Having undertaken to goe thorow the whole body of Theologie, I will first give you a briefe definition of the thing it selfe, which we call Divinitie, it is this;
It is that heavenly Wisedome or forme of wholesome words, revealed by the Holy Ghost, in the Scripture, touching the knowledge of God, and of our selves, whereby wee are taught the way to eternall life.
I call it [heavenly wisedome] for, so it is called, I Cor. 2:13. The wisedome which wee teach, is not in the words, which mans wisedome teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth. So likewise the Apostle in another place calls it, The forme of wholesome wordes; (II Tim. 1:13) that is, that Systeme, or comprehension of wholesome Doctrine delivered in the Scripture.
Now it differs from other Systemes, and bodies of Sciences:
1. Because it is revealed from above; all other knowledge is gathered from things below.
2. Againe, all other Sciences are taught by men, but this is taught by the Holy Ghost.
3. All other knowledge is delivered in the writings of men, but this is revealed to us in the holy Word of God, which was written by GOD himselfe, though men were the mediat penmen of it; therefore, I adde that, to distinguish it from all other Sciences; that, It is not revealed by men, but by the Holy Ghost, not in bookes written by men, but in the holy Scriptures.
In the next place I adde the object, about which this wisedome is conversant, it is, the knowledge of God, and of our selves. And so it is likewise distinguished from all other knowledge, which hath some other object. It is the knowledge of God, that is, of God, not simply considered, or absolutely, in his Essence, but as hee is in reference and relation to us.
And againe, it is not simply the knowledge of our selves, (for many things in us belong to other Arts and Sciences) but as we stand in reference to God, so that these are the two parts of it, the knowledge of God, in reference to us; and of our selves, in reference to him.
Last of all, it is distinguished by the end, to which it tends, which it aimes at, which is to teach us the way to eternall life: And therein it differs from all other Sciences whatsoever; for they onely helpe some defects of understanding here in this present life: for where there is some failing or defect, which common reason doth not help, there, arts are invented to supply and rectifie those defects; but this doth somewhat more, it leads us the way to eternall life: and as it hath in it a principle above all others, so it hath an higher end than others; as the wel-head is higher, so the streames ascend higher than others. And so much for this description, what this summe of the Doctrine of Theologie is.
The parts of it are two:
Now concerning God, 2 things are to be known:
1. That God is, wee shall finde that there are two waies to prove it, or to make it good to us:
That we doe not deliver this without ground, look in the first of the Romans, v. 20. For the invisible things of him, that is, his eternall power and God-head, are seene by the creation of the world, being considered in his workes, so that they are without excuse. So likewise, Acts 17:27, 28. the Apostle saith, that they should seeke after the Lord, if happily they might grope after him, and finde him: for hee is not farre from every one of us: for in him wee live, move, and have our being: That is, by the very things that we handle and touch, we may know that there is a God; and also, by our owne life, motion and being, wee may learne that there is a Deitie, from whence these proceed: For the Apostle speaketh this to them, that had no Scripture to teach them. So likewise, Acts 14:17. Neverthelesse, he hath not Left himself e without witnesse, in giving us fruit full seasons: As if those did beare witnesse of him that is, those workes of his in the creatures. So that you see, there are two waies to come to the knowledge of this, that God is; One, I say, is by naturall reason: Or else, to make it more plaine, we shall see this in these two things:
1 There is enough in the very creation of the world, to declare him unto us.
2 There is a light of the understanding, or reason, put into us, whereby we are able to cliscerne those characters of GOD stamped in the creatures, whereby we may discerne the invisible things of God, his infinite power and wisdome; and when these are put together, that which is written in the creature, there are arguments enough in them, and in us there is reason enough, to see the force of those arguments, and thence we may conclude, that there is a God, besides the arguments of Scripture, that wee have to reveale it. For, though I said before, that Divinity was revealed by the Holy Ghost, yet there is this difference in the points of Theologie: Some truths are wholly revealed, and have no footsteps in the creatures, no prints in the creation, or in the works of God to discerne them by, and such are all the mysteries of the Gospel, and of the Trinitie: other truths there are, that have some vestigia, some Characters stamped upon the creature whereby we may discerne them, and such is this which we now have in hand, that, There is a God. Therefore we will show you these two things:
1. How it is manifest from the creation.
Seeing in Creation That God Exists
Now for the first, to explicate this, that, The power and God-head is seen in the creation of the world.
