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Í. We will consider the subject speculatively.
We intend, by considering the subject speculatively, to evince the truth of the subject, the demonstration of which is very important to us. By considering it practically, we intend to convince you, on the one hand, of the monstrous extravagance of those men, those little rays of intelligence, who, according to the wise man, pretend to set their wisdomi and counsel against the Lord, Prov. xxi. 30. and, on the other, of the wisdoin of those, who, while they regulate their conduct by his laws alone, commit their peaee, their life, and their salvation to the care of his providence. This is what I propose to lay before you.
1. O Lord, thou art great in counsel, and mighty in work. Let us consider this proposition speculatively. I shall establish it on two kinds of proofs. The first shall be taken from the nature of God', the second from the history of the world, or rather from the history of the church.
1. My first proofs shall be taken from the nature of God; not that it belongs to a preacher to go very deeply into so profound a subject, nor to his auditors to follow all the reAections he could make: yet we wish, when we speak of the Supreme Being, that we might not be always obliged to speak superficially, under pretence that we always speak to plain people. We wish you had sometimes the laudable ambition, especially when you assist in this sacred place, of elevating your minds to those sublime objects, of the meditation of which, the occupations, to which your frailties and miseries, or, shall I rather say, your vitiated tastes enslave you, you are deprived in the ordinary course of your lives.
The nature of God proves that he is great in counsel. Consider the perfect knowledge that he hath of all possible beings, as well as of all the beings which do actually exist. We are not only incapable of thoroughly understanding the knowledge that he hath of possible beings; but we are even incapable of forming any idea of it. I am not sure that the reduction of all the objects of our knowledge to two ideas is founded in reason. I do not know whether we be not guilty of some degree of temerity in comprising all real existences in two classes : a class of bodies, and a class of spirits. I leave this question to philosophers; but I maintain, that it argues the highest presumption to affirm, even allowing that every being within our knowledge is either body or spirit, that every thing must be reducible to one of these classes, that not only all real existence, but even all possible existence, must necessarily be either body or spirit. I wonder how human capacities, contracted as they are within liinits so narrow, dare be so bold as to prescribe bounds to their Creator, and restrain his intelligence within their own sphere. If it were allowable to advance any thing upon the most abstract subject that can be proposed, I would venture to say, it is highly probable, that the same depth of divine intelligence, which conceived the ideas of body and spirit, conceiveth other ideas without end: it is highly probable, that possibility, (if I may be allowed to say so) hath no other bounds than the infinite knowledge of the Supreme Being. What an unfathomable depth of meditation, my brethren! to glance at it is to confound one's self. What would our perplexity be if we should attempt to enter it? The knowledge of all possible beings, diversified without end by the same intelligence that imagines them : What designs, or, as our prophet expresseth himself, What greatness of counsel doth it afford the Supreme Being?
But let us not lose ourselves in the world of possible beings; let us confine our attention to real existences : I am willing even to reduce them to the two classes, which were just now mentioned. Let each of you imagine, my brethren, as far as his ability can reach, how great the counsel of an intelligence must be, who perfectly knows all that can result from the various arrangements of matter, and from the different modifications of mind.
What greatness of counsels must there be in an intelligence, who perfectly knows all that can result from the various arrangements of natter? What is matter? What is body? It is a being divisible into parts, which parts may be variously arranged without end, and from which as many different bodies inay arise, as there can be diversities in the arrangement of their parts. Let us proceed from small things to great. Put a grain of wheat to a little earth, warm that earth with the rays of the sun, and the grain of wheat will become an ear laden with a great many grains like that which produced them. Give the parts of these grains an arrangement different from that which they had in the ear, separate the finer from the coarser parts, mix a few drops of
water with the former, and you will procure a paste : produce a small alteration of the parts of this paste, and it will become bread : let the bread be bruised with the teeth, and it will become flesh, bone, blood, and so on. The same reasoning, that we have applied to a grain of wheat, may be applied to a piece of gold, or to a bit of clay, and we know what a multitude of arts in society have been produced by the knowledge, which mankind have obtained of the different arrangements of which matter is capable.
But mankind can perceive only one point of matter; a point placed between two infinites; an infinitely great, and an infinitely sınall. 'Two sorts of bodies exist beside those that are the objects of our senses, one sort is infinitely great, the other sort is infinitely small. Those enormous masses of matter, of which we have only a glimpse, are bodies infinitely great, such as the sun, the stars, and an endless number of worlds in the immensity of space, to us indeed imperceptible, but the existence of which, however, we are obliged to allow. Bodies infinitely small are those minute particles of matter, which are too fine and subtile to be subject to our experiments, and seem to us to have no solidity, only because our senses are too gross to discover them, but which lodge an infinite number of organized beings.
