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Helpless immortal? insect infininite!
And in myself am lost! But every rising fear is hushed, and the heart is lulled to rest, as we reflect; all these are but exhibitions which the ever-living and operative Spirit makes of his wisdom, and power, and benevolence. If our minds are overwhelmed, and we feel lost, the heart rejoices to know, that we are lost in God. We can pity while we fully comprehend the feelings which led the more philosophie heathen' to deify the heavens, and the earth, and regard all life, as the soul of the divinity, and bless and adore God, for that bright and steady light of his word, which guides us through all the mazes of nature directly to Himself. Every form of life does indeed introduce to us a present God. We trace the movements of that wonderous Being who in another than the poet's sense,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns. But it is in a much sublimer and more delightful aspect the christian beholds Him, than that in which He is contemplated in the cold and heart-chilling philosophy which proclaims
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the soul. However we may admire the production, we are not satisfied unless we know something of its cause. It is but
1 Estne Dei sedes nisi terra et pontus, et aer
Et cælum, et virtus? Superos quid quærimus ultra?
Luc. Phar. I. 9 v. 578. .
cheating the mind and heart to present the effect as absorbed in, or as being part of the cause. Philosophy never satisfies the heart;' but guided by the scriptures, we pass from every living thing directly to God the Holy Spirit, the great vivifying agent; and in the agency of One, infinite in wisdom, power and benevolence, we rest as a cause most ample, and satisfactory to account for all that we ob
We apprehend His presence; but confound Him not with His productions. We discern an intelligent Spirit in all the living creation, breathing life into all as at the first. And when the thought rolls in upon our minds it is "in Him we live and move and have our being”—this living and life-giving Spirit dwells in me, and sustains, supports, strengthens and sanctifies all my powers. How rich and ennobling is the delight!
Let no one then say, that our ideas, of God, and of his government of grace, and of the method of salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, His son, who died the just for the unjust, and the renewing and sanctifying influence of His Spirit, shut out from our view the beauties of creation, and render the heart insensible to their charms. Redemption is indeed a loftier theme, and the wonders of redeeming love do indeed surpass the whole grandeur of creation. But the introduction, as is done in the plan of redemption, of an ever-present and operative agent in the person of God the Holy Spirit, to impart and sustain life in all its endless varieties, who is the very same that ministers to our highest and most ennobling life, enables us, throughout the whole extent of what are so sadly misnamed Nature's works, to hold communion with living intelligence, and that in most endeared friendship.
1 This has been inadvertently confessed by the great apostle of modern infidelity, whose remark is as true in its full extent as in refe
ence to the particular circumstances of distraction that induced it.
"Il n'en tira que des lumieres, ct n'en reçut aucum soulagement."
Our God is not a vague abstraction. The study of nature with such views promotes a blessed fellowship with Him, and does not debauch the mind. With other views, it has often led to atheism. Do we ask why? The reason is, that scepticism and infidelity, which too often conceal themselves in science, and proudly arrogate its name, will not apprehend an ever-present operative Deity. They attribute to general laws, what can only be referred to His immediate agency, and thus they exclude from the view, and thrust from the thoughts, the infinite, every-where present God. Like thoughtless, inconsiderate children, they play about the threshhold, but enter not into the palace, to hold communion with the king. The blessed Spirit of God, who dwells wherever life is found, is not known, and the mind wanders as through a desolate and dreary universe.
Take God from nature, nothing great is left;
THE NATURE OF LIFE.
The difficulty in arriving at a correct idea of Life-Our ignorance of the
essence of matter—'The reason of our belief in its reality-False use made of this mode of reasoning-General classification of substances Different opinions of the general nature of life-Not the play of chemi. cal affinities–Nor the mere properties of sensibility and contractibility Definition of Life-Difference between mineral and vital organizationBetween mere motion and vital action-Life does not consist in the mutual action of bodies on each other—The meaning of organization-Life not organization--Not a property--Not a state-Not a principle-Gen. ix. 4–Lev. xvii. 11-But a series of relative actions appropriate to the design of the Creator in the individual being.
If life, as has been shewn in the former chapter, is the result of the Spirit's agency, we may expect some difficulty in attempting to arrive at a correct idea of it; for there is mystery in all His operations. Some things pertaining to it, will, doubtless, remain forever inaccessible to human research; but we may, nevertheless, approximate it in some general idea of its nature. This is perhaps all we should attempt. But in order to this, it will be necessary for us to institute a careful examination into the whole sub. ject of Life. Like all other terms used in spiritual matters, it is originally taken from material objects, and by virtue of some assumed analogy between them, becomes a fit representative of what we cannot subject to the scrutiny of our senses. And, doubtless, much of the confusion and perplexity in which this subject is involved, arise from a disposition to transfer our philosophy in matters of sense, and the sciences dependent on material things, to those of morals and the mind.
We are ignorant of the essence of matter in all its com. binations. It is only by inference that we can prove its real existence: for, those things, which strike our senses, and which contribute, so essentially, to our idea of any body, such as shape, color, texture, weight, solidity, and the like, are mere properties, not the body itself. We feel, that we may legitimately infer the existence of some substratum, in which these, or other properties are combined. To this we give the name of matter, and talk of it with the utmost confidence, as a thing really existent; for we cannot easily persuade ourselves, that the great Creator would have communicated to us such organs of sense--been at such pains to prepare their complicated machinery, and adapt them to the mere purpose of reporting falsehood. The common-sense of mankind will not tolerate a doubt on this subject.
He that denies the existence of matter, is thought to be bordering on derangement. Yet some have doubted, and, with no little acuteness of reasoning, denied that there is a material world. The apostle says, "by faith we understand (but not by reason, the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." With such proof of the reality of matter, we can rest satisfied and allow ourselves to think and speak of it, though our knowledge of it extends no further than to its properties. This mode of reasoning has been applied to the subject of life, and it has been thought perfectly conclusive as to the reality of its essence.
That there is a subtle material principle which is the cause of those phenomena to which we give the name of life, has been inferred from the existence of what have been called vital properties. Whether this is a correct mode of speaking, in reference to the vital phenomena, will appear in the course of this chapter.
All material substances may be divided into two general
1 Heb. xi. 3.