Page images
PDF
EPUB

charge with absurdity the prolonged processes and protracted periods of Geology ? Point him to the fact, that his own science and his own sacred books disclose similar processes and periods. Does the skeptic scout the idea, that eternal life is suspended on so pusillanimous a trait as humility, and so involuntary a principle as faith? Show him, that the requirement of these virtues, so far from being arbitrary, accords with the nature of things, and that the knowledge and happiness of this life are suspended on the exercise of the same virtues. Does the Christian doubt, whether God would condescend to create myriads of infusories in a drop of water, or people a world with successive generations of irrational creatures? Remind him that God has condescended to provide for, and redeem a world of sinners, “whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth, and who are accounted to him as less than nothing and vanity.” Does the fatalist pretend, that his exertions for salvation are rendered fruitless by the immutable purposes

and laws of God? Tell him, that he would not for a moment stake any temporal good on the principle of that objection, though all temporal good is equally dependent on immutable laws and purposes. In like manner, we may answer almost every objection of the scholar against the Christian, of the Christian against the scholar, and of the man, that shows any common sense about any thing, against both the scholar and the Christian. He must either be a perfect model of consistency, or make no pretensions to it; in other words, he must be either an angel or a fool, whose errors cannot be corrected by analogy. If ministers would employ evangelical reasoning more, and abstract reasoning less, they would be more successful in conciliating practical and hurtful error. On the other hand, why need they forget, that analogy is not more truly a "powerful engine” than an impartial one, which if not applied by themselves to the correction of their own errors, will be wielded against them by others to their no small discredit, if not their utter discomfiture.

2. It is very important, that the teacher of religion, and quite desirable, that the private Christian, should be a student of nature and an observer of providence. Besides silencing objectors and confirining his own faith, he would thus find fresh light and beauty shed upon the truths of religion. Nature and salvation are parallel columns in God's universal harmony, and VOL. XII. No. 31.

6

providence is a divine commentary upon them both. Should they not be studied together ?

Coleridge somewhere remarks,* that he admired Shakspeare's wisdom and power on a first perusal in his youth, and on reading him a second time after years of study and improvement, Shakspeare's wisdom and power appeared to have increased quite as much as his own. This remark is far more applicable to God's works, than to those of any mortal. The more wisdom and power we bring to the study of them, the more we discover in them. Each increase of the magnifying power of the telescope, is attended with a corresponding accession to the extent, beauty, and grandeur of the visible universe. Every improvement of the microscope discloses new beings, new wonders, new and more delicate strokes of a divine artist. The observer's niental vision too is improved, reach the full height, nor penetrate the whole depth, nor range all the compass of nature's mysteries, but while he solves one of these mysteries, to discover more than one, which he leaves unsolved. So that the Philosopher, who now looks out upon the divine works from the highest vantage ground, with the most acute and profound mind and the most perfect helps to his ocular and mental vision, may well feel, as did the immortal Newton, that he has scarcely glanced along the shore, and discovered a few beautiful shells; while before him spreads the unexplored and illimitable ocean of truth.

The Bible is also boundless in the compass of its truths, exhaustless in its treasures and beauties. Its contents seem to enlarge in extent, and magnify in importance, and increase in variety and interest in precise proportion to the progress of society, and the improvement of the individual reader. So that the Christian, who knows the most, not only sees the most to admire in what he has read, but expects to find the most, that is new and admirable in his future study of the sacred volume; and so far from ever feeling that he has comprehended whole scope, or exhausted all its riches, he will be ready to exclaim, “it is high as heaven, what canst thou do; it is deeper than hell, what canst thou know; the measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea."

Now if knowledge of every sort is a help to the acquisition of further knowledge, (and it is, for every truth stands more or less related to every other truth,) a portion of the knowledge of one class of God's works, will help us to acquire a knowledge of another class. Familiarity with one of Shakspeare's dramatic pieces helps to understand and appreciate another. The student, who has mastered one production of a classic author, will master another production of the same author at once more easily and more perfectly. Why should not this principle apply to the different productions of the Divine mind? Has it not been so in the past study of the Divine works? It was the knowledge and influence of the Bible, that gave the first impulse and the first clue to the discovery in natural science; and fresh discoveries in natural science are ever impelling and guiding in the study of the Bible, explaining many particular passages, and correcting in general wrong modes of inquiry.

* I give only the substance of the remark from memory.

