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object of which we now speak, but siinply of a duration; so that by finding there is no limit to the extension of E in the direction indicated by B we cannot avoid the conclusion that E now is, that is, is present. Now exactly the same mode of reasoning may be applied to the second supposition, that T coincide with B, and the result will be the same: so that we have in a general form examined the question under both aspects, — the one upon the supposition, according to ordinary language, that A represented the beginning and B the end, and the other that B represented the beginning and A the end, of the supposed duration E. We have thus proved that neither the Infinite Past nor the Infinite Future can terminate in any point, whether past, present, or future. Therefore that which exists in the Infinite Past is now, and can never cease:
That which will never cease is now, and is without beginning
Hence we derive two further conclusions:
It cannot be possible that Being which will have an end can be without beginning, for if so it would then possess the character of the Infinite Past without existence in the Infinite Future; and since we know that that which exists in the
Infinite Past is now and can never cease, we also learn, 1st, that
That which will have an end in duration may be now, but must have had a beginning in duration.
2nd. We learn similarly, that
That which has had a beginning in duration may be now, but must have an end in duration.
It thus appears, that by travelling into the Infinite Past or into the Infinite Future we arrive at the present; that the Infinite Past and the Infinite Future are literally and absolutely present.
Being without beginning is that which exists in the Infinite Past, and must be for ever so existing there; it is now actual living Being. It cannot be measured by time, for infinity is its dwelling-place. It therefore cannot be divided into limited parts, because time would thus become its measure, and the repetition of limited Being would thus be made to equal that which is infinite. But if Being without beginning could have ceased (in some point of the past), then would time become its measure, for it would be time that measured, pointed out, and recorded its termination.
Thus, too, Being without end is that which exists in the Infinite Future, and must be for ever so existing there; it is now actual living Being. It cannot be measured by time, for infinity is its dwelling-place. It cannot be divided into limited parts, for the repetition of limited Being would thus be made to equal the infinite, and by time would the duration of each be measured. It cannot begin to be at any point in the past, present, and future, for it would then be time that would record, measure, or point out its commencement.
Since, then, Being without beginning embraces the Infinite Past, and cannot be measured by time, it cannot be increased by addition. Its duration is therefore infinite, and therefore equal to that of eternity, and therefore eternal.
Since, too, Being without end embraces the Infinite Future, and cannot be measured by time, it cannot be increased by addition. Its duration is therefore infinite, and therefore equal to that of eternity, and therefore eternal. Thus, Being without beginning is eternal and indivisible ; Being without end is eternal and indivisible; therefore also is Eternity indivisible. Thus, then, we learn that Eternity cannot in truth be divided into the Infinite Past and the Infinite Future. It is one single duration, an Everlasting Present, without past and without future.
“We cannot, indeed, understand what it is to exist without any relation to Time; yet we cannot but conclude, both from reason and revelation, that with Him, the great I AM, there can be no distinction of past, present, and future, but that all things must be eternally present; since all our notions of time may be clearly traced up to the succession of ideas or impressions on our minds, which succession cannot be supposed to take place with an Omniscient Being: so that the couplet of the poet Cowley, which has been by some laughed to scorn as absurd, will be found, if we duly consider it, to be the most appropriate expression possible of such imperfect and indistinct notions as alone we can entertain on such a subject.
Nothing there is to come, and nothing past,
Thus, while time is fleeting by, leaving in the far distance that which has been, approaching ever nearer that which is to come, and is thus recording upon its rapid pages the scenes of the past, the present, and the future, still does Eternity know no change, still is it one and
* Essays on the Christian Religion, by Richard Whateley, D.D. (Archbishop of Dublin).
indivisible, still does it remain immutable, an infinite, everlasting Present.
This idea of Eternity, then, which we are contemplating as the representative of the absolute Present, very closely approaches to that entertained by Boethius, who defines eternity as “Interminabilis vitæ tota simul et perfecta possessio ;" the perfect possession of a whole endless existence altogether:a and it is perhaps exactly represented by the “perpetuum nunc" of an earlier philosophy.
It is therefore clearly incorrect to speak of that which takes place in eternity either in the past or in the future tense: and in great probability it may be similarly so to speak of it even in the present tense, for the past, the present, and the future are properties of time; and as we believe that time and eternity are distinct, the assumption that they possessed any property in common might be productive of error. But language is for a finite capacity, and fails at once when she attempts to describe the infinite. We are, however, compelled to adopt some mode of expression ; and if, in all further consideration, we select the present tense, we shall, I think, be less open to error, and convey the full meaning
Boethius, De Consol. Philos. lib. v. par. 6.