THE GOD OF PROVIDENCE,
THE GOD OF THE BIBLE.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall
be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and than shall the
history of Providence, as it is unfolded in the Book of Esther, is a key to the history of the world. It enables us to unlock the mysterious counsels of the Ruler of the universe in the events of former times, and teaches us to refer to his Sovereign will, for the manifestation of his own glory, the most dark and frowning occurrences of the times in which we live. History that is not written on this principle, is only a book of atheism; and the Christian in reading it ought always to supply the defect. If the acknowledged advantage of this study consists in viewing effects in connection with their causes-if a mere acquaintance with facts is esteemed of small value without a perception of their springs, how little does that man deserve the name of an accomplished historian, who never sees the hand of Him who directs the least as well as the greatest of the events that take place in the whole universe?
The Christian is warranted to refer to his God the most trifling as well as the most momentous occurrences of every day. Nothing in Godís world can be so mean as to be below his notice; nothing can be so untoward as to thwart his purpose. This is not only a truth, by the firm, open, and constant belief of which God is to be honored; it is likewise the source of never-failing consolation. We walk by faith, and not by sight. Everything about us seems to counteract Godís word; and if we do not believe that God can bring good out of evil, and turn the most adverse events to the fulfillment of his own glorious purposes, our hearts will fail us every moment. But when we reflect that God reigns on earth as well as in heaven, and that every occurrence is directed by him, we have hope even in affliction, and confidence against the most vigorous opposition to the truth. What a comfort to reflect that nothing has ever taken place but what is according to the counsel of our heavenly Father! A deep and abiding impression of this consoling truth also directs and encourages our prayers. It sends us to the throne of grace, not only when we need deliverance from great dangers, or when we seek the most distinguished blessings, but when there is the most trifling annoyance to be removed, or the smallest comfort or convenience to be wished. We may ask for a favorable state of the weather on the first day of the week, as well as for a prosperous voyage to a missionary ship; and to be thankful for preservation through the unseen dangers of the night or of the day, is as truly our duty as when we have escaped in the most miraculous manner from the dangers of a shipwreck. The Christian ought to see God in everything. Our God breathes in the air, flows in the sea, shines in the sun, and lives in all life. In him we live, and move and have our being.
It has ever been the labor of philosophers to banish God from his works, and to carry on the system of the universe without him. Whether they are infidel or nominally Christians, their doctrine is not essentially different. If they recognize him as the Ruler of the world, they have obliged him to establish general laws, which bind himself as much as his works. These laws are good upon the whole, though they may be unavoidably accompanied with smaller inconveniences. Their tendency is to promote virtue, to discountenance vice, and to produce the greatest possible quantity of general good; but from the particular grievances to which, from their operation, some may unhappily be exposed, there is no deliverance. God may look on, but he cannot interfere. What is an earthquake? What is a storm? What is an eruption from a burning mountain? They are the necessary consequence of general laws, which, upon the whole, produce good, which good must excuse the particular evils with which they are necessarily attended. The ship sinks overwhelmed by a tempestuous ocean-the city is swallowed up in the bowels of the earth-and the inhabitants of whole districts are overwhelmed with boiling lava; but in all this, God has no immediate hand. He can neither direct nor restrain the disastrous tendencies of his established laws. Silence, thou brutish infidel. It is the voice of God that speaks to thee in all these displays of his power. Brutish did I call thee? Nay, thou art worse: I will not degrade the brutes by the comparison. Do not the beasts of the field bellow and fly for covert to hide them from the thunderbolt of Jehovah? The voice of the Almighty in the thunder makes the hinds to calve before the appointed season; and wilt thou, insolent man, despise the threatening of thy Creator?
The denial of a particular Providence is grounded chiefly on disaffection to the sovereignty of God as manifested in his government. The facts are not all such as the wise may think would occur, if God were concerned in the production or the control of them. They are not willing to say that he has not the power to effect all good and prevent all evil, neither are they willing to ascribe to him what is in their estimation a deficiency of good or a positive evil. The only thing, then, that remains to them is to remove him from the immediate administration, and leave the direction of events to the necessary operation of general laws. Combined with this principle, there is, no doubt, the operation of others, which may not be avowed. The direction of all the wheels of nature, the constant upholding of everything that exists, the supply of the continual returns of the wants of all living things, appear too undignified, as well as too troublesome an office for the philosopherís God. The same wisdom that bound Jupiter by Fate, and placed the gods of Epicurus at a distance from the cares and turmoils of the lower world, has still its unconfessed influence in the conceptions of philosophers unenlightened by the word and Spirit of God. As the heathen dramatists brought their gods on the stage only on occasions deemed worthy of their interference, so it is only by the establishing of a wise system of general laws that our philosophers will permit God to govern the world; and if he is at all suffered at any time to interfere, it must be only in matters of the utmost moment.
When they speak of a general Providence, they speak only to deceive. If God governs the world merely by his laws, we can speak of his providence with no more propriety than we can speak of the providence of Lycurgus in governing the Lacedemonians by his laws. God acts as immediately when an event happens according to the usual course of things, as when the laws of nature are interrupted. His immediate power is necessary to the existence and operation of the thing called law. Were he to suspend his agency, the law would cease to exist.
As the Christian is by revelation bound to consider God as ruling in all the events of the world, so there is a connection, relation, and combination among those events, that, when rightly viewed, will afford the most abundant proof of revelation. One event may be accounted for by the infidel, but a number of events may have such a relation to one another, and to a common end, that the most hardened skepticism cannot speciously deny that they have marks of an overruling Providence, and prove that the Bible is the book of God. I have in another tract pointed out this fact with respect to the wonderful events recorded in the book of Esther. But the same thing may be illustrated with overwhelming evidence from uninspired history. I shall in this tract illustrate it from facts relating to the progress of the gospel. This I design to companion to that on the book of Esther. My intention is not merely to point out a satisfactory source of confirmation to a religion whose sources of evidence are incontrovertible, but to accustom the Christian to study history as a Christian. Nothing opens the mind more to enlarged views of things than an extensive acquaintance with history. But the principal advantage of it is lost, if it is not constantly viewed as a volume that reveals the ways of God. It is much to be regretted that the writing of it has been too generally left to men who scarcely ever see God in the transactions and events which they record. This has made the Christian either undervalue the advantage of the knowledge of history or has materially injured the minds of those who have read without care and without suspicion. Were the study properly conducted, it would be a delightful and profitable school of Christ. Instead of filling the mind of youth with admiration for what they should abhor, it would enlarge their acquaintance with the government of God, and enable them to see the mighty and the wise as puny insects, fulfilling the purposes of the God of the Bible, in their efforts to oppose them.
