Imágenes de páginas

3. If any one part of God's creation, rather than another, possessed a superior fitness to become a theatre on which he might display his glory, it should seem to be that part where the greatest efforts had been made to dishonour him. A rebellious province in an empire would be the fittest place in it to display the justice, goodness, and benignity of a government. Here would naturally be erected the banner of righteousness; here the war would be carried on; here pardons and punishments to different characters would be awarded; and here the honours of the government would be established on such a basis, that the remotest parts of the empire might hear and fear, and learn obedience. The part that is diseased, whether in the body natural or the body politic, is the part to which the remedy is directed. Let there be what number of worlds there may, full of intelligent creatures; yet if there be but one world which is guilty and miserable, thither will be directed the operations of mercy. The good shepherd of the sheep will leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and seek and save that which is lost.

4. The events brought to pass in this world, little and insignificant as it may be, are competent to fill all and every part of God's dominions with everlasting and increasing joy. Mental enjoyment differs widely from corporeal: the bestowment of the one upon a great number of objects is necessarily attended with a division of it into parts; and those who receive a share of it, diminish the quantity remaining for others that come after them; but not so the other. An intellectual object requires only to be known, and it is equally capable of affording enjoyment to a million as to an individual, to a world as to those, and to the whole universe, be it ever so extensive, as to a world. If, as the scripture inform us, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory; if there be enough in this mysterious transaction to fill with joy the hearts of all who believe it; if it be so interesting that the most exalted intelligences become comparatively indifferent to every other object, desiring to look into it; then is it sufficient to fill all things, and to exhibit the divine glory in all places of his dominion.*

* I Pet. i. 12.

Fphes. iv. 10.

Psa, ciii. 22.

Mr. Paine allows that it is not a direct article of the Christian system that there is not a plurality of inhabited worlds; yet, he affirms, it is so worked up with the scripture account, that to believe the latter we must relinguish the former, as little and ridiculous.

The scriptures, it is true, do not teach the doctrine of a multitude of inhabited worlds: but neither do they teach the contrary, Neither the one nor the other forms any part of their design. The object they keep in view, though Mr. Paine may term it, "little and ridiculous," is infinitely superior to this, both as to utility and magnitude. They were not given to teach us astronomy, or geography, or civil government, or any science which relates to the pres ent life only; therefore they do not determine upon any system of any of these sciencies. These are things upon which reason is competent to judge, sufficiently at least for all the purposes of human life, without a revelation from heaven. The great object of revelation is, to instruct us in things which pertain to our everlasting peace; and as to other things, even the rise and fall of the mightiest empires, they are only touched in an incidental manner, as the mention of them might be necessary to higher purposes. The great empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, are predicted and described in the scriptures, by the rising and ravaging of so many beasts of prey. Speaking of the European part of the earth, which was inhabited by the posterity of Japheth, they do not go about to give an exact, geographical description of it; but by a synecdoche, call it the isles of the Gentiles; and this, as I suppose, because its eastern boundary, the Archipelago, or Grecian Islands, were situated contiguous to the Holy Land. And thus when speaking of the whole creation, they call it the heavens and the earth, as being the whole that comes within the reach of

our senses.

It is no dishonour to the scriptures that they keep to their professed end. Though they give us no system of astronomy; yet they urge us to study the works of God, and teach us to adore him upon every discovery. Though they give us no system of geog

* Gen. x. 5. Isa, xlix. 1.

raphy, yet they encourage us to avail ourselves of observation and experience to obtain one; seeing the whole earth is in prophecy given to the Messiah, and is marked out as the field in which his servants are to labour. Though they determine not upon any mode or system of civil governments, yet they teach obedience in civil matters, to all. And though their attention be mainly directed to things which pertain to the life to come; yet, by attending to their instructions, we are also fitted for the labours and sufferings of the present life.

