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and even suffered to fall; therefore, I should think, none but an infidel would pretend that the passages brought forward in the above objection, ought to be understood to describe any such regret in the Divine Being, relative to his own counsels and acts, as is incident to beings whose knowledge and power and goodness are all limited. But while we do much to cause regret and make us ashamed of ourselves, we are requir. ed to rejoice in the Lord alway. Phil. iv. 4. 1 Thes. v. 16.
Why are we to rejoice in the Lord alway? Because he is always the same; his plans are all perfectly wise, and his operations irresistible. It is the duty of the children of men, short-sighted as they are, to repose such unwavering confidence in the counsels and works of the Supreme Agent, as to prevent the least interruption of their rejoicing in him; and can it be that he has ever, for a moment, been so distrustful of the wisdom of his own plans, or of his ability to execute them, as to inter. rupt his rejoicing in himself or in the works of his hands !
Having given a sketch of the character of JEHOVAH, as it is exhibited in the scriptures, I proceed in the
II. Place, to show what reason we have to believe that he is the only living and true God.
1. Let it be remembered that this is what he claims. “ Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God. I know not any.” Again, “I am God, and there is none else.” Isa. xliv. 8; and xlv. 22. Jesus Christ, in his intercessory prayer, addresses his Father (who is the same with the God of the scriptures) as the only true God: “ That they might know thee, the only true God.” John xvii. 3. Paul speaks of the God, to whom the Thessalonian converts turned, as the living and true God, in distinction from those gods which they forsook, which he denominates idols. 1. Thes. i. 9. Many have been called gods, and have been worshiped; but I do not know as this broad claim, to be called the only true God, has been made for any except the God of the Bible. Most of the heathen gods, according to their own mythology, are restricted, either as to place or the sphere of their operation. I do not know that any one of them is represented as claiming for himself divine attributes to the exclusion of all others. Their worshipers are never represented as addressing them, as the psalmist addresses the God of the Bible : “ That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth.” If Jupiter was worshiped by some nations as the supreme divinity, he was never considered even by them as the only God.
2. The natural and moral attributes, which the scriptures ascribe to Jehovah, are every way worthy of the true God. We have already seen, that there is no attribute necessary to constitute a being great and good, which is not ascribed to him in an unlimited degree. His duration is eternity, his place ubiquity, his knowledge omniscience, his power omnipotence. These nutnral attributes are described as being wholly directed by moral perfection, by unmixed, yea by infinite holi. ness. And this holiness is branched out into impartial justice, enduring mercy, undeviating faithfulness, and every other trait of character which is necessary to render an intelligent being superlatively amiable, and worthy of love, confidence, and veneration. Among all those
which have been called gods, and worshiped, there is none who has ever had a character attributed to him, which will bear a comparison with the scriptural character of Jehovah. “ To whom, then, will ye liken me, or shall I be equal ? saith the Holy One.”
If the gods of the heathen were equal to the pretensions of their own worshipers, still there would not be one among them all, great and good enough to lay a claim to supreme divivity, so as to be considered as the true God.
3. The God of the scriptures has been known from the foundation of the world. No claims were earlier than his. We read of a new gods that came newly up;” and it is evidently made an objection to the validity of their claims. See Deut. xxxii. 17. According to the heathen mythology, the greater part of their gods were of this sort. They were deified on account of some exploit they had performed; of course, antecedently to this they had no divinity. As these deities came newly up, so there were many of them which soon disappeared, and were known no more. But the God of the scriptures is from everlasting; and from the foundation of the world unto the present day he has been known and worshiped. The same God, who is now worshiped by Christians, was the God of Abraham. And the God of Abraham had been worshiped before the flood by Enoch; and earlier still by Abel and Adam.
