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dence of the being of God, as well as unspeakably greater advantages to know his true character ; and consequently are far more inexcusable than the heathen, if they do not believe.

Upon the evidence of the existence of God, two things may be observed.

i. Though this be as evident a truth as any whatsoever, and men may have a full rational conviction of it, while their hearts are opposite to it, and receive no impressions answerable to this truth, and the whole system of their affections and exercises of heart, are just as if this were not true, or directly contrary to it; yet do really say in their hearts, there is no God. Therefore we find this asserted in the scriptures, “ The fool, (that is, the wicked man whose heart is wholly corrupt, as it is there explained) says in his heart there is no God.” Hence it is, that this conviction and profession, that there is a God, in multitudes of instances, has little or no effect on the heart and practice ; but while they profess to know there is a God, in their hearts and in their works they deny him. In this case, the heart governs the man, and forms his true moral character, and not his speculative conviction and judgment, which is so weak and ineffectual that it flies, or vanishes, into nothing, before the strong fixed propensities of the ungodly heart, as a bubble is blown away by the strong blast of a furious wind.

2. Where the heart is upright and honest, and men have a proper taste and relish for moral truth, the evidence of the being of God is discerned in a true light. The being and true character of God appear to be a pleasing reality ; they have a genuine and powerful impression on the heart, and its leading

affections and exercises are answerable to the truth. Therefore the scriptures represent such only, as knowing God and believing in him; and others are spoken of as not knowing God, and saying in their hearts there is no God, and in their works denying him. The latter are in darkness, and walk in darkness which blindeth their eyes. The god of this world hath blinded their minds, so that they believe not, and the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, doth not shine unto them. . But the light shines into the hearts of the former, and


gives them the light

of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. For where the being of God is truly discerned, his whole revealed character, or his glory,' is in some good measure seen ; and they who have not discerning and relish of this glory, which is true of all wicked men, have not that belief of the being of God which good men have, as their faith consists in mere speculation ; which is not the true light. This is so plain, that a heathen has said, “ The mind destitute of virtue, cannot see the beauty of truth."*

This leads us to consider the character and perfections of God; or what God is. This is the most important subject in the whole compass of divinity, as right conceptions of God lay the best and only foundation for religious knowledge and right sentiments in general : And it is no doubt true, that all who agree in their sentiments respecting the divine character, will also agree in the same system of religious truth : And the origin of the difference and opposition of opinion that have taken place among professing christians, respecting the doctrines of christianity, is their different and opposite notions of the character and perfections of God. Therefore the true knowledge of God is often mentioned in scripture as the sum of all knowledge, and comprehending all religious knowledge! This affords a good reason for our attending to this awful subject with great care and caution ; with solemnity of mind, reverence and devotion, searching the holy scriptures, and praying that we may be saved from wrong and dishonourable conceptions of God; and obtain the true knowledge of him.

What are called the natural perfections of God, as dis. tinguished from his moral perfections, are first to be considered. There is a general agreement respecting these, among those who enjoy divine revelation, as men are not so prone to prejudice and error on this head, as they are concerning the other. It will therefore be needless to enlarge here.

We are warranted by the scriptures, and it appears reasonable, to exclude every thing that implies any imperfection, when we consider what God is; and ascribe

• Hierocles.

to him nothing that is not absolutely perfect in the highest degree. Therefore we must conceive God to be a pure spirit, which the scriptures assert: And hence we are certain that nothing corporeal, or that has any shape, figure or limits, is to be ascribed to him. Hence it is unreasonable and very dishonourable to God, to attempt to make any image or likeness of him, by any thing that has figure or shape, or to form or entertain any such notion in our minds. Moses gave a particular caution on this head to the people of Israel. “The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure ; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire.” And this is expressly prohibited in the second command, “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Therefore when God is spoken of in the scriptures as if he had bodily parts and members, hands, eyes, ears, mouth, &c.—these expressions are to be taken in a figurative sense, and mean no more than that God does see and hear, &c. which we perform by those members and organs; and not that he has eyes of flesh, or sees as man does : Such language being used as better suited to convey knowledge to our minds, in conformity to man's way of speaking and conceiving.

