Page images
PDF
EPUB

DISCOURSE I.

A SKETCH OF THE MODERN ASTRONOMY.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon

and the stars, which thou hast ordained ; What is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that thou visitest him.”—Psalm viii. 3, 4.

In the reasonings of the Apostle Paul, we cannot fail to observe how studiously he accommodates his arguments to the pursuits, or principles, or prejudices of the people whom he was addressing. He often made a favourite opinion of their own the starting point of his explanation; and educing a dexterous but irresistible train of argument from some principle upon which each of the parties had a common understanding, did he force them out of all their opposition, by a weapon of their own choosing-nor did be scruple to avail bimself of a Jewish peculiarity, or a heathen superstition, or a quotation from Greek poetry, by which he might gain the attention of those whom he laboured to convince, and by the skill. ful application of which, he might “ shut them up unto the faith.”

Now, when Paul was thus addressing one class of an assembly or congregation, another class might, for the

time, have been shut out of all direct benefit and application from his arguments. When he wrote an Epistle to a mixed assembly of Christianised Jews and Gentiles, be had often to direct such a process of argument to the former, as the latter would neither require nor comprehend. Now, what should have been the conduct of the Gentiles at the reading of that part of the Epistle which bore al. most an exclusive reference to the Jews ? Should it be impatience at the hearing of something for which they had no relish or understanding ? Should it be a fretful disappointment, because every thing that was said, was not said for their edification? Should it be angry discontent with the Apostle, because, leaving them in the dark, he had brought forward nothing for them, through the whole extent of so many successive chapters ? Some of them may have felt in this way; but surely it would bave been vastly more Christian to have sat with meek and unfeigned patience, and to have rejoiced that the great Apostle bad undertaken the management of those obstinate prejudices, which kept back so many human beings from the participation of the Gospel. And should Paul have had reason to rejoice, that, by the success of his arguments, he had reconciled one or any number of Jews to Christianity, then it was the part of these Gentiles, though receiving no direct or personal benefit from the arguments, to have blessed God, and rejoiced along with him.

Conceive that Paul were at this moment alive, and zealously engaged in the work of pressing the Christian religion on the acceptance of the various classes of socie. ty. Should he not still have acted on the principle of being all things to all men ? Should he not have accommodated bis discussion to the prevailing taste, and literature, and philosophy of the times? Should be not bave closed with the people, whom he was addressing, on some favourite principle of their own; and, in the prosecution of this principle, might he not have got completely beyond the comprehension of a numerous class of zealous, humble, and devoted Christians ? Now, the question is not, how these would conduct themselves in such circumstances ? but how should they do it ? Would it be right in them to sit with impatience, because the argument of the Apostles contained in it nothing in the way of comfort or edification to themselves? Sbould not the benevolence of the Gospel give a different direction to their feelings ? And, instead of that narrow, exclusive, and monopolizing spirit, which I fear is too characteristic of the more declared professors of the truth as it is in Jesus, ought they not to be patient, and to rejoice ; when to philosophers, and to men of literary accomplishment, and to those who have the direction of the public taste among the upper walks of society, such arguments are addressed as may bring home to their acceptance also, “ the words of this life? It is under the impulse of these considerations, that I have, with some hesitation, prevailed upon myself to attempt an argument which I think fitted to soften and subdue those prejudices which lie at the bottom of what may be called the infidelity of natural science; if possible to bring over to the humility of the Gospel, those who expatiate with delight on the wonders and sublimities of creation ; and to convince them that a loftier wisdom still than that even of their bigh and honourable acquirements, is the wisdom of him who is resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. A It is truly a most Christian exercise, to extract a sen. timent of piety from the works and the appearances of nature. It has the authority of the Sacred Writers upon its side, and even our Saviour himself gives it the weight and the solemnity of his example. 6 Bebold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet your heavenly Father careth for them. He expatiates on the

« PreviousContinue »