4. The very existence of such a book as the Bible is a good proof that Jehovah is the true God. In the same way that the heavens and earth prove their Creator to be the true God, does the Bible prove the supreme deity of its author. No other but the eternal all-sufficient God could give existence to this stupendous creation. Nor can the existence of the Bible be traced to a less perfect source. That a revelation from the Creator to his rational creatures, in this world of ignorance and error, is desirable, no one can reasonably doubt. What can be of more importance than to know the character, will, and designs of him on whom we depend for existence and happiness ? And yet it is true, that on no subject are there a greater number, and more discordant opinions entertained. We manifestly need a divine revelation to be a light to the moral world, as much as we need the sun for a light to the world of nature. And here is a book which claims to be a revelation from that infinite Being who made heaven and earth. We read, and find it exhibits a divine character altogether worthy of the Supreme Being. No other book, claiming to be a revelation from heaven, exhibits such a glorious God, or such a wise and pure system of religious doctrines and precepts. Nor has any thing else had such an effect in exterminating polytheism and the worship of idols; or in counteracting and weakening the reign of sin. Does not the very existence of a book making these interesting disclosures, and producing such salutary effects, prove that the Father of our spirits has been mindful of us, and that the God which is here presented to our view is no other than the creator of the world?
5. Many of those who have worshipped other gods have acknow. ledged the superiority of Jehovah, the God of Israel ; and some of them have acknowledged that he was God alone. Moses testifies concerning the heathen nations, “ For their rock is not as our Rock, even our
enemies themselves being judges." Deut. xxxii. 31. Cyrus, the Persian, was a worshipper of other gods, and yet he says concerning the God of Israel, “He is the God.' Ezra i. 3. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, after he had seen the deliverance of Shadrach, Me. shack and Abed-nego, from the fiery furnace, declared, “ There is no other God that can deliver after this sort." And after he had been restored to his reason and to his kingly throne, he says concerning the God of the Jews, “ He doeth according to his will in the army
of hea. ven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Darius, the Median, made a decree, that in every dominion of his kingdom men should fear before the God of Daniel, (Jehovah was Daniel's God,) and then adds this as the reason for his decree, “ For he is the living God." After Manasseh had for a long time served the gods of the surrounding nations, it is said of him, “ Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.” 2 Chron. xxxiii. 13. None but the worshiper of Jehovah could ever know the object of his worship to be the very God. If deists are right, in distinction from atheists, in believing there is a God, and, in distinction from polytheists, in believing there is but one God, then Christians are right (can there be any doubt of it?) in their belief that it is his character which is presented to them in the scriptures. If there is a living and true God, where, if not here, is he to be found ?
6. An argument in favor of the claims of Jehovah may be derived from the existence, character, and preservation of the people which are called by his name.
If our sinful world is not wholly reprobated, (and there are events of providence which seem to intimate that it is not,) it might reasonably be expected that he, who is the God of the spirits of all flesh, would reserve to himself a people; that he would have some true worshipers, whose character would be more excellent than that of their fellow men, and whose preservation should be the special object of his paternal care. The God of the scriptures has had a people ever since man was placed upon the earth. He had a people before the flood. They were then distinguished from their fellow men by being called “the sons of God.” They survived the destruction of the old world. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were his worshipers, and he owned himself to be their God. In their descendants, this peculiar people was perpetuated until the advent of Christ ; and since that period “the Israel of God” have been chiefly found among the gentiles. The argument in favor of the divine claims of Jehovah, which is derived from the existence of his people on earth, is two-fold -their character, and their preservation.
The character of the Lord's people furnishes one proof that the Lord is God. All have not been the Lord's people who have professed to
Nor do the scriptures represent the most sincere to be without spot. But the saints of the Lord, with all their imperfections, are the excellent of the earth. There have been no other such people as they. While the children of Jacob were his chosen people, there were men among them that displayed an excellence of character altogether superior to their cotemporaries who worshiped other gods. And at the present day, what other worshipers manifest as much piety, integrity, and benevolence, as those who call on the name of the LORD? Some of these were but a few years ago idolaters; and there are many witnesses who testify that a very surprising improvement of their character, in every respect, has been connected with their changing the object of their worship. Now if the worshipers of Jehovah have exhibited a character superior to the worshipers of pagan deities, it furnishes no inconsiderable argument to sustain the claims of the scriptures in favor of his being universally acknowledged as the true God.