In the scriptures God is represented as an infinite being, that he is, in every respect, without limits or bounds. His existence is infinite, or in him is an infi. nite degree of existence, so that all created existence is nothing when compared with him ; and indeed is conprehended in him, and is really no addition to existence, it being only an emanation from him, the fountain and sum of all existence. And all his attributes and perfections are infinite, according to the scriptures. His understanding is infinite,” and consequently every thing that can be attributed to him. VOL. I.


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And reason teaches that God must be infinite. He who exists without any cause, that is, without himself, or who exists of and from himself, from the necessity of his own nature ; or, in other words, exists necessarily, must be infinite or cannot have any bounds or limits, in any respect ; and that for these two plain reasons,

1. He can be limited or bounded by no thing, because there can be nothing to limit him; no possible cause or reason of any kind of limitation ; and therefore there can be none.

2. Necessary existence must be infinite; for as there can be nothing to bound this necessity, it must take place with respect to every possible degree of existence, and is as much a reason of infinite existence, as of any existence at all. If any existence be necessary, infinite existence is necessary; so that it is a plain contradiction to suppose that God exists of himself, or necessarily = and yet has but a limited degree of existence, or is not infinite.

Hence it appears that God exists without beginning, or end; or is eternal, as he is represented in the scriptures : For he who has no limits, but is infinite, can have neither beginning or end, or must be infinite in duration. And necessary existence must be eternal, because this same necessity cannot be limited as to time or duration ; but is always the same. It is a contradiction to say that self existence, or which is the same, nec, essary existence, does not exist, or can cease to exist.

For the same reason God is unchangeable in all respects; which the holy seriptures abundantly assert. He who exists necessarily, and is infinite, must exist unchangeably in the most perfect manner and degree. Change, or alteration in any respect, necessarily supposes limitation and imperfection. And as God is eternal and immutable, he must be without any succession ; for this supposes change, and an advance in years and increase of duration. God does not grow older ; there is nothing first or last, no beginning or end, past or to come, with respect to him ; he has no change or succession of ideas; but he inhabits or possesses eterni. ty, without the least variation or shadow of turning.

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God is perfect and infinite in understanding and knowledge. He is omnipresent, which is necessarily implied in his infinite, unlimited existence.

God is almighty. He can do what he pleases, and nothing is impossible with him. And he must be absolutely and infinitely independent and all sufficient. All this is asserted in the scriptures, and it is easy to see they are essential to the character of God, who made and governs the world, and is to be trusted in all cases, and worshipped.

God is invisible. Invisibility is ascribed to him in the scriptures, as essential and peculiar to him : And the meaning is not merely, that he is invisible as all pure spirits are, not to be seen by our bodily eyes; but he is not to be seen by any created mind, by direct, immediate intuition ; nor can he ever be seen thus to all eternity ; but only as he reveals and manifests himself, ad extra, by his works, or some other medium, or exhibition. This seems to be asserted in the following words, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” It is to be observed, that the word man, is not in the original; but it is none, or no one hath seen God ; and the assertion may be considered as extending to angels as well as men. St. Paul says, No man hath seen, nor can see God.

God is incomprehensible, by all finite minds. This is as evident and certain, as it is that what is finite cannot reach unto and comprehend infinity. But a little por. tion can be known of God, compared with the whole of his existence : And none, among men or angels, can by searching find out God to perfection ; though under the best possible advantages, and possessed of the greatest abilities to search; and though they exert all their powers and strength to the utmost, and wisely improve every advantage to get knowledge, without intermission, and without end. Though they should make the swiftest progress imaginable in the knowledge of God, they would still fall infinitely short of fully comprehending all that is in God, or even any one thing. For however great and extensive this knowledge may be, in itself

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