GOD All-sufficient must needs be his own happiness;
By happiness, the 17thcentury Puritan Edward Polhill means more than a transitory emotional state. He means something like a supreme contentment; the need of nothing else. We as creatures are in constant need of another. We need air and space and time; we need food and water; shelter and sleep; company and care. But God’s happiness is complete in himself. Polhill here details the aspects of God’s self-sufficiency:
he hath his being from himself,
We need God to sustain our existence. Matter has nothing in itself to make itself continue to exist. There is nothing in the rock that keeps the rock in existence. The fact that we seek rocks continue in existence blinds us to this reality. But God has no need of another to come into being and then continue to be.
Second, God needs nothing to save him from ennui:
and his happiness is no other than his being radiant with all excellencies, and by intellectual and amatorious reflexions, turning back into the fruition of itself.
His excellencies are such as would delight his love. Moreover, he has no need for another to avoid being bored:
His understanding hath prospect enough in his own infinite perfections: his will hath rest enough in his own infinite goodness;
His being is from himself, his thoughts and affections have an infinite view to maintain a constant delight.
Negatively, God has no need of anything else, when God has God:
he needed not the pleasure of a world, who hath an eternal Son in his bosom to joy in, nor the breath of angels or men who hath an eternal Spirit of his own; he is the Great All, comprising all within himself:
If God were delighted with any other than God, that other being would be greater and would be God. By definition, God must be content with God:
nay, unless he were so, he could not be God.
At this point, Polhill makes a list of all things which God would not suffer if he never did create.
Had he let out no beams of his glory, or made no intelligent creatures to gather up and return them back to himself, his happiness would have suffered no eclipse or diminution at all, his power would have been the same, if it had folded up all the possible worlds within its own arms, and poured forth never an one into being to be a monument of itself.
His wisdom the same, if it had kept in all the orders and infinite harmonies lying in its bosom, and set forth no such series and curious contexture of things as now are before our eyes.
His goodness might have kept an eternal Sabbath in itself, and never have come forth in those drops and models of being which make up the creation.
His eternity stood not in need of any such thing as time or a succession of instants to measure its duration; nor his immensity of any such temple as heaven and earth to dwell in, and fill with his presence.
His holiness wanted not such pictures of itself as are in laws or saints; nor his grace such a channel to run in as covenants or promises.
His majesty would have made no abatement, if it had had no train or host of creatures to wait upon it, or no rational ones among them, such as angels and men, to sound forth its praises in the upper or lower world. Creature-praises, though in the highest tune of angels, are but as silence to him, as that text may be read. (Psalm 65:1.)
Were he to be served according to his greatness, all the men in the world would not be enough to make a priest, nor all the other creatures enough to make a sacrifice fit for him. Is it any pleasure to him that thou art righteous? saith Eliphaz. (Job. 22:3.)
No doubt he takes pleasure in our righteousness, but the complacence is without indigence, and while he likes it, he wants [lacks] it not.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 1.
The previous post on this sermon may be found here
He then concludes with the use of this doctrine that the graces, the worship of the Church is accepted (“Christ’s acceptation”).
First, as it common in Sibbes he notes the comfort and encouragement this brings:
Use 1. If so be that God accepts the performances and graces, especially the prayers of his children, let it be an argument to encourage us to be much in all holy duties.
Sibbes then makes an interesting observation about human psychology and motivation:
It would dead the heart of any man to perform service where it should not be accepted, and the eye turned aside, not vouchsafing a gracious look upon it. This would be a killing of all comfortable endeavours.
As I consider this observation, it may be that a tacit belief that our prayer has been valueless weakens our resolve to pray. And that, perhaps, stems from a defective theology and understanding of prayer:
James 4:3 (AV)
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Sibbes makes a related observation about why our prayers misfire:
But when all that is good is accepted, and what is amiss is pardoned, when a broken desire, a cup of cold water shall not go unrespected, nay, unrewarded, Mat. 10:42, what can we desire more? It is infidelity which is dishonourable to God and uncomfortable to ourselves, that makes us so barren and cold in duties.
