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with fervent heat, when the earth with all the works that are in it shall be burnt up.2 Pet. iii. 10. - 2. But, if God could combine all that would result from the laws of motion communicated to matter, he could also combine all that would result from intelligence, freedom of will, and all the faculties which make the essence of spirits; and, before he had formed those spiritual beings which compose the intelligent world, he knew what all their ideas, all their projects, all their deliberations would forever be. · I am aware, that a particular consequence, which follows this doctrine, hath made some divines exclaim against this thesis, and, under the specious pretence of exculpating the Deity from the entrance of sin into this world, they have affirmed that God could not foresee the determinations of a free agent; fur, say they, had he foreseen the abuse which man would have made of bis liberty, by resolving to sin, his love to holiness would have engaged him to prevent it. But to reason in this manner is, in attempling to solve a difficulty, to leave that difficulty in all its force.
All they say on this article, proceeds from this principle, that a God infinitely just, and infinitely powerful, ought to display (if it be allowable to say so) all the infinity of bis attributes to prevent sin. But this principle is notoriously false. Witness that very permission of sin which is objected to us. You will not acknowledge that God foresaw man's fall into sin: acknowledge, at least, that he foresaw the possibility of man's falling, and that, in forming a creature free, he knew that such a creature might chuse virtue or vice ; acknowledge, at least, that God could have created man with so much knowledge, and could have afforded him so many succors; he could have presented such powerful me
tives to holiness incessantly, and discovered to him the dreadful consequences of his rebellion so effectually; he could have united obedience to his com mands with so many delights, and the most distant thought of disobedience with so many disgusts; he could have banished from man every temptation to sin, so that he would never have been a sinner. Yet God created man in another manner; couscquently, it is not true, even in your system, that God hath exerted all the power he could to prevent sin's entrance into the world. Consequently it is false, that a Being, who perfectly loves holiness, .ought to display the whole extent of his attributes to prevent sin, and to establish virtue. Consequently, the principle on which you ground your denial of God's comprehension of all the dispositions of spirits, is an unwarrantable principle, and to attempt to solve the difficulty, in this manner, is to leave it in all its force.
But if you consult revelation, you will find that God claims an universal knowledge of spirits. He says, he searcheth and knoweth them, Jer. xvii. 10. Rev. ii. 23. He foresaw, he foretold, the afflictions which Abraham's posterity would endure in Canaan, Gen. xv. 13. the hardening of Pharoah, the infidelity of the Jews, the faith of the Gentiles, the crucifixion of the Messiah, Exod. iii. 19. the coming of the prince or leader, that is of Vespasian, or Titus, who would destroy the city and the sanctuary, Dan. ix. 25, 26. And consequently, we have a right to affirm that God knows all the thoughts of the mind, and all the sentiments of the heart, as well as that he knows all the motions of matter. .
Perhaps you wish, my brethren, that our speculations were carried further; perhaps you would have us disentangle the subject from all its difficul
ties; perhaps you wish we could make you comprehend, in a clear and distinct manner, how it is possible that such immense objects can be always present to the Supreme Intelligence? but what mortal tongue can express such sublime truths, or what capacity is able to conceive them !. On this article, we are obliged with our prophet to exclaim, such knoroledge is too wonderful for me, it is high: I cannot attain unto it ! ver. 6. In general, we conceive that the sphere of divine knowledge is not contracted by any of the limits that confine the spirits of mankind.
The human spirit is united to a portion of matter. Man can perform no operation without the agitation of his brain, without the notion of his animal spirits, without the help of his senses. But the brains wearies, the spirits evaporate, the senses are blunted, and the minutest alteration of body, clogs the most penetrating and active genius. But God, as we have represented him, thinks, understands, meditates, without brain, without spirits, without any need of senses; not participating their nature, he never participates their alteration, and thus hath intelligence immediately from the treasure of intelligence itself.. .
The spirit of man owes its existence to a superior spirit, to a foreign cause, to'a Being who gives him only such ideas as he thinks proper, and whe hath been pleased to conceal numberless mysteries from him. But God, God not only does not owe his existence to a foreign cause, but all that exist derive their existence from him. His ideas were the models of all beings, and he hath only to contemplate himself perfectly to know them.
The spirit of man is naturally a finite spirit; he can consider only one circle of objects at once, many ideas confound him; if be would see too much,
be sees nothing, he must successively contemplate what he cannot contemplate in one moment. But God is an infinite spirit; with one single look he beholdeth the whole universe. This is the first idea of the omnipresence of God. As I am accounted present in this auditory, because I see the objects that are here, because I am witness of all that passes here; so God is every where, because he sees all, because veils the most impenetrable, darkness the most thick, distances the most immense, can con.ceal nothing from his knowledge. -Soar to the utmost heights, fly into the remotest climates, wrap thyself in the blackest darkness, every where, every. where, thou wilt be under his eye. Whither shall I go from thy spirit ? or whither shall I fee from thy presence.
But, 2. The knowledge of God is not a bare knowledge, his presence is not an idle presence; it is an active knowledge, it is a presence accompanied with action and motion. We said just now, that God was every where, because he influenced all, as far as influence could agree with his perfections. Remark this restriction, for as we are discussing a subject the most fertile in controversy, and as, in a discourse of an hour, it is impossible to answer all objections, which may be all answered elswhere, we would give a general preservative against every mistake. We mean an influence which agrees with the divine perfections; and if from any of our general propositions, you infer any consequences injurious to those perfections, you may conclude, for that very reason, that you have stretched them beyond their due bounds. We repeat it then, God influenceth all things, as far as such influence agrees with his perfections.
When new beings appear, he is there. He influences, their production. He gives to all life, motion, and being, Acts xvii. 28. Thou, even thou art Lord alone, thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all, and the host of heaven worshippeth thee, Neh. ix. 6. O Lord, I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ; marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret ; and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance yet being unperfect, and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them, Psal. cxxxix. 14, 15, 16. Thine hands have made me, and fashioned me together round about. Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hath fenced me with bones and sinews.
When beings are preserved, he is there. He influences their preservation. Thy mercy, () Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thou preservest mun and beast, Psal. xxxvi. 5. 6. When thou openest thy hand they are filled with good : thou hidest thy face, they are troubled, thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth, Psal. civ. 28, 29, 30.
When the world is disordered, he is there. He influenceth wars, pestilences, famines, and all the vicissitudes which disorder the world. If nature refuse her productions, it is because he hath made the heaven as iron, and the earth as brass, Lev. xxvi. 19. If peace succeeds war, he makes both. If lions slay the inhabitants of Samaria, it is the Lord who sends them, 2 King xvii. 25. When tempestuous winds break down those immense.