An Exposition of the Creed
By John Pearson. Revised and Corrected by E. Burton
Sixth Edition, Clarendon Press, 1877
[Main text only. Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals. Spelling and punctuation selectively modernized. Editorís prefaces, annotations, and indices here omitted may be seen in the PDF pages at Project Canterbury, http://anglicanhistory.org. At points in this transcription where notes appeared in the printed book, margin notes are indicated by ďMĒ and a number; footnote points are indicated by an asterisk ď*Ē.]
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To the Right Worshipful and Well-Beloved
The Parishioners of St. Clementís, Eastcheap.
Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.
If I should be at any time unmindful of your commands, you might well esteem me unworthy of your continued favours; and there is some reason to suspect I have incurred the interpretation of forgetfulness, having been so backward in the performance of my promises. Some years have passed since I preached unto you upon such texts of Scripture as were on purpose selected in relation to the CREED, and was moved by you to make those meditations public. But you were pleased then to grant what my inclinations rather led me to, that they might be turned into an Exposition of the Creed itself; which, partly by the difficulty of the work undertaken, partly by the intervention of some other employments, hath taken me up thus long, for which I desire your pardon. And yet an happy excuse may be pleaded for my delay, meeting with a very great felicity, that as faith triumpheth in good works, so my Exposition of the Creed should be contemporary with the reedifying of your Church. For though I can have little temptation to believe that my book should last so long as that fabric; yet I am exceedingly pleased that they should begin together; that the publishing of the one should so agree with the opening of the other. This, I hope, may persuade you to forget my slackness, considering ye were not ready to your own expectation; your experience tells you the excuse of church work will be accepted in building, I beseech you let it not be denied in printing.
That blessed Saint, by whose name your parish is known, was a fellow labourer with St. Paul, and a successor of St. Peter; he had the honour to be numbered in the Scripture with them whose names are written in the book of life; and when he had sealed the Gospel with blood [The martyrdom of Clement is extremely doubtful, and the evidence is rather against it.], he was one of the first whose memory was perpetuated by the building a Church to bear his name. Thus was St. Clementís Church famous in Rome, when Rome was famous for the faith spoken of throughout the whole world. He wrote an Epistle to the Corinthians infested with a schism, in imitation of St. Paul, which obtained so great authority in the primitive times, that it was frequently read in their public congregations; and yet had for many hundred years been lost, till it was at last set forth out of the library of the late King.
Now as, by the providence of God, the memory of that primitive Saint hath been restored in our age, so my design aimeth at nothing else but that the primitive Faith may be revived. And therefore in this edition of the Creed I shall speak to you but what St. Jude hath already spoken to the whole Church, Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. If it were so needful for him then to write, and for them to whom he wrote to contend for the first faith, it will appear as needful for me now to follow his writing, and for you to imitate their earnestness, because the reason which he renders, as the cause of that necessity, is now more prevalent than it was at that time, or ever since. For, saith he, there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation; ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. The principles of Christianity are now as freely questioned as the most doubtful and controverted points; the grounds of faith are as safely denied, as the most unnecessary superstructions; that religion hath the greatest advantage which appeareth in the newest dress, as if we looked for another faith to be delivered to the saints: whereas in Christianity there can be no concerning truth which is not ancient; and whatsoever is truly new, is certainly false. Look then for purity in the fountain, and strive to embrace the first faith, to which you cannot have a more probable guide than the Creed, received in all ages of the Church; and to this I refer you, as it leads you to the Scriptures, from whence it was at first deduced, that while those which are unskillful and unstable, wrest the words of God himself unto their own damnation, ye may receive so much instruction as may set you beyond the imputation of unskillfulness, and so much of confirmation as may place you out of the danger of instability; which as it hath been the constant endeavour, so shall it ever be the prayer of him, who after so many encouragements of his labours amongst you, cloth still desire to be known as
Your most faithful Servant in the Lord, JOHN PEARSON.
To the Reader.
I have in this book undertaken an Exposition of the Creed, and think it necessary in this Preface to give a brief account of the work, lest any should either expect to find that here which was never intended, or conceive that which they meet with such as they expected not.
The Creed, without controversy, is a brief comprehension of the objects of our Christian faith, and is generally taken to contain all things necessary to be believed. Now whether all things necessary be contained there, concerneth not an Expositor to dispute, who is obliged to take notice of what is in it, but not to inquire into what is not whether all truths comprehended in the same be of equal and absolute necessity, we are no way forced to declare; it being sufficient, as to the design of an Exposition, to interpret the words, and so deliver the sense, to demonstrate the truth of the sense delivered, and to manifest the proper necessity of each truth, how far, and in what degree, and to what purposes, it is necessary.
This therefore is the method which I proposed to myself, and have prosecuted in every Article. First, to settle the words of each Article, according to their antiquity and generality of reception in the Creed. Secondly, to explicate and unfold the terms, and to endeavour a right notion and conception of them as they are to be understood in the same. Thirdly, to shew what are those truths which are naturally contained in those terms so explicated, and to make it appear that they are truths indeed, by such arguments and reasons as are respectively proper to evidence the verity of them. Fourthly, to declare what is the necessity of believing those truths, what efficacy and influence they have in the soul, and upon the life of a believer. Lastly, by a recollection of all, briefly to deliver the sum of every particular truth, so that every one, when he pronounceth the Creed, may know what he ought to intend, and what he is understood to profess, when he so pronounceth it.
In the prosecution of the whole, according to this method, I have considered, that a work of so general a concernment must be exposed to two kinds of readers, which though they may agree in judgment, yet must differ much in their capacities. Some there are who understand the original languages of the holy Scripture, the discourses and tractates of the ancient Fathers, the determinations of the Councils, and history of the Church of God, the constant profession of settled truths, the rise and increase of schisms and heresies. Others there are unacquainted with such conceptions, and incapable of such instructions; who understand the Scriptures as they are translated; who are capable of the knowledge of the truths themselves, and of the proofs drawn from thence; who can apprehend the nature of the Christian faith, with the power and efficacy of the same, when it is delivered unto them out of the Word of God, and in the language which they know. When I make this difference, and distinction of readers, I do not intend thereby, that because one of these is learned, the other is ignorant; for he which hath no skill of the learned languages, may notwithstanding be very knowing in the principles of Christian religion, and the reason and efficacy of them.
According to this distinction I have contrived my Exposition, so that the body of it containeth fully what can be delivered and made intelligible in the English tongue, without inserting the least sentence or phrase of any learned language; by which he which is not acquainted with it might be disturbed in his reading, or interrupted in his understanding. Not that I have selected only such notions as are common, easy, and familiar of themselves, but have endeavoured to deliver the most material conceptions in the most plain and perspicuous manner; as desirous to comprise the whole strength of the work, as far as it is possible, in the body of it. The other part I have placed in the margin, (but so as oftentimes it taketh up more room, and yet is never mingled or confounded with the rest) in which is contained whatsoever is necessary for the illustration of any part of the Creed, as to them which have any knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Oriental languages, of the writings of the ancient Fathers, the doctrines of the Jews, and the history of the Church; those great advantages toward a right perception of the Christian Religion.
Now being the Creed comprehendeth the principles of our religion, it must contain those truths which belong unto it as it is a religion, and those which concern it as it is ours. As it is a religion, it delivereth such principles as are to be acknowledged in natural theology, such as no man which worshippeth a God can deny; and therefore in the proof of these, I have made use of such arguments and reasons as are most proper to oppose the Atheists, who deny there is a God to be worshipped, a religion to be professed. As it is our religion, it is Christian and Catholic. As Christian, it containeth such truths as were delivered by Christ and his Apostles, and those especially concerning Christ himself, which I have prosecuted constantly with an eye to the Jews, who obstinately deny them, expecting still another Messias to come; wherefore I shew out of the Law and the Prophets which they acknowledge, what was foretold in every particular concerning the Messias, and prove all those to be completed by that Christ in whom we believe. As our religion is Catholic, it holdeth fast that faith which was once delivered to the saints, and since preserved in the Church; and therefore I expound such verities, in opposition to the heretics arising in all ages, especially against the Photinians, who of all the rest have most perverted the articles of our Creed, and found out followers in these latter ages, who have erected a new body of divinity in opposition to the Catholic theology. Against these I proceed upon such principles as they themselves allow, that is, upon the Word of God delivered in the Old and New Testament, alleged according to the true sense, and applied by right reason; not urging the authority of the Church which they reject, but only giving in the margin the sense of the primitive Fathers, for the satisfaction of such as have any respect left for antiquity, and are persuaded that Christ had a true Church on the earth before these times.
In that part, which, after the demonstration of each truth, teacheth the necessity of the believing it, and the peculiar efficacy which it hath upon the life of a Christian, I have not thought fit to expatiate or enlarge myself, but only to mention such effects as flow naturally and immediately from the doctrine; especially such as are delivered in the Scriptures; which I have endeavoured to set forth with all possible plainness and perspicuity. And indeed in the whole work, as I have laid the foundation upon the written word of God, so I have with much diligence collected such places of Scripture as are pertinent to each doctrine, and with great faithfulness delivered them as they lie in the writings of those holy penmen; not referring the reader to places named in the margin, (which too often I find in many books multiplied to little purpose) but producing and interweaving the sentences of Scripture into the body of my Exposition, so that the reader may understand the strength of all my reason, without any further inquiry or consultation. For if those words which I have produced prove not what I have intended, I desire not any to think there is more in the places named to maintain it.
At the conclusion of every distinct and several notion, I have recollected briefly and plainly the sum of what hath been delivered in the explication of it, and put it, as it were, into the mouth of every Christian, thereby to express more fully his faith, and to declare his profession. So that if the reader please to put those collections together, he may at once see and perceive what he is in the whole obliged to believe, and what he is by the Church of God understood to profess, when he maketh this public, ancient, and orthodox Confession of Faith.
I have nothing more to add, but only to pray that the Lord would give you and me a good understanding in all things.
I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Which was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into Hell, the third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of Sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
As the first word Credo, I believe, giveth a denomination to the whole Confession of Faith, from thence commonly called the CREED; so is the same word to be imagined not to stand only where it is expressed, but to be carried through the whole body of the Confession. For although it be but twice actually rehearsed, yet must we conceive it virtually prefixed to the head of every Article: that as we say, I believe in God the Father Almighty, so we are also understood to say, I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; as, I believe in the Holy Ghost, so also, I believe the Catholick Church. Neither is it to be joined with every complete Article only; but where any Article is not a single verity, but comprehensive, there it is to be looked upon as affixed to every part, or single truth contained in that Article: as for example, in the first, I believe in God, I believe that God to be the Father, I believe that Father to be Almighty, I believe that Father Almighty to be the Maker of Heaven and Earth. So that this Credo, I believe, rightly considered, multiplieth itself to no less than a double number of the Articles, and will be found at least twenty-four times contained in the CREED. Wherefore being a word so pregnant and diffusive, so necessary and essential to every part of our Confession of Faith, that without it we can neither have CREED nor Confession, it will require a more exact consideration, and more ample explication, and that in such a notion as is properly applicable to so many and so various truths.
Now by this previous expression, I believe, thus considered, every particular Christian is first taught, and then imagined, to make confession of his Faith: and consequently this word, so [M2] used, admits a threefold consideration: first, as it supposeth Belief, or Faith, which is confessed: secondly, as it is a Confession, or external expression of that Faith so supposed: thirdly, as both the Faith and Confession are of necessary and particular obligation. When therefore we shall have clearly delivered, first, what is the true nature and notion of Belief; secondly, what the duty of confessing of our Faith; thirdly, what obligation lies upon every particular person to believe and confess; then may we be conceived to have sufficiently explicated the first word of the CREED, then may every one understand what it is he says, and upon what ground he proceeds, when he professeth, I believe.
For the right understanding of the true nature of Christian Faith, it will be no less than necessary to begin with the general notion of Belief; which being first truly stated and defined, then by degrees deduced into its several kinds, will at last make the nature of Christian Faith intelligible: a design, if I mistake not, not so ordinary and usual, as useful and necessary.
Belief in general I define to be an Assent to that which is credible, as credible. By the word Assent* is expressed that act or habit of the understanding, by which it receiveth, acknowledgeth and embraceth any thing as a truth; it being the nature* of the Soul so to embrace whatsoever appeareth true unto it, and so far as it so appeareth. Now this Assent or judgment of any thing to be true, being a general act of the understanding, and so applicable to* other habits thereof as well as to Faith, must be specified by its proper object, and so limited and determined to its proper act, which is the other part left to complete the definition.
This object of Faith is first expressed by that which is credible; for every one who believeth any thing, doth thereby without question assent unto it as to that which is credible; and therefore all belief whatsoever is such a kind of Assent. But though all belief be an Assent to that which is credible, yet every such Assent may not be properly Faith; and therefore those words make not the definition complete. For he which sees an action done knows it to be done, and therefore assents unto the truth of the performance of it because he sees it: but another person to whom he relates it may assent unto the performance of the same action, not because himself sees it, but because the other relates it; in which case that which is credible is the object of Faith in one, of evident knowledge in the other. To make the definition therefore full, besides the material object or thing believed, we have added the formal object, or that whereby it is properly believed, expressed in the last term, as credible, which being taken in, it then appears, that, first, whosoever believeth any thing, assenteth to something which is to him credible, and that as it is credible; and again, whosoever assenteth to any thing which is credible, as it is credible, believeth something by so assenting: which is sufficient to skew the definition complete.
[M3] But for the explication of the same, further observations will be necessary. For if that which we believe be something which is credible, and the notion under which we believe be the credibility of it, then must we first declare what it is to be credible, and in what credibility doth consist, before we can understand what is the nature of Belief.
Now that is properly credible which is not apparent of itself, nor certainly to be collected, either antecedently by its cause, or reversely by its effect, and yet, though by none of these ways, hath the attestation of a truth. For those things which are apparent of themselves, are either so in respect of our sense, as that snow is white, and fire is hot; or in respect of our understanding, as that the whole of any thing is greater than any one part of the whole, that every thing imaginable either is, or is not. The first kind of which being propounded to our sense, one to the sight, the other to the touch, appear of themselves immediately true, and therefore are not termed credible, but evident to sense; as the latter kind, propounded to the understanding, are immediately embraced and acknowledged as truths apparent in themselves, and therefore are not called credible, but evident to the understanding. And so those things which are apparent,* are not said properly to be believed, but to be known.
Again, other things, though not immediately apparent in themselves, may yet appear most certain and evidently true by an immediate and necessary connection with something formerly known. For, being every natural cause actually applied doth necessarily produce its own natural effect, and every natural effect wholly dependeth upon, and absolutely presupposeth its own proper cause; therefore there must be an immediate connection between the cause and its effect. From whence it follows that, if the connection be once clearly perceived, the effect will be known in the cause and the cause by the effect. And by these ways, proceeding from principles evidently known by consequences certainly concluding, we come to the knowledge of propositions in mathematics, and conclusions in other sciences: which propositions and conclusions are not said to be credible, but scientifical; and the comprehension of them is not Faith, but Science.
Besides, some things there are which, though not evident of themselves, nor seen by any necessary connection to their causes or effects, notwithstanding. appear to most as true by some external relations to other truths; but yet so, as the appearing truth still leaves a possibility of falsehood with it, and therefore doth but incline to an Assent. In which case, whatsoever is thus apprehended, if it depend upon real arguments, is not yet called credible, but probable ; and an Assent to such a truth is not properly Faith, but Opinion.
But when any thing propounded to us is neither apparent to our sense, nor evident to our understanding, in and of itself, neither certainly to be collected from any clear and necessary connection with the cause from which it proceedeth, or the effects which it naturally produceth, nor is taken up upon any real arguments, or reference to other acknowledged truths, and yet notwithstanding appeareth to us true, not by a manifestation, but attestation of the truth, and so moveth us to assent not of itself, but by virtue of the testimony given to it; this is said* properly to be credible; and an Assent unto this, upon such credibility, is in the proper notion Faith or Belief.
Having thus defined and illustrated the nature of Faith in general, so far as it agreeth to all kinds of belief whatsoever; our method will lead us on to descend, by way of division, to the several kinds thereof, till at last we come to the proper notion of Faith in the Christianís Confession, the design of our present [M4] disquisition; and being we have placed the formality of the object of all belief in credibility, it will clearly follow, that a diversity of credibility in the object will proportionably cause a distinction of assent in the understanding, and consequently a several kind of Faith, which we have supposed to be nothing else but such an assent.
Now the credibility of objects, by which they appear fit to be believed, is distinguishable according to the diversities of its foundation, that is, according to the different authority of the testimony on which it depends. For we having no other certain means of assuring ourselves of the truth, and consequently no other motives of our assent in matters of mere belief than the testimony upon which we believe; if there be any fundamental distinction in the authority of the testimony, it will cause the like difference in the assent, which must needs bear a proportion to the authority of the testimony, as being originally and essentially founded upon it. It is therefore necessary next to consider in what the authority of a testimony consisteth, and so to descend to the several kinds of testimonies founded upon several authorities.
The strength and validity of every testimony must bear proportion with the authority* of the Testifier: and the authority of the Testifier is founded upon his ability and integrity: his ability in the knowledge of that which he delivereth and asserteth; his integrity in delivering and asserting according to his knowledge. For two several ways he which relateth or testifieth any thing may deceive us; one, by being ignorant of the truth, and so upon that ignorance mistaking, he may think that to be true which is not so, and consequently deliver that for truth which in itself is false, and so deceive himself and us; or if he be not ignorant, yet if he be dishonest or unfaithful, that which he knows to be false he may propound and assert to be a truth, and so, though himself be not deceived, he may deceive us. And by each of these ways, for want either of ability or integrity in the Testifier, whoso grounds his assent unto any thing as a truth upon the testimony of another, may equally be deceived.
But whosoever is so able as certainly to know the truth of that which he delivereth, and so faithful as to deliver nothing but what and as he knoweth, he, as he is not deceived, so deceiveth no man. So far therefore as any person testifying appeareth to be knowing of the thing he testifies, and to be faithful in the relation of what he knows, so far his testimony is acceptable, so far that which he testifieth is properly credible. And thus the authority of every Testifier or Relater is grounded upon these two foundations, his ability and integrity.
Now there is in this case, so far as it concerns our present design, a double* testimony: the testimony of man to man, relying upon human authority, and the testimony of God to man, founded upon divine authority: which two kinds of testimony are respective grounds of two kinds of credibility, Human and Divine; and consequently there is a twofold Faith distinguished by this double object, a Human and a Divine Faith.
Human Faith is an Assent unto any thing credible merely upon the testimony of man. Such is the belief we have of the words and affections one of another. And upon this kind of Faith we proceed in the ordinary affairs of our life; according to the opinion we have of the ability and fidelity of him which relates or asserts any thing we believe or disbelieve. By this a friend assureth himself of the affection of his friend: by this the son* acknowledgeth his father, and upon this is his obedience wrought. By virtue of this Human Faith it is that we doubt not at all of those things which we never saw, by reason of their distance from us, either by time or place. Who doubts whether there be such a country as Italy, or such a city as Constantinople, though he never passed any of our four seas? [M5] Who questions now whether there was such a man as Alexander in the east, or Caesar in the west? and yet the latest of these hath been beyond the possibility of the knowledge of man these sixteen hundred years. There is no science taught without original belief, there are no letters* learnt without preceding faith. There is no justice executed, no commerce maintained, no business prosecuted without this; all secular affairs* are transacted, all great achievements are attempted, all hopes, desires, and inclinations are preserved by this Human Faith grounded upon the testimony of man.
In which case we all by easy experience may observe the nature, generation, and progress of Belief. For in any thing which belongeth to more than ordinary knowledge, we believe not him whom we think to be ignorant, nor do we assent the more for his assertion, though never so confidently delivered: but if we have a strong opinion of the knowledge and skill of any person, what he affirmeth within the compass of his knowledge, that we readily assent unto; and while we have no other ground but his affirmation, this Assent is properly Belief. Whereas, if it be any matter of concernment in which the interest of him that relateth or affirmeth any thing to us is considerable, there it is not the skill or knowledge of the Relater which will satisfy us, except we have as strong an opinion of his fidelity and integrity: but if we think him, so just and honest, that he hath no design upon us, nor will affirm any thing contrary to his knowledge for any gain or advantage, then we readily assent unto his affirmations; and this Assent is our Belief. Seeing then our Belief relies upon the ability and integrity of the Relater, and being the knowledge of all men is imperfect, and the hearts of all men are deceitful, and so their integrity to be suspected, there can be no infallible universal ground of Human Faith.
