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" Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Exodus iii. 14. WE reverently take another step this evening in the great inquiry on which we have entered. Of the only competent authority we have once asked, What is God ] and we have received a most explicit and instructive answer. God is a spirit, and a spirit infinite, filling heaven and earth. May we know more of him? May we again ask the question, What is God? May we put this question in a fuller form and ask, What is his name ? There was once a man who did so. It was the wandering fugitive in the land of Midian, whom God took from tending the flocks of Jethro, and made him the deliverer of Israel, his people. On being invested with this great and important mission, Moses not unnaturally endeavoured to prepare himself on the point. " And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say to me, What is liis name? what shall I say unto them 1 ?" The question of Moses, doubtless, was asked as well for his own satisfaction, as for that of the Hebrew nation. The response to it was complex. The first part of it bears a repulsive aspect : " And God said unto Moses, I am that I am;" as much as to say, " I will afford you no explanation." Yet God immediately proceeds to answer the question more fully; and in two forms: first by an assertion of his essential glory, and next by a declaration of his covenant relation. "And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Th\is shalt thou say unto the children of
36 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. Israel, The LORD God of your fathers" or more properly, Jehovah (substantially, a repetition of the name I AM), " the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (ver. 12-15). At humble distance, but not forbidden, we follow the example thus set us by the ancient prophet, and we derive our present instruction from the former part of the answer with wliich he was favoured. " And the Lord said, I AM : this is my name for ever." The name on this occasion taken for himself by God, what was its force] It had undoubtedly, in the first place, an especial application to the circumstances in which it was announced, and it was eminently appropriate as placing the God of Israel in strong contrast with the gods of the Egyptians, of whom it might be emphatically said that they were not; but, with respect to the universe at large, its meaning might appear to be small. In common with God himself this also exists; and no superiority over other objects is indicated by this phrase, unless it is understood as denoting some peculiar mode of existence which they do not share. There can be no doubt but it must be so understood : it sets up a claim for God to a higher kind of existence than theirs, and higher in this respect, that it is an existence absolute and necessary. When we thus speak of the existence of God as a necessary fact, or of God himself as a necessary being, it is, of course, incumbent on us in the outset clearly to define the meaning of the term; more especially since the word necessaiy is employed in a variety of ways, all of them but one inapplicable to the subject before us.
1. That is sometimes said to be necessary which, for a certain object in view, is requisite, and cannot be dispensed with. 2. That is sometimes said to be necessary which, under certain moral or legal considerations, is obligatory, and may not be refused. 3. That is sometimes said to be necessaiy which, by the exercise of physical force, is compelled, and cannot be resisted. 4. That is sometimes said to be necessaiy which, as in
GOD A ECESSARY BEI G. 37 voluntary beings, occurs with certainty, though not compelled. 5. That is sometimes said to be necessaiy which, standing apart from all influences, is not contingent; but is, not because it happens to be, or because anything has produced it, but because existence absolute is a property of its nature. It is in this last sense, and in this sense alone, that we speak, when we say that the existence of God is necessary, or that God is a necessary Being. Our meaning is that the existence of God is not contingent, but absolute. He not only does exist, he cannot but exist. I. Let us now see, in the first place, FROM WHAT SOURCES THIS CO CEPTIO OF GOD DEVELOPS ITSELF. I observe, then, in the first place, that the idea of necessary existence is inseparable from every conception of God by which the human mind can be satisfied.
