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manifestations of Deity in the exercises of Religion, it has long been the practice of certain theologians to depreciate the wonderful works of Jehovah, and to attempt to throw them into the shade, as if they were unworthy of our serious contemplation. In their view, to be a bad philosopher is the surest way to become a good Christian, and, to expand the views of the human mind, is to endanger Christianity, and to render the design of religion abortive. They seem to consider it as a most noble triumph to the Christian cause, to degrade the material world, and to trample under foot, not only the earth, but the visible heavens, as an old, shattered, and corrupted fabric, which no longer demands our study or admiration. Their expressions, in a variety of instances, would lead us almost to conclude, that they considered the economy of Nature as set in opposition to the economy of Redemption, and that it is not the same God that contrived the system of Nature, who is also the "Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him."
It is, unquestionably, both foolish and impious, to overlook or to undervalue any of the modes by which the Divine Being has been pleased to make known his nature and perfections to mankind. Since he has given a display of his “ Eternal Power and Godhead” in the grand theatre of nature, which forms the subject of scientific investigation, it was surely never intended, and would ill comport with reverence for its adorable Author, that such magnificent displays of his Power, Wisdom, and Beneficence, as the material universe exhibits, should be treated, by his intelligent offspring, with indifference or neglect. It becomes us to contemplate, with adoring gratitude, every ray of our Creator's glory, whether as emanating from the light of Revelation, or as reflected from the scenery of nature around us, or as descending from those regions where stars unnumbered shine, and planets and comets run their solemn rounds. Instead of con
trasting the one department of knowledge with the other, with a view of depreciating the science of nature, our duty is, to derive from both as much information and instruction as they are calculated to afford; to mark the harmony of the revelations they respectively unfold; and to use the revelations of nature for the purpose of confirming, and amplifying, and carrying forward our views of the revelation.contained in the Sacred Scriptures.
With regard to the revelation derived from the Sacred Records, it has been imagined by some, that it has little or no reference to the operations of the material system, and that, therefore, the study of the visible works of God can be of little importance in promoting religious knowledge and holy affections. In the sequel of this volume, I shall endeavour to show, that this sentiment is extremely fallacious, and destitute of a foundation. But, in the mean time, although it were taken for granted, it would form no argument against the combination of science with religion. For it ought to be carefully remarked, that Divine Revelation is chiefly intended to instruct us, in the knowledge of those truths wbich interest us as subjects of the moral administration of the Governor of the world, -or, in other words, as apostate creatures, and as moral agents. Its grand object is to develop the openings and bearings of the plan of Divine Mercy; to counteract those evil propensities and passions which sin has introduced; to inculcate those holy principles and moral laws which tend to unite mankind in harmony and love; and to produce those amiable tempers and dispositions of mind, which alone can fit us for enjoying happiness either in this world, or in the world to come. For this reason, doubtless, it is, that the moral attributes of Deity are brought more prominently into view in the Sacred Volume, than his natural perfections; and that those special arrangements of his Providence, which regard the moral renovation of our species, are particularly de. tailed; while the immense extent of his universal kingdom, the existence of other worlds, and their moral economy, are but slightly hinted at, or veiled in obscurity. Of such a Revelation we stood in need ; and had it chiefly embraced subjects of a very different nature, it would have failed in supplying the remedies requisite for correcting the disorders which sin has introduced among mankind.--But, surely, it was never intended, even in a religious point of view, that the powers of the human mind, in their contemplations and researches, should be bounded by the range of subjects comprised in that revelation which is purely, or chiefly of a moral nature; since the Almighty has exhibited so magnificent a spectacle in the universe around us, and endowed us with faculties adequate to the survey of a considerable portion of its structure, and capable of deducing from it the most noble and sublime results. To walk in the midst of this "wide extended theatre," and to overlook, or to gaze with indifference on those striking marks of Divine Omnipotence and skill, which every where appear, is to overlook the Creator himself, and to contemn the most illustrious displays he has given of bis eternal power and glory. That man's religious devotions are much to be suspected, whatever show of piety he may affect, who derives no assistance, in attempting to form some adequate conceptions of the object of his worship, from the sublime discoveries of astronomical science; from those myriads of suns and systems which form but a small portion of the Creator's immense empire!* The professing Christian, whose devotional exercises are not invigorated, and whose conceptions of Deity' are not expanded by a contemplation of the magnitude and variety of his works, may be considered as equally a stranger to the more elevated strains of piety, and to the noble emotions excited by a perception of the beautiful and the sublime.
* As some readers seem to have mistaken the Author's meaning, in this and similar passages, it may be proper to state, that his meaning is not that a knowledge of natural science is essential to genuine piety; hut, that the person who has an opportunity of making himself acquainted with the science of nature, and of contemplating the wonders of the heavens in their true light, and who does not find his views of the Creator expanded, and his religious emotions elevated by such studies, has reason to call in question the nature and the sincerity of his devotional feelings.
“The works of the Lord,” says an inspired wri. ter," are great, and are sought out by all those who have pleasure therein." They all bear the stamp of Infinite Perfection, and serve as so many sensible mediums to exalt and expand our conceptions of Him, whose invisible glories they represent and adumbrate. When contemplated in connection with the prospects opened by Divine Revelation, they tend to excite the most ardent desires after that state of enlarged vision, where the plans and operations of Deity shall be more clearly unfolded—and to prepare us for bearing a part in the immortal hymn of the churci triumphant :-“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints." The most illustrious characters that have adorned our race in all ages, have been struck with the beauty and magnificence of the visible creation, and have devoted a certain portion of their time and attention in investigating its admirable economy and arrangement: and there can be no question, that a portion of our thoughts devoted to the study of the wondrous works of the Most High, must ultimately be conducive to the improvement of our intellectual powers, to our advancement in the Christian life, and to our preparation for the exalted employments of the eternal world.
In fine, since the researches of modern times have greatly enlarged our views of the System of Universal Nature, and of the vast extent to which the operations of the Creator are carried on in the distant regions of space, since the late discoveries of Naturalists and Experimental Philosophers, with respect to the constitution of the atmosphere, water, light, heat, the gases, the electric, galvanic, and magnetic fluids, and the economy and instincts of animated beings, have opened to our view a bright display of Divine Wisdom, in the contrivance and arrangement of the different parts of our terrestrial habitation,since improvements in the useful arts have kept pace with the progress of science, and have been applied to many beneficial purposes, which have ultimately a bearing on the interests and the progress of religion ----since a general desire to propagate the truths of Christianity in Heathen lands now animates the mass of the religious world--since the nations of both Continents are now aroused to burst asunder the shackles of despotism, and to inquire after rational liberty and mental improvement,--and since all these discoveries, inventions, and movements, and the energies of the human mind, from which they spring, are under the direction and control of that Omnipotent Being who made, and who governs the world--they ought to be considered as parts of those Providential arrangements, in the progress of which He will ultimately accomplish the illumination of our benighted race, and make the cause of righteousness and truth to triumph among all nations. And, therefore, the enlightened Christian ought thankfully to appreciate every exhibition, and every discovery by which his conceptions of the attributes of God, and the grandeur of his works may be directed and enlarged, in order that he may be qualified to "speak of the honour of his majesty, and talk of his power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom."