« FöregåendeFortsätt »
The Supreme Being perfectly knows what must result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely small; and he perfectly knows what must result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely great. What treasures of plans! What myriads of designs ! or, to use the language of my text, What greatness of counsel must this knowledge supply!
But God knows spirits also as perfectly as he knows bodies. If he knows all that must result from the various arrangements of matter, he also knows all that must result from the different modifications of mind. Let us pursue the same method in this article that we have pursued in the former; let us proceed from small things to great ones. One of the greatest advantages, that a man can acquire over other men with whom he is connected, is a knowledge of their different capacities, the various passions that govern them, and the multiform projects that run in their minds. This kind of knowledge forms profound politicians, and elevates them above the rest of mankind. The same observation, that we have made of the superiority of one politician over another politician, we may apply to one citizen compared with another citizen. The interest, which we have in discovering the designs of our neighbors in a city, a house, or a family, is in the little, what policy among princes and potentates is in the great world.
But, as I just now said of the material world, that we knew only one point, which was placed between two undiscoverable infinities, an infinitely great, and an infinitely small, so I say of the world of spirits : an infinite number of spirits exist, which, in regard to us, are some of them infinitely minute, and others infinitely grand. We are ignorant of the manner of their existence; we hardly
know whether they do exist. We are incapable of determining whether they have any influence over our happiness; or, if they have, in what their influence consists : so that in this respect we are absolutely incapable of counsel.
But God, the Supreme Being, knows the intelligent world as perfectly as he knows the material world. Human spirits, of which we have but an imperfect knowledge, are thoroughly known to him. He knows the conceptions of our minds, the passions of our hearts, all our purposes, and all our powers. The conceptions of our minds are occasioned by the agitation of our brains ; God knows when the brain will be agitated, and when it will be at rest, and before it is agitated he knows what determinations will be produced by its motion : Consequently he knows all the conceptions of our minds. Our passions are excited by the presence of certain objects; God knows when those objects will be present, and consequently he knows whether we shall be moved with desire or aversion, hatred or love. When our passions are excited, we form certain purposes to gratify them, and these purposes will either be effected or defeated according to that degree of natural or civil power which God hath given us. God, who gave us our degree of power, knows how far it can go; and consequently, he knows not only what purposes we form, but what power we have to execute them.
But what is this object of the divine knowledge ? What is this handful of mankind, in comparison of all the other spirits that compose the whole intelligent world, of which we are only an inconsiderable part? God knows them as he knows us; and he diversifies the counsels of his own wisdom according to the different thoughts, deliberations, and wishes of these different spirits. What a depth of knowledge, my brethren! What greatness of counsel ! Ah, Lord God, behold thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched-out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. The great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts is thy name, thou art great in counsel.
We have proved then, by considering the divine perfections, that God is great in counsel, and we shall endeavor to prove by the same method that he is mighty in work.
These two, wisdom and power, are not always united ; yet it is on their union that the happiness of intelligent beings depends. It would be often better to be quite destitute of both, than to possess one in a very great, and the other in a very small degree. Wisdom very often serves only to render him miserable, who is destitute of power: as power often becomes a source of misery to him, who is destitute of wisdom.
Have you never observed, my brethren, that people of the finest and most enlarged geniusses have often the least success of any people in the world? This may appear at first sight very unaccountable, but a little attention will explain the mystery. A narrow contracted mind usually concentres itself in one single object: it wholly employs itself in forming projects of happiness proportional to its own capacity, and, as its capacity is extremely shallow, it easily meets with the means of executing them. But this is not the case with a man of superior genius, whose fruitful fancy formś notions of happiness grand and sublime. He invents noble plans, involuntarily gives himself up to his own chimeras, and derives a pleasure from these ingenious shadows, which, for a few moments, compensates for their want of substance: but, when his reverie is over, he finds real beings inferior to ideal ones, and thus his genius serves to make him miserable. A man is much to be pitied, in my opinion, when the penetration of his mind, and the fruitfulness of his invention, furnish him with ideas of a delightful society cemented by a faithful, solid and delicate friendship. Recal him to this world, above which his imagination had just now raised him ; consider him among men who know nothing of friendship but its name, or who have at best, only a superficial knowledge of it, and you will be convinced that the art of inventing is often the art of self-tormenting, or, as I said before, that greatness of counsels destitute of abundance of power is a source of infelicity.
It is just the same with abundance of power without greatness of counsels. What doth it avail to possess great riches, to reign over a great people, to command formidable fleets and armies, when this power is not accompanied with wisdom.
In God, the Supreme Being, there is a perfect harmony of wisdom and power : The efficiency of his will, and the extent of his knowledge are equal. But, I own, I am afraid, were I to pursue my meditation, and to attempt to establish this proposition by proofs taken from the divine nature, that I should lose, if not myself, at least one part
my hearers, by aiming to conduct them into a world, with which they are entirely unacquainted. However, I must say, it is with reluctance I make this sacrifice, for I suppress speculations, which would afford no small degree of pleasure to such as could pursue them. It is delightful to elevate our souls by meditating on the grandeurs of God; and although God dwelleth in a light which no man can approach unto, 1 Tim. vi. 16. although it is impossible for feeble mortals to have a free access to him; yet it is pleasing to endeavor to diminish the distance that separates them. I cannot but think, that, without presuming too much
upon natural reason, any one who habituates hím-self to consult it, may assure himself of finding sufficient evidence of this truth, that the efficiency of God's will is equal to the extensiveness of his ideas, and, by close and necessary consequence, that he is. as mighty in work as he is great in counsel.
Carry your thoughts back into those periods in which the perfect Being existed alone. Sound reason must allow, he hath so existed. What could then have been the rule or model of beings which should in future exist? The ideas of God were those models. And what could cause those beings, that had only an ideal existence in the intelligence of God, actually to exist out of it? The efficiency of his will was the cause. The will of the same Being then, whose ideas have been the exemplars, or models, of the attributes of creatures, caused their existence. The Supreme Being therefore, who is great in counsel, is mighty in work.
This being granted, consider now the ocean of God's power, as you have already considered the greatness of his counsel. God not only knows what motion of your brain will excite such or such an idea in your mind, but he excites or prevents that idea as he pleaseth, because he produceth or preventeth that motion of your brain as he pleaseth. God not only knows what objects will excite cere? tain passions within you, but he excites or diverts those passions as he pleaseth. God not only knows what projects your passions will produce, when they have gained an ascendancy over you, but he inclines you to form, or not to form, such projects, because, as it seems best to him, he excites those passions, or he curbs them.
What we affirm of men, we affirm also of all other intelligent beings: they are no less the objects of the knowledge of God than men are, and