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In vain would any one endeavour to evade the force of our argument, by substituting nature in the place of God, as the principle and cause of this beautiful order; for either, by nature, he understands the particular frame and composition of every single thing-which would be saying nothing at all to the purpose in hand, because it is evident, that this manifold nature, wbich in most instances is quite void of reason, could never be the cause of that beautiful order and harmony which is every where conspicuous throughout the whole system; or, he means a universal and intelligent nature, disposing and ordering every thing to advantage. But this is only another name for God; of whom it may be said, in a sacred sense, that he, as an infinite pature and mind, pervades and fills all his works ---Bot as an informing form, according to the expression of the schools, and as the part of a compounded whole, which is the idlest fiction ibat can be imagined; for, at this rate, he must not only be a part of the vilest insects, but also of stocks, and stones, and clods of earth ; but a pure, unmixed nature, which orders and governs all things with the greatest freedom and wisdom, and supports them with unwearied and almighty power. In this acceptation, when you name nature, you mean God. Seneca's words are very apposite to this purpose.
Whithersoever you turn yourself, you see God meeting you. Nothing excludes his presence.
He fills all his works. Therefore it is in vain for thee, most ungrateful of all men, to ay thou art not indebted to God, but to nature, because they are, in fact, the same. If thou hadst received any thing from Seneca, and should say, thou owedst it to Annæus or Lucius, thou wouldst not thereby change thy creditor, but only his name, because whether thou mentionest his name or his surname, bis person is still the same.”
An evident and most natural consequence of this universal and necessary idea of a God, is bis unity. All who mention the term God, intend to convey by it the idea of the first, most exalted, necessarily existent, and infinitely perfect Being: and it is plain there can be but one Being endued ith all these perfections. Nay, even the polytheism that prevailed among the heathen nations was not carried so far, but that they acknowledged one God, by way of eminence, as suprenie and absolutely above all the
rest, whom they styled the greatest and best of Beings, and the Father of gods and men. From him all the rest had their being and all that they were, and from him also they had the title of gods, but still in a limited and subor
In confirmation of this, we meet with very many of the clearest testimonies with regard to the unity of God in the works of all the heather authors. That of Sophocles is very remarkable; “ There is indeed,” says he, one God, and but one, who has made the heavens, and the wide extended earth, the blue surges of the sea, and the strength of the winds.”
As to the mystery of the sacred Trinity, which has a near and necessary connexion with the present subject, I always thought it was to be received and adored with the most bumble faith, but by no means to be curiously searched into, or perplexed with the absurd questions of the schoolmen. We fell by an arrogant ambition after knowledge ; by mere faith we rise again, and are reinstated. And this mystery indeed, rather than any other, seems to be a tree of knowledge, prohibited to us while we sojourn in these nortal bodies. This most profound mystery, though obscurely represented by the shadows of the Old Testament, rather than clearly revealed, was not unknown to the most ancient and celebrated doctors among the Jews, nor altogether unattested, however obstipately later authors may maintain the contrary. Nay, learned men have observed, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are expressly acknowledged in the books of the Cabalists, and they produce surprising things to this purpose out of the book of Zohar, which is ascribed to R. Simeon, Ben. Joch, and some other Cabalistical writers. Nay, the book just dow mentioned, after saying a great deal concerning the Three in one essence, adds, that “this secret will not be revealed to all till the coming of the Messias.” I insist not upon what is said of the name consisting of twelve letters, and another larger one of forty-two, as containing a fuller -explication of that most sacred name, which they call Hammephorash.
Nor is it improbable, that some dawn, at least, of this mystery had reached even the heathen philosophers. There are some who think they can prove, by arguments of no inconsiderable weight, that Anaxagoras, by his vous, or
mind, meant nothing but the Son or Wisdom that made the world. But the testimonies are clearer, which you find frequently among the Platonic philosophers concerning the Three subsisting from one, Moreover, they all call the self-existent Being the “ creating word,” or mind and the soul of the world.” But the words of the Egyptian Hermes are very surprising; “The mind, which is God, together with his word, produced another creating mind ; nor do they differ from one another, for their union is life.”
But what we now insist upon is, the plain and evident necessity of one supreme, and therefore of one only principle of all things, and the harmonious agreement of mankind in the belief of the absolute necessity of this same principle.
