Section OneóDefending the Faith
Chapter 3: Divine Attributes of God
Syllabus for Lectures 4 & 5:
1. How much can Reason infer of the Attributes of God, His Eternity? How?
Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 10. Dick, Lecture 17. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect.1, 2, 5. Charnock on Attr. Vol. I, Discourse v.
2. His Unity? How? Turrettin, Qu. 3. Paley, Nat. Theology. Dr. Dick Lecture 18. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 7. Maury, Physical Geography of Sea, p. 71.
3. His Spirituality and simplicity? How? Turrettin, Qu. 7. Dick, Lect. 17. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 8. Rev. Ro. Hall, Sermon I, Vol. 3d. Thornwell, Lecture 6th, pp. 162-166. Lecture 7th, pp. 186, etc.
4. His Immensity and Infinitude? How? Turrettin, Qu. 8 & 9. Dick, Lecture 19. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 6. Charnock, Vol. I, Discourse 7th. Thornwell,
5. His Immutability? Turrettin, Qu. II. Thomwell, Lecture 8, Sect. 5. Dick, Lecture 20th. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 2. Charnock, Vol. i, Discourse 6th.
6. Can Reason infer Godís Omnipotence? How? Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 21. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 10th. Dick, Lecture 23. Charnock, Discourse x.
7. His Omniscience? How? Turrettin, Qu. 12. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 8 and 11. Dick, Lecture al, 22. Charnock, Discourse 8, Sect. 2.
8. His Righteousness? How? Turrettin, Qu. 19. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 12th. Dick, Lecture 25. Chalmersí Nat. Theology, bk iii, ch. 2. Hodgeís Theology, pt. i, ch. 5, Sect. 12.
9. His Goodness? How? Turrettin, Qu. 20. Dr. S. Clarke, as above. Leibnitz, Theodicee Abregee. Chalmersí Nat. Theology, bk. iv, ch. 2. Hodge, pt. i, ch, v, a 13. Charnock, Discourse 12.
10. Does Reason show that man bears Moral Relations to God? What are they? And what the Natural Duties deduced?
Butlerís Analogy, pt. i, ch. 2 to 5. Howeís Living Temple, pt. i, ch. 6th. Dr. S. Clarkeís Discourse. Vol. ii, Prop. 1 to 4 Turrettin, qu. 22.
Traditionary Knowledge Not To Be Separated From Rational, Here.
is exceedingly hard for us to return an exact answer to the question, How much reason can infer of the attributes of God? Shall we say: "So much as the wisest pagans, like Plato, discovered of them"? It still remains doubtful how much unacknowledged aid he may not have received from Hebrew sources. Many think that Plato received much through Pythagoras and his Egyptian and Mesopotamian researches. Or if we seek to find how far our own minds can go on this subject, without drawing upon the Scriptures, we are not sure of the answer; because when results have been given to us, it is much easier to discover the logical tie between them and their premises, than to detect unaided both proofs and results. Euclid having told us that the square of the hypothenuse equals the squares of the two remaining sides of every right angled triangle, it becomes much easier to hunt up a synthetic argument to prove it, than it would have been to detect this great relation by analysis. But when we approach Natural Theology we cannot forget the attributes which the Scriptures ascribe to God.
1. Godís Eternity.
Regarding the Being of Godís existence, some attributes are clear to us. The first and most obvious of these attributes is that He has no beginning, and no end. By Godís eternity divines also intend a third thing: His existence without succession. These three propositions express their definition of His eternity: existence not related to time. For the first: His being never had a beginning: for had there ever been a time when the First Cause was not, nothing could ever have existed. So natural reason indicates that His being will never end, by this, that all pagans and philosophers make their gods immortal. The account of this conclusion seems to be, that it follows from Godís independence, self-existence, and necessary existence. These show that there can be no cause to make Godís being end. The immortality of the First Cause then is certain, unless we ascribe to it the power and wish of self-annihilation. But neither of these is possible. What should ever prompt Godís will to such a volition? His simplicity of substance (to be separately proved anon) does not permit the act; for the only kind of destruction of which the universe has any experience, is by disintegration. The necessity of Godís existence proves it can never end. The ground of His existence, intrinsic in Himself, is such that it cannot but be operative; witness the fact that, had it been, at any moment of the past infinite duration, inoperative, God and the universe would have been, from that moment, forever impossible.
Is It Unsuccessive?
But that Godís existence is without succession, does not seem so clear to natural reason. It is urged by Turrettin that "God is immense. But if His existence were measured by parts of duration, it would not be incommensurable." This is illogical. Do not the schoolmen themselves say, that essentia and esse are not the same? To measure the continuance of Godís esse by successive parts of time, is not to measure His essence thereby. A similar distinction shows the weakness of Turrettinís second argument: "That because simple and immutable, He cannot exist in succession, for the flux of being from past to present and present to future would be change, and even change of composition." I reply it is Godís substance which is simple and immutable; that its subsistence should be a continuance in sucession does not imply a change in substance. Nor is it correct metaphysics to say that a subsistence in succession is compounded, namely of the essence and the successive momenta of time through which it is transmitted. (See here, Kant.)
