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causes will produce those effects that are agreeable to their nature : but when the effect is not necessary, but contingent, or purely arbitrary, then we have nothing to judge by, and therefore cannot come to the knowledge of things future, without an intimation given us thereof, by him who orders and disposes of all things, and that is God : and therefore to foretel things to come in this sense, is an evident proof of the being of God. 2. That there have been such predictions, and that the things foretold have come to pass accordingly, is very obvious from scripture : and if it be highly reasonable to believe that which is so well attested, as scripture is, we are bound from hence to conclude that there is a God.
But since we are arguing, at present, with those who deny a God, and consequently all scripture-revelation, we will only suppose that they whom we contend with will allow that some contingent events have been foretold ; and then it will follow, that this could be done no other way, but by some intimation from one that is omniscient, and that is God..
IX. The being of a God appears from his providing for the necessities of all living. Here let us consider,
1. That there is a natural instinct in all creatures, to take care of and provide for their young, before they are capable of providing for themselves. This is not only observable in mankind, as the prophet says, Isa. xlix. 15. Can a woman forget her sucking child ? but also in the lower sort of creatures ; and among them in those who are naturally most fierce and savage, even they provide for their young with extraordinary diligence, and sometimes neglect, and almost starve, themselves to provide for them, and sometimes endanger their own lives to defend them.
2. They bring forth their young at the most convenient season of the year, when the grass begins to spring to supply them with food, and when the fowls of the air may get a livelihood by picking up the seed that is sown, and not covered by the earth, and when the trees begin to put forth their fruits to supply and feed them.
3. When they bring forth their young, there is a providence that provides the breast, the paps, the udder replenished with milk to feed them; and there is a natural instinct in their young, without instruction, to desire to receive their nourishment that way.
4. Providence has furnished many of the beasts of the fields with weapons for their defence, and has given others a natural swiftness to fly from danger, and has provided holes and caverns in the earth to secure them from those that pursue them, And this cannot be the effect of mere chance, but it is an evi, dent proof of the being of a God.
5. Providence is, in a peculiar manner, concerned for the supply of man, the noblest of all creatures in the world ; He giveth food to all flesh, Psal. cxxxvi. 25. Thou preservest man and beast, Psal xxxvi. 6. The earth is stored with variety of food; and whereas the poor, which is the greater part of mankind, cannot purchase those far-fetched, or costly dainties, which are the support of luxury, these may, by their industry, provide that food which is most common, and with which the earth is plentifully stored, whereby their lives and health are as well maintained, as the rich, who fare deliciously every day; and if their families increase, and a greater number is to be provided for, they generally have a supply in proportion to their increasing number.
6. Providence has stored the earth with various medicines, and given skill to men to use them as a relief against the many sicknesses that we are exposed to. All these things, and innumerable other instances that might be given, argue the care and bounty, and consequently prove the being of God, whose tender mercies are over all his works,
Here let us consider how the providence of God provides for the safety of man against those things that threaten his ruin.
The contrariety and opposition of things one to another would bring with them inevitable destruction, did not providence prevent it. As,
(1.) Those things, which are the greatest blessings of nature, would be destructive, were there not a providence : as the sun that enlightens and cherishes the world by its heat and influence, would be of no advantage, were it situate at too great a distance, and would burn it up if it were too near. So the sea would swallow up, and bring a deluge on the earth, if God had not, by his decree, fixed it within certain bounds, and made the shore an inclosure to it, and said hitherto shalt thou go and no farther.
(2.) The elements are advantageous to us, by their due temperature and mixture ; but, were it otherwise, they would be destructive. So the various humours and jarring principles in our bodies would tend to destroy us, but that they are so mixed, as the God of nature, has tempered and disposed them, for the preservation of life and health.
(3.) The wild beasts would destroy us, had not God put the fear and dread of man into them, or, at least, caused them not to desire to be where men live ; the forests and desart places, remote from cities, being allotted for them ; and some creatures would be destructive to men, by the increase of their number, did they not devour one another. And insects would destroy the fruits of the earth, did not one season of the year help for ward their destruction, as another tends to breed them,
(4.) Men by reason of their contrary tempers and interests, and that malice and envy, which is the consequence of our first apostacy, would destroy one another, if there were not a providence that restrains them, and gives a check to that wickedness that is natural to them, whereby the world is kept in a greater measure of peace than otherwise it wouid be; hence, the Psalmist says, Psal. lxxvi. 10. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee ; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Object. It is objected, by atheists, against the being of a God, that the wicked are observed to prosper in the world, and the righteous are oppressed. This temptation the Psalmist was almost overcome by ; as he says, my feet were almost gone ; my steps had well nigh slipt. For I wus envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked, Psal. lxxiii. 2, 3.
Answ. To this it may be answered,
1. That the idea of infinite sovereignty is included in that of a God ; and this distribution of good and evil, if made at any time, without regard to the deserts of men, argues the sovereignty of providence ; and therefore proves that there is a God, who gives no account of his matters, but has an absolute right to do what he will with his own.
2. There is a display of infinite wisdom in these dispensations of providence, in that the good man is made better by affiction, as hereby the kindness and care of providence appears ; and the wicked man is forced to own, by his daily experience, that all the outward blessings he enjoys in this world, cannot make him easy or happy, or be a sufficient portion for him.