What new grandeur and glory pervade the universe, when viewed in the light of the Bible, as created, pervaded and controlled by one Omnipotent, omniscient, Almighty and all-wise Spirit! Others may prefer the theogonies and cosmogonies of pagan Greece and Rome, and sigh for the hills, the fountains and the groves, the muses, the Naiads, and the Nymphs of those classic lands, but,

Sion hill
Delights me more, and Siloa's brook, that flowed

Fast by the Oracle of God;" and,

“The heavenly múse, that on the sacred top

Of Oreb or of Sinai did inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning, how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos;
And chiefly that Great Spirit, who doth prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure.”
Hence is to be drawn the inspiration of “ adventrous song
That with no middle flight will surely soar
Above the Aorian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or verse." The classics contain exquisite poetry, but the Bible surpasses them in exquisite poetry, I had almost said as much as in pure morality and sound philosophy. Nature is grand and beautiful and instinct with life, as pourtrayed on the classic page. But the universe, as seen in the light of revelation, is more beautiful and grand, animated by a purer, and loftier Spirit, and lighted up with a brighter, diviner radiance.

On the other hand, how has science shed light upon the Bible! With what new interest bave modern discoveries invested such passages of Scripture, as the first chapter of Genesis, fortieth of Isaiah, and the eighth Psalm. The modern Astronomer, any enlightened Christian of these days, sees a beauty and subliinity beyond the conceptions, may I not say, of David and Isaiah themselves in such descriptions as these : “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man, that thou visitest him." “ Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out beaven with the span and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure. All nations before him are as nothing, and are counted to him less than notbing and vanity.” All such descriptions, all the illustrations of the divine wisdom and goodness in the Bible, will be enhanced in beauty and sublimity and impressiveness in exact proportion to our increasing knowledge of the divine works. A perfect system of mental science, should such a system ever be discovered, would probably add to the clearness, with which we understand, and the power, with which we realize divine truths, no less than the discoveries in natural science have already done. So far then from being alarmed at the progressive influence of science upon religion, it is with emotions of delight too big for utterance, that I look down the tract of time and see with the eye of faith science and religion pouring a flood of light upon each other; seal after seal broken, and page after page of surpassing beauty and glory opened to view simultaneously in nature and revelation ; doubts removed and mysteries explained; the elements conquered, and the passions subdued; man reclaimed, and God honored; and the world at length irradiated with the blended beams of a sanctified literature and an enlightened Christianity. To the men of that happy day, “ heaven alone will indeed be but a reward for heaven enjoyed below.” To behold the dawning of that day, and pray and labor for its approaching consummation, is a privilege, which prophets and kings of former times never enjoyed.

3. It is the duty and the interest of every man to fall in with the analogies—the harmonious arrangements-of nature, provi

dence and grace. Take an illustration of my meaning. It has been already observed, that nature, providence and grace in their development to man usually advance together, and that all are making simultaneous and gigantic strides in our own day. It becomes us then to notice the point towards which they converge, the end to which they are advancing. Do I mistake in saying, it is the conversion of the world? See in heathen lands walls of prejudice and caste and despotic power, high as heaven and hard as adamant, prostrated to make way for the Gospel ; see at the same time in christian lands resources accumulated in the hands of benevolent men, associations formed on the broad scale and in the enlarged spirit of universal christian philanthrophy, means of conveyance improved, langauges mastered, gs converted into Bibles, sailors into missionaries, and the elements into winged messengers—all united to convey the Gospel to the ends of the earth; and even if you did not see the church awakened to an unprecedented interest in this specific object, could you doubt, that the era for the world's conversion is approaching? And is it safe for you to oppose, is it wise for you to neglect, are you willing to stand aloof from an enterprise, which nature, providence and grace are coöperating to achieve?

The same questions, or similar questions may be asked respecting most of the analogies and divine arrangements, which we have been considering.

Humility and faith, sustain the same important relation to the kingdom of nature, the kingdom of providence and the kingdom of grace-they are necessary and profitable for all things, haying the promise of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come. Is it then consistent with your duty and interest to denounce the one as a mark of meanness, and the other as an arbitrary requirement ?

To coöperate with God is the highest honor to which man can aspire—to resemble God, the highest perfection to which he can attain. Instead of finding fault then, with that arrangement which requires a union of divine and human agency in every important concern, we should humbly and gratefully acknowledge the condescension and love of God in permitting us to coöperate with bim in his benevolent designs, and be equally ready to avail ourselves of his gracious aid, and render to him our poor but faithful and devoted service.

While we fall in so far as possible with his plan of operations,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »