Several discourses upon the attributes of God viz. Concerning the perfection of God. Concerning our imitation of the divine perfections. The happiness of God. The unchangeableness of God. The knowledge of God. The wisdom, glory, and soveraignty of God. The wisdom of God, in the creation of the world. The wisdom of God, in his providence. The wisdom of God, in the redemption of mankind. The justice of God, in the distribution of rewards and punishments. The truth of God. The holiness of God. To which is annexed a spital sermon, of doing good. By the most reverend Dr. John Tillotson, late Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. Being the sixth volume; published from the originals, by Raph Barker, D.D. chaplain to his grace.
Tillotson, John, 1630-1694., Barker, Ralph, 1648-1708.
Page  [unnumbered]Page  187

SERMON VII.* The Wisdom, Glory, and Sove∣raignty of God.

JUDE 25.

To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and Majesty, dominion and Power, now and ever.

I, AM treating of the Attributes of God; particularly of those which relate to the Divine Understanding, his Knowledge and Wisdom. The Know∣ledge of God only implies his bare Un∣derstanding of things, but his Wisdom implies the skill of ordering and dispo∣sing things to the best Ends and Purpo∣ses, the skill of making and governing Page  188 and administring all things in Num∣ber, Weight, and Measure. The Know∣ledge of God rather considers things absolutely, and in themselves: The Wisdom of God considers rather the Re∣spects and Relations of Things, looks upon things under the Notion of Means, and Ends; accordingly I described them thus. The Knowledge of God is a Perfect comprehension of the Nature of all things, with all their Qualities, Powers, and Circumstances. The Wisdom of God is a perfect Comprehension of the Re∣spects and Relations of things one to another; of their Harmony and Oppo∣sition, their fitness and unfitness to such and such Ends. I have largely spoken to the First of these; I come now to the

Second, The Wisdom of God in gene∣ral; together with his Majesty and So∣veraignty, as they are here joyned toge∣ther. I begin with the

First, That God is the only wise God. In handling of this, I shall shew

1. In what sense God may be said to be the only wise God.

2. Prove that this Attribute belongs to God.

Page  1891. In what sense God may be said to be the only wise God. For answer to this, we may take Notice, that there are some Perfections of God that are incom∣municable to the Creatures; as his Inde∣pendency and Eternity. These God only possesseth, and they are to be attributed to him alone, God only is independent and eternal: But there are other Per∣fections which are communicable, that is, which the Creatures may in some measure and degree partake of, as Know∣ledge, and Wisdom, and Goodness, and Justice, and Power, and the like; yet these the Scriptures do peculiarly attri∣bute to God, not that they are altoge∣ther incommunicable to the Creature, but that they belong to God in such a peculiar and Divine manner, as doth shut out the Creature from any claim or Title to them, in that degree and Per∣fection wherein God possesseth them. I shall give you some instances of this. His goodness, this is reserved to God a∣lone, Matth. 19.17. Why callest thou me good? there is none good, but one, that is God: His power and immortality, 1 Tim. 6.15, 16. Who is the blessed and only potentate; who only hath immor∣tality: Page  190 His Wisdom, 1 Tim. 1.17. The only wise God; Rom. 16.27. To God only wise be Glory: His Holiness Rev. 15.14. For thou only art Holy. The transcendent degree and singularity of these Divine Perfections which are com∣municable, is beyond what we are able to conceive; so that altho' the Crea∣tures partake of them, yet in that Degree and Perfection wherein God possesseth them, they are peculiar and proper to the Deity; so that in this sense, there is none good but God; he only is holy, he is the only wise; in so inconceiveable a manner doth God possess even those Perfections which in some degree he communi∣cates, and we can only understand them as he communicates them, and not as he possesseth them; so that when we consider of any of these Divine Per∣fections, we must not frame Notions of them, contrary to what they are in the Creature; but we must say that the Goodness and Wisdom of God are all this which is in the Creature, and much more which I am not able to comprehend.

This being premised in general, God may be said to be only wise in these two respects.

    Page  191
  • 1. As being Originally and Indepen∣dently wise.
  • 2. As being eminently and transcen∣dently so.

