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Omnipresence is an attribute which both reason and scripture teach us to ascribe to the Deity, and which he repeatedly assumes to himself : “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off ? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him ? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the Lord."*
Whither,” says the Psalmist,“ shall I go from thy spirit ? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there : if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea ; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”+ We are taught to believe that the essence of the Divine Being is diffused over all space—that there is not an atom existing in its boundless extent which he does not fill with his
Were his nature material this could not be, for the following reasons :
1. It is necessary that matter should have some figure, without which we cannot even conceive it to exist, whether we regard it as a whole, and include the aggregate of material substances, or look at the several portions of which that aggregate
Jer. xxiii. 23, 24.
† Ps. cxxxix. 7-12.
consists, and contemplate its parts as having a separate existence. Figure seems essential to the conception of all matter ; but that which has any assignable figure must be circumscribed within a certain outline; there must, then, be some point of space where it terminates, and where vacuity begins, consequently it must be limited. To conceive, therefore, of the Divine Being as material, would be to involve ourselves in absurdity; for matter infinitely extended implies a contradiction, by uniting two opposite and irreconcilable suppositions.
2. If matter were unlimited there would be no possibility of motion : but this is a supposition contrary to fact and experience; for we perceive that motion every where exists. It is obvious that there could be no motion unless there were some space not previously occupied by body. In a perfect plenum, motion would be impossible, because there would be no possibility of conceiving that space
into which the first moving body might pass.
3. If the Divine Being were material, it would be impossible that he should be infinite in his essence, fill all space, penetrate all substances, pervade all minds; because, on that supposition, he would render impossible the co-existence of created beings. We cannot conceive of two portions of matter occupying the same part of space. Were the Deity therefore material, he must exclude from the space he occupies, all other matter; and since he is infinite, that exclusion must be perfect and entire: but this being contrary to physical fact, is certainly contrary to intellectual truth. Whereas God, being a spirit, subsists in a totally different manner from all material substances; his manner of existence being altogether peculiar to himself, and such as we cannot adequately conceive. It follows, however, that any material substance and the Divine Being are capable of being present in the same place, at the same time, without destroying each other's properties and attributes. Such a Being also can be equally present at one and the same moment in innumerable myriads of worlds, and to all parts of the universe
The Infinite Spirit is present with every part of his creation, as intimately as the soul of man is present throughout all the parts of that corporeal substance which it animates and sustains. His essence is diffused over all space. He is intimately present with all his creatures, as intimately as they are to themselves, is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts of all intelligent beings, unites himself with the very constitution of their nature. They exist within the grasp of his omnipotence, within the perpetual comprehension of his presence, within the sphere of his energy, and the light of his countenance. “ In him they live, and move, and have their being.” We frequently speak of God dwelling in the world, by the manifestations of his power and providence; but it may with equal truth be said, that the world dwells in God; all creatures being surrounded by his presence, and enclosed in his essence. We cannot for a moment conceive of such a being as separated from any part of the universe, or point of space: all creatures, spiritual and material, subsist in Him who, maintaining his own separate existence distinct from the external world, exercises absolute universal dominion over all the beings he has formed. This particular property of his nature, this peculiar mode of his existence, renders him capable of being the all-comprehending God, of holding in his own hand all the innumerable creatures he has formed.
IV. Because God is a spirit, and not flesh, he is possessed of infinite wisdom and intelligence.
This seems to be a necessary property of that Being, who, himself unbounded and filling all things, must be present to all his creatures at all times, with the same plenitude of perfection as at the first moment of their creation. We cannot conceive for a moment of any interval betwixt him and them, which might exclude them from his view. They must ever be in immediate contact with him, and the objects of his perpetual vision. He is not obliged to change his place in order to observe and take cognizance of them. This presence of God with his creatures being infinite and eternal, his infinite acquaintance with them seems to be a necessary consequence. He that formed all things does not quit any portion of his vast empire when he retires to “ the high and secret place of his sanctuary:" He needs not to vary his position towards his creatures, in order to obtain a more advantageous situation, or catch the benefit of changing lights, for the purpose of making a more accurate scrutiny of any of them! Every one is as much within his survey at one moment as at another; he is continually present to them, with the same plenitude of power as that which was exerted in their formation out of nothing. Every movement, both of spirit and matter, is performed“ in him," and must therefore be immediately within his notice. It is impossible that any thing should elude or escape the light of his countenance, or that any darkness should cover, from his view, those beings which he has created. Hence he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts of all hearts, and the secret springs of all the actions of his rational intelligent creatures. We are obliged to judge of men's character by their actions ; he judges of their actions by their motives: we can only trace the streams, and by them judge of the fountain whence they proceed; he penetrates the hidden spring and
we form a few conjectures of what is passing in man, by the outward exhibitions of his conduct; he, in consequence of the knowledge he possesses of the very constitution of those beings who have been called into existence by his divine power, detects at once the secret springs of all their actions. — “ Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart.” He qualifies all our actions by immediate attention