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Natural Theology.


people in any one day. If this were faithfully rendered, we would say, it might well content us. Upon the present plan of asking too much, of asking two or three long services of a devotional character, we fear that we often get nothing; or nothing but a demure, wearisome, Pharisaical, fruitless observance. In the evening, we have said, we would have an entirely different service. We would invite the people to come to church or to the lecture-room, mainly as listeners. It is to be feared that the multitude of our Protestant congregations are little more than this, at any religious service. We would then make a distinction. We would lay all the stress upon one point, endeavoring thus to secure something, and thinking to secure the most that is possible in the circumstances; and then upon another point, we would concentrate our attention with a view to create a general interest in the facts, in the philosophy and in the records of religion, that we might thus advance the great and ultimate design of making better men and better Christians. In the second service, then, we say that we would invite the congregation to come mainly as listeners. The discourse should be a kind of lecture, with or without a text as might be convenient. It should as usual be preceded and followed by prayer: but the prayers should be shorter, and the discourse longer than in the morning service.

The main suggestion which we intended to make in this article is now before the reader in general terms; but its utility will be more apparent on some more particular consideration of that new class of subjects which claim the attention of the pulpit, and for the treatment of which we are disposed to assign the evening service.

In the first place then, to enter into particulars, we would propose a series of discourses on Natural Theology.

The world is filled with displays of boundless wisdom for the instruction of intelligent beings. The purposes of bare life and of mere physical comfort, might have been answered without this wonderful system of contrivance. There is a complexity in the processes of nature, and an extensive combination in its arrangements, and an abounding superfluity in its beauty and in its treasures, which might have been spared, if the only object had been to make man a mere living and sensitive being. It is because

there is an eye- itself a world of wonders in miniature to look into the exquisite mechanism and surpassing loveliness of the creation, that it is made so exquisite and lovely. The world is a stupendous theatre of instruction, built and fashioned and fitted up, to train intelligent and religious beings to wisdom and happiness.

Some of them, indeed, have been thus trained, and they have endeavored to instruct others. But it seems to us one of the most saddening things in the history of the human race, that such multitudes, the great mass of mankind, have passed over this crowded and magnificent theatre, and have learned almost nothing of the wisdom of its mechanism and its adaptations. Are we asked how they should have learned it, immersed as they are in cares, and wearied with toils? We answer, that the clergy have a seventh part of the time of life set apart to them for the instruction of mankind; and the clergy, it seems to us, of every country and of every age, are the very persons who should have interpreted to man the great lessons of the creation. If it should be objected that this would not be preaching, or would not be preaching the Gospel - not preaching salvation, and therefore that it would not be proper for the pulpit, we must say that we cannot, with any patience, listen to the objection. For we ask, — has it pleased God to spread this mighty page for our instruction, and do we take upon us to say, that it is not proper for us to interpret it in our holy hours and sacred places ? Is it an employment too low, too secular for us to study, what it has pleased God to make, for our instruction ? That rest which the holy penmen ascribe to the Almighty on completing the work of creation, is doubtless ascribed to him by a sort of rhetorical figure; they represent it, as if he had paused to behold the perfection of his finished and wonderful work. But for man, it seems from the objection, it would be unworthy thus to employ any of the Sabbath hours.

We have done with the objection : but we may observe, as it falls in with our purpose under this head, that a just and full exposition of Scripture demands this kind of illustration from Natural Science, which we propose. The Psalms are filled with allusions to the works of nature. Let the preacher then take one of the Psalms; and


History of the Church.


we will expand the supposition a little, for the sake of showing both its feasibility for the preacher as well as its expediency for the hearer. Let the preacher take, for instance, the hundred and fourth Psalm ; let him spread it before him on Monday morning, and study first the language of it, carefully and critically ; let him then, having ascertained the points to be illustrated, apply to the scientific works necessary to their elucidation, and let him give to them a portion of his leisure reading during the week. And here we will venture to observe that it would be well for the congregation to assist him in the purchase of the needful books, both critical and scientific ; or better yet, for them to build up a permanent parish library for the use of themselves and their pastors. But to proceed ; let the preacher having thus prepared himself come forth from time to time, as his studies should enable him, and discourse to the people upon the wonders of nature; not in a dry and scholastic manner, not as a mere lecturer, intent only on giving facts and explaining systems; but with an aim altogether religious ; and with that fervor and delight, with which in his daily walks he is accustomed to contemplate nature.

