Page images

spirit is certainly to be understood of the third.

Cave ,

we understand God himself. I know, some divines discover great mysteries in these terms, and tell us that there are fome pallages in fcripture where the word presence means the second perBut as there are fome paffages where these terins bave not this fignification, it is' beyond all doubt that this, which we are explaining, is precisely of the latter kind. However, if any dispute our

, it would be unjust to consume that time, which is dedicated to the edification of a whole congresation, in refpting a particular opinion. The other expreflions in our text, heaven, bell ; the wings of the morning, a figurative expreffion, denoting the rapidity of the light in communicating itself from one end of the world to the other ; these expreflions, I say, need no comment. The presence of God, the spirit of God, signify, then the divine essence ; and this affemblage of ideas, whither shall I go from thy spira it wbitber shall I flee from thy presence'? meansthat God is immenfe, and that he is prel. ent in every place.

But wherein consists this immensity and omnia presence? If ever a question required developing, this certaidly does; not only because it presents to the mind an abstract subject, which does not fall under the obferyation of the fenfes, but because many who have treated this matter, (pardon an opinion which does not proceed-from a desire of opposing any individual, but only from a love to the truth) many who' have handled the subject, have contributed more to perplex, than to explain it. We may observe, in general, that, unless we be wholly unacquainted with the history of the sciences, it is impossible not to acknowledge that all questions aboųe the nature of {pirits, all that are any way related to metaphyf

power 20 The Omnipresence of God. ics, were very little understood before the time of that celebrated philosopher, whom God seems to have bestowed on the world to purify reason, as he had some time before raised up others to purify religion,

What heaps of crude and indigested notions do we find, among the schoolmen, of the immensity of God? One faid," God was, a point, indi: visible indeed, but a point, however, that had the peculiar property of occupying every part of the universe. Another, that God was the place of all beings, the immente extent in which his fence was really in heaven, but yet, repletively, as.they express it, in every part of the universe In short, this truth hath been obscured by the groffest ignorance. Whatever aversion we have to the decisive tone, we will 'venture to affirm, that people, who talked in this manner of God, had no ideas themselves of what they advanced.

Do not be afraid of our conducting you into these wild

mazes; do pot imagine that we will bulý ourse!ves in exposing all these notions, for the sake of labouring to refute them. We will content ourselves with giving you some light in to the onnipresence of God:

1. By removing those false ideas, which, at furki, ifeem to present themiebkeşito, the imagina. zion ; sin

wasilian "11: By affigning the true 54.

1. Let us remove the falle ideas, which, at first, present themselves to the imagination; as if, when we say that God is prefent in any place, we mean that he is actually contained therein as if, when we say that God is in every place, wę mean to assign to him a real and proper exten

fion, 10* The philosopher intended by Mr. S. Į suppose, is his countryman Descartes, born in 1596. Vie de Defa, par Baillet.



[ocr errors]


fion. Neither of these is deligned ; and to remove these ideas, my brethren, two reflections: are füfficient.

God is a spirit. A fpirit cannot be in a place, at least in the manner in which we conceive of place.

l. God is a fpirit. What relation can you find between wisdom, power, mercy, and all the other attributes, which enter into your notion of the divinity, and the nature of bodies? Pulvets, ize. matter, give it all the different forms of which it is fusceptible, elevate it to its highest degree of attainment, make it vast and immense, moderate or small, luminous or obscure, opaque or transparent : there will never refult any thing but figures, and never will you be able, by all these combinations or divisiens, to produce one fingle sentiment, one fingle thought, like that of the meaneft and most contracted of all: mankind. If matter then cannot be the subject of one fingle operation of the foul of a mechanic, how fhall : it be the subject of those attributes which make the essence of God himself ?

But perhaps God, who is fpiritual in one part 1 of his effénce, may be corporéal in another parti like man, who, although he hath a spiritual soul, is yet united to a portion of matter.

No : foro. however admirable in nian that union of spiritual and sensible may be, and those laws which unite his soul to his body, nothing more fully marks í

his weakness and dependence, and consequently nothing can lefs agree with the divine esence Is it not a mark of the dependence of an immora tal and intelligent foul, to be enveloped in a lite tle flesh and blood, whice, according to their different motions, determine his joy or sorrow, his happiness or misery? Is it not a mark of the weakness of our fpirits, to have the power of acting only on that little matter to which we are united, and to have no power over more? Who с


[ocr errors]

can imagine that God hath fuch limits ? Mie hath no body :: he is.waited to none;; yet he is united to all. That celebrated philofoplier, shall him? or atheist,* who faid that the assembage of all existence constituted, the divine effence, who would have us«consider all corporeal beings as the body of the divinity, published a great extravagance, if he meant that the divine effence..confifted of this assemblage. But there is a very just fense, in which it may be said that the whole universe is the body of the Deity. In effect, as I call this portion of matter ny body, which I move, aet, and direct as I please, lo God actuates : by his will every part of the uni. verse: he obscures the sun, he calms the winds, he commands the sea. But this very notion ex.

cludes all corporiety from God, and proves that God is a spirit. If God sometimes represents himselt with feet, with hands, with eyes, he : means in these portraits, rather to give us emblems of his attributes, than images (properly Speaking) of any parts which he paffelteth. Therefore, when he attributes these to himself, he gives them so vaft an extent, that we easily perceive they are not to be grossly runderstood. Hath he hands ? they are hands which weigb the mountains in scales, and the hills in a batance, which measure tbe waters in the hollow of his band, and mete out the beavens with a span, Ifa. Ix. 12. Hath he eyes ?. they are eyes that penetrate the minst unmeasurable distances. Hath he feet? they are 'feet which reach from heavens to earth, for the heaven is his throne, and the earth is his footstool; ch. Ixvi. 1. Hath he a toice? it is as the sound of many qúaters, break. ing the cec'ars. of Lebanon, making mount Sirior

skip * Mr. S. means, I should suppose, Spinoza ; whose Lystem of atheism, Tays a sensible writer, is more grofs, and therefore lefs dangerous, than others; his poison carrying its antidote with it.


skip like an unicórn, and the binds to calve, Pral. xxix. 33 5, 6, 9.

This reminds me of a beautiful pafiage in Plato. He fays that the gods, particularly the 'chief. god, the ineffable beauty, as he calls him, cannot be conceived of but by the uuderstanding only, and by quitting fenfible objects ; that, in order to contemplate the divinity, terreftrial ideas must be furmounted ; that the eyes cannot fee him ;, that the cars cannot hear him. A. thought which Julian the apostate, a great ad. mirer of that philosopher, so nobly expresses in bis fatire on the Cæsars. Thus everything ferves to establish our first principle, that God is a fpirit.

2. But to prove that God is a spirit, and to prove that lie occupies no place, at least as our imagination conceives, is, in our opinion, to eftablish the same thesis.

I know how difficult it is to make this confe. quence intelligible and clear, not only to thofe who have never been accustomed to meditation, and who are therefore more excusable for having confused ideas; but even to such as, having cul. tivated the sciences, are quoft intent on refining their ideas. I freely acknowledge, that after we have used our utmost efforts to rise above sense and matter, it will be extremely difficult to conceive the existence of a fpirit, without corceiv. ing it in a certain place. Yet, I think, whatever difficulty there may be in the system of those who maintain that an immaterial being cannot be in a place, properly so called, there are greater difficulties still in the opposite opinion : for, what is immaterial hath no parts ; what hath no parts hath no form ; what hath no form hath no extension ; what hath no extension can have no situation in place, properly so called. For what is it to be in place ? is it not to fill space ? is it not to be adjusted with furrounding


« PreviousContinue »