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yet we can easily conceive, that Almighty power is able to go on creating world after world, and system after system, within the bounds of unlimited space, until the number and magnitude of created objects should rise above the conception of men and angels. So that we cannot comprehend even the effects, which divine power is able to produce.
But the nature of divine power is still more unsearchable. It is of such a nature as to give positive existence, or to produce something when there was nothing. Created beings have power only to move, alter, change, or new-modify objects. They cannot create or produce existence, in a single instance. The production of a fly, or a worm, or the smallest insect, is as much above their power, as the creation of a world. Creative power, therefore, is utterly incomprehensible. Were it not a fact, we should be ready to say, that the Almighty could not produce something out of nothing. And Dr. Cudworth, in his intellectual system tells us, that this was the general opinion of the heathen philosophers. But the Bible gives us better information, and assures us, that this and all other worlds are the production of Orhnipotent power. This, however, we cannot comprehend—“For who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?” Again,
No one can comprehend the knowledge of God. This is as high as heaven, and deeper than hell; the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
God knows the number of the stars, and can call them by their proper names. He knows the number of men, of angels, of all created objects. He knows all things that have been, that now are, that will be, or that might be. His knowledge takes in all objects within the compass of possibility. Such is the vast extent of divine knowledge; but the nature of it Occa.
is still more unsearchable. For, God knows all things by intuition, and of consequence, knows many things, which creatures never have known, and never will know. In particular, he intuitively knows how he exists, how he operates, and how all creatures live, and move, and have their being in Him. Such knowledge is wonderful, it is high; we cannot attain to it.
I might now mention the moral perfections of God, whose extent and degree surpass our limited views. For the love of God, which involves all his moral attributes, has produced, and will produce such great and lasting effects, as none of his creatures will be able to comprehend, to all eternity. But since the holiness of God and the holiness of the creature, the justice of God and the justice of the creature, the goodness of God and the goodness of the creature, the mercy of God and the mercy of the creature, are all of the same nature, and differ only in their extent and degree, I will not enlarge upon these divine excellencies, but proceed to observe,
3. That God is incomprehensible in his great designs.
None of the creatures of God can look into his mind, and see all his views and intentions as they lie there. Secret things belong unto the Lord our God, and all his designs are profound secrets, until he is pleased to unfold them. And since he has not been pleased to disclose all his purposes either to men or angels, so none by searching can find out God. His counsels will, of necessity, remain incomprehensible, until his word or providence shall reveal them to his intelligent creatures. Men, and angels, and even Christ himself, have been unacquainted with some of the divine counsels, and perhaps they never will fully comprehend them all. For, though God will be perpetually revealing more and more of his secret purposes; yet we can no more conceive of their being all revealed, than we can conceive of eternal ages ceasing to roll. As God is incomprehensible in his designs, so in the next place,
4. He is incomprehensible in his woRKS.
Their nature, number, and magnitude stretch beyond the largest views of creatures. The best astronomer is unable to ascertain the number of the celestial bodies, or exactly measure their magnitudes, distances, and revolutions. The best naturalist is unable to discover the various species and properties of all sensitive natures. The best philosopher is unable to comprehend the structure and mechanism of the human body, or even that of the smallest insect. And the best metaphysician is unable to investigate the structure and operation of the human mind, or trace the intimate connexion between the soul and body, and their powerful influence upon each other. No man knows how he sees, or how he hears, or how he tastes, or how he smells. No man knows how second causes produce their effects; nor how the material system holds together, and hangs upon nothing. The works of the Lord are great, and above the comprehension of all his creatures.
I observe once more,
We know that whatever God has done, he always intended to do; but we do not know, at present, all the reasons of his conduct, nor all the consequences which will flow from it. God has caused ten thousand changes to pass over kingdoms, and nations, and private individuals, the reasons and consequences of which will never be fully known before the great and last day. And respecting future events, God has drawn over them an impenetrable veil. We know not what
even a day may bring forth. It is true, indeed, we know that our times, and the times of all other beings are in God's hands; but what those times shall be, neither we nor they can so much as conjecture. God's judgments are a great deep, and his ways are past finding out. Clouds and darkness will rest upon his providence, until they are dissipated by the clear light of eteirnity. “Who by searching can find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?"
Having briefly illustrated the general observation, that God is incomprehensible by his creatures, I proceed to improve and apply the subject.
1. It appears from what has been said, that ing very important sense, Cod is truly infinite.
To be incomprehensible is the same as to be infinite. It is as proper, therefore, to say that God is infinitely great, as to say that he is incomprehensibly great; to say that he is infinitely good, as to say that he is incomprehensibly good. In the same respect, in which God is incomprehensible, he is truly infinite. And we have shown, that he is incomprehensible in respect to his creatures, and therefore he is truly infinite in respect to them. But though God be incomprehensible in respect to his creatures, yet he is not incomprehensible in respect to himself, and therefore notwithstanding he is infinite in respect to his creatures, yet he is not infinite in respect to himself. Who will say, that God's present knowledge of himself is imperfect? Or who can imagine, that God will eternally increase in the knowledge of himself, and so never attain a complete comprehension of his own nature and perfections? But if this be not true, then what right have we to say, that God is absolutely infinite, that is, infinite with respect to himself? Is it not a plain contradiction in terms, to apply absolute infinity to a material object? And why is it not as plain a contradiction in terms, to apply absolute infinity to an immaterial one? If we cannot say, without contradicting ourselves, that a line is infinitely long, or that a globe is infinitely great; how can we say, without contradicting ourselves, that a faculty is infinitely great, or that a quality is infinitely good? If the doctrine of absolute infinity will prove any thing, it will prove the
, grossest absurdities, in respect both to matter and mind. By this, however, I would not be understood to mean, that it is improper for ministers or others to ascribe infinity to God in their religious devotions; but only suggest, that we might, by observing the distinction between comparative and absolute infinity, prevent much obscurity, at least, in our reasonings about the great and incomprehensible Jehovah.
2 It appears from what has been said, that the incomprehensible nature of the Supreme Being, does by no means preclude our having clear and just conceptions of his true character.
His incomprehensibility is the same as his greatness. But does the greatness of any object prevent our hav. ing clear and just ideas of it? Because a mountain is larger than a small hill, can we not have as clear and just ideas of a mountain as of a small hill? Though our sight takes in the whole of a small bill, and not the whole of a mountain, yet what we do see of a mountain, we see as clearly as what we see of a sinall hill. Our ideas of material objects are not in the least obscured by their greatness. And this holds equally true in regard to mental or immaterial objects. Can we not as clearly perceive reason in a man, as in a child? In a philosopher, as in a peasant: In a Newton or a Bacon, as in those of much meaner capacities? Why then should we not as clearly per