My first impression walking into the Sistine Chapel was that the iconic image that Michelangelo painted of God creating Adam was much smaller than I imagined. It is contained in one of nine rectangular panels that depict scenes from the Book of Genesis that run down the central portion of the ceiling. Not knowing much about the fresco beforehand I had expected to see a dominant image of God, but was rather surprised that it was somewhat lost amongst the more than 300 painted figures that covered the ceiling of the chapel.
This iconic image of God framed in a panel serves as a metaphor to me of how we confine God in our imaginations. We may not conceptualize God as Michelangelo’s elderly white-bearded man wrapped in a cloak but oftentimes I think we are guilty of limiting God in our minds. In the third chapter of Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God he expounds on the doctrine of God being a Spirit.
Volume 1 Chapter 3 On God Being a Spirit
The Bible declares that God is infinite, “for the heaven of heavens cannot contain him” (2 Chron. 2:6). God, as a Spirit, fills heaven and earth and is not limited by a body. It is true that God is described in the Bible as having many parts of the body but this condescension of God is to make Himself known to man with such representations that will assist our finite minds of understanding His infinite nature.
God is an infinite, immense, eternal, invisible, incorruptible spiritual being and yet sinful man has always been prone to represent Him in a bodily form. This has impaired the reverence of God in the minds of men and often limits Him with the imperfections found in our own bodies. I wonder if we often live independent of God because we subconsciously transfer to Him human attributes and flaws such as not seeing our every step, not knowing our every thought, not hearing our every word, etc.
Charnock writes that though we cannot have a suitable conception of God we must not be content without any conception of Him. It is a sin to have a low notion of God but if we ascend as high as we can in our thoughts we will still come short of a suitable notion of Him… this however is not our sin, but the weakness of our humanity.
The nature of God as a Spirit is infinitely superior to whatever we can conceive in our minds. Charnock concludes, “Whatsoever God is, He is infinitely so: He is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness, infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above the excellencies of creatures. Conceive of Him as excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit everywhere without place; powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling the beauty of all creatures and when you have risen to the highest, conceive Him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever conception comes into your minds, say, ‘This is not God; God is more than this: if I could conceive Him, He were not God; for God is incomprehensibly above whatsoever I can say, whatsoever I can think and conceive of Him.’”
What a glorious thought that this same God was manifest in the flesh, died for our sins, was buried, rose again the third day, received up into glory, and through repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, He now is in me forever and His eternal life is my present possession – O what a God, O what a Saviour!
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24
“Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:16
I recently pulled The Existence and Attributes of God by Puritan Stephen Charnock from my bookshelf and began to read it. I ordered it sometime ago after hearing it recommended in a recorded sermon by Leonard Ravenhill. However it has sat quietly on the shelf because I’ve been somewhat intimidated to delve into its 1100+ pages of size 8 font.
The impetus for beginning it now was a portion of Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love that I read a month or so ago where he challenged the reader to study and learn more about the attributes of God. So here I am, slowly working through 10 pages a night of Charnock’s great seventeenth-century classic. Turns out it is not nearly as tedious as I feared.
The back cover of this exhaustive treatment of the doctrine of God states that, “The practical aim of these meditations is godly living, so that increased knowledge leads naturally to greater obedience and more heartfelt worship.” That is my desire… that my heart might be occupied with God in worship and that my daily walk would be in obedience to His word.
I felt it might be of benefit to record some highlights from each chapter as I complete them. Below are some of the things that I found thought provoking in the first 87 pages…
Volume 1 Chapter 1: The Existence of God
Psalm 14:1 – “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”
So a fool is one that has lost his wisdom, and right notion of God and divine things which were communicated to man by creation; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties as of grace in those faculties, not one that wants reason, but abuses his reason.
Though some few may choke in their hearts the sentiments of God and his providence, and positively deny them, yet there is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of a God, but a denial or doubting of some of the rights of his nature.
No better title than that of a fool is afforded to the atheist. If he were not a fool, he would not imagine a thing so contrary to the stream of the universal reason of the world, contrary to the rational dictates of his own soul, and contrary to the testimony of every creature, and link in the chain of creation: if he were not a fool, he would not strip himself of humanity, and degrade himself lower than the most despicable brute.