The prophecy recorded Matthew 24:14, in connection with the means employed to give it accomplishment, affords the most satisfactory evidence of the truth of the gospel. Soómany obstacles stand teach all nations." It shall be my object, then, to point out a number, of providential circumstances in the history of the world, tending to show that the Ruler of the universe directs the course of events for the fulfillment of this prediction, identifying the God of Providence with the God of the Bible. While each of these, viewed separately, has a favorable aspect towards effecting the designed object, they afford evidence of design; but when they are viewed in connection with all their number, variety, and distantly different epochs, as well as their gradual and seasonable appearance, to every dispassionate and impartial judge they afforded overwhelming evidence that the hand that produced them is Divine.
In pointing out the peculiarities in the progress of the gospel, which indicate a Divine energy and superintendence, the first thing I shall mention is its amazingly rapid and wide extension in the apostolic age. I admit that the rapid and extensive progress of a doctrine is not, abstractedly considered, evidence of its truth. If it is very agreeable to the human mind, if no part of society has an interest in opposing it, if it does not encounter strong prejudices, if it readily associates with popular superstitions, its general reception is not a matter of wonder. But the gospel is opposed to the strongest prepossessions of the human mind: it is not suited to the natural taste of any one of all the countless millions whom it was designed to bless. To the Jews it was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks it was foolishness. It had to encounter all the prejudices of ancient systems of religion, strengthened by the interests of the teachers that lived by them, and the trades and manufactures to which they gave employment. The priest and the people, the devotee and the sage, the man of virtue and the votary of vice, were all equally indisposed to receive this new doctrine, that saves sinners, not by works of righteousness of their own, but by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. What power short of Omnipotence could have borne down the opposition created by such interests, and have made the gospel triumph in the conversion of men so hostile to its pretensions? Though naturally disrelished by persons of all characters, it brought men of all characters in subjection to its truth. It is this circumstance that makes its rapid progress evidence of its divine origin.
The instruments chosen by God in the first propagation of the gospel were evidently selected for the purpose of showing that its success depends on an Almighty arm. Had men of power, or men of learning been employed as the heralds of salvation, the rapid progress of the gospel would not have been so wonderful. But a number of illiterate fishermen were appointed to sustain the claims of an unpopular truth, against all the power and learning in the world. They had to encounter all the subtlety of the Grecian philosophy, and in an age the most enlightened that ever paganism boasted. In this unequal conflict, instead of enjoying the smiles of the mighty, the scepter of the world was swayed by an enemy; the heathen raged, and the Jews imagined vain things; the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ; for of a truth against Godís Holy Son Jesus whom he had anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For three hundred years, the gospel was opposed by the power of the Roman Empire; nor was any rebel sword ever drawn to protect it. Christianity was established by men without learning, without power, in opposition to the united efforts of the learned and the mighty among Jews and Gentiles. Had the apostles been philosophers, or had they found a Constantine as a patron, Christianity would have wanted one of the most convincing evidences of its truth.
A striking instance of the Divine superintendence in this matter may be seen in the previous removal of obstacles that, in the usual course of Providence, could not have been overcome. Though God confirmed his word by miracles in the beginning of the gospel, yet he intended that it should be spread in future ages by ordinary providential means. Even in the apostolic age, miracles are but occasional, and were at no time the usual means of diffusing the gospel. In tracing the progress of the apostles, we may see this observation justified by innumerable examples. God did not usually interpose as he did in delivering Peter from prison by the angel: in general, he delivered the apostles, forwarded them on their journey, and gained them friends and protectors, not by miracle, but by the ordinary operation of his providence, with circumstances that would lead the careless to ascribe all to accident, or human agency alone.
Agreeably to this plan, Divine Providence had prepared the way for the gospel before its appearance, by a train of circumstances that may be clearly traced. Among these we may reckon the general peace that prevailed in the world at the coming of Christ. War prevents the intercourse of nations, and draws off the attention of men from the concerns of religion. Had the kingdoms of this world at that time been embroiled in war, the apostles would not have had access to them they must have been confined to one country, and even there they would not have been so eagerly attended to. A general peace was a very unusual thing: why did it happen at this peculiar period? Evidently it was ordered by the Sovereign Disposer of events, with a view to the propagation of the gospel.
In connection with this is to be considered the subjection of so great a part of the world under one ruler. The Roman Empire is the greatest in the history of mankind. Throughout its extensive provinces an intercourse was established, that afforded the apostles a ready access from one country to another. The world was united into one family, that it might hear Godís message respecting the salvation of sinners through his Son Jesus Christ.
That degree of civilization also that followed the Roman arms in the different countries of their conquest ought not to be overlooked in this account. The gospel, it is true, is addressed to the barbarian as well as the Greek; but it must be admitted, that there is a more ready access, as well as greater facilities for laboring with success, where there is civilization. That degree of civilization, therefore, which subjection to the Roman yoke had conferred on the different nations, was intended by Providence to facilitate the progress of the gospel among them. To the gospel, then, we indirectly owe that degree of civilization which philosophy can produce, and of which heathenism is capable.
As the amazingly rapid and extensive progress of the gospel under the labors of the apostles was not owing to the natural efficacy of the means, so neither was it wholly owing to the miracles that accompanied it. Nothing can be a more striking proof of this than the little success of the gospel under the ministry of our Lord himself. Notwithstanding all his mighty works, he left but a few followers at his death. That the greatest miracle is not naturally able to convert the soul of man, we see in the case of the resurrection of Lazarus. Some who witnessed that mighty work, instead of yielding to the truth which it was intended to prove, went and told the Jews, who conspired- to kill Lazarus, lest the people, through his resurrection, should believe in Jesus. If miracles and eloquence, and the most august and commanding majesty of address, could convert men, none who saw Jesus would have remained in unbelief. But to show us that the success of the gospel is owing to the power of Jesus over the heart of man, and not to any external means, he himself made fewer converts by his preaching than the apostles. How often did he speak for hours, without effect, to the obstinate and incredulous, while Peter by one address converted three thousand souls If, then, under all the eloquence and mighty works of the Saviour himself, the gospel had but little success, and if under his apostles it spread with the rapidity of lightning, in opposition to obstacles naturally insurmountable, its success must have been owing to an Almighty Power that opened the hearts of men to receive it.
