« AnteriorContinuar »
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 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.
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 happen to come in contact with this topic, they seem as if they were beginning to tread upon forbidden ground; and, as if it were unsuitable to their office as Christian teachers, to bring forward the stupendous works of the Almighty to illustrate his nature and attributes. Instead of expatiating on the numerous sources of illustration, of which the subject admits, till the minds of their
hearers are thoroughly affected with a view of the essential glory of Jehovah—they despatch the subject with two or three vague propositions, which, though logically true, make no impression upon the heart; as if they believed that such contemplations were suited only to carnal men, and mere philosophers; and as if they were afraid, lest the sanctity of the pulpit should be polluted by particular descriptions of those operations of the Deity which are perceived through the medium of the corporeal senses. We do not mean to insinuate, that the essential attributes of God, and the illustrations of them derived from the material world, should form the sole, or the chief topics of discussion, in the business of religious instruction—but, if the Scriptures frequently direct our attention to these subjects—if they lie at the foundation of all accurate and extensive views of the Christian Revelation-if they be the chief subjects of contemplation to angels, and all other pure intelligences, in every region of the universe—and if they have a tendency to expand the minds of professed Christians, to correct their vague and erroneous conceptions, and to promote their conformity to the moral character of God
we cannot find out the shadow of a reason, why such topics should be almost, if not altogether overlooked, in the writings and discourses of those who profess to instruct mankind in the knowledge of God, and the duties of his worship.
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 the Deity, or those properties of his nature by which he is distinguished from all the idols of the nations.” Such are, his Self-existence, his All-perfect Knowledge, his Omnipresence, his Infinite Wisdom, his Boundless Goodness, and Almighty Power-attributes, which, as we have just now seen, lie at the foundation of all the other characters and relations of Deity revealed in the Scriptures. The acquisition of just and comprehensive conceptions of these perfections, must, therefore, lie at the foundation of all
profound veneration of the Divine Being, and of all that is valuable in religion. Destitute of such conceptions, we can neither feel that habitual humility, and that reverence of the majesty of Jehovah which his essential glory is calculated to inspire, nor pay him that tribute of adoration and gratitude which is due to his name. Devoid of such views, we cannot exercise that cordial acquiescence in the plan of his redemption, in the arrangements of his providence, and in the requirements of his law, which the Scriptures enjoin. Yet, how often do we find persons who pretend to speculate about the mysteries of the Gospel, displaying-by their flippancy of speech respecting the eternal councils of the Majesty of Heaven-by their dogmatical assertions respecting the divine character, and the dispensations of providence-and by their pertinacious opinions respecting the laws by which God must regulate his own actions—that they have never felt impressive emotions of the grandeur of that Being whose
operations are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out ?" Though they do not call in question his immensity and power, his wisdom and goodness, as so many abstract properties of his nature, yet, the unbecoming familiarity with which they approach this August Being, and talk about him, shows that they have never associated in their minds, the stupendous displays which have been given of these perfections, in the works of his hands; and that their religion (if it may be so called) consists merely in a farrago of abstract opinions, or in an empty
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 the Deity, it will follow, that the ministers of religion, and all others whose province it is to communicate religious instruction, ought frequently to dwell, with particularity, on those proofs and illustrations which tend to convey the most definite and impressive conceptions of the glory of that Being whom we profess to adore. But from what sources are such illustrations to be derived ? Is it from abstract reasonings and metaphysical distinctions and definitions, or from a survey of those objects and movements which lie open to the inspection of every
observer ? There can be no difficulty in coming to a decision on this point. We might affirm, with the schoolmen, that “God is a Being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where ;" that " he comprehends infinite duration in every moment;" and that“ infinite space may be considered as the sensorium of the Godhead;" but such fanciful illustrations, when strictly analyzed, will be found to consist merely of words without ideas. We might also affirm, with truth, that God is a Being of infinite perfection, glory, and blessedness ; that he is without all bounds or limits, either actual or possible; that he is possessed of power sufficient to perform all things which do not imply a contradiction ; that he is independent and self-sufficient; that his wisdom is unerring, and that he infinitely exceeds all other beings. But these, and other expressions of a similar kind, are mere technical terms, which convey no adequate, nor even tolerable notion of what they import. Beings, constituted like man, whose rational spirits are connected with an organical structure, and who derive all their knowledge through the medium of corporeal organs, can derive their clearest and most affecting notions of the Divinity, chiefly through the same medium, namely, by contemplating the effects of his perfections, as displayed through the ample range of the visible creation. And, to this source of illustration, the inspired writers uniformly direct our views—“ Lift up your eyes on high, and behold! who hath created these orbs ? who bringeth forth their host by number, and calleth them all by their names? The everlasting God, the Lord, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power""He hath made the earth by his power : he hath established the world by his wisdom; he hath stretched out the heavens by his understanding."- These writers do not perp? our minds by a multitude of technical terms and subtle reasonings; but lead us directly to the source whence our most ample conceptions of Deity are to be derived, that, from a steady and enlightened contempla
tion of the effects, we may learn the greatness of the Cause ; and their example, in this respect, ought, doubtless, to be a pattern for every religious instructor.
Illustrations of the Omnipotence of the Deity.
In order to elucidate more distinctly what has been now stated, I shall select a few illustrations of some of the Natural attributes of the Deity. And, in the first place, I shall offer a few considerations which have a tendency to direct, and to amplify our conceptions of Divine Power.
Omnipotence is that attribute of the Divine Being, by which he can accomplish every thing that does not imply a contradiction-however far it may transcend the comprehension of finite minds. By his power the vast system of universal nature was called from nothing into existence, and is continually supported, in all its movements, from age to age.--In elucidating this perfection of God, we might derive some striking illustrations from the records of his dispensations towards man, in the early ages of the world—when he overwhelmed the earth with the deluge, which covered the tops of the highest mountains, and swept the crowded population of the ancient world into a watery grave-when he demolished Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, with fire from heaven-when he slew all the first-born of Egypt, and turned their rivers into blood—when he divided the Red Sea, and the waters of Jordan before the tribes of Israel-when he made the earth to open its jaws and swallow up Korah and all his company and when he caused mount Sinai to smoke and tremble at his presence. But, these and similar events, however awful, astonishing, and worthy of remembrance, were only transitory exertions of divine power, and are not calculated, and were never intended, to impress the mind in so powerful a manner as those displays of Omnipotence