1. God only is originally and inde∣pendently wise. He derives it from none, and all derive it from him, Rom. 11.33, 34. O the depth of the riches both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his Judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his Counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever, Amen. He challengeth any Creature to come forth and say that they have given Wisdom, or any other Perfection to God; no, all Creatures that are Partakers of it, derive it from him. Prov. 2.6. For the Lord giveth Wisdom. Eccl. 2.26. God giveth to a Man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy. Dan. 2.21. He giveth Wisdom to the Wise, and Knowledge to them that know Ʋnderstanding.

2. He is eminently and transcendently so. And this follows from the fo∣mer; because God is the Fountain of Wisdom, therefore it is most Page  192 eminently in him, Psal. 94.9, 10. He that planted the Ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the Eye, shall he not see? he that teacheth Man Knowledge, shall not he know? In like manner we may Rea∣son concerning all other Attributes of God, that if he communicate them, he is much more eminently possest of them himself; the greatest Wisdom of the Creatures is nothing in Opposition to the Wisdom of God, nothing in Compari∣son to it.

Nothing in Opposition to it; Job 5.13. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Job 9.4. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; who hath hardned himself against him, and prosper'd. Prov. 21.30. There is no Wisdom, nor Ʋnderstanding, nor Coun∣sel, against the Lord. 1 Cor. 1.19. He will destroy the Wisdom of the Wise; v. 29. and by foolish things confound the wise.

Nothing in Comparison of it. There are a great many that pretend to Wis∣dom, but most are destitute of true Wisdom; and those who have it, they have it with many Imperfections and Disadvantages. Usually those who are destitute of true Wisdom pretend most to it, Job 11.12. Vain Man would be wise, tho' he be born like a wild Asse's colt.Page  193 The High and the Great of this World pretend to it, Job 32.9. Great Men are not always Wise. Learned Men they pretend to it; the heathen Philosophers were great professers of Wisdom, Rom. 1.22. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, they were wise to do evil, but to do good they had no understand∣ing, As the Prophet speaks, Jer. 4.22. The Politicians of the World they pretend to it; but theirs is rather a Craftiness than a Wisdom; Men call it Prudence, but they are glad to use many Arts to set it off, and make it look like Wisdom; by Silence, and Secresie, and Formality, and affected Gravity, and Nods, and Gestures. The Scripture calls it the Wisdom of this World, 1 Cor. 2.6. and a fleshly Wisdom, 2 Cor. 1.12. 'Tis Wisdom misapply'd, 'tis the pur∣suit of a wrong End. The petty Plots and Designs of this World are far from Wisdom, 1 Cor. 3.20. The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the Wise, that they are vain. That cannot be Wisdom, which mistakes its great End, which minds mean Things, and neglects those which are of greatest Concernment to them. Job 22.2. He that is Wise is pro∣fitable to himself. Prov. 9.12. If thou Page  194 be Wise, thou shalt be Wise for thy self. Tully tells us, Ennius was wont to say Nequicquam sapere sapientem, qui sibi ipsi prodesse non quiret. The wise Sages of the World as to the best things are Fools, Matt. 11.25. God hath hid these things from the wise and prudent. There are many that are wise in their own Conceits, but there is more hope of a Fool than of them, Prov. 26.12. So that the greatest part of that which passeth for Wisdom among Men is quite another thing. Nihil tam valde vulgare quàm nihil sapere; we talk much of Prodigies, maximum portentum vir sapiens, Tul. Those few in the World that are the Children of true Wisdom, they have it in a very imperfect degree, they are not usually so wise for their Souls, and for Eternity, as Men of this World, Luke 16.8. The Children of this World are in their Generation wiser than the Children of Light. It is attended with many inconveniencies, Eccl. 1.18. in much wisdom there is much grief; he speaks of the wisdom about natural things.

But we need not instance in the fol∣ly of wicked Men, and worldly Men, and in the imperfect degrees of Wisdom which are to be found in good Men, Page  195 in Wisdom's own Children; the Wisdom of God needs not these foils to set it off: the Wisdom of Man in Innocency, or of the highest Angel in Heaven, bears no proportion to the un-erring and infinite Wisdom of God. We mortal men many times mistake our End out of Ignorance, apply unfit and impro∣per Means for accomplishing good Ends; the Angels in Glory have not a perfect comprehension of the harmony and a∣greement of things, of the unfitness and opposition of them one to another: but the Divine Wisdom propounds to it self the highest and best Ends, and hath a perfect comprehension of the fit∣ness and unfitness of all things one to another; so that Angels are but foolish Beings to God; Job 4.17. His Angels he chargeth with folly. Job, upon a full en∣quiry after Wisdom, concludes that it belongs only to God, that he only is perfectly possest of it, Job 28.12. &c. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? in such an eminent and transcendent Degree it is not to be met with in any of the Crea∣tures; God only hath it, v. 23. God knoweth the place thereof.

