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ments; and by their instrumentality it pleaseth Him to conduct the vast machinery He first put in motion. By virtue of certain laws and properties given to matter, the harmony of the universe is maintained. The sun imparts its light and warmth; the planets roll in their appointed orbits; and by similar laws, the ground recruits its fertilizing juices, and renews the face of the earth.
Thus, by general laws, the great scheme of the Deity is carried on, and his purposes brought to their proper issue: yet we have every reason to conclude, not only that a constant Providence presides, but that also an unceasing energy is imparted to matter and spirit, from the great Framer of matter, and Father of spirits. An inexhaustible stream is perpetually flowing from the fountain of good, by which, whatever is, continues to subsist, and nature preserves her strength, her symmetry, her fecundity.
This I take to be the express doctrine of Scripture. Therefore, when our blessed Master speaks of the “ earth bringing forth fruit of herself,” He does not mean to exclude the Divine agency, but to remind us that it is no work of man, but the sure effect of that course of nature,
established by the unseen Author of nature. Analogous to which is the growth and expansion of religion in the human mind. As God has enriched the earth with vegetative, so has He endowed man with intellectual powers : He hath given him perception, memory, judgment, will, free agency. By these faculties man is enabled to acquire knowledge, and to retain it; to distinguish good from evil, to choose, and to act agreeably to his choice. The right exercise of these faculties might have led him to his Maker, and excited him to confess and adore the “ eternal Power and Godhead :” but “ the law of sin in his members” overcame “the law of his mind;" he fell,—and in pity to his weakness and corruption, his reason is aided by revelation. The imperishable seed of the Gospel is entrusted to his management. In every Christian bosom this seed may be said to be sown; and, if the soil be fit to receive it, it will undoubtedly spring and grow up : the germ of faith will shoot forth its fibres, the blade rise, and the full ear crown, in due season, the labour of the sower. Thus, by natural means, as they are called, but means adopted by the wisdom of God, is animal man, and the creatures subservient to him, supplied with raiment, food, and all things needful for temporal life ;-and, in like manner, by means, as secret in their mode of operation, yet as certain in their results, are his intelligent and free agents sustained with spiritual food, and every thing requisite to life eternal.
Some good and pious Christians, fearful of any thing which may appear to derogate from the power of God, and deprive him of that honour, which is so unquestionably his sole due, are loth to acknowledge the efficacy of second causes in the works of grace, though they see and confess it in the works of nature :--at least, to a certain extent :—for, even in the changes and courses of the material world, they are too ready to call in the interference of preternatural power. At the first creation of this globe, indeed, we are told by Moses, that the Deity Himself was the immediate Agent. He issued his mandate—instantaneously the substance was produced--the creature sprang to life. He said, “ Let there be light, and there was light.”—“ Let us make man after our image,” and the animated dust stood before Him. But now, if the expression be allowable, nature does the work. The sun and starry host continue to emit their rays, in consequence of the original decree, “ Let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven :” and man is born of woman, by virtue of the Divine injunction, “ Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” So likewise, in the early dispensations of his grace, there was a sensible display of the Divine presence. At the promulgation of the Law, the mount “ burned with fire,”-and there was “ blackness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words ;” and so terrible was the sight, that Heaven's appointed delegate exclaimed, “ I do exceedingly fear and quake :”—and when the apostles were commissioned to preach the Gospel,
suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting; and there appeared cloven tongues, like as of fire,” which sat on the heads of the gifted saints. But now, the precepts of the decalogue are learned in the usual course of education, and the influence of the Spirit is communicated imperceptibly,--unfelt, unheard, unseen,-through such means, such secondary causes, such institutions and ordinances, as are found favourable to the growth of piety and virtue.-Yet still, all is the act, all is the gift of God; for He gives the blessing when He gives the means. The passive instrument is under His direction; and the work, wrought by the complex machinery, is, in fact, wrought by the power that impels and guides the machine. To the great First Principle, the Spring of all that moves, the Life of all that lives, we ascribe all the glory, we render all the praise.
Thus, then, is Christian knowledge, the vital germ of religion, like seed cast into the ground. When it has taken root, it grows spontaneously. Not that the Christian, any more than the husbandman, forgets, or neglects, what has been thus carefully deposited; but it does not so entirely engross him, as to deprive him of the repose his feeble frame requires, or make him indifferent to the common concerns of human life. In all its contingencies, in “patience he possesses his soul,”—confident that the same presiding Providence, which causes his sun to rise, and his rain to fall, on the teeming earth, will, by his sacred influences, though he knoweth not how, invigorate and fructify that sound faith, which has been received into an honest and good heart. It shall bloom in hope, and ripen into charity, and bear immortal, imperishable fruit.
One caution may not here be unnecessary. Nothing that has been said is to be construed