Page images
PDF
EPUB

once to have been extinguished. Look again at the reformation, when the eclipse passed off simultaneously from nature, providence and yrace, and they all shone out with unprecedented lustre. In our own day, it were difficult to say, whether discoveries in nature, improvements in society, or the propagation of Christianity are advancing with the most rapid strides.

10. The types and prophecies of revelation are not without analogy in nature and providence. That is, there is something in the constitution and course of nature so analogous to the typical and prophetic parts of the Bible, as to remove all a priori objections against them and even create a presumption in their favor, yet not so nearly resembling them as to invalidate their special sacredness—their peculiar claims to an immediate divine origin.

As the former dispensation in religion was typical of the latter, so in the earlier stages of nature, there seems to be something like types of the later stages. The organs of the earlier species of animals were comparatively rude and imperfect, yet they were similar organs to those of the later species and performed similar offices-offices as similar as their situation and circumstances would allow. The common mind would not condemn it as a misnomer to call the forms and features of the monkey types of human forms and features. The naturalist finds such types * far down the scale, and far back in the history of animal life. It was this correspondence of parts throughout the animal kingdom, which led Lamarck to broach the theory, that all animals, including man, are but the same species, having the same essential organs, but developing them more fully and perfectly as time advances and circumstances become more favorable. Though clearly false, the theory was founded on indubitable and interesting facts. It is now settled, that the animal species are radically and incommunicably distinct; and the resemblances in general organization between the earliest ruder animals and the later and more perfect animals, result not from natural propagation, and the favor of circumstances, but from creative power exerted at successive periods and according to such a law, as to constitute the first ages, « shadows of better things to come.”

* Type is the very word which naturalists have chosen to express the analogy between the earlier and ruder organizations on the one hand, and the later and more perfect organizations on the other.

Moreover as the rites and institutions of the former dispensation were not less wisely adapted to the character of the Israelites and the then state of the world, than those of the latter dispensation are to the present character and condition of mankind; so the organization of the earlier animals was no less wisely adapted to the then state of the earth's surface, than the organization of the later animals is to its present state. Buckland discovers in the entombed remains of the old world, as clear and beautiful marks of design and adaptation, as Paley finds in the living world. Each religious dispensation was perfect in its time, each grade of animal organization perfect in its place. In the developments of nature and providence to the age

of man, the past often contains something typical and almost prophetic of the present and the present of the future. “Coming events cast their shadows before,” and seers of nature and providence are raised up, who, though they “ know not precisesy what, or what manner of time is signified,” are yet enabled to discern and predict in some measure what is to come.

Such seers were Burke and Adams,* who foretold the issue of the French and American revolutions; and Newton and Leibnitz, who had a glimpse, and threw out hints, of most subsequent discoveries in natural science. Seneca foretold the discovery of a new world, t and Socrates and Plato anticipated the advent of a divine teacher, advising to forego the usual sacrifices till such a teacher should come, and “ representing with prophetic sagacity and precision that he must be poor and void of all qualifications but those of virtue alone, that a wicked world would not hear bis instructions and reproofs, and therefore in three or four years after he began to preach, he would be persecuted, imprisoned, scourged, and at last put to death.”I It cannot be denied that great men have occasionally been endowed with a peculiar gift of descrying future events and forewarning their

The allusion is to a youthful letter of the elder Adams, which paints the revolution and its issue with much truth and beauty.

+ Venient annis saecula seris,
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus,
Tethysque novos detegat orbes.

Senecae Medea, 374–8. See Harris's Great Teacher, p. 50, where it is suggested that Socrates and Plato enjoyed a degree of inspiration.

less gifted contemporaries of what they may hope or fear. Why then should prophetic inspiration in the manner and degree, in which it is claimed by some of the sacred writers, be thought a thing so incredible a priori

, that no amount of evidence can entitle it to credence? The same God who endowed Newton and Leibnitz, Adams and Burke, Seneca, Socrates and Plato with sagacity and foresight so much above the mass of their contemporaries may have given, nay, has given to Isajah and Jeremiah, Daniel and John a prophetic vision so much surpassing the ken of these gifted minds, that every candid reader of their predictions must acknowledge them to be divine.*

* I am aware that this analogy has been more frequently used, (and therefore at first view may rather appear,) as an infidel objection, than as a confirmative argument to inspiration. One reason for presenting it here, is a desire to exhibit it in a different aspect and relation. It should be remembered, that an analogy is “an agreement or likeness between things in some circumstances or effects wben the things are otherwise entirely different.(Webster.) Prophetic sagacity and prophetic inspiration “agree” in so far that God bestows peculiar gifts of foresight upon the possessors of both, yet differ so much in the number and degree of the gift, that they can be confounded only by a very stupid mind, or a very corrupt heart. They come under one very broad general principle of the divine administration, so that the one serves to illustrate and confirm the other, but the mode of the divine agency is so different in the two cases, as not to invalidate the peculiar claim, and the sacred authority of inspiration.

