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The constancy of Nature is taught by (and her ordinances, and that she continueth universal experience, and even strikes the therein. And the proofs of this are ever popular eye as the most characteristic of multiplying along the journey of human those features which have been impressed observation: insomuch, that when we come upon her. It may need the aid of philosophy to manhood, we read of Nature's constancy to learn how unvarying Nature is in all her throughout every department of the visible processeshow even her seeming anomalies world. It meets us wherever we turn our can be traced to a law that is inflexible eyes. Both the day and the night bear withow what might appear at first to be the ness to it. The silent revolutions of the caprices of her waywardness, are, in fact, firmament give it their pure testimony. the evolutions of a mechanism that never Even those appearances in the heavens, at changes and that the more thoroughly she which superstition stood aghast, and imais sifted and put to the test by the interroga- gined that Nature was on the eve of giving tions of the curious, the more certainly will way, are the proudest trophies of that stathey find that she walks by a rule which bility which reigns throughout her proknows no abatement, and perseveres with cesses of that unswerving consistency obedient footstep in that even course, from wherewith she prosecutes all her movewhich the eye of strictest scrutiny, has never ments. And the lesson that is thus held yet detected one hair-breadth of deviation. forth to us from the heavens above, is reIt is no longer doubted by men of science, sponded to by the earth below; just as the that every remaining semblance of irregu- tides of ocean wait the footsteps of the larity in the universe is due, not to the moon, and, by an attendance kept up withfickleness of Nature, but to the ignorance out change or intermission for thousands of of man--that her most hidden movements years, would seem to connect the regularity are conducted with a uniformity as rigorous of earth with the regularity of heaven. But, as fate--that even the fitful agitations of the apart from these greater and simpler enerweather have their law and their principle- gies, we see a course and a uniformity every that the intensity of every breeze, and the where. We recognise it in the mysteries of number of drops in every shower, and the vegetation. We follow it through the suoformation of every cloud, and all the occur- cessive stages of growth, and maturity, and ring alternations of storm and sunshine, and decay, both in plants and animals. We disthe endless shiftings of temperature, and cern it still more palpably in that beautiful those tremulous varieties of the air which circulation of the element of water, as it our instruments have enabled us to discover, rolls its way by many thousand channels to but have not enabled us to explain-that the ocean--and, from the surface of this still, they follow each other by a method of expanded reservoir, is again uplifted to the succession, which, though greatly more in- higher regions of the atmosphere--and is tricate, is yet as absolute in itself as the there dispersed in light and fleecy magaorder of the seasons, or the mathematical zines over the four quarters of the globe courses of astronomy. This is the impres- and at length accomplishes its orbit, by fallsion of every philosophical mind with re-ing in showers on a world that waits to be gard to Nature, and it is strengthened by refreshed by it. And all goes to impress us each new accession that is made to science. with the regularity of Nature, which in fact The more we are acquainted with her, the teems, throughout all its varieties, with more are we led to recognise her constancy; power, and principle, and uniform laws of and to view her as a mighty though com- operation--and is viewed by us as a vast plicated machine, all whose results are sure, laboratory, all the progressions of which and all whose workings are invariable. have a rigid and unfailing necessity stamped
But there is enough of patent and palpa- upon them. ble regularity in Nature, to give also to the Now, this contemplation has at times popular mind, the same impression of her served to foster the atheism of philosophers. constancy. There is a gross and general It has led them to deify Nature, and to make experience that teaches the same lesson, and her immutability stand in the place of God. that has lodged in every bosom a kind of They seem impressed with the imagination, secure and steadfast confidence in the uni- that had the Supreme Cause been a being formity of her processes. The very child who thinks, and wills, and acts as man does, knows and proceeds upon it. He is aware on the impulse of a felt and a present moof an abiding character and property in the tive, there would be more the appearance elements around him-and has already of spontaneous activity, and less of mute learned as much of the fire, and the water, and unconscious mechanism in the admiand the food that he eats, and the firm nistrations of the universe. It is the very ground that he treads upon, and even of the unchangeableness of Nature and the steadgravitation by which he must regulate his fastness of those great and mighty processes postures and his movements, as to prove, wherewith no living power that is superior that infant though he be, he is fully initiated to Nature, and is able to shift or to control in the doctrine, that Nature has her laws her, is seen to interfere- it is this which
seems to have impressed the notion of some together, the invariableness wherewith these blind and eternal fatality on certain men of two terms of the succession have followed loftiest but deluded genius. And, accord- each other. Or, in other words, God, by ingly, in France, where the physical sciences putting this faith into every human creahave, of late, been the most cultivated, have ture, and making it a necessary part of his there also been the most daring avowals of mental constitution, has taught him at all atheism. The universe has been affirmed to times to expect the like result in the like be an everlasting and indestructible effect; circumstances. He has thus virtually told and from the abiding constancy that is seen him what is to happen, and what he has to in Nature, through all her departments, look for in every given condition-and by have they inferred, that thus it has always its so happening accordingly, he just makes been, and that thus it will ever be.
