SERMON VI.* Of the Knowledge of God.
1 SAM. II.3.
The Lord is a God of Knowledge.
I Have consider'd this Perfection of God, in some of the greatest and most difficult instances of it, his Knowledge of the most secret Things, the hearts of Men, and future Events; against the last of which there are some Objections, which I come now briefly to consider, and pass on to what re∣mains.
Objection the First; The impossibility of the thing. Certainty of all Knowledge depends upon the certainty of the Ob∣ject, therefore there cannot be a certain and determinate Knowledge of any thing, but what is certainly and de∣terminately true; but future Events, Page 154 which may or may not be, have no certain and determinate Truth, that is, it is not certain either that they will or will not be, because they have no certain Cause, therefore there can be no infallible Knowledge concerning them.
Answer, This I confess is the grand Difficulty; I shall not be so solicitous to take it away, as to give satisfaction to it.
1. I might say with a very fair Pro∣bability, that the certainty of Know∣ledge doth not depend upon the certain∣ty of the Cause, but of the Object, which may be certain, tho' the Cause be con∣tingent. Which I prove thus, what∣ever Event hath actually happened, as because now it is past, it is certainly true that it was, so because it once was, it was certainly true before it was, that it would be; as in Peter's denying of Christ. If it be now true that he hath denied him, it was true before, that he would deny him; and it being determinately true, God saw it as it was; so that here is an Object of a certain Knowledge.
2. Tho' we could not explain the possi∣bility of God's knowing future Contin∣gencies, much less the manner how; yet we are sufficiently assured that God doth Page 155 know them. I will give but one instance for the Proof of this. Nothing more evi∣dent than the Sin of Adam; yet God fore-knew this; how else was Christ decreed before the Foundation of the World? Christ was a remedy upon the occasion of sin, now the remedy could not be designed before the sin was foreseen: and this being certain, cum constat de re, frustra inquiritur de modo, when we are certain of the thing, 'tis not necessary to know the manner. We are satisfied of many things, the manner whereof we do not know; we believe the union of the Soul and Body, tho' no Man can explain how a Spirit can be united to Matter; we be∣lieve the continuity of matter, that is, that the parts of it hang together, of which whosoever saith he can give an account, doth but betray his own igno∣rance. And so in many other things; that Man doth not know himself, nor the measure of his own understanding, nor the nature and obscurity of things, that will not confess himself posed in many things, that doth not acknowledge that there are many 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, many things the manner whereof is unimagin∣able, and of which our best Reason and Understanding can give no account.
Page 1563. 'Tis very unreasonable to expect we should know all the ways which in∣finite Knowledge hath of knowing things. We have but finite Faculties and Measures, which bear no proporti∣on to infinite Powers and Objects. Could we explain the manner how in∣finite Knowledge knows things, we should be like God in Knowledge, our understandings would be infinite like his; and in this case especially it be∣comes us to put on the modesty of Crea∣tures, and to remember that we are finite and limited. Some arrogant Spirits take it for an affront to their un∣derstandings, that any one should ex∣pect they should believe any thing, tho' they have the highest assurance of it, if they cannot explain the particular manner of it; they make nothing to deny God's Knowledge of future E∣vents, unless they may be satisfied of the particular way how he knows them.
I know there are those who under∣take to explain the particular manner. Some say that God sees future Events in speculo voluntatis; others say that the Eternity of God is actually commen∣surate to all Duration, as his Immen∣sity Page 157 to all Space, and so God doth not so properly fore-see and fore-know, as see and know future things by the pre∣sentiality and coexistence of all things in Eternity; for they say that future things are actually present and existing to God, tho' not in mensurâ propriâ, yet in mensurâ alienâ; the School-men have much more of this Jargon and canting Language; and I envy no Man the un∣derstanding these Phrases, but to me they seem to signifie nothing, but to have been words invented by idle and con∣ceited Men, which a great many ever since, lest they should seem to be ignorant, would seem to understand; but I won∣der most, that Men, when they have amused and puzzled themselves and o∣thers with hard Words, should call this explaining things.
The sum of the Answer is this; that when we have done all we can, God's fore-knowledge of future Events may seem contradictious and impossible to us, much less do I expect ever to be able to give a particular account of the manner of it: but we have suffici∣ent assurance of the thing, and unless we had infinite understandings, it were vanity to pretend to explain all the ways of infinite Knowledge.
