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AS no man is bound to believe what is contrary to common sense ; if the above-stated doctrine appears irrational, Scriptures, Articles, Homilies, and Liturgy, are quoted in vain : When men of parts are pressed with their authority, they start from it as an imposition on their reason, and make as honourable a retreat as they possibly can.
Some to extricate themselves at once, set the Bible aside, as full of incredible assertions. Others, with more modesty, plead that the scriptures have been frequently misunderstood, and are so in the present case. They put grammar, criticism, and common sense to the rack, to shew thåt when the inspired writers say, the human heart is desperately wicked, they mean that it is extremely good; or at least like blank paper, ready to receive either the characters of virtue, or of vice. With respect to the testimony of our reformers, they would have you to understand, that in this enlightened age, we must leave their harsh, uncharitable sentiments, to the old puritans, and the present methodists.
That such objectors may subscribe as a solemn truth, what they have hitherto rejected as a dangerous error; and that humbled sinners may see the propriety of an heart-felt repentance, and the absolute need of an almighty Redeemer ; they are here presented with some proofs of our depravity, taken from the astonishing severity of God's dispensations towards mankind.
If we consider the supreme Being, as creating a world for the manifestation of his glory, the display of his perfections, and the communication of his happiness to an intelligent creature, whom he would attach to himself by the strongest ties of gratitude and love ; we at once perceive, that he never could form this earth and man in their present, disordered, deplorable condition. It is not so absurd to suppose the meridian sun productive of darkness, as to imagine that infinite goodness ever produced any kind or degree of evil.
Infinite holiness and wisdom having assisted infinite goodness, to draw the original plan of the world ; it could not but be entirely worthy of its glorious author, absolutely free from every moral defilement, and natural disorder : Nor could infinite power possibly be at a loss, to execute what the other divine attri. butes had contrived. Therefore, unless we embrace the senseless opinion of the materialists, who deny the being of a God; or admit the ridiculous creed of the manichees, who adore two Gods, the one the gracious author of all the good, and the other the mischievous principle of all the evil in the world; we must conclude with Moses, that every thing which God made, was at first very good; or in other words, that order and beauty, harmony and happiness, were stamped upon every part of the creation, and especially on man, the master-piece of creating power in this sublunary world. On this axiom I raise my
Does not the natural state of the earth cast a light upon the spiritual condition of its inhabitants ? Amidst athousand beauties, that indicate what it was, when
· God pronounced it very good, and as the original also
imports, extremely beautiful : Amidst the elegant · and grand ruins, which form the variety of our smil· ing landscapes, and romantic prospects"; can an im' partial inquirer help taking notice of a thousand strik
ing proofs, that a multiplied curse rests upon this globe ; and that man, who inhabits it, is now disgraced by the God of nature and providence ?
Here, deceitful morasses, or faithless quicksands obstruct our way : There, miry, impassible roads, or inhospitable sandy deserts, endanger our life. In one place, we are stopped by stupendous chains of rocky mountains, broken into frightful precipices, or bideous caverns : And in another, we meet with ruinous valleys, cut deep by torrents and water-falls, whose tremendous roar stuns the astonished traveller. Many of the hills are stony, rude, and waste; and most of the plains are covered over with strata of barren sand, stiff clay, or infertile gravel.
Thorns, *thistles, and noxious weeds grow spontaneously every where, and yield a troublesome neverfailing crop : While the best soil, carefully plowed by the laborious husbandman, and sown with precious seed, frequently repays his expensive toil with light sheaves; or a blasted harvest.
Consider that immense part of the globe, which lies between the tropics: it is parched up by the scorching beams of the vertical sun : There, the tawny inhabitants fan themselves in vain ; they pant, they melt, they faint on the sultry couch; and, like the birds of night, dare not appear abroad, till ever
Those who oppuse the doctrine of the fall, say that, “ Weeds have their use" I grant they are serviceable to thousands of poor people, who earn their bread by pulling the general nuisance out of our fields and gardens : But till our objectors have proved that thistles are niore useful, and therefore grow more spontancously, and multiply more abundantly, than corn; we shalí discover the badness of their cause through the slightness of their objection.
ing shades temper the insufferable blaze of day. View the frozen countries around the poles: In summer, the sun just glances upon them by his feeble, horizontal rays : In winter, he totally deserts them, and they lie bound with rigorous frosts, and buried in conținual night. There, the torpid inhabitants know neither harvest por vintage, the ocean seems a boundless plain of ice, and the continent immense hills of snow
The temperate zones are indeed blessed with milder climates ; But even here, how irregular are the seasons! To go no farther than this favoured island. What means the strange foresight, by which the ice of January is laid in to temper the ardours of July ; and the burning mineral is stored in June, to mitigate the frost in December? But notwithstanding these precautions, what continual complaints are heard, about the intenseness of the heat, the severity of the cold, or the sudden pernicious change from the one to the other!
Let us descend to particulars, In winter, how often do drifts of snow þury the starved sheep, and intomb the frozen traveller! In summer, how frequently do dreadful storms of hạil cut down, or incessant showers of rain wash away the fruits of the earth! Perhaps, to complete the desolation, water pours down from all the neighbouring hills ; and the swelling streams, joining with overflowing rivers, cauşe sudden inundations, lay waste the richest pastures, and carry off the swimming flocks ; while the frighted inhabitants * of the yale, either retire to the top of their deluged houses, or by the timely assistance of boats fly from the imminent and increasing danger.
If heaven seems to dissolve into water in one place, in another it is like brass ; it yields neither fruitful rains nor cooling dews: The earth is like iron
* This was the case of several families in the author's parish, November, 1770.