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NEW

EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE,

AND

Theological Review.

MARCH, 1824.

ON THE

RELATION OF THE NATURAL ATTRIBUTES OF DEITY TO RELIGION.

[From Mr. Dick's Christian Philosopher,*]

A FIRM Conviction of the existence of God, and a competent knowledge of his natural perfections, lie at the foundation of all religion, both natural and revealed. In proportion as our views of the perfections of Deity are limited and obscure, in a similar proportion will be our conceptions of all the relations in which he stands to his creatures, of every part of his providential procedure, and of all the doctrines and requirements of revealed religion.

fabric. The full display of these perfections will be exhibited in the future world-the contemplation of this display will form one of the sublime employments "of the saints in light"-and to prepare us for engaging in such noble exercises, is one of the chief designs of the salvation proclaimed in the Gospel.

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By the natural or essential attributes of God, we understand such perfections as the following:-His Eternity, Omnipresence, Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Wisdom, Omnipotence, and Boundless Benificence. These are the characters and attributes of Deity, which, we must suppose, form the chief subjects of contemplation to angels, and to all other pure intelligences-and in investigating the displays of which, the sons of

The Christian Revelation ought not to be considered as superseding the Religion of Nature, but as carrying it forward to perfection. It introduces the Deity to us under new relations, corresponding to the degraded state into which we have fallen. It is superadded, as it were, to our natural relations to God, and takes it for granted, that these natural relations must for ever subsist. It is true, indeed, that the essential attributes of God, and the principles of Natural Religion, cannot be fully discovered without the light of Revelation, as appears from the past experience of

ed, had they continued in primeval innocence. These attributes form the ground work of all those gracious relations in which the God of salvation stands to his redeemed people in the economy of redemption-they lie at the foundation of the whole Christian superstructure—and were they not recognized as the corner stones of that sacred edifice, the whole system of the Scripture Revelation would remain a baseless

Adam would have been chiefly employ-mankind in every generation; but it is equally true, that when discovered by the aid of this celestial light, they are of the utmost importance in the Christian system, and are as essentially connected with it, as the foundation of a building is with the superstructure. Many professed Christians, however, seem to think, and to act, as if the Christian Revelation had annulled the natural relations which subsist between man and the Deity; and hence the zealous

* 1 Volume, 12mo. 450 pages, pr. 79. boards. Sold by Longman and Co. The design of Mr. Dick's volume, is to exhibit the connexion of Science with Religion. It is one of the most pleasing publications that has come under our notice for a long time, and we purpose selecting from it a few pages for the gratification of our readers.-EDITOR.

VOL. X.

K

outcry against every discussion from the pulpit, that has not a direct relation to what are termed the doctrines of grace. But nothing, surely, can be more absurd than to carry out such a principle to all its legitimate consequences.. Can God ever cease to be Omnipotent, or can man ever cease to be dependent for existence on his infinite power? Can the Divine Being ever cease to be Omnipresent and Omniscient, or can man ever cease to be the object of his knowledge and superintendence? Can Infinite Wisdom ever be detached from the Almighty, or can man ever be in a situation where he will not experience the effects of his wise arrangements? Can Goodness ever fail of being an attribute of Jehovah, or can any sentient or intelligent beings exist that do not experience the effects of his bounty? In short, can the relation of Creature and Creator ever cease between the human race, in whatever moral or physical situation they may be placed, and that Almighty Being, "who giveth to all life and breath, and all things?" If none of these things can possibly happen, then the relations to which we refer must be eternal and unchangeable, and must form the basis of all the other relations in which we can possibly stand to the Divine Being, either as apostate or as redeemed creatures; and therefore they ought to be exhibited as subjects

It appears highly unreasonable, and indicates a selfish disposition of mind, to magnify one class of the Divine attributes at the expence of another; to extol, for example, the Mercy of God, and neglect to celebrate his Power and Wisdom-those glorious perfections, the display of which, at the formation of our globe, excited the rapture and admiration of angels, and of innocent man. All the attributes of God are equal, because all of them are infinite; and therefore to talk of darling attributes in the Divine Nature, as some have done, iş inconsistent with reason, unwarranted by Scripture, and tends to exhibit a distorted view of the Divine character. The Divine Mercy ought to be cele brated with rapture by every individual of our fallen race; but with no less rapture should we extol the Divine Omnipotence; for the designs of mercy cannot be accomplished without the intervention of Infinite Power. All that we hope for, in consequence of the promises of God, and of the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, must be founded on the conceptions we form of the operations of Omnipotence.-An example or two may not be unnecessary

