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The very notion of a self-existent Being, the Creator and Governor of all things, carries in it an idea of greatness and pre-eminence beyond comparison. For the existence, the powers and privileges of all other substances being derived originally from him, whatever they possess must have been contained in the fountain from whence they derived, which could not give better things than it had to bestow. So that all we see great, or noble, or admirable, or excellent among the creatures, resides collectively in the Author of their natures. And as our knowledge stands confined within a very small part of his works, we see nothing of those excellencies and subjects of admiration which lie beyond our notice. Nor, could we survey the whole stupendous fabric completely, have we reason to believe but that there are greater riches of power and glory than stand exemplified in any district of the universe : for we have found in the former part of our progress, that the business of creation requires other Attributes than those hitherto known to the Sons of Adam.
The same notion too, besides intrinsic greatness and excellence, implies uncontrollable Authority and absolute Dominion : for the creatures subsisting at first by the will of their Creator, how stable a constitution soever they may have received, can subsist no longer, than that Will shall permit. He that gave can take away, and what originally created, can station, compound, alter or dispose as seemeth good : there being nothing more powerful to limit, nor superior to lay an obligation upon him. These points are too evident to be much enlarged upon, for it is the difficulties and obscurities in a subject that give scope to argument and illustration. And they are too luminous and magnificent to be contemplated by us, for a redundance of light is as unfit for our optics as a defect of it; nor can we discern anything distinctly of very large objects until removed to a distance that may contract them within the circle of our vision.
Therefore as we see the sun better through a smoked glass or in a pail of water than by looking at him directly, so we can more easily discern the power and glory of God, through the veil of second causes, or by reflection in his works, or in the ministry of inferior powers executing bis commands, than by contemplating him in his essence or immediate operations : for which reason he is often represented as acting by his subordinate ministers, sendVOL. III.
ing his destroying or protecting Angel to spread desolation, pestilence, and famine, or to guard the righteous from danger, and guide his steps that he hurt not his foot against a stone.
2. But all this relates only to his almighty power and the essential perfection of his nature, but will not conduct us to his Attribute of Majesty : which is one of the moral Attributes, whereby we suppose him withholden from works and objects unbecoming the dignity of his character. And here again our exoterics will run directly opposite to our esoterics : for our reason, when stretching her eye to the utmost verge of contemplation, represents him omnipresent, intelligent, and powerful, in every mathematical point, throughout the whole immensity of space. That nothing, not the minutest object, escapes his notice, nor the most trifling incident eludes his care. That all things being the work of his hands, are good, and of importance in the stations wherein he has respectively placed them, therefore none are unbecoming his attention. That he orders, disposes, and provides for them all, their situations, assortments, motions, and operations without exception : for no multiplicity of business can distract him, but he has vigor and understanding to spare for the most insignificant, without descending from his dignity, or intermitting the most glorious of his works.
But this is by much too large a field to be drawn upon any scale in our imagination; if we reflect ever so little upon the di
1 versity of characters, humors, and interests among mankind, the various instincts, natures, and properties of animals, the infinite multitude of diversely qualified particles floating about in air, earth, and ocean; the number, intricacy, and imperceptible influence of causes affecting almost every event befalling us; we shall quickly bewilder ourselves, and find it beyond all conception to apprehend all these reduced under a regular direction and comprised in one uniform plan. Therefore it were in vain to attempt it, and we had best take our exoteric idea from some archetype we can find in ourselves more familiar to our experience.
3. Now we find our capacities circumscribed within a certain compass, straitened in our knowledge and limited in our powers; we have a sphere of action extending but little way beyond ourselves, changing as we move, so that if we go to employ our activity upon things at a distance, we lose the reach of those we left behind : and though our sphere may contain many subjects, we cannot act upon them all, but only have our option to exert ourselves upon one, or a few among the rest; nor can we do our business effectually without applying our whole attention to the present thing we take in hand.' 'We likewise receive assistance in our operations from habit and practice, which give an ease and inclination to the courses whereto we have been familiarized, and render us awkward and unable to make a progress in those from which they have kept us strangers.
Hence it becomes necessary to make a selection among the objects before us, and our abilities being scanty, to lay them out where they may turn to the greatest profit. And as we have motives of honor as well as advantage to influence us, it is unbecoming to employ ourselves in mean and trivial matters, in preference to the more valuable and excellent. Yet is this excellence in some cases relative, for though there be many ways of spending time which are below any reasonable creature to take; there are works necessary and convenient in life, which therefore cannot be base, and unbecoming in themselves, it being the Duty of some to undergo them, yet are unworthy the attention of others who are called to higher services. For we are placed in different stations upon earth, we have different employments to follow, different habits and inclinations to encourage for forwarding us in the performance of them. Therefore it would be a demeaning himself for a person in high station to bestow his thoughts and industry upon matters belonging to those of lower degree : because he could not do this without omitting the functions incumbent upon him to fulfil, and contracting tastes unsuitable to his character.
