Page images
PDF
EPUB

And with these two cautions, we may rely upon him in all our wants, both fpiritual and temporal; for his divine power can give us all things that pertain to life and godliness, 2 Pet. i. 3. We may trust him at all times, for the omnipotent God neither Numbereth nor Reepeth; the Almighty faintetb wt, neither is he weary. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.

S E R M Μ ο Ν

CLIII.

The spirituality of the divine nature.

JOHN iv. 24 God is a spirit, and they that worship him, muft warship

him in spirit and in truth.

Hese are the words of our Saviour to the woman

of Samaria, who was speaking to him of the dif

ference between the Samaritans and the Jews, concerning religion; Verse 20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; but ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place whene, men ought to worship. Chrift tells her, The time was coming, when the worshippers. of God should neither be confined to that mountain, nw to Jerufalem ; but meu should worskip the Father in spirit andin truth; when this carnal, and ceremonial, and typical worship of God should be exalted into a more fpiritual, a more real, and true, and fubftantial religion, which should not be cone fined to one temple, but should be universally diffused: through the world. Now, such a worship as this is molt agreeable to the nature of God; for he is a spirit, and those who rucrfip bim, muft worship bim in spirit and in truth. In the words we have,

First, A proposition laid down, God is a spirit.

Secondly, A corollary, or inference, deduced from it; they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. I shall Speak of the proposition, as that which

con

concerns my present design; and afterwards speak fomething to the corollary, or inference, deduced from it, together with some other inferences drawn from this truth, by way of application.

First, That God is a spirit. This expression is fingular, and not to be parallelled again in the scripture ; indeed we have often mention made in the scripture of the spirit of God, and the spirit of the Lord, which fignifies a divine power and energy; and of the holy Spirit, signifying the third person in the Trinity; God is called the God of the spirits of all flesh, Numb. xvi. 22., xxvii. 16. much in the same sense, as he is called the Father of Spirits, Heb. xii. 9.; that is, the Creator of the souls of men; but we no where meet with this expreslion, or any other equivalent to it, that God is a fpirit, but only in this place; nor had it been used here, but to prove, that the best worship of God, that which is most proper to him, is spiritual: so that the thing which our Saviour here intends, is not to prove the spiritual nature of God, but that his worship ought to be spiritual; nor indeed is there any necessity that it should have been any where faid in scripture, that God is a spirit, it being the natural notion of a God; no more than it is necessary that it should be told us, that God is good, or that he is infinite, and eternal, and the like; or that the fcripture should prove to us the being of a God. All these are inanifeft by the light of nature; and if the scripture mentions them, it is ex abundanti, and it is usually in order to some farther purpose.

For we are to know, that the scripture supposeth us to be men, and to partake of the common notions of human nature; and therefore doth not teach us philosophy, nor solicitously instruct us in those things which are born with us, but supposeth the knowledge of these, and makes use of these common principles and notions which are in us concerning God, and the immortality of our souls, and the life to come, to excite us to our duty, and quicken our endeavours after happiness. For I do not find that the doctrine of the immortality of the foul is

any where expresly delivered in scripture, but taken for granted; in like manner, that the scripture doth not folicitoully instruct us in the natural notions which we

have of God, but supposeth them known to us ; and if it mention them, it is not so much in order to knowledge as to practice; and therefore we need not wonder that this expression, which doth set forth to us the nature of God, is but once used in scripture, and that brought in

upon occasion, and for another purpose, because it is a thing naturally known. Plato says, that God is doáMATOS, “ without body.” In like manner Tully, Nec enim Deus ipse qui intelligitur à nobis alio modo intelligi poo test, nisi mens quædam solata do libera ; segregata ab omni concretione mortali; “ We cannot conceive of God, but

as of a pure mind, entirely free from all mortal com

position or mixture.” And Plutarch after him, tõus όυν ο θεός, χωρισον είδος, τετέςι το αμιγές πάσης ύλης, μεδενι παθετώ συμπεπλεγμενον,

“ God is a mind, an ab"stract being, pure from all matter, and disentangled " from whatever is paffible or capable of suffering.

