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ness of our nature can bear. Exod. xxxiii. 20, 23.
there shall no man see me and live ... but thou shalt see my back parts.' Isai. vi. 1 •I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and listed up, and his train filled the temple.'
John i. 18. no man hath seen God at any time.' vi. 46. not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.' v. 37. ye have neither heard his voice at any time.' 1 Cor. xiii. 12. "we see through a glass, darkly ·
.. in part. *Our safest way is to form in our minds such a conception of God, as shall correspond with his own delineation and representation of himself in the sacred writings. For granting that both in the literal and figurative descriptions of God, he is exhibited not as he really is, but in such a manner as may be within the scope of our comprehensions, yet we ought to entertain such a conception of him, as he, in condescending to accommodate himself to our capacities, has shewn that he desires we should conceive. For it is on this very account that he has lovered himself to our level, lest in our flights above the reach of human understanding, and beyond the written word of Scripture, we should be tempted to indulge in vague cogitations and subtleties.*
* Sollicit not thy thoughts with inatters hid : Leave them to God above ; him serve and fear.
Paradise Lost, VIII. 166. Heaven is for thee too high To know what passes there ; so, lowly wise, Think only what concerns thee, and thy being; Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there Live, in what state, condition, or degree
There is no need then that theologians should have recourse here to what they call anthropopathy* -a figure invented by the grammarians tó excuse the absurdities of the poets on the subject of the heathen divinities. We may be sure that sufficient care has been taken that the Holy Scriptures should contain nothing unsuitable to the character or dignity of God, and that God should say nothing of himself which could derogate from his own majesty. It is better therefore to contemplate the Deity, and to conceive of him, not with reference to human passions, that is, after the manner of men, who are never weary of forming subtle imaginations respecting him, but after the manner of Scripture, that is, in the way in which God has offered himself to our contemplation ; nor should we think that he would say or direct any thing to be written of himself, which is inconsistent with the opinion he wishes us to entertain of his character. Let us require no better authority than God himself for determining what is worthy or unworthy of him. If it repented Jehovah that he had made man,' Gen. vi. 6. and ' because of their groanings,' Judges ii. 18. let us believe that it did repent him, only taking care to remember that what is called repentance when applied to God, does not arise from inadvertency, as in men; for so he has himself cautioned us, Num. xxiii. 19. God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent. See also 1 Sam. xv. 29. Again, if it grieved the Lord at his heart," Gen. vi. 6. and if his soul were grieved for the misery of Israel,' Judges x. 16, let us believe that it did grieve him. For the affections which in a good man are good, and rank with virtues, in God are holy. If after the work of six days it be said of God that · he rested and was refreshed,' Exod. xxxi. 17. if it be said that he feared the wrath of the enemy,' Deut. xxxii. 27, let us believe that it is not beneath the dignity of God to grieve in that for which he is grieved, or to be refreshed in that which refresheth him, or to fear in that he feareth. For however we may attempt to soften down such expressions by a latitude of interpretation, when applied to the Deity, it comes in the end to precisely the
then may the Spirit of God be said to be grieved, in Himself, in his saints ; in Himself, by an anthropopathie, as we call it; in his Saints by a sympathie ; the former is by way of allusion to human passion and carriage. Bp. Hall's Rem. p. 106.
If God be said to have made man in his own image, after his likeness,' Gen. i. 26. and that too not only as to his soul, but also as to his outward form* (unless the same words have different significations here and in chap. v. 3. Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image') and if God habitually assign to himself the members and form of man, why should we be afraid of attributing to him what he attributes to himself, so long as what is imperfection and weakness when viewed in reference to ourselves be considered as most complete and excellent whenever it is imputed to God. Questionless the glory and majesty of the Deity must have been so dear to him, that he would never say anything of himself which could be humiliating or degrading, and would ascribe to himself no personal attribute which he would not willingly have ascribed to him by his creatures. Let us be convinced that those have acquired the truest apprehension of the nature of God who submit their understandings to his word; inasmuch as he has accommodated his word to their understandings, and has shown what he wishes their notion of the Deity should be.
* The Humanitarians held that God was to be understood as having really a human form. See Clarke's Sermons, Vol. J. p. 26. fol. edit. The drist of Milton's argument leads him to employ language which would appear at first sight to verge upon their doctrine, but it will be seen immediately that he guards himself against the charge of having adopted one of the most ignorant errors of the dark ages of the Church. The reasoning of Milton on this subject throws great light on a passage in Paradise Lost, put into the mouth of Rapbael :
What surmounts the reach
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought ? Here Newton observes the artful suggestion that there may be a greater similitude and resemblance between things in Heaven and things in Earth than is generally imagined, and supposes it may bave been intended as an apology for the boid figures which the Poet has employed. We now sce that his deliberate opinion seems to have leaned to the belief that the fabrick
To speak summarily, God either is, or is not, such as he represents himself to be. If he be really such, why should we think otherwise of him? If he be not such, on what authority do we say what God has not said ? If at least it be his will that we should thus think of him, why does our imagination wander into some other conception ?
Why should we hesitate to conceive of God according to what he has not hesitated to declare explicitly respecting himself ? For such knowledge of the Deity as was necessary for the salvation of man, he has himself of his goodness been pleased to reveal abundantly. of the invisible world was the pattern of the visible. Mede introduces hint of a similar kind in his tenth discourse, as Newton remarks.
Deut. xxix. 29. the secret things belong unto Jehovah, but those things which are revealed belong unto us...... that we may do them.'
In arguing thus, we do not say that God is in fashion like unto man in all his parts and members, but that as far as we are concerned to know, he is of that form which he attributes to himself in the sacred writings. If therefore we persist in entertaining a different conception of the Deity than that which it is to be presumed he desires should be cherished, inasmuch as he has himself disclosed it to us, we frustrate the purposes of God instead of rendering him submissive obedience. As if, forsooth, we wished to show that it was not we who had thought too meanly of God, but God who had thought too meanly of us.
It is impossible to comprehend accurately under any form of definition the divine nature,' for so it is called, 2 Pet. i. 4.' that ye might be partakers of the divine nature'—though nature does not here signify essence, but the diyine image, as in Gal. iv. 8. which by nature are no Gods,' and Osorns Col. ii. 9. Oelorn's Rom. i. 20. tò džiov Acts xvii. 29. which are all translated "Godhead.' But though the nature of God cannot be defined, since he who has no efficient cause is essentially greatest of all, Isai. xxviii. 29. some description of it at least may be collected from his names and attributes.
The names and attributes of God either show his nature, or his divine power and excellence. There are three names which seem principally to intimate the nature of God,-1717! Jehovah--A, Jah-77 Ehie. Even the name of Jehovah was not forbid