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.
Page  45



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

NOw we proceed to that which remaines;* we will shew you how this point is made mani∣fest to you by faith, that GOD made the Heavens, and the Earth. It is done after this manner;

When you beleeve the Scriptures to be true,* and finde this set downe in the Scripture, that God made Heaven and Earth, then you beleeve that there is an eternall Deity, that is the Author and Maker of all these things: and thus faith gathers the conclusion:

Page  46 [Object.] If you aske me, how faith differs from rea∣son, and how this second proofe differs from the former.

[Answ. 1] I answer, after this manner: There is a double assent: One is a doubtfull assent, which we call Opinion, that is, when we assent to the one part, so as we feare the contrary to be true.

[ 2] The other is, a firme assent, and this is two-fold: Either it is grounded upon reason, which we call Knowledge; or else is grounded upon the authoritie of him that reveales it; and this wee call Faith. And the difference of them stands in this: The objects of the first, which wee call Knowledge, are naturall things, such as God did not reveale himselfe, but they lye before us, and reason can finde them out: but Faith beleeveth things that are revealed by God, yet so, as that there is no reason for them, as well as for the other. For if one come and tell you any thing, and if you beleeve it, you can give a reason of it, and why you beleeve it, aswell as of any other natu∣rall conclusion; as that he is a wise man, and one that I know will tell the truth, I have had expe∣rience of him heretofore, &c. Even so, when you beleeve the Scriptures, you can give a reason for it; it is, because God delivered it, and he cannot lye; but now, how doe yee know that God deli∣vered it? Because the men that delivered it, in his Name, did confirme it by workes, and mi∣racles, and predictions of times; so that reason runnes along together with Faith: Onely there is this difference betweene them; Faith addeth Page  47 to the eye of reason, and raiseth it higher; for the understanding is conversant, as about things of reason, so about things of Faith; for they are propounded to the understanding, onely they are above it, and must have faith to reveale them; as when Moses saith, In the beginning, GOD made the Heaven and the Earth: when we heare such a proposition, reason doth but looke upon it, and cannot see it at first, but Faith helpeth reason to goe further: therefore Faith is but an addition to the strength of reason; when it could goe no further, Faith makes it to goe further: as one that hath dimme eyes, he can see better with the help of spectacles: even so doth the eye of reason, by a supernaturall faith infused. So that all the things which we beleeve, have a credibilitie and entity in them, and they are the objects of the under∣standing; but we cannot finde them out, without some supernaturall help. As if you would choose a right jewell; (you know there are many coun∣terfeit ones) how should you know a true one? The stander by cannot tell, but brings it to a La∣pidary, or a Ieweller, and he knowes it, because he is skilled in it. Now, as there are the Iewels, and they are to be discerned and differenced, but all lyes in the skill. So is it in the things that are revealed by God, and by naturall reason, to know which are of God, which not; there are the things, and they are to be seene, yea, the things them∣selves have characters, by which they may bee discerned; but let two men looke upon them, one beleeves, and the other doth not; one man Page  48 goes no further than reason, but the other doth; the reason is, because one is helped from above, and the other is not, he wants that light, that ha∣bit of skill which another hath.

Now, this being premised in generall; let us see how faith gathers, that the Scriptures are true, and that all that is in them is true; and con∣sequently, that there is a God that made the world.* It gathers it by these three heads:

[ 1] When a man lookes into the Scriptures, and sees the phrases of the Prophets and Apostles, saying, Thus saith the Lord; he considers, if this be from God, then it must needs be true. But now the question is, whether it was delivered truly, and therefore hee lookes upon the men that did deliver it, as upon Moses, &c. and if he can finde any evidence in them, that they delivered it tru∣ly, without collusion, then he beleeveth that it is so, and so faith layes hold and pitches upon it; and gives solide assent unto it.