But what satisfaction we cannot find in the testimony of Man, we may receive in the testimony of God.* If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater [John 5:9]. Yea, let God be true, the ground of our Divine, and every man a liar [Rom. 3:4], the ground of our Human Faith.
As for the other member of the division, we may now plainly perceive that it is thus to be defined; Divine Faith is an Assent unto something as credible upon the testimony of God. This Assent is the highest kind of Faith, because the object hath the highest credibility, because grounded upon the testimony of God, which is infallible. Balaam could tell Balak thus much, God is not a Man, that he should lie [Numb. 23:19]; and a better Prophet confirmed the same truth to Saul, The Strength of Israel will not lie [1 Sam. 15:29]; and because he will not, because he cannot, he is the strength of Israel, even my God, my strength, in whom I will trust. [Ps. 18:2]
For first, God is of infinite knowledge and wisdom, as Hannah hath taught us, The Lord is a God of knowledge, [1 Sam. 2:3] or rather, if our language will bear it, of knowledges, which are so plural, or rather infinite in their plurality, that the Psalmist hath said, Of his understanding there is no number. [Ps. 147:5] He knoweth therefore all things, neither can any truth be hid from his knowledge, who is essentially truth, and essentially knowledge, and, as so, the cause of all other truth and knowledge. Thus the understanding of God is infinite in respect of comprehension,* and not so only, but of certainty also and evidence. Some things we are said to know which are but obscurely known, we see them but as in a glass or through a cloud: but God is light, and in him is no darkness at all: [1 John 1:5] he seeth without any obscurity, and whatsoever is propounded to his understanding is most clear and evident; neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his [M6] sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. [Heb. 4:13] Wherefore being all things are within the compass of his knowledge, being all things which are so are most clear and evident unto him, being the knowledge he hath of them is most certain and infallible, it inevitably followeth that he cannot be deceived in anything.
Secondly, The justice of God is equal to his knowledge, nor is his holiness inferior to his wisdom: A God of truth, saith Moses, [Deut. 32:4] and without iniquity, just and right is he. From which internal, essential and infinite rectitude, goodness, and holiness, followeth an impossibility to declare or deliver that for truth which he knoweth not to be true. For if it be against that finite purity and integrity which is required of Man, to lie, and therefore sinful, then must we conceive it absolutely inconsistent with that transcendent purity and infinite integrity which is essential unto God. Although therefore the power of God be infinite, though he can do all things; yet we may safely say, without any* prejudice to his omnipotency, that he cannot* speak that for truth which he knoweth to be otherwise. For the perfections of his will are as necessarily infinite as those of his understanding; neither can he be unholy or unjust more than he can be ignorant or unwise. If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself. [2 Tim. 2:13] Which words of the Apostle, though properly belonging to the promises of God, yet are as true in respect of his assertions; neither should he more deny himself in violating his fidelity, than in contradicting his veracity. It is true that [Heb. 6:17, 18] God willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation: but it is as true, that all this confirmation is only for our consolation; otherwise it is as impossible for God to lie, without an [Heb. 6:13] oath, as with one: for being he can swear by no greater, he sweareth only by himself, and so the strength even of the oath of God relieth upon the veracity of God. Wherefore being God, as God, is of infinite rectitude, goodness and holiness, being it is manifestly repugnant to his purity, and inconsistent with his integrity, to deliver any thing contrary to his knowledge, it clearly followeth that he cannot deceive any man.
It is therefore most infallibly certain, that God being infinitely wise, cannot be deceived;* being infinitely good, cannot deceive:* and upon these two immovable pillars standeth the authority of the testimony of God. For since we cannot doubt of the witness of any one, but by questioning his ability, as one who may be ignorant of that which he affirmeth, and so deceived; or by excepting against his integrity, as one who may affirm that which he knoweth to be false, and so have a purpose to deceive us: where there is no place for either of these exceptions, there can be no doubt of the truth of the testimony. But where there is an intrinsical repugnancy* of being deceived in the understanding, and of deceiving in the will, as there certainly is in the understanding and will of God, there can be no place for either of those exceptions, and consequently there can be no doubt of the truth of that which God testifieth. And whosoever thinketh any thing comes from him, and assenteth not unto it, must necessarily deny him to be wise or holy: He that believeth not God, saith the Apostle, hath made him a liar. [1 John 5:10] That truth then which is testified by God, hath a divine credibility: and an assent unto it as so credible, is Divine Faith. In which the material object is the doctrine which God delivereth, the formal object is that credibility founded on the authority* of the deliverer. And this I conceive the true nature of Divine Faith in general.
[M7] Now being the credibility of all which we believe is founded upon the testimony of God, we can never be sufficiently instructed in the notion of Faith, till we first understand how this testimony is given to those truths which we now believe. To which end it will be necessary to give notice that the testimony of God is not given unto truths before questioned or debated; nor are they such things as are first propounded and doubted of by Man, and then resolved and confirmed by interposing the authority of God: but he is then said to witness when he doth propound, and his testimony is given by way of Revelation, which is nothing else but the delivery or speech of God unto his creatures. And therefore upon a diversity of delivery must follow a difference, though not of Faith itself, yet of the means and manner of Assent.
Wherefore it will be further necessary to observe that Divine Revelation is of two kinds, either immediate or mediate. An immediate Revelation is that by which God delivereth himself to man by himself, without the intervention of man. A mediate Revelation is the conveyance of the counsel of God unto man by man. By the first he spake unto the Prophets; by the second in the Prophets, and by them unto us. Being then there is this difference between the revealing of God unto the Prophets and to others, being the Faith both of Prophets, and others, relieth wholly upon Divine Revelation, the difference* of the manner of Assent in these several kinds of Believers will be very observable for the explanation of the nature of our Faith.
Those then to whom God did immediately speak himself, or by an Angel representing God, and so being in his stead, and bearing his name (of which I shall need here to make no distinction), those persons, I say, to whom God did so reveal himself, did by virtue of the same revelation perceive, know, and assure themselves, that he which spake to them was God; so that at the same time they clearly understood both what was delivered, and by whom: otherwise we cannot imagine that Abraham would have slain his son, or have been commended for such a resolution, had he not been most assured that it was God who by an immediate revelation of his will clearly commanded it. Thus by faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house [Heb. 11:7]: which warning* of God was a clear revelation of Godís determination to drown the world, of his will to save him and his family, and of his command for that end to build an ark. And this Noah so received from God, as that he knew it to be an oracle of God, and was as well assured of the Author, as informed of the command. Thus the judgments hanging over Judah were revealed in the ears of Isaiah by the Lord of Hosts. [Isa. 22:14] Thus the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh:[1 Sam.3:21] at first indeed he knew him not; that is, when the Lord spake, he knew it not to be the voice of God: [1 Sam. 3:7] Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him; but after that he knew him, and was assured that it was he which spake unto him, the Scripture teaching us that the ears [1 Sam. 9:15] of Samuel were revealed, and the word [1 Sam. 3:7] of God revealed, and God himself revealed to him. [1 Sam. 3:21] By all which we can understand no less, than that Samuel was so illuminated in his prophecies, that he fully understood the words or things themselves which were delivered, and as certainly knew that the deliverer was God: so Samuel the Seer, so the rest of the Prophets believed those truths revealed to them by such a faith as was a firm assent unto an object credible upon the immediate testimony of God.
[M8] But those faithful people to whom the Prophets spake believed the same truth, and upon the testimony of the same God, delivered unto them not by God, but by those Prophets, whose words they therefore assented unto as certain truths, because they were assured that what the Prophets spoke was immediately revealed to them by God himself, without which assurance no faith could be expected from them. When God appeared [Exod. 3:2]unto Moses in a fame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and there immediately revealed to him first himself, saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and then his will, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Moses clearly believed God both in the revelation of himself and of his will, and was fully satisfied that the Israelites should be delivered, because he was assured it was God who promised their deliverance: yet notwithstanding still he doubted whether the Israelites would believe the same truth, when it should be delivered to them, not immediately by God, but by Moses; And Moses answered and said, But behold they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. [Exod. 4:1] Which words of his first suppose, that if they had heard the voice of God, as he had, they would have assented to the truth upon a testimony divine; and then as rationally affirm, that it was improbable they should believe, except they were assured it was God who promised, or think that God had promised by Moses, only because Moses said so. Which rational objection was clearly taken away, when God endued Moses with power of evident and undoubted miracles; for then the rod which he carried in his hand was as infallible a sign to the Israelites, that God had appeared unto him, as the flaming bush was to himself; and therefore they which saw in his hand Godís omnipotency, could not suspect in his tongue Godís veracity; insomuch as when Aaron became to Moses instead of a mouth, and Moses to Aaron instead of God, Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people, and the people believed. [Exod. 4:16, 30, 31.] For being persuaded by a lively and active presence of omnipotency that God had appeared unto Moses, and what was delivered to them by him came to him from God; and being sufficiently assured out of the very sense and notion of a Deity, that whatsoever God should speak must of necessity be true, they presently assented, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses [Exod. 14:31]; Moses, as the immediate propounder; God, as the original revealer: they believed Moses that God had revealed it, and they believed the promise, because God had revealed it. So that the Faith both of Moses and the Israelites was grounded upon the same testimony or revelation of God, and differed only in the proposition or application of the testimony; Moses receiving it immediately from God himself, the Israelites mediately by the ministry of Moses.
In the like manner the succeeding Prophets were the instruments of Divine Revelation, which they first believed as revealed to them, and then the people as revealed by them: for what they delivered was not the testimony of man, but the testimony of God delivered by man. [Luke 1:70] It was he who spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets which have been since the world began: the mouth, the instrument, the articulation was theirs; but the words were Godís. The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, saith David, and his word was in my tongue. [2 Sam. 23:2] It was the word of the Lord, which he spake by the hand of Moses, and by the hand of his servant Ahijah the Prophet. [1 Kings 8:53, 14:18] The hand, the general instrument of man, the mouth, the particular instrument of speech, both attributed to the Prophets as merely instrumental in their prophecies. The words which Balaamís ass spake were as much the assís words, as those which Balaam spake were his; for the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and the Lord put a word in Balaamís mouth; and not only so, but a bridle [M9] with that word, only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. [Numb 22:28, 23:5, 22:35] The Prophets, as they did not frame the notions or conceptions themselves of those truths which they delivered from God, so did they not loosen their own tongues of their own instinct, or upon their own motion, but as moved, impelled, and acted by God. So we may in correspondence to the antecedent and subsequent words interpret those words of St. Peter [2 Pet. 1:20] that no Prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation: that is, that no Prophecy which is written did so proceed from the Prophet which spake or wrote it, that he of himself or by his own instinct did open his mouth to prophesy*; but that all prophetical revelations came from God alone, and that whosoever first delivered them was antecedently inspired by him, as it followeth, for the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. That therefore which they delivered was the Word, the Revelation of God; which they assented unto as to a certain and infallible truth, credible upon the immediate testimony of God, and to which the rest of the Believers assented upon the same testimony of God mediately delivered by the hands of the Prophets.
Thus God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, [Heb. 1:1] and by so speaking propounded the object of Faith both to the Prophets and the Fathers, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, [Verse 2] and by so speaking hath enlarged the object of Faith to us by him, by which means it comes to be the Faith of Jesus. Thus [Rev. 14:12] the only begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, the express Image of his Person, he in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, he in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, [John 1:18, Heb. 1:3, Col. 1:19, 2:9] revealed the will of God to the Apostles, who being assured that he knew all things, and convinced that he came forth from God, [John 16:30] gave a full and clear assent unto those things which he delivered, and grounded their Faith upon his words as upon the immediate testimony of God. I have given unto them, saith Christ [John 17:8] unto his Father, the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. Beside this delivery of these words by Christ to the Apostles, they received the promise of the Spirit of Truth, which should guide them into all truth, and teach them all things, and bring all things into their remembrance whatsoever Christ had said unto them. [John 16:13, 14:26] So clearly, so fully, so constantly were they furnished with divine Illuminations and Revelations from God, upon which they grounded their own Faith; that each of them might well make that profession of St. Paul, I know whom I have believed. [2 Tim. 1:12] Thus the Faith of the Apostles, as of Moses and the Prophets, was grounded upon the immediate Revelations of God.
But those Believers to whom the Apostles preached, and whom they converted to the Faith, believed the same truths which were revealed to the Apostles, though they were not so revealed to them as they were unto the Apostles, that is, immediately from God. But, as the Israelites believed those truths which Moses spake to come from God, being convinced by the constant supply of miracles wrought by the rod which he carried in his hand; so the blessed Apostles, being so plentifully endued from above with the power of miracles, gave sufficient testimony that it was God which spake by their mouths, who so evidently wrought by their hands. They which heard St. Peter call a lame man unto his legs, speak a dead man alive, and strike a living man to death with his tongue, as he did Ananias and Sapphira, might easily be persuaded that it was God who spake by his mouth, and conclude that where they found him in his omnipotency, they might well expect him in his veracity. These were the persons for whom our Saviour next to the Apostles [M10] prayed, because by a way next to that of the Apostles they believed. Neither pray I for these alone, saith Christ, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word. [John 17:20] Thus the Apostles believed on Christ through his own word, and the primitive Christians believed on the same Christ through the Apostlesí word, and this distinction our Saviour himself hath clearly made; not that the word of the Apostles was really distinct from the word of Christ, but only it was called theirs, because delivered by their ministry, otherwise it was the same word which they had heard from him, and upon which they themselves believed. That which was from the beginning, saith St. John [1 John 1:1, 3], which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life, that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you. And this was the true foundation of Faith, in all them which believed, that they took not the words which they heard from the Apostles to be the words of the men which spake them, no more than they did the power of healing the sick, or raising the dead, and the rest of the miracles, to be the power of them that wrought them; but as they attributed those miraculous works to God working by them, so did they also that saving word to the same God speaking by them. When St. Paul preached at Antioch [Acts 13:44], almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God; so they esteemed it, though they knew him a man whom they came to hear speak it. This the Apostle commendeth in the Thessalonians [1 Thess. 2:13] that when they received the word of God, which they heard of him, they received it not as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the word of God; and receiving it so, they embraced it as coming from him who could neither deceive or be deceived, and consequently as infallibly true; and by so embracing it, they assented unto it, by so assenting to it, they believed it, ultimately upon the testimony of God, immediately upon the testimony of St. Paul, as he speaks himself, [1 Thess. 1:20] because our testimony among you was believed. Thus the Faith of those which were converted by the Apostles was an assent unto the word as credible upon the testimony of God, delivered to them by a testimony Apostolical. Which being thus clearly stated, we may at last descend into our own condition, and so describe the nature of our own Faith, that every one may know what it is to believe.
Although Moses was endued with the power of miracles, and conversed with God in the mount, and spake with him face to face at the door of the Tabernacle; although upon these grounds the Israelites believed what he delivered to them as the word of God; yet neither the miracles nor Moses did for ever continue with them; and notwithstanding his death, they and their posterity to all generations were obliged to believe the same truths. Wherefore it is observable, which St. Stephen saith, he received [Acts 7:38] the lively Oracles to give unto them; the Decalogue he received from the hand of God, written with the finger of God; the rest of the divine patefactions he wrote himself, and so delivered them not a mortal word to die with him, but living Oracles, to be in force when he was dead, and oblige the people to a belief when his rod had ceased to broach the rocks and divide the seas. Neither did he only tie them to a belief of what he wrote himself, but by foretelling and describing the Prophets which should be raised in future ages, he put a farther obligation upon them to believe their Prophecies as the revelations of the same God. Thus all the Israelites, in all ages, believed Moses; while he lived, by believing his words; after his death, by believing his writings. Had ye believed Moses, saith our Saviour, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? [John 5:46, 47] Wherefore the Faith of the Israelites in the land of Canaan was an assent unto the [M11] truths of the Law as credible upon the testimony of God, delivered unto them in the writings of Moses and the Prophets.
In the like manner is it now with us. For although Christ first published the Gospel to those who beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; [John 1:14] although the Apostles first converted those unto the Faith, who heard them speak with tongues they never learned, they never heard before, and discover the thoughts of men they never saw before; who saw the lame to walk, the blind to see, the dead to revive, and the living to expire at their command; yet did not these Apostles prolong their lives by virtue of that power which gave such testimony to their doctrine, but rather shortened them by their constant attestation to the truth of that doctrine farther confirmed by their death. Nor did that power of frequent and ordinary miraculous operations long survive them; and yet they left as great an obligation upon the Church in all succeeding ages to believe all the truths which they delivered, as they had put upon those persons who heard their words and saw their works; because they wrote the same truths which they spake, assisted in writing by the same Spirit by which they spake, and therefore require the same readiness of assent so long as the same truths shall be preserved by those writings. While Moses lived and spake as a mediator between God and the Israelites, they believed his words, and so the Prophets while they preached. When Moses was gone up to Mount Nebo, and there died, when the rest of the Prophets were gathered to their fathers, they believed their writings, and the whole object of their Faith was contained in them. When the Son of God came into the world to reveal the will of his Father, when he [John 15:15] made known unto the Apostles, as his friends, all things that he had heard of the Father, then did the Apostles believe the writings of Moses and the Prophets, and the words of Christ, and in these taken together was contained the entire object of their Faith, and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. [John 2:22] When Christ was ascended up into Heaven, and the Holy Ghost came down, when the words which Christ had taught the Apostles were preached by them, and many thousand souls converted to the Faith, they believed the writings of the Prophets and the words of the Apostles; and in these two was comprised the complete object of their Faith. When the Apostles themselves departed out of this life, and confirmed the truth of the Gospel preached by the last of sufferings, their death, they left the sum of what they had received, in writing, for the continuation of the Faith in the Churches which they had planted, and the propagation thereof in other places, by those which succeeded them in their ordinary function, but were not to come near them in their extraordinary gifts. These things were written, saith St. John, [John 22:31] the longest liver, and the latest writer, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Those Christians then which have lived since the Apostlesí death, and never obtained the wish of St. Augustin, to see either Christ upon earth, or St. Paul in the pulpit, have believed the writings of Moses and the Prophets, of the Apostles and Evangelists, in which together is fully comprehended whatsoever may properly be termed matter of divine Faith; and so [Eph. 2:20] the household of God is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets,* who are continued unto us only in their writings, and by them alone convey unto us the truths which they received from God, upon whose testimony we believe. And therefore he which put their writings into the definition of Faith, considering Faith as now it stands with us, is none of the smallest of the Schoolmen.* From whence we may at last conclude, that the true nature of the Faith of a Christian, as the state of Christís Church now stands, [M12] and shall continue to the end of the World, consists in this, that it is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God delivered unto us in the writings of the Apostles and Prophets.
To believe therefore, as the word stands in the front of the CREED, and not only so, but is diffused through every article and proposition of it, is to assent to the whole and every part of it, as to a certain and infallible truth revealed by God (who by reason of his infinite knowledge cannot be deceived, and by reason of his transcendent holiness cannot deceive) and delivered unto us in the writings of the blessed Apostles and Prophets immediately inspired, moved, and acted by God, out of whose writings this brief sum of necessary points of Faith was first* collected. And as this is properly to believe, which was our first consideration; so to say I believe, is to make a confession or external expression of the Faith, which is the second consideration propounded.
