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existed, we know with as much certainty as we do our own existence; and this is all we can know concerning this deep mystery.
The existence of one Infinite Being, is enough to account for that of the whole dependent universe: but myriads of finite beings would be wholly insufficient. That appearance of system, which is seen in the earth under our feet, and in the heavens over our heads, manifests a unity of design, and seems silently to tell us, that the whole frame of nature has but one builder. Concerning the unity of the Godhead, the scriptures are perfectly clear. They are no more explicit in declaring there is one God, than in asserting there is but one.
As there is but one being in the universe who is God, so individuality belongs to him, as much as to any other being in existence. Though he is a spirit, immaterial and invisible, this does nothing to prevent his individuality. Angels are spirits, but each has a separate consciousness, as much as if they were clothed with bodies. There are those that talk of a divine being, who divest their deity of that which is essential to every intelligent being in the universe, viz. indi. viduality. They give to their deity the name of Nature, and evidently make him nothing different from the world itself. With such conceptions of a divine being, it is not strange they feel under no obligation to render him worship or obedience; for, according to this scheme, he is no more a proper object of love, worship, and obedience, than fire and air, or any of the elements of which material bodies are composed. Nor would such a God be in reality any thing distinct from ourselves. There is no man, I am persuaded, that can feel himself under obliga. tion to God, until he views him as an existence entirely distinct from himself, and from all the other beings in the universe ; just as much as one man is distinct from another. He is the author of all things, but they are no more a part of himself, than if they had been created by another hand. To different existences he has given different natures ; but no one of these, nor all of them taken together, constitute the divine essence. God existed before the dependent universe, and in as perfect a manner as he does now. To deny his individuality, confounding his existence with his works, is nothing better than downright atheism.
There are different names applied to the God of the scriptures; but JEHOVAH is the name which is most peculiar to him. The idols of the heathen are called gods ; but concerning the object of Israel's worship it is said, that his name alone is JEHOVAH. Ps. Ixxxiii. 18. Though this name is seldom found in the English Bible, it occurs with great frequency in the original language, and is rendered by the word LORD, commonly written with capitals, to distinguish it from the other Hebrew names which are translated by the same word.
Having seen that it is reasonable to believe in the existence of one God, one independent cause of a dependent universe, it concerns us to know where this God is to be found. In our Article it is asserted, that the Jehovah of the scriptures is that God. To satisfy every mind that this assertion is well founded, it is proposed, I. To give a concise description of the character of Jehovah, the God of the scriptures ; II. To show that there are conclusive arguments for the belief that he is the true God.
1. Let us look at the character of Jehovah, as we find it delineated
in the scriptures. In these sacred writings, very much is said con. cerning that great Being, whom they exhibit to us as the object of our supreme regard. He is every where represented to be absolutely perfect, both as to his natural and moral attributes, that is, infinitely great and good.* There is nothing can be imagined necessary to constitute a being great and good, amiable and blessed, which they do not attribute to him in the most unlimited degree.
Those perfections of God, which he claims for himself, and which the scriptures ascribe or attribute to him, are usually denominated in theological writings the divine attributes. God is an infinite spirit, uncompounded and indivisible. His infinite perfections are all seen by himself at one glance. But with our limited minds we are obliged to take them apart, looking first at one, and then at another.
The distinction between natural and moral attributes is not arbitrary; it is as well founded as that, which we have all been in the habit of making, between the understanding and the heart.
Were we to say of a certain man, that he has a capacious mind, a great intellect, we should be considered as deciding nothing concerning the state of his heart, whether it be benevolent or selfish. Though in God natural and moral perfections always go together, still it seems entirely proper to consider them as laying a foundation for two distinct classes of attri. butes ; both of which will now be very briefly considered. Our attention will first be directed to the consideration of
THE NATURAL ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. These relate to his greatness, without distinctly bringing into view the holiness of his character. They are all infinite, or unlimited. “ His greatness is unsearchable." Of this class of attributes, the following are the most prominent.
1. Independence. It is peculiar to God to have existence of himself, without receiving it from another. He is the only being in the universe who knows, chooses, and acts, independently of all aid or control. There are many and great disparities among other existences; since some are inert and others have life, some are irrational and others are rational, some unholy and others holy; but they are all, one as much as another, entirely dependent on him, while he is absolutely indepen.
