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Besides, the act of the government is to a certain extent my own act : my suffrage, and the taxes I pay, all go in support of a national act of Sabbath. day violation. And why shall my rights of conscience be thus sported with, for purposes of secular convenience or gain, to that small portion of the nation, who think that they are benefited by a Sabbath mail ?
It is, however, more than intimated tbat the petitioners for the preservation of the Sabbath, are influenced by superstitious scruples of conscience, un. worthy the consideration of the enlightened and liberal-minded legislators of a great nation. Has religion, then, become foolishness, and conscience a thing to be despised, and exiled from the Republic? Are the Sabbath and the fear of the Lord remnants of r, un superstition? Are the men who have too much conscience to encroach on sacred time, to be of pecessity excluded from an important trust, as they must be if Sabbath mails are continued? Must the commercial interests of the nation be intrusted to those who can eulogize, and still, with pliant conscience, systematically profane the Sabbath, from motives of personal gain? Once it was, that a want of the fear of God, in courts, occasioned the predominance of temptation, and the multiplication of crimes; but this it seems is an era of peculiar light, in which conscientious scruples are to be regarded as despicable !
But even could we for a season prosper without the Sabbath, is it possible to shake off our allegiance to God, or to evade the retributions of his righteous providence? Who wields the orb of day? Who guides the seasons ? Who sends adversity, and measures out prosperity ? Have we só soon forgotten the weakness of our infancy, and our cries to God, when men rose up against us? Have we reached an eminence from which God cannot thrust us down? Can we dispense with his protection, and set at naught his institu. tions, and run successfully the race of an irreligious prosperity? Be not deceived. What fleets and armies could not do, the hand of suicide may ac. complish, emancipated from divine restraint. Proud and fearless of Heaven as we may be, in one hour our destruction may come. The decree is uni. versal" The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee, shall perish.” And God has not departed from he helm of universal government, or put beyond. his power the instruments of punishment. In our country's bosom lie the materials of ruin, which wait only the divine permission to burst forth in terrific eruption, scattering far and wide the fragments of our greatness.
Give up the Sabbath--blot out that orb of day--suspend its blessed attrac. tions and the reign of chaos and old night would return. The waves of our unquiet sea, high as our mountains, would roll and dash, from west to east, and east to west, from south to north, and north to south, shipwrecking the hopes of patriots and the world.
Who, then, is the patriot that would thrust out our ship from her peaceful moorings, in a starless night, upon such an ocean of storms, without rudder, or anchor, or compass, or chart? The elements around us may remain, and our giant rivers and mountains. Our miserable descendants, also, may multiply, and vegetate, and rot in moral darkness and putrefaction. But the American character, and our glorious institutions, will go down into the same grave that entombs the Sabbath ; and our epitaph will stand forth a warning to the worid_THUS ANDMTH THE NATION THAT DESPISBD THE LORD, AND GLORIBD IN WISDOM, WEALTH, AND POWER.
Exodus, iii. 14.- And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM.
