The Works of
A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX.;
Index of Fourth Verse
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 46lb
Institution of religious worship an evidence of forgiveness.
VII. God's institution of religious worship, and honour therein to be rendered unto him by sinners, is another evidence that there is forgiveness with him. I have instanced before in one particular of worship to this purpose, -- namely, in that of sacrifices; but therein we intended only their particular nature and signification, how they declared and manifested reconciliation, atonement, and pardon. That now aimed at is, to show how all the worship that God hath appointed unto us, and all the honour which we give unto his holy majesty thereby, is built upon the same foundation, -- namely, a supposition of forgiveness, -- and is appointed to teach it, and to ascertain us of it; which shall briefly be declared. To this end observe, --
1. That the general end of all divine and religious worship is to raise unto God a revenue of glory out of the creation. Such is God's infinite natural self-sufficiency, that he stands in need of no such glory and honour. He was in himself no less infinitely and eternally glorious before the creation of all or any thing whatever, than he will be when he shall be encompassed about with the praises of all the works of his hands. And such is his absolute perfection, that no honour given unto him, no admiration of him, no ascription of glory and praise, can add any thing unto him. Hence saith the psalmist, "My goodness extendeth not to thee, " Ps. xvi. 2; -- "It doth not so reach thee as to add unto thee, to profit thee, as it may do the saints that are on earth. " As he in Job, chap. xxii. 2, 3, "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?" There is no doubt but that it is well-pleasing unto God that we should be
462 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
righteous and upright; but we do him not a pleasure therein, as though he stood in need of it, or it were advantage or gain unto him. And again, chap. xxxv. 7, "If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he at thine hand?" And the reason of all this the apostle gives us, Rom. xi. 36, "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. " Being the first sovereign cause and last absolute end of all things, every way perfect and self-sufficient, nothing can be added unto him: or, as the same apostle speaks, "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, is not worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth unto all life, and breath, and all things, " Acts xvii. 24, 25; as he himself pleads at large, Ps. 1. 7-13.
2. Wherefore, all the revenue of glory that God will receive by his worship depends merely on his own voluntary choice and appointment. All worship, I say, depends now on the sovereign will and pleasure of God. It is true there is a natural worship due from rational creatures by the law of their creation. This was indispensably and absolutely necessary at first. The very being of God and order of things required that it should be so. Supposing that God had made such creatures as we are, it could not be but that moral obedience was due unto him, -- namely, that he should be believed in, trusted, and obeyed, as the first cause, last end, and sovereign Lord of all. But the entrance of sin, laying the sinner absolutely under the curse of God, utterly put an end to this order of things. Man was now to have perished immediately, and an end to be put unto the law of this obedience. But here, in the sovereign will of God, an interposition was made between sin and the sentence, and man was respited from destruction. All worship following hereon, even that which was before natural, by the law of creation, is now resolved into an arbitrary act of God's will.
And unto this end is all worship designed, -- namely, to give glory unto God. For as God hath said that "he will be sanctified in all that draw nigh him, " -- that is, in his worship, -- and that therein "he will be glorified, " Lev. x. 3; and that "he that offereth him praise, " -- that is, performeth any part of his worship and service, -- "glorifieth him, " Ps. 1. 23: so the nature of the thing itself declareth that it can have no other end. By this he hath all his glory, even from the inanimate creation.
3. Consider that God hath not prescribed any worship of himself unto the angels that sinned. They are, indeed, under his power, and he useth them as he pleaseth, to serve the ends of his holy providence. Bounds he prescribes unto them by his power, and keeps them in dread of the full execution of his wrath; but he requires not of them that they should believe in him. They believe, indeed,
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 463
and tremble. They have a natural apprehension of the being, power, providence, holiness, and righteousness of God, which is inseparable from their natures; and they have an expectation from thence of that punishment and vengeance which is due unto them, which is inseparable from them as sinners; and this is their faith: but to believe in God, -- that is, to put their trust in him, to resign up themselves unto him, -- God requires it not of them. The same is the case with them also as to love, and fear, and delight, -- all inward affections, which are the proper worship of God. These they have not, nor doth God any longer require them in them. They eternally cast them off in their first sin. And where these are not, where they are not required, where they cannot be, there no outward worship can be prescribed or appointed; for external instituted worship is nothing but the way that God assigns and chooseth us to express and exercise the inward affections of our minds towards him. He rules the fallen angels "per nuturn providentim, " not "verbum praecepti. " Now, as God dealt with the angels, so also would he have dealt with mankind, had he left them all under the curse, without remedy or hope of relief. As he doth with them, -- he eternally satisfies himself in that revenue of glory which ariseth unto him in their punishment, -- so also he would have done with these, had there been no forgiveness with him for them. He would not have required them to fear, love, or obey him, or have appointed unto them any way of worship whereby to express such affections towards him; for to what end should he have done it? What righteousness would admit that service, duty, and obedience should be prescribed unto them who could not, ought not to have any expectation or hope of acceptance or reward? This is contrary to the very first notion which God requires in us of his nature: for "he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, " Heb. xi. 6; which would not be so should he appoint a voluntary worship, and not propose a reward to the worshippers. Wherefore, --
4. It is evident that God, by the prescription of a worship unto sinners, doth fully declare that there is forgiveness with him for them; for, --
(1.) He manifests thereby that he is willing to receive a new revenue of glory from them. This, as we have proved, is the end of worship. This he would never have done but with a design of accepting and rewarding his creatures; for do we think that he will be beholding unto them? -- that he will take and admit of their voluntary, reasonable service, according to his will and command, without giving them a reward, yea, and such a one as their obedience holds no proportion unto? No such thing would become his infinite self-sufficiency, goodness, and bounty. This the wife of Manoah well
464 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
pleads, Judges xiii. 23: "If, " saith she, "the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meat-offering at our hands. " His acceptance of worship from us is an infallible demonstration that he will not execute against us the severity of the first curse. And this is clearly evidenced in the first record of solemn instituted worship performed by sinners: Gen. iv. 4, "The LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering. " Some think that God gave a visible pledge of his acceptance of Abel and his offering. It may be it was by fire from heaven; for how else should Cain so instantly know that his brother and his offering were accepted, but that he and his were refused? However it were, it is evident that what testimony God gave of the acceptance of his offering, the same he gave concerning his person; and that in the first place he had respect unto Abel, and then to his offering. And therefore the apostle saith that thereby "he obtained witness that he was righteous, " Heb. xi 4, -- that is, the witness or testimony of God himself. Now, this was in the forgiveness of his sins, without which he could neither be righteous nor accepted, for he was a sinner. This God declared by acceptance of his worship. And thus we also, if we have any testimony of God's acceptance of us in any part of his worship, should employ it to the same end. Hath God enlarged our hearts in prayer? hath he given us an answer unto any of our supplications? hath he refreshed our hearts in the preaching and dispensation of the word, or any other ordinance? We are not to rest in the particular about which our communion with him hath been; -- our doing so is the cause why we lose our experiences; they lie scattered up and down, separated from their proper root, and so are easily lost: but this is that which we should first improve such particular experiences in the worship of God unto, -- namely, that God hath pardoned our sins, and accepted our persons thereon; for without that, none of our worship or service would please him or be accepted with him.
