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budding, their flowers, their ripened fruit or seed, their stately and progressive growth : and when their decay comes on, it is but preparatory to a resurrection of new beauty without any interruption to the mysterious continuity of life. Analogous to this are the forms of animal existence: a feeble beginning, and a gradual growth and development of strength, beauty, and sagacity. By slow, secret, but sure processes, minerals are formed in the bowels of the earth. By the abrasion of rocks soils are collected, and barrenness is clothed with verdure, and waving forests spring up and become so ancient that no one can tell the story of their birth. The ocean gradually recedes from one continent and gradually approaches another, and the headlands and harbors of the ancient navigators are changed. In the ocean depths curious and minute operatives are busy, century after century, building up the coral caves and mountains, a fairy land of the watery world, and the stable foundations of future continents. Astronomy teaches us that in the wide and illimitable space nebulous matter is gradually concreting and forming into new worlds, and thus creation through endless ages is extending by processes which appear to us slow, but which are under sure laws. Geology has detected in our own globe signs which cannot be mistaken, indicating the gradual up-building of the crust on which we live, the formation of the mountains and the valleys, the rivers, lakes and oceans. God does not complete his works at once. The wonder, the beauty, and the glory of his skill appear in successive, and we may believe endless presentations of new forms of increasing perfection. In a given state and order of the world, for example, the earth as it has been prepared for man, the convenience and the beauty consist in successive changes. As we are constituted, one unchanging form of nature, even if it were a form of perfect beauty in itself, would pall upon us. We would not have all day and bright sunshine, but the quiet return of night with the soft light of moon and stars. We would not have the skies always fair, but sometimes veiled in the drapery of clouds, or quite shut out by falling showers. We would not have the fields always clothed with yellow harvests; we love also the seed-time, and the first springing of the green blade. We would not have trees and shrubbery always loaded with beautiful buds, nor yet with opened fragrant flowers, nor yet with ripe fruit; it is the orderly succession that we love. We would not have the atmosphere ever filled with loud piping winds, nor with gentle breezes, nor to lie in dead quietude; they are all grateful in the succession in which they come to us. As it is with nature, so also is it with man. Infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and even old age, whose hoary head is a crown of glory, are all beautiful forms of life. Would we prefer that men should be produced full grown and with ripened powers, and that there should be no infancy, no childhood? With such a change it would seem to us that all the poetry and music of life had fled away. And the mind of man, the noblest of all God's creations,
how feeble and void at our beginning! We have not at once our fully-developed capacities, and all possible knowledge; but the mind strengthens and knowledge increases by slow degrees, with much pains-taking, from the budding-time of intellect and the simplest elements of learning. Were it not so, the dignity and excelfence of mental discipline would be unknown; mind would not be presented under its different interesting phases of an upward growth; it would have no self-conscious strength in struggling onward in its own development; and by the supposition being created at once in its full and perfect form, there would not be the progpect and the aim of an immortal progression, nor the sublime stimulus to self-exertion derived from such a prospect. Every given state both of organized matter and of the immortal mind has its beauty, its fitness, and its benign end to answer; but it is still relatively imperfect, and its relative imperfection is the condition of a higher growth. Nothing is fixed and stolid, but all is moving in cycles of ever-varying beauty and uses, or is born into new dignities and powers.
The beginning and progress of philosophy, science and art furnish other illustrations. The world is presented to man subject to his observation and thought, his invention and appropriation. In his mind are the innate capacities which meet the world harmoniously, pre-constituted to know its laws and agencies, and to perfect its forms and materials. But no philosophy, or science, or art are revealed to him, he must work them all out for himself. And he has gloriously worked them out for himself. He has obeyed the of intellect wherewith God endowed him, he has used the world of which God made him the proprietor. God gave him neither his powers perfect, nor the world perfect; but God designed that by his own endeavors he should do much to perfect both; and hence we have profound philosophies and diverse and glorious sciences of the heavens and the earth, and multifarious arts of utility and beauty; so that the ancient world of man in his infancy, has become the altered world of man in the marvellous growth and outstretching of his powers. We have here, then, in the actual world a development of material forms and a progress of material perfection by natural agents and laws working onward by a graduated process; and a development of mind and the birth and growth of knowledges and arts, by the free and intellectual activities of man through successive centuries; and by these free and intellectual activities we have nature herself modified and perfected--for architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and landscape-gardening, are all improvements upon the beauty of nature; and we have the world filled with accommodations and comforts which did not before exist, through the useful arts which man has invented. And since government and law have been instituted by man under various forms and in various degrees of perfection, and the labors of the legislator and the philosopher have thrown more and more light upon the
first principles of social order, and the influences and the glory of science and art belong likewise to national destiny and character, the progress of the individual is but a type of the progress of nations.
Had all things at the first been made perfect by God, the whole order of the universe would have been reversed; and who will dare affirm that the order which would then have existed would have been wiser and more benign? Both nature and mind would have exhibited a fixed and rigid splendor and majesty. There would have been no history of the past, and no anticipation of the future, nothing to call forth activity, or to charm into being the visions of hope ; there would have been no changing forms of beauty, but uniformity would sternly have reigned alone.
