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their Almighty Creator.-" Almost every one,” says an eminent author, " has a particular train of thinking in which his mind indulges at his leisure moments, and perhaps this train of thought has more effect than any thing else in determining the character. If one habit of thinking be more desirable than another, it is that which regards the phaenomena of nature with a constant reference to an intelligent Creator. To have made this the ruling sentiment of our minds, is to have laid the foundation of every thing which is religious. The world from thence- . forth becomes a temple, and life itself one continued act of adoration. The change produced by such contemplations is no less than this, that whereas formerly God was not in all our thoughts, we can now scarcely look upon any thing without recognizing Him in whom every thing lives and moves and has its being.”—Let us therefore make such improvement of the present subject as may lead us to magnify the Lord, and bless Him while we live.-Amen.
ON THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
JOB XI. 7. Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou
find out the Almighty unto perfection ?
THE belief of a God is the first principle upon which all religion, both natural and revealed, is founded. We Christians who profess to receive the scriptures as the will of God, thereby tacitly acknowledge his existence. But we have perhaps never enquired upon what grounds we believe in the being and attributes of God, or what conception we form of his nature. We may indeed suppose, that it is impossible to acquire any adequate idea of a Being, who is so far removed from the perceptions of our senses, or the apprehensions of our minds: and therefore, we must conclude with Job, in the words of the text, “who can by searching find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection ?" Yet though our notions of the Deity must be obscure and imperfect, in the present state of our limited capacities, we are still enabled by the reason he has given us, and the revelation he has made, to discover somewhat of that Almighty Intelligence, “ who created all things, and still upholdeth them by the word of his power.”
When we open our eyes, and look up to the heavens, and consider the sun, moon, and stars, which there revolve in their orbits with exact regularity; our minds are at once impressed with a conviction of the existence and power of some mighty Being, who must have created and appointed them their several stations.
We are led to infer the necessity of some cause which produced them, from the experience we have that every thing with which we are acquainted derives its existence, or the mode of its existence, from some other being who either made it originally, or modified it in the manner in which it subsists.
Thus every work of art, we know, must have been modelled by some artist who contrived the various parts of which it consists, and the relation which each should have to the whole. If therefore we conclude that the simplest production of human skill indicates the existence and capacity of the person who devised it, for the same reason we infer that some Being must have created all things in number, weight, and measure.
But as the existence of God is a truth which every one is ready to acknowledge, it is the less necessary to pursue the direct argument in proof of it further at present, and therefore I proceed to illustrate,
1. Some of the natural and moral attributes of God.
II. Deduce such practical application as the subject suggests,
I. The attributes of God, with which we are best acquainted, may be enumerated in the following order, viz.; his spirituality, infinity, eternity, immutability, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. Let us proceed to investigate shortly the nature of these several attributes, according to the arrangement now mentioned.
With respect to the spirituality of God, it is uniformly asserted in scripture, and can be proved by reason.
Our Lord himself, who knew the divine nature more perfectly than we can discover, affirms, that “ God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
With respect to the nature of a spirit, we can form but an indistinct conception. We know that it is a species of being, without bodily organs, or any material parts. Thus our Lord describes its nature, when he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection : " handle me,”
" handle me,” says he, " and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye sce
me have.” We believe that there are spirits both good and bad, who inhabit certain regions of the universe ; and scripture informs us, that the former are sent to “minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation;" and the latter permitted to seduce men to the paths of wickedness.As they are incorporeal and immaterial, they cannot be seen by our bodily eyes, which are only fitted to convey to us perceptions of visible objects.
Spirits are beings far superior in power and intelligence to us the children of men. For our souls which are also spirits, are encompassed by the gross covering of flesh and blood, which limits their faculties within narrow bounds, and prevents their exertion beyond the sphere of their sensations. Our bodies, we find, are thus impediments to the activity of our souls, and an imperfection to which, as human creatures, we are subject. Hence we are led to infer that superior natures, such as God and angels, are not encumbered with sensitive organs, but unconstrained in their operations by any material substance.
We find also, that a corporeal mode of existence prevents us from acting any where else except in the immediate place of our present operation; that we cannot know what is transacting at a distance, far less extend our exertions thither. If then God were invested with a body, how could he pervade and conduct the whole system of the universe ? If "he upholdeth all things by the word of his power,” how could he do this, if he were confined within the narrow sphere which a body occupies, and can not surpass? Therefore if the agency of God be necessary to sustain and regulate all things both in heaven and on earth, he must possess a spiritual nature, by which he may be unlimited and uncircumscribed in his operations through all the regions of space. That the spirituality of the divine nature affords the capacity of boundless energy to the Deity, may be proved even in some measure by reflecting on the exercise of some of our mental faculties. Thus by our imaginations we can soar beyond the limits of creation, and in a moment transport ourselves in idea, to other worlds which we have never seen: if then our finite and imperfect capacities can enable our souls to traverse, in imagination, the most interminable regions, we have reason to conclude that God does that in reality, which we can do by the conceptions of our minds. Our souls are made after the image of God, and it is only by knowing the powers which we ourselves possess, and adding to them the idea of infinity, that we can form any notion of the divine attributes. God indeed exists and acts in a manner far transcending our apprehensions, as he is infinite and spiritual, we finite and corporeal.
Yet though God is a spirit, he actuates and impels the whole system of the universe, regulates the laws of nature, and sustains the lives of all his creatures both in heaven above, and on earth beneath. We cannot indeed discover his energy exerted; nor observe the operation of his hands; " for behold we go forward, but he is not there, and backward but we cannot perceive him; on the right hand where he doth walk, but we cannot behold him, he hideth himself on the left hand where we cannot see him." Yet though he is invisible to mortal eyes, he
” is every where present, directing every agent and every being, whether material or immaterial, to promote the purposes of his providence. He has been fitly represented as the all-pervading soul, which moves the whole creation, inspiring activity into every thing which lives. As our souls possess the power of exciting motion in our bodies, and though unseen, exhibit their energy in all the actions we perform; so God, who is a Spirit, and therefore invi. sible, displays his constant agency in regulating the system of nature by the word of his power.
But we may suppose, that it is inconceivable how a spiritual being can operate on material substances of which the universe consists, or how an abstract essence divested of all corporeal organs can even exist.
Nay, we may allege that God is represented in scripture as possessing some of the qualities of human nature. Thus, he is said “ to look down from heaven and behold the ways of the children of men,” which indicates that he is endowed with organs of sight : that he is said to hear our prayers, which must be effected through the medium of the ear; and that “he makes his face to shine upon