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SUMMARY OF SERMON XII.
ACTS, CHAP. IV. VERSE 24.
It may be demanded ; why, besides that of Almighty, no other attribute of God is expressed in our Creed ? Three reasons for this assigned. Maker of heaven and earth. This clause was of later times inserted in the Creed, to obviate the heresies of Marcion, Manichæus, &c. The ancient Hebrews having no word properly expressing the universe, used this phrase, adding sometimes the sea also. What is to be understood by heaven explained, and illustrated from Scripture : opinions of the ancient philosophers on this subject, in which they seem to have in great part agreed with the tenets of revelation. One particular however in which they dissented from what Christian piety inclines us to acknowlege, that is, the origin of matter, which they generally supposed to have existed from all eternity: their opinions on this head cited. Our reason shown to be deficient on this and other such topics. That in truth all the matter of things both could be, and really was, created by God, may appear from several reasons.
1. It is often in general terms affirmed in Scripture, that God did make all things; all things in heaven and earth. Now it is never, without urgent reason, allowable to make limitations of universal propositions, especially of such as are frequently so set down : this subject enlarged on.
2. Again, God is in Scripture affirmed to be the true proprietary and possessor of all things, none excepted: but how could he be so, if he did not make them ? &c.
3. The supposing any thing to be eternal, uncreated, and independent of God, advances that being in those respects unto an equality with God, depriving him of those special perfections, independency and all-sufficiency, &c.
4. It may be asked, if God produced and inserted an active principle into nature, why might he not produce a passive one, such as matter is ? what greater difficulty is there in this?
5. Yea farther, if he hath produced immaterial beings, such as angels and the souls of men, merely out of nothing, why might he not so produce matter?
6. The manner of God's making the world by mere will and command, argues that matter, or any other thing possible, might easily by the divine power be so produced : this explained.
7. Lastly, the holy text, describing the manner and order of creation, insinuates this truth: this shown. From these premises we may conclude, against the ancient philosophers, and those Christian sects who followed them, that God did in the strictest sense create all things out of nothing; and that this is the meaning of the title, Maker of heaven and earth.
Which title, as due to the true God only, divers heretics of old (especially those of the Gnostic sect) did contradict: their opinion, that the God who made the world and enacted the law, was different from him by whom the gospel was sent; the first being an angry and implacable Deity, the second a mild and beneficent one.
Akin to this error was that of the Manichæans, who supposed two first causes of things, from one of which proceeded good, and from the other evil : origin of this error, &c: strongly stated and laid down by Plutarch. His discourse however has two faulty suppositions : it supposes some things to be imperfect and evil which are not truly such; and to those which are truly such it assigns an imaginary and wrong cause.
1. First supposition shown to be false; for there is no sort of creature, which did not at first receive the Divine approbation : there are degrees indeed of perfection; but every thing contributes to the use and ornament of the whole. That which we call poison, is such only relatively: that which we call a monster, is not unnatural with regard to the whole contexture of causes : pain and grief, incident to the nature of things, are not properly evils, but adherences to the less perfect nature of things, &c.
2. But as for those real imperfections and evils, truly so called, habitual distempers of the soul, &c.; the true cause of them, is not the will or power of the Creator, but the wilfulness or impotency of creatures : the mischief also of pain and grief, consequent on those distempers, are partly to be imputed to us, and partly attributed to God; we by our faults deserve and draw them to ourselves; God in justice and wisdom inflicts them on us : this enlarged on.
Considerations on the manner how, and the reason why, God made the world.
He created it from a wise and free choice : he so made the world, that he could wholly have abstained from making it, or could have made it otherwise. He could not be fatally determined, since there was no superior cause to guide or coustrain him, &c. And how he produced it, the Scripture teaches us : it was not by any laborious care and toil, but solely by his will and word, &c.
But since God did not only make the world freely but wisely; and since all wise agents act for some purpose, why (it may be asked) did God make the world ? We may answer with Plato, He was good; and he that is good doth not envy any good to any thing. His natural benignity and munificence was the pure motive : this subject enlarged on. Some points of application stated.
1. The belief and consideration, that God is the Maker of heaven and earth, must necessarily beget in us the highest esteem, admiration, and adoration of him and his divine excellencies, &c.
2. It may produce in us hearty gratitude and humble affection towards God; since we ourselves, and all we have or enjoy, proceeded from him; and that with an especial good-will towards us.
3. It is also a great ground and motive to humility : for what is man in comparison with him who made heaven and earth, &c.
4. It is, farther, a proper inducement to trust and hope in God; a ground of consolation in every distress : for he that made all things can dispose of all: this enlarged on.
5. Finally, it ministers a general incitement to all obedience : all other things obey his laws; and shall we, who are placed, as it were, at the top of nature, and whom all nature serves, shall we alone transgress against its author and go. vernor? Conclusion.
Maker of Heaven and Earth,
ACTS, CHAP. IV.--VERSE 24.
O Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the
sea, and all that in them is.
It may be demanded, why besides that of Almighty, no other attribute of God is expressed in our Creed? why for instance, the perfections of infinite wisdom and goodness are therein omitted ? I answer,
1. That all such perfections are included in the notion of a God, whom when we profess to believe, we consequently do ascribe them to him (implicitly.) For he that should profess to believe in God, not acknowleging those perfections, would be inconsistent and contradictious 'to himself, Deum negaret, as Tertullian speaks, auferendo quod Dei est. He would deny God by withdrawing what belongs to God.
2. The title narrokpárwp, as implying God's universal providence in the preservation and government of the world, doth also involve or infer all Divine perfections displayed therein ; all that glorious majesty and excellency, for which he is with highest respect to be honored and worshipped by us, which added to the name of God doth determine what God we mean, such as doth in all perfection excel, and with it doth govern the world.
3. I may add, thirdly, That the doctrine of God's universal providence being not altogether so evident to natural light as those attributes discovered in the making of the world, (more