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Catechism For Jewish Children

By Isaac Leeser.

Chapter III

God and His Attributes

1. What is the first article of the Jewish faith?

I believe firmly and truly that there is ONE God, who has created the heavens, the earth, and all creatures which are therein; I farther believe that the Lord God preserves his creatures by his continual watchfulness, and that He governs all by his all-seeing care; that is to say, that nothing ever happens to them which He has not ordained or sent to them.

"Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God." Ezekiel 18:30.

"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their host with the breath of his mouth. He gathereth together as a heap the waters of the sea, He layeth up the depths in storehouses." Psalms 33:6,7.

"All these wait upon thee, to give them their food in due season; they gather that which thou providest for them; Thou openest thy hand, and they are filled with good; Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; Thou takest away their breath, they perish and return to their dust; Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: thus Thou renewest the face of the earth." Psalms 103:27-30.

"He made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is therein; He keepeth truth for ever; He executeth judgment for the oppressed; He giveth bread to the hungry. The Lord looseneth the prisoners; the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind; the Lord raiseth those who are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous; the Lord protecteth strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and the widow; but the way of the wicked He overthroweth." Ibid. cxlvi. 6-9/

2. Are you convinced of the existence of God?

Yes; I am firmly convinced that there is a Creator. For every thing which I find in every direction around me must have been made by some one more powerful than every such thing itself is; and this superior power, as I have said before, I call God the Creator, He who first caused every being to have existence, shape, and form.

"In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth." Genesis i. 1.

"Raise your eyes to heaven, and see who hath created these, that bringeth out their host by number, calleth them all by name." Isaiah xl. 26.

3. Could not Chance have produced the world; that is to say, could the world not have been made as we find it, without design by an intelligent Creator?

No; chance cannot have any order or regularity; but we find in every part of the universe that it is governed by fixed laws, and that the greatest regularity prevails in every thing; and this could only have been made by a wise and intelligent Maker.

"Thus saith the Lord who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who shaketh the sea that its waves roar, the Lord of Hosts is his name." Jeremiah 31:35.

"Praise Him, ye sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars of light; praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that are above the heavens; let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded, and they were created. He also established them for ever and ever; He gave a decree which shall not pass away." Psalms 148:3-6.

4. Can we see God?

No; God is a spirit and cannot be seen by human eyes.

"And he said to him (Moses), Thou canst not see my face, for no man can see me and live." Exodus 33:20.

"Take ye, therefore, good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of figure on the day that the Lord spoke with you on Horeb, out of the midst of the fire." Deut. iv. 15.

5. You said "God is a Spirit;" what do you mean by "Spirit?"

A living, invisible being, which is nevertheless possessed of power, reason, and will.

6. How can such a being be known?

Through the spirit dwelling in man; that is to say, we can recognise or discover a spirit through the working of our soul or mind, which is likewise a spirit.

7. Is man then a Spirit?

Not as far as his body is concerned, which can be seen and felt; but the power through which this body moves, breathes, thinks, and lives, is a spirit, acting without being known, and is not seen by the eyes; or, in other words, we are composed of body and soul, of matter and spirit.

8. How do you now wish to be understood by saying that God is known to us?

We know Him through the knowledge which He has placed within our souls. He has given us intellect and thought more than to any other animated thing with which we are acquainted; and planted in us a spirit which is not like the outward world, in order that we might understand his ways and acknowledge Him as our Creator. I would call this briefly, God has revealed himself to our spirit.

"I thank Thee that I am so fearfully, wonderfully made; incomprehensibly wonderful are thy works, this my soul knoweth right well." Psalms 139:14.

9. In what manner did god reveal himself to our spirit?

First, Through the CREATION: all nature proves that it had a Creator, that his power is without end or limit; and thus is God visible to our mind through his works.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse tells of the work of his hands." Ibid. 19:2.

Secondly, Through the HOLY SCRIPTURES: God is known to us by his holy word.

