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The Jews, say some, were full of the grossest anthropomorphic notions, derived from the language of their law and sacred books. “The God of the Hebrews," says Spurzheim," was irritable and revengeful; he delighted in war; he was fond of incense, perfumes, and bloody sacrifices." "He is represented in their Scriptures," say
others of this school, as confined chiefly to the narrow bounds of the Jewish land. He was the God of the hills. He was merely a beds natçúïos, a patrial or Gentile deity, ranking in this respect with the gods of the surrounding nations, only regarded (and that, too, merely in the national pride,) as more renowned than Baal, or Dagon, or Remmon, or even the far-famed Zeus, the chief God of the romote “isles of the sea.” But have those who write in this way, ever really studied the Old Testament? When, we may ask, did rationalist or phrenologist, unless they borrowed the language of the Bible, ever rise spontaneously to a height of conception surpassing, in sublimity and spirituality, many declarations of the same Scriptures, cotemporary with parts and passages at which such offence is taken? It is true God is represented (Deut. 23: 14,) as " walking about" in the camp of Israel, and as “coming down” (Exod. 3: 8,) for their deliverance. · But then it should be remembered that this is in the same chapter in which he styles himself the, I AM THAT I AM—the Jehovah, the sole Eternal, Self-Existent One, who only hath life, and essence, and immortality in himself. It is true he delights in characterising himself by terms expressive of locality, and the most intimate relationship to finite and temporal objects. He is the God of Abraham; of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is his people's "dwelling-place in all generations.” “His foundation is in the Holy Mountains ; He loveth the gates of Zion, even more than all the habitations of Jacob. He has, indeed, a “peculiar people" in a more distinct sense than was ever predicated of any local divinity. “As the mountains stand alway round about Jerusalem," so the Lord is ever nigh to those who fear and serve him. He comes down to their finite wants, and thoughts, and feelings. He hears their prayers; he delights in their sacrifices; He “smells a sweet smelling savor" in the incense of their confessions and thanksgivings. He is, indeed, their beos natpúïos, their patrimonial Deity. He is their God, and the God of their fathers, and of their children, and of their
'Heb. -His settled abode. It would seem to convey the idea of a beloved private seat, dwelling-place, or homestead. The word is closely allied to the noun yio from the same root, and with the same radical idea, consessus, vel amicorum familianter colloquentium, vel judicum consultantium. As in Ps. 25: 14. “The secret of the Lord, (910) (his familiarity, his intimate friendship,) is with those who fear him." He is, in this sense, not only a national, but also a household deity—their deos èpéotlos,—the God of the home, with all its hallowed associations, of the hearth, the fireside, the domestic altar,-if we may, with all reverence, apply to the God of the Bible, one of the most significant epithets which old tradition has handed down, and given to the Grecian Zeus.
children's children, even unto the third and fourth generations. He is a God “nigh at hand;" and yet it is the same One who saith * Am I not also a God afar off? Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” When we have contemplated this near, and intimate, and familiar aspect of the Divine character, we may, with the full sanction of these wonderful writings, turn to meditate on the far off view, and endeavor to conceive of Him as occupied with powers, and worlds, and natural laws, at distances so immensely remote that the difference between the astronomical conception of a Herschel, and that of Abraham or Job, shrinks into the veriest infinitessimal, or differential of a differential.
The Bible directs the mind to both. It is the same ancient Scripture, whose anthropomorphism gives such offence, that declares, “ The Heaven, and Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Him.” It is the same ancient Scripture, or rather still more ancient Scripture, that soars above all philosophy in the transcending inquiry-"Who can by searching find out God? Who can trace the Almighty unto perfection. It is high as the Heavens; what canst thou do,--deeper than Hades; how canst thou know it ?” Job 11.