Nor is Dr Dickís argument even so plausible: That Godís being in a past eternity must be unsuccessive, because an infinite past, composed of successive parts, is impossible; and whatever Godís mode of subsistence was, that it is, and will be. An infinite future made up of a succession of infinitely numerous finite parts is possible, as Dick admits; and so an infinite past thus constituted is equally as possible. Neither is comprehensible to our minds. If Turrettin or Charnock only meant that Godís existence is not a succession marked off by in His essence or states, their reasonings would prove it. But if it is meant that the divine consciousness of its own existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notionthe following: that divines, following that analysis of our idea of our own duration into the succession of our own consciousnesses, (which Locke made so popular in his war against innate ideas,) infer: Since all Godís thoughts and acts are ever equally present with Him, He can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false (see Lecture viii,) and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. Though the creatureís consciousnesses constituted an unsuccessive unit act, as Godís do, it would not prove that the consciousness of the former was unrelated to duration. But 2d. In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although Godís knowledge of these as it is subjective to Himself, is unsuccessive, yet it is doubtless correct, i.e., true to the objective facts. But these have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in Godís thinking. Has He not all the ideas we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time? The thing is too high for us. The attempt to debate it will only produce one of those "antinomies" which emerge, when we strive to comprehend the incomprehensible.
2. Unity of God.
Does reason show the First Cause to be one or plural? If the first cause is single, then why is there such a strong tendency toward ploytheism? This may be explained in part by the craving of the common mind for concrete ideas. We may add the causes stated by Turrettin: That manís sense of weakness and exposure prompts him to lean upon superior strength: That gratitude and admiration persuade him to deify human heroes and benefactors at their deaths: And that the copiousness and variety of Godís agencies have suggested to the incautious a plurality of agents. Hodge (Theol. P. 1, Ch. 3.) seems to regard Pantheism as the chief source of polytheism. He believes that pantheistic conceptions of the universe have been more persistent and prevalent in all ages than any other. "Polytheism has its, origin in nature worship:........and nature worships rests on the assumption that nature is God."
But I am persuaded a more powerful impulse to polytheism arises from the co-action of two natural principles in the absence of a knowledge of God in Christ. One is the sense of weakness and dependence, craving a superior power on whom to lean. The other is the shrinking of conscious guilt from infinite holiness and power. We desire the benefits of knowing God, but shrink from the personal accountability such knowledge implies. The creature needs a God: the sinner fears a God. The expedient "solution" which results is the invention of intermediate and mediating divinities, more able than man to succour, yet less awful than the infinite God. Such is notably the account of the invention of saint worship, in that system of baptized polytheism known as Romanism. And here we see the divine adaptation of Christianity; in that it gives us Christ, very man, our brother: and very God, our Redeemer.
Reason does pronounce God one. But here again, I repudiate weak supports. Argues Turrettin: If there are more than one, all equal, neither is God: if unequal, only the highest is God. This idea of exclusive supremacy is doubtless essential to religious trust; Has it, so far, been shown essential to the conception of a First Cause? Were there two or more independent eternal beings, neither of them would be an infallible object of trust. But has it been proved as yet, that we are entitled to expect such a one? Again, Dr. S. Clarke urges: The First Cause exists necessarily: but (a.) This necessity must operate forever, and everywhere alike, and, (b,) This absolute sameness must make oneness. Does not this savour of Spinozism? Search and see. As to the former proposition: all that we can infer from necessary existence is, that it cannot but be just what it is. What it is, whether singular, dual, plural; that is just the question. As to the 2d proposition, sameness of operation does not necessarily imply oneness of effect. Have two successive nails from the same machine, necessarily numerical identity? Others argue again: We must ascribe to God every conceivable perfection, because, if not, another more perfect might be conceived; and then he would be the God. I reply, yes, if he existed. It is no reasoning to make the capacity of our imaginations the test of the substantive existence of objective things. Again, it is argued more justly, that if we can show that the eternal self-existent Cause must be absolute and infinite in essence, then His exclusive unity follows, for that which is infinite is all-embracing as to that essence. Covering, so to speak, all that kind of being, it leaves no room for anything of its kind coordinate with itself. Just as after defining a universe, we cannot place any creature outside of it: so, if God is infinite, there can be but one. Whether He is infinite we shall inquire.
Argued From Interdependence of All His Effects.
