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rompletely baffles the mathematician's skill, and •eta the power of numbers at defiance. "Language," and figures, and comparisons, are '' lost in wonders so sublime," and the mind, overpowered with such reflections, is irresistibly led upwards, to search for the cause in that OmniPotent Bciro who upholds the pillars of the universe—the thunder of whose power none can comprehend. While contemplating such august objects, how emphatic and impressive appears the language of the sacred oracles, " Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ? Great things doth he, which we cannot comprehend. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the glory, and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and earth is thine. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord, neither are there any works like unto thy works. Thou art great, and dost wondrous things; thou art God alone. Hast thou sot known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of all things, fainteih not, neither is weary ? there is no searchtrig of his understanding. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhahitants of the world stand in awe of him; for, he tpake, and it Vdom done; he commanded, and it stood fast."
Again, the immense tpaeee which surround the heavenly bodies, and in which they perform their revolutions, tend to expand our conceptions on this subject, and to illustrate the magnificence of the Divine operations. In whatever point of view we contemplato the scenery of the heavens, an idea of grandeur irresistibly bursts upon the mind ; and, if empty space can, in any sense, be considered as an object of sublimity, nothing can fill the mind with a grander idea of magnitude and extension, than the amplitude of the scale on which planetary systems are constructed. Around the body of the sun there is allotted a cuhical space, 3,600 millions of miles in diameter, in which eleven planetary globes revolve—every one being separated from another, by intervals of many millions of miles. The space which surrounds the utmost limits of our system, extending in every direction, to the nearest 6xed stars, is, at least, 40,000,000,000,000 miles in diameter; and, it is highly probable, that every star is surrounded by a space of equal, or even of greater extent. A body impelled with the greatest velocity which art can produce, a cannon ball, for instance would require twenty years to pass through the space that intervenes between the earth and the sun, and four millions, seven hundred thousand years, ere it could reach the nearest star. Though the stars seem to be crowded together in clusters, and some of them almost to touch one another, yet the distance between any two stare which seem to make the Dearest approach, is such as neither words can express, nor imagination fathom. These immense spaces are as unfathomahle on the one
hand, as the magnitude of the hodies which move in them, and their prodigious velocities, are incomprehensible on the other; and they form a part of those magnificent proportions according to which the fabric of universal nature was arranged—all corresponding to the majesty of that infinite and incomprehensible Being, " who measures the ocean in the hollow of his hand, and meteth out the heavens with a span." How wonderful that bodies at such prodigious distances should exert a mutual influence on one another! that the moon at the distance of 240,000 miles should raise tides in the ocean, and currents in the atmosphere! that the sun, at the distance of ninety-five millions of miles, should raise the vapours, move the ocean, direct the course of ihe winds, fructify the earth, and distribute light, and heat, and colour, through every region ofthe globe; yea, that his attractive influence, and fructifying energy, should extend even to the planet Herschet, at the distance of eighteen hundred millions of miles! So that, in every point of view in which the universe is contemplated, we perceive the same grand scale of operation by which the Almighty has arranged the provinces of his universal kingdom.
We would now ask, in the name of all ihat is sacred, whether such magnificent manifestations of Deity ought to be considered as irrelevant in the business of religion, and whether they ought to be thrown completely into the shade, in the discussions which take place in religious topies, in "the assemblies ofthe saints?" If religion consists in the intellectual apprehension of the perfections of God, and in the moral effects produced by such an apprehension—if all the rays of glory emitted by the luminaries of heaven, ate only so many reflections of the grandeur of Him who dwells in tight unapproachable—if they have a tendency to assist the mind in forming its conceptions of that ineffable Being, whose uncreated glory cannot be directly contemplated—and if they are calculated to produce a sublime and awful impression on nV created intelligences,— shall we rest contented with a less glorious idea of God than his works are calculated to afford? Shall we disregard the works of the Lord, and contemn "the operations of his hands," and that, too, in the face of all the invitations on this subject, addressed to us from heaven 1 For thus saith Jehovah : "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold, who hath created these things, who bringeth forth their host by number. I, the Lord, who maketh all things, who streteheth forth the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by him* self; all their host have I commanded." And, if, at the command of God, we lift up our eyes to the " firmament of his power," surely we ought to do it, not with a brute, unconscious gaze," not with the vacant stare of a savage, not as if w* were still enveloped with the mists and prejudices of the dark ages—but as surrounded by that burr* xt .ight which modern science has thrown upon ihe aceoery of the sky, in order that we may contemplate, with fixed attention, all that enlightened reasoa, aided by the nicest observations, has ascertained respecting the magnificence of the celestial orbs. To overlook the sublime discoveries of modern times, to despise them, or to call in question their reality, as some religionists have done, because they bring to our ears such astonishing reports of the " eternal power" and ■aajesty of Jehovah-i-ia to act as if we were afraid lest the Deity should be represented as more grand and magnificent than he really is, and as if we would be better pleased to pay him a less share of homage and adoration than is due to his name.
