The remaining discourses, on the attributes of God Viz. his Goodness. His mercy. His patience. His long-suffering. His power. His spirituality. His immensity. His eternity. His incomprehensibleness. God the first cause, and last end. By the most reverend Dr. John Tillotson, late Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. Being the seventh volume; published from the originals, by Ralph Barker, D.D. chaplain to his Grace.
Tillotson, John, 1630-1694., Barker, Ralph, 1648-1708, publisher.
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SERMON XV.* God the first Cause, and last End.

ROM XI.36.

For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be Glory for ever. Amen.

HAving consider'd the more Eminent and Absolute Per∣fections of the Divine Nature, as also that which re∣sults from the infinite Excellency and Perfection of God, compar'd with the Imperfection of our Un∣derstandings, I come in the last place to treat of such as are mere∣ly Page  404 and purely Relative; as that He is the first Cause, and the last End of all things; to which purpose I have chosen these words of the Apostle, for the Subject of my present Discourse; For of him, and through him &c,

The dependence of these Words upon the former is briefly this. The Apostle had been speaking before in this Chapter, several things that might tend to raise us to an Admiration of the Wisdom, and Goodness, and Mercy of God, in the dispensation of his Grace, for the Salvation of men, both Jews and Gentiles, and therefore would have us ascribe this work wholly to God; the contrivance of it to his Wisdom, and not to our own counsel, v. 34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? and who hath been his counsellour? and the bestowing this grace, to his free Goodness and Mercy, and not to any desert of ours, v. 35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him Page  405 again? Yea, and not only in the dispensation of Grace, but of all good things; not only in this work of Redemption, but also of Crea∣tion, God is the Fountain, and Original, and first Cause, from whence every thing proceeds; and the last End, to which every thing is to be referr'd. For of him, &c. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, from him, the efficient Cause producing all things; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by, or through him, as the efficient conserving Cause of all things; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and to him, as the final Cause of all things, and the End for which they were made.

The Proposition I shall speak to is, that God is the first Cause, and last End.

First, I shall a little Explain the Terms.

Secondly, Confirm the Proposi∣tion.

Page  406Thirdly, Apply it.

First, For the Explication of the Terms.

I. That God is the first Cause signifies,

1. Negatively, that he had no Cause, did not derive his Being from any other, or does depend upon any other Being; but that he was always, and eternally of himself.

2. Positively, that he is the Cause of all things besides himself, the Fountain and Original of all Crea∣ted Beings, from whom all things proceed, and upon whom all things depend; or, that I may use the expression of Saint John, Joh. 1.3. which I know is ap∣propriated to the Second Person in the Trinity, By him all things were made, and without him was no∣thing made that was made. So that when we attribute to God, that Page  407 he is the first, we mean, that there was nothing before him, and that he was before all things, and that all things are by him.

II. The last End, that is, that all things refer to him; that is, the design and aim of all things that are made, is the Illustration of God's Glory some way or o∣ther, and the manifestation of his Perfections.

Secondly, For the Confirmation, I shall briefly, according to my usual Method, attempt it these two ways.

I. By Natural light. The No∣tion of a God contains in it all possible Perfection. Now the ut∣most Perfection we can imagine is, for a Being to be always of it self, before all other Beings, and not only so, but to be the Cause of all other Beings; that is, that there should be nothing, but what derives its Being from him, and continually depends upon him; Page  408 from whence follows, that all things must refer to him, as their last End. For every wise Agent acts with design, and in order to an End. Now the End is that which is best, which is most wor∣thy the attaining, and that is God himself. Now his Being and Per∣fections are already, and the best next to the existence of his Being and Perfections, is the manifestation of them, which is called God's Glory; and this is the highest End that we can imagine, to which all the Effects of the Divine Pow∣er and Goodness, and Wisdom do refer.