This is the God whom we admire, whom we worship, whom we entirely love, or, at least, whom we desire to love above all things; whom we can neither express in words, nor conceive in our thoughts; and the less we are capable of these things, so much the more necessary it is to adore him with the profoundest humility, and to love him with the greatest intenseness and fervour.
LECTURE VIII. Of the Worship of God, Providence, and the Law given
to Man. Though I thought it by no means proper to proceed without taking notice of the arguments that serve to contirm the first and leading truth of religion, and the general consent of mankind with regard to it, yet the end I chiefly proposed to myself was, to examine this consent, and point out its force, and the use to which it ought to be applied ; to call off your minds from the numberless disputes about religion, to the contemplation of this universal agreement, as into a more quiet and peaceable country; and to show you, what I wish I could effectually convince you of, that there is more weight and force in this universal harmony and consent of mankind in a few of the great and universal principles, to confirm our minds in the sumn and substance of religion, than the innumerable disputes that still
subsist with regard to the other points ought to have to discourage us in the exercise of true piety, or in the least to weaken our faith,
In consequence of this, it will be proper to lay before you the other propositions contained in this general consent of mankind with regard to religion. Now the first of these being, that there is one, and but one eternal principle of all things; from this it will most naturally follow, that this principle or Deity is to be honoured with some worship; and from these two taken together, it must be, with the same necessity, concluded, that there is a providence, or that God doth not despise or neglect the world which he bas created, and mankind by whom he ought to be and actually is worshiped; but governs them with the most watchful and perfect wisdom.
All mankind acknowledge, that some kind of worship is due to God, and that to perform it is by all means worthy of man; and upon the minds of all is strongly impressed that sentiment which Lactantius expressed with great perspicuity and brevity in these words, “To know God is wisdom, and to worship him, justice.”
In this worship some things are natural, and therefore of more general use among all nations, such as vows and prayers, hymns and praises; as also some bodily gestures, especially such as seem most proper to express reverence and respect. All the rest, for the most part, actually consist of ceremonies, either of divine institution or of human invention. Of this sort are sacrifices, the use whereof in old times
much prevailed in all nations, and still continues in the greater part of the world.
A Majesty so exalted, no doubt, deserves the bighest honour, and the sublimest praises on his own account ; but still, if men were not persuaded that the testimonies of homage and respect they offer to God, were known to him, and accepted of him, even on this account all human piety would cool and presently disappear; and indeed prayers and vows, whereby we implore the divine assist. ance and solicit blessings from above, otfered to a God who neither bears nor in the least regards them, would be an instance of the greatest folly; nor is it to be imagined, that all nations would ever have agreed in the extravagant custom of addressing themselves to gods that did not hear.
Supposing, therefore, any religion or divine worship, it immediately follows therefrom, that there is also a providence. This was acknowledged of old, and is still acknowledged by the generality of all nations throughout the world, and the most famous philosophers. There were indeed particular men, and some whole sects, that denied it. Others, who acknowledged a kind of Providence, confined it to the heavens, among whom was Aristotle, as appears from his book “De Mundo;" which notion is justly slighted by Nazianzen, who calls it “A mere limited Providence.” Others allowed it some place in things of this world, but only extended it to generals, in opposition to individuals. But others, with the greatest justice, acknowledged that all things, even the most minute and inconsiderable, were the objects of it. “ He fills his own work, nor is he only over it, but also in it.” Moreover, if we ascribe to God the origin of this fabric and all things in it, it will be most absurd and inconsistent to deny him the preservation and government of it; for, if he does not preserve and govern his creatures, it must be either because he cannot or because he will not; but his infinite power and wisdom make it impossible to doubt of the former, and his infinite goodness of the latter. The words of Epictetus are admirable. “There were five great men,” said he, “ of which number were Ulysses and Socrates, who said that they could not so much as move without the knowledge of God.” And in another place, "If I were a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale ; if a swan, that of a swan ; now that I am a reasonable creature, it is my duty to praise God.”
It would be needless to show, that so great a fabric could not stand without some Being properly qualified to watch over it; that the unerring course of the stars is not the effect of blind fortune; that what chance sets on foot, is often put out of order, and soon falls to pieces ; that, therefore, this unerring and regular velocity is owing to the influence of a fixed, eternal law. It is, to be sure, a very great miracle, merely to know so great a multitude and such a vast variety of things, not only particular towns, but also provinces and kingdoms, even the whole earth, and all the myriads of creatures that crawl upon the earth, and all their thoughts; in a word, at the same in