The Name of God Proclaimed by Himself
by Samuel Davies
the LORD, or JEHOVAH; a name here twice repeated, to show its importance, "the LORD the LORD," or "Jehovah, Jehovah". This is a name peculiar to God, and incommunicable to the most exalted creature. Magistrates in particular are called 'lords', because their authority is some shadow of the divine authority. But the name Jehovah, which is rendered LORD in my text, and in all those places in the Bible, where it is written in capitals, I say, this name Jehovah is appropriated to the Supreme Being, and never applied to any other. He claims it to himself, as his peculiar glory. Thus in Psalm 83:18, "You, whose name alone is Jehovah, are the Most High over all the earth."
Then Moses said, "Now I beseech you, show me your glory."
And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Exodus 33:18-19
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Exodus 34:6-7
It is a very natural and proper inquiry for a creature, "Where is God my Maker?" And a heart that loves him must long to know more of him, and is ever ready to join with Moses in his petition, "Show me your glory;" or, "Reveal yourself to me." That God exist, I infer from my own existence, and from your numerous works all around me; and that God is glorious, I learn from the display of his perfections in his vast creation, and in the government of the world he has made. But, alas! how small a portion of God is known in the earth! How faintly does his glory shine in the feeble eyes of mortals.
My knowledge of things in the present state of flesh and blood depends in a great measure upon the senses; but God is a spirit—invisible to eyes of flesh, and imperceptible through the gross medium of sensation.
How and when shall I know you as you are, you great, you dear unknown? In what a strange situation am I! I am surrounded with your Omnipresence—yet I cannot perceive you! You are as near to me as I am to myself; "you know my down-sitting and my up-rising, you understand my thoughts afar off;" you penetrate my very essence, and know me altogether. Psalm 139:2, etc. But to me, you dwell in impervious darkness, or which is the same, in inaccessible light. "Oh that I knew where I might find him! 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 hides himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." Job 23:3, 8, 9.
I see his perfections beaming upon me from all his works, and his providence ever-active, ruling the vast universe, and diffusing life, motion, and vigor through the whole: the virtue of his wisdom, power, and goodness,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze;
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees;
Lives in all life, extends through all extent;
Spreads undivided, operates unspent;
Inspires our soul, informs our vital part.
But where is the great Agent himself? These are his works, and they are glorious: "in wisdom he has made them all," but where is the divine Artificer? From these displays of his glory, which strike my senses, I derive some ideas of him; but oh! how faint and glimmering! how unlike to the all-perfect Archetype and Original!
I have also heard of him by the hearing of the ear; I read his own descriptions of himself in his Word; I contemplate the representations he has given of himself in his ordinances; and these are truly glorious—but they are adapted to the dark and groveling minds of mortals in this obscure region, and fall infinitely short of the original glory.
I can think of him; I can love him; I can converse and carry on a spiritual fellowship with him; I feel him working in my heart; I receive sensible communications of love and grace from him; I dwell at times with unknown delight in the contemplation of his glory, and am transported with the survey! But, alas! I cannot fully know him; I cannot dive deep into this mystery of glory; my senses cannot perceive him; and my intellectual powers in the present state are not qualified to converse with spiritual objects, and form a full acquaintance with them.
Oh! if it would please my God to show me his glory in its full luster! Oh that he would reveal himself to me so that my senses may assist my mind; if such a manner of revelation is possible!
Such thoughts as these may naturally rise in our minds; and probably some such thoughts possessed the mind of Moses, and were the occasion of his request, "I beseech you, show me your glory!" These chapters, whence we have taken our subject of discourse, present us with transactions that must seem very strange and incredible to a mind that knows nothing of communion with the Father of spirits, and that is furnished only with modern ideas.
Here is, not an angel—but a man; not a creature only—but a sinner, a sinner once depraved as ourselves, in intimate audience with the Deity. Jehovah speaks to him face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Moses uses his interest in favor of a rebellious people, and it was so great that he prevailed: nay, to show the force of his intercessions, and to give him an encouragement to use them, God condescends to represent himself as restrained by this importunate petitioner, and unable to punish the ungrateful Israelites, while Moses pleaded for them. "Let me alone," says he, "that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them." Exod. 32:10. Moses urges petition upon petition; and he obtains blessing upon blessing, as though God could deny nothing to such a favorite.
