« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Now these conceptions of the nature of spirits lead us to conceive of God.
1. As a being that is more perfect and excellent than all other spirits and beings. Hence he is said to be incorruptible, Rom. i. 23. ; immortal and invisible, 1 Tim. i. 17. He has understanding and will; and so we conceive of him as the creator and governor of all things; which he could not be, if he were not an intelligent and sovereign spirit.
2. Though angels and the souls of men are spirits, yet their excellency is only comparative, that is, they excel the best of all material beings in their nature and properties. But God, as a spirit, is infinitely more excellent than all material beings, and all created spirits. Their perfections are derived from him ; and therefore he is called the Father of spirits, Heb. xii. 9. and the God of the spirits of all flesh,' Numb. xvi. 22.; and his perfections are underived; and he is independently immortal. Hence it is said of him, that he only hath immortality,' 1 Tim. vi. 16. He is an infinite spirit; and it can be said of none but him, that his understanding is infinite,' Psal. cxlvii. 5.
Now, a spirit is an immaterial substance, Luke xxiv. 39.; and seeing whatever God is, he is infinitely perfect in it, he is a most pure spirit. Hence we may infer, 1. That God has no body nor bodily parts. Object
. How then are eyes, ears, hands, face, and the like, attributed in scripture to God? Answ. They are attributed to him not properly, but figuratively; they are spoken of him after the manner of men, in condescension to our weakness; but we are to understand them after a sort becoming the Divine Majesty. We are to consider what such bodily parts serve us for, as our eyes for discerning and knowing, our arms for strength, our hands for action, &c. and we are to conceive these things to be in God infinitely, which these parts serve for in us. Thus, when eyes and ears are ascribed to God they signify his omniscience; his hands denote his power, and his face the manifestation of his love and favour.
2. That God is invisible, and cannot be seen with the eyes of the body, no not in heaven; for the glorified body is still a body, and God a spirit, which is no object of the eyes, more than sound, taste, smell, &c. 1 Tim. i. 17.
3. That God is the most suitable good to the nature of our souls, which are spirits; and can communicate himself,
and apply those things to them, which only can render them happy, as he is the God and Father of our spirits.
4. That it is sinful and dishonourable to God, either to make images or pictures of him without us, or to have any image of him in our minds, which our unruly imagination is apt to frame to itself, especially in prayer. For God is the object of our understanding, not of our imagination. God expressly prohibited Israel to frame any similitude or resemblance of him, and tells them, that they had not the least pretence for so doing, inasmuch as they saw no similitude of him, when he spake to them in Horeb, Deut. iv. 12, 15, 16. And says the prophet, “ To whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?' Isa. xl. 18. We cannot form an imaginary idea of our own souls or spirits, which are absolutely invisible to us, and far less of him who is the invisible God, whom no man hath seen or can see. Therefore to frame a picture or an idea of what is in. visible, is highly absurd and impracticable : nay, it is gross idolatry, prohibited in the second commandment.
5. That externals in worship are of little value with God. who is a spirit, and requires the heart. They who would be accepted of God must worship him in spirit and in truth, that is, from an apprehension and saving knowledge of what he is in Christ to poor sinners. And this saving knowledge of God in Christ is attainable in this life: for it is the mat. ter of the divine promise, “I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord,' Jer. xxiv. 7. It is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God, John vi. 45. And therefore it should be most earnestly and assiduously sought after by us, as, unless we attain to it, we must perish
That we may know what sort of a spirit God is, we must consider his attributes, which we gather from his word and works, and that two ways: 1. By denying of, and removing from God, in our minds, all imperfection which is in the creatures, Acts xvii. 29. And thus we come to the knowledge of his incommunicable attributes, so called because there is no shadow or vestige of them in the creatures, such as infinity, eternity, unchangeableness. 2. By attributing unto him, by way of eminency, whatever is excellent in the creatures, seeing he is the fountain of all perfection in them, Psal. xciv. '9. And thus we have his communicable attributes, whereof there are some vestiges and small scantlings in the creature, as being, wisdom, power, &c. amongst which his spirituality is to be reckoned.
Now, both these sorts of attributes in God are not qualities in him distinct from himself, but they are God himself. God's infinity is God himself, his wisdom is himself; he is wisdom, goodness, 1 John i. 5. Neither are these attributes so many different things in God; but they are each of them God himself: for God swears by himself, Heb. vi. 13.; yet he swears by his holiness, Amos iv. 2. He creates by himself, Isa. xliv. 24.; yet he creates by his power, Rom. i. 20. Therefore God's attributes are God himself, Neither are these attri. butes separable from one another; for though we, through weakness, must think and speak of them separately, yet they are all truly but the one infinite perfection of the divine nature, which cannot be separated therefrom, without deny
. ing that he is an infinitely perfect being.
