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mon than we are apt to imagine, and that notwithstanding our supposed assent, there is the most urgent reason that we should have our faith in even the fundamental doctrines of religion enlivened and confirmed. Feeling, I hope, in some measure the importance of this result to myself and to you, I shall this evening endeavour to lay before you the evidence for the omnipresence and omniscience of GOD in as plain a manner as I can. And while I attempt to convince the understanding, may the Holy Spirit engraft these truths deeply in our hearts inclining the will and affections to be governed by them.
I would endeavour in the FIRST place, to lay before you the argument derived from natural religion-and SECONDLY, the proofs from Scripture of the omniscience of the Deity. I shall CONCLUDE with an application of the doctrine.
In the first place I would endeavour to lay before you THE ARGUMENT FOR
THE OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD WHICH IS DERIVED FROM NATURAL RELIGION.-By natural religion, you are aware, I mean that information respecting the existence and attributes of the Almighty which is to be derived from the appearances of nature. It is unquestionable that much knowledge is to be derived from this source. Nature and revelation are systems of which the Divine Being is equally the author. The book of nature and the book of Divine inspiration were alike written by the finger of GOD; and the sentiments they contain may be naturally expected to corroborate each other. It must, at the same time, ever be kept in mind, that while the Scriptures contain a vast number of truths which confirm every doctrine of natural religion, they also contain many others which could never have been discovered by the light of nature, as indeed is
intimated by the very idea of a revelation. It is, however, in my view, highly serviceable to contemplate those arguments of natural religion, which corroborate the doctrines of the Scriptures, not, of course, because they can add to the authority of the declarations of the Bible, but being taken from appearances, presented daily to our view, they serve to facilitate a reception of them, and of those additional doctrines which are taught in the Scriptures.
We proceed, therefore, to give the argument for the divine omniscience derived from natural religion. We assert, then, that the doctrine of the omnipresence of GOD results from the truth universally acknowledged, that the world owes its existence to a Creator. Wherever we direct our view we perceive marks of intelligence and design. This is peculiarly evinced by the construction of what are called organized substances, I mean such objects as demonstrate by their construction, that their different parts were put together in order to produce some particular end; as, for instance, the parts of the eye are evidently so constructed, not only in relation to one another, but to the general result; hence we say it was intended to be an instrument of vision: so of the ear and of the hand. Now the world in which we live is one vast magazine of such contrivances; and in respect of these, consequently, the proof is most widely diffused of the existence of the Creator. But this is true, not merely of organized forms, but even of matter in its unorganized state. This appears peculiarly in the wonderful proportioning of one thing to another, which equally attests the existence of an intelligent first cause. The satelites of the planets are proportioned in their number to the size of the planets which they attend, and to their distances from the sun. The quantity of light given
Wherefore, even upon the principle of such persons themselves, when properly understood, the omniscience of GOD follows as a necessary consequence. For if, as must be acknowledged, every thing in the Universe is under the control of some one or more of these laws, it follows that in every point of the Universe, the Deity is acting; and where he acts, there he is, and where he is, there he perceives. Oh, awful, but most evident truth. He the beauty of the stars, the purity of fire, the subtlety of ether, the expanse of heaven-He is the capacity of the politician, the penetration of the philosopher. We breathe his air and are animated by his spirit. In Him I speak and you hear, in Him we live, and move, and have our being. He
by the sun to the earth is exactly pro- | upon the term, law of nature: apart portioned to the wants of the creatures from this agent the law does nothing which dwell upon it, and to the perand is nothing. fection of its different productions. The quantity of the land and of the water are properly proportioned to each other, and their component parts again to the wants of the several creatures which inhabit them. Naturalists also tell us that the elements of even the meanest atom of matter are equally proportioned to each other, so that consequently every thing in existence, when examined, testifies that the intelligence of the Divine mind has at one time or other been exerted to produce it. In every part of the universe accessible to our survey, we have therefore the most resplendent proofs that there the hand of God hath been; consequently, at that period, at least, the Divine Being was omnipresent. I make this limitation, because, to argue with correctness, it is required, that we should infer no more than the premises laid down will allow. But now it is possible, for it may be conceived,
"Shines in the sun, refreshes in the breeze, Glows in the stars and blossoms in the trees, Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
that the Divine Creator, having made Spreads undivided, operates unspent."
