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1. That God is supreme in respect to his existence. He assumes a name expressive of his peculiar existence. When Moses desired to know by what name he chose to be made known his people, he said, “ I am that I am: and thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am bath sent me unto you." This name denotes the most absolute and perfect existence. God is the first of all beings, and of consequence has an underived existence. There was nothing in the universe that existed before him, which could be the cause of his existence. This is peculiar to God and is not true of any other beings; for they all have a derived existence. There was an antecedent cause of their existing, and had not that cause operated they never would have existed. But there was no antecedent cause of God's existence. He exists by an absolute necessity of his own nature. The ground or reason of his existence is completely within himself; so that he is properly an underived and self existent being. As he did not derive his existence from any other being, so he is not in the least degree dependent upon any other being, whether he shall exist or not. being gave him his existence, so no being can take it away. Hence he is so often called the living, and only living God. He has an underived and independent life, which is peculiar to himself. All other beings have a derived and dependent life. He who gave them their life can at any time take it away. But God is the King Immortal. He has life in himself, which no being in the universe can destroy. As God's existence is underived and independent, so it is necessarily eternal. We cannot conceive of his ever beginning to exist, for the plain reason that he had no exterior cause of his existence. Accordingly the Psalmist addresses him as an eternal being. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth, and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." He is also immutable, as well as eternal, in his existence. He claims immutability as his highest prerogative. He says, “ I am the Lord, I change not." And the apostle James calls him “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Thus God is infinitely above all his creatures, in respect to his underived, independent, eternal and immutable existence.
2. God infinitely surpasses all other beings in the immensity of his presence. Though his presence be not properly extended, yet it fills all places and pervades all things, at one and the same moment. He is really as present in one part of his vast dominions as in another, and at one time as at another. He claims immensity of presence, as one of his essential attributes. “ Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the Lord.” Solomon 'addressed him at the dedication of the temple as omnipresent. “ Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house I have builded ?" We cannot conceive that God, who made, and who preserves and governs all things, should be limited in his presence, or be absent a single moment, from any place, or creature, or object, in the whole circle of creation. Omnipresence, therefore, appears to be an essential attribute of the Deity, which is peculiar to himself, and which renders him infinitely different from and superior to all created beings, whose presence is circumscribed by time and place.
3. God as far transcends all other beings in his knowledge, as in his presence. His knowledge is beyond all comparison in its kind and extent. Whatever he knows, he knows intuitively. He sees through all objects, and looks directly into all hearts. He knows the views and feelings and internal exercises of angels and men, before they are expressed in their words or actions. He makes use of no means of gaining knowledge, but has a direct, immediate, and universal knowledge of all things, which is peculiar to himself and belongs to no other being He seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. This is that kind of knowledge which David said was too wonderful and too high for him, and to which he could not attain. The apostle says, “ Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world.” He knows not only all things that have existed and will exist, but all things that might have existed. His knowledge is far more extensive than the knowledge of all other beings now is, or ever will be. Though their knowledge will be for ever increasing, yet it will be for ever limited; but his knowledge always has been, and always will be, universal and unbounded. So that his knowledge as far surpasses theirs, as eternity surpasses time in duration.
4. God is absolutely supreme in wisdom, as well as in knowledge. Though wisdom implies knowledge, yet knowledge does not imply wisdom. Knowledge is the bare perception of things; but wisdom consists in devising and forming the best designs, or in applying knowledge to the best advantage. Perfect knowledge is necessary to perfect wisdom.. It would have been impossible for God to have formed the most perfect plan of operation from eternity, if he had not possessed a clear, intuitive, and comprehensive knowledge of all things possible. The least defect in knowledge might have proved a defect in wisdom, and prevented the absolute perfection of his original and eternal purpose in the work of creation. But there was no defect in his knowledge, nor consequently in his wisdom. With a clear view of all things, he was able to devise the best possible design, and the best possible means to accomplish it. His wisdom, therefore, surpasses the wisdom of all other beings. He is the only wise God, or the only being who is perfectly wise. Moses says, “ He is the Rock, his work is perfect.” David exclaims, “ O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.” Paul speaks of the wisdom of God in the highest terms of admiration. “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!” And he represents him as displaying to the view of the whole intelligent creation his manifold wisdom, in the plan of redemption through the mediation of Christ. The wisdom of men and of angels is but mere folly in comparison with the unsearchable and incomprehensible wisdom of the Supreme Being
