Henry Ware.

An inquiry into the foundation, evidences, and truths of religion, Volume 1 online

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Were there more than one, neither omnipresence, nor
omniscience, nor infinite power could be shown to
belong to either of them. As far therefore as these
attributes are proved to belong to God, they prove
also that God is one, and that there can be but one.



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UNITY. 109

Again, if there were no other argument for the
unity of God than this, that all the phenomena of
the universe are as well accounted for by the sup-
position of one God, as of more than one, — it would
be worthy of consideration. But more than this
may be said. The existence of the universe is ac-
counted for in a far more satisfactory manner by the
supposition of its being the work of one, than of
many minds.

But the argument to be relied upon more than all
others for proof of the unity of God, and the force
of which is, at the same time, most readily perceived,
is that which is drawn from the unity of design,
which is so visible in the works of nature. For as
the proof of an intelligent cause of all things is found
in the manifold marks of design everywhere present-
ed to us, so does the singleness of that cause appear
with equal clearness in the unity of the design, which
we thus discover.

Beauty, order, harmony, correspondence of parts,
which constitute a whole, and mutual adaptation of
those parts to one another, and of the whole to cer-
tain uses, suggest not only intelligence and design,
but unity; that one mind, one will directs the
work. Quite a different result we look for, where
several minds, independent of each other, are con-
cerned together. We expect to see marks of con-
flicting opinions, and opposing wills. I do not mean
that, union, cooperation, and entire consent are not
possible between several independent minds; but it
can exist only where there is perfect equality and

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110 AN INQUIRY.

perfect similarity. But in no system of polytheism
is this pretended. Those, who believe in many gods,
believe them to be extremely various in their natures
and character, differing from each other in their attri-
butes, and not less so in their dispositions, and pur-
poses, and wills. .

Now the argument is, and it is certainly one of
great force, that the unity of design manifested in the
creation is conclusive, — that it cannot be either the
joint or the separate work of such beings as were the
objects of heathen faith and worship. Nothing was
to be expected of such beings but discord and hos-
tility, and a system composed of ill assorted parts,
contradictory ends pursued, and only confusion and
inconsistency attained.

How different from this the actual scene of the
visible universe ! everywhere mutual relation and de-
pendence; each part adjusted exactly to each ad-
joining, filling the precise place where it was wanted,
and where, without it, there would have been a de-
ficiency. Not only does this adaptation of parte to
each other, this relationship and mutual subserviency to
the accomplishment of a single end, appear in a few
clear and obvious cases ; — it is a character that runs
through the whole; it is discovered often where
least expected, where it is usually overlooked, and
sometimes where, previbus to examination, the oppo*
site character was supposed. Such, for example, are
some of the opposite powers of physical nature ;
acting in direct hostility to each other, yet both so
adjusted as to produce harmony, and to cooperate in



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UNITY. Ill

the execution of the same design. Such also are
some of those objects of nature, which to a careless
view seem useless, — mere redundances, — perhaps
even worse than useless, — positive blemishes, im-
pairing the beauty and perfection of the whole ; but
which a nearer inspection and careful study show to be
. essential parts, contributing to the perfection of the
whole.

Instances and analogies to illustrate the subject
present themselves in various forms ; — in the laws of
vegetable and animal life, like those of the physical
world, the same everywhere, and everywhere attend-
ed with the same phenomena and the same effects ; —
the same forms, the same properties, and the same
habits, peculiar to each, manifested whenever and
wherever they exist, in all ages, and in every region
of the earth.

Unity of a singular kind, and very clearly marking
a single purpose and will, is seen in the regular gra-
dation of being, and all th£ relations of mutual de-
pendence which it exhibits. From the meanest veg-
etable, up to the highest created intelligence, the
gradations and the varieties are innumerable ; yet so
are they all allied together, and mutually dependent,
that we do not know that any one could be spared
without affecting the condition of many, if not of all
the rest ; and we do know that many of them could not
be spared without essential harm, and perhaps even
absolute destruction to some of the rest. Was it one
mind or many, that projected such a scheme, every
part of which was made to depend upon every other
part?