But it is not possible that either in matter or in created mind absolute perfection could ever exist, for absolute perfection can belong only to the infinite and eternal. If, therefore, progression were banished from the world, there would be a fixed form of imperfection without the possibility of improvement; for however beautiful and majestic a form of nature might be given, and however elevated and rich in gists the form of mind selected for creation,-relatively to still higher ideas of beauty, greatness, and excellence, which could not but exist in the divine mind and admit of an actual development, the selected form would still be imperfect. A finite creation by an infinite Creator, and regulated by his laws, and under bis watchful superintendence, must necessarily admit of indefinite and endless progression, ever giving new exhibitions of his wisdom and benignity. And such is the creation in which we live, and of which we form a part. A creation evidently on a scale more magnificent than one cast in a fixed and unchanging mould; for however magnificent the fixed and unchanging creation supposed might be, it would at length be far surpassed by the creation of progressing beauty and perfection, even although this last should have the most feeble and imperfect beginning.
Now it is perfectly plain that all objections made against the actual order of the world, and the actual movements of divine Providence, are really a demanding of God, why he did not begin the progressive movements which reign throughout his creation at a point of higher perfection, or why the succession is not more rapid? The presumption of such a demand cannot fail to strike every thinking and reverential mind. The great Architect and Governor knew best where to begin, and how rapidly to conduct the movement. The beauty and the wisdom which are palpable ought to beget child-like trustfulness with respect to what is yet hidden in his unfathomable counsels. Such objections and speculations are an abuse of the high powers wherewith he has endowed us. He has enabled us to see that all things are progressive, and to conceive of more perfect worlds and more perfect beings, not that we may find fault with that which is, but
that we may look forward joyfully and hopefully to that which is yet to come, and strive together in our free activities for its attainment,
Now I ask whether the developments of God's moral government, and the bestowment of high spiritual gifts and privileges, may not justly come under the principle of progression ? And whether, in relation to his moral improvement and well-being, man may not justly be thrown upon his own free agency, as well as in relation to philosophy, science, and art? Had man never fallen, there would have been to every mind the same obvious propriety and fitness, and indeed necessity of a progressive moral improvement, as of a progressive intellectual improvement, But the inquiry which now troubles many, is the existence of sin itself, and the fact that it has been suffered to reign in the world for so many centuries. With regard to the existence of sin itself, let us at once relieve our minds from all painful inquiries by the reflection that it is an incidental evil. God, in imparting to man the high gift of freedom, made it possible for him to sin; nor could he have prevented him from sinning, but by infringing upon his free agency. Man chose to sin, and God in his wisdom suffered man to act out his free agency without interruption. Sin entered the world by the free act of man-he is its author. God in no wise can be the author of sin. The Bible thus represents the fact in the utmost simplicity, and then leaves it without comment or curious speculation-and there it'is wisest for us to leave it. Now it appears from the Scriptures, that no sooner had man sinned than God began to develope a gracious system of measures for the removal of the evil and the final redemption of man.-The element of depravity had been lodged in the species by a law we are constrained to believe, not arbitrary, but lying in the most intimate constitution of our being, and this element brought forth its sad fruits in the whole history of man, while at the same time all the constitutive faculties of his being were showing their characteristics, their force, and their direction, in civilization, education, and refinement. God's gracious measures met the element of depravity. The general elevation of the race was progressive: the working of the element of depravity was progressive likewise: and there appeared together the most splendid forms of intellectual greatness, and the most loathsome forms of moral defilement. The gracious interpositions of God were made on the same great principle—they were progressive, as the progressive developments of humanity called for them; and they did not set aside, but stimulated the free activity of man to its highest and noblest exertion. From the beginning God clearly revealed himself, and made salvation possible, and vouchsafed the most kindly converse of heavenly visiters, and even spake himself in a paternal voice to those who sought him sincerely and devoutly.' Twice he revealed himself to the whole race,--at the creation and at the deluge, and continually sent his prophets among men. And it was not until the nations at large had been amply tried, that he selected one man to become the father of one distinct people, and gave them to have their compact and wonderful institutions among the rocks and mountain streams of Canaan, that they might be the conservatories of his oracles, not for themselves merely, but for the world, until the times appointed should be fulfilled.
The advent of the Saviour was placed not at the beginning of the world, nor yet at the end; but midway in the track of the successive generations. Had it been placed at the beginning, it would have met man in his feeblest development, it would have gained imperfect records, and might have appeared to the after generations as a dim and uncertain history of a remote antiquity. Had it been delayed until the end of the world, it would not have impressed itself deeply upon the advancement of society, and faith might have sickened in the long expectation. But placed midway, it burst upon the world when the experiment of almost every religion and every philosophy had been made for the moral elevation of man, and made in vain; when conquest was sated and universal dominion consolidated; when civilization was advanced, and learning and the arts had attained a proud eminence; when there was a general pause in the tu.. mults of the nations; when there were abundant materials for it to operate upon, and the way was prepared for making its enduring records in books, and on the monuments of art, and for diffusing itself through all the elements and interests of society. It was placed at the point where it could collect around it the mighty energies of a progressing humanity, and shape them to new ends and higher destinies; where it could appropriate the arts and discoveries which had already attained a high perfection, and become the patron of still more signal triumphs of the human mind; and lastly, it was placed where a prospective and a retrospective faith. could meet under similar advantages, and where old prophecies would be fulfilled in attestation of its validity, and new prophecies be given to serve by their fulfilment in after ages, the same end. Is it possible to conceive of a period in the long march of humanity more auspicious to the introduction of christianity, than the period when Christ actually appeared ?
Since the advent, the destinies of man and the movements of christianity have again faithfully exhibited the phases of the great principle of progression. Christianity was indeed introduced by miracles, by signs and wonders, and there was a reason for this supernatural display: but ever since there have been no sudden movements and no extraordinary indications : there have been all the activities of man at work for good and ill as from the beginning, but on wider spheres and with more stupendous results; while christianity, with a divine power indeed, but un