He first deprecates the divine wrath, that it might not immediately break out upon the Israelites, and cut them off, verses 11-14. When he has gained this point, he advances farther, and pleads that God would be their Conductor through the wilderness, as he had been until that time, and lead them into the promised land. In this article God seems to put him off, and to devolve the work of conducting them upon himself; but Moses, sensible that he was not equal to it, insists upon the request, and with a sacred dexterity urges the divine promises to enforce it. Jehovah at length appears, as it were, partly prevailed upon, and promises to send his angel before him as his guide. Chapter 32:34, and 33:2. But, alas! an angel cannot fill up his place; and Moses renews his petition to the Lord, and humbly tells him that he had rather stay, or even die where they were in the wilderness, than to go up to the promised land without him. "If your presence go not with me, carry us not up hence!" chapter 33:15. "Alas! the company of an angel, and the possession of a land flowing with milk and honey, will not satisfy us without yourself." His prayers prevail for this blessing also, and Jehovah will not deny him anything.
Oh the surprising prevalency of faith! Oh the efficacy of the fervent prayer of a righteous man! And now, when his people are restored unto the divine favor, and God has engaged to go with them, has Moses anything more to ask? Yes, he found he had indeed great interest with God, and oh! he loved him, and longed, and languished for a clearer knowledge of him; he found that after all his friendly interviews and conferences, he knew but little of his glory; and now, thought he, it is proper time to put in a petition for this manifestation; who knows but it may be granted! Accordingly he prays with a mixture of filial boldness and trembling modesty, "I beseech you, show me your glory!" That is to say, "Now I am in converse with you, I perceive you are the most glorious of all beings; but it is but little of your glory I as yet know. Oh! is it possible for a guilty mortal to receive clearer discoveries of it? If so, I beseech you to favor me with a more full and bright view."
This petition is also granted, and the Lord promises him, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you." That you may the better understand this strange history, I would have you observe a few things:
1st. In the earliest ages of the world, it was a very common thing for God to assume some visible form, and in it to converse freely with his servants. Of this you frequently read in the history of the patriarchs, particularly of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, etc. It is also a tradition almost universally received in all ages, and among all nations, that God has sometimes appeared in a sensible form to mortals. You can hardly meet with one heathen writer but that you will find in him some traces of this tradition. Upon this, in particular, are founded the many extravagant stories of the poets concerning the appearances of their gods. Had there been no original truth in some appearances of the true God to men, there would have been no color for such fables; for they would have evidently appeared groundless and unnatural to every reader. This tradition therefore was no doubt originally derived from the appearances of the Deity, in a corporeal form, in early ages.
Sometimes God assumed a human shape, and appeared as a man. Thus he appeared to Abraham, in company with two angels, Genesis 18, and that good patriarch entertained them with food as travelers; yet one of them is repeatedly styled the LORD, or Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God; see verses 13, 20, 22, 26, etc., and speaks in a language proper to him only, verses 14, 21, etc.
Sometimes he appeared as a visible brightness, or a body of light, or in some other sensible form of majesty and glory. Thus he was seen by Moses in the bush as a burning fire; thus he attended the Israelites through the wilderness, in the symbol of fire by night, and a cloud by day; and thus he often appeared in the tabernacle, and at the dedication of Solomon's temple, in some sensible form of glorious brightness, which the Jews called the Shechinah; and looked upon as a certain symbol of the divine presence.
2ndly. You are to observe that God, who is a spirit, cannot be perceived by the senses; nor were these sensible forms intended to represent the divine essence, which is wholly immaterial. You can no more see God—than you can see your own soul; and a bodily form can no more represent his nature—than shape or color can represent a thought, or the affection of love. Yet,
3dly. It must be allowed that majestic and glorious emblems, or representations of God exhibited to the senses, may help to raise our ideas of him. When the senses and the imagination assist the power of pure understanding, its ideas are more lively and impressive: and though no sensible representations can bear any strict resemblance to the divine nature—yet they may strike our minds deeply, and fill them with images of grandeur and majesty.
When I see a magnificent palace—it naturally tends to give me a great idea of the owner or builder. The retinue and pomp of kings, their glittering crowns, scepters, and other regalia—tend to inspire us with ideas of majesty. In like manner those sensible representations of Deity, especially when attended with some rational descriptions of the divine nature—may help us to form higher conceptions of the glory of God; and the lack of such representations may occasion less reverence and awe.