good the veracity of his own declaration. But this atheistical impression that is de- | The man who leads me to expect that rived from the constancy of Nature, is not which he fails to accomplish, I would hold peculiar to the disciples of philosophy. It to be a deceiver. God has so framed the is the familiar and the practical impression machinery of my perceptions, as that I am of every-day life. The world is apprehended led irresistibly to expect, that every where to move on steady and unvarying principles events will follow each other in the very of his own; and these secondary causes train in which I have ever been accustomed have usurped, in man's estimation, the to observe them-and when God so sustains throne of the Divinity. Nature in fact is the uniformity of Nature, that in every inpersonified into God: and as we look to the stance it is rigidly so, he is just manifesting performance of a machine without thinking the faithfulness of his character. Were it of its maker,--so the very exactness and otherwise, he would be practising a mockcertainty, wherewith the machinery of ery on the expectation which he himself creation performs its evolutions, has thrown had inspired. God may be said to have proa disguise or the agency of the Creator. mised to every human being, that Nature Should God interpose by miracle, or inter- will be constant-if not by the whisper of fere by some striking and special manifesta- an inward voice to every heart, at least by tion of providence, then man is awakened the force of an uncontrollable bias which to the recognition of him. But he loses he has impressed on every constitution. So sight of the Being who sits behind these that, when we behold Nature keeping by its visible elements, while he regards those constancy, we behold the God of Nature attributes of constancy and power which keeping by his faithfulness-and the system appear in the elements themselves. They of visible things, with its general laws, and see no demonstration of a God, and they its successions which are invariable, instead feel no need of him, while such unchanging, of an opaque materialism to intercept from and such unfailing energy continues to ope-| the view of mortals the face of the Divinity, rate in the visible world around them; and becomes the mirror which reflects upon we need not go to the schools of ratiocina-them the truth that is unchangeable, the tion in quest of this infidelity, but may de-ordination that never fails. tect it in the bosoms of simple and unlet- Conceive that it had been otherwisetered men, who, unknown to themselves, first, that man had no faith in the constancy make a god of Nature, and just because of of Nature—then how could all his experiNature's constancy; having no faith in the ence have profited him? How could he unseen Spirit who originated all and up- have applied the recollections of his past, holds all, and that, because all things con- to the guidance of his future history? And, tinue as they were from the beginning of what would have been left to signalize the the creation.
