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we dare not presume to assert, that such a degree of physical force is beyond the limits of Infinite perfection : but on the supposition it existed, it would confound all our ideas of the wisdom and intelligence of the Divine mind, and would appear altogether inconsistent with the character which the Scriptures give us of the Deity as “the only wise God.” For, it would exhibit a stupendous system of means altogether disproportioned to the end intendednamely, to produce the alternate succession of day and night to the inhabitants of our globe, which is more beautifully and harmoniously effected by a simple rotation on its axis, as is the case with the other globes which compose the planetary system. Such considerations, however, show us, that, on whatever hypothesis, whether on the vulgar or the scientific, or in whatever other point of view, the frame of nature may be contemplated, the mind is irresistibly impressed with ideas of power, grandeur, and magnificence. And, therefore, when an inquiring mind is directed to contemplate the works of God, on any hypothesis it may choose, it has a tendency to rouse reflection, and to stimulate the exercise of the moral and intellectual faculties, on objects which are worthy of the dignity of immortal minds.
We may now be, in some measure, prepared to decide, whether illustrations of the omnipotence of the Deity, derived from the system of the material world, or those vague and metaphysical disquisitions which are generally given in theological systems, be most calculated to impress the mind, and inspire it with reverence and adoration. The following is a description given of this attribute of God, by a well known systernatic writer, who has generally been considered as a judicious and orthodox divine :
“ God is Almighty, Rev. i. 18. chap. iv. 8. This will evidently appear, in that, if he be infinite in all his other perfections, he must be so in power : thus, if he be omniscient, he knows what is possible or expedient to be done ; and if he be an infinite sovereign, he wills whatever shall come to pass. Now this knowledge would be insignificant, and his power inefficacious, were he not infinite in power, or almighty. Again, this might be argued from his justice, either in rewarding or punishing; for it he were not infinite in power, he could do neither of these, at least so far as to render him the object of that desire or fear, which is agreeable to the nature of these perfections ; neither could infinite faithfulness accomplish all the promises which he hath made, so as to excite that trust, and dependence, which is a part of religious worship; nor could he say without limitation, as he does, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass ; I have purposed it, I will also do it. Isa. xlvi. 11.-But since power is visible in, and demonstrated by its effects, and infinite power, by those effects which cannot be produced by a creature, we may observe the almighty power of God in all his works, both of nature and grace : thus his eternal power is understood, as the apostle says, By the things that are made, Rom. i. 20, not that there was an eternal production of things, but the exerting this power in time, proves it to be infinite and truly divine; for no creature can produce the smallest particle of matter out of nothing, much less furnish the various species of creatures, with those endowments in which they excel one another, and set forth their Creator's glory. And the glory of his power is no less visible in the works of providence, whereby he upholds all things, disposes of them according to his pleasure, and brings about events which only he who has an almighty arm can effect.”-Ridgley's Body of Divinity,
This is the whole that Dr. Ridgley judges it necessary to state, in illustration of the attribute of Omnipotence, except what he says in relation to its operation in “ the work of grace,” in “ the propagation and success of the Gospel," &c. subjects, to which the idea of power, or physical energy, does not properly apply. Such, however, are the meagre and abstract disquisitions generally given by most systematic writers. There is a continual play on the term “ Infinite,” which, to most minds, conveys no idea at all, unless it be associated with ample conceptions of motion, magnitude, and extension ; and it is constantly applied to subjects to which it was never intended to ap
ply, such as “infinite faithfulness, infinite justice, infinite truth,” &c. an application of the term which is never sanctioned by Scripture, and which has a tendency to introduce confusion into our conceptions of the perfections of God.
Granting that the statements and reasonings in such an extract as the above were unquestionable, yet what impression can they make upon the mind ? Would an ignorant person feel his conceptions of the Divinity much enlarged, or his moral powers aroused by such vague and general statements ? And, if not, it appears somewhat unaccountable, that those sources of illustration, which would convey the most ample and definite views of the “ eternal power” and glory of God, should be studiously concealed from the view. Vague descriptions and general views of any object will never be effectual in awakening the attention, and arresting the faculties of the mind. The heart will always remain unimpressed, and the understanding will never be thoroughly excited in its exercise, unless the intellect have presented before it a well-defined and interesting object, and be enabled to survey it in its various aspects; and this object must always have a relation to the material world, whether it be viewed in connection with religion, or with any other subject.
Thus I have endeavoured, in the preceding sketches, to present a few detached illustrations of the Omnipotence and grandeur of the Deity, as displayed in the vast magnitude of the material universe--the stupendous yelocities of the celestial bodies—and in the immeasurable regions of space which surround them, and in which their motions are performed. Such a magnificent spectacle as the fabric of the universe presents 3--so majestic, Godlike, and over-whelming to beings who dwell in tabernacles of clay"was surely never intended to be overlooked, or gazed at with indifference, by creatures endowed with reason and intelligence, and destined to an immortal existence. In forming a universe composed of so many immense systems and worlds, and replenished with such a variety of sensitive and intelligent existences, the Creator, doubtless,
intended that it should make a sublime and reverential impression on the minds of all the intellectual beings to whom it might be displayed, and that it should convey some palpable idea of the infinite glories of his nature, in so far as material objects can be supposed to adumbrate the perfections of a spiritual and uncreated Essence. Dwelling in “ light inaccessible” to mortals, and for ever veiled from the highest created being, by the pure spirituality and immensity of his nature, their is no conceivable mode by which the infinite grandeur of Deity could be exhibited to infinite intelligences, but through the medium of those magnificent operations which are incessantly going forward throughout the boundless regions of space. Concealed from the gaze of all the “principalities and powers” in heaven, in the unfathomable depths of his Essence, he displays his presence in the universe he has created, and the glory of his power, by launching magnificent worlds into existence, by adorning them with diversified splendours, by peopling them with various ranks of intelligent existence, and impelling them in their movements through the illimitable tracts of creation.
It will readily be admitted by every enlightened Christian, that it must be a highly desirable attainment, to acquire the most glorious idea of the Divine Being which the limited capacity of our minds is capable of receiving. This is one of the grand difficulties in religion. The idea of a Being purely IMMATERIAL, yet pervading infinite space, and possessed of no sensible qualities, confounds and bewilders the human intellect, so that its conceptions on the one hand, are apt to verge towards extravagancy, while, on the other, they are apt to degenerate into something approaching to inanity. Mere abstract ideas and reasonings respecting infinity, eternity, and absolute perfection, however sublime we may conceive them to be, completely fail in arresting the understanding, and affect. ing the heart; our conceptions become vague, empty, and confused, for want of a material vehicle to give them order, stability, and expansion. Something of the nature of vast extension, splendid and variegated objects, and mighty movements, is absolutely necessary, in order to convey to
spirits dwelling in bodies of clay, a definite conception of the invisible glories of the Eternal Mind; and, therefore, in the immense variety of material existence with which the universe is adorned, we find every requisite assistance to direct and expand our views of the Great Object of our adoration. When the mind is perplexed and overwhelmed with its conceptions, when it labours, as it were, to form some well-defined conceptions of an infinite Being, it here finds some tangible objects on which to fix, some sensible substratum for its thoughts to rest upon for a little, while it attempts to penetrate, in its excursions, into those distant regions which eye hath not seen, and to connect the whole of its mental survey with the energies of the “ King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible.”
To such a train of thought we are uniformly directed in the sacred oracles, where Jehovah is represented as describing himself by the effects which his power and wisdom have produced. “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens ; God hinaself that formed the earth and made it ; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited ; I am the Lord, and there is none else." “I have made the earth and created man upon it, my hands have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded." “ Hearken nnto me, O Israel: I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.” “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and weighed the mountains in scales ? He who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, that fainteth not, neither is weary." “ The Lord made the heavens, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts ; honour and majesty are before him, and his kingdom ruleth over all.”* Such sublime descriptions of Jehovah, and references to his material works,
* Isa. xlv. 18, 12. xlviii, 12, 13. xl. 12, 22, &c.