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General Introduction.


Upon the admission that there exists a Supreme Lect. I. Intelligence, the Creator of all things, it seems a Introduction. perfectly just and reasonable expectation, that every work of his power and wisdom should contain indubitable marks of its high origin. We works of accordingly find, that though the productions of the Divine Power may be finite and frail, for the most part brief in their duration, and insignificant when viewed in their individuality, they nevertheless exhibit, both in their creation and conservation, from the most minute to the most stupendous, the inimitable signature of supreme skill and power. Hereby they seem to become designedly legible to human reason, as inscrip


LECT. 1. tions recording the name of their Divine Author,

and proclaiming their origin by those bright and peerless characteristics which effectually distinguish them from all the productions of human

and finite power.

Inimitable seal of God discoverable.

Nature inex haustible.

It is the proper business of reason to recognise this impress of the divine hand upon all those works of the Almighty, which come within the range of our observation; and, moreover, it is highly gratifying to perceive how sober and diligent inquiry is rewarded, as we proceed, by the development, at every step, of a wisdom more profoundly wise, and a skill more admirably skilful. The first inspection neither discloses all, nor, indeed, the most impressive and commanding proofs of the exhaustless wisdom and power of the Creator.

This fact seems to be fully recognised by our men of philosophy, for they never appear to tire of their investigations, or to think that they have ascertained all that can be known of

any given object. The reason manifestly is, because no part of nature can be fairly said to be exhausted, to have unfolded all its involutions, or revealed all its secrets to the most inquisitive and sagacious of the philosophers. The horizon is never approached; it does but recede and widen as we advance. After the most consummate genius has spent its energies on a single object, or class of objects, and has brought to light the hidden and beautiful laws, the mysterious properties, the nice relations and extended dependencies, LECT. 1. and a temporary pause seems to be given to curiosity, because the world is engaged in admiring and verifying these researches, yet at length science is again seen pluming her wings for a new flight, and aspiring to a higher summit. It is found that the discoveries already made, only prepared the way to more brilliant onés; only supplied a vantage ground for a wider and more glorious prospect; fresh inquiries all through nature still leading to fresh discoveries; and so on interminably.

Hence there arises, in all the departments of the mysteri natural philosophy, a perpetual stimulus to re-approached. search. The most acute and lofty minds, through all civilized nations, are thus constantly occupied in prying into nature's plans and laws, seeking a deeper and yet a deeper depth; as if they would fathom the whole mystery, which yet they seem conscious is practically, if not really, unfathomable. For most certain it is, that, after all, the grand secret is still impenetrable. The mysterious cause is hidden behind the veil of its own effects. For “ who by searching can find out God?" The mass of our knowledge may be augmented by the discoveries of science, but our substantial ignorance remains. We remove forward the boundaries of our own proper territory from time to time, but we move always within the limits of the creation, which every where imparts its hidden treasures, and displays its

LECT. I. beautiful unity, but uniformly prohibits, as by

an impenetrable frontier, the ulterior step. The Creator, in his infinity, is still unapproached and unapproachable by these processes. In all our inquiries, we ultimately arrive at that which is too subtile, or too dark, or too minute for further analysis. We trace grandeur of design, and exquisite adaptation, but inexplicable mystery, in all the systems of nature; yet, as Paley has justly and beautifully noticed, “We never get among “ such original or totally different modes of exist

ence, as to indicate that we are come into the “ province of a different creator, or under the “ direction of a different will."* Thus a homage is rendered to the sacred seal, which the Almighty has set upon each of his works. The unrivalled productions of his creative wisdom and power, every where, constrain the reason of man, intentionally or unintentionally, to confess the peculiarity, to admire the perfection, and to adore the inexhaustible opulence of his works.

These inimitable characteristics, visibly impressed upon his various productions, not only create a line, broad and clear, between them and the works of human skill, but they seem, though silently, yet triumphantly, to set at defiance all the resources of human art and ability; I need not say, to rival or imitate, but even thoroughly to explore the divine workmanship. If that transcends our com

Nat. Theology, p. 650.

prehension, what wonder that the Infinite Author LECT. 1. himself should be cognizable only by his own light, and only so far as he may condescend to explain himself.

Let us suppose, surely no unreasonable suppo- Rest have to sition in the abstract, that he has made some sort racteristics of revelation. We will not yet assume what; but, supposing it to exist, it will be fair and just to expect, that evidences somewhat similar to those which avouch his works, should accompany his word. We

may presume that, like nature, it will possess characteristics all its own; that its facts and principles will be in harmony with the universe, with human history, and consciousness; and that it will not simply sustain its authority by the à priori argument of miracles and prophecy. And, farther, that as the à posteriori argument for the being of a God is found the most satisfactory, and, perhaps, the only efficient one, so a similar argument, in behalf of revelation, may be found correspondingly powerful and convincing. It is true, in such a case, we must first assume that we possess a divine revelation, and then proceed to show how facts accord with its statements; but, in so doing, we merely proceed according to the rational method, by which the verity of any written document is ascertained. Whether it be a professed narrative of events, a theory on some scientific subject, or a mere seriatim catalogue of things, yet, if it give a true detail, facts will tally

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