Theological Institutes

Part Second - Doctrines of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 5

ATTRIBUTES of God-Immutability, Wisdom.

ANOTHER of the qualities of the Divine nature, on which the sacred writers often dwell, is his unchangeableness. This is indicated in his august and awful title, I All other beings are dependent and mu­table, and thus stand in striking contrast to him who is independent, and therefore capable of no mutation. "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they shall perish; but thou shalt endure,-yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the SAME, and thy years shall have no end.- He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.-His counsel standeth fast for ever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations.-His mercy endureth for ever.-His right­eousness is like the great mountains, firm and unmovable.-I and the Lord, I change not."

Of this truth, so important to religion and to morals, there are many confirmations from subjects constantly open to observation. The general order of nature, in the revolutions of the heavenly bodies; the succes­sion of seasons; the laws of animal and vegetable production; and the perpetuation of every species of beings, from which, if there be occa­sional deviations, they prove the general regularity and stability of this material system, or they would cease to attract attention. The ample universe, therefore, with its immense aggregate of individual beings and classes of being, displays not only the all-comprehending and pervading power of God; but, as it remains from age to age subject to the same laws, and fulfilling the same purposes, it is a visible image of the exist­ence of a being of steady counsels, free from caprice, and liable to no control. The moral government of God gives its evidence also to the same truth. The laws under which we are now placed, are the same as those which were prescribed to the earliest generations of men. What was vice then, is vice now; and what is virtue now, was then virtue. Miseries of the same kind and degree inflict punishment on the former; peace and blessedness, as formerly, accompany the latter. God has manifested his will to men by successive revelations, the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the Christian, and those distant from each other many but the moral principles on which each rests, are precisely the same, and the moral ends which each proposes. Their differences are circumstantial, varying according to the age of the world, the condition of mankind, and his own plans of infinite wisdom; but the identity of their spirit, their influence, and their character, shows their author to be an unchangeable being of holiness, truth, justice, and mercy. Vicious men have now the same reason to tremble before God, as in former periods, for he is still "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;" and the penitent and the pious have the same ground of hope, and the same sure foundation of trust. These are the cautionary and the cheering moral uses to which the sacred writers constantly apply this doctrine. He is "the Lord, the hope of their fathers;" and in all the changes and vicissitudes of life, this is the consolation of his people, that he will never leave them, nor forsake them. "Though the mountains depart, and the hills be removed, yet my kindness shall not depart from thee, nor shall the covenant of my peace be removed."

It is true, that the stability of the Divine operations, and counsels, as indicated by the laws of the material universe, and the revelations of his will, only show the immutability of God through those periods within which these operations and dispensations have been in force; but in Scripture they are constantly represented as the results of an immuta­bility which arises out of the perfection of the Divine nature itself, and which is therefore essential to it. "I am the Lord, I change not: " he changes not, because he is "the Lord."-With him there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning; " because he is "the Father of lights," the source and fulness of all light and perfection whatever. Change in any sense which implies defect and infirmity, and therefore imperfection, is impossible to absolute perfection; and immutability is therefore essential to his Godhead. In this sense, he is never capable of any kind of change whatever, as even a heathen has so strongly expressed it, oudepote, oudamh, oudamw~ alloiwsin, oudemian endexetai. (PLATO in Phoed.) For "if we consider the nature of God, that he is a self-existent and independent Being, the great Creator and wise Governor of all things; that he is a spiritual and simple being, void of all parts and all mixture, that can induce a change; that he is a sovereign and uncontrollable Being, which nothing from without can affect or work an alteration in; that he is an eternal being, which always has, and always will go on in the same tenor of existence; an omniscient being, who, knowing all things, has no reason to act contrary to his first resolves; and, in all respects, a most perfect being, that can admit of no addition or diminution; we cannot but believe, that both in his essence, in his knowledge, and in his will and purposes, he must of necessity be unchangeable. To suppose him otherwise, is to suppose him an imperfect being: for if he change, it must be either to a greater perfection than he had before, or to a less; if to a greater perfection, then was there plainly a defect in him, and a privation of something better than what he had, or was; then again was he not always the best, and consequently not always God: if he change to a lesser perfection, then does he fall into a defect again; lose a perfection he was possessed once of and so ceasing to be the best being, cease at the same time to be God. The sovereign perfection of the Deity therefore is an invin­cible bar against all mutability; for, which way soever we suppose him to change, his supreme excellency is nulled or impaired by it: for since in all changes, there is something from which, and something to which, the change is made, a loss of what the thing had, or an acquisition of what it had not, it must follow, that if God change to the better, he was not perfect before, and so not God; if to be worse, he will not be per. feet, and so no longer God, after the change. We esteem changeable­ness in men either an imperfection or a fault: their natural changes, as to their persons, are from weakness and vanity; their moral changes. as to their inclinations and purposes, are from ignorance or inconstancy, and therefore this quality is no way compatible with the glory and attributes of God." (Charnock.)

