Imágenes de páginas

to another, if man could subsist for a single day, when all the accomplishments without, were thus at war with all the hopes and calculations within. In such a chaos and conflict as this, would not the foundations of human wisdom be utterly subverted ? Would not man, with his powerful and perpetual tendency to proceed on the constancy of Nature, be tempted, at all times, and by the very constitution of his being, to proceed upon a falsehood 7 It were the way, in fact, to turn the administration of Nature into a system of deceit. The lessons of today, would be falsified by the events of tomorrow. He were indeed the father of lies who could be the author of such a regimen as this—and well may we rejoice in the strict order of the goodly universe which we inhabit, and regard it as a noble attestation to the wisdom and beneficence of its great Architect. But it is more especially as an evidence of his truth, that the constancy of Nature is adverted to in our text. It is of his faithfulness unto all generations that mention is there made—and for the growth and the discipline of your piety, we know not a better practical habit than that of recognising the unchangeable truth of God, throughout your daily and hourly experience of Nature's unchangeableness. Your faith in it is of his working—and what a condition would you have been reduced to, had the faith which is within, not been met by an entire and unexpected accordancy with the sulfilments that are without! He has not told you what to expect by the utterance of a voice—but he has taught you what to expect by the leadings and the intimations of a strong constitutional tendency—and, in virtue of this, there is not a human creature who does not believe, and almost as firmly as in his own existence, that fire will continue to burn, and water to cool, and matter to resist, and unsupported bodies to fall, and ocean to bear the adventurous vessel upon its surface, and the solid earth to uphold the tread of his footsteps; and that spring will appear again in her wonted smiles, and summer will glow into heat and brilliancy, and autumn will put on the same luxuriance as before, and winter, at its stated pe— riods, revisit the world with her darkness and her storms. We cannot sum up those countless varieties of Nature; but the firm expectation is, that throughout them all, as she has been established, so she will abide to the day of her final dissolution. And I call upon you to recognise in Nature's constancy, the answer of Nature's God to this expectation. All these material agents are, in sact, the organs by which he expresses his faithfulness to the world; and that unveering generality which reigns and continues every where, is but the perpetual demonstration of a truth that never varies,

as well as of laws that never are rescinded. It is for us that he upholds the world in all its regularity. It is for us that he sustains so inviolably the march and the movement of those innumerable progressions which are going on around us. It is in remembrance of his promises to us, that he meets all our anticipations of Nature's uniformity, with the evolutions of a law that is unalterable. It is because he is a God that cannot lie, that he will make no invasion on that wondrous correspondency which he himself hath instituted between the world that is without, and our little world of hopes, and projects, and anticipations that are within. By the constancy of Nature, he hath imprinted upon it the lesson of his own constancy—and that very characteristic wherewith some would fortify the ungodliness of their hearts, is the most impressive exhibition which can be given of God, as always faithful, and always the Same. This, then, is the real character which the constancy of Nature should lead us to assign to him who is the Author of it. In every human understanding, he hath planted a universal instinct, by which all are led to believe that Nature will persevere in her wonted courses, and that each succession of cause and effect which has been observed by us in the time that is past, will, while the world exists, be kept up invariably, and recur in the very same order through the time that is to come. This constancy, then, is as good as a promise that he has made unto all men, and all that is around us on earth or in heaven, proves how inflexibly the promise is adhered to. The chemist in his laboratory, as he questions Nature, may be almost said to put her to the torture, when tried in his hottest surnace, or probed by his searching analysis, to her innermost arcana, she, by a spark, or an explosion, or an effervescence, or an evolving substance, makes her distinct replies to his investiga tions. And he repeats her answer to all his fellows in philosophy, and they meet in academic state and judgment to reiterate the question, and in every quarter of the globe her answer is the same—so that, let the experiment, though a thousand times repeated, only be alike in all its circumstances, the result which cometh forth is as rigidly alike, without deficiency, and without deviation. We know how possible it is for these worshippers at the footstool of science, to make a divinity of matter; and that every new discovery of her secrets should only rivet them more devotedly to her throne. But there is a God who liveth and sitteth there, and these unvarying responses of Nature are all prompted by himself, and are but the utterances of his immutability. They are the replies of a God who never changes, and who hath adapted