(2.) Hereby God lets us know that he deals with us upon new terms, so that, notwithstanding sin, we may enjoy his love and favour. For this we have the engagement of his truth and veracity, and he cannot deceive us. But yet by this command of his for his worship we should be deceived, if there were no forgiveness with him; for it gives us encouragement to expect, and assurance of finding, acceptance with him, which without it cannot be obtained. This, then, God declares by his institution of and command for his worship, -- namely, that there is nothing that shall indispensably hinder those who give up themselves unto obedience of God's commands from enjoying his love and favour, and communion with him.
(3.) For matter of fact, it is known and confessed that God hath appointed a worship. for sinners to perform All the institutions of
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 465
the Old and New Testament bear witness hereunto. God was the author of them. And men know not what they do when either they neglect them or would be intermixing their own imaginations with them. What can the mind of man conceive or invent that may have any influence into this matter, to secure the souls of believers of their acceptance with God? Is there any need of their testimony to the truth, faithfulness, and goodness of God? These things he hath taken upon himself. This, then, is that which is to be fixed on our souls upon our first invitation unto religious worship, -- name]y, that God intends a new revenue of glory from us, and therefore declares that there is a way for the taking away of our sins, without which we can give no glory to him by our obedience; and this is done only by forgiveness.
5. There are some ordinances of worship appointed for this very end and purpose, to confirm unto us the forgiveness of sin, especially in that worship which is instituted by the Lord Jesus under the New Testament. I shall instance in one or two --
(1.) The ordinance of baptism. This was accompanied with the dawning of the gospel in the ministry of John the Baptist; and he expressly declared, in his sermons upon it, that it was instituted of God to declare the "remission of sins, " Mark i. 4.
It is true the Lord Christ submitted unto that ordinance and was baptized by John, who had no sin; but this belonged unto the obedience which God required of him, as for our salves he was made under the law. He was to observe all ordinances and institutions of the worship of God, not for any need he had in his own person of the especial ends and significations of some of them; yet, as he was our sponsor, surety, and mediator, standing in our stead in all that he so did, he was to yield obedience unto them, that so he might "fulfil all righteousness, " Matt. iii. 15. So was he circumcised, so he was baptized, both which had respect unto sin, though absolutely free from all sin in his own person; and that because he was free from no obedience unto any command of God.
But, as was said, baptism itself, as appointed to be an ordinance of worship for sinners to observe, was a declaration of that forgiveness that is with God. It was so in its first institution. God calls a man in a marvellous and miraculous manner; gives him a ministry from heaven; commands him to go and baptize all those who, confessing their sins, and professing repentance of them, should come to him to have a testimony of forgiveness. And as to the especial nature of this ordinance, he appoints it to be such as to represent the certainty and truth of his grace in pardon unto their senses by a visible pledge. He lets them know that he would take away their sin, wherein their spiritual defilement doth consist, even as water takes away the out-
466 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
ward filth of the body; and that hereby they shall be saved, as surely as Noah and his family were saved in the ark swimming upon the waters, I Pet. iii. 21. Now, how great a deceit must needs in this whole matter have been put upon poor sinners, if it were not infallibly certain that they might obtain forgiveness with God!
After the entrance of this ordinance in the ministry of John, the Lord Christ takes it into his own hand, and commands the observation of it unto all his disciples. I dispute not now who are the proper immediate objects of it; whether they only who actually can make profession of their faith, or believers with their infant seed. For my part, I believe that all whom Christ loves and pardons are to be made partakers of the pledge thereof. And the sole reason which they of old insisted on why the infants of believing parents should not be baptized was, because they thought they had no sin; and therein we know their mistake. But I treat not now of these things. Only this I say is certain, that in the prescription of this ordinance unto his church, the great intention of the Lord Christ was to ascertain unto us the forgiveness of sins. And sinners are invited to a participation of this ordinance for that end, that they may receive the pardon of their sins; that is, an infallible pledge and assurance of it, Acts it. 38. And the very nature of it declareth this to be its end, as was before intimated. This is another engagement of the truth, and faithfulness, and holiness of God, so that we cannot be deceived in this matter. "There is, " saith God, "forgiveness with me. " Saith the soul, "How, Lord, shall I know, how shall I come to be assured of it? for by reason of the perpetual accusations of conscience, and the curse of the law upon the guilt of my sin, I find it a very hard matter for me to believe. Like Gideon, I would have a token of it. " "Why, behold, " saith God, "I will give thee a pledge and a token of it, which cannot deceive thee. When the world of old had been overwhelmed with a deluge of waters by reason of their sins, and those who remained, though they had just cause to fear that the same judgment would again befall them or their posterity, because they saw there was like to be the same cause of it, the thoughts and imaginations of the hearts of men being evil still, and that continually; to secure them against these fears, I told them that I would destroy the earth no more with water, and I gave them a token of my faithfulness therein by placing my bow in the cloud. And have I failed them? Though the sin and wickedness of the world hath been, since that day, unspeakably great, yet mankind is not drowned again, nor ever shall be. I will not deceive their expectation from the token I have given them. Wherever, then, there is a word of promise confirmed with a token, never fear a disappointment. But so is this matter. I
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 467
have declared that there is forgiveness with me; and, to give you assurance thereof, I have ordained this pledge and sign as a seal of my word, to take away all doubts and suspicion of your being deceived. As the world shall be drowned no more, so neither shall they who believe come short of forgiveness."
And this is the use which we ought to make of this ordinance. It is God's security of the pardon of our sins, which we may safely rest in.
(2.) The same is the end of that other great ordinance of the church, the supper of the Lord. The same thing is therein confirmed unto us by another sign, pledge, token, or seal. We have shown before what respect gospel forgiveness hath unto the death or blood of Jesus Christ. That is the means whereby for us it is procured, the way whereby it comes forth from God, unto the glory of his righteousness and grace; which afterward must be more distinctly insisted on. This ordinance, therefore, designed and appointed on purpose for the representation and calling to remembrance of the death of Christ, with the communication of the benefits thereof unto them that believe, doth principally intend our faith and comfort in the truth under consideration. And, therefore, in the very institution of it, besides the general end before mentioned, which had been sufficient for our security, there is moreover added an especial mention of the forgiveness of sin; for so speaks our Saviour, in the institution of it for the use of the church unto the end of the world: Matt. xxvi. 28, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. " As if he had said, "The end for which I have appointed the observance of this duty and service unto you is, that I may testify thereby unto you that by my blood, the sacrifice of myself, and the atonement made thereby, I have purchased for you the remission of your sins; which you shall assuredly be made partakers of." And more I shall not add unto this consideration, because the death of Christ, respected in this ordinance, will again occur unto us.
