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and manifest all his attributes as illustriously, on every one of these
objects as if the rest had no existence whatever in his government or in his thoughts.
"For the evidence of this position, we appeal, in the first place, to the personal history of each individual among you. Only grant us, that God never loses sight of any thing he has created, and that no created thing can continueeilher to he, or to act (independently of him; and then, even upon the face of this world, humble as it is on the great scale of astronomy, how widely diversified, and how multiplied into many thousand distinct exercises, is the attention of God J His eye is upon every hour of my existence. His Spirit is intimately present with every thought of my heart. His inspiration gives birth to every purpose within me. His hand impresses a direction on every foolstep of my goings. Every breath I inhale, is drawn by an energy which God deals out to me. 'This body, which, upon the slightest derangement, would become the prey of death, or of woeful suffering, is now at ■•ase, because lie at this moment is warding off from me a thousand dangers, and upholding the thousand movements of its complex and delicate machinery. His presiding intluence keeps by me through the whole current of my restlessand everchanging history. AVhen I walk by the wayside, he is along with me. * When I enter into company, amid all my forgetfulness of him, he never forgets me. In the silent watches of the night, when my eyelids have closed, and my spirit has sunk into unconsciousness, the observant eye of him who never slumbers, is upon me. I cannot fly from his presence. Go where I will, he tends me, and watches me, and cares for nie; and the same Being who is now at work in the remotest domains of Nature and of Providence, is also at my right hand to eke out , to me every moment of my being, and to uphold me in the exercise of all my feelings, and of all my faculties.
"Now, what God is doing with me, he is doing with every distinct individual of this world's population. The intimacy of his presence, and attention, and care, reaches to one and to all of them. With a mind unburdened by the vastness of all its other concerns, he can prosecute, without distraction, the government and guardianship of every one son and daughter of the species.—And is it for us, in the face of all this experience, ungratefully to draw a limit around the perfections of God—to aver, that the multitude of other worlds has withdrawn any portion of his henevolence from the one we occupy-—or that he, whose eye is upon every separate family of the earth, would not lavish all the riches of his unsearchable attributes "it some high »kin of pardon ami immor
tality, in behalf of its conntless generations?
** But, secondly, were the mind of God so fatigued, and so occupied with the care of other worlds, as the objection presumes him to be, should we not see some traces of neglect, or of carelessness, in his management of ours .' Should we not behold, in many a field of observation, the evidence of its master being overcrowded with the variety of his other engagements? A man oppressed by a multitude of business, would simplify and reduce theworkof any new concern that was devolved upon him. Now, point out a single mark of God being thus oppressed. Astronomy has laid open to us so many realms of creation, which were before unheard of, that the world we inhabit, shrinks into one remote and solitary province of his wide monarchy. Tell me, then, if, in any one field of this province, which man has access to, you witness a single indication of God sparing himself—of God reduced to languor by the weight of his other employments—of God sinking under the burden of that vast superintendence which lies upon him—of God being exhausted, as one of ourselves would be, by any number of concerns, however great, by any variety of them, however manifold; and do you not perT ceive, in that mighty profusion of wisdom and of goodness, which is scattered every where around us, that the thoughts of this unsearchable Being are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our w ays?
"My time does not suffer me to dwell on this topic, because, before I conclude, I must hasten to another illustration. But, when I look abroad on the wondrous scene that is immediately before me —and see, that in every direction, it is a scene of the most various and unwearied activity—and expatiate on all the beauties of that garniture by which it is adorned, and on all the prints of design and of benevolence which abound in it—and think, that the same God, who holds the universe, with its every system, in the hollow of his hand, pencils every flower, and gives nourishment to every blade of grass, and actuate* the movements of every living thing, and is not disabled, by the weight of his other cares, from enriching the humble department of nature I occupy, with charms and accommodations of the most unbounded variety—then, surely, if a message, bearing every mark of authen- , ticity, should profess to come to me from God, and inform me of his mighty doings for the happiness of our species, it is not for me, in the face of all this evidence, to reject it as a tale of imposture, because astronomers have told me that he has so, many other worlds and- other orders of beings to attend to—and, when I think that it were a deposition of him from his supremacy over the creatures he has formed, should a single snanoiv fall to
(he ground without his appointment, then let science and sophistry try to cheat me of my comfort as they may—I will not let go the anchor of my confidence in God—I will nut be afraid, for I am of more value than many sparrows."