In his being and perfections, God is therefore eternally THE SAME. He cannot cease to be, he cannot be more perfect because his perfection is absolute; he cannot be less so, because he is independent of all external power, and has no internal principle of decay. We are not however so to interpret the immutability of God, as though his operations admitted no change, and even no contrariety; or that his mind was incapable of different regards and affections toward time same creatures under different circumstances. He creates and he destroys; he wounds and he heals; he works and ceases from his works; he loves and hates; but these, as being under the direction of the same immutable wisdom, holiness, goodness, and justice, arc the proofs, not of changing, but of unchanging principles, as stated in the preceding chapter. They are perfections, not imperfections. Variety of operation, the power to co­mmence, and cease to act, show the liberty of his nature; the direction of this operation to wise and good ends shows its excellence. Thus in Scripture language "he repents" of threatened, or commenced punish­ment, and shows mercy; or "is weary of forbearing" with the obstinately guilty, and so inflicts vengeance. Thus, "he hates the evil doer," and "loveth the righteous." That love too may be lost, "if the righteous turn away from his righteousness;" and that hatred may be averted, "when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness." There is a sense in which this may be called change in God, but it is not the change of imperfection and defect. It argues precisely the contrary. if when "the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness," God's love to him were unchangeable, he could not be the unchangeably holy God, the hater of iniquity; and "when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness," and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, be­comes a new creature. if he did not become the object of God's love, God would not be the unchangeable lover of righteousness. By these Scriptural doctrines, the doctrine of the Divine immutability is not therefore contradicted, but confirmed.

Various speculations, however, on the Divine immutability occur in the writings of divines and others, which though often well intended, ought to be received with caution, and sometimes even rejected as bewildering or pernicious. Such are the notions, that God knows every thing by intuition; that there is no succession of ideas in the Divine mind, that he can receive no new idea; that there are no affections in God, for to suppose that would suppose that he is capable of emotion; that if there are effections in God, as love, hatred, &c, they always exist in the same degree, or else he would suffer change: for these and other similar speculations, recourse may ha: had to time schoolmen, and metaphysicians, by those who are curious in such subjects; but the im­pression of the Divine character, thus represented, will be found very different to that conveyed by those inspired writings in which God is not spoken of by men, but speaks of himself; and nothing could be more easily shown than that roost of these notions are either idle, as assuming that we know more of God than is revealed; or such as tend to repre­sent the Divine Being as rather a necessary, than a free agent, and his moral perfections as resulting from a blind physical necessity of nature, more than from an essential moral excellence, or, finally, as unintelligible, or absurd. As a specimen of the latter, the following passages may be taken from a work in some repute. The arguments are drawn from the schoolmen, and though broadly given by the author, will be found more or less to tinge the remarks on time immutability of God, in the most current systems of theology, and discourses on the attributes: - His knowledge is independent upon the objects known, therefore whatever changes there are in them, there is none in him. Things known are considered either as past, present, or to come, and these are not known by us in the same way; for concerning things past it must be 'amid that we once knew them; or of things to come, that we shall know them hereafter; whereas God, with one view, comprehends all timings hast and future, as though they were present.