(3.) What is the end of all church-order, assemblies, and worship? What is a church? Is it not a company of sinners gathered together, according unto God's appointment, to give glory and praise to him for pardoning grace, for the forgiveness of sins, and to yield him that obedience which he requires from us on the account of his having so dealt with us? This is the nature, this is the end of a church. He that understandeth it not, he that useth it not unto that end, doth but abuse that great institution. And such abuse the world is full of. Some endeavour to make their own secular advantages by the pretence of the church; some discharge the duty required in it with some secret hopes that it shall be their
468 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
righteousness before God; some answer only their light and convictions in an empty profession. This alone is the true end, the true use of it -- We assemble ourselves to learn that there is forgiveness with God through Christ; to pray that we may be made partakers of it; to bless and praise God for our interest in it; to engage ourselves unto that obedience which be requires upon the account of it. And were this constantly upon our minds and in our designs, we might be more established in the faith of it than, it may be, the most of us are.
6. One particular instance more of this nature shall conclude this evidence -- God hath commanded us, the Lord Christ hath taught us, to pray for the pardon of sin; which gives us unquestionable security that it may be attained, that it is to be found in God. For the clearing whereof observe, --
(1.) That the Lord Christ, in the revelation of the will of God unto us, as unto the duty that he required at our hands, hath taught and instructed us to pray for the forgiveness of sin. It is one of the petitions which he hath left on record for our use and imitation in that summary of all prayer which he hath given us: Matt. vi. 12, "Forgive us our debts, " our trespasses, our sins. Some contend that this is a form of prayer to be used in the prescript limited words of it. All grant that it is a rule for prayer, comprising the heads of all necessary things that we are to pray for, and obliging us to make supplications for them. So, then, upon the authority of God, revealed unto us by Jesus Christ, we are bound in duty to pray for pardon of sins or forgiveness.
(2.) On this supposition it is the highest blasphemy and reproach of God imaginable, to conceive that there is not forgiveness with him for us. Indeed, if we should go upon our own heads, without his warranty and authority, to ask any thing at his hand, we might well expect to meet with disappointment; for what should encourage us unto any such boldness? but now, when God himself shall command us to come and ask any thing from him, -- so making it thereby our duty, and that the neglect thereof should be our great sin and rebellion against him, -- to suppose he hath not the thing in his power to bestow on us, or that his will is wholly averse from so doing, is to reproach him with want of truth, faithfulness, and holiness, and not to be God. For what sincerity can be in such proceedings? Is it consistent with any divine excellency? Could it have any other end but to deceive poor creatures? either to delude them if they do pray according to his command, or to involve them in farther guilt if they do not? God forbid any such thoughts should enter into our hearts. But, --
(3.) To put this whole matter out of the question, God hath promised to hear our prayers, and in particular those which we make
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 469
unto him for the forgiveness of sin. So our Saviour hath assured us that what we ask in his name it shall be done for us. And he hath, as we have showed, taught us to ask this very thing of God as our heavenly Father, -- that is, in his name; for in and through him alone is he a Father unto us. I need not insist on particular promises to this purpose; they are, as you know, multiplied in the Scriptures.
What hath been spoken may suffice to establish our present argument, -- namely, that God's prescription of religious worship unto sinners doth undeniably prove that with him there is forgiveness; especially considering that the principal parts of the worship so prescribed and appointed by him are peculiarly designed to confirm us in the faith thereof.
And this is the design of the words that we do insist upon: "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. " The fear of God, as we have showed, in the Old Testament, doth frequently express, not that gracious affection of our minds which is distinctly so called, but that whole worship of God, wherein that and all other gracious affections towards God are to be exercised. Now, the psalmist tells us that the foundation of this fear or worship, and the only motive and encouragement for sinners to engage in it and give up themselves unto it, is this, that there is forgiveness with God. Without this no sinner could fear, serve, or worship him. This, therefore, is undeniably proved by the institution of this worship, which was proposed unto confirmation.
The end of all these things, as we shall afterward at large declare, is to encourage poor sinners to believe, and to evidence how inexcusable they will be left who, notwithstanding all this, do, through the power of their lusts and unbelief, refuse to come to God in Christ that they may be pardoned. Yea, the laying open of the certainty and fulness of the evidence given unto this truth makes it. plain and conspicuous whence it is that men perish in and for their sins. Is it for want of mercy, goodness, grace, or patience in God? Is it through any defect in the mediation of the Lord Christ? Is it for want of the mightiest encouragements and most infallible assurances that with God there is forgiveness? Not at all; but merely on the account of their own obstinacy, stubbornness, and perverseness. They will not come unto this light, yea, they hate it, because their deeds are evil. They will not come to Christ, that they may have life. It is merely darkness, blindness, and love of sin that brings men to destruction. And this is laid open, and all pretences and excuses are removed, and the shame of men's lusts made naked, by the full confirmation of this truth which God hath furnished us withal.
Take heed, you that hear or read these things; if they are not mixed with faith, they will add greatly to your misery. Every ar-
470 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
gument will be your torment. But these considerations must be insisted on afterward.
Moreover, if you will take into your minds what hath been delivered in particular concerning the nature and end of the worship of God which you attend unto, you may he instructed in the use and due observation of it. When you address yourselves unto it, remember that this is that which God requires of you who are sinners; that this he would not have done but with thoughts and intention of mercy for sinners. Bless him with all your souls that this is laid as the foundation of all that you have to do with him. You are not utterly cast off because you are sinners. Let this support and warm your hearts when you go to hear, to pray, or any duty of worship. Consider what is your principal work in the whole. You are going to deal with God about forgiveness, in the being, causes, consequents, and effects of it. Hearken what he speaks, declares, or reveals about it; mix his revelation and promises with faith. Inquire diligently into all the obedience and thankfulness, all those duties of holiness and righteousness, which he justly expects from them who are made partakers of it. So shall you observe the worship of God unto his glory and your own advantage.
The giving and establishing of the new covenant another evidence of forgiveness with God -- The oath of God engaged in the confirmation thereof.