"He made known his ways to Moses, his wonderful deeds unto the children of Israel." Psalms 103:7.

10. What do we farther learn from the works and the revelation of God?

That God is the most perfect spirit.

11. What do you mean by "the most perfect Spirit?"

That in Him there exist power, wisdom, and will, in the highest degree. God is perfect in all his qualities; there is nothing defective in his power, for He is able to do whatever he desires; He is the Author of all wisdom, and his happiness is without any mixture of sorrow or suffering.

"Who is like unto Thee, O Lord! among the mighty? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, tremendous in praises, working miracles?" Exodus 15:11.

"There is none like Thee, O Lord! Thou art great, and great is thy name in might. Who should not fear Thee, O King of the nations? for to Thee it doth appertain; for among the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like Thee." Jer. x. 6,7.

"With Him is wisdom and might; His are counsel and understanding." Job 12:13.

12. How do we call these perfect qualities?

God's attributes and ways.

"the way of God is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a buckler to all those who trust in Him." 2 Samuel 22:31.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah. lv. 8,9.

13. What does Holy Writ teach us concerning the nature of God?

First. That the Lord is ONE and the only God; there is no deity beside Him.

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE." Deut. vi. 4.

"Know, therefore, this day, and reflect in thy heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above, and on the earth beneath, there is none else." Ibid. iv. 39.

"I am the Lord, and none else, there is no god beside me. -- I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things." Isaiah xlv. 5-7.

Secondly. That God is an everlasting being; He has had no beginning, and cannot have an end; we cannot imagine a time when He was not, nor think of a period when He will be no more; He was, He is, and He ever will be.

"Thus speaketh the Lord, Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord of the universe (Zebaoth), I am the first and I am the last, and without me there is no god." Ibid. xliv. 6.

"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God." Psalms xc. 2.

Thirdly. God is a self-existent, unchangeable Being. He received not his existence and power from any other being, and He suffers no change with increase of years and change of circumstances. He is and lives through his own power, and is always the same.

"I, the Lord, change not; and you, sons of Jacob, shall not cease to be." Malachi iii. 6.

"Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. they will perish, but thou wilt subsist; yea, they will wax old as a garment, as a vesture Thou wilt change them, and they will be altered. But Thou art the same, and thy years have no end." Psalms cii. 26-28.

14. What would you derive from the latter doctrine, that God is unchangeable?

That the promises of God are likewise unchangeable, and that He promises nothing which will not ultimately be strictly fulfilled. For, as He is unchangeable himself, He cannot say any thing which He would afterwards be unwilling or unable to execute, as this would prove an uncertainty of purpose, which is in fact a change, or an inability to do his will, which is a want of power.

"God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that he should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and not fulfil it?" Numbers 23:19.

"And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man that He should repent." 1 Samuel xv. 29.

15. What do the Scriptures teach concerning the attributes of God?

First. God is almighty; He can at all times do whatever He wills.

"Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. for He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it was established." Psalms 33:8,9.

Secondly. God is the wisest of all beings, or, as it is called, He is all-wise, or the Supreme Wisdom. He, therefore, always uses the best means to attain the best results; that is, the means He employs to do any thing are the best possible for that purpose, and nothing that He attempts is otherwise than wise and beneficial.

"Dost thou not know? or hast thou not heard? the God of everlasting is the Lord, He created the ends of the earth; He is not fatigues, and He is not weary; there is no searching of his understanding." Isaiah xl. 28.

"But wisdom, where is it found; and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not its value, it is not found in the land of the living. It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the fowl of heaven. God alone understandeth its way, and He knoweth its place." Job 28:12,13,21,24.

16. Where do you find the proofs of this Supreme Wisdom?

The whole mass of created things forms but one chain of beings; that is to say, as in a chain one link is connected with and supports those next to it, so is one being depending upon and connected with the others, and forms thus one link, as it were, of the great chain of creatures which were produced by the will of the Great Supreme. There is no break anywhere to be found, all is in unison and harmony, and nothing is which has not its use and its object.