Faith is an habit of the intellectual part of Man, and therefore of itself invisible; and to believe is a spiritual act, and consequently immanent and internal, and known to no man but him who believeth: For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him? [1 Cor. 2:11] Wherefore Christ being not only the great Apostle, sent to deliver these revealed truths, and so the Author of our Faith, but also the Head of the Church, whose body consisteth of faithful members, and so the author of union and communion, which principally hath relation to the unity of Faith, he must needs be imagined to have appointed some external expression and communication of it: especially considering that the sound of the Apostles was to go forth unto the ends of the world, and all nations to be called to the profession of the Gospel, and gathered into the Church of Christ; which cannot be performed without an acknowledgment of the truth, and a profession of Faith, without which no entrance into the Church, no admittance to Baptism. What doth hinder me to be baptized? saith the Eunuch [Acts 36, 37]. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. So believing with all his heart, as Philip required, and making profession of that Faith, he was admitted. [Rom. 10:10] For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.* The belief of the heart is the internal habit residing in the Soul, and act of Faith proceeding from it, but terminated in the same. The confession of the mouth is an external signification of the inward habit or act of Faith, by words expressing an acknowledgment of those truths which we believe or assent to in our souls. The ear receiveth the word, Faith cometh by hearing; the ear conveyeth it to the heart, which being opened receiveth it, receiving believeth it; and then [Mat. 12:34] out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.* In the heart Faith is seated: with the tongue confession is made; between these two salvation is completed.* If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [Rom. 1:9] This Faith of the heart every one ought, and is presumed to have; this confession of the mouth every one is known to make, when he pronounceth these words of the CREED, I believe; and if true, [Rom. 10:8] he may with comfort say, The word of Faith is nigh me, even in my mouth and in my heart:* first in my heart really assenting, then in my mouth clearly and sincerely professing with the Prophet David, I have believed, therefore have spoken. [Psal. 116:10] [M13] Thus briefly from the second consideration concerning confession implied in the first words I believe, we shall pass unto the third consideration, of the necessity and particular obligation to such a confession.
If there were no other argument, yet being the object of Faith is supposed infallibly true, and acknowledged to be so by every one that believeth, being it is the nature of Truth not to hide itself, but rather to desire the light that it might appear; this were sufficient to move us to a confession of our Faith. But beside the nature of the thing, we shall find many arguments obliging, pressing, urging us to such a profession. For first, from the same God, and by the same means by which we have received the object of our Faith, by which we came under a possibility of Faith, we have also received an express command to make a confession of the same: Be ready, saith St. Peter, [1 Pet. 3:15] always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you; and there can be no reason of hope but what is grounded on Faith, nor can there be answer given unto that without an acknowledgment of this. Secondly, it is true indeed that the great promises of the Gospel are made unto Faith, and glorious things are spoken of it; but the same promises are made to the confession of Faith together with it; and [Rom. 10:10] we know who it is hath said, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. [Mat. 10:32] Besides, the profession of the Faith of one Christian confirmeth and edifieth another in his, and the mutual benefit of all layeth an obligation upon every particular. Again, the matters of Faith contain so much purity of doctrine, persuade such holiness of life, describe God so infinitely glorious, so transcendently gracious, so loving in himself, so merciful in his Son, so wonderful in all his works, that the sole confession of it glorifieth God; and how can we expect to enter into that glory which is none of ours, if we deny God that glory which is his? Lastly the concealing those truths which he hath revealed, the not acknowledging that faith which we are thought to believe, is so far from giving God that glory which is due unto him, that it dishonoureth the Faith which it refuseth or neglecteth to profess, and casteth a kind of contumely upon the author of it, as if God had revealed that which Man should be ashamed to acknowledge. Wherefore he that came to save us hath also said unto us, Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Fatherís, and of the holy Angels. [Luke 9:26] Such a necessity there is of confession of Faith, in respect of God, who commanded it, and is glorified in it; in respect of ourselves, who shall be rewarded for it; and in respect of our brethren, who are edified and confirmed by it. Which necessity the wisdom of the Church in former ages hath thought a sufficient ground to command the recitation of the CREED at the first initiation into the Church* by Baptism (for which purpose it was taught and expounded to those which were to be baptized [M14] immediately before* the great solemnity of Easter), and to require a particular repetition* of it publicly, as often as the sacrament of the Eucharist was administered, and a constant and perpetual inculcation of the same by the Clergy* to the People.
And as this necessity is great, as the practice useful and advantageous; so is the obligation of believing and confessing particular, binding every single Christian, observable in the number and person expressed, I believe. As if Christ did question every one in particular, as he did him who was born blind, after he had restored him his sight (and we are all in his condition), [John 9:35, 38] Dost thou believe on the Son of God? every single. Christian is taught to make the same answer which he made, Lord, I believe. As if the Son of God did promise to every one of them which are gathered together in his name, what he promised to one of the multitude, whose son had a dumb spirit; If thou cant believe, all things are possible to him that believeth; [Mark 9:17, 23, 24] each one for himself returneth his answer, Lord, I believe; Lord, help my unbelief. Not that it is unlawful or unfit to use another number, and instead of I, to say We believe: for taking in of others, we exclude not ourselves; and addition of charity can be no disparagement to confession of Faith. St. Peter answered for the twelve, We believe, and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. [John 6:69] For though Christ immediately replied that one of them had a devil, yet is not St. Peter blamed, who knew it not. But every one is taught to express his own Faith, because by that he is to stand or fall. The effectual fervent [M15] prayer of a righteous man availeth much [James 5:16] for the benefit of his Brother, but his Faith availeth nothing for the justification of another. And it is otherwise very fit that our Faith should be manifested by a particular confession, because it is effectual by particular application; therefore must it needs be proper for me to say, I believe, and to make profession of my Faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself me. [Gal. 2:20]
Being then I have described the true nature and notion of Belief, the duty of confessing our Faith, and the obligation of every particular Christian to believe and to confess; being in these three explications, all which can be imaginably contained in the first word of the CREED must necessarily be included; it will now be easy for me to deliver, and for every particular person to understand what it is he says, and upon what ground he proceeds, when he begins his confession with these words, I believe, which I conceive may in this manner be fitly expressed:
Although those things which I am ready to affirm be not apparent to my sense, so that I cannot say I see them; although they be not evident to my understanding of themselves, nor appear unto me true by the virtue of any natural and necessary cause, so that I cannot say I have any proper knowledge or science of them; yet being they are certainly contained in the Scriptures, the writings of the blessed Apostles and Prophets; being those Apostles and Prophets were endued with miraculous power from above, and immediately inspired with the Holy Ghost, and consequently what they delivered was not the word of man, but of God himself; being God is of that universal knowledge and infinite wisdom, that it is impossible he should be deceived; of that indefectible holiness and transcendent rectitude, that it is not imaginable he should intend to deceive any man, and consequently whatsoever he hath delivered for a truth must be necessarily and infallibly true; I readily and steadfastly assent unto them as most certain truths, and am as fully and absolutely, and more concerningly persuaded of them, than of any thing I see or know. And because that God who hath revealed them hath done it, not for my benefit only, but for the advantage of others, nor for that alone, but also for the manifestation of his own glory; being for those ends he hath commanded me to profess them, and hath promised an eternal reward upon my profession of them; being every particular person is to expect the justification of himself, and the salvation of his soul, upon the condition of his own Faith; as with a certain and full persuasion, I assent unto them, so with a fixed and undaunted resolution I will profess them; and with this faith in my heart, and confession in my mouth, in respect of the whole body of the CREED, and every Article and particle in it, I sincerely, readily, resolvedly say, I believe.
I believe in God.
Having delivered the nature of Faith, and the act of Belief common to all the Articles of the Creed, that we may understand what it is to believe; we shall proceed to the explication of the Articles themselves, as the most necessary objects of our Faith, that we may know what is chiefly to be believed. Where immediately we meet with another word as general as the former, and as universally concerned in every Article, which is GOD; for if to believe be to assent upon the testimony of God, as we have before declared, then wheresoever belief is expressed or implied, there is also the name of God understood, upon whose testimony we believe. He therefore whose authority is the ground and foundation of the whole, his existence begins the Creed, as the foundation of that authority. For if there can be no divine Faith without the attestation of God, by which alone it becomes divine, and there can be no such attestation except there were an existence of the testifier, then must it needs be proper to begin the confession of our Faith with the [M13] agnition of our God. If his name* were thought fit to be expressed in the front of every action, even by the Heathen, because they thought no action prospered but by his approbation ; much more ought we to fix it before our confession, because without him to believe, as we profess, is no less than a contradiction.
Now these words, I believe in God, will require a double consideration; one, of the phrase or manner of speech; another, of the thing or nature of the truth in that manner expressed. For to believe with an addition of the preposition in*, is a phrase or expression ordinarily conceived fit to be given to none but to God himself, as always implying, beside a bare act of Faith, an addition of hope, love, and affiance. An observation, as I conceive, prevailing especially in the Latin Church, grounded principally upon the authority of St. Augustin.* Whereas among the Greeks, in whose language the New Testament was penned, I perceive no such constant distinction in their deliveries of the Creed; and in the Hebrew language* of the Old, from which the Jewish and Christian Greeks received that phrase of believing in, it hath no such peculiar and accumulative signification. For it is sometimes attributed to God, the author and original cause; sometimes to the Prophets, the immediate revealers of the Faith; sometimes it is spoken of miracles, the motives to believe; sometimes of the Law of God, the material object of our Faith. Among all which varieties of that phrase of speech, it is sufficiently apparent that in this confession of Faith it is most proper to admit it in the last acception, by which it is attributed to the [M17] material object of belief. For the Creed being nothing else but a brief comprehension of the most necessary matters of Faith, whatsoever is contained in it beside the first word I believe, by which we make confession of our Faith, can be nothing else but part of those verities to be believed, and the act of belief in respect of them nothing but an assent unto them as divinely credible and infallible truths. Neither can we conceive that the Ancient Greek Fathers of the Church could have any farther meaning in it, who make the whole body of the Creed to be of the same nature, as so many truths to be believed, acknowledged, and confessed; insomuch as sometimes they use not believing in*, neither for the Father, Son, nor Holy Ghost; sometimes using it as to them, they continue* the same to the following Articles of, the Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, &c. and generally* speak of the Creed as of nothing but mere matter of Faith, without any intimation of hope, love*, or any such notion included in it. So that believing in, by virtue of the phrase or manner of speech, whether we look upon the original use of it in the Hebrew, or the derivative in the Greek, or the sense of it in the first Christians in the Latin Church, can be of no farther real importance in the Creed in respect of God, who immediately follows, than to acknowledge and assert his being or existence. Nor ought this to be imagined a slender notion or small part of the first Article of our Faith, when it really is the foundation of this and all the rest; that as the Creed is fundamental in respect of other truths, this is the foundation* even of the fundamentals: For he that cometh to God must believe that he is. [Heb. 11:6] And this I take for a sufficient explication of the phrase, I believe in God, that is, I believe that God is.
As for the matter or truth contained in these words so explained, it admits a threefold consideration, first of the notion of God, what is here understood by that name; secondly; of the Existence of God, how we know or believe that he is; thirdly, the Unity of God, in that though there be gods many and lords many [1 Cor. 8:5], yet in our Creed we mention him as but one. When therefore we shall have clearly delivered what is the true notion of God in whom we believe, how and by what means we come to assure ourselves of the existence of such a Deity, and upon what grounds we apprehend him of such a transcendent nature that he can admit no competitor; then may we be conceived to have sufficiently explicated the former part of the first Article; then may every one understand what he says, and upon what grounds he proceeds, when he professeth, I believe in God.
The name of God is attributed unto many, but here is to be understood of him who by way of eminency and excellency bears that name, [Deut. 10:17, Ps. 136:2, Dan. 2:47, 11:36; Gen 14:18, 19, 20, 22; Rom. 9:5, Eph. 4:6] and therefore is styled God of gods; The Lord our God is God of gods, and Lord of lords : and in the same respect is called the most high God (others being bit inferior or [M18] under him), and God over or above all.* This eminency and excellency, by which these titles become proper unto him and incommunicable to any other, is grounded upon the divine nature or essence, which all other who are called gods have not, and therefore are not by nature gods. Then when ye knew not God, saith St. Paul, ye did service unto them which by nature are not gods. [Gal. 4:8] There is then a God by nature, and others which are called gods, but by nature are not so: for either they have no power at all, because no being, but only in the false opinions of deceived men, as the gods of the Heathen; or if they have any real power or authority, from whence some are called* Gods in the Scripture, yet have they it not from themselves or of their own nature, but from him who only hath immortality, [1 Tim. 6:16] and consequently only Divinity, and therefore is the only true God. [John 17:3] So that the notion of a Deity doth at last expressly signify a being or nature of infinite perfection*; and the infinite perfection of a nature or being consisteth in this, that it be absolutely and essentially necessary, an actual being of itself; and potential or causative of all beings beside itself, independent from any other, upon which all things else depend, and by which all things else are governed. It is true indeed that to give a perfect definition of God is impossible, neither can our finite reason hold any proportion with infinity: but yet a sense of this Divinity we have, and the first and common notion of it consists in these three particulars, that it is a Being of itself, and independent from any other; that it is that upon which all things which are made depend; that it governs all things. And this I conceive sufficient as to the first consideration, in reference to the notion of a God.
As for the existence of such a Being, how it comes to be known unto us, or by what means we are assured of it, is not so unanimously agreed upon, as that it is. For although some have imagined that the knowledge of a Deity is connatural to the Soul of man, so that every man hath a connate inbred notion of a God; yet I rather conceive the Soul of man to have no connatural knowledge at all, no particular notion of any thing in it from the beginning; but being we can have no assurance of its preexistence, we may more rationally judge it to receive the first apprehensions of things by sense, and by them to make all rational collections. If then the Soul of man be at the first like a fair smooth table, without any actual characters of knowledge imprinted in it; if all the knowledge which we have comes successively by sensation, instruction, and rational collection; then must we not refer the apprehension of a Deity to any connate notion or inbred opinion; at least we are assured God never chargeth us with the knowledge of him upon that account.
Again, although others do affirm, that the existence of God is a truth evident of itself, so as whosoever hears but these terms once named, that God is, cannot choose but acknowledge it for a certain and infallible truth upon the first apprehension; that as no man can deny that the whole is greater than any part, who knoweth only what is meant by whole, and what by part: so no man can possibly deny or doubt of the existence of God, who knows but what is meant by God, and what it is to be; yet can we not ground our knowledge of Godís existence upon any such clear and immediate evidence: nor were it safe to lay it upon such a ground, because whosoever should deny it, could not by this means be convinced; it being a very irrational way of instruction to tell a man that doubts of this truth, that he must believe it because it is evident unto him, when he knows that he therefore only doubts of it, because it is not evident unto him.
Although therefore that God is, be of itself an immediate, [M19] certain, necessary truth, yet must it be evidenced* and made apparent unto us by its connection unto other truths ; so that the being of the Creator may appear unto us by his Creature, and the dependency of inferior entities lead us to a clear acknowledgment of the supreme and independent Being. The wisdom of the Jews thought this method proper, [Wisd. of Sol. 13:5] for by the greatness and beauty of the creatures; proportionably the maker of them is seen: and not only they, but St. Paul hath taught us [Rom. 1:20] that* the invisible things of God from the Creation of the World are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal Power and Godhead. For if Phidias* could so contrive a piece of his own work, as in it to preserve the memory of himself, never to be obliterated without the destruction of the work, well may we read the great Artificer of the World in the works of his own hands, and by the existence of any thing demonstrate the first Cause of all things.
We find by the experience of ourselves that some things in this World have a beginning, before which they were not; the account of the years of our age sufficiently infer our nativities, and they our conceptions before which we had no being. Now if there be any thing which had a beginning, there must necessarily be something which had no beginning, because nothing can be a beginning to itself. Whatsoever is, must of necessity either have been made or not made; and something there must needs be which was never made, because all things cannot be made. For whatsoever is made is made by another, neither can any thing produce itself; otherwise it would follow, that the same thing is and is not at the same instant in the same respect; it is, because a producer; it is not, because to be produced: it is therefore in being, and is not in being; which is a manifest contradiction. If then all things which are made were [M20] made by some other, that other which produced them either was itself produced, or was not; and if not, then have we already an independent being; if it were, we must at last come to something which was never made, or else admit either a circle of productions, in which the effect shall make its own cause, or an infinite succession in causalities*, by which nothing will be made : both which are equally impossible. Something then we must confess was never made, something which never had beginning. And although these effects or dependent beings, singly considered by themselves, do not infer one supreme cause and maker of them all, yet the admirable order and connection of things skew as much;* and this one supreme Cause is God. For all things which we see or know have their existence for some end, which no man who considereth the uses and utilities of every species can deny. Now whatsoever is and hath its being for some end, of that the end for which it is must be thought the cause; and a final cause is no otherwise the cause of any thing than as it moves the efficient cause to work: from whence we cannot but collect a prime efficient Cause of all things, endued with infinite wisdom, who having a full comprehension of the ends of all, designed, produced, and disposed all things to those ends.
Again, as all things have their existence, so have they also their operations for some end;* and whatsoever worketh so, must needs be directed to it. Although then those creatures which are endued with reason, can thereby apprehend the goodness of the end for which they work, and make choice of such means as are proportionable and proper for the obtaining of it, and so by their own counsel direct themselves unto it: yet can we not conceive, that other natural Agents, whose operations flow from a bare instinct, can be directed in their actions by any counsel of their own. The stone doth not deliberate whether it shall descend, nor doth the wheat take counsel whether it shall grow or no. Even Men in natural actions use no act of deliberation: we do not advise how our heart shall beat, though without that pulse we cannot live ; when we have provided nutriment for our stomach, we take no counsel how it shall be digested there, or how the chyle is distributed to every part for the reparation of the whole; the mother which conceives takes no care how that conceptus shall be framed, how all the parts shall be distinguished, and by what means or ways the child shall grow within her womb: and yet all these operations are directed to their proper ends, and that with a greater reason, and therefore by a greater wisdom, than what proceeds from any thing of human understanding. What then can be more clear, than that those natural Agents which work constantly for those ends which they themselves cannot perceive, must be directed by some high and overruling Wisdom? and who can be their director in all their operations tending to those ends, but he which gave them their beings for those ends? and who is that, but the great Artificer who works in all of them? For Art is so far the imitation of Nature, that if it were not in the Artificer, but in the thing itself which by Art is framed, the works of Art and Nature would be the same.* Were that which frames a watch within it, and all those curious wheels wrought without the hand of Man, it would seem to grow into that form; nor would there be any distinction between the making of that watch, and the growing of a plant. Now what the Artificer is to works of Art, who orders and disposes them to other ends than by Nature they were made, that is the Maker of all things to all natural Agents, directing all their operations to ends which they cannot apprehend; and thus appears the Maker to be the Ruler of the World, the Steerer of this great Ship, the Law of this universal Commonwealth, the General of all the hosts of Heaven and Earth.* By these ways, as by the testimony of the Creature* we come to find an eternal and independent Being, upon which all things else depend, and by which all things else are governed; and this we have before supposed to be the first notion of God.
Neither is this any private collection or particular ratiocination, but the public and universal reason of the world. No age so distant, no country so remote, no people so barbarous, but gives a sufficient testimony of this truth.* When the Roman Eagle flew over most parts of the habitable world, they met with Atheism nowhere, but rather by their miscellany Deities at Rome, which grew together with their victories, they shewed no nation was without its God. And since the later art of navigation improved hath discovered another part of the world, with which no former commerce hath been known, although the customs of the people be much different, and their manner of Religion hold small correspondency with any in these parts of the world professed, yet in this all agree, that some religious observances they retain, and a Divinity they acknowledge. Or if any nation be discovered which maketh no profession of piety, and exerciseth no religious observances, it followeth not from thence that they acknowledge no God: for they may only deny his Providence, as the Epicureans did; or if any go farther, their numbers are so few, that they must be inconsiderable in respect of mankind. And therefore so much of the Creed hath been the general confession of all nations,* I believe in God. Which were it not a most certain truth grounded upon principles obvious unto all, what reason could we give of so universal a consent? or how can it be imagined, that all men should conspire to deceive themselves and their posterity?*
Nor is the reason only general, and the consent unto it universal, but God hath still preserved and quickened the worship due unto his name, by the patefaction of himself. Things which are to come are so beyond our knowledge, that the wisest man can but conjecture: and being we are assured of the contingency of future things, and our ignorance of the concurrence of several free causes to the production of an effect, we may be sure that certain and infallible predictions are clear divine patefactions. For none but he who made all things, and gave them power to work; none but he who ruleth all things, and ordereth and directeth all their operations to their ends; none but he upon whose will the actions of all things depend, can possibly be imagined to foresee the effects depending merely on those causes. And therefore by what means we may be assured of a Prophecy, by the same we may be secured of a Divinity. Except then all the annals of the world were forgeries, and all remarks of history designed to put a cheat upon posterity, we can have no pretence to suspect Godís existence, having so ample testimonies of his influence.
