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THE ETERNITY OF GOD.
PREACHED IN THE FRENCH CHURCH AT ROTTERDAM ON
THE FIRST LORD'S DAY OF THE YEAR 1724.
2. Peter iii. 8.
Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day. W E could not meditate on the words you have heard,
V my brethren, without recollecting that iniraculous cloud which conducted the Israelites through the desart. It was all luminous on one side, and all opaque on the other*. The Jews say it was the throne, or the triumphal chariot of that Angel who marched at the head of the camp of Israel ; of that Angel whom they call the Prince of the world, the Shekinah, the presence of the divine Majesty, the Deity itfelf. It is not needful to examine this opinion. I do not know whether the pillar of a cloud were a throne of God, but it was a beautiful symbol of the Deity. What is the Deity in regard to us? If it be the most radiant of all light, it is at the same time the most covered with darkness. Let the greatest philosophers, let the most extraordinary geniusess elevate their meditations, and take the loftiest flights of which they are capable, in order to penetrate into the nature of the divine essence, the stronger efforts they make to understand this fearsul subject, the more will they be absorbed in it: the nigher they approach the rays of this sun, the more will they be dazzled with its lustre. But yet, let the feeblest and most
* See Rabbi Menachem in Parasch. Beschalec, Exod. xiv. 19. fol. 63. edit. de Venise 5283. S.
confined genius seek instructions, in meditating on the divine grandeurs, to direct his faith, to regulate his conduct, and to sweeten the miseries that imbitter this valley of tears; he shall happily experience what the prophet did: Does he look down to him? he shall be lightened, Psal. xxxiv. 5.
God presents himself to your eyes to-day, as he once presented himself to the Israelites in that inarvellous phænomenon. Light on one side, darkness on the other. A thousand years are with the Lord as one day, and one day as a thousand years. Let the greatest philosophers, let those extraordinary beings in whose formation God seems to have united an angelical intelligence to a human body, let them preach in our stead, let them fully explain the words of my text. From what abysses of existence does the perfect Being derive that duration, which alike overspreads the present, the future, and the past? how conceive a continuation of existence without conceiving a succession of time? how conceive a succession of time without conceiving that he, who is subject to it, acquires what he had not before? how affirm that he, who acquires what he had not before, considers (I thousand years as one day, and one day as a thousand years ? So many questions, so inany abysses, obscurities, darknesses for poor mortals.
But if you confine yourselves to a conviction of the truth of the words of my text; particularly, if you desire to consider them in regard to that influence, which they ought to have on your conduct, you will behold light issuing from every part, nor is there any one in this assembly who may not approach it with confidence. This has encouraged us to turn our attention to a subject, which, at first sight, seems more likely to confound, than to edify us.
St. Peter aims to rouse the piety of christians by the idea of that great day in which the world must be reduced to ashes: when new heavens and a new earth shall appear to the children of God. Libertines regarded that day as a chimera. Where, said they, is the promise of the Lord's coming ; for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue us they were from the beginning of the creation? 2 Pet. iii. 4, &c. The words of my text are an answer to this objection ; an idea which we will presently explain, but which you must, at least in a vague manner, retain all along, if you mean to follow us in this discourse, in which we would wish to include all the different views of the Apostle. In order to which three things are necessary.
1. We will examine our text in itself, and endeavour to establish this proposition, One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
II. We will prove what we have advanced : That is, That St. Peter's design in these words was to answer the objections of libertines against the doctrine of the conflagration of the world : and we will prove that they completely answer the purpose:
III. We will draw from this doctrine, secured against the objections of libertines, such motives to piety as the Apostle presents us with.
In considering these words in this point of light, we will apply them to your present circumstances. The renewal of the year, properly understood, is only the anniversary of the vanity of our life, and thence the calls to detach yourselves from the world. And what can be more proper to produce such a detachment than this reflection, that not only the years which we must pass on earth are consuming, but also that the years of the world's subsistence are already consumed in part, and that the time approaches, in which it must be delivered to the flames, and reduced to ashes ?
Let us first consider the words of our text in themselves, and let us prove this proposition, one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The notion I have of God is my principle : the words of my text are the consequence. If I establish the principle, the consequence will be incontestible. 1. Eternity--2. Perfect knowledge, and, in some sort, the sight and presence of all that has been, of all that is, and of all that shall be.-3. Supreme happiness : are three ideas, which form my notion of the Deity: this is my principle. A thousand years then are as one day, and one day as a thousand years with the Lord : this is my consequence. Let us prove the truth of the principle, by justifying the 110tion we form of the Deity.
1. God is an eternal being. This is not a chimera of my mind; it is a truth accompanied with all the evidence of which a proposition is capable. I exist, I speak, you hear me, at least you seem to hear me. These are facts, the cera tainty of which all the philosophers in the world can never destroy. I am not able to new-mould myself, nor can I help the perception of truths, the knowledge of which (if I may be allowed to say so) is as essential to me as my own existence. It does not depend on me not to regard Pyrrho
and Academus, those famous defenders of doubt and uncer tainty, as fools who extinguished the light of common sense, or rather as impostors, who pronounced propositions with their mouths, the falsity of which it was impossible their minds should not perceive. I repeat it again, the most subtle objections of all the philosophers in the world united, can never diminish in me that impression, which the perception of my own existence makes on my mind, nor hinder my evidence of the truth of these propositions, I exist, I speak, you hear me, at least (for with the people whom I oppose, one must weigh each expression, and in some sort, each syllable) at least I have the same impressions as if there were beings before my eyes who heard me. · If I am sure of iny own existence, I am no less sure that I am not the author of it myself, and that I derive it from a superior Being. Were I altogether ignorant of the history of the world ; if I had never heard that I was only of yesterday, as the psalınist speaks, Psal. xc. 4. if I knew not that my parents, who were born like me, are dead; were I not assured that I should soon die; if I knew nothing of all this, yet I should not doubt whether I owed my existence to a superior Being. I can never convince myself that a creature so feeble as I am, a creature whose least desires meet with insurmountable obstacles, a creature who cannot add one cubit to his stature, Matt. v. 27. a creature who cannot prolong his own life one single instant, one who is forced to yield, willing or unwilling, to a greater power which cries to him, Dust thore art, and to dust thou shalt return, Gen. iii. 19. I can never convince myself that such a creature existed from all eternity, much less that he owes his existence only to him. self, and to the eminence of his own perfections. It is then sure that I exist : it is also certain that I am not the author of my own existence. . This certainty is all I ask; I ask only these two propositions : I exist, I am not the author of my own existence, to convince me that there is an eternal Being. Yes, though a revelation emanating from the bosom of Omniscience had never given me this idea of the Divinity; though Moses had never pronounced this oracle, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting thou art God, Psal. xc. 2. though the four-and-twenty elders, who surround the throne of God, had never rendered homage to his eternity, or prostrating before him, incessantly cried, We give thee