"The Lord hath with wisdom founded the earth, ordained the heavens with understanding." Prov. iii. 19.

17. You say, There is nothing which has not its use and object; can we always discover them ourselves?

Not in every case; but of so many things do we readily find out for what they are useful and why they were so made, that we must reasonable conclude that the others, which we do not know so well, are equally useful, and the effects of wisdom and foresight.

18. What else do the Scriptures teach concerning the attributes of God?

Thirdly. God is omnipresent; that is to say, He is present in every place in the whole universe; there is, consequently, no spot in heaven or earth where God is not, and where He does not live and act.

"Am I then but a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not also a god afar off? Could a man so hide himself in a secret place that I could not see him? saith the Lord; do I not fill the heavens to the earth? saith the Lord." Jeremiah 23:23,24.

"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? and whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there, and if I should lie down in the deep, I should find Thee. Should I fly on the wings of the morning-dawn, to dwell at the farthest end of the sea, even there thy hand would lead me, and thy right hand would seize me." Psalms 139:7-10.

Fourthly. God is omniscient; that is to say, He knows every thing which any man does or thinks. Nothing is so secret, concealed, or mysterious, but the Lord knows it, and the cause thereof.

"I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jer. xvii. 10.

"O Lord, Thou hast searched, and knowest me. Do I sit, do I rise, it is known to Thee: already afar thou probest my thoughts. My walk and my couch Thou hast measured for me, and prepared all my ways. Before yet a word was upon my tongue, Thou, O Lord! didst know all." Psalms 139:1-4.

Fifthly. God is all-just; that is to say, that nothing which is unjust is ever done by Him. He pays no attention to the person of any one, He only looks upon the deed; He loves the good and hates the evil. If, therefore, a poor or foolish man does any good action, God will look upon it with equal favour as though a rich and wise man had done the same. If a wrong act is done by the greatest man, even though he be as great as Moses and wise as Solomon, God will send the punishment which the sin deserves. And though we may not always be able to understand the reason for God's action upon earth, we must reflect that our wisdom is not equal to his wisdom; and that, therefore, the doings of the Lord are without fault, though our mortal reason is not able to understand his motives and the causes of his actions.

"For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords; the great, mighty, and terrible God, who hath no regard for persons, and receiveth no bribes; who executeth justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loveth the stranger to give him food and raiment." Deut. x. 17,18.

"He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are just: the God of truth, without iniquity; just and upright is He." Ibid. 32:4.

"For Thou art not a god delighting in wickedness; no evil shall dwell with Thee." Psalms v. 4.

Sixthly. God is all-good, gracious and merciful; He loves all his creatures, and provides for all their wants. More than we deserve we obtain from his bounty; and when we even transgress his commandments He readily forgives us, if we only repent of our errors. He repays us not the evil we do, but in his mercy overlooks our thoughtless sins, and visits with mild punishment our wilful transgressions.

"The Lord passed by before him (Moses) and proclaimed, The Lord is the immutable, eternal Being, and omnipotent God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in beneficence and truth; keeping mercy even unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." Exodus 34:6,7.

"The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works. The eyes of all wait on Thee, and Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest all beings with beneficence." Psalms 145:8,9,15,16.

19. Has God any other perfections?

Yes; and no human thought can think them all, no human tongue can repeat them all. God is elevated above all our reflections; we see Him in his works, we recognise him by his goodness; but our understanding cannot reach a knowledge of all his ways, all his power, all his wisdom, all his goodness.

"Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord, tell all his praise?" Ibid. cvi. 2.

20. What attribute do you call this great perfection?

God's holiness: He is the holiest being; there is nothing imperfect in Him, but all is truth, goodness, greatness.

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah vi. 3.

"To whom would ye compare me, that I should be like him? saith the Holy One." Ibid. xl. 25.

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