We may naturally throw all things the existence of which we either know or can conceive of into two cognate assemblages, characterized by this great distinguishing feature, that one portion of them might not have existed their nonexistence is at least conceivable while the other portion of them must have existed, the non-existence* of them being altogether inconceivable by us. ow, no object of the former class that is to say, no object of which we can conceive as, at any time or under any circumstances, not existing can satisfy the conception which the human mind forms of Deity. A being who exists to-day, but began to exist yesterday, or may be extinct to-morrow, and who, therefore, might not even have existed to-day, cannot be God to man. or was it ever so, I imagine, amidst the perishable forms of ancient idolatry, nor, amidst the equally perishable forms of modern idolatry, is it so now; the various and multiplied idols being, in both cases, but so many formal manifestations of a divinity in its own nature superior to them, and, therefore, separable from them, though operating through them. Thus the Greeks acknowledged a Fate which was superior to Jupiter, and the Indian of to-day, through his most degraded superstitions, looks to "the Great Spirit." In truth, a being who may or may not have existed to-day, and may or may not exist to-morrow, is a being too closely resembling ourselves, and partaking too largely of our physical weaknesses, to become to us an object of either
38 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. reverence or trust. More or less distinctly in all cases, and more distinctly according to the measure of light and culture enjoyed, in thinking of God man's heart clings to the conception of absolute and necessary being. I observe, in the second place, that the idea of necessary existence is developed (ml of that of an infinite being. That God is a being infinite is a truth to which our attention was
directed in the preceding Lecture. ow, whatever is infinite is necessary also. To suppose it contingent, or, in other words, to suppose that it might or might not have been, is to suppose that there are causes out of itself, since it is only by causes out of itself that the fact of its existence could have been effected, in which case it can no longer be conceived of as infinite. The idea of its possessing all space is not only inclusive, but exclusive also, and does not permit the supposition of any other entity, by which the existence of an infinite object could have been either originated or prevented. Since God is infinite, therefore, his being is also necessary. o cause can exist but within himself: such causes, however, are part of himself, and their existence implies the antecedent existence of God in whom they are. Had he not firs* existed, no other being could have existed, whence it is obvious that there is no being by whom, or cause by which, the question of God's existence could have been in the slightest degree affected. I observe, in the third place, that the conception of God's necessary being is likewise developed out of the fact of the existence of the universe. The necessary existence of some being must be supposed, for, if some being had not necessarily existed, there never could have been any other being, since the spontaneous starting into existence of any being is quite inconceivable, as an effect without a cause. A large number of beings, however, do exist ; and, it being necessary to suppose a cause for the existence of them, our minds go back through the entire series of beings which have a cause till we find one which has not a cause, or through the entire series of second causes till we arrive at the first cause, which is, of course, uncaused. In other words, we infer an uncaused author of a caused universe ; that is, a being whose existence is necessary, and not contingent. ow, it is to God that we look up as the Author of the universe, the Creator of all things : and we thus attach to him the idea of existence not contingent, but necessary.
GOD A ECESSARY BEI G. 39 II. Having thus endeavoured to explain the sense in which we speak of God as a necessary being, and to trace the sources from whence the idea of necessary being is developed, let us, in the second place, attempt to REALIZE THE CO CEPTIO THUS BROUGHT BEFORE US. And, first, in what broad and striking contrast does it place God with all other beings I Look forth on the vast universe, with its countless glories ! See the millions of animated and inanimate beings that crowd the earth, and throng your steps as you walk upon it ! Lift up your eyes to the vaulted heaven, either as it glows with solar fire, or sparkles with sidereal gems, which tell of millions of worlds besides, each nestling its hidden wonders within that speck of impenetrable light ! Think of the spiritual beings whom the eye cannot see nor the imagination trace, but whom we know to fill with their shining hosts the highest heaven, and to wing their wondrous way to the remotest worlds ! ot one of these has a necessary being. There is not one of them, however glorious, but you may say of it, " This might not have been." This rock, this plant, this animal, this globe, this sun, this seraph might not have been. Its place might have been a blank, or have been occupied with a being of a different kind. One solitary exception stands out, in conspicuous glory, to this otherwise universal contingency. It is God. Of him none can say that he might not have been. His existence is necessary; he cannot but be. We cannot conceive his place to be either vacant, or occupied by another. "I AM," saith the Lord; "this is my name for ever." Secondly, ivhat a wonderful thing it is that there should be such a necessity as that which we are now contemplating ! It is wonderful that there should be a necessity for any existence at all. It is possible to imagine universal space as an infinite void, absolutely unoccupied with being. Why has it not been so 1 Whence is the necessity of being ? And, above all, whence is the necessity for the existence of a Being so glorious 1 Whence the necessity of a Being who
is a spirit, a conscious, intelligent, emotional, and active Being, rendering that which would have been otherwise void instinct with knowledge, feeling, will, and power with life in its highest form, and with possibilities of life in forms innumerable ? Whence the necessity of a Being who is a spirit infinite, not having local habitation or aptitude of
