« AnteriorContinuar »
suality, but heart-batred, causeless or excessive anger, envy, resentment; in short, the first conception of last in the soul, as well as the birth of the sinful deed. And can any suppose that God, whose wisdom is perfect, would give laws to his creatures, with the most awful penalties annexed to the transgression of them, if, after all, it behoved him to be ignorant, in many cases, whether these penalties were incurred or not? No, surely. The spirituality of the law is a full proof by itself, that the knowledge of the Lawgiver must extend to our thoughts, no less than to our words; and that the dark. est corners of the heart lie open to his view, as much as the most public actions of the life.
Nay, which completes this part of the evidence, we find God actually judging men's hearts, and rewarding or punishing them according to their secret dispositions. Thus it is written of Amaziah (2 Chron. xxv. 2.) that “ he did that wbich was right in the sight of the Lord, but he did it not. with a perfect heart.” David is applauded for his good intention to build a house for the Lord, though he was not permitted to execute his design: “ Thou didst well,” said God, “in that it was in thine beart!" And Abijah, the son of Jeroboam, obtained an honourable exemption from that violent death, and want of burial, to which the rest of that wicked family were doomed; for this express reason, “Be. cause in him there was found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel.” 1 Kings xiv. 13. Upon the whole, then, you see how clearly and explicitly the Scriptures decide in favour of this doctrine, that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Let us now inquire, in the
Second place, What Reason teacheth us concerning this matter. And here I shall argue from such principles
as all men are agreed in, atheists excepted, and these are not parties to the cause in issue. Surely none of us will hesitate to acknowledge, that God is the Creator, the Preserver, the Governor, and the Judge of the world. Now, if in each of these essential characters of the Deity we shall find a separate proof of God's perfect knowledge ; how irresistible must the evidence be when they are all united, and with what powerful conviction must it come into our hearts ! Let us then consider them apart, and try how far they can lead us in this important inquiry.
In the first place, I apprehend, that such knowledge as the Scriptures ascribe to God, will be found inseparably connected with the character of Creator. Is it not reasonable to conclude, that he who made man, and endowed him with the faculty of knowing, possesseth in himself a very perfect knowledge ? Nay, must we not conclude, that his knowledge is as far superior to ours as his nature is exalted above ours? Here, then, Reason leads us, by two very easy steps, to attribute to God an infinite knowledge, at least a knowledge that we can no more limit than we can do the Divine nature itself.
The inspired author of the 941h Psalm addressed this argument to the infidels in his day, who scoffingly said, “ The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people; and ye fools, when will ye be wise ? He that planted the ear, shall be not hear ? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know ?” To the same purpose Isaiah speaks, (Isaiah xxix. 15, 16.) “ Wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark; and they say, Who seeth us, and who knoweth us ? Surely your turning of things upside down
shall be esteemed as the potter's clay; for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not ? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding ?” In both these passages, the omniscience of God is rationally deduced from these obvious dictates of natural religion ; that we are the creatures of God, and that we derive from him all the faculties we possess: And the conclusion appears so just and necessary, that no objection occurs to me by which the force of it can be evaded. But this argument acquires an ad. ditional strength when we consider, in the
2d place, That he is not only our Creator, but likewise our Preserver; for “ in him we live and move." The same power that brought us into being is continually exercised in supporting our being; nor can we live independent of God for one moment. Try your strength in the easiest matters ; try if you “ can make one hair white or black;" and when you have found yourselves unable for that wbich is least, let this convince you, that you are far less able to do so great a thing as to sup. port and prolong life itself.
Is the ability to move at all, then, constantly derived from God? and can any man dream, that God hath given him power to remove to such a distance, that his own eye cannot reach him ? Doth he enable us to think, and shall we exclude him from the knowledge of these thoughts which we have no power to form, but what we receive from him? The absurdity is so glaring, that Reason must at once reject it with disdain. • 3dly. Unless the eyes of the Lord were in every place, how could he execute what belongs to the Governor of the world? Can he order things aright which he dotl}
, not see ? Or must his work lie unfinished in one part of bis dominions till he hath gone to perfect it in another?
Or shall he carry it on by delegates, as weak and finite creatures are obliged to do ? It were blasphemy to think so. With infinite ease doth be govern the world he bath made; and, as he created all things in number, weight, and measure, so he disposeth all things according to the rules of the most perfect wisdom, justice, and goodness. And whatever objections may arise from a partial view of his administration, so that in some cases we may be tempted to say in our hearts, “ How doth God know, and is there knowledge in the Most High ?" yet Reason teacheth us in general, that the Lord reigneth, who is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; and that, when clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. But this could not be without the most certain and unlimited knowledge of all his creatures, at all times, and in every place and condition. How should be conduct this great family which constantly hangs upon him, without the most intimate acquaintance with every individual? And how strong must our conviction of this truth be, when we consider, that his Providence extends to the minutest things ? that " the very hairs of our heads are numbered;" that “a sparrow doth not fall to the ground without him;" and that " when the lot is cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”'
But the 4th and most striking argument for the truth of this doctrine arises from this principle, which sober reason hath always admitted, viz. That God is the Judge of the world : for as he is to decide the final state of men, and distribute rewards and punishments according to the strictest equity, so that every mouth shall be stopped, and none shall be able to charge him with rigour or undue severity; the trial must be fair and open, and the proof absolutely clear, upon which a
sentence, so essentially connected with the honour of the Judge, is to be founded. But how shall this proof be obtained ? shall men be adduced as witnesses against each other? This scheme is encumbered with two objections ; neither of which, I think, can be easily removed. If all are guilty, would there not be ground to suspect, that every one's private interest might bring them to a general combination and agreement to conceal each other's faults ? Or, if some are innocent, which for once we shall suppose, yet even these may, or rather must, be ignorant of many things : they can attest no more than they have seen ; and their testimony, at the utmost, can only relate to outward actions ; the temper with which they are done, and the princi. ples from whence they flow, are beyond their knowledge : so that no judgment can pass upon the heart in consequence of any buman evidence. Where then shall we go next? Perhaps you will say, that every man's own conscience shall witness against him in that day. But what should oblige conscience to do this ? will mere authority compel a man to become his own accuser, when he knows that no other evidence can be brought against him? This, I think, is harder to be believed than any thing. In short, I see no way by which we can extricate ourselves from these pressing difficulties, but by ascribing to God that perfect and universal knowledge which my text, and sundry other Scriptures, attribute to him. Reason must have recourse to this at last, or deny that God shall judge the world. It is his omniscience that supplies the room of foreign witnesses, or makes their testimony valid: it is bis omniscience that overawes conscience, and constrains it to be faithful: He alone can tell a man what is in his heart, so that he dare not refuse the charge: and it is this infallible tes