Why should we spend time in evidencing this truth, that there exists a God?…
The growth of atheism among us renders it necessary.
The existence of God is the foundation of all religion. The whole building totters if the foundation be out of course: if we have not deliberate and right notions of it, we shall perform no worship, no service, yield no affection to Him.
Our belief in the existence of God should be upon a better reason that that we have heard our parents and teachers tell us so.
It is necessary to depress that secret atheism which is in the heart of every man by nature. It is necessary to excite men to daily and actual considerations of God and His nature, which would be a bar to much of that wickedness which overflows in the lives of men.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
The apostle speaks of the faith of Abel, the faith of Enoch, such a faith that pleases God: but the faith of Abel testified in his sacrifice, and the faith of Enoch testified in his walking with God, was not simply a faith of the existence of God. Cain in the time of Abel, other men in the world in the time of Enoch, believed this as well as they: but it was a faith joined with the worship of God, and desires to please Him in the way of His own appointment; so that they believed that God was such as He had declared Himself to be in His promise to Adam, such an one as would be as good as His word, and bruise the serpent’s head.
It is a folly to deny or doubt of a Sovereign Being, incomprehensible in His nature, infinite in His essence and perfections, independent in His operations, who has given being to the whole frame of sensible and intelligible creatures, and governs them according to their several natures, by an unconceivable wisdom; who fills the heavens with the glory of His majesty, and the earth with the influence of His goodness.
The inexcusable folly of the atheist is demonstrated by the following reasons…
The force of religion is so innate within man that he has universally, and without interruption throughout history, sought the satisfaction of his natural instinct to worship some object.
The multiplicity of gods in the world and throughout the history of man does not weaken but rather confirms this universal consent.
Whatsoever unworthy conceits men have had of God in all nations, or whatsoever degrading representations they have made of Him, yet they all concur in this, that there is a Supreme Power to be adored.
The worship sprung from a true principle though it was not applied to a right object.
There is a law of nature written upon the hearts of men, which will direct them to commendable actions, if they will attend to the writing in their own consciences. This law of conscience cannot be considered without the notice of a Lawgiver.
Man witnesses to a God in the operations and reflections of conscience (Rom. 2:15). An inward comfort attends good actions, and an inward torment follows bad ones; for there is in every man’s conscience fear of punishment and hope of reward; there is, therefore, a sense of some superior judge, which has the power both of rewarding and punishing.
There is a notion of good and evil in the consciences of men, which is evident by those laws which are common in all countries, for the preserving of human societies, the encouragement of virtue, and discouragement of vice; what standard should they have for those laws but a common reason?
Man in the first instant of the use of reason, finds natural principles within himself; directing and choosing them, he finds a distinction between good and evil; how could this be if there were not some rule in him to try and distinguish good and evil?
If there were no such law, how should men that are naturally inclined to evil disapprove of that which is unlovely, and approve of that good which they practice not? No man but inwardly thinks well of that which is good, while he neglects it; and thinks ill of that which is evil, while he commits it.
Common reason supposes that there is some hand which has fixed the distinction of good and evil in man; how could it else be universally impressed? No law can be without a lawgiver: no sparks but must be kindled by some other.
Every man’s conscience testifies that he is unlike what he ought to be, according to that law engraved upon his heart. In some, indeed, conscience may be seared or dimmer; or suppose some men may be devoid of conscience, shall it be denied to be a thing belonging to the nature of man? Some men have not their eyes, yet the power of seeing the light is natural to man, and belongs to the integrity of the body. Who would argue that, because some men are mad, and have lost their reason by a distemper in the brain, that therefore reason has no reality, but is an imaginary thing? But I think it is a standing truth that every man has been under the scourge of it, one time or other, in a less or a greater degree; for, since every man is an offender, it cannot be imagined, conscience, which is natural to man, and an active faculty, should always lie idle, without doing this part of its office.
