« EdellinenJatka »
paganism. The Jews considered the Gentiles with contempt, as they always had been accustomed to consider foreigners. For their parts, they thought, they had a natural right to all the benefits of the Messiah, because being born Jews, they were the legitimate heirs of Abraham, to whom the promise was made, whereas the Gentiles partook of those benefits only by mere favor. St. Paul attacks this prejudice, proves that Jews and Gentiles, being all alike under sin, had all an equal need of a covenant of grace; that both derived their calling from the mercy of God ; that no one was rejected as a Gentile, or admitted as a Jew : but that they only should share the salvation published by the Messiah, who ha:1 been elected in the eternal decrees of God. The Jews could not relish such humbling ideas, nor accommodate this doctrine to the prerogatives of their nation; and much less could they admit the system of the apostle on predestination. St. Paul employs the chapter, from which we have taken our text, and the two chapters before to remove their difficulties. He turns himself, so to speak, on every side to elucidate the subject. He reasons, proves, argues : but after he hath heaped proofs upon proofs, reasonings upon reasonings, and solutions upon solutions, he acknowledgeth, in the words of the text, that he glories in falling beneath his subject. In some sense he classes himself with the most ignorant of his readers, allows that he hath not received a sufficient measure of the Spirit of God to ena
ble him to fathom such depths, and he exclaims on - the brink of this great profound, O the depth oj
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! The apostle therefore wrote these words of the deep things of God chiefly
with a view to the conduct of God with regard to such as he appoints to glory, and such as he leaves in perdition. I grant, were this text to be accurately discussed, it ought to be considered in regard to these events, and these doctrines : but nothing hinders our examining it in a more extensive view. The apostle lays down a general maxim, and takes occasion from a particular subject to es.. tablish an universal truth, that is, that such is the magnificence of God that it absorbs all our thought, and that to attempt to reduce the conduct of God to a level with our frail reason is to be guilty of extreme rashness.
This is what we will endeavor to prove. Come, christians, follow us, and learn to know yourselves, and to feel your insignificance. We are going, by shewing you the Deity in four different views to open to you four great deeps, and to give you four reasons for exclaiming with the apostle, O the depth !
The four ways in which God reveals himself to man, are four manners to display his perfections, and at the same time these are four abysses, in which our imperfect reason is lost. These ways are-first an idea of the Deity-secondly of nature-thirdly of providence--and fourthly of revelation : four ways, if I may venture to speak thus, all shining with light, and yet all covered with adorable darkness.
I. The first mirror in which we contemplate God, and at the same time the first abyss in which our imperfect reason is lost, is the idea we have of the divine perfections. This is a path leading to God, a mirror of the Deity. To prove this, it is not necessary to examine how we came by this idea, whether it be natural or acquired, whether we derive it from our parents or our tutors, whether the Creator hath immediately engraven it on the mind, or whether we ourselves have formed it by a chain of principles and consequences; a question much agitated in the schools, sometimes settled, and sometimes controverted, and on which both sides affirm many clearand substantial, though opposite propositions. Of myself, I am always fully persuaded, that I have an idea of a Being supremely excellent, and one of whose perfections I am not able to omit without destroying the essence of the Supreme Being to whom it belongs. I know too that there must be somewhere without me an object answering to my idea ; for as I think, and as I know I am not the author of the faculty that thinks within me, I am obliged to conclude, that a foreign cause hath produced it. If this foreign cause is a being, that derives its existence from another foreign cause, I am necessarily obliged to proceed from one step to another, and to go on till I find a self-existent being, and this selfexistent being is the infinite Being. I have then an idea of the infinite Being. This idea is not a phantom of my creation, it is the portrait of an original that exists independently of my reflections. This is the first way to the Creator : this is the first mirror of his perfections.
O how long, how infinitely extended is this way! How impossible for the mind to pervade a distance so immense! How obscure is this mirror! How is my soul dismayed, when I attempt to sail in this immeasurable ocean ! An infamous man, who lived in the beginning of the last century, a man who conceived the most abominable design that ever was, who formed with eleven persons of his own cast a college of infidelity, from whence he might send bis emissaries into all the world to raise out of every mind the opinion of the existence of God. This man took a very singular method to prove that there was no God, that was to state the general idea of God. He thought, to define was to destroy it, and that to say what God is, was the best way to disprove his existence. God, said that impious man, God is a being who exists through infinite ages, and yet is not capable of past or to come, he fills all without being in any place, he is fixed without situation, he pervades all without motion, he is good without quality, great without quantity, universal, without parts, moving all things without being moved himself, his will constitutes his power, and his power is confounded with his will, without all, within all, beyond all, before all, and after all.* .
* The book, from which our author quoted the above passage, is entitled Amphitheatrum æternæ providentia . . . adversus atheos, &c. Lyons. 1615. 8vo. The author Venini was a Neapolitan, born in 1585. He was educated at Rome, and ordained a priest at Padua. He travelled into many countries, and was persecuted in most. In 1614 he was imprisoned in England for forty-nine days. After his erlargement he became a monk in Guienne. From the convent he was banished for his immorality. He found, however, powerful patrons. Mareschal Bassompiere made him his chaplain, and his famous Amphitheatre was approved by four persons, à doctor of divinity, the vicar general of Lyons, the king's proctor, and the lieutenant general of Lyons, in which they affirm, “ that having read the book, there was nothing in it contrary to the Roman Catholic faith,” one example of the ignorance or carelessness with which licensers of the press discharge their office, and consequently one argument among thousands for the freedom of the press. This unfortunate man was condemned at Toulouse to be burnt to death, which sentence was executed Feb. 16, 1619. The execution of this cruel sentence, cast into logical form runs thus : Vanini denied the being of a God....the parliament of Toulouse burnt Vanini....therefore there is a God.
But though it be absurd to argue against the existence of God from the eminence of his perfections, yet it is the wisdom of man to derive from this subject inferences humbling to his proud and infatuated reason. We detest the design of the writer just now mentioned, but we approve of a part of the definition, which our atheist gives of God. Far from pretending that such a definition degrades the object of our worship from his supreme rank in the scale of beings, it inclines us to pay him the most profound homage, of which creatures are capable, and to lay down our feeble reason before his infinite excellence.
Yes, God is a being who exists through infinitë ages ; and yet is not capable of past or to come. The vast number of ages, which the rapidity of time hath carried away, are as present to him as this very indivisible moment, and the most distanť futurity doth not conceal any remote event from his eyes. He unites in one single instant, the past, the present, and all periods to come. He is by excellence, I am that I am. He loses nothing by ages spent, he acquires nothing by succession. Yes. God fills all without being in any place. Ascend up into heaven, he is there. Make your bed in hell, behold he is there. Take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there shall his hand lead you. Suy, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about you, Psal. cxxxix. 8, &c. Yet he hath no place, and the quality by which our bodies are inclosed in these walls, and adjusted with the particles of air that surround us, cannot agree with his spirituality. God pervades all without motion. The quickness of lightning, which in an instant passes from east to west, cannot equal the rapidity with which his intelligence ascends to the VOL. V.