The conveyance of the Scriptures through the hands of the Church of Rome is the next providential circumstance of peculiarity that I shall mention as evidential of the truth of the gospel. I do not mean to admit, that the preservation of the Scriptures from total extinction in the dark ages, was owing to that church. It has been often observed, that the Bible was preserved independently of the Church of Rome, and would have run no risk of extinction had that church been permitted to destroy it. The Eastern churches, and the various sects separated from the Western church, would have preserved the word of God, had every copy in possession of the man of sin been burned or buried. But my argument is founded on the circumstance that the Scriptures were, by an almost miraculous providence, preserved in purity and integrity, by a jailer whose hatred and whose interests demanded their destruction, or their corruption or mutilation. Nothing could have preserved the Scriptures in the hand of the Church of Rome but the power of Him who preserved Daniel in the midst of hungry lions. If the raven was thus, contrary to its nature, constrained to carry food to the prophet of God, we have the fullest assurance that it was owing to the energy of His power who has been raised to the right hand of God to rule the universe, and make all things subservient to the progress of his truth. In this light, the apostasy of the Church of Rome is evidence of the truth of the gospel, if, by conveying the Scriptures, she has carried her own mittimus, who can suspect that documents a forgery? Let us form an illustration. Let us suppose that a magistrate receives the following letter:-"Sir-The person who brings you this letter is about to settle for some time in your neighborhood. With all the appearance of extraordinary sanctity, he is a cunning knave; who, under pretense of loyalty, really designs to sow the seeds of rebellion. His austere piety and insinuating address have imposed upon many. I have therefore thought it my duty to give you this hint, that you may keep an eye on him while he remains in your district." Will there be any reason to suspect the genuineness of this letter? Would an idiot suppose the bearer of it to be its forger? Such, then, is the evidence of the truth of the Scriptures, from the circumstance of their being handed down to us through the Church of Rome. Every feature of that church is pointed out in the various views that are given of that system, which is designated the "mystery of iniquity," with a plainness that no impartial eye can overlook. Indeed, it is evident that the Church of Rome cannot but recognize herself in the picture given of the man of sin; and, fearing the application, she bas always labored to keep the Scriptures from the people. She has immured the Bible as a captive king, surrounded indeed with all the insignia of majesty, but destitute of any real authority. But is it not beyond measure astonishing-is it not a kind of miracle of Providence, that the cruel persecuting beast, that has devoured such multitudes of the people of God, has never been permitted to kill this illustrious prisoner? The jaws of the lions, hungry and enraged, have been locked, so that a tooth has not been put on the prey that lay so many centuries under their jaws. The Church of Rome has preserved that volume that is destined to destroy her; for she shall be consumed by the spirit of his mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of his appearing. Like Pharaohís daughter, she has taken up the child of God, and nursed it as her own, for the destruction of her own kingdom.
The invention of the art of making paper, in the eleventh century, is another proof that the God of Providence is the God of the Bible. An art in the ordinary course of Providence absolutely necessary to the universal diffusion of the Scriptures, and of which there was not the smallest hope when the prediction referred to was given, must certainly be ascribed to Divine Providence, with a view to that prediction. Such in all respects is this excellent art. The Romans wrote on parchment, or on the Egyptian papyrus; and as the latter was far the cheapest, it was generally used. But after the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens in the seventh century, the communication between that country and Europe being interrupted, the papyrus could no longer be procured, and all books were written on parchment only. This rendered books so scarce and of so great value, that they were beyond the reach of private persons altogether. We are told by those who have consulted the manuscripts of the middle ages, that such was the scarcity and value of the materials for writing, that it was usual to write on parchment from which some former writing had been erased. Robertson, the historian, gives us many curious facts, proving the scarcity of books previous to this invention. "Private persons," says he, "seldom possessed any books whatever. Even monasteries of considerable note had only one missal. Lupus, archbishop of Ferriers, in a letter to the pope, A.D. 855, beseeches him to lend him a copy of Cicero de Oratore and Quintilianís Institutions ; Ďfor,í says he, Ďalthough we have parts of these books, there is no complete copy of them in all France.í "The price of books became so high, that persons of a moderate fortune could not afford to purchase them. The countess of Anjou paid for a copy of the homilies of Haimon, bishop of Albertstadt, two hundred sheep, five quarters of wheat, and the same quantity of rye and millet." (Rob. Char. 5. vol. 1. p. 238).
Now, if the materials for writing had continued so high, the progress of the gospel, in the ordinary course of Providence, would have been effectually prevented. Instead of finding a Bible in every cottage, a country gentleman, of moderate fortune, could not have had the consolation of one for his family. How, then, could the Word of God have found its way to all nations? Who is it, then, that does not see that the God of Providence is the God of the Bible? Who is so blind as not to see that Jesus, as the ruler of the world, has directed to this invention for the multiplication of Bibles? Paper was invented to give accomplishment to the prediction of the universal spreading of the gospel.
Besides the importance of this art to the diffusion of the light of the gospel, let us consider its immense value to the improvement of society in knowledge of every kind. As much, then, as this art has contributed to the diffusion of general knowledge in arts, sciences, literature, laws, manufactures, and trades; so much is the world indebted to the Bible. Infidels, whose prejudices incapacitate them from reasoning philosophically on these events, may boast of arts and sciences to the disparagement of the Bible; but every discerning eye may see, that all improvements are evidently bestowed on the world in reference to the advancement of the progress of the Word of God. A popish bishop may enumerate discoveries, which, in his ignorance, he can trace no higher than to their secondary causes, while they are evidently traceable to the finger of God, for the sake of that Bible which he hates.
This invention will appear still more providential, if we consider its date. Why did it not take place from the sixth to the eleventh century? Because God had determined to give up the world to the grossness of darkness during these ages. It was made in the eleventh century, that it might promote the revival of literature and improvement of knowledge that began to dawn about that time, which in the end contributed their aid to the Reformation.
