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uproar, what contests and quarrels, would perpetually reign in it? What man of common understanding would not rather chuse to dwell in a desert, than to be associated for life with such companions? shall, then, the scoffer presume to make light of those virtues, without which there could be neither peace, nor comfort, nor good order, among mankind?
Let him be desired to think of his domestic situation and connections. Is he a father, a husband, or a brother? Has he any friend or relation, male or female, in whose happiness he is interested?Let us put the question to him, whether he be willing that intemperance, unchastity, or dissipation of any kind, should mark their character? Would he recommend to them such excess? Would he chuse in their presence, openly, and without disguise, to scoff at the opposite virtues, as of no consequence to their welfare.-If even the most licentious shudder at the thought; if in the midst of his loose pleasures, he be desirous that his own family should remain untainted; let this teach him the value of those private virtues, which in the hours of dissipation, in the giddiness of his mind, he is ready to contemn. Banish sobriety, temperance, and purity, and you tear up the foundations of all public order, and all domestic quiet. You render every house a divided and miserable abode, resounding with terms of shame, and mutual reproaches of infamy. You leave nothing respectable in the human character. You change the man into a brute.
THE Conclusion from all the reasoning which we have now pursued is, that religion and virtue, in all their forms, either of doctrine or of precept; of piety towards God, integrity towards men, or regularity in private conduct; are so far from affording any grounds of ridicule to the petulant, that they are entitled to our highest veneration; they are names which should never be mentioned, but with the utmost honour. It is said in Scripture, Fools make a mock at sin ;* they had better make a mock at pestilence, at war, or famine. With one who should chuse these public calamities for the subject of his sport, you would not be inclined to associate. You' would fly from him, as worse than a fool; as a man of distempered mind, from whom you might be in hazard of receiving a sudden blow. Yet certain it is, that, to the great society of mankind, sin is a greater calamity, than either pestilence, or famine, or war. These operate only as occasional causes of misery. But the sins and vices of men are perpetual scourges of the world. Impiety and injustice, fraud and falsehood, intemperence and profligacy; are daily producing mischief and disorder; bringing ruin on individuals; tearing families and communities in pieces; giving rise to a thousand
* Prov. xiv. 9.
tragical scenes on this unhappy theatre. In proportion as manners are vicious, mankind are unhappy. The perfection of virtue which reigns in the world above, is the chief source of the perfect blessedness which prevails there.
When, therefore, we observe any tendency to treat religion or morals with disrespect and levity, let us hold it to be a sure indication of a perverted understanding, or a depraved heart. the seat of the scorner let us never sit. Let us account that wit In contaminated, which attempts to sport itself on sacred subjects. When the scoffer arises, let us maintain the honour of our God, and our Redeemer; and resolutely adhere to the cause of virtue and goodness. The lips of the wise utter knowledge; but the mouth of the foolish is near to destruction. He that honoureth God, God will honour. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and he that keepeth the commandment, keepeth his own soul.
ON THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.
In the beginning God created the heaven, and the earth.
SUCH is the commencement of the history of mankind; an æra, to which we must ever look back with solemn awe and veneration. Before the sun and the moon had begun their course; before the sound of the human voice was heard, or the name of man was known; in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. To a beginning of the world, we are led back by every thing that now exists; by all history, all records, all monuments of antiquity. In tracing the transactions of past ages, we arrive at a period, which clearly indicates the infancy of the human race. We behold the world peopled by degrees. We ascend to the origin of all those useful and necessary arts, without the knowledge of which mankind could hardly subsist. We discern society and civilization arising from rude beginnings in every corner of the earth; and gradually advancing to the state in which we now find them: All which afford plain evidence, that there was a period, when mankind began to inhabit and cultivate the earth. What is very remarkable, the most authentic chronology and history of most nations, coincides with the account of Scripture; and makes the period during which the world has been inhabited by the race of men, not to extend beyond six thousand years.
