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others to a nobler character, and of effecting this by increasing the moral influences upon the world. We may trace this in all the professions and in the educated classes; and in the diffusing desire of educating and of being educated. The individuals are becoming more numerous and decided in all stations who feel that the union of knowledge, virtue, and religion produces the most delightful and the most lasting enjoyment of which the human mind is susceptible; and that it is our most desirable, and will become our most valuable possession. They seek to acquire this for themselves. They recommend it to others. I read such effusions as these, to my own surprise, from the recollections of a very different spirit in my younger days, in our periodical works; and I rejoice to find that such a new sunshine of British mind has begun to illuminate our social horizon before the infirmities of age and ailment have withdrawn me from it.
All such aspirations and intentions are indications that human nature has the capacity, as well as the desire, to comprehend and to appreciate its Maker's works and ways, and will endeavour to do so. Indeed, his past conduct towards us encourages us to hope that, in this path of study, the effort to trace his mind and meaning will accord with his own wishes, and receive his favouring aid. He must desire to be known by his human race as fully and as extendingly as they become qualified to do so. In all his communications to us, he has treated us as if we were able to understand him. He repeatedly calls upon us to acquire a knowledge of him; and declares that one of the later perfections of our ulterior posterity will be the enlarged and universal attainment of this intellectual progression. On every occasion which has been recorded in his revelations, we perceive a rational and moral being, reasoning as such on his own wishes and meaning. In this character and manner he repeatedly addresses his human race as those whom he has enabled and considers to be, or who ought to be and may be, rational and moral beings likewise. He imparts ideas from himself to us to become ideas in our mind, as if we were as capable of receiving them from him as from nature or each other. He gives us commands to understand as well as to obey. He pleads and expostulates with us, exhorts, entreats, counsels, urges, and persuades in the same manner and by the same means, that is, by intelligible and appropriated language, assuming frequently the phrases of the
most impressive eloquence and the most convincing ratioci nation as the finest intellects which we are acquainted with in human society endeavour to interest and influence our intellectual sympathies and faculties by such effusions.
The prophecies of Isaiah, delivered in his name, are splendid instances of such addresses. What, indeed, are all the discourses and lessons of that Great Instructer whom we most venerate, and by whom the human race has been most benefited, but so many communications and appeals from a Divine intelligence, breathing heavenly wisdom and goodness to creatures whom he had made to be intelligent, sensitive, and discerning likewise. He thinks and speaks like man talking to man, notwithstanding his exalted nature; and thus he manifests and acknowledges that degree of similitude between the human spirit and its Creator, in the intellectual capacity of our nature, which enables us, from what we experience in that, to understand and know him; to comprehend his meaning in all that he expresses; to imbibe whatever knowledge he pleases to impart, and to think and reason justly about it. It is unfortunately true, that every one does not avail himself of this Divine capacity, which he inherits as his birthright when he begins to breathe and live; but all possess it from their Creator, and may nurse and train it into activity and improvement if they choose, or shall be actuated to do so.
There cannot, therefore, be any reasonable doubt that we are able to comprehend and to discern those plans and purposes of our Creator in which we are concerned. Further than this, it is not necessary that we should be acquainted with them. But our external nature, our history and our current life should be viewed and studied with a constant recollection, with the perpetual impression, that Divine plans and purposes, specifically directed to them, preceded the beginning of all earthly things, and have been constantly regulating and accompanying them. From these all nature has originated; according to these every part has been created; and by these, in every age of our world, have its course and conduct been superintended and governed.
But all plans are proportioned and adapted to their intended objects and ends. There are always the greater and the smaller; the general and the particular; the subordinate ones, and those which command and actuate them. With the mighty plan of universal creation we have, in this stage
of our existence, no direct relation, nor with those of the starry orbs beyond our system. It is true that, as a part, however inconsiderable, of the wonderful whole, we must be in some respect affected by what affects that; and our astronomers have suggested that the innumerable hosts of radiant worlds above us have, besides their separate and peculiar laws and systems, some vast general movement, around some unknown centralization, in the depths of unfathomed space.