The works of Nature appear by observation uniform, and there is a certain sphere of every bodyís power and activity. If then any action be performed, which is not within the compass of the power of any natural agent; if any thing be wrought by the intervention of a body which beareth no proportion to it, or hath no natural aptitude so to work; it must be ascribed to a cause transcending all natural causes, and disposing all their operations. Thus every miracle proves its Author, and every act of Omnipotency is a sufficient demonstration of a Deity. And that man must be possessed with a strange opinion of the weakness of our fathers, and the testimony of all former ages, who shall deny that ever any miracle was wrought. We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what works thou didst in their days, in the times of old. [Ps. 44:1] Blessed be the Lord God, who only doth wondrous works. [Ps. 72:18]
Nor are we only informed by the necessary dependency of all things on God, as effects upon their universal cause, or his [M22] external patefactions unto others, and the consentient acknowledgment of mankind; but every particular person hath a particular remembrancer in himself, as a sufficient testimony of his Creator, Lord, and Judge. We know there is a great force of conscience in all men, by which their thoughts are ever accusing, or excusing them [Rom. 2:15]; they feel a comfort in those virtuous actions which they find themselves to have wrought according to their rule, a sting and secret remorse for all vicious acts and impious machinations. Nay those who strive most to deny a God, and to obliterate all sense of a Divinity out of their own souls, have not been least sensible of this remembrancer in their breasts. It is true indeed, that a false opinion of God, and a superstitious persuasion which hath nothing of the true God in it, may breed a remorse of conscience in those who think it true; and therefore some may hence collect that the force of conscience is only grounded upon an opinion of a Deity, and that opinion may be false. But if it be a truth, as the testimonies of the wisest Writers of most different persuasions, and experience of all sorts of persons of most various inclinations, do agree, that the remorse of conscience can never be obliterated, then it rather proveth than supposeth an opinion of a Divinity; and that man which most peremptorily denieth Godís existence, is the greatest argument himself that there is a God. Let Caligula profess himself an Atheist, and with that profession hide his head, or run under his bed, when the thunder strikes his ears, and lightning flashes in his eyes; those terrible works of nature put him in mind of the power, and his own guilt of the justice of God; whom while in his willful opinion he weakly denieth, in his involuntary action he strongly asserteth. So that a Deity will either be granted or extorted, and where it is not acknowledged it will be manifested. Only unhappy is that man who denies him to himself, and proves him to others; who will not acknowledge* his existence, of whose power he cannot be ignorant, God is not far from every one of us. The proper discourse of St. Paul to the Philosophers of Athens was, that they might feel after him and find him. [Acts 17:27] Some children have been so ungracious as to refuse to give the honour due unto their parent, but never any so irrational as to deny they had a father. As for those who have dishonoured God, it may stand most with their interest, and therefore they may wish there were none; but cannot consist with their reason to assert there is none, when even the very Poets of the Heathen have taught us that we are his offspring. [Acts 17:28]
It is necessary thus to believe there is a God, first, because there can be no Divine Faith without this belief. For all Faith is therefore only Divine, because it relieth upon the authority of God giving testimony to the object of it; but that which hath no being can have no authority, can give no testimony. The ground of his Authority is his Veracity, the foundations of his Veracity are his Omniscience and Sanctity, both which suppose his Essence and Existence, because what is not is neither knowing nor holy.
Secondly, it is necessary to believe a Deity, that thereby we may acknowledge such a nature extant as is worthy of, and may justly challenge from us, the highest worship and adoration. For it were vain to be religious and to exercise devotion, except there were a Being to which all such holy applications were most justly due. Adoration implies submission and dejection, so that while we worship we cast down ourselves: there must be therefore some great eminence in the object worshipped, or else we should dishonour our own nature in the worship of it. But when a Being is presented of that intrinsical and necessary perfection, that it depends on nothing, and all things else depend on that, and are wholly governed and disposed by it, this worthily calls us to our knees, and shews the humblest of our devotions to be but just and loyal retributions.
This necessary truth hath been so universally received, that we shall always find all nations of the world more prone unto Idolatry than to Atheism, and readier to multiply than deny the Deity. But our Faith teacheth us equally to deny them both, and each of them is renounced in these words, I believe in God. First, in God affirmatively, I believe he is, against Atheism. Secondly, in God exclusively, not in Gods, against Polytheism and Idolatry. Although therefore the existence and Unity offí God be two distinct truths, yet are they of so necessary dependence and intimate coherence, that both may be expressed by one word*, and included in one Article.*
And that the Unity of the Godhead is concluded in this Article is apparent, not only because the Nicene Council so expressed it by way of exposition, but also because this Creed in the churches of the East*, before the Council of Nice, had that addition in it, I believe in one God. We begin our Creed then, as Plato did his chief and prime epistles,* who gave this distinction to his friends, that the name of God was prefixed before those that were more serious and remarkable, but of Gods, in the plural, to such as were more vulgar and trivial. Unto thee it was shewed, saith Moses to Israel, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. [Deut. 4:35] And as the Law, so the Gospel teacheth us the same, We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and there is none other God but one. [1 Cor. 8:4] This Unity of the Godhead will easily appear as necessary as the existence, so that it must be as impossible there should be more Gods than one, as that there should be none; which will clearly be demonstrated, first, out of the nature of God, to which multiplication is repugnant; and, secondly, from the government as he is Lord, in which we must not admit confusion.
For first, the nature of God consists in this, that he is the prime and original cause of all things, as an independent Being upon which all things else depend, and likewise the ultimate end or final cause of all; but in this sense two prime causes are unimaginable, and for all things to depend of one, and to be more independent beings than one, is a clear contradiction. This primity God requires to be attributed to himself: Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. [Isa. 48:12] And from this primity he challengeth his Unity; Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts; I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God. [Isa. 44:6]
Again, if there were more Gods than one, then were not all perfections in one, neither formally, by reason of their distinction, nor eminently and virtually, for then one should have power to produce the other, and that nature which is producible is not divine. But all acknowledge God to be absolutely and infinitely perfect, in whom all perfections imaginable [M24] which are simply such must be contained formally, and all others which imply any mixture of imperfection, virtually.
But were no arguments brought from the infinite perfections of the divine nature able to convince us, yet were the consideration of his supreme dominion sufficient to persuade us. The will of God is infinitely free, and by that freedom doth he govern and dispose of all things. He doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, [Dan 4:35] said Nebuchadnezzar out of his experience; and St. Paul expresseth him as working all things after the counsel of his own will. [Eph. 1:11] If then there were more supreme Governors of the World than one, each of them absolute and free, they might have contrary determinations concerning the same thing, than which nothing can be more prejudicial unto government. God is a God of order, not confusion; and therefore of unity, not admitting multiplication. If it be better that the Universe* should be governed by one than many, we may be assured that it is so, because nothing must be conceived of God, but what is best. He therefore who made all things, by that right is Lord of all, and because all power is his,* he alone ruleth over all.
Now God is not only one, but hath an unity peculiar to himself,* by which he is the only God; and that not only by way of actuality, but also of possibility. Every individual man is one, but so as there is a second and a third, and consequently every one is part of a number, and concurring to a multitude. The Sun indeed is one; so as there is neither third nor second sun, at least within the same vortex: but though there be not, yet there might have been; neither in the unity of the solar nature is there any repugnancy to plurality; for that God which made this World, and in this the sun to rule the day, might have made another world by the same fecundity of his omnipotency, and another sun to rule in that. Whereas in the Divine Nature there is an intrinsical and essential singularity, because no other Being can have any existence but from that; and whatsoever essence hath its existence from another is not God. I am the Lord, saith he, and there is none else, there is no God besides me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. [Isa. 45:5, 6; Deut. 4:35 & 32:39; Ps. 18:31] He who hath infinite knowledge knoweth no other God beside himself. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God, I know not any. [Isa. 45:18, 21, 22 & 44:8] And we who believe in him, and desire to enjoy him, need for that end to know no other God but him: For this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God; as certainly One,* as God. [John 17:3]
It is necessary thus to believe the Unity of the Godhead, that being assured there is a nature worthy of our devotions, and [M25] challenging our religious subjection, we may learn to know whose that nature is to which we owe our adorations, lest our minds should wander and fluctuate in our worship about various and uncertain objects. If we should apprehend more Gods than one, I know not what could determinate us in any instant to the actual adoration of any one: for where no difference doth appear, (as, if there were many, and all by nature Gods, there could be none,) what inclination could we have, what reason could we imagine, to prefer or elect any one before the rest for the object of our devotions? Thus is it necessary to believe the Unity of God in respect of us who are obliged to worship him.
Secondly, It is necessary to believe the Unity of God in respect of him who is to be worshipped. Without this acknowledgment we cannot give unto God the things which are Godís, it being part of the worship and honour due unto God, to accept of no compartner with him. When the Law was given, in the observance whereof the religion of the Israelites consisted, the first precept was this prohibition, Thou shalt have no other gods before me [Exod. 20:3]; and whosoever violateth this, denieth the foundation on which all the rest depend, as the Jews* observe. This is the true reason of that strict precept by which all are commanded to give divine worship to God only, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve [Matt. 4:10]; because he alone is God: him only shalt thou fear, because he alone hath infinite power; in him only shalt thou trust, because he only is our rock and our salvation [Ps. 62:2] to him alone shalt thou direct thy devotions, because he only knoweth the hearts of the children of men. [2 Chron. 6:30] Upon this foundation the whole heart of man is entirely required of him, and engaged to him. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God. And (or rather, Therefore) thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. [Deut. 6:4, 5] Whosoever were truly and by nature God, could not choose but challenge our love upon the ground of an infinite excellency, and transcendent beauty of holiness; and therefore if there were more so Gods than one, our love must necessarily be terminated unto more than one*, and consequently divided between them; and as our love, so also the proper effect thereof; our cheerful and ready obedience, which, like the child propounded to the judgment of Solomon, as soon as it is divided, is destroyed. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. [Matt. 6:24]
Having thus described the first notion of a God, having demonstrated the Existence and Unity of that God, and having in these three particulars comprised all which can be contained in this part of the Article, we may now clearly deliver, and every particular Christian understand, what it is he says when he makes his confession in these words, I believe in God; which in correspondence with the precedent discourse may be thus expressed.
Forasmuch as by all things created is made known the eternal power and Godhead, [Rom. 1:20] and the dependency of all limited beings infers an infinite and independent essence; whereas all things are for some end, and all their operations directed to it, although they cannot apprehend that end for which they are, and in prosecution of which they work, and therefore must be guided by some universal and overruling wisdom; being this collection is so evident, that all the nations of the earth have made it; being God hath not only written himself in the lively characters of his creatures, but hath also made frequent patefactions of his Deity by most infallible predictions and supernatural operations; therefore I fully assent unto, freely acknowledge, and clearly profess this truth, that there is a God.
Again, being a prime and independent Being supposeth all other to depend, and consequently no other to be God; being the entire fountain of all perfections is incapable of a double head, and the most perfect government of the Universe speaks the supreme dominion of one absolute Lord; hence do I acknowledge that God to be but one, and in this Unity, or rather singularity of the Godhead, excluding all actual or possible multiplication of a Deity, I believe in God.
I believe in God the Father.
After the confession of a Deity, and assertion of the Divine Unity, the next consideration is concerning Godís Paternity; for that one God is Father of all, and to us there is but one God, the Father. [Eph. 4:6, 1 Cor. 8:6]
Now, although the Christian notion of the divine Paternity be some way peculiar to the evangelical patefaction; yet wheresoever* God hath been acknowledged, he hath been understood and worshipped as a Father: the very Heathen Poets* so describe their gods, and their vulgar names did carry Father in them* as the most popular and universal notion.
This name of Father is a relative; and the proper foundation of Paternity, as of a relation, is Generation. As therefore the phrase of generating is diversely attributed unto several acts of the same nature with generation properly taken, or by consequence attending on it: so the title of Father is given unto divers persons or things, and for several reasons unto the same God. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, saith Moses. [Gen. 2:4] So that the creation or production of any thing by which it is, and before it was not, is a kind of generation, and consequently the creator or producer of it a kind of Father. Hath, the rain a Father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? [Job 38:28] By which words Job signifies, that as there is no other cause assignable of the rain but God, so may he as the cause be called the Father of it, though not in the most proper sense,* as he is the Father of his Son: and so the Philosophers of old,* who thought that God did make the world, called him expressly, as the Maker, so the Father of it. And thus to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom, are all things; [1 Cor. 8:6] to which the words following in the Creed may seem to have relation, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. But in this mass of Creatures and body of the Universe, some works of the creation more properly call him Father, as being more rightly Sons: such are all the rational and intellectual offspring of the Deity. Of merely natural beings and irrational agents he is the Creator;* of rational, as so, the [M27] Father also; they are his Creatures, these his Sons. Hence he is styled the Father of Spirits, [Heb. 12:9] and the blessed Angels, when he laid the foundations of the earth, his Sons; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy [Job 38:7]: hence Man, whom he created after his own image, is called his offspring, [Acts 17:28] and Adam, the immediate work of his hands, the Son of God [Luke 3:38]: hence may we all cry out with the Israelites taught by the Prophet so to speak, Have we not all one Father; hath not one God created us? [Mal. 2:10] Thus the first and most universal notion of Godís Paternity, in a borrowed or metaphorical sense, is founded rather upon Creation than Procreation.
Unto this act of Creation is annexed that of Conservation, by which God doth uphold and preserve in being that which at first he made, and to which he gave its being. As therefore it is the duty of the parent to educate and preserve the child, as that which had its being from him; so this paternal education doth give the name of Father* unto man, and conservation gives the same to God.
Again, Redemption from a state of misery, by which a people hath become worse than nothing, unto a happy condition, is a kind of Generation, which joined with love, care, and indulgence in the Redeemer, is sufficient to found a new Paternity, and give him another title of a Father. Well might Moses tell the people of Israel, now brought out of the land of Egypt from their brick and straw, unto their quails and manna, unto their milk and honey, Is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? [Deut. 32:6] Well might God speak unto the same people as to his Son, even his firstborn, Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb; Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb. [Isa. 44:24, 46:3] And just is the acknowledgment made by that people instructed by the Prophet, Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, from everlasting is thy name. [Isa. 63:16] And thus another kind of paternal relation of God unto the sons of men is founded on a restitution or temporal redemption.
Besides, if to be born causeth a relation to a Father, then to be born again maketh an addition of another: and if to generate foundeth, then to regenerate addeth a Paternity. Now though we cannot enter the second time into our motherís womb, nor pass through the same door into the scene of life again; yet we believe and are persuaded, that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. A double birth there is, and the world consists of two, the first and the second man.* And though the incorruptible seed be the Word of God, and the dispensers of it in some sense may say, as St. Paul spake unto the Corinthians [1 Cor. 4:15], I have begotten you through the Gospel: yet he is the true Father, whose word it is, and that is God, even the Father of lights, who of his own will begat us with the word of truth. [Jam. 1:17, 18] Thus whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; [1 John 5:1] which Regeneration is as it were a second Creation; for we are Godís workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. [Eph. 2:10] And he alone who did create us out of nothing, can [M28] beget us again, and make us of the new creation. When Rachel called to Jacob, Give me children, or else I die [Gen. 30:1, 2], he answered her sufficiently with this question, Am I in Godís stead? And if he only openeth the womb, who else can make the Soul*4 to bear? Hence hath he the name of Father, and they of Sons, who are born of him; and so from that internal act of spiritual Regeneration another title of Paternity redoundeth unto the Divinity.
Nor is this the only second birth or sole Regeneration in a Christian sense; the Soul, which after its natural being requires a birth into the life of Grace, is also after that born again into a life of Glory. [Matt. 19:28] Our Saviour puts us in mind of the Regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory. The resurrection of our bodies is a kind of coming out of the womb of the earth and entering upon immortality, a nativity into another life. [Luke 20:35, 36] For they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, are the sons of God, being the sons of the resurrection; and then as sons they become heirs, co-heirs with Christ, receiving the promise and reward of eternal inheritance. [Rom. 8:17, Col. 3:24, Heb 9:15] Beloved, now we are the sons of God, saith St. John [1 John 3:2], even in this life by regeneration, and it doth not yet appear, or, it hath not been yet made manifest,* what we shall be; but we know, that if he appear, we shall be like him; the manifestation of the Father being a sufficient declaration of the condition of the sons, when the sonship itself consisteth in a similitude of the Father. And, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection, of Jesus Christ from the dead; to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. [1 Pet. 1:3, 4] Why may not then a second kind of regeneration be thought a fit addition of this paternal relation?
Neither is there only a natural, but also a voluntary and civil foundation of Paternity; for the laws have found a way by which a man may become a father without procreation: and this imitation of nature is called adoption,* taken in the general signification.* Although therefore many ways God be a Father, yet lest any way might seem to exclude us from being his sons, he hath made us so also by adoption. Others are wont to fly to this, as to a comfort of their solitary condition, when either nature* hath denied them, or death bereft them of their offspring. Whereas God doth it not for his own, but for our sakes; nor is the advantage his, but ours. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God [1 John 3:1]; that we, the sons of disobedient and condemned Adam by natural generation, should be translated into the glorious liberty of the sons of God by adoption; that we, who were aliens, strangers, and enemies, should be assumed unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all the family* in heaven and earth is named, [Eph. 3:14, 15] and be made partakers of the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. [Eph. 1:18] For as in the legal adoption, the father hath as full and absolute* power over his adopted son, as over his own issue; so in the spiritual, the adopted sons have a clear and undoubted right of inheritance. [M29] He then who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, [Eph. 1:5] hath thereby another kind of paternal relation, and so we receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. [Rom. 8:15]
The necessity of this faith in God as in our Father appeareth, first, in that it is the ground of all our filial fear, honour, and obedience due unto him upon this relation. Honour thy father, is the first commandment with promise, [Eph. 6:1, 2] written in tables of stone with the finger of God; and, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, is an evangelical precept, but founded upon principles of reason and justice; for this is right, saith St. Paul. And if there be such a rational and legal obligation of honour and obedience to the fathers of our flesh, how much more must we think ourselves obliged to him whom we believe to be our heavenly and everlasting Father! [Mal. 1:6] A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is my honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts. If we be heirs, we must be co-heirs with Christ; if sons, we must be brethren to the only-begotten; but being he came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him, he acknowledgeth no fraternity but with such as do the same; as he hath said, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother. [Matt. 12:50] If it be required of a bishop in the church of God to be one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; what obedience must be due, what subjection must be paid, unto the father of the family!
The same relation in the object of our faith is the life of our devotions, the expectation of all our petitions. Christ, who taught his disciples, and us in them, how to pray, propounded not the knowledge of God, though without that he could not hear us; neither represented he his power, though without that he cannot help us; but comprehended all in this relation, When ye pray, say, Our Father. [Luke 11:2] This prevents all vain repetitions of our most earnest desires, and gives us full security to cut off all tautology, for our Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask him. [Matt. 6:8] This creates a clear assurance of a grant without mistake of our petition: [Matt 7:9, 10, 11] What man is there of us, who if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? or if he ask fish, will give him a serpent?* If we then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!