for

for our frequent and serious contem-illustrating this position. We are warplation, as religious and moral agents. ranted, by the sacred oracles, to enterBut unless we make such topics a dis- tain the hope, that these mortal bodies. tinct subject of attention, and endeavour of ours, after they have mouldered in to acquire clear and comprehensive con- the dust, been dissolved into their priceptions of our natural relations to God, mary elementary parts, and become the we can never form a clear conception of prey of devouring reptiles, during those new and interesting relations into lapse of generations or of centurieswhich we have been brought by the shall spring forth from the tomb in new mediation of Jesus Christ. life and beauty, and be arrayed in more glorious forms than they now wear; yea, that all the inhabitants of our globe, from Adam to the end of time, though the bodies of thousands of them have been devoured by cannibals, have become the food of fishes and of beasts of prey, and have been burnt to cinders, and their ashes scattered by the winds, over the different regions of sea and land-shall be reanimated by the voice of the Son of God, and shall appear, each in his own proper person and identical body, before God the Judge of all. Now, the firmness of our hope of so astonish

If man had continued in his primitive state of integrity, he would have been for ever exercised in tracing the Power, the Beneficence, and other attributes of Deity, in the visible creation alone. Now, that his fallen state has rendered additional revelations necessary, in order to secure his happiness-is he completely to throw aside those contemplations and exercises which constituted his chief employment, while he remained a pure moral intelligence? Surely not. One great end of his moral renovation, by means of the Gospel, must

exercises, and to qualify him for more

be, to enable him to resume his primitiveing an event, which seems to contradict all experience, and appears involved in

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enlarged views and contemplations of
a similar nature, in that future world,
where the physical and moral impedi-
ments which now obstruct his progress,
shall be completely removed.

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67 connection with them, which are objects of contemplation common to all holy beings, in a similar proportion will it be impressed, and its attention arrested, by every other divine subject connected with them. And it is, doubtless, owing to the want of such clear and impressive conceptions of the essential character of Jehovah, and of the first truths of religion, that the bulk of mankind are so little impressed and influenced by the leading doctrines and duties connected with the plan of the Gospel salvation, and that they entertain so many vague and untenable notions respecting the character and the objects of a superintending Providence. How often, for example, have we witnessed expressions of the foolish and limited notions which are frequently entertained respecting the operations of Divine Omnipotence? When it has been asserted that the earth, with all its load of continents and oceans, is in rapid motion through the voids of space-that the sun is ten hundred thousand times larger than the terraqueous globe-and that millions of such globes are dispersed throughout the immensity of Nature-some who have viewed themselves as enlightened Christians, have exclaimed at the impossibility of such facts, as if they were beyond the limits of Divine Power, and as if such representations were intended to turn away the mind from God and religion; while, at the same time, they have yielded a firm assent to all the vulgar notions respecting omens, apparitions, and hobgoblins, and to the supposed extraordinary powers of the professors of divination and witchcraft. How can such persons assent with intelligence and rational conviction, to the dictates of revelation respecting the energies of Omnipotence which will be exerted at "the consummation of all things," and in those arrangements which are to succeed the dissolution of our sublunary system? A firm belief in the Almighty Power and unsearchable Wisdom of God, as displayed in the constitution and movements of the material world, is of the utmost importance to confirm our faith, and enliven our hopes, of such grand and interesting events.

ON THE NATURAL ATTRIBUTES of the deity. such a mass of difficulties and apparent contradictions, must be in proportion to the sentiments we entertain of the Divine Intelligence, Wisdom, and Omnipotence. And where are we to find the most striking visible displays of these perfections, except in the actual operations of the Creator, within the range of our view in the material world. Again, we are informed, in the same Divine records, that, at some future period, the earth on which we now dwell shall be wrapt up in devouring flames, and its present form and constitution for ever destroyed; that its redeemed inhabitants, after being released from the grave, shall be transported to a more glorious region; and that " new heavens and a new earth shall appear, wherein dwelleth righteousness." The Divine mercy having given to the faithful the promise of these astonishing revolutions, and most magnificent events, our hopes of their being fully realized must rest on the infinite wisdom and omnipotence of Jehovah, and, consequently, if our views of these perfections be limited and obscure, our hope, in relation to our future destiny, will be proportionably feeble and languid; and will scarcely perform its office "as an anchor to the soul both sure and stedfast." It is not merely by telling a person that God is all-wise, and all-powerful, that a full conviction of the accomplishment of such grand events will be produced. He must be made to see with his own eyes what the Almighty has already done, and what he is now doing in all the regions of universal nature which lie open to our inspection; and this cannot be effected without directing his contemplations to those displays of intelligence and power, which are exhibited in the structure, the economy, and the revolutions of the material world.

