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We have obtained from our inquiries into the nature of time and eternity these four general principles :1. That which exists in the Infinite Past is
now, and can never end. 2. That which can never end, is now,
and exists in the Infinite Past. 3. That which has had a beginning, may be
now, but must have an end. 4. That which has an end, may
but must have a beginning. Let us now hasten to make the first and most noble application of these truths : 1. The Great First Cause exists in the Infinite
and can never end. 2. The Great First Cause is without end. THEREFORE, The Great First Cause is now,
and exists in the Infinite Past. 3. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the
foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands.". They all
have had a beginning. THEREFORE, They shall perish ; but Thou
remainest ; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and thy years shall
not fail." 4. " And I saw a new heaven and a new earth :
for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ; and there was no more sea. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." These all will have an end. “ There is an eternity in which death
and sorrow shall have no more dominion." THEREFORE, There has been a time when He
prepared the heavens, when He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the foundations of the deep, when He ap
pointed the foundations of the earth.” d THEREFORE also, “ We know that the whole
a Heb. i. 10.
b Heb. i. 11, 12.
creation groaneth and travaileth in pain
together until now.” THEREFORE also, There was a time when “sin
entered into the world, and death by sin.” b These evidences of the eternity of Omnipotence bring forcibly before us the truth, that death, and sin, and all earthly things, whether visible or invisible, are to our faculties of a temporary nature; and they lead us to the contemplation of the Author of all the great mysterious perfection of the Immaterial. But far be from us any intention to describe His incomprehensible attributes. Let it rather be our hope to remove that gross and material perception of them which some of us entertain, and to behold them in the clearest light which is at present permitted. " To have ascertained and to perceive a reason for anything that God has done, is far different from perceiving the reason; though the two are often confounded.”
So, to believe that we may now possess a more just and enlightened idea of the Divine attributes than we have yet had, is far different from the impious boast of pride, – that it comprehends
b Rom. v. 12.
a Rom. viii. 22.
the thoughts of the Creator. Thus, then, will we proceed, neither forgetting the necessity of deep reverence and humility, nor that the attainment of even limited success requires the exercise of man's highest faculties; for, " though it is easy to say that we ought to love and worship, as well as reverence and fear, the Supreme Being, yet nothing is in fact more difficult for such a creature as man, surrounded too, as he is, by gross material objects, and necessarily occupied in worldly pursuits, than to lift up his thoughts and affections to God. A Being whose nature is so incomprehensible that our knowledge of Him is chiefly negative; of whom we know not so much what He is, as what He is not ;- it is difficult to make even a steady object of thought. Now we believe that God is a Spirit; but we have a very faint notion of the nature of a Spirit, except
Spirit, except in respect of its being not a body. God is eternal; but we are bewildered with the very idea of Eternity, of which we only know that it is without beginning and without end: we say that the Divine attributes are infinite; i. e., not bounded, unlimited. And even where our knowledge of God extends beyond mere negatives, we cannot but perceive, on attentive reflection, that the attributes assigned to the Deity must, in reality, be such, in Him, as the ordinary sense of those same terms when applied to men can but very faintly shadow out. But the difficulty is still greater when we attempt to set our affections on this awful and inconceivable Being ;- to address as a tender parent Him who has formed out of nothing, and could annihilate in a moment, countless myriads, perhaps, of worlds, besides our own, and to whom “the nations are but as the drop of a bucket, and the small dust of a balance;” to offer our tribute of praise and obedience to Him who can neither be benefited nor hurt by us ; – to implore favour and deprecate punishment from Him who has no passions or wants as we have ;—to confess our sins before Him who is exempt not only from all sin, but from all human infirmities and temptations ;—and, in short, to hold spiritual intercourse with One with whom we can have no sympathy, and of whom we can with difficulty form any clear conception.