The valid and practical argument, however, for Godís unity is the convergency of design and interdependency of all His works. All dualists, indeed, from Zoroaster to Manes, find their pretexts in the numerous cross-effects in nature, seeming to show cross-purposes: for example, one set of causes produces a fruitful crop: when it is just about to gladden the reaper, it is beaten into the mire by hail, through another set of atmospheric causes. Everywhere poisons are set against food, evil against good, death against life. Are there not two antagonist wills in Nature? Now it is a poor reply, especially to the mind aroused by the vast and solemn question of the origin of evil, or to the heart wrung by irresistible calamity, to say with Paley, that we see similarity of contrivance in all nature. Two hostile kings may wage internecine war, by precisely the same means and appliances. The true answer is, that, question nature as we may, through all her kingdoms, animal, inorganic, celestial, from the minutest disclosures of the microscope, up to the grandest revelations of the telescope, second causes are all inter-dependent; and the designs convergent so far as comprehended, so that each effect depends, more or less directly, on all the others. Reconsider, then, the first instance: The genial showers and suns gave, and the hail destroyed, the grain. But look deeper: They are all parts of one and the same meteorologic system. The same cause exhaled the vapour which made the genial rain and the ruthless hail. Nay, more; the pneumatic currents which precipitated the hail, were constituent parts of a system which, at the same moment, were doing somewhere a work of blessing. Nature is one machine, moved by one mind. Should you see a great mill, at one place delivering its meal to the suffering poor, and at another crushing a sportive child between its iron wheels: it would be hasty to say, "Surely, these must be deeds of opposite agents." For, on searching, you find that there is but one water-wheel, and not a single smaller part which does not inosculate, nearly or remotely, with that. This instance suggests also, that dualism is an inapplicable hypothesis. Is Ormusd stronger than Ahriman? Then he will be victor. Are both equal in power? Then the one would not allow the other to work with his machinery; and the true result, instead of being a mixture of cross-effects, would be a sort of "dead lock" of the wheels of nature.
3. God A Spirit.
We only know substance by its properties; but our reason intuitively compels us to refer the properties known to a subjectum, a substratum of true being, or substantia. We therefore know, first, spiritual substance, as that which is conscious, thinks, feels, and wills; and then material substance, as that which is unconscious, thoughtless, lifeless, inert. To all the latter we are compelled to give some of the attributes of extension; to the former it is impossible to ascribe any of them. Now, therefore, if this first Cause is to be referred to any class of substance known to us, it must be to one of these two. Should it be conceived that there is a third class, unknown to us, to which the first Cause may possibly belong, it would follow, supposing we had been compelled to refer the first Cause to the class of spirits, (as we shall see anon that we must,) that to this third class must also belong all creature spirits as species to a genus. For we know the attributes, those of thought and will, common between God and them; it would be the differentia, which would be unknown. Is the first Cause, then, to be referred to the class, spirits? Yes; because we find it possessed, in the highest possible degree, of every one of the attributes by which we recognize spirit. It thinks; as we know by two signs. It produced us, who think; and there cannot be more in the effect than was in the cause. It has filled the universe with contrivances, the results of thought. It chooses; for this selection of contrivances implies choice. And again, from what source do creatures derive the power of choice, if not from it? It is the first Cause of life; but this is obviously an attribute of spirit, because we find full life nowhere, except we see signs of spirit along with it. The first Cause is the source of force and of motion. But matter shows us, in no form, any power to originate motion. Inertia is its normal condition. We shall find Godís power and presence penetrating and inhabiting all material bodies; but matter has a displacing power, as to all other matter. That which is impenetrable obviously is not ubiquitous.
But may not God be like us, matter and spirit in one person? I answer, No. Because this would be to be organized; but organization can neither be eternal, nor immutable. Again, if He is material, why is it that He is never cognizable to any sense? We know that He is all about us always, yet never visible, audible nor palpable. And last, He would no longer be penetrable to all other matter, nor ubiquitous.
Simplicity of Godís Substance.
Divines are accustomed to assert of the divine substance an absolute simplicity. If by this it is meant that He is uncompounded, that His substance is ineffably homogeneous, that it does not exist by assemblage of atoms, and is not discerptible, it is true. For all this is clear from His true spirituality and eternity. We must conceive of spiritual substance as existing because all the acts, states, and consciousnesses of spirits, demand a simple, uncompounded substance. The same view is probably drawn from His eternity and independence. For the only sort of construction or creation, of which we see anything in our experience, is that made by some aggregation of parts, or composition of substance; and the only kind of death we know is by disintegration. Hence, that which has neither beginning nor end is uncompounded.
