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sion of my meaning. I do not say that God has done no more for the Jews, than for the other nations of the earth. In regard to advantage and privilege, their pre-eminence is “ much, every way.” In a remarkable manner they have always been the care of Divine Providence. Among them, exclusively, have been preserved, the true mode and ordinances of divine worship. Among them God established and perpetuated a sacred succession of priests and prophets, to minister at his altar, and declare his will. To them, from time to time, He has manifested His glory; intimated His purposes ; addressed the threatenings of His wrath, and the promises of His love. In every way they have been more favoured than the rest of mankind.
But their principal advantage remains to be mentioned. Eminently were they exalted above other nations, in every respect; but “ chiefly" in this; that while the rest of the world, were left under the control of diabolical superstition or imposture, “unto them were committed The ORACLES OF GOD."
The high importance, which the apostle here puts on the privilege, of possessing the inspired scriptures, is given to this privilege, in several other texts. The Psalmist teaches us, that there is no privilege comparable to that of possessing the scriptures, in the place where he says, “ Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”* The manifestations of thy glory by every other medium, are dim and feeble, compared with those that beam from the sacred page.-Moses leads us to the same estimation of this privilege, by declaring, that those who had only received his Institute, were, on this account, exalted above all other people. “What nation so great, that hath statutes and judgments, so righteous, as all this law, which I set before you this day.” The prophet, with equal force imparts the same impression, by representing the loss of God's word, as the greatest of all calamities. “Behold the days come saith the Lord God that I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea; and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”
It is proposed to illustrate a little, the grounds of that preeminent advantage, which those who have the Bible, possess above those who have no other instructer, than what has been commonly termed the light of nature.
The immense advantages afforded by revelation, may be in some measure perceived, by comparing, THE MANNER OF TEACHING; AND THE THINGS WHICH ARE TAUGHT, BY REVELATION;
"Ps. cxxxvü, 2.
+ Deut. iv. 8.
# Amos viü. 11, 12
WITH THE MANNER OF TEACHING; AND THE THINGS WHICH ARE TAUGHT, BY THE LIGHT OF NATURE.
They are both Instructers. The spacious firmament, and the spangled heavens; the blazing orb of day, and the silent pomp of night; the atmosphere, the clouds, the lightning and thunder ; tempest and hail and rain and snow; mountains and valleys; forests and fields; rivers and oceans; and all the living creatures that populate the globe; constitute a wondrous system of tuition to man; present him a portraiture of his invisible Creator; and render, his ignorance a fault ; his disobedience without excuse. It were atheism to say, that Nature gives no intimations of the Being and Perfections of her eternal Author.
I. But her MANNER OF TEACHING is vastly inferior to that of Revelation.
NATURE, however important and excellent her lessons, is a silent Instructer. Though her “ line is gone throughout all the earth,” she has “no speech nor language,” and her “ voice is not heard.”* She imparts no ideas by audible or visible signs, by word or gesture. The knowledge she possesses, is inherent in her frame. She shows it only by showing herself. She has no tongue to proclaim her treasures of learning; no pen to write them; no interpreter to unfold and explain them.
REVELATION on the contrary is a speaking Teacher. She delivers oracles, and pronounces lectures, and puts a written volume into our hands. She presents her meaning with precision, plainness and power; by the medium of language, the medium by which we exchange thoughts with one another.
NATURE then, places objects before us, but tells us nothing concerning them. If, upon, and within, these objects, there are traces and lineaments of wisdom, the perception of which would instruct and delight him, yet there is no index to guide the eye, no whisper of explanation to assist the mind of the student. But while REVELATION exhibits objects, she also demonstrates their properties; and, in legible characters, and articulate sounds, discloses every thing it behoves us to learn.
From NATURE, therefore, it is obvious nothing can be acquired, but by close inspection, and a process of reasoning. The mind, of its own accord, without solicitation or constraint, must apply itself to the severe contemplation of her works. The penetration of intellect, and the perseverance of industry, are necessary to the comprehension of her unostentatious excellence. There must be a logical deduction concerning the Cause, from the effect; and concerning the Contriver from the contrivance. In no other way, is it possible to gain any information, from a Teacher, whose instructions are to be gathered,
* This perhaps is the true meaning of Ps, xix. 3, 4.
not from words, nor from any express communications of thought, but merely from inspecting objects presented to the eye, without a syllable of explanation. The pupils of Nature, must not merely have the faculty of reason; they must in some degree be versed in the art of reasoning; and be able from proper premises to deduce regular and fair conclusions.
Now there is one important principle hence resulting, which the object of this paper requires us carefully to consider. It appears from the preceding remarks that in order to obtain the knowledge of God from the unaided light of Nature, the heart must be pure; the disposition holy.
Man cannot freely do that which he hates. If he hates to apply his mind to the contemplation of any object, he will not, unless constrained, admit that object into his thoughts. If he is averse to reasoning, he must be compelled, or reason he will not. If therefore man has no relish for that knowledge of his Maker which may be gleaned from his works, he will not, of himself, make the mental efforts necessary to the attainment of that knowledge.
