Page images

be an inference to which we are led almost irresistibly. , neous motion, therefore must have some other origin. When we see an animal starting from its sleep, contrary Nor is this spontaneous motion to be attributed to the to the known laws of gravitation, without an external simple powers of life, for we have seen that in the life of or elastic impulse, without the appearance of electricity, vegetation there is no spontaneous motion ; the plant has galvanism, magnetism, or chemical attraction; when no power either to remove itself out of the position in we see it afterward moving its limbs in various direc- which it is fixed, or even to accelerate or retard the motions, with different degrees of force and velocity, some- tion which takes place within it. Nor has man himtimes suspending and sometimes renewing the same self, in a sleep perfectly sound, the power of locomotion motions, at the sound of a word or the sight of' a shadow, any more than a plant, nor any command over the vacan we refrain a moment from thinking hat the cause rious active processes which are going on within his of these phenomena is internal, that it is something dif- own body. But, when he is awake, he will rise from ferent from the body, and that the several bodily organs his resting-place-if mere matter, whether living or are nothing more than the mere instruments which it dead were concerned, he would have remained there employs in its operations ? Not instruments, indeed, like a plant or a stone for ever. He will walk forward that can be manufactured, purchased, or exchanged, or --he will change his course—he will stop. Can matthat can at pleasure be varied in form, position, num- ter, even though endowed with the life of vegetation, ber, proportion, or magnitude; not instruments, whose perform any such acts as these? Here is motion fairly motions are dependent upon an external impulse, on begun without any external impulse, and stopped withgravity, elasticity, magnetism, galvanism, on electricity out any external Obstacle. The activity of a plant, on or chemical attraction ; but instruments of a peculiar the contrary, is neither spontaneous nor locomotive; it nature, instruments that grow, that are moved by the is derived in regular succession from parent substances, will, and which can be regulated and kept in repair by and it can be stopped only by external obstacles, such no agent but the one for which they were primarily des- as the disturbance of the organization. A mass even tined; instruments so closely related to that agent, that of living matter requires something beyond its own powthey cannot be injured, handled, or breathed upon, ap- ers to overcome the vis inertice which still distinguishes proached by cold, by wind, by rain, without exciting in it, and to produce active and spontaneous motion. it certain sensations of pleasure or of pain; sensations Hardness and impenetrability are qualities of matter; which, if either unusual or excessive, are generally ac- but no one of common sense, without a very palpable coinpanied with joy or grief, hopes or alarms: instru- metaphor, could ever consider them as the properties of ments, in short, that exert so constant and power thought. ful reaction on the agent that employs them, that they “There is another property of matter, which is, if posmodify almost every phenomenon which it exhibits, and sible, still more inconsistent with thought than any of to such an extent, that no person can confidently say, the former; I mean its divisibility. Let us take any what would be the effect of its energies if deprived of material substance, the brain, the heart, or any other instruments; or what would be the effect of its energies body, which we would have endowed with thought, and if furnished with instruments of a different species, or inquire of what is this substance composed. It is the if furnished with instruments of different materials, less aggregate of an indefinite number of separable and sedependent on external circumstances, and less subject parate parts. Now the experience of what passes to the laws of gross and inert matter."(1)

within our minds will inform us, that unity is essential Life, then, whether organic or animal, is not the to a thinking being. That consciousness which estacause of intelligence; and thus all true reasoning upon blishes the one individual being, which every man knows these phenomena brings us to the philosophy of the himself to be, cannot, without a contradiction in terms, Scriptures, that the presence of an immaterial soul with be separated, or divided. No man can think in two sethe body is the source of animal life; and that the separate places at the same time: nor, again, is his conparation of the soul from the body is that circumstance sciousness made up of a number of separate conscious. which causes death.(2) Farther proofs, however, are nesses; as the solidity, the colour, and motion of the not wanting, that matter is incapable of thought, and whole body is made up of the distinct solidities, colours, that its various qualities are inconsistent with mental and motions of its parts. As a thinking and a conscious phenomena.