II. I shall prove that this Perfection belongs to God,

    Page  196
  • 1. From the dictates of Natural Reason, and
  • 2. From Scripture.

1. From the dictates of Natural Rea∣son. I have often told you the Perfe∣ctions of God are not to be proved by way of demonstration, because there is no Cause of them; but by way of con∣viction, by shewing the absurdity and inconvenience of the contrary.

The Contrary is an Imperfection, and argues many other Imperfections, therefore Wisdom belongs to God. A∣mong men Folly is look'd upon as the greatest defect; it is accounted a great∣er Reproach and Disgrace, than Vice and Wickedness; it is of so ill a Re∣port in the World, that there are not many but had rather be accounted Knaves than Fools; but in a true E∣steem and Value of things, it is, next to Wickedness, the greatest Imperfe∣ction; and, on the contrary, Wisdom is the highest Perfection next to Holi∣ness and Goodness; it is usually more cryed up in the World than any thing else. Reason tells us, tho' the Scripture had not said it, that wisdom excells folly as much as light doth darkness, Eccl. 2.13. The wisdom of a man maketh his Face Page  197 to shine, Eccl. 8.1. Wisdom is a defence, 7.12. and v. 19. Wisdom strengthneth the wise more than ten mighty men that are in the City.

And the denyal of this Perfection to God would argue many other Imper∣fections; it would be an universal Ble∣mish to the Divine Nature, and would darken all his other Perfections. It would weaken the Power of God. How impotent and ineffectual would Power be without Wisdom! what irregular things would it produce! what untow∣ard Combinations of Effects would there be, if Infinite Power should act with∣out the Conduct and Direction of In∣finite Wisdom! It would eclipse the Providence of God, and put out the Eyes that are in the Wheels, as the Pro∣phet represents God's Providence. There can be no Counsel, no Fore-cast, no orderly Government of the World without Wisdom. The Goodness, and Mercy, and Justice, and Truth of God, could not shine with that lustre, were it not for his Wisdom which doth illu∣strate these with so much advantage.

I need not bring Testimonies from Heathen Writers to confirm this, their Books are full of Expressions of their admiration of God's wise Government Page  198 of the World. I will not trouble you with Quotations of particular Testimo∣nies. Epicurus indeed denyed that God either made or govern'd the World; but he must needs acknowledge him to have been a very wise Being, because he made him happy, which cannot be without Wisdom, tho' he had taken a∣way all other evidence of his Wisdom. Aristotle seems to have supposed the World to be a necessary result and e∣manation from God: but then the o∣ther Sects of Philosophers did suppose the World to be the free Product of God's Goodness and Wisdom.

2. From Scripture; Job. 9.4. He is wise in heart; 36.5. He is mighty in strength and wisdom. Dan. 2.20. Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his. Hither we may refer those Texts which attribute Wisdom of God in a singular and pe∣culiar manner, Rom. 16.27. and those which speak of God as the Fountain of it, who communicates and bestows it upon his Creatures, Dan. 2.21. James 1.5. and those Texts which speak of the Wisdom of God in the Creation of the World, Psal. 104.24. O Lord, how wonderful are thy works, in wisdom hast Page  199 thou made them all; Jer. 10.12. who hath establisht the world by his wisdom, and stretch∣ed forth the heavens by his discretion; in the Providence and Government of the World, Dan. 2.20. Wisdom and strength are his, and he changeth times and seasons, he removeth Kings and setteth up Kings; and in many other places; in the redemp∣tion of Mankind; therefore Christ is called the Wisdom of God, 1 Cor. 1.24. and the dispensation of the Gospel, the hid∣den wisdom of God, and the manifold wis∣dom of God, Eph. 2.10.

