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THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER.
completely baffles the mathematician's skill, and hand, as the magnitude of the bodies which
We would now ask, in the name of all that is Again, the immense spaces which surround the sacred, whether such magnificent manifestations heavenly bodies, and in which they perform their of Deity ought to be considered as irrelevant in revolutions, tend to expand our conceptions on the business of religion, and whether they ought this subject, and to illustrate the magnificence of to be thrown completely into the shade, in the the Divine operations. In whatever point of discussions which take place in religious topics, view we contemplate the scenery of the heavens, in “the assemblies of the saints ?" If religion an idea of grandeur irresistibly bursts upon the consists in the intellectual apprehension of the mind; and, if empty space can, in any sense, perfections of God, and in the moral effects prode considered as an object of sublimity, nothing duced by such an apprehension—if all the rays can fill the mind with a grander idea of magni- of glory emitted by the luminaries of heaven, ato tude and extension, than the amplitude of the only so many reflections of the grandeur of Him scale on which planetary systems are construct, who dwells in light unapproachable-if they have ed. Around the body of the sun there is allot a tendency to assist the mind in forming its conted a cubical space, 3,600 millions of miles inceptions of that ineffable Being, whose uncreat. diameter, in which eleven planetary globes re- ed glory cannot be directly contemplated—and if volve-every one being separated from another, they are calculated to produce a sublime and by intervals of many millions of miles. The space awful impression on all created intelligences,which surrounds the utmost limits of our system, shall we rest contented with a less glorious idea extending in every direction, to the nearest fired of God than his works are calculated to afford ? stars, is, at least, 40,000,000,000,000 miles in Shall we disregard the works of the Lord, and diameter; and, it is highly probable, that every contemn “ the operations of his hands," and star is surrounded by a space of equal, or even that, too, in the face of all the invitations on this of greater extent. A body impelled with the subject, addressed to us from heaven ? For thus greatest velocity which art can produce, a can saith Jehovah : "Lift up your eyes on high, and non ball, for instance would require twenty years behold, who hath created these things who to pass through the space that intervenes between bringeth forth their host by number. I, the Lord, the earth and the sun, and four millions, seven who maketh all things, who stretcheth forth the hundred thousand years, ere it could reach the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by him. nearest star. Though the stars seem to be self; all their host have I commanded.” And, if, crowded together in clusters, and some of them at the command of God, we lift up our eyes to almost to touch one another, yet the distance be the " firmament of his power," surely we ought weon any two stars which seem to make the to do it, not with a brute, unconscious gaze," noi nearest approach, is such as neither words can with the vacant stare of a savage, not as if we express, nor imagination fathom. These im- were still enveloped with the mists and prejudice3 monse spaces are as unfathomable on the one of the dark ages--but as surrounded by that blato
of light which modern science has thrown upon velocity, gives us a most august and impressive the scenery of the sky, in order that we may con- cunception of the greatness of that Power which template, with fixed attention, all that enlighten- first set it in motion, and continues the rapid od reason, aided by the nicest observations, has whirl from age to age! Though the huge masses ascertained respecting the magnificence of the of the Alpine mountains were in a moment Selestial orbs. To overlook the sublime disco- detached from their foundations, carried aloft veries of modern times, to despise them, or to through the regions of the air, and tossed into the call in question their reality, as some religionists Mediterranean sea, it would convey no idea of have done, because they bring to our ears such a force equal to that which is every moment exestonishing reports of the " eternal power” and erted, if the earth revolve on its axis. But majesty of Jehovah-is to act as if we were afraid should the motion of our earth be called in ques. lest the Deity should be represented as more tion, or denied, the idea of force, or power, wil. grand and magnificent than he really is, and as if be indefinitely increased. For, in this case, it we would be better pleased to pay him a less share must necessarily be admitted, that the heavens, of homage and adoration than is due to his name. with all the innumerable host of stars, have a
