Imágenes de páginas


does not occupy: is often, howerer, e cause of serious nment of their re

y; and it is not to Fer other tracks of

times dazzle and ervice to what we ating this illusion; ut, and to a certain le so destructively

I do not think, that, amid the distraction and the engrossment of his other pursuits, he has at all times succeeded in his interpretation of the book; else he would never, in my apprehension, have abetted the leading doctrine of a sect, or a system, which has now nearly dwindled away from public observation.

In my third Discourse I am silent as to the assertion and attempt to combat the inference that is founded on it. I insist, that upon all the analogies of nature and of providence, we can lay no limit on the condescension of God, or on the multiplicity of his regards even to the very humblest departments of creation ; and that it is not for us, who see the evidences of divine wisdom and care spread in such exhaustless profusion around, to say, that the Deity would not lavish all the wealth of his wondrous attributes on the salvation even of our solitary species.

At this point of the argument I trust that the intelligent reader may be enabled to perceive in the adversaries of the gospel, a twofold dereliction from the maxims of the Baconian philosophy; that, in the first instance, the assertion which forms the groundwork of their argument, is gratuitously fetched out of an unknown region where they are utterly abandoned by the light of experience; and that, in the second instance, the inference they urge from it, is in the face of manifold and undeniable truths, all lying within the safe and accessible field of human observation.

In my subsequent Discourses, I proceed to the informations of the record. The infidel objection, drawn from astronomy, may be considered as by this time disposed of; and if we have sueceeded in clearing it away, so as to deliver the Christian testimony from all discredit upon this ground, then may we submit, on the strength of other evidences, to be guided by its information. We shall thus learn, that Christianity has a far more extensive bearing on the other orders of creation than the infidel is disposed to allow ; and whether he will own the authority of this information or not, he will at least be forced to admit, that the subject matter of the Bible itself is not chargeable with that objection which he has attempted to fasten upon it.

Thus, had my only object been the refutation of the Infidel argument, I might hare spared the last Discourses of the Volume altogether. But the tracts of Scriptural information to which they directed me, I considered as worthy of prosecution on their own account and I do think, that much may be gathered from these less observed portions of the field of revelation, to cheer, and to elevate, and to guide the believer.

But, in the management of such a discussion as this, though for a great degree of this effect it would require to be conducted in a far higher style than I am able to sustain, the taste of the human mind may be regaled, and its understanding put into a state of the most agreeable exercise. Now, this is quite distinct from the conscience being made to feel the force of a personal application; nor could T either bring this argument to its close in the pulpit, or offer it to the general notice of the world, without adverting, in the last Discourse, to a delusion which, I fear, is carrying forward thousands, and tens of thousands to an undone eternity.

I have closed the volume with an Appendix of Scriptural authorities. I found that I could not easily interweave them in the texture of the Work, and have, therefore, thought fit to present them in a separate form. I look for a twofold benefit from this exhibition-first, on those more general readers, who are ignorant of the Scriptures, and of the riches and variety which abound in them and, secondly, on those narrow and intolerant professors, who take an alarm at the very sound and semblance of philosophy, and feel as if there was an utter irreconcileable antipathy between its lessons on the one hand, and the soundness and piety of the Bible on the other. It were well, I conceive, for our cause, that the latter could become a little more indulgent on this subject ; that they gave up a portion of those ancient and hereditary prepossessions, which go so far to cramp and to enthral them; that they would suffer theology to take that wide range of argument and of illustration which belongs to her; and that less, sensitively jealous of any desecration being brought upon the Sabbath, or the pulpit, they would suffer her freely to announce all those truths, which either serve to protect Christianity from the contempt of science, or to protect the teachers of Chris

dern Astronomse littleness which Freethinkers all its

The assertion is, r the single benefit hor of this religion, liar and such das ew Testament. ned for the single

fidel himself-mand can be charged 01

the attempt of de itious and enlight

knowledgment to

farther explained, of applause in the ficence of his own ir fascination, and evidences staaipeid

This was the sole med to eulogize it.

tianity from those invasions which are 'practised both on the sacredness of the office, and on the solitudes of its devotional and intellectual labours.

I shall only add, for the information of readers at a distance, that these Discourses were chiefly delivered on the occasion of the week-day sermon that is preached in rotation by the Ministers of Glasgow.