But the hand of Providence may be still more clearly seen in the invention of this art, when it is viewed in connection with its sisteróthe art of printing. The supply of cheap materials was of indispensable importance: still it was but half the work. Though the materials could have been procured for nothing, as long as books must be written Lord Kaimes says paper was made no earlier than the fourteenth century. His lordship must refer to the general manufacture as an article of trade, not to the date of the invention with the hand, their price must be extravagant. Books were, indeed, greatly multiplied after the invention of the art of manufacturing paper. Still, however, we have the most authentic proof that they were so dear as to be beyond the purchase of the bulk of society. Dr. Beattie reckons that the expense of writing out so great a book as the Bible would be at least equal to that of building an ordinary country church. And Dr. Robertson relates, that such was the extravagant price of books even so late as the year 1471, that when Louis XI. borrowed the works of Rasis, the Arabian physician, from the faculty of medicine in Paris, he not only deposited in pledge a considerable quantity of plate, but was obliged to procure a nobleman to join with him as security in a deed, binding himself under a great forfeiture to return it. In such a situation, it was impossible in the ordinary ways of Providence that the gospel should ever effectually pervade the mass of mankind. But here the hand of God interposed, and perfected the blessing of the art of manufacturing paper, by the art of printing. This art is supposed to have been invented in Germany or Flanders, about the year 1420. It was first performed by blocks of wood, in which were engraved all the characters of every page. The improvement of printing by moveable types was found out about thirty years later; and in less than a century after it was invented, it was brought to perfection in France, by the illustrious Robert Stephen and his son Henry, so well known as the greatest printers and the greatest scholars of modern times. "By means of this wonderful art," says Dr. Beattie, "books are multiplied to such a degree, that every family (I had almost said every person) may now have a Bible, which, when manuscripts only were in use, every parish could hardly afford to have." The improvement by stereotype, lately invented, still lessens the expense of the sacred volume. The God of Providence has given this to the era of Bible Societies.
The era of the art of printing is strikingly providential-the century previous to the Reformation. The invention was perfected just in season to diffuse the resuscitated light of Divine truth. The invention of the art of manufacturing paper was the harbinger of the revival of letters; the invention of the art of printing was the harbinger of the Reformation. These angels of God wafted the artillery of heaven to the place of combat, to batter down the bulwarks of Babylon.
Can any man be so blind as not to see the hand of God in these inventions? The author of Christianity declared that his gospel should extend over the world. The dearth of books rendered this impossible. When two so wonderful inventions, then, cheapening books so immensely, are brought forward at the very moment in which they are needed, can it be a matter of doubt who is their real author? Is not this quite in accordance with the declarations of Scripture, that Jesus governs all things for the good of his Church? In connection with these observations, let Christians open their Bibles and read the 31st and 36th chapters of Exodus. They will there see that invention and skill in arts are the gift of God to the world, for the sake of their utility to his Church. The Israelites were bond-slaves in Egypt, and it is obvious that no people could be more unlikely to possess the skill requisite for the completion of the tabernacle and its furniture; yet arts, and manufactures, and the utmost perfection of mechanical skill, were bestowed on them for perfecting the house of God. "See, I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Un, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee," Exodus 31:2-6. If, then, God gave such gifts for the sake of the carnal ordinances of the Jewish dispensation, shall the various arts, sciences, discoveries, inventions, and manufactures, which in one way or other contribute to the success of the gospel, be considered as originating in chance, or undirected by the Providence of the great Head of the Church? He is ill instructed in the ways of God who can think so. The invention of spectacles is one of the greatest blessings of the Christian; yet, perhaps, he seldom thinks of ascribing this to the Providence of his Saviour. This enables us to read the Word of God at a time when, without this, reading would be uncomfortable and often impossible. How has this invention facilitated the labors also of those who have been engaged in various ways on the Scriptures for the general good? How much more labor can learning now bestow on the Bible, than it could have done had this invention never existed? Philosophy, by the pen of Lord Kaimes, celebrates the invention with respect to its utility to literary men. "So useful an invention," says his lordship, "cannot be too much extolled. At a period of life when the judgment is in maturity, and reading is of great benefit, the eyes begin to grow dim. One cannot help pitying the condition of bookish men before that invention, many of whom must have had their sight greatly impaired, while the appetite for reading was in vigor." What a shame to Christians if they are unmindful of the Author of this blessing, when the philosopher is so grateful May not the Christian go a step beyond the philosopher, and give the glory of the invention to God, for the purpose of reading his word? Spectacles were invented by Alexander Spina, a monk of Pisa, about the end of the thirteenth century. See how God can employ the very drones of society. Jesus gives ingenuity to those who know him not, that they may in many different ways contribute to effect his purposes. The date of the invention is also remarkable. Why was it not given to the ingenuity of the ancients? It would not then have served Godís people in reading the Bible. Why was it not given before the eleventh century? Because there was then no Bible to be read. But now the invention comes into operation, that it may be ready in the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the Reformation put the Bible into the hands of the people.
The progress of the art of reading itself is not to be overlooked in this matter: it is evidently providential. During the dark ages, ignorance was so complete and general, that few persons could either read or write. Let us listen to Dr. Robertson: "Literature, science, taste, were words little in use during the ages which we are contemplating; or, if they were at any time, eminence in them is ascribed to persons and productions so contemptible, that it appears the true import was little understood. Persons of the highest rank, and in the most eminent stations, could not read or write. Many of the clergy did not understand the breviary which they were obliged daily to use; nay, some of them could scarcely read it."
"The art of reading," says Lord Kaimes, "made a very slow progress. To encourage that art in England, the capital punishment for murder was remitted if the criminal could but read, which in law language, is termed benefit of clergy. One would imagine that the art must have made a very rapid progress, when so greatly favored; but there is signal proof of the contrary, for so small an edition of the Bible as six hundred copies, translated into English in the reign of Henry VIII., was not wholly sold off in three years."
Let us compare this with the present state of things, when every engine of saint and sinner is at work to educate the people. Is not all this that they may be able to read the Bible? This is no doubt Godís design. This is expressly the design of all Christians in their efforts to this purpose. This is the grand object of all Sabbath schools, and of many great religious societies. The self-defense efforts of the man of sin or infidelity, are reluctantly obliged to contribute to the same object. Neither infidelity nor superstition had any intention to educate the people, till they found that they would be taken out of their hands by the men the most important and the least obvious. The way of writing in China makes so naturally the second step in the progress of the art, that our good fortune in stumbling upon a way so much more perfect cannot be sufficiently admired, when to it we are indebted for our superiority in literature above the Chinese. Their way of writing is a fatal obstruction to science, for it is so riveted by inveterate practice, that the difficulty would not be greater to make them change their language than their letters. Hieroglyphics were a sort of writing so miserably imperfect as to make every improvement welcome; but as the Chinese make a tolerable shift with their own letters, however cumbersome to those who know better, they never dream of any improvement. Hence it may be averred with great certainty, that in China the sciences, though still in infancy, will forever continue so." From this it is seen that this philosopher, who was not peculiarly partial to Christianity, allows that this invention is at once the most important and the least obvious. While, therefore, he celebrates our good fortune in stumbling upon it, the Christian may be allowed equal gratitude to the providence of the God of the Bible, to whom alone, with any color of reason, this wonderful method of recording thought must be ascribed. If man stumbled on it, God put it in his way. If, as this philosopher confesses, without an alphabet the sciences must still continue in infancy, let proud science do reverence to the Bible. To the God of the Bible is science indebted for its existence and progress, by the invention of the art of writing by alphabetical signs. Were it not for the Bible, science would have nothing of which she might boast.