If there be no God, why do not men silence the clamors of their consciences and scatter those fears that disturb their rest and pleasures? How often do men attempt to drown it by sensual pleasures, and perhaps overpower it for a time; but it revives, reinforces itself, and acts a revenge for its former stop.
Man can as little silence those thunders in his soul, as he can the thunders in the heavens; he must strip himself of his humanity, before he can be stripped of an accusing and affrighting conscience; it sticks as close to him as his nature; since man cannot throw out the process it makes against him, it is evidence that some higher power secures its throne and standing.
It is a folly to deny that which all creatures or all creation manifest, the reality of a Godhead (see Rom. 1:19,20)
The first discourse of the mind upon the sight of a delicate piece of workmanship, is the conclusion of the being of an artificer, and the admiration of his skill and industry.
Who beholds garments, ships or houses but understands there was a weaver, a carpenter, an architect? Who can cast his eyes about the world, but must think of that power that formed it, and that the goodness which appears in the formation of it has a perfect residence in some being?
As they are made, they speak of a Maker, and cannot be a trick of chance, since they are made with such an immense wisdom, that is too big for the grasp of all human understanding.
There is a first cause of things, which we call God.
There must be something supreme in the order of nature, something which is greater than all, which has nothing beyond it or above it, otherwise we must run in infinitum.
We see not a river, but we conclude a fountain; a watch, but we conclude an artificer.
As all numbers begins from unity, so all the multitude of things in the world begins from some unity, oneness as the principle of it.
It is necessary that He by whom all things are, should be before all things, and nothing before Him. And if nothing be before Him, He comes not from any other; and then He always was, and without beginning. He is from Himself; not that He once was not, but because He has not His existence from another, and therefore of necessity He did exist from all eternity.
Since man knows he is an imperfect being, he must suppose the perfections he wants are seated in some other being which has limited him, and upon which he depends.
The multitude, elegancy, variety, and beauty of all things are steps whereby to ascend to one fountain and original of them. Is it not a folly to deny the being of a wise agent, who sparkles in the beauty and motions of the heavens, rides upon the wings of the wind, and is writ upon the flowers and fruits of plants? As the cause is known by the effects, so the wisdom of the cause is known by the elegancy of the work, the proportion of the parts to one another.
No work of art springs up of its own accord. The world is framed by an excellent art, and, therefore, made by some skillful artist.
As we hear not a melodious instrument, but we conclude there is a musician that touches it, as well as some skillful hand that framed and disposed it for those lessons; and no man that hears the pleasant sound of a lute but will fix his thoughts, not upon the instrument itself, but upon the skill of the artist that made it, and the art of the musician that strikes it, though he should not see the first, when he saw the lute, nor see the other, when he hears the harmony: so a rational creature confines not his thoughts to his sense when he sees the sun in its glory, and the moon walking in its brightness; but rises up in a contemplation and admiration of that Infinite Spirit that composed, and filled them with such sweetness.
A God is seen in the linking of contrary qualities together and the subserviency of one thing to another to bring balance and order to the universe.
The heat would wholly expel the cold or the cold overpower the heat; yet we see them chained and linked one within another in every body upon the earth, and rendering mutual offices for the benefit of that body wherein they are seated, and all conspiring together in their particular quarrels for the public interest of the body.
How could those contraries, that of themselves observe no order, that are always preying upon one another, jointly accord together of themselves, for one common end, if they were not linked in a common band, and reduced to that order by some incomprehensible wisdom and power, which keeps a hand upon them, order their motions and directs their events, and makes them friendly pass into one another’s nature?
How conveniently is the sun placed, at a distance from the earth; the trees are provided for shades against the extremity of heat, a refuge for the panting beasts, an habitation for birds, wherein to make their nests, and a basket for their provision. The fields are covered with harvests for the nourishing of creatures and benefit to man; the mountains that are not clothed with grass for his food, are set with stones to make him an habitation; they have their peculiar services of metals and minerals, for the conveniency and comfort and benefit of man. Things which are not fit for his food, are medicines for his cure. Where the earth brings not forth corn, it brings forth roots for the service of other creatures. Consider the usefulness of the sea, for the supply of rivers to refresh the earth: a store-house for fish, for the nourishment of other creatures, a shop of medicines for cure, and pearls for ornament. Not the most abject thing but has its end and use. Can this be the result of chance or not rather of an Infinite Wisdom?