VIII. ANOTHER evidence hereof may be taken from the making, establishing, and ratifying of the new covenant. That God would make a new covenant with his people is often promised, often declared: see, among other places, Jer. xxxi. 31, 32. And that he hath done so accordingly the apostle at large doth manifest, Heb. viii. 8-12. Now, herein sundry things unto our present purpose may be considered; for, --
First, It is supposed that God had before made another covenant with mankind. With reference hereunto is this said to be a new one. It is opposed unto another that was before it, and in comparison whereof that is called old and this said to be new, as the apostle speaks expressly in the place before mentioned. Now, a covenant between God and man is a thing great and marvellous, whether we consider the nature of it or the ends of it. In its own nature it is a convention, compact, and agreement for some certain ends and purposes between the holy Creator and his poor creatures. How infinite, how unspeakable must needs the grace and condescen-
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 471
sion of God in this matter be! For what is poor miserable man, that God should set his heart upon him, -- that he should, as it were, give bounds to his sovereignty over him, and enter into terms of agreement with him? For whereas before he was a mere object of his absolute dominion, made at his will and for his pleasure, and on the same reasons to be crushed at any time into nothing; now he hath a bottom and ground given him to stand upon, whereon to expect good things from God upon the account of his faithfulness and righteousness. God in a covenant gives those holy properties of his nature unto his creature, as his hand or arm for him to lay hold upon, and by them to plead and argue with him. And without this a man could have no foundation for any intercourse or communion with God, or of any expectation from him, nor any direction how to deal with him in any of his concernments. Great and signal, then, was the condescension of God, to take his poor creature into covenant with himself; and especially will this be manifest if we consider the ends of it, and why it is that God thus deals with man. Now, these are no other than that man might serve him aright, be blessed by him, and be brought unto the everlasting enjoyment of him; -- all unto his glory. These are the ends of every covenant that God takes us into with himself; and these are" the whole of man, " [Eccles. xii. 13.] No more is required of us in a way of duty, no more can be required by us to make us blessed and happy, but what is contained in them. That we might live to God, be accepted with him, and come to the eternal fruition of him, is the whole of man, all that we were made for or are capable of; and these are the ends of every covenant that God makes with men, being all comprised in that solemn word, that "he will be their God, and they shall be his people."
Secondly, This being the nature, this the end of a covenant, there must be some great and important cause to change, alter, and abrogate a covenant once made and established, -- to lay aside one covenant and to enter into another. And yet this the apostle says expressly that God had done, Heb. viii. 13, and proves it, because himself calls that which he promised a new covenant: which undeniably confirms two things; -- first, That the other was become old; and, secondly, That being become so, it was changed, altered, and removed. I know the apostle speaks immediately of the old administration of the covenant under the Old Testament of Mosaical institutions; but he doth so with reference unto that revival which in it was given to the first covenant made with Adam: for in the giving of the law, and the curse wherewith it was accompanied, which were immixed with that administration of the covenant, there was a solemn revival and representation of the first covenant and its sanction, whereby it had
472 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
life and power given it to keep the people in bondage all their days. And the end of the abolition, or taking away of the legal administration of the covenant, was merely to take out of God's dealing with his people all use and remembrance of the first covenant. As was said, therefore, to take away, disannul, and change a covenant so made, ratified, and established betwixt God and man, is a matter that must be resolved into some cogent, important, and indispensable cause. And this will the more evidently appear if we consider, --
1. In general, that the first covenant was good, holy, righteous, and equal. It was such as became God to make, and was every way the happiness of the creature to accept of. We need no other argument to prove it holy and good than this, that God made it. It was the effect of infinite holiness, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and grace; and therefore in itself was it every way perfect, for so are all the works of God. Besides, it was such as man, when through his own fault he cannot obtain any good by it, and must perish everlastingly by virtue of the curse of it, yet cannot but subscribe unto its righteousness and holiness. The law was the rule of it; therein is the tenor of it contained. Now, saith the apostle, "Whatever becomes of the sin and the sinner, 'the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good, '" Rom. vii. 12; -- holy in itself and its own nature, as being the order and constitution of the most holy God; just and equal with reference unto us, such as we have no reason to complain of, or repine against the authority of; and the terms of it are most righteous. And not only so, but it is good also; that which, notwithstanding the appearance of rigour and severity which it is accompanied withal, had in it an exceeding mixture of goodness and grace, both in the obedience constituted in it and the reward annexed unto it; as might be more fully manifested were that our present work.
2. In particular, [First], It was good, holy, and righteous in all the commands of it, in the obedience which it required.
And two things there were that rendered it exceeding righteous in reference unto its precepts or commands. First, That they were all suited unto the principles of the nature of man created by God, and in the regular acting whereof consisted his perfection. God in the first covenant required nothing of man, prescribed nothing unto him, but what there was a principle for the doing and accomplishing of it ingrafted and implanted on his nature, which rendered all those commands equal, holy, and good; for what need any man complain of that which requires nothing of him but what he is from his own frame and principles inclined unto? Secondly, All the commands of it were proportionate unto the strength and ability of them to whom they were given. God in that covenant required nothing of any
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 473
man but what he had before enabled him to perform, nothing above his strength or beyond his power; and thence was it also righteous.
Secondly, It was exceeding good, holy, and righteous, upon the account of its promises and rewards. "Do this, " saith the covenant; "this which thou art able to do, which the principles of thy nature are fitted for and inclined unto. " Well, what shall be the issue thereof? Why, "Do this, and live. " Life is promised unto obedience, and that such a life as, both for the present and future condition of the creature, was accompanied with every thing that was needful to make it blessed and happy. Yea, this life having in it the eternal enjoyment of God, God himself, as a reward, was exceedingly above whatever the obedience of man could require as due, or have any reason, on any other account but merely of the goodness of God, to expect.
3. There was provision in that covenant for the preservation and manifestation of the glory of God, whatever was the event on the part of man. This was provided for in the wisdom and righteousness of God. Did man continue in his obedience, and fulfil the terms of the covenant, all things were laid in subserviency. to the eternal glory of God in his reward. Herein would he for ever have manifested and exalted the glory of his holiness, power, faithfulness, righteousness, and goodness. As an almighty Creator and Preserver, as a faithful God and righteous Rewarder, would he have been glorified. On supposition, on the other side, that man by sin and rebellion should transgress the terms and tenor of this covenant, yet God had made provision that no detriment unto his glory should ensue thereon; for by the constitution of a punishment proportionable in his justice unto that sin and demerit, he had provided that the glory of his holiness, righteousness, and veracity, in his threatenings, should be exalted, and that to all eternity. God would have lost no more glory and honour by the sin of man than by the sin of angels, which, in his infinite wisdom and righteousness, is become a great theatre of his eternal glory; for he is no less excellent in his greatness and severity than in his goodness and power.
Wherefore, we may now return unto our former inquiry: All things being thus excellently and admirably disposed, in infinite wisdom and holiness, in this covenant, the whole duty and blessedness of man being fully provided for, and the glory of God absolutely secured upon all events, what was the reason that God left not all things to stand or fall according to the terms of it? wherefore doth he reject and lay aside this covenant, and promise to make another, and do so accordingly? Certain it is that he might have continued it with a blessed security to his own glory; and he "makes all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil."
474 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
God himself shows what was the only and sole reason of this dispensation, Heb. viii. 7-13. The sum of it is this: -- Notwithstanding the blessed constitution of the first covenant, yet there was no provision for the pardon of sin, no room or place for forgiveness in it; but on supposition that man sinned, he was in that covenant left remediless. God had not in it revealed that there was any such thing as forgiveness with him; nor had any sinner the least hope or grounds of expectation from thence of any such thing in him. Die he must, and perish, and that without remedy or recovery. "Now, " saith God, "this must not be. Mercy, goodness, grace, require another state of things This covenant will not manifest them; their effects will not be communicated to poor sinners by it. Hence, " saith he, "it is faulty, that is, defective. I will not lose the glory of them, nor shall sinners be unrelieved by them. And, therefore, although I may strictly tie up all mankind unto the terms of this, yet I will make all other covenant with them, wherein they shall know and find that there is forgiveness with me, that they may fear me."