Sibbes then comes to the second observation — which is related to his questioning of why our worship may “fail.” If we do hope to have our worship acceptable, then our lives must be kept clear of sin:
Use 2. Only let our care be to approve our hearts unto Christ. When our hearts are right, we cannot but think comfortably of Christ. Those that have offended some great persons are afraid, when they hear from them, because they think they are in a state displeasing to them. So a soul that is under the guilt of any sin is so far from thinking that God accepts of it, that it looks to hear nothing from him but some message of anger and displeasure. But one that preserves acquaintance, due distance, and respect to a great person, hears from him with comfort. Before he breaks open a letter, or sees anything, he supposes it comes from a friend, one that loves him. So, as we would desire to hear nothing but good news from heaven, and acceptation of all that we do, let us be careful to preserve ourselves in a good estate, or else our souls will tremble upon any discovery of God’s wrath. The guilty conscience argues, what can God shew to me, being such a wretch? The heart of such an one cannot but misgive, as, where peace is made, it will speak comfort. It is said of Daniel that he was a man of God’s desires, Dan. 9:23; 10:11, 19; and of St John, that Christ so loved him that he leaned on his breast, John 21:20. Every one cannot be a Daniel, nor one that leans on Christ’s bosom. There are degrees of favour and love; but there is no child of God but he is beloved and accepted of him in some degree.
In the worship of the temple, there were various rules which dealt with “uncleanness”, those things which kept one from being able to come worship. When one was unclean, there were rituals prescribed which permitted the worship to be cleaned and thus come into the fellowship of worship.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul writes about coming to the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner:
1 Corinthians 11:27–34 (AV)
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
But with Christ there is always the offer of pardon and being made clean to enter into his presence:
1 John 1:5–10 (AV)
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
At this point, Sibbes but cannot help offer more encouragement to come to Christ.He does this by referring to something from the previous chapter:
But something of this before in the former chapter.
‘I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey,’ &c.
God not only accepts us, but delights in us:
That is, I have taken contentment in thy graces, together with acceptation. There is a delight, and God not only accepts, but he delights in the graces of his children. ‘All my delight,’ saith David, ‘is in those that are excellent,’ Ps. 16:3. But this is not all, Christ comes with an enlargement of what he finds.
He explains that Christ is the means by which the believer receives the blessing of God. All spiritual blessing is in Christ. The Spirit then communicates that blessing to those in union with Christ. And as that communion takes place, the capacity for the communion increases:
Those that have communion with Christ, therefore, have a comfortable communion, being sure to have it enlarged, for ‘to him that hath shall be given,’ Mat. 25:29.
And then there is the promise of future good when Christ comes at last:
It is not only true of his last coming, when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, ‘I come, and my reward is with me,’ Rev. 22:12, but also of all his intermediate comings that are between.
Here is the real wonder: Christ accepts us and then lavishes good upon us. If we were permitted to visit the president or a king or queen or some other “important” person, we would think the honor of being accepted into their company honor enough. But when we come to Christ, he gives us his company and showers good upon us — and increases our capacity to receive the good:
When he comes to the soul, he comes not only to accept what is there, but still with his reward with him, the increase of grace, to recompense all that is good with the increase thereof. This made his presence so desired in the gospel with those that had gracious hearts. They knew all was the better for Christ, the company the better, for he never left any house or table where he was, but there was an increase of comfort, and of grace. And as it was in his personal, so it is in his spiritual presence. He never comes, but he increases grace and comfort.
What do we do with such information? We use it as encouragement to come to Christ:
Therefore, let us be stirred up to have communion with Christ, by this motive, that thus we shall have an increase of a further measure of grace. Let us labour to be such as Christ may delight in, for our graces are honey and spices to him, and where he tastes sweetness he will bring more with him.
Our present communion then fits us for future communion with him:
For, except there be a mutual joy in one another, there is not communion. Therefore Christ furnisheth his church with so much grace as is necessary for a state of absence here, that may fit her for communion with him for ever in heaven.
If we are receiving such good and comfort from Christ, how then should we respond? Joy. Paul says that we are to rejoice always. In what, that our name is written in the book of Life:
We ought to rejoice in the comforts and graces of others, and of ourselves.
