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These affections, therefore, possess the characteristics which are truly worthy of an infinitely perfect Being. His benevolent affections, with reverence be it spoken, must be inexhaustible sources of his felicity. He loves every being he has formed, or he would not have enstamped the epithet of Good upon all, at the period of their creation. He loves the wicked with the love of compassion, for they are still his offspring; and he has complacency with the righteous, as his favourites. Since he must be pleased with every object he has created, infinite and inexhaustible are his sources of bliss, He has complacency in all the plans which his infinite wisdom has formed, and in every exertion of his Almighty power, even the most tremendous, for he knows the good they produce; and he foresees that the final issue will be the diffusion of happiness.
Notwithstanding these irresistible evidences, that the immutable God is above all those passions and affections which perpetually agitate our breasts, it is confessed, that the whole torrent of language has constantly flown in direct opposition to the doctrine. Not to mention the ignorance of Paganism, which literally ascribed all the human passions to the deities worshipped, without excluding the most depraved; those who have formed the sublimest conceptions of the Divine Being, still retain modes of expression which are not consistent with the acknowledged perfections of Deity. Not only has the general language of mankind, in different ages, ascribed various passions and emotions to God, but such ascriptions perpetually recur in those sacred scriptures which contain a revelation of himself to man.
They perpetually describe him as being susceptible of passions, and as being actuated by them in his conduct towards the human race. The Anger of the Lord, his severe wrath and indignation, are frequently denounced against sin. Men are said to “provoke the Lord to anger by their abominations." He is frequently represented as repenting of his conduct. It is asserted that " when God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, it repented the Lord that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” He is also described as repenting of his anger. “He regarded the afflictions of the Israelites, who were brought low for their iniquity; and when he heard their cry he repented according to the multitude of his Mercies.” In some passages it is said that he is wearied of repentance.
He is said to be a jea
lous God, to be provoked to jealousy. In other places he is represented as being full of compassion, and the strength of his affections is compared to the feelings of a fond mother for her favourite child.
In the solution of this difficulty we shall observe first that,
Although philosophy may affect to despise vulgar phraseology, and be alarmed at metaphorical language, on account of the obscurities it has sometimes occasioned, yet metaphorical forms of speech constitute the bulk of all languages; are the grand sources of their copiousness, energy, and, in many cases, of their precision : for nothing contributes more to a precision in our ideas, than a pertinent allusion to something that may be similar to the subject under consideration. The origin of language may be traced to sensible objects; but every idea beyond sensible objects, was primarily expressed by metaphor. The first act of the mind is to perceive existences; the next is to discover certain characters, attributes, and qualities, inherent inexisting subjects; to this succeeds the perception of various kinds and degrees of resemblances, in things which are not essentially the same, and in which
may, in various other respects, be great and striking dissimilarities. Hence, our early attachment to fables and allegories, which teach some important truths by suppositions, which are in themselves absurd and extravagant.
The imagination is in vigorous exercise much earlier than the reasoning powers of man. The earliest modes of expression have always consisted in borrowing imagery from the surrounding objects; and the warmer the imagination the bolder has been the imagery. In active minds resemblances are seized with eagerness; and these resemblances perpetually recurring, enrich all languages with a great diversity of idioms and forms of speech. In consequence of this universal propensity, metaphorical expressions have always obtained a precedency to the language of philosophy; nor can they be totally subdued by philosophy. Through a frequency of repetition, many expressions will lose their metaphorical appearance, and be considered as merely technical; but the most abstract terms could not have been introduced, nor would they have been intelligible, did they not retain a relation to objects of sense.*
If, therefore, subjects which are immediately
* See Note B.
within our reach, and which are confined to sublunary affairs, require the aid of metaphorical allusions to express them with perspicuity and force, it is not to be supposed that sensitive man would be able to invent such modes of expression as should do justice to those abstractions surrounding a Being, spiritual in his nature, and elevated infinitely above every object
may observe, secondly, that such modes of expression respecting the Deity, are a necessary accommodation to the nature and situation of man.
That great Being who is immutably the same, who is infinitely exalted above our versatile passions and affections, employs all his relative attributes cure to the human race, what they are attempting to procure for themselves-Happiness; and to promote this object, “bis eternal thought moves on his undisturbed affairs.” But although his purpose is immutably the same, yet his conduct must be adapted to the circumstances and situations of his creatures ; mani.. festing kindness, severity, complacency, chastizement, according to the dictates of his wisdom. To express these different modes, in all