Page images

know and confess, that the present constitution of the heavens and earth, both must have had a beginning, and must of itself come to an end.

To say, therefore, that things are by nature what they are, is to say a plain falsehood, if we mean that they are so by any necessity in their own natures. For, then, they must always have been such as we see them; and not the least part of any thing could possibly have been at all 'different from what it is; which is the wildest imagination in the world. The only nature, therefore, which we and the whole universe have, was freely given us by a superior Being. And the regula- ! rity in which things go on, is no more a proof that they were, of themselves, from everlasting, or shall continue as they are to everlasting, than the regular motion of a clock is a proof that no artist made it, or keeps it in order, or shall take it to pieces. On the contrary, the more complete this regularity is, and the longer it lasts, the more fully it shows the power of its author; and not only that, but his understanding and wisdom also.

Indeed, what hath no understanding, hath, in strictness of speech, no power-cannot act, but only be acted upon, as all mere matter is which never moves but as it is moved. But, were this doubtful, look around you, and see what marks of understanding and wisdom appear. Turn your eyes upon yourselves, how “fearfully and won. .

derfully are we made !"3 of what an incredible number and variety of parts (a vastly greater than perhaps any of us suspect) are our bodies composed ! How were these formed and put together at first? What hath caused, and what hath limited their growth since ? How hath proper and suitable nourishment been distributed to them all ?

[ocr errors]

(3) Psal. cxxxix. 14,

How hath the perpetual motion of our blood, and of our breath, sleeping and waking, both of them so necessary to life, been carried on? How is it that we move every joint belonging to us instantly, and with such exactness, without knowing even which way we go about it? Our speech, our hearing, our sight, every one of our senses, what amazing contrivance is there in them; and the more amazing, the more strictly we examine them ! In the works of men it is often mere ignorance that occasions our admiration ; but in these, the minuter our inspection, and the deeper our search is, the greater abundance we always find of accurate adjustments, and unimaginable precautions.

But, then, besides ourselves, the earth is replenished with numberless other animals. Those of which we commonly take notice, are an extremely small part of the whole. Different countries pro

different sorts. How many, still more different, the great waters conceal from us, we cannot even guess. Multitudes remain, so little, as almost to escape our sight, with the best assistance that we are able to give it; and, probably, multitudes more which escape it entirely. But all that we can observe, we find, down to the very least, contrived with the same inconceivable art, strangely diversified, yet uniform at the same time, and perfectly fitted by most surprising instincts for their several ways of living, entirely different each from the other.

What wisdom and power must it be then, which hath peopled the world in this manner, and made such provision for the support of all its inhabitants, chiefly by the means of innumerable kinds of herbs and vegetables, just as wonderful in their make as the animals themselves; that hath intermixed the dry land so fitly with springs, and rivers, and lakes; and the ocean, to supply

duce very

every thing with necessary moisture, and make the communication of the most distant parts easy; that hath surrounded the earth with air for us to breathe in, to convey our voices to each other, and to support clouds for rain ; that hath caused this air to be moved by winds, which preserve it healthful, and “bring those who go down to the “sea in ships, unto the haven where they would “ be:"4 that hath placed the sun at so exact a distance from us, that we are neither burnt up by heat, nor frozen by cold; and hath kept bodies of such incredible bulk, as the heavenly ones, rolling on, for thousands of years together, with so orderly and exact a motion, that the return of day and night, and of the various annual seasons, are precisely foreknown, and perfectly suitable for labour and rest, and bringing the fruits of the earth to maturity ; whereas, were almost any one of these things considerably altered, we must all of necessity perish.

But, then, how small a part of the universe our habitation may be ; and how many, perhaps greater, wonders the rest may contain, we cannot so much as conjecture. The millions of miles that are between us and the nearest of the celes tial globes, would be astonishing, if mentioned to you. Yet their distance is as nothing, if compared with the furthest, which we see; and very possibly the furthest, which we see, may be as nothing to many others; every one of which, we liave no reason to doubt, is as full of regularity, and beauty, and use, as our own abode. And from what origin can the whole of this proceed, but that which the Psalmist rapturously expresses: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wis. “ dom hast thou made them all.";

To speak of chance as the cause of them, is

(4) Psalm cvii. 23, 30.

(5) Psalm civ. 24.


absurd beyond measure. Chance is merely a word, to express our own ignorance; it is nothing, and can do nothing. Suppose one of us were asked, how this building, in which we are assembled, or the smallest part of the dress which we wear, to be what it is ; and should answer,

that no person made it, but it jumped together and held together by chance ; would not this be gross folly? And how shockingly foolish must it be, then, to give the same account of the existence of a whole world, so admirably contrived, adjusted, and conducted throughout! As evidently therefore as any common piece of work proves a workman to have composed it; so, evidently, and very much more, the immense fabric of the universe proves a Being of unspeakable power and skill to be the creator of it.

And accordingly, the belief of a wise and mighty Author of all, hath been received in every age and nation, which clearly shows it to be founded in truth, and written in the hearts of men. They corrupted it gradually indeed: first by unworthy representations of the true God, then by adding the worship of false gods, which at length excluded him. But, undeniably, the primitive notion was that of an invisible mind, the Maker and Ruler of this visible frame; which, being plainly under one uniform direction, shows itself to have one only sovereign Director and Governor. This doctrine God himself must have taught our first parents in the beginning. He hath confirmed it since by miracles from time to time; and perpetuated the evidence of it in his holy word.

That he is not perceived by any of our senses, is no objection at all against his being. For our minds also are imperceptible by sense.

But as they, notwithstanding, show their existence by moving and disposing of our bodies according to their pleasure ; so doth God show his, by moving

nds a very

and disposing of all things as he wills. And the same argument proves his presence with all things. For wherever he acts, there he certainly is, and therefore he is every where. Our presence is limited, and ex

but what is there to limit him ? Our being is derived from his command, and, therefore, depends on it still; but he is underived, and, therefore, independent absolutely. Our powers are only what he hath thought fit to give us, but his power is infinite ; for, every thing depending on him, nothing can resist him. Our knowledge is every way imperfect; but he who made all things, and is present with all things, must, in the completest manner, know all things, even the most hidden thoughts of the heart. We are often unjust and wicked, but God cannot be otherwise than just and holy. For, the only reasons of our failing to do right are, that we either perceive not what is so, or else are tempted to act contrary to our perceptions; but God is subject to no mistake, or weakness of any kind. And, which is the happiest attribute of all for his creation, he must be likewise good. For goodness is plainly a right thing; and, therefore, he must see it to be so; it is plainly a perfection; and, therefore, the perfectean being must possess it in the highest degree. We should be always good ourselves, if nothing misled us; and him nothing can mislead. But the most valuable proof is, that we experience his goodness, for we live in a world full of it. All that we enjoy, and every capacity of enjoyment that we have, proceeds from him. Most of what we suffer proceeds from our own faults and follies; and so much of it as comes wholly from his pro vidence, is designed for our present improvement and future reward ; unless, by obstinate misbeha viour, we become unfit for reward, and then we have only ourselves to blame. For, as God is knowing and wise, he cannot but observe the dif.

little way ;

« PreviousContinue »