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no goodness which he did not intend, no joy, no happiness, which he did not bestow.
As it is impossible to comprehend his infinitude and absolute perfection; so it seems equally impossible, on the other hand, to be totally ignorant of him. For all his works discover something of him; and we are utterly ignorant of ourselves and of the world around us, if we know nothing of God. The apprebension of a Deity results immediately from the very consciousness of our own existence; as we are certain that we did not nor could give life or being to ourselves. Every creature around us points out a Creator; as we are certain, that they, as well as we, were unable to produce and form themselves. We have not the least doubt, from the marks which men discover, whether they act with intelligence and design; yet there is no other being that does or can exhibit so numerous and so evident marks of his own presence, his
power, his wise intelligence, bis benevolent purposes, as the Almighty Creator is continually presenting to our observation and experience. All places are full of God: he is always present with us; always addressing himself to us, in the silent but convincing language of nature; speaking to our senses, our understanding, our consciences, and every faculty of our nature. That sovereign incomprehensible Being, who is exalted above all thought, who rules with infinite empire over numberless worlds, whose nature no created eapaeity can ever measure, is the constant guar dian, the indulgent parent, the familiar instructor, of every buman creature ; incessantly administering kind supplies in various forms, to feed the body, to please the sense, to amuse the imagination, to sooth the heart, to reform the understanding, to rectify the judgment, to meliorate the temper, and to raise man by gradual advances to those excellent purposes for wbich he designed him. So that the most sublime and unsearchable of all Beings, is at the same time, and with perfect consistency, the most familiar and obvious, the easiest and readiest to be known. His Wisdom, his intentions, are as manifest as the light of the sun, and as much the subject of our experience as the enjoyment of life itself. We are qualified by the faculties of our minds to make inquiries after him ; we are always surrounded with conspicuous marks of his power and wisdom; and in every agreeable moment of life are enjoying his goodness.
The world is not a composition of disjointed and incoherent materials, or of parts that bear no proportion or relation to each other ; but is a regular and perfect system : and the whole earth is to be considered in this view, as one work, or one creature of Almighty Power, probably amidst numberless others of the same kind, to which it may stand related in a manner unknown to us. As every living creature on earth has a relation to its own kind, and to the whole earth, yet is, at the saine time, composed of parts which have a mutual connection with and subservience to each other, whereby it becomes one distinct and complete animal ; so the earth itself may have a relation to other worlds: but it is, at the same time, a separate and entire system in itself, with respect to its constituent parts and movements, which are all made in subservience to the constitution and design of the whole. We should endeavour, therefore, to take such views of nature, as to be able to contemplate, in some degree, the grandeur and beauty of this magnificent production of divine wisdom; and to discern the exact proportions, the mutual correspondences, the various counterpoises, the regular arrangements, and harmonious movements, of the several parts; that, by such views, our minds may be enlarged, and our hearts excited to a more intelligent and more devout admiration of the adorable Creator.
All nature is divine art; and the structure and motion of every thing in the visible creation, the effect of the great artificer's design. It is our blindness that hides the beauty, our ignorance that conceals the wisdom, of the works of God. In every part and operation of the visible world, there is something of divine skill apparent to us; but far more that lies beyond our search, and eludes even the most subtle inquiry and eager pursuit of the greatest human genius. In endeavouring to discover the process of creative wisdom in any instance, we find it in one part offering itself to our view, in others retiring and disappearing.
As when the traveller takes a prospect of some river gliding along in its winding channel, and observes how it beautifies and enriches the fertile vale, and refreshes the thirsty animals which repair thither to draw in the fluid element; his view is limited to a certain extent, and he sees not whence it comes, or whither it goes ; interposing hills, or woods, or the mazy subterraneous passages, stopping his progressive view, and mocking his curiosity—so the divine art continually flows through universal Nature in numberless channels, but is perceptible to us only in some particular part and narrow compass of its intricate and endless currents : we view it only in its near approaches, and where it immediately entertains the senses or passions of mankind. And even here, too many men are like the brute creatures, which graze the herbage of the field, and drink the flowing stream, without the least consideration whence they proceed, or conception of any wisdom and design in their production." So also mankind, though enjoying in a more ample measure the provisions of Nature, in proportion to their superior capacity, yet hardly reflect on the causes from which they spring, or bestow the least attention in investigating their original source. And even where the divine skill is most fully conspicuous, familiarity prevents surprise, and produces inattention and dulness, instead of sensibility and admiration.
