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TUS

CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER.

INTRODUCTION.

Ok subject of Religion, mankind hare, in all ages, been prone to run into extremes. While some have been disposed to attach too much importance to the mere exertions of the human intellect, and to imagine that man, by the light of unassisted reason, is able to explore the path to true wisdom and happiness,—the greater part ofreligionists, on the other hand, have been disposed to treat scientific knowledge, in its relation to religion, with a degree of indifference bordering upon contempt. Both these dispositions are equally foolish and preposterous. For he who exalts human reason, as the only sure guide to wisdom and felicity, forgets, that roan, in his present state, is a depraved intelligence, and, consequently, liable to err; and that all those who have been left solely to its dictates, have uniformly failed in attaining these desirable objects. During a period of more than 5,800 years, the greater part of the human race have been left solely to the guidance of their rational powers, in order to grope their way to the Tempe of Knowledge, and the Portals of Immortality; but what has been the result of all their anxious researches? Instead of acquiring correct notions of the Great Author of their existence, and of the nature of that homage which is due to his perfections, "they have beenmo vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts have been darkened Professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools; and have changed the glory of the Incorruptible God into an imaje made like to, corruptible man, and to four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Instead of acquiring correct views of the principles of moral action, and conducting themselves according to the eternal rules of rectitude, they have displayed the operation of the most diabolical passions, indulged in continual warfare, and desolated the earth with rapine and horrid carnage; so that the history of the world presents to our view little more than a series of revolting details of the depravity of our species, and of the wrongs which one tribe of human beings has wilfully inflicted upon another.

This has been the case, not only among a few uncultivated hordes on the coasts of Africa, in the plains of Tartary. and the wilds of America, trit even a moon those nations which stood highest U the ranks of civilization, and of science.—

The ancient Greeks and Romans, who boasted of their attainments in philosophy, and their progress in the arts, entertained the most foolish, contradictory, and unworthy notions of the Object of Divine worship, of the requirements of religion, and of the eternal destiny of man. They adored a host of divinities characterized by impiety, fraud, injustice, falsehood, lewdness, treachery, revenge, murder, and every other vice which can debase the human mind, instead of offering a tribute of rational homage to that Supreme Intelligence who made and who governs the universe. Even their priests and philosophers indulged in the most degrading and abominable practices ,and entertained the most irrational notions in regard to the origin of the universe, and the moral government of the world. Most of them denied a future state of retribution, and all of them had their doubts respecting the reality of an immortal existence: and as to the doctrine of a resurrection from the dead, they never dreamed of such an event, and scouted the idea, when proposed to them, as the climax of absurdity. The glory to which their princes and generals aspired, was, to spread death and destruction among their fellow-men—to carry fire and sword, terror and dismay, and all the engines of destruction, through surrounding nations—to fill their fields with heaps of slain—to plunder the survivors of every earthly comfort, and to drag captive kings at their chariot wheels—that they might enjoy the splendour and the honours of a triumph. 'What has been now stated, with regard to the most enlightened nations of antiquity, will equally apply to the present inhabitants of China, of Hindostan, of the Japanese Islands, of the Birman Empire, and of every other civilized nation on which the light of revelation has never shone—with this additional consideration, That they have enjoyed an additional period of 1800 years for making further investigations; and are, at this moment, as far from the object of their pursuit as when they* first commenced their researches; and not only so, but some of thexe nations, in modern times, have mingled with their abominable superstitions and idolatries many absurdities and horrid cruelties, which were altogether unknown among the Greek and Roman population.