He makes a subtle observation here: There are benefits we receive from the Spirit: (1) the grace he gives; and (2) the understanding, the realization of the grace he gives. It would be very disappointing to receive a great treasure and then never know that it was present. We become like Little-Faith of Pilgrim’s Progress who possessed a great jewel and yet lived in poverty, unless the Spirit give us knowledge of what we have:
He had need to stir her up to enjoy the comfort of her own grace; for they are two distinct benefits, to have grace, and to know that we have it, though one Spirit work both, 1 Cor. 2:12. The Spirit works grace, and shews us the things that God hath given us, yet sometimes it doth the one, and not the other. In the time of desertion and of temptation, we have grace, but we know it not; right to comfort, but we feel it not. There is no comfort of a secret, unknown treasure; but so it is with the church, she doth not always take notice of her own graces, and the right she hath to comfort.
We have need to have Christ’s Spirit to help us to know what good is in us.
At this point, Sibbes gives instruction which saves us from morbid introspection. We must examine ourselves. Some fail in this duty altogether. Others inspect, but only to find sorrow and sores, infection and failing. Sibbes gives different counsel:
And indeed a Christian should not only examine his heart for the evil that is in him, to be humbled; but what good there is, that he may joy and be thankful. And since Christ accepts the very first fruits, the earnest, and delights in them, we should know what he delights in, that we may go boldly to him; considering that it is not of ourselves, but of Christ, whatsoever is graciously good. Therefore we ought to know our own graces; for Christ, when he will have us comfortable indeed, will discover to us what cause we have to rejoice, and shew us what is the work of his own Spirit, and our right to all comfort.
An introspection which can both see the need of repentance and the good grace of the Spirit’s work will improve rather than become discouraged.
And then we should look around and rejoice in the good work of God in other people, in other circumstances. We should look in Creation and rejoice and praise God for his good work. We should look to providence and give God glory for his provision and protection, There is a wealth of good lying about us in which we could rejoice, if we were to only look.
Look then at those around you. Give God glory for the repentance of our own sins and the sins of others; of the growing in grace in our heart and in others. Look to the sky and the sea and ground and rejoice at all that God has done. It is the Devil’s work to be discontented. It is the work of children to rejoice in their Father’s World.
“How this assembly of galaxies got so big, so fast is a mystery,” Tim Miller, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the papers, said in the statement. “It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect. This discovery provides a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build enormous galaxy clusters.”
Theophilus gives two reasons: Theological, to prove that Adam and Eve were not created by different gods. Anthropological: increase their affection:
And Adam having been cast out of Paradise, in this condition knew Eve his wife, whom God had formed into a wife for him out of his rib. And this He did, not as if He were unable to make his wife separately, but God foreknew that man would call upon a number of gods. And having this prescience, and knowing that through the serpent error would introduce a number of gods which had no existence,—for there being but one God, even then error was striving to disseminate a multitude of gods, saying, “Ye shall be as gods; ”—lest, then, it should be supposed that one God made the man and another the woman, therefore He made them both; and God made the woman together with the man, not only that thus the mystery of God’s sole government might be exhibited, but also that their mutual affection might be greater.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 105.
Theophilus next commences with a long discussion of the Creation. It is interesting that he takes Creation as the great distinction between the pagan and Christian worldviews. Interestingly, Peter Jones makes exactly the same distinction as the “bedrock” for the difference between Christianity and other positions:
In either case, here we reach rock bottom. Either the transcendent Creator— one God in the unending interpersonal life and love of the Trinity— is at the origin of everything created and sustains it all, or the universe itself, in all its seeming variety, is all there is. And in either case, whether we worship nature or the Maker of nature, we are dealing with a statement of faith and an expression of worship. We cannot step out of the universe to find an objective point of view. We must make a faith decision between these two alternatives— and there are only two. If God and nature make up reality, then all is two, and everything is either Creator or creature. On the other hand, if the universe is all there is, then all is one.