In the works of Nature we observe a sublime dignity, joined to a perfect simplicity. The world is exquisitely adorned and enriched ; yet there is no ostentation in Nature, no vain show, nor useless magnificence; and hence arises an idea of simplicity in our view of the vast creation and the several subjects in it. The works of human art are the more admired by the best judges, the nearer they approach to that mixed idea of grandeur and plainness, which is im. pressed on the mind by a view of the works of Nature: they are admired when they appear natural, but are condemned if they seem unnatural, which serves to shew, that in the common judgment of mankind, Nature is no other than the perfection of art; as all art is but an imitation of Nature. And human art extends only to some resemblance of the surface of objects; whilst the internal texture, which comprehends much more of the plastic wisdom of the Maker, is beyond all imitation. What proportion do the most sumptuous and finished monuments of human power and skill bear to the magnificence of the creation! How low and contemptible are all the proudest works of men compared to those of God! Could we suppose a person in full maturity of sense and understapding, but who had never seen the light of the sun and the face of Nature, presented on a sudden with an ample prospect of the sublime canopy of heaven, the blazing sun, the illuminated atmosphere, and the florid earth, diversified with its various landscapes ; how would the appearance astonish and transport him, stamp at once on his mind new ideas of grandeur and beauty, and excite his veneration for the wisdom and power of God! If every person is not affected in the same manner, it is either owing to worldly cares and passions possessing the heart, or from familiarity having blunted every sense of admiration. Mankind, advancing from infancy, imbibe by slow degrees enlarged views of the creation; and, when they have gained the most knowledge, the novelty becomes the least; and the judgment alone, separate from the passion of surprise, has less influence in exciting devout affection. Hence it is, that weak minds are more disposed to religion by an appearance of any thing new, strange, and monstrous in the creation, than by the constant view of the sublime order and beauty of the whole frame of nature. Should a comet approach near to the earth with its fiery aspect and formidable train, how devout would mankind on a sudden become, upon a view of this new and amazing object! Bat the appearance of the sun, that grand, resplendent, and most useful production of creative power, and the mighty periodical revolution it appears to perform in order to enlighten and warm the whole carth; this affects our judgment only; and, as it raises no passion, so it excites no devotion in the thoughtless minds of most men.
After this superficial view of Nature, it will be pleasing to observe the uniformity and variety which appear in the works of creation. The heavens above and the earth beneath, continue the same from age to age, yet afford a diversity of successive spectacles. The clouded, the clear, the party-coloured sky; the nocturnal darkness, the meridian light; the strong lustre of the sun, and the paler splendour of the moon; the immeasurable space, empty of visible objects, or crowded with a multitude of stars—these are the changing scenes that appear to the human eye of the celestial creation above us; and beneath, the hoary winter, the verdant spring, and yellow autumn, vary in succession the surface of the earth. How great also is the local variety of the same surface, distributed into the level plains, the lofty mountains, the lowly valleys, the winding slopes, the craggy precipices, the stagnant lakes, the overflowing streams, and the vast extended bosom of the ocean! There is the like uniformity and variety in the vegetables of the earth; which have all one common nature, and derive their nutriment and growth from one common parent. But what degrees of difference, from the small blade of grass to the cedar of Lebanon! They are distributed into their several kinds; and those of the same kind have a very near affinity and resemblance, yet seem infinitely diversified. It is the same with respect to animals, which are divided by the wisdom of the Creator into separate ranks or kinds, yet have each a constitution and form, partly common to all, and partly peculiar to themselves. There is a resemblance or uniformity subsisting, in some degree, between the species of mankind, and that of the lowest animals, and how much soever men are made