being, then, man must be essentially one. Extension is a universal quality of matter; being taker of the life of vegetation, he is separable into ten that cohesion and continuity of its parts by which a body thousand different parts. If then it is the brain of a occupies space. The idea of extension is gained by our man which is conscious and thinks, his consciousness external senses of sight and of touch. But thought is and thought must be made up of as many separate parts neither visible nor tangible, it occupies no external as there are particles in its material substance, which space, it has no contiguous or cohering parts. A mind is contrary to common sense and experience. Whatenlarged by education and science, a memory stored ever, therefore, our thought may be, or in whatever it with the richest treasures of varied knowledge, occu- may reside, it is essentially indivisible; and, therefore, pies no more space than that of the meanest and wholly inconsistent with the divisibility of a material most illiterate rustic.

substance. "In body again we find a vis inertiæ, that is, a certain “ From every quality, therefore, of matter, with which quality by which it resists any change in its present state. we are acquainted, we shall be warranted in concluWe know by experiment, that a body, when it has re- ding, that without a contradiction in terms, it cannot be ceived an impulse, will persevere in a direct course and a pronounced capable of thought. A thinking substance uniform velocity, until its motion shall be either disturbed may be combined with a stone, a tree, or an animal or retarded by some external power; and again, that, be- body; but not one of the three can of itself become a ing at rest, it will remain so for ever, unless motion shall thinking being."(3) have been communicated to it from without. Since mat- " The notions we annex to the words MATTER and ter, therefore, necessarily resists all change of its present MIND, as is well remarked by Dr. Reid, are merely restate, its motion and its rest are purely passive; sponta- lative. If I am asked, what I mean by matter? I can

only explain myself by saying, it is that which is ex(1) Barclay on Life and Organization.

tended, figured, coloured, moveable, hard or soft, rough (2) The celebrated Hunter, “in searching for the prin- or smooth, hot or cold; that is, I can define it in no other ciple of life, on the supposition that it was something way than by enumerating its sensible qualities. It is visible, fruitlessly enough looked for it in the blood, the not matter or body, which I perceive by my senses ; chyle, the brain, the lungs, and other parts of the body; but only extension, figure, colour, and certain other but not finding it in any of them exclusively, concluded qualities, which the constitution of my nature leads that it must be a consequence of the union of the whole, me refer to something which is extended, figured, and depend upon organism. But to this conclusion he and coloured. The case is precisely similar with recould not long adhere, after observing that the composi- spect to mind. We are not immediately conscious of tion of matter does not give life; and that a dead body its existence, but we are conscious of sensation, thought may have all the composition it ever had. Last of all, and volition; operations which imply the existence of he drew the true, or at least the candid conclusion, that something which feels, thinks, and wills. Every man he knew nothing about the matter.” Medico-Chirurgi- too is impressed with an irresistible conviction, that cal Review, Sept. 1822. This is the conclusion to all these sensations, thoughts, and volitions, belong to which mere philosophy comes, and the only one at one and the same being; to that being, which he calls which it can arrive, till it stoops to believe that there is himself ; a being which he is led, by the constitution true philosophy in the Seriptures.

(3) RENNELL on Skepticism.

As a parof his nature, to consider as something distinct from thou art God. Of old hast thou laid the foundation his body, and as not liable to be iinpaired by the loss of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thine or mutilation of any of his organs.

hand. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, “From these considerations, it appears, that we have all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesiure the same evidence for the existence of mind, that we shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but have for the existence of body; nay, if there be any thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." difference between the two cases, that we have stronger He“ inhabiteth eternity,” fills and occupies the whole evidence for it; inasmuch as the one is suggested to round of boundless duration, and “is the first and the us by the subjects of our own consciousness, and the last." other merely by the objects of our perceptions.”(4) In these representations of the eternal existence and

Farther observations on the immateriality of the absolute immortality of the Divine Being, something human soul will be adduced in their proper place. more than the mere idea of infinite duration is conThe reason why the preceding argument on this sub- veyed. No creature can, without contradiction, be supject has been here introduced, is not only that the spi- posed to have been from eternity; but even a creature rituality of the Divine Nature might be established by may be supposed to continue to exist for ever, in as strict proving that intelligence is not a material attribute; a sense as God himself will continue to exist for ever. Its but to keep in view the connexion between the spiritu- existence, however, being originally dependent and deality of God, and that of man, who was made in his rived, must continue so. It is not, so to speak, in its image; and to show the relation which also exists be- nature to live, or it would never have been non-existtween the doctrine of the materialism of the human soul, ent; and what it has not from itself, it has received, and absolute Atheism, and thus to hold out a warning and must, through every moment of actual existence, against such speculations. There is no middle course, receive from its Maker. But the very phrase in which in fact, though one may be affected. If we material- the Scriptures speak of the eternity of God, suggests ize man, we must materialize God, or, in other words, a meaning deeper than that of mere duration. They deny a First Cause, one of whose essential attributes contrast the stability of the Divine Existence with the is intelligence. It is then of little consequence what vanishing and changing nature of all his works, and scheme of Atheism is adopted. On the other hand, if represent them as reposing upon him for support, we allow spirituality to God, it follows as a necessary while he not only depends not upon any, but rests upon corollary, that we must allow it to man. These doc- himself. He lives by virtue of his nature, and is es trines stand or fall together.

