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and religious disposition will qualify men to make discoveries; for the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. It is the character of the foolish and wicked, that they regard not the works of the Lord, nor consider the operations of his hands and it is an impious contradiction in men to profess religion, and to ascribe titles of glory and perfection to the Supreme Being, and at the same time to throw reproach upon his works, and censure that nature and order of things which his wisdom has established. True piety is founded upon knowledge, and a deep conviction of the wise and beneficent intentions of the Almighty in his works of creation and providence; and if, through ignorance or prejudice, we foolishly charge them with error and inconsistency, it is no better than a vain flattery or solemn mockery of God, afterwards to celebrate this infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness. We must first learn and understand the marks of divine wisdom and goodness in the creation, before we can ascribe these perfections to him with any real meaning or devout intention.
It must be acknowledged, that in attending to the frame of nature, and the conduct of providence, many insuperable difficulties may arise; and nothing will more frequently occur, than those inexplicable appearances, which only prove human ignorance, but which human folly is apt to turn into objections against the wisdom of God and the perfection of his works: yet there are, within the sphere of our clearest observation and most certain experience, such manifest proofs of design, such illustrious marks of wisdom, such a regular coherence, such a coincidence and conspiration of various innumerable parts and measures to one bene ficent end, as nothing but stupid inattention can make us overlook.
This inattention arises partly from familiarity itself. We are so much accustomed to see the order and beauty of the creation, and to enjoy the delights of society, and the improvements of knowledge, industry, and virtue, that we forget to admire the wisdom of
this divine constitution, and to be thankful for the happiness resulting from it, because they are continual.
Selfishness and pride also are the causes of impiety and ingratitude. God has made every individual for the sake of the whole, and to be subservient to the good of the public community to which he belongs, and of the world in general: but through selfishness, men find fault with this most wise, just, and beautiful constitution, and think that the world ought to have been made for them alone, and not they for the world; that all men should be subservient to their particular emolument and benefit, and not their interest and pleasure be subjected to the general good.
Another occasion of infidelity, and distrust of the divine intentions, is the great calamities and enormous wickedness which we sometimes see or hear of in the world, which astonish by their very singularity, and so strongly affect the imaginations and passions of men, that they see nature through a false medium, which multiplies and exaggerates the evils of human life; and they are tempted, by the disorder of their own minds, to imagine that confusion and disorder prevail throughout the world. But the great subject of our attention and admiration, and the ground of all our religious sentiments, should be the general order and happiness which constantly result from the universal constitution and operations of nature; not the particular disorders, which appear as exceptions to the usual procedure of things: for, would it not be very absurd and ungrateful to turn all our attention to the destructive tempests, the conflagrations, earthquakes, and inundations, that occur once perhaps in an age, whilst we forget the constant regitlarity of seasons, and temperature of elements, by which they are made to conspire so admirably to the support and pleasure of human life, and refuse to acknowledge that beneficent wisdom and power, which rules the raging of the sea, and bids the tempest to cease; which has fixed the solid earth on its centre, diffused the balmy air, the serene lustre and genial warmth, over its surface, and appointed that seed-time
and harvest, night and day, shall never cease? And is it not equally unnatural and ungrateful to attend only to the accidental disorders of society, and the examples of wickedness and misery in the world; whilst we are unobservant of the beautiful order, the settled peace, the social harmony and joy, of society, and the widely diffused harvest of knowledge, virtue, and happiness, which is continually springing up around us.
But if the world be the work, and all events in it the effects, of infinite wisdom and goodness, could there be all those particular disorders and evils in it which we actually perceive? could there be any evil in existence? can perfect wisdom produce any thing but order? perfect goodness, intend any thing but good? "Nay; but who art thou, O man, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Is there nothing to be placed to the score of human ignorance and error? Does it follow that there is a defect in the works of creation, because we cannot account for every thing? Do we judge of the divine works and designs, as if we were equal to him in wisdom and understanding? The real wonder is, that we are able to perceive so much of order and wise design, and that things do not appear in greater confusion to our dark and confused understandings. All would be in reality confusion and disorder, and there could be no order, concord, or happiness in the world, if there was not a Being of wisdom, goodness, and power, superior to our comprehension, who was the maker and disposer of the world and all things in it. Whatever portions of knowledge, goodness, and happiness, are found in the creation, they are so many proofs of wisdom and benevolence in the Creator: and if the general constitution or course of nature is evidently directed to beneficent ends, the seeming contradiction of particular events only proves our ignorance and incompetence of judgment. To contrive and erect, out of the materials of this visible world, a system comprehensive of such magnificent appearances
and various beauties, and productive of such successive harvests of knowledge and virtue, joy and happiness, as occur to human observation; is an operation so excellent and divine, as could not be designed and executed, but by a Being whose perfections are not to be doubted of, but adored and praised, and who merits infinitely more than all the affection, trust, and confidence we can place in him. The further we extend our inquiries into the operations of nature, the more clearly we discern a wisdom and goodness forming and directing the whole; and it appears the more reasonable duty to place all difficulties to the account of our own ignorance, or to the imperfect state of human knowledge, and to confess the absolute perfection of the divine nature.
It was evidently the Divine intention, in the creation of the world, to produce and maintain life, pleasure, knowledge, and virtue: and if this was the design of the Creator, it clearly follows, that whoever acts in a manner contrary to that design, whoever, through any wrong bias of private interest or pleasure, which he imagines will accrue to himself, shall become injurious to society, or shall refuse to discharge those relative and social duties which are the foundations of public good, or shall intemperately debase and corrupt his own nature, and disqualify himself for the duties of life; every such person is an offender in the sight of Heaven, by following his own will, humour, fancy, or appetite, in opposition to the constitution and will of sovereign wisdom; and every such offender is liable to punishment, from that moral and judicial government which the Creator has established, and which is in some measure interwoven with the present constitution of things. In the progress of his wickedness, he will meet with increasing symptoms of divine displeasure; his own conscience, mankind around him, and at last all nature, will put on a hostile and menacing aspect, and will combine in his punishment. But he who faithfully and piously pursues the end for which he was created, will find peace in his own mind, and friendship with other men; and finally
enjoy the distinguished favour of the almighty Maker and righteous Governor of the universe.
And thus, self-love and social virtue, private happiness and public good, unite; and the ends of divine wisdom appear perfectly consistent.
How large his tender mercies are!
FAWCETT, in his admirable Sermon on the comparative Sum of Happiness and Misery in Human Life, has the following excellent observations to prove the preponderance of happiness over misery :--
"The weather is sometimes foul; but it is oftener fair. Storms and hurricanes are frequent; but calms are more common. There is some sickness; but there is more health. There is some pain; but there is more ease. There is some mourning; but there is more joy. There is complexional depression, that asks, wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?' but it bears no proportion to the native cheerfulness, which is open to the agreeable impressions of surrounding nature. Multitudes have been crushed under the foot of cruelty; but greater multitudes have remained unmolested by the oppressor. Many have perished with hunger and nakedness; but more have been supplied with food and raiment. Some have counted the days of captivity; but the majority were never in prison. Numbers have lost their reason; but larger numbers have retained it. The list is long of the forsaken and the forlorn; but still longer is the catalogue of those that have never failed, in some one or other, to find a friend.
"Sometimes we are told of towns agitated to pieces by the terrible quaking of the ground; but more frequently of cities that know no enemy but time. Sometimes we hear of ships that are destroyed by the storm; but more commonly of vessels that arrive safely in port. We have read, and read with horror, of failing harvests; our hair has stood up, our pulses have stopped, over the horrible picture of famine! the craving