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SERMON VIII.

PSALM XCVii. 1.

The Lord reigneth, let the carth rejoice.

To thinking men, the universe presents a scene of wonders. They find themfelves brought into the world, they know not how. If they look around them, they behold the earth clothed with an infinite variety of herbs and fruits, fubfervient to their use, or adminiftering to their delight. If they look above them, they behold the hoft of heaven walking in brightness and in beauty; the fun ruling the day; the moon and the stars governing the night. If they attend to the course of nature, they behold with wonder the various revolutions of the year; the gradual return of the feafons, and the conftant viciffitude of day and of night. Whilft thus they are employed, they behold in the heavens the glory of their Creator; they difcover in the firmament the handywork of Omnipotence, and they hear the voice that nature fends out to the ends of the earth, that all things are the workmanship of a fupreme and intelligent Caufe. As from thefe events they conclude the Almighty to be the Maker of the world; from the fame events, they conclude that he is the Governor of the world which he hath made, and that Divine power is as requifite to preferve the order and harmony of the world now, as it was neceffary to establish it at the first. But when experi

ence unfolded to them the powers of natural bodies; when they faw machines contrived by human skill, exhibiting motions, and producing effects, fimilar to those which they obferved in nature, by the impulse of matter upon matter; and when they faw these machines regularly exhibiting fuch motions, regularly producing fuch effects, although the head that contrived, and the hand that put them together, were removed from them; this raised an opinion, in fome speculative minds, that the world refembled fuch machines; and that, as a clock will fhow the hour of the day, in virtue of its original frame and conftitution, without any further interpofition of the artificer that framed it, so nature, in virtue of its original frame and conftitution, may and does produce every effect which we fee around us, without any further interpofition of its Divine Author.

This opinion is frequently mentioned and confuted in the Sacred Scriptures. Thofe men are condemned whofe belief it was, that, in the course of human affairs, the Lord would not do good, neither would he do evil. Although I feldom choose to carry you through the barren and unpleasant fields of controverfy, yet, as this question affects fo deeply our religious comfort in this ftate, and our hopes of happiness in a future world, I fhall confider it at large, and fhall, in the first place, Show you the abfurdity of that opinion which would exclude God from the government of the world. Secondly, Eftablish and confirm the doctrine of a particular Providence. Thirdly, Show you the grounds of joy arifing to the world from fuch a Providence.

In the first place, I am to show the abfurdity of that

opinion which would exclude God from the government of the world.

It has been thought by fome, "That the Creator "of the universe formed the conftitution of nature in "fuch a manner at the beginning, as to ftand in need "of no fucceeding change; that he established certain "laws in the material and in the moral world, which "uniformly and invariably take place, producing all "the effects which he ever intended they fhould pro"duce; as when an artist frames a machine for cer"tain purposes, and for a limited duration, the effects "which refult from it spring not from the immediate "direction and influence of the artift, but from the "original frame and compofition of the machine." Such is the opinion of those who hold what they call a general Providence. We, on the other hand, maintain, that "Almighty God, upon fpecial occa"fions, directs and overrules the course of events, "both in the natural and moral world, by an imme"diate influence, to answer the great defigns of his "univerfal government."

With refpect to a general Providence, this mechanical fyftem, this engine by which fome perfons would throw out the fuperintending Providence of Heaven, is a creature of the brain. It is a mere prefumption. It is by its own nature incapable of proof. From whence should the evidence arife? Art thou who excludeft God from his works, intrufted with the secrets of heaven? Wert thou prefent when God laid the foundations of the world? Wert thou privy to his councils? Or do you now fee, or can you show, that original cause, or those original caufes, established by God at the creation, from which all the various ef

fects in nature may be deduced, and into which they may mechanically be refolved? Can you fhow the immediate caufe of lightning or of rain, or of any other phenomenon in nature, and from the immedi, ate caufe afcend to the fecond, from the second to the third, and fo upward till you come to the laft link of the chain, which hangs immediately upon the throne of God? This can be done in the works of art. An artist will fhow you the dependence of all the movements in a machine upon one another. And when you are as well acquainted with the fabric of the world, as you may be with the ftructure of a machine, you may then speak of your chain of mechanical causes and effects. But, alas! the most improved philofophy can do no more but fkim the furface of things; and in its progrefs from the immediate vifible to the first invifible cause, at one or two removes, it finds its period, beyond which it cannot go.

Further, This mechanical fyftem of governing the world without the immediate interpofition of the Deity, undermines the foundation of all religious worship. When we pray for our daily bread, what do we ask but the bleffing of God upon the earth, to yield her fruits in due feafon? When we ask the bleffing of God upon our meals, what do we lefs than recognise his fupreme power, and implore him to make the gifts of his Providence the means of our fuftenance and refreshment? This difclaims every notion of natural caufes and effects that shuts out God; it fuppofes his concurrence and co-operation directing all the operations of nature. Again, when we pray for the graces and virtues of the fpiritual Efe, what do we afk but the Divine aid to strength.

en the good difpofitions he hath already given us, and fo to direct and order the courfe of events, that we may be kept from temptation, or not be overcome when we are tempted? But this fuppofes the fuperintendence of God over us; fuppofes his interpofition in human affairs; fuppofes his providence continually exerted in adminiftering to the wants of his creatures, according as their circumftances require. If this account be juft, then our worfhip is a reafonable fervice. But if thefe are vain words, then our worship also is vain. Then every one that goes into his closet to pray, goes only to act foolishly; then all the good and the pious, every where over the face of the whole earth, that are calling upon the Most High God, are as ufelefsly, as abfurdly employed, as if they were falling down before a dumb idol, and paying their devotions to images of wood or stone.

Further ftill, This mechanical fyftem, in a great measure, annihilates the moral perfections of the Divine nature. It places the Almighty in a state of indolence, which is inconfiftent with every idea of perfection; it makes him an idle and unconcerned fpectator of his own works, and reprefents him as beholding virtue and vice, the finner and the faint, with an equal eye. There are many scenes in human life, at which, if we were prefent, it would be criminal for us not to take a part. Did we fee the hands of the violent raised to fhed innocent blood, and not ruth to prevent the horrid deed; did we know the retreats of the robber and murderer, and not endeav our to bring them to public juftice, we would be reckoned in part guilty of their crimes, as, by a criminal omiffion, we fhould endanger the peace of the

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