And that these Titles are to be attributed to God, is not only reasonable, when it is revealed and discovered, but was discovered by the Natural light of the heathens. Hence it was that Aristotle gives to God those Titles of the first Be∣ing, the first Cause, and the first Mo∣ver; and his Master Plato calls God the Author, and Parent of all things, the Maker and Architect of the World, Page  409 and of all Creatures; the Fountain and Original of all things. Por∣phyry calls him 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the first, from whence he Reasons to this sense, that he is the ultimate end, and that all things move towards God, that all motions center in him; because, saith he, it is most proper and natural for things to refer to their Original, and to refer all to him, from whom they receive all. Antoninus, the Emperour and Phi∣losopher, speaking of Nature (which with the Stoicks signified God) hath these words, which are so very like these of the Apostle, that they may seem to be taken from him; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Of thee are all things, in thee are all things, to thee are all things.

II. From Scripture. Hither be∣long all those places where he de∣clares himself to be the first, and the last, Isa. 41.4. Who hath wrought and done it, calling the ge∣nerations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last. Page  410 I am he. Isa. 43.10. Before me there was no God formed, (or as it is in the margin) there was nothing formed of God, neither shall there be after me. Isa. 44.6. I am the first, and I am the last, and be∣sides me there is no God. Isa. 48.12, 13. I am the first, I also am the last, my hand hath laid the foun∣dation of the earth, my right hand hath spread the heavens; which is as much as to say, he made the World, and was the first Cause of all things. Rev. 1.8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come.

But more expresly, 1 Cor. 8.6. But to us there is but one God, the father, of whom are all things, and we by him, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and we to him, and for him. Acts 17.24. God that made the world, and all things therein. v. 25. He giv∣eth to all life, and breath, and all things. v. 28. In him we live, and move, and have our Being. v. 29. Page  411For as much then as we are the off∣spring of God.

Hither we may refer those Texts which attribute the same to the Second Person in the Trinity, as the Eternal Wisdom and Word of God, whereby all things were made, Joh. 1.3. All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made, that was made, v. 10. And the World was made by him. 1 Cor. 8.6. And one Lord Je∣sus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Eph. 3.9. God, who Created all things by Jesus Christ. Col. 1.16. By him were all things Created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or domini∣ons, or principalities, or powers, all things were Created by him, and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Heb. 1.2. By whom also he made the Worlds. And, v. 3. Ʋpholding all things by the word of his power.

Page  412Thirdly, and lastly, to apply this Doctrine.

Ʋse. First, If God be the first Cause of all things, who did at first produce all Creatures, and does since Preserve them and Go∣vern them, and disposeth of all their concernments, and orders all things that befal them, from hence let us learn,

1. With Humility and Thank∣fullness to own and acknowledge, and admire and bless God as the Author and Original of our Be∣ing, as the Spring and Fountain of all the Blessings and good things that we enjoy. If we do but con∣sider what these words signifie, that God is the first Cause of all things, we shall see great Rea∣son to own and acknowledge, to adore and praise him, and that with the greatest humility; be∣cause we have not given him a∣ny thing, but have received all Page  413 from him; he is the Cause of all things, who did freely and of his own good will and pleasure communicate Beings to us, with∣out any constraint or necessity, but what his own goodness laid upon him, Rev. 4.11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast Created all things, and for thy plea∣sure they are and were Created. We could not, before we were, de∣serve any thing from him, or move him by any Arguments, or importune him by intreaties to make us; but he freely gave us Being; and ever since we depend upon him, and have been preser∣ved by him, and cannot subsist one moment without the continu∣ed influence of the Power and Goodness which first called us out of nothing. He is the Author of all the good, and the Fountain of all those Blessing, which for the present we enjoy, and for the future hope for.

Page  414When he made us at first, he designed us for Happiness; and when we by our sin and wilful mascarriage fell short of the Hap∣piness which he design'd us for, he sent his Son into the World for our recovery, and gave his life for the Ransom of our Souls. He hath not only admitted us in∣to a new Covenant, wherein he hath promised pardon, and eter∣nal life to us; but he hath also purchased these Blessings for us, by the most endearing price, the blood of his own Son, and hath saved us in such a manner as may just∣ly astonish us. Upon these Consi∣derations we should awaken our selves to the praise of God, and with the holy Psalmist, call up our Spirits, and summon all the Powers and Faculties of our Souls, to assist us in this Work, Psal. 103.1, 2, 3, 4. &c. Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name; bless the Lord, O my Soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thy iniquities, who Page  415 healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crown∣eth thee with loving kindness, and tender mercies; 'tis he that satisfies our Souls with good things, and crowneth us with tender mercies, and loving hindness; that hath promis∣ed Eternal Life and Happiness to us, and must confer and bestow this upon us; Therefore our Souls and all that is within us should bless his holy name.