sentially unchangeable. For to the nature of that On a subject which arises out of the foregoing dis- which exists without cause, life must be essential. In cussion, a single observation will be sufficient. It is him who is “the fountain of life" there can be no granted, that, on the premises laid down, not only must principle of decay. There can be no desire to cease to an immaterial principle be allowed to man, but to all be, in him who is perfectly blessed, because of the unanimals possessed of volition; and few, perhaps none, bounded excellence of his nature. To him existence are found without this property. But though this has must be the source of infinite enjoyment, both from the often been urged as an objection, it can cost the believer contemplation of his own designs, and the manifestain revelation nothing to admit it. It strengthens and does tion of his glory, purity, and benevolence, to the intelnot weaken his argument, and it is perfectly in accord-ligent creatures he has made to know and to be beatiance with Scripture, which speaks of “the soul of a fied by such discoveries and benefits. No external beast,” as well as of the soul of man.” Vasily, nay, power can control, or in any way affect his felicity, his we might say infinitely, different are they in the class perfection, or his being. Such are the depths of glory and degree of their powers, though of the same spiritual and peculiarity into which the Divine eternity, as stated essence; but they have both properties which cannot in the Scriptures, leads the wondering mind; and of be attributed to matter. It does not, however, follow which the wisest of heathens, who ascribed immortalthat they are immortal because they are immaterial. ity to one or to many Gods, had no conception. They The truth is, that God only hath independent immortal- were ever fancying something out of God, as the cause ity, because he only is self-existent, and neither human of their immortal being; fate, or external necessity, nor brute souls are of necessity immortal. God hath or some similar and vague notion, which obscured, as given this privilege to man, not by a necessity of na- to them, one of the peculiar glories of the “eternal ture, which would be incompatible with dependence, power and Godhead,” who of and from his own essenbut by his own will, and the continuance of his sus- tial nature, is, and was, and SHALL BE. taining power. But he seems to have denied it to the Some apprehensions of this great truth are seen in inferior animals, and according to the language of the sayings of a few of the Greek sages, though mucli Scripture, “the spirit of a beast goeth downward." obscured by their other notions. Indeed, that approThe doctrine of the natural immortality of man will, priate name of God, so venerated among the Jews, the however, be considered in its proper place.

nomen tetragrammaton, which we render JEHOVAH, was known among the heathens to be the name under which the Jews worshipped the Supreme God; and

" from this divine name," says Parkhurst, s?: voce, CHAPTER III.

“the ancient Greeks had their In, In in their invocation

of the Gods.(5) It expresses not the attributes, but ATTRIBUTES of God-Eternity-OmnipotenceUbiquity.

(5) A curious instance of the transmission of this From the Scriptures we have learned, that there is name, and one of the peculiarities of the Hebrew faith, one God, the Creator of all things, and consequently even into China, is mentioned in the following extract living and intelligent. The demonstrations of this of " A Memoir of Lao-tseu, a Chinese philosopher, who truth, which surround us in the works of nature, have flourished in the sixth century before our era, and who been also adverted to. By the same sacred revelations, professed the opinions ascribed to Plato and to Pythawe have also been taught, that, as to the Divine essence, goras.” (By M. Abel REMUSAT.) -" The metaphysics God is a $pirit; and in the farther manifestations they of Lao-tseu have many other remarkable features, have made of him, we learn, that as all things were which I have endeavoured to develope in my memoir, made by him, he was before all things : that their being and which for various reasons I am obliged to pass is dependent, his independent; that he is eminently over in silence. How, in fact, should I give an idea of Being, according to his own peculiar appellation, “I those lofty abstractions, of those inextricable subtleties, AM;" self-existent and ETERNAL. In the Scripture in which the oriental imagination disports and goes doctrine of God, we, however, not only find it asserted astray? It will suffice to say here, that the opinions that God had no beginning, but that he shall have no of the Chinese philosopher on the origin and constituend. Eternity ad partem post is ascribed to him, for, tion of the universe, have neither ridiculous fables nor in the most absolute sense, he hath“ immortality," and offensive absurdities ; that they bear the stamp of a he “ only' hath it, by virtue of the inherent perfection noble and elevated mind; and that, in the sublime reveof his nature. It is this which completes those sub- ries which distinguish them, they exhibit a striking and lime and impressive views of the eternity of God, with incontestable conformity with the doctrine which was which the revelation he has been pleased to make of professed a little later by the schools of Pathagoras and himself abounds. Froin everlasting to everlasting | Plato. Like the Pythagoreans and the Stoics, our au.

