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sense of obligation;–his capacity to search after a great first Cause, and to entertain conceptions of him in the plenitude of excellence, arrayed in such attributes of power, wisdom, and goodness, as are calculated to inspire the love and admiration of all intelligent creatures; such as implant confidence in seasons of difficulty and danger, and encourage the brightest hopes, under the deepest sense of demerits;–are phaenomena not to be explained by any other principle, than (by the admission that we were created, and thus richly endowed, by an intelligent, wise, and beneficent F1RST cause !
ON THE DISTINCTIONS, AND GRADATIONS OF ExCELLENCE, IN THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
According to the view we have taken of the Nature and Attributes of God, a distinction presents itself, between the attributes essential to his being, and mode of evistence; such as eternity, or self-existence, spirituality, omnipresence; and the attributes which belong to him in the character of Creator. He possesses the former, by what may be termed a physical necessity, unconnected with his productions, or with any plan respecting creation. The others are strictly relative; for they belong to him solely as they relate to some exertions, or proposed exertions, of the divine energy; or to beings whose existence is actual or pre-ordained. Of this kind are the Power, the Knowledge, the JWisdom, and the Goodness of God. Power expresses actual exertion, or the capacity of exertion. It is seated in some cause manifesting its own existence by its operations. The power of the Deity must be irresistible, because he is the source of power, and of every other being invested with it. Every exertion of irresistible power must produce an effect. Hence we form the idea of that connexion which subsists between cause and effect; and which is so intimate, that the one cannot subsist without the other. Infinite Knowledge expresses the divine perception of the whole chain of effects in their causes, and a perfect acquaintance with all actual existence, and every possible existence in nature. Infinite Wisdom refers to plans worthy of its author, and to the best mode of executing these plans. Goodness has objects whose benefit it promotes or consults. All these attributes have a manifest reference to eristences. They are in their very nature relative ; for we cannot suppose them to exist, or to be possessed, totally unconnected with their objects, real or proposed. According to these positions, the great Creator, although he exist distinct from, and independent of, the works of his hands, has, notwithstanding, instituted the most intimate connexion between himself and all his creatures, in this his relative character: the exercise of these perfections necessarily implies the existence of created beings.
Notwithstanding the absolute perfection of all the divine attributes, yet we necessarily conceive of some as being more exalted than others; and they excite in the contemplative mind, those affections which are most correspondent to their character. The natural attributes of the Deity, Eternity, Self-existence, Spirituality, Omnipresence, are calculated to impress the mind with the profoundest wonder and astonishment They amaze and confound the intellectual faculties of all created Beings; and the most stupendous of the divine productions become diminutive, and, as it were, shrink into nothing before them Power, simply considered, is calculated to oppress and overwhelm the mind with dread; for it may be exerted to our misery: but Knowledge is allowed to be entitled to respect ; an affection which is not applicable to power, abstractedly considered. Wisdom, which is the proper direction of knowledge and power, is venerated and admired; but still we may not be interested in its plans and operations. Neither of these attributes have primarily a claim to our Love, unless they be under the direction of Goodness; which attribute describes the disposition to promote our interests. To the union of these attributes belongs the mixture of reverential awe, profound admiration, and confidential love. Power is in itself a property merely physical. In the abstracted idea it is unconnected with design or merit; for power is a property possessed by inanimate bodies; and it is acknowledged to exist by those who deny a Deity. Knowledge, or the capacity of discerning existences, properties, possibilities, &c. is of an intellectual nature. But although it belongs to Mind, it does not necessarily imply any kind or degree of moral excellence. Wisdom, which indicates the capacity of making the best possible use of this knowledge, is as superior to knowledge, as agency is to the instrument employed. This is intellectual in a higher degree of excellence. It also possesses something of a moral character; for there can be no wisdom, either in plan or execution, where some kind of Utility be not the object; still, however, it may be considered in the light of means solely valuable as they respect the end. But Goodness is strictly, and eminently Moral. It is in its nature of a boundless extent. If it be not universally operative it cannot exist as a perfection: it degenerates into partial attachments, and a partial fondness; and thus the idea of an exalted and amiable principle of action is destroyed. This attribute must be universally relative for Good. It is, in the Divinity, a pattern and prototype of the moral