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But let us not lose ourselves in the world of possible beings; let us confine our attention to real existences: I am willing even to reduce them to the two classes, which were just now mentioned. Let each of you imagine, my brethren, as far as his ability can reach, how great the counsel of an intelligence must be, who perfectly knows all that can result from the various arrangements of matter, and from the different modifications of mind.
What greatness of counsels must there be in an intelligence, who perfectly knows all that can result from the various arrangements of matter? What is matter? What is body? It is a being divisible into parts, which parts may be variously arranged without end, and from which as many different bodies may arise, as there can be diversities in the arrangement of their parts. Let us proceed from small things to great. Put a grain of wheat to a little earth, warm that earth with the rays of the sun, and the grain of wheat will become an ear laden with a great many grains like that which produced them. Give the parts of these grains an arrangement different from that which they had in the ear, separate the finer from the coarser parts, mix a few drops of water with the former, and you will procure a paste: produce a small alteration of the parts of this paste, and it will become bread : let the bread be bruised with the teeth, and it will become flesh, bone, blood, and so on. The same reasoning, that we have applied to a grain of wheat, may be applied to a piece of gold, or to a bit of clay, and we know what a multitude of arts in society have been produced by the knowledge, which mankind have obtained of the different arrangements of which matter is capable.
But mankind can perceive only one point of mat-, ter ; a point placed between two infinites; an infi
nitely great, and an infinitely small. Two sorts of bodies exist beside those that are the objects of our senses, one sort is infinitely great, the other sort is infinitely small. Those enormous masses of matter, of which we have only a glimpse, are bodies infinitely great, such as the sun, the stars, and an endless number of worlds in the immensity of space, to us indeed imperceptible, but the existence of which, however, we are obliged to allow. Bodies infinitely small are those minute par:icles of matter, which are too fine and subtile to be subject to our experiments, and seem to us to have no solidity, only because our senses are too gross to discover them, but which lodge an infinite number of organized beings.
Having laid down these indisputable data, let us see what may be argued from them. If the knowledge men have obtained of one portion of matter, and of a few different arrangements of which it is capable, hath produced a great number of arts that make society flourish, and without the help of which life itself would be a burden ; what would follow if they could discover all matter? What would follow their knowledge of those other bodies, which now absorb their capacities by their greatness, and escape their experiments by their littleness? What would follow if they could obtain adequate ideas of the various arrangements of which the parts of bodies infinitely great and those of bodies infinitely small are capable? What secrets ! What arts! What an infinite source of supplies would that knowledge become!
Now this, my brethren, is the knowledge of the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being knows as perfectly all bodies infinitely great, and all bodies infinitely small, as he knows those bodies between both, which are the objects of human knowledge.
The Supreme Being perfectly knows what must result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely small; and he perfectly knows what must result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely great. What treasures of plans! What myriads of designs ! or, to use the language of my text, What greatness of counsel must this knowledge supply!
But God knows spirits also as perfectly as he knows bodies. If he knows all that must result from the various arrangements of matter, he also knows all that must result from the different modifications of mind. Let us pursue the same method in this article that we have pursued in the former; let us proceed from small things to great ones. One of the greatest advantages, that a man can acquire over other men with whom he is connected, is a knowledge of their different capacities, the various passions that govern them, and the multiform projects that run in their minds. This kind of knowledge forms profound politicians, and elevates them above the rest of mankind. The same observation, that we have made of the superiority of one politician over another politician, we may apply to one citizen compared with another citizen. The interest, which we have in discovering the designs of our neighbors in a city, a house, or a family, is in the little, what policy among princes and potentates is in the great world.
But, as I just now said of the material world, that we knew only one point, which was placed between two undiscoverable infinities, an infinitely great, and an infinitely small, so I say of the world of spirits : an infinite number of spirits exist, which, in regard to us, are some of them infinitely minute, and others infinitely grand. We are ignorant of the manner of their existence; we hardly
know whether they do exist. We are incapable of determining whether they have any influence over our happiness; or, if they have, in what their influence consists : so that in this respect we are absolutely incapable of counsel.
But God, the Supreme Being, knows the intelligent world as perfectly as he knows the material world. Human spirits, of which we have but an imperfect knowledge, are thoroughly known to him. He knows the conceptions of our minds, the passions of our hearts, all our purposes, and all our powers. The conceptions of our minds are occasioned by the agitation of our brains ; God knows when the brain will be agitated, and when it will be at rest, and before it is agitated he knows what determinations will be produced by its motion : Consequently he knows all the conceptions of our minds. Our passions are excited by the presence of certain objects; God knows when those objects will be present, and consequently he knows whether we shall be moved with desire or aversion, hatred or love. When our passions are excited, we form certain purposes to gratify them, and these purposes will either be effected or defeated according to that degree of natural or civil power which God hath given us. God, who gave us our degree of power, knows how far it can go; and consequently, he knows not only what purposes we form, but what power we have to execute them.
But what is this object of the divine knowledge ? What is this handful of mankind, in comparison of all the other spirits that compose the whole intelligent world, of which we are only an inconsiderable part? God knows them as he knows us; and he diversifies the counsels of his own wisdom according to the different thoughts, deliberations, and wishes of these different spirits.. What a depth of knowledge, my brethren! What greatness of counsel ! Ah, Lord God, behold thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched-out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. The great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts is thy name, thou art great in counsel.
We have proved then, by considering the divine perfections, that God is great in counsel, and we shall endeavor to prove by the same method that he is mighty in work. .
These two, wisdom and power, are not always united; yet it is on their union that the happiness of intelligent beings depends. It would be often better to be quite destitute of both, than to possess one in a very great, and the other in a very small degree. Wisdom very often serves only to render him miserable, who is destitute of power: as power often becomes a source of misery to him, who is destitute of wisdom.
Have you never observed, my brethren, that people of the finest and most enlarged geniusses have often the least success of any people in the world? This may appear at first sight very unaccountable, but a little attention will explain the mystery. A narrow contracted mind usually concentres itself in one single object: it wholly employs itself in forming projects of happiness proportional to its own capacity, and, as its capacity is extremely shallow, it easily meets with the means of executing them. But this is not the case with a man of superior genius, whose fruitful fancy forms notions of happiness grand and sublime. He invents noble plans, involuntarily gives himself up to his own chimeras, and derives a pleasure from these ingenious shadows, which, for a few moments, compensates for their want of substance: but, when his reverie is over, he finds real beings inferior to ideal ones, and thus his genius