thor adınits, as the First Cause, Reason, an ineffable, (4) STEWART's Essays.

uncreated Being, that is the type of the universe, and the essence of God, which was the reason why the to this inquiry. Time, in our conceptions, is divisible. Jews deemed it ineffable. The Septuagint translators The artificial divisions are, years, months, days, preserved the same idea in the word Kuplos, by which minutes, seconds, &c. We can conceive of yet smaller they translated it, from kupw, sum, I am. This word portions of duration, and whether we have given to is said by critics not to be classically used to siguity ihem artificial names or not, we can conceive no otherGod, which would mark the peculiarity of this appella- wise of duration, than continuance of being, estimated tion in the Septuagint version more strongly, and con- as to degree, by this artificial admeasurement, and vey something of the great idea of the self or absolute therefore as substantially answering to it. It is not existence ascribed to the Divine Nature in the Hebrew denied but that duration is something distinct from these Scriptures, to those of the heathen philosophers who its artificial measures ; yet of this every man's conmet with that translation. That it cou not be passed sciousness will assure him, that we can form no iuea over unnoticed, we may gather from St. Hilary, who of duration except in this successive manner.

But we says, that before his conversion to Christianity, meet- are told, that the eternity of God is a fixed elernal now, ing with this appellation of God in the Pentateuch, he from which all ideas of succession, of past and future, was struck with admiration, nothing being so proper are to be excluded; and we are called upon to conceive to God as to be. Among the Jews, however, the import of eternal duration without reference to past or future, of this stupendous name was preserved unimpaired by and to the exclusion of the idea of that flow under metaphysical speculations. It was registered in their which we conceive of time. The proper abstract idea sacred books; from the fulness of its meaning the lofti of duration is, however, simple continuance of being, est thoughts are seen to spring up in the minds of the without any reference to the exact degree or extent of prophets, which amplify with an awful and mysterious it, because in no other way can it be equally applicable grandeur their descriptions of his peculiar glories, in to all the substances of which it is the attribute. It contrast with the vain gods of the heathen, and with may be finite or infinite, momentary or eternal, but every actual existence, however exalted, in heaven and that depends upon the substance of which it is the in earth.

quality, and not upon its own nature. Our own obserOn this subject of the eternal duration of the Divine vation and experience teach us how to apply it to ourBeing, many have held a metaphysical refinement. selves. As to us, duration is dependent and finite; as “The eternal existence of God," it is said, “is not to to God, it is infinite; but in both cases the originality be considered as successive; the ideas we gain from or dependence, the finity or infinity of it, arises not out time are not to be allowed in our conceptions of his of the nature of duration itself, but out of other quaduration. As he fills all space with his immensity, he lities of the subjects respectively. fills all duration with his eternity; and with him Duration, then, as applied to God, is no more than eternity is nunc stans, a permanent now, incapable of an extension of the idea as applied to ourselves; and the relations of past, present, and future.” Such cer- to exhort us to conceive of it as something essentially tainly is not the view given us of this mysterious sub- different, is to require us to conceive what is inconject in the Scriptures; and if it should be said that they ceivable. It is to demand of us to think without ideas. Kpeak popularly, and are accoinmodated to the infirmity Duration is continuance of existence; continuance of of the thoughts of the body of mankind, we may reply, existence is capable of being longer or shorter, and that philosophy has not, with all its boasting of supe- hence necessarily arises the idea of the succession of rior light, carried our views on this attribute of the the minutest points of duration into which we can conDivine Nature at all beyond the revelation ; and, in ceive it divided. Beyond this the mind cannot go, it attempting it, has only obscured the conceptions of its forms the idea of duration 11o other way; and if what disciples. Filling duration with his eternity” is a we call duration be any thing different from this in phrase without any meaning: “ For how can any man God, it is not duration, properly so called, according to conceive a permanent instant, which coexists with a human ideas; it is something else, for which there is perpetually flowing duration ? One might as well no name among men, because there is no idea, and apprehend a mathematical point coextended with a therefore it is impossible to reason about it. As long bine, a surface, and all dimensions."(6) As this notion as metaphysicians use the term, they must take the has, however, been made the basis of some opinions, idea : if iney spurn the idea, they have no right to the which will be remarked upon in their proper place, it term, and ought at once to confess that they can go no may be proper briefly to examine it.

