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We are, therefore, very careful to distinguish between the eristence of God, and the nature and character of God. The one is a simple fact, the other is an essence and being. And as we have just seen that the essence, being, and mode of operation of any one phenomenon in nature, is incomprehensible to us, and beyond the range of our intellects, this must be infinitely more the case as it regards him who is a Spirit invisible, illimitable, and “past finding out."

This we have seen to be true, even as it regards the EXISTENCE of God. Beyond revelation there never has been any fixed, clear, certain, or authoritative belief in the existence of

personal and infinite God. The ideas which have been found to prevail on this point may all be referred to an original, primitive revelation, or to the reflected and honoured light of an existing revelation. These ideas have, also, been speculative, confused, contradictory, atheistic, pantheistic, or sceptical, in proportion as we recede from primitive revelation, and philosophy and barbarism usurp its place.

When we proceed from the existence of God to inquire into the NATURE of God, including his unity of being, and his essential attributes, taking unenlightened and unassisted human reason as our guide, we are plunged into the very midst of a sea of uncertainty, and driven about with every possible wind of wild and wayward conjecture. Here more emphatically than in reference to the existence of God, the wisdom of man was foolishness. What was originally known as true was not retained. Philosophers were the great corrupters of the ancient traditionary belief in one true God.* Polytheism and idolatry universally prevailed where atheistic scepticism and doubt had not utterly expelled all faith in God. “The world by wisdom knew not God," and the wisdom of the world was finally led, under the teachings of a better guide, to conclude, in the language attributed to Tertullian that "of God all that is comprehensible is that he is incomprehensible." "We have, says Plotinus, "no knowledge nor understanding of God.” "We speak of God,” says Parmenides and Dionysius, “only by negatives and relations." The Pythagoreans denominated the Deity “darkness" and a "subterranean profundity.”+ The Egyptians employed the terms "thrice unknown darkness," in

*See Leland's Necessity of Div. Revel. vol. 1, ch. xii, p. 247, and ch. xx. On their Polytheism, see do. chs. xiv, xv, xvi.

+Taylor's Plato, vol. 3, p. 25. 4 to.

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their most mystical invocations of the first God.* Proclus says of God, that he is more ineffable than all silence.† Damascus says "God is truly an imcomprehensible and inaccessible light,upon which, the more attentively you look the more you will be darkened and blinded."

"When we speak," says Plato, in his Timaeus, "of the nature of God, and the creation of the universe, we ought to be content if what we offer be but probable; for more than that is not to be required; for it must be remembered that I who speak and you who are hearers, are but men, and if we can only attain some probable fable or tradition of these things we may not inquire farther about them."

A Plato's mind, ere Christ appeared in flesh
By nature's and tradition's fitful blaze,
Faint though it be, saw something of God.
But who believed him?
Yes, nature's light is darkness, and deprived
Of Heaven's irradiating beams, man roved
From shade to deeper shade, until he lost
All knowledge of Jehovah; and bow'd down
To stocks and stones, and things of carved work,
Form'd after fancy's portraiture ; or paid
Blind homage to the sun or starry host.
And though at times a philosophic mind
O'er the dark welkin shed a meteor blaze,
'Twas but a meteor blaze, too weak to last,

Too weak to light him in the search of God. Our understanding of God was compared by the ancient philosophers, to the eyes of an owl, as contrasted with the light of the sun. And in the days of Jamblichus, the last age of the ancient philosophy, it was generally admitted that "human nature can neither reason nor speak of God, nor perform any divine works without God.” This is exactly in accordance with the whole spirit and teaching of the Scriptures. Such was the doctrine of revelation in the days of Job as has been proved. Such it was in the time of Moses, who desired to become acquainted with the properties and perfections of God and was told “my presence thou canst not see, no living man can see me." The apostle Paul lays it down, therefore, as a fundamental position which we need not confirm by numerous other passages, that God is absolutely "invisible," that is, that no finite being can ever attain to an intuitive knowledge of Him.

*Taylor's Plato, p. 26.
#Ib., p. 2.
#Ib., p. 28.

$It will be a reproach to us, says Howe, “if we shall need to be taught reverence of God by pagans ;"' or that such a document should need to be given us for our admonition, as that very ancient inscription in one of the Egyptian temples, “I am whatsoever was, is, or shall be, and who is he that shall draw aside my vail ?" (1)

(1) The Temple of Isis. See Plutarch de Iside, 59.

Nor is reason now any stronger, nor any the less limited in its capacity and its sphere of knowledge. We are, it has been said, but a few steps more advanced than the primitive world. All that even we can possibly know of God is by analogy, that is, by ascribing to God, properties resembling those found in ourselves. The whole system of natural religion rests on analogy. What God is in Himself we can neither know, nor define, nor describe. What, or what kind, the nature of God is, in itself, we have no possible means of determining. What God's attributes are, in themselves, we know not. How God exists in, and of himself, none can tell. To do this would require an immediate participation of his own infinite nature. God dwelleth in light inaccessible. Him none of men hath beheld or can behold." God can only reveal himself, and be understood by us, through the medium of language, which is, however, adapted only to our own nature. What God is in himself, must be, therefore, infinitely remote from what human language could describe, or finite comprehension grasp. must be literally among "the unutterable things which it is not possible for man to utter,”—“the secret things which God hath reserved unto himself."

Who shall sing Thee fully? Thou art high
Above all height, exalted far above
All praise and blessing of created things.
Who shall declare Thee fully? Thou are low,
Beneath all depth ; beneath the utmost hell ;
In whose dark howling caverns too, Thou reign'st,
Although thy smiling presence is not there,
To cheer the dismal horrors of their gloom.
Who shall declare thee fully? Thou art wide
Beyond all width ; beyond the universe,
Beyond the stretch of thought, unlimited,
Infinite,—not the tongue of finite things;
Not man; not angels; not ten thousand worlds ;
For they but see a little part of Thee,
Which little part they sing,—the all they know,

The all they can know. Îneffable! Incomprehensible.-Ragg. God's nature—God's mode of existence—and every attribute of God, are unfathomable mysteries to us. All that we know is that he exists, and that he is, and will be, all that the Scriptures reveal as necessary for our everlasting welfare, and that he must be infinitely different from ourselves, and infinitely above and beyond our present comprehension.

Even now, therefore, human reason is unable to demonstrate from any premises which are intuitive or self-originated, the existence, and much less the unity of God. These truths human reason can know and distinguish from error, when the premises from which it is to reason are given to it. But it cannot discover, or by its own powers, demonstrate them. The great, and the only argument upon which the UNITY OF GOD is based by human reason, is the unity of design found throughout the works of nature.* But were we not enlightened by revelation and thus enabled to obviate all difficulties, it would be easy to reply that after all it is but a small part of the universe we are acquainted with, and that that part may be under the separate dominion of one presiding Deity, but that were we able to investigate the whole, we might find its various regions under the dominion of various Deities. It might be replied secondly, that even in that part of the universe which we are able to examine, unity of design, as even Paley, the great reasoner on Natural Theology admits, goes no further than to prove a unity of counself and not of being, since there might be unity of counsel among many perfect beings as well as with one. And thirdly, it might be replied, that there are even in this world, mixtures of good and evil, misery and happiness, goodness and severity, apparent contrarieties, interruptions and breakings up of what would seem to be wise and good plans and operations, such as to have forced upon the mind of a large portion of our race, the belief in two or more distinct eternal and opposing beings to whose sway all sublunary things were subjected. And thus it will be perceived how that even in this advanced and enlightened period of humanity, it would be impossible, on principles of human reason alone, to establish any CERTAIN, AUTHORITATIVE and

CONVICTIONS respecting the NATURE, and especially, the UNITY of God.

If Hume be cleared from the charge of Atheism, it is only to fall under another scarcely less creditable-in some respects, considering his circumstances, more odious—the charge of Polytheism. In the face of all probability and evidence, he defends Polytheism as the most ancient faith, and professes that the belief in the Divine unity was an after-thought of the

*“We maintain that man has not found out (invente) for himself what he ought to believe, and what he ought to do. These two points granted, we leave to Reason all its powers, all its prerogations." -M. Bonnetti Universite Catholique,

† Nat. Theol. ch. 25.


vulgar. He argues, that under Polytheism the worshipper has the advantage of feeling more at his ease, and that to believe that the gods are but a little way removed from us, is therefore more favourable to devotion. His friend, Diderot, held the same opinion, and considered Polytheism more consistent with modern philosophy than the belief in one God! One would be ready to doubt whether men claiming the possession of reason, not to speak of philosophy, could be in earnest in such professed belief; but an anecdote recorded of Hume seems to establish his Polytheistic leaning. Revising the lectures of the late Mr. Bruce, Professor of Logic in the University of Edinburgh—when he came to the division of the course headed "Proof of the Unity of the Deity," Hume is said to have exclaimed, "Stop, John, who told you whether there were one or more?”

Vain man would be wise, but by all his searchings he cannot find out God unto perfection. “The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God." And as all Scripture was given by holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, "we are brought to the law and to the testimony to know, as far as man can know, which is but as in a glass darkly, what God's nature and unity really are."

Beneath a sable veil and shadows deep
Of inaccessible and dimming light,
In silence ebon clouds more black than night,
The world's great Mind his secrets hid doth keep
Through those thick mists when any mortal wight
Aspires, with halting pace, and eyes that weep
To pry, and in his mysteries to creep,
With thunders he, and lightnings, blasts their sight.
O SU invisible, that dost abide
Within thy bright abysmes, most fair, most dark,
Where with thy proper rays, thou dost thee hide,
O ever shining, never full seen mark,
To guide me in life's night, thy light me shew;

The more I search of thee the less I know.-Drummond. What, saith the Scriptures, is, therefore, our inquiry, and to any “cavils of reason we must say, be dumb and open not your mouth," for "what canst thou know."

The only people who, in ancient times, possessed any certain knowledge of the nature and unity of God, were the Jews and their patriarchal ancestors,-a people antecedent to the very existence of any other nation whose records have reached us, and by whom, as is attested by their Scriptures, this knowledge was attributed exclusively to a divine and supernatural communication. Now what that communication was, and what it

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