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OF THE NATURAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE DEITY,
WITH PARTICULAR ILLUSTRATIONS OF HIS OMNIPOTENCE
On the Relation of the Natural Attributes of DEITY to RELIGION.
A FIRM conviction of the existence of God, and a competent knowledge of his natural perfections, lie at the foundation of all religion, both natural and revealed. In proportion as our views of the perfections of Deity are limited and obscure, in a similar proportion will be our conceptions of all the relations in which he stands to his creatures, of every part of his providential procedure, and of all the doctrines and requirements of revealed religion.
By the natural or essential attributes of God, we understand such perfections as the following :-His Eternity, Omnipresence, Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Wisdom, Omnipotence, and Boundless Beneficence. These are the characters and attributes of Deity, which, we must suppose, form the chief subjects of contemplation to angels, and to all other pure intelligences—and, in investigating the displays of which, the sons of Adam would have been chiefly employed, had they continued in primeval innocence. These attributes form the groundwork of all those gracious relations in which the God of salvation stands to his redeemed people in the economy of redemption—they lie at the foundation of the whole Christian superstructure-and were they not recognised as the corner stones of that sacred edifice, the whole system of
the Scripture-Revelation would remain a baseless fabric. The full display of these perfections will be exhibited in the future world—the contemplation of this display will form one of the sublime employments “ of the saints in light”-and to prepare us for engaging in such noble exercises, is one of the chief designs of the salvation proclaimed in the Gospel.
The Christian Revelation ought not to be considered as superseding the Religion of Nature, but as carrying it forward to perfection. It introduces the Deity to us under new relations, corresponding to the degraded state into which we have fallen. It is superadded, to our natural relations to God, and takes it for granted, that these natural relations must for ever subsist. It is true, indeed, that the essential attributes of God, and the principles of Natural Religion, cannot be fully discovered without the light of Revelation, as appears from the past experience of mankind in every generation ; but it is equally true, that, when discovered by the aid of this celestial light, they are of the utmost importance in the Christian system, and are as essentially connected with it, as the foundation of a building is with the superstructure. Many professed Christians, however, seem to think, and to act, as if the Christian Revelation had annulled the natural relations which subsist between man and the Deity; and hence the zealous outcry against every discussion from the pulpit, that has not a direct relation to what are termed the doctrines of grace. But nothing, surely, can be more absurd than to carry out such a principle to all its legitimate consequences. Can God ever cease to be Omnipotent, or can man ever cease to be dependent for existence on his infinite power? Can the Divine Being ever cease to be Omnipresent and Omniscient, or can man ever cease to be the object of his knowledge and superintendence? Can Infinite Wisdom ever be detached from the Almighty, or can man ever be in a situation where he will not experience the effects of his wise arrangements ? Can Goodness ever fail of being an attribute of Jehovah, or can any sentient or intelligent beings exist that do not experience the effects of his bounty? In short, can the relation of Creature and of Crea
tor ever cease between the human race, in whatever moral or physical situation they may be placed, and that Almighty Being, “who giveth to all, life and breath, and all things?” If none of these things can possibly happen, then the relations to which we refer must be eternal and unchangeable, and must form the basis of all the other relations in which we can possibly stand to the Divine Being, either as apostate or as redeemed creatures ; and, therefore, they ought to be exhibited as subjects for our frequent and serious contemplation, as religious and moral agents. But, unless we make such topics a distinct subject of attention, and endeavour to acquire clear and comprehensive conceptions of our natural relations to God, we can never form a clear conception of those new and interesting relations into which we have been brought by the mediation of Jesus Christ.
If man had continued in his primitive state of integrity, he would have been for ever exercised in tracing the Power, the Beneficence, and other attributes of Deity, in the visible creation alone. Now, that his fallen state has rendered additional revelations necessary, in order to secure his happiness,-is he completely to throw aside those contemplations and exercises which constituted his chief employment, while he remained a pure moral intelligence ? Surely not. One great end of his moral renovation, by means of the Gospel, must be, to enable him to resume his primitive exercises, and to qualify him for more enlarged views and contemplations of a similar nature, in that future world where the physical and moral impediments which now obstruct his progress, will be completely removed.
