« ZurückWeiter »
412 Evidences of design in the Constitution of Man.
happiness according to their several constitutions. Man stands at the head of this system of animated being; and it is natural to suppose that more conspicuous manifestations of wise and benevolent design are to be found concentrated in the formation of this chief of God's creatures, than in the other departments of animated nature.
Innumerable evidences of design appear in the bodily constitution of man—they are heaped together throughout every part of his frame. Apart altogether from the peculiar structure of the person; the beauty of the complexion; the symmetry of the members; the gracefulness and dignity of the motions; and the power of the countenance to express the thoughts and feelings of the mind, by which it is rendered as it were a speaking image of the inner man:-apart altogether from these, the internal structure of the body displays an endless complication of beneficial and useful adaptations. In the workmanship of the human body, then, there is an overwhelming testimony to the power and wisdom of the Deity. Where, amid all the boasted performances of human art, are those which bear the most remote resemblance to any one of its members ? Every joint-every limb—is a microcosm of contrivance.
But admirable as man's internal structure is, and replete with instances of design, the organs of sense with which he is provided furnish still more decisive proofs of adaptation. The design and the workmanship both of the eye and the ear are calculated to excite the highest admiration. Of these the eye is the most wonderful. That a body so small should disclose to us not only near but distant objects; should bring under our view both the earth and the heavens; should make us acquainted with the relative positions of the many objects scattered around us; should discern the members of the minutest insect, and contemplate the host of heaven marshalled in the midnight sky :-this of itself is a proof that man is not the product of blind chance, nor the denizen of a forsaken and fatherless world.
Man is a rational being. The inferior animals are abandoned to the guidance of instinct, but man alone is endowed with intellectual, active, and moral powers-with reason, memory, and imagination, as well as desires, affections, and a moral faculty. And all these intellectual and moral powers are harmoniously adjusted to each other, and enter into the formation of a being capable (if he conduct himself aright) of much enjoyment here, and of endless and unfading bliss hereafter, when those faculties, which have only been discernible by buddings and premonitions of future excellence, shall effloresce into full bloom and beauty.
To the reasoning faculty man owes the capacity of engaging in philosophic research, and of investigating the laws of physical and moral nature--the acquisition in short, of all the various stores of human knowledge. Without memory all past existence would have been a blank. The mind does indeed acquire knowledge slowly, but, with the rapidity of lightning, summons up its collected stores for an emergency. It reproduces, as it were, its treasures, and recalls images that have long lain dormant. By it we call up into fresh and glowing existence scenes long past, and re-people these scenes with those who have long left us. It is memory which recalls to the wanderer the image of his home and his boyhood, and all the other associations of his native spot. Without it, man could never have risen from that state of unreflecting fatuity which is the attribute of vacant and hopeless idiocy. The objects of memory too, imagination clothes with a beauty and a brilliancy that are all its own. But imagination also clothes with splendour the future as well as the past; and were the objects of future possession seen in their true light, stript of that hazy brightness which hangs over them, one great motive to active exertion would be taken away, and man would have been converted into a languid, listless, and melancholy being.
But the powers of the mind are also fitted and adjusted to each other with the utmost nicety; and had any one of them an undue preponderance, or were it absent altogether, the whole mental system would be reduced into chaotic disorder. Take away reason, and man is converted into the maniac who gazes with vacant stare on all the objects around him : take away imagination, and the human being is converted into a cold and calculating abstraction : let imagination assume an undue preponderance, and visions come to occupy the place of thoughts, and waking dreams that of silent meditations, and the mind bursts all control, and revels in a paradise of its own creation.
But of instances of design there is no end. A few are sufficient to satisfy the candid observer; and in proportion as these are multiplied, the argument increases in strength; for though chance might produce the appearance of design in a solitary instance, it is obviously contrary to the very idea of chance, that such appearances should be uniform or frequent. Wherever, then, there is design, there is a designer; and where there is a plan, there must be a mind of superior power by whom that plan was conceived. The countless adaptations of means to the promotion of ends, which we perceive in the universe, pre-suppose a being who had the end in view, and who judged of the fitness of the means. The universe is teeming with such designs, and they are visible both in its general form and in its particular facts. Wisdom, then, is an attribute of mind, and must be inherent in a being who is apart from the universe, just as the framer of a machine differs from the machine itself; and that being must be the God who rules the universe which He has called into existence.