A Sketch of the Modern Astronomy.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast or dained ; What is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that thou visitest him."

Psalm viii. 3, 4.

In the reasonings of the Apostle Paul, I prejudices which kept back so many huwe cannot fail to observe how studiously man beings from the participation of the he accommodates his arguments to the pur- Gospel. And should Paul have had reason suits, or principles, or prejudices of the to rejoice, that, by the success of his argupeople whom he was addressing. He often ments, he had reconciled one or any nummade a favourite opinion of their own the ber of Jews to Christianity, then it was the starting point of his explanation; and edu- part of these Gentiles, though receiving no cing a dexterous but irresistible train of direct or personal benefit from the arguargument from some principle upon which ments, to have blessed God, and rejoiced each of the parties had a common under-| along with him. standing, did he force them out of all their Conceive that Paul were at this moment opposition, by a weapon of their own choos- alive, and zealously engaged in the work ing-nor did he scruple to avail himself of of pressing the Christian religion on the a Jewish peculiarity, or a heathen super- acceptance of the various classes of society. stition, or a quotation from Greek poetry, Should he not still have acted on the prinby which he might gain the attention of ciple of being all things to all men? Should those whom he labored to convince, and he not have accommodated his discussion by the skilful application of which he might to the prevailing taste, and literature, and “shut them up unto the faith."

philosophy of the times? Should he not Now, when Paul was thus addressing have closed with the people, whom he was one class of an assembly or congregation, addressing, on some favourite principle of another class might, for the time, have their own; and, in the prosecution of this been shut out of all direct benefit and ap- principle, might he not have got completely plication from his arguments. When hel beyond the comprehension of a numerous wrote an Epistle to a mixed assembly of class of zealous, humble, and devoted ChrisChristianised Jews and Gentiles, he had tians? Now, the question is not, how these often to direct such a process of argument would conduct themselves in such circumto the former, as the latter would neither stances ? but how should they do it? Would require nor comprehend. Now, what should it be rignt in them to sit with inpatience, have been the conduct of the Gentiles at because the argument of the apostles containthe reading of that part of the Epistle which ed in it nothing in the way of comfort or edibore almost an exclusive reference to the fication to themselves ? Should not the beJews? Should it be impatience at the hearing nevolence of the Gospel give a different of something for which they had no relish or direction to their feelings? And, instead understanding ? Should it be a fretful dis- of that narrow, exclusive, and monopolizappointment, because every thing that was ing spirit, which I fear is too characteristic said, was not said for their edification of the more declared professors of the truth Should it be angry discontent with the as it is in Jesus, ought they not to be paApostle, because, leaving them in the dark, tient, and to rejoice; when to philosophers, he had brought forward nothing for them, and to men of literary accomplishment, through the whole extent of so many suc- and to those who have the direction of the cessive chapters? Some of them may have public taste among the upper walks of sofelt in this way; but surely it would have ciety, such arguments are addressed as may been vastly more Christian to have sat with bring home to their acceptance also, "the meek and unfeigned patience, and to have words of this life?" It is under the imrejoiced that the great Apostle had under-pulse of these considerations, that I have, taken the management of those obstinate i with some hesitation, prevailed upon my

sacredness of the
ance, that these
day sermon that

is, which thou hast as I visitest him."

Palm vu. 3,4

back so many huparticipation of the Paul have had reason success of his argued one or any num anity, then it was the

though receiving no nefit from the argu

God, and rejoiced

were at this moment engaged in the work stian religion on the Jus classes of society. ve acted on the price s to all men? Should dated his discussion , and literature, and nes? Should he met people, whom he re arourite principle of prosecution of this I have got complete nision of a numero le, and devoted Cuis

self to attempt an argument which I think of the firmament. And there is much in

fitted{to soften and subdue those prejudices the scenery of a nocturnal sky, to lift the , which lie at the bottom of what may be soul to pious contemplation. That moon,

called the infidelity of natural science; if and these stars, what are they? They are possible to bring over to the humility of the detached from the world, and they lift you Gospel, those who expatiate with delight above it. You feel withdrawn from the on the wonders and sublimities of creation; earth, and rise in lofty abstraction above and to convince them that a loftier wisdom this little theatre of human passions and still than that even of their high and hon-human anxieties. The mind abandons itourable acquirements, is the wisdom of him self to reverie, and is transferred, in the ecwho is resolved to know nothing but Jesus stacy of its thoughts, to distant and unexplorChrist, and him crucified. .

ed regions. It sees nature in the simplicity of It is truly a most Christian exercise to her great elements, and it sees the God of extract a sentiment of piety from the works nature invested with the high attributes of and the appearances of nature. It has the wisdom and majesty. authority of the Sacred Writers upon its But what can these lights be? The cuside, and even our Saviour himself gives it riosity of the human mind is insatiable, the weight and the solemnity of his exam- and the mechanism of these wonderful ple. “Behold the lilies of the field; they heavens has, in all ages, been its subject toil not, neither do they spin, yet your and its employment. It has been reserved heavenly Father careth for them.” He ex- for these latter times, to resolve this great paliates on the beauty of a single flower, and interesting question. The sublimest and draws from it the delightful argument powers of philosophy have been called to of confidence in God. He gives us to see the exercise, and astronomy may now be that taste may be combined with piety, and looked upon as the most certain and best that the same heart may be occupied with established of the sciences. all that is serious in the contemplations of ! We all know that every visible object religion, and be at the same time alive to appears, less in magnitude as it recedes the charms and the loveliness of nature. from the eye. The lofty vessel as it re

The Psalmist takes a still loftier flight. tires from the coast, shrinks into littleness, He leaves the world, and lifts his imagina- and at last appears in the form of a smali tion to that mighty expanse which spreads speck on the verge of the horizon. The above it and around it. He wings his way eagle with its expanded wings, is a noble through space, and wanders in thought over object; but when it takes its flight into the its immeasurable regions. Instead of a dark upper regions of the air, it becomes less to and unpeopled solitude, he sees it crowded the eye, and is seen like a dark spot upon with splendour, and filled with the energy of the vault of heaven. The same is true of the Divine presence. Creation rises in its all magnitude. The heavenly bodies appear immensity before him, and the world, with small to the eye of an inhabitant of this all which it inherits, shrinks into littleness earth, only from the immensity of their at a contemplation so vast and so overpow- distance. When we talk of hundreds of ering. He wonders that he is not over- | millions of miles, it is not to be listened to! looked amid the grandeur and the variety as incredible. For remember that we are which are on every side of him, and pass-1 talking of those bodies which are scattered ing upward from the majesty of nature to over the immensity of space, and that space the majesty of nature's Architect, he ex- knows no termination. The conception is claims, “What is man that thou art mind- great and difficult, but the truth is unquesful of him, or the son of man that thou tionable. By a process of measurement shouldest deign to visit him?"

which it is unnecessary at present to exIt is not for us to say, whether inspira- plain, we have ascertained first the distance. tion revealed to the Psalmist the wonders and then the magnitude of some of those of the modern astronomy. But even though bodies which roll in the firmament; that The mind be a perfect stranger to the sci- the sun, which presents itself to the eve ence of these enlightened times, the heavens under so diminutive a form, is really a globe. present a great and an elevating spectacle; exceeding, by many thousands of times, the an immense concave reposing upon the dimensions of the earth which we inhabit: Circular boundary of the world, and the in-| that the moon itself has the magnitude of numerable lights which are suspended from a world; and that even a few of those stars, on high, moving with solemn regularity which appear like so many lucid points to along its surface. It seems to have been at the unassisted eye of the observer, expand night that the piety of the Psalmist was into large circles upon the application of awakened by this contemplation, when the the telescope, and are some of them much moon and the stars were visible, and not larger than the ball which we tread upon, When the sun had risen in his strength, and to which we proudly apply the denomand thrown a splendour around him, which ination of the universe. bore down and eclipsed all the lesser glories Now, what is the fair and obvious pre

stion is not, how threat
olres in such circum
Id therdo it? Would
sit with impatienten

the apostles contain
rarof comfort areas
? Should not the best
spel gire a diferent
imgs? And. mstand
se, and monoput
r is too characteristi
rofessors of the truth
Ither not to be the
then to philosopher
IT accomplishment

the direction of the
? upper walks of s
ire addressed as fast
cceptance also, tbe
It is under the in
rations that I have
prevailal upon my