But no perceptible consequences flow from this to our human world or to its social constitution. Satisfied that other planets are governed by plans which, though essential to them, are not extended to us, beyond our general relations with them of distance, magnitude, and movement, our attention need never be turned towards any other schemes and designs than those which have operated on our nature and on our, to us while on it, most precious world; precious from its beauty and benefit to us, and probably not inferior, in the benefactions we receive from it, to the comforts and advantages in any of our sister planets. There is a glorious future promised to those who may be admitted to it; but as that will be a special kingdom, specially created for its immortalized inhabitants, it will probably be different from any that now exists. I cannot, therefore, avoid believing that we are as happy at present in our minor globe as our fellow-creatures are in the greater masses of Jupiter and Saturn. But be this as it may, our interests now are confined to our own earth, and to the plans and purposes on which that has been formed, and by which the economy of our social life is governed.
I am particularly anxious that you should feel and believe that creation must have been made in all its parts upon an intelligent plan, by its intelligent Creator, and should always study both material nature and human history with this fixed impression, because both will be more instructive and useful to you, as you read and think upon them with this pervading and guiding principle. You will then become more interested with them, and cannot otherwise properly and sufficiently understand either. Both will appear to you under very different lights, and present very different prospects, and excite very different thoughts and feelings, according as you cherish or omit, in your meditations, this enlightening and directing truth. It will be an improving exercise of your discerning faculties, and a constant pleasure to your best sensibilities, to give them this employment.
On the Importance of Studying Nature and Human Life, with the belief that Divine Plans and Purposes have always accompanied them.
MY DEAR SON,
If we adopt the principle that we are living in both a natural and a social system of things, which have been made on intelligent plans for intelligent purposes, we shall never theorize or think on either nature or life as if they were subsisting and moving without them, or could have originated in any other manner. Though we should be unable to trace them, yet the conviction that they are realities should never be absent from our minds; for as, when we can discern them, it will be our duty to reason conformably to them, so, when they baffle our present researches, we should still bear in mind that creation has nowhere existed without a reasoned design and a reasoning and directing government. If we follow the too common habit of thinking and acting upon the facts and laws of material nature and human life as if neither had been framed or was conducted on any intelligible plan, or for any rational and worthy purpose; as if all visible things were subsisting and recurring solely by themselves, and left to themselves without design or object, and with no invisible superintendence; if we regard the phenomena of nature, and the great events of history or of individual biography, as mere trains of unarranged, undirected, uncaused, or unconnected sequences, without any reason why they should be what they were, and succeed each other as they do, and without any assigned or connecting relation; destitute of all accompanying meaning, and occurring and changing by no rule or for any projected or pursued end:
If we thus estimate and regard the world we live in, and the course and state of things about us, we shall be perpetually misconceiving and misrepresenting them; we shall be narrowing and darkening our intellectual views, and shall keep away from our thoughts those truths which will most expand and improve them; which will ally them with grand ideas and elevated hopes; and, in every vicissitude that may
befall us, will always be a source of exhilaration and soothing comfort.*
I do not mean that we should be always painting or gilding our books of knowledge with religious vignettes or decorations for ornamental recommendations; nor edge our conversation or public discourses on art or science with such allusions for personal display or popular effect. It is not the phrase or the paragraph abstracted from the pervading mind and personal feeling which is valuable; for as these express no genuine conviction, they excite none. They are heard as rhetorical perorations, applauded, admired, and forgotten. The desirable requisite is, that these principles should be the silent and abiding, but ever-living impressions and belief in our own individual mind. We should feel that in examining or experimenting on any object or department of nature we are investigating the productions of an intelligent Creator, which have design in every part. This idea should accompany us also with habitual conviction, as we contemplate the maps of recorded time in their historical lineaments and national relations.
If we assume that, both in natural philosophy and civil history, we have before us the features and the outlines of the plans and purposes of the Former and Governor of all things, and are viewing in the observed and narrated results the evolutions and executions of his purposes, our knowledge will be kept in continual unison with him; and we shall then perceive meaning, wisdom, directing causation, connexions, relations, utilities, and accomplished ends, which are now but rarely adverted to or thought of.
That we know so little of them beyond our general and verbal acknowledgment is no proof that they are unknowable; but is rather the indication that they have not been a favourite study; for, in other pursuits, no failures prevent other exertions from being more successful. Nor is there a science now cultivated, except the geometrical ones, which
* When we read what philosophers abroad in our own times, and what some among ourselves, have started on the origin of things, we have reason to fear that, if the principle of an intelligent plan and correspondent creation be relinquished, we shall have our physiology deformed by absurdities as striking as those of Neocles, the Crotonian, whom Herodotus of Heracleum narrates to have maintained that women in the moon lay eggs, and that the men produced from them are five times the size of those on our earth.-Athen. Deipn., L.. 2, p. 57.