Now the proofes, whereby we shew that these men have spoken by the Holy Ghost,* are these three:

[ 1] The miracles, which they wrought: wherein this is to be considered; that they were such mi∣racles as were done before many witnesses,* they were not done in a corner, where two or three were,* and so related to the people, as many false miracles are, but they were done before many thousand; as the standing still of the Sunne, the plagues of Aegypt, the dividing of the waters, the Mannah, that came downe from Heaven, the wa∣ter Page  49 flowing out of the rockes, the miracles that were wrought by Eliah, and Elisha, they were all openly done, in the view of all the people.

[ 2] They were such miracles, as had a reality in them; false miracles stand onely in appearance,* they have onely a shadow and not the substance, they have no solidity in them, as the miracles that Inchanters doe, they are but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as wee call them; they are onely appearances, and no more, as, if they give money, it will afterwards prove but drie leaves; and such were the mira∣cles of the Inchanters in Aegypt: but looke upon the miracles of Moses, they were solide, as the Mannah fed the people many yeares; the water that came out of the rockes did refresh them, the plagues of Aegypt were reall; the miracles of Christ were all of use to mankinde, as when he turned water into wine, it was such as they were refreshed by; so, when hee healed the people, when he gave sight to the blinde, they were all usefull, and had a reality in them.

Besides, consider the miracles which were wrought at the delivery of the Law, Exod. 19. as the thunder,* the lightning, the sound of trumpets, &c. whatsoever was done then, all the people saw it, and their senses were taken up about it, so that they could not be deceived. The lawes that Numa Pompilius brought from the gods, he rela∣ted to them, but the people saw and heard no∣thing; but these miracles the people all saw, the Mount burnt with fire, and thick darknesse round about it; and there was thunder and lightning, Page  50 and the Mount trembled. And as their eyes did see 〈◊〉 things, so their eares were busied.

In hearing the voice of the trumpets sounding louder and louder, a great while, and hearing the voice of God himselfe. And this was not done only in the sight of the Elders of Israel, but all the people saw it, and heard the voice of the Lord. And such were all the miracles of the Apostles, and of all the Prophets. And this argues that they came from God himselfe; because they could not be done, but by a supernaturall power.

[ 2] Againe, I will adde to this the prophecies,* for that is one of the wayes by which the Lord con∣firmes his word unto the sonnes of men, Isa. 41.22, 23.*Shew to us the things to come, that we may know that you are Gods, &c. As if hee should say; If any man be able to foretell things to come, he is God: for it is the propertie of God alone; and therefore he can doe it.

Now I will name some prophecies, to instance in; and I will shew the difference betweene them, and the predictions of Southsayers; for you shall finde that these prophecies were Particular,* and not generall, they were Perspicuous and plaine,* and not obscure, and they had fixed times set,* and not left at randome: As in the prophecie de∣livered to Abraham, that the Children of Israel should be strangers, and in bondage in Aegypt foure hundred yeares: now, saith the Text, that very night they went forth of Aegypt, the foure hundred yeares were expired.*

Moreover, that prophecie, that Iudah should Page  51 have the Scepter, it was a thing could not be fore∣seene; Iudah was not the elder brother, and it was long first before it was brought to passe: there∣fore Moses could not see it by any thing at the pre∣sent; and besides that, he should not only have the Scepter, but he should have it till Shiloh come, that is, CHRIST IESVS, which was about two thousand yeares after; which was not like to the prophecies of other Nations.

Moreover, the prophecie of Iericho, that hee that did begin to build it againe, should lay the foun∣dation of it in his eldest sonne, and set up the gates of it in the youngest, which was fulfilled, 1 King. 16. last.*

So likewise, the prophecie of Iosiah, it was a distinct prophecie, you have it in 1 King. 13.1, 2, 3. where the Prophet comes from the Lord,* and cryeth, Oh Altar, Altar, behold a childe shall bee borne, Iosiah, by name, &c. he names the very man that should performe it.

The like is the prophecie of Cyrus, long before Cyrus was borne, that he should deliver the Iews, and take off the yoke of their captivity, &c.

