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A SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN DIVINITY.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AS DERIVED FROM NATURE, BEING SUBSERVIENT TO THE BELIEF OF THE GOSPEL.
WITH what does the knowledge of man begin?
The knowledge of man begins with the knowledge of himself.
Know thyself, was reckoned by the ancients to be the first step towards real wisdom; and in conformity to this are the words of the apostle : "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."* 1 Cor. xi. 31.
Evidences that there is a God.
On entering into the knowledge of ourselves, the
*The Slavonian reading is more applicable" If we would consider ourselves, we should not be condemned."
first thing we come to understand is, that we could not create ourselves. Hence, we necessarily conclude, that there must be an almighty and uncreated Cause, by which we and every other creature were created. Now, by this first cause, according to general acceptation, we understand God.
1. Every thing in this world is contingent, that is, it might exist or not exist, or exist under some other form. But when something was produced out of nothing, then of necessity there must have been a creative Cause. Agreeable to this are these words of the Psalmist: "Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." Psalm c. 3.
2. On this account also, man is styled a little world," by the contemplation of which, and of certain other traces (in nature), we arrive at the knowledge of the Deity.
The existence of God is further demonstrated, 1. By a diligent examination of the works of creation. 2. By the general consent of all nations. 3. By the internal testimony of our own conscience: and, 4. By our innate desire of a chief good, or of perfect happiness.
1. This world may be compared to a stage, on which the glory of God is represented before us;
or to a book, proclaiming to every one the existence of its author; or to a mirror, in which we behold clearly exhibited the infinite wisdom of God. In testimony of this the apostle writes, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." Rom. i. 20.
2. Every where among all nations, even amongst the most savage, altars have been raised, and sacrifices seen smoking upon them. Thus so strong in man was the conviction of the existence of a Deity, that he rather chose to worship stocks and stones in the place of God, than to suppose that there was no God.
3. The conscience of every man on his doing good, feels a lively sensation of joy; but on his committing evil, he feels remorse, and is self-tortured. Such feelings must originate from some innate powers, that most convincingly assure us, that there exists an Omniscient and Almighty Judge, a most liberal rewarder of the good, and a severe punisher of the bad. These considerations agree with the words of the apostle: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves which shew the work of the law
written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another." Rom. ii. 14, 15.
4. Let a man be ever so happy in this world, and abound ever so much in all that it can afford, yet still he is unable to satisfy his desires so far, as to prevent, at times, the world and all its enjoyments from becoming disgusting to him, or to keep his desires from running out after something more than all that surrounds him. Solomon, after having tried all manner of gratifications, was forced at last to exclaim, " Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!" This innate desire cannot be in vain; it must be gratified by some perfect and unchangeable good; and this chief good is God. In conformity to this, David says, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." Psalm xvii. 15. But blinded and impious Atheists cannot properly understand this most convincing reasoning: though it is not without cause, that some have even doubted, if such characters could exist as reject the being of a God, without feeling the accusations of their own consciences for entertaining such a sentiment.
What is God?
Having obtained the knowledge of the existence of God, we represent him to ourselves as a Being most exalted, who, independent of every one, is of himself, and cannot but exist.
If God be the maker of all things, then it is impossible for him to be indebted for his existence to any thing: otherwise we would be obliged to confess, that there is a cause higher and more powerful than God, which is altogether contrary to the conceptions we have of Deity.
What are the attributes of God?
On the knowledge of the existence of God depends the knowledge of his divine attributes. Because, if God is independent of every one, and cannot but exist, it necessarily follows that, 1. He is one. 2. That he is without beginning and without end, or eternal. 3. And that which is eternal, must be immaterial and immortal. 4. Consequently, a most pure Spirit. 5. And such a pure Spirit, without doubt, is possessed of intelligence, is, 6. Omniscient; 7. Infinitely wise; 8. Free; 9. Good; 10. Just; 11. Holy; and 12. Almighty. Hence, we are obliged to conclude, thal he is, 13. Most perfect, and, 14. Most blessed, and the Supreme Lord of all.