Again, this Paternity is the proper foundation of our Christian patience, sweetening all afflictions with the name and nature of fatherly corrections.* We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall; we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? [Heb. 12:9, 10] especially considering, that they chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness: they, as an argument of their authority; he, as an assurance of his love; they, that we might acknowledge them to be our parents; he, that he may persuade us that we are his sons: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [Heb. 12:6] And what greater incitement unto the exercise of patience is imaginable unto a suffering soul, than to see in every stroke the hand of a Father, in every affliction a demonstration of his love? Or how canst thou repine, or be guilty of the least degree of impatiency, even in the sharpest corrections, if thou shalt know with thine heart, that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee? [Deut. 8:5] How canst thou not be comforted, and even rejoice in the midst of thy greatest sufferings, when thou knowest that he which striketh pitieth, he which afflicteth is as it were afflicted with it? For like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. [Ps. 103:13]
[M30] Lastly, the same relation strongly inferreth an absolute necessity of our imitation; it being clearly vain to assume the title of son without any similitude of the Father. What is the general notion of generation but the production of the like;* nature, ambitious of perpetuity, striving to preserve the species in the multiplication and succession of individuals? And this similitude consisteth partly in essentials, or the likeness of nature; partly in accidentals, or the likeness in figure* or affections.* Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image [Gen. 5:3]: and can we imagine those the sons of God which are no way like him? a similitude of nature we must not, of figure we cannot pretend unto: it remains then only that we bear some likeness in our actions and affections. Be ye therefore followers, saith the Apostle, or rather imitators* of God, as dear children. [Eph. 5:1] What he hath revealed of himself, that we must express within ourselves. Thus God spake unto the children of Israel, whom he styled his Son, Ye shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44, 19:2, 20:7] And the Apostle upon the same ground speaketh unto us, as to obedient children, As he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. [1 Pet. 1:15] It is part of the general beneficence and universal goodness of our God, that he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the in good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. [Matt. 5:44] These impartial beams and undistinguishing showers are but to shew us what we ought to do, and to make us fruitful in the works of God; for no other reason Christ hath given us this command, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.* No other command did he give upon this ground, but, Be ye therefore merciful as your Father is merciful. [Luke 6:36]
So necessary is this faith in God, as in our Father, both for direction to the best of actions, and for consolation in the worst of conditions.
But although this be very necessary, yet is it not the principal or most proper explication of Godís paternity. For as we find one person in a more peculiar manner the Son of God, so must we look upon God as in a more peculiar manner the Father of that Son. [John 20:17] I ascend unto my Father, and your Father,* saith our Saviour; the same of both, but in a different manner, denoted by the article prefixed before the one, and not the other: which distinction in the original we may preserve by this translation, I ascend unto the Father of me, and Father of you; first of me, and then of you: not therefore his, because ours; but therefore ours, because his. So far we are the sons of God, as we are like unto him; and our similitude unto God consisteth in our conformity to the likeness of his Son. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. [Rom. 8:29] He the firstborn, and we sons, as brethren unto him: he appointed heir of all things, [Heb. 1:2] and we heirs of God, as joint-heirs with him. [Rom. 8:17] Thus God sent forth his Son, that we might receive the adoption of sons.* And because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. [Gal. 4:4, 5, 6] By his mission are we [M31] adopted, and by his Spirit call we God our Father. So are we no longer servants, but now sons; and if sons, then heirs of God, [Gal. 4:7] but still through Christ. [Heb. 2:11] It is true indeed, that both he that sanctifieth, that is, Christ, and they who are sanctified, that is, faithful Christians, are all of one, the same Father, the same God; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren: yet are they not all of him after the same manner,* not the many sons like the Captain of their salvation [Heb. 2:10]: but Christ the beloved, the firstborn, the only-begotten, the Son after more peculiar and more excellent manner; the rest with relation unto, and dependence on his sonship; as given unto him: Behold I, and the children which God hath given me [Isa. 8:18, Heb. 2:13]: as being so by faith in him; For we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus: [Gal. 3:26] as receiving the right of sonship from him; For as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. [John 1:12] Among all the sons of God there is none like to that one Son of God.* And if there be so great a disparity in the filiation, we must make as great a difference in the correspondent relation. There is one degree of sonship founded on creation, and that is the lowest, as belonging unto all, both good and bad: another degree above that there is grounded upon regeneration, or adoption, belonging only to the truly faithful in this life: and a third above the rest founded on the resurrection, or collation of the eternal inheritance, and the similitude of God, appertaining to the saints alone in the world to come: For we are now the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him. [1 John 3:2] And there is yet another degree of filiation, of a greater eminency and a different nature, appertaining properly to none of these, but to the true Son of God alone, who amongst all his brethren hath only received the title of his own son,* [Rom 8:32] and a singular testimony from Heaven, This is my beloved Son, [Matt. 3:17, 17:5] even*in the presence of John the Baptist, even in the midst of Moses and Elias, (who are certainly the sons of God by all the other three degrees of filiation,) [John 5:18, Rom. 8:32, 2 Cor. 11:31] and therefore hath called God after a peculiar way his own Father. And so at last we come unto the most singular and eminent paternal relation, unto the God and; Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore; Father of him, and of us, but not the Father of us as of him.* Christ hath taught us to say, Our Father: a form of speech which he never used himself; sometimes he calls him the Father; sometimes my Father, sometimes your, but never our: he makes no such conjunction of us to himself, as to make no distinction between us and himself; so conjoining us as to distinguish, though so distinguishing as not to separate us.
Indeed I conceive this, as the most eminent notion of Godís Paternity, so to be the original and proper explication of this Article of the Creed: and that not only because the ancient fathers deliver no other exposition of it; but also because that which I conceive to be the first occasion, rise, and original of the Creed itself, requireth this as the proper interpretation. Immediately before the ascension of our Saviour, he said unto his Apostles, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [M32] Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [Mat. 28:18, 19] From this sacred form of Baptism did the Church derive the rule of Faith,* requiring the profession of belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before they could be baptized in their name. When the Eunuch asked Philip, What doth hinder me to be baptized? Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest: [Acts 8:36, 37, 38] and when the Eunuch replied, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; he baptized him. And before that, the Samaritans, when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, were baptized, both men and women. [Acts 8:12] For as in the Acts of the Apostles there is no more expressed than that they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ: so is no more expressed of the faith required in them who were to be baptized, than to believe in the same name. But being the Father and the Holy Ghost were likewise mentioned in the first institution, being the expressing of one doth not exclude the other, being it is certain that from the Apostlesí times the names of all three were used; hence upon the same ground was required faith, and a profession of belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Again, as the Eunuch said not simply, I believe in the Son, but I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, as a brief explication of that part of the institution which he had learned before of Philip: so they who were converted unto Christianity were first taught, not the bare names, but the explications and descriptions of them in a brief, easy, and familiar way; which when they had rendered, acknowledged, and professed, they were baptized in them. And these being regularly and constantly used, made up the rule of Faith, that is, the Creed. The truth of which may sufficiently be made apparent to any, who shall seriously consider the constant practice of the Church, from the first age unto this present, of delivering the rule of Faith to those which were to be baptized, and so requiring of themselves, or their sureties, an express recitation, profession, or acknowledgment of the Creed. From whence this observation is properly deducible; That in what sense the name of Father is taken in the form of Baptism, in the same it also ought to be taken in this Article. And being nothing can be more clear than that, when it is said, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the notion of Father hath in this particular no other relation but to that Son whose name is joined with his: and as we are baptized into no other Son of that Father, but that only-begotten Christ Jesus, so into no other Father, but the Father of that only-begotten: it followeth, that the proper explication of the first words of the Creed is this: I believe in God the Father of Christ Jesus.
In vain then is that vulgar distinction applied unto the explication of the Creed, whereby the Father is considered both personally and essentially: personally, as the first in the glorious Trinity, with relation and opposition to the Son; essentially, as comprehending the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For that the Son is not here comprehended in the Father is evident, not only out of the original, or occasion, but also from the very letter of the Creed, which teacheth us to believe in God the Father, and in his Son; for if the Son were included in the Father, then were the Son the Father of himself. As therefore when I say, I believe in Jesus Christ his Son, I must necessarily understand the Son of that Father whom I mentioned in the first [M33] Article; so when I said, I believe in God the Father, I must as necessarily be understood of the Father* of him, whom I call his Son in the second Article.
Now as it cannot be denied that God may several ways be said to be the Father of Christ; first, [Luke 1:35, John 10:35, 36; 1:49, 50] as he was begotten by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; secondly, as he was sent by him with special authority, as the king of Israel; thirdly, as he was raised from the dead, out of the womb of the earth unto immortal life, and made heir of all things in his Fatherís house: [Acts 13:32, 33] so must we not doubt but, beside all these, God is the Father of that Son in a more eminent and peculiar manner, [John 1:1] as he is and ever was with God, and God: which shall be demonstrated fully in the second Article, when we come to shew how Christ is the only begotten Son. And according unto this paternity by way of generation totally Divine, in which he who begetteth is God, and he which is begotten, the same God, do we believe in God, as the eternal Father of an eternal Son. Which relation is coeval with his essence: so that we are not to imagine one without the other; but as we profess him always God, so must we acknowledge him always Father,* and that in a far more proper manner than the same title can be given to any creature.* Such is the fluctuant condition of human generation, and of those relations which arise from thence, that he which is this day a son, the next may prove a father, and within the space of one day more, without any real alteration in himself, become neither son nor father, losing one relation by the death of him that begot him, and the other by the departure of him that was begotten by him. But in the Godhead these relations are more proper,* because fixed, the Father having never been a Son, the Son never becoming Father, in reference to the same kind of generation.
A farther reason of the propriety of Godís Paternity appears from this, that he hath begotten a Son of the same nature and essence with himself, not only specifically, but individually, as I shall also demonstrate in the exposition of the second Article. For generation being the production of the like, and that likeness being the similitude of substance;* where is the nearest identity of nature, there must be also the most proper generation, and consequently he which generateth, the most proper Father. If therefore man, who by the benediction of God given unto him at his first creation in these words, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth [Gen. 1:28], begetteth a son in his own likeness, after his image, [Gen. 5:3] that is, of the same human nature, of the same substance with him, (which if he did not, he should not according to the benediction multiply himself or man at all,) with which similitude of nature many accidental disparities may consist Ė if by this act of generation he obtaineth the name of Father, because, and in regard, of the similitude of his nature in the Son, how much more properly must that name belong unto God himself, who hath begotten a Son of a nature and essence so totally like, so totally the same, that no accidental disparity can imaginably consist with that identity!
[M34] That God is the proper and eternal Father of his own eternal Son is now declared: what is the eminency or excellency of this relation followeth to be considered. In general then we may safely observe, that in the very name* of Father there is something of eminence which is not in that of Son; and some kind of priority we must ascribe unto him whom we call the first, in respect of him whom we term the second Person; and as we cannot but ascribe it, so must we endeavour to preserve it.*
Now that privilege or priority* consisteth not in this, that the essence or attributes of the one are greater than the essence or attributes of the other, (for we shall hereafter demonstrate them to be the same in both); but only in this, that the Father hath that essence of himself, the Son by communication from the Father. From whence he acknowledgeth that he is from him, [John 7:29, 6:57, 5:26], that he liveth by him, that the Father gave him to have life in himself, and generally referreth all things to him, as received from him. Wherefore in this sense some of the ancients have not stuck to interpret those words, The Father is greater than I,* [John 14:28] of Christ as the Son of God, as the second person in the blessed Trinity; but still with reference not unto his essence, but his generation, by which he is understood to have his being from the Father, who only hath it of himself, and is the original of all power and essence in the Son. I can of mine own self do nothing, [John 5:30] saith our Saviour, because he is not of himself;* and whosoever receives his being, must receive his power from another, especially where the essence and the power are undeniably the same, as in God they are. The Son then can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do, [John 5:19] because he hath no power? of himself, but what the Father gave; and being he [M35] gave him all the power, as communicating his entire and undivided essence, therefore what things soever he doth, these also doth the Son likewise, by the same power by which the Father worketh, because he had received the same Godhead in which the Father subsisteth. There is nothing more intimate and essential to any thing than the life thereof, and that in nothing so conspicuous as in the Godhead, where life and truth are so inseparable, that there can be no living God but the true, no true God but the living. The Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting King, saith the Prophet Jeremy [Jer. 10:10]; and St. Paul putteth the Thessalonians in mind, how they turned from idols, to serve the living and true God. [1 Thess. 1:9] Now life is otherwise in God than in the creatures; in him originally, in them derivatively; in him as in the fountain of absolute perfection, in them by way of dependence and participation; our life is in him, but his is in himself; and as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself:* [John 5:26] both the same life, both in themselves, both in the same degree, as the one, so the other;* but only with this difference, the Father giveth it, and the Son receiveth it. From whence he professeth of himself, that the living Father sent him, and that he liveth by* the Father. [John 6:57]
We must not therefore so far endeavour to involve ourselves in the darkness of this mystery, as to deny that glory which is clearly due unto the Father; whose preeminence undeniably consisteth in this, that he is God not of any other, but of himself, and that there is no other person who is God, but is God of him. It is no diminution to the Son, to say he is from another, for his very name imports as much; but it were a diminution to the Father to speak so of him: and there must be some preeminence, where there is place for derogation. What the Father is, he is from none;* what the Son is, he is from him: what the first is, he giveth; what the second is, he receiveth. The first is a Father indeed by reason of his Son, but he is not God by reason of him; whereas the Son is not so only in regard of the Father, but also God by reason of the same.
[M36] Upon this preeminence (as I conceive) may safely be grounded the congruity of the divine mission. We often read that Christ was sent, from whence he bears the name of an Apostle himself, [Heb. 3:1] as well as those whom he therefore named so, because as the Father sent him, so sent he them: [John 20:21] the Holy Ghost is also said to be sent, sometimes by the Father, sometimes by the Son: but we never read that the Father was sent at all,* there being an authority* in that name which seems inconsistent with this mission. In the parable [Matt. 21:33, &c.] a certain householder which planted a vineyard, first sent his servants to the husbandmen, and again other servants; but last of all he sent unto them his son: it had been inconsistent even with the literal sense of an historical parable as not at all consonant to the rational customs of men, to have said that last of all the Son sent his Father to them. So God, placing man in the vineyard of his Church, first sent his servants the Prophets, by whom he spake at sundry times and in divers manners, [Heb. 1:1, 2] but in the last days he sent his Son: and it were as incongruous* and inconsistent with the divine generation, that the Son should send the Father into the world. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, saith our Saviour [John 6:57]: intimating, that by whom he lived, by him he was sent, and therefore sent by him, because he lived by him, laying his generation as the proper ground of his mission. Thus he which begetteth sendeth, and he which is begotten is sent.* For I am from him, and he hath sent me, [John 7:29] saith the Son: from whom I received my essence by communication, from him also received I this commission. As therefore it is more worthy to give than to receive, to send than to be sent; so in respect of the sonship there is some priority in the divine Paternity: from whence divers of the ancients read that place of St. John with this addition, The Father (which sent me) is greater than I. [John 14:28] He then is that God who sent forth his Son made of a woman, that God who hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. [Gal. 4:4, 6] So that the authority of sending is in the Father: which therefore ought to be acknowledged, because upon this mission is founded the highest testimony of his love to man; for herein is love, saith St. John, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [1 John 4:10]
Again, the dignity of the Father will farther yet appear from the order of the Persons in the blessed Trinity, of which he is undoubtedly the first. For although in some passages of the Apostolical discourses the Son may first be named, (as in that of St. Paul, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all, [2 Cor. 13:14] the latter part of which is nothing but an addition unto his constant benediction,) and in others the Holy Ghost precedes the Son (as, Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all [1 Cor. 12:4, 5, 6]); yet where the three persons are barely enumerated, and [M37] delivered unto us as the rule of faith,* there that order is observed which is proper to them; witness the form of baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; which order hath been perpetuated in all confessions of faith, and is for ever inviolably to be observed.* For that which is not instituted or invented by the will or design of man, but founded* in the nature of things themselves, is not to be altered at the pleasure of man. Now this priority doth properly and naturally result from the divine Paternity; so that the Son must necessarily be second* unto the Father, from whom he receiveth his origination, and the Holy Ghost unto the Son. Neither can we be thought to want a sufficient foundation for this priority of the first Person of the Trinity, if we look upon the numerous testimonies of the ancient doctors of the Church, who have not stuck to call the Father the origin,* the cause,* [M38] the author,* the root,* the fountain,* and the head* of the Son, or the whole Divinity.
For by these titles it appeareth clearly, first, that they made a considerable difference between the Person of the Father, of whom are all things, [1 Cor. 8:6] and the Person of the Son, by whom are all things. Secondly, that the difference consisteth properly in this, that as the branch is from the root, and river from the fountain, and by their origination from them receive that being which they have; whereas the root receiveth nothing from the branch, or fountain from the river: so the Son is from the Father, receiving his subsistence by generation from him; the Father is not from the Son, as being what he is from none.
Some indeed of the ancients may seem to have made yet a farther difference between the Persons of the Father and the Son, laying upon that relation terms of greater opposition. As if, because the Son hath not his essence from himself, the Father* had; because he was not begotten of himself, the Father* had been so; because he is not the cause of himself, the Father*were. Whereas, if we speak properly, God the Father hath [M39] neither his being from another, nor from himself;* not from another, that were repugnant to his Paternity; not from himself, that were a contradiction in itself. And therefore those expressions are not to be understood positively and affirmatively, but negatively and exclusively,* that he hath his essence from none, that he is not begotten of any, nor hath he any cause of his existence. So that the proper notion of the Father in whom we believe is this, that he is a Person subsisting eternally in the one infinite essence of the Godhead; which essence or subsistence he hath received from no other Person, but hath communicated the same essence, in which himself subsisteth, by generation to another person, who by that generation is the Son.
Howsoever, it is most reasonable to assert that there is but one Person who is from none; and the very generation of the Son and procession of the Holy Ghost undeniably prove, that neither of those two can be that Person. For whosoever is generated is from him which is the genitor, and whosoever proceedeth is from him from whom he proceedeth, whatsoever the nature of the generation or procession be. It followeth therefore that this Person is the Father, which name speaks nothing of dependence, nor supposeth any kind of priority in another.
From hence it is observed that the name of God, taken absolutely,* is often in the Scriptures spoken of the Father: as when we read of God sending his only Son; of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God; and generally wheresoever Christ is called the Son of God, or the Word of God, the name of God is to be taken particularly for the Father, because he is no Son but of the Father. From hence he is styled one God, the true God, the only true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom. 8:3, 2 Cor. 13:14, 1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 4:6, 1 Thess. 1:9, John 17:5, 2 Cor. 1:3, Eph. 1:3]
Which, as it is most true, and so fit to be believed, is also a most necessary truth, and therefore to be acknowledged, for the avoiding multiplication and plurality of Gods.* For if there were more than one which were from none, it could not be denied but there were more Gods than one. Wherefore this origination* in the Divine Paternity hath anciently been looked upon as the assertion of the Unity: and therefore the Son and Holy Ghost have been believed to be but one God with the Father, because both from the Father, who is one, and so the union of them.*
Secondly, It is necessary thus to believe in the Father, because our salvation is propounded to us by an access unto the Father. We are all gone away and fallen from God, and we must be brought to him again. There is no other notion under which we can be brought to God as to be saved, but the notion of the Father; and there is no other person can bring us to the Father, but the Son of that Father: for, as the Apostle teacheth us, through him we have an access by one Spirit unto the Father. [Eph. 2:18]
[M41] Having thus described the true nature and notion of the Divine Paternity, in all the several degrees and eminencies belonging to it, I may now clearly deliver, and every particular Christian understand, what it is he speaks, when he makes his confession in these words, I believe in God the Father: by which I conceive him to express thus much:
As I am assured that there is an infinite and independent Being, which we call a God, and that it is impossible there should be more infinities than one: so I assure myself that this one God is the Father of all things, especially of all men and angels, so far as the mere act of creation may be styled generation; that he is farther yet, and in a more peculiar manner, the Father of all those whom he regenerateth by his Spirit, whom he adopteth in his Son, as heirs and co-heirs with him, whom he crowneth with the reward of an eternal inheritance in the heavens. But beyond and far above all this, beside his general offspring, and peculiar people, to whom he hath given power to become the sons of God, [John 1:12] I believe him the Father, in a more eminent and transcendent manner, of one singular and proper Son, his own, his beloved, his only-begotten Son: whom he hath not only begotten of the blessed Virgin, by the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the overshadowing of his power; not only sent with special authority as the King of Israel; not only raised from the dead, and made Heir of all things in his house; but antecedently to all this, hath begotten him by way of eternal generation in the same Divinity and Majesty with himself: by which Paternity, coeval to the Deity, I acknowledge him always Father, as much as always God. And in this relation, I profess that eminency and priority, that as he is the original cause of all things as created by him, so is he the fountain of the Son begotten of him, and of the Holy Ghost proceeding from him.