If God's knowledge were not unchangeable, he might be said to have different thoughts or apprehensions of things at one time, from what he has at another, which would argue a defect of wisdom. And indeed a change of sentiments implies ignorance, or weakness of understanding; for to make advances in knowledge, supposes a degree of ignorance: and to decline therein is to be reduced to a state of ignorance: now it is certain, that both these are inconsistent with the infinite perfection of time Divine mind; nor can any such defect be applied to him, who is called, The only wise God." (RIDGLEY'S Body of Divinity.)

In thus representing the knowledge of God as "independent of the objects known; "in order to the establishing of such an immutability of knowledge, as is not only not inconsistent with the perfection of that attribute, but without which it could not be perfect; and in deny­ing that knowledge in God has any respect to the past, present, and future of things, a very important distinction between the knowledge of things possible, and the knowledge of things actual, both of which must be attributed to God, is strangely overlooked.

In respect of possible beings, the Divine knowledge has no relation to time, and there is in it no past, no future; he knows his own wisdom and omnipotence, and that is knowing every thing respecting them. But to the possible existence of things, we must now add actual exist­ence; that commenced with time, or time with that. Here then is another branch of the Divine knowledge, the knowledge of things actually existing, a distinction with which the operations of our own minds make us familiar; and from the actual existence of things arise order and succession, past, present, and future, not only in the things themselves, but in the Divine knowledge of t hem also; for as there could be no knowledge of things in the Divine mind as actually existing, which did not actually exist, for that would be falsehood, not truth, so if things have been brought into actual existence in succession, the knowledge of their actual existence must have been successive also; for as actual existences they could not be known as existing before they were. The actual being of things added nothing to the knowledge of the infinite mind as to their powers and properties. Those he knew from himself, the source of all being, for they all depended upon his will, power, and wisdom. There was no need, for instance, to set the mechanism of this universe in motion, that he might know how it would play, what properties it would exhibit, what would be its results; but the knowledge of the universe, as a congeries of beings in ideal, or possible existence, was not the knowledge of it as a real existence; that, as far as we can see, was only possible when "he spake and it was done, when he commanded and it stood fast:" the knowledge of the actual existence of things with God is therefore successive, because things come into being in succession, and, as to actual existences, there is foreknowledge, present knowledge, and after knowledge, with God as well as with ourselves.

But not only is a distinction to be made between the knowledge of God as to things possibly, and things actually existing; but also between his knowledge of all possible things, and of those things to which he deter­mined before their creation to give actual existence. To deny that in the Divine mind any distinction existed between the apprehension of things which would remain possible only, and things which in their time were to come into actual being, would be a bold denial of the perfect knowledge of God here however it is intimated, that this makes the knowledge of God to be derived from something out of himself, and if he derive his knowledge from something out of himself then it must be dependent. And what evil follows from this? The knowledge of the nature, properties, and relations of things, God has from himself, that is from the knowledge he has of his own wisdom and omnipotence, by which the things that are have been produced, and from which only they could be produced, and in this respect his knowledge is not dependent; but the knowledge that they actually exist is not from himself, except as he makes them to exist; and when they are made to be, then is the know. ledge of their actual existence derived from them, that is, from the fact itself. As long as they are, he knows that they are; when they cease to be, he knows that they are not; and before they exist he knows that they do not yet exist. His knowledge of the crimes of men, for instance, as actually committed, is dependent upon the committal of those crimes. He knows what crime is, independent of its actual ex­istence; but the knowledge of it as committed, depends not on himself, but upon the creature. And so far is this from derogating from the knowledge of God, that, according to the common reason of things, it is thus only that we can suppose the knowledge of God to be exact and perfect.