But that God is more simple than finite spirits in this, that in Him substance and attribute are one and the same, as they are not in them, I know nothing. The argument is, that as God is immutably what He is, without succession, His essence does not like ours pass from mode to mode of being, and from act to act, but is always all modes, and exerting all acts; His modes and His acts are Himself. Godís thought is God. He is not active, but activity. I reply, that if this means more than is true of a manís soul, viz: that its thought is no entity, save the soul thinking; that its thought, as abstracted from the soul that thinks it, is only an abstraction and not a thing; it is undoubtedly false. For then we should have reached the pantheistic notion, that God has no other being than the infinite series of His own consciousnesses and Nor would we be far off from the other result of this fell theory; that all that is, is God. For he who has identified Godís acts hence with His being, will next identify the effects thereof, the existence of the creatures therewith.
4. God Is Immense.
Infinitude means the absolutely limitless character of Godís essence. Immensity the absolutely limitless being of His substance. His being, as eternal, is in no sense circumscribed by time; as immense, in no wise circumscribed by space. But let us not conceive of this as a repletion of infinite space by diffusion of particles: like, e. g., an elastic gas released in vacuo. The scholastic formula was, "The whole substance, in its whole essence, is simultaneously present in every point of infinite space, yet without multiplication of itself." This is unintelligible; (but so is His immensity) it may assist to exclude the idea of material extension. Godís omnipresence is His similar presence in all the space of the universe.
Now, to me, it is no proof of His immensity to say, the necessity of His nature must operate everywhere, because absolute from all limitation. The inference does not hold. Nor to say that our minds impel us to ascribe all perfection to God; whereas exclusion from any space would be a limitation; for this is not conclusive of existences without us. Nor to say, that God must be everywhere, because His action and knowledge are everywhere, and these are but His essence acting and knowing. Were the latter true, it would only prove Godís omnipresence. But so far as reason apprehends His immensity, it seems to my mind to be a deduction from His omnipresence. The latter we deduce from His simultaneous action and knowledge, everywhere and perpetually, throughout His universe. Now, let us not say that God is nothing else than His acts. Let us not rely on the dogma of the mediaeval physicks: "That substance cannot act save where it is present." But God, being the first Cause, is the source of all force. He is also pure spirit. Now we may admit that the sun (by its attraction of gravitation) may act upon parts of the solar system removed from it by many millions of miles; and that, without resorting to the hypothesis of an elastic ether by which to propagate its impulse. It may be asked: if the sunís action throughout the solar system fails to prove His presence throughout it, how does Godís universal action prove His omnipresence? The answer is in the facts above stated. There is no force originally inherent in matter. The power which is deposited in it, must come from the first Cause, and must work under His perpetual superintendence. His, not theirs, is the recollection, intelligence, and purpose which guide. Now, as we are conscious that our intelligence only acts where it is present, and where it perceives, this view of Providence necessarily impels us to impute omnipresence to this universal cause. For the power of the cause must be where the effect is.
But now, having traced His being up to the extent of the universe, which is to us practically immense, why limit it there? Can the mind avoid the inference that it extends farther? If we stood on the boundary of the universe, and some angel should tell us that this was "the edge of the divine substance," would it not strike us as contradictory? Such a Spirit, already seen to be omnipresent, has no bounding outline. Again, we see God doing and regulating so many things over so vast an area, and with such absolute sovereignty, that we must believe His resources and power are absolute within the universe. But it is practically boundless to us. To succeed always inside of it, God must command such a multitude of relations, that we are practically impelled to the conclusion, that there are no relations, and nothing to be related, outside His universe. But if His power is exclusive of all other, in all infinite space, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that His substance is in all space.
God Is Infinite.
By passing from one to another of Godís attributes, and discovering their boundless character, we shall at last establish the infinitude of His essence or nature. It is an induction from the several parts.
5. By GODíS IMMUTABILITY we mean that He is incapable of change. As to His attributes, His nature, his purposes, He remains the same from eternity to eternity. Creation and other acts of God in time, imply no change in Him; for the purpose to do these acts at that given time was always in Him, just as when He effected them. This attribute follows from His necessary existence; which is such that He cannot be any other than just what He is. It follows from his self-existence and independence; there being none to change Him. It follows from His simplicity: for how can change take place, when there is no composition to be changed? It follows from His perfection; for being infinite, He cannot change for the better; and will not change for the worse. Scarcely any attribute is more clearly manifested to the reason then Godís immutability.
God Is All Powerful.