From a small grain or seed, a tree springs, with body, root, bark, leaves, fruit of the same shape, figure, smell, taste; and that in the womb of a sensitive creature should be formed one of the same kind, with all the due members, and no more; and the creature that produces it knows not how it is formed or how it is perfected. If we say this is nature, this nature is an intelligent being; if not, how can it direct all causes to such uniform ends?
All things have their seasons of flourishing, budding, blossoming, bringing forth fruit; they ripen in their seasons, cast their leaves at the same time, throw off their old clothes, and in the spring appear with new garments, but still in the same fashion. This regularity of plants and animals is in all nations. Is it nature that merely conducts these natural causes in due measure to their proper effects, without interfering with one another? You may as well conceive a violin to sound its own strings without the hand of an artist; a city well governed without a governor; an army keep its stations without a general, as imagine so exact an order without an orderer. Would any man, when he hears a clock strike, by fit intervals, the hour of the day, imagine this regularity in it without the direction of one that had understanding to manage it?
Children change the customs and manners of their fathers; magistrates change the laws they have received from their ancestors, and enact new ones in their room: but in the world all things consist as they were created at the beginning; the law of nature in the creatures has met with no change.
Order being the effect cannot be the cause of itself: order is the disposition of things to an end, and is not intelligent but implies an intelligent Orderer.
The motions of chance are not constant. Who can imagine that all the parts of a watch can meet together and put themselves in order and motion by chance?
None can imagine a ship to be orderly conducted without a pilot; nor the parts of the world to perform their several functions without a wise guide.
The admirable variety and diversity of things in the world testifies of a God
What variety of metals, living creatures, plants! what variety and distinction in the shape of their leaves, flowers, smell, resulting from them. Who can number up the several sorts of beasts on the earth, birds in the air, fish in the sea? If you consider the multitude of stars, their different magnitudes, or the variety of colors in the flowers and tapestry of the earth, it is impossible to conclude that they were made by chance.
The Creator is greater than the creature, and whatsoever is in His effects, is but an impression of some excellency in Himself.
Natural instincts in lower creatures are laws impressed by some higher hand upon their natures
The spider, as if it understood the art of weaving, fits its web both for its own habitation and a net to catch its prey. The bee builds a cell which serves for chambers to reside in and a repository for its provision. They naturally do what they do, and move by no counsel of their own, but by a law impressed by some higher hand upon their natures.
That which acts for an end unknown to itself, depends upon some overruling wisdom that knows that end. An exact knowledge is necessary both of what is agreeable to them, and the means whereby they must attain it, which, since it is not inherent in them, is in that wise God, who puts those instincts into them, and governs them in the exercise of them to such ends.
Without owning a God, no account can be given of those actions of creatures, that are an imitation of reason. To say that bees are rational, is to equal them to man: nay, make them his superiors, since they do more by nature than the wisest man can do by art: it is their own counsel whereby they act, or another’s; if it be their own, they are reasonable creatures; if by another’s, it is not mere nature that is necessary; then other creatures would not be without the same skill, there would be no difference among them. If nature be restrained by another, it has a superior; if not, it is a free agent; it is an understanding Being that directs them; and then it is something superior to all creatures in the world; and by this, therefore, we may ascend to the acknowledgement of the necessity of a God.
Man’s own nature witnesses to him of God.
He that is ignorant of the existence of God must be possessed of so much folly, as to be ignorant of his own make and frame.
All the sinews, veins, arteries, bones, like a piece of embroidery or tapestry, were wrought by God, as it were, with deliberation. And, indeed, the fabric of man’s body, as well as his soul, is an argument for a Divinity.