It has been the belief of every nation in every age, that their great men were inspired; and pagan nations have entertained views of the nature and manner of inspiration strikingly analogous to those, which the Bible authorizes. Infidels have urged this fact as a proof, that there is no such thing as real inspiration. But it proves the contrary, just as the shadow, proves the existence of the substance and the counterfeit shows the existence and the value of the genuine. It shows, that God has laid a foundation for inspiration in the constitution of the human mind, upon which we should expect him to set up a corresponding superstructure. If he intended to impart inspiration, it would be wise to implant in man a preparation and an expectation to receive it; and having implanted such an expectation, it were strange indeed, if he should never meet it.

On this last topic, which I have introduced merely to illustrate my design in the text, see Knapp's Theol. Art. J. § 9. Most of the objections of infidels, when rightly understood, are really arguments in favor of Christianity; and instead of shrinking from the view of them ourselves and endeavoring to keep them out of sight of others, we should lay hold of them and turn them against infidelity.

1

11. In the universal law of progression, of which I have spoken, the earlier stages are preparatory to the latter stages, and the latter reap most of the advantages of the former together with many peculiar advantages. This is obviously true in the kingdom of grace. The patriarchal dispensation was introductory to the Mosaic, and the Mosaic preparatory to the Christian; while the Christian, with all the benefits of former dispensations, combines many advantages peculiar to itself. The Israelites lived not for themselves, but to be examples unto us; and their history was written " for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.” We have the accumulated wisdom and experience of the church in all past ages to guide us in the management of ecclesiastical affairs and in the discharge of our religious duties.

So it is in society. The progress of society is owing in no small degree to the wisdom derived directly or indirectly from past ages. The Grecian and Roman republics were constituted and administered not for themselves only, but for the instruction and benefit of all subsequent republics. All the despotisms and limited governments of the Old world have risen or fallen, maintained their institutions or modified their policy, for the benefit of the New, whither light from every quarter and every age has converged. All that have lived before us, have lived for our admonition, on whom the ends of the social and political world are come.

It is so in nature also. Ever since man was placed on the earth, its surface has been undergoing changes, all preparatory to the present state of things—all conducive to the support and comfort of its present increased and increasing population. Our alluvial meadows and extending deltas, our beds of peat and bog iron, our collections of vegetable mould and indeed all our existing soils are the gradually accumulated resources of successive generations. And if the conclusions of geology are not to be set aside, a similar process of preparation and accumulation for the benefit of man was going on for ages previous to his existence. The whole of the earth's surface* is a spacious storehouse of relics and treasures, which have been collecting in all past times to supply and enrich mankind in time of need,

“ No small part of the present surface of the earth is derived from the remains of animals, that constituted the population of ancient seas." —Buckland.

just as society and the church at the present time are built upon the ruins of other churches and societies, instructed by their experience and enriched by their remains. We draw our fuel and our food, our comforts and our delicacies from the remains of vegetable and animal life* in former ages; and as the matter, which constitutes the bodies of the present generation once entered into the constitution of other bodies, so the opinions and feelings of our minds are the opinions and feelings of other minds modified by constitutional idiosyncrasies, improved by experience and enlarged by the accumulations of time and the favor of circumstances. It seems to be a law of the natural and the moral world, that man shall grow only by living upon the relics of his predecessors, rise only by standing upon the tombs of his fathers, extend his vision only by looking from the monuments of the mighty dead. Dissolution is going on everywhere in our world, but it is everywhere preparatory to another and a better organization. One race of animals is destroyed, and a more perfect race succeeds them. One generation of men goeth and a wiser and better generation cometh in their stead. Society and the church are perpetuated and improved by the very processes of disruption, which seem to threaten their annihilation. Death bears a most important and wonderful

part in the whole economy of vegetable, animal, social and spiritual life. The plant decays in the autumn and lies down in a wintry grave, only to revive in all the freshness and gaiety of spring. The insect becomes its own winding sheet, and then unconscious awaits a resurrection to a higher order of existence. The nation declines and falls, to rise again under a better form and happier auspices, and to attain to a higher degree of social perfection. The human body “is sown in corruption, to be raised in incorruption-it is sown in dishonor, to be raised in glory.”+ The soul, like the butterfly (which in the Greek language—the language alike of nature, of philosophy and of reve

* " At the sight of a spectacle so imposing, so terrible, as that of the wreck of animal life, forming almost the entire soil on which we tread, it is difficult to restrain the imagination from hazarding some conjectures as to the causes, by wbich such great effects have been produced.”—Cuvier,

+ In view of the analogies to the resurrection, with which nature is so replete, no wonder that Clement, the apostolic father, exclaimed : “ Consider, my beloved, how the Lord shows us our future resurrection perpetually!"

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »