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LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.
ART. I.-A Series of Discourses on the Christian Revelation, viewed in connection with the Modern Astronomy. By Thomas Chalmers, D.D. Minister of the Tron Church, Glasgow. 8vo. pp. 276. Smith and Son. Glasgow, 1817.
THAT the stupendous scene which the heavens disclose to us by day and by night should awaken the wonder of mortals; that in an age of religious blindness it shou i have captivated idolaters, and that it should actuate the thoughts, influence the belief, and modify the reasonings of those who live within the sound and illumination of the Gospel, are consequences very natural to a weak and trembling creature whose condition is so little known to himself, and over whom changes so solemn, and destinies so mysterious, are fearfully suspended. Man alone has an upward look, among the breathing myriads which cover the face of our globe; and if the sky was not adorned for the exercise and delight of the human faculties, it is at least undeniable that the mind is furnished with a capacity to contemplate the beauteous spectacle, to stretch the line of its intelligence over at least some part of the exterior arrangement, and to extract from the glittering and gorgeous scene an exhaustless theme of praise and wonder. The argument appears so irresistible and direct which God has given us of his being and attributes, in the works of his hands, that to the believing mind it is scarcely possible to comprehend the existence of an Atheist. And yet how little has all this display of energy and might and goodness done, towards bringing men to a just sense of the Deity, without a revelation.' In a world bursting with proofs of his benevolence, and blazing
with the trophies of his omnipotence, the stupidest and grossest hypotheses have disputed with God the honour of the Creation, and philosophy, falsely so called, has found substitutes for the Creator himself among the emanations of his power. There is one only medium, one only lens, through which these objects can be viewed so as to bring them upon the deep chamber of the mind in their proper focus. We must first see God as Christians, and then we are permitted to see his works with the intelligence of pure philosophy, with the understanding of the heart,-with the interior intimacy of the privileged and initiated. We can know God but in one way, we may honour him in a thousand: but it is necessary to know him first in order to honour him rightly, and nothing is better proved by the world's history and experience than that, though God has always had his "witnesses in heaven," and "his hand in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers," yet without a special communication, without being first enabled "to understand the way of his precepts; we have not even so much as
known how to talk of his wondrous works."
The oscitancy and absurdity of the ancient philosophical Atheists had fallen into contempt among the ancients themselves; and the Pagan mythology had, before the Christian revelation, begun to give way to a sublimer and more rational theism; but nothing in the natural world had thus improved the speculations of mankind: and if the mind by its own efforts was raised above materialism, it was only to people nature with a crowd of invisible agents, characterised for the most part by the vices and passions of men, and clothed with attributes and personifications incongruous, obscene, and ridiculous. The Stoics and the Moralists, who drew their opinions, not from material or physical observations, but from a more spiritual comprehension of Divine things, carried a better intelligence to the subject, and surveyed the phenomena of the natural world, with a point of reference in their minds, which conferred upon it the moral beauty of union, totality, and design. This, indeed, is the true position in which the subject should be placed. The priorities of religion and philosophy should be thus settled, before it can be distinctly perceived how physiology attains its rank in the intellectual and moral scale, and has its bearings upon a future world, and the destinies of an immortal Being. Thus Plato reasoned, thus Socrates before him, and thus Aristotle after him: they maintained that the existence of one wise and perfect Being was too high a truth to be reached by minds unpurified, and weighed down by carnal and gross propensities; and fancifully derived it from a certain Divine sagacity, a ray of Divinity, that imparted the holy secret to the soul. Christianity realized these visions, and substantiated these beautiful adumbrations; at once opened a cor