farther. Dr. Cudworth defines infinity of duration to Whether we get our idea of time from the motion be nothing else but perfection, as including in it necesof bodies without us, or from the consciousness of the sary existence and immutability. This, it is true, is succession of our own ideas, or both, is not important as much a definition of the moon, as of infinity of dura

tion; but it is valuable, as it shows, that in the view of has no type but itself. Like Pythagoras, he takes this great man, though an advocate of the nunc stans, human souls to be emanations of the ethereal substance, the standing now of eternity, we must abandon the which are reunited with it after death ; and, like Plato, term duration, if we give up the only idea under which he refuses to the wicked the faculty of returning into it can be conceived. the besim of the universal soul. Like Pythagoras, he It follows from this, therefore, that either we must gives to the first principles of things the names of num- apply the term ation to the Divine Being in the bers, and his cosmogony is, in some degree, algebraical. same sense in which we apply it to creatures, with the He attaches the chain of beings to that which he calls extension of the idea to a duration which has no bounds One, then to Two, then to Three, which have made all and limits, or blot it out of our creeds, as a word to things. The divine Plato, who had adopted this mysteri- which our minds, with all the aid they may derive ous dogma, seems to be afraid of revealing it to the pro- from the labours of metaphysicians, can attach no meanfane. Ile envelopes it in clouds in his famous letter to the ing. The only notion which has the appearance of an three friends; he teaches it to Dionysius ot' Syracuse; objection to this successive duration as applied to him, but by enigmas, as he says himself, lost his tablets fall appears wholly to arise from confounding two very dising into the hands of some stranger, they should be read tinct things; succession in the duration, and change and understood. Perhaps, the recollection of the recent in the substance. Dr. Cudworth appears to have fallen death of Socrates imposed this reserve upon him. Lao- into this error. He speaks of the duration of an treu does not make use of these indirect ways; and imperfect nature, as sliding from the present to the wilat is most clear in his book is, that a Triune Being future, expecting something of itself which is not yet formed the universe. To complete the singularity, he in being, and of a perfect nature being essentially gives to his being a Hebrew name hardly changed, the immutable, having a permanent and unchanging dura. very name which in our book designates him, who was, tion, never losing any thing of itself once present, nor AND IS, AND SHALL BE. This last circumstance con- yet running forwards to meet something of itself which firms all that the tradition indicated of a journey to the is not yet in being. Now, though this is a good de. west, and leaves no doubt of the origin of his doctrine. scription of a perfect and immutable nature, it is no Probably he received it either from ihe Jews of the ten description at all of an eternally enduring nature. Dutribes, whom the conquest of Sulmanazan had just dis- ration implies no loss in the substance of any being. persed throughout Asia, or from the apostles of some nor addition to it. A perfect nature never loses any Phenician sect, to which those philosophers also be- thing of itself, nor expects more of itself than is pos. longed, who were the masters and precursors of Py- sessed; but this does not arise from the attribute of thagoras and Plato.”

its duration, however that attribute may be conceived (5) ABERNETHY'S Sermons.