It appears highly unreasonable, and indicates a selfish disposition of mind, to magnify one class of the Divine attributes at the expense of another; to extol, for example, the Mercy of God, and neglect to celebrate his Power and Wisdom—those glorious perfections, the display of which, at the formation of our globe, excited the rapture and admiration of angels, and of innocent man. All the attributes of God are equal, because all of them are infinite ; and therefore to talk of darling attributes in the Divine Nature, as some have done, is inconsistent with
reason, unwarranted by Scripture, and tends to exhibit a distorted view of the Divine character. The Divine mercy ought to be celebrated with rapture by every individual of our fallen race ; but with no less rapture should we extol the Divine Omnipotence ; for the designs of mercy cannot be accomplished without the intervention of Infinite Power. All that we hope for, in consequence of the promises of God, and of the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, must be founded on the conceptions we form of the operations of Omnipotence.-An example or two may not be unnecessary for illustrating this position.
We are warranted, by the sacred oracles, to entertain the hope, that these mortal bodies of ours, after they have mouldered in the dust, been dissolved into their primary elementary parts, and become the prey of devouring reptiles, during a lapse of generations or of centuries,-shall spring forth from the tomb in new life and beauty, and be arrayed in more glorious forms than they now wear; yea, that all the inhabitants of our globe, from Adam to the end of time, though the bodies of thousands of them have been devoured by cannibals, have become the food of fishes and of beasts of prey, and have been burnt to cinders, and their ashes scattered by the winds, over the different regions of sea and land, -shall be reanimated by the voice of the Son of God, and shall appear, each in his own proper person and identical body, before God, the Judge of all. Now, the firmness of our hope of so astonishing an event, which seems to contradict all experience, and appears involved in such a mass of difficulties and apparent contradictions, must be in proportion to the sentiments we entertain of the Divine Intelligence, Wisdom, and Omnipotence. And where are we to find the most striking visible displays of these perfections, except in the actual operations of the Creator, within the range of our view in the material world ?
Again, we are informed, in the same Divine records, that, at some future period, the earth on which we now dwell shall be wrapt up in devouring flames, and its present form and constitution for ever destroyed; that its redeemed inhabitants, after being released from the grave,
shall be transported to a more glorious region; and that “ new heavens and a new earth shall appear, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The Divine mercy having given to the faithful the promise of these astonishing revolutions, and most magnificent events, our hopes of their being fully realized must rest on the infinite wisdom and omnipotence of Jehovah; and, consequently, if our views of these perfections be limited and obscure, our hope, in relation to our future destiny, will be proportionably feeble, and languid ; and will scarcely perform its office" as an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast.” It is not merely by telling a person that God is All-wise, and Allpowerful, that a full conviction of the accomplishment of such grand events will be produced. He must be made to see with his own eyes what the Almighty has already done, and what he is now doing in all the regions of universal nature which lie open to our inspection ; and this cannot be effected without directing his contemplations to those displays of intelligence and power which are exhibited in the structure, the economy, and the revolutions of the material world.
If the propriety of these sentiments be admitted, it will follow, that the more we are accustomed to contemplate the wonders of Divine intelligence and Power, in the objects with which we are surrounded, the more deeply will we be impressed with a conviction, and a confident hope, that all the purposes of divine mercy will ultimately be accomplished in our eternal felicity. It will also follow, that, in proportion as the mind acquires a clear, an extensive, and a reverential view of the essential attributes of the Deity, and of those truths in connection with them, which are objects of contemplation common to all holy beings, in a similar proportion will it be impressed, and its attention arrested, by every other divine subject connected with them. And it is, doubtless, owing to the want of such clear and impressive conceptions of the essential character of Jehovah, and of the first truths of religion, that the bulk of mankind are so little impressed and influenced by the leading doctrines and duties connected with the plan of the Gospel salvation, and that they entertain