« PreviousContinue »
of their merely natural capacity and understanding. But howsoever, these swervings are now and then incident unto the course of nature; nevertheless so constantly the laws of nature are by natural agents observed, that no man denieth but those things which nature worketh are wrought either always, or for the most part, after one and the
If here it be demanded, what is this which keepeth nature in obedience to her own law, we must have recourse to that higher law, whereof we have already spoken; and because all other laws do thereon depend, from thence we must borrow so much as shall need for brief 13 resolution in this point. Although we are not of opinion therefore, as some are, that nature in working hath before her certain 14 exemplary draughts or patterns, which, subsisting in the bosom of the Highest, and being thence discovered, she fixeth her eye upon them, as travellers by sea upon the pole-star of the world, and that according thereunto she guideth her hand to work by imitation : although we rather embrace the oracle of 15 Hippocrates, “ That each thing, both in small and in great, fulfilleth the task which destiny hath set down.” And concerning the manner of executing and fulfilling the same, “ What they do they know not, yet is it in show and appearance as though they did know what they do; and the truth is, they do not discern the things which they look on :" nevertheless, forasmuch as the works of nature are no less exact than if she did both behold and study how to express some absolute shape or mirror always present before her; yea, such her dexterity and skill appeareth, that no intellectual creature in the world were able by capacity to do that which nature doth without capacity and knowledge; it cannot be but nature hath some director of infinite knowledge to guide her in all her ways. Who is the guide of nature, but only the God of nature? “In him we live, move, and are.” Those things which nature is said to do, are by divine art performed, using nature as an instrument; nor is there any such art or knowledge divine in nature herself working, but in the Guide of nature's work. Whereas, therefore, things natural, which are not in the number of voluntary agents (for of such only we now speak, and of no other,) do so necessarily observe their certain laws, that as long as they keep those forms which give them their being, they cannot possibly be apt or inclinable to do otherwise than they do ; seeing the kinds of their operations are both constantly and exactly framed, according to the several ends for which they serve, they themselves in the meanwhile, though doing that which is fit, yet knowing neither what they do, nor why; it followeth th all which they do in this sort proceedeth originally from some such agent as knoweth, appointeth, holdeth up, and even actually frameth the same. The manner of this divine efficiency being far above us, we are no more able to conceive by our reason, than creatures unreasonable by their sense are able to apprehend after what manner we dispose and order the course of our affairs. Only thus much is discerned, that the natural generation and process of all things receiveth order of proceeding from the settled stability of divine understanding. This appointeth unto them their kinds of working ; the 16 disposition whereof, in the purity of God's own knowledge and will, is rightly termed by the name of Providence. The same being referred unto the things themselves, here disposed by it, was wont by the ancients to be called Natural Destiny. That law, the performance whereof we behold in things natural, is as it were an authentical or an original draught, written in the bosom of God himself; whose Spirit being to execute the same, useth every particular nature, every mere natural agent, only as an instrument created at the beginning, and ever since the beginning used to work his own will and pleasure withal. Nature, therefore, is nothing else but God's instrument. In the course whereof, Dionysius, perceiving some sudden disturbance, is said to have cried out: “Aut Deus naturae patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur;" — either God doth suffer impediment, and is by a greater than himself hindered; or if that be impossible, then hath he determined to make a
present dissolution of the world; the execution of that law beginning now to stand still, without which the world cannot stand. This Workman, whose servitor nature is, being in truth but only one, the heathens imagining to be more, gave him in the sky the name of Jupiter; in the air, the name of Juno; in the water, the name of Neptune; in the earth, the name of Vesta, and sometimes of Ceres;
the name of Apollo in the sun; in the moon, the name of Diana; the name of Aeolus, and divers other, in the winds; and to conclude, even so many guides of nature they dreamed of as they saw there were kinds of things natural in the world. These they honoured as having power to work or cease accordingly as men deserved of them : but unto us, there is one only Guide of all agents natural, and he both the creator and the worker of all in all, alone to be blessed, adored, and honoured by all for ever. That which hitherto hath been spoken concerneth natural agents, considered in themselves; but we must further remember also (which thing to touch, in a word, shall suffice), that as in this respect they have their law, which law directeth them in the means whereby they tend to their own perfection; so likewise another law there is, which toucheth them as they are sociable parts united into one body: a law which bindeth them each to serve unto others good, and all to prefer the good of the whole, 18 before whatsoever their own particular, as we plainly see they do, when things natural in that regard forget their ordinary natural wont; that which is heavy mounting some time upwards of its own accord, and forsaking the centre of the earth, which to itself is most natural, even as if it did hear itself commanded to let go the good it privately wisheth, and to relieve the present distress of nature in common.
