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our improvement carried higher, by a continual perusal of God's word, wherein, if we should spend our whole lives, we should, to the last find new beauty, new excellence, new force, darting on us from unnumbered passages, that, in all our former readings, were overlooked, as not containing any thing extraordinary. This is a bottomless mine of jewels, whereof the very rubbish is gold and silver, prepared to set off the lustre of its emeralds and diamonds. If we can be affected only with things sensible, in God's word we may find such as are spiritual clothed in a body, and so accommodated to ourselves, that while their beauty is admired, nothing else can give pleasure; while their terrors are apprehended, no earthly pains can be felt. Here all is great, all affecting, fit for God to utter, and man to hear with every faculty of his soul. Let us, therefore, draw near, and hear what the Lord will say unto us; for the words he speaketh unto us, they are spirit, and they are life.'
And let us draw near by prayer; for, without God's ássistance, we can neither bring with us that humility and candour, nor that diligence, so necessary to a profitable study of the Scriptures; neither are we to depend altogether on the strength of our own talents, as sufficient to interpret the word of God, inasmuch as they are naturally dead to true religion, and shut up against the knowledge of divine things. The Spirit of God, that inspired the sacred penmen, is the best interpreter of his own dictates. Let us, therefore, beseech him 'to open our understandings, that we may underderstand the Scriptures.' Let us earnestly beseech him, who hath caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, to grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of his holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which he hath given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
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
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 mea 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