Besides those Demonstrations elsewhere handled, drawne from the Creation in generall, as from:
There remaine three other principall arguments to demonstrate this:
The consideration of the Originall of all things which argues that they must needs be made by God, the maker of heaven and earth; which we wil make good to you by these three particulars:
If man was made by him, for whom all things are made, then it is certaine that all other things were made also. For the argument holds; If the best things in the world must have a beginning then surely those things that are subserving, and subordinate to them, must much more have a beginning.
Now that man was made by him, consider but this reason;
The father that begets, knows not the making of him; the mother that conceives, knowes it not, neither doth the formative vertue, (as we call it) that is, that vigour which is in the materials that shapes, and fashions, and articulates the body in the wombe, that knowes not what it doth. Now it is certaine, that he that makes any thing, must needs know it perfectly, and all the part of it, though the stander by may be ignorant of it. As for example; he that makes a statue, knowes how every particle is made, he that makes a Watch, or any ordinary worke of Art, he knowes all the junctures, all the wheeles, and commissures of it, or else it is impossible that hee should make it: now all these that have a hand in making of man, know not the making of him, nor the Father, nor the mother, nor that which we call the formative vertue, that is, that vigour which is in the materials, which workes and fashions the body, as the Workman doth a statue, and gives severall limbs to it, all these know it not: therefore he must needs bee made by God, and not by man. See how the Wise-man to this purpose reasons, Ps. 94:9. Hee that made the eye, shall hee not see? hee that made the eare, shall not he heare? &c. that is, he that is the maker of the engines, or organes, or senses, or limbes of the body, or hee that is maker of the soule, and faculties of it, it is certaine that he must know, though others doe not, the making of the body and soule, the turnings of the will, and the windings of the understanding. Now none of those three know it, neither the father nor mother, nor that formative vertue, for they are butas pensils in the hand of him that doth all; as the pensill knowes not what it doth, though it drawes all, it is guided by the hand of a skilfull Painter, else it could doe nothing, the Painter onely knoweth what hee doth; so that formative vertue, that vigour that formes the body of a man that knowes no more what it doth than the pensill doth, but he in whose hand it is, who sets it on worke, it is he that gives vigour, and vertue to that seed in the wombe, from whence the body is raised, it is he that knowes it, for it is he that makes it. And this is the first particular by which wee prove that things were made and had not their originall form themselves. The second is:
If things were not made, then it is certaine, that they must have a being from themselves: Now to have a being from it selfe, is nothing else but to be God: for it is an inseparable propertie of God to have his being from himselfe. Now if you will acknowledge, that the creatures had a being of themselves, they must needs bee Gods; for it belongs to him alone, to have a being of himselfe, and from himselfe. The third follows, which I would have you chiefly to marke.
If things have a being from themselves, it is certaine then that they are without causes; as for example; That which hath no efficient cause, (that is) no maker, that hath no end. Looke upon all the workes made by man (that we may expresse it to you;) take an house, or any worke, or instrument that man makes; therefore it hath an end, because he that made it, propounded such an end to himselfe; but if it have no maker, it can have no end: for the end of any thing is that which the maker aimes at; now if things have no end, they could have no forme: for the forme and fashion of every thing ariseth only from the end, which the maker propounds to himselfe; as for example, the reason, why a knife hath such a fashion, is because it was the end of the maker, to have it an instrument to cut with: the reason why an axe or hatchet hath another fashion, is, because it might be an instrument to chop with; and the reason why a key hath another fashion different from these, is, because the maker propounded to himselfe another end in making of it; namely to open lockes with; these are all made of the same matter, that is, of iron, but they have divers fashions, because they have severall ends, which the maker propounds to himself. So that, if there be no ends of things, there is no forme, nor fashion of them, because the ground of all their fashions, is their severall end. So then, we will put them all together; if there be no efficient, no maker of them, then there is no end, and if there be no end, then there is no forme nor fashion, and if there be no forme, then there is no matter, and so consequently, they have no cause; and that which is without any cause, must needs bee God, which I am sure none dares affirme; and therefore they have not their being of themselves. But besides that negative argument, by bringing it to an impossibility, that the creatures should be Gods, we will make it plaine by an affirmative argument, that all the creatures have an end.