Every member of the body (the complexity of the brain, eyes, heart, ears, etc.), has a signature and mark of God and His wisdom
As man’s own nature witnesses a God to him in the structure of his body, so also in the nature of his soul. We know that we have an understanding in us; a substance we cannot see, but we know it by its operations; as thinking, reasoning, willing, remembering, and as operating about things that are invisible and remote from sense. This must needs be distinct from the body; for that being but dust and earth in its original, has not the power of reasoning and thinking; for then it would have that power when the soul were absent, as well when it is present. This soul has a greater excellency; it can know itself, rejoice in itself, which other creatures in this world are not capable of.
Consider the vastness of the soul’s capacity. The understanding can conceive the whole world, and paint itself the invisible picture of all things. It is capable of apprehending and discoursing of things superior to its own nature.
One man is stupid and begets a son with a capacious understanding; one is debauched and beastly in morals, and begets a son who, from his infancy, testifies some virtuous inclinations, which sprout forth in delightful fruit with the ripeness of his age. Whence should this difference arise – a fool begat the wise man, and a debauched the virtuous man? We must recur to some invisible hand, that makes the difference, who bestows upon one at His pleasure richer qualities than upon another. None can be so foolish as to think that a vessel ever enriched itself with that sprightly liquor wherewith it is filled; or that anything worse than the soul should endow it with that knowledge and activity which sparkles in it.
Man is a kind of compound of angel and beast, of soul and body; if he were only a soul, he were a kind of angel; if only a body, he were another kind of brute. Now that a body as vile and dull as earth, and a soul that can mount up to heaven, and rove about the world, with so quick a motion, should be linked in so strait an acquaintance; that so noble a being as the soul should be inhabitant in such a tabernacle of clay; must be owned to some infinite power that hath so chained it.
The evidence of a God results from the vastness of desires in man and the real dissatisfaction he has in everything below himself.
Love is determined to something known; fear, to something apprehended: but desires approach nearer to infiniteness, and pursue, not only what we know, or what we have a glimpse of, but what we find wanting in what we already enjoy.
The world may afford a felicity for our dust, the body, but not for the inhabitant in it; it is too mean for that. Is there any one soul among the sons of men, that can upon a due inquiry say it was at rest and wanted no more, that has not sometimes had desires after an immaterial good? Whence should the soul of man have those desires? how came it to understand that something is still wanting to make its nature more perfect, if there were not in it some notion of a more perfect being which can give it rest?
This boundless desire had not its original from man himself; nothing would render itself restless; something above the bounds of this world implanted those desires after a higher good, and made him restless in everything else. There is, therefore, some infinite being that can only give a contentment to the soul, and this is God.
God is seen in miracles.
The course of nature is uniform; and when it is put out of its course, it must be by some superior power invisible to the world; and by whatsoever invisible instruments they are wrought, the efficacy of them must depend upon some first cause above nature (Psa. 72:18).
That which cannot be the result of a natural cause, must be the result of something supernatural
The Jews as a people are testimony to a God
There has been a strange hand that has been over the Jews, the only people in the world professing the true God, that should so often be befriended by their conquerors, so as to rebuild their temple, though they were looked upon as a people apt to rebel.
Consider other peoples of antiquity that have since died out yet the Jews continue on to this present day in spite of terrible persecutions throughout their history; their preservation speaks of a Divine hand.
Fulfilled prophecies is a notice of the true God.
This in scripture is asserted to be a notice of the true God: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
That power which foretells things beyond the reach of the wit of man, and orders all causes to bring about those predictions, must be an infinite power, the same that made the world, sustains it and governs all things in it according to His pleasure, and to bring about His own ends; and this being is God.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
If atheism be a folly, it is then pernicious to the world and to the atheist himself…
The being of a God is the guard of the world: the sense of a God is the foundation of civil order without this there is no tie upon the consciences of men.
If you take away God, you take away conscience, and thereby all measures and rules of good and evil. The worst of actions could not be evil, if a man were a god to himself, a law to himself.
An atheist deposes the noble end of his own being, which was to serve a God and have a satisfaction in Him, to seek a God and be rewarded by Him; and he that departs from his end, recedes from his own nature.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
Since most have had, one time or other, some risings of doubt, whether there be a God, though few do in expressions deny His being, it may not be unnecessary to propose some things for the further impressing this truth, and guarding themselves against such temptations…
It is utterly impossible to demonstrate there is no God.
