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THE UNITY OF GOD proved.
ISAIAH XLIV. 8.
Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any.
I ONCE little imagined it could ever be necessary to prove in a congregation, calling themselves Christians, that there is but one God; a point so fundamental to the whole of our religion, that not a single article of our faith can be true, if this be false. If without the belief of God we must be Atheists, it is as plain, that without the belief of his Unity we must be Pagans. There was nevertheless of old, and is at this day, a numerous sect, that styles itself Christian, and yet believes in, and worships, more gods than one. But I hope, before this Discourse is brought to an end, it will evidently appear, that reason must be disclaimed, and Scripture renounced; or a plurality of gods rejected, as both senseless and impious. It is hard to say, whether, had God never vouchsafed us the light of revelation, we should even at this day, have, by the force of reason only, been able to make his Unity a clear point to our understandings. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, did not do it; and the knowing Chinese, as well as the barbarous Americans and Africans, are still far from doing it. The Scriptures therefore afford us the best lights, and the most satisfactory proofs, in this most important point of knowledge. However, now that God hath been pleased to discover the great truth, reason is surprised at herself for having been so long in the dark about it, and is able to demonstrate the point she could not find out. If this is the case, it will be worth our while to let her open the cause a little, before a superior advocate is called to its defence.
In order to determine the question, whether there is one only, or more gods, we must know what God is, and here a difficulty may seem to arise, inasmuch as this Being cannot
be defined. But it is none. It is enough to say, he is the infinite Being, which, at the same time that it excludes all possibility of a definition, sufficiently distinguishes him to our understandings from all other beings, and shews what it is alone, which we are to pray to, and adore.
Now that which demonstrates his being, points out to us, with equal clearness, the unity of that Being; and shews us, that, as there is a God, so there can be precisely but one.
That we ourselves, and all other things which fall under the observation of our senses, or offer themselves, by any medium of knowledge, as objects of our more internal faculties, one only excepted, are finite and bounded beings, is a truth which a very little reflection will convince us of. They are bounded in their extent, and passive powers, if material; in their active powers, if mental. Such beings could not have been the primary causes, either of themselves, or other things of themselves they could not, because the act of creating supposes existence in the agent, previous to that act; nor of other things, because it requires unlimited power to raise any thing out of nothing. Neither could they have been self-existent, because in that case they must have been unlimited, and independent as to existence, which is absurd; for no two things can be unlimited or infinite in any one respect, inasmuch as each could not possess the whole of any one attribute. Although it were possible to conceive, that two or more beings might have two or more attributes unlimited, and that each of them might have a share of any one; yet to suppose that each can have all, is a flat contradiction. But he, who is self-existent, hath independent, and therefore unlimited, existence; or, to express it better, he hath perfect existence, which can neither be so multiplied, or divided, as to leave perfect existence to another. A selfexistent being must exist necessarily and eternally; necessarily, because, if we take away the necessity of his existence, it becomes indifferent whether he exists or not, unless by the will of another, which is wholly contrary to the idea of self-existence; and eternally, because no being can arise out of nothing, but by the will and power of a prior cause, which totally destroys the supposition of self-existence. A necessarily self-existent being must therefore exist through all duration. He must also exist through all space; for if
we could suppose him not to exist in any particular part of space, we might as well suppose him not to exist in another part of it, and so on in all; which would take away the necessity of his existence, and reduce him either to a dependent being, or non-existence. Hence it appears, that there can be but one infinite, unlimited being; and that all other beings must have had a beginning, and may have an end. They must therefore have borrowed being from some sufficient cause. But what cause would have been sufficient to raise them out of nothing, and to bestow such beauty of form, such harmony of qualities, such excellence of nature, on them? None less than infinite; infinite in duration, otherwise nothing could have been produced for want of a first cause; infinite in power and wisdom, or nothing could have been produced so useful, so perfect, as the works of creation are in their kind, nor so good and happy as the intellectual part of it may be, for want of a sufficient cause.
From hence again it appears, that there can be but one infinite, that is, one unlimited, being; and that two such are a contradiction, inasmuch as they must limit each other. Infinite is improperly attributed to creatures, and only in respect to our limited capacities. Thus it is that matter is said to be infinitely divisible. And even when infinity is ascribed to space and duration, we ascribe them to nothing, and therefore speak absurdly, if space and duration be not considered as attributes of the one real Infinite. Absolute, real infinity, can therefore be the attribute of one being only, and can admit neither division nor multiplicity.