all things, and, consequently, having then been present every where, afterward withdrew his immediate agency. Some have supposed that they have even magnified the Divine power and majesty, when they conceived him capable of making the whole Universe as one self-acting machine, not requiring his continual intervention. This they suppose him to have effected by constituting what they call the laws of nature, and to have committed the course of nature to their direction. But we would ask them, in the language of a celebrated writer, what they mean by the laws of nature? A law supposes an agent, for it is only the mode by which that agent proceeds. It necessarily involves the supposition of a power, for it is merely the way in which that power acts. This is the only intelligible meaning which can be put
Having adduced the testimony of natural religion to the omnipresence of GOD, we proceed to lay before you THE PROOF FURNISHED BY THE SCRIPTURES. The testimony of the text will be found clear and strong; upon perusing the chapter whence it is taken you find that Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, Abraham's wife, had incurred the displeasure of her mistress. It was one of those domestic feuds which is so readily kindled, but which inflict a wound in the spirit that hardly ever can be healed. The desponding handmaid fled before the oppression of her mistress, and sought the desert. We read that she paused in her wanderings beside a fountain, and while, perhaps, suffering all the anguish of a spirit, supposing itself neglected by earth and heaven, the angel of the Lord ac
costed her, and, by his observations and predictions, convinced her that he had been present in all her afflictions, and was acquainted with all her circumstances. The astonished and grateful outcast gives vent in the text to the emotions so natural upon such a discovery-"Thou, GoD, seest me."
How awful are the words of Elihu, Job, xxxiv. 21, "His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings; there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." To the same effect the wise man speaks in the 15th chapter of Proverbs and 8th verse, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good." They not only run to and fro throughout the earth, a form of expression which might lead us to imagine that God beholds things successively by looking first at one thing, and then at another, but they are in every place at the same time. Nor is this attention confined to the ways of man, by which phrase we commonly understand man's outward conduct. GOD looks immediately into the heart of man and sees the inward state of the soul. See the 15th chapter of the book of Proverbs and 11th verse, "Hell and destruction are before the Lord, how much more the hearts of men." Neither do the Scriptures represent him as a mere spectator, but as a witness and judge who scrutinizes the thoughts and actions with all their circumstances, and makes a just and righteous estimation of them. I know and I am witness, saith the Lord. The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. "All the actions of a man are right in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits." Two other passages shall close our series of proofs from Scripture, remarkable as well for the beauty and grandeur of the conceptions they contain, as for the clear testimony
they afford to the doctrine before us. Amos, ix. 2, 3.-" Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down; and though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out from thence, and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them."
Oh, striking and fearful representation of an attribute from which the remotest caverns of ocean can afford no concealment. The next is the well known passage in the 139th Psalm, first and following verses :— "Oh Lord, thou hast searched me and known me; thou knowest my down sitting and my up rising; thou understandest my thought afar off; thou compassest my path and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue; but lo, oh Lord, thou knowest it altogether; thou hast beset me behind and before, and hast laid thine hand upon me. Whither shall I go from thy spirit, whither shall I flee from thy presence. If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about him; yea, the darkness hideth not from thee, but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins, thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth: thine eyes
did see my substance being yet imperfect, and in thy book all my members were written, when as yet there was none of them." Such language needs no comment, nor can any additional passages augment its force. But we add, that not only do the Scriptures teach the omniscience and omnipresence of GoD, but they even represent it as absurd to suppose the contrary.
The Scriptures declare that God is the Governor of the material and moral world; consequently, as it is necessary that the Creator and Governor of the Universe should be in all places of his dominion at the same moment, in order that he may sustain and guide the whole, so it is absolutely necessary that he should have a perfect knowledge of every thing, without which omnipotence and omnipresence were useless.
The Scriptures declare that God is the moral governor but the judge of all men; they represent him as having given laws of the most spiritual character that is to say, relating to the spirits of men in the most comprehensive manner. They reach to every part of our conduct, and not only direct the outward life, but give also law to the most retired thought and inward affection. Thus we are told, Proverbs, xxiv. 9, "That the thought of foolishness is sin."
The tenth commandment also forbids us to covet, thus giving life to all the former precepts, and teaching us, as our Saviour afterwards explained in the sermon on the Mount, that they include the inward disposition as well as outward action; in short, the first conception of lust in the soul, as well as the birth of the sinful deed. But now it is impossible to suppose that GOD, whose wisdom is perfect, would give laws to his creatures with the most awful penalties attached to the transgression of them, if, after all, he
must remain ignorant in many matters, whether those laws were violated or not.
