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riously doubt; for what is it but immediate instruction communicated to the mind by its Creator, without whose constant support and instruction it could carry on none of its operations? Its probability rests upon the very constitution of our intellectual nature; for we there find longing and unsatisfied desires after knowledge in regard to the spiritual and invisible, which the materiality of external nature cannot give us. The laws of her operations and movements are all fixed; the magnificent universe is constructed upon principles which the science of man can trace, and decipher, and demonstrate; and the study of that plan, in its grand and regular revolutions, affords lofty entertainment and gratification to his highest powers. But though he can measure the almost infinite extent of the universe with the rod of his science, and weigh all its planets in his balances, there comes no voice from their distant orbs to tell him of the mysteries of his own nature, of his origin, and
present condition, and future prospects. The attributes and glory of deity are indeed written in characters of awful sublimity, on the wide field of creation, by the same hand that reared the star-gemmed canopy of the universe; but the whole history of erring man proves that he needs the guidance and instruction of their author to read aright the lesson they teach. Left to himself, he soon falters in his ascent up the scale of created things that lead to their author, and falls down and worships some inferior, often some degrading and worthless, object. If nature, with all her fixed and unchangeable laws, is no unerring instructor regarding the Creator, much less can we expect that she should carry man onward with certainty another step in the religious process of reasoning, in regard to himself and his relation to God. He may feel high longings after a perfect moral and intellectual excellence, which universal experience combines to tell him is not attainable in this world. He asks his own heart and spirit—he asks the wisdom and experience of all around, and the recorded wisdom of long-vanished ages -he interrogates heaven and earth in all their mute and insentient elements, whether he is to exist after the daily changing body of organized matter has mouldered into dúst, but no responsive voice or intelligent answer can be given." I ask at the mouth of the tomb," says a celebrated American author, “ for intelligence of the departed, but the tomb gives me no reply. I examine the various regions of nature, but I can discover no process for restoring the mouldering body, and no sign or track of the spirit's ascent to another sphere.” The thinking spirit of man quails in strong and natural dread before
the king of terrors, and aspires with an eager longing after immortality. As a natural offspring of this feeling, some unsanctioned hopes that “the particle of divine breath” which animates him is not to be dispersed into air, and annihilated for ever, when it leaves this earthly dwelling, have generally been entertained. But all the strongest efforts of ancient philosophy, aided by the general traditionary belief of a future existence, led the minds of men only to a dim surmise and doubtful hope.
Now we assert, that these natural feelings indicate a principle in man which points his expectation upwards to a divine teacher, and to a miraculous sanction to the instruction he gives. Such was the interpretation that Socrates, the greatest apostle of natural religion, put upon these innate sentiments of the human heart. Divine instruction, then, sanctioned by miracle, is not only not revolting to the feelings of natural reason; it is provided for by its very principles—it is what man looks for, and can alone certainly depend upon. It follows that, if divine instruction is to be given, the teacher must be accredited with sufficient evidence of such a commission. Such credentials must clearly be the power of doing what no other man can do—a power of controlling the ordinary course and laws of nature. Man is so selfishly prone to impose upon
his fellows, that nothing less than this would be sufficient. False teachers would be continually deceiving the world, as they have in all
done, and still venture to do. The question naturally presents itself here, Have many such teachers arisen in the whole course of the world's history, and in many different ages and countries? Were we to rank in this class all who have pretended to a divine commission to instruct men, and legislate for them, the number would be great, and spread over a wide extent of time, and of the world's surface. But the pretensions of very few can answer the test -none, indeed, but those who were commissioned in the regular series of instructors, whose labours the sacred history records. When we say this, we do not mean to assert that Solon and Lycurgus, that Socrates and Numa were not in a certain sense enlightened by the Author of all truth, and led to the discovery of doctrines and laws, which are sublime for their age, and of great use to their countrymen. Still their doctrines and discoveries were only what common reason and experience approved, and sanctioned, and which needed no other sanction. Had the world stood in need only of such principles as these, miracles would have been unnecessary, at
least to teach in the vague and conjectural way that all human teachers have pretended to instruct. To call for the interference of miraculous agency requires an object that is worthy of the interposition of Deity-the sanction of a truth which none but God could reveal, and for the satisfactory sanction of which the authority of God alone is sufficient. Solon sought and obtained the sanction of the juggling oracle of Delphi; Socrates believed, or pretended to believe, that he had communications of truth, or admonitions of conduct, from a good spirit; and Numa wished it believed that he had intercourse with the divine Egeria. But all of these, while they indicate the principle in the mind of man which looks to a divine and unerring guide in the search of truth, are too liable to the most obvious objections, to be admitted as miraculous authentications of the doctrines taught, or the laws enacted. All the miracles, indeed, or pretended miracles, of heathen antiquity, are too absurd, or too ill authenticated, or introduced on such frivolous occasions, now to merit any serious consideration.
