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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He that commeth to God, must beleeve that GOd is, &c.

BEfore we come to the second sort of arguments to prove this principle, that GOD is, by faith, we thinke it necessa∣rie to answer some objections of Atheisme, which may arise and trouble the hearts of men.

[Object. 1] Men are ready to say that, which you shall finde, in 2 Pet. 3.4.*All things have continued alike since the creation. That is, when men looke upon the condition of things, they see the Sunne rise, and set againe, and see the rivers runne in a circle Page  31 into the sea, the day followes the night, &c. the winds returne in their compasses, and they have done so continually, and there is no alteration; therefore they doubt whether there be such a God, that hath given a beginning to these things, and shall give an end?

[Answ. 1] For answer to this, consider that these bodies of ours, which we carry about with us, which we know had a beginning, and shall have an end, that there is something in them, that is as con∣stant as any of the former; as the beating of the pulse, the breathing of the lungs, and the motion of the heart, and yet the body had a beginning, and shall have an end: Now what is the diffe∣rence betweene these two? It is but small, this continueth only for some tithes of yeares, but the world for thousands; the difference is not great; and therefore why should you not thinke it had a beginning, as well as your body, and like∣wise shall have an ending.

See what the Apostle saith in this place, though all things continue alike; yet there are two rea∣sons, whereby hee proves that God made the world, and that the world shall have an end.

1 The first is laid downe in verse 5.*For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the Word of GOD the heavens were of old, and the earth stan∣ding out of the waters, and in the waters. That is, naturally the waters would cover the earth, as it did at the beginning; for the naturall place of the waters is above the earth, even as of the aire a∣bove the waters: Now who is it that hath drawn Page  32 these waters out of the earth, and caused it to stand out of the waters, and made it habitable for men and beasts, saith he, was it not the LORD?

2 And was not this proved by the Floud, vers. 6. whereby the world,* that then was, being overflowed with waters, perished; that is, the wa∣ters, when God tooke away his hand, returned to their place, and covered the face of the earth. Now, who was it that did drie the earth againe, and now reserveth it to the day of Iudgement to be destroyed by fire? And this hee proveth by the famous story of the Floud: You have heard of it (saith he) but of this they are willingly igno∣rant, that is, they are such things as may bee knowne; but by reason of your lusts, which ob∣scure your knowledge, and hide those parts of nature and reason, which God hath planted in your hearts; therefore, of these things you are willing∣ly ignorant.

[Answ. 2] And therefore, besides, wee will give this se∣cond answer to those that make this objection. That things are not alike since the creation. For,

1 The course of Nature hath beene turned many times, as those miracles that the LORD wrought in stopping the course of the Sunne, and making of it go backward; he made the waters to runne a contrary course, and stopped the heat of the fire, and the efficacie of it, so that it could doe the three Children no harme.

2 Besides those miracles, look upon the things done amongst us, and you shall see, though they are not contrary to Nature, yet Nature is turned Page  33 of its course, as in our bodies there be sicknesses and distempers, so there are in the great bodie of the World, strange inundations, stirres and alte∣rations; now if there were not a free Agent, that governes these, why are these things so, and why no more? why doe these things goe so far, and no further? why are there any alterations at all? and when any alterations come to passe, who is he that stoppeth them? why doth the sea over-flow some places, and goe no further? who is he that sets bounds to them, but only the Lord? Therfore this we may learne from it, the constan∣cie of these things shewes the wisdome of God; as it is wisdome in us to doe things constantly: and againe, the variety of things shewes the liberty of the Agent; for the actions of Nature are determi∣ned to one, but God shewes his liberty in this, that he can change and alter them at his pleasure.

Besides, the things that are ordinary amongst us, wherein there is no such swarving, but they are constant in their course; doth not God guide them, and dispose of them as he pleaseth? as the former and latter raine: doth not God give more or lesse, according to his good pleasure? which shewes, that all things have not continued alike, but that there is a God, that governes the world. And as it is thus with naturall things, so in other things also; you shall see some judgements and rewards upon some, and not upon others.

[Object.] Oh but, you say, the world hath continued very long, and there is a promise of his comming, but we see no such thing?

Page  34 [Answ.] But, saith the LORD, A thousand yeares are to me but as one day, and one day as a thousand yeares. As if he should say, it may seeme long to you, who measure time by motion and revolution, to your narrow understanding it may seeme long; but to God it doth not: A thousand yeares with him, is but as one day. Where, by the way, we shall answer that fond objection:

[Object.] How the Lord imployed himselfe before the creation of the World?

[Answ.] A thousand yeares to him is but as one day; and againe, one day is as the longest time, that is, there is no difference of time with him. To which I may adde this; that, who knoweth what the Lord hath done? Indeed he made but one world to our knowledge, but who knoweth what he did before, and what he will doe after? who knowes his counsels? and who is able to judge of him or of his actions? we can know no more, nor judge no otherwise than he hath revealed, we have no other booke to looke into, but the booke of his Word, and the booke of this World; and there∣fore to seeke any further, is to be wise above so∣brietie, and above that which is written.

[Object. 2] But whence then comes this promiscuous ad∣ministration of things, which seemes to make things runne upon wheeles, they have no certaine course, but are turned upside downe: whence comes this to passe, if there be a God that rules heaven and earth?

[Answ.] For answer of this, looke in Ezek. 1. where you have an expression of this,* of things running Page  35 upon wheeles: wherein you may observe these things:

1 That all things here below are exceeding mutable; and therefore compared to Wheeles, and they are turned about as easie as a wheele, so that a man may wonder at their variety and tur∣ning.

2 But yet, these wheeles have eyes in them, that is, though we see not the reason of things in them, yet they have eyes in them, they have something to be discerned; the speech is a meta∣phor, and a metonymie too, shewing that there is something in their events, that may shew the rea∣son of their Turning, if we could discerne it, but it is oft hidden from us.

3 And these Wheeles are stirred, but as the beasts stirre them; that is, there is nothing done here below, but they are done by the instruments of God, namely, the Angels.

4 And these Angels, first, have faces like men, that is, the wisdome of men; and on the other side, secondly, a face like a Lion, for their strength; thirdly, there is service, and laboriousnesse in them, as in Oxen: fourthly, there is swiftnesse in them, as in Eagles; and this is meant of the An∣gels, that order and guide the course of things, and change them, as we see continually.

5 Againe, as these Wheeles move not, but as they are guided by them, and both move by the Spirit, that is, what God commands them, they execute, they goe, when he would have them go, and stand still, when he would have them.

Page  366 Againe, for the manner of their motion; every one of them had foure faces; that is, they could looke every way, from East to West, and from North to South, when as man can see but one way, before him, he cannot looke on the right side, or the left, or behinde him, and therefore he may be deceived; but these looke every way. So also the feet, on which they goe, are not like mens feet, to goe forward only, but like calves feet, that is, they were round feet, which goe ei∣ther forward or backward, so, as they are easily turned; and as they see every way, so they are apt to goe every way, and this with the greatest facilitie that can be. Let a man set any thing on worke, and it must needs runne in such a chanell, in such a way, he cannot change it suddenly: But it is not so with God, hee can alter a thing as easi∣ly to the left hand, as to the right, and that in an instant.

[Object.] But what dependance is there between things; doe we not see strange things come to passe, that we can see no reason for, as the Churches over∣throwne, the godly afflicted, the wicked ex∣alted?

[Answ.] Well, saith the Lord, this is to bee conside∣red further, that one wheele is within another, and the wings of the Angels are one within another; there is a sutablenesse, and an agreeablenesse betweene them: so that take the changes of a thousand yeares, and, if you summe them up, you shall finde them, as wheeles, one within another. Therefore I would summe up the answer thus; Page  37 this deceives us, we look upon Gods providence, in some few particulars only, that we looke up∣on a wheele or two, and not as they are one with∣in another; for then, indeed, we should see things that might cause us to wonder: as we see Ioseph, an innocent man, lying in disgrace and imprison∣ment; and David, though innocent, yet a long time disgraced in the Court of Saul, and after∣wards Shimei cursing him; yea, wee see Iesus Christ himselfe delivered and condemned for an impostor, and that by witnesses, and in a legall manner: so we see Paul, one that was a man, full of zeale, yet accounted one of the worst men, that lived in his time: and Naboth, an innocent man condemned to death by witnesses, & stoned, and who shall rise againe to shew his innocencie? If you looke but upon a wheele or two, you shall finde the Church ready to bee swallowed up in Esters time; but if you looke upon them all at once, then you will see, that these passages have eyes in them, and that they have Angels, and the Spirit to guide them. As for example, looke on all the wheeles of Iosephs life, you shall see the en∣vie of his brethren, selling him to the steward of Pharaohs house, and there his falling out with his mistresse, his casting into prison, and there mee∣ting with Pharaohs officers; he was thereby made knowne to Pharaoh, and so he became great in Pharaohs Court; and then you see it is a goodly worke. So in David, take all the wheeles toge∣ther, and you shall see a glorious work; how God brought him along to the Kingdome; God was Page  38 with him, and wrought his works for him, when he did sit still; and when his hand was not upon Saul, then he sent the Philistines to vex him, and to end his dayes: and first hee gave David the Kingdome of Iudah; and then afterwards Abner and Isobosheth fell out about a word, and one of them was slaine; and then also came two wicked men, and tooke off the others head, and so came home the whole Kingdome of Israel into his hand. So also in Esthers time, take all the wheeles together, and you shall see an excellent act of Gods providence, when the Church was ready to be destroyed, when the neck was upon the block, and the sword drawne out ready to strike, and that that night the King should not sleepe, but that a booke must be brought, and rather that than another, and that the place should be ope∣ned, where he should finde Mordecai his revealing of the treason against him, and thereupon the de∣cree was revoked, and the Church delivered: I say, take all these together, and we shall plainly see, that in this strange administration of things, there is still a providence, and that there are eyes in the wheeles, and a spirit to guide them.

[Object. 3] If there be such a God that made the Heaven and the Earth; what is the reason then, that wee see things are brought to passe by naturall causes? If there be a cause for such a thing, the effect doth follow; when there is no cause, then the effect doth not, as a wise man doth bring a thing to passe, but the foolish miscarry in them, we see the diligent hand maketh rich, and hee that labours Page  39 not, hath nothing; and things that are strong pre∣vaile against those that are weake; and so God is forgotten in the world, and his wisdome and power is not seene?

[Answ. 1] It is not so: God doth carry it often another way, as it is, Eccles. 9.11.*Alway the battell is not to the strong, but chance and accident befall them all; that is, the LORD of purpose doth often change them, that his power and might may be seene. We see often, that Princes walke on foot,*like ser∣vants, and servants ride like Princes, as in Chap. 10. that is, things doe not alwayes come to passe according to their causes; for, when the cause is exceeding faire to bring forth such an effect, yet we see it is an abortive birth, and such things come to passe that we looked not for; as he that was dili∣gent, many times comes to povertie; the wise doe often miscarry in bringing their enterprises to passe.

[Answ. 2] Though the immediate cause produceth the effect; yet, who is the first cause? As for exam∣ple, though folly be the cause, that such a businesse doth miscarry, yet who is the cause of that folly? It is sin that bringeth destruction, and doth pre∣cipitate a man thereunto; but who is it that lea∣veth men to their sins and lusts? You see, what was the immediate cause of the losse of Reho∣boams Kingdome, the ill counsell that was given him by the young men; but who was it, that fit∣ted the cause thereunto? was it not the Lord? So on the contrary, wee see that godlinesse is the cause of good successe, and makes men to prosper, Page  40 but who is the cause of that cause, is it not the Lord himselfe?

[Object. 4] But, oftentimes it is ill with those that are good, and well with those that are wicked; the wicked prosper, many times, when it goes ill with those that feare the LORD; oftentimes it commeth to the wicked according to the worke of the righteous, and contrarily. If there be a God, what is the reason that this comes to passe?

[Answ.] It is certaine, that whensoever any wicked man doth an evill act, and a good man doth well, and serveth the Lord with a perfect heart, that there is a sentence of good and evill goes with it; but God doth often suspend the reward to the godly, and of punishment to the wicked; the exe∣cution of them is deferred. Besides, we are of∣ten mistaken; for that which we thinke to be ill to us, is many times for our good; and that which we thinke is very happie and prosperous, may be hurtfull to us. As for example, when Ia∣cob came from Laban, GOD said to him; Be not afraid, I am with thee, and I will doe thee good. You see, Iacob was no sooner gone, but Laban follows him, and would have done him much hurt, had not the Lord taken him off: No sooner was La∣ban gone from him, but Esau comes against him, and when the Lord had rescued him from him; when he was come neerer home, when he might have expected some rest after his weary journey; yet then his daughter was ravished, and his two sonnes were rebellious, and committed murther; after that Rachel died, and Deborah, who was Re∣beccah'sPage  41 nurse, who was a good woman, and ther∣fore a great losse to his family; after all this, a fa∣mine fell upon him; yet for all this, God said that he would doe him good; and doubtlesse, God was as good as his word, and hee did him good: for that medicine is good, that doth us good, though it be bitter, and so was it with these afflictions. So Paul, he prayed that he might have an happie journey to Rome, and no doubt, the LORD heard his prayer, as appeareth by the Lords appearing to him; yet see what a kinde of prosperous jour∣ney he had; what a deale of trouble did he meet with? Being in great afflictions, he went to Ie∣rusalem, thinking there to be comforted by the Saints; and when he came thither hee went into the Temple, thinking he had well provided for himselfe; but then he was hardly entertained, put into prison, and sent bound to Caesarea, and after∣wards, was in many perils upon the sea. And this was the prosperous journey that Paul had, and surely it was happie, and did much good to his owne soule, whereby he did good to others; a journey that led him into many experiments of Gods providence, and goodnesse towards him: therefore wee must not judge according to the outside, or that which the world accounts of, and appeares to be evill, for they may be causes of much good to us: therefore Saint Iames wils us, Iames 1.2, 3. to rejoyce when wee fall into divers temptations,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 because it is but a triall of your faith. These varieties of afflictions are as fire to cleanse your faith, and make it shine Page  42 more, and grow more: therefore, saith he, re∣joyce, when you fall into variety of them; for the variety of them will cure that variety of evils and diseases in us; as poverty may do that which sicknesse cannot do, and imprisonment may heale that which povertie or disgrace cannot doe, &c. So on the contrary, those good things are not al∣wayes good, which we account good; as when a man goes on from one good blessing to another, and is carried with a prosperous wind, and findes no change in any thing; this may also tend to his hurt and destruction, as the other to his salvation; these slay the foolish, even as the other save the godly: for these often-times doe make the soule fouler and fouler, and make it to be more rustie. This want of changes makes men to depart from God, and fall into evill; whereas the other makes us the more carefully to cleanse our wayes, and to cleave more firmely to him: Therefore, let us take heed that we be not deceived about these evils.

[Object. 5] What is the reason then, that as dies the beast, so doth man die, to our appearance, there are none that rise from the dead; indeed, if one should come from heaven or hell, and bring us word what is done there, wee should beleeve it, but when did any ever heare of such a thing?

[Answ.] You have more, than if a man should come from the dead, from either of these two places: for you have Christ come into the world, from the bosome of the Father, and he hath brought us newes, what is done there. Besides, we have GodPage  43 himselfe, who is, as it were, come from heaven, and hath revealed many things unto us, and hath declared his will, what he would have us to doe, as to Moses upon Mount Sinai, and hee would have done it to this day, but that our weaknesse cannot endure the mightinesse and greatnesse of his Majestie, but would say, as the people did; Let not the Lord speake to us any more lest we die, but let MOSES, let him send his messengers, let him speake no more. Againe, the Spirit whereby the Prophets and Apostles spake to us, was it not sent from heaven?

Againe, suppose one should come from either of those two places, would you beleeve him? It might be a false relation, would you beleeve him without further ground? But it is a direct answer which our Saviour giveth to this question, Luke 16. the two last verses,* it was the objection of Dives, if there came one from the dead againe, they would beleeve it; Abraham answers, They have Moses and the Prophets, and if they will not be∣leeve them, they will not beleeve, though one should come from the dead: as if he should say, these car∣ry greater evidence in them, they have more power to confirme the truth that they delivered, that it came from the great God of heaven and earth, than if a man should arise from the dead, if we consider the many miracles which they did, and holy life which they led.

[Object.] But, if you will say, that, indeed for the decla∣ring of things, and for the confirmring of truths, there is more evidence in these, than if one did Page  44 arise from the dead; but if one should come from the dead, this would be much to shew the eterni∣tie of things, and the immortality of the soule.

[Answ.] If this be so; you see, that men have risen from the dead; as when Christ did a∣rise, then many arose from the dead.