The spirituality of the law itself is a clear proof that the knowledge of the lawgiver must extend to the thoughts of the heart, and that the character of mankind, as it respects the most inward recesses of the bosom, must lie open to the Divine inspection quite as much so as the most public actions of human life. And further, which completes this part of the evidence, we find GOD actually judging men's hearts, and rewarding or punishing them ac.. cording to their secret dispositions. Thus it is written of Amaziah (2 Chron. xxv. 2.), "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but he did it not with a perfect heart. Davia is applauded for his good intention to build a house for the Lord, although not permitted to execute his purpose. "Thou didst well," said God to him, "inasmuch as it was with thee in thine heart." And Abijah, the son of Jeroboam, is said to have obtained exemption from a violent death, and to have procured the rites of sepulture for this express reason, "Because in him there was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel."
Thus have I endeavoured to establish your faith in the doctrine of the Divine omniscience.
It is possible that some one may ask, why bestow so much time and labour in demonstrating a point which no one is inclined to doubt. Let this be my apology. I cannot recollect the time when I seriously questioned the truth of this doctrine; but, oh! I can well remember the time and times when it has had no more effect upon my feelings and practice than if I had been sure it was false. And if your belief be of the same kind, as whose belief has not been, then be assured you have heard no more than is needful: nay, if an infinitely greater teacher, namely,
whole progress of the mind, its plots and contrivances, till the wicked deed be done-to behold the heart full of enmity without one relenting thought, to spare a creature determined to affront him, when, by one word, he could disarm him of all his power and render him completely miserable, are qualities of God's long suffering, which place it out of the reach of human comprehension. GOD is not a man; his compassions fail not, therefore we are not consumed. Oh, let his patience and long suffering bring us to repentance; let us never more provoke his love or weary his mercy.
the Holy Spirit, do not preach the same subject over to your hearts, your present knowledge will only heighten your guilt, and the fewer your doubts the greater will be your condemnation. If your hearts do not feel the constant presence of GOD, your verbal acknowledgments and speculative belief, shall only render your case worse than that of infidels. Satan, the grand enemy of your souls, can spare this tribute to GoD which you pay. So long as your faith resides in the understanding and dwells in the tongue, he will not endeavour to dispossess you of it: and if what you have this night heard sink no deeper, I shall readily confess that indeed you know and have heard too much.
I shall close the subject WITH AN APPLICATION OF ITS SEVERAL USES.
First, Let us take occasion, from the sub-tural procedure. But the way to attain
ject, to adore, with humble gratitude, the long suffering, patience, and tender compassion of our God. Is He the immediate witness of our sins, not of those which are committed merely in a day, a week, a month, a year, but in our whole lives? Does He see the first dark thought of lust or rage, and does he look on still and spare us till it be fully formed and executed? How incomprehensible, then, must be His patience. We find it no easy matter entirely to forgive our fellow men even when they are penitent; we find it sometimes almost more than we can do to suppress our resentment, though the injury has been committed at a great distance of time, and the offending brother was perhaps the first to inform us. How great is the Divine forbearance? It would be gracious in GOD to forgive the transgressions of his creatures, though he had not seen them done, and knew nothing about them till he had heard them from ourselves in confessions and petitions for mercy; but to bear with us till lust hath conceived and brought forth-to see the
to a godly simplicity and sincerity, and to banish all dissimulation from our hearts, is to set the Lord always before us, and to act under the influence of the great truth in the text, "Thou, GOD, seest me." He who can thus realize the Divine presence, cannot, dare not be a hypocrite. He knows that his triumphing shall be short, and that his joy is only for a moment. Man he may deceive, whose eyes can contemplate no further than the outside; but he cannot deceive GOD, whose eyes are in every place, who knoweth the hearts and searcheth the reins of the children of men. Oh, to what purpose shall we labour to attain the notice and applause of our dying fellow-creatures, to be exposed to the contempt and abhorrence of an Infinite Being on whom we depend for life, health, and all things here, and for happiness for ever. Especially, too, when we consider that the mask, ere long, will be taken away, and our real character will be exposed to the view of an assembled world in that day when the hidden works of darkness shall be
Secondly. Let the subject of the Divine omniscience be a prevailing motive with us to honesty and sincerity. We are the seed of the serpent, and dissimulation and artifice seem to be our na