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ourselves, or the nation; when uproars and confusions seem to reduce the world back to its ancient chaos; when storms and waves overwhelm the ship, and we, with the disciples, think our God asleep, and begin to cry out, with the Psalmist, Awake, O Lord, why sleepest thou? Our God is not sleeping, but even then at the helm: he steers, he governs and guides all these disorders; and will conduct the whole tumult and hurry of affairs to his own glory and our good.
ii. If God's Providence hath the command and sway even over the sins of men, this then may be ABUNDANT MATTER OF PEACE AND SATISFACTION, IN THE WORST OF TIMES, WHEN WICKEDNESS DOTH MOST OF ALL RAGE AND ABOUND.
Let us then consider, that, if God permits them, he also can, when he pleaseth, check and put a stop and period to their rage and madness. Their hands are fettered by the adamantine chains of a most strong decree, which they can neither reverse nor exceed: whatsoever they do, is but by permission; a limited, and a limiting permission. Our Saviour tells Pilate, Thou couldest have no power over me, except it were given thee from above. The very power, that men have to sin against God, is from God; and therefore, certainly, he will withdraw it, when it doth not work out his own ends. This was it, that satisfied David, when Shimei pelted him with stones and curses: 2 Sam. xvi. 10. Let him alone: let him curse; because the Lord hath said unto him, Cursè David.
iii. Hence see TO WHAT WE OUGHT TO ASCRIBE IT, THAT THERE IS NO MORE NOTORIOUS WICKEDNESS COMMITTED IN THE WORLD.
When we hear of any prodigious villainy, we are apt to wonder, that ever such abominations should be incident to the sons of men. Wonder not at the matter, as if any strange thing were happened to them; but rather wonder at the goodness of God, which is the sole cause that such things as these are wonders. Were his permissive providence as large, as men's lusts are outrageous, these things would soon cease to be wonders, and become the common and ordinary practice of all men. Why are not our streets continually filled with violence, rapine, murders, and outcries? whence is it, that we enjoy our possessions and our lives in safety? The wickedness of men lies hard and presses upon God's restraints; and, wheresoever there are any gaps in it, it breaks forth naturally and violently; and, if
this dam and mound of Divine Providence were but broken down, it would break out till it had overflowed the whole face of the earth, and covered it with a deluge of impiety and profaneness: but that God, who sets bounds to the raging of the sea, and saith Hitherto shall thy proud waves come and no farther, doth, by the same Almighty Providence, set bounds to the lusts and corruptions of men, which are altogether as unruly; and curbs in the fury of their madness, which else would drown the whole world in perdition and destruction.
iv. This should teach us TO ACQUIESCE AND REST SATISFIED IN EVERY PROVIDENCE OF GOD, AS THAT, WHICH WILL CERTAINLY, IN THE END, REDOUND TO HIS OWN GLORY.
When we see disorders and confusions abroad in the world, we are apt to despond and to cry out, "Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name? thy honour, thy glory lies bleeding, and suffers through the sins of men.' Commit thy care to God. He will certainly so wield their lusts, as that they shall bring about and effect his own ends. God is glorifying himself, even by these things; and why then should we be troubled? This thought, kept alive on our hearts, would cause us to rest satisfied amidst all the tumults which we observe and hear of in the world: for, though we know not how to unwind these ravelled dispensations to the bottom of his glory, yet he can and will. There is an invisible and wise hand, that moulds and fashions all: and, though the parts by themselves may appear rude and unpolished; yet, put the whole frame and series of Providence together, and that will appear most admirable and glorious.
Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, for ever and ever! Amen.
OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD:
WITH THE IMPROVEMENTS THEREOF.
PSAL. cxxxix. 7, 8, 9, 10.
WHITHER SHALL I GO FROM THY SPIRIT? OR WHITHER SHALL I FLEE FROM THY PRESENCE? IF I ASCEND UP INTO HEAVEN, THOU ART THERE: IF I MAKE MY BED IN HELL, BEHOLD, THOU ART THERE. IF I TAKE THE WINGS OF THE MORNING, AND DWELL IN THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE SEA; EVEN THERE SHALL THY HAND LEAD ME, AND THY RIGHT-HAND SHALL HOLD ME.