But now that we may lift up our eyes (as it were) from the footstool to the throne of God, and leaving these natural, consider a little the state of heavenly and divine creatures : touching angels, which are spirits immaterial and intellectual, the glorious inhabitants of those sacred palaces where nothing but light and blessed immortality, no shadow of matter for tears, discontentments, griefs, and uncomfortable passions to work upon, but all joy, tranquillity, and peace even for ever and ever do dwell: as in number and order they are huge, mighty, and royal armies ; so likewise in perfection of obedience untu that law which the Highest, whom they adore, love, and imitate, hath imposed upon them, such observants they are thereof, that our Saviour himself, being to set down the perfect idea of that which we are to pray and wish for on earth, did not teach to pray or wish for more, than only that here it might be with us as with them it is in heaven. God, which moveth mere natural agents as an efficient only, doth otherwise move intellectual creatures, and especially his holy angels: for beholding the face of God, in admiration of so great excellency, they all adore him; and being rapt with the love of his beauty, they cleave inseparably for ever unto him. Desire to resemble liim in goodness maketh them unweariable and even unsatiable in their longing to do by all means all manner of good unto all the creatures of God, but especially unto the children of men : in the countenance of whose nature, looking downward, they behold themselves beneath themselves; even as upward in God, beneath whom themselves are, they see that character which is nowhere but in themselves and us resembled. Thus far even the Paynims have approached ; thus far they have seen into the doings of the angels of God; Orpheus confessing that the fiery throne of God is attended on by those most industrious angels, careful how all things are performed amongst men; and the 19 Mirror of human wisdom plainly teaching that God moveth angels, even as that thing doth stir man's heart which is thereunto presented amiable. Angelical actions may, therefore, be reduced unto these three general kiuds: First, Most delectable Love, arising from the visible apprehension of the purity, glory, and beauty of God, invisible saving only unto spirits that are pure: secondly, Adoration, grounded upon the evidence of the greatness of God, on whom they see how all things depend: thirdly, Imitation, bred by the presence of his exemplary goodness, who ceaseth not before them daily to fill heaven and earth with the rich treasures of most free and undeserved grace. Of angels we are not to consider only what they are and do, in regard of their own being, but that also which concerneth them as they are linked into a kind of corporation amongst themselves, and of society or fellowship with men. Consider angels each of them severally in himself, and their law is that which the prophet David mentioneth: “All ye his angels, aise him.” Consider the angels of God associated, and their law is that which disposeth them as an army, one in order and degree above another. Consider, finally, the angels as having with us that communion which the apostle to the Hebrews noteth, and in regard whereof angels have not disdained to profess themselves our fellow-servants; from hence there springeth up a third law, which bindeth them to works of ministerial employment. 20 Every of which their several functions are by them performed with joy. A part of the angels of God, notwithstanding, (we know,) have fallen; and 21that their fall hath been through the voluntary breach of that law, which did require at their hands continuance in the exercise of their high and admirable virtue. Impossible it was that ever their will should change or incline to remit any part of their duty, without some object having force to avert their 22 conceit from God, and to draw it another way; and that before they attained that high perfection of bliss wherein now the elect angels are without possibility of falling. Of anything more than of God, they could not by any means like, as long as whatsoever they knew besides God, they apprehended it not in itself, without dependency upon God; because so long, God must needs seem infinitely better than anything which they so could apprehend. Things beneath them could not in such sort be presented unto their eyes, but that therein they must needs see always how those things did depend on God. It seemeth, therefore, that there was no other way for angels to sin, but by reflex of their understanding upon themselves; when, being held with admiration of their own sublimity and honour, the memory of their subordination unto God, and their dependency on him, was drowned in this conceit; whereupon their adoration, love, and imitation of God, could not choose but be also interrupted. The fall of angels, therefore, was pride. Since their fall, their practices have been the 23 clean contrary unto those before mentioned: for being dispersed, some in the air, some on the earth, some in the water, some among the minerals, dens, and caves that are under the earth; they have, by all means, laboured to effect an universal rebellion against the laws, and, as far as in them lieth, utter destruction of the works of God. 24 These wicked spirits the heathens honoured instead of gods, both generally, under the name of “Dii inferi”—“gods infernal;” and particularly, some in oracles, some in idols, some as household gods, some as nymphs. In a word, no foul and