For instance, had the description of the Deity, "The LORD God, merciful and gracious, etc.," been only suggested to the mind of Moses as an object of calm contemplation, it would not have struck him with such profound reverence, nor given him such clear or impressive ideas as when it was proclaimed with a loud majestic voice, and attended with a visible glory too bright for mortal eyes! Human nature is of such a make, that it cannot but be affected with things of this nature. Consider the matter well in the light in which I have set it, and you may see something of the propriety and good tendency of these appearances, and at the same time guard yourselves against mistakes.
Let me now give you what I apprehend the true history of this remarkable and illustrious appearance of God to Moses. Moses had enjoyed frequent interviews with God, and seen many symbols of his presence and representations of his glory; but he still finds his knowledge of him very defective, and apprehends that God might give him some representation of his glory more striking and illustrious than any he had seen. Therefore, finding that now he was in great favor with him, he humbly moves this petition, "I beseech you show me your glory!" That is, give me some more full and majestic representations of your glory than I have hitherto seen."
The Lord answers him, "I will cause all my goodness," that is a glorious, visible representation of my goodness, which is, "my glory, to pass before you," which may strike your senses, and make them the medium of conveying to your mind more illustrious and majestic ideas of my glory. And as no sensible forms can fully represent the spiritual essence and perfections of my nature, while I cause a visible representation of my glory to pass before you, I will at the same time proclaim the name of the LORD, and describe some of the principal perfections that constitute my glory and goodness. But so bright will be the luster of that form which I shall assume, that you are not able to see my face, or the most splendid part of the representation; the glory is too bright to be beheld by any mortal, verse 20.
But there is a place in a rock where you may wait, and I will cast darkness over it until the brightest part of the form of glory in which I shall appear has passed by, and then I will open a medium of light, and you shall see my back parts; that is those parts of the representation which are less illustrious, and which pass by last: the glory of these you shall be enable to bear—but my face shall not be seen." verse 2-23.
Thus God condescended to promise; and when matters were duly prepared, he performs his engagement. The Lord assumed a visible form of glory, and passed by before him and proclaimed his name, which includes his perfections. Things are known by their names, and God is known by his attributes, therefore his name includes his attributes. The proclamation ran in this august style, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Moses was struck with reverence and admiration, and bowed and worshiped!
My present design is to explain the several names and perfections here ascribed to God, and show that they all concur to constitute his goodness. For you must observe this is the connection. Moses prays for a view of God's glory. God promises him a view of his goodness, which intimates that his goodness is his glory; and when he describes his goodness, what is the description? It is "the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping' mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin."
That these attributes belong to his goodness, we easily and naturally conceive. But what shall we think of his punitive justice, that solemn and tremendous attribute, the object of terror and aversion to sinners? Is that a part of his goodness too? Yes, when God causes his goodness to pass before Moses, he proclaims as one part of it, that "he will by no means clear the guilty; and that he visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation." This solemn attribute is an important part of his goodness, and without it he could not be good, amiable, or glorious.
I am now about to enter upon a subject—the most sublime, magnificent, and important, that can come within the compass of human or angelic minds—the name and perfections of the infinite and ever-glorious God! I attempt it with trembling and reverence, and I foresee I shall finish it with shame and confusion: for who by searching can find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection? Job 11:7. The question of Agur, mortifies the pride of human knowledge. "What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!" Proverbs 30:4. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Psalm 139:6. "It is as high as heaven; what can you do? deeper than hell; what can you know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." Job 11:8, 9.
Lend me your skill, you angels, who have seen his face without intermission from the first moment of your happy existence; or you saints above, who "see him as he is," inspire me with your exalted ideas, and teach me your celestial language, while I attempt to bring heaven down to earth, and reveal its glories to the eyes of mortals! In vain I ask; their knowledge is incommunicable to the inhabitants of flesh, and none but immortals can learn the language of immortality. But why do I ask of them?
Oh Father of angels and of men, who "can perfect your praise even out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," and who can open all the avenues of knowledge, and pour your glory upon created minds—shine into my heart to me give the light of the knowledge of your glory; I beseech you, show me your glory! Cause it to shine upon my understanding, while I try to display it to your people, that they may behold, adore, and love!