the whole materialism of creation to the constitution of every mind that he hath sent forth upon it. And to meet the expectation which he himself hath given of Nature's constancy, is he at each successive instant of time, vigilant and ready in every part of his vast dominions, to hold out to the eye of all observers, the perpetual and unfailing demonstration of it. The certainties of Nature and of Science are, in fact, the vocables by which God announces his truth to the world—and when told how impossible it is that Nature can fluctuate, we are only told how impossible it is that the God of Nature can deceive us. The doctrine that Nature is constant, when thus related, as it ought to be, with the doctrine that God is true, might well strengthen our confidence in him anew with every new experience of our history. There is not an hour or a moment, in which we may not verify the one—and, therefore, not an hour or a moment in which we may not invigorate the other. Every touch, and every look, and every taste, and every act of converse between our senses and the things that are without, brings home a new demonstration of the steadfastness of Nature, and along with it a new demonstration both of his steadfastness and of his faithfulness, who is the Governor of Nature. And the same lesson may be fetched from times and from places, that are far beyond the limits of our own personal history. It can be drawn fom the retrospect of past ages, where, from the unvaried currency of those very processes which we now behold, we may learn the stability of all his ways, whose goings forth are of old, and from everlasting. It can be gathered from the most distant extremities of the earth, where Nature reigns with the same unwearied constancy, as it does around us—and where savages count as we do on a uniformity, from which she never falters. The lesson is commensurate with the whole system of things—and with an effulgence as broad as the face of creation, and as clear as the light which is poured over it, does it at once tell that Nature is unchangeably constant, and that God is unchangeably true. And so it is, that in our text there are presented together, as if there was a tie of likeness between them—that the same God who is fixed as to the ordinances of Nature, is faithful as to the declaration of his word; and as all experience proves how firmly he may be trusted for the one, so is there an argument as strong as experience, to prove how firmly he may be trusted for the other. By his work in us, he hath awakened the expectation of a constancy in Nature, which he never disappoints. By his word to us, should he awaken the expectation of a certainty in his declarations, this he will never disappoint. It is because Nature is

so fixed, that we apprehend the God of Nature to be so faithful. He who never falsifies the hope that hath arisen in every bosom, from the instinct which he himself hath communicated, will never falsify the hope that shall arise in any bosom from the express utterance of his voice. Were he a God in whose hand the processes of Nature were ever shifting, then might we conceive him a God from whose mouth the proclamations of grace had the like characters of variance and vacillation. But it is just because of our reliance on the one, that we feel so much of repose in our dependence upon the other—and the same God who is so unfailing in the ordinances of his creation, do we hold to be equally unfailing in the ordinances of his word. And it is strikingly accordant with these views, that Nature never has been known to recede from her constancy, but for the purpose of giving place and demonstration to the authority of the word. Once, in a season of miracle, did the word take the precedency of Nature, but ever since hath Nature resumed her courses, and is now proving by her steadfastness, the authority of that, which she then proved to be authentic by her deviations. When the word was first ushered in, Nature gave way for a period, after which she moves in her wonted order, till the present system of things shall pass away, and that faith which is now upholden by Nature's constancy, shall then receive its accomplishment at Nature's dissolution. And O, how God magnifieth his word above all his name, when he tells that heaven and earth shall pass away, but that his word shall not pass away—and that while his creation shall become a wreck, not one jot or one tittle of his testimony shall sail. The world passeth away—but the word endureth for ever— and if the faithfulness of God stand forth so legibly on the face of the temporary world, how surely may we reckon on the faithfulness of that word, which has a vastly higher place in the counsels and fulfilments of eternity. The argument may not be comprehended by all, but it will not be lost, should it lead any to feel a more emphatic certainty and meaning than before, in the declarations of the Bible—and to conclude, that he who for ages hath stood so fixed to all his plans and purposes in Nature, will stand equally fixed to all that he proclaims, and to all that he promises in Revelation. To be in the hands of such a God, might well strike a terror into the hearts of the guilty—and that unrelenting death, which, with all the sureness of an immutable law, is seen, before our eyes, to seize upon every individual of every species of our world, full well evinces how he, the uncompromising Lawgiver, will execute every utterance that he has made


