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forms. “God is a Spirit.” (John iv. 24.) Now to a spiritual existence men are wont to attach a very meagre idea. To say that God is a Spirit, is with some minds tantamount to saying that he is a sort of mystical and vapory essence, of which little can be positively known and predicated. So sensual and gross are their conceptions, that were God presented to them as he was sometimes conceived in pagan fiction, as a stupendous and imposing form, sustaining the firmament, rolling on the sun in his path, guiding the stars in their courses, with shining robes and tresses flowing athwart and down the heavens, he would appear far more real and majestic than as he is presented in the Bible. But consider for a moment, what constitutes the essential natural excellence of the human being, who was made in God’s image. Not surely the mass of dull earth, which composes his body; nor yet the animal life, which pervades it. It is the intelligent spirit, that dwells there. Remove that spirit, which thinks, designs, wills, loves—which is capable of moral action, and of conscious happiness—and what remains but a few pounds of organized and animated earth? The glory has departed. Even brutes have conscious, and, in a humble degree, intelligent spirits; but the Scriptures inform us that they descend to the earth at death, that is, perish with their bodies.* They were made for a subordinate and transient end, and not, like our spirits, in the likeness of God’s immortality. If
then all that is essentially excellent in a human being is in his spirit, how truly may it be said of God, that his pure spirituality is the distinguishing glory of his nature. A spirit is not material in any of the respects in which we define matter. We have therefore no senses with which to discern a spirit, or to experiment upon its nature. If we had, the curtain between this and the eternal world would be listed; we should no longer walk by faith, but by sight. This would defeat the ends of probation. The curtain is therefore made fast, which conceals from us the world of spirits;–no mortal eyes may ever look within the veil. Hence an apostle said, “No man hath seen God at any time;” and God himself said to Moses, “ There shall no man see me and live.”f But although we cannot see a spirit, we have as good evidence of its existence as we have of the existence of matter. Spirit is a real cause at work, but it is out of sight; whereas, matter has such a relation to the physical eye, as to render it visible. Each is known to us, however, by its effects; the former not less conclusively than the latter. If matter makes itself known to us as that which resists the touch, is attracted, repelled, &c., spirit makes itself known to us as that which thinks, wills, designs, &c.; and hence, when we look upon these marks of design in creation, we have evidence of the existence of the living and intelligent Spirit who produced them, as irresistible as that of the material world. Moreover, as the power of thinking, willing, designing, is vastly superior to that of gravitation, attraction and repulsion, so spirit is in its nature vastly superior to inert matter.
* John i. 18. f Exodus xxxiii. 20.
God is not only a Spirit; he is an infinite Spirit. Here our minds labor to grasp the mightiest and most glorious of all conceivable objects—A Liviso AND INFINITE SPIRIT .
II. His ATTRIBUTEs. If we cannot comprehend God—as surely we cannot, any more than we can throw upward our puny arms and embrace the sun– we are yet permitted to know something of his attributes. These are usually divided into two classes— natural and moral. Let us begin with the former. The analysis might be more or less extended, but they may be conveniently arranged under the following specifications:—
1. SELF-ExistENCE. Himself the “Father of ox
spirits,” God is not indebted for his own existence; himself the “Fountain of life,”t he owes his own life to none. He exists in and of himself. This can be said of no other being. All other beings are effects, holding their existence at the will of another ; God alone is a pure and infinite Cause. This truth he revealed to Moses, in those majestic words, “I AM THAT I AM.”f These words forcibly signify, in the original, absolute and independent self-existence. Hence the existence of God is necessary. As to created beings, they may exist or not, as the cause
* Heb. xii. 9. f Ps. xxxvi. 9. t Exod. iii. 14.
above them shall determine. It never was absolutely necessary that they should exist. God could exist without them, and it is only at his will that they have their existence. But as to God, it is impossible that he should not be, and always was so. Atheism is, therefore, of necessity, an eternal falsehood. Not only is atheism false, but it could not possibly have been made true. And finally, as God did not receive his existence from any source whatever, and does not hold it at the will of any being, so no gratitude, no praise, no homage, is due from him. These are virtues which pertain exclusively to created and dependent beings. The self-existence of God is an incommunicable attribute. 2. ETERNITY. This implies existence in every point of duration, both past and future. The existence of God is an eternal circle of ages, equally without beginning and without end. Whatever has a beginning is an effect. Myriads of created beings are continually beginning to be. Our own existence has had a beginning. The same is evidently true of every organized substance on the globe, both in the vegetable and animal creation. Even this globe itself; these continents and islands, that bear such significant marks of age ; these mountains, that lift their hoary heads to the skies; these seas and oceans, that have ceaselessly rolled on their deep beds for ages, have all had a beginning. The same must be said of the numberless globes that surround us, performing their appointed circuits in the heavens. All these are effects of a previously existing cause. But whatever is pure cause can have no beginning;-it must have existed from eternity. Hence just as certain as is the self-existence of God, is the fact that his existence has no beginning. Equally certain it is that the existence of God must continue forever. For a thing to cease to be, that now is, is a change ; but every change is an effect; and no effect can take place without a cause. Now there is no cause before God, or in God, or after God, that can annihilate his existence. There is none before him, for he is the First Cause of all things; there is none in him, for that were supposing the same thing in the same relation both cause and effect, which is absurd ; there is none after him, for all created beings can sustain no other relation to the First Cause than that of effects. It follows then, irresistibly, that as God has existed from eternity, so he will continue to exist forever. The eternity of his existence is as necessary as his self-existence. It is not absolutely impossible, in the nature of the case, for any creature to cease to be ; but for God to cease to be, is an absolute impossibility. Hence the Scriptures designate him as the “eternal God;” and Moses in his prayer acknowledges the same sentiment, in language of great beauty and sublimity:—“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.”f 3. OMNIpotence. By this is meant that there is no effect intrinsically possible for which the power of