Perhaps some may be disposed to insinuate, that the views now stated are above the level of ordinary comprehension, and founded too much on scientific considerations, to be stated in detail to a common audience. To any insinuations of this kind, it may be replied, that such illustrations as those to which we have referred, are more easily comprehended than many of those abstract discussions to which they are frequently accustomed; since they are definite and tangible, being derived from those objects which strike the senses and the imagination. Any person of common understanding may be made to comprehend the leading ideas of extended space, magnitude, and motion, which have been stated above, provided the descriptions be sufficiently simple, clear, and well-defined; and should they be at a loss to comprehend the principles on which the conclusions rest, or the mode by which the magnificence of the works of God has been ascertained, an occasional reference to such topica would excite them to inquiry and investigation, and to the exercise of their powers of observation and reasoning on such subjects— which are too frequently directed to for less important objects. Thefollowingillustration, however, stands clear of every objection of this kind, and is level to the comprehension of every man of common sense : Either the earth moves round its axis once in twenty-four hours—or, the sun, moon, planets, comets, stars, and the whole frame of the universe move 'round the earth, in the same time. There is no alternative, or third opinion, that can be formed on this point. If the earth revolve on its axis every 24 hours, to produce the alternate succession of day and night, the portions of its surface about the equator must move at a rate of more than a thousand miles an boor, since the earth is more than twenty-four thousand miles in circumference. This view of the fact, when attentively considered, furnishesi a most sublime and astonishing idea. That a globe of so vast dimensions, with all its toad of mounrains, continents, and oceans, comprising within its circumference a mass of two hundred and sixty-four thousand million of cubical miles, should whirl around with so amazing
velocity, gives us a moat august ani impressive conception of the greatness of that Power which first set it in motion, and continues the rapid whirl from age to age! Though the huge masses of the Alpine mountains were in a moment detached from their foundations, carried aloft through the regions of the air, and tossed into the Mediterranean sea, it would comes no idea of a force equal to that which is every moment exerted, if the earth revolve on its axis. But should the motion of our earth be called in question, or denied, the idea of force, or power, wiL be indefinitely increased. For, in this case, it must necessarily be admitted, that the heavens, with all the innumerable host of stars, have a diurnal motion around the globe; which motion must be inconceivably more rapid than that of the earth, on the supposition of its motion. For, in proportion as the celestial bodies are distant from the earth, in the same proportion would be the rapidity of their movements. The sun, on this supposition, would move at the rate of 414,000 miles in a minute ; the nearest stars, at the rate of fourteen hundred millions of miles in a iecond: and the most distant luminaries, with a degree of swiftness which no numbers could express.* Such velocities, too, would be the rate of motion, not merely of a single globe tike the earth, but of all the ten thousand times ten thousand spacious globes that exist within the boundaries of creation. This view conveys an idea of power still more august and overwhelming than any of the views already stated, and we dare not presume to assert, that such a degree of physical force is beyond the limits of infinite perfection; but on the supposition it existed, it would confound all our ideas of the wisdom and intelligence of the Divine mind, and would appear altogether inconsistent with the character which the scripture gives us of the Deity as "the only wise God." For, it would exhibit a stupendou t system of means altogether disproportioned to tne end intended—namely, to produce the alternate succession of day and night to tho inhabitants of our globe, which is more beautifully and harmoniously eflected by a simple rotation on its axis, as is the case with the other globes which compose the planetary system. Such considerations, however, show us, that, on whatever hypothesis, whether on the vulgar or the scientific, or in whatever other point of view, the frame of nature may be contemplated, the mind is irresistibly impressed with ideas of power, grandeur, and magnificence. And, therefore, when an inquiring mind is directed to contemplate the works of God, on any hypothesis it may choose, it has a tendency to rouse reflection, and to stimulate the exercise of the moral and intellectual (acuities, on objects which are worthy of the dignity of immortal minds,
* See Appendix, Ho. 1.