* Every thing relating to an intelligent being or moral agent, which does not directly bring into view his character as holy or sinful, is termed natural ; not in contradistinction from that which is unnatural, but from that which is of a moral quality. Intellectual as well as muscular strength is called natural. The good enjoyed, whether by brutes or men, by creatures or their Creator, is denominated natural good. Moral is a term restricted to intelligent beings, because they alone are capable of moral actions, i. e. of doing right and wrong; and it is restricted to those properties and actions of theirs which are either holy or sinful. Natural good and evil are of the same import as happiness and misery, while moral good and evil are nothing different from holiness and sin. Natural ability to do good implies a capacity sufficient for it, and a moral ability, a disposition to do it.
These terms thus applied, being much used in theological discussions and sermons, it is important they should not be misapprehended. When we say inat justice and mercy are among the moral, and not the natural attributes of God, let no one imagine that we mean to say that God is not naturally inclined to such moral excellencies as justice and mercy. And if we assert that sinners are under no natural inability to love God, this does not imply a denial of their entire depravily, nor of its being their very nature io go astray as soon as they are born. There is a nature to things which are purely moral, as well as to those which are physical. All the moral agents in the universe, considered 26 such, have their respective natures. 2. Pet. i. 4. Eph. ii. 3.
dent of them all. They could neither begin, nor prolong their existence, without his aid; but if they were all driven back into non-entity, he would remain the same. Ps. cii. 26. “Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” Rom. xi. 35. If a creature can be found who has presented the least thing to God, which he did not first receive from the divine hand, let him exhibit his account, and he will undoubtedly be recompensed.
2. God is eternal. The period of his existence infinitely exceeds that of any other being. There is no other whose existence reaches back to an eternity past; nor is there any other whose duration will be co-extensive with an eternity to come. He only is from everlasting to everlasting. Ps. xc. 2. There are other intelligences whose duration will never come to an end ; and yet the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, infinitely surpasses them in the extent of his duration. They will always inhabit or dwell in eternity ; but he will inhabit eternity itself, filling up this immeasurable duration at once. While we live by moments, his existence pervades an immensity of duration.
3. God is omnipresent. Every other being is limited as to place, so that he cannot occupy a new place, unless he leave the one which he before occupied. When an angel comes down to earth, he leaves heaven; and when he returns to heaven, he leaves the earth. He is not in both these parts of the universe at once. But the Divine exist. ence has no such limitations : * Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off! Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” Jer. xxiii. 23. 24. God does not leave one part of the uni. verse to go to another, but is equally present (as to his essential presence) in all parts at the same moment. We cannot go from his presence or flee from his Spirit, by ascending into heaven or descending to hell. Ps. cxxxix. 7, 8.
4. God is omniscient. There are no bounds to his knowledge. "His understanding is infinite." “ The eyes of the Lord are in every place.” “ The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts.” Ps. cxlvii. 5. Prov. xv. 3. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. The divine knowledge extends not only to all parts of the universe, but to all periods of its existence, present, past, and future ; and is as perfect in relation to the most remote of the past and future events, as to those which are now passing. They consider not in their heart," said God, " that I remember all their wickedness.” But it is now true, and will always remain so, that he does remember all the wickedness and all the righteousness which have existed in his creation. If the Lord can search all the hearts in the universe; if he will always be able, at every point of a never-ending duration, to know all that has ever transpired, and foresee all which will be disclosed by the revolving ages of eternity, truly his knowledge can be nothing less than absolute omniscience.
5. Omnipotence is another of the natural attributes of God. The power which the scriptures ascribe to God is without limits. a high provocation, of which the Israelites in the wilderness were guilty, when they set bounds to the power of him who brought them out of their house of bondage, and led them through the Red Sea :
“they limited the Holy One of Israel.” Ps. Ixxviii. 41. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord ?" is one of those unanswerable questions, of which we have many examples in the scriptures. It was not too hard for the Lord to originate a universe of material bodies and rational minds. Neither is it too hard for him to govern both bodies and minds agreeably to their respective natures, and in accordance with the counsel of his own will.
6. God is incomprehensible. No understanding, except his own, does now, or ever will have a full and comprehensive knowledge of his perfections : “ Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ?” Job xi. 7. Of the existence of God there is as much evidence as there is of our own; and of his infinite greatness there is no want of proof: but infinite greatness, of necessity, admits not of comprehension by created minds. A line that has ends can never sound an ocean which has no bottom.