Page 158Secondly, It is Objected, That if we can admit such a Knowledge in God as seems contradictious and impossible to our Reason, why may we not allow and frame such Notions of his Goodness and Justice?
To this I answer, There is a great difference between those Perfections of God which are imitable, and those which are not. Knowledge of future Events is a Perfection wherein we are not bound to be like God; and if we are assured of the thing, that he doth know them, it is not necessary that we should know the manner of it, and dis-intangle it from contradiction and impossibility; but it is otherwise in God's Goodness and Justice, which are imitable; he that imitates, endeavours to be like something that he knows, and we must have a clear Idea and Notion of that which we would bring our selves to the likeness of; these Perfections of God we are capable of knowing; and there∣fore the Knowledge of these Perfections is chiefly recommended to us in Scrip∣ture, Jer. 9.24. By these God reveals himself, and declares his Name, and makes himself known to us, even by those Attributes which declare his Page 159 Goodness, and Mercy, and Justice, Exod. 34.6, 7. Psal. 86.15. Deut. 32.3, 4, 5. When God would give a Descrip∣tion of himself to Moses, he promises to cause his goodness to pass before him. So that it doth not follow, that because God's Knowledge of future Events is to be admitted, notwithstanding the seeming contradiction and impossibili∣ty of it, therefore we are to admit of any Notion of God's Justice or Good∣ness that seems contradictious or im∣possible. The
Third, Objection is made up of several inconveniencies that would follow from God's Knowledge of future Events.
1. It would Prejudice the Liberty of the Creature. For if God have an infal∣lible Knowledge of what we will do, then we cannot but do what he infalli∣bly foresees we will do; for otherwise his Knowledge would be fallible.
Answer, God's-Fore-knowledge lays no necessity upon the Event. In every Event, we may consider the Effect in it self, or with relation to the Cause, and the manner how it comes to pass; consider'd in it self, it is future, with rela∣tion to its Causes it is contingent. God sees it as both, and so, as that which till it Page 160 is, may be or not be; and when it comes to pass, he sees the Man do it freely; and so before it be done, it hath no ne∣cessity; but upon supposition of fore-sight; as when it is, it hath upon suppo∣sition that it is, as Origen excellently explains it. Fore-knowledge is not the cause of the things that are fore-known; but because the thing is future and shall be, this is the Reason why it is fore-known; for it doth not, because it was known, come to pass; but because it was to come to pass, therefore it was fore-known; and bare Knowledge is no more the Cause of any Event, which because it is known must infallibly be, than my seeing a Man run, is the Cause of his running, which, because I do see, is infallibly so.
2ly. If God infallibly fore-knows what Men will do, how can he be seri∣ous in his Exhortations to Repentance, in his Expectation of it, and his griev∣ing for the Impenitency of Men?
Answer. All these are founded in the liberty of our Actions. God exhorts to Repentance and expects it, because by his Grace we may do it; he is said to grieve for our Impenitency, because we may do otherwise, and will not. Ex∣hortations Page 161 are not vain in themselves, but very proper to their end, tho' through our obstinacy and hardness they may be rendred vain to us and without effect. If the weight of the Objection lie upon serious, and you ask how God can exhort Men seriously to that which he fore-sees that they will not do, those whom he fore-knows will be finally impenitent? I answer, if his Exhortations were not serious, he could not foresee the final impenitency of Men. To foresee Mens final impeni∣tency, is to foresee their willful con∣tempt of Gods Warnings and Exhor∣tations, and Rejection of his Grace; now Mens willful contempt of his Warnings and Exhortations cannot be foreseen, unless God foresee that his Exhortations are serious and in good ear∣nest.
Having answer'd the Objections a∣gainst God's fore-knowing future E∣vents, I proceed to shew,
II. That God only knows future Events. Isa. 44.6, 7. Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts, I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God: and who, as I, shall call, and shall declare Page 162 it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient People, and the things that are coming, and shall come? let them shew unto them. Isa. 46.9, 10. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else. I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
The Reason is evident, because the Knowledge of future Events is beyond the reach of any finite understanding; especially if we grant it to be beyond our finite understanding, to explain the possibility of such a Knowledge; for to be sure that is out of the reach of our Knowledge, which we cannot so much as understand how it is possible it should be known by any Understand∣ing.