Perhaps some may be disposed to insinuate, diurnal motion around the globe; which motion that the views now stated are above the level must be inconceivably more rapid than that of of ordinary comprehension, and founded too the earth, on the supposition of its motion, much on scientific considerations, to be stated For, in proportion as the celestial bodies aro in detail to a common audience. To any in- distant from the earth, in the same proportion sinuations of this kind, it may be replied, that would be the rapidity of their movements. The Buch illustrations as those to which we have re. sun, on this supposition, would move at the rate ferred, are more easily comprehended than many of 414,000 miles in a minute ; the nearest stars, of those abstract discussions to which they are at the rate of fourteen hundred millions of miles frequently accustomed; since they are definite in a second : and the most distant luminaries, and tangible, being derived from those objects with a degree of swiftness which no numbers which strike the senses and the imagination. could express. * Such velocities, too, would be Any person of common understanding may be the rate of motion, not merely of a single globe made to comprehend the leading ideas of extend- like the earth, but of all the ten thousand times ed space, magnitude, and motion, which have ten thousand spacious globes that exist within been stated above, provided the descriptions be the boundaries of creation. This view conveys sufficiently simple, clear, and well-defined; and an idea of power still more august and overshould they be at a loss to comprehend the prin- whelming than any of the views already stated, ciples on which the conclusions rest, or the mode and we dare not presume to assert, that such a by whick the magnificence of the works of God degree of physical force is beyond the limits of has been ascertained, an occasional reference infinite perfection ; but on the supposition it to such topics would excite them to inquiry and existed, it would confound all our ideas of the investigation, and to the exercise of their powers wisdom and intelligence of the Divine mind, and of observation and reasoning on such subjects would appear altogether inconsistent with the wbich are too frequently directed to far less impor- character which the scripture gives us of the tant objects. The following illustration, however, Deity as "the only wise God." For, it would stands clear of every objection of this kind, and exhibit a stupendou z system of means altogether is level to the comprehension of every man of disproportioned to the end intended-namely, to common sense : Either the earth moves round produce the alternate succession of day and night its axis once in twenty-four hours-or, the sun, to the inhabitants of our globe, which is more moon, planets, comets, stars, and the whole frame beautifully and harmoniously effected by a simple of the universe move 'round the earth, in the rotation on its axis, as is the case with the other same time. There is no alternative, or third globes which compose the planetary system. opinion, that can be formed on this point. If Such considerations, however, show us, that, on the earth revolve on its axis every 24 hours, to whatever hypothesis, whether on the vulgar ur produce the alternate succession of day and night, the scientific, or in whatever other point of view, che portions of its surface about the equator must the frame of nature may be contemplated, the more at a rate of more than a thousand miles an mind is irresistibly impressed with ideas of bour, since the earth is more than twenty-four power, grandeur, and magnificence. And, therethousand miles in circumference. This view fore, when an inquiring mind is directed to conof the fact, when attentively considered, fur- template the works of God, on any hypothesis it nishes a most sublime and astonishing idea. may choose, it has a tendency to rouse reflecThat a globe of so vast dimensions, with all its tion, and to stimulate the exercise of the moral load of mountains, continents, and oceans, com- and intellectual faculties, on objects which are prising within its circumference a mass of two worthy of the dignity of immortal minds. hundred and sixty-four thousand million of cubical miles, should whirl around with so amazing
See Appendix, No. 1. .
