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just and holy; and the rectitude and purity of his nature are displayed in all his dispensations. The moral laws which he has given for the government of mankind, are never repealed or suspended. The same duties are in every age required from men in the same circumstances : it has never happened, and it never will happen, that sin shall obtain his favour, and righteousness shall cease to be the object of his approbation. The manner of transacting with men has been different, according to the difference of their circumstances. The religion of a state of innocence, could not be the same with that of a state of guilt; and the religion of sinners has varied in its external form, as we learn by tracing its history in the patriarchal age, under the law, and since the introduction of Christianity. No two things seem more unlike than the Gospel, with its few and simple institutions, and the Mosaic economy, with its numerous and splendid rites. But, when the systems are examined, we find that in all essential points they perfectly agree. Under both the same truths are taught, the same duties are enjoined, and the same end is aimed at,—the reconciliation of sinners to God, and the restoration of his image in their souls. In all ages, man has stood in the same general relation to God and to his fellow men; and love to his Maker and his neighbour has been inculcated as the principle of universal obedience.

The immutability of the moral perfections of God is evident from the Mediatorial scheme, which amidst its manifestations of love, and its wonderful contrivances for the diffusion of happiness among our lost and ruined race, discovers the strictest regard to truth, and justice, and purity, and sheds new lustre upon them. It has made no change in the law which had pronounced its curse upon us, in order to facilitate our escape from its power; it has prescribed the fulfilment of its demands as the indispensable condition of our salvation, and established it in all its rights. The immutability of God is the principle upon which this scheme rests. There would have been no occasion for the substitution and sufferings of the glorious Person who redeemed us, if it had been possible that God could have lowered the standard of duty to accommodate it to our weakness, or could have abstained from recompensing transgression according to its desert. It was not without reason that he gave this terrible example of avenging wrath to the universe. It was not simply to display his power, nor was it to gratify himself with the spectacle of agony and blood; it was to proclaim to all worlds the unbending rectitude of his nature, and his eternal abhorrence of sin.

This view of the immutability of God is necessary to the support of religion. The supposition of inconstancy would destroy our veneration for him ; there would be no solid basis to sustain our hopes; we could place no confidence in his promises; there would be no fixed standard of morality; and we should be embarassed at every step, not knowing how to secure his approbation, because the conduct which was acceptable to him at one time, might be offensive at another. But “ his righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and his law is the truth."

It is unnecessary to extend the argument to his other perfections. While the immutability of God distinguishes him from all creatures, it will, perhaps, seem to us to be hardly consistent with the idea of consummate felicity. Variety appears to us to be essential to happiness; we wish for new scenes, new pleasures, and new occupations; and to have always the same objects before us, to be always drawing from the same sources of enjoyment, to be fixed in the calm and repose of contemplation, or from day to day to go over the same uniform round of actions, is accounted the description of a dull and melancholy life. The range of the Divine understanding, indeed, is not limited like ours; it sees all things in earth and heaven · it sees them at a glance ; they are more familiar to it than the few objects in our vicinity are to us; and

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nothing occurs which it did not always know. But we err, when we transfer to God any thing in ourselves which arises from our imperfection. right in ascribing knowledge to him, but are wrong if we conceive it like ours to be partial. We are right in ascribing power to him, but are wrong if we suppose that it is ever accompanied with labour and effort. It would be an error equally gross to suppose him to be influenced by the love of variety, which is the result of the limited capacity of our nature. We can admit at any given time, only a part of what may be known and enjoyed; but our Maker has formed us capable of interminable progress; and hence, we are urged forward by a powerful impulse from the point which we have gained to another which rises to view, and holds out the hope of greater advantage. What we already possess is soon exhausted, and we seek a new supply; or it creates sensations so delightful, that we wish them to be multiplied and heightened. The Supreme Being finds eternal rest and satisfaction in himself. The well-springs of his happiness are in his own nature : even his infinite understanding can conceive nothing greater and more excellent; and of every thing external he is so independent as not to be affected by its existence or annihilation. In the possession of his own resources, he is consummately and permanently blessed; and hence the Scripture calls him the happy God, the happy* and only Potentate, the Being who has in himself an inexhaustible store of felicity, and therefore needs no change as creatures do, who, possessing only a diminutive portion of good, feel the craving of desire, and hasten on from stage to stage in quest of a resting-place.

It may be objected to the doctrine of the divine immutability, that there are certain facts in the history of the divine dispensations, which seem to be at variance with it. We shall therefore briefly consider them, and endeavour to shew that the inconsistency is only apparent.

