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PART FIRST.
OF GOD, AND THE RELATIONS HE SUSTAINS TO HIS CREATURES.



CHAPTER II.


ON THE ETERNITY OF GOD.

The principles of union with God, to be found in God's nature.— On the eternity of God. — Results involved in the fact of God's eternity.— The eternity of God involves his unchangeableness. — God, in being eternal, the source of all true life. — Remarks on man's responsibility.

IN proceeding in the investigation of the subject of union with God, it will be necessary, if we wish to arrive at satisfactory results, to consider briefly some of the leading elements, or principles, of the Divine Nature. We have already had occasion to say, that it is in God' s nature, in what he is and what he requires, that the basis of union must be placed. It is obvious that there can be no union between two parties who are at variance, unless there be a change on one side or the other, or on both. But it is hardly necessary to say, that, on the side of God, it is impossible for any change to take place, except that of a just correspondence with the altered relations of the other party. The perfection of his position ensures its immutability. The change, preparatory to union, must first take place in man. What this change must be, on what principles it must take place, in what directions it must extend, can be known only by what we know of God.

2. Perhaps it may be said, that the powers of the human mind are so restricted that they will not allow us to comprehend God fully. Undoubtedly our conception of him, based partly upon what is known, and hardly less upon what is unknown, is exceedingly imperfect. But its imperfection is reduced, and we are able to approximate the higher and more perfect idea of God, in proportion as we divest it of the limitations of form, time, and place. God is not the possessor or subject of any form, which is essential to him as an outward expression of his nature, although he may be said to live in all forms; — just as he is without a fixed and definite locality, although he may be said to be present in all places. And as he is not limited by form or by place, so he is not limited by
time.

3. We may be said, therefore, in entering upon the remarks which remain to be made in this chapter, to begin where there is no beginning. That which begins to exist has a cause. That which exists
without a cause is eternal. God only is without cause. God only is eternal.

Such is the great truth, which, in being connatural to the human mind, may be said to be written there by the pen of the Creator: a truth which is, to a considerable extent, the basis of natural religion, and is recognized by all sound philosophy.

4. GOD ONLY IS ETERNAL. Such being the case, all things that exist out of himself,
are, and must be, from him. To say that a thing has its birth from the bosom of its own causation, is the same as to say that it exists without a cause. And this is inconceivable. All things, therefore, are, by the necessity of the case, in alliance with God; — the creatures of his divine and infinite administration; springing up, in the appropriate day of their generation, from the Uncreated Life; — the Life, which has been, now is, and will be everlasting.

5. It is this truth which, more than anything else, makes the eternity of God a matter of so deep interest. It is the eternity of God which constitutes him, in one of the most essential respects, the universal Father. Everything which exists having, before the time of its existence, no power or possibility of self-origination, must have had its birth from him. And we may go further even than this. The fact of his eternity, taken in connection with his other attributes, involves the idea, that all things are not only
from him, but always have been, and are now, in him. His eternity embraces the future as well as the present. His mind sweeps over all, understands all, sustains all, regulates all, unites all in one. The successive developments of being and action, which arrest and occupy the human mind in the different stages of their progress, are a present reality to him. Their causation does not remove them from that which causes; — and time does not, and cannot, take them out of eternity. They are what they are, because they are in him; — and out of him they must necessarily cease to be. And thus he is constituted, by the very elements of his nature, the circumference as well as the centre, the end as well as the beginning, the UNIVERSAL ALL.

6. That man does not perceive this, is true. And he does not perceive it, because, trying to see in his own light, and not in the light which God himself is ready to impart, his
"foolish heart is darkened." None can know God, in the fullest sense of the terms, but those who are fully restored to him. Separated to a great distance by the repulsive power of selfishness, God, instead of being the UNIVERSAL and the ALL is not only very remote, and much diminished in appearance, to those who are not in harmony with him, but is even doubtful in existence. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." But it does not follow, because God is not known, that he does not exist; nor, because he is not realized as eternal, that he is not eternal. Existence does not depend upon perception. "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not."

7. God, being the Eternity of things, is the reality. By reality, we mean that which is substantial and essential, that which is
permanent, as well as that which is just and good; not the shadow of the rock, but the rock itself; not the reflection of the sun, but the sun itself; the I AM, as he names himself, because there is no other adequate expression of him, the being, and not merely the beginning to be. His eternity involves his essentiality, because, as we see no reason why he should begin to exist, so we see no reason why he should begin to change. His unchangeableness is but a part of his eternity. From him, as the essential, or the I AM, all other things not only flow out as from the original fountain, but continue to live from him as from a present life.

8. Here, then, is the beginning, the foundation principle, of our argument. God, in being eternal, is the source of all things, whatever they may be, which have an existence, or rather the appearance of existence, separate from himself. In other words, all things which are finite, and are created in time, embodied though they may be in their own form, and sustained by their appropriate laws of being, are necessarily from him and by him. And thus, when we consider things in their origin and relations, how they all come from God, and how they are all dependent on him, we shall obtain one of the most important conceptions which we associate with God, namely, that in
his life is the true life, and that out of his life there is nothing but death. We shall thus, in this view of God, and of the relations he sustains to other beings, realize, in a true and high sense, the import of those expressions which are so often found in writers of great religious experience, — expressions liable to be perverted, but still conveying a great truth in a concise form, — "the ALL of God, and NOTHING of the creature."

9. These views, undoubtedly, when we come to speak of man's moral responsibility, will be entitled to their just modifications. It is our object at the present time, in as few words as possible, to present the general truth under consideration in the strong light which properly belongs to it, unembarrassed by subordinate distinctions. When we assert that the doctrine of God's eternity involves the idea that all things come from him, we of course mean that they come from him by a true descent; — that they have their origin from him in the line of a just filiation. If man, in the exercise of his moral responsibility, — forgetting and abusing the fact that he is of God and lives his true life only in union with God, — undertakes to become a self-originator, and to do things in his own supposed strength and wisdom, it would be absurd to speak of such things as of divine origin.