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On the Knowledge of God the Creator.
1 HE first book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator; but this being chiefly manifested in the creation of man, man also is made the subject of discussion. Thus the principal topics of the whole treatise are two: the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of man. In the first chapter they are considered together, in the following chapters separately; yet some things are introduced, which may be referred to either or both. What respects the Scripture and images may belong to the knowledge of God; what respects the formation of the world, the holy angels and the devils, to the knowledge of man; and what respects the manner in which God governs the world, to both.
On the first of these topics, the knowledge of God, this b«>k shews,
First, What kind of knowledge God himself requires—Chap. II.
Secondly, Where it must be sought—Chap. Ill—IX. as follows:
l. Not in man; because, though the human mind is na
turally endued with it, yet it is extinguished, partly by ignorance, partly by wickedness—Chap. III. IV.
2. Nor in the structure of the world; because, though it
shines there with the brightest evidence, testimonies of that kind, however plain, are, through our stupidity, wholly useless to us—Chap. V.
3. But in the Scripture—Chap. VI—IX. Thirdly, What kind of a being God is—Chap. X.
Fourthly, the impiety of ascribing to God a visible form, with observations on the adoration and origin of images—Chap. XI.
Fifthly, The reasonableness that God alone should be supremely worshipped—Chap. XII.
Lastly, The unity of the Divine Essence, and the distinction of three Persons—Chap. XIII.
On the other of these topics, the knowledge of man, it contains,
First, A dissertation on the creation of the world, and on the good and evil angels, all which relate to man—Chap. XIV,
Secondly, Proceeding to man himself, an examination of his nature and powers—Chap. XV.
But in order to a clearer illustration of the knowledge of God and man, the three remaining chapters treat of the government of all human actions and of the whole world, in opposition to fortune and fate, stating the pure doctrine, and shewing its use; and conclude with proving that though God uses the agency of the wicked, he is pure from all pollution, and chargeable with no blame.
The Connexion between the Knowledge of God and the Knowledge of ourselves.
1 RUE and substantial wisdom principally consists of two parts, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. But while these two branches of knowledge are so intimately connected, which of them precedes and produces the other, is not easy to discover. For, in the first place, no man can take a survey of himself, but he must immediately turn to the contemplation of God, in whom he " lives and moves:" (a) since it is evident that the talents which we possess are not from ourselves, and that our very existence is nothing but a subsistence in God alone. These bounties, distilling to us by drops from heaven, form, as it were, so many streams conducting us to the fountain.head. Our poverty conduces to a clearer display of the infinite fulness of God. Especially, the miserable ruin, into which we have been plunged by the defection of the first man, compels us to raise our eyes towards heaven, not only as hungry and famished, to seek thence a supply for our wants, but, aroused with fear, to learn humility. For since man is subject to a world of miseries, and has been spoiled of his divine array, this melancholy exposure discovers an immense mass of deformity: every one therefore must be so impressed with a consciousness of his own infelicity, as to arrive at some knowledge
(a) Acts xvii. 28. .