We may now be, in some measure, prepared la decide, whether illustrations of the omnipotence of the Dei'y, derived from the system of the material world, or those vague and metaphysical disquisitions which are generally given in theological systems, be most calculated to impress the mind, and to inspire it with reverence and adoration. The following is a description, given of this attribute of God, by a well-known systematic writer, who has generally been considered as a judicious and orthodox divine :—
"God is almighty, Rev. i. 18, chap. iv. 8. This will evidently appear, in that, if he be infinite in all his other perfections, he must be so in power: thus, if he be omniscient, he knows what is possible or expedient to be done ; and if he be an infinite sovereign, he wills whatever shall come to pass. Now this knowledge would be insignificant, and his power inefficacious, were he not infinite in power, or almighty. Again, this might be argued from his justice, cither in rewarding or punishing : for if he were not infinite in power, lie could do neither of these, at least so far as to render him the object of that desire or fear, which is agreeable to the nature of these perfections ; neither could infinite faithfulness accomplish all the promises which he hath made, so as to excite that trust and dependence which is a part of religious worship ; nor could he say without limitation, as ho does, / have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass ; I have purposed it, I will also do it; isa. xlvi. 11. But since power is visible in, and demonstrated by its effect, and infinite power by those effects which cannot be produced by a creature, we may observe the almighty power of God in all his works, both of nature and grace : thus his eternal power is understood, as the apostle says, By the things thai are mode., Rom. t.20, not that there was an eternal production of things, bu' the exerting this power in time proves it to I e infinite and truly divine ; for no creature can pi iduce the smallest particle of matter out of noth ng, much less furnish the various species of creatures with those endowments in which they excel one .another, and set forth their Creator's glory. And the glory of his power is no less visible in the works of providence, whereby he upholds all things, disposes of them according to his pleasure, and brings about events which, only he who has an almighty arm can eflect."—Ridgley's Body of Divinity, p. 39.
This is the whole that Dr. Ridgley judges it necessary to state, in illustration of the attribute of Omnipotence, except what he says in relation to its operation " in the work of grace," in " the propagation and success of the Gospel," &c. subjects, to which the idea of power, or physical energy, does not properly apply. Such, however, are the meager and abstract disquisitions generally given by most systematic writers. There is a contmual play on the term " infinite," which
to most minds conveys no idea at all, unless i1 be associated with ample conceptions of motiun, magnitude, and extension ; and it is constantly applied to subjects to which it was never intended to apply, such as " infinite faithfulness, infinite justice, infinite truth," &c. an application of the term which is never sanctioned by Scripture, and which has a tendency to introduce confusion into our conceptions of the perfections of God. Granting that the statements and reasonings in such an extract as the above were, unquestionable, yet what impression can they make upon the mind? Would an ignorant person feel his conceptions of the Divinity much enlarged, or his moral powers aroused, by such vague and general statements? And, if not, it appears somewhat unaccountable, that those sources of illustration, which would convey the most ample and definite views of the "eternal power" and glory of God, should be studiously concealed from the view. Vague descriptions and general views of any object will never be effectual in awakening the attention, and arresting the faculties of the mind. The heart wilt always remain unimpressed, and the understanding will never be thoroughly excited in its exercise, unless the intellect have presented before it a well-defined and interesting object, and be enabled to survey it in its various aspects * and this object must always have a relation to the material world, whether it be viewed in connexion with religion, or with any other subject.
Thus I have endeavoured, in the preceding sketehes, to present a few detached illustrations of the omnipotence and grandeur of the Deity, as displayed in the vast magnitude of ihe material universe—the stupendous velocities of the celestial bodies—and in the immeasurable regions ol space which surround them, and in which their motions are performed. Such a magnificent spectacle as the fabric of the universe presents—so majestic, God-like, and overwhelming, to beings who dwell " in tabernacles of clay"—was surety never intended to be overlooked, or to be gazed at with indifference, by creatures endowed with reason and intelligence, and destined to an immortal existence. In forming a universe com* posed of so many immense systems and worlds, and replenished with such a variety of sensitive and intelligent existences, the Creator doubtless intended that it should make a sublime and reverential impression on the minds of all the intellectual beings to whom it might be displayed, and i that it should convey some palpabU idea of the 'infinite glories of his nature, in so far as material objects can be supposed to adumbrate the perfections of a spiritual and uncreated Essence. Dwelling in "light inaccessible" to mortals, and fr1 aver veiled from the highest created being, t> the pure spirituality and immensity of his natui
tLvta no conceivable mode by which the inftut* grandeur of Deiiy could be exhibited to fiiiiv* intelligences, but through the medium of those magnificent operations which are incessantly going forward throughout the boundless regions of space. Concealed from the gaze of alt the 1' principalities and powers" ii heaven, in the unfathomable depths of his Essence, he displays his presence in the universe he has created, and the glory of his power, by launching magnificent worlds into existence, by adorning them with diversified splendours,by peopling them with various ranks of intelligent existence, and by impelling them in their movements through the illi. mi table tracts of creation.
