke it a great matter, that the Church should lye so long, and cry, How long LORD! and yet no remedie, saith the Apostle, thinke not Page  171 much at it; For a thousand yeares with him are but as one day.

[Vse 3] If God be eternall, then consider with whom you have to doe, even with him whose love and enmity are eternall;* with him, whose soveraignty and power is eternall: if a man be angry, we re∣gard it the lesse, if we know it is but for a fit; but consider what it is to have to do with him whose love and enmitie are eternall. Therefore learne, not to regard men as wee doe, but to regard the Lord only, and that in these three respects:

1 Learne to trust the Lord, and not man,* for God is an everlasting refuge, Psal. 146.3, 4.*Put not your trust in Princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no helpe, &c. that which they can doe for you, is but for this life at most; trust in him that is able to defend you for all eternitie; for he that made heaven and earth, hee continues for ever. This use you have made of it in Psa. 90.1.* LORD, thou hast beene our habitation for ever and ever: as if hee should say, Lord, thou wast an habitation (that is, a refuge, as our house is) to the Churches, thou wast so in Abrahams time, in Pharaohs time. Consider, that God is not onely an habitation to his Church from generation to generation, but also from everlasting to everlasting.

2 Learne from hence likewise to feare him;* feare him that can cast body and soule into hell for ever; his eternity should make us to feare him. Feare not man, Isai. 5.13, 14.*Why? because he is of short continuance: and if he can do you any hurt, it is but for a short time, for he shall be made as the Page  172 grasse; but feare the Almighty GOD, who laid the heavens, and stretched the foundations of the earth. Vse the Lords arguments, they are the arguments that can work on the soule; it is the holy Ghosts argument why we should feare him, because he is eternall, as the opposition in that place shewes.

3 Labour to serve him, 1 Ioh. 2.17.*The world passeth away,*and the lusts thereof, but hee that doth the will of the LORD abides for ever; that is, the world cannot make you to abide for ever, it pas∣seth away; if you fulfill the lusts thereof, if you fulfill your owne will, you are not able to conti∣nue your selves, but you will passe away: what should wee doe then? why, fulfill the will of the Lord, consider what he would have you doe, and so you shall abide for ever.

[Vse 4] If God be eternall, then we should learne hence to comfort our selves,* when we looke upon the mutabilitie that we and all creatures are subject unto in this vale of misery, it is a thing that may comfort us exceeding much; if wee serve him who is constant, without change, who is eternall, that can make up the changes that we are subject unto; it is the use that is made of it, in Psal. 102.11, 12.*My dayes are like a shadow that declineth, and I am withered like grasse; but thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever, and thy remembrance unto all generations. Why doth he put these two together thus? my shadow, and Gods enduring for ever, &c. as if he should say, this is my comfort, that though I am of short continuance, yet God with whom I shall live for ever, hee is eternall, and Page  173 abides for ever. It is as if the beame should rea∣son thus; though I am brickle and fading, yet the Sun that maintaines me, abides for ever: or, if the streame should reason thus; though I may be dried up in Summer, yet the fountaine that maintaines me continues for ever: So, though men be sub∣ject to change, yet the Lord, that maintains them, is immutable, and abides for ever. You that have the life of Christ in you, have the beginning of this eternity; and though the old building be pulled downe, yet you have a building not made with hands, eternall in the heavens; even as when one skin fals off, another comes on: and what though the outward man perish? yet the inward man growes daily more and more, till it come to perfection. This is not only a comfort to us, but also it is a great motive, and we should use it as a great argument to God; that because we are sub∣ject to change, yet because hee is immutable, therefore he should helpe us, Psal. 102.26, 27.*The heavens shall wax old, as doth a garment, but thou endurest for ever and ever; therefore cast me not off in the midst of my dayes: as if he should say, Lord,thou hast Time enough to bestow, thou art full of eternitie; the heavens that seeme to be of long continuance, yet are nothing to thee; therefore I pray thee to fill up my wants, and make me eternall with thee; so because thou in∣habitest eternity, therefore comfort mee, Isai. 57.15.* Seeing God is eternall; learne hence to know that he is the Lord of all Time.

[Vse 5] Doe not thou looke upon Time as belonging Page  174 to thee,* but to him, he overflowes all; it is the phrase used in Psal. 90.5.*Thou carriest them away as with a floud, they are as sheepe, &c. that is, all times are subject to him, he over-reaches them, and makes them long or short, as it pleaseth him; he is not only in himselfe eternall, but hee is the lord of all, and hee disposeth all times, and ap∣points the seasons to every thing: if hee be thus, then take heed of looking upon future times, as thine owne; thou breakest in now upon the Lords prerogative, if thou looke upon future times as thine, and sayeth with the rich man in the Gospel, now soule take thy rest; this is sacrilege against God. It is, as if a man should say, I have three thousand acres of land, when he hath not three foot, or if a man should say, I have three thousand pound, and hath not three pence. It is the use made of it in Iames 4.13, 14.*Goe to now yee that say, to day, or to morrow, we will goe into such a Citie, &c. Where∣as yee ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and doe this or that, if hee will give us leave to come in upon his ground. This phrase is out of use with many men, as clothes that are out of use, we are unwilling to weare them; but Christians should bring them into use againe, and say, if the Lord please; let them labour to doe this in feare and trembling. Thou shouldst thus thinke of time, thou shouldst looke upon it, as on a large field, given by God, and nothing of it belonging otherwise unto thee; and looke what ground the Lord God gives thee, thou art to sow seed in it, and apply it to seeke him, that thou mayest receive an Page  175 harvest in future time; and let men not say, I will repent and turne to God hereafter; but doe it pre∣sently in feare and trembling. Boast not of time; why doest thou deferre the time? thou breakest into the Lords right, and oftentimes he cuts thee off for it, because thou breakest into that, which doth nothing belong unto thee.