2. If God be the first Cause, that is, orders all things that be∣fall us, and by his Providence disposeth of all our concernments, this should teach us with patience, and quietness, to submit to all E∣vents, to all evils and afflictions, that come upon us, as being dis∣posed by his wise Providence, and coming from him. We are apt to attribute all things to the next and immediate Agent, and to look no higher than Second Causes; not considering that all the motions of Natural Causes are directly su∣bordinate to the first Cause, and Page  406 all the actions of free Creatures are under the Government of God's wise Providence, so that nothing happens to us besides the design and intention of God.

And methinks this is one particular Excellency of the style of the Scrip∣ture above all other Books, that the constant Phrase of the Sacred Dialect is to attribute all Events (excepting sins only) to God, so that every one that reads it can∣not but take notice, that it is wrote with a more attentive considerati∣on of God than any other Book, as appears by those frequent and ex∣press acknowledgments of God as the Cause of all Events; so that what in other Writers would be said to be done by this or that Per∣son, is ascribed to God. Therefore it is so often said, that the Lord did this, and that, stirr'd up such an E∣nemy, brought such a Judgment. And we shall find that holy men in Scripture make excellent use of this consideration, to argue them∣selves into patience and content∣edness Page  417 in every condition. So Eli, 1 Sam. 3.18. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. So Job, he did not so consider the Sa∣beans and Chaldeans who had carri∣ed away his Oxen and his Camels, and slain his Servants; nor the Wind which had thrown down his House, and kill'd his Sons, and his Daughters; but he looks up to God, the great Governour and Disposer of all these Events; The Lord giv∣eth, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. So David, Psal. 39.9. I was dumb and spake not a word, because thou Lord didst it. So our Blessed Savi∣our, when he was ready to suffer, he did not consider the malice of the Jews, which was the cause of his death; but looks to a higher hand; the cup which my father gives me to drink, shall not I drink it?

He that looks upon all things as coming from second Causes, and does not eye the first Cause, the good and wise Governour, will be apt to take offence at every cross and unwelcome accident. Men are Page  418 apt to be angry, when one flings Water upon them as they pass in the Streets; but no man is offend∣ed, if he is wet by Rain from Hea∣ven. When we look upon Evils as coming only from men, we are apt to be impatient, and know not how to bear them; but we should look up∣on all things as under the Govern∣ment and disposal of the first Cause, and the Circumstances of every con∣dition as allotted to us by the wise Providence of God; this Conside∣ration, that it is the hand of God, and that he hath done it, would still all the murmurings of our Spirits. As when a Seditious Mul∣titude is in an uproar, the presence of a grave and venerable person will hush the noise, and quell the tumult; so if we would but represent God as present to all actions, and govern∣ing and disposing all Events, this would still and appease our Spirits, when they are ready to riot and mutiny against any of his Dispensa∣tions.

Page  419Ʋse the Second. If God be the last End of all, let us make him our last End, and refer all our Actions to his glory. This is that which is due to him, as he is the first Cause, and therefore he does most reasonably require it of us.

And herein likewise the Scri∣pture doth excel all other Books, that is, doth more frequently and expresly mind us of this End, and calls upon us to propose it to our selves as our ultimate aim and de∣sign. We should love him as our chief End, Mat. 22.37. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thus to love God is that which, in the lan∣guage of the Schools, is loving God as our Chief End. So likewise the Apostle requires, that we should refer all the Actions of our lives to this End, 1 Cor. 10.31. Whe∣ther ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God; that we should glorifie Page  420 him in our souls, and in our bodies, which are his. He is the Author of all the powers that we have, and therefore we should use them for him; we do all by him, and there∣fore we should do all to him.

