Page images
PDF
EPUB

ist; and presently after, My meditation of Him shall be sweet : I will be glad in the Lord. Psal. civ. 31-4. Let us look sometimes to the heavens, sometimes to the sea and the earth, with the animals and plants that are therein, and very often to ourselves; and in all these, and in every thing else, but in ourselves particularly, let us contemplate God, the common Father of all, and our most exalted Creator, and let our contemplation excite our love.

They who have sent the ignorant and unlearned to pictures and images, as books proper for their instruction, have not acted very wisely; nor has that expedient turned out happily or luckily for the advantage of that part of mankind. But surely, this great volume, or system, which is always open and exposed to the view of all, is admirably adapted to the instruction both of the vulgar and the wise; so that Chrysostom had good reason to call it, “ The great book for the learned and unlearned*.” And the saying of St. Basil is very much to the purpose: “From the beauty of those things which are obvious to the eyes of all, we acknowledge that His inexpressible beauty excels that of all the creatures, and from the magnitude of those sensible bodies that surround us, we conclude the infinite and immense goodness of their Creator, whose plenitude of power exceeds all thought, as well as expression t."

For this very end, it evidently appears that all things were made, and we are the only visible beings that are capable of this contemplation. “ The world,” says St. Basil, “is a school, or seminary, very proper for the instruction of rational souls in the knowledge of Godt.” We have also the angels, those ministers of fire, to be spectators with us on this theatre. But will

any of us venture to conjecture what they felt, and what admiration seized them, when they beheld those new kinds of

Βιβλίον μέγιστον και ιδιώταις και σόφους. . ή 'Εκ του κάλλους των δρωμένων τον υπέρκαλον εννοώμεθα και εκ του μεγέθους των αισθητων τουτων και περιγραπτών σωμάτων αναλογιζώμεθα άπειρον και υπερμεγέθη και πάσαν διάνοιαν εν τω πλήθει της εαυτου δυλαμεως υπερβαίνοντά. Αlex. hom.

Ο κόσμος ψυχών λογικών διδασκαλίμον και της θεογνωσίας παιδευτήριον. Αlex. hom. i.

creatures rising into being, and those unexpected scenes that were successively added to the preceding ones, on each of the six days of that first remarkable week, when He laid the foundations of the earth, and placed the corner stone thereof ; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Job xxxviii. 6, 7.

But 0, the stupidity of mankind! All those stupendous objects are daily around us; but, because they are constantly exposed to our view, they never affect our minds: so natural is it for us to admire new, rather than grand objects. Therefore, the vast multitude of stars which diversify the beauty of this immense body, does not call the people together; but when any change happens therein, the eyes of all are fixed upon the heavens. “Nobody looks at the sun, but when he is obscured ; nobody observes the moon, but when she is eclipsed; then nature seems to be in danger; then vain superstition is alarmed, and every

one is afraid for himself*." “ But surely,” says St. Bernard, concerning the sun and moon," these are great miracles, very great to be sure; but the first production, or creation of all things, is a vast miracle, and makes it easy to believe all the rest; so that, after it, nothing ought to excite our wonder+."

LECTURE XII.

Of the Creation of Man.

This great theatre being built, besides those spectators who had been but lately placed in the higher seats, it pleased the supreme Creator and Lord to have another company below, as it were, in the area: these He called forth into being by creation, and man was introduced into this area, to be a spectator of

* Sol spectatorem, nisi cum deficit, non habet ; nemo observat lunam nisi laborantem ; tunc orbes conclamant, tunc pro se quisque superstitione vana trepidat. Seneca.

+ Magna sunt hæc miracula, magna nimis ita est; miraculum autem immensum est ipsa prima omnium productio, seu creatio, quæ miraculorem omnium adeo facilem fidem facit, ut post eain nihil sit mirum.

Him and of His works, yet not a spectator only, but also to be the interpreter of them*.” Nor yet was man placed therein merely to be a spectator and an interpreter ; but also, in a great measure, to be possessor and lord thereof; or, as it were, the Creator's “ substitute t," in a spacious and convenient house, ready-built, and stored with all sorts of useful furniture.

Now that man himself is a grand and noble piece of workmanship, appears even from this circumstance, that the Most Wise Operator, when he was going to create him, thought fit to preface His design with these words, Let us make man. So that he was created not merely by a word of command, like the rest of the creatures, but “ by a consultation of the blessed Trinity 1."

And, indeed, man is a wonderful composition, the conjunction of heaven and earth; "the breath of God, and the dust of the ground;" the bond of union between the visible and the invisible world, and truly a “ world in miniature, a kind of mixed world, nearly related to the other twoş.”. Nor is he only a lively epitome and representation of the greater world, but also dignified with the image of his great Creator. He made the heavens and the earth, the sea and the stars, and then, all sorts of living creatures; but, in the words of the poet, a more divine creature, and more capable of elevated sentiments, was yet wanting, and one that could rule over the rest; therefore man was born ll."

