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And thy loved consort on the dangerous tide
— Time unrevoked has run
SIR ISAAC NEWTON.
DR. CHALMERS.* THERE are perhaps no two sets of human beings, who comprehend less the movements, and enter less into the cares and concerns of each other, than the wide and busy public on the one hand; and, on the other, those men of close and studious retirement, whom the world never hears of, save when, from their thoughtful solitude, there issues forth some splendid discovery, to set the world on a gaze of admiration. Then will the brilliancy of a superior genius draw every eye towards it—and the homage paid to intellectual superiority will place its idol on a loftier eminence than all wealth or than all titles can bestow,—and the name of the successful philosopher will circulate, in his own age, over the whole extent of civilized society, and be borne down to posterity in the characters of ever-during remembrance :-and thus it is, that, when we look back on the days of Newton, we annex a kind of mysterious greatness to him, who, by the pure force of his understanding, rose to such a gigantic elevation above the level of ordinary men—that the kings and warriors of other days sink into insignificance around himand he, at this moment, stands forth to the public eye, in a prouder array of glory than circles the memory of all the men of former generations—and, while all the vulgar grandeur of other days is now mouldering in forgetfulness, the achievements of one great astronomer are still fresh in the veneration of his countrymen, and they carry him forward on the stream of time, with a reputation ever gathering, and the triumphs of a distinction that will never die !
* “ This most distinguished and able of living Scottish divines, one of the first Presbyterian Ministers who obtained an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge, and one of the few Scotsmen who have been elected a Corresponding Member of the Royal Institute of France, was born about 1780, at Anstruther, in the county of Fife. His collected works number twenty-five duodecimo volumes. When the Doctor visited London, the hold he took on the minds of the people was unprecedented. It was a time of strong political feeling ; but even that was unheeded, and all parties thronged to hear the Scottish preacher. The very best judges were unprepared for the display! Canning and Wilberforce went to hear the celebrated stranger. Chalmers began in his usual unpromising way, by stating a few self-evident propositions, neither in the choicest language, nor in the most impressive voice. “ If this be all,” said Canning to his companion, “it will never do !" Chalmers went on ; he got into the mass of his subject ; his weakness became strength-his hesitation was turned into energy; and bringing the whole volume of his mind to bear upon it, he poured forth a torrent of the most close and conclusive argument, brilliant with the exuberance of an imagination which ranged over all nature for illustrations, and yet managed and applied each of them with the same unerring dexterity, as if that single one had been the study of a whole life. “The tartan beats us," said Canning, “we have no preaching like this in England'
BENEVOLENCE OF THE SUPREME BEING.
DR. CHALMERS. It is saying much for the benevolence of God, to say, that a single world, or a single system, is not enough for it—that it must have the spread of a mightier region, on which it may pour forth a tide of exuberancy throughout all its provinces that, as far as our vision can carry us, it has strewed immensity with the floating receptacles of life, and has stretched over each of them the garniture of such a sky as mantles our own habitation--and that, even from distances which are far beyond the reach of human eye, the songs of gratitude and praise may now be arising to the one God, who sits surrounded by the regards of his one great and universal family.
Now it is saying much for the benevolence of God, to say, that it sends forth these wide and distant emanations over the surface of a territory so ample—that the world we inhabit, lying imbedded as it does, amidst so much surrounding greatness, shrinks into a point that to the universal eye might appear to be almost imperceptible. But does it not add to the power and to the perfection of this universal eye, that at the very moment it is taking a comprehensive survey of the vast, it can fasten a steady and undistracted attention on each minute and separate portion of it; that at the very moment it is looking at all worlds, it can look most pointedly and most intelligently to each of them; that at the very moment it sweeps the field of immensity, it can settle all the earnestness of its regards upon every distinct hand-breadth of that field; that at the very moment at which it embraces the totality of existence, it can send a most thorough and penetrating inspection into each of its details, and into every one of its endless diversities? You cannot fail to perceive how much this adds to the power of the all-seeing eye. · Tell me, then, if it do not add as much perfection to the benevolence of God, that while it is expatiating over the vast field of created things, there is not one portion of the field overlooked by it; that while it scatters blessings over the whole of an infinite range, it causes them to descend in a shower of plenty on every separate habitation ; that while his arm is underneath and round about all worlds, he enters within the precincts of every one of them, and gives a care and a tenderness to each individual of their teeming population. Oh! does not the God, who is said to be love, shed over this attribute of his its finest illustration ! when, while he sits in the highest heaven, and pours out his fulness on the whole subordinate domain of nature and of providence, he bows a pitying regard on the very humblest of his children, and sends his reviving Spirit into every heart, and cheers by his presence every home, and provides for the wants of every family, and watches every sick-bed, and listens to the complaints
sufferer ; and while, by his wondrous mind, the weight of universal government is borne, oh! is it not more wondrous and more excellent still, that he feels for every sorrow, and has an ear open to every prayer !
