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more in accordance with infinite wisdom ? This superfluity of means for the accomplishment of an end has never been observed as a trait of divine conduct; rather the reverse, great ends accomplished by few
Therefore, we are led to contemplate the sun as created, if not previous to, at least simultaneous with the earth, by which we behold the grand operations of God in greater harmony with each other, and with the laws which he has thought fit to impress upon matter. But we rest not our argument upon a probability; we consider the text to be express upon the subject. It is said, . in the be‘ginning God created the heavens and the earth ;' therefore, whatever is implied in the word heavens inust have been created co-existent with the earth ; for if any interval had elapsed from the creation of one to that of the other, the latter could not be strictly said to have been created in the beginning; and we are confident the inspired penman wrote with an accuracy which fears no cavil. We must again refer to the import of the word heavens ; the best commentators are agreed that in the sacred writings three heavens are distinctly mentioned. First, the atmosphere or firmament, mentioned in the sixth verse of the chapter before us. Second, the starry heavens ; and third, the regions of felicity or throne of Jehovah. Paul confirms this when he speaks of being caught up to the third heaven. These are frequently mentioned in Scripture as the heavens, and are evidently intended in the passage under consideration. Therefore, the conclu. sion forced upon us is, that God in the beginning created the starry heavens, including all their suns and systems of the worlds at the same time with the earth, the antiquity of which period is entirely unknown to us : and consequently, that the operations of the six days consisted in forming out of the pre-existent materials of this earth, the sublime structure of our terrestrial economy which then commenced.'
- Vol. i. 48–50.
Our author then proceeds to collect opinions upon the Hebrew word which has been translated create and make, for the purpose of reconciling geological discoveries with some other passages. But into these criticisms we need not follow him. Those who wish to peruse what has been written upon these difficulties must have recourse to the work itself. Our object being not to submit an epitome of the entire treatise, but mere specimens of its subjects and of their treatment, we must hasten to present another passage from the chapter on Laws of Nature.'
In entering upon a brief consideration of the • laws of nature,' we must first premise that by nature we mean in a general sense the universe which God has created ; and in a more limited sense it implies peculiarities of constitution, inherent in any particular thing or object in that universe ; and consequently, that the laws of nature mean certain principles or modes of action, originally impressed upon matter by the Creator : and by which he governs, with system and uniformity, the whole material universe. Therefore, we would desire once for all to impress upon the reader's mind, that when in any part of this treatise we speak of nature's laws, the resources of nature, and such like expressions, they should not be understood as conveying the idea of a power acting independent of God.
• In this sense we reject, as ridiculous and absurd, the theories which magnified nature into a nondescript something with plastic powers ; in reference to this we regard nature and nature's laws as nothing ; God is all and in all. Thus when a thing is said to be effected by the laws of nature, it is virtually so by Him who impressed on nature that law. For example, if pain follows the infringement of nature's law, and pleasure be consequent upon obedience to it, does it not as fully evince the government of God as if he put forth his hand on each occasion, and by an immediate act dispensed the reward or punishment adjudged to our conduct? And here we must be careful to observe, that the pain is not to be charged to the law, or Him who made it, but to the infringement of that law. If a man suffers for the crime of wilfully taking away the life of his fellow, no fault is found in the law, though its sanction causes so much pain : because it was established, and the consequences of an infringement of it so well known. Also, if a man rushes into the fire, according to the physical laws of nature his body is decomposed by the fiery element. This is a punishment inflicted by the Creator, through that law he has thought fit to impress upon matter ; yet no one would think of charging God with unjustly destroying the self-devoted victim ; because it was an established law, and highly beneficial to mankind, that fire should burn combustible substances : and not only were the consequences of an infringement of this law known, but it was specially guarded by the sentinels of pain. And we may remark that the production of pain to the human body, by the application of fire, is not the effort of a vindictive sanction of nature's law, but instituted by the Creator as a powerful incentive to self-preservation.
* By the physical laws of nature, we understand those which the great Governor of the universe has established with reference to mere matter; such as the laws of motion, gravitation, optics, &c. These laws are beyond the control of human power ; they are undeviating and inflexible, unless stayed by the hand of Him who first ordained them. Thus, according to the law of gravitation, a stone will fall to the earth, and iron will sink in water; yet by the miraculous interference of the Supreme Being, this law is suspended on a particular occasion, and iron is found to swim (2 Kings vi. 6). According to another of nature's laws, fire is destructive to the human body ; yet the same omnipotent hand suspends that law, and on a particular occasion men are found to walk unhurt in a tiery furnace (Dan. iii. 25). These instances of miraculous interference serve to show us that the laws of nature are subject to the control of the Creator, but they are of such rare occurrence, and under the present dispensation so little to be expected, that we may with great confidence regard these laws as steady and undeviating.'—Ib. pp. 200_202.