"There is reason to think," says Dr. Beattie, "that this art must have been in the world from very early times, and that the use of an alphabet was known before the hieroglyphics of Egypt were invented." "In China, they understood writing and printing too, and have done so, we are told, for many ages; but to this day they have not invented an alphabet, at least their men of learning use none. They are said to have a distinct character for each of their words, about fourscore thousand in all, which makes it impossible for a foreigner, and extremely difficult to a native, to understand their written language." Now what a blessing is an alphabet! What a providential thing that it was invented in time to be the receptacle of the first written revelation! What would have been the consequence had the apostles written in Chinese? Is this accident? We might as well ascribe to accident the rising of the heavenly luminaries by night. Why did not the invention of alphabetical writing arise in China? Why was not the Chinese method practiced in the countries where the alphabetical method prevails? What power directed the falling of the die? Was it not evidently the hand that gave direction to the star in the east, and pointed to the cradle of the babe of Bethlehem?
It is not only as a depository of Divine truth that this invention appears to be providential. It deserves in a distinguished manner the same character as a means of communicating information with regard to the definite import of written revelation. From this invention it is easy to write our views of the meaning of the Divine oracles, and easy to become acquainted with what is thus communicated. A Christian can teach, convince, reprove, correct, exhort his brethren, with little inconvenience to either, though separated by the utmost limits of the earth. Revelation thus becomes better understood, errors are more easily put down, and the flame of Christian zeal can be communicated from breast to breast among all the people of God in the world.
Indeed, the facilities that this gives also to the communication of error may be esteemed a heavy drawback from this blessing. But this evil principally affects only those in whom the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine into them. This woe is to the world. All the errors that ever have been circulated, cannot injure the glory of the gospel, and they are a trial of the faith of Godís people. Had no error ever been broached, the people of God would not now possess so full and steady a knowledge of the import of the Divine word. Nothing can contribute more to a deep acquaintance with everything contained in the word of God than the constant necessity of defending the truths against the perversions of human ingenuity. And nothing is better calculated to humble the Christian in the dust before his God, that he may be kept in the profession of what is right, enlightened in the discovery of what he does not know, and guided as a child by the hand of the Heavenly Teacher. It convinces him of the necessity of the teaching of the Spirit, as well as of the word of God. With all the evils that result from the perversion of the Scriptures through the facilities of alphabetical writing, no enlightened Christian can hesitate a moment to avow, that it is one of the greatest blessings of Providence to the children of God. The best medicines may be used as poisons, yet they are still an immense blessing to the afflicted.
Alphabetical writing has conferred innumerable temporal blessings on the human race. It propagates discoveries, inventions, and every kind of knowledge, with the rapidity of lightning, to the utmost ends of the earth. It makes the whole human race one family. The sciences, we have seen, could hardly exist without it, and without doubt they never could extend their progress considerably without its aid. Is there any art that is not indebted to it for its prosperity? Let the proud sons of science, then, let the votaries of all the arts, acknowledge their obligations to the Bible. The God of the Bible, for the end of the Bible, gave an alphabet to literature.
The reformation of religion that commenced in the beginning of the sixteenth century is one of the most astonishing events in the annals of the world, and its history clearly manifests the providence of God in giving effect to the wonderful prediction respecting the progress of the gospel. After the almost total extinction of Divine truth for many an age, the re-appearance and progress of the gospel in the very camp of the enemy, is satisfactory evidence that the God of Providence is the God of the Bible. The united power of the antichristian church and empire was unable to crush the efforts of an obscure monk.
In the accomplishment of this event there is discoverable a chain of circumstances that never could have been connected but by a Divine hand. All the secondary causes of the Reformation were so timed and combined, as to leave no room to question that they were secretly moved and guided by a great First Cause. Infidelity, both ancient and modern, has been in the habit of considering that a successful attempt to account for the secondary cause of an event or phenomenon, is sufficient to disprove the agency of a superintending Providence. However unjustly it may be supposed that Aristophanes charged the philosophy of Socrates, it is at least evident from the Nubes, that such was the way of reasoning at that time employed by atheistical ingenuity. If the phenomena of rain, thunder, lightning, &c., could be accounted for by natural causes, a First Cause was supposed unnecessary. If it never thundered without clouds, where was the evidence from thunder of the existence of Jupiter? That the same mode of reasoning was thought just by the atheists in the days of Horace, is seen in his assertion, whether his intention were serious or ludicrous, that he was converted from the system of Epicurus by having heard thunder in a clear sky. The clouds, it was thought, might naturally produce thunder; but if it thundered without clouds there must, they thought, be a Jupiter to effect the work. This was shallow philosophy, and yet it was not a great deal deeper in Dr. Darwin, the celebrated physiologist, who attempted to strengthen the foundations of atheism by accounting for the instincts of animals. By proving that the newly-dropped lamb seeks the teat of the dam by smell, and other such discoveries, he hopes to hide from us the hand of the God of nature. But his science only traces the law a step higher, and however far it may proceed, God must be at its origin. The lamb is guided by smell. Let not the atheist triumph. Who gave smell to the young animal? No series of second causes can ever dispense with the necessity of an almighty, independent First Cause.
To throw discredit on the Reformation, infidelity has thought it sufficient to account for its origin and progress, and to repel those attacks, the influence of second causes has been sometimes injudiciously overlooked or undervalued. But the sound philosopher, the well-taught Christian, has no need to depreciate the means by which this glorious event has been accomplished. When he views a series of circumstances adapted to an end, he traces them to their cause, and recognizes the God of the Bible in the God of Providence. The apostle tells us, that if the gospel be hid, it is hid only from those who are blinded by the god of this world. In like manner, if God hides himself in his providence, it is only from the eyes of the willfully and obstinately blind. His agency and power are every day proclaimed in all the events of the world. Put the scattered parts together, and they will invariably compose the name of God.