But it may here be Objected; Did not the Oracles among the Heathens fore∣tel several things, which Christians are satisfied came from the Devil? I have no time at present to examine the business of Heathen Oracles; I could easily shew there was much imposture in them: but grant they were really Page 163 delivered and given out by a Spirit; yet the darkness and ambiguity, the affect∣ed and contrived ambiguity, is such as shews that the Devil was conscious to himself of the uncertainty of his Know∣ledge in those matters; and those few that came to pass, and are in any tole∣rable Sense said to be accomplisht, were in such matters, either wherein prudent Conjecture might go far (and I grant the Devil to be a sagacious Spirit;) or else in dis-junctive Cases, as when there are but two ways for a thing to be, it must either be so, or so, in which a bold guessing may often hit right: but guessing at future things, is far from a Knowledge of them, which only can clearly be made out by punctual and particular Predictions of Things, with Circumstances of Time and Person, such as we find in Scripture in many instances, to the prediction of which, the greatest sagacity and the utmost guessing could do nothing, such as those Predictions of which I gave instances out of Scripture.
I have now done with the First general Head, I propos'd to be spoken to from these Words, viz. To prove that this Page 164 Attribute of Knowledge belongs to God. I proceed to the,
Second, viz. To consider the Perfecti∣on and Prerogative of the Divine Know∣ledge, which I shall speak to in these following Particulars.
1. God's Knowledge is Present and Actual, his Eye is always open, and e∣very thing is in the view of it. The Knowledge of the Creature is more Power than Act; it is not much that we are capable of knowing, but there is ve∣ry little that we do actually know; 'tis but one thing that we can fix our Thoughts upon at once, and apply our Minds to; we can remove them to a∣nother Object, but then we must take off our Minds from the former, and quit the actual knowledge of it: but the knowledge of God is an actual and steady Comprehension of things, he being every where present, and all eye, nothing can escape his sight, but all Objects are at once in the view of the Divine Understanding. Heb. 4.13. Neither is there any Creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are na∣ked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Page 1652. God's Knowledge is an intimate and thorough Knowledge, whereby he knows the very Nature and Essence of things. The Knowledge which we have of things 'tis but in part, but outward and superficial; our Know∣ledge glides upon the superficies of things, but doth not penetrate into the intimate Nature of them, it seldom reach∣eth further than the skin and outward appearance of things; we do not know things in their realities, but as they ap∣pear and are represented to us with all their Masks and Disguises: but God knows things as they are. 1 Sam. 16.7. The Lord seeth not as Man seeth; for Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the Heart; God knows things throughout, all that can be known of them. The quick and piercing Eye of God Penetrates into every thing, the light of the Divine Understanding lays all things open and naked, Heb. 4.13. In which expression the Apostle alludes to the Sacrifices of Beasts, which were flead and cleft down the back bone, that the Priest might look into them, and see whether they were without ble∣mish. To the Eye of our understandings most Objects are close, and have their Page 166 Skins upon them: but to the Eyes of God all things are uncovered and dis∣sected, and he open to his view.
3. God's Knowledge is clear and distinct. Our Understandings in the Knowledge of things are liable to great confusion; we are often deceived with the near likeness and resemblance of things, and mistake one thing for ano∣ther; our Knowledge is but a twi-light, which doth not sufficiently separate and distinguish things from one ano∣ther, we see things many times together and in a heap, and do but know them in gross; but there is no confusion in the Divine Understanding, that is a clear Light which separates and distinguish∣eth things of the greatest nearness and resemblance; God hath a particular Knowledge of the least things, Luke 12.7. Even the very hairs of your Head are all numbred; those things which are of the least consideration, and have the greatest likeness to one another, the very hairs of our Head, are severally and distinctly known to God.
4. God's Knowledge is certain and infallible. We are subject to doubt and error in our understanding of things, every thing almost imposeth upon our Page 167 Understandings, and tinctures our Minds, and makes us look on things other∣wise than they are; our Temper and Complexion, our Education and Preju∣dice, our Interest and Advantage, our Humours and Distempers, these all mis∣represent things, and darken our Minds, and seduce our Judgments, and betray us to Error and Mistake: but the Di∣vine Understanding is a clear, fixt, con∣stant, and undisturbed Light, a pure Mirrour that receives no stain from Af∣fection, or Interest, or any other thing. Men are many times confident and apt to impose upon others, as if they were infallible: but this is the Preroga∣tive of God, the Priviledge of the Di∣vine Understanding, that it is secure from all possibility of Errour; 'tis God only that cannot lie, Tit. 1.2. because he cannot be deceived; the infallibility of God is the Foundation of his veracity.