To the ancient philosophers, creation from nothing appeared an unintelligible idea. They maintained the eternal existence of matter, which they supposed to be modelled by the sovereign mind of the universe into the form which the earth now exhibits. But there is nothing in this opinion which give it any title to be opposed to the authority of revelation. The doctrine of
two self-existent, independent principles, God and matter the one, active, the other passive, is an hypothesis which presents difficulties to human reason at least as great as the creation of matter from nothing. Adhering then to the testimony of Scripture, we believe, that in the beginning God created, or from non-existence brought into being, the heaven and the earth.
But though there was a period when this globe, with all that we see upon it, did not exist, we have no reason to think that the wisdom and power of the Almighty were then without exercise or employment. Boundless is the extent of his dominion. Other globes and worlds, enlightened by other suns, may then have occupied, they still appear to occupy, the immense regions of space. Numberless orders of beings, to.us unknown, people the wide extent of the universe, and afford an endless variety of objects to the ruling care of the great Father of all. At length, in the course and progress of his government, there arrived a period, when this earth was to be called into existence. When the signal moment, predestined from all eternity, was come, the Deity arose in his might; and with a word created the world.
-What an illustrious moment was that, when, from non-existence there sprang at once into being this mighty globe, on which so many millions of creatures now dwell?—No preparatory measures were required No long circuit of means was employed. He spake; and it was done. He commanded; and it stood fast. The earth was, at first, without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Almighty surveyed the dark abyss; and fixed bounds to the several divisions of nature. He said, Let there be light; and there was light. Then appeared the sea and the dry land. The mountains rose; and the rivers flowed. The sun and moon began their course in the skies. Herbs and plants clothed the ground. The air, the earth, and the waters, were stored with their respective inhabitants. At last, man was made after the image of God. He appeared, walking with countenance erect; and received his Creator's benediction, as the Lord of this new world. The Almighty beheld his work when it was finished; and pronounced it good. Superior beings saw with wonder this new accession to existence. The morning stars sang together; and all the sons of God shouted for joy.*
But on this great work of Creation, let us not merely gaze with astonishment. Let us consider how it should effect our conduct, by presenting the Divine perfections in a light which is at once edifying, and comforting to man. It displays the Creator as supreme in power, in wisdom, and in goodness.
Job xxxviii. 7.
I. As supreme in power. When we consider with how much labour and difficulty human power performs its inconsiderable works; what time it costs to rear them; and how easily, when reared, they are destroyed; the very idea of creating power overwhelms the mind with awe. Let us look around, and survey this stupendous edifice, which we have been admitted to inhabit. Let us think of the extent of the different climates and regions of the earth; of the magnitude of the mountains, and of the expanse of the ocean. Let us conceive that immense globe which contains them, launched at once from the hand of the Almighty; made to revolve incessantly on its axis, that it might produce the vicissitudes of day and night; thrown forth, at the same time, to run its annual course in perpetual circuit through the heavens: After such a meditation, where is the greatness, where is the pride of man? Into what total annihilation do we sink before an Omnipotent Being? Who is not disposed to exclaim, Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that thou shouldst visit him! When compared with thee, all men are vanity; their works are nothing.Reverence, and humble adoration, ought spontaneously to arise. He who feels no propensity to worship and adore, is dead to all sense of grandeur and majesty; has extinguished one of the most natural feelings of the human heart. Know the Lord that he is God, we are all his people; the workmanship of his hands. Let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Of all titles to legislation and rule, none is so evident and direct as that of a Creator. The conviction is felt in every breast, that he who gave us being hath an absolute right to regulate our conduct. This gives a sanction to the precepts of God, which the most hardened dare not controvert. When it is a Creator and a Father that speaks, who would not listen and obey? Are justice and humanity his declared laws; and shall we, whom but yesterdry he called from the dust, and whom to-morrow he can reduce into dust again, presume, in contempt of him, to be unjust or inhuman? Are there any little interests of our own, which we dare to erect, in opposition to the pleasure of him who made us? Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; who stretch forth my hand over the earth, and none hindereth?
At the same time, the power of a Creator is encouraging, as well as awful. While it enforces duty, it inspires confidence under affliction. It brings to view a relation, which imports tenderness and comfort; for it suggests the compassion of a Father. In the time of trouble, mankind are led, by a natural impulse,