against the children of iniquity. And, on the other hand, how this very contemplation ought to encourage all who are looking to the announcements of the same God in the Gospel, and who perceive that there he has embarked the same truth, and the same unchangeableness on the offers of mercy. All Nature gives testimony to this, that he cannot lie—and seeing that he has stamped such enduring properties on the elements even of our perishable world, never should I falter from that confidence which he hath taught me to seel, when I think of that property wherewith the blood which was shed for me, cleanseth from all sin; and of that property wherewith the body which was broken, beareth the burden of all its penalties. He who hath so nobly met the faith that he has given unto all in the constancy of Nature, by a uniformity which knows no abatement, will meet the faith that he has given unto any in the certainty of grace, by a fulfilment unto every believer, which knows no exception. And it is well to remark the difference that there is between the explanation given in the text, of Nature's constancy, and the impression which the mere students or disciples of Nature have of it. It is because of her constancy that they have been led to invest her, as it were, in properties of her own; that they have given a kind of independent power and stability to matter; that in the various energies which lie scattered over the field of visible contemplation, they see a native inherent virtue, which never for a single moment is slackened or suspended—and therefore imagine, that as no force from without seems necessary to sustain, so as little, perhaps, is there need for any such force from without to originate. The mechanical certainty of all Nature's processes, as it appears in their eyes to supersede the demand for any upholding agency, so does it also supersede, in the silent imaginations of many, and according to the express and bold avowals of some, the demand for any creative agency. It is thus, that Nature is raised into a divinity, and has been made to reign over all, in the state and jurisdiction of an eternal fatalism; and proud Science, which by wisdom knoweth not God, hath in her march of discovery, seized upon the invariable certainties of Nature, those highest characteristics of his authority and wisdom and truth, as the instruments by which to disprove and to dethrone him. Now compare this interpretation of monstrous and melancholy atheism, with that which the Bible gives, why all things move so o: It is because that all are thy servants. It is because they are all under the bidding of a God who has purposes from which he never falters, and hath is

It is because the arrangements of his vast and capacious household are already ordered for the best, and all the elements of Nature are the ministers by which he fulfils them. That is the master who has most honour and obedience from his domestics throughout all whose ordinations there runs a consistency from which he never deviates; and he best sustains his dignity in the midst of them, who, by mild but resistless sway, can regulate the successions of

at their respective places, and each dis

that we infer the wisdom of the instituted

tions are by which it is upholden. The vexatious alternations of command and of countermand; the endless fancies of humour, and caprice, and waywardness, which ever and anon break forth, to the total overthrow of system; the perpetual innovations which none do foresee, and for which none, therefore, can possibly be prepared—these are not more harassing to the subject, than they are disparaging to the truth and authority of the superior. It is in the bosom of a well-conducted family, where you witness the sure dispensation of all the reward and encouragement which have been promised, and the unfailing execution of the disgrace and the dismissal that are held forth to obstinate disobedience. Now those very qualities of which this uniformity is the test and the characteristic in the government of any human society, of these also is it the test and the characteristic in the government of Nature. It bespeaks the wisdom, and the authority, and the truth of him who framed and who administers. Let there be a King eternal, immortal, and invisible, and let this universe be his empire—and in all the rounds of its complex but unerring mechanism, do I recognise him as the only wise God. In the constancy of Nature, do I read the constancy and truth of that great master Spirit, who hath imprinted his own character on all that hath emanated from his power; and when told that throughout the mighty lapse of centuries, all the courses

both of earth and of heaven, have been

upholden as before, I only recognise the

footsteps of him who is ever the same, and

whose faithfulness is unto all generations.

