Imágenes de páginas

own existence makes on my mind, nor hinder my evidence of the truth of these propositions, I exist, I speak, you hear me, at least (for with the people whom I oppose, one must weigh each expression, and in some sort, each syllable) at least I have the same impressions as if there were beings before my eyes who heard me.

If Iam sure of my own existence, I am no less sure that I am not the author of it myself, and that I derive it from a superior Being. Were I altogether ignorant of the history of the world; if I had never heard that I was only of yesterday, as the Psalmist speaks, Psal. xc. 4. if I knew not that my parents, who were born like me, are dead; were I not assured that I should soon die; if I knew nothing of all this, yet I should not doubt whether I owed my existence to a superior Being. I can never convince myself that a creature so feeble as I am, a creature whose least desires meet with insurmountable obstacles, a creature who cannot add one cubit to his stature, Matt. v. 27. a creature who cannot prolong his own life one single instant, one who is forced to yield, willing or unwilling, to a greater power which cries to him, Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return, Gen. iii. 19. I can never convince myself that such a creature existed from all eternity, much less that he owes his existence only to himself, and to the eminence of his own prefections. It is then sure that I exist: it is also certain that I am not the author of my own existence.

This certainty is all I ask; I ask only these two propositions: I exist, I am not the author of my own existence, to convince me that there is an eternal Being. Yes, though a revelation emanating from the bosom of Omniscience had never given me this idea of the Divinity; though Moses had never pro


nounced this oracle, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting thou art God, Psal. xc. 2. though the four-and-twenty elders, who surround the throne of God, had never rendered homage to his eternity, or prostrating before him, incessantly cried, We give thee thanks, Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, Rev. xi. 17. though the eternal Being had never said of himself, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Rev. i. 8. Yea, though the eternal Being had never convinced me of his grandeur by the works of his hands, if I had been all alone in the nature of beings, I should have been forced to admit an eternal Being. And this proposition, There is an eternal Being, naturally flows from those I exist, and I am not the author of my own existence; for if I be not the author of my own existence, I owe it to another Being. That Being to whom I owe my existence, derives his from himself, or like me, owes it to another. If he exist of himself, behold the eternal Being whom I have been seeking; If he derive his existence from another, I reason about him as about the former. Thus I ascend, thus I am constrained to ascend, till I arrive at that Being who exists of himself, and who hath always so existed..

Let such of you, my brethren, as cannot follow this reasoning, blame only themselves. Let not such people say, these are abstruse and metaphysical reflections, which should never be brought into these assemblies. It is not fair that the incapacity of a small number, an incapacity caused by their voluntary attachment to sensible things, and (so to speak) by their criminal interment in matter; it is not right that this should retard the edification of a whole people, and prevent the proposing of the

first principles of natural religion. Eternity enters then into the idea of the creative Being; and this is what we proposed to prove.

2. Omniscience, intimate acquaintance, and, in a manner, the presence of all that is, of all that has been, of all that shall be, is the second idea which we form of the Deity. The more we meditate on the essence and self-existence of the eternal Being, the more are we convinced that omniscience necessarily belongs to eternity; so that to have proved that God possesses the first of these attributes, is to have proved that he possesses the second. But as I am certain that a great number of my hearers would charge those reflections with obscurity, of which they are ignorant only through their own inattention, I will not undertake to prove, by a chain of propositions, that the eternal Being knows all things; that, as author of all, he knows the nature of all; that, knowing the nature of all, he knows what must result from all. It will be better to give you this subject ready digested in our holy scriptures, than to oblige you to collect it by your own meditation. Recal then on this article these expressions of the sacred writers: O Lord, thou knowest all things, John xxi, 17. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately ricked, who can know it? I the Lord search the heart and try the reins, Jer. xvii. 9, 10. Known unto him are all his works from the beginning, Acts xv. 18. The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, Heb. iv. 12, &c. Some interpreters think that by the word of God, we must understand here, not the

gospel of Jesus Christ, as the phrase is generally understood, but his person. If this be St. Paul's idea, he uses, methinks, the same metaphysical reasoning which we have proposed: that is, that he who created all knows all. Observe how this reasoning is followed and developed in the apostle's words. The word of God, or as it is in the Greek, the logos, the word of God is quick and powerful; that is to say, that as Jesus Christ, as God, hath a fund of life and existence, he hath also freely and effectually communicated life and existence to others. In this sense it is elsewhere said, that by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, Col. i. 16. And in St. John's gospel, In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made, John i. 1, 3. But this word, quick and powerful, who hath given being to all, perfectly knows all; sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Omniscience, intimate knowledge, and, as I said before, the presence of all that is, of all that was, of all that shall be, are as essential to God as eternity. This also, we hope, is sufficiently proved.

3. Supreme felicity is the third idea we have formed of God; it flows immediately from the two first. Every intelligent being is capable of happiness, nor can he regard happiness with indifference; he is inclined by his very nature to render himself

happy. He cannot love misery as misery: he never suffers a present misery but in hopes of a future pleasure; or else he supports a misery because it appears to him more tolerable than the means proposed to deliver him. Even they, who have wilfully plunged themselves into the gulfs of hell, in a fit of black melancholy, would not have taken that dreadful step, had they not revolved this melancholy imagination in their distracted minds, that the assurance of being plunged into hell is less tolerable than hell itself. It implies a contradiction, that an intelligent being, capable of being happy or miserable, should be indifferent to his own happiness or misery. If any thing be wanting to the felicity of God, the defect must not be attributed to his will, the cause must be sought in his weakness, that is in his want of power.

But who can conceive that a Being, who existed from all eternity, who gave existence to all things, and who knows all things, hath only a finite and limited power? I am well aware of the difficulty of following the attributes of the Deity, and that, in the greatest part of our reasonings on this grand subject, we suppose what ought to be proved. But as far as we are capable of penetrating this profound subject, we have grounds for reasoning in this manner: God hath given being to all things, and he saw what must result from them; it depended then entirely on him to form the plan of the world or not to form it; to be alone or to impart existence : It depended on him to form the plan of such a world as we see, or to form another plan. He hath followed, in the choice which he hath made, that which was most proper for his own glory. If, to these feeble speculations, we join the infallible testimony of revelation, we shall find a perfect agreement with our ideas on this article: that the Crea

« AnteriorContinuar »