of, but from its perfection, and consequent immuta- . bility. These attributes do not flow from the duration, the most ample revelation, and in the most impressive but the extent of the duration from them. The argu- and sublime language. From the annunciation in the ment is clearly good for nothing, unless it could be Scriptures of a Divine existence who was in the beproved, that successive duration necessarily implies ginning” before all things, the very first step is the change in the nature ; but that is contradicted by the display of his almighty power in the creation, out of experience of finite beings-their natures are not at all nothing, and the immediate arrangement in order and determined by their duration, but their duration by perfection, of the “heaven and the earth ;" by which their natures; and they exist for a moment, or for ages, is meant not this globe only with its atmosphere, or according to the nature which their Maker has impressed even with its own celestial system, but the universe upon them. If it be said that, at least, successive itself; for “he made the stars also." We are thus duration imports that a being luses past duration, and placed at once in the presence of an agent of unexpects the arrival of future existence, we reply, that bounded power, “the strict and correct conclusion this is no imperfection at all. Even finite creatures do being, that a power which could create such a world as not feel it to be an imperfection to have existed, and to this, must be beyond all comparison greater than any look for continued and interminable being. It is true, which we experience in ourselves, than any which we with the past, we lose knowledge and pleasure; and observe in other visible agents, greater also than any expecting in all future periods an incrcase of knowledge which we can want for our individual protection and and happiness, we are reminded by that of our present preservation, in the Being upon whom we depend; a imperfection; but this imperfection does not arise from power likewise to which we are not authorized by our our successive and flowing duration, and we never observation or knowledge to assign any limits of space refer it to that. It is not the past which takes away or duration."(7) our knowledge and pleasure; nor future duration, sim- That the sacred writers should so frequently dwell ply considered, which will confer the increase of both. upon the omnipotence of God, has an important reason Our imperfections arise out of the essential nature of our which arises out of the very design of that revelation being, not out of the manner in which our being is con- which they were the instruments of communicating to tinued. It is not the flow of our duration, but the flow mankind. Men were to be reminded of their obligaof our natures which produces these effects. On tl tions to obedience, and God is therefore constantly excontrary, we think that the idea of our successive du- hibited as the Creator, the Preserver, and Lord of all ration, that is, of continuance, is an excellence, and things. His reverent worship and fear were to be ennot a defect. Let all ideas of continuance be banished joined upon them, and, by the manifestation of his from the mind, let these be to us a nunc semper stuns, works the veil was withdrawn from his glory and maduring the whole of our being, and we appear to gain jesty. Idolatry was to be checked and reproved, and nothing-our pleasures surely are not diminished by the true God was thus placed in contrast with the the idea of long continuance being added to present limited and powerless gods of the heathen.

"Among enjoyment; that they have been, and still remain, and the gods of the nations, is there no god like unto thee, will continue, on the contrary, greatly heightens them. neither are there any works like thy works.” Finally, Without the idea of a flowing duration, we could have he was to be exhibited as the object of trust to creano such measure of the continuance of our pleasures, tures, constantly reminded by experience of their own and this we should consider an abatement of our hap- infirmity and dependence, and to whom it was essenpiness. What is so obvious an excellence in the spirit tial to know, that his power was absolute, unlimited, of man, and in angelic natures, can never be thought and irresistible. an imperfection in God, when joined with a nature In the revelation which was thus designed to awe essentially perfect and immutable.

and control the bad, and to afford strength of mind and But it may be said, that eternal duration, considered consolation to the good under all circumstances, the as successive, is only an artificial manner of measur- omnipotence of God is therefore placed in a great vaing and conceiving of duration, and is no more eternal riety of impressive views, and connected with the duration itself than minutes and moments the artifi- inost striking illustratious. cial measures of time, are time itself. Were this granted, It is presented by the fact of creation, the creation the question would still be, whether there is any thing of beings out of nothing, which itself, though it had in duration, considered generally, or in time considered been confined to a single object, however minute, exespecially, which corresponds to these artificial methods ceeds finite comprehension, and overwhelms the faculof measuring, and conceiving of them. The ocean is ties. This with God required no effort" He spake measured by leagues; but the extension of the ocean, and it was done, he coinmanded and it stood fast.” and the measure of it, are distinct. They, nevertine- | The vastness and variety of his works enlarge the conless, answer to each other. Leagues are the nominal ception. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and divisions of an extended surface, but there is a real ex- the firinament showeth his handy work.” “He spreadtension, which answers to the artificial conception and eth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the admeasurement of it. In like manner, days, and hours, sea; he maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the and moments, are the measures of time, but there is chambers of the south; he doeth great things, past either something in time which answers to these mea- finding out, yea, and wonders without number. sures, or not only the measure, but the thing itself is stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and artificial-an imaginary creation. If any man will hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the contend, that the period of duration which we call waters in the thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent time, is nothing, no farther dispute can be held with under them; he hath compassed the waters with him, and he may be left to deny also the existence of bounds until the day and night come to an end.". The matter, and to enjoy his philosophic revel in an ideal ease with which he sustains, orders, and controls the world. We apply the same argument to duration most powerful and unruly of the elements presents generally, whether finite or infinite. Minutes and mo- his omnipotence under an aspect of ineffable dignity ments, or smaller portions for which we have no name, and majesty. “By him all things consist.” He brake may be artificial, adopted to aid our conceptions; but up for the sea “a decreed place, and set bars and conceptions of what?' Not of any thing standing still, doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come and no farbut of something going on. Or duration we have no ther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” “Ile other conception, and if there be nothing in nature looketh to the end of the earth, and seeth under the which answers to this conception, then is duration whole heaven, to make the weight for the winds, to itself imaginary, and we discourse about nothing. If weigh the waters by measure, to make a decree for the the duration of the Divine Being admits not of past, rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder." present, and future, one of these two consequences