The sober pen of history reasons in this way in the hand of Dr. Robertson, a writer by no means inclined towards fanaticism. "To overturn," says lie, "a system of religious belief, founded on ancient and deep-rooted prejudices, supported by power, and defended with no less art than industry, to establish in its room doctrines of the most contrary genius and tendency, and to accomplish all this, not by external violence or the force of arms, are operations which historians, the least prone to credulity and superstition, ascribe to that Divine Providence which, with infinite ease, can bring about events which to human sagacity appear impossible. The interposition of Heaven in favor of the Christian religion, at its first publication, was manifested by miracles and prophecies wrought and uttered in confirmation of it. Though none of the Reformers possessed, or pretended to possess, these supernatural gifts, yet that wonderful preparation of circumstances which disposed the minds of men for receiving their doctrines, that singular combination of causes which secured their success, and enabled men, destitute of power and of policy, to triumph over those who employed against them extraordinary efforts of both, may be considered as no slight proof that the same hand which planted the Christian religion protected the reformed faith, and reared it, from beginnings extremely feeble, to an amazing degree of vigor and maturity."
As in so very slight a sketch I can only touch on the subject, I shall merely point to some of the providential circumstances that paved the way for absurdity of many tenets and practices authorized by the Church, and perceived the futility of those arguments by which illiterate monks endeavored to defend them. Their contempt of these advocates for the received errors led them frequently to expose the opinions which they supported, and to vindicate their ignorance with great freedom and security. By this, men were prepared for the more serious attacks made upon them by Luther; and their reverence both for the doctrines and persons against whom he inveighed was considerably abated. This was particularly the case in Germany. When the first attempts were made to revive a taste for ancient learning in that country, the ecciesiastics there, who were still more ignorant than their brethren on the other side of the Alps, set themselves to oppose its progress with more active zeal; and the patrons of the new studies, in return, attacked them with greater violence. In the writings of Reuchlin, Hutton, and the other revivers of learning in Germany, the corruptions of the Church of Rome are censured with an acrimony of style little inferior to Luther himself."
The peculiarity of the character of Luther also, is another providential circumstance of great moment. Why, exactly at this crisis, did a man arise who was such a prodigy of intrepidity, ardor, and unquenchable zeal? Had he been a man of ordinary character, with all the light of the millennium, his labors might not have ended in the Reformation. His peculiar character was necessary to combine the other favorable circumstances. Had this link been wanting, the whole chain would have been unconnected. Erasmus had previously animadverted on the corruptions and superstitions of Rome; yet from timidity, the love of ease, and dread of losing his popularity and pensions, Erasmus died in a Church, almost every absurdity of which he had lashed with most poignant ridicule. It requires an age to produce a great man in some departments, but a Luther is not to be found in every millenary. Who is so blind as not to see that God made him expressly for his work? Had not the fire of God kindled in his soul, would courage so romantic have led him to attack all the hosts of the man of sin in their strongest entrenchmentís? His faith was as bold as that of Jonathan, when, with his armor-bearer, he attacked the hosts of the Philistines. "And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few" (1 Sam. 14:6).
The talents and acquirements of this great reformer were also providentially adapted to his situation. Had he not been both learned and talented to an eminent degree, his piety, zeal, and courage would have failed in his great attempt. He had to discuss the subjects of controversy with all the proverbial subtlety of the Church of Rome. "Though born of poor parents," says Dr. Robertson, "he had received a learned education, during the progress of which he gave many indications of uncommon vigor and acuteness of genius." "He had been taught the scholastic philosophy and theology which were then in vogue, by very able masters, and wanted not penetration to comprehend all the niceties and distinctions with which they abound; but his understanding, naturally sound, and superior to everything frivolous, soon became disgusted with those subtle and uninstructive sciences, and sought for some more solid foundation of knowledge and of piety in the holy Scriptures." Thus armed, he feared not to challenge even the universities and the most learned men of the world.
We may see, also, the providence of God in determining his course of life for the obtaining of this education, as well as possessing himself of the Holy Scriptures. "The death of a companion, killed by lightning at his side, in a violent thunderstorm, made such an impression on his mind as cooperated with his natural temper in inducing him to retire into a convent of Augustinian friars, where, without suffering the entreaties of his parents to divert him from what he thought his duty to God, he assumed the habit of that order." Thus even his mistaken devotion was the means of fitting him for his work; and his original zeal for popish piety was the means of qualifying him to overturn popery. In this situation he found the word of God, which in another he might never have seen. "Having found a copy of the Bible, which lay neglected in the library of his monastery, he abandoned all other pursuits, and devoted himself to the study of it with such eagerness and assiduity as astonished the monks, who were little accustomed to derive their theological notions from that source. The great progress which he made in this uncommon course of study augmented so much the fame, both of his sanctity and of his learning, that Frederic, elector of Saxony, having founded a university at Wittemberg on the Elbe, the place of his residence, Luther was chosen first to teach philosophy, and afterwards theology there, and discharged both- offices in such a manner that he was deemed the chief ornament of that society."
The character of Pope Leo X. seems also to have been providentially suited to forward the Reformation. His profuseness, luxury, liberality, schemes of family aggrandizement, all contributed to force him to push the exactions of the Church as far as possible, which smoothed the way for the doctrines of Luther while his easy temper and voluptuousness disinclined him to rouse himself to the immediate suppression of the disasters occasioned by this troublesome monk.
The policy of the court of Rome towards Luther was not marked by its usual cunning. It neither made a vigorous effort at first to crush him, nor stooped to win him by a partial reformation of abuses; but by a vacillating system lost the critical moment in which he might have been ruined, or reconciled to the Church. The arts of diplomacy were contrived and perfected in the court of Rome, yet, by a kind of infatuation, the most obvious policy was neglected towards the reformer. No similar disregard to its interests can be pointed out in the history of that politic court. Surely the hand of Providence was here.
This forbearance was owing to other causes also. Leo imputed the whole disturbance to monastic jealousy, and left the monks of different orders to fight their own battles. But what, perhaps, more than anything else contributed to divert attention from the designs of Luther, was the gradual way in which light broke in upon his own mind. He was a Papist a long time after he commenced his career of reformation. He still conscientiously declared his deference to the apostolic see. It was not till future inquiry forced on him the discovery of the radical errors of popery, that he renounced it as a system. To this gradual progress Luther owed his success.