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112 AN INQUIRY.

Such views as these certainly lead us, most natu-
rally and forcibly, to the thought of a single being
by whom this whole scheme was projected ; a single
wisdom to contrive, and a single power to execute.
At least, they serve to show strikingly how inconsist-
ent with all that we see in nature is the whole system
of gods independent of each other, presiding over
particular portions of nature, or regions of the earth,
or races of beings, or nations of men, or powers of
nature.

Again, other thoughts tend to the same issue, and
fortify the conviction, that so far, at least, as respects
this globe of earth and all that live upon it, one be-
ing only is to be acknowledged as the creator and
governor.

One law of attraction binds all together. The
same great luminary sends its light and heat alike to
every portion of the globe, by the same immutable
laws. The elements of which the earth is composed,
however variously combined, are everywhere the
same, and everywhere subjected to the same laws,
and everywhere exercising the same powers. One
atmosphere covers the whole earth, everywhere ac-
companied with the same phenomena under similar
circumstances ; producing the same effects upon ani-
mal and vegetable life, and equally important to them
in the most distant regions. And as to vegetable and
animal life, in the infinity of different forms in which
they appear, these also we find to be subject every-
where to the same laws. In every country, in
every climate over the whole earth, the same pro-



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UNITY. 113

cess is ever going on, the same phenomena ex-
hibited, the same incessant and untiring labor, and the
same order ; production, growth, maturity, decay,
dissolution, and reproduction. .

All these connecting circumstances, everywhere
alike, what do they most naturally suggest? same-
ness or diversity of counsel ; a single mind directing
the whole, or many independent of each other ?

Nor is the argument weakened, as it might seem
to be at first, by the warfare of hostile elements and
hostile powers, which is constantly going on. Since
the more we know, the more we examine,, and the
better we become acquainted with the principles and
laws of the universe, the more are we able to see
how the combined influences of powers of nature, op-
erating in-direct opposition to each other, contribute to
produce a single effect, which could only be produced
by such conflict. Thus all extremes are brought to-
gether, and made to unite and concur in producing
beauty, and harmony, and order. Attraction and re-
pulsion, love and hatred, light and darkness, cold and
heat ; all these, acting and reacting, and combined in
various proportion and in various order, manifest by
the effects they produce, that they are severally put
in action, not by different and hostile powers, but by
a single power directing its energies and its instru-
ments to a single aim.

After the same manner again may we reason with
respect to the natural hostility which we observe be-
tween several species of creatures, and which disturbs
us so much at first, as seemingly incompatible with
10*



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114 AN INQUIRY..

the unity for which we contend* It furnishes, rightly-
considered, no such objection ; but on the contrary,
serves to strengthen the argument.

It is a groundless conclusion altogether, however
naturally the thought may have arisen at first view,
that we are to trace to a different origin the several
species of living things, whose nature it is to subsist
by preying upon one another; to infer from these
hostile natures, that they must have been created by
different independent powers, between which there
was a similar hostility, and a disposition to destroy each
other's work. Such an imagination is seen to be
without foundation, when it is considered, that no
other means of subsistence are provided for them.
Had they been created by different beings, they
would not have been left thus unprovided for, depen-
dent upon another and a hostile power for the very
means of sustaining their being, which had been
neglected by the power that gave them being.

This fact in their condition leaves no room to
doubt, that the same being is the common parent
of the beast and bird of prey, and of the defence-
less race which constitute the only food that is pro-
vided for them. The same God has given life to
the swallow, and to the insect upon which it feeds, and
has equally provided for the sustenance and well be-
ing of both.