** It will readily be admitted by every enlightened Christian, that it must be a highly desirable attainment, to acquire the most glorious idea of the Divine Being which the limited capacity of oar minds is capable of receiving. This isoneof the grand difficulties in religion. The idea of a Being purely Immaterial, yet pervading infinite space, and possessed of nosensible qualities, confounds and bewilders the human intellect, so that its conceptions, on the one hand, are apt to verge towards extravagancy, while, on the other, they are apt to degenerate into something approaching to inanity. Mere abstract ideas and reasonings respecting infinity, eternity, and absolute perfection, however sublime we may conceive them to be, completely fail in arresting the
juoderstanding, and affecting the heart; our conceptions become vague, empty, and confused, for want of a material vehicle to give them order, stability, and expansion. Something of the nature of vast extension, of splendid and variegated objects, tad of mighty movements, is absolutely necessary, in order to convey to spirits dwelling in bodies of clay, a definite conception of the invisible glories
T)f the Eternal Mind ; and, therefore, in the immense variety of material existence with which the universe is adorned, wo find every requisite assistance of this kind to direct and expand our views of the great object of our adoration. When the mind is perplexed and overwhelmed with its conceptions, when it labours, as it were, to form some well-defined conceptions of an Infinite Being, it here finds some tangible objects on which to fix, some sensible substratum for its thoughts lo rest upon for a liltle, while* it attempts to penetrate, in its excursions, into th*6se distant regions which eye hath not seen, and to connect the whole of its mental survey with the energies of the "Kin;, Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible.
To such a train of thought we are uniformly directed in the sacred oracles, where Jehovah is represented as describing himself by the effects which his power and wisdom have produced. "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting sal vat i* For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens; God himself thst formed the earth asd made it; he hath established it, he
created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord, and there is none else."—" I have made the earth and created man upon it, my hands have stretehed out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded."—" Hearken unto me, O Israel : [ am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together."—" Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and weighed the mountains in scales? He who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers ; ihat stretehed out the heavens as a curtain, that fainteth not, neither is weary."—" The Lord made the heavens, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts ; honour and majesty are before him, and his kingdom ruleth over all."* Such sublime descriptions of Jehovah, and references to his material works, are reiterated in every portion of the sacred volume; and the import and sublimity of such expressions cannot be fully appreciated, unless we take into view all the magnificent objects which science has unveiled in the distant regions of creation.
This subject is calculated not merely to overpower the intellect with ideas of sublimity and grandeur, but also to produce a deep moral impression upon the heart; and a Christian philosopher would be deficient in his duty, were he to overlook this tendency of the objects of his contemplation.
One important moral eflect which this subject has a natural tendency to produce, is, profound Humility. What an insignificant being does man appear, when he compares himself with the magnificence of creation, and with the myriads of exalted intelligences with which it is peopled! Wha' are all the honours and splendours of this earthly ball, of which mortals are so proud, when placed in competition with the resplendent glories of the skies? Such a display as the Almighty has given of himself, in the magnitude and variety of his works, was evidently intended " to stain the pride" of all human grandeur, that " no flesh should glory in his presence." Yet, there is no disposition thai appears so prominent among puny mortals, as pride, ambition, and vainglory —the very opposite of humility, and of all those tempers which become those "who dwell in tabernacles of clay, and whose foundation is in the dust." Even without taking into account the slate of man as a depraved intelligence, what is there in his situation that should inspire him with "loftylooks," and induce him to look down on his fellow-men with supercilious contempt? He derived his origin from the dust, he is allied with the beasts that perish, and he is fast hastening to the grave, where his carcass
• Isa. xlv 19,18. xlnll, 12, IS. xl. 12, Sfi, Ac.