So likewise, come to the prophecies of Daniel, the prophecie of the foure Monarchies you see, how particular it was: Daniel, he lived but in the two first, which were the Chaldean and Persian Monarchie, it was not possible, by any thing that was then done, that he should have beene able to see the succession; yet then after them was the Grecian, and then the Roman Monarchie.

So likewise the prophecie of the captivitie, se∣ventie Page  52 yeares, and of their deliverance, you see, how distinct and particular it is.

[Object.] But the time of Moses is very ancient, it is out of memory, and it might be some fained storie, those things were done long agoe, they that saw them are all swept away, and who can say that they were done so?

[Answ.] Herein lyes the strength of the argument; If you could thinke it possible, that Moses and all the people should consent together to leave a false monument behinde them, (which was impossi∣ble) yet consider that many hundred yeares after the same was confirmed by all the Prophets, who had miracles to confirme the same, and they all agreed in one; and it is impossible that such an imposture and falshood should be compacted to∣gether, and carried downe so strongly, for they differ not a jot: all the Prophets repeating that which was delivered by Moses. Consider the strength of this argument, for it admits of no am∣biguitie. If you will adde to this the holinesse which appears in their writing, and of the men, as in Moses; looke upon the holinesse in his doctrine and Law: Looke upon Paul, see with what Spirit he wrote his Epistles; so consider the spirits of them all in their writings, they did, as it were, transcribere animas, they did not forbeare to pub∣lish their owne faults: see how they were hand∣led, they suffered persecution, and in this, what end could they have? Moses sought not his owne glory, he doth not deliver the Scepter to his own Tribe, but in his prophecies he speakes worse of Page  53 that Tribe than of any other, of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, and this will confirme it, and take away all doubts of it. And this is the first proofe.

The second Argument,* by which we confirme the truth of the Scriptures, is taken from the testi∣monies that are given to them by our enemies;* the Gentiles themselves being Iudges: As, to in∣stance in the Floud, there are many that have made mention of it. Those Flouds that are rela∣ted by the ancient Greek Historians come so neare it, that they must needs have the relation of it from the Iewes, though they have mingled it with many falshoods, wee have not the Writings of them, but fragments in the Writings of others, as of Alexander Polyhistor, in Iosephus and Cyril: They say that there was a great Floud, and that there was one Nicurus, to whom Saturne revealed it, and bade him make an Arke; and he did so, and gathered some of all beasts into it, and that the Arke was in Armenia, and that the fragments of it are in Heliopolis. And Abidenus saith, that it was a common opinion, that the men, that the Earth brought forth, gathered themselves toge∣ther and builded a great Tower, which was Babel; and the gods being angry with it, threw it down with a great wind, and thence came the confusion of tongues. And for the pillar of Salt, Iosephus saith, that some of it was remaining in his time. And for Abraham, many speake of him, and also of Moses, there are many that agree in their story of him, but the Chaldee Historians especially, and some of the ancientest Greek Historians. Diodorus Page  54 Siculus relates the history of him, though ming∣led with falshoods, of what he did in Aegypt, and what lawes he gave the people, and how he cast out the Canaanites, and that he said he received his lawes from a God called Iah, and that they were such lawes as separated that people from all o∣thers, and that his God was such an one, as could not be seene, &c. And Strabo saith, that he re∣proved the Aegyptians for worshipping visible gods, and therefore he was cast out, and his peo∣ple with him, &c. After this, when Cyrus did restore the Kingdome of the Iewes, and had over∣come Darius, Zenophon reports this, that when he came into Babylon, he gave commandement, that no Syrian should be hurt: now Syria lyes up∣on Iudea, even as one Shire doth upon another, so that they were all called Syrians. Moreover, Megasthenes, the Chaldean Historian, relates, that Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Aegypt, Phoenicia, and Syria, and all those parts he brought into cap∣tivitie; and after that, hee made him a great Pa∣lace, which is spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, and how he ordered the people of the captivitie. Moreover, Berosus saith, that afterward hee was strucken with madnesse, and Evanuit, he vanished (for that is his word) he departed from amongst men. (Indeed one Annius, a Monke, hath put forth some books under the name of Megasthenes, but they are but supposititious.) So likewise, of Senacherib and Salmanasars warre, and of the buil∣ding of Salomons Temple, they are recorded in the Annals of the Tyrians. This is related by Page  55 those that are neither Iewes nor Christians; and these testimonies are fetched from those that are our enemies, which are more fit for the Presse, than for the Pulpit, and to be written, than deli∣vered in a popular congregation.

