Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tem, and arranged the several planets around him in their order, has no less shown itself in the provision made for the food and dwelling of every bird that roams the air, and every beast that wanders in the desert; equally great, in the smallest, and in the most magnificent objects; in the star, and in the insect; in the elephant, and in the fly ; in the beam that shines from heaven, and in the grass that clothes the ground. Nothing is overlooked. Nothing is carelessly performed. Every thing that exists is adapted, with perfect symmetry, to the end for which it was designed. All this infinite variety of particulars must have been present to the mind of the Creator; all beheld with one glance of his eye; all fixed and arranged, from the beginning, in his great design, when he formed the heavens and the earth. Justly may we exclaiin with the Psalmist, How excellent, O Lord, is thy name in all the earth! How manifold are thy works ! In wisdom hast thou made them all. No man can find out the work that God maketh, from the begining to the end. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us. It is high; we cannot attain unto it.

This wisdom displayed by the Almighty in the creation, was not intended merely to gratify curiosity, and to raise wonder. It ought to beget profound submission, and pious trust in every heart. It is not uncommon for many who speak with rapture of creating wisdom, to be guilty, at the same time, of arraigning the conduct of Providence. In the structure of the universe, they confess that all is goodly and beautiful. But in the govcrnment of human affairs, they can see nothing but disorder and confusion. Have they forgotten, that both the one and the other proceed from the same author ? Have they forgotten, that he who balanced all the heavenly bodies, and adjusted the proportions and limits of nature, is the same who hath allotted them their condition in the world, who distributes the measures of their prosperity and adversity, and fires the bounds of their habitation? If their lot appear to them ili-sorted, and their condition hard and unequal, let them only put the question to their own minds, Whether it be most probable that the great and wise Creator hath erred in his distribution of human things, or that they have erred in the judgment which they form concerning the lot assigned to them ? Can they believe, that the Divine Artist, after he had coptrived and finished this earth, the habitation of men, with such admirable wisdom, would then throw it out of his hands as a neglected work; would suffer the affairs of its inhabitants to proceed by chance; and would behold them, without concern, run into misrule and disorder ? Where were then that consistency of conduct, which we discover in all the works of nature, and which we cannot but ascribe to a perfect Being?

My brother! when thy plans are disappointed, and thy heart is ready to despair; when virtue is oppressed, and the

wicked prosper around thee; in those moments of disturbance, look up to Him who created the heaven and the earth ; and confide, that He who made light to spring from primæval darkness, will make order at last to arise from the seeming confusion of the world.

Had any one beheld the earth in its state of chaos; when the elements lay mixed and confused; when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; would he have believed, that it was presently to become so fair and well-ordered a globe as we now behold; illumined with the splendour of the sun, and decorated with all the beauty of nature? The same powerful hand, which perfected the work of creation, shall, in due time, disembroil the plans of Providence. Of creation, we can judge more clearly, because it stood forth at once ; it was perfect from the beginning. But the course of Providence is progressive. Time is required for the progression to advance, and before it is finished, we can form no judgment, or at least a very imperfect one, concerning it. We must wait until the great æra arrive, when the secrets of the universe shall be unfolded ; when the Divine designs shall be consummated; when Providence shall be brought to the same completion which creation has already attained. Then we have reason to believe, that the wise Creator shall appear, in the end, to have been the wise and just Ruler of the world. Until that period come, let us be contented and patient; let us submit and adore. Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him ; ther fore trust thou him.* This exhortation will receive more force, when we,

III. Consider creation as a display of supreme goodness, no less than of wisdom and power. It is the communication of numberless benefits to all who live, together with existence. Justly is the earth said to be full of the goodness of the Lord. Throughout the whole system of things we behold a manifest tendency to promote the benefit either of the rational, or the animal creation. In some parts of nature this tendency may be less obvious than in others. Objects, which to us seem useless or hurtful, may sometimes occur; and strange it were, if in so vast and complicated a system, difficulties of this kind should not occasionally present themselves to beings, whose views are so narrow and limited as ours. It is well known, that in proportion as the knowledge of nature has increased among men, these difficulties have diminished. Satisfactory accounts have been given of many perplexing appearances, Useful and proper purposes have been found to be promoted by objects which were, at first, thought unprofitable or noxious.

• Job, xxxy. 14.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Malignant must be the mind of that person ; with a distorted eye he must have contemplated creation, who can suspect, that it is not the production of infinite benignity and goodness. How many clear marks of benevolent intention appear every where around us ? What a profusion of beauty and ornament is poured forth on the face of nature? What a magnificent spectacle presented to the view of man? What supply contrived for his wants? What a variety of objects set before him, to gratify his senses, to employ his understanding, to entertain his imagination, to cheer and gladden his heart? Indeed, the very existence of the universe is a standing memorial of the goodness of the Creator. For nothing except goodness could originally prompt creation. The Supreme Being, self-existent, and all-sufficient, had no wants which he could seek to supply. No new accession of felicity or glory was to result to him from creatures whom he made. It was goodness communicating and pouring itself forth, goodness delighting to impart happiness in all its forms, which in the beginning created the heaven and the earth. Hence those innumerable orders of living creatures with which the earth is peopled; from the lowest class of sensitive being, to the highest rank of reason and intelligence. Wherever there is life, there is some degree of happiness; there are enjoyments suited to the different powers of feeling; and earth, and air, and water, are, with magnificent liberality, made to teem with life.