It requires some exertion to engage the mind, even with objects to which no habitual aversion is cherished. Even those who love the Deity, are often sensible of difficulty in fixing their thoughts, and keeping them fixed, on that full-orbed exhibition of his glory, which the gospel of Christ presents. Is it presumable then, that those who do not love the Deity, (the fact, with respect to every unrenewed person) would undergo that mental toil, which is necessary to gain the knowledge of Him, from the works of creation. Would they pry into the recesses of Nature, and endure the labour of serious thinking, to discover traces of Him whom they hate to retain in their knowledge? What, but some powerfully selfish motive would induce them to submit to this drudgery? And under the influence of such a motive, whither would their reasonings conduct them, but to errors worse if possible than ignorance itself.
The appeal on this subject may be made to fact. Our conclusion respecting the state in which depraved mankind would be left, with no other instruction than that afforded by the light of nature, is not merely theoretical. The Gentile world, even as it now is, contains a frightful mass of testimony to its truth. Have the Gentiles grown wise under the tuition of Nature? What though the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and Godhead are clearly to be seen in the works of creation; have the Gentiles clearly seen these things ? What efforts have they made, to attain that knowledge of God, which is manifested to them in the frame of Nature and the events of Providence ? Disliking to retain God in their knowledge, their efforts, as we should naturally expect, have been directed to the object of
hiding from their sight, every trace of the wisdom, power, and goodness, which gave birth to creation; and which are daily displayed in the government of the world. They have learnt, if any thing, from the light of Nature, what is infinitely worse than nothing to change the glory of the INCORRUPTIBLE GOD, into an image made like to corruptible man; and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things.
But it is not quite fair, to estimate the insufficiency of Nature to teach depraved man, from the present ignorance of the heathen. Gross as is that ignorance, it would doubtless have been grosser, had not the heathen been instructed by another Teacher. I mean REVELATION. For some rays of revealed light are every where mingled with those of NATURE. There is perhaps no corner of the world as dark as it would have been, had Revelation been refused to fallen man. Let it be recollected that the first fathers of the race received instruction from Heaven'; that though their descendants, loving darkness more than light, forsook the source of knowledge, and immersed themselves in the ignorance of Paganism, they could not entirely dispossess themselves of revealed information ; that this information they imparted to their offspring, through whose successive generations it has been transmitted; and that, meanwhile, many exertions have been made to diffuse the knowledge of revealed religion. We shall then perceive, that it is not exactly just to estimate the inefficacy of the light of nature, from the present ignorance of the heathen. The estimate would be fairer, if the influence of traditional instruction should be ascertained, and subtracted; when perhaps it would appear, that had the human race from the moment of the fall, been abandoned solely to the light of nature, they would have been inferior in almost every respect, to the most degraded savages that now inhabit the earth.
It is more than probable that from the MERE LIGHT OF NATURE, apostate man would have gained no instruction whatever. That light is not adapted to inform creatures who having yielded to the enticements of the Tempter, are alienated from their Maker, and enemies in their mind by wicked works.
Its disclosures might have been sufficient, if man had retained that moral rectitude, with which he came into existence : and, since his relinquishment of this, left him still in possession of his reason and conscience; it therefore follows, that, under the sole tuition of Nature, man remains bound to render a sinless obedience; has no excuse for any of his defects; and may justly perish under the infliction of the curse. But while NATURE's teaching is enough to establish the justice of his condemnation, it is not enough to overcome the influence of that depravity which makes him dislike to retain God in his know
ledge: and as that influence must be overcome, before he will fix his mind on the works of creation, to discover in them the footsteps of the Creator; and, moreover, as that guilty influ. ence, in proportion to its strength, is provoking to God, who, at length most righteously consigns its victims to the dire consequences of its unrestrained control,* how could it otherwise happen than that man, wherever he is left to the mere exhibi. tions of Nature, should be speedily enshrouded in the black. ness both of moral and intellectual darkness.
So ineffectual upon minds estranged from the love of God is NATURE's method of communicating knowledge.
REVELATION teaches in a different manner, and to better purpose. She does not leave her lessons to be spelled out by close and careful scrutiny. It is not by the sole exercise of ingenuity, and an unprejudiced heart, that her meaning is to be decyphered. It is not necessary to be both morally and mentally faultless, in order to acquire knowledge, under her inculcations. Her instructions are not inwrought in the fabric of creation; to be gleaned by patient and painful investigation from the fields of ether, or the forests of earth; to be drawn down from the stars, or extracted from the bosom of the deep. She has spared us the toil of gathering sacred science, thus by piecemeals and particles, from various and remote regions of existence. Proprietor of the universe, and comprehending at a glance every object and idea, whether existing or capable of existence, her Gracious AUTHOR collected and condensed into one mass, all the information needful to our improvement and happiness, and sent her into the world, laden with these incorruptible riches, to impart them to every individual of our race. She does not leave it to the feeble and perverted powers of man, to argue and philosophise himself into the knowledge of things belonging to his peace. She has that knowledge ex. pressed in words, and printed in a book, which is the work of the Eternal Spirit. The necessity of reasoning is superseded; for the proper conclusions are already announced, and that so decisively and plainly, that “ the wayfaring man though a fool" cannot remain in total ignorance but by industrious efforts to make himself more stupid. Revelation merely requires that her pupil be a rational creature. Scant as the measure of his intellect may be, she can teach him: she can make him wise; aye, wiser than was ever heathen philosopher or sage; she can give him the knowledge of SALVATION. Is he slothful and dull? she has her lightning and her thunder to awaken his attention. Is he sullen and stubborn ? she can set in dread array
* “ And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which were not conve. nient." Rom. i. 28.