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since their first creation. There is no question but the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider that it is the work of infinite power, prompted by infinite goodness, with an infinite space to exert itself in, how can our imagination set any bounds to it?
To return therefore to my first thought, I could not but look upon myself with secret horror, as a being that was not worth the smallest regard of one who had so great a work under his care and superintendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature, and lost among that infinite variety of creatures, which in all probability swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.
In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions, which we are apt to entertain of the divine nature. We ourselves cannot attend to many different objects at the same time. If we are careful to inspect some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection which we observe in ourselves, is an imperfection that cleaves in some degree to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures, that is, beings of finite and limited natures. The presence of every created being is confined to a certain measure of space, and consequently his observation is stinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move and act and understand, is of a wider circumference to one creature than another, according as we rise one above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these our spheres has its circumference. When therefore we reflect on the divine nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear in some measure ascribing it to him in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeed assures us that his attributes are infinite, but the poorness of our conceptions is such that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, till our reason comes again to
our succor, and throws down all those little prejudices which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of man.
If we consider Him in his omnipresence: His being passes through, actuates, and supports the whole frame of nature. His creation, and every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made, that is either so distant, so little, or so inconsiderable, which he does not essentially inhabit. His substance is within the substance of every being, whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it, as that being is to itself. It would be an imperfection in him, were he able to remove out of one place into another, or to withdraw himself from anything he has created, or from any part of that space which is diffused and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosopher, he is a being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where.
In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience indeed necessarily and naturally flows from his omnipresence. He cannot but be conscious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united. Several moralists have considered the creation as the temple of God, which he has built with his own hands, and which is filled with his presence. Others have considered infinite space as the receptacle or rather the habitation of the Almighty: but the noblest and most exalted way of considering this infinite space is that of Sir Isaac Newton, who calls it the sensorium of the Godhead. Brutes and men have their sensoriola, or little sensoriums, by which they apprehend the presence, and perceive the actions, of a few objects that lie contiguous to them. Their knowledge and observation turn within a very narrow circle. But as God Almighty cannot but perceive and know every thing in which he resides, infinite
space gives room to infinite knowledge, and is, as it were, an organ to omniscience.
Were the soul separate from the body, and with one glance of thought should start beyond the bounds of the creation, should it for millions of years continue its progress through infinite space with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed round with the immensity of the Godhead. Whilst we are in the body he is not less present with us because he is concealed from us. "O that I knew where I might find him!" says Job. "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand where he does work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." In short, reason as well as revelation assures us, that he cannot be absent from us, notwithstanding he is undiscovered by us.
In this consideration of God Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that anxiety of of heart in particular, which is apt to trouble them on this occasion for as it is impossible he should overlook any of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy those who endeavor to recommend themselves to his notice, and in an unfeigned humility of heart think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of them.
Spectator No. 441. Trust in God.
David has very beautifully represented this steady reliance on God Almighty in his twenty-third psalm, which is a kind
of pastoral hymn, and filled with those allusions which are usual in that kind of writing. As the poetry is very exquisite, I shall present the reader with the following translation of it:
The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
When in the sultry glebe I faint,
Though in the paths of death I tread,
Though in a bare and rugged way,
Spectator No. 453. Providence.
I have already communicated to the public some pieces of divine poetry; and, as they have met with a very favorable reception, I shall from time to time publish any work of the
same nature, which has not yet appeared in print, and may be acceptable to my readers.
When all thy mercies, O my God,
O how shall words with equal warmth
That glows within my ravish'd heart?
Unnumber'd comforts to my soul
When in the slippery paths of youth
Through hidden dangers, toils, and deaths,
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
When worn with sickness, oft hast thou
And when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Thy bounteous hand with worldly bliss
Ten thousand thousand precious gifts