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nings, and a thick cloud upon it. Here were all the appearances of a volcano; and, as this manifestation of God at Sinai was intended to fill the hearts of the people with the fear of God, by shewing them how terrible he is in his judgment against those who break his law; so every burning mountain, at this day in the world, should inspire the same religious fear; and, I believe, generally does, to those who are spectators of it; declaring to the world, that God is the avenger of sin; and that the fires of nature, which are now but partial, and under the restraint of mercy and forbearance, shall at length break out to the burning of the earth, and of all things therein. When the flood came upon the world, the fountains of the great deep were opened; the waters of the air were added to the wa>ters of the earth, and all united their forces to execute the divine sentence: so at the last visitation of this world, all the fountains of lire shall be opened; the burning mountains of the earth shall send forth all their hidden stores, while new ones shall be opened in all places; and the fires of the sky shall co-operate with the fires of the earth. Modern discoveries have taught us, that the sea, the earth, the air, the clouds, are replete with a subtile and penetrating matter, which, while at rest, gives us no disturbance; but, when excited to action, turns into a consuming fire, which no substance can exclude, no force can resist • so that the elements, which are to melt zoith fervent heat, want no accidental matter to inflame them; since all things may be burnt up by that matter which now resides within them, and is only waiting for the word from its Creator.
All the phenomena of nature speak some religious truth to those who have ears ^o hear their voice. When we say this, we do not deny that volcanos may have a
Vol iv, E
natural use in purging the earth, and giving vent to combustible principles, which, it' wholly confined, oii^ht shake and shatter the earth to pieces before the time. These things are very consistent, because the .wisdom of God works for many different ends by the tame means.
A review of the earth and its contents, however short and imperfect, must inspire us with an awful 6ense of the divine power and wisdom. But we are •not to stop there ; the natural history of the earth bearS' «m unanswerable testimony to the truth of revelation; and we should never fail to apply it to that purpose, •when an opportunity offers. The Scripture, which tells us that this earth, on M'hich we live, is now under sentence to be destroyed by fire, doth also teach us, that it hath been once destroyed already by water: of which destruction the earth still bears such evident anarks, that the belief of it is as obvious to every observer of nature, as it is necessary to a Christian, from the surface of the earth we understand, that the whole was once under water; which descended, with an accelerated velocity, from the land to the seas, toward which all the furrows of the earth are directed, and in which they terminate. Then if we search under the earth, we find, that as man is not in the state in which God first made him, but fallen into disorder and sinfulness ; so the earth has undergone some natural revolution, which, in part, dissolved its subStance, and lodged within it such bodies as must have been the remains of a former earth, because they could not possibly be the productions of the present. Ikmes of animals, shells of fishes, fruits of trees, are found buried at all depths, and even in the midst of the hardest stone and marble. Whence we are to argue: 1. That these bodies were transported and de
posited by a flood of waters; because most of them belonged to the sea. 2. That the matter of the earth must have been in a state of solution when this happened; because it could not otherwise have inclosed sea shells, and filled up their cavities through the smallest apertures. 3. That the flood was general, or common to the whole world; because these monuments of it are found in all countries of the earth; on the highest mountain, and in tracts most remote from the sea.
To account for a disorderly situation of things, out of their several places, under ground, we must apply to water or to fire; which two are the causes of all the changes in this globe. We cannot apply to subterraneous fire, because here is an effect which is universal, and subterraneous fire is a cause but partial and occasional; the marks of which, when compared with those of water, are but of small extent*. Besides, fire would have destroyed bodies which water preserved; such as the tenderest shells, the skins of scaly fish, the fruits and leaves of vegetables. All these would bear drowning and burying, but could never survive the devastations of fire. How could fire transport the productions of all climates into one place? But if they floateaV on water, subject to winds, tides, and currents, such a thing might easily be ; accordingly, we find the fruits of the East and West-Indies; bones, teeth, and shells from fish of different seas; the elephant of Africa, the tortoise of America, all near to one another in the same spotf, as if laid up for a testimony to the truth of the Holy Scripture, which alone gives us a faithful account of this great revolution in nature. When we are informed, that the earth we now inhabit is the burying-place of a former eaith, it is as reasonable that we should dig up the remains and ruins of it, as that we should find the bones and coffins of former generations in the earth of a church-yard.
* Tbe effects of fire, compared with those of water, may per* haps be nearly in the same proportion, as the forge of the smith, with its flags and cinders, when compared with the lands of the *hole parish.
1 What is here said is verified in the island of Sheep]/ in KenL
Our subject will become more edifying, if we ex* amine what use hath been made of some parts of it in the Scripture.
1. Thus, for example, every man is to consider himself as clay in the hands of a potter, and to submit himself, with resignation, to the appointment of God, who gives to all men their proper stations and uses in life, as the potter forms some vessels to mean, and some to honourable, offices; and it is as vain for any man to quarrel with the ordination of heaven, and throw himself out of that sphere of life in which God hath placed him, as for the clay to murmur against the design of the potter. There is an ancient fable of Eastern original (for the son of Sirach hath it*) which relates the folly of the vessel of earth in joining itself to the company of the vessel of brass ; in consequence of which it was broken to pieces. "*
2. The treasures of the earth are buried within it; so that they cannot be discovered and brought forth without the labour of man; yet they are not placed 60 deep, as to render our labour ineffectual. Thus hath God ordained in every other case; nothing, but what is worthless, is to be found by the indolent upon the surface of life: every thing valuable must be obtained by labour; all wisdom, all science, all art and experience, are hidden at a proper depth, for the exercise of the wise; and they, who do not spare their
* Ecclus. xiii. 3.
labour, shall not be disappointed in their search. The treasures of wisdom, in the word of God, do not lie upon the surface of the letter, for every superficial reader to observe them: therefore, where it is said, Search the Scriptures, the word implies that laborious kind of searching, by which the treasures of the mine are discovered under ground.
3. The properties of metals are very considerable, and would afford us much instruction, if the limits of this discourse would admit of it. As gold stands the test of fire, such is the constancy of true piety, which grows brighter and purer with every trial. And, as gold cannot be pure without being refined in the furnace, so cannot any man be fit for God's acceptance, till he hath first endured temptation. The father of the faithful was put to the fiery trial of offering up his own ion for a sacrifice , that he might be an example to all his children; to whom this warning is given by the son of Sirach, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation'—for gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity *. I suppose this rule to be so certain, that human life never did, nor ever will, admit an instance to the contrary.
4. In the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the four great monarchies of the world are signified by the four principal metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron. The Assyrian monarchy has the pre-eminence, as well in dignity as in order of time, and i3 compared to gold. Thou, said the Prophet Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, art this head of gold: from which interpretation, his image of gold seems to have been presumptuously derived; the proud king, not content
* Eccluj. ii. l—5. _,