That perpetuity, and order, and ancient

law of succession, which have subsisted so

long, throughout the wide diversity of

things, bear witness to the Lord of hosts,

as still at the head of his well-marshalled

family. The present age is only re-echo

ing the lesson of all past ages—and that

sued promises from which he never fails.

spectacle, which has misled those who by

every hour, and affix his sure and appropriate service to every member of the family. It is when we see all, in any given time,

tinct period of the day having its own distinct evolution of business or recreation,

government, and how irrevocable the sancwisdom know not God, into dreary atheism, has enhanced every demonstration both of his veracity and power, to all intelligent worshippers. We know that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. We know that the whole of surrounding materialism stands forth, to this very hour, in all the inflexibility of her wonted characters. We know that heaven, and earth, and sea, still discharge the same functions, and subserve the very same beneficent processes. We know that astronomy plies the same rounds as before, that the cycles of the firmament move in their old and appointed order, and that the year circulates as it has ever done, in grateful variety, over the face of an expectant world —but only because all are of God, and they continue this day according to his ordinances—for all are his servants. Now, it is just because the successions which take place in the economy of Nature, are so invariable, that we should expect the successions which take place in the economy of God's moral government to be equally invariable. That expectation which he never disappoints when it is the fruit of a universal instinct, he surely will never disappoint when it is the fruit of his own express and immediate revelation. If because God hath so established it, it cometh to pass, then of whatsoever it may be affirmed that God hath so said it, it will come equally to pass. I should certainly look for the same character in the administrations of his special grace, that I, at all times, witness in the administrations of his ordinary providence. If I see in the system of his world, that the law by which two events follow each other, gives rise to a connexion between them that never is dissolved, then should he say in his word, that there are certain invariable methods of succession, in virtue of which when the first term of it occurs, the second is sure at all times to follow, I should be very sure in my anticipations, that it will indeed be most punctually and most rigidly so. It is thus, that the constancy of Nature is in fullest harmony with the authority of Revelation— and that, when fresh from the contemplation of the one, I would listen with most implicit faith to all the announcements of the other. When we behold all to be so sure and settled in the works of God, then may we look for all being equally sure and settled in the word of God. Philosophy hath never yet detected one iota of deviation from the ordinances of Nature—and never, therefore, may we conclude, shall the experience either of past or future ages, detect one iota of deviation from the ordinances of Revelation. He who so pointedly adheres to every plan that he hath established in creation, will roomedy adhere to 3

every proclamation that he hath uttered in Scripture. There is nought of the fast and loose in any of his processes—and whether in the terrible denunciations of Sinai, or those mild proffers of mercy that were sounded forth upon the world through Messiah, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power, shall we alike experience that God is not to be mocked, and that with him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. With this certainty then o our spirits, let us now look, not to the successions which he hath instituted in nature, but to the successions which he hath announced to us, in the word of his testimony—and let us, while so doing, fix and solemnize our thoughts by the consideration, that as God hath said it, so will he do it. The first of these successions, then, on which we may count infallibly, is that which he hath proclaimed between sin and punishment. e soul that sinneth it shall die. And here there is a common ground on which the certainties of divine revelation meet and are at one with the certainties of human experience. We are told in the Bible, that all have sinned, and that, therefore, death hath passed upon all men. The connexion between these two terms is announced in Scripture to be invariable— and all observation tells us, that it is even so. Such was the sentence uttered in the hearing of our first parents; and all history can attest how God hath kept by the word of his threatening—and how this law of jurisprudence from heaven is realized before us upon earth, with all the certainty of a law of Nature. The death of man is just as stable and as essential a part of his physiology, as are his birth, or his expansion, or his maturity, or his decay. It looks as much a thing of organic necessity, as a thing of arbitrary institution—and here do we see blended into one exhibition, a certainty of the divine word that never fails, and a constancy in Nature that never is departed from. It is indeed a striking accordancy, that what in one view of it appears to be a uniform process of Nature, in another view of it, is but the unrelenting execution of a dread utterance from the God of Nature. From this contemplation may we gather, that God is as certain in all his words, as he is constant in all his ways. Men can philosophize on the diseases of the human system—and the laborious treatise can be written on the class, and the character, and the symptoms, of each of them– and in our halls of learning, the ample demonstration can be given, and disciples may be taught how to judge and to prognosticate and in what appearances to read the fell precursors of mortality—and death has so taken up its settled place among the immutabilities of Nature, that it is as familiarly treated in the lecture-rooms of science, as any other phenomena which Nature has to Offer for the exercise of the human understanding. And, O, how often are the smile and the stoutness of infidelity seen to min#. with this appalling contemplation—and ow little will its hardy professors bear to be told, that what gives so dread a certainty to their speculation is, that the God of Nature and the God of the Bible, are one—that when , they describe, in lofty nomenclature, the path of dying humanity, they only describe the way in which he fulfils upon it his irrevocable denunciation—tha the is but doing now to the posterity of Adam what he told to Adam himself on his expulsion from Paradise—and that, if the universality of death prove how every law in the physics of creation is sure, it just as impressively proves, how every word of God's immediate utterance to man, or how every word of prophecy, is equally sure. And in every instance of mortality which you are called to witness, do we call upon you to read in it the intolerance of God for sin, and how unsparingly and unrelentingly it is, that God carries into effect his every utterance against it. The connection which he hath instituted between the two terms of sin and of death should lead you from every appeal that is made to your senses by the one, to feel the force of an appeal to your conscience by the other. It proves the hatefulness of sin to God, and it also proves with what unfaltering constancy God will prosecute every threat until he hath made an utter extirpation of sin from his presence. There is nought which can make more palpable the way in which God keeps every saying in his perpetual remembrance, and as surely proceeds upon it, than doth this universal plague wherewith he hath smitten every individual of our species, and carries off its successive generations from a world that sprung from his hand in all the bloom and vigour of immortality. When death makes entrance upon a family, and perhaps, seizes on that one member of it, all whose actual transgressions might be summed up in the outbreakings of an occasional waywardness, wherewith the smiles of infant gaiety were chequered—still how it demonstrates the unbending purposes of God against our present accurscd nature, that in some one or other of its varieties, every specimen must die. And so it is, that from one age to another, he makes open manifestation to the world, that every utterance which hath fallen from him is sure; and that ocular proof is given to the character of him who is a Spirit, and is invisible; and that sense lends its testimony to the truth of God, and the truth of his Scripture; and that Nature, when rightly viewed, instead of placing its inquirers at atheistical variance with