The political schemes of Leo disinclining him to give umbrage to the elector of Saxony, Lutherís protector, on the eve of the election of an emperor, was also favorable to the progress of the Reformation. Notwithstanding all the impetuosity of Lutherís enemies, it was not till the year 1520 that he was induced to pronounce the bull of excommunication.
The death of the emperor Maximilian (1519), who was prompted to the support of the Church of Rome both by interest and inclination, was also of signal service to the cause of Luther. "In consequence of this event, the vicariate of that part of Germany which is governed by the Saxon laws devolved to the elector of Saxony; and under the shelter of his friendly administration, Luther not only enjoyed tranquility, but his opinions were suffered, during the interregnum which preceded Charlesí election, to take root in different places, and to grow up to some degree of strength and firmness." If, then, this powerful enemy was so opportunely taken out of the field and a friend substituted in his place, the hand of Providence may be recognized in the transaction.
The schisms occasioned by rival popes, with the enormities of these heads of the Church, as well as the scandalous lives of the clergy, were also, in the wisdom of God, eminently serviceable in opening the ears of the people to the doctrines of this great reformer.
Peculiar circumstances adapted Germany to be the cradle of the Reformation. More than one half of the property of the country had fallen into the hands of the Church. From the wars between the emperors and popes, the most of the considerable German ecclesiastics joining the papal faction, seized the imperial domains and revenues, and exercised their imperial jurisdiction in their own dioceses. Many persons also, to preserve their lands from violence, had made a voluntary surrender of them to the Church, and received them back as fiefs. From these and other peculiar oppressions, Germany was, more than any other country, galled with the yoke of popery.
But a peculiar and remarkable feature in the constitution of the German empire was wonderfully adapted to foster the first efforts of Reformation. Unlike the other feudal kingdoms of Europe, which had succeeded in depriving the great vassals of all jurisdiction in their territories, the imperial barons had, by a train of providential circumstances, attained almost independent governments. It was owing to this that Luther found protection from the elector of Saxony, and patronage from the other princes of Germany. To this also it was owing that a combination among the princes of the empire was able to withstand the power of the empire, and to gain toleration to the new religion. Had the imperial barons been in the same situation with the barons of France, they could not have protected Luther a single night, though they had been all his friends. Now, surely skepticism itself must look on this as very remarkable. By an opposite process, France and Germany, both feudal governments, came at this time to have a civil constitution totally unlike. In the former the barons were without jurisdiction, in the latter they were independent. The causes that led them to this were of long and gradual operation; and to prepare a cradle for the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the providence of God was at work for ages before its birth.
But even after we have got Germany divided into independent states, if we overlook Providence, there were a million of chances to one that the heads of these states would be hostile to Luther. Had all the subjects of Saxony been reformers, and the elector a persecutor, Luther must have been crushed. Why, then, was the elector a patron? Why were so many of the German princes among Lutherís friends? Princes and nobles are not usually the first in a nation who receive the gospel. It was not with these that Jesus and the apostles were first successful. This is still more remarkable, when it is considered that the reigning elector was not supposed to be a religious man, notwithstanding all the length he went to protect Luther. Every circumstance in the succession to the thrones of the different states of Germany about this time, appears to have been providentially directed with a view to this great event.
Nor is the patronage of the German princes the only thing to be considered as giving protection to the doctrines of Luther. That patronage would have failed, had it not been for other circumstances. Had the emperor Charles V. been at leisure to turn the weight of his power against them, he could have crushed all their exertions. The character and schemes of the emperor are therefore to be taken into the account of providential circumstances. His ambition involved him in continual wars with France: he was kept in awe of the sultan Solyman, the greatest prince of the Mahometan religion and was not infrequently embroiled with the pope himself. This diverted the attention of Charles from the reformers, and did not permit him to take that vengeance on them that he was well inclined to inflict.
Indeed, the character of the princes that filled the thrones of Europe at the time of the Reformation was so remarkable as not to be looked on as accidental. No age brought forward so many great monarchs; Charles V., Francis I., Henry VIII., Leo X., with Solyman the Great on the throne of Constantinople. The wild work of ambition that chiefly occupied these destroyers of mankind gave an opportunity for the work of God to gain ground; and that it succeeded, not from the incompetence of its enemies, but in an age when all thrones were filled by the most illustrious sovereigns, is to its eternal honor. At first sight it may appear strange to class among providential circumstances favorable to the Reformation, what to most would appear obstacles. But a little reflection will convince any one of the justice of the observation. Had all the sovereigns of Europe been mere petticoat weavers to the virgin, they would have been more dangerous to the Reformation. Weak, superstitious princes of no ambition, being at peace among themselves, and concerned only for their religion, might have easily combined, and extinguished the light before it had been completely kindled. The talents of a Charles V. are not so dangerous to religious liberty as the superstition of a Ferdinand VII.
That all men are but instruments in the hands of God-that his own power, and not the zeal of his people, gives success and stability to his cause, is obvious from the state to which the Reformation was reduced by the victories of the emperor over the Protestant princes, and the almost miraculous providences that finally interposed for its deliverance and establishment in Germany. By the most singular phenomenon that history records, the same man was the ruin and the establishment of Protestantism: and of both by treachery and dissimulation, abhorrent to the spirit of Christianity. Maurice was as unlike a disciple of Christ in the establishment of the pure doctrines of the gospel as he was in lending himself to their overthrow.