Does not the remarkable preservation of this people on the earth, prove that the Lord is God? It would be difficult to prove a perpetuation of the worshipers of Baal, Dagon, Ashtaroth, and many other deities, who once had spacious and crowded temples. But the wor. shipers of Jehovah are still to be found. They have changed their location, but not their religion. They first lived in Asia, then in Europe, and now many of them, are in America. Immediately after the flood, and for a long time afterward, Jehovah was the God of Shem; and now for many centuries has Japheth, according to the prediction of Noah, been enlarged and dwelt in the tents of Shem. Gen. ix. 27. The Lord's people have often drawn on themselves the hand of persecution, from those that are without, and from false brethren within ; and yet they have not been destroyed. Is there any other set of worshipers which has been so evidently the care of Providence? What has already transpired seems to show that
" Israel must live through every age,
And be the Almighty's care."
If the Almighty Maker of the world has a people, which he has formed for himself to show forth his praise, the worshipers of Israel's God are undoubtedly that people ; and if there is any people on earth to which he is, in a special sense, their God, and against which he has determined the gates of hell shall not prevail, here they are to be found. Therefore the existence and preservation of such a peculiar people, serve to prove their God to be the true God.
1. In closing this first and most fundamental Article of theology, we do well to inquire, whether it has our full and firm belief. Do we believe that God is; that his existence is a reality as truly as our own ? If he is possessed of such attributes as have been described, he must have been present all the while I have been presenting, and you have been perusing these communications. We have either approved or disapproved of his character; we have been delighted or displeased with it; and he has witnessed all that has passed in our minds. Since our most secret thoughts are naked to his view, let us not attempt to conceal or disguise them. How foolish is it to practise hypocrisy with a Being who is omniscient; or to think of fleeing out of the hand of omnipotence; or to imagine, that, with a selfish heart and an unholy life, we can please a God of unspotted holiness! 2. How unspeakably valuable is a divine revelation ; since it
acquaints us with JEHOVAH, the only living and true God! What can be more important and desirable, than to be made acquainted with that Being, who has in himself more greatness and moral excellence than all other beings taken together! And it is manifest, that if our apostate world had been left destitute of such a revelation, it would never have obtained the knowledge of the God who made it. Just look at the gods of those nations who remain unenlightened by revealed truth. How evident is it that they are no gods ; that their claim to divine titles and honors is wholly unfounded. Never has a single nation been enlightened on the subject of the being and perfections of God, except by an express revelation of his will. I grant that the book of nature exhibits the God of Israel and not the idols of the heathen, but facts show that unless we have the inspired word, we still remain ignorant of JEHOVAH. Therefore, they who esteem it a privilege to have been made acquainted with him, must greatly prize his word. « He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any
nation.” When the question was put, “What advantage hath the Jew ?" it was answered, “ Much every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” These oracles, once committed to them, are now, with important additions, placed in our hands. “Is he'the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the gentiles ? Yes, of the gentiles also.”
3. In view of the foregoing truth, idolatry appears a sin of no small magnitude. If it is true, that there is one being whose attributes are unlimited, and that all other beings are infinitely inferior to and wholly dependent on him, then the two commands which stand at the head of the decalogue, can not be disregarded without great criminality. “If the LORD be God,” said Elijah, “ follow him ;” which was as much as to say, “ If JEHOVAH be the true God, (as the nation of Israel has professed to believe,) give him his place, and worship none besides him. Let him have no rival, either in your temples or in your hearts.” The idea of a dispute for divine honors between a multitude of claimants, should not for a moment be tolerated. Jehovah claims not only to be supreme, but to be God alone; and declares that all the gods of the nations are idols, mere vanities. Since divine perfections are found in him alone, all attempts to exalt another to his place, must be unreasonable and impious in the extreme. This is the very sin, against which the Lord declared his indignation, when he sent his prophets to say unto his people, “O do not this abominable thing that I hate.” Jer. xliv. 4.
4. They who have been made acquainted with the true God, are under pressing obligations to extend to their fellow men that knowledge which is so important and necessary. How dreadful to be ignorant of him, whose loving kindness is better than life.” Whatever else men know, if they are without the knowledge of God, their case is pitiable indeed. When Paul visited Athens, he found it full of philosophers and learning, but with this he was not at all satisfied, since he also found it full of the worship of demons, accompanied with a total ignorance of the true God. His spirit was so stirred within him, that he could not refrain from making an effort to dispel the thick darkness with which he saw they were covered. The zeal he had for the honor of God, accompanied with a concern for the salvation of dying men, would not suffer him to remain silent.