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tremble at the apprehension of what it will not confess, or slenderly believes.”
“ There is an inward feeling and sense of God implanted in every soul, and all without us confirms it. Whatever a man can behold above him, about him, beneath him, the most mean and inconsiderable creatures are pearls and transparent stones, that cast abroad the rays of that glorious brightness which shines on them; as if a man were inclosed in a city, built all of precious stones, that in the sun-shine all and every parcel of it, the streets, the houses, the roofs, the windows*, all of it, reflected into his eyes those sun-beams in such a manner, as if all had been one mirror.”
The being of God may, therefore, be laid down as a fact generally acknowledged by all sober men. But what his being consists in, or what his attributes are, is the question; and surely, if it had been a proper one for man to ask, Moses would have been resolved therein. He was going, in the authority of the Lord, to persuade a great king to let 600,000 of his subjects go, and was to persuade these subjects, to follow whither he, at the Lord's command, should lead them. Well then might he say within himself, “ Who am I to speak such a thing to a king? Who am I to lead out such a mighty people? Peradventure, when I mention to them the God of their fathers, and say he
* There is a peculiar beauty in the repetition of the words “ all, and all of it" here, which shews how full the author was of his subject, and desirous to amplify and use all the force of language and figures, in order, if possible, to make his simile and images reach it.
hath sent me, they will not believe me, or they will ask me, what is his name? Or how shall we distinguish him from other Gods, and the idols of the nations? What shall I say, in that case?”
The Lord answered, I AM THAT I AM*.-Should I declare my essence to them it would be incomprehensible! It is a secret! It is wonderful, and beyond the reach of human capacity! Tell them the great Omnipotent first Being, the Father and Maker of all, hath sent thee; whose perfections are unfathomable, and whose existence has been from eternity, the same to day, yesterday and for ever! I AM THAT I AM hath sent thee. Tell them that I am inscrutable to all but myself, and derive my existence from none besides. This short, though mysterious, answer will teach them more than all human eloquence could do. It will teach them to ask no more, but to rest satisfied, and wonder and adore and obey!
From this answer, given by the Almighty himself, it would appear that he never intended the human race should throw away time, in metaphysical researches into his unsearchable essence. To know that he is, and is a rewarder of all that diligently seek him, is the sum total of what we are now concerned to know. To be convinced that he is self-existent, over all, and possessed of every endearing quality, without limitation and in full assemblage, is enough for speculation. The rest should be all practice; namely faith in his promises, hope in their accomplishment, charity and good will to his creatures, resignation to
• Exod. chap. 3.
his government, and a patient continuance in well doing, looking forward to the consummation of our earthly pilgrimage, when we shall be taken into his beatific presence to know, and to see, and to love more abundantly.
Nevertheless, though we are to check vain curiosity, yet such a knowledge and belief as I have mentioned above, are absolutely necessary to our felicity here.
There is implanted in the soul of man, a natural affectation of whatever is great, marvellous, and new.
Who would stoop to survey a little brook that murmurs at his feet, when the mighty ocean lies expanded to the sight? Who would gaze upon the feeble rays of a common star, when a comet, or some strange phenomenon, blazes through the vault of night? The contemplation of things great, wonderful and new, as it delights and fills the soul with uncommon elevation, so it teaches us to believe that if there is an object capable of delighting us forever, he must have these qualities. He must be all perfection. He must be such, that if we should contemplate and adore him for ever, the great, the wonderful and the new would never be exhausted, nor suffer diminution in him!
Now this active energy was undoubtedly stamped on our minds, to raise us above the objects of sense, nor suffer us to rest beneath our native love. From Heaven the soul descended, and thither must return, before she can find an object fully commensurate to her more generous affections! Else, wherefore burns within us this constant hankering after something
THE reader will easily see, that the HERMIT's labours ter minate abruptly in his foregoing No. VIII. when he was just opening himself for their continuation, in subsequent numbers, to treat, as occasion might offer, “ on the Being and Attributes “ of God, and the most useful topics of true, practical, and “ evangelical religion;" which God has been since pleased to spare him to handle more at large, and prepare for the public, in the volumes now in the press.
With the HERMIT's labours, the publication of the AMERICAN MAGAZIN F, the vehicle of their conveyance, ceased also. The cause of this was some very arbitrary proceedings of the Assembly, or Legislature of Pennsylvania, of that day; which necessitated the author to undertake a voyage to Great-Britain, of which an account will be given, in a volume of his works, more immediately connected, than the present, with civil and political concerns.
His associates, therefore, in carrying on the MAGAZINE, (most of whom were among his ingenious young Pupils, whose talents he wished to encourage and cultivate, both in sentiment and composition) declined the weight of continuing the work, in his absence, or without his aid and direction.
Some idea of the HERMIT's political principles, may be formed, from his No. III, above; containing “ advice to the authors of the Magazine ; not very acceptable to some of the little tyrants of that day; and which foreboded opposition, and destruction, if possible to the work.—But I forbear further remarks for the present.
A PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATION,
SUPREME BEING. *
O ETERNAL Source of Life, Light and Love; that permittest thy reasonable creatures to open their souls to Thy divine influence by Prayer! compose my thoughts, raise
affections, and grant that I may approach Thy awful Presence, with an humble sense of my own indigence, and with worthy
* This piece was one of the earliest of the author's compositions. It was written for the use of young Students in Philosophy, and published, in London, 1754, at the end of a book of Ethics, and on the plan of the same. The Ethics were written by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson the Father, first President of the college of New-York.
Hence this Composition consists of the same parts with the treatise on Ethics itself, viz.
First, Speculative and Religious Truths relating to God, which make the Address and Acknowledgment of Him; and Truths relating to ourselves, which make the Confession.
Secondly, The Practical duties that result from these Truths, which are Moral, Divine and Social. Petitions for Grace discharge these aright make the Petitory parts. VOL. I.