Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

rough draft, and appears therefore under every disadvantage. I have not altered one sentence, and scarcely corrected even a word; yet, with all these drawbacks, it affords evidence that it is the production of a master-mind. The argument is exceedingly ingenious, and is sustained with a degree of ability and felicity of illustration, which reflects the highest credit on the powers of the author. The simplicity of his own views of religion, and the deep earnestness with which he pleads for the full practical influence of Christianity are truly delightful. How happy would it be for the individuals themselves, for the church, and the world, did all who enter on the office of the ministry feel the force of the high and hallowed views which are here stated.

The references to natural religion, as it is called, contained in this discourse, induced me to think this is the best place to introduce an essay on that subject, which he wrote as a class exercise at the close of this session. The subject is one on which a great deal of ignorance has been discovered, and a vast portion of error propagated. The religion of nature will, I fear, go a very little way to inform the understanding, still less to regulate the affections, and no way at all to satisfy God, or pacify the conscience of a sinner. Whether unassisted reason is capable of accomplishing all that my young friend, with many others, contends for, is not perfectly clear; but no one can doubt the admirable and beautiful manner in which he conducts his own argument, and the justice which he does to the claims of the revelation of God.

ON

NATURAL RELIGION.

an

IN the Bible we are told, that, at the final judgment, all men will be made the subjects equitable moral reckoning. But we know, from the history of our species, that there have been, and that there still are in the world, thousands who have never had access to that revelation from Heaven with which we have been favored. It becomes then an interesting inquiry, how far the natural light of reason can render men the fit subjects of a moral reckoning; and how, in such a condition there can be any distinction between the godly and the ungodly. In that record, which hath come from Heaven, it is said, in reference to such individuals, that "God hath showed unto them that which may be known of himself, because the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead: so that they are without excuse.' ." In other words, it is affirmed that those who have never had access to any direct communication from Heaven, are yet accountable for their deeds, inasmuch as the existence and the character of God may be gathered from the works which he has made. And it is thus that there may

be a distinction between those who have been led by these dim intimations of his presence, to grope, though in the dark, after their Creator; and those, who, notwithstanding these intimations, "have said in their heart, that there is no God." When God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, it was to see if there were any that did understand, if there were any that did seek after God.

The evidence for the existence of a God is so manifest in all his works, that there have scarcely been found any people, however ignorant and degraded, who have not recognized, in the objects that are around them, the traces of a designing and intelligent Creator. The marks of design are evident in the combinations and processes of inanimate nature. We can see them in the harmonious revolutions of those vast globes which compose the universe. We can see them in the varied operation of those elements which are at work upon the surface of our earth; in the regular succession of summer and winter, spring-time and harvest. We behold them in the descending shower which refreshes the soil, and in the ascending vapor which feeds the mighty cisterns from whence that shower was poured. And still more palpably do we recognize the traces of intelligence in the structure and physiology of the vegetable kingdom. In those roots which fix the plant in the soil, and collect for its nutritive juices. In those tubes by which these juices are conveyed through all its various branches. In those leaves which cover and protect the infant bud, and die away again when the seed is ripened. In those autumnal breezes which scatter the seeds on the bosom of the earth, there to spring up in their

turn, and to become distinct members of the vegetable family. In all this varied confirmation of parts; and succession of agents, can we distinctly perceive the adaptation of means for an end; an adaptation which must have been the result of contemplation and design. But it is in animated nature that we have the most striking proofs of the existence of an intelligent Creator. In the structure of the bodies of animals the marks of design are so manifold, that the simple enumeration of them would far exceed our limits. In the structure of the eye alone, they are sufficiently numerous for our purpose. It is arched over with an eye-brow to carry off from it the moistures of the head. It is furnished with an eye-lid, which washes and moistens it, which covers it in sleep, which protects it when awake, spontaneously shutting on the approach of danger. Its optical adaptations are still more striking. It has its levers, which shift backward and forward, and which, without the will or even the knowledge of him who possesses it, suit themselves to the distance of the object on which he gazes. In like manner, by the enlargement or contraction of its orifice, does the eye adapt itself for the degree of light that is around it, by a mechanism which baffles the imitation of human ingenuity, and even mocks the scrutiny of anatomical investigation. Nor is the internal physiology of animals less indicative of design than the external organization of their bodies. We might enumerate, as examples, the preparation and distribution of the various secretions, which either moistens the eye, or which lubricate the joints; or which supply that stream of circulation whose ebbings and flowings are the mystic indication of animal life;-in short, all the

varied and multifarious processes which are going on in the laboratory that is within us.

These are but a few of the indications inscribed upon the face of nature, which point to nature's God. And it were indeed strange; if man, with all these evidences of design, should never think of an intelligent Designer. Nor, has it been so. All have recognized these proofs of a Divinity. The most ignorant and barbarous nations on the face of the earth, have imagined for themselves (however degrading and incongruous their imaginations may have been,) some great and intelligent Being who made the heavens and the earth. It is not among the rude and ignorant sons of barbarity, that we are to look for those who have denied the existence of a God. Atheism is an unnatural crime; and we must look for its manifestations chiefly among those who have been bewildered by the speculations of an unnatural philosophy.

The natural attributes of God seem to follow as corollaries to the demonstration of his existence. Every one must admit, that, if there be a Being who made these heavens, and this earth, and all that is in them, he must be a Being of infinite might. We at once conclude, that He who gave the sea its bounds, that it should not pass his decree, must be very powerful;-that He who counts the number of the stars, and guides them in their courses must be very great;-that He who binds them to their orbits by the simple law of gravitation, must be very wise.

So far our way has been smooth and even, and the steps of the demonstration have been of easy ascent; but it is when we begin to consider the moral attributes of Deity, that we feel our progress

« ПредишнаНапред »