I believe in God the Father Almighty.
After the relation of Godís Paternity, immediately followeth the glorious attribute of his Omnipotency:* that as those in heaven in their devotions, so we on earth in our confessions might acknowledge that Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come [Rev. 4:8]; that in our solemn meetings at the Church of God, with the joint expression and concurring language of the congregation, we might some way imitate that [Rev. 19:6] voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Allelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.*
This notion of almighty in the Creed must certainly be interpreted according to the sense which the original word beareth in the New Testament; and that cannot be better understood than by the Greek writers or interpreters of the Old, especially when the notion itself belongs unto the Gospel and the Law indifferently. Now the word which we translate almighty* the most ancient Greek interpreters used sometimes for the title of God, the Lord of Hosts, sometimes for his name Shaddai, as generally [M42] in the book of Job: by the first they seem to signify the rule and dominion which God hath over all; by the second, the strength, force, or power by which he is able to perform all things. The heavens and the earth were finished, saith Moses [Gen. 2:1], and all the host of them: and he which begun them, he which finished them, is the Ruler and Commander of them. Upon the right of creation doth he justly challenge this dominion. [Isa. 14:12] I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. And on this dominion or command doth he raise the title of the Lord of Hosts: which, though preserved in the original language* both by St. Paul and St. James, yet by St. John is turned into that word which we translate almighty. Wherefore from the use of the sacred Writers, from the notation* of the word in Greek, and from the testimony of the ancient Fathers,* we may well ascribe unto God the Father, in the explication of this Article, the dominion over all, and the rule and government of all.
This authority or power properly potestative is attributed unto God in the sacred Scriptures; from whence those names* or titles which most aptly and fully express dominion, are frequently given unto him; and the rule, empire, or government of the world is acknowledged to be wholly in him, as necessarily following that natural and eternal right of dominion. [Luke 12:5, Acts 1:7, Jude 25, Rev. 5:13]
What the nature of this authoritative power is, we shall the more clearly understand, if we first divide it into three degrees or branches of it; the first whereof we may conceive, a right of making and framing any thing which he willeth, in any manner as it pleaseth him, according to the absolute freedom of his own will; the second, a right of having and possessing all things so made and framed by him, as his own, properly belonging to him, as to the Lord and Master of them, by virtue of direct dominion; the third, a right of using and disposing all things so in his possession, according to his own pleasure. The first of these we mention only for the necessity of it, and the dependence of the other two upon it. Godís actual dominion being no otherways necessary, than upon supposition of a precedent act of creation; because nothing, before it hath a being, can belong to any one, neither can any propriety be imagined in that which hath no entity.
But the second branch or absolute dominion of this Almighty is farther to be considered in the independency and infinity of it. First, it is independent in a double respect, in reference both to the original, and the use thereof. For God hath received no [M43] authority from any, because he hath all power originally in himself, and hath produced all things by the act of his own will, without any commander, counselor, or coadjutor. Neither doth the use or exercise of this dominion depend upon any one, so as to receive any direction or regulation, or to render any account of the administration of it; as being illimited, absolute, and supreme, and so the fountain from whence all dominion in any other is derived. Wherefore he being the God of Gods, is also the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, the only Potentate; because he alone hath all the power of himself, and whosoever else hath any, hath it from him, either by donation or permission. [Deut. 10:17, Ps. 136:3, 1 Tim. 6:15]
The infinity of Godís dominion, if we respect the object, appears in the amplitude or extension; if we look upon the manner, in the plenitude or perfection; if we consider the time, in the eternity of duration. [2 Mac. 15:29] The amplitude of the object is sufficiently evidenced by these appellations which the holy writ ascribeth unto the Almighty, calling him the Lord of heaven, the Lord of the whole earth, the Lord of heaven and earth; under which two are comprehended all things both in heaven and earth. This Moses taught the distrusting Israelites in the wilderness: Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lordís thy God, the earth also with all that is therein. With these words David glorifieth God: The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine; so acknowledging his dominion; as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them: so expressing the foundation or ground of that dominion. And yet more fully at the dedication of the offerings for the building of the Temple, to shew that what they gave was of his own, he saith, Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all.* If then we look upon the object of Godís dominion, it is of that amplitude and extension, that it includeth and comprehendeth all things: so that nothing can be imagined which is not his, belonging to him as the true owner and proprietor, and subject wholly to his will as the sole governor and disposer: in respect of which universal power we must confess him to be Almighty. [Dan. 5:23, Josh. 3:11, 13; Ps. 97:5, Mic. 4:13, Zech.4:14, 6:5; Matt. 11:25, Acts 17:24, Deut. 10:14, Ps. 89:11, 1 Chron. 29:11, 12; 29:14]
If we consider the manner and nature of this power, the plenitude thereof or perfection will appear; for as in regard of the extension, he hath power over all things; so in respect of the intension,* he hath all power over every thing, as being absolute and supreme. This God challenged to himself, when he catechized the Prophet Jeremy in a potterís house, saying [Jer. 18:6], O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potterís hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. That is, God hath as absolute power and dominion over every person, over every nation and kingdom on the earth, as the potter hath over the pot he maketh, or the clay he moldeth. Thus are we wholly at the disposal of his will, and our present and future condition framed and ordered by his free, but wise and just, decrees. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [Rom. 9:21] And can that earth-artificer have a freer power over his brother potsherd (both being made of the same metal) than God hath over him, who, by the strange fecundity of his omnipotent power, first made the clay out of nothing, and then him out of that?
The duration of Godís dominion must likewise necessarily be eternal, if any thing which is be immortal. For, being every thing is therefore his, because it received its being from him, and the continuation of the creature is as much from him as the first production; it followeth that so long as it is continued, it must be his, and consequently, being some of his creatures are immortal, his dominion must be eternal. Wherefore St. Paul [M44] expressly calleth God the King eternal [1 Tim. 1:17], with reference to that of David, Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. [Ps. 145:13] And Moses in his Song hath told us, The Lord shall reign for ever and ever [Ex. 15:18]: which phrase for ever and ever in the original signifieth thus much, that there is no time to come assignable or imaginable, but after and beyond that God shall reign.
The third branch of Godís authoritative or potestative power consisteth in the use of all things in his possession, by virtue of his absolute dominion. For it is the general dictate of reason that the use, benefit, and utility of any thing redoundeth unto him whose it is, and to whom as to the proprietor it belongeth. íTis true indeed, that God, who is all-sufficient and infinitely happy in and of himself, so that no accession ever could or can be made to his original felicity, cannot receive any real benefit and utility from the creature. [Ps. 16:2] Thou art my Lord, saith David, my goodness extendeth not to thee:* and therefore our only and absolute Lord, because his goodness extendeth unto us, and not ours to him, because his dominion is for our benefit, not for his own: for us who want, and therefore may receive; not for himself, who cannot receive, because he wanteth nothing, whose honour standeth not in his own, but in our receiving.*
But though the universal Cause made all things for the benefit of some creatures framed by him, yet hath he made them ultimately for himself; and God is as universally the final as the efficient cause of his operations. The Apostle hath taught us, that not only of him, and by him, as the first Author, but also to him, and for him, as the ultimate end, are all things. [Rom. 11:36, Heb. 2:10, 1 Cor. 8:6, Prov. 16:4] And ítis one of the proverbial sentences of Solomon, The Lord hath made all things for himself, yea even the wicked for the day of evil. For though he cannot receive any real benefit or utility from the creature, yet he can and doth in a manner receive that which hath some similitude or affinity with it. [Ps. 104:31] Thus God rejoiceth at the effects of his wisdom, power, and goodness, and taketh delight in the works of his hands. Thus doth he order and dispose of all things unto his own glory, which redoundeth from the demonstration of his attributes.
An explicit belief of this authoritative power and absolute dominion of the Almighty is necessary, first for the breeding in us an awful reverence of his majesty, and entire subjection to his will. For to the highest excellency the greatest honour, to the supreme authority the most exact obedience is no more than duty.* If God be our absolute Lord, we his servants and vassals, then is there a right in him to require of us whatsoever we can perform, and an obligation upon us to perform whatsoever he commandeth.* Whosoever doth otherwise, while he confesseth, denieth him; while he acknowledgeth him with his tongue, he sets his hand against him. Why call ye me Lord, Lord, saith our Saviour, and do not the things which I say? [Luke 6:46]
Secondly, This belief is also necessary to breed in us equanimity and patience in our sufferings, to prevent all murmuring, repining, and objecting against the actions or determinations of [M45] God, as knowing that he, who is absolute Lord, cannot abuse his power; he, whose will is a law to us, cannot do any thing unwisely or unjustly. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth: shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? [Isa. 45:9] But let the man after Godís own heart rather teach us humble and religious silence. [Ps. 39:9] I was dumb, saith he, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. When Shimei cast stones at him, and cursed him, let us learn to speak as he then spake: The Lord hath said unto him, Curse David: who shall then say, Wherefore host thou done so? [2 Sam. 16:10]
Thirdly, The belief of Godís absolute dominion is yet further necessary to make us truly and sufficiently sensible of the benefits we receive from him, so as by a right value and estimation of them to understand how far we stand obliged to him. No man can duly prize the blessings of Heaven, but he which acknowledgeth they might justly have been denied him; nor can any be sufficiently thankful for them, except it be confessed that he owed him nothing who bestowed them.
But as the original word for almighty is not put only for the Lord of Hosts, but often also for the Lord Shaddai: so we must not restrain the signification to the power authoritative, but extend it also to that power which is properly operative and executive. In the title of the Lord of Sabaoth we understand the rule and dominion of God, by which he hath a right of governing all: in the name Shaddai we apprehend an infinite force and strength, by which he is able to work and perform all things. For whether we take this word in composition,* as signifying the all-sufficient; whosoever is able to suppeditate all things to the sufficing all, must have an infinite power: or whether we deduce it from the root* denoting vastation or destruction; whosoever can destroy the being of all things, and reduce them unto nothing, must have the same power which originally produced all things out of nothing, and that is infinite. Howsoever, the first notion of almighty necessarily inferreth the second, and the infinity of Godís dominion speaketh him infinitely powerful in operation.* Indeed in earthly dominions, the strength of the governor is not in himself, but in those whom he governeth: and he is a powerful prince whose subjects are numerous. But the King of kings hath in himself all power of execution, as well as right of dominion. Were all the force and strength of a nation in the person of the king, as the authority is, obedience would not be arbitrary, nor could rebellion be successful: whereas experience teacheth us that the most puissant prince is compelled actually to submit, when the stronger part of his own people hath taken the boldness to put a force upon him. But we must not imagine that the Governor of the world ruleth only over them which are willing to obey, or that any of his creatures may dispute his commands with safety, or cast off his yoke with impunity. And if his dominion be uncontrollable, it is because his power is irresistible. For man is not more inclinable to obey God than man, but God is more powerful to exact subjection, and to vindicate rebellion. In respect of the infinity and irresistibility of which active power we must acknowledge him Almighty: and so, according to the most vulgar acception, give the second explication of his Omnipotency.*
But because this word almighty* is twice repeated in the [M46] Creed, once in this first Article and again in the sixth, where Christ is represented sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and although in our English and the Latin the same word be expressed in both places, yet in the ancient Greek copies there is a manifest distinction; being the word in the first Article may equally comprehend Godís power in operation, as well as authority in dominion; whereas that in the sixth speaketh only infinity of power, without relation to authority or dominion: I shall therefore reserve the explication of the latter unto its proper place, designing to treat particularly of Godís infinite power where it is most peculiarly expressed; and so conclude briefly with two other interpretations, which some of the ancients have made of the original word, belonging rather to philosophy than divinity, though true in both. For some* have stretched this word almighty, according to the Greek notation, to signify that God holdeth, incircleth, and containeth all things. Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? [Prov. 30:4] who but God? Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure? [Isa. 50:12] who but he? Thus then may he be called almighty, as holding, containing, and comprehending all things.
Others* extend it farther yet, beyond that of containing or comprehension, to a more immediate influence of sustaining or preservation. For the same power which first gave being unto all things, continueth the same being unto all. God giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. In him we live, move, and have our being, [Acts 17:25, 28] saith the strangest Philosopher that ever entered Athens, the first expositor of that blind inscription, To the unknown God. How could any thing have endured, if it had not been thy will? or been preserved, if not called by thee? [Wisd. 11:25] as the wisdom of the Jews confesseth. Thus did the Levites stand and bless [Neh. 9:6]: Thou, even thou, art Lord alone: thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the sea and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all. Where the continual conservation of the creature is in an equal latitude attributed unto God with their first production. Because there is as absolute a necessity of preserving us from returning unto nothing by annihilation, as there was for first bestowing an existence on us by creation. And in this sense God is undoubtedly almighty, in that he doth sustain, uphold, and constantly preserve all things in that being which they have.
From whence we may at last declare what is couched under this attribute of God, how far this Omnipotency extends itself, and what every Christian is thought to profess, when he addeth this part of the first Article of his Creed, I believe in God the Father ALMIGHTY.
As I am persuaded of an infinite and independent Essence, which I term a God, and of the mystery of an eternal generation by which that God is a Father; so I assure myself that Father is not subject to infirmities of age, nor is there any weakness attending on the Ancient of days; but, on the contrary, I believe Omnipotency to be an essential attribute of his Deity, and that not only in respect of operative and active power, (concerning which I shall have occasion to express my faith hereafter,) but also in regard of power authoritative, in which I must acknowledge his antecedent and eternal right of making what, and when, [M47] and how he pleased, of possessing whatsoever he maketh by direct dominion, of using and disposing as he pleaseth all things which he so possesseth. This dominion I believe most absolute in respect of its independency, both in the original, and the use or exercise thereof: this I acknowledge infinite for amplitude or extension, as being a power over all things without exception; for plenitude or perfection, as being all power over every thing without limitation; for continuance or duration, as being eternal without end or conclusion. Thus I believe in God the Father Almighty.
Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Although this last part of the first Article were not expressed in the ancient Creeds,* yet the sense thereof was delivered in the first Rules of Faith,* and at last these particular words inserted both in the Greek and Latin Confessions. And indeed the work of Creation most properly followeth the attribute of Omnipotency, as being the foundation of the first, and the demonstration of the second explication of it. As then we believe there is a God, and that God Almighty; as we acknowledge that same God to be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him of us: so we also confess that the same God the Father made both heaven and earth. For the full explication of which operation, it will be sufficient, first, to declare the latitude of the object, what is comprehended under the terms of heaven and earth; secondly, to express the nature of the action, the true notion of Creation, by which they were made; and thirdly, to demonstrate the Person to whom this operation is ascribed.
For the first, I suppose it cannot be denied as the sense of the Creed, that under the terms of heaven and earth are comprehended all things; because the first rules of Faith did so express it, and the most ancient Creeds had either, instead of these words, or together with them, the Maker of all things visible and invisible, which being terms of immediate contradiction, must consequently be of universal comprehension; nor is there any thing imaginable which is not visible or invisible. Being then these were the words of the Nicene Creed; being the addition of heaven and earth in the Constantinopolitan could be no diminution to the former, which they still retained together with them, saying, I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; it followeth, that they which in the Latin Church made use only of this last addition, could not choose but take it in the full latitude of the first expression.
[M48] And well may this be taken as the undoubted sense of the Creed, because it is the known language of the sacred Scriptures. In six days, saith Moses, the Lord made heaven and earth [Exod. 31:17]:in the same time, saith God himself, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is. [Exod. 20:11] So that all things by those two must be understood which are contained in them: and we know no being which is made or placed without them. When God would call a general rendezvous, and make up an universal auditory, the Prophet cries out, [Isa. 1:2] Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth. When he would express the full splendour of his majesty, and utmost extent of his actual dominion, Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. [Isa. 66:1] When he would challenge unto himself those glorious attributes of Immensity and Omnipresence, Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. [Jer. 23:24] These two then taken together signify the Universe, or that which is called the World. St. Paul hath given a clear exposition of these words in his explication of the Athenian altar; God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands. [Acts 17:24] For being God is necessarily the Lord of all things which he made, (the right of his direct dominion being clearly grounded upon the first Creation,) except we should conceive the Apostle to exempt some creature from the authoritative power of God, and to take some work of his hand out of the reach of his arm; we must confess that heaven and earth are of as large extent and ample signification as the world and all things therein. Where it is yet farther observable, that the Apostle hath conjoined the speech of both Testaments together. For the ancient Hebrews seem to have had no word in use among them which singly of itself did signify the World, as the Greeks had, in whose language St. Paul did speak; and therefore they used in conjunction the heaven and earth, as the grand extremities within which all things are contained.* Nay, if we take the expositions of the later writers in that language, those two words will not only as extremities comprehend between them, but in the extension of their own significations contain all things in them. For when they divide the universe into three worlds,* the inferior, superior, and the middle world; the lower is wholly contained in the name of earth, the other two under the name of heaven. Nor do the Hebrews only use this manner of expression, but even the Greeks themselves; and that not only before, but after* Pythagoras* had accustomed them to one name. As therefore under the single name of World or Universe,* so also under the conjunctive expression of heaven and earth, are contained all things material and immaterial, visible and invisible.
[M49] But as the Apostle hath taught us to reason, When he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him: [1 Cor. 15:27] so when we say, all things were made by God, it is as manifest that he is excepted who made all things. And then the proposition is clearly thus delivered; all beings whatsoever beside God were made. As we read in St. John concerning the Word, that the world was made by him [John 1:10]; and in more plain and express words before, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [John 1:3] Which is yet farther illustrated by St. Paul [Col. 1:16]: For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him. If then there be nothing imaginable which is not either in heaven or in earth, nothing which is not either visible or invisible, then is there nothing beside God which was not made by God.
This then is the unquestionable doctrine of the Christian Faith, That the vast capacious frame of the world, and every thing any way contained and existing in it, hath not its essence from or of itself, nor is of existence absolutely necessary; but what it is, it hath not been, and that being which it hath was made, framed, and constituted by another. And as every house is builded by some man [Heb. 3:4]; for we see the earth bear no such creature of itself; stones do not grow into a wall, or first hew and square, then unite and fasten themselves together in their generation; trees sprout not cross-like dry and sapless beams, nor do spars and tiles spring with a natural uniformity into a roof; and that out of stone and mortar: these are not the works of Nature, but superstructions and additions to her, as the supplies of art, and the testimonies of the understanding of man, the great artificer on earth: so if the world itself be but an house,* if the earth, which hangeth upon nothing, [Job 26:7] be the foundation, and the glorious spheres of heaven the roof, (which hath been delivered as the most universal hypothesis,) if this be the habitation of an infinite Intelligence, the Temple* of God; then must we acknowledge the world was built by him, and, consequently, that he which built all things is God. [Heb. 3:4]
From hence appears the truth of that distinction, Whatsoever hath any being, is either made or not made: whatsoever is not made, is God; whatsoever is not God, is made. One uncreated and independent Essence; all other depending on it, and created by it. One of eternal and necessary existence; all other indifferent, in respect of actual existing, either to be or not to be, and that indifferency determined only by the free and voluntary act of the first Cause.
Now because to be thus made includes some imperfection, and among the parts of the world some are more glorious than others; if those which are most perfect presuppose a Maker, then can we not doubt of a creation where we find far less perfection. This house of God, though uniform, yet is not all of the same materials, the footstool and the throne are not of the same mold; there is a vast difference between the heavenly expansions. This first aerial heaven, where God setteth up his pavilion, where he maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind, [Ps. 104:3] is not so far inferior in place as it is in glory to the next, the seat of the sun and moon, the two great lights, and stars innumerable, far greater than the one of them. And yet that second heaven is not so far above the first as beneath the third, into which St. Paul was caught. [2 Cor. 12:2] The brightness of the sun doth not so far surpass the blackness of a wandering cloud, as the glory of that Heaven of presence surmounts the fading beauty of the starry firmament. For in this [M50] great Temple of the World, in which the Son of God is the High Priest, the Heaven which we see is but the Veil, and that which is above, the Holy of Holies. This Veil indeed is rich and glorious, but one day to be rent, and then to admit us into a far greater glory, even to the Mercy seat and Cherubins. For this third Heaven is the proper habitation of the blessed Angels, which constantly attend upon the Throne. And if those most glorious and happy spirits, those morning stars which sang together, [Jude 6] those sons of God which shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid, [Job 38:7, 4] if they and their habitation were made; then can we no ways doubt of the production of all other creatures, so much inferior unto them.
