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highest possible degree: This, it appears, is: to be done by a long and complicated series: of providences; at least we must say, that some exertions of the divine hand are neces sary to achieve the end. Now, if this be: true, it is certain, God must have knowledge to direct his operations, in order to bring them to the desired crisis. And will any thing short. of infinite knowledge suffice in this all impor-tant cause? If the end to be obtained is the greatest and best possible, it certainly requires the best possible means, and to select and apply these requires the greatest possible sum. of knowledge. Could it be supposed, that Jehovah were not infinite in his understanding, it could not be certain, that the best method is in use to subserve and bring to pass the great end of his government.
government. One may be sure, that of all known instruments, he has chosen the best to effect his purpose ; but if there are other degrees of knowledge which. he has not attained, it must be uncertain, whether they might not have discovered to him something still better than what he has found. Were we to limit the knowledge of God, never so much or so little, we might, in that case, believe his works to be perfect in proportion to his knowledge ; but we could not be certain that his works were the most perfect. Ah degrees of knowledge, less than the greatest, imply imperfection. The conclusion is infallible, and irresistable, that. if more had been known, more good might have been done. Hence we must unavoida. bly see, that confidence cannot be placed in
God, as one who will do right, only upon the supposition that his understanding is infinite. The Omniscience of God may be contemplated in relation
First, To things possible. And then
Secondly, To those which are actual or real.
With respect to all created things, which have being, once their existence was only possible, not real. The same may now be said of a multitude of other objects, the time for whose existence has not yet come. The same also may be said of an endless variety of imaginary being. Though it never has had, and never will have, a real existence, yet it is as possible as those things, which have an actual existence. When it is said in one place, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord ?” In another, “I know that thou canst do every thing ;" in a third, “ There is nothing too hard for thee,” and in a fourth, “ With God all things are possible ;” refera ence is evidently had, not only to things actually brought to pass, but to as many other things as one has a mind to suppose. They are possible, whether a place be actually as-. signed them in the universe or not, as much so as things, which really come into being. No one will deny, that it is possible for God to give animation to the trees of the forest, or cause the stones to cry out, though such things have never been known to take place. It was possible, no doubt, for God, when he made the solar system, to have given a plu.
rality of moons to this earth, to revolve a bout her; as he did to some other of the planets. He might as easily have made the globe we inhabit of twice its present size, or even less in any given proportion, as with its present dimensions. Because it was possible that creation should assume the form that it did, it is not to be pronounced impossible, that it should have received a different formi The mere possibility of the thing as much admitted of a different state and order of things, as that which really took effect ; so that the things which are have sprung from a divine election, or choice, and not from any natural impossibility of their being otherwise. Now, if we suppose the Deity proceeding to a great work, a work in which his own glory is eternally involved, and, by consequence, the well being of many other intelligences, who may gain existence from the operations of his hand; how shall he direct his own eternal and unbounded energies to the certain accomplishment of the desired end? There is an endless number of possibili. ties before him. Among these he is to seek the one most eligible ; or, in other words, choose out that system of conduct, which will be productive of the most glory to his name.. Here there appears to be full scope for his understanding. He must have a thorough, comprehensive view of all that it is possible for Omnipotence to do, that he may be ready to pursue his work without hesitation, and without danger of incurring
the inconveniences of a mistaken, or ill ad." vised enterprize. If, in any thing, the Deity act upon presumption, or at random, he cannot agt wisely ; as it must be uncertain, whether such actions will terminate well or ill. To act wisely, he must have an eternal and all-comprehensive view of the course he takes, and see that it is, in every point of view, better than any other one possible. Implicit confidence cannot be placed in men, because, if ever they engage in a good design, they have too little knowledge of what is necessary to it, even to make a good beginning; and when they have begun, future measures are to be dictated by the good or bad effects of the past, rather than by a foresight, which connects the whole together in one consistent plan. If Deity has, from eternity and before all creation, a perfect knowledge of the whole mass of events, even to the mi-' nutest incident, which is necessary to bring the greatest possible sum of glory to himself, nothing can be lacking, on the part of his knowledge, to entitle him to confidence, and to make it certain that he will do right. But if we could conceive his understanding bounded by a narrower compass, we should from this quarter have occasion for distrust, rather than that confidence which is unreserved. The situation of Deity, when call. ing forth into operation a system of measures, which are designed to effect an infinite good, is infinitely diverse from that of a man, who has some great favorite object to pro
mote. The latter can do no better, than resort to uncertain experiment, owing to the scantiness of his understanding, as well as to the impotency of his other faculties. He must resolve upon some method for a trial, and he may succeed, and he may not. If the first effort fail, he has only, if possible, to repair the misfortune by another attempt. His knowledge of things can only be the result of experience. If it were thus with the great former of all things, how poor a claim would he have to the confidence of intelligences. While scanning the immensity of mere possibilities, with an all penetrating eye, he discerns the particular kind and order of events, which will best fulfil and draw forth into prominent view the benevolence of his heart. His knowledge of things will not be more consummate, after millions of ages have been spent in the formation and government of creatures, than it was millions
before such creatures had being. The infinitude of his understanding excludes the idea of its enlargement, of its becoming more perfect or more extensive, by a progression of exercise continued to any conceivable length. This perfection of divine knowledge is nec. essary to preclude all amendments in the scheme of providence. For if the supreme Governor is not, from all eternity, well aware of the things that are necessary to give the most exalted representation of his goodness ; there is room, at least, for some im. provementof his understanding, which would