This choice is exemplified in the stark separation between two points of perspective: that of the Bible, and that of Camille Paglia, a contemporary philosopher. The Bible begins by saying: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth [i.e., nature]” (Gen 1: 1). Paglia begins her book Sexual Personae very differently: “In the beginning was Nature.” [footnote] These two views of reality have always existed, but because we have lived for centuries in a Christian environment, the reemerging conflict startles us. Paglia wrote what she did in conscious opposition to the perspective on the world put forth in Genesis. Christian thinking starts not with Paglia’s view of existence but with that of the Bible.
Robert Sokolowski, a professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, puts it this way:
Christian theology is differentiated from pagan religious and philosophical reflections primarily by the introduction of a new distinction, the distinction between the world, understood as possibly not having existed, and God, understood as possibly being all that there is, with no diminution of goodness or greatness.
Jones, Peter (2015-06-24). The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Kindle Locations 252-267). Kirkdale Press. Kindle Edition.
In making this argument, Theophilus relies heavily upon the text of Scripture, quoting out long sections of Genesis as argument. A few observations about Theophilus’ rendition of the creation account. First, he gives the rationale for the creation of human beings:
And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 97–98.
Second, he does engage in some allegorizing of the text. This is not in contrast to the “literal” meaning, which he takes as a given, but as an additional layer of meaning. For example:
And we say that the world resembles the sea. For as the sea, if it had not had the influx and supply of the rivers and fountains to nourish it, would long since have been parched by reason of its saltness; so also the world, if it had not had the law of God and the prophets flowing and welling up sweetness, and compassion, and righteousness, and the doctrine of the holy commandments of God, would long ere now have come to ruin, by reason of the wickedness and sin which abound in it. And as in the sea there are islands, some of them habitable, and well-watered, and fruitful, with havens and harbours in which the storm-tossed may find refuge,—so God has given to the world which is driven and tempest-tossed by sins, assemblies6—we mean holy churches7—in which survive the doctrines of the truth, as in the island-harbours of good anchorage; and into these run those who desire to be saved, being lovers of the truth, and wishing to escape the wrath and judgment of God. And as, again, there are other islands, rocky and without water, and barren, and infested by wild beasts, and uninhabitable, and serving only to injure navigators and the storm-tossed, on which ships are wrecked, and those driven among them perish,—so there are doctrines of error—I mean heresies8word of truth; but as pirates, when they have filled their vessels,9 drive them on the fore-mentioned places, that they may spoil them: so also it happens in the case of those who err from the truth, that they are all totally ruined by their error.
Theophilus of Antioch, 100. He also sees the period of testing in Paradise as analogous to a Father raising a child:
The tree of knowledge itself was good, and its fruit was good. For it was not the tree, as some think, but the disobedience, which had death in it. For there was nothing else in the fruit than only knowledge; but knowledge is good when one uses it discreetly. But Adam, being yet an infant in age, was on this account as yet unable to receive knowledge worthily. For now, also, when a child is born it is not at once able to eat bread, but is nourished first with milk, and then, with the increment of years, it advances to solid food. Thus, too, would it have been with Adam; for not as one who grudged him, as some suppose, did God command him not to eat of knowledge. But He wished also to make proof of him, whether he was submissive to His commandment. And at the same time He wished man, infant as he was,4 to remain for some time longer simple and sincere. For this is holy, not only with God, but also with men, that in simplicity and guilelessness subjection be yielded to parents. But if it is right that children be subject to parents, how much more to the God and Father of all things? Besides, it is unseemly that children in infancy be wise beyond their years; for as in stature one increases in an orderly progress, so also in wisdom. But as when a law has commanded abstinence from anything, and some one has not obeyed, it is obviously not the law which causes punishment, but the disobedience and transgression;—for a father sometimes enjoins on his own child abstinence from certain things, and when he does not obey the paternal order, he is flogged and punished on account of the disobedience; and in this case the actions themselves are not the [cause of] stripes, but the disobedience procures punishment for him who disobeys;—so also for the first man, disobedience procured his expulsion from Paradise. Not, therefore, as if there were any evil in the tree of knowledge; but from his disobedience did man draw, as from a fountain, labour, pain, grief, and at last fall a prey to death.
