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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TO THE RIGHT HONOVRABLE, VVILLIAM; VISCOVNT SAY AND SEALE, ENCREASE OF GRACE.

RIGHT HONOVRABLE:

SO waking and om∣nipotent hath ever beene the eye and hand of God, that nothing by him∣selfe designed to worth and use, could wholly be Page  [unnumbered] debased or layd aside. Moses and Cyrus devoted in their infan∣cie to ruine and obscurity, were by that eye and hand kept and ad∣vanced to highest honours and imployments for his Church.

Some footsteps of which care and power, we have observed, up∣on the birth and bringing forth to light of this Orphane: which, in relation to the painfull labour of him, who (as the Mother) brought it forth, and dyed in tra∣vell with it, wee thought might well be stiled BENNONI, Sonne of my sorrowes; But, when wee saw the strength and holinesse imprin∣ted on the child by God the father of it, wee doubted not to call it BENIAMIN, Sonne of the right Page  [unnumbered] hand. For, as dying Jacob laid his right hand upon the youngest son of Joseph: So God did stretch forth his on this, the last issue of the dy∣ing Author; when out of a wombe (as then) so dead and dryed, hee brought forth a Man-child so strong and vigorous: As also, when by the Parents immature departure, it seemed to be adjud∣ged to death and darknesse, that yet by the same hand it was pre∣served, and at last through many hazards delivered unto us, who by the dying Parent, were appoin∣ted to the Mid-wives Office, in bringing it forth to the publike view.

And, if we may estimate the writings of men, by the same rule Page  [unnumbered] whereby wee are to judge of the works of God himselfe; and those workes of God excell the rest, which doe most cleerly shew forth him the Author of them: and ther∣fore Grace, though but an acci∣dent in the soule, is of farre more price with God, than all mens soules devoid of it, because it is the lively Image of his Holinesse, which is his beautie. VVe could not imagin, how this work should not bee valued when it came a∣broad, that presents to all mens understandings so cleare, evident and immediat expressions of God, his Name and Attributes. And in∣deed what vast and boundless vo∣lumes of heaven, earth & hel, hath God bin pleased to publish to make Page  [unnumbered] known his wrath, eternall power and God-head? and how long hath he continued that expensive worke of governing the world, to shew forth the riches of his goodnesse, pati∣ence & forbearance? Yet when all were bound together; so little knew we of him, that he set forth his Son, the expresse Jmage of his Person, as the Last, and best Edition, that could be hoped for.

And, it being much more true of God which is usually sayd of knowledge in the generall, Non habet inimicum nisi ignorantem, that being so good, he hath no e∣nemies nor strangers to him, but those that know him not; surely then the knowledge of him is a most necessary and effectuall means to friendship with him.

Page  [unnumbered]And indeed, As, that God know∣eth us, is the first Foundation of his Covenant of Mercie vvith us, 2 Tim. 2.19. So, our true and sa∣voury knowledge of him, is made the first entrance into covenant, continuing of acquaintance, and encreasing of communion with him, Jerem. 31.33, 34. Yea fur∣ther, as to make knowne himselfe was the utmost end of all his workes; Rom. 1.19. So rightly to know him, is the best reward at∣tainable by us for all our workes. Joh. 17.3. This is eternall Life to know thee, the onely true GOD, and IESVS CHRIST, whom thou hast sent.

VVhich great reward we doubt not, but this servant of God attai∣ned. Page  [unnumbered] VVho, after he had spent the most of his living, thoughts and breath in unfolding and ap∣plying, the most proper and pecu∣liar Characters of Grace, which is Gods Jmage; whereby Belee∣vers came to be assured, that God is their God, and they in covenant with him; was in the end admit∣ted to exercise his last and dying thoughts, about the Essence, At∣tributes and Greatnesse of GOD Himselfe, who is their portion and exceeding great reward.

In the very entrance almost in∣to which, hee was carried up so nigh to Heaven, that he came not downe againe, but dyed in the Mount into which (by Gods ap∣pointment) he was ascended; and Page  [unnumbered] before many of Gods glorious back∣parts were passed by him, he was ta∣ken up to view the rest more fully Face to face. So that, as he was of∣ten in his sicknes wont to say, J shall but change my place, and not my companie; we may also truly say, he did but change his studying place, not his thoughts nor stu∣dies. God being the only imme∣diate subject about vvhich the studies of men and Angells are wholly taken up for all eternity.

VVhich change, though to him full of gaine, had been to us more grievous, had not this little peece, like to ELIAHS mantle falne from him, as he was ascending. VVherein wee have those lofty speculations of the schools (which Page  [unnumbered] like emptie clouds flie often high, but drop no fatnesse) digested in∣to usefull applications, and distil∣led into Spirit-full and quickning cordialls, to comfort and confirme the inward Man.

Not onely shewing (as o∣thers) vvhat GOD is; but also what wee therefore ought to bee. At once, emblazoning the Di∣vine Essence, and glorious Attri∣butes of God; and withall delinea∣ting the most noble dispositions of the Divine Nature in us, which are the prints and imitations of those his Attributes, applying as a skilfull builder, the patterne to the peece he was to frame. So, as by his unfinisht draught, it may be gathered, what inlarged and Page  [unnumbered] working apprehensions, and im∣pressions of the Deitie possest his heart. He speakes of God, not as one that had onely heard of him, by the hearing of the eare, but whose eye of faith had seene him.

But needeth hee, or this relict of his, Epistles of commendation from us unto your Honour, who knew him so well? Or unto o∣thers, besides this Inscription of, and Dedication to your Name? vvhich vvee account our onely choice, and best Epistle to the Reader; You, are our Epistle, &c. Seeing in your Honour, those more Heroicall Graces, and Noblest parts of Gods Image, which in these SERMONS the Authour endevoured to raise his hearers to, Page  [unnumbered] are found already written, and im∣printed not with inke, but with the Spirit of the Living God: yea, and not onely vvritten, but also by reason of the greatnesse of your birth, the noblenesse of your de∣portment in your countrie, known and read of all men. Such inge∣nuous simplicitie lodged in depth of wisedome: Holinesse of life so set in honour and esteeme, and immoveably settled with even∣nesse of vvalking in midst of all vanities: Such humilitie in height of parts: gratiousnesse of heart in greatnesse of minde. So rare, fixt and happy a conjunction, in an house so eminent, doth not fall out, without a generall observa∣tion.

Page  [unnumbered]To your Name and Honour, therefore, wee present it (most Noble LORD) as the last Le∣gacie bequeathed by him to the Church, as a pledge of our ser∣vice, and a counterpane of your Lordships most raysed thoughts and resolutions.

And likewise unto others, as honoured vvith your Lordships name; that those vvho studie, either men or bookes, may reade these SERMONS together with your Lordships VERTVES, each as the coppie of the other, to in∣vite them to the imitation of the same.

And that the VVorld, which (like that Indian Monarch) accounts such true Pictures of Page  [unnumbered] the beauty of Holinesse as this, to bee but counterfeit, because not tawnie, like their owne; and looke upon so high Principles of Godli∣nesse, as emptie notions raised up by art and fancie to make a shew, may see and know in you, the true, reall, uniform subsistence of them; and that God hath indeede some such living, walking Patternes of his owne Great Holinesse, and more transcendent Graces.

VVhich Graces, Hee, who is the God of all Grace, increase and perfect in your Lordship here, that hereafter you may be filled with all the fulnesse of him; So pray

Your Honours ever to be commanded, THOMAS GOODWIN, THOMAS BALL.