And that we may the better un∣derstand our selves as to this duty, I shall endeavour to give satisfacti∣on to a Question or two which may arise about it.

First, Whether an actual inten∣tion of God's Glory be necessary to make every Action that we do, good and acceptable to God?

Answ. 1. It is necessary that the glory of God either Formally or Virtually should be the ultimate end and scope of our lives, and all our Actions; otherwise they will be de∣fective in that which in moral Acti∣ons is most considerable, and that is the End. If a man should keep all the Commandments of the Go∣spel, this excepted of making God's glory his Supreme End, on∣ly Page  421 with a design to gain reputation, or some other advantage in the World, this very thing would viti∣ate all, and render him unaccepta∣ble to God.

2. It is very requisite and conve∣nient, as a good sign, that we should very frequently, actually think upon, and intend this End; for if it be very much out of our thoughts, we have some reason to be jealous of our selves, that we do not intend it at all.

3. It is so far from being necessa∣ry, that we should in every Action have this intention of God's glory, that it is not morally possible that we should; no more than it is possi∣ble, that a man that goes a Jour∣ney of a thousand miles, should every step he takes have actual thoughts of his Journey's end: nor is it more necessary; for consideration of the end is only so far necessary, as it is necessary to guide and quick∣en us in the use of means; as it is not necessary for a man to think of Page  422 his journey's end, further than to direct and excite him to go thither. And this appears further by the con∣trary; it is not necessary to make a sinful Action, that a man should For∣mally, much less Actually intend God's dishonour; it is enough to consti∣tute a man a wicked man, if he willingly transgress God's Law, the doing whereof does by consequence reflect a dishonour upon him: so on the other hand, it is sufficient to make an Action good and accepta∣ble, if it be conformable to God's Law, and such as by consequence redounds to God's glory.

Second Question. Whether the Glory of God may, or ought to be considered, as an End separate and distinct from our own Happi∣ness?

Answ. I shall speak but briefly to this, because I have elsewhere spoken to it; but in that little which I have to say for satisfaction to this Question, I will proceed by these steps.

Page  423I. By the glory of God, we mean the Demonstration, or Illustration, or Manifestation of some or all of his Perfections, more especially his Goodness, and Mercy, and Justice, and Wisdom, and Power, and Ho∣liness.

II. It is plain that the manifesta∣tion of some of these Perfections is a thing that may be separated from the Happiness of a Creature; for his Holiness, and Justice, and Pow∣er, may and shall be manifested in the final and eternal ruin of impe∣nitent sinners.

III. The Manifestation of any of God's Perfections, ought many times to be propounded by us as an end distinct and separate from our respective Happiness; such a Happiness, as respects only some particulars, and some parti∣cular duration, in opposition to ab∣solute and Eternal Happiness. In this sense our Saviour says, that he sought not his own Glory, but the Glo∣ry of him that sent him; by which he Page  424 does not mean, that he quitted e∣verlasting Glory and Happiness; but that in order to the glory of God, he did for a time lay aside his own glory, and divest himself of it while he was in this World; for the Apostle tells us, that he was en∣couraged to do this out of a respect to a greater glory, Heb. 12.2. Who for the Joy that was set before him, endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. And in this sense, we are to understand the command of self-denial in the Go∣spel, with reference to our particu∣lar or temporal, not our eternal in∣terest; and that it is no more, is plain from the Argument our Savi∣our uses to encourage this self-deni∣al, the promise of a far greater Hap∣piness than that we deny; no man that forsakes father and mother for my sake, but shall have eternal life; And proportionably we are to understand those Commands of loving Christ more than our selves, that is, more than any temporal interest▪

Page  425IV. The manifestation of any of God's Perfections, neither ought nor can reasonably be propounded by us, as an End separated from, or opposite to our Eternal Blessedness; that is, we cannot naturally or reasona∣bly desire the glory of God should be advanced, tho' it were to our final ruin, either by annihilation, or eternal misery.

1. We cannot either naturally, or reasonably desire God should be glo∣rified by our annihilation.

(1.) Not naturally. Because such a desire would be directly contrary to the natural desire of self-preser∣vation, which God himself hath planted in us, and is most intimate and essential to our Natures.