Neither can it admit defect in the smallest degree; because defect implies limitation. Of all defects, folly and sin are the greatest instances of weakness and limitation, and therefore the farthest removed from the nature of a true infinite. Moral necessity is the next; because it excludes liberty, whereas liberty is essential to an unlimited and unbounded being. These two positions, whereby we assert the necessity of goodness, and of moral liberty, in the one infinite Being, may seem contradictory to our narrow apprehensions, which cannot conceive them consistent in ourselves; but they are so far from it, when attributed to the infinite, that we see they can be separately demonstrated to be necessary attributes of that Being.
Having thus proved, that there must be an infinite Being, and one only, which raised all beings out of nothing, and bestowed on them their respective natures; another proof of his unity will result from thence, if we consider, that he who makes any thing, must, so far as he is the maker of it, understand and comprehend what he makes; and that it is impossible for any finite nature to comprehend those operations, whereby the forms or essences of things were impressed on their substances, much more how those substances were called forth out of nothing. Yet, impossible as this is to the creature, it must be easy to the Creator; that is, to an infinite mind. We must infer the wisdom of a workman from the greatness and excellence of his work. Such are the works of creation, that we cannot help ascribing infinite wisdom to their author. Now infinity, as we have seen already, cannot be divided, or multiplied; and therefore there can be but one infinite wisdom, or one infinitely wise Being. This Being alone can comprehend any thing; for he alone made every thing. That which in the world seems infinite to us, is finite and comprehensible to him. Matter is, to our apprehensions, infinitely divisible; but he can reckon up the parts into which it may be divided. It is demonstration to us, that space is infinitely extended; but he can assign its measure, and count its points. It is equally plain to our understandings, that duration is eternal; but he can sum its moments, and give the total. And, what is more than all this, the infinite mind can comprehend itself; or to speak more strictly, as comprehension seems to limit the thing comprehended, whereas God cannot be limited, the knowledge of the divine mind is commensurate with the infinity of the divine nature; which is all I mean when I say, the infinite Being can comprehend himself. Now this is so far from being true of any other mind, that no other can comprehend itself, or any thing else, though ever so low in the scale of beings, though ever so obvious in comparison with other things. We conceive of that which we take to be infinite, by negatives only; which is not conceiving it as it is, but as it is not, and confessing we cannot comprehend its real nature, nor define it. The infinite mind only can conceive an infinite, positively, and as it really is in itself; and therefore it is to be styled the infinite of infi
nities, which is of capacity sufficient to comprehend, and consequently, in the boundless grasp of his ideas, to limit, whatsoever else we call infinite. Now is it not shocking to common sense and reason, to suppose there can possibly be more than one being, of whom all this may be said; that is, more than one real Infinite, one God?
It is from the works of creation only, that we can refute the Atheist, and prove there is a God, against such as deny the truth of all revelation. But could we rationally ascribe the creation to a creature; that is, to a being of limited. wisdom and power; this would force us to acknowledge the argument for the being of a God not demonstrative. If the world could have been made by a less than an infinite maker, it could not, of itself, prove there is a God, or an infinite being; and consequently the Deist could never hope to convince the Atheist; for the Deist neither knows of, nor will allow there is, a creature of wisdom and power sufficient to create the world; that is, to raise the systems of created spirits and matter out of nothing. If, without the aid of revelation, the being of God is to be proved from any thing, or all things, that have been made, we must find the work of creation infinitely too great for the agency of a creature, or a limited being. The truth is, we cannot prove the being of an infinite cause any otherwise, than by an ef fect acknowledged on all hands impossible without an infinite cause. He who denies the work of creation to be such an effect, totally subverts the argument of an infinite cause, and leaves himself without a natural argument for the being of God. To say, that the infinite first cause may enable a creature to create, by communicating infinite wisdom and power to that creature, is the same as to give up the natural argument for the being of a God; for neither reason, nor the light of nature, points out any such creature to us; nay, reason tells us such a communication is impossible. A creature must be limited in all its attributes and powers. God cannot make a new God, another, or a second, infinite. This implies a contradiction. They who say, he can communicate a limited degree of his wisdom and power, and that such degree may be sufficient for the work of creation, do not consider, that the attributes of God can no more be divided, or parcelled out, than he can himself; that they can