5. The Knowledge of God is easie and without difficulty. We must dig deep for Knowledge, take a great deal of pains to know a little; we do not attain the Knowledge of things with∣out search and study and great intenti∣on of Mind; we strive to comprehend some things, but they are so vast that Page 168 we cannot; other things are at such a distance, that our Understanding is too weak to discern them; other things are so little, and small, and nice, that our Understanding cannot lay hold of them, we cannot contract our Minds to such a Point as to fasten upon them: but the Understanding of God being infinite, there is nothing at a distance from it, no∣thing too great and vast for it's compre∣hension, nor is there any thing so little that it can escape his Knowledge and animadversion. The great Wisdom of Solomon is compared to the Sand on the Sea shore; the shore is vast, but the Sands are little (saith one) to signifie that the vast Mind of Solomon did comprehend the least things. 'Tis much more true of God, his Understanding is a vast com∣prehension of the least things, as well as the greatest; and all this God does without difficulty or pain; he knows all things without study, and his Under∣standing is in continual exercise with∣out weariness. How many things are there which we cannot find out without search, without looking narrowly into, and bending our Minds to understand them? But all things are obvious to God, and lie open to his view.
Page 169He is said indeed in Scripture to search the Heart, and to try the Reins, and to weigh the Spirits; but these Expressions do not signifie the painfulness, but the perfection of his Knowledge, that he knows those things as perfectly, as we can do any thing about which we use the greatest diligence and exact∣ness.
6. The Knowledge of God is uni∣versal, and extends to all Objects. We know but a few things, our Ignorance is greater than our Knowledge, maxima pars eorum quae scimus, est minima pars eorum que nescimus: but the Divine Un∣derstanding is vast and comprehensive, and by an imperious view commands all Objects; he is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things; he knows himself, and the excellency and perfection of his own Nature, and the secrets of his Will, 1 Cor. 2.11. The Spirit of God searcheth the deep things of God; he knows all other things that are not, and all things that are, in all differences of time, their Powers and Qualities. The Knowledge of God is infinite, Psal. 147.5. His understanding is in∣finite; he knows himself and his own Perfections, and all the possibilities of Page 170 things, which are all infinite. Now the Understanding of God being infinite is incapable of any Addition, or Diminu∣tion, or Change. Our finite Understand∣ings are liable to alterations, they may grow or decline: but the Knowledge of God is a full constant Light, 'tis always the same, not liable to any E∣clipse, nor capable of any exaltation or improvement, but remains for ever the same.
Thirdly, I come now to draw some Inferences from the several parts of this Discourse.
I. From the Perfection of God's Knowledge.
1. The Perfection of the Divine Knowledge calls for our Veneration. Every Excellency commands Reverence, and raiseth our admiration, and none more than Knowledge, there is nothing that we value our selves or others more by, than this; the highest Knowledge of Man, the most glorious Under∣standing, that ever any one of the Sons of Men were endowed with, is, compa∣red to the Knowledge of God, but as a glow-Worm to the Sun. If we ad∣mire these Candles of the Lord, which shine so imperfectly in the dark; if we reve∣rence Page 171 a little Knowledge, compass'd a∣bout with ignorance; how should we ad∣mire the Father of Lights, in whom is no darkness at all, that Knowledge which hath nothing of blemish or imperfection in it!
2. We may hence learn Humi∣lity, and that on this double Account. As we have all our Knowledge from him; what have we that we have not received? And as our Knowledge is very imperfect, when compared with the Divine Un∣derstanding. We are blind and ignorant, 'tis but a few things that we are capable of knowing; and we know but a few of those things which our Natures are ca∣pable of knowing; and of those things we do know, our Knowledge is very imperfect, 'tis slight and superficial, at∣tended with much difficulty and un∣certainty in the attaining of it, and er∣ror and confusion in the use of it; the clearest Reason, and the brightest Under∣standing of Man hath many flaws and defects in it; so that the more we know of God, and of our selves, the more humble we shall be. It is an empty Know∣ledge, and falsely so call'd, that puffs up; as the empty ears of Corn are pert and raise up themselves, but those which are big and full, droop and hang down Page 172 their Heads; so 'tis only Ignorance that is proud and lifts Men up, but true Knowledge makes Men humble.