3. Outward prosperity doth not prevent or remove inward remorse, or terror of conscience, which embitters the joys of the wicked; A dreadful sound is in his ears ; in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him, Job xv. 21. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful ; and the end of that mirth is heaviness, Prov. xiv. 13. And, on the other hand, putward trouble in the godly is not inconsistent with spiritual joy and inward peace, which is more than a balance for all the distresses they labour under; it is said, The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy, Prov. xiv. 10. He shall be satisfied from himself, ver. 14.
4. We are not to judge of things according to their present appearance, when we determine a person happy or miserable, but are to consider the end thereof, since every thing is well that ends well. Thus the Psalmist, who, as was before observed, was staggered at the prosperity of the wicked, had his faith established, by considering the different events of things. Concerning the wicked he says Psal. lxxiii. 18, 19, 20. Thou didst set them in slippery places ; thou castedst them down to destrucfion, How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment !
they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh : so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image ; which is a very beautiful expression, representing all their happiness as imaginary, a vain dream, and such as is worthy to be contemned: but as for the righteous, he represents them as under the special protection and guidance of God here, and at last received to glory, and there enjoying him as their everlasting portion.
Having considered how the light of nature, and the works of God prove his being, we shall proceed to shew how this appears from scripture, as it is observed in this answer, that the word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation. The arguments hitherto laid down are directed more especially to those who are not convinced that there is a God, and consequently deny the divine original of scripture : but this argument supposes a conviction of both; but yet it must not be supposed unnecessary, in as much as we are oftentimes exposed to many temptations, which tend to stagger our faith; so that though we may not peremptorily deny that there is a God, yet we may desire some additional evidence of his being and perfections, beyond what the light of nature affords; and this we have in scripture. Herein the glory of God shines forth with the greatest lustre, and we have an account of works more glorious than those of nature, included in the way of salvation by a Mediator. The light of nature, indeed, proves that there is a God; but the word of God discovers him to us as a reconciled God and Father to all who believe, and is also attended with those internal convictions and evidences of this truth, which are the peculiar gifts and graces of the Holy Spi-. rit; and therefore it is well observed, that this knowledge only is sufficient and effectual to salvation; which leads us to consider the insufficiency of the light of nature to answer this end. The knowledge of God, that may be attained thereby, is sufficient, indeed, in some measure, to restrain our corrupt passions, and it is conducive to the peace and welfare of civil societies : it affords some conviction of sin, and, in some respects, leaves men without excuse, and renders their condemnation less aggravated than that of those who sin against gospel light; but yet it is insufficient to salvation, since it is a truth of universal extent, that there is salvation in no other, but in Christ, Acts iv. 12. and that it is life eternal to know not only the true God, but Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, John xvii. 3. and this cannot be known by the light of nature, but by divine revelation ; which leads us to consider in what respect the knowledge of God, as it is contained in and derived from scripture, is suficient to salvation.
Here we do not assert the sufficiency thereof, exclusive of the
aids of divine grace, so as to oppose the word to the Spirit : therefore it is said, in this answer, that the word and Spirit of God alone can reveal him to men sufficiently to their salvation. The word is a sufficient rule, so that we need no other to be a standard of our faith, and to direct us in the way to eternal life ; but it is the Spirit that enables us to regard, understand, and apply this rule, and to walk according to it: these two are not. to be separated; the Spirit doth not save any without the word, (a) and the word is not effectual to salvation, unless made 50 by the Spirit.
That nothing short of scripture-revelation is sufficient to salvation, will appear, if we compare it with the natural knowledge we have of God. For,
1. Though the light of nature shews us that there is a God, it doth not fully display his perfections, so as they are manifested in scripture, wherein God is beheld in the face of Christ.
2. Neither doth it discover any thing of the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the divine essence, who are equally the object of faith : nor doth it give us any intimation of Christ, as the Lord our righteousness, in whom we obtain forgiveness of sins : this is known only by scripture-revelation ; therefore, since this is necessary to salvation, we are bound to conclude that the scripture alone is sufficient to lead to it.
3. The light of nature suggests, it is true, that God is to be worshipped ; but there is an instituted way of worshipping him, which depends wholly on divine revelation ; and since this is necessary, it proves the necessity of scripture.
4. There is no salvation without communion with God; or he that does not enjoy him here, shall not enjoy him for ever hereafter. Now the enjoyment of God is what we attain by faith, which is founded on scripture. Thus the apostle says, 1 John i. 3. That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us ; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ.
But since it is one thing to say, that the knowledge of God, which is derived from scripture, is sufficient to salvation in objective way; that is, that it is a sufficient rule to lead us to : salvation, and another thing to say, that it is made effectual thereunto: we are now to inquire when it is made so. In answer to which, let us consider, that the doctrines contained in scripture are made effectual to salvation ; not by all the skill or wisdom of men representing them in their truest light, nor by all the power of reasoning, which we are capable of, without the aids of divine grace, but they are made effectual by the Spirit; and this he does,
(a) See this doubtful doctrine discussed post Quest. 60.