If then God be only wise, the Original and only Fountain of it, from hence we learn,

First, To go to him for it. Jam. 1.5. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God. There are many conceited Men, that think they are Rich and increased, and stand in need of nothing. The A∣postle doth not speak as if there were some that did not want Wisdom, but because there are some so proud and conceited, that they think that they lack nothing; those are stark Fools, and God resists such foolish and proud Men: but if any Man, sensible of his Defect and Imperfection, cometh to God, he gives liberally and upbraids no man. We Page  200 are ashamed to learn Wisdom of Men, lest they should contemn and upbraid us with our Folly; Men are envious and unwilling that others should be as wise as themselves: but God's good∣ness makes him willing to impart Wis∣dom, he gives liberally, and upbraids no man.

This is the most desirable Accom∣plishment and Perfection; happy is the man that getteth wisdom; wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom; it is better than those things that are of highest value among men, as Solomon often makes the Comparison. Now be∣cause it comes down from above, we should look up for it; it's by the Reve∣lation of his Will, and the wise Coun∣sels of his Word, that we are made wise unto salvation, therefore we should beg of him, that he would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of himself, Eph. 1.17.

2. If God be only Wise in such an emi∣nent and transcendent Degree, then let us be humble. There's no cause of boasting, see∣ing we have nothing but what we have receiv'd. The lowest instance, the least specimen of Divine Wisdom out-shines the highest pitch of Humane Wisdom; the foolish∣ness Page  201 of God is wiser than men, 1 Cor. 1.25. therefore let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Jer. 9.29. Of all things we should not be proud of Wisdom; the proud man throws down the Reputati∣on of his Wisdom, by the way that he would raise it. No such evidence of our Folly, as as a conceit that we are Wise; sapientis animus nunquam tur∣gescit, nunquam tumet, Cic. To pride our selves in our own Wisdom, is the way to have our Folly made manifest. God threatens to destroy the wisdom of the wise man, and to turn their wisdom into foolish∣ness.

3. We should labour to partake of the Wisdom of God, so far as it is com∣municable. The greatest Wisdom that we are capable of, is to distinguish be∣tween Good and Evil; to be wise to that which is good, as the Apostle speaks, Rom. 16.19. that is, to provide for the future in time, to make provision for Eternity, to think of our latter end, to fear God and obey him, to be pure and peaceable, to receive instruction, and to win Souls; these are the Cha∣racters which the Scripture gives of Wisdom. When Job had declared that the excellency of the Divine Wisdom Page  202 was not to be attained by men; he tells us what that Wisdom is, which is proper for us; And unto man he said, the fear of the Lord that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding. There are many that are wise to world∣ly Ends and Purposes, as our Saviour tells us, wise to get Riches, and to as∣cend to Honours: But this is not the wisdom which we are to labour after; this is but a short-witted Prudence, to serve a present turn, without any pro∣spect to the future, without regard to the next World, and the Eternity which we are to live in; this is to be wise for a moment, and fools for ever.

4. If God be only Wise, then put your Trust and Confidence in him. Whom should we trust rather than Infinite Wis∣dom which manageth and directs Infi∣nite Goodness and Power? In all Ca∣ses of difficulty trust him for direction, acknowledge him in all thy ways, that he may direct thy steps, commit thy way unto the Lord, and lean not to thine own un∣derstanding. The race is not to the swift, nor the Battel to the strong, but the Pro∣vidence of God disposeth all these things. And if we rely upon our own Wisdom, that will prove a broken reed. And as Page  203 our own Wisdom is a broken Reed, so the Wisdom of other men, Isa. 31.1, 2. God curseth them that go down into E∣gypt, and trust to their strength and Wis∣dom, but look not to the holy one of Israel, neither seek the Lord; yet he also is wise, saith the Prophet.

5. Let us adore the Wisdom of God, and say with St. Paul, 1 Tim. 1.17. To the only wise God be honour and glory, for ever and ever Amen; and with Daniel, Bles∣sed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his. Veneration is the acknowledgement of an Infinite Excellency and Perfection. We reve∣rence any extraordinary degree of Wis∣dom in Men; but the Divine Wisdom which is Perfect and Infinite, is matter of our Adoration, and Blessing, and Praise. Thanksgiving respects the Benefits we receive: but we bless God when we ac∣knowledge any Excellency; for as God's Blessing us is to do us good, so our Blessing him is to speak good of him; and as all God's Perfections are the Objects of our Blessing, so more especially his Wisdom is of our Praise; for to praise God is to take notice of the wise Design and Contrivance of his Goodness and Mercy towards us.

