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LECT. to be second to the publication of the
Gospel : at least, there is no event in philosophy or literature that comes near to it.
In this element we live and move ; and, perhaps, so far as our frame is mechanical, we are moved by it.
When excited to action, it turns into a consuming fire, which no substance can exclude, no force can resist.
The matter of lightning, which seems to break out partially and accidentally, is now found to be constitutional and universal in the system of Nature: so that the heavens, which, according to the language of the scripture, are to melt with fervent beat, want no foreign matter to convert them into fire. What is called phlogiston can rise in a moment from a state of quiescence to a State of inflammation ; and it discovers irself in many bodies where we should little expect to find it. The earth and the works that are therein carry within them the seeds of their own destruction; and may be burnt up by that element which
now resides within them, and is only LECT. waiting for the word from its Creator.
Upon the whole then, philosophy, fo far as the term signifies a knowledge of God's wisdom and power in the natural creation, which is the best sense of the word ; this philosophy, I say, is so far from being adverse to true religion, that with all the common evidences of Chriftianity in reserve, we may venture to meet the philosopher upon his own ground: we have nothing to fear from the testimony of Nature; we appeal to it: we call upon every man of science to compare the gofa pel which God hath revealed with the world which God hath created; under an assurance, that he will find the latter to be a key unto the former, as our noble philosopher hath well afferted. We have yentured to try this comparison upon the general plan of Christianity, and we see how it answers,
And if Nature answers to Christianity,
LECT. it contradicts Deism : and that religion
cannot be called natural which is contradicted by the light reflected upon understandings from natural things. The Socinian is nearly in the same situation with the Deist: and they may both join together in calling upon Nature, from morning until night, as the Priests of Baal called
upon their Deity ; but there will be none to answer; and philosophy must put out one of his eyes before it can admit their doctrines. In short, take any religion but the Christian, and bring it to this test, by comparing it with the state of Nature, and it will be found deftitute and defenceless. But the doctrines of our faith are attested by the whole na.' tural world. Wherever we turn our eyes, to the heaven or to the earth, to the sea or the land, to men or to beasts, to animals or to plants, there we are reminded of them. They are recorded in a language. which hath never been confounded; they are written in a text which shall never be corrupted.
The Creation of God is the School of LECT. Christians, if they use it aright. What is commonly called the World, consists of the forms, manners, diversions, pursuits, and prospects, of human society. But this is an artificial world, of man's making ; the subject of his study, the object of his ambition. The natural world, of God's making, is full of wonder and instruction; it is open to all, it is common to all. Here there can be no envy, no party, no competition; for no man will have the less for what his neighbour possesses. The world, in this sense, may be enjoyed without fraud or violence. The student in his solitary walk, the husbandman at his labour, the faint at his prayers, may have as much as they can desire, and have nothing to repent of: for they will thus draw nearer to God, because they will see farther into his truth, wisdom, and goodness.
Some have expressed their astonishment at the choice of hermits and men of retirement, as people who have fled from all the enjoyments of life; and consigned
LECT. themselves to melancholy and misery. They
are out of the world; it is crue; but they are only out of that artificial world of man's making, in which so many are hastening to disappointment and ruin: but they are still in that other better world of contemplation and devotion, which affords them all the pleasures and improvements of the mind, and is preparatory to a state of uninterrupted felicity.
Let us then, finally, give thanks to him, who to the light of his gospel hath added this light of nature, and opened the wonderful volume of the creation before us, for the confirmation of his truth, and the illumination of his people; that we may thence know and see the certainty of those things wherein we have been instructed. As all his works are for our good, let it be our study and our wisdom to turn them all to his glory.