It is well that Dr. Kerns has made a stand against the atheistic absurdity of deifying nature, laws, and order, after the fashion of the Greeks—and this for the sake of excluding a deity altogether—another notable instance of the fatuity we have before pointed out. The philosophers, from Anaximander downward, have been so long in the habit of using these terms in place of the power and wisdom of the Creator, that they seem to have become unconscious of the illogical and absurd character of their phraseology. A mere prosopopeia is identified, under the term nature, with the Deity; and from this supreme authority laws are represented as emanating, which again are charged with the absurdity of being themselves a power efficient to the production of whatever we please to suppose involved under them. The terms have been favorites with all the atheistic schools, and on that account evince their eagerness to forget God, because in their haste they have adopted terms, and nothing else; so that professing themselves to be wise they have become fools.' The absurdity of announcing laws that have no lawgivers, or the parallel absurdity of representing unconscious nature as instituting law for itself, need not be pointed out. The whole vocabulary of such terms, chosen as it has been, by the spirit and for the purposes of infidelity, might be readily turned into effective missiles against the theories they were designed to serve. We can have no objection to the terms and phrases in question when used for purely scientific purposes, to save the needless familiarizing of the name which is not to be taken in vain; and when it is explained that they are mere substitutes for that name, or representatives of his order, the course of his working, or the objects of his creation; but against that use of them which designedly disconnects them from the Divine power, and really from all substantial ideas, reason and piety alike protest, and every Christian philosopher ought to make the most determined stand.
We find, however, that our remarks are leading us into discussion too extended for our pages, and we must hasten to sum up our opinions of the work. We can cordially recommend it for the judicious summary it presents of the discoveries of modern science, as these bear upon the evidences of natural theology. The author does not strictly confine himself, however, to natural theology, but avails himself of every fair opportunity of vindicating revelation from any of its supposed discrepancies with science. There is one chapter of his work which we think would have been advantageously omitted, not only because it was not necessarily involved in his subject, but because he has evidently not mastered the elaborate discussions to which it has given rise-we mean the chapter on the Origin of Evil.' The hopeless nature of all discussions upon that question seems to admonish us to let it alone. We cannot say that Dr. Kerns has advanced our knowledge or evinced his own, by his brief and incompetent essay. In excepting, however, to this chapter we wish to be understood as approving generally of the rest of his work. There are a few things on which we might have taken the liberty to animadvert had our space allowed. But a revision, which we hope he will have the opportunity of making, may probably lead to the detection of such things as should be corrected. The work is generally so perspicuously written and s0 comprehensive, that it will no doubt prove eminently acceptable to the young people in Christian families and the members of mechanics' institutions.
The Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday, November 21, 1840.
HO is William Baines, the new Church-rate Prisoner ?
This is an important question, and we can answer it satisfactorily. But it will be borne in mind, that it is not the moral character of the sufferer, still less his orthodoxy or his heterodoxy, which can determine the moral character of the proceedings against him. The justice or expediency of resorting to coercion in matters of conscience, is a question quite independent of any estimate of the recusant's character. He may be a good or a bad man—with that the law has nothing to do. Legal proceedings are utterly indiscriminative: when the case arises they may be used equally against the moral and immoral, the religious and profane. It is the employment of legal force in spiritual matters at all, irrespective of the character of the party who suffers under compulsory measures, that we should learn to detest. In dealing with opponents the question of character will often arise, and this is the soundest way of meeting that point.
But what is the practical operation of these high-handed methods of procedure? That good men, and good men only, are the victims of persecution. There is no fear of the bad falling into the clutches of the prelates; still less need we be under any apprehension on account of the infidel or indifferent. For such as these, there is no chance of the slightest injury at such considerate hands. The prelates, therefore, have always been obliged to seek out their victims from among the best men which the country affords, and they have seldom been so unfortunate as not to meet with them. From the days of the reformation amongst us (to go no higher) these purveyors to their ‘grim idol' have never been able to find subjects for even partial, much less capital punishment, except in the very ranks of the professed disciples of Jesus Christ: nor shall we limit the terms of this assertion to the orthodoxy or the heterodoxy of the dissidents. Our own history is full of the sufferings inflicted by them on righteous men; for an unrighteous man to be in the hands of the ecclesiastical tormentor, would be an equally fearful and novel spectacle. The former cases may gravely be said to be quite common and natural ; the latter would be both unnatural and uncommon. State-priests were never known to lay their gentle hands on any of the delinquents described in the last eight verses of the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans. They always reserve the crown of martyrdom for those who are fit for it. The pious are the only persons whom the prelates, whether Popish or Protestant, have ever sought after. True to old and hereditary instincts, modern prelacy revenges its uncharitable heart on the excellent of the earth : its victims are selected on account of the reality of their religion ; or, in other words, earnestness, decision, simplicity, and uprightness, are infallible marks for the guidance of its severest censures. A mysterious Providence seems always to have so arranged affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, ever since priests would be lords and lords would be priests, not only for the trial of His witnesses, but for the exhibition and illustration of the real character of those institutions, which are opposed to His own. He permits the state-church of England to continue, in order to show the viciousness of her constitution and the wickedness of her usurpation; and accordingly instances are presented day by day, which, in spite of all the blandishments of courts and the refinements of the times, demonstrate her origin in superstition, and her support in corruption and terror. When the very heart of this vaunted mother is pryed into, torture—bodily torture, will be found written in its inmost core as her only ultimatum. Her crosier has always been the ready lever of the rack. And let her filial champions shift and shuffle as they please, they will find that this dire ultimatum is only resorted to against the pious, the devout, the sincere—in fact, against the best men of the community, which still endures her abominations.
Prelacy has succeeded in obtaining, by means the most flagitious, the power of suppressing obnoxious religious opinions by force. We know how this power was exercised formerly. But now-a-days and with us, the obnoxious opinion is to be suppressed indirectly—by allowing a man to entertain and publish his opinion—that is, toleration — but by doing something at the same time, or insisting upon something being done, which the very tolerated opinion renders intolerable: this leads to resistance, active or passive; and that leads to suppression, and