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Notwithstanding the absolute perfection of all the divine attributes, yet we necessarily conceive of some as being more exalted than others; and they excite in the contemplative mind, those affections which are most correspondent to their character. The natural attributes of the Deity, Eternity, Self-existence, Spirituality, Omnipresence, are calculated to impress the mind with the profoundest wonder and astonishment ! They amaze and confound the intellectual faculties of all created Beings; and the most stupendous of the divine productions become diminutive, and, as it were, shrink into nothing before them! Power, simply considered, is calculated to oppress and overwhelm the mind with dread; for it may be exerted to our misery : but Knowledge is allowed to be entitled to respect ; an affection which is not applicable to power, abstractedly considered. Wisdom, which is the proper direction of knowledge and power, is venerated and admired; but still we may not be interested in its plans and operations. Neither of these attributes have primarily a claim to our Love, unless they be under the direction of Goodness; which attribute describes the disposition to promote our interests. To the union of these attributes belongs the mixture of reverential awe, profound admiration, and confidential love. Power is in itself a property merely physical. In the abstracted idea it is unconnected with design or merit; for power is a property possessed by inanimate bodies; and it is acknowledged to exist by those who deny a Deity. Knowledge, or the capacity of discerning existences, properties, possibilities, &c. is of an intellectual nature. But although it belongs to Mind, it does not necessarily imply any kind or degree of moral excellence. Wisdom, which indicates the capacity of making the best possible use of this knowledge, is as superior to knowledge, as agency is to the instrument employed. This is intellectual in a higher degree of excellence. It also possesses something of a moral character; for there can be no wisdom, either in plan or execution, where some kind of Utility be not the object; still, however, it may be considered in the light of means solely valuable as they respect the end. But Goodness is strictly, and eminently Moral. It is in its nature of a boundless extent. If it be not universally operative it cannot exist as a perfection: it degenerates into partial attachments, and a partial fondness; and thus the idea of an exalted and amiable principle of action is destroyed. This attribute must be universally relative for Good. It is, in the Divinity, a pattern and prototype of the moral
relation of man to man. Hence we give it the title of Moral; borrowing the term from those social acts, which the divinity has rendered obligatory upon his intelligent creatures, in their relative capacity. This is the attribute upon which the chief excellence of character depends. It is a perfect security against the abuse of power ; it renders knowledge truly valuable ; and it diffuses a charm over all the plans of wisdom. The right direction of power, knowledge, and wisdom, consists in their being the instruments and means of goodness, and in the accomplishment of all its beneficent designs.*
Hence we perceive that the harmony of the relative attributes of God admits and demands, that those which possess the least of what we deem excellence, should be subservient to those which possess the most. Power has no claim to precedency over knowledge or wisdom, but it is to be directed and controlled by them. Wisdom, to maintain its character, requires for its object some plan of high importance, that its operations may be directed to some useful end, that is, to something productive of good. The action of a wise and beneficent cause, implies a motive of action correspondent to his moral character; to the nature and extent of his intelligence; and to his power of execution. The most excellent, the most wise, and most powerful Cause of all things, must operate to the best of purposes, and according to the wisest plans. But no purpose can be equal to the production of Good; that is, to the possession of bliss, and to the communication of such portions of enjoyment, as are best adapted to the state of individuals, and most consistent with the good of the whole. To him who is in the full possession of All, the exercise of his perfections must proceed from the determination to impart good.
* See Note A.
Although to will, to plan, to execute, be equal and instantaneous, respecting the divine mind, yet in the order of our conceptions, the Goodness of God prompting him to create, is the first attribute that presents itself. The next is that of boundless Knowledge, by which he discerns effects in their causes, and every possible result from every possible energy. From such sources Wisdom is enabled to form its plans of extensive good, and to establish those laws, by which life shall be diffused, and its enjoyments multiplied : that Wisdom which has devised and constituted such a diversity of powers and properties, in the material and inanimate creation; of instincts and propensities in the animal king
dom; and has endowed the human species with those intellectual and moral faculties, which are the inexhaustible sources of the most exalted and refined enjoyments. Such plans of wisdom and beneficence will be indubitably accomplished in their order, both of time and place, by a power which conquers all opposition; compels apparent obstacles into its service; changes disorder into harmony; and distressinto blessings: brings light out of darkness, and cherishes virtue in the midst of depravities that confound and appal!!