Page  204Before I pass on to the other Parti∣culars contained in these words, I can∣not but take notice that this wise God, here spoken of, is stiled our Saviour, which some understand of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and bring this place as an Argument to prove his Divinity; and if that were so, it were all one to my pur∣pose, which is in the next place to shew that Glory, and Majesty, and Dominion, and Power belong to the Divine Being. But altho' I would not willingly part with any place that may fairly be brought for the proof of the Divinity of Christ, yet seeing there are so many plain Texts in Scripture for the proof of it, we have the less reason to stretch doubtful places; and that this is so, will appear to any one who considers that the Title of Sa∣viour is several times in Scripture at∣tributed to God the Father; besides that in a very Ancient and Authentick Copy, we find the words read some∣what otherwise, and so as to put this out of all Controversie, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c.

Having premised thus much for the clearing of these words, I shall briefly consider, first God's Glory and Majesty,Page  205 and then his Dominion and Soveraignty.

First, God's Glory and Majesty. By Ma∣jesty, we may understand the greatness, or eminent excellency of the Divine Na∣ture, which results from his Perfecti∣ons, and whereby the Divine Nature is set and placed infinitely above all o∣ther Beings; I say the eminent excel∣lency of the Divine Nature, which re∣sults from his Perfections, more especi∣ally from those great Perfections, his Goodness, and Wisdom, and Power, and Holiness.

And his Glory is a manifestation of this Excellency, and a just acknow∣ledgment and due opinion of it. Hence it is, that in Scripture God is said to be glorious in power, and glorious in holi∣ness, and his Goodness is call'd his glory; and here in the Text, Glory and Maje∣sty are ascribed to him upon the account of his Wisdom and Goodness.

That these belong to God, I shall prove,

1. From the acknowledgment of Natural Light. The Heathens did con∣stantly ascribe Greatness to God, and that as resulting chiefly from his Good∣ness, as appears by their frequent con∣junction of these two Attributes, Good∣nessPage  206 and Greatness. Opt. Max. were their most familiar Titles of the Deity; to which I will add that known place of Seneca, primus deorum cultus est deos crede∣re, dein reddere illis majestatem suam, red∣dere bonitatem, sine quâ nulla majestas.

2. From Scripture. It were endless to produce all those Texts wherein Greatness and Glory are ascribed to God. I shall mention two or three. Deut. 10.17. the Lord is a great God; Psal. 24.10. he's call'd the King of glo∣ry; 104, 1. he is said to be cloathed with majesty and honour. The whole Earth is full of his glory. Hither belong all those Doxologies in the Old and New Testament, wherein Greatness and Glo∣ry and Majesty are ascribed to God.

From all which we may learn,

1. What it is that makes a Per∣son great and glorious, and what is the way to Majesty, viz. real worth and ex∣cellency, and particularly that kind of excellency which Creatures are capable of in a very eminent degree, and that is goodness; this is that which advanceth a Person, and gives him a pre-eminen∣cy above all others; this casts a lustre upon a man, and makes his face to shine. Aristotle tells us, that Honour is Page  207 nothing else but the signification of the esteem which we have of a Person for his good∣ness; for, saith he, to be good, and to do good, is the highest glory. God's Good∣ness is his highest Glory; and there is nothing so glorious in any Creature, as herein to be like God.

2. Let us give God the Glory which is due to his Name; Ascribe ye greatness to our God, Deut. 32.3. Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and power, Psal. 29.1. The Glory and Majesty of God calls for our Esteem and Honour, our Fear and Reverence of him. Thus we should glorifie God in our Spirits, by an inward esteem and reverence of his Majesty. The thoughts of Earthly Majesty will compose us to reverence: how much more should the Apprehensions of the Divine Majesty strike an awe upon our Spirits in all our Addresses to him? his excellency should make us afraid, and keep us from all saucy boldness and familiarity with him. Reverence is an Acknowledg∣ment of the distance which is between the Majesty of God and our meanness. And we should glorifie him in our bodies, with outward Worship and Adoration; that is, by all external significations of Page  208 reverence and respect; and we should glorifie him in our Lives and Actions. The highest glory a Creature can give to God, is to endeavour to be like him; satis illos coluit, quisquis imitatus est, Sen. hereby we manifest and shew forth his Excellency to the World, when we en∣deavour to be conformed to the Divine Perfections. And in case of sin and pro∣vocation, we are to give glory to God by repentance, which is an acknow∣ledgment of his Holiness, who hates sin; and of his Justice, which will punish it; and of the mercy of God, which is rea∣dy to pardon it; for it is the glory of God to pass by a provocation.

