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SEPTEMBER, 1827. Vol. II.
The Teachings of Nature and Orthodoxy contrasted.
Ir must ever afford the purest delight to the contemplative and pious mind, to discover the great truths of Revelation confirmed and illustrated by the works of nature. The meditations of the Christian will acquire renovated vigour, and a greater intensity of feeling will pervade his breast, when he is capable of deducing from surrounding objects, of demonstrating from natural events, the validity of his opinions. On every side he beholds traces of the existence, operations, and perfections of a God. He perceives that regularity and order pervade every thing which surrounds him that evident and striking traces of design are manifested wherever he turns his eyes. He reflects on the admirable connection, the mutual dependence so universally prevalent, the adaptation of parts in the minutest detail, or their uniformity in a comprehensive aggregate; and he concludes, upon the most incontestable principles, that One all-wise, all-powerful, undivided, all-animating Mind, must be their primary Original.
Impressed with the truth of the existence of God, the philosophic inquirer proceeds to examine more minutely the objects around him; and he finds every spot in creation inscribed with indelible characters of infinite power, traced by the finger of the One Almighty, until he exclaims with the Psalmist, in a glow of devotional fervour, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, the earth is full of thy riches!"
Commencing with the lowest link of the chain of creation, we find the principles of crystallization in full activity, and the sparry concretions assuming their different forms in the depths of the hardest rocks. By combinations of apparently but slightly varying materials, are produced the variegated marble, the crystal-formed spar, the glitter ing diamond, the green emerald, and the blushing cornelian. The vegetable world advances us a step in the scale of contrivance, and we discover, evidently, the design of combining pleasure with man's means of existence, and
administering conjointly to his comfort, preservation, and
The animal creation opens fresh prospects to our view. From the animalculæ, half-vegetable half-animal-from the microscopic objects which lay claim to animated life, to the bounds where vision commences cognizance-and through all the gradations of existence hence ascending, up to man himself,-all exhibit the effects of infinite wisdom. The smallest speck of animated matter possesses a beautiful and admirably framed mechanism, which is adapted, not to the support merely, but to the enjoyment of life. The body of a gnat is as completely organized, as carefully furnished with all the machinery and disposition of parts requisite for the purposes of motion and activity, as is the huge bulk of the majestic elephant. The ephemeral insect, which only lives its hour, fluttering in the sun-beam, possesses a frame equally exquisite in its contrivance and arrangement, with the most elaborate parts of the human body. In mechanical contrivance, man in his construction boasts no superiority.
In addition to the complicated and wonderful machinery of his frame, however, man possesses those mental powers which invest him with a commanding dignity in the present world, and apparently ally him to a superior, though unknown state of being. With man, our knowledge of the mode of existence ceases; into the void before us we cannot penetrate. What beings, besides the inhabitants of earth, range in different degrees in possession of vary ing habitudes in creation, we know not. Nor are we much wiser with respect even to ourselves. imparts the knowledge, that death is but the confines of this life, and the harbinger of another-the passage to a different world-the beginning of real, not the end of all
But this information does not satisfy the curiosity of man; conjecture lends her aid when he meditates on this future existence, and popular speculation peoples some fancied region-not our homely and material world, but a more favoured spot, the region of the blessed, with disembodied spirits, the souls of good men made perfect; and cherubims, seraphims, archangels, are allotted an existence in some indefinite, and probably indefinable space called heaven. If in danger of being lost in these inextricable mazes, we may return to safe and solid ground, by confessing our ignorance of the modes of existence of other and differently constituted beings, as well as our ignorance of the manner of our own future existence, without denying the fact of that existence, and therefore may, without inconsistency, maintain as a rational doctrine, that the universe is filled with intelligent beings, that it teems with proofs of a Creator's power.
If we confined our attention indeed to this planet simply, redundant as it is in beauty, and bearing the holy impress not only of an Omnipotent, but also of an all-beneficent Deity, we might be disposed to allow, that there exists some apparent probability on which to ground popular opinions, that it is in some respects natural and plausible to infer, that the earth comprises all that is worthy of notice -if it is not the whole of creation, at least that animated life extends no farther-that here is the product of the most powerful energies, the mightiest effort of the Divine Architect-that this is his inimitable work-and, consequently, that man ranks as the first created existence, all other things being made solely for his benefit or pleasure. We might, on this ground, imagine that the sun was formed to dispense light and heat to him alone; and that the stars were sprinkled over the vast concave of heaven, for the only purpose of pleasing man by their beauty.
