Tokens of God

OF the same dreadful Time we also read in Rev. And the great City was divided into three Parts, and the Cities of the Nations fell: And ev'ry Island fled away: THEY sometimes come upon some threatning and foreboding Symptoms: But for the most part at once, without the least Intimation or Suspicion.

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Sometimes in dreadful Tempests; but oftener in the calmest and serenest Seasons. They are sometimes of a narrower, at others of a larger Compass. Sometimes their Shocks are of a shorter, at others of a longer Duration: Some are of a lesser, others of a greater Violence: Some times they quickly cease and leave the Earth at Rest; at other times they soon repeat their terrible Efforts, and throw the Earth into new Convulsions.

In such a manner was the Place shaken where the Apostles were assembled. The Original Words in both those Places signify, to fluctuate like the Waves of the Ocean, or to reel, or rise and lower like the Ships upon them.

Tokens of God's Love

Sometimes they throw down Houses or roll the Mountains upon them, and bury their Inhabi tants under their Ruins: They are covered up for ever: And sometimes they blow forth mineral and malignant Steams that destroy the People round about with raging Pestilence. Thus it was with Corah and his guilty Company. And with this dreadful Eruption there immediately follow'd a Plague, that quickly destroy'd hear Fifteen Thousand People. And of the Terror of such an aw ful Event we read, 1 Sam. And there was Trembling in the Host, in the Field, and among all the People: The Garrison and the Spoilers they also trembled, and the Earth Quaked: But now we have known by Experi ence, something of the Dreadfulness of them.

Our Hearts were sore pained within us, and the Terrors of Death were fallen upon us.

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Fearfulness and Trembling seized us, and Horrour overwhelmed and cover'd us: And we were ready to fly as they fled from the Earthquake in the Days of Uzziah: It was even the Time of Jacob's Trouble: Tho' we are saved out of it. Even when we remember, we are still afraid, and Trembling takes hold on our Flesh. With a reverend Mind, and not a mere na tural but divine Philosophy, let us search a little into them, and see—How the mighty GOD invisibly works by sensible Causes, and even by those that are extreamly little and weak, produces the greatest and most terrible Effects in the World. I shall only take notice of those Natural Causes, whose Operations are known to us all, and conceived with Ease when applied to these Matters.

But He has also formed it with a vast and inconceivable number of Caverns or hollow Places within: Now when these are put into Motion and strike against one another; we know with what amazing Violence they fly off from each other, as we see in our Aurum Fulminans and common Gun-Powder. So prodigious is their Expansion, that it is computed a Collection of them set on Fire, will in a moment spread so wide, as to possess above a Million Times the space they did before, while they lay in the Form of a compacted Body.

They will first make their way into the easiest Passages; and if they have not a speedy Vent, agreable to their expansive and united Power, they will tare and rend away all before them.

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AND thus these diminutive Causes meeting and acting in a suitable Quantity, whether in the Air or Water of the hollow Vaults and empty Spaces below; they fly off from each other with the greatest Vio lence. They firstly issue or push every Vapour before them into the neighbouring Caverns: But still wanting Room, and especially if the Per spirations or Pores of the Earth are stopt either by Frost or Rains, whereby they cannot get thro' soon enough; they heave and raise the Earth, till they force their way into the Air above. Yea, tho' there shou'd be an Eruprion thro' an easier Passage in any Part of the Land or Water about us, a great many Miles off; Yet Here, a whole Town being over such an emptied Cavern, it may sink in a moment: Thus He has placed us over great and hideous Vaults, large enough to receive the most spacious Cities, and ready to open when He sees it time to bury us in them: And there He lays his terrible Mines, to spring them at his sovereign Pleasure.

And by such little weak Things, He causes great and marvellous Alterations in this lower World, and executes his most righteous Judgments. How exceeding apt are we to terminate our views and rest in second Causes; and look on them as cer tain fatal Things that move and act of themselves, and without Design or Reason.

And our Conceptions rising from it, are not only utterly wrong and contrary to the Truth of things, but are also opposite to the Being of Providence and the Nature of the Divine Perfections. FOR this is to suppose, That when GOD had for med material Substances, He only made some general Impressions on them for general Ends, and then left them to Act according to those Impressions, without continuing his active or directive Influence on them: Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord by turning back today from following after the Lord by building an altar for burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tokens of peace aside from the altar of the Lord our God located in front of his dwelling place!

So all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel. They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace to the Lord. Have ye not asked them that go by the way? They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.

Tracing the Tokens of God’s Presence

A century or more after such prophets of atheism as Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche confidentally proclaimed the death of God, religious belief continues to thrive in most parts of the world. George Orwell once observed of some absurdity that one would have to be an intellectual to believe a thing like that; perhaps the same goes for certain forms of militant disbelief. In the sixteen brief chapters that compose The Quest for God , Johnson rehearses a wide range of classic religious quandaries, from the question of whether God exists to the problem of reconciling the idea of a just and all-powerful God with the existence of evil and innocent suffering.

His main purpose, however, is not theological speculation but existential reflection. The existence or nonexistence of God is the most important question we humans are ever called to answer. If God does exist, and if in consequence we are called to another life when this one ends, a momentous set of consequences follows. Our life then becomes a mere preparation for eternity and must be conducted throughout with our future in view.

There are one or two surprises in this book. Apart from an occasional digression, its main focus is on what Johnson calls the two most important questions facing mankind: And what is our fate after death? There is an important sense in which the chief lesson of religion is, as Reinhold Niebuhr put it, to teach us to be failures. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as the Bible tells us, a reflection on the ineluctable deprivations of time is a goad to religious awakening.

Although the dominant tone of The Quest for God is affirmative, there is a sharp undercurrent of concern about the spiritual and moral fate of Western society.