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the fiery streams which burst from the sides of Ætna, but she works no miracles at Syracuse.
I cannot help observing also, that those bolder geniuses, who of late years have rejected Christianity as a dispensaa tion unworthy of the wisdom and equity of God, have by no means done credit to their own, more rational and simple scheme of religion, by sublimer delineations of the character of the Almighty, or the expression of a profounder reverence towards him. Mr. Hume's language, in those parts of his Essays where he touches on the attributes of God, is very highly presumptuous; and his private correspondence was profane. Voltaire, a sincere Theist, in one of his lighter works, speaks of the moral government of the Deity in terms of the most insolent and offensive levity; and so little tendency had his speculations to produce an increased veneration towards the Author of all things, that neither his reproaches nor his authority were sufficient to prevent some of the most illustrious of his pupils from pushing his principles to the direct disavowal of a First Cause. Both Diderot and Condorcet were atheists. The former, in one of his letters, says; “Ce
Voltaire radote un peu. Il avouait l'autre jour qu'il croyait à l'être de Dieu." D'Alembert laboured pretty generally under the same imputation; but La Harpe says in his letters, that he had frequently heard him (D'Alembert) say,
que la probabilité était pour le Théisme.” La probabilité !—and is this all that a man possessed of so fine and profound a genius could discover of that August Being to whose bounty he owed the enjoyment of all his distinguished faculties?
Oh, star-eyed Science! hast thou wandered there,
It is impossible not to be struck at the vast superiority which the simplest among the faithful followers of Christ possesses, upon these subjects, over the greatest masters of modern wisdom. The utmost that D'Alembert could discover, or would consent to believe, was, that the presumption is in favour of the existence of a Deity. The true Christian, however little enlightened by secular science, has learned not only to clothe the idea of God with every attribute of intellectual and moral greatness, but he even presumes without fear, to draw down and appropriate, as it were, to himself, the blessed object of his homage; to believe, that He who fills the universe with his majesty, disdains not to visit the abode of the meanest of his servants, to watch over him with paternal affection and solicitude, to listen to all his prayers, to regard his humblest wishes, to be present to the most secret sorrows and anxieties of his bosom: “He is about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways.” I will not say whether the creed of the disciple of Christ, or the disciple of Voltaire, be the most philosophical; but I know which is the most sublime and most consoling.
God invites us to put our trust in him. And is he not trustworthy? The ordinary blessings of life are apt to escape our notice; but our heavenly Father undoubtedly intended them as assurances of his unfailing providence, We can imagine, indeed, a state of existence, of such a nature, that the whole series of circumstances and events should appear to be the mechanical results of some one original impulse. Or we may suppose a world so constituted, that every thing should be manifestly directed by man, as the efficient agent; in which his activity and foresight would be the final causes of all visible things. Under such economies, it might perhaps be pardonable for us to think of the Deity (like the old Epicureans) as the spectator, rather than as the governor of the universe; to acknowledge his general authority, without much regarding his providence. But these are the dreams of fancy, not the realities of nature. The world in which we live is so constituted, that every thing seems to proclaim aloud the perpetual presence of the Almighty. The free-agency of man (that is, his real, and not merely necessary or nominal agency), though a matter of instinctive and indestructible belief to every one of us, is, in argument, far more difficult of proof than the constant and efficient providence of God. There is not a single phenomenon of thought or perception, respecting which; when correctly analysed, we are not compelled to confess, that we can render no account of it, except, that such is the will of our Creator. The history of all physical science is precisely the same. Gravitation, which has assisted us to explain so many of the celestial phenomena, is only a law or tendency, apparent in visible things, of which we can prove the existence, but have discovered nothing more. The chemical properties of bodies are merely appearances, which we may perfectly understand as facts, but which the most skilful examination can only enable us to resolve into other more general appearances; leaving us, with respect to causation, in the same obscurity. Every science has its ultimate principles, and every ultimate principle brings us at once to God. Nor are the lights of philosophy at all necessary for the discovery of this truth. Like the elements of light and heat, it impresses itself on the feelings of the simple, while it speaks to the understandings of the learned. It is the language of every thing within us and around us. The organization of our bodies is so wonderfully delicate, the ramifications of the vascular and nervous systems are so amazingly fine, and interwoven with such intricacy, that it is difficult to conceive how we could be kept alive for a single hour, without the preserving power of our Creator unceasingly exercised upon us.
And what is the ordinary course of our conduct and experience, but one continued testimony to the watchful providence of God? We lie down upon our beds at the close of day, and consign ourselves, without the slightest solicitude, to a state of passive inefficiency for many hours, well assured that we shall awake on the ensuing morning with every function of life restored and refreshed. We commit the seed to the earth, in full assurance that, after a few weeks, it will spring up in a new form, and that “our valleys will stand thick with corn." Day by day we are clothed and fed, though our hands have neither wrought in the loom nor wielded the sickle. It is idle to speak of this as effected by the mechanism of society; it is provided by the economy of God, who has formed us so wonderfully, and so regularly operates on the faculties and feelings he has given, that every one is secure of finding the supply of his wants in the knowledge and industry of his neighbour. It is difficult to conceive a spectacle more striking than that which is exhibited every day in a great nation; where ten, or twenty, or thirty millions of beings, not one of whom can support life without à regular supply of food, retire calmly to rest at night, in a perfect confidence that they shall find a supply for their wants on the following day. Need I add to these general proofs of the superintending care and vigilance of God, those personal experiences, which all of us, I am persuaded; possess of his particular providence? These indeed
are less fitted for argument than the public demonstrations of his agency; but I appeal to all who have watched the events of their lives with any diligence, whether they have not frequently been of a nature to produce upon their own minds a powerful and reasonable conviction, that the Almighty does not behold them with indifference; that he neither forgets their iniquities nor despises their sufferings; but mingles mercy with judgment, and vindicates his goodness in both.
If then, we are persuaded, (as surely we must be), that God is both infinite in excellence and highly deserving of our confidence, let us consider what it is to put our trust in him. The true nature of a thing may generally be best understood by contemplating its most perfect specimen. Trust in God. was exhibited in its utmost possible perfection, when Christ hung upon the cross for man. He could have called down legions of angels, but he knew what was the will of his Father, and “he committed himself to him who judgeth righteously.” His strength and spirits sank under his sufferings; the powers of darkness were triumphant; the shades of death gathered fast around him; his God had forsaken him; yet the last accent that faultered on his lips avowed his full conviction, that the arm of the Lord was not shortened, nor the empire of righteousness subverted. It is the peculiar character of a lively trust in God, that“ against hope it believeth in hope.” When all is cheerful around, and health and friends and fortune unite to shower their bounties on us, there is little danger of falling into an anxious, desponding temper. But health is not always firm, friends are not ever present, and fortune is exceedingly fickle. Perhaps some little distress first overtakes us; vexations and disappointments