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God always have been, and always will be displayed.
There seems to be no difficulty in these amazing suppositions, except what arises from the imperfection of our faculties; and if we reject these, we must of necessity adopt other suppositions, still more improbable, and involve ourselves in much greater difficulties. It is, indeed, impossible for us to conceive, in an adequate manner, concerning any thing that is infinite, or even to express ourselves concerning them without falling into seeming absurdities. If we say that it is impossible that the works of God should have been from eternity, we may say the same concerning any particular thought in the divine mind, or even concerning any particular moment of time in the eternity that has preceded us; for these are all of the nature of particular events, which must have taken place at some definite time, or at some precise given distance from the present moment. But as we are sure that the divine being himself, and duration itself, must have been without beginning, notwithstanding this argument; the works of God may also have been without beginning, notwithstanding the same argument. It may make this difficulty the easier to us, to consider that thinking and acting, or creating, may be the same thing with God.
· So little are our minds equal to these speculations, that though we all agree, that an infinite duration must have preceded the present moment, and that another infinite duration must necessarily follow it; and though the former of these is continually receiving additions, which is, in our idea, the same thing as its growing continually larger; and the latter is constantly suffering as great diminutions, which, in our idea, is the same thing as its growing continually less; yet we are forced to acknowledge that they both ever have been, and always must be exactly equal; neither of them being at any time conceivably greater, or less than the other. Nay we cannot conceive how both these eternities, added together, can be greater than either of them separately taken.
Having demonstrated the existence of God, as the first cause, the creator, and difpofer of all things; we are naturally led to inquire, in the next place, what properties or attributes he is possessed of. Now thefe naturally divide themselves into two classes; being either such as flow from his being considered as the original cause of all things, or such as the particular nature of the works of which he is the author lead us to ascribe to him.
Of those attributes of the deity which are dea
duced from the confideration of his being the original cause of all things.
W ITHOUT any particular regard to
V the works of God, we cannot but conclude that the original cause of all things must have been cternal; for, since nothing can begin to exist without a cause, if there ever had been a time when nothing existed, nothing could have existed at present.
Secondly, this original cause must likewise be immutable, or not subject to change. We seem to require no other proof of this, than the impossibility of conceiving whence a change could arise in a being uncaused. If there was no cause of his existence itfelf, it seems to follow, that there could be no cause of a change in the manner of his existence; so that whatever he was originally, he must for ever continue to be. Besides, a capacity of producing a change in any being or thing, implies something prior and superior, something that can control, and that is incapable of being resisted ; which can only be true of the supreme cause itself.
The immutability of the divine being, or his being incapable of being acted upon, or, controlled by any other, is what we mean when we say that he is an independent being, if by this term we mean any thing more than his being uncaused.
SECTION III. Of those attributes of the divine being which
the consideration of his works leads us to afcribe to him.
THAT God is eternal, and immutable,
1 follows necessarily; as we have seen, from his being uncaused; but if we consider the effects of which he is the cause, or, in other words, the works of which he is the author, we shall be led to ascribe to him other attributes, particularly those of power, wisdom, and goodness; and consequently all the attributes which are necessarily connected with, or flow from them.
If we call a being powerful, when he is able to produce great effects, or to accomplish great works, we cannot avoid ascribing this attribute to God, as the author of every thing that we behold; and when we consider the apparent greatness, variety, and extent of the works of God, in the whole