God has so settled Himself in the reason of man, that he must vilify the noblest faculty God has given him, and put off nature itself, before he can blot out the notion of a God. He may sooner deny the sun that warms him, the moon that in night walks in her brightness, deny the fruits he enjoys from the earth, yea, and deny that he does exist. He must tear his own conscience, fly from his own thoughts, be changed into the nature of a stone, which has neither reason nor sense, before he can disengage himself from those arguments which evince the being of a God.
No question but those that have been so bold as to deny that there was a God, have sometimes been much afraid they have been in an error, and have at least suspected there was a God, when some sudden prodigy has presented itself to them, and rouse their fears; and whatsoever sentiments they might have in their blinding prosperity, they have had other kinds of motions in them in their stormy afflictions, and, like Jonah’s mariners, have been ready to cry to Him for help, whom they have disdained to own so much as in being, while they swam in their pleasures. The thoughts of a Deity cannot be so extinguished, but they will revive and rush upon a man, at least under some sharp affliction.
What is it for which such men rack their wits, to form notions that there is no God? Is it not that they would indulge some vicious habit, which has gained the possession of their soul, which they know “cannot be favored by that holy God,” whose notion they would raze out? Is it not for some brutish affection, as degenerative of human nature, as derogatory to the glory of God; a lust as unmanly as sinful? The terrors of God are the effects of guilt; and therefore men would wear out the apprehensions of a Deity, that they might be brutish without control.
The atheist says he knows not that there is a God; but may he not reasonably think there may be one for aught he knows? and if there be, what a desperate confusion will he be in, when all his bravadoes shall prove false! By confessing a God I venture no loss; but by denying Him, I run the most desperate hazard, if there be one. He is not a reasonable creature, that will not put himself upon such a reasonable arguing.
Can any such person say he has done all that he can to inform himself of the being of God, or of other things which he denies? Were it an abstruse truth it might not be wondered at; but not to meet with satisfaction in this which everything minds us of, is the fruit of an extreme negligence, stupidity, and a willingness to be unsatisfied, and a judicial process of God against them.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
If it be the atheist’s folly to deny or doubt of the being of God, it is our wisdom to be firmly settled in this truth, that God is…
Without this truth fixed in us, we can never give Him the worship due to His name. When the knowledge of anything is fluctuating and uncertain, our actions about it are careless. If we do not firmly believe there is a God, we shall pay Him no steady worship; and if we believe not the excellency of His nature, we shall offer Him but a slight service.
Without being rooted in this, we cannot order our lives. All our baseness, stupidity, dullness, wanderings, vanity, springs from a wavering and unsettledness in this principle. This gives ground to brutish pleasures, not only to solicit, but conquer us.
Without it we cannot have any comfort of our lives. Who would willingly live in a stormy world, void of a God? If we waver in this principle, to whom should we make our complaints in our afflictions? There is a sweetness in the meditation of His existence, and that He is a Creator.
Without the rooting of this principle, we cannot have a firm belief of Scripture. The Scripture will be a slight thing to one that has weak sentiments of God. The belief of a God must necessarily precede the belief of any revelation; the latter cannot take place without the former as a foundation.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
To this purpose, since we have handled this discourse by natural arguments…
Study God in the creatures as well as in the Scriptures. The primary use of the creatures is to acknowledge God in them; they were made to be witnesses of His glory, which glory of God as Creator “shall endure forever.” The world is a sacred temple; man is introduced to contemplate it, and behold with praise the glory of God in the pieces of His art. God must be read wherever He is legible; the creatures are one book, wherein He has writ a part of the excellency of His name, as many artists do in their works and watches. Nature is not contrary to Scripture, nor Scripture to nature; unless we should think God contrary to Himself who is the Author of both.
