Imatges de pÓgina

the fame happy influence in unfolding the divine system-in settling disputes in divinity, and in harmonizing our views of these subjects, that the difcovery of the rational operation of nature has had in elucidating her various phenomena, and rendering our views of thofe fubje&s intelligent and harmonious.And the one, as to importance, is as much to be preferred to the other, as divine and eternal things are to be preferred to a corruptible perishing world,

But, though I had formed the conclufion, that there did exift fuch an all-conftituting-allgoverning divine principle, and that it was difcoverable; ftill the question remained, What is it? and, what is its theory? I had ever been taught, and had confided in the opinion, that, though the divine Being was discoverable, yet the mode of the divine exiftence was undiscoverable; and that, tho' a trinity in the godhead must be believed upon the divine testimony, yet no explanation of the doctrine could be given; and I had been fo often and feverely rallied by my wife and greatly efteemed inftructors, for afking the why's and the hou's of things, that I had nearly concluded the queftion to be foolish; but ftill the thought would often occur to my mind," Do I, or can I con"ceive of any exiftence of which I do not con"ceive fome mode, true or falfe?" But I was confcious of the existence of a divine Being; this put me at length upon exploring and analizing my own mind, and committing to words, to myself ac curately defined, what, and what only, I dii conceive of a divine Being; the refult of which labor, to my own mind, has been fatisfactory.


I would not, however, be understood to fuppose, that this divine principle has, till now, been undiscovered; on the contrary, I observe, it has been as vifilbe as the fun in the firmament, and has ever been acknowledged by all believers in divine revelation to be a fundamental principle. Writers of bodies of divinity, and other large works, have ufually taken their departure from it; and we have commonly heard it remarkably expreffed, though not fo much of late, in the introduction of the prayers and other religious exercifes of God's people, viz. That which was done in Chrift Jefus, for the redemption of the world, in the early age of eternity.

It is the use and all comprehenfive application of a known principle on which we have fixed our attention; and, indeed, this is the proper subject of all philosophy, natural, moral, or divine; and in this sphere men have made their most valuable difcoveries.-The attractive power of elementary fubftances is no new discovery; it must have been obferved by every intelligent man on earth; the rational, exact, and extenfive influence of this power, or, what may be called its theory, conftitute the discoveries of Newton.* *

*Mr. Newton having discovered a theory in the natural World, and that all things were under one government or law, there ftopped; acknowledging a Divine Will that controuled the whole; but he did not difcover that the divine will itself prefented a theory, of which the heaven and the earth are the exact copy or fecondary operation; confequently his natural theory is imperfect, i. e. he does not by theory fully explain the phenomena of nature-he theorizes the movements of the fpheres, &c. but he does not theorize their exiftence, or

Nor would we be underflood to entertain a profpect that difcoveries and demonftrations of truth will be made, which will lead to univerfal

how they were put in motion-he could not by theory, explain Noah's flood, the future diffolution of the world, or how it must exift after the conflagration. He went, however, as far, perhaps, as it was poffible to go, without discovering the divine theory; for, as the natural world depends abfolutely on the divine will; the divine will, in reality, is nature's law; and it is evident, that nature's law must be discovered and explained, in order to explain fully the fyftem of nature.

In fome theological writings, Mr. Newton difcovers that he apprehended this defect in his fyftem; and, in treating of the doctrine of the Trinity, particularly of the Father and the Son, it is apparent, that he was led to fuppofe fomething exifted in that relation, which was neceffary to be unfolded, in order to complete the great object of his researches; but inftead of taking up the divine will as being conftituted effentially, of diftinct parts in union, and therefore offering the ground of a theory in itfelf, he understood it to be fimple, or without parts; and, fo understood, it was incapable of being a ground from which he could rationate the existence and ftate of the worlds, and open to the bottom, nature and her law. And therefore, in this attempt, inftead of gaining, he loft ground.

Mr. Newton difcovered nature-attraction and repulfion is nature herself:-It is certainly an effect, or fecondary operation; and, when we come to the fecondary operation, we find it manifold.


The late learned James Tytler, read in manufcript the first part of this theory; and, in the margin, made in this connection the following remark. "Perhaps, on ftrict examina

tion, it may be found, that fome other fecondary operation "may claim high prerogatives in nature's family. The ex"tenfive modes of operation, afcribed to the electrical fluid,

may be feen defcribed in the Encyclopedia Britannica, under "the articles electricity, attraction, atmosphere, aftronomy, "chemistry, deluge, cohefion, fire, flame, heat, cold, aurora, "borealis, earthquake, lightning, meteorology, &c. Ele&ri"cians have confidered this fluid as the chief fecondary agent "in producing all the phenomena of nature. And at prefent "this appears to be the prevailing doctrine of natural philofo"phy. See a fhort abftract of thefe opinions in Walker's fyftem of geography, lately published.”

[ocr errors]


conviction; the most palpable facts in nature, and the most easy to be understood, have been doubted and denied; there exifts in the world a criminal infidelity-the prejudices of men are harder to be removed than mountains, and their difinclination to thinking is a difficulty fill more infurmountable-And, believing that a principle of fuch allpowerful effect does exift, and that we have fixed upon the truth, fill we fhall not impute all remaining doubt and difpute refpecting this work to unbelief, prejudice and floth; for, after all, in the prefent ftate, we fhall know but in part, and fee darkly; the principle of knowledge will be but partly defcribed, and its application fometimes will be obfcure, if not mistaken.-In making ufe of a thoufand cafes in the works and providence of God to illuftrate the truth of our theory; and in applying numberlefs texts of fcripture, no profpe& is entertained that a cafe will not fometimes be mistaken, and a text be mifapplied,

But this imperfection of all human minds and works, in many cafes produce groundless doubts, difputes and difbelief; for, if the imperfections of our fenfes and performances afford juft ground to difcredit facts, we are incapable of knowledge; and, in the prefent cafe, we appeal to facts; facts which, we prefume, all men are in fome deconscious of, however imperfe&ly they may gree difcovered or defcribed; and it cannot be denied, that the body of the evidence adduced in support of the theory, is of the fame nature, and is drawn from the fame fources; and, indeed, is the very fame evidence which has principally fupported the caufe of Chriflianity in the world.


As to the form of this work, I am fenfible that one more fyllogiftical would have been better adapted to the habits of fome improved minds; but my study has been to make it easy to the most common understanding, and therefore I have divided it into numerous fhort fections, each illuftrating, agreeably to the theory, fome one establifhed fact or doctrine of the creation, providence, or revelation of God. This refpect has been paid to this ftate of the human mind, not only as it is the most common, but also as it will ever have the moft weight and decifion in forming a judgment. And I have endeavored to make the argument to confift of the fimple facts; for it must be acknowledged, that an argument by way of inference from facts, however clear, cannot be fo clear and convincing as the internal evidence, or the discovery of the truth in the facts themselves.

The most material points of the theory I had observed and arranged before entering into the miniftry, and they were advanced in my first fermons; but fuch difficulties appeared in the way of their coming to the public through my hands, that, till lately, it has not been remotely contemplated, and therefore no provision had been made for its being done; and, at present, the flenderest natural conAtitution, and daily growing weakneffes, and the paftoral charge of a large people, leave no profpect of my finifhing the work. All I am encouraged I fhall be able to offer, is a compend of the divine theory, a flatement of the principle, and a


Some remarkable changes in the circumftances of the author, which took place foon after fetting about this work;

« AnteriorContinua »