sumption? The world in which we live, as to us, has God divided the light from the is a round ball of a determined magnitude, darkness, and he has called the light day, and and occupies its own place in the firma- the darkness he has called night. He has said ment. But when we explore the unlimited let there be lights in the firmament of their tracts of that space, which is every where heaven, to divide the day from the night: and around us, we meet with other balls of equal let them be for signs, and for seasons, and or superior magnitude, and from which our for days, and for years, and let them be for earth would either be invisible, or appear as lights in the firmament of heaven, to give small as any of those twinkling stars which light upon their earth; and it was so. And are seen on the canopy of heaven. Why God has also made to them great lights. then suppose that this little spot, little at To all of them he has given the sun to rule least in the immensity which surrounds it, the day; and to many of them has he given should be the exclusive abode of life and of moons to rule the night. To them he has intelligence? What reason to think that made the stars also. And God has set them those mightier globes which roll in other in the firmament of heaven, to give light parts of creation, and which we have discov- unto their earth; and to rule over the day, ered to be worlds in magnitude, are not also and over the night, and to divide the light worlds in use and in dignity? Why should from the darkness; and God has seen that we think that the great Architect of nature, it was good. supreme in wisdom as he is in power, In all these greater arrangements of diwould call these stately mansions into ex- vine wisdom, we can see that God has done

istence, and leave them unoccupied ? When the same things for the accommodation of 1 we cast our eye over the broad sea, and look the planets that he has done for the earth

at the country on the other side, we see no which we inhabit. And shall we say, that thing but the blue land stretching obscurely the resemblance stops here, because we are over the distant horizon. We are too far not in a situation to observe it? Shall we away to perceive the richness of its scenery, say, that this scene of magnificence has or to hear the sound of its population. been called into being, merely for the Why not extend this principle to the still amusement of a few astronomers? Shall more distant parts of the universe? What we measure the counsels of heaven by the though, from this remote point of observa-narrow importance of the human faculties? tion, we can see nothing but the naked or conceive, that silence and solitude reign roundness of yon planetary orbs ? Are we throughout the mighty empire of nature; therefore to say, that they are so many vast that the greater part of creation is an empty and unpeopled solitudes; that desolation parade; and that not a worshipper of the reigns in every part of the universe but Divinity is to be found through the wide ours; that the whole energy of the divine extent of yon vast and immeasurable reattributes is expended on one insignificant | gions ? corner of these mighty works; and that to It lends a delightful confirmation to the this earth alone belongs the bloom of vege- argument, when, from the growing perfec-, tation, or the blessedness of life, or the dig- tion of our instruments, we can discover a nity of rational and immortal existence? new point of resemblance between our

But this is not all. We have something earth and the other bodies of the planetary more than the mere magnitude of the system. It is now'ascertained, not merely planets to allege, in favour of the idea that that all of them have their day and night, they are inhabited. We know that this and that all of them have their vicissitudes earth turns round upon itself; and we ob- of seasons, and that some of them have serve that all those celestial bodies, which their moons to rule their night and alleviare accessible to such an observation, have ate the darkness of it. We can see of one, the same movement. We know that the that its surface rises into inequalities, that earth performs a yearly revolution round it swells into mountains and stretches into the sun; and we can detect in all the valleys; of another, that it is surrounded planets which compose our system, a revo- by an atmosphere which may support th lution of the same kind, and under the same respiration of animals; of a third, that circumstances. They have the same suc- clouds are formed and suspended over it, cession of day and night. They have the which may minister to it all the bloom and same agreeable vicissitude of the seasons. luxuriance of vegetation, and of a fourth, To them, light and darkness succeed each that a white colour spreads over its northother; and the gaiety of summer is followed ern regions, as its winter advances, and by the dreariness of winter. To each of that on the approach of summer this whitethem the heavens present as varied andness is dissipated-giving room to suppose, magnificent a spectacle; and this earth the that the element of water abounds in it, encompassing of which would require the that it rises by evaporation into its atmoslabour of years from one of its puny inhabi- phere, that it freezes upon the application tants, is but one of the lesser lights which of cold, that it is precipitated in the form of sparkle in their firmament. To them, as well snow, that it covers the ground with a

[blocks in formation]

fleecy mantle, which melts away from the the concave of their firmament. They let heat of a more vertical sun; and that other us know, that though this mighty earth, worlds bear a resemblance to our own, in with all its myriads of people, were to sink the same yearly round of beneficent and in- into annihilation, there are some worlds teresting changes.