But when we look at the miracles of the Old Testament, how very different were they in their object-how different in their character-how utterly inconsistent with every thing like collusion or deception! Their object was to make known to man, and enforce upon his belief, those truths which his own reason had never discovered, and never could discover--the character of the true God, as the Creator and preserver, the ruler and judge of the world--to make known to man his present relation to God, his fallen condition, and the means of his recovery—to represent God as a being of infinite holiness, hating sin in all its shapes, and yet pardoning and accepting the sinner, without the slightest derogation to the authority or disparagement to the strictness of his law, or the slightest tarnishing of his stainless holiness. And the manner in which they were performed places them beyond the most distant attempt at cavil or objection. The flood, for instance, or the dispersion of the builders of Babel, the destruction of Sodom, or the plagues of Egypt, the cleaving of the Red Sea, or of Jordan, the falling of the walls of Jericho, or the command to the sun to stand still in the heavens--all these were exertions of the same omnipotent power that maintains the laws of nature in their course; they were all performed openly, with an intimation of their design, with the whole world, or a nation, or whole people, to witness or feel their effects; and they are all recorded with a degree of evidence that no sane mind can for a moment question. The first we have mentioned, for instance, has the whole world and all its ages as evidence of its having occurred, and all antiquity agrees in representing it as having been inflicted on account of the wickedness of mankind. Here, then, was an object worthy of the interference of God, to uphold his authority as moral governor of the world, and show his displeasure against sin. An unexampled instance it was of divine vengeance, but, from the universal wickedness of mankind, not more terrible than was deserved, or would have been sufficient to inculcate the awful lesson. All previous punishment of sin had been despised and forgot. The fall, the universal curse of sorrow, and disease, and death, to which the whole race had been doomed—the preaching and translation of Enoch—the warning and example of Noah, had been all of no avail. All flesh had corrupted their ways before God, and, in the awfully expressive language of Scripture, “ it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” The end of all flesh, therefore, came before him; for those giants in crime had deluged the earth with deeds of violence, ere the goodness that had created and had spared men—ere the long-suffering patience, that had waited and warned them near two thousand years, was roused to vengeance, to sweep the earth pure
of its reeking pollution, and assert the insulted authority of the trampled laws of the universal sovereign.
This, we remark, is one very important characteristic that will be found to run through almost all the miracles of the Old Testament, especially when exercised upon the sinful nations of heathenism-to uphold God's authority as governor of the world, and testify his hatred of sin. This is one of the most fundamental truths of all religion, and a truth which the whole history of man has proved that he is excessively averse to be taught and to feel, and incessantly prone to forget. Such demonstrations became necessary again very soon after the flood; and we need not say how frequent and terrible they required to be, to inculcate upon the naturally atheist heart of man that all-important but easily-forgotten truth. Men seem to have supposed that the non-recurrence of tlie flood was tantamount to there being no cause on their part for the repetition of such a demonstration, or a proof of relaxation in strictness, and of a milder system of law, on the part of God. This view of the divine government, however, will occur to be treated more particularly under a different topic of our argument.
Now, these demonstrations of the presence and interference of God were numerous through the whole course of the sacred history, from the destruction of the old world by the flood, till the voice of the last of the prophets confirmed the truth of all that had been taught, and pointed onward to the coming in of another and fuller form of the system of divine instruction. During the whole period of the establishing of the divine economy of the law—that is, from the time that Moses entered Egypt, upon the reluctantly undertaken task of delivering his countrymen, till they were finally settled, forty years afterwards, in the land promised to their fathers--there was an incessant series of divine interpositions of the most astonishing and overawing nature. The water, the earth, the heavens, all insentient and living nature, were called forth to break the obstinacy of the king of Egypt and his oppressive subjects--the violence of the elements, the extinction or withholding of their vivifying power, disease in its most loathsome shapes, desolation in its most appalling form, bereavement in its most heart-rending bitterness, spread terror and wailing over the land—ere the haughty king would acknowledge the power that chastised him. And after the tyrant and his proud army were whelmed in the depth of that tide which had parted to allow the chosen tribes to pass, consider the numerous exhibitions of that divine power, from the time when the legislative throne of heaven was placed on the trembling top of Sinai, and the law uttered in the hearing of the people, from amid the splendours of the angelic host, and the thunders and lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet of God, through the whole of their desert march of forty years when the glory and the visible symbol of God's presence and power guided and protected them, in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—when the barren rock poured out streams of water, and the scorching heaven showered down the celestial manna upon the barren desert.
Let it not be said that all these are the imaginations of after ages, the creations of the fervid and excited mind of enthusiastic and poetic rapture, or the bold figures of oriental imagery, to amuse or delight the simple minds of a primitive people. The narrative of these wonderful events is in the simplest and most unadorned prose that is to be found in the whole compass of human composition. The lawgiver of Israel did indeed at times take the harp; and when he struck its chords, it was to notes of loftier melody, and more celestial poetry, than is often the lot of mortal ear to listen to. But when relating the hi tory of the painful pilgrimage and wonderful march of the Israelites, no writer could possibly make use of plainer or less