Stacks Image 905




God never discordant with himself, and hence his will always the same. — Views of philosophers on this subject not really, but only apparently, different from the views commonly taken. — Consolations of this doctrine.

THERE are some aspects of the subject now before us, which cannot be fully appreciated without keeping in mind the fact of the perpetual identity of the divine will.

God cannot be discordant with himself. That identity of nature, which is involved in the fact of his perfection, is only another name for unchangeable harmony. What now is harmonizes with what has been; — and what shall be harmonizes with what now is. The end of God, therefore, if we may be allowed the expression, is identical with the beginning; and everything which is intermediate corresponds with the beginning and the end.

And this is as true of God's
will as it is of any other part of his nature. What God thinks to-day he thought always, and what God feels to-day he felt always. He knew what was to be before it had a being. He rejoiced and had sorrow in its good and evil, before that good and evil had an existence. And it is the same of his will. What God wills to-day, he willed yesterday; what he shall will a thousand years hence, he has already willed a thousand years ago.

2. It is a great truth, therefore, — a truth fundamental and essential in religion, that the operations or decisions of the divine will can never be otherwise than they are. The laws which originate them have their basis in the eternal mind, and are inflexible in their results. It is thus, for this reason and in this manner, that the divine will may be said to be perpetually identical. God cannot feel otherwise than he does, nor think otherwise than he does, nor will otherwise than he does. And the reason is, because he is
he is God; and, being God, he is not and cannot be anything less or otherwise than God.

If any other course of thought, feeling, willing, or action, were right and proper for him, it would be an obvious implication that his present course is not right, is not proper. Imperfection, which shows itself in taking a course less right and less proper than another course, would, in that case, be stamped upon it and upon the author of it. But it is hardly necessary to say that God and imperfection are ideas which are incompatible with each other.

3. It is true, that the statement of the absolute verity on this subject is not precisely the statement of the truth or verity, as it is developed to man's outward perception. The statement of the absolute truth is what philosophical writers sometimes denominate
supersensuous, the statement of the thing as it is; the other statement is subordinate and accommodated to the senses, the statement of the thing as it appears. The one statement is the expression of the unchangeable and divine view; the other of the human. The one is total, the other fragmentary. Nevertheless, there is no incompatibility in them. They agree with each other, as the parts, when properly adjusted, agree with the whole. The statement, accommodated to man's limited perception, would be simply this. Whatever God wills now, although the volition may not have taken effect till the present moment, he has virtually willed from eternity. The will, virtual or potential, that is to say, the will in its capability of action, the will "IN POSSE," as it is sometimes expressed,— although it may have existed millions of centuries before the circumstances, which at last surrounded it, developed it in the issues of specific action, — is the same, and must be the same, as the will in effective exercise, the will " IN ACTU." It had in itself from the beginning a law, which involved the result. In other words, it is the same thing under a different aspect; in the one case essential but undeveloped, in the other essential, but in exercise.

4. So that, in either case, whether we take the supersensuous view, or the view which is accommodated to the imperfect action of the senses, the same great and essential truth remains. In other words, the mind and the acts of God, including his will and his volitional acts, whether seen in their fragmentary form through the successions of time, or in the identicalness of that mode of vision which is above the senses and above time, are
"without variableness, and without shadow of turning." Here, then, is an identity, not more sublime in its nature than its continuance, which runs parallel with eternity, and is sustained by the same principles which make and sustain God himself.

5. The perpetual identity, or, what is the same thing, the immutability, of God's will presents a strong contrast with the mutability of the creature's will. Man's will, (we speak now of the natural man, or the man out of God,) is changeable. By separating himself from God, he took his will, which is hardly less than another name for himself, out of God's keeping, and placed it in his own. But man out of God neither knows, nor can know, what is true, nor what is good, nor what is right, except relatively and imperfectly. The absolute truth, as well as the absolute good and the absolute right, is beyond his reach. His views are not only limited, but perverted. As he has cut himself off from the source of truth, the truth is not in him, except imperfectly and pervertedly; and he is floating loosely amid a sea of errors, which flows out from the falsity of his own inward position. H!s will, therefore, unnmoored as it is from the eternal foundations, is fixed to no object, except to himself; and as self, or the life of self, has no centre but in its own selfishness, it wanders about, attracted by every object which promises to feed its depraved appetite, and seeking a rest, which, in the rejection of the true rest, it is never destined to find.

6. Such is the changeableness of man's will in his unsanctified state. How different is all this from the true and unchangeable foundations of God; — and how different the condition of the unholy man, who rests upon himself, from that of the man who is united with the infinite! On the strong rock of the perpetual identity of the divine will, and not on the uncertain quicksands of a will which is liable to change, the holy man rests his head in peace. No storms terrify him. Knowing, as he does, that to God there is no past and no future, his soul. combining the past and the future into one, may be said to be centered in the eternal present. To Sense, indeed, many things are new. To Faith, nothing is new. To Sense, many things are strange, unprecedented, terrifying. There are storms, diseases, wars, the sky in commotion, the earth heaving, nations destroyed. But to Faith, whose eye penetrates beneath the surface, there is only what was designed to be; the development of a will, which, in being invariably true to mercy, wisdom, and justice, never changes from its own settled line of action, but is identical in its eternity. These present things, which occupy and perplex the senses, are the externalities which clothe the inward life. They may be described as the "veil of the temple," within which there is God
without an image, unseen by that external eye which can see only the form of things, but visible to that eye of Faith, which, beneath all outward forms, sees, and knows, and loves the Eternal Essence.