The scriptures are written in a popular style, as best adapted to their great end. If the salvation of philosophers only had been their object, the language might possibly have been somewhat different; though even this may be a matter of doubt, since the style is suited to the subject, and to the great end which they had in view but, being addressed to men of every degree, it was highly proper that the language should be fitted to every capacity, and suited to their common modes of conception. They speak of the foundations of the earth, the ends of the earth, the greater and lesser lights in the heavens, the sun rising, standing still, and going down, and many other things in the same way. If deists object to these modes of speaking, as conveying ideas which are inconsistent with the true theory of the heavens and the earth, let them, if they can, substitute others which are consistent: let them, in their common conversation, when describing the revolutions of evening and morning, speak of the earth as rising and going down, instead of the sun; and the same with regard to the revolutions of the planets; and see if men, in common, will better understand them, or whether they would be able even to understand one another. The popular ideas on these subjects are as much "worked up" in the common conversation of philosophers, as they are in the scriptures and the constant use of such language, even by philosophers themselves, in common conversation, sufficiently proves the futility and unfairness of their objecting to revelation

on this account.

By the drift of Mr. Paine's writing, he seems to wish to convey the idea, that so contracted were the views of the scriptural writers, that even the globularity of the earth was unknown to them.

If, however, such a sentence as that of Job, He hangeth the earth upon nothing,* had been found in any of the old heathen writers, he would readily have concluded that "this idea was familiar to the ancients." Or if a heathen poet had uttered such language as that of Isaiah, Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing: All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to HIM less than nothing and vanity :he might have been applauded as possessing a mind as large, and nearly as well informed, as the geniuses of modern times. But the truth is, the scriptural writers were not intent on displaying the greatness of their own conceptions, nor even of creation itself; but rather of the glory of HIM who filleth all in all.

The foregoing observations may suffice to remove Mr. Paine's objection; but, if in addition to them, it can be proved, that upon the supposition of a great number of inhabited worlds, Christianity, instead of appearing "little and ridiculous," is the more enlarged, and that some of its difficulties are more easily accounted for, this will be still more satisfactory. Let us therefore proceed, Secondly, to offer evidence that THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF REDEMPTION IS STRENGthened and AGGRANDIZED BY THE supposed MAGNITUDE OF CREATION.

1. The Scripture teaches that God's regard to man is an astonishing instance of condescension, and that on account of the disparity between him and the celestial creation." When I consider thy heavens," saith David," the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man that thou visiteth him?” "Will God in very deed," says Solomon, " dwell with men upon the earth ?”†

* Chap. xxvi. 7.

+ Psa. viii, 3, 4. 2 Chron. vi. 18. In this part of the subject considerable use is made of the scriptures; but it is only for the purpose of ascertaining what the Christian doctrine of redemption is: and this is undoubtedly consistent with every rule of just reasoning, as whether they be true or false, they are the standard by which this doctrine is to be measured.



The divine condescension towards man is a truth upon any system; but upon the supposition of the heavenly bodies being so many inhabited worlds, it is a truth full of amazement, and the foregoing language of David and Solomon is forcible beyond all conception. The idea of HIM who upholds a universe of such extent by the word of his power becoming incarnate, residing with men, and setting up his kingdom among them, that he might raise them to eternal glory, as much surpasses all philosophy calls great and noble, as the Creator supasses the work of his hands.

2. The scriptures inform us, that before creation was begun, our world was marked out by eternal wisdom, as the theatre of its joyful operations. This idea is forcibly expressed in the eighth chapter of Proverbs: Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment ; when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejocing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

On this interesting passage I shall offer a few remarks. First: Among the variety of objects which are here specified as the works of God, the earth is mentioned as being, in a sort, his peculiar property. Doubtless the whole creation is the Lord's; but none of his other works are here claimed as his own, in the manner that the earth is. It is called his earth. And this seems to intimate a design of rendering it the grand theatre on which his greatest work should be performed; a work that should fill all creation with joy and wonder. Secondly: The wisdom of God is described as rejoicing in the contemplation of this part of the creation. Whether wisdom in this passage be understood of the promised Messiah, or of a divine attribute personified, it makes no difference as to the argument. Allow it to mean the latter; "and that the rejoicing of wisdom is a figurative mode of speaking, like

« AnteriorContinuar »