As to you my brethren, I solicit your most solemn and reverential attention, while I would lead you into the knowledge of the Lord your maker. One would think a kind of filial curiosity would inspire you with eager desires to be acquainted with your divine Parent and Creator. You would not be willing to worship, you know not what; or with the Athenians, adore an unknown God. Do you not long to know the greatest and best of beings, the glimnerings of whose glory shine upon you from heaven and earth? Would you not know him in whose presence you hope to dwell and be happy forever and forever? Come then, be all awe and attention, while I proclaim to you his name and perfections, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin."
We may be sure God has assumed to himself such names as are best adapted to describe his nature, as far as mortal language can reach. And everything belonging to him is so dear and important, that his very name deserves a particular consideration.
The first name in the order of the text, and in its own dignity, is,
And in Isaiah 42:8, "I am the LORD, or (as it is in the original) Jehovah; that is my name, my proper incommunicable name, and my glory will I not give to another; that is, I will not allow another to share with me in the glory of wearing this name."
Thus also in Amos 4:13. "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name!" That is—his distinguishing, appropriated name. There must therefore be something peculiarly sacred and significant in this name, since it is thus incommunicably appropriated to the only one God. The Jews had such a prodigious veneration for this name as amounted to a superstitious excess. They call it "that name," by way of distinction, "The great name, the glorious name, the appropriated name, the unutterable name, the expounded name," because they never pronounced it, except in one instance, which I shall mention presently—but always expounded it by some other. Thus when the name Jehovah occurred in the Old Testament, they always read it Adonai or Elohim, the usual and less sacred names, which we translate Lord God. It was never pronounced by the Jews in reading, prayer, or the most solemn act of worship, much less in common conversation, except once a year, on the great day of atonement, and then only by the high priest in the sanctuary, in pronouncing the benediction. But at all other times, places, and occasions, and to all other people—the pronunciation of this sacred name was deemed unlawful.
The benediction was that which you read in Numbers 6 verses 24-26, where the name Jehovah is thrice repeated in the Hebrew, "Jehovah bless you, and keep you: Jehovah make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: Jehovah lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." When this venerable name was pronounced upon this occasion, we are told by the Jewish Rabbis, "that all the vast congregation then present bowed the knee, and fell down in the humblest prostration, crying out, Blessed be his glorious name forever and ever!" They supposed this name had a miraculous virtue in it, and that by it Moses and others wrought such wonders: nay, so great was their superstition that they thought it a kind of charm or magical word, and that he who had it about him, and knew its true pronunciation and virtue, could perform the most surprising things, and even shake heaven and earth.
I do not mention these things with approbation—but only to show that there is something peculiarly significant, important, and sacred in this name, from whence the Jews took occasion for such extravagant notions; and this will appear from its etymology.
You know that it is not my usual method to carry a great quantity of learned disquisition with me into the pulpit, or to spend your time in trifling, pedantic criticisms upon 'words', which may indeed have a 'show of education', and amuse those who admire what they do not understand—but can answer no valuable end for a God-fearing audience. However, at present I must take the liberty of showing you the original meaning of the name Jehovah, that I may thoroughly explain my text, and that you may know the import of a name that will occur so often to you in reading your Bibles; for, as I told you, wherever you meet with the word LORD in large letters, it is always Jehovah in the original.
The name Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew verb, 'to be'; and therefore the meaning of the word Jehovah is, The existent, the being, or, He who is. Thus it seems explained in Exodus 3 verse 14. "I AM THAT I AM," or, "I am because I am;" that is, I exist, and have being in and of myself without dependence upon any cause; and my existence or being is always the same: unchangeable and eternal. John well explains this name by the "Who is, who was, and who is to come;" or, as the passage might be rendered, "The present Being, the past Being, and the future Being;" or, "The Being that is, the Being that was, and the Being that will be." That is, the perpetual, the eternal, and unchangeable Being.
I shall only observe farther, that Jehovah is not a relative name—but an absolute name: there is no pronoun or relative word that is ever joined with it; we can say: my Lord, our Lord, our God, etc.—but the Hebrews never say or write: my Jehovah, our Jehovah, etc.; so that this name represents him as he is in himself, without any relation to his creatures, as he would have been if they had never existed. He would still have been the Being, the absolute, independent existent, in which view he has nothing to do with his creatures, and can sustain no relation to them.
