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1. Then I am to represent to you, that SERM,

III., this attribute of Eternity must belong to God, and to him only.

Eternity, when we speak of it, in the most extensive and absolute sense, is that duration of existence, that is without any beginning, and without any end. And when we say, that God is eternal, we mean, that there was no beginning, and shall be no end of his being : that he has been for ever, and will be the same invariably to all futurity. But we may consider Eternity two ways, either from this moment backwards, to an infinite duration, already past, or forwards, to an infinite futurity. And in this last fense, viz. an infinite futurity, angels, and the souls of men, from the time they are created, are eternal in their duration. But in both senses, Eternity can only belong to God, who is ever the same, and whose years shall not fail; and who is justly described by St. John, to be him, who is, and who was, and is to come.

Now that this attribute of Eternity, considered as an infinite duration already past, must belong to God, is evident, if we consider him as the first cause of.

all

III.

SER M, all things. For the first cause, from

which all things flow, must be eternal, That fomething must always have been, we see plainly from the things that exist. For if there was a time, when nothing existed, then it would have been impoflible, that any thing could ever have been brought into being. Nothing would eternally have produced nothing. And therefore, as we see things do exist, there must have been always something, from which the present things derive their being. Nothing, that we fee, could be the cause of itself. One thing may be the effect of another, and that of a third, and so on, but the chain cannot be infinite, there must be some being, that is the first cause, which must ever have been from a necessity of its nature, or that is eternal. And the being, who thus exists, as the first cause of all things, is God, who therefore must have been from Eternity.

It is, indeed, difficult for us to think, how any being can be eternal, or can have had no beginning; it seems beyond the power of our imagination, but we are as sure, that something must eternally have been, as we are of our own

existence;

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III,

existence; because as we know that things SERM. do exist, we are certain something must always have been, for things could not be produced without a cause. And therefore, though our narrow minds cannot comprehend it, we are absolutely certain, that this attribute of Eternity must belong to God.

And as God is thus eternal, with regard to his duration, already past, so he is also, in respect of futurity. Because as he has ever been, so he can never fail to be, by any weakness in himself, or superior power in any other being. As he is the first cause from which all things have their being and dependence, so nothing can destroy or resist him, that he may not continue the same for ever. But farther, as God is eternal, considered as the first cause of all things, so his Intelligence, his Wisdom, his Power, and moral attributes, must also be eternal. There could be no time, when he could be without any of these. For if there could have been any time, when there was none of them, they could never have been produced from nothing. No being, once without them, could ever acquire them, but from some cause that was possessed of them.

And

SERM. And therefore, the first cause of all things III.

must ever have had them. And as certainly as we know the first caufe, of God to have been eternal, so we certainly know that he is eternally intelligent, wise, and powerful.

And as our reason thus plainly discovers to us the eternity of God, so in scripture, it is declared to be one of the characters, by which the true God of the universe is distinguished from the false deities, or vanities of the heathen. Thus in the prophecies of Jeremiah ch. x. The ftock, or idol, is a dotrine of vanities, the work of the workman, and of the bands of the founder--but the Lord is the true God, and an everlasting king, or, as it might be much better rendered, the king of eternity. And in Ifa. lvii. he is said to be, the high and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity. In other places, he is styled the eternal God, the king eternal—the rock of ages, and he whose name and goings forth bave been from everlasting. Other objects of worship are mere fi&tions, lying vanities, imposed upon mankind by the wickedness of fome, and ignorance of others, and that have no existence in the nature of things; but he is the true God, who

eter,

III.

eternally reigiis, : beforewhom as he SERM. himfelf has declared by the prophet, there was no God, nar shall there be after him.

But now in the

II. Place, let us make some observations. And

1. From the Eternity of God, we may observe, that he must exist by a necessity of his nature; that is,' he could not have been other than what he is; for what has eternally existed, could not but have been. He must be the principle of perpetual existence to himself. And therefore, he must be absolutely independent, both in his being and operations. And he alone can only be so: all other beings must depend upon him for their existence and powers. And this is what the scripture seems to intimate to us, when he is called by his name Jehovah, which signifies, that he is independent in his being, or felf-existent. And so in other places, almost the same thing is expressed, when he is said to be the first, and the last, Ifa. xliv. and that he cannot deny himself.

2. It may be observed, that as God is eternal, we are not to imagine any succession, or alteration in the manner of

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