“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his must follow,--that no such attribute as that of eter- hand, meted out heaven with a span, comprehended nity belongs to him,-or that there is no power in the the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the human mind to conceive of it. In either case the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ?" Scriptures are greatly impugned; for “He who was, The descriptions of the Divine power are often terand is, and is to come,” is a revelation of the eternity rible. "The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astoof God, which is then in no sense true. It is not true nished at his reproof'; he divideth the sea by his if used literally; and it is as little so if the language be power.” He removeth the mountains, and they know figurative, for the figure rests on no basis, it illustrates it not; he overturneth them in his



he shaketh nothing, it misleads. God is OMNIPOTENT: Of this attribute also we have

(7) Paler,


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof | know what God is, to lay hoid on his Almighty
tremble; he commandeth the sun and it riseth not, power.”
and sealeth up the stars.” The same absolute subjec- Ample, however, as are the views afforded us in
tion of creatures to his dominion is seen among the Scripture of the power of God, we are not to consider
intelligent inhabitants of the material universe, and the subject as bounded by them. As when the Scrip-
angels, men the most exalted, and evil spirits, are tures declare the eternity of God, they declare it so as
swayed with as much ease as the least resistless ele- to unveil to us something of that fearful peculiarity of
ments. “He maketh his angels spirits, and his minis- the Divine Nature, that he is the fountain of being to
ters a flame of fire.” They veil their faces before his himself, and that he is eternal, because he is the “I
throne, and acknowledge themselves his servants. AM;" so we are taught not to measure his omnipo-
"It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and tence by the actual displays of it which have been
the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers,” “as the made. They are the manifestations of the principle,
dust of the balance, less than nothing and vanity.” but not the measure of its capacity; and should we
“ He bringeth princes to nothing.” “ He setteth up one resort to the discoveries of modern philosophy, which,
and putteth down another," " for the kingdom is the by the help cf instruments, has so greatly enlarged
Lord's, and he is governor among the nations.” “The the known boundaries of the visible universe, and add
angels that sinned he cast down to hell, and delivered to the stars, visible to the naked eye, new exhibitions
them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto of the Divine power in those nebulous appearances of
judgment.” The closing scenes of this world com- the heavens which are resolvable into myriads of dis-
plete these transcendent conceptions of the majesty tinct celestial luminaries, whose immense distances
and power of God. The dead of all ages shall rise commingle their light before it reaches our eyes; we
from their graves at his voice; and the sea shall give thus almost infinitely expand the circle of created ex-
up the dead which are in it. Before his face heaven istence, and enter upon a formerly unknown and over-
and earth flee away, the stars fall from heaven, and the whelming range of Divine operation; but we are still
powers of heaven are shaken. The dead, sinall and reminded, that his power is truly Almighty and mea-
great, stand before God, and are divided as a shepherd sureless-“Lo, all these are parts of his ways, but
divideth the sheep from the goats; the wicked go away how little a portion is known of him, and the thunder
into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life of his power who can understand?" It is a mighty

