« PreviousContinue »
of infinite goodness; and over which a supreme intelligence presides. 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
It is not in the 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 all his attributes, as not wise and great only, but as gracious and merciful, let it lead us
view every object of calm and undisturbed nature, with a 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.
THE DIVINE GOODNESS APPARENT IN THE ADAP
TATION OF THE EARTH TO MAN.
The universe may be considered as the palace in which the Deity resides; and the earth, as one of its apartments. In this, all the meaner races of animated nature mechanically obey him; and stand ready to execute his commands, without hesitation. Man alone is found refractory : he is the only being endued with a power of contradicting these mandates. The Deity was pleased to exert superior power in creating him a superior being; a being endued with a choice of good and evil; and capable, in some measure, of co-operating with his own intentions. Man, therefore, may be considered as a limited creature, endued with powers imitative of those residing in the Deity. He is thrown into a world that stands in need of his help; and he has been granted a power of producing harmony from partial confusion.
If, therefore, we consider the earth as allotted for our habitation, we shall find, that much has been given us to enjoy, and much to amend; that we have ample reasons for our gratitude, and many for our industry. In those great outlines of nature, to which art cannot reach, and where our greatest efforts must have been ineffectual, God himself has finished every thing with amazing grandeur and beauty. Our beneficent Father has considered these parts of nature as peculiarly his own; as parts which no creature could have skill or strength to amend : and he has, therefore, made them incapable of alteration, or of more perfect regularity. The heavens and the firmament show the wisdom and the glory of the work. man. Astronomers, who are best skilled in the symmetry of systems, can find nothing there that they can alter for the better. God made these perfect, because no subordinate being could correct their defects.
When, therefore, we survey nature on this side, nothing can be more splendid, more correct, or amazing. We there behold a Deity residing in the midst of an universe, infinitely extended every way, animating all, and cheering the vacuity with his presence! We behold an immense and shapeless mass of matter, formed into worlds by his power, and dispersed at intervals, to which even the imagination cannot travel! In this great theatre of his glory, a thousand suns, animate their respective systems, appearing and vanishing at divine command. We behold our own bright luminary, fixed in the centre of its system, wheeling its planets in times proportioned to their distances, and at once dispensing light, heat, and action. The earth also is seen with its twofold motion; producing, by the one, the change of seasons; and, by the other, the grateful vicissitudes of day and night. With what silent magnificence is all this performed! with what seeming ease! The works of art are exerted with interrupted force; and their noisy progress discovers the obstructions they receive; but the earth, with a silent, steady rotation, successively presents every part of its bosom to the sun; at once imbibing nourishment and light from that parent of vegetation and fertility.
like our own,
But not only provisions of heat and light are thus supplied; the whole surface of the earth is covered with a transparent atmosphere, that turns with its motion, and guards it from external injury. The rays of the sun are thus broken into a genial warmth; and, while the surface is assisted, a gentle heat is produced in the bowels of the earth, which contributes to cover it with verdure. Waters also are supplied in healthful abundance, to support life, and assist vegetation. Mountains rise, to diversify the prospect, and give a current to the stream. Seas extend from one continent to the other, replenished with animals, that may be turned to human support; and also serving to enrich the earth with a sufficiency of vapour. Breezes fly along the surface of the fields, to promote health and vegetation. The coolness of the evening invites to rest; and the freshness of the morning renews for labour.
Such are the delights of the habitation that has been assigned to man: without any one of these, he must have been wretched; and none of these could his own industry have supplied. But while many of his wants are thus kindly furnished, on the one hand, there are numberless inconveniences to excite his industry, on the other. This habitation, though provided with all the conveniences of air, pasturage, and water, is but a desert place, without human cultivation. The lowest animal finds more conveniences in the wilds of nature, than he who boasts himself their lord. The whirlwind, the inundation, and all the asperities of the air, are peculiarly terrible to man, who knows their consequences, and, at a distance, dreads their approach. The earth itself, where human art has not pervaded, puts on a frightful, gloomy appearance. The forests are dark and tangled; the meadows are overgrown with rank weeds; and the brooks stray without a determined channel. Nature, that has been kind to every lower order of beings, seems to have been neglectful with regard to him: to the savage uncontriving man, the earth is an abode of desolation, where his shelter is insufficient, and his food precarious.
A world thus furnished with advantages on one side, and inconveniences on the other, is the proper abode of reason, and the fittest to exercise the industry of a free and a thinking creature. These evils, which art can remedy, and prescience guard against, are a proper call for the exertion of his faculties ; and they tend still more to assimilate him to his Creator. God beholds, with pleasure, that being which he has made, converting the wretchedness of his natural situation into a theatre of triumph; bringing all the headlong tribes of nature into subjection to his will; and producing that order and uniformity upon earth, of which his own heavenly fabric is so bright an example.