« AnteriorContinuar »
in giving God the honour that is due to him? For his pleasure all things were made; and he will be pleased with men when they glorify him in his works. We should therefore call upon all nature to join with us in a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving, after the example of the royal prophet : Praise the Lord, ye mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattleLet the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; for the name of the Lord is excellent, and his praise is above heaven and earth,
To him therefore, &c,
FOR THE INVISIBLE THINGS OF HIM FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD ARE CLEARLY SEEN, BEING UNDERSTOOD BY THE THINGS THAT ARE MADE, EVEN HIS ETERNAL POWER AND GODHEAD;--ROM. , 1. 20,
THE wisdom of God in the natural creation, is a proper subject of the lecture delivered in this place upon this occasion*: but as the knowledge of the Scriptures is not excluded, I may be permitted to bring them both together into one discourse : for they illustrate one another in a wonderful manner: and he who can understand God as the fountain of truth, and the Saviour of men, in the holy Scripture, will be better disposed to understand and adore him as the fountain of power and goodness in the natural creation.
To those who search for it, and have pleasure in receiving it, there is a striking alliance between the economy of Nature, and the principles of divine revelation; and unless we study both together, we shall be liable to mistake things now, as the unbelieving Sadducees did, in their vain reasonings with our blessed Saviour. They erred, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God: they neither understood them sepaately, nor knew how to compare them together.
* This Sermon was preached at St. Leonard's, Shoredith, on Tuesday, in Witsuu Week, 1787, on Mr Fairchild's foundation.
Men eminently learned, and worthy of all commendation, have excelled in demonstrating the wisdom of God from the works of Nature : but in this one respect they seem to have been deficient; in that they have but rarely turned their arguments to the particular advantage of the Christian Revelation, by bringing the volume of Nature in aid to the volume of the Scripture; as the times now call upon us to do : for we have been threatened, in very indecent and insolent language of late years, with the superior reasonings and forces of natural philosophy; as if our late researches into Nature had put some new weapons into the hands of Infidelity, which the friends of the Christian Religion will be unable to stand against. One writer, in particular, who is the most extravagant in his philosophical fiights, seems to have persuaded himself, and would persuade us, that little more is required to overthrow the whole faith and economy of the Church of England, than a philosophical apparatus; and that every prelate and priest amongst us hath reason to tremble at the sight. This is not the voice of piety or learning, but of vapouring vanity and delusion. Neither a Bacon, nor a Boyle, nor a Newton would ever had desceuded to such language, so contrary to their good manners and religious sentiments; the first of whom hath wisely observed, that the works of God minister a singular help and preservative against unbelief and error : our Saviour, as he saith, having laid before us two books or volumes to study ; first the Scriptures, revealing the will of God, and then the creatures, ex pressing his power ; whereof the latter is a key unto the former * Such was the piety and penetration of this great man. However, let us not take it amiss, that, at certain times, we are rudely attacked and in
* See Bacon's Adv. of Learning, B. 1.
sulted. Christians, under the temptations of ease and security, would forget themselves, and go to sleep; they are therefore obliged to their adversaries for disturbing them, that they may awake, like Samson, and discover their own strength. So little reason have we in fact to be terrified with the threatenings of our adversaries, that we invite them to enter with us vpon a comparison between the word and the works of God. For it will be found true, as I shall endeavour to shew, that the invisible things of God, that is, the things concerning his Being and his Power, and the economy of his spiritual kingdom, which are the objects of our faith, are clearly seen from the creation of the world, and understood by the things that are made.
Having much matter to propose, I must not indulge myself in the use of any superfluous words. A plain and unadorned discourse will be accepted rather fof the meaning than the form; and as I am about to consider the works of God in a new capacity, I must bespeak your attention, not without a degree of your candour also, to excusé an adventurous excursion into an unfrequented path of divinity.
Let us enquire then, how the religious state of man, and the spiritual kingdom of God, as the Scriptures have made known to us : that is, how Christianity, as a scheme of doctrine, agrees with the works of God, and the economy of Nature ? In consequence of which it will be found, that the Christian Religion hath the attestation of natural philosophy; and that every other religion hath it not.
Our Bible teaches us these great principles or doctrines; that man is now in a fallen state of forfeiture under Sin and Death, and suffering the penalties of disobedience: that, as a religious being, he is the scholar of heaven, and must be taught of God; that the Almighty Father of men and angels gives him life and salvation by his Word and Spirit; in other words, by Christ and the Holy Ghost: that there is danger to us from the malignity and power of evil spirits : that a curse hath been inflicted upon the earth by a flood of water: that there is no remission of sin without shedding of blood; and that a divine life is supported in us by partaking of the death of Christ in the Paschal or Sacramental Feast of the Lord's table; that there is a restoration to life after death by a resurrection of the body; and lastly, that the world which we inhabit shall be destroyed by fire.
These are the principles, at least the chief of them, which are peculiar to the Scriptures. He that believes them is a Christian ; and if the works and ways of nature have a correspondence with these principles, and with no other, then ought every natural philosopher to be a Christian believer.
I. Let us proceed then to examine how the case stands. The unbelieving philosopher supposes man to be in the same state of perfection now, as when he came from the hands of his Creator. But the infirmi. ties of his mind, with the diseases and death of his body, proclain the contrary. When the death of man is from the hand of man, according to the laws of justice, it is an exccution: and it is the same in its nature, when inflicted upon all men by the hands of a just;God. The moral bistory of man informs us, that he offended God by eating in sin. His natural history shews us, that, in consequence of it, he now eats in labour and
The world is full of toil and trouble; and for what end, but that man may earn his daily bread? The hands of the husbandman are hardened, and his back is bowed down with the cultivation of the earth. Thorns and thistles prevail against him, and multiply