The rest of the creatures, according to the observation of the schoolmen, which is not amiss, had the impression of th Divine foot stamped upon them, but not the image of the

* 'Ως θίασήν τε αυτού και των αυτού έρλων και ου μόνον θεατήν άγγά και έζηγήτης. Arrian. of 'TROKUTUSTATOV.

Faciamus hominem. Ut non solo jubentis sermone sicut reliquia, sed consilio sanctæ Trinitatis conditus sit. Arnob.

και Μικροκόσμος, μικτός τις κόσμος, συγγηνής των δύο κόσμων. Greg. Nyss.
II

Sanctius his animal, mentisque ; capacius altæ.
Deerat ad huc, et quod dominari in cætera posset,

Natus homo est. -Ovid. 1 Met.
Vol. IV.

S

Deity. These He created, and reviewing them, found them to be good, yet, He did not rest in them: but, upon the creation of man, the Sabbath immediately followed. He made man, and then rested, having a creature capable of knowing that He was his Creator, one that could worship Him, and celebrate his sabbath, whose sins, if he should commit any, He might forgive, and send, clothed with human nature, His only begotten Son, in whom He is absolutely well pleased, and over whom, as the person who fulfilled His good pleasure, He rejoices for ever, to redeem His favourite creature. By the production of man, the Supreme Creator exhibited Himself in the most admirable light, and at the same time, had a creature capable of admiring and loving Him; and, as St. Ambrose observes, “ one that was under obligation to love his Creator the more ardently, the more wonderfully he perceived himself to be made *.” “ And man,” says the same author, “ was made a two-footed animal, that he might be, as it were, one of the inhabitants of the air, that he might aspire at high things, and fly with the wings of sublime thoughts +."

And, indeed, the structure of man is an instance of wonder. ful art and ingenuity, whether you consider the symmetry of his whole fabric taken together, or all his parts and members separately. Gregory Nyssen speaks very much to the pur

says,

“ The frame of man is awful and hard to be explained, and contains in it a lively representation of many of the hidden mysteries of God 1." How wonderful is even the structure of his body! Which, after all, is but the earthen case of his soul; accordingly, it is in the Chaldaic language called Nidne, which signifies a sheath. How far does the workmanship exceed the materials! And how justly may we

[ocr errors]

pose, when he

* Et quidem tanto ardentius amaret conditorem, quanto mirabilius se ab eo conditum intelligeret.

of Et factus est homo bipes, ut sit unus quasi de volatilibus, qui alta visu petat, et quodam remigio volitet sublimum cogitationum.

* “Η του ανθρώπου κατασκευή φοβερά της και δυσερμήνευτος και πολλά και απόκρυφα εν αυτή μυστήρια θεού εξεικόνιζουσα. .

say, What a glorious creature out of the meanest elements ! The Psalmist's mind seems to have dwelt upon this meditation, till he was quite lost in it; How fearfully, says he, and wonderfully am I made! Psal. cxxxix. 14. And that celebrated physician who studied nature with such unwearied application, in his book upon the structure of the human body, in which, after all, there is nothing divine, often expresses his admiration in these words, “ Who is worthy to praise the wisdom and power of the Creator * !” and many other such exclamations. The Christian writers, however, are most full upon this subject, particularly St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, and others, who carry their observations so far as the nails, and the hair, especially that on the eye-lids. And Nyssen, on the words, Let us make man, has the following observation; “Man is a grand and noble creature.

How can man be said to be any great matter, seeing he is a mortal creature, subject to a great many passions; from the time of his birth, to that of his old age, exposed to a vast many evils and distresses; and of whom it is written, Lord, what is man, that thou shouldest be mindful of him?

“ The history we have of the production of man, delivered me from this difficulty; for we are told, that God took some of the dust of the earth, and out of it formed man: from these words I understood, that man was at once nothing, and yet something very grand +.” He intended to say, that the materials out of which man was made were low, and as it were, nothing; but, if you consider the wonderful workmanship, how great was the honour conferred upon him! - The earth did not spontaneously produce man, as it did grasshoppers. God did not commit the production of this or that particular creature to his ministering powers; no, the gracious Creator

* Τις ίκανος έσι την δημιουργού σοφίαντέ και δύναμιν επαινείν. .

ή Μέγα άνθρωπος και τιμίον. "Αλλά πώς μεγα ο άνθρωπος και το επικήρον ζωον το μυρίοις πάθεσιν υποκειμενον, το εκγεννητής εις γηρας μυρίων κακών εσμόν εξαντλουν Περί ου έι πηται. Κύριε τις έστιν ο άνθρωπος, ότι μιμνήσκη αυτού; &c. την τοιάυτην διαπόρησαν έλυσεν ιστορία της γεννήσεως του ανθρώπου αναγνωσθεισα, &c. Orat. ii.

dada por

« PreviousContinue »