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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
PSALM LXXVII. 19.-Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters; and thy footsteps are not known.
UNDER the second general head of discourse, on this subject, we proposed to state some particulars in the dispensations of Providence, of which we may have been informed by observation, experience, or scripture; and of which the wisdom and goodness are sufficiently discernible: from which will arise a particular argument, for the goodness, justice, and wisdom of the whole.
In selecting these particulars, it is presumed that the end may be best attained, by confining ourselves to those instances, in which the divine proceedings once seemed liable to objection, or involv, ed in darkness; but which subsequent discoveries or events have since vindicated and explained. Under this head, therefore, we shall observe the following order.
I. We shall take notice of some important particulars in the works of nature, which were originally obscure; but which observation and experience have rendered clear and satisfactory.
II. We shall mention some facts in the ordinary proceedings of Providence, which at first seemed irregular, and have been hastily pronounced un
just; but which, subsequent events, or more mature reflection, have explained and justified.
III. We shall state to you, certain steps in the scheme of redemption, which were involved in mystery, till respectively elucidated by succeeding steps.
I. When men first began to form ideas of what is called the system of the universe, they imagined that, as seemed most obvious to sense, this earth was the centre of the whole; that each day, the sun and stars revolved around it; and were created solely for the use of its inhabitants. In this plan, however, persons of a more penetrating mind, and more perfect science, ere long, discovered much confusion and complexity: and one of great learning and talents, but of equal impiety, upon attentively, considering it, blasphemously exclaimed, that, if God had consulted him, in the formation of the world, he could have furnished him with a better plan. In framing this theory, men judged without sufficient examination. They decided, without tracing the steps of nature and invented for her laws, without due inquiry into those by which she was really governed. The whole, of course, remained involved in mystery and embarrassment, till, after repeated observations, and careful deductions, the true system was discovered, and was found to be clear, simple, and rational. To it, all the appearances of nature correspond: and the explanation of them, which it affords, is obvious and satisfactory. Insomuch, that those very facts, from which arose numberless and insurmountable objections to the ancient system, unite to confirm
* Alphonso X. King of Leon and Castile, one of the most learned and able men of the 13th century.
and to illustrate this. Of that region of the universe, to which this earth belongs, the sun is found to be the centre. Around the sun, at unequal distances, move a number of globes, usually named planets. Of these, some are larger, some smaller, than that which we inhabit; and which is the third, in the order of distance, from the sun. Each planet has respectively an annual revolution round the sun, which occasions summer and winter, and the other vicissitudes of the seasons; and a diurnal revolution on its own axis, which produces day and night. To supply light in the absence of the sun, most of these planets have also moons rolling around them, and accompanying them in their yearly course. While far beyond the orbit of the planet remotest from the sun, at a distance exceeding the power of man to calculate, are the fixed stars. From certain instances of conformity between them and the sun, and from other considerations, all these are reasonably concluded to be suns themselves; severally forming the centers of systems, like that to which this earth belongs; having, in like manner, planets, with their moons, in continual motion round them; and diffusing light, warmth, and vigour, to the inhabitants of innumerable worlds! Thus a little knowledge led to infidelity and pro
fanity. A more thorough acquaintance with the system of the universe has exhibited all its parts, as simple, regular, and harmonious. And, instead of the impiety which former ignorance produced, what a sublime, what an amazing conception, does our improved knowledge, in this particular, afford of the great Creator! A celebrated native of this
island,* who was among the first that demonstrated the natural laws, by which the universe is governed, and who may be ranked among the greatest uninspired writers that have lived, was so struck with the greatness and the beauty of the Almighty's works, that he never mentioned the sacred name of God, without a solemn pause.
If we descend from these immense productions of nature, to her minuter works, we shad also find that those, which we might be apt, on slight observation, to condemn as useless, or as faulty, are all fit and beautiful in their places and kinds; and that even in those particulars, which we are unable fully to explain, much wisdom and goodness may be traced, so far as they can be understood.
You may ask, for example, why does that system of destruction, which is so universal in nature, take place in the works of God? Why do the individuals of every species live only for a little time, and then die away? Reflect a little farther. They die, only to make room for new individuals of the same description; that new life and new enjoyment may be communicated to others; and, though the individuals perish, the species still continue unextinguished. Thus the sum of enjoyment is not only preserved, but most probably is, on the whole, increased: for were the being of individuals prolonged, it is not likely that, either in the same variety or degree, they could taste the happiness, or serve the purposes, for which they were designed. Again: Why, you may demand, has pain a place in the Providence of a good and wise Creator? But observe, that pain is the great incentive
The Honourable Robert Boyle.
to almost every precaution and exertion, necessary to self-preservation. And were it not for pain, individuals would rush heedlessly forward to dangers and to death; till animal life were perhaps extinguished from the earth. It may be likewise asked, Why are storms and tempests permitted to make such havock, in the works, both of nature and of art? Among many reasons that might be assigned, the following is sufficient to prove that the benefits far exceed the calamities, which they produce. They restore the salubrity of the air; and on their wings bear away clouds of putrid vapour, which otherwise would engender pestilential disease. You may say too, Why are there in nature so many animals, that live by feeding upon others? For this obvious reason, that otherwise the earth could not support so many living things; and the amount of enjoyment would be lessened. Were animated beings, for instance, to subsist on vegetable nourishment alone, it is evident that the numbers, which could at any time exist, would always be limited by the quantity of vegetation; and that there must be an infinitely less variety, than we now behold, in their structure, habits, and constitutions. But on the plan which Providence has adopted, after the stores of vegetation are exhausted by certain species of creatures, they, in their turn, furnish subsistence to species equally multiplied and various; which, again, by their capacity of affording nourishment to others, increase and diversify, to the utmost possible extent, the numbers, and the enjoyments of animated beings. Thus the plan of life and death, and that, by which one liv