From this name, thus explained, we learn the following glorious, incommunicable perfections of God; that he is self-existent and independent; that his being is necessary; that he is eternal; and that he is unchangeable.
While I am about to enter upon these subjects, I seem to stand upon the brink of an unbounded, fathomless ocean, and tremble to launch into it! But, under the conduct of Scripture and humble reason, let us make the adventure; for it is a happiness to be lost and swallowed up in such an ocean of perfection!
1. The name Jehovah implies that God is self-existent and independent.I do not mean by this that he produced himself, for that would be a direct contradiction, and suppose him to exist—and not to exist at the same time. But I mean that the reason and ground of his existence, is in his own nature, and does not at all depend upon anything besides. Being is essential to him. He contains an infinite fullness of being in himself, and no other being has contributed in the least towards his existence; and hence with great propriety he assumes that strange name, 'I Am'. He is Being throughout, perfectly and universally vital; and the reason of this is entirely within his own nature.
How gloriously is he distinguished in this respect from all other beings, even the most illustrious and powerful! Time was—when they were nothing. Angels and archangels, men and beasts, sun, moon, and stars; in short, the whole universe besides, were once nothing, and had no being at all! And what was the reason that they ever came into being? Certainly it was not in them: when they were nothing there was no reason at all in them—why they should ever be something: for in not being, there can be no reason or ground for being.
The mere pleasure of God, the fiat of this self-existing Jehovah, is the only reason and sole cause of their existence! If it had not been for him, they would have continued nothing as they were! Their being therefore, is entirely precarious, dependent, and wholly proceeds from a cause outside of themselves.
But Jehovah glories in an unborrowed, underived, independent being. Whatever he is, it is his own: he owes it only to himself. What a glorious Being is this! how infinitely different from and superior to the whole system of creatures! Are you not already constrained to bow the knee before him, and wonder, adore, and love! But,
2. Hence it follows that his existence is necessary; that is, it is impossible for him not to be.His being does not depend upon anything outside of him, nor does it depend upon his own arbitrary will—but it is essential to his nature. That he should not be—is as great an impossibility as that two and two should not make four. It is impossible that anything should be more closely connected with anything—than being is with his essence; and it is impossible that anything should be more opposite to anything—than he is to non-existence. Since he received his being from nothing outside of himself, and since the reason of his existence is not derived from any other—it follows, that unless he exists by the necessity of his own nature, he must exist without any necessity: that is, without any reason at all, which is the same as to say that nothing is the cause or ground of his existence; and what imagination can be more absurd! His being therefore must exist by an absolute, independent necessity!
What a glorious Being is this! how infinitely distant from nothing, or a possibility of not being! What an unbounded fund of existence, what an immense ocean of Being is here! Alas! what are we, what is the whole universe besides, in comparison to Jehovah! They are nothing, less than nothing, and vanity. Our being is not only derived but arbitrary, depending entirely upon the mere pleasure of Jehovah. There was no necessity from our nature that we should be at all; and now there is no necessity that we should continue to be. If we exist, it is not owing to us. "He made us, and not we ourselves;" and if we shall continue to be forever, it is not owing to a fund of being within ourselves—but to the same God who first formed us.
It is but a short time ago—that we sprung from nothing, and how near are we still to the confines of nothing! We hang over the dreadful gulf of nothing by a slender thread of being, sustained by the self-originated Jehovah. Remove him, take away his agency, and universal nature sinks into nothing at once! Take away the root—and the branches wither! Dry up the fountain—and the streams cease. If any of you are such fools as to wish in your hearts that there were no God, you imprecate annihilation upon the whole universe; you wish total destruction to yourself and everything else; you wish the extinction of all being. All depend upon God, the uncaused cause, the only necessary Being.
Allow me here to make a digression. Is this the God whom wicked men so much forget, dishonor, and disobey? Are they so entirely dependent upon him—and yet careless how they behave towards him, careless whether they love and please him? Do they owe their being and their all—entirely to him? And are they wholly in his hand? What then do they mean by withholding their thoughts and affections from him, breaking his laws and neglecting his gospel? Can you find a name for such wicked conduct? Would it not be entirely incredible—did we not see it with our eyes all around us?