The argument for the divine unity, drawn from
multiplied marks of unity of design, in all the objects
and beings by which we are immediately surrounded,
will gather strength by extending our view beyond



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UNITY. 115

the earth upon which we dwell. Our globe, though
complete in itself, making a single whole, as relates
td the parts of which it is composed, is yet itself but
a part, and a very inconsiderable one, of the great
system to which it belongs ; all the parts of which
are bound together by immutable laws, everywhere
manifesting the same unity of purpose. From the
same central Orb are sent forth those influences, by
which the whole system is enlightened, and warmed,
and cheered, and the remotest orbs are kept in the
places assigned to them, and the courses they are
destined to pursue. What more satisfactory proof
could we desire, than such a fact presents, of one
uniform wisdom and care, by which that provision is
made, presiding over the whole ? Not only does this
apply to those great bodies composing our system,
whose tracks are such, as never to interfere by cross-
ing ea6h other's path ; it applies equally to those
eccentric and seemingly lawless bodies, which pass
through the regions of space in other and various di-
rections. These also are .connected, and kept in
place, and prevented from causing disturbance and
confusion; by the same ties.

The comet, which has been travelling through the
regions of space, beyond the reach of mortal eye, for
centuries, is drawn back again, at its appointed
time, by the same power, which holds the planets in
their places, and causes them to perform their des-
tined round.

Beyond the bounds of our system, our knowledge,
and our power of observation is extremely limited,



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116 AN INQUIRY.

yet not so as wholly to preclude all reasoning on the
subject ; though the topics of reasoning can, be but
few and uncertain. The relations of our system to
all beyond it are but little known ; and the analogies,
or points of resemblance, from which proofs of unity
of design might be drawn, are but few. Indeed the
only sensible bond of union between us and all that
is beyond the bounds of our system, of which we
have any certainty, is that of light. But this alone,
were there nothing else, forms a connexion, that ren-
ders it highly probable, that the parts, thus connected,
belong to the same single dominion. That there is,
however, another bond of union far more powerful
and important, is exceedingly probable. That there
is such a common principle or power, pervading the
whole, keeping the several systems, as it does the
several parts of our own system, in their proper
places, is the only probable conjecture, by which to
account for their maintaining forever the same order
and relative positions. That they are in feet preserv-
ed from rushing together in hostile confusion, on the
one hand, or, on the other, flying off into infinite
space, is enough to furnish strong ground for the be-
lief, that one infinite, all-pervading, all-governing
mind, established and continues to preserve the whole
order of nature ; not of this system only, but of the
whole universe.

I now close this chapter with a single reflection.
There is one God. With what reverence should we
think of his being, with what diligence should we
study his nature, with what cheerful piety render to



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UNITY. 117

him the homage of our hearts, with what unreserved
submission bow to his authority, with what steady
resolution obey his will.

There is no other God but one. Let us not, on
the one hand, incur the guilt of withholding from him
the glory that is his due ; nor, on the other hand, of
giving to another the honor that is due to him alone.



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118 AN INQUIRY.



CHAPTER IX.

OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD.

The being of an intelligent author of nature is a
primary truth of Natural Religion. But how does
reason teach us to think and to speak of this Be-
ing ? What are the attributes she assigns to him ?
What the character, in which he is presented to her
view?

Had we no other guide, what are the conceptions
of the Deity to which we might be led by a contem-
plation of the visible creation, the constitution of na-
ture, and the course of events ?

With all the light that revelation has cast on this
most lofty subject of human inquiry, the wisest, most
enlightened, and most favored of mortals, have confess-
ed their knowledge imperfect, and their views obscure
and partial. When all the light that is permitted,
perhaps all of which they were capable, has been
poured in, they have exclaimed, — " Lo, these are a
part of his ways ; but how little a portion is heard of
him ! " In the language, not of complaint, nor of
despondency, but of admiration and reverence^ they
ask, " Canst thou by searching find out God ? Canst
thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ? "

The language of nature and reason is here the
same, as that of revelation. The same light, which