But this is not all which sustains the opinion, that there is order and succession also in the knowledge of the Divine Being. It is not only as far as the knowledge of the successive and transient actual existence of things is concerned, that both fore and after knowledge are to be ascribed to God, but also in another respect. Authors of the class just quoted, speak as though God himself had no ideas of time, and order, and succession; as though past, and present, and to come, were so entirely and exclusively human, that even the infinite mind itself had not the power of apprehending them. But if there be actually a successive order of events as to us, and if this be something real, and not a dream, then must there be a corresponding knowledge of it in him, and therefore, in all things which respect us, a knowledge of them as past, present, or to come, that is, as they are in the experience of mankind, and in the truth of things itself. Beside this, if there be what the Scriptures call " purposes" with God; if this expression is not to be ranked with those figures of speech which represent Divine power by a hand and an arm, then there is foreknowledge, strictly and properly so called, with God. The knowledge of any thing actually existing is collateral with its existence; but as the intention tm produce any thing, or to suffer it to be produced, must be before the actual existence of the thing, because that is finite and caused, so that very intention is in proof of the precognition of that which is to be produced, immediately by the act of God, or mediately through his permission. The actual occurrence of things in succession as to us, and in pursuance of his purpose or permission, is therefore a sufficient proof of the existence of a strict and proper prescience of- them by almighty God. As to the possible nature, and properties, and relations of things, his knowledge may have no suc­cession, no order of time; but when those archetypes of things in time eternal mind, come into actual being by his power or permission, it is in pursuance of previous intention: ideas of time are thus created, so to speak, by the very order in which he produces them, or purposes to pro duce them, and his knowledge of them as realities corresponds to their nature and relations, because it is perfect knowledge. He knows them before they are produced, as things which are to be produced or per­mitted; when they are produced, he knows them with the additional idea of their actual being; and when they cease to be, he knows them as things which have been.

Allied to the attribute of immutability is the LIBERTY of God, which enables us to conceive of his unchangeableness in the noblest and most worthy manner, as the result of his will, and infinite moral excellence, and not as the consequence of a blind and physical necessity. "He doth whatever pleaseth him," and his actions are the result of will and choice. This as Dr. S. Clarke has well stated it, follows from his intelligence; for "intelligence without liberty, is really, in respect of any power, excellence, or perfection, no intelligence at all. It is indeed to consciousness, but it is merely a passive one; a consciousness, not of acting, but purely of being acted upon. Without liberty nothing can, in any tolerable propriety of speech, be said to be an agent, or cause of any thing. For to act necessarily, is really and properly not to act at all, but only to be acted upon.

"If the Supreme Cause is not a being endued with liberty and choice, but a mere necessary agent, whose actions are all as absolutely and naturally necessary as his existence; theme it will follow, that nothing which is not, could possibly have been; and that nothing which is, could possibly not have been; and that no mode or circumstance of the existence of any thing could possibly have been in any respect otherwise than it now actually is. All which being evidently most false and absurd, it follows on the contrary, that the Supreme Cause is not a mere neces­sary agent, but a being endued with liberty and choice."

It is true, that God cannot do evil. "It is impossible for him to lie." But "this is a necessity, not of nature and fate, but of fitness and wis­dom; a necessity, consistent with the greatest freedom and most perfect choice. For the only foundation of this necessity, is such an unalterable rectitude of will, and perfection of wisdom, as makes it impossible for a wise being to resolve to act foolishly; or for a nature infinitely good, to choose to do that which is evil."

Of the WISDOM of God, it is here necessary to say little, because many instances of it in the application of knowledge to accomplish such ends as were worthy of himself and requisite for the revelation of his glory to his creatures, have been given in the proofs of an intelligent and designing cause, with which the world abounds. On this, as well as on the other attributes, the Scriptures dwell with an interesting com­placency, and lead us to the contemplation of an unbounded variety of instances in which this perfection of God has been manifested to men. He is "the only wise God;" and as to his works, "in wisdom hast thou made them all." Every thing has been done by nice and delicate adjustment, by number, weight, and measure. "He seeth under the whole heaven, to make the weight for the winds, to weigh the waters by mea­sure, to make a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder," Whole volumes have been written on this amazing subject, 'the Wisdom of God in the Creation," and it is stall un exhausted Every research into nature, every discovery as to time laws by which material things are combined, decomposed, and transformed, throws new light upon the simplicity of tine elements, which are the subjects of this ceaseless operation of Divine power, and the exquisite skill, and unbounded compass of the intelligence which directs it. The vast body of facts which natural philosophy has collected with so much laudable labour, and the store of which is constantly increasing, is a commentary on the words of inspiration, ever enlarging, and which will continue to enlarge as long as men remain on earth to pursue such inquiries; "he doeth great things past finding out, and wonders without number." "Lo, these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him!" The excellent books which have been written with the express design to illustrate the wisdom of God, and to exhibit the final causes of the creation, and preservation of the innumerable creatures with which we are surrounded, must be referred to on so copious a subject,[1] and a few general remarks must suffice.

The first character of wisdom is to act for worthy ends. To act with design is a sufficient character of intelligence; but wisdom is the fit and proper exercise of the understanding; and though we are not adequate judges of what it is fit and proper for God to do in every case, yet for many of his acts the reasons are at least partially given in his own word, and they command at once our adoration and gratitude, as worthy of himself and benevolent to us. The reason of the creation of the world was the manifestation of the perfections of God to the rational creatures designed to inhabit it, and to confer on them, remaining innocent, a felicity equal to their largest capacity. The end was important, and the means by which it was appointed to be accomplished evidently fit. To be was itself made a source of satisfaction. God was announced to man as his Maker, Lord, and Friend, by revelation; but invisible himself; every object was fitted to make him present to the mind of his creature, and to be a remembrance of his power, glory, and care. The heavens "declared his glory;" the fruitful earth "his goodness." The understanding of man was called into exercise by the number and variety, and the curious structure of the works of God; pleasures of taste were formed by their sublimity, beauty, and harmony. "Day unto day uttered speech, night unto night taught knowledge;" and God in his law, and in his creative munificence and preserving care, was thus ever placed before his creature, arrayed in the full splendour of his natural and moral attributes, the object of awe and love, of trust and of submission. The great moral end of the creation of man, and of his residence in the world, and the means by which it was accomplished, were, therefore, displays of the Divine wisdom.

It is another mark of wisdom when the process b which any work is accomplished is simple, and many effects are produced from one or a few elements. "When every several effect has a particular separate cause, this gives no pleasure to the spectator, as not discovering con­trivance; but that work is beheld with admiration and delight as the result of deep counsel, which is complicated in its parts, and yet simple in its operation, when a great variety of effects are seen to arise from one principle operating uniformly." (Abernethy on Attributes.) This is the character of the works of God. From one material substance,[2] pos­sessing the same essential properties, all the visible beings which sur­round us are made; the granite rock, and the central all-pervading sun; the moveless clod, the rapid lightning, and the transparent air. Gravitation unites the atoms which compose the world, combines the planets into one system, governs the regularity of their motions, and yet vast as is its power, and all-pervading as its influence, it submits to an infinite number of modifications, which allow of the motion of individual bodies and it gives place to even contrary forces, which vet it controls and regulates. One act of Divine power in giving a certain inclination to the earth's axis, produced the effect of the vicissitude of seasons, gave laws to its temperature, and covered it with increased variety of productions. To the composition, and a few simple laws impressed upon light, every object owes its colour, and the heavens and the earth are invested with beauty. A combination of earth, water, arid the gasses of the atmosphere, forms the strength and majesty of the oak, the grace and beauty, and odour of the rose; and from the principle of evaporation, are formed clouds which "drop fatness," dews which refresh the languid fields, springs and rivers that make the valleys, through which they flow, "laugh and sing."

Variety of equally perfect operation is a character of wisdom. In the works of God the variety is endless, and shows the wisdom from which they spring to be infinite. Of that mind in which all the ideas after which the innumerable objects composing the universe must have had a pre­vious and distinct existence, because after that pattern they were made: and not only the ideas of the things themselves, but of every part of which they are composed; of the place which every particle in their composition should fill, and the part it should act, we can have no ade­quate conception. The thought is overwhelming. This variety is too obvious to be dwelt upon; yet a few of its nicer shades may be adverted to, as showing, so to speak, the infinite resources, and the endlessly diversified conceptions of the Creator. "O Lord, how manifold are thy works!" All the three kingdoms of nature pour forth the riches of variety. The varied forms of crystalization and composition in minerals; the colours, forms, and qualities of vegetables; the kinds and properties, and habits of animals. The gradations from one class of beings to ano­ther; from unformed to organic, from dead to living, from mechanic sensitiveness to sensation, from dull to active sense, from sluggishness to motion; from creeping to flying, from sensation to intellect, from instinct to reason,[3] from mortal to immortality, from man to angel, from angel to seraph. Between similitude and total unlikeness variety has a boundless range; but its delicacy of touch, so to speak, is shown in the narrower field that lies between similarity and entire resemblance, of which the works of God present so many curious examples. No two things appear exactly alike, when even of the same kind. Plants of the same species, the leaves and flowers of the same plant, have all their varieties. Animals of the same kind have their individual character. Any two blades of grass, or particles of sand, shall show a marked difference when carefully compared. The wisdom of this appears more strongly marked when we consider that important ends, both intel­lectual and practical, often depend upon it. The resemblances of various natural things in greater or less degree, become the means of acquiring a knowledge of them with greater ease, because it is made the basis of their arrangement into kinds and sorts, without which the human memory would fail, and the understanding be confused. The differences in things are as important as their resemblances. This is strikingly illustrated in the domestic animals and in men. If the individuals of the former did not differ, no property could be claimed in them, or when lost they could not be recovered. The countenance of one human individual differs from all the rest of his species; his voice and his manner have the same variety. This is not only an illustration of the resources of creative power and wisdom; but of design and intention to secure a practical end. Parents, children, and friends, could not otherwise be distinguished, nor the criminal from the innocent. No felon could be identified by his accuser, and the courts of judgment would be obstructed, and often ren­dered no avail for the protection of life and property.

To variety of kind and form, we may add variety of magnitude. In the works of God, we have the extremes, and those extremes filled up in perfect gradation from magnificence to minuteness. We adore the mighty sweep of that power which scooped out the bed of the fathomless ocean, moulded the mountains, and filled space with innumerable worlds; but the same hand formed the animalcule, which requires the strongest magnifying power of optical instruments to make it visible In that too the work is perfect. We perceive matter in its most delicate organization, bones, sinews, tendons, muscles, arteries, veins, the pulse of the heart, and the heaving of the lungs. The workmanship is as complete in the smallest as in the most massive of the works of God.

The connection and dependence of the works of God are as wonderful as their variety. Every thing fills its place, not by accident, but by design; wise regulation runs through the whole, and shows that that whole is the work of one, and of one alone. The meanest weed which grows, stands in intimate connection with the mighty universe itself. It depends upon the atmosphere for moisture, which atmosphere supposes an ocean, clouds, winds, gravitation; it depends upon the sun for colour, and, essentially, for its required degree of temperature. This supposes the revolution of the earth, and the adjustment of the whole planetary sys­tem. Too near the sun, it would be burned up; too far from it, it would be chilled. What union of extremes is here,-the grass of the earth, "which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven," with the stupend­ous powers of nature, the most glorious works of the right hand of God!

So clearly does wisdom display itself, in the adoption of means to ends in the visible world, that there are comparatively few of the objects which surround us, and few of their qualities, the use of which is not apparent. In this particular, the degree in which the Creator has been pleased to manifest his wisdom is remarkably impressive.

"Among all the properties of things, we discover no inutility, no superfluity. Voluntary motion is denied to the vegetable creation, because mechanical motion answers the purpose. This raises, in some plants, a defence against the wind, expands others toward the sun, inclines them to time support they require, and diffuses their seed. If we ascend higher toward irrational animals, we find them possessed of powers exactly suited to the rank they hold in the scale of existence.