Philosophy claims to have higher thoughts of the Divine nature than are presented in these old records, which, it is asserted, were intended for the infancy of mankind. She assumes to transcend the laws of our own human being, and to determine the mode of the Divine existence. After more than three thousand
discussion, she has not yet settled the very first problem in anthropology. She is still warmly debating as to what we are and do, in every momentary exercise of our 'mental activity. She has not yet clearly decided the famous question which Socrates hunts through every stage of definition in one of the longest of the Platonic dialogues,' and is compelled to leave, at last, utterly unsolved, the question, What is knowledge ? even human knowledge ? What is it to know? Is it an action, or a passion, or both ? How much in every thought, and even perception, comes from without, from the world of sense, and how much, if any, is furnished from the soul's innate stores ? There are, even yet, two schools, as distinctly divided on these points, as in the days of Heraclitus, and Parmenides.
And yet, this same philosophy modestly assumes to "find out God," and to know something more and higher of him than is presented in his own revelation! She undertakes to decide what he is, and what he is not, what he must be, and what he cannot be, how he exists, and how he cannot exist, what is possible and what is impossible, in respect to the unity or distinction of his personality. Yea, she would even determine the very law and mode of his spiritual action. He transcends time and space, it is proudly affirmed. He does not know things as we know them in time and space. He does not think as we think, by succession of thoughts
or ideas ; He does not view things by parts, as the anthropomorphic language of the Bible would seem to represent. All things are to Him one universal presence in space; all events are to Him one eternal presence in time; knowledge is his sense, his intui. tion; truth is his very essence.
But what does philosophy mean by her “great swelling words of vanity ?” What does she gain by all these barren negatives, or disguised nonentities, or concealed truisms ? What is all this to the immeasurable sublimity, and yet profound simplicity, of these Old Testament Scriptures, in setting forth the same transcendent aspect of the Divine character at which philosophy so labors,—" His ways are not as our ways—His thoughts are not as our thoughts. As the heavens are high above the earth, so are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts." For with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.' “They are in his sight as a yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.” Isa. 55: 8; Ps. 90 : 4.
Boetheus, in imitation of Plato, and some of the schoolmen in imitation of Boethius, define the Divine Existence as being "without pretention or futurition," as "tota simul et interminabilis vitae, possessio.”. We would not quarrel with the language ; rather would we admire it for its clear conciseness, and as the best form of words philosophy could invent for the expression of so transcendent a truth. But how is it itself transcended by the Scriptural mode of setting forth the same, or even higher aspect of the same idea. Jehovah, says the prophet, " inhabiteth Eternity." It is his dwelling-place, in which he abideth the same forevermore. It is his boundless bound, his life, which he liveth all in every part and at every moment.
Philosophy would spurn all expressions of nearness, or locality, or special providential care. She would contemplate the infinite aspect of the Divine character. Towards this, in her proud folly, would she strain her vision, until it grew dim, and dark, and finally went utterly out, in the vain attempt measure the measureless, to grasp the incomprehensible. But this is not the only aspect presented for our contemplation. With all reverence would we say it—God is also finite as well as infinite. Although it may seem a paradox, yet the latter may be said to involve the former. The idea of perfection seems necessarily to embrace both, and each as essential to any right conception of the other. In other words, he would not be perfect and infinite, if he could not, in truth and reality, present to us that other side of Deity, (to use the strange expression with all reverence) in which he truly and actually, and not merely by way of metaphorical accommodation, “comes down to see the children of men,” (Gen. 11: 5,) and meets our finite being, and himself enters into our temporal succession of thoughts and feelings, and thus does truly think and feel in “time and space,” even as we think, and as we feel.
Both aspects then, we repeat our belief, are true- the finite and the infinite, the temporal and the eternal. Both are real. The one is no mere metaphorical accommodation any more than the other. Both are essential to the idea of perfection in Him who filleth all things, and yet abideth in himself forevermore, who concerns himself with the acts and thoughts of beings of a day, and yet "inhabiteth eternity.” The Scriptures, we think, present them, and, in this way, both are to be received as the complement of each other, and as the true solution of all mysteries and difficulties which seem to occur in the Scriptural representations ; so that in thus receiving them, we may have, in the one aspect, an elevation of view to which mere philosophy could never hope to soar, and in the other, a nearness, a clearness, an intimacy, and a trust, such as might characterize our most familiar human conceptions. Both, then, we say, are presented in the Bible. And yet, if we must err on either side, better to go to the very verge of anthropomorphism, if we only preserve the moral attributes, than to run into the other, and far worse extreme of a blinding, chilling, hardening, pantheistic“ philosophy of religion.”
“ His ways are not as our ways; his thoughts are not as our thoughts." He does not think as we think. His spiritual action transcends, undoubtedly, both in mode and essence, all we know of the exercises of the human soul. And yet again, with truth and reverence may it be said, He does think as we think ; He does feel as we feel. It is a part of his eternal and infinite power and perfection, that He can do this. It is on this side, this finite side of infinite and eternal deity, that he reaches away down to us, and comes even in closest communion with us, so that “ He sympathizes with our infirmities," and knows our finite thoughts, even as they are finite and successive, and enters into our finite hopes and fears, even to know them as we know them, and to think them as we think them, and to feel them as we feel them.
Again— The Scriptures do not only present both these aspects in different parts, and with different applications. They sometimes unite them in one declaration; as in that most wondrous passage, (Isai. 57: 15,) which would seem to present in one view, the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, the far oft infinity and the endearing nearness of the Divine character. "Thus saith the High and Lofty One, whose dwelling is eternity,' whose name is HOLY-In the high and holy place I dwell; and with him also who is of a contrite and lowly spirit; that I may revive the spirit of the lowly, and the heart of the contrite ones.
1 The interpreter of the Grotian school might lower the force of this most sublime expression, by rendering the Hebrew simply—“ who liveth forever”. with the idea of mere duration or prolongation of time. But the emphasis is on the word 120, which ever contains the idea of domain, fixedness, habitation, home--eternity is his home. Jy too, in this place, is a noun, as in the remarkable declaration, Isa. 9: 5, 79 The“ father of eternity." The construction of the Hebrew gives the idea of eternity, not simply as being the dua ration of the Divine existence, viewed as immensely prolonged time, but as its fixed residence, of which it finds each and every finite part at each and every moment, to the exclusion of every notion of flowing or succession.
It is not, however, to the Psalms and Prophets alone, or to the more expressly devotional and poetical parts of the Old Testament, that such declarations are confined. They make their appearance too, in the law. They not unfrequently occur where we should least expect to meet them. They are to be found, at times, relieving the bare, and as it would seem to some, barren historical narration; as when the adoring Elijah hears the “still small voice that followed the tempest, the fire, and the earthquake, revealing a power away back of nature, even in her most sweet and irresistible manifestations. They shine out too, in the very midst of ritual and ceremonial precepts. The law of love to God and man, or that teaching which sums up all legal requirements, and all duty in the cultivation of these holy affections, stands out prominently on the roll of the ancient lawgiver. It is no new commandment. Christ gives but the words of Moses, and here too, as in so many other places of his instruction, thinks it no degredation from his own high claims as the most divine of teachers, to cite what was already written įv tais ypapais tais dyiais, in the Holy Scriptures. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” Deut. 6: 5. “And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thine own self; I am the Lord." Lev. 19: 18. There is appended the usual sanction—I am the Lord,-presenting the homage and love of the Creator as the original ground of all true love or benevolence to man; and this, too, in perfect consistency with the converse proposition of the beloved apostle, that love to our human brethren "whom we have seen" is the best and most acceptable evidence of love to the invisible " Father" of all human “spirits.” It is this which is repeatedly set forth as the pervading spirit of the law amid all its minuteness of precept and ritual. If the Jew lost sight of it, it was owing to that same Saducean hardness of heart, and stupifying carnality that produces similar effects in opposition to all the influences of the gospel. No one who carefully reads and ponders the numerous admonitions of the Old Testament on this point, can charge it to the want of spiritual instruction of the loftiest and purest, and at the same time, simplest kind. “And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to love him with a perfect heart, and with all thy soul ? Deut. 10: 12.
We need only refer in addition, under this head, to the striking summary, Deut. 30. 19. “I call this day to witness against you heaven and earth. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse! Then choose thou life that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed after thee! And this is thy life, tha tthou