Let us now more particularly consider this IV. perfection of the Deity, which in our Sa

viour's judgment is a most necessary point of belief; for he taught it to a very ignorant perfon, and lays it as the foundation of the most perfect and acceptable worship thus describ'd, worship in spirit and truth. 'Tis principally with this view we should apply our minds to the confideration of the Divine Attributes. All men who believe the Being of God, agree in acknowledging he is to be worshipped. Nature teaches us benevolence to an intelligent

Being, reverence and submission to a superior, and gratitude to a benefactor. But if there is a God, he is the most perfect Intelligence, the supreme Lord, as being the independent Cause of things, and to him we owe our existence, all our powers, and all our happiness. Therefore to him our best affections are unquestionably due, with the most proper and reasonable expressions of them. Besides, his unlimited dominion over us makes it our highest interest to please him as far as possibly we can, and obtain his approbation. These confiderations show that nothing can concern us more than to understand the true character of the Supreme Being. Their ignorance of him involv'd multitudes of mankind in fuperftition, which was reproachful


to their rational nature, and in consequence of SERM. that, in most scandalous and destructive vices. IV. Becoming vainintheir imaginations concerning the divine perfections, their foolish hearts were darkened, and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into images made like corruptible things; in pursuance of which they were abandon’d to vile affections, to a reprobate mind*, and to unnatural wickedness. It is true, that errors concerning the moral attributes of God, have the most immediate ill influence on the tempers and manners of men, because he being first suppos’d to be an object of the highest esteem and veneration, we shall naturally incline to imitate the difpositions and qualities which we ascribe to him, and account it our glory to do so. For which realon, when the heathens imagin'd their gods were corrupt, passionate, revengefuland lascivious, it was to be expected that the worshippers should also, after their example, be corrupt, indulging themselves without restraint, in the same passions and the same senfual gratifications. But the natural perfections of the Deity are of a different consideration; for they are not the patterns which we pretend, or are supposed to imitate. It never enter'd into any man's mind that he must be

eternal, * Rom. i. 21, 23, 24.

H 4

SERM. eternal, immense and unchangeable like God, IV.

or such a spirit as he is. Yet the natural perfections tend to raise in our minds a high admiration of God; and besides, are consider'd as the foundation of the moral attributes, in the eminent degree wherein he is poffess’d of them. So that erroneous opinions concerning the one, lead to pernicious mistakes about the other, and therefore it is necessary for us to inquire, as far as our faculties will enable us, into those divine perfections which are commonly called natural, by way of distinction from the moral, and to settle our notions concerning them. We cannot indeed by searching find out God, nor understand the Almighty to perfection : His effence is not to be comprehended by the human understanding, nor any of his attributes, When we call him a spirit, 'tis but a very abscure and inadequate idea we express by that word. The truth is, tho' we know there is a real difference between body and spirit, and this distinction is generally thought, (I will not affirm it to be exactly true,) to comprehend all kinds of beings in the universe, the subjects of the properties, qualities and modes of which we have any notion, or as they are common . ly called, substances, yet, we do not understand the intimate essence of either. But the


denomination of spirit is justly attributed to SERM. God, and gives us a true, tho' imperfect idea IV. of his nature, as comprehending consciousness, intelligence, liberty and affections, the foundation and capacity of moral perfection and happiness, which are the chief excellencies of inferior spirits above all material beings, and must eminently belong to the Father of Spirits.

That we may proceed further, and avoid mistakes in forming our notions of this subject, let it be observ'd, that as in the corporeal system we see a vast variety of forms, and in respect of various and important use, regularity, magnificence, and other qualities which strike the imagination, there are some bodies which appear much more excellent than others; so we cannot doubt but there may be, indeed that there are, many different kinds of beings comprehended under the general denomination of spirit. One low kind which we know best, are our own souls; which in the exercise of their faculties have at present, à great dependence on our bodies and their organs. But there is no reafon at all to imagine, that the same is the condition of all fpirits, and in every state. For as we perceive an essential difference between body and spirit, between the ideas of which and their properties there is no con


Serm.nexion, the mutual dependence of them IV. which we find in ourselves, cannot be rea

sonably thought to arise from the nature of spirit ; but the union of soul and body fo as to make one man (the nature of which union we do not understand, only discern that the compounding parts have a mutual dependence and influence on each other) this, I say, is rather to be attributed to the free confti. tution and appointment of our : Creator. There is no reason then why we should not conclude that our souls may, and that they shall subsist in a separate state, and exert their powers more perfectly than they do now. And there is no reason why we should not be. lieve that there may be, and that there are other kinds of spirits, which have not, nor ever had a dependence, in their being, perfections and operations, on matter or any bodily organs.


appear to be the most excellent kind of spirits, which are the most independent on bodies, as being more unconfind in their manner of perceiving external objects, and their activity not limited to a narrow sphere; besides being free from many other inconveniencies which our own experience teaches us that such a condition as ours is liable to. But the supreme Spirit is alone absoutely perfect and independent, having


« VorigeDoorgaan »