Let those striking displays of creating goodness call forth on our part, responsive love, gratitude, and veneration. To this great Father of all existence and life, to Him who hath raised us up to behold the light of day, and to enjoy all the comforts which his world presents, let our hearts send forth a perpetual hymn of praise. Evening and morning let us celebrate Him, who maketh the morning and the evening to rejoice over our heads; who openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. Let us rejoice, that we are brought into a world, which is the production of infinite goodness, over which a supreme intelligence presides; and where nothing happens, that was not planned and arranged, from the beginning, in his decree. Convinced that he hateth not the works which he hath made, nor hath brought creatures into existence merely to suffer unnecessary pain, let us, even in the midst of sorrow, receive with calm submission whatever he is pleased to send ; thankful for what he bestows; and satisfied, that without good reason he takes nothing away.

Such, in general, are the effects which meditation on the creation of the world ought to produce. It presents such an astonishing conjunction of power, wisdom, and goodness, as cannot be beheld without religious veneration. Accordingly, among all nations of the earth, it has given rise to religious

belief and worship. The most ignorant and savage tribes, when they looked round on the earth and the heavens, could not avoid ascribing their origin to some invisible designing cause, and feeling a propensity to adore. They are, indeed, the awful appearances of the Creator's power, by which, chiefly, they have been impressed, and which have introduced into their worship so many rites of dark superstition. When the usual course of nature seemed to be interrupted, when loud thunder rolled above them in the clouds, or earthquakes shook the ground, the multitude fell on their knees, and, with trembling horror, brought forth the bloody sacrifice to appease the angry divinity. But it is not in those tremendous appearances of power merely, that a good and well-instructed man beholds the Creator of the world. In the constant and regular working of his hands, in the silent operations of his wisdom and goodness, ever going on throughout nature, he delights to contemplate and adore him.

This is one of the chief fruits to be derived from that more perfect knowledge of the Creator, which is imparted to us by the Christian revelation. Impressing our minds with a just sense of his attributes, as not wise and great only, but as gracious and merciful, let it lead us to view every object of a calm and undisturbed nature, with perpetual reference to its Author. We shall then behold all the scenes which the heavens and the earth present, with more refined feelings, and sublimer emotions, than they who regard them solely as objects of curiosity or amusement. Nature will appear animated and enlivened, by the presence of its Author. When the sun rises or sets in the heavens, when spring paints the earth, when summer shines in its glory, when autumn pours forth its fruits, or winter returns in its awful forms, we shall view the Creator manifesting himself in his works. We shall meet his presence in the fields. We shall feel his influence in the cheering beam. We shall hear his voice in the wind. We shall behold ourselves every where surrounded with the glory of that universal spirit, who fills, pervades and upholds all.' We shall live in the world as in a great and august temple, where the presence of the divinity, who inhabits it, inspires devotion.

Magnificent as the fabric of the world is, it was not, however, intended for perpetual duration. It was erected as a temporary habitation for a race of beings, who, after acting there a probationary part, were to be removed into a higher state of existence. As there was an hour fixed from all eternity for its creation, so there is an hour fixed for its dissolution ; when the heavens and the earth shall pass away, and their place shall know them no more. The consideration of this great event, as the counterpart to the work of creaton, shall be the subject of the following Discourse. VOL. 11.

10

SERMON L.

ON THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night ; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.—2 PETER, iii. 10,

THESE words present to us an awful view of the final catastrophe of the world. Having treated, in the preceding Discourse, of the commencement, let us now contemplate the close, of all human things. The dissolution of the material system is an article of our faith, often alluded to in the Old Testament, clearly predicted in the New. It is an article of faith so far from being incredible, that many appearances in nature lead to the belief of it. We see all terrestrial substances changing their form. Nothing that consists of matter, is formed for perpetual duration. Every thing around us is impaired and consumed by time, waxes old by degrees, and tends to decay. There is reason, therefore, to believe, that a structure so complex as the world must be liable to the same law; and shall, at some period, undergo the same fate. Through many changes, the earth has already passed ; many shocks it has received, and is still often receiving. A great portion of what is now dry land appears, from various tokens, to have been once covered with water. Continents bears the marks of having been violent, ly rent, and torn asunder from one another. New islands have risen from the bottom of the ocean; thrown up by the force of subterraneous fire. Formidable earthquakes have, in divers quarters, shaken the globe; and at this hour terrify with their alarms many parts of it. Burning mountains have, for ages, been discharging torrents of flame; and from time to time renew their explosions in various regions. All these circumstances show, that in the bowels of the earth the instruments of its dis

« AnteriorContinuar »