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tirely broken off between the spiritual and material parts of man, and even the constituent parts of the body ceasing to adhere to each other, and the particles of which it was composed incorporating with other, particles of matter, it becomes a question of the most serious importance, whether this body shall rise again or not?
To inquire into this fundamental article of our belief f;-- to know what evidence we have in favour of this doctrine: ; --what the nature of that evidence ought to be, which we mightraționally expect on such a subject ; how far difficulties should be permitted to operate against conviction, and to lay an embargo on belief ; - to know whether Revelation is our exclusive guide, or whether God has furnished us with strong intimations of a future resurrection from other sources to know what these sources are, : whence we derive our evidence, and how far the proofs may be deemed conclusive which may be adduced in favour of this important point, --are questions which I propose to discuss in the following sheets, and which will occasionally become the subjects of investigation.
As we adınit that man must have had a beginning, and as his material part is the subject of our present inquiry, it is necessary that, we first turn our thoughts to his original state, It is in that state alone that we can view him detached from these extraneous circumstances which now involve the evidences which I am about to examine ; and which lie scattered over that pathless desert which I shall attempt to explore. In order that the mind
detached from its local views and partial perceptions of man, we must take a survey of creation, since we can only infer his primary state, and the real nature of his original condition, from the relation in which he then stood to his Maker. And therefore to those attributes of God, which we conspicuously discern in all his conduct and actions towards his creatures, and particularly in that which applies to man, we must necessarily appeal.
That the human body cannot have been eternal, is a truth which will admit of no doubt, and can require no proof; it must therefore owe its origin to a superior cause, and that cause must be God.
That God, from his nature and attributes, must poffess all possible perfection, it will be needless to prove, because it is a truth which it is useless to deny. . And if all possible perfections are possessed by him, immutability must be included among the essential attributes of his nature. ?
Without entering into any formal proof of this truth I shall assume it as an admitted point, because those by whom it is denied, are under the necessity of undeifying his nature, and ultimately denying his existence. The existence of God is a
ground-work which I presume no intelligent mind will hesitate to grant me, and from those who refuse me this point, I shall take the liberty to appeal,
If then, the existence of the divine nature be admitted, the existence of all possible perfections are inseparable from the divine essence; and, in conjunction with each other, they are truths which must stand or fall together. To admit the divine nature, is to admit the divine attributes; and to admit the divine attributes is to admit the divine perfections; and the instant we attempt to separate them, we involve ourselves in palpable contradictions.
Taking therefore the infinite perfections of God as an admitted point, I contend, that these perfections must include immutability as an essential property of his nature.
For could we imagine that God possesses all possible perfections, and yet suppose immutability not to be included in the list of these perfections, we must suppose him capable of changes which are incompatible with those attributes and perfections which we ascribe to him. A being who sees reason to counteract to-day, what was accomplished yesterday, must be wiser now than he was then. And the action of to-day, plainly tells ụs that the action of yesterday 'must haye been erroneous, though it then appeared right and just. But if the knowledge of the eternal God, be greater now than it was then, it is a certain fact that his knowledge was not perfect yesterday, and it is highly probable that it is yet in a state of imperfection. A knowledge which can admit of in
crease in any stage of progression, cannot in those stages be perfect; and consequently cannot be infinite; and that which is not infinite can neither apply to God, nor belong to his nature. But as God must be infinite in all his perfections, and as perfect knowledge must be included in those perfections, no increase or diminution of his knowledge can possibly be admitted.
And therefore, perfectly acquainted as he must be with past, present, and future, with all contingencies, and all possible circumstances, no changes can take place in him, his immutability therefore necessarily arises from the nature of his other perfections, and the nature of his existence.
That apparent changes, are however perfectly consistent with absolute immutability, must be admitted, because apparent changes are perfectly consistent with God. Immutability may seem to change in its actions towards changeable creatures, while in itself it remains perfect, unaltered and entire.
We are furnished with evidence on this point from our constant observations of the heavenly bodies ; since we behold in them an apparent and a relative change through every succeeding day. But the stations which the fixed stars hold in the regions of space, are permanent and immutable, notwithstanding the perpetual revolutions which they seem to undergo. And were the orb which we inhabit as fixed as they, all would appear as they really are ; and the various revolutions which describe our days, our months, and years, we should then inquire after in vain.
The changes which we perceive, reside not in them but in us. The stars are fixed, while the earth is perpetually revolving; and it is the inaccuracy of popular observations which induces. us to transfer the changes we perceive from ourselves to them, and to charge upon the fixed stars, that change of place which belongs to the globe which we inhabit, and which in them has no existence. In like manner, it is perhaps not impious to transfer the analogy, to the immutability of God, and the mutability of ourselves, we can then with safety assert eternal providence, and justify the ways of God to man.”
That there is in God an immutable hatred to vice must be unquestionable, vice being the reverse of his nature; and that there must be in him an immutable attachment to holiness, it being congenial to his essence, must be admitted on the same ground. And as God is thus immutable in himself, so long as his rational creatures hold their respective stations, in which his goodness had previously placed them, so long are his perfections bound to protect them from every evil; and consequently to preserve them from dissolution and decay. But when his creatures change their stations through the mutability of their natures, they change their relation to God; and a change in their condition must be the necessary result of their departure from him.