Pitiable, however, is the intellectual situation of those who embrace such conclusions. Yet, limited as they are, they are nevertheless generally prevalent, where the treasures of knowledge have not been scattered abroad, nor the advantages of instruction, in ameliorating the condition of the human race, been called into operation. But it is reasonable to suppose, from the present tone of public feeling, that the mass of the people will, by means of education, be eventually raised to a far higher station of mental excellence, than perhaps those friends of the species
most alive to the dissemination of knowledge, may consider themselves warranted in anticipating. Be that as it may, a spirit of inquiry is already manifested, which must produce the happiest effects. And as information upon every subject, is seized with avidity by thousands who have hitherto been lost the darkness of ignorance, therefore will more adequate and correct perceptions of the power of God, be also entertained by many who previously possessed no ideas of those stores of wisdom, which unfold the most magnificent and transcendent views of the Deity, as seen in his works; which, pointing through nature up to Him who sits sublime upon its riches, fills the mind with devout awe at the Almighty's creation; which cannot but impart true lessons of humility, and effectually destroy the presumption of the race of Adam.
The Bible reveals, that God is Omnipotent, and the universe which he has formed, demonstrates its truth. But Omnipotence cannot be scanned by the finite, circumscribed powers of man; the subject is too stupendous -too overwhelming; his fancy grovels; his imagination, inadequate to the task, confesses its inability to picture the lofty magnitude, the profundity, the extension of the Almighty's works, or to trace the boundless, interminable, illimitable creation. But he may still offer to the God of all, the aspirations of frail mortality, and tender his homage of reverential adoration. And he may exclaim, "When I view the heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars which thou hast ordained, Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?"
MATTHEW Xxviii. 19.-Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This text is the first in the New Testament, which is urged in proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is indeed admitted to be the principal passage, and excepting the benediction which concludes the Second Epistle to the Corinthians,* is the
* Dr. Wardlaw prudently declares," that it is not his purpose to enter at large into the evidence of the Trinity in general. I shall rather go
only text that can with any sort of pretension, be brought forward in favour of a doctrine which sets common sense at defiance-a doctrine not less irrational than transubstantiation. Other passages indeed are adduced, from which it is inferred, but the judicious Christian will not appeal to far-fetched inferences, to prove a doctrine of vital importance. If the Trinity is a doctrine of revelation, it will be plainly communicated. But we who have read the Scriptures with the sincere desire to come to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and who, certainly, are not biassed by secular considerations in favour of our views of Christianity, have not been able to discover a single passage in which this doctrine is inculcated; and we know, that many who have been educated in Trinitarian prejudices, after a serious and attentive perusal of the Oracles of God, have been led reluctantly to renounce the doctrines to which they were strongly attached, and to the professors of which, the honours, emoluments, and approbation of the world are appropriated. We declare our conviction, that the Trinity derives no support from Scripture, but is a doctrine of human invention. It owes its origin to Heathen philosophy; and we are enabled clearly to trace its rise and progress from this source.
The obvious interpretation of the passage seems to be this: Go to all nations, instruct them in the principles of Christianity, and receive into the Church of Christ, by the ceremony of baptism, those who believe that the Christian Religion was revealed by the Father of all, was communicated by his beloved son, Jesus, and was confirmed by miraculous powers. "The design of the words
forward to those of the New Testament, proceeding, at the same time, with regard to them also, on the same principle, selecting only one or two of the most prominent passages. He adduces only two. Would not one suppose from this language, that he had many passages in reserve? But Dr. Wardlaw knows that these two, Mat. xxviii. 19, 2 Cor. xiii. 14, are the only texts, which will bear a moment's investigation in evidence of the Trinity. Of the celebrated passage 1 John v. 7, he says, "Of these (prominent passages in favour of the Trinity), most of you will doubtless expect, that one, at least, if not the very first, should be the remarkable verse in fifth chapter of the first epistle of John. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.' And certainly, text should have been entitled to hold the first place, had its genuineness been undisputed, or disputed as that of many texts have been, on slender grounds. I freely acknowledge, however, that the evidence of the spuriousness of this celebrated passage, if it were even much less conclusive than, in my mind, it appears to be, would be quite sufficient to prevent me from resting upon it any part of the weight of this argument."