Forasmuch then as the Angels are termed the sons of God, it sufficiently denoteth that they are from him, not of themselves; all filiation inferring some kind of production: and being God hath but one proper and only-begotten Son, whose propriety and singularity consisteth in this, that he is of the same uncreated essence with the Father, all other offspring must be made, and consequently even the Angels created sons; of whom the Scripture speaking saith, Who maketh his Angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. [Ps. 104:4] For although those words, as first spoken by the Psalmist, do rather express the nature of the wind and lightning: yet being the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews hath applied the same to the Angels properly so called, we cannot but conclude upon his authority, that the same God who created the wind, and made a way for the lightning of the thunder, [Amos 4:13, Job 28:26] hath also produced those glorious spirits; and as he furnished them with that activity there expressed, so did he frame the subject of it, their immaterial and immortal essence.
If then the angels and their proper habitation, the far most eminent and illustrious parts of the world, were made; if only to be made be one character of imperfection; much more must we acknowledge all things of inferior nature to have dependence on their universal Cause, and consequently this great universe, or all things, to be made, beside that one who made them.
This is the first part of our Christian Faith, against some of the ancient Philosophers, who were so wildly fond of those things they see, that they imagined the Universe* to be infinite and eternal, and, what will follow from it, to be even God himself. It is true that the most ancient of the Heathen were not of this opinion, but all the Philosophy for many ages delivered the world to have been made.*
When this tradition of the creation of the world was delivered in all places down successively by those which seriously considered the frame of all things, and the difference of the most ancient [M51] Poets and Philosophers from Moses was only in the manner of expressing it; those which in after-ages first denied it, made use of very frivolous and inconcluding arguments, grounding their new opinion upon weak foundations.
For that which in the first place they take for granted as an axiom of undoubted truth, that Whatsoever hath a beginning must have an end,* and consequently, Whatsoever shall have no end had no beginning, is grounded upon no general reason, but only upon particular observation of such things here below, as from the ordinary way of generation tend in some space of time unto corruption. From whence, seeing no tendency to corruption in several parts of the world, they conclude that it was never generated, nor had any cause or original of its being. Whereas, if we would speak properly, future existence or nonexistence hath no such relation unto the first production. Neither is there any contradiction that at the same time one thing may begin to be, and last but for an hour, another continue for a thousand years, a third beginning at the same instant remain for ever: the difference being either in the nature of the things so made, or in the determinations of the will of him that made them. Notwithstanding then their universal rules, which are not true but in some limited particulars, it is most certain the whole world was made, and of it part shall perish, part continue unto all eternity; by which something which had a beginning shall have an end, and something not.
The second fallacy which led them to this novelty was the very name of universe, which comprehendeth in it all things; from whence they reasoned thus:* If the world or universe were made, then were all things made; and if the world shall be dissolved, then all things shall come to nothing: which is impossible. For if all things were made, then must either all, or at least something, have made itself, and so have been the cause of itself as of the effect, and the effect of itself as of the cause, and consequently in the same instant both have been and not been; which is a contradiction. But this fallacy is easily discovered: for when we say the Universe, or all things, were made, we must be always understood to except him who made all things, neither can we by that name be supposed to comprehend more than the frame of heaven and earth, and all things contained in them; and so he which first devised this argument hath himself acknowledged.*
Far more gross was that third conceit, that if the world were ever made, it must be after the vulgar way of ordinary natural generations : in which two mutations are observable,* the first from less to greater, or from worse to better; the second from greater to less, or from better to worse. (The beginning of the first mutation is called generation, the end of it perfection: the beginning of the second is from the same perfection, but concludeth in corruption or dissolution.) But none* hath ever yet observed that this frame of the world did ever grow up from less to greater, or improve itself from worse to better: nor can we now perceive that it becomes worse or less than it was, by which decretion we might guess at a former increase, and from a tendency to corruption collect its original generation. This conceit, I say, is far more gross. For certainly the argument so managed proves nothing at all, but only this, (if yet it prove so much,) that the whole frame of the world, and the parts thereof which are of greater perfection, were not generated in that manner in which we see some other parts of it are: which certainly no man denies. But that there can be no other way of production beside these petty generations, or that the world was [M52] not some other way actually produced, this argument doth not endeavour to infer, nor can any other prove it.
The next foundation upon which they cast of the constant doctrine of their predecessors, was that general assertion, That it is impossible* for any thing to be produced out of nothing, or to be reduced unto nothing: from whence it will inevitably follow, that the matter of this world hath always been, and must always be. The clear refutation of which difficulty requires an explication of the manner how the world was made: the second part before propounded for the exposition of this Article.
Now that the true nature and manner of this action may be so far understood as to declare the Christian Faith, and refute the errors of all opposers, it will be necessary to consider it first with reference to the Object or Effect; secondly, in relation to the Cause or Agent; thirdly, with respect unto the Time or Origination of it.
The action by which the Heaven and Earth were made, considered in reference to the effect, I conceive to be the production of their total being; so that whatsoever entity they had when made, had no real existence before they were so made. And this manner of production we usually term creation, as excluding all concurrence of any material cause, and all dependence of any kind of subject, as presupposing no privation, as including no motion, as signifying a production out of nothing;* that is, by which something is made, and not any thing preceding out of which it is made. This is the proper and peculiar sense of the word creation: not that it signifies so much by virtue of its origination or vulgar use in the Latin tongue;* nor that the Hebrew word used by Moses, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, hath of itself any such peculiar acception. For it is often used synonymously* with words which signify any kind of production or formation, and by itself it seldom denotes a production out of nothing, or proper creation, but most frequently the making of one substance out of another preexisting, as the fishes of the water, and man of the dust of the earth; [Gen 1:21, 27; 2:7; Ps. 51:10, Isa. 65:17] the renovating or restoring any thing to its former perfection, for want of Hebrew words in composition; or, lastly, the doing some new or wonderful work,* the producing some strange and admirable effect, as the opening the mouth of the earth, and the signal judgments on the people of Israel. [Num. 16:30. Isa. 45:7]
We must not therefore weakly collect the true nature of creation from the force of any word which by some may be thought to express so much; but we must collect it from the testimony of God the Creator, in his word, and of the world created, in our [M53] reason.* The opinion of the church of the Jews will sufficiently appear in that zealous mother to her seventh and youngest son [2 Mac. 7:28]; I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not: which is a clear description of creation, that is, production out of nothing. But because this is not by all received as Canonical, we shall therefore evince it by the undoubted testimony of St. Paul, who expressing the nature of Abrahamís faith, propoundeth [Rom. 6:17] him whom he believed as God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were. For as to be called in the language of the Scripture is to be, ([1 John 3:1] Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God, saith St. John in his Epistle, who in his Gospel told us he had given us power to become the sons of God [John 1:2]): so to call is to make, or cause to be. As where the Prophet Jeremy saith, Thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them, [Jer. 32:23] the original may be thought to speak no more than this, Thou hast caused this evil to them. He therefore calleth those things which be not, as if they were, who maketh those things which were not, to be, and produceth that which hath being out of that which had not, that is, out of nothing. This reason, generally persuasive unto Faith, is more peculiarly applied by the Apostle to the belief of the creation: for through faith, saith he [Heb. 11:3], we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Not as if the earth, which we see, were made of air; or any more subtle body, which we see not; nor as if those things which are seen were in equal latitude commensurable with the worlds which were framed: but that those things which are seen, that is, which are, were made of those which did not appear,* that is, which were not.
Vain therefore was that opinion of a real matter coeval with God as necessary for production of the world by way of subject, as the eternal and Almighty God by way of efficient. For if some real and material being must be presupposed by indispensable necessity, without which God could not cause any thing to be, then is not he independent in his actions, nor of infinite power and absolute activity, which is contradictory to the divine perfection. Nor can any reason be alleged why he should be dependent in his operation, who is confessed independent in his being.
And as this coeternity of matter opposeth Godís Independency, the proper notion of the Deity, so doth it also contradict his All-sufficiency. For if without the production of something beside himself he cannot make a demonstration of his attributes, or cause any sensibility of his power and will for the illustration of his own glory; and if without something distinct wholly from himself he cannot produce any thing, then must he want* something external: and whosoever wanteth any thing is not all-sufficient. And certainly he must have a low opinion and poor conception of the infinite and eternal God, who thinks he is no otherwise known to be Omnipotent than by the benefit of another.* Nor were the framers of the Creed so wise in prefixing the Almighty before Maker of heaven and earth, if, out [M54] of a necessity of material concurrence, the making of them left a mark of impotency rather than omnipotency.
The supposition then of an eternal matter is so unnecessary where God works, and so derogatory to the infinity of his power, and all-sufficiency of himself, that the later Philosophers,* something acquainted with the truth which we profess, though rejecting Christianity, have reproved those of the school of Plato, who delivered, as the doctrine of their master, an eternal companion, so injurious to the Father and Maker of all things.
Wherefore to give an answer to that general position that out of nothing, nothing can be produced, which Aristotle* pretends to be the opinion of all natural Philosophers, I must first observe, that this universal proposition was first framed out of particular considerations of the works of art and nature. For if we look upon all kinds of artificers,* we find they cannot give any specimen of their art without materials. Being then the beauty and uniformity of the world shews it to be a piece of art most exquisite, hence they concluded that the Maker of it was the most exact Artificer,* and consequently had his matter from all eternity prepared for him. Again, considering the works of nature and all parts of the world subject to generation and corruption, they also observed* that nothing is ever generated but out of something preexistent, nor is there any mutation wrought but in a subject, and with a presupposed capability of alteration. From hence they presently collected, that if the whole world were ever generated, it must have been produced out of some subject, and consequently there must be a matter eternally preexisting.
Now what can be more irrational than from the weakness of some creature to infer the same imbecility in the Creator, and to measure the arm of God by the finger of man? Whatsoever speaketh any kind of excellency or perfection in the artificer, may be attributed unto God: whatsoever signifieth any infirmity, or involveth any imperfection, must be excluded from the notion of him. That wisdom, prescience, and preconception, that order and beauty of operation which is required in an artist, is most eminently contained in him, who hath ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight [Wisd. 11:20]: but if the most absolute idea in the artificerís understanding be not sufficient to produce his design without hands to work, and materials to make use of, it will follow no more that God is necessarily tied unto preexisting matter, than that he is really compounded of corporeal parts.
Again, it is as incongruous to judge of the production of the world by those parts thereof which we see subject to generation and corruption: and thence to conclude, that if it ever had a cause of the being which it hath, it must have been generated in the same manner which they are; and if that cannot be, it must never have been made at all. For nothing is more certain than that this manner of generation cannot possibly have been the first production even of those things which are now generated. We see the plants grow from a seed; that is their ordinary way of generation: but the first plant could not be so generated, because all seed in the same course of nature is from the preexisting plant. We see from spawn the fishes, and from eggs the fowls receive now the original of their being: but [M55] this could not at first be so, because both spawn and egg are as naturally from precedent fish and fowl. Indeed because the seed is separable from the body of the plant, and in that separation may long contain within itself a power of germination; because the spawn and egg are sejungible from the fish and fowl, and yet still retain the prolific power of generation; therefore some might possibly conceive that these seminal bodies might be originally scattered on the earth, out of which the first of all those creatures should arise. But in viviparous animals, whose offspring is generated within themselves, whose seed by separation from them loseth all its seminal or prolific power, this is not only improbable but inconceivable. And therefore being the Philosophers* themselves confess, that whereas now all animals are generated by the means of seed, and that the animals themselves must be at first before the seed proceeding from them; it followeth that there was some way of production antecedent to and differing from the common way of generation; and, consequently, what we see done in this generation can be no certain rule to understand the first production. Being then that universal maxim, that nothing can be made of nothing, is merely calculated for the meridian of natural causes, raised solely out of observation of continuing creatures by successive generation, which could not have been so continued without a being antecedent to all such succession; it is most evident it can have no place in the production of that antecedent or first being, which we call Creation.
Now when we thus describe the nature of creation, and under the name of heaven and earth comprehend all things contained in them, we must distinguish between things created. For some were made immediately out of nothing, by a proper, some only mediately, as out of something formerly made out of nothing, by an improper kind of creation. By the first were made all immaterial substances, all the orders of angels, and the souls of men, the heavens, and the simple or elemental bodies, as the earth, the water, and the air. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth [Gen. 1:1]; so in the beginning, as without any preexisting or antecedent matter: this earth, when so in the beginning made, was without form and void, [Gen. 1:2] covered with waters likewise made, not out of it but with it, the same which, when the waters were gathered together unto one place, appeared as dry land. [Gen. 1:9] By the second,* all the hosts of the earth, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; [Gen. 1:11] Let the earth, said God, bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind. Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature, that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth [Gen. 1:20]; and more expressly yet, Out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air. [Gen. 2:19] And well may we grant these plants and animals to have their origination from such principles, when we read, God formed man of the dust of the ground [Gen. 2:7]; and said unto him whom he created in his own image, Dust thou art. [Gen. 3:19]
Having thus declared the notion of creation in respect of those things which were created, the next consideration is of that action in reference to the Agent who created all things. Him therefore we may look upon first as moved; secondly, as [M56] free under that motion; thirdly, as determining under that freedom, and so performing of that action. In the first we may see his goodness, in the second his will, in the third his power.
I do not here introduce any external impulsive cause, as moving God unto the creation of the world; for I have presupposed all things distinct from him to have been produced out of nothing by him, and consequently to be posterior not only to the motion but the actuation of his will. Being then nothing can be antecedent to the creature beside God himself, neither can any thing be a cause of any of his actions but what is in him; we must not look for any thing extrinsecal unto him, but wholly acquiesce in his infinite goodness, as the only moving and impelling cause. There is none good but one, that is God,* [Matt. 19:17] saith our Saviour; none originally, essentially, infinitely, independently good, but he. Whatsoever goodness is found in any creature is but by way of emanation from that fountain, whose very being is diffusive, whose nature consists in the communication of itself. In the end of the sixth day God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good [Gen. 1:31]: which shews the end of creating all things thus good was the communication of that by which they were and appeared so.
The ancient Heathens have acknowledged this truth,* but with such disadvantage, that from thence they gathered an undoubted error. For from the goodness of God, which they did not unfitly conceive necessary, infinite, and eternal, they collected that whatsoever dependeth of it must be as necessary and eternal,* even as light must be as ancient as the sun, and a shadow as an opacous body in that light. If then there be no instant imaginable before which God was not infinitely good, then can there likewise be none conceivable before which the world was not made. And thus they thought the goodness of the Creator must stand or fall with the eternity of the creature.
For the clearing of which ancient mistake, we must observe, that as God is essentially and infinitely good without any mixture of deficiency, so is he in respect of all external actions or emanations absolutely free without the least necessity. Those bodies which do act without understanding or preconception of what they do, as the sun and fire give light and heat, work always to the utmost of their power, nor are they able at any time to suspend [M57] their action. To conceive any such necessity in the divine operations, were to deny all knowledge in God, to reduce him into a condition inferior to some of the works of his own hands, and to fall under the censure contained in the Psalmistís question, He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know? [Ps. 94:9, 10] Those creatures which are endued with understanding, and consequently with a will, may not only be necessitated in their actions by a greater power, but also as necessarily be determined by the proposal of an infinite good: whereas neither of these necessities can be acknowledged in Godís actions, without supposing a power beside and above Omnipotency, or a real happiness beside and above All-sufficiency. Indeed if God were a necessary Agent in the works of creation, the creatures would be of as necessary being as he is : whereas the necessity of being is the undoubted prerogative of the first Cause. He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, [Eph. 1:11] saith the Apostle: and wheresoever counsel is, there is election, or else it is vain; where a will, there must be freedom, or else it is weak. We cannot imagine that the all-wise God should act or produce any thing but what he determineth to produce; and all his determinations must flow from the immediate principle of his will. If then his determinations be free, as they must be coming from that principle, then must the actions which follow them be also free. Being then the goodness of God is absolutely perfect of itself, being he is in himself infinitely and eternally happy, and this happiness as little capable of augmentation as of diminution; he cannot be thought to look upon any thing without himself as determining his will to the desire, and necessitating to the production of it. If then we consider Godís Goodness, he was moved; if his All-sufficiency, he was not necessitated: if we look upon his Will, he freely determined; if on his Power, by that determination he created the world.
Wherefore that ancient conceit of a necessary emanation of Godís goodness in the eternal creation of the world will now easily be refuted, if we make a distinction in the equivocal notion of goodness. For if we take it as it signifieth a rectitude and excellency of all virtue and holiness, with a negation of all things morally evil, vicious, or unholy; so God is absolutely and necessarily good: but if we take it in another sense, as indeed they did which made this argument, that is, rather for beneficence, or communicativeness of some good to others; then God is not necessarily, but freely, good, that is to say, profitable and beneficial. For he had not been in the least degree evil or unjust, if he had never made the world or any part thereof, if he had never communicated any of his perfections by framing any thing beside himself. Every proprietary therefore being accounted master of his own, and thought freely to bestow whatever he gives; much more must that one eternal and independent Being be wholly free in the communicating his own perfections without any necessity or obligation. We must then look no farther than the determination of Godís will in the creation of the world.
For this is the admirable power of God, that with him to will is to effect, to determine is to perform. So the Elders speak before him that sitteth upon the throne: Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure (that is, by thy will) they are, and were created. [Rev. 4:11] Where there is no resistance in the object, where no need of preparation, application, or instrumental advantage in the agent, there the actual determination of the will is a sufficient production. Thus God did make the heavens and the earth by willing* them to be. This was his first command unto the creatures, and their existence was their first obedience. Let there be light, [Gen. 1:4] this is the injunction; and there was light, that is the creation. Which two are so intimately and immediately [M58] the same, that though in our and other translations* those words, let there be, which express the command of God, differ from the other, there was, which denote the present existence of the creature; yet in the original there is no difference at all, neither in point nor letter. And yet even in the diversity of the translation the phrase seems so expressive of Godís infinite power, and immediate efficacy of his will, that it hath raised some admiration of Moses in the enemies* of the religion both of the Jews and Christians. God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he pleased,* saith David; yea in the making of the heavens, he therefore created them, because he pleased; nay more, he thereby created them, even by willing their creation.
Now although some may conceive the creature might have been produced from all eternity by the free determination of Godís will, and it is so far certainly true, that there is no instant assignable before which God could not have made the world; yet as this is an Article of our Faith, we are bound to believe the heavens and earth are not eternal. Through faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God. [Heb. 11:3] And by that faith we are assured, that whatsoever possibility of an eternal existence of the creature may be imagined, actually it had a temporal beginning; and therefore all the arguments for this worldís eternity are nothing but so many erroneous misconceptions. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old, [Prov. 8:22, 23] saith Wisdom. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. And the same Wisdom of God being made man reflecteth upon the same priority, saying, Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. [John 17:5, Eph. 1:3, 4] Yea, in the same Christ are we blessed with all spiritual blessings, according as he kith chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. The impossibility of the origination of a circular motion, which we are sure is either in the heaven or earth, and the impropriety of the beginning of time, are so poor exceptions, that they deserve not the least labour of refutation. The actual eternity of this world is so far from being necessary, that it is of itself most improbable; and without the infallible certainty of faith, there is no single person carries more evidences of his youth, than the world of its novelty.*
It is true indeed, some ancient accounts there are which would persuade us to imagine a strange antiquity of the world, far beyond the annals of Moses, and account of the same Spirit which made it*. The Egyptian Priests pretended an exact chronology for some myriads of years,* and the Chaldeans or Assyrians far out-reckon them,* in which they delivered not only a catalogue of their kings, but also a table of the eclipses of the sun and moon.*
[M59] But for their number of years nothing is more certain than their forgery; for the Egyptians did preserve the antiquities of other nations as well as their own, and by the evident fallacy in others have betrayed their own vanity. When Alexander entered Egypt with his victorious army, the Priests could shew him out of their sacred histories an account of the Persian empire, which he gained by conquest, and the Macedonian, which he received by birth, of each for eight thousand years:* whereas nothing can be more certain out of the best historical account, than that the Persian empire, whether begun in Cyrus or in Medus, was not then three hundred years old, and the Macedonian, begun in Coranus, not five hundred. They then which made so large additions to advance the antiquity of other nations, and were so bold as to present them to those which so easily might refute them, (had they not delighted to be deceived to their own advantage, and took much pleasure in an honourable cheat) may without any breach of charity be suspected to have extended the account much higher for the honour of their own country. Beside, their catalogues must needs be ridiculously incredible, when the Egyptians make their first kingsí reigns above one thousand two hundred years apiece,* and the Assyrians theirs above forty thousand;* except ye take the Egyptian years for months,* the Assyrians for days; and then the account will not seem so formidable.