When we enquire after Godís power we mean here, not his potestas, or exousia, authority, but His potentia or dunamis. When we say: He can do all things, we do not mean that He can suffer, or be changed, or be hurt; for the passive capacity of these things is not power, but weakness or defect. We ascribe to God no passive power. When we say that Godís power is omnipotence, we mean that its object is only the possible, not the absolutely impossible. Here, however, we must again define, that by the absolutely impossible, we do not mean the physically impossible. For we see God do many things above nature, [fusi";] that is above what material, or human, or angelic nature can effect. But we mean the doing of that which implies an inevitable contradiction. Some, such as the Lutherans of the older school, say it is a depreciation of Godís omnipotence, to limit it by the inevitable self-contradiction: [that He is able to confer actual ubiquity on Christís material body.] But we object: Popularly, Godís omnipotence may be defined as His ability to do all things. Now of two incompatibles, both cannot become entities together; for, by the terms of the case, the entity of the one destroys that of the other. But if they are not, and cannot be both things, the power of doing all things does not embrace the doing of incompatibles. But and, more conclusively; if even omnipotence could effect both of two contradictories, then the self-contradictory would become the true; which is impossible for man to believe. Hence, 3d., the assertion would infringe the foundation principle of all truth, the law of non-contradiction, which affirmsthat a thing cannot be one thing, and not another thing, in the same sense, and at the same time..
We may add, 4th, that power is that which produces an effect; and every effect is a change. Therefore the absolutely changeless is not subject to power; whether that power is finite or infinite. Here is an application of my remark, which no reflecting person will dispute: The event which has actually happened at some past time, is, as such, irrevocable. Even omnipotence has no relevancy towards recalling it. So, when a given effect is in place, the contradictory effect is as absolutely precluded from the same time and place. There is no room for change; and therefore, no room for power.
But between these limits, we believe God is omnipotent: That is, His power is absolute as to all being. In proof, note: He obviously has great power; He has enough to produce all the effects in the universe. Cause implies power: He is the universal first Cause. 2d. His power is at least equal to the aggregate of all the forces in the universe, of every kind; because all sprang from Him at first. A mechanic constructs a machine far stronger than himself; it is because he borrows the forces of nature. There was no source from which God could borrow. He must needs produce all those forces of nature Himself; and He sustains them. 3d. God is one, and all the rest is produced by Him; so, since all the forces that exist, except His own, depend on Him, they cannot limit His force. It is absolutely unlimited, save by its own nature. And now, the exhibition of it already made in creation is so vast and varied, embracing (probably) the very existence of matter, and certainly its whole organization, the very existence of finite spirits, and all their attributes, end the government of the whole, that this power is practically to us immense. 4th. We have found God immutable. Whatever He once did, He can do again. He is as able to go on making universes such as this indefinitely, as to make this. 5th. He does not exist by succession; and He is able to make two or more at once, as well as successively. It is hard to conceive how power can be more infinite than this.
Godís Power Immediate.
Once more, Godís power must be conceived of as primarily immediate; i. e., His simple volition is its effectuation; and no means interpose between the will and the effect. Our wills operate on the whole external world through our members; and they, often, through implements, still more external. But God has no members; so that we must conceive of His will as producing its effects on the objects thereof as immediately as our wills do on our bodily members. Moreover the first exertion of Godís power must have been immediate; for at first nothing existed to be means. Godís immutability assures us that the power of so acting is not lost to Him. The attribution of such immediate power to God does not deny that He also acts through "second causes."
2. Wisdom Distinguished From Knowledge.
None who believe in God have ever denied to Him knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is the employment of things known, with judicious reference to proper ends. Now God is Spirit: but to think, to know, to choose are the very powers of spirits. The universe is full of beautiful contrivances. These exhibit knowledge, wisdom, and choice, coextensive with the entirety of the whole.
Godís Knowledge of Two Kinds.
But I had best pause and explain the usual distinctions made in Godís knowledge. His scientia visonis, or Libras, is His knowledge of whatever has existence before His view; that is, of all that is, has been, or is decreed to be. His scientia intelligentiae, or simplex (uncompounded with any volition) is His infinite conception of all the possible, which He does not purpose to effectuate. Others add a scientia media, which they suppose to be His knowledge of contingent effects including chiefly the future free and responsible acts of free agents. They call it mediate, because they suppose God foreknows these acts only inferentially, by means of His knowledge of their characters and circumstances. But Calvinists regard all this as Godís scientia visionis. Let us see whether, in all these directions, Godís knowledge is not without limit.
Proved From Godís Will.
First, I begin from the simple fact that He is spiritual and omnipotent First Cause. All being save His own is the offspring of His will. Grant a God, and the doctrine of a providence is almost self-evident to the reason. This refers not only phenomena of specific creation, but all phenomena, to Godís will. If any thing or event has actuality, it is because He has willed it. But now, can volition be conceived, in a rational spirit, except as conditioned on cognition a priori to itself? 1st, a knowledge is implied in God, a priori to and coextensive with His whole purpose. But because this purpose (that of universal almighty First Cause) includes the whole that has been, is, and shall be; and since volition does not obscure, but fix the cognition which is the object thereof, God has a scientia visionis, embracing all the actual. 2nd. Will implies selection: there must be more in the a priori cognition than is in the volition. Hence Godís scientia simplex or knowledge of the possible, is wider than his scientia visionis. This view will be found to have settled the question between us and Arminians, whether God purposes the acts of free agents because He has foreseen their certain futurition, or whether their futurition is certain because He has purposed them. Look and see.