Such are the melancholy results to which men have been led, when left to the guidance of unassisted reason, in the most interesting and important of all investigations. They have wandered in the mazes of error and delusion *, and their researches, instead of directing and expanding our religious views, have tended only to bewilder the human mind, and to throw a deeper shade of intellectual gloom over our apostate world. Afier a period of sii thousand years has been spent in anxious inquiries after the path to true knowledge and happiness—Ignorance, Superstition, Idolatry, Vice, and Misery still continue to sway their sceptre over the great majority of the human race ; and, if we be allowed to reason from the past to the future, wo may rest assured, that while mankind are destitute of a G uide superior to the glimmerings of depraved reason, they would be no nearer the object of their pursuit, after the lapse of sixty thousand years, than at the present moment. It is only in connection with the discoveries of Revelation, that we can expect that the efforts of human reason and activity will be successful in abolishing the reign of Ignorance and degrading Superstition—in illuminating the benighted tribes of the Pagan World—and in causing" Righteousness, and Order, and Peace, to spring forth before all the nations." Though the Christian Religion has never yet been fully understood and recognised in all its aspects and bearings, nor its requirements been cordially complied with, by the great body of those who profess to believe in its Divine origin, yet it is only in those nations who have 'acknowledged its authority, and in some measure submitted to its dictates, that any thing approximating to just conceptions of the Supreme Intelligence, and of his moral government, is found to prevail.

But, on the other hand, though the light of Nature is of itself a feeble and insufficient guide, to direct us in our views of the Supreme Intelligence, and of our eternal destination, yet it is a most dangerous and delusive error to imagine, that Reason, and ihe study of the material world, ought to be discarded from the science of religion. The man who would discard the efforts of the human intellect and the science of Nature from Religion, forgets—that He who is the Author of human redemption, is also the Creator and Governor of the whole system of the material universe—that it is one end of that moral renovation which the Gospel effects, to qualify us for contemplating aright the displays of Divine Perfection which the works of creation exhibit—that the visible works of God are the principal medium by which he displays the attributes of his nature to intelligent beings—that the study and contemplation of these works employ the faculties of intelligences of a superior order*—that man, had he remained in primeval innocence, would have been chiefly employed in such contemplations—

* Rev. lv. 11 yv », &c.

that it is one main design of Divine Revelation to illustrate the operations of Providence, and the agency of God in the formation and preservation of all things—and that the Scriptures are full of sublime descriptions of the visible creation, and of interesting references to the various objects which adorn the scenery of Nature. Without the cultivation of our reasoning powers, and an investigation of the laws and economy of Nature, we could not appreciate many of the excellent characters, the interesting aspects, and the sublime references of revealed religion: we should lose the full evidence of those arguments by which the existence of God and his attributes of Wisdom and Omnipotence are most powerfully demonstrated: we should remain destitute of those sublime conceptions of the perfections and agency of Jehovah which the grandeur and immensity of his works are calculated to inspire, we should never perceive, in its full force, the evidence of those proofs on which the Divine authority of Revelation is founded: we could not give a rational interpretation of the spirit and meaning of many parts of the Sacred Oracles: nor could we comply with ttose positive commands of God which enjoin us to contemplate the wonder of his power, to" meditate on all his works, and to talk of all his doings,"

Notwithstanding these and many other considerations, which show the fotly of overlooking the visible manifestations of Deity in the exercises of Religion, it has long been the practice of certain theologians to depreciate the wonderful works of Jehovah, and to attempt to throw them into the shade, as if they were unworthy of our serious contemplation. In their view, to be a bad philosopher is the surest way to become a good Christian, and to expand the views of the human mind, is to endanger Christianity, and to render the design of religion abortive. They seem to consider it fuva most noble triumph to the Christian cause, to degrade the material world, and to trample under foot, not only the earth, but the visible heavens, as an old, shattered, and corrupted fabric, which no longer demands our study or admiration. Their expressions, in a variety of instances, Would lead us almost to conclude, that they considered the economy of Nature as set in opposition to the economy of Redemption, and that it is not the same God that contrived the system of Nature, who is also ihe "Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him."

It is, unquestionably, both foolish and impious to overlook or to undervalue any of the modes by which the Divine Being has been pleased to make known his nature and perfections to mankind. Since he has given a display of his "Eternal Power and Godhead" in the grand theatre of nature, which forms the subject of scientific investigation, it was surely never intended, and would ill comport with reveience for its adorable Author, that such magnificent dis©lays uf his Power, Wisdom, and Beneficence, as the material universe exhibits, should be treated, bv his intelligent offspring, with indifference or neglect. It becomes us to contemplate, with adoring gratitude, every ray of our Creator's glory, whether as emanating from the light of Revelation, or as reflected from the scenery of nature around us, or as descending from those regions where stars unnumbered shine, and planets and comets run their solemn rounds. Instead of contrasting the one department of knowledge with the other, with a view of depreciating the science of nature, our duty is, to derive from both as much information and instruction as they are calculated to afford; to mark the harmony of the revelations they respectively unfold; and to use the revelations of nature for the purpose of confirming and amplifying, and carrying forward our views of the revelation contained in the Sacred Scriptures.