Sinners, what do you mean by this conduct! Let the infant rend the womb that conceived it, or tear the breasts that nourish it! Go, poison or destroy the bread that should feed you! Dry up the streams that should allay your thirst! Stop the breath that keeps you in life! Do these things, or do anything—but oh! do not forget, disobey, and provoke the very Father of your being, to whom you owe it that you are not as much nothing now—as you were ten thousand years ago, and on whom you depend, not only for this and that mercy—but for your very being, every moment of your existence, in time and eternity!
He can do very well without you—but oh what are you without him! a stream without a fountain, a branch without a root, an effect without a cause, a mere blank, a nothing! He indeed is self-sufficient and self-existent. It is nothing to him, as to his existence, whether creation exists or not. Let men and angels and every creature sink to nothing from whence they came—and his being is still secure! He enjoys an unprecarious being of his own, necessarily, unchangeably, and eternally existent!
Men and angels bow the knee, fall prostrate and adore before this Being of beings! How base are you in his presence! What poor, arbitrary, dependent, perishing creatures! What shadows of existence! What mere nothings! And is it not fit you should humbly acknowledge it? Can there be anything more unnatural, anything more foolish, anything more audaciously wicked—than to neglect or despise such a Being, the Being of beings, the Being that includes all being? I can hardly bear up under the horror of the thought!
3. The name Jehovah implies that God is eternal that is, he always was, is, and ever will be."From everlasting to everlasting, he is God!" Psalm 90:2. This is his grand peculiarity, "He alone has immortality!" 1 Timothy 6:16, in a full and absolute sense. Men and angels indeed are immortal—but it is but a kind of half-eternity they enjoy. They once were nothing, and continued in that state through an eternal duration. But as Jehovah never will have an end, so he never had a beginning. This follows from his necessary self-existence. If the reason of his existence is in himself, then unless he always existed—he never could exist, for nothing outside of himself could cause him to exist. And if he exists by absolute necessity, then he must always exist, for absolute necessity is always the same, without any relation to time or place. Therefore he always was and ever will be.
And what a wonderful Being is this! A Being unbegun, and that can never have an end! A being possessed of a complete, entire eternity. Here, my brethren, let your thoughts take wing, and fly backward and forward, and see if you can trace his existence! Fly BACK in thought about six thousand years, and all nature, as far as appears to us, was a mere blank! There was no heaven nor earth, no men nor angels. But still the great Eternal lived-lived alone, self-sufficient and self-happy!
Fly FORWARD in thought as far as the great conflagration, and you will see "the heavens dissolving, and the earth and the things that are therein burnt up!" but still Jehovah lives unchangeable, and absolutely independent.
Exert all the powers of numbers, add centuries to centuries, thousands to thousands, millions to millions; fly back, back, back—as far as thought can possibly carry you—still Jehovah exists! Nay, you are even then as far from the first moment of his existence as you are now, or ever can be.
Take the same prospect before you, and you will find the King eternal and immortal still the same: he is then no nearer an end than at the creation, or millions of ages before it.
What a glorious being is this! Here, again, let men and angels, and all the offspring of time, bow the knee and adore! Let them lose themselves in this ocean, and spend their eternity in ecstatic admiration and love of this eternal Jehovah!
"The eternal God is your refuge!" Deuteronomy 33:27. Oh! what a glorious portion is Jehovah to his people! Your earthly enjoyments may pass away like a shadow; your friends die, you yourselves must die, and heaven and earth will vanish like a dream—but your God lives! He lives forever, to give you a happiness equal to your immortal duration. Therefore, blessed, blessed is the people whose God is the LORD!
But oh! let wicked men and devils tremble before him, for how dreadful an enemy is an eternal God! He lives forever to punish you. He lives forever to hate your sin, to resent your rebellion, and to display his justice! And while he lives—you must be miserable. What a dismal situation are you in, when the eternal existence of Jehovah is an inexhaustible fund of terror to you!
Oh how have you inverted the order of things, when you have made it your interest that the Fountain of being should cease to be, and that with him yourselves and all other creatures should vanish into nothing!
What a malignant thing is sin, which makes existence a curse, and universal annihilation a blessing!
What a horrible region is hell, where being, so sweet in itself, and the capacity of all enjoyments—has become the most intolerable burden, and every wish—is an imprecation of universal annihilation!