For looke upon all the creatures, and we shall see that they have an end; the end of the Sunne, Moone and Starres is, to serve the Earth; and the end of the Earth is, to bring forth Plants, and the end of Plants is, to feed the beasts: and so if you looke to all particular things else, you shall see that they have an end, and if they have an end, it is certaine, there is one did ayme at it, and did give those creaturs those severall fashions, which those severall ends did require: As for example, What is the reason, why a horse hath one fashion, a dog another, sheepe another, and oxen another? The reason is plaine, an horse was made to runne, and to carry men; the oxen to plow; a dogge to hunt, and so of the rest. Now this cannot be without an author, without a maker, from whom they have their beginning. So likewise this is plaine by the effects; for this is a sure rule, Whatsoever it is, that hath no other end, but it self e, that seekes to provide for its owne happinesse, in looking no further than it selfe; and this is onely in God, blessed for ever; hee hath no end but himselfe, no cause above himselfe, therefore he lookes onely to himselfe, and therein doth his happinesse consist. Take any thing that will not goe out of its owne spheare, but dwels within its owne compasse, stands upon its owne bottome to seek its happinesse, that thing destroys it selfe; looke to any of the creatures, and let them not stirre out of their owne shell, they perish there. So, take a man that hath no further end than himselfe, let him seeke himselfe, make himselfe his end in all things he doth, looke onely to his own profit and commodity, such a man destroyes himselfe: for he is made to serve God, and men, and therein doth his happinesse consist, because that he is made for such an end: take those that have beene serviceable to God, and men, that have spent themselves in serving God, with a perfect heart, we see that such men are happie men; and doe wee not finde it by experience, that those that have gone a contrary way, have destroyed themselves? And this is the third particular.
If things had no beginning, if the world was from eternity, what is the reason there are no Monuments of more ancient times, than there are? For if wee consider what eternity is, and what the vastnesse of it is, that when you have thought of millions of millions of yeeres, yet still there is more beyond: if the world hash been of so long continuance, what is the reason, that things are but, as it were, newly ripened? what is the reason, that things are of no greater antiquity than they are? Take all the Writers that ever wrote, (besides the Scripture) and they all exceed not above foure thousand yeeres; for they almost all agree in this, that the first man, that had ever any history written of him, was Ninus, who lived about Abraham’s time, or a little before; Trogus Pornpeius, and Diodorus Siculus agree in this. Plutarch saith, that Theseus was the first, before him there was no history of truth, nothing credible; and this is his expression: Take the Histories of times before Theseus, and you shall find them to be like skirts, in the Maps, wherein you shall find nothing but vast Seas. Varro one of the most learned of their Writers, professeth, that before the Kingdome of the Sicyonians, which begun after Ninus time, nothing was knowne to be certaine, and the beginning of that was doubtfull and uncertaine. And their usuall division of all history, into fabulous, and certaine, by Historians, is well knowne to those that are conversant in them; and yet the Historians that are of any truth, began long after the Captivitie in Babylon; for Herodotus, that lived after Esthers time, is counted the first that ever wrote in Prose, and he was above eight hundred yeeres after Moses time. For conclusion of this, we will onely say, that which one of the ancientest of the Roman Poets, drawing this conclusion from the argument we have in hand, saith, If things were from eternitie, and had not a beginning;
Cur supra helium Thebanum & funera Troje
If things were from eternitie, what is the reason, that before the Theban and Trojan warre, all the ancient Poets, and ancient Writers did not make mention of any thing? Doe you thinke if things had beene from eternity, there would be no monuments of them, if you consider the vastnesse of eternity, what it is? So likewise for the beginning of Arts and Sciences; what is the reason that the originall of them is knowne? why were they no sooner found out? why are they not sooner perfected? Printing, you know, is a late invention; and so is the invention of Letters: take all Sciences, the ancientest, as Astrologie and Philosophie, as well as the Mathematicks; why are their Authors yet knowne, and we see them in the blade, and in the fruit? So for the Genealogies of men (for that I touch, because it is an argument insinuated by Paul, when hee disputed with the Heathens, Acts 17:26. That God hath made of one blood all mankind) you see evidently how one man begets another, and hee another, &c. and so goe and take all the Genealogies in the Scripture, and in all other historiographers, we shall see, that they al come to one Well-head. Now, I aske, if the world was from eternity, what is the reason, that there is but one fountaine, one blood whereof we are all made? Why should they not be made all together? Why was not the earth peopled together, and in every Land a multitude of inhabitants together, if they had been from eternity, and had no beginning?