Theophilus of Antioch, 104. This probationary period could have resulted in immortality from the beginning, had Adam kept the law of God:
But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself.1 That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him.2 For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.
The previous post on the Apology of Theophilus may be found here
In chapters V, VI & VII, Theophilus takes his pagan reader to task by listing out all the various things the poets have said about the beginning of the gods and the world, and all the strange and confused genealogies. He quickly shows that the origin stories are wildly incoherent. As such, it would be easy to disregard this section of his apology (who believes in Greek myths any more?). But then he makes this argument which is salient:
And saying this, he has not yet explained by whom all this was made. For if chaos existed in the beginning, and matter of some sort, being uncreated, was previously existing, who was it that effected the change on its condition, and gave it a different order and shape? Did matter itself alter its own form and arrange itself into a world (for Jupiter was born, not only long after matter, but long after the world and many men; and so, too, was his father Saturn), or was there some ruling power which made it; I mean, of course, God, who also fashioned it into a world? Besides, he is found in every way to talk nonsense, and to contradict himself.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 96.
In the end, modern creation accounts differ little from pagan creation accounts: In the beginning was the world and the world made itself. There was some original state of stuff which somehow changed itself: but how?
To argue that in the beginning was a singularity may make for “god” with a name more amenable to our ears, but is that really much of an advance? Where did this singularity come from? Where did the rules which gave rise to control this singularity come from — that is information which is capable of molding matter and energy. It certainly has profound powers.
The names are different, the mechanism by which the formation takes place is different, but the basic story is the same.
67. He believes that God wrought six days, and yet he believes that God kept an everlasting Sabbath. 68. He believes that God created all things in time, and yet he believes that all which God does is done in eternity. 69. He believes that nothing has no good in it; and yet believes that God make all things of nothing and behold they were very good. 70. He believes that God never spake a word, and yet he believes that all things were created by the word of his mouth. 71. He believes that the creation was ended in six days, and yet he believes that creation is continued in providence every day.
A new study suggests that there are around 700 quintillion planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. It’s a revelation that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden arrived at this staggering figure — a 7 followed by 20 zeros — with the aid of a computer model that simulated the universe’s evolution following the Big Bang. Zackrisson’s model combined information about known exoplanets with our understanding of the early universe and the laws of physics to recreate the past 13.8 billion years.
Every single worldview has to start by answering the most basic question of all. Why is there something rather than nothing? Nothing would need no explanation; the existence of something does. Every single worldview that human beings have ever conceived or understood has to answer this question. The Christian worldview begins with the Christian doctrine of creation, which begins the very text of Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything in Scripture follows, and everything in the development of the Christian biblical worldview also follows from that very first axiom, the axiom of creation. Every alternative worldview has to answer the question in its own way. Now one interesting historical note is that it took centuries for any alternative worldview to arise in Western civilization as a rival to the Christian biblical worldview. There simply was no other alternative. That changed, particularly in the 19th century, with the arrival of Charles Darwin, Darwinism, and the theory of evolution. That allowed the development of a non-Christian, non-biblical worldview, an alternative worldview that was established in the axiom of materialism—that is that all that exists is that which is matter—naturalism, meaning that there has to be purely naturalistic explanations for all phenomena, and of course now we have the doctrine of evolution as one of the central doctrines of orthodoxy among the modern secular elites. We also have to note that every worldview moves from one question to another. The Christian worldview, like every other worldview, has to move from why is there something rather than nothing, which Christianity answers with the doctrine of creation, to what’s gone wrong with the world, which is where the Christian worldview answers with the doctrine of the fall and the doctrine of sin. The next question is, can anything be done to rescue? And that is where the Christian doctrine of redemption, the doctrine of atonement through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole doctrine of salvation, plays such a central role. And then every worldview has to answer the question, where is all of this going? That is the Christian doctrine of eschatology. A secular worldview, any secular worldview, or any other alternative worldview, has to answer those same questions; and the answer to that question, the very first question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” actually, as we shall see, determines all the rest. It sets the trajectory for every other answer to all those other inescapable questions.