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And what believer is there at the present day, who can see so large a portion of mankind enveloped in the darkness of paganism as there
still is, and not burn with zeal to go and carry, or (if this be not practicable) to send them the knowledge of that infinite Being, who has hitherto been to them THE UNKNOWN GOD!
CREATION AND PROVIDENCE ARE THE WORKS OF JEHOVAH THE GOD OP THE SCRIPTURES, AND ARE DESIGNED TO PROMOTE HIS GLORY BY
GIVING HIS INFINITE ATTRIBUTES THE MOST PERFECT AND DURABLE
By the work of creation is meant the giving of existence to a dependent universe. The universe, in the largest sense, comprehends all that exists, the Creator as well as his creatures. All besides God is dependent on him, and may therefore be denominated the dependent universe; and his giving it existence is the work of creation. The act of creating, in the most appropriate sense, implies the origination of existence, or making something to exist where before there was nothing. But, in the language of the scriptures, it includes the giving of form and a regular disposition to the original materials. These were produced at once on the first day of time ;. but the work of creation was protracted to the end of the sixth day, when the heavens and earth were finished and all the host of them. Gen. ii. 1, 2.
The work of providence begins where that of creation ends. The creation is not made, and then abandoned ; but is provided for by Him from whom it received its existence. The work of providence com. prehends all which God does for the created universe, in upholding, directing, and controlling it. In the most extensive sense, it includes the establishment of moral government over rational creatures, and the provision of a Savior, together with the means of grace, for this revolted world. All the events which have transpired since the first six days, are parts of the system of providence ; just as all the things which came into being during those days were parts of creation. And the work of providence will go on, down to the end of the world, and thence through the endless ages of eternity.
This Article divides itself into two branches. The first asserts creation and providence to be the works of Jehovah ; and the second, that these works are designed to make the best and most durable display of his infinite attributes.
I. It is important to ascertain who that being is, to whom these stupendous works are to be attributed. Is it said, they are to be attributed to God; I ask, to what God ? to the God of the Hindoo; or to the
God of the Mussulman; or to the God of the Christian? It is impor. tant we should know which, among all those for whom divine honors are claimed, is the Creator and Preserver of men. That it is Jehovah, the Christian's God, I think, can be no less certain than the existence of a divine Being. Some of my reasons for thinking so, I will now state :
1. The God of the Christian is fully adequate to the performance of these mighty works. By which I mean to say, if there is a Being possessed of such unlimited attributes, as the scriptures ascribe to him whom they call the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he must be fully able to originate and manage the whole creation, including spirits, as well as material existences. An eternal, infinitely intelligent, omnipresent, almighty Being, must be able to contrive and execute a system of creation and providence of ever so wide an extent. Το adapt every thing in the works of creation and providence to a good end, needs not only an infinite understanding, but also a benevolent disposition ; and this the scriptures attribute, in an unmeasurable degree, to that. God whose claims they support.
2. These works are expressly ascribed to Jehovah. Creation is declared to be his work. The first verse in the Bible tells us “ God created the heaven and the earth.” And let it be remembered that the Bible acknowledges no God except Jehovah : For who is God save the Lord ? (Jehovah.] Ps. xviii. 31. When the apostle made the declaration, "He that built all things is God," he undoubtedly meant to give us definite information concerning the builder of the universe. And what other being, except him whom the scriptures declare to be “ God alone,” could he have intended ? The God of the scriptures is also declared to be the God of providence. He is said to uphold all
. things by the word of his power; to work all things after the counsel of his will ; to preserve man and beast ; and to have his tender mercies over all his works. Heb. i. 3. Eph. i. 11. Ps. xxxvi. 6; cxlv. 9.
3. The claim which the scriptures make in favor of Jehovah as the God of creation and providence, is not merely asserted, but well supported. “I know,” said one of his ancient worshipers, “ that our LORD [our Jehovah) is above all gods.” He then informs us how he knew it: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven and earth, in the seas and all deep places.” Ps. cxxxv. 5, 6. By mana. ging the world at his pleasure, he shows it to be his own. When he slopped the sun in its course, he showed that it was he who made the sun and directed its course. When he opened a path through the sea, he gave a striking proof that the sea was his, and that he made it. Ps. xcv. 5. The God of the scriptures has, in very many instances, given notice beforehand what he was about to do; and he has invariably fulfilled with his hand what he had spoken with his mouth. This is a clear proof that the future, as well as the present, is under his inspection, and that all events are under his control.
4. His claim to the work of creation and providence has not been set aside by any rival. Had his claim been unfounded, why has not the real author of these works come forward to put it down ? The God of Israel declares himself to be the sole Creator of the world. Take the following passage as a specimen : “ I am the Lord that maketh all
things ; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone ; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.” Isa. xliv. 24. And conce
ncerning the work of providence, he says: “ I will work, and who shall let it?” Isa. xliii. 13. The claims which are made in behalf of pagan deities by their worshipers, he takes notice of, and shows them to be groundless. He shows that they had not declared the end from the beginning ; that they had not first told what they would do, and then brought it to pass. He challenges them to do good or to do evil against the counsels of his will. Isa. xli. 21–23. Now if Jehovah had been a false God, why has not the true God, the Creator and Governor of the world, come forward with a counter claim, and established it; as he must, in that case, have been fully able to do? Should any account for this neglect by saying, “Though he is able to vindicate his rights, he feels himself above entering into a contest with the rival who has usurped his prerogatives,” such an answer is wholly unsatisfactory ; since it would suppose him to have created the world in vain, having no proper end to be accomplished" by it. It would make him resemble the slothful man, whom Solomon describes, as not roasting that which he took in hunting; as not finishing the work he begins, but as losing, through an unconquerable indolence, all the benefit of the labor which he had already expended. Prov. xii. 27.
The UNKNOWN GOD, to whom the Athenians had an altar inscribed, and whom they ignorantly worshiped, is so fully declared to us in the Christian scriptures, and shown to be that God who made the world and all things therein, that we should suppose all who believe in any God, and in one only, would believe in Him. We should think all would exclaim, with the Israelites on mount Carmel, “ Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God."*
II. It being ascertained that Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is the Author of creation and providence, we are now naturally led to inquire, ·
* But why, some will say, is not this the most liberal sentiment; to consider all as intending to worship the same God, though they call the object of their worship by different naines? Why may we not therefore say,
Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord ? " It is evident, that the God of the scriptures acknowledges no fellowship with the gods worshiped by the beathen. There is none of the conduct of the children of men
which is more pointedly reprobated than their worship of idols. Ex. xx. 3—6. Jer. x.8; xliv. 3, 4. Acts xiv. 15.
But if the God of the Christian and the God of the pagan idolater be different beings, may not the Christian's and the Mahometan's God be the same? By no means. Their characters differ essentially. The God of the Bible, in distinction from the God of the Koran, exists in a trinity of persons ; he gives us a law which requires real holiness ; be saves the transgressors of it not by their own righteousness, but through that of a Mediator, and by means of a renovation of their depraved natures, effected by his own Spirit. And the heaven of the Bible differs from the paradise of the Koran, as much as the temple of God differs from that of idols, -as much as holiness differs from sin.
The God of the Christian is also an entirely different being from the God of the deist. If it were not so, a man might be a deist and a Christian at the same time. But this can not be. If the Christian becomes a deist, (i. e. adopts the principles of deism,) he ceases to be a Christian. And when the other embraces the principles of the Chris. tian religion, he puts his trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and henceforward has no more confidence in the God of deists, than he has in the gods of the Hindoor,
What is the object which these works are designed to promote? They are clearly designed to promote the glory of their divine Author, by giving his infinite attributes the most perfect and durable display. That this matter may be made intelligible to every mind, I shall begin by showing,
1st. What is meant by the glory of God, when it is considered as an object of pursuit. The glory of God is internal or external, essential or declarative. The internal glory of God is that which is seen by himself, without needing any works to make it better known; and is no less essential to him than his existence. His internal and essential glory can in no way be augmented. It is a fullness of natural and moral perfection which is absolutely unlimited. When we are said to glorify God, or he is said to glorify himself, it never has reference to his essential, but only to his declarative glory. This supposes the previous existence of that ; since nothing can be declared or manifested which does not already exist. It is impossible that the declarative should exceed the essential glory, or even equal it, though its approxi. mation towards it may go on without end. Before the creation, though God had the same internal fullness he has now, he had no declarative glory at all : por would the declaration of his glory have properly commenced till the sixth day of creation, had there not been some other world besides this ; for a declaration or manifestation of his glory must imply the existence of rational beings to whom it can be made. If angels were created the first of the six days, (according to the supposition of President Edwards, they witnessed the progressive work of creation. Job xxxviii. 7. The display of divine glory increased every day of creation, and has been increasing every day since ; while the internal fullness has ever been the same. « The heavens declare the glory of God : ” they do not originate it. His sending his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him, manifested his love towards us, but did not give it existence. 1 John iv. 9. To declare and manifest his perfections, is all which is accomplished in his most stupendous works, both in the kingdoms of nature and of grace. So when creatures are spoken of as glorifying God, and giving him glory, it is not meant that they increase the divine fullness; but his declarative glory may be as really promoted and increased by them, as by himself.