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OMNIPKESENCE OF GOD. 119

discovers to us what may be known of God, and is
sufficiently clear to present a lively image of his
greatness, serves also to show how much must be yet
unseen, beyond the view and above the comprehen-
sion of a finite mind, and thus to convince us, " that
his greatness is unsearchable." Yet some of the
divine perfections are as distinctly perceived by the
light of nature, as the evidences of his being. Thus it
may be shown, that the Being on which all others de-
pend, and from which all others are derived, must be
without beginning. He is self-existent, and eternity
is implied in the very notion of self-existence. Other-
wise it would be self-production, an absurdity too ob-
vious to require a moment's reflection. It implies also
immensity. No limits of place, any more than of time,
can be assigned to that Being, who created all things,
who was before all things, and of whose existence itself
no prior or external cause is to be assigned, or can be
imagined. But if it be thus infinite, and one simple,
uncom pounded, and undivided intelligence^ the un-
avoidable consequence seems to be a perpetual omni-
presence. This attribute is accordingly one of those,
to which the contemplation of the divine nature, by
the lights which reason gives, seems irresistibly to
lead. It is silently confessed by every reflecting
believer in the being of God, as an object of worship.
Wherever he is, the prayer he addresses is an ac-
knowledgment of his presence, as the object of wor-
ship, and the director of events. And as he believes
him present to himself, so ha? he no doubt of his
presence at the same time to the worshipper, who



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120 AN INQUIRY.

calls upon him in the most distant region of the
globe. .

But is this an attribute of which we have any clear
and distinct conception ? Is it not like self-existence,
eternity, and in6nity, quite incomprehensible ? And
if it be wholly beyond the reach of our conceptions,
whence is it, that the idea of it is so readily received,
and how becomes it a part of our natural notions of
the Deity ? Can any other account be given of it,
than that all the same phenomena, which lead to the
belief of the existence of an intelligent author of nature,
require also his universal presence ?

There is certainly nothing analogous in ourselves,
or in anything that falls under our observation, that
serves in any considerable measure to prepare the
mind for the conception of this attribute. We have
ourselves a narrow sphere, within which our being
and our activity are confined. We can be present at
different places only successively. To be present at
one place, we must be absent from all others. The
same is true of all other created beings, and of every
agent in nature, of which we have any knowledge.
All have local limits to their presence and power.
They can be and act only within certain bounds.
These they can change, but cannot enlarge. You
can shift your position in the little room about which
you move, so as to occupy every part of it in succes-
sion, but you cannot fill it, you cannot occupy it all
at one time. Those powers of nature, which might
seem at first to form an exception to this remark, will
be found to present none in reality. For of those



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OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD. . 121

powers, which seem to us to be exerted beyond the
subject in which they are supposed to reside, we
know nothing but the sensible effects. And as we
are ignorant what the power itself is, and how it is
exerted^ it is impossible for us to know how extensive
is the sphere of its presence. The power of attrac-
tion, by which all material bodies act on each other,
seems to be equally diffused through the universe ;
and if it could be proved to be anything else, than
the constant agency of the Deity operating by certain
laws, it would furnish an exception ; but there is
nothing that should lead us to this conclusion, but the
contrary. The power which binds together the parts
of every material substance, and that which draws
the most distant toward each other, are not, we have
reason to believe, the independent property of the
objects themselves, but are diffused throughout the
extent of tjje creation, and express the agency of a
being, whose presence fills the universe.

There is another point, in which we have no anal-
ogy to help our conceptions in speaking of the divine
omnipresence. It is this, that all sensible objects, and
all created beings with which we are acquainted, as
they are limited to some portion of space, exclude
from it all others, so that no two can occupy the same
space at the same time. But the omnipresence
of God implies his coexistence with every other sub-
stance, whether material or immaterial. No being
excludes his presence, and his presence is no im-
pediment to the simultaneous presence of any other
being.

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122 AN INQUIRY.

