Page images

there then more worlds than one? Is the Moon-are Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn inhabited ? Are the fixed stars as many suns, each of which illuminates a world ? And, if there be a plurality of worlds, by what beings are they inhabited ? men ? or beings of higher-or beings of lower-powers ? Beings with “minds of superior or meaner capacities than human united to a human body ?” or beings with “minds of human capacities united to a different body?” And has sin found entrance among them ? And are they interested in the death of the Son of God—the Saviour who was “ found in fashion as a man," and trode this globe, and died for the human race? Or is “the earth really the largest planetary body in the solar system, its domestic bearth, and the only world in the universe"?

These inquiries are of deep interest. They have engaged the minds of theologians and of astronomers. But, whether we side with Sir David Brewster or with the writer against whom he took the field, the prefatory assertion of the latter is true, that "revealed religion contains no doctrine relative to the inhabitants of planets and stars."*

On the plurality or non-plurality of worlds “the oracles of God" are dumb-Scripture is silent.

3. Again. The Bible reveals to me the existence of a race of ANGELS. Some of them, I learn, are yet standing in the purity and the happiness in which they were created. These do the high behests of their Creator, and, by his appointment, “minister to " the “heirs of salva

among men. Their agency is continually presented to us in the inspired records, as servants to the saints and executioners of Divine vengeance; smiting, now the hosts of a Sennacherib, now a Herod in his pomp. Others have fallen from pristine uprightness and glory, and are

• "The Plurality of Worlds"-Preface. “More Worlds than One," by David Brewster, pp. vii. 1; ii. 127.



served in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judg. ment of the great day.” But when were they created ? What their nature? How did revolt find entrance among them? What was their offence? I see the ladder set up between earth and heaven, on which they ascend and descend, as ministering to a Jacob; I behold them as the glorious “train ” of Jehovah, and listen to the song of the seraphim : "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” I gaze on them, as clustering in their shining coborts around Sinai, and as grouped in myriads around my returning Lord. I am admitted to the interview between Gabriel and the lowly Mary; I learn that "for the devil and his angels" “everlasting fire" is “prepared.” My daily spiritual conflict is against their“ principalities and powers;” but on their

" creation, their nature, their sin, a Milton has sung with sublime and too daring flight, but “the oracles of God” are dumb—Scripture is silent.

4. THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL—evil moral and physical. It is intertwined with the world's history. It is before me, in the experience of every day and every hour. Nor before me only-upon me, within me. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.” The sufferings of a dumb ass; the pains and perils of an infant; the enmity between many portions of the animal creation; the oppression of the slave; the wrongs of down-trodden nations; the ravages of death; the sighings and weepings of this Bochim-world; the volcano, the earthquake, the storm —what problems are here! Was not the Creator a God of love ? Was he not a God of power ? Whence and why this evil in his world ?

“The question concerning the origin of evil is left by the Seriptures just where they found it. They neither introduce the difficulty, as some weak opponents contend, nor account for it, as is imagined by some not less weak advocates; who having undertaken to explain it, and having, perhaps, satisfied themselves and others that they have done so, are sure to be met by the very same difficulty, reappearing in some different form; like a resistless stream, which, when one of its channels is dammed up, immediately forces its way through another. He who professes to account for the existence of evil by tracing it up to the first evil recorded as occurring, would have no reason to deride the absurdity of an atheist, who should profess to account for the origin of the human race by simply tracing them up to the first pair.

" It is a folly to regard the difficulty as to the origin of evil in the light of an objection, either to our religion, or to any other, since it would lie equally against all; as indeed it does against any system of philosophy likewise ; for the ancient heathen were as much perplexed with doubts as to the origin of evil as we are. Even atheism does not lessen, it only alters the difficulty; for as the believer in a God cannot account for the existence of evil, so the believer in no God, cannot account for the existence of good; or, indeed, for any thing at all that bears marks of rational design.' Man theorizes: but “the oracles of God” are dumb-Scripture is silent.

5. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD-THE ACCOUNTABLENESS OF MAN. A reconciling verse might have spared us the Calvin. istic and Arminian strife. That book, opened amid all the terrors of the great assize, is “the book of life” of a sovereign God. Its pages of light and love are studded with the names of a countless family of sons and daughters, "elect according to the preknowledge of God,” predestinated as “ vessels oï glory," by an eternal adoption, to be conformed to the image of God's Christ, and to share his inheritance. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of

• Selections from the Works of Archbishop Whately, pp. 370, 871.

him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will be hardeneth." Yet He doth “ find fault." Yet does He judge man as subject to His law, and as responsible for repentance, for faith, for holiness; responsible under law-responsible under grace.

Paul is pressed with the difficuity. I am on the tiptoe of expectation. His answer is to solve the problem, and to reduce all to system. Calvinist, give heed! Armi. nian, attend! Not Paul, but “the oracles of God” (for it is Paul“ in the Spirit") speak: “Nay, but, О man, who art thou that repliest against God?" And this is all. The problem is unsolved. On the harmony of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, “the oracles of God” are dumb-Scripture is silent. 6. Hades.- Where and what is it? To


of us apart from its bearing upon our own future—this inquiry is associated with remembrances the most touching, with emotions the most tender. Our loved dead, who fell asleep in Jesus, where are they? Their bodies we have committed to the ground, " Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Their graves are among us.

there. Amid our weepings, we hear the voice of the Lord of death, “I am the Resurrection and the Life." “Thy brother shall rise again." Not only so. “Absent from the body," “present with the Lord,” is the law of the disembodied spirits of the just. To die, was “to be with Christ." “ This day with me in Paradise,” was their blissful experience, ere our first outburst of grief was bushed. But where their dwelling? What the character, what the measure of their foretaste ? Are they cognizant of our joys and sorrows ? From the Saviour's bosom, can their eye reach to the lone one from whom they have been severed ? Do they hover near us? The sainted mother, the folded



go to


[ocr errors]

lamb, do they wait to greet us? Are they standing on Jordan's further bank, to convoy us to the Saviour's side ? May we know this? Thus much, they are “with Christ." Thus much, " Them also that sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him." But no more. “The oracles of God," full and frequent in their utterances of the Lord's return, are now dumb. Scripture, glowing with imagery, teeming with promises and warnings of the resurrection day, is silent here.

7. A large portion of the second volume of the Bible is devoted to the records of THE LIFE OF CHRIST. Four writers were inspired to record to us the days of his flesh.” Here, too, are omissions we should hardly have anticipated, and which stand in contrast with the cravings of man's curiosity, as variously displayed in his treatment of their narratives. Biographers and writers of fiction, sometimes even the historian in dealing with the chief actors in the scenes which he records, give vividness to their pages, and meet the cravings of their readers, by portraying their heroes and chief personages. A portrait is an almost indispensible prefix to a biography. From the records of Cæsar, a Cromwell, a Napoleon, we turn to the bust or effigy or canvass, which has preserved to us the features and the stature of the man. So minutely does a Walter Scott, or a Dickens portray the physique of heroes and heroines that their imaginary characters start readily into life at the painter's or the graver's touch. The writer has provided a sitter for the artist. Height, size, complexion, conformation of feature, the dress, to a gauntlet or a riband, all are before us on his graphic page. But though painters, ancient and modern, have essayed to place upon their canvass the outward form of Him in whom “ dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;" though every incident of the Gospel story has been produced and reproduced by ten thousand

« PreviousContinue »