Having laid down these indisputable data, let us see what may be argued from them. If the knowledge men have obtained of one portion of matter, and of a few different arrangements of which it is capable, hath produced a great number of arts that make society flourish, and without the help of which life itself would be a burden ; what would follow if they could discover all matter? What would follow their knowledge of those other bodies, which now absorb their capacities by their greatness, and escape their experiments by their littleness ? What would follow if they could obtain adequate ideas of the various arrangernents of which the parts of bodies infinitely great and those of bodies innitely small are capable? What secrets! What arts! What an infinite source of supplies would that knowledge become!
Now this, iny brethren, is the knowledge of the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being knows as perfectly all bodies infinitely great, and all bodies infinitely small, as he knows those bodies between both, which are the objects of human knowledge. The Supreme Being perfectly knows what must result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely small; and he perfectly knows what must VOL. I.
result from every different arrangement of the parts of bodies infinitely great. Whai treasures of plans! What myriads of designs ! or, to use the language of my text; What greatness of counsel must this knowledge supply!
Bat God knows spirits also as perfectly as he knows bodies. If he knows all that must result from the various arfangements of matter, he also knows all that must result from the different modifications of mind. Let us pursue the sa!ne method in this article that we have pursued in the foriner ; let us proceed from small things to great oncs. One of the greatest advantages, that a inan can acquire over other - men with whom he is connected, is a knowledge of their different capacities, the various passions that govern them, and the multiform projects that run in their minds. This kind of knowledge forms profound politicians, and elevates them above the rest of mankind. The same observation, that we have made of the superiority of one politician over another politician, we may apply to one citizen compared with another citizen. The interest, which we have in discovering the designs of our neighbours in a city, a house, or a family, is in the little what policy among princes and potentates is in the great world.
But, as I just now said of the material world, that we knew only one point, which was placed between two undiscoverable infinites, an infinitely great, and an infinitely small, so I say of the world of spirits : an infinite number of spirits exist, which, in regard to us, are some of them infinitely minute, and others infinitely grand. We are ignorant of the manner of their existence; we hardly know wherher they do exist. We are incapable of determining whether they have any influence over our happiness, or, if they have, in what their influence consists : so that in this respect we are absolutely incapable of counsel.
But God, the Supreine Being, knows the intelligent world as perfectly as he knows the material world. Human spirits, of which we have but an imperfect knowledge, are thoroughly known to him. He knows the conceptions of our minas, the passions of our hearts, all our purposes, and all our powers. The conceptions of our minds are occasioned by the agitation of our brains ; God-knows when the brain will be agitated, and when it will be at rest, and before it is agitated he knows what determinations will be produced by its motion; Consequently he knows all the conceptions of our minds. Our passions are excited by the presence of certain objects; God knows when those objects will be present, and consequently he knows whether we shall be moved with desire or aversion, hatred or love. When our passions are excited we form certain purposes to gratify them, and these purposes will either be effected or defeated according to that degree of natural or civil power which God hath given us. God, who gave us our degree of power, knows how far it can go; and consequently he knows not only whạt purposes we form, but what power we have to execute them.
But what is this object of the divine knowledge? What is this handful of mankind, in conparison of all the other spirits that compose the whole intelligent world, of which we are only an inconsiderable part? God knows them as he knows us ; and he diversifies the counsels of his own wisdom according to the different thoughts, deliberations, and wishes of these different spirits. What a depth of knowledge, my brethren! What greatness of counsel ! Ah, Lord God, behold thou hast made the hearen and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. The great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts is thy name, thou art great in counsel.
We have proved ther, by considering the divine perfections, that God is great in counsel, and we shall endeavour to prove by the same method tha: he is mighty in work.
These two, wisdom and power, are not always united; yet it is on their union that the hiappiness of intelligent beings depends. It would be often better to be quite destitute of both, than to possess one in a very great, and the other in a very small degree. Wisdom very often serves only to render him miserable, who is destitute of power : as power often becomes a source of misery to him, who is destitute of wisdom.
Have you never observed, my brethren, that people of the finest and most enlarged geniusses have often the least success of any people in the world? This may appear at first sight very unaccountable, but a little attention will explain the mystery. A narrow contracted mind usually concenters itself in one single object: it wholly employs itself in forming projects of happiness proportional to its own capacity, and, as its capacity is extremely shallow, it easily meets with the means of executing them. But this is not the case with a man of superior genius, whose fruitful fancy forms notions of happiness grand and sublime. lle invents noble · R2