First, It may be alleged, that a change must have taken place in the Divine nature, when this earth and the heavens were created, because then God, who, if we may speak so, had rested from infinite ages, became active and exerted his power and all the other perfections which are displayed in his works. Let us beware of thinking that this rest which we ascribe to God prior to creation, was like the rest of body, which is opposed to motion; or like the rest of the soul, when its powers are suspended in a swoon or during profound sleep. A living and intelligent Being must have been always active, as our minds are when we are awake. God must have been always active in contemplating and loving himself; and let us remember, that although alone, he was not solitary, as we know from the mysterious doctrine of a plurality of persons in his essence. The only difference which creation could make, was, that now he became active ad extra. But let us not, in this instance, degrade him by a comparison with his creatures. We experience a sensible change when we pass from inaction to activity ; we put our bodies in motion and exert our muscular strength; but it is not so with the Omnipotent, whose eternal operations imply no effort and are effected by a simple volition. The first chapter of Genesis represents all things as having been made by his word. He said, “ Let there be light, and there was light.” “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, and the earth brought forth the living creature after his kind.” Omnipotence does not toil and suffer fatigue. The magni ficent fabric of the universe was produced out of nothing by God, more easily than we can move our arm. He underwent no change, when he proceeded in this inanner to execute his plan.

In the second place, It may be thought, that although the act of creation might be consistent with the immutability of the Divine nature, yet a change must have undoubtedly taken place in it, at the incarnation of the second

Menapios, beatus, happy. 1 Tim. vi. 15.

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person of the Trinity, when God became man, or, in the words of the Evangelist, “the Word was made flesh.” This inference would be legitimate, if it were true that the two natures of our Saviour were mixed or blended together; or that the Divine nature supplied the place of a human soul, and consequently became subject to human passions; or that it acquired by this union any new property, or suffered a limitation of its original powers; if, to use the scoffing language of blasphemers, the Deity had been imprisoned in the body of an infant, had been grieved and tormented, and had died upon the

But these are all erroneous views of the subject, heresies which have long since been refuted, wilful misrepresentations which we repel with the scorn which they most justly deserve. The incarnation was the union of two natures in one person, or such a union, that the assumed nature as truly belongs to our Saviour as his original one; but they remain as distinct as if they were not united. The divine was not humanized, nor the human deified; there was no communication of properties from the one to the other; both continued in their integrity, and in the possession of their peculiar qualities. This most intimate of all the relations in which the Divine nature stands to created beings, affected it no more than the relation subsisting between that nature and the other individuals of the human race.

In the third place, it may be asked, How shall we reconcile with this doctrine those passages of Scripture which represent God as having actually changed? Do we not read that it “repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth ?” and again, that “ it repented him that he had set up Saul to be king over Israel?* The solution of this difficulty is very simple, and is generally known. In speaking of himself, God accommodates his language to our conceptions, that we may the more easily apprehend his character and perfections, and that the truth signified to us by metaphors and similitudes may make a deeper impression. He describes himself as clothed with bodily members, but no person supposes that he has eyes, and ears, and hands, and feet. He describes himself as awaking, but surely no man will think that ever he falls asleep. Common sense directs us to understand all such passages as figurative. Does it not also require that we should put the same construction upon other passages which attribute human feelings and passions to God? We might sus pect the mind of that man to be deranged, who should imagine that he fears, expects, is disappointed, grieves and rejoices; and why then should the idea be admitted, that he literally repents? When a person adopts a new line of conduct, we conclude that he has changed his mind. It is on this ground that God is said to repent; the cause is put for the effect, by a well-known figure of speech; and the change of his mind signifies merely a change of dispensation. When he destroyed the inhabitants of the earth by a flood, and transferred the right to reign from Saul to another person, he acted as if he had repented, in the one case, that he had created a race whieh had become exceedingly corrupt, and in the other, that he had bestowed the crown upon a man who showed himself nnworthy of it. But in both cases, the repentance was only apparent; for the events upon which his change of conduct was founded, were foreseen from the beginning. God knew that the human race would apostatize from him, and that Saul would not hearken to his voice.

In the fourth place, It may be suspected that God really changes, when he hates a person whom he once loved, or loves a person whom he once hated. Of the former change, we have an example in the apostate angels and in Adam, who lost the favour and incurred the displeasure of their Creator; and of the latter, in those who, through the faith of the Gospel, pass from a state of condemnation into a state of acceptance. In these cases, a change must be acknowledged; but it remains to be ascertained in whom it has taken place. Has God changed? No more than the sun changes when the different parts of the earth successively come into his light, and retire into darkness. That glorious luminary continues to shine with equal splendour, but terrestrial objects are in perpetual motion.

* Gen. vi. 6. 1 Sam. xv, 11.