Now, next to the blood of Christ, whereby this covenant was ratified and confirmed, this is the greatest evidence that can possibly be given that there is forgiveness with God. To what end else doth God make this great alteration in the effects of his will, in his way of dealing with mankind? As forgiveness of sin is expressly contained in the tenor and words of the covenant, so set it aside, and it will be of no more use or advantage than the former; for as this covenant is made directly with sinners, nor was there any one in the world when God made it that was not a sinner, nor is it of use unto any but sinners, so is forgiveness of sins the very life of it.
Hence we may see two things; -- first, The greatness of forgiveness, that we may learn to value it; and, secondly, The certainty of it, that we may learn to believe it.
First, The greatness of it. God would not do so great a thing as that mentioned but for a great, the greatest end. Had it not been a matter of the greatest importance unto the glory of God and the good of the souls of men, God would not for the sake of it have laid aside one covenant and made another. We may evidently see how the heart of God was set upon it, how his nature and will were engaged in it. All this was done that we might be pardoned. The old glorious fabric of obedience and rewards shall be taken down to the ground, that a new one may be erected for the honour and glory of forgiveness. God forbid that we should have slight thoughts of that which was so strangely and wonderfully brought forth, wherein God had as it were embarked his great glory! Shall all this be done for our sakes, and shall we undervalue it or disesteem it? God for-
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 475
bid. God could, if I may so say, more easily have made a new world of innocent creatures, and have governed them by the old covenant, than have established this new one for the salvation of poor sinners; but then, where had been the glory of forgiveness? It could never have been known that there was forgiveness with him. The old covenant could not have been preserved and sinners pardoned. Wherefore, God chose rather to leave the covenant than sinners unrelieved, than grace unexalted and pardon unexercised. Prize it as you prize your souls; and give glory unto God for it, as all those that believe will do unto eternity.
Secondly, For the security of it, that we may believe it. What greater can be given? God deceiveth no man, no more than he is deceived. And what could God, that cannot lie, do more to give us satisfaction herein than he hath done? Would you be made partakers of this forgiveness? -- go unto God, spread before him this whole matter; plead with him that he himself hath so far laid aside the first covenant, of his own gracious will, as to make a new one, and that merely because it had no forgiveness in it. This he hath made on purpose that it might be known that there is forgiveness in him. And shall not we now be made partakers of it? will he now deny that unto us which he hath given such assurance of, and raised such expectations concerning it? Nothing can here wrong us, nothing can ruin us, but unbelief. Lay hold on this covenant, and we shall have pardon. This God expresseth, Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. Will we continue on the old bottom of the first covenant? All that we can do thereon is but to set thorns and briers in the way of God, to secure ourselves from his coming against us and upon us with his indignation and fury. Our sins are so, and our righteousness is no better. And what will be the issue? Both they and we shall be trodden down, consumed, and burnt up. What way, then, what remedy is left unto us? Only this of laying hold on the arm and strength of God in that covenant wherein forgiveness of sin is provided. Therein alone he saith, "Fury is not in me. " And the end will be that we shall have peace with him, both here and for ever.
IX. The oath of God engaged and interposed in this matter is another evidence of the truth insisted on. Now, because this is annexed unto the covenant before mentioned, and is its establishment, I shall pass it over the more briefly. And in it we may consider, --
First, The nature of the oath of God. The apostle tells us that "He sware by himself;" and he gives this reason of it, "Because he had no greater to swear by, " Heb. vi. 13. An oath for the confirmation of any thing is an invocation of a supreme power that can judge
476 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
of the truth that is spoken, and vindicate the breach of the engagement. This God hath none other but himself: "Because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself. " Now, this God doth, -- First, By express affirmation that he hath so sworn by himself, which was the form of the first solemn oath of God: Gen. xxii. 16, "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD. " The meaning whereof is, "I have taken it upon myself as I am God; or let me not be so, if I perform not this thing. " And this is expressed by his soul: Jer. li. 14, "The LORD of hosts hath sworn by his soul;" that is, "by himself, " as we render the words. Secondly, God doth it by the especial interposition of some such property of his nature as is suited to give credit and confirmation to the word spoken; -- as of his holiness, Ps. lxxxix. 35, "I have sworn by my holiness;" so also Amos iv. 2; -- sometimes by his life, "As I live, saith the LORD". [--HEBREW--], "I live, saith God"), "it shall be so;" -- and sometimes by his name, Jer. xliv. 26. God as it were engageth the honour and glory of the properties of his nature for the certain accomplishment of the things mentioned. And this is evident from the manner of the expression, as in that place of Ps. lxxxix. 35, "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. " So we; in the original the words are elliptical: "If I lie unto David;" that is, "Let me not be so, nor be esteemed to be so, if I lie unto David."
Secondly, For the end of his oath. God doth not give it to make his word or promise sure and steadfast, but to give assurance and security unto us of their accomplishment. Every word of God is sure and certain, truth itself, because it is his; and he might justly require of us the belief of it without any farther attestation: but yet, knowing what great objections Satan and our own unbelieving hearts will raise against him promises, at least as to our own concernment in them, to confirm our minds, and to take away all pretences of unbelief, he interposeth his oath in this matter. What can remain of distrust in such a case? If there be a matter in doubt between men, and an oath be interposed in the confirmation of that which is called in question, it is "an end, " as the apostle tells us, "unto them of all strife, " Heb. vi. 16. How much more ought it to be so on the part of God, when his oath is engaged! And the apostle declares this end of his oath; it is "to show the immutability of his counsel, " verse 17. His counsel was declared before in the promise; but now some doubt or strife may arise whether, on one occasion or other, God may not change his counsel, or whether he hath not changed it with such conditions as to render it useless unto us. In what case soever it be, to remove all doubts and suspicions of this nature, God adds his oath, manifesting the unquestionable immutability of his counsel and promises. What, therefore, is thus
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 477
confirmed is ascertained unto the height of what any thing is capable of; and not to believe it is the height of impiety.
Thirdly, In this interposition of God by an oath there is unspeakable condescension of grace, which is both an exceeding great motive unto faith and a great aggravation of unbelief; for what are we, that the holy and blessed God should thus condescend unto us, as, for our satisfaction and surety, to engage himself by an oath? One said well of old, "Felices nos quorum causa Deusjurat! O infelices, si nec juranti Deo credimus;" -- "It is an inestimable advantage that God should for our sakes engage himself by his oath. So it will be our misery if we believe him not when he swears unto us. " What can we now object against what is thus confirmed? what pretence, colour, or excuse can we have for our unbelief? How just, how righteous, how holy must their destruction be, who, upon this strange, wonderful, and unexpected warranty, refuse to set to their seal that God is true!
