in favor of doctrines even the most generally acknowledged, (supposing them to be true,) viz. stability and impression. Occasions will arise to try the firmness of our most habitual opinions. And, upon these occasions, it is a matter of incalculable use to feel our foundation; to find a support in argument for what we had taken up upon authority. In the present case, the arguments upon which the conclusion rests, are exactly such, as a truth of univerfal concern ought to rest upon. "They are sufficiently open to the views and capacities of the unlearned, at the fame time that they acquire new strength and lustre from the discoveries of the learned." If they had been altogether abstruse and recondite, they would not have found their way to the understandings of the mass of mankind; if they had been merely popular, they might have wanted solidity.

But, secondly, what is gained by research in the stability of our conclusion, is also gained from it in impreffiott. Physicians tell us, that there is a great deal of difference between taking a medicine, and the medicine getting into the constitution. A difference not unlike which, obtains with respect to those great

moral moral propositions, which ought to form the directing principles of human conduct. It is one thing to assent to a proposition of this fort; another, and a very different thing, to have properly imbibed its influence. I take the case to be this. Perhaps almost every man living,has a particular train of thought, into which his mind falls, when at leisure from the impressions and ideas that occasionally excite it: perhaps also, the train of thought here spoken of, more than any other things determines the character. It is of the utmost consequence, therefore, that this property of our constitution be well regulated. Now it is by frequent or continued meditation upon a subject, by placing a subject in different points of view, by induction of particulars, by variety of examples, by applying principles to the solution of phænomena, by dwelling upon proofs and consequences, that mental exercise is drawn into any particular channel. It is by these means, at least, that we have any power over it. The train of spontaneous thought, and the choice of that train, may be directed to different ends, and may appear to be more or less judiciously fixed, according to the purpose, in respect of which we consider



it: but, in a moral view, I shall not, I believe, be contradicted when I fay, that, if one train of thinking be more desirable than another, it is that which regards the phenomena of na* ture with a constant reference to a supreme intelligent Author. To have made this the ruling, the habitual sentiment of our minds, is to have laid the foundation of every thing which is religious. The world from thenceforth becomes a temple, and life itself one continued act of adoration. The change is no less than this, that, whereas formerly God was seldom in our thoughts, we can now scarcely look upon any thing without perceiving its relation to him. Every organized natural body, in the provisions which it contains for its sustentation and propagation, testifies a care on the part of the Creator expressly directed to these purposes. We are on all fides surrounded by such bodies; examined in their parts, wonderfully curious; compared with one another, no less wonderfully diversified. So that the mind, as well as the eye, may either expatiate in variety and multitude, or fix itself down to the investigation of particular divisions of the science. And in either case it will rise up from its occupation, possessed sessed by the subject, in a very different manner, and with a very different degree of influence, from what a mere assent to any verbal proposition which can be formed concerning the existence of the Deity, at least that merely complying assent with which those about us are fatisfied, and with which we are too apt to fatisfy ourselves, can or will produce upon the thoughts. More especially may this difference be perceived, in the degree of admiration and of awe, with which the Divinity is regarded, when represented to the understanding by its own remarks, its own reflections, and its own reasonings, compared with what is excited by any language that can be used by others. The works of nature want only to be contemplated. When contemplated, they have every thing in them which can astonish by their greatness: for, of the vast scale of operation, through which our discoveries carry us, at one end we see an intelligent Power arranging planetary systems, fixing, for instance, the trajectory of Saturn, or constructing a ring of a hundred thoufand miles diameter, to surround his body, and be suspended like a magnificent arch over the heads of his inhabitants; and, at the other, , 2 p bending

[ocr errors]

bending a hooked tooth, concerting and providing an appropriate mechanism, for the clasping and reclasping of the filaments of the seather of a humming bird. We have proof, not only of both these works proceeding from an intelligent agent, but of their proceeding from the fame agent: for, in the first place, we can trace an identity of plan, a connection of system, from Saturn to our own globe; and when arrived upon our globe, we can, in the second place,pursue the connection through all the organized, especially the animated, bodies, which it supports. We can observe marks of a common relation, as well to one another, as to the elements of which their habitation is composed. Therefore one mind hath planned, or at least hath prescribed a general plan for, all these productions. One Being has been concerned in all.

Under this stupendous Being we live. Our happiness, our existence, is in his hands. All we expect must come from him. Nor ought we to feel our situation insecure. In every nature, and in every portion of nature, which we can descry, we find attention bestowed upon even the minutest parts. The hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its


« VorigeDoorgaan »