I have merely glanced at the most material of the natural attributes of God, I shall now. consider,
THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES. These, it will be remembered, exhibit to us the character of God; they show us his heart. The moral, as well as the natural attributes, are of an unlimited extent. They can not be perfect without being unlimited. If a being, possessed of infinite natural abilities, is perfectly holy, he must be infinitely holy; if he is entirely benevolent, he must be so to an infinite degree. The infinitude of the natural attributes constitutes a capacity, for infinite moral perfection.
Intelligent beings of every grade must be either holy or unholy, benevolent or selfish. No conception can be formed of any that do not possess one or the other of these characters. The Supreme Intelligence cannot be destitute of character. He must of necessity be either good or an evil being. On this interesting point (more interesting than all others) the scriptures have not left us in the least suspense. point is their testimony mora unequivocal, full and uniform. The being they reveal to ns as the true God is holy-perfectly, yea, infinitely holy. They exclude from him every unamiable characteristic, and represent him as possessed of an excellence of character sufficient to eclipse, and as it were annihilate, all that which is found in creatures. They say, “God is light, and in him is po darkness at all.” “ There in no unrighteousness in him.” They call him “ the Holy One;" and declare, “ there is none holy as the Lord;" that he is “glorious in holiness :" and, to give us an impressive idea of his urderived and unparalleled holiness and goodness, they speak of him as the only holy and good being in the universe : 6 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name ? for thou only art holy." “ There is none good but one, that is God.” The scriptures do not deny that clouds and darkness are round about him, which may often prevent us shortsighted mortals from discovering the wisdom of his designs; but they assure us that righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne—and, however thick the darkness may be which surrounds him, that in him there is none at all. 1 John, i. 5. Ps. xcii. 15. Hab. iii. 3. 1 Sam. ii. 2. Ex. 11. Ps, cxix. 68. 4. Mark x. 18. Ps. xcvii. 2.
It is not so easy to class the moral as the natural attributes. Each
of these, as eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, is so different from the others as to convey a distinctive idea concerning the greatness of our Creator ; while holiness, love, justice, mercy and truth, seem to be nothing but different modifications of the same moral excellence, displaying itself according to the variety of objects and occasions for calling it forth. Unless this matter be rightly under. stood, there is danger that we shall divide God's moral attributes into two opposite classes, the lovely and the unlovely. But when it is rightly understood, we perceive that if one of these attributes is lovely, they are all lovely; since they have a common nature, and are nothing but different streams flowing out from one and the same unmingled foun. tain. To make this matter more intelligible, let us take a concise view of each of those moral attributes, which I have just mentioned.
First. Holiness. This word describes no particular modification of moral excellence, but seems to comprehend the whole. Every intelligent being has a character which is either good or bad ; if good, it is denominated holy; if bad, unholy, or sinful. When the scriptures in. form us concerning any intelligent being, that he is holy, it is the same as to tell us, that the frame of his mind, or disposition of his heart, is as it should be ; that it is of such a nature as to constitute the reverse of moral deformity. The scriptures apply the term beauty to moral objects; they speak of “the beauty of holiness"--of " the beauty of the Lord”—of the beauty of the Lord our God being upon us—and of his beautifying the meek with salvation, i.e. salvation from sin, which is moral deformity. 2 Chron. xx. 21. Ps, xxvii. 4 ; xc. 17; cxlix. 4. From these scripture expressions it appears that moral beauty consists in holiness, either derived or underived, preserved or restored ; and that this term is used to describe all that is morally excellent in an intellectual being. That God is a being possessed of moral excellence to an unlimited degree, is asserted by those portions of scripture which declare his unspotted holiness; but it is not the province of these, so much as of some other portions, to give us a definite idea of the nature of this excellence. That this matter may be better understood, let us immediately proceed to the consideration of a
Second moral attribute, viz. Love. In one chapter the declaration is twice made, “God is love—God is love." 1 John, iv. 8, 16. This mode of expression, it is well known, has more emphasis than though it had been said, God is a loving or benevolent being. The word love is made much use of in the scriptures, to describe goodness of charac. ter, both in application to God and his creatures. The persons of the · Godhead are described as loving each other, and as loving the children of men. Good men are characterized by their loving their fellow men, and also by their loving God.
The affection of love has two distinct branches. The first of these is good will, which is now more usually termed benevolence. This implies the existence of a desire (whether it be more or less intense) for the good of the object of its regard. If the love be disinterested, it is unbounded; its field is no less than the world, the whole universe of sensitive beings. It is drawn out towards every object susceptible of enjoyment, irrespectively of the character which that object may now possess. At the Saviour's birth, the angels gave glory to God in the