These things being premised, we may consider how variously God hath engaged his oath that there is forgiveness with him. First, He sweareth that he hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he repent and live: Ezek. xxxiii. 11, "As I live, saith the Lord), I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. " Now, without forgiveness in him every sinner must die, and that without remedy. Confirming, therefore, with his oath that it is his will the sinner should return, repent, and live, he doth in the first place swear by himself that there is forgiveness with him for these sinners that shall so repent and turn unto him.
Again: whereas the great means he hath appointed for the forgiveness of sins is by the mediation of the Lord Christ, as we shall afterward show, he hath on several occasions confirmed his purpose in him, and the counsel of his will, by his oath. By this oath be promised him unto Abraham and David of old; which proved the foundation of the church's stability in all generations, and also of their security and assurance of acceptance with him. See Luke i. 73-75. And in his taking upon him that office whereby in an especial manner the forgiveness of sins was to be procured, -- namely, of his being a priest to offer sacrifice, to make an atonement for sinners, -- he confirmed it unto him, and him in it, by his oath: Heb. vii. 20, "He was not made a priest without an oath. " And to what end? -- namely, that he might be "a surety of a better testament, " verse 22. And what was that better testament? Why, that which brought along with it the "forgiveness of sins, " chap. viii: 12, 13. So that it was forgiveness which was so confirmed by the oath of God. Farther: the apostle shows that the great original promise made unto Abraham being confirmed by the oath of God, all his other promises were in like
478 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
manner confirmed; whence he draws that blessed conclusion which we have, chap. vi. 17, 18: "As to every one, " saith he, "that flees for refuge to the hope that is set before him, " -- that is, who seeks to escape the guilt of sin, the curse and the sentence of the law, by an application of himself unto God in Christ for pardon, -- "he hath the oath of God to secure him that he shall not fall thereof. " And thus are all the concernments of the forgiveness of sin testified unto by the oath of God; which we have manifested to be the highest security in this matter that God can give or that we are capable of.
The name of God confirming the truth and reality of forgiveness with him -- As also the same is done by the properties of his nature.
X. ANOTHER foundation of this truth, and infallible evidence of it, may be taken from that especial name and title which God takes unto himself in this matter; for he owns the name of "The God of pardons, " or "The God of forgiveness. " So is he called, Neh. ix. 17,. [--HEBREW--] . We have rendered the words, "Thou art a God ready to pardon;" but they are, as was said, "Thou art a God of pardons, " "forgiveness, " or" propitiations. " That is his name, which he owneth, which he accepteth of the ascription of unto himself; the name whereby he will be known. And to clear this evidence, we must take in some considerations of the name of God and the use thereof; as, --
1. The name of God is that whereby he reveals himself unto us, whereby he would have us know him and own him. It is something expressive of his nature or properties which he hath appropriated unto himself. Whatever, therefore, any name of God expresseth him to he, that he is, that we may expect to find him; for he will not deceive us by giving himself a wrong or a false name. And on this account he requires us to trust in his name, because he will assuredly be found unto us what his name imports. Resting on his name, flying unto his name, calling upon his name, praising his name, things so often mentioned in the Scripture, confirm the same unto us. These things could not be our duty if we might he deceived in so doing. God is, then, and will be, to us what his name declareth.
2. On this ground and reason God is said then first to be known by any name, when those to whom he reveals himself do, in an especial manner, rest on that name by faith, and have that accomplished towards them which that name imports, signifies, or declares. And therefore God did not, under the Old Testament, reveal himself
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 479
to any by the name of the Father of Jesus Christ or the Son incarnate, because the grace of it unto them was not to be accomplished. "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect, " they were not intrusted with the full revelation of God by all his blessed names. Neither doth God call us to trust in any name of his, however declared or revealed, unless he gives it us in an especial manner, by way of covenant, to rest upon. So he speaks, Exod. vi. 3, "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. [--HEBREW--], by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them. " It is certain that both these names of God, El-shaddai and Jehovah, were known among his people before. In the first mention we have of Abraham's addressing himself unto the worship of God, he makes use of the name Jehovah: Gen. xii. 7, "He builded an altar unto Jehovah. " And so afterward not only doth Moses make use of that name in the repetition of the story, but it was also of frequent use amongst them. Whence, then, is it said that God appeared unto them by the name of El-shaddai, but not by the name of Jehovah? The reason is, because that was the name which God gave himself in the solemn confirmation of the covenant with Abraham: chap. xvii. 1,. [--HEBREW--], -- "I am El-shaddai, " "God Almighty, " "God All-sufficient. " And when Isaac would pray for the blessing of the covenant on Jacob, he makes use of that name: chap. xxviii 3, "God Almighty bless thee. " He invocates that name of God which was engaged in the covenant made with his father Abraham and himself. That, therefore, we may with full assurance rest on the name of God, it is not only necessary that God reveal that name to be his, but also that he give it out unto us for that end and purpose, that we might know him thereby, and place our trust and confidence in him according unto what that name of his imports. And this was the case wherever he revealed himself unto any in a peculiar manner by an especial name. So he did unto Jacob: chap. xxviii. 13, "I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac;" assuring him, that as he dealt faithfully in his covenant with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, so also he would deal with him. And, chap. xxxi. 13, "I am the God of Bethel, " -- "He who appeared unto thee there, and blessed thee, and will continue so to do. " But when the same Jacob comes to ask after another name of God, he answers him not; as it were commanding him to live by faith on what he was pleased to reveal. Now, then, God had not made himself known to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob by his name Jehovah, because he had not peculiarly called himself unto them by that name, nor had engaged it in his covenant with them, although it were otherwise known unto them. They lived and rested on the name of God Almighty, as suited to their supportment and consolation in their
480 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
wandering, helpless condition, before the promise was to be accomplished. But now, when God came to fulfil his promises, and to bring the people, by virtue of his covenant, into the land of Canaan, he reveals himself unto them by, and renews his covenant with them in, the name of Jehovah. And hereby did God declare that he came to give stability and accomplishment unto his promises; to which end they were now to live upon this name of Jehovah, in an expectation of the fulfilling of the promises, as their fathers did on that of God Almighty, in an expectation of protection from him in their wandering state and condition. Hence this name became the foundation of the Judaical church, and ground of the faith of them who did sincerely believe in God therein. And it is strangely fallen out, in the providence of God, that since the Jews have rejected the covenant of their fathers, and are cast out of the covenant for their unbelief, they have utterly forgot that name of God. No Jew in the world knows what it is, nor how to pronounce it or make mention of it. I know themselves and others pretend strange mysteries in the letters and vowels of that name, which make it ineffable; but the truth is, being cast out of that covenant which was built and established on that name, in the just judgment of God, through their own blindness and superstition, they are no more able to make mention of it or to take it into their mouths. It is required, then, that the name of God be given unto us as engaged in covenant, to secure our expectation that he will be unto us according to his name.