3. This is matter of Comfort and Encouragement. He knows our wants and weakness, and will lay no more upon us than we are able to bear, for he considers that we are but Dust; he knows the rage and malice of our Enemies, and can when he pleases put a Hook in their Nose, and his Bridle in their Lips, as he did to Senacherib, 2 Kings 19.28.
1. From God's knowing our secret Actions, I infer
1. If God sees our most secret Actions, this discovers and confutes the secret Atheism of many. He that commits the most secret sin denies the Omniscience of God. Thus David de∣scribes the Atheism of some in his Days; he hath said in his heart, God hath forgot, he hideth his face, he will never see it; the Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it; and is not this, in effect, to deny God's Being? for it is to deny him to be what he is. A Man may as well deny there is a Sun, as deny that it shines and enlightens the World.
There are some Relicks of this even in the best Men, which do at sometimes Page 173 discover themselves, Psal. 73.10, 11. Therefore his People return hither; and wa∣ters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, how doth God know? is there knowledge in the most high? that is, the People of God come to this, when they are come to an afflicted state, and see the Prosperity of Wicked Men, they come to this, to question the Providence of God, whether he takes knowledge of the Affairs of the World. But this A∣theism reigns in wicked Men; while they live in their Sins, they live in the Denyal of God's Omniscience; for did Men really believe that God sees in se∣cret, that his Eye perceiveth the Dark∣ness, and lays open and naked all things before it, how durst they Lie, and Steal, and Swear falsely? Vain Man! why dost thou seek Darkness and Retire∣ment? how art thou alone, if thou be∣lievest that God is every where? how can'st thou retire from him? how canst thou shut him out? If thou believest that he is Light, what Security is Dark∣ness to thee? if he look upon thee, who is the greatest and best Person in the World, who is thy Soveraign, thy Judge, thy Father, and thy Master, and thy best Friend (for we use to reverence 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 172〈1 page duplicate〉Page 173Page 174 Persons under these Notions and Rela∣tions, and to be ashamed to do any thing that is Vile and Unseemly before them) if he, who is all this, look upon thee, why art thou not ashamed? why does not thy Blood rise in thy Face? why should not Shame and Fear work, upon the apprehension of God's seeing us, as if men did behold us? for this, that God sees thee, is a greater Sur∣prise and Discovery, and threatens thee with more Danger, than if the whole World stood by thee.
2. Live as those that believe this; be continually under the power of this Apprehension, That God takes a particular and exact notice of all thy Actions. The firm Belief of this would have a double influence upon us, it would encourage us in well-doing, and be a restraint upon us as to sin; sic vivamus tanquam in conspectu vivamus, Sen. It were well if Men would live as if any body saw them; but to live as if some Worthy and Excellent Person were always present with us, and did observe us, this will be a far greater curb upon us. There are some sins of that Ugliness and Deformity, that a Man would not commit them in the Page 175 presence of any one, of a Child or a Fool; and there are some Persons of such Worth and Reverence, quorum in∣terventu perditi quoque homines vitia supprimerent. Epicurus had this good Conceit of himself, that he could ad∣vise others so to act as if he stood by, fac omnia tanquam spectet Epicurus; but Seneca instanceth much better in Cato, or Scipio, or Laelius,
This was David's course to keep him∣self from sin, Psal. 39.1. I will take heed to my way, while the wicked is before me; how much more in the presence of God? I have kept thy Precepts and thy Testimo∣nies, for all my ways are before thee, Psal. 119.168. And it was wisely advised by Seneca, That we should so live when we are among Men, as believing God sees us; and when there is none but he sees us, let us behave our selves before him, as if Men did stare upon us.
III. God's Knowledge of the Heart teacheth us,
Page 1761. The Folly of Hypocrisie; how vain it is to make a shew of that out∣wardly, which inwardly and in our Hearts we are not; to put on a Mask of Religion, and paint our selves beau∣tifully without, when inwardly we are full of rottenness and uncleanness; to ho∣nour God with our lips, when our Hearts are far from him. If we were to deal with Men, this were not a very wise way, for there is danger of discovery even from them, therefore the best way for a Man to seem to be any thing, is really to be what he would appear; but having to deal with God, who knows our thoughts afar off, to whom all our Disguises are transparent, and all our little Arts of concealment signifie nothing, 'tis a madness to hide our Ini∣quity in our Bosom. With this Argu∣ment our Saviour convinceth the hy∣pocritical Pharisees, Luke 16.15. Ye are they that justifie your selves before Men; but God knoweth your Hearts.