2dly. Having shown what is meant by the glory of God, considered as the end of actions, I am now prepared to show, that the scriptures represent him as making this his chief end in all that he does. They represent this as the end for which he made and manages all things : “The Lord hath made all things for himself.” “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." 6 The heavens declare the glory of God.” “ All thy works shall praise thee.” Prov. xvi. 4. Rev. iv. 11. Ps. xix. 1 ; cxlv. 10. These quotations are sufficient to establish the point, that all things were first created, and are now preserved and managed for the same great end, namely, to please their Creator; that the heavens and all the other works of his hands were designed to declare his glory, and lay a foundation for his praise.
The Creator does not need the works of his hands for his own use, in the same sense that we need them. He does not need the sun to give himself light; for the darkness and the light are both alike to him. He does not need the air to breathe in ; for he is a spirit. He needs no food to eat, nor raiment to put on, nor the solid ground on which to tread. And yet it is true that he hath made the sun, the atmosphere, the solid ground, and all things else, for himself: For himself they were made, because they declare his glorious perfections and gratify his benevolent heart. Were he not his own ultimate end, what could be the meaning of expressions like these : “ For my own sake will I do it ; " " For my name's sake ; “For my glory ;” « That I may be glorified ?” Isa. xlviii. 11. Ez. xx. 9. Isa. xliii. 7; lx. 21. Do not these, and similar expressions, imply that in all which God brings to pass, he has a supreme regard to his own glory? If the works of creation and providence did not display the all-sufficiency, the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, they would, in no sense, answer their desired end. I proceed to show,
3dly. That this display of divine glory is perfect, the best it possibly could be. God could not have been honored, nor his creatures bene. fited, by his making them acquainted with his existence, if he had not also favored them with a display of his wonderful and amiable attributes. To suppose that he should by his works make an absolutely bad display of himself
, would be so derogatory either to his greatness or goodness, or to both, that none of those who have any respect for his character pretend to indulge the supposition. Yet among those who declare their full conviction, that the works of creation and prov. idence furnish us with a glorious exhibition of their divine Author, some are found who entertain doubts, whether that exhibition is abso. lutely the best which could have been made. To say, it is the best, appears to them as if it implied some limitation of the infinite God. But how do we limit him, by saying, it was not possible he should act at all
, without acting in the very wisest manner, any more than by saying, he could not do that which was absolutely unwise? If a man, who is reputed for wisdom, were to act unwisely, he would injure his reputation as a man of wisdom ; and how would it be possible that our respect for the only wise God, should remain undiminished, were we to believe his scheme of creation and providence to be less perfect than it might have been ? It could certainly be no more difficult for him to devise the best plan, than one which was less good ; and since he is omnipotent, it must be equally easy for him to give it existence : and surely to his benevolent heart the best plan must be more pleasing than one less good; just as a good plan must be more pleasing than one absolutely bad.
Thus, from the moral perfection and all-sufficiency of the divine Workman, we should naturally infer the perfection of his works. Let us now look into the scriptures and see what they have said on this point ; for it is safer to trust in their decisions than in our own reasonings. “As for God,” says David, “his way is perfect; "and Moses, “his work is perfect.” God's way is the course he pursues, particularly in his providence ; his work is all which he does, comprising creation and providence. What is intended by perfection, when applied to