We may now be, in some nieasure, prepared to most minds conveys no idea at all, unless je to decide, whether illustrations of the omnipo- be associated with ample conceptions of motion, lence of the Deity, derived from the system of magnitude, and extension; and it is constantly the material world, or those vague and metaphy- applied to subjects to which it was never intended sical disquisitions which are generally given in to apply, such as “ infinite faithfulness, infinite theological systems, be most calculated to im- justice, infinite truth," &c. an application of the press the mind, and to inspire it with reverence term which is never sanctioned by Scripture, and and adoration. The following is a description, which has a tendency to introduce confusion into given of this attribute of God, by a well-known our conceptions of the perfections of God. Grantsystematic writer, who has gonerally been consi- ing that the statements and reasonings in such an dered as a judicious and orthodox divine
extract as the above were * God is almighty, Rev. i. 18, chap. iv. 8. what impression can they make upon the mind ? This will evidently appear, in that, if he be infi- Would an ignorant person feel his conceptions of nite in all his other perfections, he must be so in the Divinity much enlarged, or his moral powers power: thus, if he be omniscient, he knows what aroused, by such vague and general statements ? is possible or expedient to be done ; and if he be And, if not, it appears somewhat unaccountable, an infinite sovereign, he wills whatever shall come that those sources of illustration, which would to pass. Now this knowledge would be insigni- convey the most ample and definite views of the ficant, and his power inefficacious, were he not“ eternal power" and glory of God, should be infinite in power, or almighty. Again, this might studiously concealed from the view. Vague debe argued fron his justice, either in rewarding or scriptions and general views of any object will punishing : for if he were not infinite in power, never be effectual in awakening the attention, he could do neither of these, at least so far as to and arresting the faculties of the mind. The render him the object of that desire or fear, heart will always remain unimpressed, and the which is agreeable to the nature of these perfec- understanding will never be thoroughly excited tions ; neither could infinite faithfulness accom- in its exercise, unless the intellect have presented plish all the proniises which he hath made, so as before it a well-defined and interesting object, to excite that trust and dependence which is a and be enabled to survey it in its various aspects · part of religious worship ; nor could he say with and this object must always have a relation to out limitation, as he dous, I have spoken it, I the material world, whether it be viewed in conwill also bring it to pass ; I have purposed it, I nexion with religion, or with any other subject, 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 Thus I have endeavoured, in the preceding almighty power of God in all his works, both of sketches, to present a few detached illustrations nature and grace : thus his eternal power is un- of the omnipotence and grandeur of the Deity, derstood, as the apostle says, By the things that as displayed in the vast magnitude of the material are made, Rom. i. 20, not that there was an eter- universe-the stupendous velocities of the celes. nal production of things, bu the exerting this tial bodies--and in the immeasurable regions of power in time proves it to le infinite and truly space which surround them, and in which their divine ; for no creature can produce the smallest motions are performed. Such a magnificent specparticle of matter out of nothing, much less fur- tacle as the fabric of the universe presents--s0 nish the various species of creatures with those majestic, God-like, and overwhelming, to beings endowments in which they excel one another, who dwell“ in tabernacles of clay" —was surely and set forth their Creator's glory. And the never intended to be overlooked, or to be gazed glory of his power is no less visible in the works at with indifference, by creatures endowed with of providence, whereby he upholds all things, reason and intelligence, and destined to an indisposes of them according to his pleasure, and mortal existence. In forming a universe combrings about events which.only he who has an posed of so many immense systems and worlds, almighty arm can effect."--Ridgley's Body of and replenished with such a variety of sensitivo Divinity, p. 39.
and intelligent existences, the Creator doubtless This is the whole that Dr. Ridgley judges it intended that it should make a sublime and renecessary to state, in illustration of the attribute verential impression on the minds of all the intelof Omnipolence, except what he says in relation lectual beings to whom it might be displayed, and to its operation in the work of grace,” in “ther that it should convey some palpable idea of the propagation and success of the Gospel,” &c. l infinite glories of his nature, in so far as material subjects, to which the idea of power, or physical objects can be supposed to adumbrate the perfecenergy, does not properly apply. Such, however, tions of a spiritual and uncreated Essence. Dwell. are the meager and abstract disquisitions gene ing in " light inaccessible" to mortals, and for rally given by most systematic writers. There ever veiled from the highest created being, b, is a continual play on the term " infinito," which the pure spirituality and immensity of his natus ; kare's no conceivable mode by which the in- created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabitfarthes grandeur of Deity could be exhibited to ed; I am the Lord, and there is none else."-"| finite intelligences, but through the medium of have made the earth and created man upon it, my those magnificent operations which are incese hands have stretched out the heavens, and all santly going forward throughout the boundless their host have I commanded.”_“Hearken unto regions of space. Concealed from the gaze of me, O Israel: I am the first, I also am the last. all the " principalities and powers" in heaven, Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the in the unfathomable depths of his Essence, he dis- earth, and my right hand hath spanned the plays his presence in the universe he has created, heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up and the glory of his power, by launching mugni- together.”—“ Who hath measured the waters in ficent worlds into existence, by adorning them the hollow ofhis hand, and meted out heaven with with diversified splendours, by peopling them with the span, and weighed the mountains in scales ? various ranks of intelligent existence, and by im- He who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and pelling them in their movements through the illi- the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers ; that mitable tracts of creation.