4 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. motion, but spreading through all space his own excellency 1 Whence the necessity, ask, for the existence of such a Being? Why not another ? An inferior ? A worse ] A malign ? Deep questions ! leading to the brink of an abyss which angels cannot fathom. Let us reverently retire from it, thankful indeed, while wrapt in wonder, that the existence of a Being so glorioiis has no element of contingency, but is as necessary as it is felicitous and blessed. III. Let us now, in the third place, EXAMI E THE RELATIO WHICH THE CO CEPTIO OF GOD'S ECESSARY EXISTE CE HAS TO HIS OTHER ATTRIBUTES. In it are to be found the roots of some of his specific perfections. First, since God's being is necessary lie is eternal. What necessarily is is always, and alike in the past, present, and future. If ever there was a period when it was not, or if ever there shall arrive a period when it will not be, then clearly its existence is not necessary. God, then, whose being is necessary, is also eternal. His existence is without beginning and without end. He thus appears to bear the same relation to time, or rather to duration for time is only duration measured by succession that, in our former Lecture, we found him to bear to space. As he fills boundless space, so he occupies measureless duration, and is thus infinite, if I may use the terms, at once in breadth and in length. As we reach not the limits of the space he fills if
we travel to the utmost verge of the eastern or the western. sky, so neither do we arrive at the term of his existence if we trace back time to the period when the first movement of the universe set the hands of its horologe in motion, or go forward in its course until its rapid and restless wing shall become weary of its flight. Time, with all its changes, the future and the past, is included within the measure of his being; but time is to the being of God only as a moment, since, in its utmost length, it bears no appreciable proportion to eternity. What proportion, indeed, can finite duration bear to duration infinite ? The topic which we have now before us, grand in itself, is often dwelt upon in Holy Writ. The apostle speaks of God as "The King eternal" (i Tim. i. 17); and the seer of the Apocalypse describes him, with a simple majesty, as he "who is, and who was, and who is to come" (Rev. i. 4). This is, in truth, a prerogative that none can share with
GOD A ECESSARY BEI G. 41 him. It is characteristic of all other beings to find for their lives a commencement and a close. Look at the living tribes which populate the earth. A few hours ago they began to breathe, and when a few hours are gone their breath will depart from their nostrils, and they will return to their dust. " The days of our years are threescore years and ten," but they are "swifter than a weaver's shuttle," and man soon disappears from the theatre of his aspirations and his toils. "Man dieth, and where is he?" Of his race one "generation passeth away, and another cometh," but the race itself also is vanishing ; it lately had its first member, and will quickly have its last. We talk, indeed, of the antiquity of the world, and think how hoary with age are its gray mountain-tops : alas ! the foundations thereof were laid but as yesterday, and to-day they tremble to their overthrow. But of Jehovah
the Psalmist thus speaks : "Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, From everlasting to everlasting thou art God." Psalm xc. 2. The heavens, indeed, are older than the earth, and show in glittering records what must be deemed the true antiquity of the universe. And a majestic antiquity it is. How grand a thing it is for time to have been able to measure the countless ages through which those venerable globes have been describing a celestial course, to which not only science, but imagination, fails to assign a commencement ! But this had a beginning, too, as the present position of its relative elements demonstrates, and it will also have an end. " Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure, Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment, As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed ; But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." Psalm cii. 25-27. And so, while God endures, shall all things perish when the hour of dissolution arrives which God has decreed for them, save only those which he has appointed to exist for ever, thus stamping them with a partial resemblance to his own eternity. What inexpressible majesty is here ! How fitted is such a Being to be the Protector and the Refuge of the feeble and
42 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. the helpless ! While he " sees our ages waste," he calls us to the covert of his wings. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place," says the Psalmist, " in all generations." Yea, and generations to come shall not be wanting of his compassion. Secondly, since God's being is necessary he is self-existent. For, if not self-existent, his existence must depend upon another, in which case his being is contingent, and not necessary. Further, whatever is eternal must be self-existent ; if it were not so, its existence must have been derived from another, which supposes another to have existed before it, in which case it is not eternal. Being eternal, or existing from the beginning, it goes back beyond the existence of any possible producing power, and, consequently, if it exists, it must exist of itself. In this respect, likewise, the eternal God stands out a solitary peculiarity in the universe. All other beings, not excepting the most exalted, have derived their existence from another, whom they must own as their Creator, and from whom they "borrow leave to be." They have thus but a secondary existence, and express only the conceptions and the pleasure of him from whose will they have sprung. In striking contrast with this is God. His being is not derived from another, either by gift of bounty, or by act of power. Amidst a multitude of created things he stands the single uncreated. othing more is to be said of him than that HE is. All creatures have a father, and are as children about his feet. Far otherwise is God himself. Who is his father? It is usually felt that we express a condition of destitution and calamity when we speak of one as fatherless, but here is emphatically the fatherless Being, the Orphan of the universe ; and his orphanage is not his calamity, but his glory.