As it is by means of the discoveries made by the Telescope that Infidelity has been put in possession of this boasted objection against the gospel, Dr. Chalmers now makes a happy transition from that instrument, to the Microscope, which was invented about the same time, and draws a striking parallel between the two instruments. The telescope led us to see a system in every star—the microscope leads us to see a world in every atom. By the former, it has been discovered, that no magnitude, however vast, is beyond the grasp of the Divinity —By the latter we discover that no minuteness, however shrunk from the notice of the human eye, is beneath the condescension of his regard. Every addition to the powers of the one instrument, extends the limit of his visible dominions. By every addition to the powers of the other instrument, we see each part of them more crowded than before, with the wonders of his unwearying hand. The one is constantly widening the circle of his territory. The other is as constantly filling up its separate portions, with all that is rich, and various, and exquisite.
"They, therefore, who think that God will not pat forth such a power, and such » goodness, and sucii a condescension, in behalf of this world, as are ascribed to him in the New Testament, because he has so many otber worlds to attend to, think of him as a man. They confine their view to the informations of the telescope, and forget altogether the informations of the other instrument. They only TMd room in their minds for his one attribute of a large and general superintendence, and keep out of their remembrance the equally impressive proofs we have for his other attribute of a minute and multiplied attention to all that diversity of operations, where it is he that worketh all in all. And when I think, 'hat, as one of the instruments of philosophy has heightened our every impression of the first of these attributes, so another instrument has no less heightened *' impression of the second of them— 'hen I can no longer resist the conclusion, •hat it would be a transgression of sound argument, as well as a daring of impiety, 'o draw a limit around the doings of this •""earchable God—and, should a uro
fessed revelation from heaven, tell me of an act of condescension, in behalf of some separate world, so wonderful, that angels desired to look into it, and the Eternal Son had to move from his seat of glory to carry it into accomplishment, all I ask is the evidence of such a revelation; for, let it tell me as much as it may of God letting himself down for the benefit of one single province of his dominions, this is no more than what I see lying scattered, in numberless examples, before me: and running through the whole line of my recollections; and meeting me in every walk of observation to which I can betake myself; and, now that the microscope has unveiled the wonders of another region, I see strewed around me, with a profusion which baffles my every attempt to comprehend it, the evidence that there Is no one portion of the universe of God too minute for his notice, nor too bumble for the visitations of his care.
"It is a wonderful thing that God should be so unencumbered by the concerns of a whole universe, that he can give a constant attention to every moment of every individual in this world's population. But, wonderful as it is, you do not hesitate to admit it as true, on the evidence of your own recollections. It is a wonderful thing that he whose eye is at every instant on so many worlds, should have peopled the world we inhabit with 'all the traces of the varied design and benevolence which abound in it. But, great as the wonder is, you do not allow so much as 4he shadow of improbability to darken it, for its reality is what you actually witness, and you never think of questioning the evidence of observation. It is wonderful, it is passing wonderful, that the same God, whose presence is diffused through immensity, and who spreads the ample canopy of his adminis- > tration over all its dwelling-places, should, witli an energy as fresh and as unexpended as if he had only begun the work of creation, turn him to the neighbourhood around us, and lavish, on its every handbreath, all the exuberance of his goodness, and crowd it with the many thousand varieties of conscious existence. But, be the wonder incomprehensible as it may, you do not suffer in your mind the burden of a single doubt to lie upon it, because you do not question the report of the microscope, you do not refuse its information, nor turn away from it as an incompetent channel of evidence. But to bring it still nearer to the point at issue, there are many who never looked through a microscope, but who rest an implicit faith in all its revelations; and upon what evidence I would ask? Upon the evidence of testimony—upon the credit they give to the authors of the books tliey have read, and the belief they put in the record of their observations. ISow, at this point 1 make a stand. It it
wonderful that God should be so interested in the redemption of a single world, as to lend forth his well-beloved Son upon the errand, and he, to accomplish it, should, mighty to save, put forth all his strength, ana travail in the greatness of it. But inch wonders as these have already multiplied upon you; and when evidence is given of their truth, you have resigned your every judgment of the unsearchable God, and rested in the faith of them. I demand, in the name of sound and consistent philosophy, that you do the same in the matter before us—and take it up as a question of evidence—and examine that medium of testimony through which the miracles and informations of the Gospel have come to your door—and go not to admit as argument here, what would not be admitted as argument in any of the analogies of nature and observation—and take along with you in this field of inquiry, a lesson which you should have learned upon other fields—even the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, that his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways are past finding ont.
"I do not enter at all into the positive evidence for the truth of the Christian Revelation, my single aim at present being to dispose of one of the objections which is conceived to stand in the way of it. Let me suppose then that this is done to the satisfaction of a philosophical inquirer, and that the evidence is sustained, and that the same mind that is familiarised to all the sublimities of natural science, and has been in the habit of contemplating God in association with all the magnificence which is around him, shall be brought to submit its thoughts to the captivity of the doctrine of Christ. Oh! with what veneration, and gratitude, and wonder, should he look on the descent of him into this lower world, who made all these things, and without whom was not any thing made that was made. What a grandeur does it throw over every step in the redemption of a fallen world, to think of its being done by him who unrobed him of the glories of so wide a monarchy, and came to this humblest of its provinces, in the disguise of a servant, and took upon him the form of our degraded species, and let himself down to sorrows, and to sufferings, and to death, for us. In this love of an expiring Saviour to those for whom in agony he poured out his soul, there is a height, and a depth, and a length, and a breadth, more than I -can comprehend; and let me never never from this moment neglect so great a salvation, or lose my bold of an atonement, made sure by bim who cried, that it was finished, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. It was not the visit of an empty parade that he made to us. It was for the accomplishment of some substantial purpose; and, if that purpose is announced, and
stated to consist in his dying the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God, let us never doubt of our acceptance in that way of communication with our Father in heaven, which he hath opened and made known to us. In taking to that way, let us follow his every direction with that humility which a sense of all this wonderful condescension is fitted to inspire. Let us forsake all that he bids us forsake. Let us do all he bids us to do. Let us give ourselves up to hit guidance with the docility of children, overpowered by a kindness that we never merited, and a lave that is unequalled by all the perverseness and all the ingratitude of our stubborn nature—for what shall we render unto him for such mysterious benefits—to him who has thus been mindful of us—to bim who thus has deigned to visit us?"
Here we must close our extracts from this interesting volume, and we do it with unfeigned regret, because we have hitherto noticed only three out of the seven discourses, and because in those which we are compelled to leave unnoticed, there are passages equal in sublimity of conception ana in felicity of diction to any thing we have yet produced from it. Among these, we should be disposed to rank'that which occurs from the bottom of page 150 to the end of the fourth Sermon. But so many other articles press upon our attention that we are compelled, though very reluctantly to desist, and we shall now take our leave of these Discourses with a few general remarks.
We have already said enough, at the commencement of this article, to convir/ce our readers of the high estimation in which we hold this volume. We have spoken of it as we think—but we are far-from supposing that all Dr. Chalmers' readers will be gratified with it to the same extent that we have been. The very sublimity of the subjects, and the charms of his eloquence will both conspire to elevate it above the capacity of a large class of the religious community. Carping critics, too, who have more pleasure in finding fault than in awarding the meed that is due to merit, will busy themselves in pointing out here and there a Scot'1" cism, or selecting a phrase that might be advantageously altered. Some sagacious gentlemen have already found out that the argument might have been stated in one third of the Volume, and consequently (in "*&' wise judgment) the remaining tw» thirds forms a superfluous repetition! These sage remarks remind us of what is related concerning Momus in the Fable. So addicted was he to the practice of finding fault, that nothing escaped his censure. When Jupiter, determined for once to put his ingenuity to the test, presented before him, his beautiful daughter, Momus surveyed her with envious scorn, and as she retired from his presence, he coolly remarked, that her slippers were too noisy I When those who find fault with Dr. Chalmers' Discourses shall themselves produce us any thing half as excellent as they are, we promise to overlook double the number of imperfections that the most prying eye can discover in them. Those who think a just view of the character of the blessed God, the scripture doctrine of redemption by the sufferings and death of his beloved Son, and the truth of the gospel by means of which these doctrines are conveyed to us,tof any importance to human happiness, will not fail to appreciate the labours of Dr. Chalmers in the composition of these Discourses, and they will of course feel grateful to him for the boon which he has bequeathed to his generation.
Religious Liberty stated and enforced on the principles of Scripture and common sense. In Six Essays, with Notes and an Appendix. By Thomas Williams. London. Williams and Son. Price 6s. bds. 8vo. pp. 228. 1816.
[Concluded from page 54.]
Referring the reader to the account we have already given of the first and second of this Series of Essays, we now return to the volume and redeem our pledge of finishing the review of it.
Essay III. is entitled "The duty of enquiry, and the right of private judgment and free discussion. The duty itself is made abundantly apparent by the express testimony of the law and the prophets, of Christ and his apostles. Here it is well observed that "the want of examination is one grand source of infidelity. The primitive Christians were required to "give a reason of their hope" which they did in simply pointing to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, but in modern times too
many have their reasons to seek when they should produce them; and the consequences have been—disgrace to their profession, and confusion to themselves.
"The first subject of enquiry In religion should always respect its evidences; and it is much to be regretted that, neither in our national or popular catechisms, is there a single question and answer upon the subject. When such enquiries, therefore, are proposed by the enemies of religion, the mind is startled, and th« Deist triumphs, in finding the untaught professor has no reasons for his faith. It is true, that there are some arguments for Christianity which require learning and leisure to discuss; but there are others, derived from the holy tendency of its doctrines, and its moral principles, which are level to the meanest capacity; and Sceptics find it more difficult to answer the humble Christian, who can testify the efficacy of religion upon his heart and conduct, than all the arguments of its more learned advocates."
These judicious remarks are followed by some excellent observations on the folly of private Christians transferring their religion wholly to their ministers, as if it were no concern of their own. He adds, (but with what justice it is not for us to say) that he "even fears there may be clergymen,, of more than one denomination, who countenance the error, and consider their hearers as bound to receive the truths of the gospel upon their authority." And he cen-' sures in strong terms the arrogant language in which they sometimes pledge, not only their word, but" their soul for the truth of their^ssertions." "The preacher's authority, says Mr. Williams, is not derived from the desk in which he stands, however elevated; nor from the gown he wears, however elegant; nor from two or three letters prefixed or appended to his name." p. 45. What,m the name of common sense, would he have neither Reverends, nor Doctors in Divinity in the Christian church? or does he regard these high sounding titles as mere baubles calculated to amuse old women and little children? As sure as a gun, some of the Dons who frequent Stationers' Court will take him soundly to task, for laying his unhallowed hands on their sacred things!
"But it requires consideration, "says our Essayist," in what manner we may express a difference in opinion from onr superiors, and with what caution we should oppose the dogmas of an established faith. With a grave face, a modest countenance, and a respectful bow, we may presume to differ, and even humbly intimate the reasons of our difference. Yes; says Dr. Paley, " I tolerate all books of serious argumentation: but I deem it no infringement of religious liberty, to restrain the circulation of ridicule, invective, and mockery upon religious subjects." Mighty well this, if both parties were conformed to the same rule! but this will not do. A downy Dean may sit at his ease, and write a * Tale of a Tub,' or any other tale that ridicules the fundamental truths of the reformation;—or a Doctor of Divinity may write Notes on Hudibras, and make a mock of divine influences, so that be do not attack the church, by which he is maintained. I am not an advocate for levity on religious topics; but I see no reason why it should be allowed on one side, and prohibited on the other:—why a Butler or a Swift shall be permitted to burlesque vital and practical religion, and a Robinson or a Ringletubmust not touch a rite or a ceremony,—a lawn sleeve, or even a surplice. Yes, I retract:—I do see a reason. Truth and Piety are invulnerable; but human inventions and traditions tremble at the breath of Ridicule !—and some persons seem to know this."
From these specimens, the reader will form a judgment of the liberal spirit in which this Essay is written. It occupies more than thirty pages, and abounds with striking extracts from the writings of Milton, Paley, Mr. Robert Hall, and other distinguished authors, all of which are aptly introduced and interspersed with sensible and judicious observations.
Essat IV. "On the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom." The leading design of this Essay is to repel the interference of the civil magistrate in the concerns of religion. He ^ews by pertinent references to the New Testament, that as Christ, in the days of his public ministry assumed no temporal power, so he has pointedly prohibited the exercise of it among his disciples. That as the ministers of the gospel are not allowed to assume authority over the consciences of men, so magistrates who are merely servants of the state, have no commission to interfere in the affairs of Christ's kingdom. "There is but one master, for Christians, as such, and He will admit no partner
no competitor," On this part of the subject, the Essayist examines the plea for persecution which national churches have in every age deduced from the OM Testamentdispensation, where we find Kings, as Kings, at the head of the church, and defenders of the faith, maintaining religion by secular authority, and punishing idolatry and blasphemy, as state crimes. But he very easily and successfully refutes this plea by distinguishing between the Hebrew government which was a Theocracy, and the spiritual nature of the Christian dispensation, which is a kingdom not of this world. Among the authors quoted in this Essay are Mr. Locke, Dr. Owen, &c. &c. but greatly to our surprise no reference whatever is made to Mr. Booth's invaluable " Essay on the Kingdom of Christ"—the clearest and ablest treatise on the subject that is probably to be found in the English language.
Essay V. is entitled "On Intolerance in Religion;" and the VIth and last exhibits an "Historic sketch of the rise and progress of Intolerance." We join these two Essays together because they obviously treat of the same subject. The impolicy as well as the impiety of all penal laws for the regulation of the conscience in matters of religion, is clearly and convincingly shewn; and the testimonies of several eminent men are adduced in favour of toleration. "There is nothing" says the Earl of Mansfield, in a Speech in the House of Lords, "more unreasonable, more inconsistent with the rights of human nature, more contrary to the spirit and precepts of the Christian Religion, more iniquitous and unjust, more impolitic, than persecution. It is against natural religion, revealed religion, and sound policy." The Essayist traces the subject from Saul of Tarsus back to its origin in the case of Cain, who slew his brother Abel, "because his own works were evil and his brother's righteous;" and as then "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." This interesting topic occupies one half of the volume, and in discussing it, Mr. Williams gives ample proof of the extent of his reading and of his own mental resources, for reasoning and reflection; but to trace his steps minutely throughout this