But to understand the manner of the divine Being,
to comprehend his nature, and have an adequate or
clear conception of those perfections, \vhich belong
to him alone, is one thing. It is another and quite
different thing to have such proof of their reality, as
to be a rational ground of faith. The latter we
may have, where the former is not to be obtained.
And with our imperfect faculties, we are not to
be surprised, if this is the most we find ourselves
able to attain to in our contemplations on an jnfinite
being.

Whenever, from any view of the subject, we have
come to acquiesce in the omnipresence of God, we
shall find little difficulty in passing from that to an-
other attribute, his knowledge of all things. If we
believe in the universal presence of God, we can have
little difficulty in admitting his universal knowledge.
Of this, indeed, as of the other, we have very little
falling within our own experience, which serves to as-
sist our conception. Our own knowledge is limited, as
is the sphere of our presence. It spreads over but a
small space, and is confined to a few objects. As far
as it extends, it is often imperfect and incomplete. Nor
does it embrace what is within its limits all at once.
Its view is successive. It passes from object to ob-
ject, and can fix on but a single one or part of one
at a time. If it takes an extensive range, and has
comprehensive views, it is by the rapidity of its mo-
tion from one to another, and not by resting on many
at the same time. But we are certain that the know-
ledge of God must be different from this. Filling all



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OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD. 123

space with his presence, surrounding and pervading
all things, and constantly exerting his power in pro-
ducing and preserving all things, all must be at once
present to his view. Nor need we find any difficulty
in admitting, what with our limited capacities it is
impossible for us to comprehend, this attribute of the
supreme and infinite intelligence. It indeed follows
of course, when we have once admitted, that intelli-
gence which is implied in his being the author and
cause of all things, and that universal presence, and
sustaining power, without which it is impossible to
account for the continuance of the order and system
of nature.

Still the thought is too vast and unmanageable for
our feeble capacity. In the attempt to grasp it, we
are lost and bewildered. We know how easily we
are ourselves perplexed and distracted by a multi-
plicity of objects, and find it impossible to conceive
of a single mind, by one simple attention perceiving
everything that is, and all that is taking place, through-
out the boundless universe, from the flight of a comet
-that is travelling through the remotest regions of
space, to the smallest dust that floats in the atmo-
sphere.

We find it easier for our reason to be convinced of
the divine omnipresence and omniscience, than for
the imagination to be brought to rest on the subject.
We even startle at the seeming impossibility of that,
of the reality of which we are convinced by irresistible
evidence* Yet there is a process of the mind, by
which our conceptions may be in some measure as-



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124 AN INQUIRY.

sisted, and this reluctance of the imagination in a
degree overcome. It is by taking in successively in
small portions, what we in vain attempt to grasp at
once. "On whatever spot of the creation we fix, it is
easy for us to conceive that God is there, and that he
' is the observer and the witness of the objects and the
facts, which employ our own contemplation. We
can thence depart and traverse in thought the remot-
est regions, and still carry with us the same presence
and inspection. If we contemplate the heavens above
us, we may there behold him, directing the planets in
their courses, and holding the stars in their appointed
stations." We can then come down to the earth,
and see him appointing to every order of animate
and inanimate nature its metes and bounds, and find
him everywhere and in all, not the idle observer, but
the soul and animating principle.

Thus, though we cannot take in the idea of omni-
presence and omniscience at once, we can do it in
detail. Though we cannot actually conceive of God
as everywhere, we can conceive him to be there,
wherever we fix our thought, and that he takes cog;
nizance of every object and of every action, to which
we direct our thought.

It is thus too, that the sacred writers teach us to
contemplate this subject, and by a lively view help
the imagination to take hold of it. " Whither shall
I go from thy spirit, whither shall I flee from thy
presence ? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there ; if
I make my bed in hades, thou art there ; if I take
the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost



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OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD. 125

parts of the sea ; there shall thy hand lead me, and


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Online LibraryHenry WareAn inquiry into the foundation, evidences, and truths of religion, Volume 1 → online text (page 8 of 21)