Thirdly, since God's being is necessary fie is immutable. Whatever exists necessarily must be always what it is, since it exists by a power which must be conceived to be always in operation, and to produce at all times its full effect. In objects as we observe them, changes take place by force of causes either, external or internal, but no causes of change of either class are assignable to God. or could change of any kind be reconcilable with the necessity of his being. If he undergo any change at all, it follows that so far his being is not necessary so far he might not have been ; and if to
GOD A ECESSARY BEI G. 43 some extent his being is not necessary, his being to a further extent may not be necessary; there can be no knowing what limit to assign to this liability to change, and no security that it shall not affect his entire existence. Mutability, in truth, is inseparably connected with contingency. That which may be changed evidently might not have been what it is, as it may not continue to be so. God's necessary existence, consequently, stamps upon him the character of immutability. Of course, it will be understood that, in affirming the unchangeableness of God's nature, I am quite aware of his changes of operation. Undoubtedly, the origination of the created universe constituted a vast change ; and the administration of the universe, providential and moral, consists of a series of changes, determined by the will of God, and effectuated by his power. But, amidst all these changes, God himself changes not. His physical and moral attributes continue always what they were, and will continue always what they have been. Again in how magnificent a contrast does this attribute of the Divine Being place him with all besides ! Change is the law of the universe. Motion is everywhere ; everywhere
decay and reproduction. The life of the animated world is essentially incessant change, and that of the intellectual and spiritual world is no less so. The solid earth rests not a moment as shifting as the flying cloud ; while the vast globes which stud the heavens are urged onward in courses in which they may ask vainly for repose. or does change avoid the immediate presence of the Eternal. Around the very footsteps of his throne, and amidst its highest splendours, all is changing still all but himself ! Hear his voice : "I am Jehovah: I change not" (Mai. iii. 6). Marvellous Being ! Thou changest not ; and yet art the cause of unceasing and universal change. And how vast a felicity is this for a universe which changes so incessantly ! Here at last is its rest, at once the source of its energy and its point of repose ; the centre of the circle in which each portion finds its orbit, and the common centre of the varying circles described by alL Of what infinite moment it is that a Being so unchangeable should be also a Being excellent ! Ah ! had the fundamental necessity of the universe stamped immutability on
44 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. the impure, the malevolent, the foolish, or the feeble, howimmeasurable had been the calamity! A stereotyped form of iniquity, imbecility, and impotence ! Warmly indeed may all other beings congratulate themselves that the Unchangeable is also the Good. It is characteristic of immutability to exclude progress, for progress is change, although it may be change for the better. There thus attaches to God a remarkable peculiarity. It is the law of organic and intellectual being to commence at a point of imperfect development, and to attain gradually a more advanced condition; as the seed is perfected in the tree, and the infant in the man. For intelligent beings it is a
great happiness to be susceptible of change, since an opening is thus presented for moving from evil to good, or for advance from good to better; and there is none who could wisely wish to have such hope of change annihilated. Even from the most elevated condition of which we can conceive the prospect of enlarging knowledge and happiness must not be taken away. With God all is different From the very necessity of his being incapable of change, he is also without possibility of improvement ; progress is denied to him, and he may be compared to a person born without hope, destined to be unalterably what he is at the earliest moment of his being. Who can endure to be thus impressed with the stamp of immutability 1 ? It is God alone, whose excellence