5. God is supreme in power, as well as in wisdom and knowledge. His power is the most prominent perfection of his nature, and the most visibly impressed upon all his works of creation and providence. But it is his creating power, that most clearly and infinitely surpasses the power of all created beings, who in this respect are entirely impotent. Neither men, nor angels, can give existence to the least thing conceivable. They can only move and modify created objects, but are wholly incapable of creating a single mote or atom. Indeed, all the power they have to do any thing, they constantly derive from the almighty power of God, who essentially comprehends, or comprises all the power there is in the universe. In him all other beings live, and move, and have their being. They are not sufficient of themselves, to exist, to speak, to act, or even think. And with all their derived power, they soon become weak and weary, and unable to act; but “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” He is able to operate through the whole circle of creation, and to produce millions and millions of effects, without the least interruption, or a moment's cessation. His power is underived, independent, and absolutely supreme. Farthermore,
6. God is supremely excellent in his holiness, goodness or benevolence. I use all these terms to denote his moral perfections, which are all comprised in his pure, disinterested, impartial, universal love. God is love. His whole moral excellence consists in holy love; and every moral attribute of his nature is
only a modification of perfect benevolence and good will to all percipient beings. But if this be the holiness of the Deity, some may be ready to ask, how does it appear that his holiness is infinitely superior to the holiness of all other beings? Does not God require all his intelligent creatures to be holy as he is holy? Are not angels and glorified spirits completely holy? And do not all good men feel and express pure benevolence, and exercise the same kind of holiness that God feels and expresses? This is all true; and yet there is a vast difference between the holiness of God, and the holiness of all other beings. We are told, “ There is none holy as the Lord.” And
“ There is none good but one, that is God." The goodness of God far surpasses the goodness of all other beings, not only because it is underived, but because it is infinitely greater. There is more goodness in one benevolent exercise of God, than in all the benevolent exercises of all other holy beings united. Their goodness is limited by their views, which are extremely imperfect. They never take in but a very small part of the universe at one view; and their benevolent affections can extend no farther than their views. And though their views will be eternally extending, yet they will for ever fall infinitely short of the all comprehensive views of God. So that all their views to eternity will be infinitely inferior to the constant and 'unbounded views of the Deity; and, of consequence, all their holy exercises will be infinitely inferior in point of extent, and of real virtue and excellence, to his constant and unlimited exercises. The whole universe stands perpetually transparent to his view, and he aims at the highest good of the whole in every volition of his will, and every exertion of his hand. If we only reflect a moment upon the greatness of God, we must have a clear conviction of his supreme goodness. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. His all comprehensive views are never obstructed, and his benevolent affections are never diminished; and, therefore, he exercises more holiness every moment, than all holy creatures ever have exercised, or ever will exercise to all eternity. Thus God is absolutely supreme in all his natural and moral perfections; and this absolute supremacy over all his intelligent creatures, renders him the only proper object of their religious worship.
This leads me to observe,
III. That it is absurd to pay religious worship to any being who is not possessed of the essential attributes of divinity. It is absurd to love a being supremely who is not supremely amiable; or to place supreme dependence upon a being who is not supremely independent; or to yield supreme submission to a being who is not supremely wise; or to put supreme confidence in a being who is not supremely good; or to make supplication to a being who is not every where present, and able to hear, and answer all the supplications of all who pray to him. But there is no being in the universe besides God, who does possess these essential attributes of divinity, which render him worthy of that supreme love, dependence, submission and confidence, which is expressed in prayer or praise, or in any other act of religious worship. This has been the universal opinion of all mankind in all ages of the world. They have never paid religious worship to any being whom they did not acknowledge to be a Deity, and possessed of divine attributes. Though some have worshipped the sun, yet they always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in it. Though some have worshipped an animal, yet they always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in it
. And though some have worshipped graven images or dumb idols, yet they
have always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in them, or were always present with them. All their worship was divine worship, and intentionally paid to a divine being, possessed of the essential attributes of divinity. But they were grossly deceived in imagining that there were “gods many and lords many.” For we have no evidence from scripture, or from reason, that there is, or can be, more than one living and true God; who is possessed of absolute independence, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and unlimited wisdom and goodness; and who is worthy of that supreme love, homage, veneration and confidence, which is always implied in religious worship. All other beings, except the eternal, self existent, independent, immutable, almighty and all wise Creator, are absolutely dependent upon him for their existence, and for all their rational and moral powers; and this dependence places them infinitely below him. There is no comparison between a created and an uncreated being. One created being is as completely destitute of divine attribute as another. Angels are as destitute of every divine attribute as men; and men are as destitute of
divine attribute as lifeless matter. There is but one, and there can be but one being in the universe, who is the proper object of religious worship; and that being is the only living and true God. Accordingly, the scripture requires us to worship him, and forbids us to worship any other being.
I now proceed to the improvement of the subject. 1. If God be worthy of religious worship solely on account of the essential attributes of his nature, then he cannot form a being worthy of religious worship. He has indeed created beings superior to men; and he can undoubtedly create beings