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than fine gold*.” « Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understandingt.” And it is, indeed, very plain, that if it were possible entirely to dissolve all the bonds and ties of religion ; yet, that it should be so, would, certainly, be the interest of none but the worst and most abandoned part of mankind. All the good and wise, if the matter was freely left to their choice, would rather have the world governed by the supreme and most perfect being, mankind subjected to his just and righteous laws, and all the affairs of men superintended by his watchful providence, than that it should be otherwise. Nor do they believe the doctrines of religion with aversion, or any sort of reluctancy, but embrace them with pleasure, and are excessively glad to find them true. So that, if it was possible to abolish them entirely, and any person, out of mere good will to them, should attempt to do it, they would look upon the favour as highly prejudicial to their interest, and think his good-will more hurtful than the keenest hatred. Nor would any one, in his wits, choose to live in the world, at large, and without any sort of government, more than he would think it eligible to be put on board a ship without a helm or pilot, and, in this condition, to be tossed amidst rocks and quicksands. On the other hand, can any thing give greater consolation, or more substantial joy , than to be firmly persuaded, not only that there is * Prov. xiii. 14.

+ Ibid. iv. 7. 1 Φευ τι τέτων χάρμα μειζον αν λαβούς. VOL. IV.


an infinitely good and wise Being, but also that this Being preserves and continually governs the universe, which himself has framed, and holds the reins of all things in his powerful hand; that he is our father; that we and all our interests are his constant concern; and that, after we have sojourned a short while here below, we shall be again taken into his immediate presence? Or can this wretched life be attended with any sort of satisfaction, if it is divested of this divine faith, and bereaved of such a blessed hope?

Moreover, every one, that thinks a generous fortitude and purity of mind, preferable to the charms and muddy pleasures of the flesh, finds all the precepts of religion not only not grievous, but exceeding pleasant, and extremely delightful. So that, upon the whole, the saying of Hermes is very consistent with the nature of things, “ There is one, and but one good thing among men, and that is re

Even the vulgar could not bear the de. generate expression of the player, who called out upon the stage, Money is the chief good among mankind+;" but should any one say, “ Religion is the principal good of mankind f,” no objection could be made against it ; for, without doubt, it is the only object, the beauties whereof engages the love both of God and man.

But the principal things in religion, as I have * εν και μόνον εν ανθρώπους αγαθον η ευσεβεία. , + Pecunia magnum generis humani bonum. Ξ εε ες' αλλειπέιν έδέν.

ligion *.”

frequently observed, are “just conceptions of God.” Now concerning this infinite Being, some things are known by the light of nature and reason, others only by the revelation which he hath been pleased to make of himself from heaven. That there is a God, is the distinct voice of every man, and of every thing without him : how much more then will we be confirmed in the belief of this truth, if we attentively view the whole creation, and the wonderful order and harmony that subsist between all the parts of the whole system ? It is quite unnecessary to shew, that so great a fabric could never have have been brought into being without an all-wise and powerful Creator; nor could it now subsist without the same almighty Being to support and

« Let men therefore make this their constant study, says Lactantius, even to know their common parent and lord, whose power can never be perfectly known, whose greatness cannot be fathomed, nor his eternity comprehended*.” When the mind of man, with its faculties, come to be once intensely fixed upon him, all other objects disappearing, and being, as it were, removed, quite out of sight, it is entirely at a stand, and overpowered, nor can it possibly proceed further. But concerning the doctrine of this vast volume of the works of God, and that still brighter light, which shines forth in the scriptures, we shall speak more fully hereafter.

preserve it.

it. "

* Ut. Parentem suum, Dominumq; cognoscant, cujus nec virtus æstimari potest, nec magnitudo perspici, nec æternitas comprehendi.


Of the Decrees of God.

As the glory and brightness of the Divine Majesty is so great, that the strongest human eye cannot bear the direct rays of it, he has exhibited himself to be viewed in the glass of those works, which he created at first, and by his unwearied hand continually supports and governs ; nor are we allowed to view his eternal counsels and purposes through any other medium but this. So that, in our catechisms, especially the shorter one, designed for the instruction of the ignorant, it might, perhaps, have been full as proper, to have passed over the awful speculation concerning the divine decrees, and to have proceeded, directly, to the consideration of the works of God; but the thoughts you find in it, on this subject, are few, sober, clear, and certain : and, in explaining them, I think it most reasonable and most safe, to confine ourselves within these limits, in


audience whatever, but especially in this congregation, consisting of youths, not to say, in a great measure, of boys. Seeing, therefore, the decrees of God are mentioned in our Catechism, and it would not be proper to pass over in silence a matter of so great moment, I shall accordingly lay before

you some few thoughts upon this arduous subject.

And here, if any where, we ought, according to the common saying, to reason, but in few words. I should, indeed, think it very improper to do otherwise ; for such theories ought to be cautiously touched, rather than be spun out to a great length. One thing we may confidently assert, that all those things, which the great Creator produces in different periods of time, were perfectly known to him, and, as it were, present with him from eternity; and every thing that happens throughout the several

ages of the world, proceeds in the same order, and the same precise manner, as the eternal mind at first intended it should. That none of his coun- . sels can be disappointed or rendered ineffectual, or in the least changed or altered by any event whatsoever : “ Known to God are all his works*,” says the apostle in the council of Jerusalem ; and the son of Sirach, “ God sees from everlasting to everlasting, and nothing is wonderful in his sightt.” Nothing is new or unexpected to him; nothing can come to pass that he has not foreseen; and his first thoughts are so wise, that they admit no second ones that can be supposed wiser. " And this stability, and immutability of the divine decreest,”. is asserted even by the Roman philosopher : “ It is necessary, says he, that the same things be always

* Nota sunt Deo abi initio omnia sua opera. Acts xv. 18.

† A seculo in seculum respicit Deus, et nihil est mirabile iş conspectu ejus.

1 Το αμεταβγητών και ακινητόν παρ θειων βελευμάτων,

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