conception to think of a power from which all other
of these amazing views of the omnipotence of God, power is derived, and to which it is subordinate ;
spread almost through every page of the Scripture, the which nothing can oppose ; which can beat down and
power lies in their truth. They are not eastern exag- annihilate all other powers whatever; a power which
gerations, mistaken for sublimity. Every thing in na operates in the most perfect manner; at once, in an
lure answers to them, and renews from age to age the instant, with the ntmost ease: but the Scriptures lead
energy of the impression which they cannot but make us to the contemplation of greater depths, and those
upon the reflecting mind. The order of the astral re- unfathomable. The omnipotence of God is inconceiv-
volutions indicates the constant presence of an invi- able and boundless. It arises from the infinite perfec.
sible but incomprehensible power :--the seas hurl the tion of God, that his power can never be actually ex
weight of their billows upon the rising shores, but hausted; and, in every imaginable instant in eternity,
every where find a bound fixed by a perpetual de- that inexhaustible power of God can if it please him be
cree;"--the tides reach their heights; ifthey flowed on adding either more creatures to those in existence, or
for a few hours, the earth would change places with greater perfection to them; since " it belongs to self-
the bed of the sea; but under an invisible control they existent being, to be always full and communicative,
become refluent. “He toucheth the mountains and and, to the communicated contingent being, to be ever
they smoke,” is not mere imagery. Every volcano is empty and craving.”(8)
a testimony of that truth to nature which we find in One limitation only we can conceive, which how-
the Scriptures; and earthquakes teach, that, before ever detracts nothing from this perfection of the Di.
him, “the pillars of the world tremble.” Men col- vine Nature.
lected into armies, and populous nations, give us vast

“Where things in themselves imply a contradiction, ideas of human power : but let an army be placed amid as that a body may be extended and not extended, in a the sand storms and burning winds of the desert, as in place and not in a place, at the same time: such things, I the East has frequently happened; or before' “his say, cannot be done by God, because contradictions are frost,as in our own day, in Russia, where one of the impossible in their own nature: nor is it any derogamightiest armaments was seen retreating before, or tion from the Divine power to say, they cannot be perishing under, an unexpected visitation of snow and done; for as the object of the understanding, of the storm ; or let the utterly helpless state of a populous eye, and the ear, is that which is intelligible, visible, country which has been visited by famine, or by a re- and audible; so the object of power must be that sistless pestilential disease, be reflected upon, and it is which is possible; and as it is no prejudice to the most no figure of speech to say, that “all nations are before perfect understanding, or sight, or hearing, that it does him less than nothing and vanity.

not understand what is not intelligible, or see what is Nor in reviewing this doctrine of Scripture, ought not visible, or hear what is not audible; so neither is the fine practical uses made of the onnipotence of God, it any diminution to the most perfect power, that it by the sacred writers, to be overlooked. In them, there does not do what is not possible.(9) In like manner, is nothing said for the display of knowledge, as, too God cannot do any thing that is repugnant to his other often, in heathen writers; no speculation, without a perfections: he cannot lie, nor deceive, nor deny himmoral subservient to it, and that by evident design. self; for this would be injurious to his truth. He canTo exeite and keep alive in man the fear and worship not love sin, nor punish innocence; for this would deof God, and to bring him to a felicitous confidence in stroy his holiness and goodness: and therefore to that Almighty power which pervades and controls all ascribe a power to him that is inconsistent with the things, we have observed, are the reasons for those rectitude of his nature, is not to magnify but debase ample displays of the omnipotence of God, which roll him; for all unrighteousness is weakness, a defection through the sacred volume with a sublimity that in- from right reason, a deviation from the perfect rule of spiration only could supply. “Declare his glory action, and arises from a defect of goodness and among the heathen, his marvellous works among all power. In a word, since all the attributes of God are nations; for great is the Lord, and greatly to be essentially the same, a power in him which tends to praised.--Glory and honour are in his presence, and destroy any other attribute of the Divine Nature, must strength and gladness in his place.--Give into the be a power destructive of itself. Well, therefore, may Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give into the Lord we conclude him absolutely omnipotent, who, by being glory and strength; give unto the Lord the glory due able to effect all things consistent with his perfections, unto his name. - The Lord is my light and iny salva- showeth infinite ability, and, by not being able to do any tion; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength thing repugnant to the same perfections, demonstrates of any life; of whom shall I be afraid ?- If God be for himself subject to no infirmity.”(1) uis, who then can be against us?-Our help standeth Nothing certainly in the finest writings of antiquity, in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. were all their best thoughts collected as to the majesty - - What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee."--Thus, as one observes, “our natural fears, of which we must (8) Howe.

(9) Bishop Wilkins. Liave many, remit us to God, and remind us, since we (1) PEARson on the Creed.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »