GOD - HIS EXISTENCE AND ATTRIBUTES.
The existence of the Almighty lies at the foundation of religion. This great universal truth has been generally acknowledged on all hands. Cicero says: "There is no people so wild and savage as not to have believed in a God, even if they have been acquainted with His nature." Our consciences tell us, that there must be a great Creator of all things.
Reason corroborates the testimony of conscience. The argument is briefly expressed thus: Every house is built by some man; but He that built all things is God. Suppose you saw, in a solitary desert, a palace, full of beautiful furniture. Although there was no one in the building, and you never heard who erected it, you would be certain that it did not spring up of itself. By the same reasoning, we infer that, much more, must this great world, so completely supplied with everything we require, have had a Maker. All nature points to Him. An old writer says: "I asked the earth, and it said 'I am not He'; and all that therein is, made the same acknowledgement. I asked the sea and the depths, and all that move and live therein, and they answered, "we are not thy God; seek higher'. I asked the winds, but the air with its inhabitants, answered; 'I am not thy God'. I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they answered, 'neither are we the God whom thou seekest'. And I said to all things that surrounded me, 'ye have told me concerning my God that ye are not He; speak then to me of Him'. And they all cried with loud voices, 'He made us'."
It is true that in all ages of the world there have been some who have denied the existence of a Creator. Buddhism, a religion which originated in India more than two thousand years ago, and which is still professed by great numbers, is essentially atheistic.
There are even some men, looked upon as learned, who think that everything we see has arisen without a Creator. First mere atoms existed. By degrees, they formed themselves into plants of the lowest order, from which others of a higher type were gradually developed. Animals are supposed to have had a similar origin, all springing from each other, without the intervention of a personal God.
It is admitted that there has been order in Creation. Inanimate matter was first called into being. Plants were formed before animals and in both cases the most highly organized may have been the latest in each series. But all this does not disapprove the existence of a Creator.
Palely shows that if we met with a watch for the first time, we should at once infer that it had a maker. The unconscious watch could not have been the cause of the skillful arrangements of its parts. If the watch were so contracted that it would produce other watches, this, instead of proving that it had no maker, would only show that he possessed the greater skill.
Paley's Natural Theology contains many wonderful illustrations of design in nature. Science, in its progress, affords additional proofs of the same character. In a fine building, each stone is made of a particular shape to suit its future position. Chemistry tells us, that the whole universe is composed of atoms so excessively small that they cannot be seen. It further shows that each atom is, as it were, cast in a fixed mould, so that it will unite with others only in certain proportions. The very atoms, therefore, afford irresistible proof that they were fashioned by the great Architect of nature.
The wisest men have fully acknowledged the existence of a Creator. Aristotle, a profound Greek philosopher, was led from a consideration of the universe up to what he calls "the first immovable mover, which being itself immovable causes all things else to move." Bacon says in his "Essays": "I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them and go on further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity."
Pantheists assert that the universe, as a whole, is God. This, however, does not meet the necessities of the case. Newton says, "All these movements according to rule and purpose, cannot have their origin in merely mechanical forces. This most exquisite combination of the sun, and planets, and comets, can have sprung from nothing short of the counsel and dominion of a Being at once intelligent and mighty." We cannot conceive of intelligence without personality. A conscious personal God must exist.
Some admit that it would be absurd to deny the being of God but declare that He is "unknowable," and therefore we need not trouble ourselves about Him. It is perfectly true that we cannot understand Him fully. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell what canst thou know?" Still, we may learn something of Him from His works and His government of the world. A building enables us to judge of the wisdom and skill of the architect. In like manner, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy work."
Milton says, "Thine this universal frame thus wondrous fair; Thyself how wondrous then!"
It must be allowed that the evidences of God's goodness are not so apparent as those of His power and wisdom. Nature has two aspects. As a rule, everything is calculated to minister to our happiness. The sun with its cheerful light, fields of waving grain, trees with pleasant fruits, flowers with their beautiful colors and sweet perfumes, all proclaim the benevolence of God. There are, however, exceptional occurrences, as earthquakes and pestilences, which sometimes cause wide-spread suffering and death. Wise men, after a full consideration of both sides, are convinced that the arguments in favor of God's goodness greatly preponderate. Most of the misery that is in the world is brought upon the people by their own misconduct. It is part of God's chastisement to lead them to a better course. We are also incapable of understanding all God's Government in the world. He has designs far beyond our limited knowledge.
Another attribute of God is His holiness. What is the character we admire most? Is it not the man who is free from every taint of pride and revenge; Who is pure, truthful, just, and benevolent? Our consciences at once confirm this judgment. Can it be supposed that the great Creator does not Himself possess the virtues which we sometimes esteem in His creatures? Our instincts tell us that He must have them all in boundless perfection. The excellences which we see in the best men on earth are like reflections of the glorious sun from little fragments of a mirror.
Pope thus describes some gods which have been worshipped:-
"Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Whose attributes are Rage, Revenge or Lust."
Any professedly sacred books whose gods are of such a character, must be the inventions of wicked men. The excuse is sometimes made that the Gods are above all law, and can act as they please. This is comparing them to human tyrants, who take delight in gratifying their sinful passions. A good king would not act in such a way – much less God.
The ignorant suppose that there are many gods, some dwelling in one place, some in another. On the other hand, the unity of God has been acknowledged by the most intelligent men in all ages. He is not like a man, confined to one place; He possesses illimitable knowledge and power; there is no proof of the existence of more than one God, and no other is required.
In conclusion, I endorse the experience of the poet who wrote:-
Not worlds on worlds, in phalanx deep,
Need we to prove a God is here;
The daisy fresh from winter's sleep,
Tells of His hand in lines as clear.
For who but He who arched the skies,
And pours the dayspring's living flood,
Wondrous alike in all he tries,
Could rear the daisy's purple bud,
Mould its green cap, its wiry stem,
Its fringed border nicely spin,
And cut the gold-embossed gem,
That, set in silver, gleams within,
And fling it, unrestrained and free,
Over hill and dale and desert sod,
That man, wherever he walks, may see,
At every step, the stamp of God!