3. All the whole gracious name of God, every title that he hath given himself, every ascription of honour unto himself that he hath owned, is confirmed unto us (unto as many as believe) in Jesus Christ. For as he hath declared unto us the whole name of God, John xvii. 6, so not this or that promise of God, but all the promises of God are in him yea and amen. So that, as of old, every particular promise that God made unto the people served especially for the particular occasion on which it was given, and each name of God was to be rested on as to that dispensation whereunto it was suited to give relief and confidence, -- as the name of El-shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the name Jehovah to Moses and the people; so now, by Jesus Christ, and in him, every particular promise belongs unto all believers in all their occasions, and every name of God whatever is theirs also, at all times, to rest upon and put their trust in. Thus, the particular promise made unto Joshua, at his entrance into Canaan, to encourage and strengthen him in that great enterprise of conquering the land, is by the apostle applied unto all believers in all their occasions whatever: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, " Heb. xiii. 5. So likewise doth every name of God belong now unto us, as if it had in a particular manner been
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 481
engaged in covenant unto us, and that because the whole covenant is ratified and confirmed unto us by Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. vi, 18, vii. 1. This, then, absolutely secures unto us an interest in the name of God insisted on, the God of forgiveness, as if it had been given unto every one of us to assure us thereof.
4. God takes this name, "The God of forgiveness, " to be his in a peculiar manner, as that whereby he will be distinguished and known. He appropriates it to himself, as expressing that which the power and goodness of no other can extend unto. "There are lords many, and gods many, " saith the apostle, 1 Cor. viii 5, -- [--GREEK--]. some that are called so, such as some account so to be. How is the true God distinguished from these gods by reputation? He is so by this name; he is the God of pardons: Micah vii. 18, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?" This is his prerogative; herein none is equal to him, like him, or a sharer with him. "Who is a God like unto thee, that may be called a God of pardons?" The vanities of the nations cannot give them this rain; they have no refreshing showers of mercy and pardon in their power. Neither angels, nor saints, nor images, nor popes, can pardon sin. By this name doth he distinguish himself from them all.
5. To be known by this name is the great glory o. f God in this world. When Moses desired to see the glory of God, the Lord tells him that "he could not see his face, " Exod. xxxiii. 18-20. The face of God, or the gracious majesty of his Being, his essential glory, is not to be seen of any in this life; we cannot see him as he is. But the glorious manifestation of himself we may behold and contemplate. This we may see as the back parts of God; that shadow of his excellencies which he casteth forth in the passing by us in his works and dispensations. This Moses shall see. And wherein did it consist? Why, in the revelation and declaration of this name of God: chap. xxxiv. 6, 7, "The LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. " To be known by this name, to be honoured, feared, believed as that declares him, is the great glory of God. And shall this fail us? Can we be deceived trusting in it, or expecting that we shall find him to be what his name declares? God forbid.
Let us lay together these considerations, and we shall find that they will give us another stable foundation of the truth insisted on, and a great encouragement to poor sinful souls to draw nigh to God in Christ for pardon. God hath no name but what he gives unto himself; nor is it lawful to know him or call him otherwise. As he calls himself, so is he; what his name imports, so is his nature.
482 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
Every name also of God is engaged in Jesus Christ in the covenant, and is proposed unto us to place our trust and confidence in. Now, this is his name and his memorial, even "The God of forgiveness. " By this he distinguisheth himself from all others, and expresseth it as the principal title of his honour, or his peculiar glory. According to this name, therefore, all that believe shall assuredly find "there is forgiveness with him."
XI. The consideration of the essential properties of the nature of God, and what is required to the manifestation of them, will afford us farther assurance hereof. Let us to this end take in the ensuing observations: --
First, God being absolutely perfect and absolutely self-sufficient, was eternally glorious, and satisfied with and in his own holy excellencies and perfections, before and without the creation of all or any thing by the putting forth or the exercise of his almighty power. The making, therefore, of all things depends on a mere sovereign act of the will and pleasure of God. So the whole creation makes its acknowledgment: Rev. iv. 11, v. 12, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. " God could have omitted all this great work without the least impeachment of his glory. Not one holy property of his nature would have been diminished or abated in its eternal glory by that omission. This, then, depended on a pure act of his will and choice.
Secondly, On supposition that God would work "ad extra, " by his power produce any thing without himself, it was absolutely necessary that himself should be the end of his so doing. For as before the production of all things, there was nothing that could be the end why any of them should be brought forth out of nothing, or towards which they should be disposed; so God, being an infinite agent in wisdom, and understanding, and power, he could have no end in his actings but that also which is infinite. It is therefore natural and necessary unto God to do all things for himself. It is impossible he should have any other end. And he hath done so accordingly: Prov. xvi. 4, "The Lord) hath made all things for himself. " He aimed at himself in all that he did; there being no other infinite good for him to make his object and his end but himself alone.
Thirdly, This doing things, all things for himself, cannot intend an addition or accruement thereby of any new real good unto himself. His absolute eternal perfection and all-sufficiency render this impossible. God doth not become more powerful, great, wise, just, holy, good, or gracious, by any of his works, by any thing that he doth. He can add nothing to himself. It must therefore be the manifestation and declaration of the holy properties of his nature
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 483
that he doth intend and design in his works, And there are two things required hereunto: --
1. That he make them known; that by ways suited to his infinite wisdom he both declare that such properties do belong unto him, as also what is the nature of them, according as the creature is able to apprehend.
So he doth things "to make his power known, " to show his power, and to declare his name through the earth, Rom. ix. 17, 22. So it was said that by the works of creation,. [--GREEK--], "that which may be known of God is manifest, " Rom. i. 19, 20. And what is that? Even the natural, essential properties of his being, "his eternal power and Godhead. " To this head are referred all those promises of God that he would glorify himself, and the prayers of his saints that he would do so, and the attestations given unto it in the Scripture that he hath done so. He hath made known his wisdom, holiness, power, goodness, self-sufficiency, and the like perfections of his nature.
2. That he attain an ascription, an attribution of praise and glory to himself upon their account. His design is "to be admired in all them that believe, " 2 Thess. i. 10; -- that is, that upon an apprehension of his excellencies which he hath revealed, and as he hath revealed them, they should admire, adore, applaud, glorify, and praise him; worship, believe in, and trust him in all things; and endeavour the enjoyment of him as an eternal reward. And this is also threefold: --
(1.) Interpretative. So the inanimate and brute creatures ascribe unto God the glory of his properties, even by what they are and do. By what they are in their beings, and their observation of the law and inclination of their nature, they give unto God the glory of that wisdom and power whereby they are made, and of that sovereignty whereon they depend. Hence, nothing more frequent in the praises of God of old, than the calling of the inanimate creatures, heaven and earth, winds, storms, thunder, and the beasts of the field, to give praise and glory to God; that is, by what they are they do so, inasmuch as from the impression of God's glorious excellencies in their effects upon them, they are made known and manifest.