is eternally perfect, and cannot be enhanced, that can bear the imprint. Let the whole universe rejoice in it ! Why should they wish in him a change ? As the immutability of God prohibits progress, so also it forbids decay. It is not only that, being eternal, he cannot die, but that, being unchangeable, he cannot grow old. How speedily comes old age on us, with its thousand infirmities, and touching signs of decaying faculties ! But God is always young, and can never pass his prime. He is ever in immortal vigour, not because it is given him, but because it is his own. "Who only," says Paul, "hath immortality" (i Tim. vi 1 6). What an inestimable qualification is God's immutability for the multitudinous beings, always feeble and often sorrowful, who have to make their refuge under the shadow of his wings ! Ah, blessed refuge ! what would the helpless and the broken-hearted do without it ? And what would they do
GOD A ECESSARY BEI G. 45 if it were not always what it is ? If that almighty power were at any time to be smitten with feebleness, or even to lose any assignable portion of its strength ? If that loving
heart were at any time to become cold and insensible to human woe ? Alas ! weeping children of men, that would be a dreadful time for you ! O be thankful that there is no reason to apprehend its arrival ! It is for your consolation, indeed, that God himself rejoices in his immutability: for thus saith the Lord, "I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mai. iii. 6). Rest, therefore, rest ; ages to come shall rest with equal security. I have thus endeavoured to open to you our second lesson in the knowledge of God. We first learned that he is a spirit, and thus in some measure like ourselves and comprehensible by us. We no sooner come to dwell on the attributes which distinguish him, however, than we find him removed to an incalculable distance from us, as a Being at once infinite and necessary. Image of ourselves, but magnified without measure ! Let us, however, try to group together the attributes of which we obtain such grand and interesting glimpses. God is a SPIRIT a Being conscious, intelligent, emotional, and active. God is a spirit I FI ITE, and thus diffuses his conscious, intelligent, emotional, and active being through all space ; self-sustained, and the Author and Sustainer of all besides; the omnipresent, the omniscient, and the omnipotent One. And God, we now learn, is a Being ECESSARY ; thus adding to the glorious attributes ah'eady enumerated those of self-existence, eternity, and immutability. How this glorious nature is built up before us! How its splendour grows upon our vision! Bright glimmerings these, but only glimmerings, of his majesty. I ask, in application, must we not be impressed with a sense of our utter littleness and nothingness before him ? What are we what are all creatures in his sight, but less than nothing and vanity? Who would not fear him ] Who that will reflect can regard him without a reverential awe 1 Who will provoke him to anger ? Or, if this have been thoughtlessly, or even more culpably done, who among transgressors will not seek a refuge from his wrath ? The anger of men often assumes forms which we dread; how much more should we stand in awe of his terrors 1 Sinner,
this God is angry with thee: wilt thou not flee from the wrath to come ?
46 ACQUAI TA CE WITH GOD. Finally, how blessed must be the possession of such a friend ! O ! to look up to so glorious a Being, and to call him MI E ! Yet this is the privilege of all who are at peace with him through Christ Jesus. What he is, and all that he is, he is to those that love him, their portion and their God. Canst thou rise, O child of God, to the height of thy exalted privilege, and in the blaze of so much glory, exclaim, My God, I know thee, and adore ? HYM . WHAT is thy name, mysterious One, Whose omnipresent life we own? Say, while we ask on bended knee, What thine essential glories be. "Hearken, O mortals, to the name You seek and I pronounce I AM : To me alone the name belongs, Repeat it with most reverent tongues. " Absolute Being ! We adore The eternal, uncreated, power : Alone unchangeable ; besides All ebbs and Sows, like ceaseless tides. How blest the infinite should be, Filled of necessity with Thee ! With Thee, whence creatures all derive Their hope to exist, their power to live.
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