Though Moses was born to be Israel's deliverer, yet no intimation of the divine purpose was given him till he was eighty years of age. Then, while tending the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law, upon the borders of Horeb, he was called from his humble employment of leading sheep, to be the leader of God's chosen people. The manner of this call was suited to the magnitude of the occasion. “ The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush.” From this bush, Moses heard a voice calling him by name, and commanding him to put his shoes from off his feet, as a token that the spot where he stood was consecrated by this vision of Jehovah. Filled with astonishment and awe, at the display of glory so refulgent, Moses hid his face, while God proceeded to invest him vith a sacred commission. “Come now, I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
While the proud and ignorant grasp at preferment, and deem themselves competent to the highest undertakings, real worth is self-diffident. The wise man shrinks from the perplexities and perils of public life, while he sees " the tallest pines most beaten by the tempest, and the loftiest mountains oftenest smitten by the thunder.” Three times did Moses excuse himself from obeying the heavenly call. Though the fittest man on earth, for the service assigned him ; eminent for learning, experience, faith, and holy valor ; yet he pleaded, “ who am I ?”? If such a humbling message is to be carried to the monarch of Egypt, why should a shepherd of Midian be selected as the inessenger? He pleaded the unbelief of his brethren : 6 They will not hearken to my voice, for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.” He pleaded his own personal defects : “ I am not eloquent, but am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
Though the firmest courage might well have shrunk from an undertaking so arduous as that to which Moses was called, especially had it not been attended with explicit assurance of divine aid, yet the prospect of personal sufferings involved in the case, doubtless had an undue influence on the good man's feelings. It was, however, a dictate of wisdom, that he should ask
for plain and positive instructions, in the fulfilment of a miraculous commission, where the best human powers must prove altogether inadequate ; and in compliance with such a request, God gave that sublime description of his own incomprehensible being, which I have chosen for a text. “ And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you ; and they shall say unto me, What is his name?—what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel ; I am hath sent me unto you.” “There is a majestic simplicity in this language, that sinks into contempt the pomp and splendor of titles, in which the littleness of worldly magnificence is often arrayed.'
“I AM THAT I AM :” I exist independently and immutably. In this expression, all the divine perfections are, perhaps, in some sense comprehended. But our attention will now be limited to the doctrine, as being especially taught in the text, that Jehovah is unchangeable.
The proof of this doctrine will be exhibited briefly, as deduced from two sources of argument. That God is unchangeable, appears,
First; From what we know of his other attributes. .
The light of reason is competent to teach us, that there is a self-existent being. To suppose that there ever was a period when no such being existed, is absurd. It implies that there was a period when there was absolutely nothing ; no agent in the universe ; no cause to act, and produce effects : and this amounts to the supposition that there is no such thing as positive existence now. They must be verily fools, and without excuse, who, against the evidence of their own senses and understanding, say “there is no God.” The smallest effect of divine power, as really as the greatest ; the insect that we tread upon, no less than the globe we inhabit ; the atom that floats in the sunbeam, no less than the sun itself, constrain us to acknowledge an intelligent, uncreated first cause. The train of argument, in this case, is plain to the intellect of a child.
Without entering at all into the controverted question, to what extent the light of reason is adequate to teach the character of God, it is enough for our present purpose, that his character is fully taught in the Bible. We are assured, for example, that he is infinite in goodness, infinite in knowledge, infinite in power. The simple inquiry before us is, Are these attributes subject to change ?
Now change in any being implies increase, or diminution, or entire removal of eertain properties. To suppose any attribute of God to cease entirely, is to suppose that he ceases to be God. Change, then, if it occur at all, must imply either increase or diminution of his perfections. On this principle, it is easy to see, that the least change, in the degree of his power, for example, must make him more than almighty, or less than almighty; the least change in his knowledge must make him more than omniscient, or less than omniscient; in other words, the least change in a perfect and infinite being is inconceivable.
. Secondly; That Jehovah is unchangeable, is proved from explicit and repeated declarations of the Bible. A few plain passages, in which this doctrine is affirmed, will be sufficient. In predicting the enlargement and glory of the church, under the reign of Messiah, according to ancient promise, God declares, by the prophet Malachi ; “I am the Lord, I change not.” Paul, alluding to the same attribute, as the guarantee of the divine covenant with believers, addresses Titus, his own son, after the common faith, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began.” James concurs in the same testimony, when he affirms; “ Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." This appellation, Father of lights, has doubtless a spiritual import : but if the passage alludes, as it probably does, to the changes of the heavenly luminaries, the language is full of energy and beauty, as well as truth. We witness the varying aspects and revolutions of the orbs that roll above us, shining from evening to evening in the same firmament, but never twice exactly in the same place : But with the Father of lights, the CREATOR of these changing planets, there is not so much as the least shadow or resemblance of change. The devout psalmist, speaking of the eternal duration of God, contrasted with the mutability of created things, says; “ Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” And the apostle to the Hebrews, in the most explicit terms, repeats the sentiment,“Who is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”
The direct proof from the Bible, that Jehovah is unchangeable, might be greatly extended, but I trust it is already sufficient. The inferences resulting from the truth thus established, are so important as to demand the remaining time that can be allotted to this discourse.