(2.) Involuntary, in some rational creatures. Sinning men and angels have no design, no will, no desire to give glory to God. They do their utmost endeavour to the contrary, to hate him, reproach and blaspheme him. But they cannot yet cast off the yoke of God. In their minds and consciences they are forced, and shall be for ever, to acknowledge that God is infinitely holy, infinitely wise, powerful, and righteous. And he hath the glory of all these properties from them in their very desires that he were otherwise. When they
484 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
would that God were not just to punish them, powerful to torment them, wise to find them out, holy to be displeased with their lusts and sins, they do at the same time, in the same thing, own, acknowledge, and give unto God the glory of his being, justice, wisdom, power, and holiness. When, therefore, God hath made known his properties, the ascription of glory unto him on their account is to rational creatures natural and unavoidable.
(3.) It is voluntary, in the reasonable service, worship, fear, trust, obedience of angels and men. God having revealed unto them the properties of his nature, they acknowledge, adore them, and place their confidence in them, and thereby glorify him as God. And this glorifying of God consisteth in three things: --
[1.] In making the excellencies of God revealed unto us the principle and chief object of all the moral actings of our souls, and of all the actings of our affections To fear the Lord and his goodness, and to fear him for his goodness; to trust in his power and faithfulness; to obey his authority; to delight in his will and grace; to love him above all, because of his excellencies and beauty; -- this is to glorify him.
[2.] To pray for, and to rejoice in, the ways and means whereby he will or hath promised farther to manifest or declare these properties of his nature and his glory in them. What is the reason why we pray for, long for, the accomplishment of the promises of God toward his mints, of his threatenings towards his enemies, of the fulfilling of the glorious works of his power and grace that yet remain to be done, of the coming of the kingdom of Christ, of the approach of glory? Is it not chiefly and principally that the glorious excellencies of God's nature may be made more manifest, be more known, more exalted, -- that God may appear more as he is, and as he hath declared himself to be? This is to give glory to God. So likewise our joy, rejoicing, and satisfaction in any of the ways and works of God; it is solely on this account, that in them, God in his properties, -- that is, his power, wisdom, holiness, and the like, -- is revealed, declared, and made known.
[3.] In their joint actual celebration of his praises; which, as it is a duty of the greatest importance, and which we are, indeed, of all others most frequently exhorted unto and most earnestly called upon for; so in the nature of it, it consists in our believing, rejoicing expression of what God is and what he doth; -- that is, our admiring, adoring, and blessing him, because of his holiness, goodness, and the rest of his properties, and his works of grace and power suitable unto them. This it is to praise God, Rev. v.
Fourthly, Observe that none of these properties of God can be thus manifested and known, nor himself be glorified for them, but
Ver. 4.] EVIDENCE OF FORGIVENESS WITH GOD. 480
by his declaration of them, and by their effects. We know no more of God than he is pleased to reveal unto us. I mean not mere revelation by his word, but any ways or means, whether by his word, or by his works, or by impressions from the law of nature upon our hearts and minds. And whatever God thus declares of himself, he doth it by exercising, putting forth, and manifesting the effects of it. So we know his power, wisdom, goodness, and grace, -- namely, by the effects of them, or the works of God that proceed from them and are suited unto them. And whatever is in God that is not thus made known, we cannot apprehend, nor glorify God on the account of it. God, therefore, doing all things, as hath been showed, for the glory of these his properties, he doth so reveal them and make them known.
Fifthly, Upon this design of God, it is necessary that he should reveal and make known all the attributes and properties of his nature, in works and effects peculiarly proceeding from them and answering unto them, that he might be glorified in them; and which, as the event manifests, he hath done accordingly. For what reason can be imagined why God will be glorified in one essential excellency of his nature and not in another? Especially must this be affirmed of those properties of the nature of God which the event manifesteth his principal glory to consist in and arise from, and the knowledge whereof is of the greatest use, behoof, and benefit unto the children of men, in reference unto his design towards them.
Sixthly, These things being so, let us consider how it stands in reference unto that which is under consideration. God, in the creation of all things, glorified or manifested his greatness, power, wisdom, and goodness, with many other properties of the like kind. But his sovereignty, righteousness, and holiness, how are they declared hereby? Either not at all, or not in so evident a manner as is necessary, that he might be fully glorified in them or for them. What, then, doth he do? leave them in darkness, vailed, undiscovered, satisfying himself in the glory of those properties which his work of creation had made known? Was there any reason why he should do so, designing to do all things for himself and for his own glory? Wherefore he gives his holy law as a rule of obedience unto men and angels. This plainly reveals his sovereignty or authority over them, his holiness and righteousness in the equity and purity of things he required of them: so that in and by these properties also he may be glorified. As he made all things for himself, -- that is, the manifestation of his greatness, power, wisdom, and goodness; so he gave the law for himself, -- that is, the manifestation of his authority, holiness, and righteousness. But is this all? Is there not remunerative justice in God, in a way of bounty? Is there not vindic-
486 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 4.
tive justice in him, in a way of severity? There is so; and in the pursuit of the design mentioned they also are to be manifested, or God will not be glorified in them. This, therefore, he did also, in the rewards and punishments that he annexed unto the law of obedience that he had prescribed. To manifest his remunerative justice, he promised a reward in a way of bounty, which the angels that sinned not were made partakers of; and in the penalty threatened, which sinning angels and men incurred, he revealed his vindictive justice in a way of severity. So are all these properties of God made known by their effects, and so is God glorified in them or on their account.
But, after all this, are there no other properties of his nature, divine excellencies that cannot be separated from his being, which by none of these means are so much as once intimated to be in him? It is evident that there are; such are mercy, grace, patience, long-suffering, compassion, and the like. Concerning which observe, --
1. That where there are no objects of them, they cannot be declared, or manifested, or exercised. As God's power or wisdom could not be manifest if there were no objects of them, no more can his grace or mercy. If never any stand in need of them, they can never be exercised, and consequently never be known. Therefore were they not revealed, neither by the creation of all things, nor by the law or its sanction, nor by the law written in our hearts; for all these suppose no objects of grace and mercy. For it is sinners only, and such as have made themselves miserable by sin, that they can be exercised about.
2. There are no excellencies of God's nature that are more expressive of divine goodness, loveliness, and beauty than these are, -- of mercy, grace, long-suffering, and patience; and, therefore, there is nothing that God so requireth our likeness unto him, in our conformity unto his image, as in these, -- namely, mercy, grace, and readiness to forgive. And the contrary frame in any he doth of all things most abhor: "They shall have judgment without mercy, who shewed no mercy. " And, therefore, it is certain that God will be glorified in the manifestation of these properties of his nature.
3. These properties can be no otherwise exercised, and consequently no otherwise known, but only in and by the pardon of sin; which puts it beyond all question that there is forgiveness with God. God will not lose the glory of these his excellencies: he will be revealed in them, he will be known by them, he will be glorified for them; which he could not be if there were not forgiveness with him. So that here comes in not only the truth but the necessity of forgiveness also.
Go back to INDEX of Psalm 130
Go back to BOOKS page