the most impressive commentary that can be given on the reverence which is due to all his communications, even by demonstrating, that faith in his word is at unison with the findings of our daily observation. But God hath further said of sin and of its consequences, what no observation of ours has yet realized. He hath told us of the judgment that cometh after death, and he hath told us of the two diverse paths which lead from the judgment-seat unto eternity. Of these we have not yet seen the verification, yet surely we have seen enough to prepare us for the unfailing accoliplishment of every utterance that comesh from the lips of God. The unexcepted death which we know cometh upon all men, for that all have sinned, might well convince us of the certainty of that second death which is threatened upon all who turn not from sin unto the Saviour. There is an indissoluble succession here between our sinning and our dying—and we ought now to be so aware of God as a God of precise and peremptory execution, as 10 look upon the succession being equally indissoluble, between our dying in sin now, and rising to everlasting condemnation hero. after. The sinner who wraps himself inde. lusive security—and that, because all things continue as they have done, does not reflec. of this very characteristic, that it is indeed the most awful proof of God's immutable counsels, and to himself the most tremell. dous presage of all the ruin and wretched. ness which have been denounced upon him. The spectacle of uniformity that is best: his eyes, only goes to ascertain that as God hath purposed, so, without vacillation of inconstancy, will he ever perform. Hehash already given a sample, or an earnest of this in the awful ravages of death; and we ask the sinner to behold, in the ever-recurring spectacle of moving funerals, and desolated families, the token of that still deeper pe: dition which awaits him. Let him not think that the God who deals his relentless inflic. tions here on every son and daughter of th: species, will falter there from the worko vengeance that shall then descend on th: heads of the impenitent. O, how deceived then are all those ungodly, who have been building to themselves a safety and ano. emption on the perpetuity of Nature! All the perpetuity which they have with is the pledge of a God who is unchango. able—and who, true to his threatening o" every other utterance which passes hisjo, hath said, in the hearing of men and angels, that the soul which is in sins perish. But, secondly, there is another succes." announced to us in Scripture, and on certainty of which we may place as firm a

the being who upholds it, holds out to us! reliance as on any of the observed st"

« AnteriorContinuar »