3. We should take heed of robbing God of his Glory, by giving it to any Creature, by ascribing those Titles, or that Worship to any Creature, which is due to God alone. This is the Reason which is given of the Second Command∣ment; I the Lord am a jealous God; God is jealous of his Honour, and will not give his glory to another, nor his Praise to graven Images, Isa. 42.8. Upon this ac∣count, we find the Apostle reproves the Idolatry of the Heathens, because there∣by they debased the esteem of God, and did shew they had unworthy thoughts Page  209 of him, Rom. 1.21, 23. When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations. And changed the glory of the incorrup∣tible God into an image made like to cor∣ruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Here∣by they denyed the glorious Excellency of the Divine Nature; that is, that he is a Spirit, and so incapable of being re∣presented by any material or sensible I∣mage.

Secondly, I come now to speak of the Soveraignty and Dominion of God. In which I shall shew,

First. What we are to understand by the Soveraignty and Dominion of God. By these we mean the full and absolute Right and Title and Authority which God hath to, and over all his Creatures, as his Creatures, and made by him. And this Right results from the Effects of that Goodness, and Power, and Wisdom whereby all things are and were made; from whence there doth accrew to God a Soveraign Right and Title to all his Creatures, and a full and absolute Au∣thority over them; that is such a Right and Authority which doth not depend upon any Superior, nor is subject and ac∣countable Page  210 to any for any thing that he does to any of his Creatures. And this is that which is call'd summum imperium, because there is no power above it to check or control it, and therefore there can be none greater than this. And it is absolute, because all the Creatures have what they have from God, and all de∣pend upon his Goodness, and therefore they owe all possible Duty and perpe∣tual Subjection so long as they continue in Being, because it is solely by his Pow∣er and Goodness that they continue; and therefore whatever Right or Title any one can pretend to any Person or Thing, that God hath to all things, in Deo omnes tituli omnia jura concurrunt.

So that Soveraignty and Dominion sig∣nifies a full Right and Title and Pro∣priety in all his Creatures, and an abso∣lute Authority over them, to govern them and dispose of them, and deal with them in any way he pleaseth, that is not contrary to his essential Dignity and Per∣fection, or repugnant to the Natural State and Condition of the Creature.

And for our better understanding of this, and the preventing of Mistakes which Men are apt to fall into about the Soveraignty of God, I will shew,

    Page  211
  • I. Wherein it doth not consist. And,
  • II. Wherein it doth consist.

I. Wherein it doth not consist.

1. Not in a Right to gratifie and delight himself in the extreme Misery of innocent and undeserving Creatures; I say, not in a right; for the right that God hath in his Creatures is founded in the Benefits he hath conferred upon them, and the Ob∣ligation they have to him upon that ac∣count. Now there's none, who because he hath done a Benefit, can have, by vertue of that, a right to do a greater Evil than the Good which he hath done amounts to; and I think it next to mad∣ness, to doubt whether extreme and E∣ternal Misery be not a greater Evil, than simple Being is a Good. I know they call it physical goodness; but I do not understand how any thing is the better for being call'd by a hard Name. For what can there be that is good or desirable in Being, when it only serves to be a foundation of the greatest and most last∣ing Misery? and we may safely say, that the just God will never challenge more than an equitable right. God doth not claim any such soveraignty to himself, as to crush and oppress innocent Crea∣tures Page  212 without a cause, and to make them miserable without a provocation. And because it seems some have been very apt to entertain such groundless Jealousies and unworthy Thoughts of God, he hath given us his Oath to as∣sure us of the contrary. As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn and live. So far is he from taking Pleasure in the misery and ruin of innocent Creatures, that in case of sin and pro∣vocation, he would be much rather plea∣sed, if sinners would, by Repentance, avoid and escape his Justice, than that they should fall under it. The good God cannot be glorified or pleased in doing Evil to any, where Justice doth not require it; nothing is further from infinite Goodness than to rejoice in Evil. We account him a Tyrant and a Mon∣ster of Men, and of a devilish temper, that can do so; and we cannot do a greater Injury to the good God, than to paint him out after such a horrid and deformed manner.

2. The soveraignty of God doth not consist in imposing Laws upon his Crea∣tures, which are impossible either to be understood or observed by them. For Page  213 this would not only be contrary to the dignity of the Divine Nature, but con∣tradict the nature of a reasonable Crea∣ture, which, in reason, cannot be obli∣ged by any Power to impossibilities.

3. The soveraignty of God doth not consist in a liberty to tempt Men to Evil, or by any inevitable Decree to necessitate them to sin, or effectually to procure the sins of Men, and to punish them for them. For as this would be contrary to the Holiness, and Justice, and Goodness of God; so to the nature of a reasonable Creature, who cannot be guilty or deserve Punishment for what it cannot help. And men cannot easily have a blacker thought of God, than to imagin that he hath, from all Eternity, carried on a secret Design to circumvent the greatest part of men into destructi∣on, and underhand to draw Men into a Plot against Heaven, that by this un∣worthy practice he may raise a Reve∣nue of glory to his Justice. There's no generous and good man, but would spit in that man's Face that should charge him with such a Design: and if they who are but very drops of good∣ness, in comparison of God, the infi∣nite Ocean of Goodness, would take it Page  214 for such a Reproach; shall we attri∣bute that to the best Being in the World, which we would detest and abominate in our selves?

II. Wherein the Soveraignty of God doth consist.

1. In a right to dispose of, and deal with his Creatures in any way that doth not contradict the Essential Per∣fections of God, and the natural Con∣dition of the Creature.

2. In a right to impose what Laws he pleaseth upon his Creatures, whether natural and reasonable; or positive, of Tryal of Obedience, provided they contradict not the Na∣ture of God or of the Creature.

3. In a right to inflict due and de∣served Punishment in case of provocation.

4. In a right to afflict any of his Creatures, so the Evil he inflicts be short of the Benefits he hath conferred on them; yea, and farther, in a right when he pleaseth to annihilate the Crea∣ture, and turn it out of Being, if it should so seem good to him, tho' that Creature have not offended him; be∣cause what he gave was his own, and he may without injury take it away again when he pleaseth. In these Page  215 the Soveraignty of God consists, and if there be any thing else that can be re∣conciled with the essential Perfections of God.

Secondly, For the Proof and Confirmation of this. This is universally acknow∣ledg'd by the Heathens, that God is the Lord and Soveraign of the World, and of all Creatures. Hence Plato calls him 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; and Tully, omnium rerum Dominum, Lord of all; and this the Scripture doth every where attribute to him, calling him Lord of all, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; to which we may refer all those Dox∣ologies, in which Power, and Domini∣on, and Authority are ascribed to God. I will only mention that eminent Con∣fession of Nebuchadnezzar a great King, who, when his Understanding came to him, was forced to acknowledge that God was the most high, Dan. 4.34, 35. I infer,

First, Negatively, we cannot, from the soveraignty of God, infer a right to do any thing that is unsuitable to the Per∣fection of his Nature; and consequent∣ly that we are to rest satisfied with such a Notion of Dominion and Sove∣raignty in God, as doth not plainly Page  216 and directly contradict all the Noti∣ons that we have of Justice and Good∣ness: nay it would be little less than a horrid and dreadful Blasphemy, to say that God can, out of his Soveraign Will and Pleasure, do any thing that contradicts the Nature of God, and the essential Perfections of the Deity; or to imagin that the Pleasure and Will of the Holy, and Just, and Good God is not always regulated and de∣termined by the essential and indispen∣sable Laws of Goodness, and Holiness, and Righteousness.

Secondly, Positively; we may infer from the Soveraignty and Dominion of God,

1. That we ought to own and ac∣knowledge God for our Lord and Sove∣raign, who by creating us, and giving us all that we have, did create to him∣self a Right in us.

2. That we owe to him the utmost possibility of our Love, to love him with all our hearts, and souls, and strength; be∣cause the Souls that we have he gave us; and that we are in a capacity to love him, is his Gift; and when we render these to him, we do but give him of his own.

Page  2173. We owe to him all imaginable subjection, and observance, and obedi∣ence; and are with all diligence, to the utmost of our endeavours, to conform our selves to his Will, and to those Laws which he hath imposed upon us.

4. In case of Offence and Disobedi∣ence, we are without murmuring, to submit to what he shall inflict upon us, to accept of the punishment of our iniquity, and patiently to bear the indignation of the Lord, because we have sinned against him, who is our Lord and Soveraign.