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the intire system of matter under his direction Serm. to form and dispose of it at his pleasure, not IV.
. subject to such impressions from it, - nor tied down to such a manner of acting upon it, as inferior spirits are, by the limited condition of their nature, and by the constitution which he has appointed for them. ·
The notion of some ancient philosophers, particularly the Stoics, that God is the foul of the world, was. mean and unworthy of his high perfections. Tho' it imply'd an acknowledgment of the Divine Presence in all parts of the universe, every where intelligent and governing the whole, and represented all, even the most different and the most distant
parts of the world, as united together in one system, under the care and direction of one sympathizing intelligent nature, which continually promotes the greatest absolute good of the whole, (which was a noble sentiment much infifted on by some of those learned men, and improv'd by them to excellent practical purposes;) yet that the Deity animates the Mundane system in the same manner that the human soul animates the human body, is too low a way of thinking concerning the supreme Being. For befides that it naturally leads one to imagine an independence of the world in its being, on the eternal spirit, (as the human
SERM.mind does not make its own body, nor has a IV.
power over its existence,) which probably was the erroneous opinion of some of the ancients, and tends to limit the Divine absolute perfections and Presence to created nature ; it carries in it such an idea of his subjection to impressions, and even uneasinesses arising from the disorders of the world, as is inconsistent with the infinite immutable excellence and happiness of his independent Being. The notion of an eminent modern philosopher is much more just and reasonable, who, as the result of his most curious and excellent obfervations on the Divine counsel and power manifested in the system of the universe, says, that the Deity imports the dominion of a spiritual Being over the world, not as his own body but as his servants, intirely subject to his government *.
This leads us to consider the peculiar and transcendent excellence of God as a Spirit. Tho' some inferior beings have the same denomination, and are truly of a spiritual nature, yet he is of an intirely different, and infinitely more perfect kind. There
There may be, for aught we know, as great a diversity in the spiritual, as in the material world; as many different species of fpirits, that is, of beings which have no bodily substance, as there are * Sir Isaac Newton, Schol. Gener.
of visible forms; and some of them as much Serm, inferior to, as well as distinct from others, as IV. the lower kinds of life, perception and activity, are from dead and senseless matter itself. We must not therefore imagine, that we have form'd an adequate idea of God's nature, when we have prov'd him to be a spirit, and conceive of him as such; meaning by that name a living, intellectual and active being, essentially distinguish'd from corporeal substance. For tho' that is truly affirm'd of him in common with other spirits, yet he excels all other, even intellectual natures, more than our souls do the lowest inanimate beings.
There are two principal properties of spirit, intelligence and activity, which as I have Thewn, must be attributed to the Deity ; but they belong to him in an infinitely higher degree, and are exercis’d by him in a more perfect manner than by any dependent being. Tho' the common use of all languages ascribes to God the perceptions we are conscious of in ourselves, as seeing and hearing and remembrance; nay, and the organs of sensation, such as eyes and ears; yet scarcely are there
fo ignorant as to understand these forms of speaking in a literal sense, but every one means by them the Divine most exact knowledge and discernment of things, to which our low and
Serm.imperfect manner of perceiving by corporeal IV.
organs, bears fome analogy. He that made the
eye of man, to convey to him such a representation and knowledge of external objects as is not compleat and thoroughly comprehenfive of their nature, but accommodated to the purposes of our present state, and proportionate to the other imperfect faculties of the human mind; be, the Maker, fees, not in a strict and proper sense as we do, but understands all things in a more eminent and perfect manner. He that made the ear, the instrument by which are convey'd to us, the sentiments and desires of our fellow-creatures moving our affections ; be, in a fuperior and more perfect way, knows and understands the fentiments and desires of all intelligent beings, whether conceiv'donly in the mindor express’d by the mouth. In like manner as the human strength and power of operation are exerted by the means of arms and hands, these bodily organs are figuratively attributed to God to denote his Almighty power ; tho' it is exercised by him in a quite different manner, which we cannot comprehend, but we are sure it is not like tedious and laborious human operation.
In a special manner it is to be observ'd, that many of the springs of action in embodied spirits, setting their powers at work, and which
we are conscious of in ourselves, tho they are SERM.