stretched out the heavens as a curtain, that faint• It will readily be admitted by every enlighten- eth not, neither is weary."-" The Lord made
ed Christian, that it must be a highly desirable the heavens, the heaven of heavens, with all their | attainment, to acquire the most glorious idea of hosts; honour and majesty are before him, and his
the Divine Being which the limited capacity of kingdom ruleth over all."* Such sublime descripour minds is capable of receiving. This is one of tions of Jehovah, and references to his material the grand difficulties in religion. The idea of a works, are reiterated in every portion of the saBeing purely IMMATERIAL, yet pervading in- cred volume ; and the import and sublimity of such finite space, and possessed of nosensible qualities, expressions cannot be fully appreciated, unless Confounds and bewilders the human intellect, so we take into view all the magnificent objects that its conceptions, on the one hand, are apt to which science has unveiled in the distant reverge towards extravagancy, while, on the other, gions of creation. they are apt to degenerate into something ap This subject is calculated not merely to overproaching to inanity. Mere abstract ideas and power the intellect with ideas of sublimity and reasonings respecting infinity, eternity, and abson grandeur, but also to produce a deep moral imlute perfection, however sublime we may con- pression upon the heart; and a Christian philoceive them to be, completely fail in arresting the sopher would be deficient in his duty, were he to understanding, and affecting the heart; our con- overlook this tendency of the objects of his ceptions become vague, empty, and confused, for contemplation. want of a material vehicle to give them order, sta- One important moral effect which this subject bility, and expansion. Something of the nature of has a natural tendency to produce, is, profound vast extension, of splendid and variegated objects, HUMILITY. What an insignificant being does and of mighty movements, is absolutely necessary, man appear, when he compares himself with the in order to convey to spirits dwelling in bodies of magnificence of creation, and with the myriads clay, a definite conception of the invisible glories of exalted intelligences with which it is peopled! of the Eternal Mind; and, therefore, in the im- Wha: are all the honours and splendours of this mense variety of material existence with which earthly ball, of which mortals are so proud, when the universe is adorned, we find every requisite placed in competition with the resplendent gloassistance of this kind to direct and expand our ries of the skies? Such a display as the Almighty views of the great object of our adoration. When has given of himself, in the magnitude and va. the mind is perplexed and overwhelined with its riety of his works, was evidently intended “to conceptions, when it labours, as it were, to form stain the pride” of all human grandeur, that " no some well-defined conceptions of an Infinite Be- flesh should glory in his presence." Yet, there is ing, it here finds some tangible objects on which no disposition that appears so prominent among to fix, some sensible substralum for its thoughts puny mortals, as pride, ambition, and vainglory to rest upon for a little, while it attempts to pene. -the very opposite of humility, and of all those trate, in its excursions, into those distant regions tempers which become those who dwell in which eye hath not seen, and to connect the whole tabernacles of clay, and whose foundation is in of its mental survey with the energies of the the dust.” Even without taking into account " King, Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible. the state of man as a depraved intelligence,
To such a train of thought we are uniformly what is there in his situation that should inspire directed in the sacred oracles, where Jehovah is him with “ lofty looks," and induce him to look represented as describing himself by the effects down on his fellow-men with supercilious conwhich his power and wisdom have produced. tempt? He derived his origin from the dust, “ Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an ever- he is allied
. and he is lasting salvati For thus saith Jehovah that fast hastening to the grave, where his carcass created the heavens ; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he • Isa. xlv 18, 12. xlvili, 12, 13. xl. 12, 2s, &c
will become the food for noisome reptiles. He with microscopic animalculæ, does to the proud is every moment dependent on a Superior Being lords of this earthly region. There is at least for every pulse that beats, and every breath he one Being to whom this sentiment is applicable, draws, and for all that he possesses ; he is de- in its utmost extent:"Before Him all nations pendent even on the meanest of his species for are as a drop of a bucket, and the inhabitants his accommodations and comforts. He holds of the earth as grasshoppers ; yea, they are as every enjoyment on the most precarious tenure, nothing, and are counted to him less than now -his friends may be snatched in a moment from thing, and vanity." Could we wing our way, with bis embrace ; his riches may take to themselves the swiftness of a seraph, from sun to sun, and wings and fly away; and his health and beauty from world to world, till we had surveyed all the may be blasted in an hour, by a breath of wind. systems visible to the naked eye, which are only Hunger and thirst, cold and heat, poverty and as a mere speck in the map of the universe disgrace, sorrow and disappointment, pain and could we, at the same time, contemplate the disease, mingle themselves with all his pursuits glorious landscapes and scenes of grandeur they and enjoyments. His knowledge is circum exhibit-could we also mingle with the pure and scribed within the narrowest limits, his errors exalted intelligences which people those resplenand follies are glaring and innumerable; and he dent abodes, and behold their humble and ardent stands as an almost undistinguishable atom, adorations of their Almighty Maker, their beamidst the immensity of God's works. Still, nign and condescending deportment towards with all these powerful inducements to the ex- one another; " each esteeming another better ercise of humility, man dares to be proud and than himself," and all united in the bonds of the arrogant.