The second principall Head, by which wee will make this good to you, that there is a God that made heaven and earth, is the testimony of God himselfe. There is a double testimony; one is the written testimony, which wee have in the Scripture; the other is, that testimony, which is written in the hearts of men.
Now, you know that all Nations doe acknowledge a God, (this we take for granted) yea, even those that have been lately discovered, that live, as it were, disjoyned from the rest of the world, yet they all have, and worship a God; those Nations discovered lately by the Spaniards, in the West Indies, and those that have been discovered since; all of them, without exception, have it written in their hearts, that there is a God. Now the strength of the argument lies in these two things:
1. I observe that phrase used, Rom. 2:15. It is called a law written in their hearts. Every man’s soule is but (as it were) the table or paper, upon which the writing is; the thing written is this principle that wee are now upon, that there is a God, that made heaven and earth: but now who is the Writer? surely it is God, which is evident by this, because it is a general effect in the heart of every man living, and therefore it must come from a generall cause: from whence else shall it proceed? no particular cause can produce it; if it were, or had beene taught by some particular man, by some sect, in some one Nation or Kingdome, in one age; then, knowing the cause, we should see that the effect would not exceed it, but when you find it in the hearts of all men, in all nations and ages; then you must conclude, it was an universall effect, written by the generall Author of all things, which is God alone; and so consequently, the Argument hath this strength in it, that it is the testimony of God.
2. Besides, when you see every man looking after a God, and seeking him, it is an argument that there is one, though they doe not find him: it is true, they pitch upon a false god, and goe the wrong way to seek him, yet it shewes that there is such a Deity. For as in other things when we see one affect that which another doth not; as to the eye of one, that is beautifull which is not to another, yet all affecting some beauty; it is an argument that beauty is the generall object of all: & so in tast & other senses. So when we see men going different waies, one worshipping one God, one another, yet all conspiring in this, to worship a God, it must needs argue that there is one: for this law ingraven in every mans heart, you will grant it is a worke of Nature at least, and the workes of Nature are not in vaine; even as, when you see the fire to ascend above the aire, it argues that there is a place where it would rest, though you never saw it; and as (in winter) when you see the Swallowes flying to a place, though you never saw the place, yet you must needs gather that there is one which nature hath appointed them, and hath given them an instinct to the unto, and there to be at rest, so when you see in every mans soule such an instigation to seek God though men never saw him, and the most go the wronge way to seeke him, and take that for God which is not, yet this argues there is a Deitie which they intend. And this is the third.
The last argument is taken from the soule of man, the fashion of it, and the immortalitie of it.
First, God is sayd to have made man after his owne Image; he doth not meane his body, for that is not made after the Image of God, neither is it only that holinesse which was created in us and now lost: for then he would not have sayd Gen. 9:6, He that sheds mans bloud, by man shall his bloud bee shed, for in the Image of GOD made he man. The principall intent of that place is (for ought I can see or judge, the Scripture speaking of the natural fashion of things, and not of the supernaturall graces) to expresse that God hath given a soule to man, that carries the Image of God, a likenesse to the Essence of God immateriall, immortall, invisible; for there is a double Image of God in the soule, one in the substance of it, which is never lost; another is the supernaturall grace, which is an Image of the knowledge, holinesse, and righteousnesse of God; and this is utterly lost. But the soule is the Image of the essence of God (as I may so speake) that is, it is a spirit immateriall, immortall, invisible, as he is, hath understanding and will, as he hath; he understands all things, and wils whatsoever he pleaseth. And you see an expression of him in your owne soule, which is an argument of the Deity.