I will adde to this but this one; consider the exact Chronologie, which is found in all the Scriptures,* and the agreement of them with the Heathen Histories.

In latter times there have beene great confusi∣ons, but the greatest evidence, that is to be found, is the Tables of Ptolomy, lately found, which doth exactly agree with the Scripture; he exactly sets downe the time that Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus reigned; compare them with the Scripture, and you shall finde these agree with Daniel and Iere∣mie, otherwise Chronologers differ very much: for in Ioseph Scaligers time, that Table they had not, but it was found since: So in the time when Ierusalem was taken, they agree exactly; and this is the greatest testimony that the Scripture can have from Heathen men.

[Quest.] But this Question may now be made; How should we know that these bookes, which wee have, as written by Moses, that these are they, that there is no alteration in them, or supposititious prophecies put in?

[Answ.] You have the Iewes agreeing with the Christi∣ans, who were enemies, and the Iewes kept it ex∣actly, yet theirs agree with ours.

[Object.] But how should we know that the Iewes are true?

Page  56 [Answ.] They have testimony from the Samaritans, and they were enemies to the Iewes, and there be∣ing once a rent made, were never reconciled a∣gaine: yet in the Samaritan Bible, there is no dif∣ference at all, to any purpose. Now adde to this the testimony of the Churches from Christs time downward, still it hath continued; so as in Euse∣bius and Baronius you shall see plentifull testimo∣nies thereof.

*The third Argument is from the Scriptures themselves,* if you consider but these three things;

1 The majestie and plainnesse of the stile,* and the manner of the expressions, a meere relation, and no more. In the beginning was the Word, &c. Where doth any booke expresse it selfe, in a manner, in the relation of any stories? So as that it carries evidence from God; so that Iunius rea∣ding the first Chapter of Iohn, was stricken with an amazement, by a kinde of divine and stupen∣dious authoritie, and so he was converted from Atheisme, as himselfe said in his life.

*2 If you consider the purity of the doctrine. If a man would deceive the world, then the things that he teaches, must needs be to please men; but the Scripture is quite contrary, it ties men to strict rules, and therefore see how it is etertained, and how hard it is for men to keepe it in the purity of the doctrine, which is an argument it came from God. If the Scriptures were delivered by men, then either by good men, or by bad; if by holy men, then they would speake the truth, and not lye; if by bad men, then they would never have Page  57 set downe such strict rules of doctrine that they must live by, and which condemne themselves.

3 Consider the an••quitie of them,* they were before all other Heathen stories, which will an∣swer an objection, namely, why there is no more testimony from them of the Scriptures: The an∣swer is, that when Scriptures ended their writings did but begin, there being little use and trading of learning in those dayes, but it seemes the Grecians were the first, or rather the Chaldees, but there were not so many bookes written then, as after∣ward.

Now when all these things are considered, we are brought to beleeve the Scriptures are the Word of God, and you finde this in the Scrip∣tures, that there is a God, that made Heaven and Earth, then this begets faith; and so, By faith we beleeve (as here saith the Apostle) that there is one GOD. I confesse all this which hath beene said is not enough, unlesse God infuseth an inward light by his Spirit to worke this faith, but yet there is enough left in the Scriptures to give evi∣dence of them∣selves.