purest affection, without one haughty or discordo "Man, proud Man,
ant feeling-what indignation and astonishment Dressed in a little brief authority,
would seize us, on our return to this obscuro Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven, corner of creation, to behold beings enveloped in As make the angels weep."
the mist of ignorance, immersed in depravity and How affecting to contemplate the warrior, fush- wickedness, liable to a thousand accidents, exed with diabolical pride, pursuing his conquests posed to the ravages of the earthquake, the volthrough heaps of slain, in order to obtain pos- cano and the storm ; yet proud as Lucifer, and session of " a poor pitiable speck of perishing glorying in their shame! We should be apt to earth;" exclaiming in his rage, "I will pur viow them, as we now do those bedlamites, who sue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my fancy themselves to be kings, surrounded by their lust shall be satisfied upon them, I will draw nobles, while they are chained to the walls of a my sword, my hand shall destroy them"—to be- noisome dungeon. “Sure pride was never made hold the man of rank glorying in his wealth, and for man." How abhorrent, then, must it appear his empty titles, and looking around upon the in the eyes of superior beings, who have taken inferior orders of his fellow-mortals as the worms an expansive range through the field of creations of the dust-to behold the man of ambition push- How abhorrent it is in the sight of the Almighty, ing his way through bribery, and treachery, and and how amiable is the opposite virtue, we learr slaughter, to gain possession of a throne, that he from his word :-"Every one that is proud in may look down with proud pre-eminence upon heart is an abomination to the Lord.”_"Got his fellows—to behold the haughty airs of the resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the hum. noble dame, inflated with the idea of her beauty, ble."_" Thus saith the High and Lofty One, and her high birth, as she struts along, surveying who inhabileth eternity, I dwell in the high and the ignoble crowd as if they were the dust be holy place; with him also that is of an humble neath her feet-to behold the smatterer in learn- and contrite spirit; to revive the spirit of the ing, puffed up with a vain conceit of his super humble, and the heart of the contrite ones."ficial acquirements, when he has scarcely entered While, therefore, we contemplate the omnipothe porch of knowledge-in fine, to behold all tence of God, in the immensity of creation, let ranks, from the highest to the lowest, big with an us learn to cultivate humility and self-abaseidea of their own importance, and fired with pride ment. This was one of the lessons which the and revenge at the least provocation, whether pious Psalmist deduced from his survey of the imaginary or real! How inconsistent the mani. nocturnal heavens. When he beheld the moon festations of such tempers, with the many humi. walking in the brightness, and the innumerable liating circumstances of our present condition, host of stars, overpowered with a sense of his and with the low rank which we hold in the scale owp insignificance, and the greatness of divine of Universal Being ?
condescension, he exclaimed, “O Lord! what It is not improbable, that there are in tho is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the sop universe intelligences of a superior order, in of man, that thou shouldest visit him!” whose breasts pride never found a place to Again, this subject is also calculated to inspire whom this globe of ours, and all its inhabitants, us with REVERENCE and VENERATION of God. appear as inconsiderable as a drop of water filled Profound veneration of the Divine Being lies al