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Entries in Existence and Attributes (5)


A durable worship

I just finished the discourse "On Spiritual Worship," in Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God. There is always so much to think about. Charnock probes everything so deeply.

I recently acquired the first volume in the works of William Perkins. In the introduction to the book, the editors mentioned smoothing out punctuation issues. Charnock uses some very creative punctuation, and with our modern understand of how punctuation works, sometimes, it's work to untangle what he's saying. I can't help but wonder if a good editor could help with that.

Throughout this discourse, the emphasis is always on the fact that because God is a Spirit, we must worship him in Spirit. At the end of the discourse, Charnock gives some exhortations for practical use, including fostering right conceptions of God:

Nourish right conceptions of the majesty of God in your minds. Let us consider that we are drawing to God, the most amiable object, the best of beings, worthy of infinte honor, and a highly meriting the highest affections we can give; a God that made the world by a word, that upholds the great frame of heaven and earth; a Majesty above the conceptions of angels; who uses not his power to strike us to our deserved punishment, but his love and bounty to allure us; a God that gave all the creatures to serve us, and can, in a trice, make them as much our enemies as he hath now made them our servants. Let us view him in his greatness and goodness, that our hearts may have a true value of the worship of so great a majesty, and count it the most worthy employment with all diligence to attend upon him. When we have a fear of God, it will make our worship serious; when we have a joy in God, it will make our worship durable. Our affections will be raised when we represent God in the most reverential, endearing, and obliging circumstances. We honor the majesty of God, when we consider him with due reverence according to the greatness and perfection of his works.


... when the Scripture is rejected from being a rule

In addition to encouraging the reader to be often in view of the excellencies of God, another suggestion Charnock makes to help combat the tendency to be a practical atheist, is to be in the Word of God:

Prize and study the Scripture. We can have no delight in meditation on him, unless we know him; and we cannot know him but by the means of his own revelation; when the revelation is despised, the revealer will be of little esteem. Men do not throw off God from being their rule, till they throw off Scripture from being their guide; and God must needs be cast off from being the end when the Scripture is rejected from being a rule. Those that do not care to know his will, that love to be ignorant of his nature, can never be affected to his honor. Let therefore the subtleties of reason veil to the doctrine of faith, and the humor of the will to the command of the word.


The mother and nurse of disaffection

Charnock concludes his discourse on Practical Atheism by encouraging the reader to take practicals measure to guard against such an attitude:

Be often in the view of the excellencies of God. When we have no intercourse with God by delightful meditations, we begin to be estranged from him, and prepare ourselves to live without God in the world. Strangeness is the mother and nurse of disaffection: we slight men sometimes because we know them not. The very beasts delight in the company of men; when being tamed and familiar, they become acquainted with their disposition. A daily converse with God would discover so much of loveliness in his nature, so much of sweetness in his ways, that our injurious thoughts of God would wear off, and we should count it our honor to contemn ourselves and maginify hiim.


A defection from God

From The Existence and Attributes of God

Charnock, in the discourse on practical atheism discusses how man makes himself, not God, his own end, and thus puts more trust in himself than God: 

When we attempt things in the strength of our own heads, and parts, and trust in our own industry, without application to God for direction, blessing, and success, we affect the privilege of the Deity, and make gods of ourselves... Confidence in ourselves is a defection from God (Jer. xvii.5). And when we depart from and cast off God to depend on ourselves, which is but an arm of flesh, we choose the arm of flesh for our God; we rob God of that confidence we ought to place in him, and that adoration which is due to him, and build it upon another foundation; not that we are to neglect the reason and parts God hath given us, or spend more time in prayer than in consulting about our own affairs, but to mix our own intentions in business, with ejaculations to heaven, and take God along with us in every motion; but certainly it is an idolizing of self, when we are more diligent in our attendance on our own wit, than fervent in our recourses to God.


New year's thoughts 

In my reading of The Existence and Attributes of God, I'm in the middle of the discourse on practical atheism. I remember when I read this book the first time, this discourse was the one where I did a lot of underlining. I'm finding it just as compelling now. Here is an excerpt where I wrote "sobering" in the (tiny) margin upon my first reading:

No man is any more born with sensible acknowledgements of God, than he is born with a clear knowledge of the nature of all the stars in the heavens, or the plants upon the earth. None seeks after God. None seek God as his rule, as his end, as his happiness, which is a debt the creature naturally owes to God. He desires no communion with God; he places his happiness in anything inferior to God; he prefers everything before him, glorifies everything above him; he hath no delight to know him; he regards not those paths which lead to him.

The phrase which jumped out at me this time was, "he places his happiness in anything inferior to God."

How often is this true of me? How often does something insignificant like getting my blog linked become the source of my happiness?  How often do I find more happiness in having my opinions heard or validated than I do in God? How often do I just sit quietly, meditating on who God is, rejoicing? Just how often is my happiness generated from the most inferior things?

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions. I find choosing any date a rather arbitrary way to start cultivating change. But this year, I know that I am on the cusp of potential changes, and my thoughts are drawn to what kind of attitude I am going to demonstrate. I want to rest in Christ. I want my happiness to emanate from the reality of God, who he is, and what he has done for me.

I found Christmas discouraging for a number of reasons. I have tried to shake it, but it is like a filmy coating I just can't peel off. I want this not to be. I want to find my happiness in God and for it to radiate. And I know if I ask God to strengthen my resolve to do this, he will do it.