A WORD FOR SACRED LITERATURE. There is no book that so well deserves, nor so amply repays diligent study, as do the Scriptures of truth, even on other grounds than their important bearing on our spiritual interests. Their venerable antiquity, their lofty and peculiar eloquence, their pure morality, and the comprehensive range of topics they embrace, are some of the many minor attractions that they present to every student. And, when to these is added, the consideration that all the light which falls upon our pathway to the skies is derived from them, and that they alone contain the counsel needful to guide us safely and peacefully through the present world, to one infinitely better, how should we be excited to acquire, not only just such an acquaintance with them as may teach us the way of salvation, but one in some greater measure proportioned to their value and interest.
The writer fears that the importance of such a knowledge of Scripture as this is not sufficiently felt by the young of the present day. He rejoices in the spread of every kind of knowledge that tends to expand and strengthen the mental powers, and thereby increase the capacity and means of innocent enjoyment; but he laments that so few of the energies of youth are habitually devoted to the study of the sacred volume, and, he would take this opportunity of presenting a few remarks and expostulations on the subject, Next to the pure pleasures of religion, intellectual enjoyments are incomparably the highest. The exercise of the mental powers; the acquisition of knowledge, widening continually our sphere of observation, and extending our means of usefulness, are worthy to be the pleasures of a rational being. But of how little real utility is a vast portion of what constitutes the “learning” of the present day! What purpose does it answer, except that of selfish, though intellectual gratification. How much mental energy and diligent research are perpetually exhausted upon the classics, the intricacies of logic, the subtleties of metaphysics, yielding little or no fruit, even to those whose lives are devoted to them; and yet, upon these, and kindred subjects, the time and talents of a very large majority of our youth, (even of those whose time for the improvement of the mind is very small,) are almost exclusively spent; frittered away in many instances in gathering fragments of knowledge, which, after all, prove to them of no use in future life.
I would particularly address myself to those young friends who, destined for the active walks of industry, are yet desirous of improving all their opportunities of mental cultivation, and I would suggest how much more interesting and successful their efforts would be, if devoted to some one object worthy of them. Your means of amassing intellectual wealth are limited. Throw them not away in collecting what at last may prove to you but as rubbish
-do not squander them in a desultory ramble through the fields of knowledge, learning something of many things, but enough to do you good of none. But if you seek for what will contribute most to your own enjoyment and make you most useful to others; if you would lend your attention to that which will worthily employ all your powers, and amply reward the employment of them, I would earnestly recommend to you the cultivation of sacred literature, the making it the object of your life to understand the Word of God, and resolving that all your studies shall, in some way, promote that object.
Do you feel apprehensive that you are invited to a narrow or a barren path? Blessed indeed be God, the knowledge necessary to salvation, the traveller as he runs may gather; but the labours of a life would be insufficient to explore the regions from which information may be gained to illustrate the Bible; and those regions are the most flowery and delightful of human knowledge.
1. Under Sacred Literature, of course, must be included an acquaintance with the original languages of the Bible; and there are, confessedly, no two languages, ancient or modern, that are so well worth the trouble of acquisition. The Hebrew, with the dew and freshness of the morning of the world upon it; and the Greek, with its unrivalled euphony, copiousness, and expressive precision.
II. Then there is the history of the period over which revelation extends, from the doubtful dawn of Egyptian annals to the noonday and crisis of the Roman empire; and the still more interesting and wonderful annals of the church, interwoven as they have been since that period with the history of every civilized nation.
III. Closely connected with the history, are the manners and customs of the various nations brought under our notice, or to which allusion is made in the sacred writings, and in these, a very fruitful and delightful subject of investigation presents itself.
IV. To the geography of the Bible much less attention is generally paid than the subject deserves.
V. Its natural liistory also should be studied, particularly with reference to “ that goodly land which flowed with milk and honey,” the scene of the chief wonders of the inspired narrative, its climate, soil, and productions.
VI. The topics of enquiry connected with the fulfilment of prophecy in the present condition of nations, and countries, and places, are matters rich with interest.
VII. And, further, for those who call for a still wider field, there are enquiries relating to manuscripts and versions, and the means of throwing light on Scripture which the writings of the Fathers, and the records of antiquity present.
From all these sources, and many others, light can be reflected upon the Bible. The Scriptures, in the hands of the most ignorant, are a gem of inestimable worth, and though all the learning in the world can add nothing to their intrinsic excellence, yet, every thing that removes obscurity from our minds in reading them, and brings out to view their brilliancy and beauty, increases their value to their possessor, by making him more sensible of it. Let me urge you then, my young friends, to commit yourselves to this delightful and profitable pursuit. He who studies without an object, brings to his study but half the powers of his mind. What an amazing proportion of mental effort has been devoted to the