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CHAPTER II.

CONTAINING

A CURSORY VIEW OF SOME OF THE SCIENCES WHICH ARE RELATED TO RELIGION AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY.

THEOLOGY has generally been viewed as a study of a very limited range: and hence, when it has been admitted into the circle of the sciences, a much smaller space has been allotted for its discussion, than has been devoted to almost any other department of human knowledge. When considered, however, in its most extensive sense-in its relations to the Divine Being-to his past and present dispensations towards the human race-to the present circumstances, and the future destiny of man—and to the physical and moral condition of all the sentient and intelligent beings of which we have any intimation-it ought to be viewed as the the most varied and comprehensive of all the sciences; as embracing, within its extensive grasp, all the other departments of useful knowledge, both human and divine. As it has GOD for its object, it must include a knowledge of the universe he has formed-of the movements which are continually going on throughout the wide extent of his empire, in so far as they lie open to our inspection of the attributes which appear to be displayed in all his operations-of the moral laws he has framed for the regulation of holy intelligences-of the merciful arrangements he has made for the restoration of fallen man

of the plans by which the knowledge of his will is to be circulated and extended in the world in which we live-of the means by which truth, and moral purity, and order, are to be promoted among our apostate race, in order to their restoration to the happiness they have lost-together

with all those diversified ramifications of knowledge, which have either a more remote, or a more immediate bearing on the grand objects now specified. Like the lines which proceed from the circumference to the centre of an immense circle-all the moral* arts and sciences which have been invented by men-every department of human knowledge, however far it may, at first sight, appear to be removed from religion-may be considered as having a direct bearing on Theology, as the grand central point, and as having a certain tendency to promote its important objects.

It is much to be regretted, that Theology has so seldom been contemplated in this point of view-and that the sciences have been considered rather as so many independent branches of secular knowledge, than as subservient to the elucidation of the facts and doctrines of religion, and to the accomplishment of its benevolent designs. Hence, it has happened, that Philosophy and Religion, instead of marching hand in hand to the portals of immortality, have frequently set themselves in hostile array; and combats have ensued equally injurious to the interests of both parties. The Philosopher has occasionally been disposed to investigate the economy of nature, without a reference to the attributes of that Almighty Being who presides over its movements, as if the universe were a selfmoving and independent machine; and has, not unfrequently, taken occasion, from certain obscure and insulated facts, to throw out insinuations hostile to the truth and the character of the Christian Revelation. The Theologian, on the other hand, in the heat of his intemperate zeal against the infidel philosopher, has, unguardedly, been led to declaim against the study of science, as if it were unfriendly to religion-has, in effect, set the works of God in opposition to his word-has confounded the foolish theories of speculative minds with the rational study of

*The epithet moral is here used in its application to arts, because there are certain arts which must be considered as having an immoral tendency, such as, the art of war, the art of boxing, of gambling, &c. &c. and which, therefore, cannot have a direct tendency to promote the objects of religion.

the works of Deity-and has thus prevented the mass of mankind from expanding their minds, by the contemplation of the beauties and sublimities of nature.

It is now high time that a complete reconciliation were effected between these contending parties. Religion ought never to disdain to derive her supports and illustrations from the researches of science; for the investigations of philosophy into the economy of Nature, from whatever motives they may be undertaken, are nothing else than an inquiry into the plans and operations of the Eternal Mind. And Philosophy ought always to consider it as her highest honour, to walk as an handmaid in the train of that religion which points out the path to the regions of eternal bliss. By their mutual aid, and the subserviency of the one to the other, the moral and intellectual improvement of man will be promoted, and the benevolent purposes of God, in the kingdom of providence, gradually accomplished. But, when set in opposition to each other, the human mind is bewildered and retarded in its progress, and the Deity is apt to be considered as set in opposition to himself as proclaiming one system of doctrines from the economy of revelation, and another, and an opposite system from the economy of nature. But if the Christian Revelation, and the system of the material world derived their origin from the same Almighty Being, the most complete harmony must subsist between the revelations they respectively unfold; and the apparent inconsistencies which occur, must be owing chiefly to the circumstances of our present station in the universe, and to the obscure and limited views we are obliged to take of some of the grand and diversified objects they embrace. And, therefore, we have reason to believe, that, when the system of nature shall be more extensively explored, and the leading objects of revelation contemplated in a clearer light, without being tinged with the false colouring of party opinions, and contracted views, and when rational inquirers shall conduct their researches with a greater degree of reverence, humility, and Christian temper―the beauty and harmony of all the plans and revelations of the Deity, in