(2.) Not reasonably. Because it is utterly unimaginable, how God can be glorified by the annihilation of a Creature. All the Attributes that we can imagine can be mani∣fested herein, are Power and Sove∣raignty; his Power hath already been as much manifested in crea∣ting Page  426 and making the Creature out of nothing, as it can be by redu∣cing it into nothing; for to Create is the very same demonstration of Power, as to annihilate. And as for his Soveraignty, God will ne∣ver manifest that in contradicti∣on to his Goodness, or Wisdom, or any other Perfection of the Di∣vine Nature. To unmake a Crea∣ture, and take away the Being which he had given, would argue either a failure of his Goodness to∣ward the Creature, or that he did repent he had made it, which would reflect upon his Wisdom and Con∣stancy. I do not say, that in Justice God cannot annihilate a Creature; far be it from me; for what he gave was his own, and he may without any wrong to the Creature take it again.

2. Much less can we naturally desire that God should be glorified in our Eternal Misery. The Reasons which I gave about annihilation are stronger here; therefore we can∣not naturally desire it; nor reasona∣bly, for the demonstration of his Page  427 Power, or Soveraignty, or Justice, or Holiness, which I think are all the Attributes which we can ima∣gine to be glorified hereby. Not as the Manifestation of his Power; for that would be as much manifested in the Happiness, as Misery of the Creature: Not of his Soveraignty; for God will not manifest that in contradiction to his Goodness, up∣on which nothing can reflect more, than merely, pro arbitrio, for his plea∣sure, to make an innocent Creature for ever miserable: Not his Justice, and Holiness; for these presuppose sin and demerit in the Creature, out of hatred to which he makes it miserable; but God hath declared that he esteems himself more glori∣fied by the Obedience and Happi∣ness of his Creatures, than by their sin and destruction; and if it were reasonable to desire the Justice and Holiness of God might be glorified in my eternal ruin, which I have deserved by sin, this would plainly follow from it, that it were reaso∣nable to sin, that Justice might abound, which of the two is a greater Ab∣surdity, than that which the Apostle Page  428 condemns, of sinning that grace may abound.

V. There is a strict and inviola∣ble connexion between the greatest glory of God; and our Obedience and Happiness: I say, between his great∣est glory; because he esteems him∣self more glorified by the Obedience and Happiness of his Creatures, than by their ruin and misery; and that we may believe it, we have his Oath for it, As I live, saith the Lord, I delight not in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn, and live. And it is observable, that the Apostle, in 1 Cor. 10.31, 32, 33. Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, giving none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God; even as I please all men, in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved; explains the glorifying of God, by edifying, and promoting the Salvation of others.

VI. We may consider the glory of God, as some ways distinct from Page  429 our Happiness; that is, we may con∣sider the manifestation of his Good∣ness, and Mercy, and Wisdom, in our Happiness, as that which results from it: but this is not enough to make it a distinct End, but the same diversly consider'd; as the publick good is that which results from the general good of particular Persons, but cannot reasonably be propound∣ed by any man, as an End distinct from the general Happiness of parti∣cular Persons, without ruining and destroying the Notion of publick good.

VII. Tho' considered as we are particular Beings, we can have no greater End than our own Happi∣ness, in which God is eminently glorified, yet as we are part of the whole Creation and Workmanship of God, which is the noblest conside∣ration of our selves, the glory of God which results from the mani∣festation of all his Perfections in and about his Creatures, is pre∣cisely our ultimate End, and yet not an End really distinct from our own Happiness; and there∣fore Page  430 it is most proper, and be∣coming, and agreeable to the wise style of Scripture, to give our End its denomination, not from the more particular and nar∣row, but the more noble con∣sideration of our selves, as we are parts of the whole Creation and Workmanship of God; as it is more generous and becom∣ing for the Members of a Civil Society to mention the publick good as their End, than their private Happiness and Advantage, tho' that be so really and effectu∣ally promoted by the publick good.

Thus I have finish'd what I propos'd on this Argument, and concerning the Attributes of God in general; Of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things. To Him be Glory for ever. A∣men.