Page images

notice of poor, frail, and fallible man, which may, in another and nobler world, be disclosed. And the sacred scriptures confirm the belief. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to presection?"!!

And as to the government of God, comprehending, alike his created universe-teeming with life in every part, and the order and operation and agencies of his holy providence, can any presume, that he either knows, or shall be ever able to know, the whole? We look abroad upon the works of the Almighty hand, and are apt to think, that if we can discourse a little about the laws according to which bodies affect each other, or their properties and mutual action, we are versed in natural philosophy. We look a little into the constituent, elementary, parts of material objects, and their mutual affinities and action, and think, that if we can but analize them, we know them altogether. We look a little into the operations of our own minds, and are apt to think that we know somewhat of the character of spirit, and the laws which govern human thought. And, in like manner, a transient view of every other branch of human science, serves but to inflate our vanity and persuade us that we know n.uch. But when we begin carefully to investigate the mechanical laws which govern the material universe—the various, complicated and wonderous combinations of atoms, by means of the chemical laws, which regulate the structure and properties of bodies, and the conflicting elements associated in our own being, which are preserved in admirable harmony; and when, in addition to this, we inquire into the essential nature of what we see and feel and think, we find that all our science and philosophy teach but the same humiliating and mortifying lesson, that we do indeed know nothing.

If such is the fact in relation to objects, with which we are most familiar, which greet and cheer and refresh us at every turn, need we be at all surprised, at being ignorant and incapable of discovering those things which are peculiar to God? It is owing to the pride, perverseness and rebellion of the human mind, that men are so willing to remain ignorant of those things which do properly constitute the materiel of human knowledge-which are the legitimate field for the research of human reason, and yet insist upon knowing and comprehending every thing, which in its very nature rises far above the reach of human thought. We must be content to believe many things which we shall never understand. We have, indeed, learned to be so in reference to the most common objects of human knowledge. Every thing which meets our eye, or is perceived by any of our senses, is in its intimate nature incomprehensible. Our very sensations are themselves a mystery. There is soinething in all we see and hear and feel, that evades the grasp of human reason. Yet, will any one affirm, that to talk of such things-things beyond human ken, is to rave in the delirium of an enthusiastic and distempered fancy? Is it delirium? By no means:—but the fact is directly the reverse. He that suffers himself to doubt, and disbelieve, in relation to the objects which address his senses, who will not admit their reality, because he cannot comprehend their nature, or have any idea of the essence of matter, is, by the common consent of mankind, pitied or ridiculed as insane.

1 Job, xi. 7

The truth is, men universally, in reference to matters of this world, act upon the principle, that the evidence, which substantiates the fact, even out-weighs their own personal and peculiar difficulties, or embarrassments, as to its explication. They believe, that the innumerable inexplicable things around them do exist, because their senses report to them the fact. Let them act on the evidence submitted, and believe, as implicitly, that "the things which are given to us of God," do really exist. Is not

His testimony in this case, as good evidence as that of our senses in the other? In both it is obviously our duty to believe the report—to let the evidence which either the testimony of God, on the one hand, or that of our senses, on the other, out-weigh all the perplexities and difficulty we may have in the explication of the things reported.

But this is not the spirit of the world. The pride of human reason--the vain wisdom of a false philosophythe natural aversion of the human heart from the things that are of God-and the high value at which men practically hold the evidence of their senses, lead them to reject and disbelieve the great truths and facts which are based exclusively on a “Thus saith the Lord.” This is the spi rit of the world-a carping, captious, cavilling, unbelieving spirit, which demands the demonstrations of science, to force conviction, or the soft silver tones of a flattering eloquence to seduce the heart into faith. It must be wooed and caressed by "the words which man's wisdom teacheth," or it will spurn the testimony of God. It must subject the declarations of Him who cannot lie, to the inquisitorial torture of its hows, and whys, and wherefore, and receive ample satisfaction in all, or it will make a merit and a boast of its scepticism, while it is content to receive with each passing hour, things utterly inexplicable, without a moment's thought, and on evidence, by no means as conclusive as that of the testimony of God.

Every one pronounces him to be guilty of great foolishness, who demands evidence on a subject utterly foreign from the nature of such evidence. Would not all the world laugh at the judge, who would require the barrister mathematically to demonstrate his positions, and refuse the testimony of his witnesses? Equally foolish and absurd, is his conduct who demands mathematical evidence in surport of moral truth. Who does not see, that the relations, and ratios, of forms, and quantities are essentially different, in their nature, from the operations of mind, and must therefore be demonstrated by evidence essentially different? The Epicureans are justly censured for rejecting every truth that would not be supported by the evidence of the senses. And so must they be, who laud the evidence of geometrical analysis as superior to that of consciousness, or of the testimony of a competent and credible witness. Dr. Barrow, in his profound admiration and extravagant praise of mathematical science, may have probably, though unintentionally, contributed to fortify the sceptic in his rejection of the evidence available in the support of moral truth, when he said, “the mathematics effeotually exercise, not vainly delude, nor vexatiously torment, studious minds, with obscure subtleties, but plainly demonstrate every thing within their reach.”_"They wholly deliver us from a credulous simplicity, and most strongly fortify us against the vanity of scepticism; they effectually restrain us from a rash presumption, most easily incline us to a due assent, and perfectly subject us to the government of right reason." These assertions are too bold. The mathematics have their subtleties, and they demonstrate what common sense at once perceives to be absurdities. An infinity of infinities, each infinitely less than the other-curves infinitely approximating fixed lines, but never touching-infinite spaces generating by rotation--solids of finite capacity-variable spaces continually augmenting and yet never becoming equal to certain finite quantities, these are subtleties and mysteries as perplexing as any that can be cited in moral science. The truth is, that there is no subject on which the human mind may not, by the aid of its appropriate evidence, be led on, by regular processes of demonstration, till it is lost in the absolute incomprehensibility of its own deductions. It is, therefore, highly erroneous, and mischievous, to extol one species of evidence above another, and thus contribute to shake men's confidence in the reality of what may have been legitimately demonstrated by its appropriate evidence. Consciousness, intuition, intellection, deduction, geometrical analysis, moral certainty, all deserve respect in there proper sphere. Let reason be employed in her appropriate province, but when God speaks let man believe. His testimony is ample and decisive proof. On all subjects to which it appropriately applies, it is, in its very nature, as conclusive as mathematical demonstration can be, and far more than the deductions of reason, or the testimony of the senses. Why should we apply the rules and principles of reasoning, founded on the data which this world affords, to that which is unseen and cannot be explored by us? If God Himself, a competent and credible witness, has made report to usdelivered His testimony, let us rebuke the spirit of the world, and learn with reverence and gratitude to receive the revelations which He makes of His own will. The spirit of the world, when indulged to the rejection of the divine testimony, is the arrant pride of the rebellious mind. Its suggestions are madness, and its ascendant influence on the mind, is death to all its immortal hopes.

It was this Spirit which characterized and disgraced many who professed the religion of Jesus Christ in the church of Corinth. Accustomed to the profound disquisitions of their philosophers, and to the flowing strains of their orators, and fond, as were the Greeks generally, of rich and polished style, of accurate and ornamental language, of close and energetic argument, in short, of all that could please the imagination and satisfy the understanding, they soon perverted the ministry of reconciliation, and the sacred scriptures, from their grand original design, and sought to make them subservient to their literary gratification and improvement. Aware of this state of feeling, in the first instance, when Paul preached among them, he purposely laid aside whatever might be thought to be intended as a

« PreviousContinue »