Sinners, you have now time to consider these miseries and avoid them, and will you be so senseless and fool-hardy as to rush headlong into them!! Oh! if you were but sensible of what will be the consequences of your conduct in a few years—you would not need persuasions to reform it! But oh the fatal blindness and stupidity of mortals, who will not be convinced of these things—until the conviction is too late! "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46
4. The name of Jehovah implies that God is unchangeable, or always the same.If he exists necessarily, he must always necessarily be what he is, and cannot be anything else. He is dependent upon none, and therefore he can be subject to no change from another. And he is infinitely perfect—and therefore cannot desire to change himself. So that he must be always the same through all duration, from eternity to eternity! He must be the same, not only as to his being—but as to his perfections; the same in power, wisdom, goodness, justice, and happiness. Thus he represents himself in his Word, as "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," James 1:17. "The same yesterday, and today, and forever," Hebrews 13:8.
What a distinguished perfection is this! and indeed it is in Jehovah alone, whom immutability can be a perfection. The most excellent creature is capable of progressive improvements, and seems intended for it; and to fix such a creature at first in an immutable state, would be to limit and restrain it from higher degrees of perfection, and keep it always in a state of infancy.
But Jehovah is absolutely, completely, and infinitely perfect, at the highest summit of all possible excellency, infinitely beyond any addition to his perfection, and absolutely incapable of improvement! And consequently, and as there is no room for, so there is no need of, a change in him! His immutability is a perpetual, invariable continuance in the highest degree of excellency, and therefore the highest perfection. He is the cause and the spectator of an endless variety of changes in the universe—without the least change in himself. He sees worlds springing into being, existing a while—and then dissolving. He sees kingdoms and empires forming, rising—and then rushing headlong to ruin. He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings, and sets up kings! Dan. 2:21.
And he sees the fickleness and vicissitudes of mortals; he sees generations upon generations vanishing like successive shadows; he sees them now wise—now foolish; now in pursuit of one thing—now of another; now happy—now miserable, and in a thousand different forms. He sees the revolutions in nature, the successions of the seasons, and of night and day. These and a thousand other alterations he beholds, and they are all produced or permitted by his all-ruling providence. But all these make no change in him! His being, his perfections, his counsels, and his happiness—are invariably and eternally the same!
He is not wise, good, just, or happy, only at times—but he is equally, steadily, and immutably so through the whole of his infinite duration! Oh how unlike the fleeting offspring of time, and especially the changing race of man! Since Jehovah is thus constant and unchangeable—how worthy is he to be chosen as our best friend! You who love him—need fear no change in him. They are not small matters that will turn his heart from you! In infinite wisdom, his love was fixed on you—and he never will see reason to reverse it! It is not a transient fit of fondness—but it is deliberate, calm, and steady. You may safely trust your all in his hands—for he cannot deceive you! And whatever or whoever fail you—he will not. You live in a fickle, uncertain world; your best friends may prove treacherous or cool towards you; all your earthly comforts may wither and die around you; yes, heaven and earth may pass away; but your God is still the same! He has assured you of it with his own mouth, and pointed out to you the happy consequences of it: "I am the LORD— Jehovah," says he, "I do not change—therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed!" Mal. 3:6.
What a complete happiness is this Jehovah—to those who have chosen him for their portion! If an infinite God is now sufficient to satisfy your utmost desires—he will be so to all eternity. He is an ocean of communicative happiness which never ebbs or flows, and therefore completely blessed will you ever be—who have a saving interest in him. But oh! how miserable are those who are the enemies of this Jehovah! Sinners, he is unchangeable, and can never lay aside his resentments against sin, or abate in the least degree in his love of virtue and holiness. He will never recede from his purpose to punish impenitent rebels, nor lose his power to accomplish it. His hatred of all moral evil is not a transient passion—but a fixed, invariable, deep-rooted hatred! Therefore, if ever you be happy, there must be a change in you. As you are so opposite to him, there must be an alteration in the one or the other. You see it cannot be in him, and therefore it must be in you! And this you ought to labor for above all other things!
"Let us then have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire" to his impenitent and implacable enemies! (Hebrews 12. 28, 29,)
(N. B. Mr. Davies has evidently not finished his subject. Yet I am publishing it, for its own substantial worth.)