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Most of the ancient schools and systems of Pagan philosophy, if not atheistical, were atheistic in their tendency, and in their results showed themselves most successful abettors of atheism. Theoretical atheists are few; yet men still live without God in the world. They speculate coldly on the existence of Him who has existed forever; they reason without emotion of him who is himself the source of all they enjoy and all they admire; they speak with marvellous indifference of him, in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways. They have no affecting impression of his glorious and amiable nature; every thrilling view of God they banish; they feel as if there were no God, and conduct themselves as though He, under whose inspection all their conduct and all their thoughts are naked and open, and who himself has an interest in all they do and are, had no concern with them, nor they with him.
The weighty truth can never be stricken out of existence, that there is a God; that he exists independently of every being in the universe, and that he is infinitely above the reach of creatures. The denial of this truth is so palpable an absurdity, that it is no marvel that it has the consent of all nations, and that the belief of it is so universally prevalent. Human consciousness does not more certainly attest the existence of a world within us, nor the human senses more certainly the existence of the world without us, than human reason receives it as an ultimate fact, that these internal and external worlds could not exist without an adequate cause. God's eternal existence is a necessary truth; if other things exist, it is inconceivable, impossible, that he should not exist. * * Yet, obvious as it is, this is a most exalted idea of God. When he revealed himself to Moses, he made the disclosure in the memorable words, I AM THAT I AM. This is “his name;” this is the impression which he himself has of his own Being. It is without beginning and without end; it has no distinction of parts; what it now is, it always was; what it now is, it always will be. We cannot convey any true idea of what it is; “who by searching can find out God?” It belongs to creatures to begin to live; to the uncreated One, to live always. And this is the first thought by which we would illustrate the truth that God him. self is before all things. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” “Thou art the same, and of
* In the beautiful language of the great Newton, when speaking of God, “Eternus est et infinitus, omnipotens, et omnisciens; id est durat ab eterno in eternum, et adest ab infinito in infinitum. Non est eternitas et infinitas, sed eternus et infinitus; non est duratio et spatium, sed durat et adest. Durat semper, et adest ubique; et existendo Semper et ubique durationem et spatium constituit.”—Newton's Principia.
thy years there is no end.” “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come.” . In the next place, God is before all things in the eacellencies of his nature These can no more be comprehended by creatures than the eternity of his existence. “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out.” “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do : deeper than hell, what canst thou know: the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” After the clearest and most extended view of his greatness and majesty, his spirituality and unchangeableness, his immensity and infinity-his omnipotence and omniscience,—his blessedness and his goodness, his compassion and faithfulness, his holiness and justice,—his impartiality and sovereignty, his truth and mercy, his love and anger; we are constrained to say, “Lo, these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him.” Our largest and holiest contemplations of his nature leave us insensible of what he is, and almost senseless to his unutterable glory. Our thoughts of him are like shadows; they are the emptiness, the vacancy of thought, as it would fain travel over that shoreless ocean, and as it loses itself in thinking of him who is all and in all, and above all, and over all, God blessed forever. Angels and men have been for centuries employed in contemplating the infinity of his perfections; and though their knowledge of him, and their admiration of his excellence have been continually increasing, and with every new inspection of his works and his word, they have learned something new of him; yet have they never reached the lofty position from which they can survey his fulness, nor have their minds ever been able to take in the full revelations of his nature which he himself has made. O, we are confounded when we think of God. He is “the King eternal, immortal, and invisible;” the “blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty.” Thought, which measures other things, cannot measure the infinite Deity; reason, which penetrates other things, cannot dive into this unsearchable abyss; imagination has no colors by which it can depict him who makes the clouds his chariot, and who dwelleth in light that is inaccessible and full of glory. And faith itself, while it gives his testimony entire and implicit confidence, confessedly believes concerning him what it does not comprehend. Bright excellencies there are in God which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the mind of man or seraph. Seraphim do indeed behold him face to face; while they are never more sensible than in their clearest visions of his glory, that there are brighter and still more bright manifestations; and even in view of those that are the more dim and obscure, they cover their faces with their wings. The immensity of God, what is it? the infinity of greatness and goodness, who can comprehend them but his infinite Mind in whom they dwell? Goodness there is in creatures, and greatness, which excite our admiration; but they are borrowed rays from this uncreated sun; no more than floating atoms within his illimitable power and wisdom, his boundless rectitude and love. “All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him as less than nothing and vanity.” “Behold, he putteth no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly.” Who shall “not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name, for thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee.” God is also before all things, in the claims which he has upon his creatures. He is of right the lawgiver of the universe; while, in the administration of his government, he doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and amid all the inhabitants of the earth. His being and his nature give him this supremacy. In searching for the foundation of moral obligation, we may not push our inquiries beyond the divine existence and the divine nature. It is not without reason that we