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which is most peculiar and appropriate to the Supreme Being, and from which his other perfections may most satisfactorily be inferred and deduced.
No other being possesses any degree of them. And from these may be inferred, his absolute, infinite perfection, rectitude, &c. &c.
This is the great, glorious, and fearful name, “ THE LORD OUR GOD."*
THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
Isaiah xxxi. 3.- The Egyptians are men, and not God; and
their horses flesh, and not spirit. I. The spirituality of the Divine Nature is intimately connected with the possession of almighty power. The vulgar notion, which would restrict the exercise of power to what is corporeal, and deny it to that which is spiritual and immaterial, is a mere prejudice, founded on gross inattention or ignorance. It probably arises chiefly from the resistance which bodies are found to oppose to the effort to remove or displace them. But so remote is this from active power, that it is entirely the effect of the vis inertice, or the tendency of matter to continue in the same] state, whether it be of rest or of motion. If we inquire after
* Deut. xxviii. 58.
the original seat of power, we shall invariably find it in mind, not in body; in spirit, not in flesh.
The changes we are able to effect in the state of the objects around us, are produced through the instrumentality of the body, which is always previously put in motion by the mind. Volition, which is a faculty, if you please, or state of the mind, moves the muscles and the limbs, and those the various portions of matter by which we are surrounded; so that, in every instance, it is the spirit or immaterial principle which originally acts, and produces all the subsequent changes. Take away the power of volition, which is a mental faculty, and our dominion over nature is at an end. Within a certain sphere, and to a certain extent, the will is absolute; and the moment we will a certain motion of the body, that motion takes place. Though we are far from supposing that the Deity is the soul of the world, as some have vainly asserted, the power which the mind exerts over certain motions of the body, may furnish an apt illustration of the control which the Supreme Spirit possesses over the universe.
As we can move certain parts of our bodies at pleasure, and nothing intervenes betwixt the volition and the corresponding movements, so the great original Spirit impresses on the machine of the universe what movements he pleases, and without the intervention of any other cause. “ He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast."* Since it is impossible to conceive of motion arising of its own accord among bodies previously at rest, and motion is not essential to matter, but merely an incidental state; no account can be given of the beginning of motion but from the previous existence of mind; and, however numerous and complicated the links through which it is propagated, however numerous the bodies which are successively moved or impelled by each other, it must necessarily have originated in something immaterial, that is, in mind or spirit. It is as a Spirit that the Deity is the original author of all those successive changes and revolutions which take place in the visible universe, arranged by UNSEARCHABLE wisdom, to which it owes all its harmony, utility, and beauty. It is as a Spirit that he exists distinct from it, and superior to it, presiding over it with the absolute dominion of Proprietor and Lord, employing every part of it as an instrument passive in his hand, and perfectly subservient to the accomplishment of his wise and benevolent designs. To this great Father of Spirits, the very minds which he has formed are in a state of mysterious subordination and subjection, so as to be for ever incapable of transgressing the secret bounds he has allotted them, or doing any thing more, whatever they may propose or intend, than concur in executing his plan, or fulfilling his counsel.
* Ps. xxxiii. 9.
II. His spirituality is closely connected with his invisibility: “ The King eternal, immortal, invisible,”* “ whom no man hath seen, or can see.” of
Whatever is the object of sight must be perceived under some determinate shape or figure; it must be, consequently, bounded by an outline, and occupy a determinate portion of space, and no more; attributes utterly incompatible with the conception of an infinite being. He was pleased formerly, indeed, to signalize his presence with his worshippers by visible symbols, by an admixture of clouds and fire, of darkness and splendour; but that these were never intended to exhibit his power, but merely to afford a sensible attestation of his special presence, is evident, from the care he took to prevent his worshippers from entertaining degrading conceptions of his character, by the solemn prohibition of attempting to represent him by an image or picture. And after he had appeared to the congregation of Israel on the mount, Moses is commanded to remind them that they saw no similitude.
(Here speak of the impiety of the church of Rome, as to these points.)
The only visible representation of the Deity, which revelation sanctions, is found in his Son incarnate, in “ Emmanuel, God with us;” I “ who is the image of the invisible God.” S The picturing of the Deity tends to produce degrading conceptions of the divine nature, partly as it * 1 Tim. i. 17.
+ 1 Tim. vi. 16. Matt. i. 23.
$ Col. i. 15.
circumscribes what is unlimited, and partly since the human form will generally be selected, by leading men to mingle, with the idea of God, the imperfections and passions of human nature.
III. That God is spirit, and not flesh, is a view of his character closely connected with his omnipresence. “ Whither shall I go from thy spirit, and whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."*
Matter is subjected to a local circumscription ; God, as a spirit, is capable of coexisting with every other order of being
IV. Because God is a spirit, and not flesh, he is possessed of infinite wisdom and intelligence. Thought and perception are the attributes of mind, not of matter; of spirit, and not of flesh; and for this reason, the original and great Spirit possesses them in an infinite degree. They cannot belong to matter, because matter is divisible into an infinite number of parts; so that, if the power of
* Ps. cxxxix. 7-12.