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RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.
Having founded this discourse on the Sovereignty of God, as the best and most natural ground of satisfaction (or captivation) to reason, touching Election, now as a means to qualify our spirits, and reconcile them with the doctrine of Sovereignty, it seemeth expedient to annex that of his Righteousness: and, I think, there is not a more rational proposition, or one more clearly requiring submission, than
“That there is no unrighteousness with God.” This is the natural adjunct of divine sovereignty, which, as we are indespensably bound to believe, só to be well grounded in the faith of it, will be of exceeding great usefulness to us in every condition; especially under those darker administrations, of which we do not see at present the cause, reason, or tendency; when matters of great importance seem to be confused or neglected; when all things in view fall out alike to all; and you cannot know either good or evil, by all that is before you. I shall there. fore collect some of those considerations, from which you may find some light and influence in a dark and cloudy day; and by which, as a means, I myself was drawn in and guided to this determination, before I had searched the scriptures expressly concerning this subject: and they may serve, both as arguments to demonstrate the proposition, and as antidotes against those poisonous contradictions, which carnal reason and unbelief will be too often forging and flinging in upon us. And,
Argument I. Is founded on that infinite blessedness, which the inost high God was possessed of in himself, before the world, or any creature was made. He did not make them for any need he had of them, but for his plea. sure, Rev. 4:11. and if he needed them not, there could be no need, or reason why he should make them such, or to such an end as not to be wisely overruled, and their end at. tained, without doing wrong to any. The motives by which men are swayed to wrong-doing, are chiefly two, 1. To obtain something they have not. Ahab slew Naboth for his vineyard, 1 Kings, 21: and Athaliah all the seed royal, to get the throne, 2 Kings, 11. Or, 2. To secure what they have. Pharaoh oppressed the people, lest growing mighty they should shake off his yoke, and get them out of his service, Exod. 1:10. Jeroboam set up his calves to keep the people at home, and firm to himself, 1 Kings, 12: 27, 28, and the Jews put Christ to death, lest the Ro. mans should come and take away their place and nation, John, 11:48. These two have shared the parentage of all the oppression and wrong-doing that have been in the world: neither of which is compatible with our great and blessed God: for all things are his already; he possesseth the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them, with an absolute power and right to dispose of them. And as for securing what he hath, of whom should he be afraid? for, , 1. " There is no God besides him;" the Lord himself, who needs must know it, if there were another, professeth solemnly, that “he knows not any;" Isa. 44: 6, 8. And, 2. As for creatures, they are all more absolutely under his subjection, than the smallest dust under our feet is to us. “The nations are to him less than nothing and vani. ty.” Isa. 40: 17. He needs not so much as to touch them, to bring them down: it is but “gathering to himself his spirit and his breath, and they perish together,” Job 34: 14, 15. If the Lord but withhold his sustaining influ. ence, they fall of themselves; but he remains the same to all generations.
Arg. II. Another argument is founded on the infinite perfection of his nature. This those seraphic heralds pro
claim under the notion of holy, holy, holy, Isa. 6:2. Its · reduplication imports the highest perfection. And Moses, who of all mortals, had nearest access to God, puts it in the front of his triumphal titles, Exod. 15: 11. “Glorious in holiness!” It is that whereby all the divine excellencies are summarily expressed. The righteous Lord will do no iniquity: he is of purer eyes than to look upon it. It is an high demonstration of his excellency, that he cannot deny himself: that is, he cannot do any thing that is in the least degree contrary to his holy nature; nothing that needs to
be retracted, or to alter his mind about it. His will is the rule of righteousness, and righteousness is the rule of his will. The saints of old were perfectly of this mind: " Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18: 25. And the apostle puts it as a question not to be an. swered, that if God were unrighteous, “How then shall be Judge the world?” Rom. 3: 6.
Arg. III. It is also apparent, from the constant rule and measure of God's dispensements, which are not done fortuitously, nor rashly, but with deliberation and exact. ness. “He lays judgment to the rule, and righteousness to the plummet,” Isa. 28: 7. He will not punish without a cause, nor more than is deserved. Touching the sins of Sodom, “I will go down," says God, and see whether they have done, saltogether) according to the cry of it," Gen. 18:21. “He renders to every one according to their deeds," Rom. 2:6. “and gives them (a just) recompence of reward," Heb. 2: 2. “ He will not cast away the perfect man, nor help the wicked,” Job, 8: 20. Eliphaz puts the question with great confidence, (as well he might,) “ Who ever perished being innocent?” Job, 4:7. His righteousness is such, that it even holds his hands until the innocent be out of danger. The angels were straightly commanded, not to begin the execution of God's wrath on · the wicked world, “ until his servants were marked out,” Rev. 7:3. and when the Lord came to destroy Sodom, he hastens righteous Lot to Zoar, with this only argument, “I cannot do any thing until thou be come thither," Gen. 19: 22.