will become the food for noisome reptiles. He is every moment dependent on a Superior Being for every pulse that beats, and every breath he draws, and for all that he possesses ; he is dependent even on the meanest of his species for his accommodations and comforts. He holds every enjoyment on the most precarious tenure, —his friends may be snatehed in a moment from his embrace; his riches may take to themselves wings and fly away ; and his health and beauty may be blasted in an hour, by a breath of wind. Hunger and thirst, cold and beat, poverty and disgrace, sorrow and disappointment, pain and disease, mingle themselves with all his pursuits and enjoyments. His knowledge is circumscribed within the narrowest limits, his errors and follies are glaring and innumerable; and he stands as an almost undistinguishable atom, amidst the immensity of God's works. Still, with all these powerful inducements to the exercise of humility, man dares to be proud and arrogant,
"Man, proud Man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven,
As make the angels weep.''
How affecting to contemplate the warrior, flushed with diabolical pride, pursuing his conquests through heaps of slain, in order to obtain possession of " a poor pitiable speck of perishing earth;" exclaiming in his rage, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my lust shall be satisfied upon them, I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them"—to behold the roan of rank glorying in his wealth, and his empty titles, and looking around upon the inferior orders of his fellow-mortals as the worms of the dust—to behold the man of ambition pushing his way through bribery, and treachery, and ■laughter, to gain possession of a throne, that he may look down with proud pre-eminence upon bis fellows—to behold the naughty airs of the noble dame, inflated with the idea of her beauty, and her high birth, as she struts along, surveying the Ignoble crowd as if they were the dust beneath her feet—to behold the smatterer in learning, puffed up with a vain conceit of his superficial acquirements, when he has scarcely entered the porch of knowledge—in fine, to behold all ranks, from the highest to the lowest, big with an idea of their own importance, and fired with pride and revenge at the least provocation, whether imaginary or real! How inconsistent the manifestations of such tempers, with the many humiliating circumstances of our present conditiont and with the low rank which we hold in the scale of Universal Being?
It is not improbable, that there are in the universe intelligences of a superior order, in whose breasts pride never found a place—to whom this globe of ours, and all its inhabitants, appear as inconsiderable as a drop of water filled
with microscopic animalcule*, does to the proud lords of this earthly region. There is at least one Being to whom this sentiment is applicable, in its utmost extent:—" Before Him all nations are as a drop of a bucket, and the inhabitants of the earth as grasshoppers; yea, they are as nothing, and are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity." Could we wing our way, with the swiftness of a seraph, from sun to sun, and from world to world, till we had surveyed all the systems visible to the naked eye, which are only as a mere speck in the map of the universe— could we, at the same time, contemplate the glorious landscapes and scenes of grandeur they exhibit—could we also mingle with the pure and exalted intelligences which people those resplendent abodes, and behold their humble and ardent adorations of their Almighty Maker, their benign and condescending deportment towards one another; "each esteeming another better than himself," and all united in the bonds of the purest affection, without one haughty or discordant feeling—what indignation and astonishment would seize us, on our return to this obscure corner of creation, to behold beings enveloped in the mist of ignorance, immersed in depravity and wickedness, liable to a thousand accidents, exposed to the ravages of the earthquake, the volcano and the storm ; yet proud as Lucifer, and glorying in their shame I We should be apt to view them, r.« we now do those bedlamites, who fancy themselves to be kings, surrounded by their nobles, while they are chained to the walls of a noisome dungeon. "Sure pride was never made for man." How abhorrent, then, must it appear in the eyes of superior beings, who have taken an expansive range through the field of creation'? How abhorrent it is in the sight of the Almighty, and how amiable is the opposite virtue, we lean* from his word:—" Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord."—" Gol resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."—" Thus saiih the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of an humble and contrite spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite ones."— While, therefore, we contemplate the omnipotence of God, in the immensity of creation, let us learn to cultivate humility and self-abasement. This was *one of the lessons which the pious Psalmist deduced from his survey of the nocturnal heavens. When he beheld the moon walking in the brightness, and the inntmerable host of stars, overpowered with a sense of his own insignificance, and the greatness of divine condescension, he exclaimed, "O Lord! what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the Sod of man, that thou should est visit him!" Again, this subject is also calculated to inspire
US With REVERENCE and VENERATION of God.
Profound veneration of the Divine Being lies at