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to you; and next to that day, when you must give an account how you have received and heard. Between this day and that, you will have a day of grace
and space of repentance. And between this day and that, your pastor will have an opportunity of being a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death, to your souls forever. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation! Hear—and your souls shall live. Refuse--and your souls shall die! Amen.
Delivered October 10, 1793, at the Ordination of the Reverend Calvix CAAD
DOCK, to the Pastoral Care of the Third Church in Rochester.
Job xi, 7. Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou
find out the Almighty unto perfection? THAT there is a first and supreme Cause, who is the creator and governor of the universe, is a plain and obvious truth, which forces itself upon every attentive mind: so that many have argued the existence of God, from the unanimous consent of all nations to this great and fundamental truth. But though we may easily conceive of the existence of the Deity, yet his nature and perfections surpass the comprehension of all minds but his own. Our eyes can perceive, without difficulty, the scattered rays of the sun; but if we fix them steadily upon the sun itself, we are immediately involved in darkness, by a profusion of light. So our general ideas of the Deity are clear and distinct; but if we take a more steady and particular survey of the divine mind, our mental sight is confused by the greatness and brightness of the object. We commonly, therefore, rest satisfied with more general and familiar views of the Supreme Being, unless some great event, some sudden change, or some pressing calamity, rouse our attention, and excite us to dive deeper into the divine nature and counsels. This was precisely the situation of Job. A great and sudden calamity had turned away his eyes from all second causes, and fixed his whole attention upon the supreme, first cause. He was astonished, that God should raise him so high, and in a moment, sink him so low. This led him to pry
into the mysteries of divine providence, and to censure the ways of Him, whose ways are past finding out. Zophar, his friend, had impatiently heard his unreasonable complaints; and at length put a question to him, which was exactly suited to silence all his objections. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” This question carries in it the most strong and pointed assertion, that no created natures are able to comprehend the Supreme Being. The single point, therefore, which claims our present attention, is this:
THAT GOD IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE BY TURES.
This truth is loo plain to need a labored proof. It rests upon the same evidence, upon which the truth of the divine existence depends. If God be eternal and self-existent, he must be incomprehensible. Every mind revolts from the idea, that creatures should be able to comprehend their creator, because this would imply that their powers and capacities are equal to his. I shall therefore only point out the various respects, in which God is incomprehensible by his creatures. And here I may observe,
1. That God is incomprehensible in respect to the GROUND of his existence.
Though God is the first of beings, and owes his existence to no cause out of himself, yet we are obliged to suppose, there is some ground or reason of his existing, rather than not existing. We cannot conceive of any existence, which has no ground or foundation. But the foundation of God's existence, is neither before, nor out of himself. For, if it were before himself, or out of himself, he could not be the first and self-existent Being. The ground or reason, then, of God's existence must be wholly within himself. There must be something in the nature of the Divine Being, which renders his existence absolutely necessary. But what that something is, which is wholly within himself, and which renders his existence absolutely necessary, is above the comprehension of all created beings. It is not the divine will; it is not the divine power; it is not the divine wisdom; it is not, indeed, any divine attribute, but something which lies at the foundation of all the perfections of God, and which can be comprehended only by himself.
2. God is incomprehensible in respect to many of his perfections.
In some sense, indeed, all the perfections of God are unsearchable; for they are all unbounded in respect to creatures. Most of the divine perfections, however, are in the strictest sense, incomprehensible; and these deserve particular notice.
Eternity is one. God is eternal. He is said to inhabit, that is, properly and supremely to possess eternity. He never had a beginning. There never was a time when He did not exist. Now we can easily conceive of a future, but not of a past eternity. We cu easily conceive, that God should continue to exist furever and ever; for we can conceive the same of ourselves and other created beings. But an eternity a parte aute, as some divines call it, that is, a beginningless eternity, surpasses the comprehension of all created intelligences. They know that they had a beginning. They know that all created objects had a beginning. Of this they have a clear conception. But that a be. ing should always exist without any beginning, is what they will never be able to fathom, either in this world, or that which is to come.
The omnipresence of God is another incomprehensible perfection. That God is present every where, both the light of nature and of divine revelation fully evinces. As all creatures live and move, and have their being in God; so it is certain to a demonstration, that his presence constantly fills all places throughout his vast dominions. But this immensity of the divine presence transcends the highest conceptions of created beings. They know with respect to themselves, that they move from place to place; that when they are in one place, they are not in another, and therefore that they cannot be in all places at once. But God is equally present with each of his creatures, and with all his creatures, at one and the same instant. This is incomprehensible on any supposition we can possibly make.
If we suppose his presence is properly extended; this looks like a plain absurdity;. For extension implies figure, and figure implies matter,which we cannot reconcile with our ideas of a pure and perfect spirit. Or. if we suppose the presence of the Supreme spirit is not extended, and does not occupy space; yet this really surpases our feeble conceptions. Though our spirits do not occupy space, yet their presence is limited, so that they are totally unable to perceive and operate equally at all places at once. Hehce it is evident, that the most exalted creature has nothing in his own circumscribed nature, which can give him an adequate view of the divine omnipresence.
The power of God is as incomprehensible as his presence. We know from the perfection of the di vine nature, as well as from the declaration of scrip ture, that God can do every thing. His power can meet with no resistance or obstruction. Who can stay his hand? His power is incomprehensibly great, both in its nature and effects. The effects of divine power are astonishing. The present created system is very extensive, but were creatures able to comprehend this,