And that this is what makes such condescension a debasement of dignity, may appear from hence: because where a man can concern himself with trifles at intervals, and converse among the vulgar upon particular occasions without taking off his thoughts from higher matters, without interfering with the proper functions of his station, or interrupting his intercourse among his equals, it is never deemed to fix a speck of blemish upon his character; more especially where necessary for his health or recreation of spirits, or conducive to some important use. Tully tells us that Scipio and Lælius, the two greatest men of the greatest nation upon earth, used in their country retirements, to busy themselves in picking cockle shells and pebbles upon the shore, and stoop to all kinds of innocent puerilities; nor are affability and condescension esteemed less than ornaments to a nobleman.
The Czar Peter the Great is said to have served as a common Sailor in the Dutch Navy, and worked with a hatchet among the carpenters in our dock-yards; but then he had in view the improvement of his own marine by perfecting himself in all the branches of it: so these vile occupations did not take off his thoughts from the proper functions of his imperial office, nor did they weaken but rather tend to establish his title of Great. The subaltern,
when raised by degrees to a commander in chief, must lay aside those offices it was his praise to be punctual in executing before ; such as visiting the quarters, inspecting the firelocks, hearing complaints, and preventing quarrels among the private men: because he has other business to take care of, not more important in itsell, for, unless things be rightly ordered among the private men, the army will be capable of but little service, but more important for him to regard. For this reason it is beneath persons in extensive trusts to concern themselves with minute matters : it is their part to confine their attention to general regulations, as being enough to take up the whole of it: nor can they execute otherwise than by the ministry of inferiors, without descending from their point of eminence, from whence they may direct and oversee much greater works than they could complete by their own industry.
But a ruler, to execute by his inferiors must have their due submission and ready obedience, which depend in great measure upon the sentiments they entertain of his person; for men are but sensitivo-rational animals, actuated for the most part by sense and imagination, which alone give us a readiness in our performances : nor will duty, advantage, or fear of punishment, answer completely without a reverential esteem and admiration. But imagination is guided by appearances, which consequently deserve his attention : therefore he will keep a state, go surrounded with attendants, affect a ceremony and solemnity, assume a grandeur of deportment and expression suitable to his rank, so far but no further than needful to impress the requisite degree of respect upon the populace; and he will disdain every little action or gesture that might degrade or make him cheap in their estimation.
4. This then being the constant course of experience in human affairs, wherein there is an allotment of oflices and occupations ; those destined to the highest, looking upon it as a degradation to meddle in the inferior, marked out from among the multitude by external distinctions of equipage, ceremony, magnificence, dress, and demeanor : and the works of industry being carried on by numbers, using powers and capacities of their own under the direction of one who contributes nothing more than his direction : our imagination falls so strongly into that train, that we can never get it to run in any other, without an immediate force and violence put upon it by the utmost stretch of our understanding, which we no sooner take off than it constantly recoils again.
Therefore when we let our thoughts roam upon external nature, an idea of the like polity immediately occurs: we conceive the elements, the seeds of vegetables, the salts, the acids, the spirit
contained in them, to have an activity of their own ; we imagine chance an operating power producing events, and free-will taking a direction for which there were no causes existent before their operation; we presume general laws provided for the maintenance of order, and regulating the Sum of Affairs without descending to minute cases, too numerous to be comprised in any code; we suppose God, the King of nature, seated upon his imperial throne, somewhere above the fogs and vapors of this loathsome earth, envirowed with ineffable glory, surrounded by hosts of Angels, Archangels, Seraphs, Cherubs, Principalities and powers awaiting his command, by whose ministry he has the disposal of second causes at a distance, or by an inexpressible energy communicated thereto in a manner there is no occasion for us to examine too strictly.
In this way we apprehend him continually making fresh provision for correcting the errors of chance and disorders of freewill, governing like an earthly monarch by new edicts and new application of his power, executed by ministers he employs. If we allow him to regard particular events, this is only upon extraordinary occasions, when they draw consequences of great importance after them : such as the fate of empires, the success of bat.tles, the salvation of a soul, or preservation of a human life. This being the constant strain of our discourses shows that we cannot easily cast our thoughts into any other form : and as men continually speak of the divine operations in figurative expressions, they must of course apprehend them bearing a similitude with the figures they employ. For as in reading a romance or a poem, we take a temporary persuasion of their being real facts, and of our conversing among the persons and scenes they represent : so the perpetual use of allegory will assimilate the mind to the train of conceptions it conveys.
5. Now since our imagination is so habituated to conceptions of this kind, that it becomes impracticable to impress others of an opposite cast, so as to carry them about with us for our ordinary use; we must model our common system of providence accordingly, complying with necessity, and humoring the imperfection of our nature which we cannot mend. And as we can never totally get rid of chance and trifle in our thoughts, but many things seem to pass around us merely casual and utterly insignificant, such will necessarily appear themselves, and render the agents concerned in them, contemptible in our eyes. On the other hand, the capacity and management of great affairs give us an idea of dignity, which rises in proportion to the importance of employ