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ter of the enlightened Christian; if liberality, and candour, and accurate investigation mark the judgements he pronounces on the sentiments and the actions of men, and on the works and the ways of God; and if such views and feelings ought to be considered as more congenial to the noble and benevolent spirit of our religion than the narrow and distorted notions of a contracted mind, it must be an object much to be desired, that the mass of the Christian world would be led into such trains of thought as might imbue their minds with a larger portion of this spirit. And if diversified and occasional discussions on the topicks to which we have adverted, would have a tendency to produce this desirable effect, it is obvious that such branches of knowledge as are calculated to enlarge the capacity of the mind, and to throw a light over the revelations and the works of God, should no longer be overlooked in the range of our religious contemplations.
With such striking remarks and noble sentiments of an eminent man and highly distinguished author, my discourse and volume are concluded. Amen.
EXPLICATION OF THE TERM NATURE.
The term nature, includes all the works of creation which revelation and
philosophy make known. Or nature, taken in its utmost extent, embraces the whole compass of things in the universe, whether corporeal or mental, physical or mora).
The phrase, roorks of nature, is frequently used. By the works of nature we are to understand the works of Deity, which exhibit wisdom in them all ; which manifest design, order, and harmony. Or the works of nature are the works of creation, which bear evident marks of intelligence and proclaim a God.
The course of nature is a phrase which is used in a great variety of senses. The planets and all the revolving luminaries of which we have any knowledge, perform their circuits according to a course of nature. The sun so constantly performs his course; or more strictly philosophical, the earth perpetually and statedly revolves round its axis, according to a course of nature; and the moon also revolves on its own axis, and around the earth according to the same course. The varieties and regularities of times and seasons, the re-production of plants of the same kind from their original seed, and the propagation of animals of the same species, are said to be produced according to certain courses of nature. But what are we to understand by the phrase as thus used, and as used in various other ways? The most eminent philosophers and divines have been, and are still divided in their ideas and writings concerning the subject. One class maintain, that the courses of nature in all their diversified forms, are effected by the immediate hand of Deity, in a regular and stated manner; or that the works of divine Providence are only the works of creation carried on to their final completion. That is, that God immediately and positively exerts his power in erery effect or movement, not only of the heavenly bodies, but also in the smallest matters that pertain to this earth, even to the fall of a sparrow.
Another class conclude, that the Lord created all things with certain inherent, properties and principles, by which all events and effects are produced in a certain uniform manner, without the assistance of his immerliate interposing hand. They account for the regularity of the heavenly bodies in their courses, and of the principle movements pertaining to this earth, upon the laws of attraction and gravitation; and for the succession of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, by peculiar natures and principles given, by which they are re-produced. These inherent laws or properties they consider sufficient to effect what is called a stated course of nature. If we embrace either of the above sentiments, we may justly revere and adore the efficiency of the God of nature. How sublime the thought, that the hand of Deity is immediately present, directing all his works! Or how momentous the reflection, that the Great First Cause created all things with such properties and innate laws, as to effect what we behold in the manifold stated courses of nature.
The expression, human nature, is frequently used and in various senses. In its most general import, it is designed simply to point out a human being as far different from the animals of the earth, and also from other beings. Human nature is sometimes mentioned in an exalted point of view; and at others, as in a state of degradation. On the one hand, human nature has great dignity stamped upon it; as man is a being of noble powers, capable of endless progression and exaltation. Thus truly elevated and dignified is human nature. But on the account of the fall and depravity of man, how debased his nature; In this view how perverted ! consequently how humiliating!
Man may be said to act according to his nature, whether he conduct in a de grading or honourable point of view. When he debases himself by his conduct, he acts according to human nature in a fallen depraved state. But when bis actions are truly manly and noble, he acts according to buman nature as viewed in a state of dignity nd honour.
It is said to be the nature of animals, to perform certain actions necessary to their preservation and comfort. The true import of this expression is, that animals are endued with certain instinctive principles, which excite them to do those things that are the means of their support and enjoyment, and that antecedent to instruction or experience At the end of time, it is said will be the dissolution of nature. Some conclude that this phraseology implies, that the material system will be consumed and annihilated. The more probable opinion is, that the elements will then be dissolved and newly modelled : that they will be formed into a system vastly different and far more perfect, beautiful, and glorious than the present ; suited to the great change that human beings will experience; and be the glorified state to which the righteous will be exalted.
The study of nature is frequently recommended to man. Nature in this view, is the same as the works of creation. And the term, study, implies an investigation of the laws and properties both of matter and of mind. A boundless field, suited to the noble and endless progressive powers of man. As he has a nature capacitated for improvements without end, so the works of nature are vast as immensity. And when he shall enter another state of existence, with enlarged and glorified attributes both bodily and mental, he will find nature, or creation, newly formed, inconceivably more perfect and glorious : a boundless prospect adapted to his enlarged, exalted, and glorified powers,