« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
peace and harmony of all his works. He has given them a law which extends to the utmost limits of his creation-a law which comprehends in its operation all creatures in heaven and in earth, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate--the very least being protected by its care, and the greatest not exempt from its power.
If we consider this law as it operates upon lifeless matter, we shall find it continually preserving the harmony of the universe. By this law, the planets, without the least deviation from their prescribed patlı, are shot so swiftly in their rounds; the moon has her appointed seasons; the earth flies with almost inconceivable velocity, and, though her. motions are complicated, never wandering from the right way; but producing, from age to age, the regular return of the seasons, and the grateful succession of day and night. By this law, the elements incessantly perform their allotted tasks--the fire is sent forth to warm and vivify all nature-the waters are carried round in perpetual circulation—the air is kept pure for the purposes of animal life and the earth, without intermission, according to the original command of God, brings forth grass, and herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree yielding fruit, after his kind. All the glorious discoveries in natural philosophy, for which the present age is so distinguished, are but so many new explanations of the wonders of this divine law.
If we advance one step further, we find it operating in the same uniform manner upon the irrational animals. Though, in their different species almost innumerable, and though formed with a great variety of native dispositions, we perceive them all, without confusion pursuing their real good. What is commonly called instinct, is nothing less than the law of their Creator, invariably directing them into the path which leads most immediately to the summit of that happiness which they are capable of enjoying.
When we ascend to man, we find him also, in a peculiar manner, subject to this divine law—the law that is imparted to him by the voice of reason, and by immediate revelation from heaven. But man is a being of a superior order; greatly distinguished from the other creatures. While they move as they are impelled, without choice, without any consciousness of the end towards which they are tending; to him it is given to know. Not driven by irresistible necessity, he may choose the evil or the good. The law by which ke ought to regulate his conduct is properly divulged; the distinction between good and evil is sufficiently clear; the motives which are intended to influence his behaviour are suited to the nature of a free agent; from voluntary obedience arises his happiness, and from disobedience his misery; the very superiority of his nature renders him a proper object of punishment, as well as reward.
When we come, at last, to the summit of God's creation; to the angels who surround the throne of His glory; we are taught that they also are comprekended within the operation of the laws of God. They have clearer conceptions of the will, and of the glorious perfections of the Deity; their obedience is more cheerful and more complete; but it is the same law, more or less extended, which influences all rational creatures, whether in heaven or in earth. The example of the angels is therefore proposed to our imita: tion. We are directed to pray that the will of God
may be done by us on earth, as it is done by them in i heaven. 5
What exalted conceptions do such reflections lead us to entertain of the perfections of Almighty God! Sitting enthroned in the glory of his divine Majesty, in the centre of his stupendous works, his word goeth forth and runneth very swiftly to the utmost extremity of his creation. Wonderful is the extent of his law. “ Her seat is the bosom of God, but her voice is the “ harmony of the universe-all things in heaven and “ earth do her homage-angels, and men, and crea
tures, of every condition admiring her, as the parent “ of their peace and joy !"
In contemplating the law of God, the second thing that demands our attention, is the duration of it. And here it is necessary to make a very essential distinction. Some of the laws of the Deity, like most of the institutions of men, having been originally intended to serve : only a temporary purpose, when that end is accomplished, are abrogated by the same authority that established them. Thus the religious ceremonies of the Jews were designed to be only shadows of good things to come; when, therefore, they had answered the intention of their appointment, they were abolished and done away for ever. Thus under the Christian dispensation, the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, where they can be regularly obtained, are of indispensable obligation. But when this state of trial terminates in one of complete enjoyment; wherr the means of grace are succeeded by the acquisition of glory; then, this part of the Christian law will no longer operate; the use of these instruments of holiness will necessarily cease.
Thus also, this regular and stupendous system of things will, in time, reach its latest period ; the law of nature will be anulled by him who framed it; the chain of order will be broken, and worlds will rush against worlds in dreadful confusion. But amidst all this disorder in things which appear at present so stable and permanent; angels and men will still exist; they will still be subject to the authority of God; they will still be obligated to love and reverence, adore and obey kim. This part of the divine law will be eternal. It is founded in the very nature of things; it necessarily arises from the relation that subsists between immortal creatures and their great Creator; it cannot cease to operate, so long as rational beings are continued in existence. Is it not our happiness, therefore, as well as duty, to yield a ready obedience to all the laws of God; but more especially to those which are of eternal obligation For, consider, in the third place, the mischiefs which are occasioned by a perverse violation of them.
They were framed by infinite wisdom; they are enjoined by resistless power; and they all tend to the promotion of one great, benevolent purpose, the order and felicity of the universe. Neither men nor angels can annul, or even diminish them. Moral agents may indeed transgress, but not with impunity. Punishment is the necessary consequence of a violation of the law. The inanimate works of God go as they are impelled; the regularity of their movements is not interrupted; they perfectly perform their allotted task. and fulfil the law of their nature. And hence it is, that every contemplative mind is compelled to admire the wonderful order and harmony of the worlds which are moving round us. But among rational creatures, who, because they were free agents, were capable of sinning, confusion and misery have been introduced. It was a violation of the law that expelled the angels from their habitations of glory, degraded them from their original state of dignity, and now reserves them in chains under darkness against the judgment of the great day. Man was created happy and immortalthe conditions of retaining this happiness and immortality were just and easy. But he violated the law of his God, and wretchedness was the immediate consequence. The mortal taste of that forbidden tree brought death into the world and all our woe, with loss of Eden; loss of that state of consummate felicity, in which we were originally placed by our merciful Creator. Man, in his present condition, presents to our view nothing more than the splendid ruins of his former grandeur. The body is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made; but it is subject to pain and wasting disease, to death and dissolution in the grave. The soul is dignified with great and surprising powers; but her faculties are too often weighed down by depraved appetite, or disordered by the turbulence of misguided passion-as, if the stars of the firmament were to wander from their appointed courses, in themselves they would remain glorious luminaries, however irregular their motions might be. In a word; whatever misery now preys upon mankind, it is altogether the result of disobedience to the divine law. Nor do the fatal effects of this disobedience terminate here. Vol. II.