2. If God know your Hearts, then en∣deavour to approve your Hearts to him; charge your selves with inward Puri∣ty and Holiness, because of the pure Eyes which behold the most intimate and secret motions of your Souls; there∣fore Page 177cleanse your Hearts from wickedness; how long shall vain thoughts lodge within you? Fear and Shame from Men lay a great restraint upon our outward Acti∣ons; but how licentious are we many times in our Hearts? what a strange freedom do we take within our own Breasts? This is an Argument of the se∣cret Atheism that lies at the bottom of our Hearts. He that allows himself in any wicked Thoughts and Imaginati∣ons, which (out of a regard to Men) he will not put in practice, this man plainly declares, That he reve∣renceth Men more than God; that he either disbelieves a God, or despiseth him.
Therefore keep your Hearts with all diligence, because they are peculiarly un∣der God's inspection; and when you are ready to take the liberty of your Thoughts, because no Eye sees you, ask your selves, doth not he that pondereth the Heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth he not know it? as the wise Man speaks, Prov. 24.12.
And whatever you do in the service of God, do it heartily as to the Lord. Indeed if we did only worship God to be seen of Men, an external Worship would Page 178 be sufficient: but Religion is not in∣tended to please men, but God; he is a Spirit, and sees our Spirits, therefore we must worship him in Spirit and in Truth. 1 Thes. 2.4. Not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth our Hearts. David useth this Argument to his Son Solomon, 1 Chron. 28.9. And thou, Solomon my Son, know thou the God of thy Father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. Whatever liberty we may take to our selves now, and how care∣less soever we are of our Thoughts, and the inward frame of our Hearts; yet the Scripture assures us, that he, who now sees our Hearts, will one day judge us according to them. Jer. 17.10. I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every Man according to his ways. And the Apostle speaks of a day coming wherein God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, Heb. 4.13. Rev. 2.23.
3. This is matter of encouragement to us in many cases. In our secret Trou∣bles, Psal. 142.3. When my Spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In Cases of difficulty which Page 179 depend upon the Hearts of other men, which tho' we do not know, yet God knows them. So the Apostles, Acts 1.24. when they did not know whom to chuse for an Apostle, they refer it to God, and they prayed and said, thou Lord which knowest the hearts of all, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen. But especi∣ally this is matter of comfort to us, when we suffer by the Calumnies and Reproaches of Men, when the World chargeth us with Crimes of Hypocrisie, and Falseness, and Insincerity, then to be able to appeal to the searcher of hearts, as to our Innocency and Since∣rity, and to say with the Prophet Jer. O Lord of hosts, that tryest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, unto thee have I opened my Cause, Ch. 20.12. and with St. Peter, God which knoweth the hearts bare them witness, Acts 15.8.
4. This renders all the deep and pro∣found Policies of Wicked Men a vain thing. The Lord knows the Thoughts of men that they are vanity, Psal. 94.11. They are Vanity, because he knows them, and can defeat them; he can bring their counsels to nought, and make their de∣vices of none effect. He is conscious to the first motions of their Hearts; he Page 180 sees those Cobwebs which they are spin∣ing, and can blow them away with a Breath, he can snare them in their own Policies, and turn their Counsels into foo∣lishness. Thou that puttest a Mask up∣on a wicked Design, and hidest the Ma∣lice and Revenge of thine Heart, under a dissembling Countenance, God sees thy Design, and hath a thousand ways to prevent it. When the Politicians of the World think they have laid their Design sure, with all imaginable cauti∣on, and that their Counsels cannot mis∣carry, being out of all possibility of Hu∣mane discovery or prevention, for all this their counsels may come to nought, and tho' they have resolved it, yet it may not stand; he that sits in the heavens laughs at them, the Lord hath them in derision. As Wise as they are, they are guilty of this over-sight, that they did not take God into consideration, by whom they are surprized and discovered. He that sees their Design can blast it in a moment; he can speak the word, and thy breath shall go forth, and thou shalt return to thy dust; and in that very day thy thoughts perish, Psal. 146.4.
5. If God only knows the Hearts of Men, then what art thou, O man! that Page 181 judgest another's heart? This condemns the Uncharitableness of Men, who take upon them to judge and censure Mens Hearts, which is to speak evil of the things which they know not; to meddle with things which do not fall under their cognizance. What St. James saith ch. 4.12. There is one law-giver, that is able to save and to destroy; who art thou that judgest another? is proportionably true in this case; there is but one that knows the heart; who art thou then that judgest another Man's heart? Who art thou, O Man! that takest upon thee to sit in judgment upon thy Brother, and to pass Sentence upon his Heart, to pronounce him a Hypocrite, a wicked Man, and a damned Wretch? Art thou a Man, and the son of Man, and wilt thou as∣sume to thy self the Prerogative of God? Man can only look to the outward ap∣pearance; but God seeth the heart.
There's nothing doth more palpably discover the Un-christian Spirit of that new Sect which is of late risen up a∣mong us, than their taking upon them to judge Men's Hearts, and as confi∣dently to censure every Man they meet, as if they had a window into his Breast: But they are not alone guilty of this; Page 182 those who are so ready to call Men Hypocrites, they invade this Preroga∣tive of God. We may pronounce an action wicked, if it be contrary to the Rule; or a Man wicked, as to his pre∣sent state, if the general course of his Life and Actions be wicked; for our Saviour tells us, by their Fruits ye shall know them; this we may do, provided we be called to it, and be sure it is so: but to call any Man an Hypocrite, who makes an outward profession of Religi∣on, and whose external Conversation is unblameable; this is to judge a Man in a matter of which thou canst have no Evidence; this is to ascend into Hea∣ven, and step into the Throne of God, and to be like the most high; for he, even he only, knows the hearts of the children of men.
IV. From God's Knowledge of Future Events, we may learn,
1. The Vanity of Astrology, and all other Arts that pretend to foretell future Events, things that depend on the Will of Free Agents. The vanity of these Arts hath been sufficiently shewn by Learned Men, from the Weakness and Uncertainty of the Prin∣ciples they rely upon; I shall only for Page 183 the present take notice, that it contra∣dicts this Principle of Religon, that God only knows future events. From pru∣dent Collections and Observations, pro∣bable Conjectures may be made of what will happen in some Cases; but there are no certain Prospective-Glasses, with which we can see Future Events, but Divine Revelation; therefore whoe∣ever takes upon him to foretell Future Events without Divine Revelation, he arrogates to himself that which is the Prerogative of the Deity; and God delights to chastise the Curiosity, and cross the Predictions of these vain Pre∣tenders, Isa. 44.24, 25. Thus saith the Lord that formed thee, I am the Lord that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the Heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the Earth by my self: that frustrateth the tokens of the Lyars, and maketh Diviners mad; that turneth wise-men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish. As he also in Scripture threatens those who consult them, and rely upon them. Those who go to Astrologers, or Wise Men, as they call them, to know their Fortunes, and enquire of the Events of their Life, they forsake God, and betake themselves to lying vanities.
Page 1842. Refer future Things to God who only knows them, trust him with all Events; cast your care upon him. When you have used your best Pru∣dence, and Wisdom, and Diligence for your Supply and Security for the future, leave the rest to God, for your Heaven∣ly Father knoweth both your Wants and your Dangers. When we are over∣solicitous about future Things, we take God's proper Work out of his Hands, and usurp the Government of the World. Why do we take too much upon us? We are but of yesterday, and know not what will be to morrow.
Mind your present Duty and Work, and leave Events to God. Secret things belong to the Lord our God; but those things that are revealed, to us and our Chil∣dren for ever, to do all the words of his law, Deut. 29.29. Do your Duty, commit the rest to God in well-doing.
In this World we are in a mixt con∣dition, which is made up of Good and Evil, of Happiness and Misery; what is good for us to know, is revealed, that is our Duty; but in great Wisdom and pity to Mankind, God hath con∣cealed and hid the rest from us. He hath hid from us the Good that may happen Page 185 to us, because the best things of this World are but shallow and empty, and if we could see them before-hand, we should prevent our selves in the enjoyment of them, and eat out the sweetness which is in them by delightful fore-thoughts of them. And he hath concealed future Evils from us, lest we should torment our selves with the fearful expectation of them, Prudens, futuri temporis exitum,