DR. CHALMERS. I now make my appeal to the sensibilities of your heart ; and tell me, to whom does the moral feeling within it yield its readiest testimony—to the infidel, who would make this world of ours vanish away into abandonment-or to those angels, who ring throughout all their mansions the hosannas of joy over every one individual of its repentant population ?
And here I cannot omit to take advantage of that opening with which our Saviour has furnished us, by the parables of this chapter,* and by which he admits us into a familiar view of that principle on which the inhabitants of Heaven are so awake to the deliverance and the restoration of our species. To illustrate the difference in the reach of knowledge and of affection, between a man and an angel, let us think of the difference of reach between one man and another. You
often witness a man, who feels neither tenderness nor care beyond the precincts of his own family ; but who, on the strength of those instinctive fondnesses which nature has implanted in his bosom, may earn the character of an amiable father, or a kind husband, or a bright example of all that is soft and endearing in the relations of domestic society. Now, conceive him, addition to all this, to carry his affections abroad, without, at the same time, any abatement of their intensity towards the objects which are at home—that, stepping across the limits of the house he occupies, he takes an interest in the families which are near him—that he lends his services to the town or the district wherein he is placed, and gives up a portion of his time to the thoughtful labours of a humane and public-spirited citizen. By this enlargement in the sphere of his attention, he has extended his reach; and provided he has not done so at the expence
of that regard which is due to his own family,—a thing which, cramped and confined as we are, we are very apt, in the exercise of our humble faculties, to do- I put it to you, whether, by extending the reach of his views and his affections, he has not extended his worth, and his moral respectability along with it ?
* Luke xv. 7.
But I can conceive a still further enlargement. I can figure to myself a man, whose wakeful sympathy overflows the field of his own immediate neighbourhood—to whom the name of COUNTRY comes with all the omnipotence of a charm upon his heart, and with all the urgency of a most righteous and resistless claim upon his services—who never hears the name of BRITAIN sounded in his ears, but it stirs up all his enthusiasm in behalf of the worth and the welfare of its people—who gives himself up, with all the devotedness of a passion, to the best and the purest objects of patriotism--and who, spurning away from him the vulgarities of party ambition, separates his life and his labours to the fine pursuit of augmenting the science, or the virtue, or the substantial prosperity of his nation. Oh ! could such a man retain all the tenderness, and fulfil all the duties which home and which neighbourhood require of him, and, at the same time, expatiate in the might of his untried faculties, on so wide a field of benevolent contemplationwould not this extension of reach place him still higher than before, on the scale both of moral and intellectual gradation, and give him a still brighter and more enduring name in the records of human excellence ?
And lastly, I can perceive a still loftier flight of humanitya man, the aspiring of whose heart for the good of man, knows no limitations—whose longings, and whose conceptions on this subject, overleap all the barriers of geography—who, looking on himself as a brother of the species, links every spare energy which belongs to him, with the cause of its amelioration—who can embrace, within the grasp of his ample desires, the whole family of mankind—and who, in obedience to a heaven-born movement of principle within him, separates himself to some big and busy enterprise, which is to tell on the moral destinies of the world. Oh! could such a man mix up the softenings of private virtue, with the habit of so sublime a comprehension--if amid those magnificent darings of thought and of performance, the mildness of his benignant eye could still continue to cheer the retreat of his family, and to spread the charm and the sacredness of piety among all its members—could he even mingle himself in all the gentleness of a soothed and a smiling heart with the playfulness of his children—and also find strength to shed the blessings of his presence and his counsel over the vi