where an event so awful to us would be Who shall assign a limit to the discove- / unnoticed and unknown, and others where ries of future ages? Who can prescribe to it would be nothing more than the disapscience her boundaries, or restrain the ac-pearance of a little star which had ceased tive and insatiable curiosity of man within from its twinkling. We should feel a senthe circle of his present acquirements? We timent of modesty at this just but humilimay guess with plausibility what we can- ating representation. We should learn not. not anticipate with confidence. The day to look on our earth as the universe of may yet be coming, when our instruments God, but one paltry and insignificant porof observation shall be inconceivably more tion of it; that it is only one of the many powerful. They may ascertain still more mansions which the supreme Being has decisive points of resemblance. They may created for the accommodation of his worresolve the same question by the evidence shippers, and only one of the many worlds of sense which is now so abundantly con- rolling in that flood of light which the sun vincing by the evidence of analogy. They pours around him to the outer limits of may lay open to us the unquestionable ves- the planetary system. tiges of art, and industry, and intelligence. But is there nothing beyond these limits? We may see summer throwing its green The planetary system has its boundary, but mantle over these mighty tracts, and we space has none; and if we wing our fancy may see them left naked and colourless af- there, do we only travel through dark and ter the flush of vegetation has disappeared. unoccupied regions ? There are only five, In the progress of years, or of centuries, we or at most six, of the planetary orbs visible may trace the hand of cultivation spreading to the naked eye. What, then, is that multia new aspect over some portion of a plan- | tude of other lights which sparkle in our etary surface. Perhaps some large city, | firmament, and fill the whole concave of the metropolis of a mighty empire, may ex- heaven with innumerable splendours? The pand into a visible spot by the powers of planets are all attached to the sun; and, in some future telescope. Perhaps the glass circling around him, they do homage to that of some observer, in a distant age, may en- | influence which binds them to perpetual able him to construct a map of another attendance on this great luminary. But the world, and to lay down the surface of it in other stars do not own his dominion. They all its minute and topical varieties. But do not circle around him. To all common there is no end of conjecture, and to the observation, they remain immoveable; and men of other times we leave the full assu- ) each, like the independent sovereign of his rance of what we can assert with the high- own territory, appears to occupy the same est probability, that yon planetary orbs are inflexible position in the regions of immen80 many worlds, that they teem with life, sity. What can we make of them ? Shall and that the mighty Being who presides in we take our adventurous flight to explore high authority over this scene of grandeur these dark and untravelled dominions ? and astonishment, has there planted wor- What mean these innumerable fires lighted shippers of his glory.

up in distant parts of the universe ? Are Did the discoveries of science stop here, they only made to shed a feeble glimmerwe have enough to justify the exclamation ing over this little spot in the kingdom of of the Psulmist, "What is man that thou nature? or do they serve a purpose worart mindful of him, or the son of man that thier of themselves, to light up other worlds, thou shouldest deign to visit him ?'' They and give animation to other systems. widen the empire of creation far beyond the The first thing which strikes a scientific umits which were formerly assigned to it. observer of the fixed stars, is their immeaThey give us to see that yon sun, throned surable distance. If the whole planetary to the centre of his planetary system, gives | system were lighted up into a globe of fire. night, and warmth, and the vicissitude of it would exceed, by many millions of times. seasons, to an extent of sursace several hun- the magnitude of this world, and yet only dreds of times greater than that of the earth appear a small lucid point from the nearest which we inhabit. They lay open to us a of them. If a body were projected from the bumber of worlds, rolling in their respect- sun with the velocity of a cannon-ball, it ive circles around this vast luminary- would take hundreds of thousands of years and prove, that the ball which we tread before it described that mighty interval upon, with all its mighty burden of oceans which separates the nearest of the fixed and continents, instead of being distinguished stars from our sun and from our system. from the others, is among the least of them: If this earth, which moves at more than the. and, from some of the more distant planets, inconceivable velocity of a million and a would not occupy a more visible point in half miles a day, were to be hurried from

confirmation to the he growing perfet

We can discote 1 ince between ou es of the planetary rtained, not merely their dar and night

e their ricestuda me of them have Ir night and aller We can see at one o inequalities that and stretches into t it is surrounded

i may support the

of a third, that suspended over 2

all the bloom and ; and of a fourth ads over its north er adrances and immer this with room to supuest; er abounds in n into its almas in the application ied in the foran di

e ground with

« AnteriorContinuar »