If the propriety of these sentiments be admitted, it will follow, that the more we are accustomed to contemplate the wonders of Divine Intelligence and Power, in the objects with which we are surrounded, the more deeply shall we be impressed with a conviction, and a confident hope, that all the purposes of Divine mercy will ultimately be accomplished in our eternal felicity. It will also follow, that in proportion as the mind acquires a clear, an extensive, and a reverential view of the essential attributes of Deity, and of those truths in

Notwithstanding the considerations now stated, which plainly evince the connection of the natural perfections of God with the objects of the Christian Revelation, it appears somewhat strange,

that, when certain religious instructors | his Infinite Wisdom, his Boundless happen to come in contact with this Goodness, and Almighty Power-attritopic, they seem as if they were begin- butes, which, as we have just now seen, ning to tread upon forbidden ground; lie at the foundation of all the other and, as if it were unsuitable to their characters and relations of Deity revealoffice as Christian teachers, to bring ed in the Scriptures. The acquisition forward the stupendous works of the of just and comprehensive conceptions Almighty to illustrate his nature and of these perfections, must, therefore, lie attributes. Instead of expatiating on at the foundation of all profound venerathe numerous sources of illustration, of tion of the Divine Being, and of all that which the subject admits, till the minds is valuable in religion. Destitute of of their hearers are thoroughly affected such conceptions, we can neither feel with a view of the essential glory of that habitual humility, and that reverence Jehovah-they despatch the subject of the majesty of Jehovah, which his with two or three vague propositions, essential glory is calculated to inspire, which, though logically true, make no nor pay him that tribute of adoration impression upon the heart; as if they and gratitude which is due to his name. believed that such contemplations were Devoid of such views, we cannot exersuited only to carnal men and mere phi- cise that cordial acquiescence in the losophers; and as if they were afraid, plan of his redemption, in the arrangelest the sanctity of the pulpit should be ments of his providence, and in the polluted by particular descriptions of requirements of his law, which the those operations of Deity which are per- Scriptures enjoin. Yet, how often do ceived through the medium of the cor- we find persons who pretend to speculate poreal senses. We do not mean to about the mysteries of the Gospel, disinsinuate, that the essential attributes playing-by their flippancy of speech of God, and the illustrations of them respecting the eternal councils of the derived from the material world, should Majesty of Heaven-by their dogmatical form the sole or the chief topic of dis- assertions respecting the divine characcussion in the business of religious ter, and the dispensations of providence instruction-but, if the Scriptures fre--and by their pertinacious opinions quently direct our attention to these respecting the laws by which God must. subjects-if they lie at the foundation regulate his own actions-that they of all accurate and extensive views of have never felt impressive emotions of the Christian Revelation-if they be the the grandeur of that Being, whose chief subjects of contemplation to an- "operations are unsearchable, and his gels, and all other pure intelligences, ways past finding out?" Though they in every region of the universe-and if do not call in question his immensity they have a tendency to expand the and power, his wisdom and goodness, as minds of professed Christians, to correct so many abstract properties of his nature, their vague and erroneous conceptions, yet, the unbecoming familiarity with and to promote their conformity to the which they approach this august Being, moral character of God-we cannot find and talk about him, shews that they out the shadow of reason, why such have never associated in their minds, topics should be almost, if not altogether the stupendous displays which have

overlooked, in the writings and dis-been given of these perfections, in the courses of those who profess to instruct works of his hands; and that their mankind in the knowledge of God, and religion (if it may be so called) consists the duties of his worship. merely in a farrago of abstract opinions, or in an empty name.

We are informed by our Saviour himself, that "this is life eternal, to know thee the living and true God," as well as "Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent." The knowledge of God, in the sense here intended, must include in it the knowledge of the natural and essential attributes of Deity, or those properties of his nature by which he is distinguish ed from all "the idols of the nations." tion, ought frequently to dwell, with Such are, his Self-existence, his All-particularity, on those proofs and illus perfect Knowledge, his Omnipresence, trations which tend to convey the most

If, then, it be admitted, that it is essentially requisite, as the foundation of religion, to have the mind deeply impressed with a clear and comprehensive view of the natural perfections of Deity, it will follow, that the ministers of religion, and all others whose province it is to communicate religious instruc

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