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I have here only considered the Supreme Being by the light of reason and philosophy. If we would see him in all the wonders of his mercy we must have recourse to revelation, which represents him to us, not only as infinitely great and glorious, but as infinitely good and just in his dispensations towards man. But as this is a theory which falls under every one's consideration, though indeed it can never be sufficiently considered, I shall here only take notice of that habitual worship
and veneration which we ought to pay to this Almighty Being. 10 We should often refresh our minds with the thought of him, and
annihilate ourselves before him, in the contemplation of our own worthlessness and of his transcendent excellency and perfection. This would imprint in our minds such a constant and uninterrupted awe and veneration as that which I am here recommending, and which is in reality a kind of incessant prayer, and reasonable humiliation of the soul before him who made it.
This would effectually kill in us all the little seeds of pride, vanity, and self-conceit, which are apt to shoot up in the minds
of such whose thoughts turn more on those comparative ad20 vantages which they enjoy over some of their fellow-creatures,
than on that infinite distance which is placed between them and the supreme model of all perfection. It would likewise quicken our desires and endeavours of uniting ourselves to him by all the acts of religion and virtue.
Such an habitual homage to the Supreme Being would, in a particular manner, banish from among us that prevailing impiety of using his name on the most trivial occasions.
I find the following passage in an excellent sermon », preached at the funeral of a gentleman who was an honour to his 30 country, and a more diligent as well as successful inquirer into
the works of nature than any other our nation has ever produced : ‘He had the profoundest veneration for the great God of heaven and earth that I have ever observed in any person. The very name of God was never mentioned by him without a pause and a visible stop in his discourse; in which, one that knew him most particularly above twenty years, has told me that he was so exact, that he does not remember to have observed him once to fail in it.'
Every one knows the veneration which was paid by the Jews 40 to a name so great, wonderful and holy. They would not let it
THE NIGHTLY HEAVENS.
enter even into their religious discourses. What can we then think of those who make use of so tremendous a name in the ordinary expressions of their anger, mirth, and most impertinent passions ! of those who admit it into the most familiar questions and assertions, ludicrous phrases and works of humour; not to mention those who violate it by solemn perjuries. It would be an affront to reason to endeavour to set forth the horror and profaneness of such a practice. The very mention of it exposes
it sufficiently to those, in whom the light of nature, not to say 10 religion, is not utterly extinguished.-0.
No. 565. Sun-set ; the starry heavens ; meditation on the infinity of Created Nature; human limitation ; the omnipresence and omniscience of God.
Deum namque ire per omnes
Virg. Georg. iv. 221. I was yesterday about sun-set walking in the open fields, till the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours, which appeared in the western parts of heaven: in proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, till the whole firmament was in a glow. The blueness of the æther was exceedingly heightened and enlivened by the season of the year, and by the rays of all those luminaries that passed
through it. The galaxy appeared in its most beautiful white. To 20 complete the scene, the full moon rose at length in that clouded
majesty which Milton takes notice of, and opened to the eye a new picture of nature, which was more finely shaded, and disposed among softer lights, than that which the sun had before discovered to us.
As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightness, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought rose in me which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of serious and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in
that reflexion, When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, 30 the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that
thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man that thou regardest him ? In the same manner, when I considered that infinite host of stars,
or, to speak more philosophically, of suns, which were then shining upon me, with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds, which were moving round their respective suns; when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds rising still above this which we discovered, and these still enlightened by a superior firmament of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance that they may appear to the inhabitants of the former as the stars to us; in short, whilst I pursued this ought, I could
not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I myself 10 bore amidst the immensity of God's works.
Were the sun, which enlightens this part of the creation, with all the host of planetary worlds that move about him, utterly extinguished and annihilated, they would not be missed, more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The space they possess is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that it would scarce make a blank in the creation. The chasm would be imperceptible to an eye, that could take in the whole compass of nature, and pass from one end of the creation to the other; as
it is possible there may be such a sense in ourselves hereafter, or 20 in creatures which are at present more exalted than ourselves.
We see many stars by the help of glasses, which we do not discover with our naked eyes; and the finer our telescopes are, the more still are our discoveries. Huygenius carries this thought so far, that he does not think it impossible there may be stars whose light is not yet travelled down to us, since their first creation 1. There is no question but the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider that it is the work of infinite power, prompted by infinite goodness, with an infinite space to exert
itself in, how can our imagination set any bounds to it n ? 30 To return therefore to my first thought, I could not but look
upon myself with secret horror, as a being that was not worth the smallest regard of one who had so great a work under his care and superintendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature, and lost among that infinite variety of creatures, which in all probability swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.
In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions, which
we are apt to entertain of the divine nature. We ourselves can40 not attend to many different objects at the same time. If we
THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
are careful to inspect some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection which we observe in ourselves, is an imperfection that cleaves in some degree to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures, that is, beings of finite and limited natures. The presence of every created being is confined to a certain measure of space, and consequently his observation is stinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move and act and understand, is of a wider circum
ference to one creature than another, according as we rise one 10 above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these
our spheres has its circumference. When therefore we reflect on the divine nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear in some measure ascribing it to him in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeedassures us that his attributes are infinite, but the poorness of our conceptions is such that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, till our reason comes again to our succour, and throws down all those little prejudices which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of
If we consider Him in his omnipresence: His being passes through, actuates, and supports the whole frame of nature. His creation, and every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made, that is either so distant, so little, or so inconsiderable, which he does not essentially inhabit. His substance is within the substance of every being, whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it, as that being is to itself. It would be an imperfection in him, were he able to remove out
of one place into another, or to withdraw himself from anything 30 he has created, or from any part of that space which is diffused
and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosopher, he is a being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where.
In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience indeed necessarily and naturally flows from his omnipresence. He cannot but be conscious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual
world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united. 40 Several moralists have considered the creation as the temple of
God, which he has built with his own hands, and which is filled with his presence.
Others have considered infinite space as the
or rather the habitation of the Almighty: but the noblest and most exalted way of considering this infinite space is that of Sir Isaac Newton, who calls it the sensorium of the God
Brutes and men have their sensoriola, or little sensoriums, by which they apprehend the presence, and perceive the
of a few objects that lie contiguous to them. Their knowledge and observation turns within a very narrow circle. 10 But as God Almighty cannot but perceive and know every thing
in which he resides, infinite space gives room to infinite knowledge, and is, as it were, an organ to omniscience.
Were the soul separate from the body, and with one glance of thought should start beyond the bounds of the creation, should it for millions of years continue its progress through infinite space with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed round with the immensity of the Godhead. Whilst we are in the body he
not less present us, because he is concealed from us.
O that I knew where 20 I might find him !
• Behold, I go forward, but he is not there ; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand where he does work, but I cannot behold him : he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.' In short,
as well as revelation assures us, that he cannot be absent from us, notwithstanding he is undiscovered by us.
In this consideration of God Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures
who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their 30 thoughts, and to that anxiety of heart in particular, which is apt
to trouble them on this occasion : for as it is impossible he should overlook any
of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy those who endeavour to recommend themselves to his notice, and in an unfeigned humility of heart think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of