He stands still, and they pass away. To ascribe motion to him is a vulgar error, which philosophy corrects. God does not love at one time, and at another hate an individual continuing in all respects the same; for were this the case, we should be compelled to say that he is mutable. Those who are always holy, are always the objects of his love; and those who are always impure, are always the objects of his hatred. The change is in his creatures, who having lost their righteousness, have fallen under his displeasure; or having recovered it by his grace, have regained his approbation. It would be an unequivocal proof of mutability, if he entertained the same regard to a creature after it had lost its innocence as before; because the object of his regard, although physically the same, would be morally different, and could not continue to attract his love, without a change in him corresponding to the change which it had undergone. The withdrawment of his favour from a sinner, and the restoration of it to the believing penitent, supply irrefragable evidence that he is governed by an unbending principle of rectitude, and that justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

The immutability of God is fraught with consolation. It is a rock on which we can fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away every thing around us. Awful indeed is the idea of a Being dwelling from age to age amidst the plenitude of perfection and felicity, to whom time is as a moment, and the universe as a span! What is man, that he should regard him? What is man, who yesterday opened his eyes to the light, and to-morrow shall close them in the grave ? Yet he condescends to be our friend and protector, and consoles us by the assurance, that although we are as the flower of the field, which is withered by the passing blast, yet his niercy is from everlasting to everlasting, and his faithfulness to children's children. To Christians this consolation belongs. The permanence of his character secures to them the performance of his promises, a welcome reception when they come to him with their requests, succour in the season of need, and happiness stretching beyond the boundaries of time, uninterrupted by death itself, and prolonged through an infinite duration. “ The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed ; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” *

The Divine immutability, like the cloud which interposed between the Israelites and the Egyptian army, has a dark as well as a light side. It insures the execution of his threatenings, as well as the performance of his promises ; and destroys the hope which the guilty fondly cherish, that he will be all lenity to his frail and erring creatures, and that they will be much more lightly dealt with than the declarations of his own word would lead us to expect. We oppose to these deceitful and presumptuous speculations the solemn truth, that God is unchangeable in veracity and purity, in faithfulness and justice. There is another delusion which this doctrine is fitted to dispel. The thought of hell, as a prison from which there is no release, is alarming; and men, unable to work themselves into a complete disbelief of its existence, have sought to relieve their minds by converting it into a purgatory, or a place of temporary punishment. The Judge will relent, and let the criminals go free. Future sufferings will prove corrective, and prepare for a universal restoration. But here again his immutability meets us. It is vain to expect from him what is inconsistent with his nature. What he is at present he will always be. As fire will always burn, so his holiness will always abhor, and his justice will always pursue with vengeance, the workers of iniquity. There can be no

# Isaiah liv. 10.

just hope of escape without a change in themselves, and it must take place before the day of doom. This life is the season of trial, the world to come is the place of recompense, and there the allotment is final. The decree by which it is fixed, is founded on the eternal principles of justice, and is as immutable as God himself.

LECTURE XXI.

ON GOD.

Division of the Divine Attributes into communicable and incommunicable-First communicable

Attribute, Knowledge: proof of this Attribute-Extent of the Divine Knowledge—Scholastic distinctions respecting it-Illustration of its Perfection-Practical Reflections.

The attributes of God are the properties or excellencies by which his nature is distinguished ; and in the possession of them, he is absolutely and infinitely perfect. There are two ways of demonstrating them: a priori and a posteriori. They are demonstrated a priori, when having ascertained that there is a necessarily existing Being, we prove that such a Being must be eternal, immense, immutable, intelligent, and active. They are demonstrated a posteriori, when we prove them from the evidence afforded by his works. In the preceding lectures both kinds of reasoning have been employed.

The Divine perfections are usually divided into two classes, the incommunicable, and the communicable. The incommunicable are those of which there is no vestige or resemblance in creatures, as self-existence, absolute eternity, immensity, and immutability. Of these a nature created, limited, dependent, and consequently subject to change, is incapable. The communicable perfections are those to which there is something corresponding in creatures, as knowledge, wisdom, goodness and justice. As they do not in their nature imply the idea of infinity, although in the Creator they are infinite, they may belong in a low degree to limited beings. I say in a low degree, as faint shadows of the great Original; and on account of their comparative insignificance, the Scripture sometimes speaks as if creatures were as destitute of these, as of the perfections which are acknowledged to be incommunicable, and they were to be found in the Creator alone. He is called “the only wise God;" and our Lord said to the young man who addressed him by the compellation of Good Master, “ Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is, God.”+ When we are contemplating his underived and unbounded perfection, the excellencies of man and angels disappear, like the lesser lights in the meridian blaze of the sun.

In speaking of the attributes of God, we must remember that his nature is perfectly simple. This truth has been demonstrated from his unity, which excludes the idea of composition; from his self-existence, which imports that nothing preceded him as something does in the case of all compounds; from his immutability, which could not be predicated of his nature if it were made up of parts; and from other topics, which it is unnecessary to mention. If it has already appeared that he is an immaterial Being, it is a necessary consequence that he is not compounded, in the grosser acceptation of the term, because a spirit has no parts, and is indivisible and incorruptible. But the simplicity which theologians ascribe to God is a metaphysical conception, and * 1 Tim. i. 17.

+ Matth. xix. 17.

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