Knowledge and Wisdom Seen In His Works.
But more popularly; all Godís works reveal marks of His knowledge, thought and wisdom. But these works are so vast, so varied, so full of contrivance, they disclose to us a knowledge practically boundless. His infinite power implies omniscience, for "knowledge is power." Certain success implies full knowledge of means and effects. We saw God is omnipresent; but He is spirit. Therefore, He knows all that is present to Him; for it is the nature of spirit to know. A parallel argument arises from Godís providence; (which reason unavoidably infers.) The ends which are subserved show as much knowledge and wisdom as the structure of the beings usedóso that we see evidence of complete knowledge of all second causes, including reasonable agents and their acts. For so intimate is the connection of cause with cause, that perfect knowledge of the whole alone can certify results from any. Here also we learn, Godís knowledge of past and future is as perfect as of present things; for the completion of far-reaching plans, surely evolved from their remote causes, implies the retention by God of all the past, and the clear anticipation of all the future. Nay, what ground of certain futurition is there, save that God purposes it? His omnipotence here shows that He has a complete foreknowledge; because that which is to be is no other than what He purposes. Godís immutability proves also His perfect knowledge of past, present, and future. Did He discover new things, these might become bases for new purposes, or occasions of new volitions, and God would no longer be the same in will. Godís omniscience is implied also in all His moral attributes; for if He does not perform His acts understandingly, He is not praiseworthy in them. Last, our consciences reveal an intuition of Godís infinite knowledge; for our fears recognize Him as seeing our most secret, as well as our public acts. His unfading knowledge of the past is especially pointed out by conscience; for whenever she remembers, she takes it for granted that God does. Hence we find Godís scientia visionis is a perfect knowledge, past, present, and future, of all beings and all their actions, including those of moral agents.
2. Scientia Simplex Inferred.
How do we infer His knowledge of the possible? A reasonable being must first conceive, in order to produce. He cannot make, save as He first has his own idea, to make by. God then, before He began to make the universe, must have had in His mind a conception, in all its details, of whatever He was to effectuate. Let me, in passing, call your attention to a difference between the human and the divine imagination, which is suggested here. You are all familiar with the assertion of the psychologists, that our imaginations cannot create elements of conception, but only new combinations. The original elements, which this faculty reconstructs into new images, must first be given to the mind from without, through sense-perception. Hence, in human conception, the thing must be before the thought; but in Godís, the thought must have been before the thing, for the obvious reason, that the thing could only come into existence by virtue of Godís conception a priori to any objective perception. It is therefore demonstrable, that the divine mind has this power, which is impossible to the human imagination. Such is the difference between the independent, infinite, and the dependent, finite spirit. But even in this contrast, we see that the imagination is one of manís noblest faculties, and most godlike. But, to return: All that is now in esse, must have been thought by God, while only in posse, and before it existed. How long before? As God changes not, it must have been from eternity. There then was a knowledge of the possible. But was that which is now actual, the only possible before Godís thought? Sovereignty implies selection; and this, two or more things to chose among. And unless God had before Him the ideas of all possible universes, He may not have chosen the one which, had He known more, would have pleased Him best; His power was limited. In conclusion, the infallibility of all Godís knowledge is implied in His power. Ordinarily, he chooses to work only through regular second causes. But causes and effects are so linked that any uncertainty in one jeopardizes all the subsequent. But we see that God is possessed of some way of effectuating all His will. Therefore He infallibly knows all causes; but each effect is in turn a cause.
Godís Knowledge All Primitive.
We must also believe that God knows all things intuitively and not deductively. A deduction is a discovery To discover something implies previous imperfection of knowledge. Godís knowledge, moreover, is not successive as ours is, but simultaneous. Inference implies succession; for conclusion comes after premise.
Godís righteousness, as discoverable by reason, means, generally, His rectitude, and not His distributive justice. Is He a moral being? Is His will regulated by right? Reason answers, yes; by justice, by faithfulness, by goodness, by holiness.
Rectitude of God Proven By Bishop Butler.
First, because this character is manifest in the order of nature which He has established. This argument cannot be better stated than in the method of Bishop Butler. 1. God is Governor over man; as appears from the fact that in a multitude of cases, He rewards our conduct with pleasures and pains. For the order of Nature, whether maintained by Godís present providence, or impressed on it at first only, is Godís doing; its rewards are His rewarding. 2. The character of proper rewards, and especially punishments, appears clearly in these traits. They follow acts, though pleasant in the doing. They sometimes tarry long, and at last fall violently. After men have gone certain lengths, repentance and reform are vain, etc. 3. The reward and penalties of society go to confirm the conclusion, because they are of Godís ordaining. Second; This Godís rule is moral; because the conduct which earns well-being is virtuous; and ill-being, sinful. True remedial processes, such as repentance, reform, have their peculiar pains; but these are chargeable rather to the sin, than the remedy. True again; the wicked sometimes prosper; but natural reason cannot but regard this as an exception, which future awards will right. Further: Society (which is Godís ordinance,) usually rewards virtue and punishes vice. Love of approbation is instinctive; but God hence teaches men most generally to approve the right. And last: How clear the course of Nature makes Godís approval of the right appear, is seen in this; that all virtuous societies tend to self-perpetuation in the long run, and all vicious ones to self-extinction. Third: Life is full of instances of probation, as seed-time for harvest, youth for old age, which indicates that man is placed under a moral probation here.
Godís Rectitude Argued From Conscience.
But a most powerful argument for Godís rectitude is that presented by the existence of conscience in man. Its teachings are universal. Do some deny its intuitive authority, asserting it to be only a result of habit or policy? It is found to be a universal result; and this proves that God has laid in us some intentional foundation for the result. Now, whatever, the differences of moral opinion, the peculiar trait of conscience is that it always enjoins that which seems to the person right. It may be disregarded; but the man must think, if he thinks at all, that in doing so, he has done wrong. The act it condemns may give pleasure; but the wickedness of the act, if felt at all, can only give pain. Conscience is the imperative faculty. Now if God had not conceived the moral distinction, He could not have imprinted it on us. But is His will governed by it? Does he not, from eternity, know extension as an object of thought, an attribute of matter; and sin, as a quality of the rebel creature? Yet He Himself is neither extended, nor evil. The reply is: since God has, from eternity, had the idea of moral distinction, from what source is it derived, save from His own perfection? In what being is it illustrated, if not in Himself? But more, conscience is Godís imperative in the human soul. This is its peculiarity among rational judgments. But since God implanted conscience, its imperative is the direct expression of His will, that man shall act righteously. But when we say, that every known expression of a beingís will is for the right, this is virtually to say that he wills always righteously. The Kingís character is disclosed in the character of his edicts.
Godís truth and faithfulness are evinced by the same arguments; and by these, in addition. The structure of our senses and intelligence, and the adaptation of external nature thereto, are His handiwork. Now, when our senses and understanding are legitimately used, their informations are always found, so far as we have opportunity to test them, correspondent to reality. One sense affirms the correctness of another. Senses confirm reasonings, and vice versa. Last, unless we can postulate truth in God, there is no truth anywhere. For our laws of perception and thought being His imprint, if His truth cannot be relied on, their truth cannot, and universal skepticism is the result.
4. Godís Benevolence.
"The world is full of the goodness of the Lord." I only aim to classify the evidences that God is benevolent. And 1st, generally: since God is the original Cause of all things, all the happiness amidst His works is of His doing; and therefore proves His benevolence. But more definitely; the natures of all orders of sentient beings, if not violated, are constructed, in the main, to secure their appropriate well-being. Instance the insect, the fish, the bird, the ox, the man. 3d. Many things occur in the special providence of God which show Him benevolent; such as providing remedial medicines, etc., for pain, and special interpositions in danger. 4th. God might, compatibly with justice, have satisfied Himself with so adapting external nature to manís senses and mind as to make it minister to his being and intelligence, and secure the true end of his existence, without, in so doing, making it pleasant to his senses. Our food and drink might have nourished us, our senses of sight and hearing might have informed us, without making food sweet, light beautiful, and sounds melodious to us. And yet appetite might have impelled us to use our senses and take our food. Such, in a word, is Godís goodness, that He turns aside to strew incidental enjoyment. The more unessential these are to His main end, the stronger the argument. 5th. God has made all the beneficent emotions, love sympathy, benevolence, forgiveness, delightful in their exercise; and all the malevolent ones, as resentment, envy, revenge, painful to their subjects; hence teaching us that He would have us propagate happiness and diminish pain. Last: Conscience, which is Godís imperative, enjoins benevolence on us as one duty, whenever compatible with others. Benevolence is therefore Godís will; and doubtless, He who wills us to be so, is benevolent Himself.
No Pagan theist ever has doubted Godís providence. You may refer me to the noted case of the Epicureans; they were practical atheists. Their notion that it was derogatory to the blessedness and majesty of the gods to be wearied with terrestrial affairs, betrays in one word a false conception of the divine perfections. Fatigue, confusion, worry, are the result of weakness and limitation. To infinite knowledge and power the fullest activities are infinitely easy, and so, pleasurable. Common sense argues from the perfection of God, that He does uphold and direct all things by His Providence. His wisdom and power enable Him to it. His goodness and justice certainly impel Him to it; for it would be neither benevolent nor just, having brought sentient beings into existence, to neglect their welfare, rights and guilt. Godís wisdom will certainly prosecute those suitable ends for which He made the universe, by superintending it. To have made it without an object; or, having one, to overlook that object wholly after the world was already made, would neither of them argue a wise being. The manifest dependence of the creature confirms the argument.
Existence of Evil. How Explained.
But there stands out the great fact of the existence of much suffering in the universe of God; and reason asks: "If God is almighty, all-wise, sovereign, why, if benevolent, did He admit any suffering in His world? Has He not chosen it because He is pleased with it per se?" It is no answer to say: God makes the suffering the means of good, and so chooses it, not for its own sake, but for its results. If He is omnipotent and all-wise, He could have produced the same quantum of good by other means, leaving out the suffering. Is it replied: No, that the virtues of sympathy, forgiveness, patience, submission, could have had no existence unless suffering existed? I reply that then their absence would have been no blemish or lack in the creatureís character. It is only because there is suffering, that sympathy therewith is valuable. Suppose it be said again: "All physical evil is the just penalty of moral evil," and so necessitated by Godís justice? The great difficulty is only pushed one step farther back. For, while it is true, sin being admitted, punishment ought to follow, the question returns: Why did the Almighty permit sin, unless He be defective in holiness as in benevolence? It is no theodicee to say that God cannot always exclude sin, without infringing free agency; for I prove, despite all Pelagians, from Celestius downwards, that God can do it, by His pledge to render elect angels and men indefectible for ever. Does God then choose sin? This is the mighty question, where a theodicee has been so often attempted in vain. The most plausible theory is that of the optimist; that God saw this actual universe, though involving evil, is on the whole the most beneficent universe, which was possible in the nature of things. For they argue, in support of that proposition: God being infinitely good and wise, cannot will to bring out of posse into esse, a universe which is on the whole, less beneficent than any possible universe. The obvious objections to this Beltistic scheme are two. It assumes without warrant, that the greatest natural good of creation is Godís highest end in creating and governing the universe. We shall see, later in this course, how this assumption discloses itself as a grave error; and in the hands of the followers of Leibnitz and the optimists, vitiates their whole theory of morals and their doctrine of atonement. The other objection is, that it limits the power of God. Being infinite, He could have made a universe including a quantum of happiness equal to that in our universe, and exclusive of our evils.
Optimist Theory Modified.
But there is a more legitimate and defensible hypothesis. It is not competent to us to say that the beneficence of result is, or ought to be, Godís chief ultimate end in creation and providence. It is one of His worthy ends; this is all we should assert. But may we not assume that doubtless there is a set of ends, (no man may presume to say what all the parts of that collective end are,) which God eternally sees to be the properest ends of His creation and providence? I think we safely may. Doubtless those ends are just such as they ought to be, with reference to all Godís perfections; and the proper inference from those perfections is, that He is producing just such a universe, in its structure and management, as will, on the whole, most perfectly subserve that set of ends. In this sense, and no other, I am an optimist. But now, let us make this all-important remark: When the question is raised, whether a God of infinite power can be benevolent in permitting natural, and holy in permitting moral evil, in His universe, the burden of proving the negative rests on the doubter. We who hold the affirmative are entitled to the presumption, because the contrivances of creation and providence are beneficent so far as we comprehend them. Even the physical and moral evils in the universe are obviously so overruled, as to bring good out of evil. (Here is the proper value in the argument, of the instances urged by the optimist: that suffering makes occasion for fortitude and sympathy, etc., etc.; and that even manís apostacy made way for the glories of Redemption.) The conclusion from all these beautiful instances is, that so far as finite minds can follow them, even the evils tend towards the good. Hence, the presumptive probability is in favor of a solution of the mystery, consistent with the infinite perfections of God. To sustain that presumption against the impugner, we have only to make the hypothesis, that for reasons we cannot see, God saw it was not possible to separate the existing evils from that system which, as a whole, satisfied His own properest ends. Now let the skeptic disprove that hypothesis! To do so, he must have omniscience. Do you say, I cannot demonstrate it? Very true; for neither am I omniscient. But I have proved that the reasonable presumption is in favor of the hypothesis; that it may be true, although we cannot explain how it comes to be true.
Manís Duties To God.
IF we admit the existence and moral perfections of God, no one will dispute that man is related to Him in the moral realm. This relation is apparent simply from the fact that man is a moral being who has been constituted by God, manís Creator and providential Ruler. Human accountability to God may also be inferred from the marks of a probation, and the existence of a moral standard appearing in the course of nature. And our moral relation to God is emphatically pronounced by the native supremacy of conscience, commanding us to obey. Rational Deists as well as Natural Theologians have attempted to deduce the duties men owes his Creator. Usually, these duties usually are categorized into four general rules, the first: Reverent and grateful Love, 2. Obedience, 3. Penitence, and 4. Worship. The rule of obedience, is, of course, in natural religion, the law of nature in the conscience.