Secondly, besides the immortality of the soule, which argues it came not from any thing here below, but that it hath its originall from God it came from God, and to God it must returne; that is, it had not any beginning here, it had it from him, and to him againe it must returne. For what is this body, wherein the soule is? it is but the case of the soule, the shell and sheath of it; therefore the soule useth it but for a time, and dwels in it, as a man dwels in a house while it is habitable, but when it is growne ruinous, he departeth: the soule useth the body, as a man doth a vessell, when it is broken he laies it aside; or as a man doth an instrument, whilest it will be serviceable to him; but when it is no longer fit to play upon, he casts it aside; so doth the soule as it were lay aside the body: for it is but as a garment that a man useth, when it is worne out, and threed-bare, he casts it off: so doth the soule with the body. And for the further proofe of this, and that it depends not on the body, nor hath its originall of it, or by it; consider the great acts of the soule, which are such as cannot arise from the temper of the matter, bee it never so curious: As the discourse of the soule from one generall to another; the apprehension of so high things as God and Angels; the devising of such things as never came into the senses; for though it be true, that sounds & colours be carried into the understanding by the senses, yet to make pictures of these colours, and musicke of these sounds, this is from the understanding with in: So the remembrance of things past; observing the condition of things, by comparing one with another. Now, looke upon bruitbeasts, we see no actions but may arise from the temper of the matter; according to which their fancie and appetite are fashioned; though some actions are stronger than others, yet they arise not aboue the Well-head of sense: all those extraordinary things which they are taught to doe, it is but for their food, as Hawks; and some Pigeons it is reported, in Assyria that they carry Letters from one place to another, where they use to have food; so other beasts that act dancing, and such like motions, it is done by working on their senses: but come to man, there are other actions of his understanding and will in the soule. It is true indeed, in a man there are fancy and appetite, and these arise from the temper of the body; therefore as the body hath a different temper so there are severall appetites, disposition and affections; some men longs after one thing, some after another, but these are but the several turnings of the sensuall appetite, (which is also seene in beasts) but come to the higher part of the soule, the actions of the will and understanding of man, and they are of an higher nature; the acts which they doe have no dependence upon the body at all. Besides, come to the motions of the body; the soule guides and moves the body; as a Pilot doth a ship, now the Pilot may be safe, though the ship be split upon the Rock.) Looke on beasts, they are led wholly as their appetite carries them, and they must goe that way; therefore they are not ruled, as a Pilot governs a ship: but in men, their appetites would carry them hither, or thither, but the will saith no, and that hash the understanding for its counseler. So that the motions of the body arise not from the diversity of the sensuall appetites, as in all other creatures, but of the will and understanding; for the soul depends not upon the body, but the acts of the body depend upon it: therefore when the body perisheth, the soule dies not; but, as a man that dwels in a house, if the house fall, hee hath no dependence on it, but may gee away to another house; so the soule hath no dependence upon the body at all; therefore you must not think that it doth dye when the body perisheth.
Besides, the soule is not worne, it is not weary, as other things are; the body is weary, and the spirits are weary; the body weares, as doth a garment, till it be wholly worne out: now, any thing that is not weary, it cannot perish; and, in the very actions of the soule it selfe there is no wearinesse, but whatsoever comes into the soule perfects it, with a perfection naturall to it, & it is the stronger for it; therefore it cannot be subject to decay, it cannot weare out, as other things doe, but the more notions it hath, the more perfect it is: the body, indeed, is weary with labour, and the spirits are wearie, but the soule is not weary, for in the immediate acts thereof, it workes still, even when the body sleepeth: Looke upon the actions of the soule, and they are independent, and as their independencie growes, so the soule growes younger and younger, and stronger and stronger, senescens juvenescit, and is not subject to decay, or mortality: as you see in a Chicken, it growes still, and so the shell breakes, and falls off: so is it with the soule, the body hangs on it but as a shell, and when the soule is growne to perfection, it falls away, and the soule returnes to the Maker.