wisdom of mankind above that of veriest Such has been the perverse effect of Na-infancy? Or, suppose that he had the imture's constancy on the alienated mind of plicit faith in Nature's constancy, but that man: but let us now attend to the true in-| Nature was wanting in the fulfilment of it terpretation of it. God has, in the first in- that at every moment his intuitive reliance stance, put into our minds a disposition to on this constancy, was met by some caprice count on the uniformity of Nature, insomuch or waywardness of Nature, which thwarted that we universally look for a recurrence of him in all his undertakings-that, instead the same event in the same circumstances. of holding true to her announcements, she This is not merely the belief of experience, held the children of men in most distressful but the belief of instinct. It is antecedent uncertainty, by the freaks and the falsities to all the findings of observation, and may in which she ever indulged herself and be exemplified in the earliest stages of child-that every design of human foresight was hood. The infant who makes a noise on the thus liable to be broken up, by ever and table with his hand, for the first time, anti- anon the putting forth of some new fluctuacipates a repetition of the noise from a re- tion. Tell me, in this wild misrule of elepetition of the stroke, with as much confi- ments changing their properties, and events dence as he who has witnessed, for years ever flitting from one method of succession
to another, if man could subsist for a single as well as of laws that never are rescinded. day, when all the accomplishments without, It is for us that he upholds the world in all were thus at war with all the hopes and its regularity. It is for us that he sustains calculations within. In such a chaos and so inviolably the march and the movement confliet as this, would not the foundations of those innumerable progressions which of human wisdom be utterly subverted ? are going on around us. It is in remenWould not man, with his powerful and per-brance of his promises to us, that he meets petual tendency to proceed on the constancy all our anticipations of Nature's uniformity, of Nature, be tempted, at all times, and by with the evolutions of a law that is malthe very constitution of his being, to pro- terable. It is because he is a God that canceed upon a falsehood? It were the way, not lie, that he will make no invasion on in fact, to turn the administration of Nature that wondrous correspondency which he into a system of deceit. The lessons of to- himself hath instituted between the world day, would be falsified by the events of to- that is without, and our little world of morrow. He were indeed the father of lies hopes, and projects, and anticipations that who could be the author of such a regimen are within." By the constancy of Nature, as this—and well may we rejoice in the he hath imprinted opon it the lesson of his strict order of the goodly universe which own constancy--and that very characterwe inhabit, and regard it as a noble attesta-istic wherewith some would fortify the untion to the wisdom and beneficence of its godliness of their hearts, is the most imgreat Architect.
pressive exhibition which can be given of But it is more especially as an evidence God, as always faithful, and always the of his truth, that the constancy of Nature is same. adverted to in our text. It is of his faithful This, then, is the real character which the ness unto all generations that mention is constancy of Nature should lead us to assign there made-and for the growth and the to him who is the Author of it. In every discipline of your piety, we know not a bet- human understanding, he hath planted a ter practical habit than that of recognising universal instinct, by which all are led to the unchangeable truth of God, throughout believe that Nature will persevere in her your daily and hourly experience of Na- wonted courses, and that each succession ture's unchangeableness. Your faith in it of cause and effect which has been observed is of his working--and what a condition by us in the time that is past, will, while would you have been reduced to, had the the world exists, be kept up invariably, and faith which is within, not been met by an recur in the very same order through the entire and unexpected accordancy with the time that is to come. This constancy, then, fulfilments that are without! He has not is as good as a promise that he has made told you what to expect by the utterance of unto all men, and all that is around us on a voice but he has taught you what to ex-earth or in heaven, proves how inflexibly pect by the leadings and the intimations of the promise is adhered to. The chemist in a strong constitutional tendency-and, in his laboratory, as he questions Nature, may virtue of this, there is not a human creature be almost said to put her to the torture, who does not believe, and almost as firmly when tried in his hottest furnace, or probed as in his own existence, that fire will con- (by his searching analysis, to her innermost tinue to burn, and water to cool, and matter | arcana, she, by a spark, or an explosion, or to resist, and unsupported bodies to fall, and an effervescence, or an evolving substance, ocean to bear the adventurous vessel upon makes her distinct replies to his investigaits surface, and the solid earth to uphold tions. And he repeats her answer to all his the tread of his footsteps; and that spring fellows in philosophy, and they meet in will appear again in her wonted smiles, and academic state and judgment to reiterate summer will glow into heat and brilliancy, the question, and in every quarter of the and autumn will put on the same luxuri- globe her answer is the same-So that, let anee as before, and winter, at its stated pe- the experiment, though a thousand times riods, revisit the world with her darkness repeated, only be alike in all its circumand her storms. We cannot sum up those stances, the result which cometh forth is as eountless varieties of Nature; but the firm rigidly alike, without deficiency, and withexpectation is, that throughout them all, as out deviation. We know how possible it is she has been established, so she will abide for these worshippers at the footstool of to the day of her final dissolution. And I science, to make a divinity of matter; and call upon you to recognise in Nature's con- that every new discovery of her secrets stancy, the answer of Nature's God to this should only rivet them more devotedly to expectation. All these material agents are, her throne. But there is a God who liveth in fact, the organs by which he expresses and sitteth there, and these unvarying rehis faithfulness to the world; and that un sponses of Nature are all prompted by himveering generality which reigns and con- self, and are but the utterances of his imtinues every where, is but the perpetual mutability. They are the replies of a God demonstration of a truth that never varies, I who never changes, and who hath adapted
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the whole materialism of creation to the so fixed, that we apprehend the God of Naconstitution of every mind that he hath sent ture to be so faithful. He who never falsifies forth upon it. And to meet the expectation the hope that hath arisen in every bosom, which he himself hath given of Nature's from the instinct which he himself hath constancy, is he at each successive instant communicated, will never falsify the hope of time, vigilant and ready in every part of that shall arise in any bosom from the exhis vast dominions, to hold out to the eye of press utterance of his voice. Were he a God all observers, the perpetual and unfailing in whose hand the processes of Nature were demonstration of it. The certainties of Na-ever shifting, then might we conceive him ture and of Science are, in fact, the vocables a God from whose mouth the proclamations by which God announces his truth to the of grace had the like characters of variance world-and when told how impossible it is and varillation. But it is just because of that Nature can fluetuate, we are only told our reliance on the one, that we feel so how impossible it is that the God of Nature much of repose in our dependence upon the can deceive us.
other--and the same God who is so unfailThe doctrine that Nature is constant, ing in the ordinances of his creation, do we when thus related, as it ought to be, with hold to be equally unfailing in the ordithe doctrine that God is true, might well nances of his word. strengthen our confidence in him anew with And it is strikingly accordant with these every new experience of our history. There views, that Nature never has been known is not an hour or a moment, in which we to recede from her constancy, but for the may not verify the one--and, therefore, not purpose of giving place and demonstration an hour or a moment in which we may not to the authority of the word. Once, in a invigorate the other. Every touch, and season of miracle, did the word take the every look, and every taste, and every act precedency of Nature, but ever since hath of converse between our senses and the Nature resumed her courses, and is now things that are without, brings home a new proving by her steadfastness, the authority demonstration of the steadfastness of Na- of that, which she then proved to be auture, and along with it a new demonstration thentic by her deviations. When the word both of his steadfastness and of his faithful-was first ushered in, Nature gave way for ness, who is the Governor of Nature. And a period, after which she moves in her the same lesson may be fetched from times wonted order, till the present system of and from places, that are far beyond the things shall pass away, and that faith which limits of our own personal history. It can is now upholden by Nature's constancy, be drawn fom the retrospect of past ages, shall then receive its accomplishment at where, from the unvaried currency of those Nature's dissolution. And 0, how God mag. very processes which we now behold, we nifieth his word above all his name, when may learn the stability of all his ways, he tells that heaven and earth shall pass whose goings forth are of old, and from away, but that his word shall not pass everlasting. It can be gathered from the away--and that while his creation shall most distant extremities of the earth, where become a wreck, not one jot or one tittle of Nature reigns with the same unwearied his testimony shall fail. The world passeth constancy, as it does around us and where away-but the word endureth for eversavages count as we do on a uniformity, and if the faithfulness of God stand forth so from which she never falters. The lesson legibly on the face of the temporary world, is commensurate with the whole system of how surely may we reckon on the faithfulthings--and with an effulgence as broad as ness of that word, which has a vastly higher the face of creation, and as clear as the light place in the counsels and fulfilments of which is poured over it, does it at once tell eternity. that Nature is unchangeably constant, and The argument may not be comprehended that God is unchangeably true.
| by all, but it will not be lost, should it lead And so it is, that in our text there are any to feel a more emphatic certainty and presented together, as if there was a tie of meaning than before, in the declarations of likeness between them-that the same God the Bible--and to conclude, that he who for who is fixed as to the ordinances of Nature, ages hath stood so fixed to all his plans and is faithful as to the declaration of his word; I purposes in Nature, will stand equally fixed and as all experience proves how firmly he to all that he proclaims, and to all that he may be trusted for the one, so is there an promises in Revelation. To be in the hands argument as strong as experience, to prove of such a God, might well strike a terror how firmly he may be trusted for the other. I into the hearts of the guilty-and that unBy his work in us, he hath awakened relenting death, which, with all the sureness the expectation of a constancy in Nature, of an immutable law, is seen, before our which he never disappoints. By his word eyes, to seize upon every individual of every to us, should he awaken the expectation of species of our world, full well evinces how a certainty in his declarations, this he will he, the uncompromising Lawgiver, will exnever disappoint. It is because Nature is ecute every utterance that he has made
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against the children of iniquity. And, on It is because the arrangements of his vast the other hand, how this very contempla- and capacious household are already order. tion ought to encourage all who are looking ed for the best, and all the elements of Nato the announcements of the same God in ture are the ministers by which he fulfils the Gospel, and who perceive that there he them. That is the master who has most has embarked the same truth, and the same honour and obedience from his domestics, unchangeableness on the offers of mercy. throughout all whose ordinations there runs All Nature gives testimony to this, that he a consistency from which he never devicannot lie-and seeing that he has stamped ates; and he best sustains his dignity in such enduring properties on the elements the midst of them, who, by mild but resisteven of our perishable world, never should less sway, can regulate the successions of I falter from that confidence which he liath every hour, and affix his sure and appropritaught me to feel, when I think of that pro- ate service to every member of the family. perty wherewith the blood which was shed It is when we see all, in any given time, for me, cleanseth from all sin; and of that at their respective places, and each disproperty wherewith the body which was tinct period of the day having its own broken, beareth the burden of all its penal- distinct evolution of business or recreation, ties. He who hath so nobly met the faith that we infer the wisdom of the instituted that he has given unto all in the constancy government, and how irrevocable the sancof Nature, by a uniformity which knows tions are by which it is upholden. The no abatement, will meet the faith that he vexatious alternations of command and of has given unto any in the certainty of grace, countermand; the endless fancies of huby a fulfilment unto every believer, which mour, and caprice, and waywardness, which knows no exception.
ever and anon break forth, to the total And it is well to remark the difference overthrow of system; the perpetual inthat there is between the explanation given novations which none do foresee, and for in the text, of Nature's constancy, and the which none, therefore, can possibly be preimpression which the mere students or pared-these are not more harassing to disciples of Nature have of it. It is because the subject, than they are disparaging to of her constancy that they have been led the truth and authority of the superior. to invest her, as it were, in properties of It is in the bosom of a well-conducted faher own; that they have given a kind of in-mily, where you witness the sure dispensadependent power and stability to matter; tion of all the reward and encouragement that in the various energies which lie scat- which have been promised, and the unfailtered over the field of visible contemplation, I ing execution of the disgrace and the disthey see a native inherent virtue, which missal that are held forth to obstinate disnever for a single moment is slackened obedience. Now those very qualities of or suspended-and therefore imagine, that which this uniformity is the test and the as no force from without seems necessary characteristic in the government of any to sustain, so as little, perhaps, is there need human society, of these also is it the test for any such force from without to originate. and the characteristic in the government The mechanical certainty of all Nature's of Nature. It bespeaks the wisdom, and the processes, as it appears in their eyes to authority, and the truth of him who framed supersede the demand for any upholding and who administers. Let there be a king agency, so does it also supersede, in the eternal, immortal, and invisible, and let this silent imaginations of many, and according universe be his empire--and in all the to the express and bold avowals of some, rounds of its complex but unerring mechanthe demand for any creative agency. It is ism, do I recognise him as the only wise God. thus, that Nature is raised into a divinity, in the constancy of Nature, do I read the and has been made to reign over all, in the constancy and truth of that great master state and jurisdiction of an eternal fatalism; Spirit, who hath imprinted his own characand proud Science, which by wisdom ter on all that hath emanated from his knoweth not God, hath in her march of power; and when told that throughout the discovery, seized upon the invariable cer- mighty lapse of centuries, all the courses tainties of Nature, those highest character- both of earth and of heaven, have been istics of his authority and wisdom and upholden as before, I only recognise the truth, as the instruments by which to dis- | footsteps of him who is ever the same, and prove and to dethrone him.
whose faithfulness is unto all generations. Now compare this interpretation of mon- That perpetuity, and order, and ancient strous and melancholy atheism, with that law of succession, which have subsisted 80 which the Bible gives, why all things move long, throughout the wide diversity of so invariably. It is because that all are thy things, bear witness to the Lord of hosts, servants. It is because they are all under as still at the head of his well-marshalled the bidding of a God who has purposes family. The present age is only re-echofrom which he never falters, and hath is-ing the lesson of all past ages--and that sued promises from which he never fails. spectacle, which has misled those who by