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WHEN we reflect on ourselves and our relation to the external world, we are lost in a labyrinth of uncertainty, and there is no Ariadne's clue to guide our footsteps. The scenes around amaze by their astonishing variety, captivate by their beauty, and enchant by their harmony. Power, wisdom, and goodness, pervade the wondrous plan. The sun of yesterday rises again and decorates the same landscape we saw before ; yet, since the charm continues day by day, its magic is forgotten; and because our enjoyments are uninterrupted, we are insensible to the blessings that are profusely strewn around us. Our inquisitive mind naturally wishes for more information than we can glean from the mere routine of common observation. Hurried on by an impetuous and restless curiosity, we have recourse to those instruments with which the genius of our species has supplied us in ransacking the records of creation, and interrogating her phenomena. Our wonder increases with every step of advance; and
we, who before considered ourselves as the Teraphim of creation, in the extended knowledge which the telescope reveals, at length find ourselves almost “ less than the least of all.” Anxious for intelligence respecting the author of these things we interrogate the oracles of nature, and hear a voice from their mysteries attesting a supreme Creator, invested with the high attributes of infinite and supreme excellence; and whose power, wisdom, and goodness, are unlimited in extent, unaffected by the vicissitudes of time, and boundless as the range of eternity. That great and glorious Being we call “God—BLESSED FOR EVER.” It is only Fool, who hath said in his heart, there is no God.” It is this “ fool ” who hath made the unique discovery of an effect without a cause. It is he who affects the possession of all knowledge—for that which he knows not, for aught that he can tell, may be the God that we adore. Intelligence and design are stamped in living and legible characters on every phenomenon around us, and such must emanate from an all-sufficient Source. Conscience lifts her voice and would worship God, though “an evil heart of unbelief” will not have Him“ to reign over it.”
The Creator of the material world, must be altogether in himself independent of matter and its mutations, and transcendently more so than he who finishes "a work on the wheels” is superior to his workmanship. We cannot say here, as in the carved work of Mulciber, “materiam superabit opus,” for both the material and the workmanship are alike wonderful; and he who made them is allperfect—"without variableness or the least shadow of turning.” Accepting the existence of a supreme and immutable Creator as a self-evident proposition, and that reason and argument would alike be lost on “fools,” our attention will be chiefly confined to the mere theist; who, though he admits this position without hesitation, is, nevertheless, an infidel, or sceptical as to the all-important question of a Revelation from God.
Nature, it has been stated, as with a living voice, attests the being of God, and reflects, as from a mirror,
his power, wisdom, and goodness. Vince, in his “Confutation of Atheism," has said, “If things happen oftener than they ought to do by our own calculations, there is a probability in favour of design, and a ruling Intelligence; and if several independent circumstances co-operate to produce a beneficial result, it is then encreased to the compound ratio of all the probabilities," or in other words, to a certainty. The sum of the whole matter, therefore, is appositely expressed in the language of professor Playfair :-“The only explanation that remains, is, that all this is the work of intelligence and design, directing the original constitution of the system, and impressing such motions on the parts as were calculated to give stability to the whole.”+ With this partial information, the voice and the vision end. The intimation tends only to excite still more our interest and curiosity—“we would acquaint ourselves with him and be at peace.” To the question which affects us so deeply, “How can man be just with God?" the oracles of nature respond not; and like the prophets of Baal, on Mount Carmel, we may “call from morning even until noon,” but there is “no voice, nor any that answers.” The note of interrogation is followed by a blank. We may put on the ephod of philosophy and summon to our aid the auxiliaries of reason; but the almighty Author of nature answers. neither by Urim nor Thummim, nor voice nor vision. The necessity of revelation, through some other channel, becomes obvious, in order to set at rest mental inquietude, and supply the hiatus of our anxious inquiries. The man who is careless or uninterested in these things, must either be a fool or a madman: we, indeed, altogether dispute his pretensions to the character of a reasonable being, however loudly he may
talk about that gifted being, mind, and its attainments in science and art.
That the good Being, who has created all things by his
* Vince's Confutation of Atheism, 1807.
omnipotent fiat, should satisfy the reasonable anxieties of the creature to whom he has given this natural restlessness concerning the things that belong to his peace,” is just what we might expect, and what, accordingly, the most credible testimony declares has been done: for there is a remarkable volume circulating in our world, distinguished by the high and bold pretensions of an immediate Revelation from God. It is entitled, by way of eminence, the BIBLE, or The Book, and it certainly merits the emphatic name which has, by universal acclamation, been awarded to it. It is a diamond which refracts the rays of Truth. The privilege of quenching our thirst at this sacred fountain of wisdom, is one for which we cannot be too grateful. In reply to our categories, it is satisfactory and complete; it satisfies all our wants and wishes; and, leaving every thing else immeasurably behind, invests our aching temples with the diadem of happiness, and puts into our hands the palm of victory over doubts and fears-death and the grave. The BIBLE, however, summons not forth that deep awe and profound veneration, which its sacred pages are eminently calculated to excite and inspire. The haughty soul of man regards not the voice of God in the Oracles of Truth, and it is deaf and dead to the heavenly charmer. Abused though our advantages be, it is by no means a common-place volume, however lightly it may be esteemed by thoughtless, listless man. Ånd what are the thoughts of man touching these things, but those of the proud and haughty Syrian? "Are not Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ?” Without a Revelation, man is like a mariner tempesttossed, without a chart:—reason is his compass, but its variations must be rectified. There is one who wills not that he should perish, and he is “able and willing to save." Unaided by this Directory, “without are doubts, and within are fears ;” and if man be not altogether insensible to his best interests, or intoxicated with the bubbles that flicker around him, and burst in the sunbeam, he will flee to the city of refuge, 66 whose walls are salvation.”
On these paramount inquiries—the character of God, his will to us, our relation to him, and our destiny in “another and a better world,”—the gifted Document, whose authenticity we advocate, supplies us with most complete and satisfactory information, while it restrains an impertinent and impious curiosity. “Indited under the influence of him, to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit
mankind in all situations, grateful as the manna which descended from above and conformed itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy ; but these unfading plants of Paradise, become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful ; their bloom appears to be daily heightened, fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who hath once tasted their excellencies will desire to taste them yet again ; and he who tastes them oftenest will relish them the best.'
The importance of the inquiry, which lies before us, being admitted by every rational mind, it may not be altogether out of place, in these desultory remarks, to glance at the general character of the infidel; and here we are at a loss which of these most excites our astonishment-the knowledge he must pretend to possess, (for assuredly that must be a range of intellect little short of infinite, which could on legitimate grounds enter the field against the evidences of Revelation,) or his excessive vanity, shining through a flimsy veil of frivolity and wit. But sophistry is not the weapon that either sober reason or sound philosophy would employ; and sarcasm and wit are not argument. With these ignoble and disingenuous characters we scorn to combat. We require that the maxims of inductive science be transferred to the question of Revealed Truth. We ask not a petitio principii for ourselves, and none, therefore, have a right to demand the concession from us. Now, according to Lord Bacon's precepts, a theory, to be true, must be