THESE words declare to us the glorious attribute of God's Immensity or Omnipresence, set forth in most elegant and lofty terms; as if the Prophet would mitigate that dread which might well seize upon us, from the consideration of the terrible majesty of God being so near us, by the sweetness and flourishing of the expression, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? This question doth not imply, that David was indeed contriving how to make an escape from God; nor pondering with himself in what forlorn corner of the world he might lie obscure, where the presence of God should never apprehend him: but this interrogation serveth for a vehement assertion: whither shall I go? that is, there is no place whither I can go, or where I can imagine to go, but thy Spirit and thy Presence will be with me. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? that is, either from thee, who art a spirit, and so canst pierce and penetrate me; be as truly and essentially in the very bowels and marrow of my soul, as my soul is intimately and essentially in my body: from thy Spirit ; that is, from thy knowledge and thy power; thy knowledge to detect and observe me, thy power to uphold or to crush me.
In what dark corner or cavern soever I should muffle myself, yet thy presence is so universal, that it would find me out; for it stretcheth itself from heaven to hell: If I make my bed in hell. By hell, here, may be meant the Grave, which is often so called Scripture; as Acts ii. 27. Ps. xvi. 10. Thou wilt not leave my
soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption; (a prophecy concerning the resurrection of Christ from the grave:) that is, thou wilt not leave my person in the grave: so it is interpreted v. 31. when it is said, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption: Gen. xxxvii. 35. Jacob, speaking concerning the supposed death of his son Joseph, says, I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning: there, and Job xvii. 13. that word which we translate the grave, we here translate hell: "Now," saith the Prophet, "though I should go down to the grave, and be covered from the sight, and forgotten out of the mind and thoughts of men; yet thou art there, and observest every dust how it moulders and crumbles away: my body cannot be more in the grave, than thou art there." If we take hell for the Place of the Damned, God's presence is there likewise: one would think, if from any place God would exclude himself, it should be from hell, since his presence is sufficient to make a heaven any where; but, so infinite is his unlimited being, that, when the body is in the grave and the soul in hell, yet then is God present, both with the soul and with the body: If I make my bed in hell, that is, "If I cover myself never so close and draw the curtains of the thickest darkness round about me; if my body should lie in the deepest entrails of the earth, and my soul be wrapt about with a winding-sheet of smoke and flames; yet thou art there, and thy presence would soon find me out:" Job xxvi. 6. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering: yea, the Apostle tells us, 2 Thess. i. 9. that the wicked, in hell, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: that is, not only that their punishment shall be to be separated from the presence of the Lord; but, look how they are said to be punished from the glory of his power, so likewise are they to be punished from his presence: their destruction shall be from the glory of his power; that is, his power in inflicting most dreadful punishments upon them, and his power in sustaining them under those punishments, when with one hand the Lord shall hold them up in hell, and lift up the other as high as heaven to give them redoubled strokes of everlasting vengeance: so, likewise, they shall be punished from the presence of the Lord; that is, God himself will be present in hell to torment and punish them, that, at the very same time that he shall be a cherishing God in heaven, he will be a tormenting God in hell: because, in them, he hath
established his two great thrones; the one of his mercy, the other of his justice.
But yet, possibly, there may be found some neglected place here below, where God hath no such concernment to be present, as he hath to be present in Heaven and in Hell. Now, saith the Psalmist, vv. 9, 10. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right-hand shall hold me. Wings of the Morning is an elegant metaphor; and, by them, we may conjecture is meant the sun-beams: called Wings, because of their swift and speedy motion; making their passage so sudden and so instanta neous, as that they do prevent the observation of the eye; called the Wings of the Morning, because the dawn of the morning comes flying in upon these wings of the sun, and brings light along with it; and, by beating and fanning of these wings, scatters the darkness before it. "Now" saith the Psalmist," if I could pluck these wings of the morning, the sun-beams; if I could imp my own shoulders with them; if I should fly as far and as swift as light, even in an instant, to the uttermost parts of the sea; yea, if in my flight I could spy out some solitary rock, so formidable and dismal as if we might almost call in question whether ever a Providence had been there; if I could pitch there on the top of it, where never any thing had made its abode, but coldness, thunders, and tempests: yet there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right-hand shall hold me."
Thus you see the text declares this Ubiquity and Omnipresence of God, both in heaven and earth and hell, and in all places and in all things.
I shall, first, handle this point doctrinally; and, then, practically. Observing this method, I shall,
Lay down some Positions.
Demonstrate the truth of them, by some cogent and convincing Arguments.
Answer some Objections, which may be made against the Omnipresence of God.
Make some Improvement of this point.
I. I am to lay down some POSITIONS.
POSITION i. GOD IS INTIMATELY AND ESSENTIALLY IN ALL PARTS AND PLACES OF THE WORLD.