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manner, concerning any thing that is infinite, or even to express ourselves concerning them without falling into seeming absurdities. If we say that it is impossible that the works of God should have been from eternity, we may say the same concerning any particular thought in the divine mind, or even concerning any particular moment of time in the eternity that has preceded us; for these are all of the nature of particular events, which must have taken place at some definite time, or at some precise given distance from the present moment. But as we are sure that the divine being himself, and duration itself, must have been without beginning, notwithstanding this argument; the works of God may also have been without beginning, notwithstanding the same argument.
It may make this difficulty the easier to us, to consider that thinking and acting, or creating, may be the same thing with God.
So little are our minds equal to these speculations, that though we all agree, that an infinite duration must have preceded the present moment, and that another infinite duration must necessarily follow it ; and though the former of these is continually receiving additions, which is, in our idea, the same thing as its growing continually larger; and the latter is constantly suffering as great diminutions, which, in our idea, is the same thing as its growing continually less; yet we are - forced to acknowledge that they both ever have been, and always must be exactly equal ; neither of them being at any time conceivably greater, or less than the other. Nay we cannot conceive how both these eternities, added together, can be greater than either of them separately taken.
Having demonstrated the existence of God, as the first cause, the creator, and disposer of all things; we are naturally led to inquire, in the next place, what properties or attributes he is possessed of.
Now these naturally divide themselves into two classes ; being either such as flow from his being considered as the original cause of all things, or such as the particular nature of the works of which he is the author lead us to ascribe to him.
Of those attributes of the deity which are
deduced from the confideration of his being the original-cause of all things.
INCE matter is a substance inca
pable of moving itself; since it can only be atied upon, and we cannot connect with it the idea of action, or an original power of acting upon other things, we cannot but conclude that God is an immaterial being, or a Spirit. But, we must acknowledge ourselves to be altogether ignorant of the nature or essence of God, and, indeed, of matter too; since, to the properties of length, breadth, and
thickness, we cannot be certain but that other properties, of very
different natures, such as even perception and intelligence, may be superadded. But should this be poffible, we still cannot conceive that a thing which, of itself, is so sluggish and inert, should be the original cause and fountain of life, action, and motion to all other beings. Notwithstanding our ignorance, therefore, concerning the nature of matter, and of the properties which may, or may not be compatible with it, there seems to be sufficient reason to conclude, that the essence of God cannot be matter, but something very different from it, which we therefore call immaterial, or spiritual.
Secondly, the original cause of all things must have been eternal; for, since nothing can begin to exist without a cause, if there ever had been a time when nothing existed, nothing could have existed at present.
Thirdly, this original cause must likewise be immutable, or not subject to change. We seem to require no other proof of this, than the impossibility of conceiving whence a change could arise in a being uncaused. If there was no cause of his existence itself, it seems to follow, that there could be no cause of a change in the manner of his existence ; so that whatever he was originally, he must for ever continue to be. Besides, a capacity of producing a change in
any being or thing, implies something prior and fuperior, something that can control, and that is incapable of being resisted; which can only be true of the supreme cause itself.
The immutability of the divine being, or his being incapable of being acted upon, or controlled by any other, is what we mean when we say that he is an indeperdent being, if by this term we mean any thing more than his being uncaused.