So that natural light informing us that God is a spirit, there was no need why the scripture should incul. cate this : it is an excellent medium or argument to prove that the worship of God should chiefly be spiritual; and although it was not necessary that it should have been mentioned for itself, that is, to inform us of a thing which we could not otherwise know; yet the wisdom of God, by the express mention of this, seems to have provided against an error, which some weaker and grosser spirits might be subject to. You know God is pleased, by way of condescension and accommodation of himself to our capacity, to represent himself to us in fcripture by human imperfections; and gives such descriptions of himself, as if he had a body, and bodily members. Now, to prevent any error or mistake that might be occasioned hereby, it seems very becoming the wisdom of God, some where in scripture esprelly to declare the spiritual nature of God, that none through weakness or wilfulness might entertain gross apprehensions of him. In speaking to this propofition, I thall,

1. Explain what is meant by a spirit. 2. Endeavour to prove to you, that God is a spirit, 3. Answer an objection or two. 4. Draw some inferences or corollaries from the whole. VOL. VII.

N

1. For is, may

I. For the explication of the notion of a spirit; I shall not trouble you with the strict philosophical notion of it, as that it is such a substance as is penetrable, that

be in the same place with a body, and neither keep out the body, nor be kept out by it; and that the parts which we imagine in it cannot be divided, that is, really separated and torn from one another, as the parts of a body; but I will give you a negative description of it. A spirit is not matter, it doth not fall under any of our senses, it is that which we cannot see nor touch; it is not a body, not flesh, and blood, and bones; for so we find spirit in scripture opposed to flesh and body; Isa. xxxi. 3. Their horses are flesh, and not spirit. So Luke xxiv. when Christ appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, they were terrified, and suppoled it had been a spirit, ver. 39. but he said, Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and fee, for a /pirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. The most usual description of a spirit is by these negatives, it is not a body, hath not flesh and bones, doth not consist of matter, or of any thing that falls under our senses, that we can see or touch.

II. For the proof of this proposition, that God is a Spirit. This is not to be proved by way of demonstration ; for there is nothing before God, or which can be a cause of him, but by way of conviction, by shewing the absurdity of the contrary. The first and most natural notion that we have of God, is, that he is a being every way perfect;

and from this notion we must argue concerning the properties which are attributed to God, and govern all our reasonings concerning God by this ; so that when any thing is said of God, the best way to know whether it be to be attributed to him, is to enquire whether it be a perfection or not; if it be, it belongs to him; if it be not, it is to be removed from him; and if any man ask, why I say God is so, or so, a spirit, or good, or just? the best reason that can be given is, because these are perfections, and the contrary to these are imperfections. So that if I shew, that it would be an imperfection for God to be imagined to be a body, or matter, I prove that he is a spirit, because it is an imperfection, that is, an absurdity, to imagine him any thing else: to imagine God to be a body, or matter, doth evidently contradict four great perfe&tions of God.

else:

1. His infiniteness, or the immensity of his being. Grant me but these two things, that there is something in the world besides God, some other matter, as the heavens, the air, the earth, and all those things which we see; and grant me that two bodies cannot be in the fame place at once, and then it will evidently follow, that where-ever these are, God is shut out; and, consequently, God should not be infinite, nor in all places; and so much as there is of another matter in the world besides God, so many breaches there would be in the divine nature, so many

hiatus's. 2. The knowledge and wisdom of God. It cannot be imagined how mere matter can understand, how it can distinctly comprehend such variety of objects, and, at one view, take in past, present, and to come. Tully, speaking of spirits,"faith, Animorum nulla in terris origo inveniri poteft ; “ Their original cannot be found upon “ earth; for,” faith he, “there is no material or bodily “ thing," Quod vim memoria, mentis, cogitationis habeat, quod do præterita teneat, & futura provideat, & completi poffit præsentia ; quæ fola divina funt ; « Which hath the

power of memory, of understanding, of thought; '" which can retain things past, foresee things future, “ and comprehend things present; all which powers are

purely divine.”

3. Freedom and Liberty. For the laws of inatter are necessary, nor can we imagine any attezauri, any “ar

bitrary principle” in it. This puzzled the Epicureans, as we see in Lucretius; “ For if,” says he, “ all

things move by certain and necessary laws, and there “ be a connexion of the parts of matter unto each o" ther, so that if you move this, that must necessarily o be moved; whence,” saith he, “is liberty?Unde est hæc inquam fatis avulsa voluntas ; “ Whence is this

principle of will, whose motions are not under any “ law of necessity?”.

4. Goodness. This follows from the former; for he is not good who does not know what he does, nor does it freely; so that take away understanding and liberty, and you take away goodness: now, take away from God infinite

N 2

ness,

« PreviousContinue »