We have said that God is a spirit ; but angels and the souls of men are spirits too. What then is the difference between them? Why, God is an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable spirit; but angels and souls are but finite, were not from eternity, and are changeable spirits. Now, these three, infinity, eternity, and immutability, are God's incommunicable attributes, which we are next to explain.
First, God is infinite. Infinity is the having no bounds or limits within which a thing is contained. God then is infinite, i. e. he is whatsoever he is without bounds, limits, or mea, sure, Job xi. 7. • Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection;' We can. not define the presence of God by any certain place, so as to say, Here he is, but not there; nor by any limits, so as to say, Thus far his being reacheth, and no further : but he is every where present, after a most inconceivable manner, even in the deepest darkness, and the closest recesses of privacy. He fills all the innumerable spaces that we can imagine beyond this visible world, and infinitely more than we can imagine.
Now God is infinite, (1.) In respect of his being: for of his nature our finite understandings cannot possibly form any adequate conception. This lies hid in rays of such bright and radiant glory, as must for ever dazzle the eyes of those who attempt to look into it. (2.) In respect of place ; and
therefore he is every where present : Can any man hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,' Jer. xxiii. 24. (3.) In respect of time and duration : for the ages of his eternity cannot be numbered, nor the number of his years searched out,' Job xxxvi. 26. (4.) In respect of all his communicable attributes. Thus the depth of his wisdom cannot be fathomed : O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!, Rom. xi. 33. His greatness is unsearchable,' Psal. cxlv. 3. The extent of his power cannot be reached: “The thunder of his power who can understand ?' Job xxvi. 14. We cannot understand his powerful thunder, one of the lowest displays of his majesty in our region, much less the utmost extent and force of his power, in its terrible effects, especially the power of his anger: God is great, and we know him not.' The treasures of the divine goodness cannot be inventoried : 0 how great is thy goodness (says the Psalmist), which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men !' The brightness of God's glory cannot be described; as a full discovery of it would quite overpower the faculties of any mortal in this imperfect state: for man is weak and unworthy of it, weak and could not bear it, guilty and could not but dread it: and therefore God holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth a cloud upon it,' Job xxvi. 9. With what propriety, then did he say to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live !' Exod. xxxiii. 20.
That God is infinite, is evident from the natural notions and dictates of the human mind. Hence the heathens, by the light of nature, attributed this perfection to the Divine Being. Thus one philosopher pronounced him to be a circle whose centre is every where, and whose circumference is no where; which another philosopher thus expressed in clearer terins, God is included in no place, and excluded from none. Which way soever ye turn, says Seneca, ye may. take notice of God meeting you ; for nothing is void of him: he himself fills all his works, and is present with the whole creation. Remarkable also is the expression of the prince of Latin poets, Joris omnia plena, * All things are
full of God.' This also appears from several passages of scripture; as Deut. iv. 39. * The Lord is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath.' 1 Kings viii. 27. • The heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee,' says Solomon in his prayer to God at the dedication of the temple. See also Psal. cxxxix. 4, &c. Jer. xxiii. 23, 24. Again, if God were not infinite and immense, many gross absurdities would follow from the contrary notion; such as, it isinconsistent with his universal providenceover the world, by which all things are preserved. In him we live, move and have our being,' Acts xvii. 27. As his providence is over all, his essence must be equally diffusive. It is inconsistent with his supreme perfection. No perfection can be wanting in God: and therefore a limited essence, which is an imperfection, cannot be attributed to him. It is also inconsistent with his immutability: For if he move and recede from one place to another, would he not thereby be mutable? while yet with him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' Last of all, it would be inconsistent with his omnipotence. That God can do every thing, is a notion settled in the minds of all; and his essence cannot be less or more confined than his power, and his power cannot be thought to extend farther than his essence.
But some may be ready to say, Does not the scripture say, that God sits in heaven and dwells on high, that heaven is his throne; and does not the Lord's prayer teach us to say, Our Father which art in heaven? Now, how can this agree with his infinity or immensity? I answer, God is indeed said to sit in heaven and to dwell on high; but he is no where said to dwell only in the heavens. It is the court of his majestic presence, not the prison of his essence. There is a three-fold presence of God: A glorious presence, which is peculiar to heaven: A gracious presence, which the saints enjoy on earth: And an essential presence, which is equally and alike in all places. Others may allege, that it is a disparagement to God, to say that he is essentially present in all piaces and with all creatures, even on the dunghill of the earth, and in the sordid sink of hell with the devils and the damned. To this I would only say, that it is a gross misapprehension of God, and an unaccountable measuring of him by ourselves, to imagine that he is capable of being infected by any thing below. For he is a pure and spotless being. Whatever is