With regard to the revelation derived from the Sacred Records, it has been imagined by some, that it has little or no reference to the operations of the material system, and that, therefore, the study of the visible works of God can be of little importance in promoting religious knowledge and holy affections. In the sequel of this volume, I shall endeavour to show, that this sentiment is extremely fallacious, and destitute of a foundation. But, in the mean time, although it were taken for granted, it would form no argument against the combination of science with religion. For it ought to be carefully remarked, that Divine Revelation is chiefly intended to intruct us in the knowledge of those truths which interest us as subjects of the moral administration of the Governor of the world,—or, in other words, as apostate creatures, and as mora] agents. Its grand object is to develop the openings and bearings of the plan of Divine Mercy; to counteract those evil propensities and passions which sin has introduced; to inculcato those holy principles and moral laws which tend to unite mankind in harmony and love ; and to produce those amiable tempers and dispositions of mind, which alone can fit us for enjoying happiness either in this world, or in the world to come. For this reason, doubtless, it is, that the moral attributes of Deity are brought more prominently into view in the Sacred Volume, than his natural perfections; and that those special arrangements of his Providence, which regard the moral renovation of our species, are particularly detailed; while the immense extent of his universal kingdom, the existence of other worlds, and their moral economy, are but slightly hinted at, or veiled in obscurity. Of such a Revelation we stood in need; and had it chiefly embraced subjects of a very different nature, it would have failed in supplying the remedies requisite for correcting the disorders which sin has introduced among mankind—But, surely, it was never

intended, even in a religious point of view, that the powers of the human mind, in their contemplations and researches, should be bounded by the range of subjects comprised in that revelation, which is purely, or chiefly, of a moral nature , since the Almighty has exibited so magnificent a spectacle in the universe around us, and endowed us with faculties adequate to the survey of a considerable portion of its structure, and capable of deducing from it the most noble and sublime results. To walk in the midst of this "wide extended theatre,'* and to overlook, or to gaze with indifference on those striking marks of Divine omnipotence and skill, which every where appear, is to overlook the Creator himself, and to contemn the most illustrious displays he has given of his eternal power and glory. That man's religious devotions are much to be suspected, whatever show of piety ho may affect, who derives no assistance, in attempting to form some adequate conceptions of the object ofhis worship, from the sublime discoveries of astronomical science; from those myriads of suns and systems which form but a small portion of the Creator's immense empire !* The professing Christian, whose devotional exercises ore not invigorated, and whose conceptions of Deity are not extended, by a contemplation of the magnitude and variety of his works, may bo considered as equally a stranger to the more elevated strains of piety, and to the noble emotions excited by a perception of the beautiful and the sublime.

"The works of the Lord,** says an inspired writer, u are great, and are sought out by all those who have pleasure therein." They all bear the stamp of Infinite Perfection, and serve as so many sensible mediums to exalt and expand our conceptions of him, whose invisible glories they represent and adumbrate. When contemplated in connection with the prospects opened by Divine Revelation, they tend to excite the most ardent desires after that state of enlarged vision, where the plans and operations of Deity will be more clearly unfolded—and to prepare us for bearing a part in ihe immortal hymn of the church triumphant:—" Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints." The most illustrious characters that have adorned our race in all ages, have been struck with the beauty and magnificence of the visible creation, and have devoted a certain portion of their

. As some readers seem to have mistaken tho Author's meaning. In this and similar passages, It may be proper to state, that his meaning is not— that a knowledge of natural science Is essential to genuine piety; but, that the person who hag an opportunity of making himself acquainted with tbs science of nature, and of contemplating the wonders of the heavens in their true light, and who does not flnd his views of the Creator expanded, ax 1 his rell gloua emotions elevated, by such studies, has reason to call in question tho nature and the sincerity of his devotional feelings.

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