The oyster is fixed to his rock; the herring traverses a vast extent of ocean. But the powers of the oyster are not deficient; he opens his shell for nourishment, and closes it at the approach of an enemy. Nor are those of the herring superfluous; he secures and supports himself in the frozen seas, and commits his spawn in the summer to the more genial influence of warmer climates. The strength and ferocity of beasts of prey are required by the mode of subsistence allotted to them. If the ant has peculiar sagacity, it is but a compensation for its weakness; if the bee is remarkable for its foresight, that foresight is rendered necessary by the short duration of its harvest. Nothing can be more various than the powers allowed to animals, each in their order yet it will be found, that all these powers, which make the study of nature so endless and so interesting, suffice to their necessities and no more." (Sumner's Records of Creation.)

"Equally conspicuous is the wisdom of God in the government of nations, of states, and of kingdoms: yea, rather more conspicuous; if infinite can be allowed to admit of any degrees. For the whole inani­mate creation, being totally passive and inert, can make no opposition to his will. Therefore, in the natural world all things roll on in an even uninterrupted course. But it is far otherwise in the moral world. Here evil men and evil spirits continually oppose the Divine will, and create numberless irregularities. Here, therefore, is full scope for the exercise of all the riches both of time wisdom and knowledge of God, in conteracting all the wickedness and folly of men, and all the subtlety of Satan, to carry on his own glorious design, the salvation of lost mankind. Indeed, were be to do this by aim absolute decree, and by his own irresistible power, it would imply no wisdom at all. But his wisdom is shown, by saving man in such a manner as not to destroy his nature, nor to take away the liberty which he has given him." (Wesley's Sermons.)

But in the means by which offending men are reconciled to God, the inspired writers of the New Testament peculiarly glory as the moat eminent manifestations of the wisdom of God.

"For time wonderful work of redemption the apostle gives us this note, that 'he hath therein abounded in all wisdom and prudence.' Herein did the perfection of wisdom and prudence shine forth, to reconcile the mighty amazing difficulties and seeming contrarieties, real contrarieties indeed, if he had not some way intervened, to order the course of things, such as the conflict between justice and mercy; -that the one must be satisfied in such a way as the other might be gratified: which could never have had its pleasing grateful exercise without being reconciled to the former. And that this should be brought about by such an expedient, that there should be no complaint on the one hand, nor on the other. Herein hath the wisdom of a crucified Redeemer, that whereof the crucified Redeemer or Saviour was time effected object, triumphed over all the imaginations of men, and all the contrivances even of devils, by that death of his, by which the devil purposed the last defeat, the complete destruction of the whole design of his coining into the world, even by that very means, it is brought about so as to fill hell with horror, and heaven amid earth with wonder." (Howe's Posthumous Works.)

"Wisdom in the treasure of its incomprehensible light, devised to save man, without prejudice to the perfections of God, by transferring the punishment to a Surety, and thus to punish sin as required by justice. and pardon the sinner as desired by mercy." (Bates's Harmony.)


[1] Ray's "Wisdom of God."-Derham's Astro and Physico-Theology.-Paley's Nat. Theol.-Sturm's Reflections.-Kirby and Spence's Entomology; and, though not written with any such design, St. Pierre's "Studies of Nature" open to the mind that can supply the pious sentiments which the author unfortunately wanted, many striking instances of the wisdom and benevolence of God.

[2] "A few undecompounded bodies, which may perhaps ultimately be resolved into still fewer elements, or which may be different forms of the same material, constitute the whole of our tangible universe of things." (Davy's Chymistry.)

[3] It is not intended here to countenance the opinion that the difference between the highest instinct and the lowest reason, is not great. It is as great as the difference between an accountable and an unaccountable nature; between a being under a law of force, and a law of moral obligation and motive; between a nature limited in its capacity of improvement, and one whose capabilities are unlimited. "The rash hypothesis, that the negro is the connecting link between the white man and the ape, took its rise from the arbitrary classification of Linnaeus, which associates man and the ape in the same order. The more natural arrangement of later systems separate them into the bimanous and quadrumanus olders. If this classification had not been followed, it would not have occurred to the most fanciful mind to find in the negro an intermediate link." (PRITCHARD on Man.)