Believing That God Exists
The next thing that I should come to, is to shew you how this is made evident by faith. When a man hath some rude thoughts of a thing, and hash some reason for it, hee then begins to have some perswasion of it; but when (besides) a man wise and true, shall come and tell him it is so, this addes much strength to his confidence: for when you come to discerne this God-head, and to know it by reasons from the creatures, this may give you some perswasions; but when one shall come and tell you of the Scripture, made by a wise and true God, that is so indeed; this makes you confirmed in it. Therefore the strength of the argument by faith, you may gather after this manner: I beleeve the Scriptures to bee true and that they are the word of God; now this is contained in the Scriptures, that God made heaven and Earth; therefore I beleeving the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and whatsoever is contained in them, my faith layes hold upon it also, and so my consent growes strong and firme, that there is a God: After this manner you come to conclude it by faith. For what is faith? Faith is but when a thing is propounded to you even as an object set before the eye, there is an habit of faith within, that sees it what it is; for faith is nothing else, but a seeing of that which is: for though a thing is not true because I beleeve it is so, yet things first are, and then I beleeve them. Faith doth not beleeve things imaginary, and such as have no ground; but whatsoever faith beleeves, it hath a being, and the things we beleeve doe lye before the eyes of reason, sanctified and elevated by the eye of faith; therefore Moses, when he goes about to set downe the Scripture, doth not prove things by reason, but propounds them, as, In the beginning GOD made the Heaven and Earth; he propounds the object, and leaves it to the eye of faith to looke upon. For the nature of faith is this: God hath given to man an understanding facultie, (which we call, Reason) the object of which is all the truths that are delivered in the world, and whatsoever hath a being. Now take all things that wee are said to beleeve, and they also are things that are, which are the true objects of the understanding and reason. But the understanding hath objects of two sorts:
1. Such as we may easily perceive, as the eye of man doth the object that is before him.
2 Such as wee see with more difficulty, and cannot do it, without something above the eie to elevate it: As the candle and the bignesse of it, the eye can see; but to know the bignesse of the Sunne, in the latitude of it, you must have instruments of art to see it, and you must measure it by degrees, and so see it: so is it here, some things wee may fully see by reason alone, and those are such as lye before us, and them wee may easily see: but other things there are, that though they are true, yet they are more remote, and further off; therefore they are harder to bee scene; and therefore wee must have something to helpe our understanding to see them. So that indeed, Faith is but the lifting up of the understanding, by adding a new light to them and it: and therefore they are said to be revealed, not because they were not before, as if the revealing of them gave a being unto them; but even as a new light in the night discovers to us that which we did not see before, and as a prospective glasse reveales to the eye, that which we could not see before, and by its owne power, the eye could not reach unto: So that the way to strengthen our selves by this argument, is to beleeve the Scriptures, and the things contained in them. . . .
John Preston became a noted Puritan divine of great position. He was born in Heyford, Northamptonshire, and was educated at King’s College and Queen’s College of Cambridge University. He became tutor and fellow of Queen’s College and later chaplain to Prince Charles. He preached extensively at Lincoln’s Inn and Trinity Church in Cambridge.
His fame spread rapidly through his daily lectures, his Sunday sermons, and a series of debates with the famous Arminian, Richard Montague. Preston argued the Calvinistic doctrine of election with great ability and persuasiveness. He became a popular preacher and powerful writer, but he wore himself out with his extensive labors and died at age forty-eight. To the warnings of his friends he had replied: “Our life, like iron, consumes with rust, as much without as by employment... . seven years in the life of some men are as much as seventy in others.”
His written works were never completely collected, though William Tennent published an abridgment of them in 1658. Preston’s main works were The New Covenant (1629), The Breastplate of Faith and Love (1630), Life Eternal (1631), The Saint’s Daily Exercise (1633), The Saint’s Qualifications (1634), Sermons Before His Majesty (1637), Doctrines of the Saint’s Infirmities (1638), Fulness of Christ for Us (1640), Thesis de Gratiae Convertendis Irresistibilitate (1652), Riches of Mercy to Men in Misery (1658).