Again, for the calculation of eclipses, as it may be made for many thousand years to come, and be exactly true, and yet the world may end tomorrow; because the calculation must be made with this tacit condition, if the bodies of the earth, and sun, and moon, do continue in their substance and constant motion so long: so may it also be made for many millions of years past, and all be true, if the world have been so old; which the calculating doth not prove, but suppose. He then which should in the Egyptian temples see the description of so many eclipses of the sun and moon, could not be assured that they were all taken from real observation, when they might be as well described out of proleptical supposition.
Beside, the motions of the sun, which they mention together and with authority equal to that of their other observations, are so incredible and palpably fabulous, that they take off all credit and esteem from the rest of their narrations. For with this wild account of years, and seemingly accurate observations of the heavens, they left it written to posterity, that the whole course of [M60] the celestial motions were four times changed: so that the sun hath twice risen in the east, and set in the west, as now it does; and, on the contrary, twice risen in the west, and set in the east.* And thus these prodigious antiquaries confute themselves.*
What then are these feigned observations and fabulous descriptions for the worldís antiquity, in respect not only of the infallible annals of the Spirit of God, but even of the constant testimonies of more sober men, and the real appearances and face of things, which speak them of a far shorter date?
If we look into the historians which give account of ancient times, nay, if we peruse the fictions of the poets, we shall find the first to have no footsteps, the last to feign no actions, of so great antiquity. If the race of men had been eternal,* or as old as the Egyptians and the Chaldees fancy it, how should it come to pass that the poetical inventions should find no actions worthy their heroic verse before the Trojan or the Theban war, or that great adventure of the Argonauts? For whatsoever all the Muses, the daughters of Memory, could rehearse before those times, is nothing but the creation of the world, and the nativity of their gods.
If we consider the necessaries of life, the ways of freedom and commerce amongst men, and the inventions* of all arts and sciences, the letters which we use, and languages which we speak, they have all known originals, and may be traced to their first authors. The first beginnings were then so known and acknowledged by all, that the inventors and authors of them were reckoned amongst their gods, and worshipped by those to whom they had been so highly beneficial: which honour and adoration they could not have obtained, but from such as were really sensible of their former want, and had experience of a present advantage by their means.
If we search into the nations themselves, we shall see none without some original: and were those authors extant which have written of the first plantations and migrations of people, the foundations and inhabiting of cities and countries,* their first rudiments would appear as evident as their later growth and present condition. We know what ways within two thousand years people have made through vast and thick woods for their [M61] habitations, now as fertile, as populous as any. The Hercynian trees, in the time of the Caesars, occupying so great a space, as to take up a journey of sixty days,* were thought even then coeval with the world.* We read without any show of contradiction, how this western part of the world hath been peopled from the east; and all the pretence of the Babylonian antiquity is nothing else, but that we all came from thence. Those eight persons saved in the ark, descending from the Gordian mountains, and multiplying to a large collection in the plain of Sinaar, made their first division at that place; and that dispersion, or rather dissemination, hath peopled all other parts of the world, either never before inhabited, or dispeopled by the flood.
These arguments have always seemed so clear and undeniable, that they have put not only those who make the world eternal, but them also who confess it made, (but far more ancient than we believe it,) to a strange answer, to themselves uncertain, to us irrational.
For to this they replied, that this world hath suffered many alterations* by the utter destructions of nations and depopulations of countries, by which all monuments of antiquity were defaced, all arts and sciences utterly lost, all fair and stately fabrics ruined, and so mankind reduced to paucity, and the world often again returned into its infancy. This they conceived to have been done oftentimes in several ages, sometimes by a deluge of water, sometimes by a torrent of fire ; and lest any of the elements might be thought not to conspire to the destruction of mankind, the air must sweep away whole empires at once with infectious plagues, and earthquakes swallow up all ancient cities, and bury even the very ruins of them. By which answer of theirs they plainly afford two great advantages to the Christian Faith. First, because they manifestly shew that they had an universal tradition of Noahís flood, and the overthrow of the old world: secondly, because it was evident to them, that there was no way to salve the eternity or antiquity of the world, or to answer this argument drawn from history and the appearances of things themselves, but by supposing innumerable deluges and deflagrations. Which being merely feigned in themselves, not proved, (and that first by them* which say they are not subject themselves unto them, as the Egyptians did, who by the advantage of their peculiar situation* feared neither perishing by fire nor water,) serve only for a confirmation of Noahís flood so many ages past, and the surer expectation of St. Peterís fire, we know not how soon to come.
[M62] It remaineth then that we steadfastly believe, not only that the heavens and earth and all the host of them were made [Gen. 2:1], and so acknowledge a creation, or an actual and immediate dependence of all things on God; but also that all things were created by the hand of God, in the same manner, and at the same time, which are delivered unto us in the books of Moses by the Spirit of God, and so acknowledge a novity, or no long existence of the creature.
Neither will the novity of the world appear more plainly unto our conceptions, than if we look upon our own successions. The vulgar accounts, which exhibit about five thousand six hundred years, though sufficiently refuting an eternity, and allaying all conceits of any great antiquity, are not yet so properly and nearly operative on the thoughts of men, as a reflection upon our own generations. The first of men was but six days younger than the being, not so many than the appearance, of the earth: and if any particular person would consider how many degrees in a direct line he probably is removed from that single person Adam, who bare together the name of man and of the earth from whence he came, he could not choose but think himself so near the original fountain of mankind, as not to conceive any great antiquity of the world. For though the ancient Heathens did imagine innumerable ages and generations la of men past, though Origen* did fondly seem to collect so much by some misinterpretations of the Scriptures; yet if we take a sober view, and make but rational collections from the chronology of the sacred Writ, we shall find no manís pedigree very exorbitant, or in his line of generation descent of many score.
When the age of man was long, in the infancy of the world, we find ten generations extend to one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years, according to the shortest, which is thought, because the Hebrew, therefore the best account; according to the longest, which, because the Septuagintís, is not to be contemned, two thousand two hundred and sixty-two, or rather, two thousand two hundred and fifty-six. From the flood, brought at that time upon the earth for the sins of men which polluted it, upon* the birth of Abraham, the father of the faithful, not above ten generations, if so many, took up two hundred and ninety-two years according to the least, one thousand one hundred and thirty-two according to the largest account. Since which time the ages of men have been very much alike proportionably long; and it is agreed by all that there have not passed since the birth of Abraham three thousand and seven hundred years. Now by the experience of our families, which for their honour and greatness have been preserved, by the genealogies delivered in the sacred Scriptures, and thought necessary to be presented to us by the blessed Evangelists, by the observation and concurrent judgment of former ages, three generations* [M63] usually take up a hundred years. It then it be not yet three thousand and seven hundred years since the birth of Abraham*, as certainly it is not; if all men which are or have been since have descended from Noah, as undoubtedly they have; if Abraham were but the tenth from Noah, as Noah from Adam, which Moses hath assured us: then it is not probable that any person now alive is above one hundred and thirty generations removed from Adam. And indeed thus admitting but the Greek account of less than five thousand years since the flood, we may easily bring all sober or probable accounts of the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chineses, to begin since the dispersion at Babel. Thus having expressed at last the time, so far as it is necessary to be known, I shall conclude this second consideration of the nature and notion of creation.
Now being under the terms of heaven and earth we have proved all things beside God to be contained, and that the making of all these things was a clear production of them out of nothing; the third part of the explication must of necessity follow, that he which made all things is God. This truth is so evident in itself, and so confessed by all men, that none did ever assert the world was made, but withal affirmed that it was God who made it. There remaineth therefore nothing more in this particular, than to assert God so the Creator of the world as he is described in this Article.
Being then we believe in God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, and by that God we expressed already a singularity of the Deity; our first assertion which we must make good is, that the one God did create the world. Again, being whosoever is that God cannot be excluded from this act of creation, as being an emanation of the Divinity, and we seem by these words to appropriate it to the Father, beside whom we shall hereafter skew that we believe some other persons to be the same God; it will be likewise necessary to declare the reason why the creation of the world is thus signally attributed to God the Father.
The first of these deserves no explication of itself, it is so obvious to all which have any true conception of God. But because it hath been formerly denied, (as there is nothing so senseless, but some kind of heretics have embraced, and may be yet taken up in times of which we have no reason to presume better than of the former) I shall briefly declare the creation of the world to have been performed by that one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As for the first, there is no such difference between things of the world as to infer a diversity of makers of them, nor is the least or worst of creatures in their original any way derogatory to the Creator. God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good, [Gen. 1:31] and consequently like to come from the fountain of all goodness, and fit always to be ascribed to the same. Whatsoever is evil, is not so by the Creatorís action, but by the creatureís defection.
In vain then did the heretics of old, to remove a seeming inconvenience, [M64] renounce a certain truth; and whilst they feared to make their own God evil,* they made him partial, or but half the Deity, and so a companion at least with an evil God. For dividing all things of this world into natures substantially evil and substantially good, and apprehending a necessity of an origination conformable to so different a condition, they imagined one God essentially good, as the first principle of the one, another God essentially evil, as the original of the other. And this strange heresy began upon the first spreading of the Gospel;* as if the greatest light could not appear without a shadow.
Whereas there is no nature originally sinful, no substance in itself evil, and therefore no being which may not come from the same fountain of goodness. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things, [Isa. 45:5] saith he who also said, I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me. Vain then is that conceit which framed two gods, one of them called Light, the other Darkness; one good, the other evil; refuted in the first words of the Creed, I believe in God, Maker of heaven and earth.
But as we have already proved that one God to be the Father, so must we yet farther shew that one God the Father to be the Maker of the world. In which there is no difficulty at all: the whole church at Jerusalem hath sufficiently declared this truth in their devotions: Lord, thou art God which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate [M65] with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together. [Acts 4:24, 27] Jesus then was the child of that God which made the heaven and the earth, and consequently the Father of Christ is the Creator of the world.
We know that Christ is the light of the Gentiles, by his own interpretation; we are assured likewise that his Father gave* him, by his frequent assertion: we may then as certainly conclude that the Father of Christ is the Creator of the world, by the Prophetís express prediction [Isa. 42:5, 6]: For thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens and stretched them out, he which spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people for a light of the Gentiles.
And now this great facility may seem to create the greater difficulty: for being the Apostles teach us that the Son made all things, and the Prophets that by the Spirit they were produced, how can we attribute that peculiarity in the Creed unto the Father, which in the Scriptures is assigned indifferently to the Son and to the Spirit? Two reasons may particularly be rendered of this peculiar attributing the work of creation to the Father. First, in respect of those heresies arising in the infancy of the Church, which endeavoured to destroy this truth, and to introduce another Creator of the world, distinguished from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. An error so destructive to the Christian religion, that it raseth even the foundations of the Gospel, which refers itself wholly to the promises in the Law, and pretends to no other God, but that God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; acknowledgeth no other speaker by the Son, than him that spake by the Prophets: and therefore whom Moses and the Prophets call Lord of heaven and earth, of him our blessed Saviour signifies himself to be the Son, rejoicing in spirit, and saying, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth. [Luke 10:21] Secondly, in respect of the paternal priority of the Deity, by reason whereof that which is common to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, may be rather attributed to the Father, as the first Person in the Trinity. In which respect the Apostle hath made a distinction in the phrase of emanation or production: To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ; by whom are all things, and we by him. [1 Cor. 8:6] And our Saviour hath acknowledged, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do [John 5:19]; which speaketh some kind of priority in action, according to that of the Person. And in this sense the Church did always profess to believe in God the Father, Creatorís of heaven and earth.
The great necessity of professing our faith in this particular appeareth several ways, as indispensably tending to the illustration of Godís glory, the humiliation of mankind, the provocation to obedience, the aversion from iniquity, and all consolation in our duty.
God is of himself infinitely glorious, because his perfections are absolute, his excellencies indefective; and the splendour of this glory appeareth unto us in and through the works of his hands. The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even Jer. X. I2 : his eternal power and Godhead. [Rom. 1:20] For he hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath, stretched out the heavens by his discretion. [Jer. 10:12, 51:15] After a long enumeration of the wonderful works of the creation, the Psalmist breaketh forth into this pious meditation [Ps. 104:24]; O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wisdom hast thou made them all. If then the glory of God be made apparent by the creation, if he have made all things for himself, [Prov. 16:4] that is, for the manifestation of his glorious attributes, if the Lord rejoiceth in his works, because his glory [M66] shall endure for ever [Ps. 104:31]; then is it absolutely necessary we should confess him Maker of heaven and earth, that we may sufficiently praise and glorify him. Let them praise the name of the Lord, [Ps. 148:13] saith David, for his name alone is excellent, his glory is above the earth and heaven. Thus did the Levites teach the children of Israel to glorify God: [Neh. 9:5, 6] Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou had made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth and all things that are therein. And the same hath St. Paul taught us: [Rom. 11:36] For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Furthermore, that we may be assured that he which made both heaven and earth will be glorified in both, the Prophet calls upon all those celestial hosts to bear their part in his hymn: [Ps. 148:2, 3, 4, 5] Praise ye him all his angels, praise ye him all his hosts. Praise ye him sun and moon, praise him all ye stars of light. Praise him ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded, and they were created. And the twenty-four Elders in the Revelation of St. John [Rev. 4:10, 11], fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns, the emblems of their borrowed and derived glories, before the throne, the seat of infinite and eternal majesty, saying, 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. Wherefore, [Ps. 19:1] if the heavens declare the glory of God, and all his works praise him; then shall his saints bless him; they shall speak of the glory of his kingdom, and talk of his power. [Ps. 145:10, 11] And if man be silent, God will speak; while we through ingratitude will not celebrate, he himself will declare it, and promulgate: I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm. [Jer. 27:5]
Secondly, The doctrine of the worldís creation is most properly effectual towards manís humiliation. As there is nothing more destructive to humanity than pride, and yet not any thing to which we are more prone than that; so nothing can be more properly applied to abate the swelling of our proud conceptions, than a due consideration of the other works of God, with a sober reflection upon our own original. When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; [Ps. 8:3] when I view those glorious apparent bodies with my eye, and by the advantage of a glass find greater numbers before beyond the power of my sight, and from thence judge there may be many millions more, which neither eye nor instrument can reach; when I contemplate those far more glorious spirits, the inhabitants of the heavens, and attendants on thy throne; I cannot but break forth into that admiration of the Prophet, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? [Ps. 8:4] what is that offspring of the earth, that dust and ashes? what is that son of man, that thou visitest him? what is there in the progeny of an ejected and condemned father, that thou shouldest look down from heaven, the place of thy dwelling, and take care or notice of him? But if our original ought so far to humble us, how should our fall abase us? that of all the creatures which God made, we should comply with him who first opposed his Maker, and would be equal unto him from whom he new received his being. All other works of God, which we think inferior to us, because not furnished with the light of understanding, or endued with the power of election, are in a happy impossibility of sinning, and so offending of their Maker: the glorious spirits which attend upon the throne of God, once in a condition of themselves to fall, now by the grace of God preserved, and placed beyond all possibility of sinning, are entered [M67] upon the greatest happiness, of which the workmanship of God is capable: but men, the sons of fallen Adam, and sinners after the similitude of him, of all the creatures are the only companions of those angels which left their own habitations, [Jude 6] and are delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. [2 Pet. 2:4] How should a serious apprehension of our own corruption, mingled with the thoughts of our creation, humble us in the sight of him, whom we alone of all the creatures by our unrepented sins drew unto repentance? How can we look without confusion of face upon that monument of our infamy, recorded by Moses, who first penned the original of humanity, It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart? [Gen. 6:6]
Thirdly, This doctrine is properly efficacious and productive of most cheerful and universal obedience. It made the Prophet call for the commandments of God, and earnestly desire to know what he should obey: Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. [Ps. 119:73] By virtue of our first production, God hath undeniably absolute dominion over us, and consequently there must be due unto him the most exact and complete obedience from us. Which reason will appear more convincing, if we consider, of all the creatures which have been derived from the same fountain of Godís goodness, none ever disobeyed his voice but the Devil and man. Mine hand, saith he, hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens; when I call unto them, they stand up together. [Isa. 48:13] The most loyal and obedient servants, which stand continually before the most illustrious prince, are not so ready to receive and execute the commands of their sovereign lord, as all the hosts of heaven and earth to attend upon the will of their Creator. [Isa. 40:26] Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their hosts by number: he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power, not one faileth, but every one maketh his appearance, ready pressed to observe the designs of their commander in chief. Thus the Lord commanded, and [Jud. 5:20] they fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. He commanded the ravens to feed Elias, and they brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening [1 Kings 17:4, 6]; and so one Prophet lived merely upon the obedience of the fowls of the air. He spake to the devouring whale, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land [Jonah 2:10]; and so another Prophet was delivered from the jaws of death by the obedience of the fishes of the sea. Do we not read [Ps. 148:8] of fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind fulfilling his word? Shall there be a greater coldness in man than in the snow? more vanity in us than in a vapour? more inconstancy than in the wind? If the universal obedience of the creature to the will of the Creator cannot move us to the same affection and desire to serve and please him, they will all conspire to testify against us and condemn us, when God shall call unto them, saying, Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. [Isa. 1:2]
Lastly, The creation of the world is of most necessary meditation for the consolation of the servants of God in all the variety of their conditions: Happy is he whose hope is in the Lord his God, which made heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is. [Ps. 146:5, 6] This happiness consisteth partly in a full assurance of his power to secure us, his ability to satisfy us. The earth is the Lordís, and the fullness thereof, world and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. [Ps. 24:1, 2] By virtue of the first production he hath a perpetual right unto, and power to dispose of all things: and he which can order and dispose of all, must necessarily be esteemed able to secure and [M68] satisfy any creature. Hast thou not known, host thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? [Isa. 40:28] There is no external resistance or opposition where Omnipotency worketh, no internal weakness or defection of power where the Almighty is the agent; and consequently there remaineth a full and firm persuasion of his ability in all conditions to preserve us. Again, this happiness consisteth partly in a comfortable assurance, arising from this meditation, of the will of God to protect and succour us, of his desire to preserve and bless us. My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth: he will not suffer thy foot to be moved, [Ps. 121:2, 3] saith the Prophet David; at once expressing the foundation of his own expectancy and our security. God will not despise the work of his hands, [Job 10:3] neither will he suffer the rest of his creatures to do the least injury to his own image. Behold, saith he, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. [Isa. 54:16, 17]
Wherefore to conclude our explication of the first Article, and to render a clear account of the last part thereof; that every one may understand what it is I intend, when I make confession of my faith in the Maker of heaven and earth, I do truly profess, that I really believe, and am fully persuaded, that both heaven and earth and all things contained in them have not their being of themselves, but were made in the beginning; that the manner by which all things were made was by mediate or immediate creation; so that antecedently to all things beside, there was at first nothing but God, who produced most part of the world merely out of nothing, and the rest out of that which was formerly made of nothing. This I believe was done by the most free and voluntary act of the will of God, of which no reason can be alleged, no motive assigned, but his goodness; performed by the determination of his will at that time which pleased him, most probably within one hundred and thirty generations of men, most certainly within not more than six, or at farthest seven, thousand years.* I acknowledge this God Creator of the world to be the same God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: and in this full latitude, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.