1. All conceptions of God, which apply time and succession to his existence, are erroneous. “ One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He is no older than he was from eternity. Age is a relative term : it implies beginning; but God is eternal. It implies change; but God is unchangeable. Time is the measure of created existence ; but God is uncreated.
The manner in which we think, and even exist, renders it difficult for us to conceive of God, without applying to him our measure of time and succession. For this reason, we are liable to mistake in our eonceptions of his knowledge, by attaching to it our customary associations of present, past, and future. We may grow wiser by experience or study: our knowledge is progressive ; we learn one thing, and then proceed, step by step, to acquire the knowledge of other things. This holds true, even in the highest attainments of what is properly called human science. Hence, the diversity of views which we have of the same thing, at different times, results from the imperfection of our knowledge. Change of opinion implies liability to mistake. Increase of knowledge implies past ignorance; decrease of knowledge implies present ignorance. But neither of these can be supposed applicable to Him whose “understanding is infinite.” When we speak of his foreknowledge, therefore, we must not imagine that his certainty of one event is prior in time to that of another; or that He comes to the knowledge of any thing, aš we do, by deduction and inference. In the proper use of language, all we can mean by his foreknowledge is, that events which come to pass in time, were known to God from eternity. So that, to Him, nothing which occurs is unexpected, nothing is new.
2. God has no new purposes. This follows, by unquestionable inference, from his immutability. Whatever was his purpose from eternity is his purpose now : and whatever is his purpose now, was his purpose from eternity. Men change their determinations, from instability of mind; from depravity of heart; from want of foresight to guard against unexpected occurrences ; from want of power to accomplish what they designed ; or from regard to the power or opinion of others. But what can change the purpose of God? Not instability of design, “for He is in one mind, and who can turn Him ?”. Not want of power, for He is omnipotent : not want of foresight, for He is omniscient : not the opinion of any other being, “ for who hath known the mind of the Lord, and who hath been.His counsellor ?" If it is admitted then, that God has present purposes, it must be admitted that he has eternal purposes. But God has present purposes. If any one doubts this, the proof is at hand. The “ determination of God,” “ his counsel,” “his will,” “ his purpose,” are phrases which, as every reader of the Bible knows, occur almost constantly in the sacred pages. What language could be more explicit than the following ?>" For every purpose of the Lord shall stand.” “Who hath called us according to His own purpose and grace.” “ According to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” This point, besides, is too evident to require elaborate proof. Did God create the universe ? Does he uphold it, and govern it? Can any man persuade himself, that all this is done without design? Do the works of creation around us, do our own bodies and minds, bear no marks of intelligence-of purpose in the Creator? No man can suppose this, without denying the evidence of his own senses, and degrading the infinite God below His rational offspring : because His rational offspring do not act without purpose.
Two things then are certain : first, that God is unchangeable : secondly, that God has purposes. The inference is perfectly conclusive, that these purposes are eternal. This argument cannot be evaded. It has the clearness of demonstration.
Whatever difficulty may be thought to attend the doctrine of divine purposes, it lies equally in the way of all who believe the Bible: nay, it lies as much in the way of the philosophical deist, as of the believer in revelation. Deists of good sense acknowledge this: they know that this doctrine is inseparable from the existence of an intelligent God; and that there is no getting over it, or getting round it, without plunging into the abyss of atheism.
And after all, what reasonable objection can be made to this doctrine ? Is God perfect? Is He infinitely and immutably perfect? And is He still urisit to frame a plan of government for a world which He has made ? Who