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and brevity, particularly for the information and instruction of the young; that, having before them, in a small compass, a general view of the counsel of God in Christ as developed in both Testaments, they may be induced to take an interest in the study of their religion; which of all studies is the most important, the most necessary, the most satisfying, and the most ennobling; and may feel, while they meditate on the marvellous and merciful operations of the Almighty, the wisdom and advantage of making themselves acquainted with the faith into which they have been baptized, and with the duties and obligations to be discharged, in order to the attainment of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.
GOD ETERNAL, FIRST CAUSE.
Although, from the infirmity and limited nature of our understanding, we cannot comprehend an eternity past, a duration that never had a beginning; yet our reason, while it is convinced by irresistible evidence and from deduction that there is a God, comes also, through the investigation of cause and effect, to the unavoidable conclusion, that he must have been from everlasting; for it is impossible that there could have been any creation without a preexisting power to create; and as all created
things must have had a beginning, so the prime cause and author of them, not having been himself created, not having derived his being from any other, must have existed from all eternity. There is, then, a God, a God eternal. An existence that has been from all eternity exceeds our powers of comprehension. It is a vast and amazing mystery—a mystery above all others the most inaccessible by the intellect or imagination of man-yet, without acknowledging such an existence, reason can find no possible way of accounting for the beginning of things. Hence it follows, that all creation, all matter, and spirit, and life, all things in heaven and earth, and whatsoever else there may be in the immensity of space (and in that space to which we can set no limits, there may be creations out of number), have proceeded solely and exclusively from the will of the one only eternal God, and been fashioned, animated, and informed by his single and almighty power.
This great truth is advanced at the beginning; not only because it is the fundamental principle of true religion, but also because it is deemed right to fix the mind, in the outset of its meditations, upon that point which is the leading article of the Christian creed. Without a belief in God there can be no belief in Christ. he who sets out with a view to investigate the
truths of the Gospel, will, if he would proceed in a regular course, and in quest of a gradual, consecutive, and connected accumulation of evidence, start from that spot where true religion has laid its foundation. The mind is thus led to the great fountain and spring of all truth, that it may thence proceed, and follow the streams that flow from it.
There is no occasion to labour the proofs of this main doctrine so universally admitted; but it has been deemed right to state and exhibit it at the front and commencement of the argument, as the foundation upon which the superstructure is to be raised. Our acceptance of all the other doctrines of Scripture depends upon the acknowledgment of this prime truth; which is, as it were, the rock that holds fast the first link of that great scriptural chain which extends through all periods of time into eternity. On this rock, therefore, we should firmly take our stand; and thence trace and follow out the mercy and grace of God in the redemption of the world.
CREATION OF THE ANGELS; THEIR REBELLION, AND
It is the information of Scripture, that in the eternity past, before the foundation of the
world (how long before we know not), the everlasting God created an order of beings called angels, of a pure, spiritual, and intelligent nature; blessing them with the privilege of holding an immediate communion with him, and endowing them with a large portion of his own happiness. Their dwelling was in heaven; they were the holy servants and ministers of the Most High. They were permitted to draw near and encircle his throne; to behold him in his glorious majesty; and to admire, adore, and magnify the perfections of his nature, and the wonders of his omnipotence.
How some of them, enjoying so great felicity in the very light and presence of their Maker, came to rebel against him; and how it was that pride and ambition entered into spirits so pure and blessed, it would be worse than useless to inquire. Scripture has not given us this information; and we are cautioned against attempting to be wise above what is written. We tread with safety and advantage when we go as far as revelation conducts us; but the moment we advance one step further, we venture upon dangerous ground; and trespassing beyond our prescribed limits, we get entangled to our injury in a maze of difficulties and perplexity. It is disclosed, and man should be content with the knowledge of
the fact, that the rebellion did take place, and that God "spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." *
The fall of man is connected with the fall of the angels. The introduction, therefore, of this subject of their rebellion and its consequences was necessary in an exposition of the counsel of God in Christ. Had Satan and his associates, content with their first estate, remained true to their allegiance, he would never have tempted Adam and Eve to transgress the prohibition of their Maker; and Christ would not have come, had resistance to the wiles of Satan rendered a merciful interference on his part unnecessary. angels rebelled, and were banished from heaven; their chief seduced our first parents into sin, and made them his captives: therefore, Christ came with power, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and redeem the fallen from their captivity.
CREATION OF THIS WORLD AN ETERNAL COUNSEL :
REPLY TO OBJECTIONS.
Now one of the eternal counsels was the
creation of this world.
God foresaw and fore
* 2 Peter, ii. 4.