View God in your own experiences of Him. Experience of the sweetness of the ways of Christianity is a mighty preservative against atheism. Many a man knows not how to prove honey to be sweet by his reason, buy by his sense; and if all the reason in the world be brought against it, he will not be reasoned out of what he tastes. Have not many found the delightful illapses of God into their souls, often sprinkled with His inward blessings upon their seeking of Him; had secret warnings in their approaches to Him; and gentle rebukes in their consciences upon their swerving from Him? Have not many found sometimes an invisible and raising them up when they were dejected; some unexpected providence stepping in for their relief; and easily perceived that it could not be a work of chance, nor many times the intention of the instruments He has used in it? You have often found that He is, by finding that He is a rewarder, and can set to your seals that He is what He has declared Himself to be in His word. The secret touches of God upon the heart, and inward converses with Him, area a greater evidence of the existence of a supreme and infinitely good Being, than all nature.
ANY CHARACTER HERE
Is it a folly to deny or doubt of the being of God? It is a folly also not to worship God, when we acknowledge His existence; it is our wisdom then to worship Him. To deny Him a worship is as great a folly as to deny His being.
We were about 100 miles outside of Denver when we first spotted the Rocky Mountains. At first they seemed to be clouds on the horizon but as our eyes adjusted their bluish form stood apart from land and sky. What is it about mountains that fascinate human beings the world over and “calls” many to try to scale their heights? I would submit to you that mountains are a type of God’s holiness and they call to mankind about life with God in eternity (Rom. 1:20). This emotional “implant” is fixed and permanent in all human beings.
“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.” – Psalm 48:1
“Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy” – Psalm 99:9
“But upon mount Zion… there shall be holiness” – Obadiah 1:17
None of the attributes of God are sounded out so loftily, with such solemnity, and so frequently by angelic beings that stand before His throne as that of the holiness of the Most High. The author A.W. Tozer wrote in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom but His holiness he cannot even imagine.”
“Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness” – Exodus 15:11a
“There is none holy as the LORD” – 1 Samuel 2:2a
God alone is absolute holiness. Holy is the way God is. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity. The holiness of God is a perfect and unpolluted freedom from all evil. As we call gold pure that is not tainted by any dross and that garment clean that is free from any spot, so the nature of God is estranged from all shadow of evil. He loves all truth and goodness; He hates all falsity and evil.
Tozer relates the holiness of God to moral health. He writes, “God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this. Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death. Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the disease that takes the life of her child.”
God is so holy that He cannot possibly approve of any evil done by another but rather He perfectly abhors it. He abhors it so that his hatred redounds upon the person that commits it. The sweet psalmist of Israel wrote…
“For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee… thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” – Psalm 5:4,5b
The nature of God is so holy that he cannot but hate sin. The vehemency of this hatred is expressed throughout scripture. He loathes sin so that the very sight of it affects Him with detestation. The prophets wrote…
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” – Habakkuk 1:13a
“And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD” – Zechariah 8:17
Holiness is the substance of God but a quality in a creature. God is holy from Himself, creatures are holy by imputation from Him. Tozer expounds upon this thought as he writes, “God is holy with an absolute holiness that knows no degrees, and this He cannot impart to His creatures. But there is a relative and contingent holiness which He shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed men on earth as their preparation for heaven. This holiness God can and does impart to His children. He shares it with them by imputation, and because He made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb, He requires it of them. To Israel first and later to His Church God spoke saying, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy.’ He did not say, ‘Be ye as holy as I am holy,’ for that would be to demand of us absolute holiness, something that belongs to God alone. Before the uncreated fires of God’s holiness angels veil their
faces. The heavens are not clean and the stars are not pure in His sight. We Christians must like Moses cover ourselves with faith and humility while we steal a quick look at the God whom no man can see and live. The broken and the contrite heart He will not despise. We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by.”
We have been in awe of the mountains we have seen while in Colorado. They remind me how frail of a creature I am and how brief the span of my life is on this earth. When we consider the lofty heights of God’s holiness we cannot help but bow our hearts in humble adoration. Sadly the neo-evangelicalism that seems to be the norm in this Laodicean Age (Rev. 3:14-21) in church history has made a mountain into a molehill, debasing the holiness of God while rationalizing the carnality of man.
“…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up… Above it stood the seraphims… And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory… Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” – Isaiah 6:1-3,5