How excellent, let us add, would be the effect of this course, both upon the preacher and hearer! The preacher would become a critical student and a learned man, almost without intending it. And the congregation — conceive what a congregation thus instructed would become in ten years! They would become acquainted with the wonders and beauties of the science of nature. They would learn that which it was apparently designed that all mankind should learn. They would not then have passed over this world in vain. They would not be learned philosophers, indeed; but they would have taken lessons, at least, in every department of this first great school of their being. All their pursuits and employments in life would be mixed up with thought, with reflection. All nature around them, every field and stream, every mountain and valley, would be uttering voices in their ears. Their path in life would be compassed about with tokens of divine goodness, with mementos of piety. They would walk with wisdom, they would be learning to walk with God on earth!

In the next place, the history of the Church, and the biogvol. XLI. -4Th S. VOL. VI. NO. III.


raphy of good men, might profitably engage the attention of a congregation in some of their evening services.

Ecclesiastical history, it must be confessed, is not, as it has been commonly treated, a very attractive theme. It is a story of many abuses, delusions and superstitions, and these have not been separated with sufficient care from the legitimate operations and effects of true Christianity. The proper text for a large portion of this history, is, that “the light has shone in darkness and the darkness has comprehended it not." But still the light has struggled with darkness, and has been gradually dispersing it from the face of the Christian world. This is the true glory of Christianity as an agent in human affairs, and this is the true point of view from which to survey its history. This, too, would furnish the proper answer to many objections which are brought against our religion, and it is important that Christians should be put in possession of it. From its past history, also, the Church might learn many important lessons for itself; lessons of modesty, forbearance, and toleration, from the lamentable want of these qualities; the futility of creeds as barriers to mental progress, since the decreed heterodoxy of one age has often become the standard orthodoxy of the next; the heinousness of religious domination, producing some of the most terrible cruelties on record, and in fine, the essential falsity of principles which are capable of such fearful abuses. These are lessons from its own experience, which it behoves the Church to learn; which it is incumbent on its pastors to teach.

But from amidst the clouds that have darkened the paths of history, bright examples of Christian virtue have shone out, which it would be most grateful and profitable to contemplate. Let the preacher, from time to time, as his reading would lead and enable him, give a discourse on the life of some great and good man; of some saint, seer, or apostle celebrated in holy writ; of some confessor or martyr of the elder ages; or of some reformer, sage or philanthropist of later days. We would not altogether exclude from the list, the mental biography of some of the heathen philosophers and sages, as Socrates, Plato and Confucius; for some of them were not only wise and good men, but led lives of contemplation and wisdom as well




fitted as almost anything we know of, to shame and arouse the worldly minds and sluggish virtues of many Christians. But at any rate, the lives of many of the holy progenitors and exemplars of our own faith; the lives of such men as Abraham and Joseph, of David and Daniel, of the Apostles of our Lord, of Justin Martyr and Ignatius, of Fenelon and Wesley, of Schwartz and Oberlin, of Emlyn and Lindsey, 'would be fit themes for the Christian pulpit. In discoursing upon these the preacher would not only be making valuable contributions to the stock of general knowledge, would not only throw a bright and instructive light upon the history of past times, but he would be emphatically fulfilling his appropriate work by teaching the great lessons of piety and virtue. He would be teaching, not abstractly, as it is too often his misfortune to do, but by the exhibition of a living example. He would show us how good men have lived, what they have done and suffered, how they have borne the evils and overcome the temptations common to us all. He would take occasion to comment on those peculiarities of Christian experience, on those trying questions of conscience, which would be most interesting and useful to many hearers, but which seldom find a place in his abstract discourses. This descending into the heart, into the individual life, would supply one of the qualities of useful preaching, in which the pulpit is now most deficient.

We might easily enlarge on this topic, but it is not, perhaps, necessary. The charm of biography is universally acknowledged, and its utility is equally apparent. One of the best means and stimulants to religious progress is the frequent reading of the lives of wise and good men.

Let the pulpit contribute something in this way. God has compassed us about with a great cloud of witnesses for truth and virtue. His image is seen in them; and it must be meet and good for us often to contemplate it. It was thus that the writer to the Hebrews preached, when he held up before them, the faith of Abel and Noah, of Abraham and Joseph and of many more “who through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, quenched the violence of fire, out of weakness were made strong, and waxed valiant in fight;" of many who had “trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea and of bonds and imprisonments; who were stoned, and sawn asunder, and slain with

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