reference both to the physical and the moral world, will be more distinctly perceived and appreciated.

In the following cursory sketches, it forms no part of my plan to trace even an outline of the different sciences which are connected with religion, much less to enter into any particular details, in relation to their facts and principles. It would be comparatively easy to fill up the remaining sheets of this volume with skeletons of the different sciences; but such meagre details as behooved to be brought forward, could not be interesting to the general reader, and would fail in accomplishing the object proposed. My design simply is, to select some leading facts, or general truths, in relation to some of the physical sciences, for the purpose of showing their connection with the objects of religion, and the interests of rational piety. At the same time, such definite descriptions will be given as will enable common readers to appreciate the objects and bearings of the different branches of knowledge which may be presented to their view.

The first science* I shall notice is, that of

NATURAL HISTORY.

This science, taken in its most comprehensive sense, includes a knowledge and description of all the known facts in the material universe.

It is to be regretted, that most books published under the title of Natural History, to which common readers have access, contain nothing more than a general description of animals, as if this science were confined merely to one class of beings; whereas there is an infinite variety of other objects seldom noticed, which would appear no less interesting, and, in some instances, much more

*The term science, in its most general and extensive sense, signifies knowledge, particularly that species of knowledge which is acquired by the exertion of the human faculties. In a more restricted sense, it denotes a systematic species of knowledge, which consists of rule and order, such as Mathematics, Astronomy, Natural Philosophy, &c. In the discussions contained in this work, it is used in its most general sense, as denoting the various departments of human knowledge, in which sense, history, both natural, civil and sacred, may be termed science.

novel and gratifying to the general reader, and to the youthful mind. All the diversified forms of matter, whether existing on the surface or in the bowels of the earth, in the ocean, the atmosphere, or in the heavens, form the legitimate objects of this department of the science of nature.

Were we, therefore, to sketch a comprehensive outline of the subjects of Natural History, we might in the first place, take a cursory survey of the globe we inhabit, in reference to its magnitude, figure, motions, and general arrangements—the form, relations, and extent of its continents-the numerous islands which diversify the surface of the ocean—the magnitude, the direction, and the extent of its rivers, and the quantity of water they pour into the ocean-the direction, elevation and extent of the different ranges of mountains which rise from its surfacethe plains, morasses, lakes, forests, dells, and sandy deserts, which diversify its aspect-the extent, the motions, the colour, and the different aspects of the ocean, and the facts which have been ascertained respecting its saltness, its depth, its bottom, and its different currents. We might next take a more particular view of some of the most remarkable objects on its surface, and give a detail of the facts which are known respecting the history of volcanoes -their number-the countries in which they are situated -the awful phenomena they exhibit-and the devastations they have produced;-the history of earthquakes, their phenomena and effects, and the countries most subject to their ravages-Basaltic and rocky wonders, natural bridges, precipices, cataracts, ice islands, icebergs, glaciers, whirlpools, mineral wells, reciprocating fountains, boiling springs, sulphuric mountains, bituminous lakes, volcanic islands-the various aspects of nature in the different zones, and the contrasts presented between the verdant scenes of tropical climes, and the icy cliffs of the polar regions.—We would next take a survey of the subterraneous wonders which lie beneath the surface of the earth-the immense chasms and caverns which wind in various directions among the interior strata of our globe --such as the Great Kentucky cavern, the grotto of Anti

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