Arg. IV. It is further evidenced, by the laws he hath given unto men; the sum of which is, to do righteously; and the end of them, the good and welfare of the creature. After a thousand years' experier:ce of these, compared with the issue of men's inventions, they are acknowledged to be “ right judgments, good statutes, and laws of truth," Neh. 9: 3. What an admirable catalogue have we in Romans 12:12. and Gal. 5: 22!
1. Of such as concern our duty towards himself imme. diately, this is the sum; “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” Matt. 4:10. There is nothing more equal and just than to worship and serve him, whose we are: to love and to live to him, from
whom we have our life and breath; especially considering that “his commandments are our life,” Deuteronomy, 16: 18, 19.
2. Such as refer more immediately to ourselves, as temperance, chastity, moderation, sobriety, &c. These, as is evident to all, do greatly conduce to our outward welfare, both in point of health, estate, prosperity, &c. And what evil consequents do attend the contraries of those virtues, might be every day's observation; more especially such as relate to our spiritual state and welfare: of which more particularly under the next argument.
3. Such commands also as respect our duty towards men; as to do justly; to shew mercy; to “ follow peace with all men,” every one to mind his own business, and not intermeddle with others: so, “ to be subject to the powers that be;" and to "pray for those in authority," (the neglect of which duty may be a cause of our disquietment from them, at least it may prove an eclipse of our joyfulness in suffer. ing under them, &c.;) the sum of this kind of duties we have in that standing uncontrollable rule, of " doing to others as we would they should do unto us.” On the contrary, there is nothing forbidden but what tends to our hurt; as if it were needful, might be demonstrated by instances innumerable.
4. To this also might be added, the strict injunctions that God hath laid upon the subordinate dispensers of his law; as, namely, “ to judge the people with just judgment; not to wrest judgment, nor respect persons,” Deut. 16:18, 19. “ yea, he curseth them that pervert judgment,” chap. 27:19, “and will surely reprove them that accept persons,” Job, 13:10, &c. And “shall mortal man be more just than God?” chapter 4: 17. Will he, under such penalties, command men to do thus, and not much more do so himself!
Arg. V. Another beam of the righteousness of God, shines forth in his putting the matter of our duty into such a way and method, as renders it more facile, and mostly conduceth to our chief end.
As, 1. " To remember our Creator in the days of our youth,” Eccl. 12:12. For the work of conversion, and turning to God, must needs be much easier then, than when habituated in an evil course: for long impenitency
(besides the provocation it is to God,) estranges the mind more from him: makes the spirit more inflexible, and har. der to be wrought upon; it multiplies our work, and subtracts our strength: for one accustomed in evil to learn to do well, and for a black-moor to change his skin, are things of a like possibility: it is a very rare and difficult thing for “a man to be born again when he is old.”
2. To watch against, and suppress the first motions of sin, and to avoid whatever might be an occasion, or have tendency towards it. And in order thereto, to “take heed to our spirit.” Mal. 2:15. - To keep the heart with all diligence,” Prov. 4:23: « To abstain from all appearances of evil,” 1 Thess. 5: 22. “ To hate the garment spotted by the flesh,” Jude, ver. 23. “And to make a covenant with our eyes," as Job did, Job, 31:1. For the professed practice of some saints is directive to others, and equivalent to a command. To keep an enemy from rising, is much easier than to quell him when he is up; yea, to nip sin when it is young, is the ready way, not only to keep it low, but to kill it; as the continual plucking off buds from a tree or plant, destroys the root.
3. Not to do any thing, the lawfulness whereof is du. bious to us; which, as it is a sin in itself, (as every thing is which is not of faith,) Rom. 14:23, so it tends to obscure to us the true sight of other things, and emboldens to fur. ther attempts. Yea, farther, not to mind only the lawful. ness of things, but their expediency, 1 Cor. 6; 12, the not heeding of which proves often an occasion of sin to others, whereof we cannot be guiltless. So, likewise, to cherish all motions to good; not to quench the Spirit, 1 Thess. 5; 19. and to hearken, or listen diligently what the Lord God will speak, Exod. 15: 26. who oft-times delivers his mind with “ a still and small voice,” i Kings 19:12. which dou. bly obligeth our attention.
4. In his pressing, with so much weight and necessity, those great duties of faith, love, patience, self-denial, &c. (1.) Faith, which consists in submitting to the righteous. ness of God," taking hold of his strength, and following the conduct of his wisdom: and in order thereto, shewing us our own sinfulness, weakness, and folly, with the vanity of all created bottoms, which have always failed at the great. est need; and so drawing our hearts to lean on himself only,