To the progress of the gospel, the revival of literature in the fifteenth century was eminently serviceable. The irruption of the northern barbarians into the provinces of the Roman Empire had totally extinguished the light of science and letters. From the seventh to the end of the eleventh century, midnight darkness brooded over the human mind, and man had lost the use of his intellectual faculties. The grossest superstition and the most profound ignorance everywhere prevailed. Many curious facts, illustrative of this, are given by Dr. Robertson in his notes to the History of Charles V. Towards the beginning of the twelfth century, the human mind began to awaken from its lethargy in Europe, and science and letters advancing till the sixteenth century, were at such a height as materially to assist the Reformation. Even at that time the support that the Reformation received from letters was so well understood, that they had the same friends and the same enemies. However often science and letters have been perverted to oppose Christianity and its truths, their natural use is to confirm truth of every kind. As truth has in all things a real foundation and evidence, it cannot be doubted that light of every kind will be favorable to its discovery and proof. The learned and the scientific have often used their talents to obscure and perplex truth; but in every instance, as far as they have employed their acquirements to support their errors, they manifest ignorance. Greater learning and sounder science will not only dispel the mists of sophistry, but exhibit their object in a stronger blaze of light. Truth is burnished by friction; it is only the quackery of science and literature that have ever lent their aid to infidelity. Geology has often threatened the Mosaic account of creation; but after every successive generation of geologists has proved the preceding to be fools, as far as that subject can be called a science, and not wild theory, its real discoveries are corroborative of the doctrine of Moses. It is only science falsely so called that will ever bear against the Bible. Truth and error cannot have equal evidence: as light discovers evidence, it must be decidedly on the side of the former. The foundation of the one is on a rock, that of the other is on the sand; and though the eye sees no difference on the surface, learning mines to the bottom and discovers the reality. Accordingly, though perverted learning struggled long to wrest the Scriptures to the proof of popery, or at least to make them sink their voice, yet a more profound criticism, expounding the laws of language, has now driven the most learned abettors of that system out of the field of critical controversy, and obliged them to take refuge in implicit faith. They rest their cause on the authority of the Church to affix meaning to words and phraseology-not on the authority of the laws of criticism to ascertain that meaning. Popery sprung out of darkness, was nursed by darkness, and will perish with darkness. She has not indeed wanted learned men to defend her; but though they have ably endeavored to give life to their image, by snatching a portion of the fire from heaven, her most renowned magicians have been able to exhibit only some dexterous feats of spiritual galvanism. Whatever she may still pretend, she does not need a stranger to inform her that learning is her mortal enemy. She knows well that ignorance is the mother of devotion, though she is now ashamed to own that maxim. She may indeed wish some of her wily sons to learn the use of the arms with which she is assailed, that they may parry the thrusts aimed at her; but her main reliance is in keeping her subjects in ignorance. Whatever she may pretend about giving the Scriptures to the learned of the laity, it is evident to the smallest portion of discernment, that on her principles the Scriptures are unnecessary equally to the educated as to the ignorant.
Such being the case, let us admire the Providence that revived learning before the beginning of the sixteenth century, to provide weapons for the children of light for the assault of the absurdities of superstition. The spirit of prophecy had given up Europe for a specified period to the darkness of popery, and the light of letters as well as Christianity was extinguished; but God had determined to give the man of sin a mortal blow in the year 1517; and in order to effect this in the ordinary course of his providence, he lighted again the torch of literature. Had the same ignorance continued that reigned from the seventh to the eleventh century, all the efforts of Luther would have been fruitless. God provided this powerful train of artillery to beat down the walls of the antichristian city. Human ingenuity is continually perfecting this engine of war, and it will not cease to improve while there is a stone upon a stone in Babylon. For the revival of literature, then, for its improvements, and present high state of perfection, we are indebted to the designs of Providence in accomplishing the predictions of the Divine word.
Should infidelity growl, and speak of her merits in the cause of letters, she may be silenced as effectually as superstition. It is obvious that to the Bible we owe the thorough knowledge of the ancient languages which the learned of this day possess. What but the knowledge of the Bible is the great incentive to the study of Greek and Hebrew? Indeed it is principally to this that we owe the acquaintance with all dead languages, as well as the study of the laws of criticism. Let all nations become infidel, and ancient literature will perish. Critical accuracy in composition has arisen more from the necessity of determining the laws of criticism in the interpretation of the Scriptures, than from any other cause. Who would submit to labors so irksome and wasting, if nothing but an idle curiosity were to be gratified by the acquisition? If infidels themselves have any tincture of ancient literature, they owe it to those institutions that have the elucidation of the Bible for their object.
Even the learned folly of our universities is not undirected by Divine Providence. Their adoration of the remains of pagan antiquity, the wasting of their lives in the unedifying elucidation of writings, to say the least, of no importance to society-the grave importance that they attach to the most frivolous pursuits-are indeed a melancholy proof that learning has no tendency to bring us near to God. But their idle labors are made to serve a better cause. Something is thereby contributed to the stock of knowledge that fits for the translation and elucidation of Scripture. When I see genius and learning wasting half a century in examining the Athenian stage,-when I find the scores of corrections by the manuscripts of a Greek Pliny, and the hundreds of corrections from conjecture, I sigh for the folly of man. But I am consoled when I reflect that this frivolous occupation will cast some light on revelation; and that the laws of the Greek language are thus better ascertained. Every discovery as to the syntax and laws of the Greek and Hebrew languages is a pearl of inestimable value to the Christian, and will ultimately serve to perfect the translation of the word of God. The battle of the critics is as fierce on the Plutus of Aristophanes, as those of theologians on the Epistle to the Romans. The result of both may ultimately serve the cause of truth.
If the revival of learning was necessary for the defense of the doctrines of Scripture, it was still more necessary for the making of translations of the Bible into modern languages. Luther, we are told, did more for the success of the gospel, by translating the Scriptures, than by all his other labors. All the efforts of the preachers would have been comparatively trifling, had they not been able to give the people the Scriptures into their own hands. This enabled every man to judge between the doctrines of Rome and those of the Divine word, and fixed a preacher in every house. What an admirable Providence, then, was it that in some measure supplied the gift of tongues.
That acquaintance with the original languages which is now so common and so easily attainable, is also so admirably serviceable in enabling missionary societies to provide men who, with tolerable correctness, are qualified to make translations of the Scriptures into the languages of the people among whom they labor. In this way the Bible is traveling fast over India.
The amazing facility with which some persons acquire the knowledge of languages, their taste for the prosecution of this study, combined with an ardent zeal to publish the gospel among the heathen, is a strong indication of the hand of Providence. This may be seen in Judson, the American missionary of the empire of Burmab, and in many other missionaries. But all the qualifications that fit for missionary work were found almost miraculously combined in the late Dr. Carey, the missionary of India. Dr. Carey was as truly prepared by the providence of Jesus for the work in which he was to be employed, as Paul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Whether a talent is given in the constitution of the mind and by the acquirements of study, or by the immediate communication of the Spirit, it is equally the gift of the Head of the Church. Joseph Wolff also possesses this talent in a wonderful degree; and I think it cannot be doubted that his talent has been given for enabling him to testify of Jesus to many nations.
If men have not a taste for languages, and a facility in acquiring them, they are not fit for missionaries. Without a knowledge of the language of the people to whom they are sent, though they had the fervent zeal of a seraph, they are dumb. Such a talent is rare. When, therefore, it presents itself to missionary societies, is it not to be ascribed to Him who separated Paul for the service of the gospel from his motherís womb? But energy, patience, and dauntless intrepidity, combined with innumerable other qualifications necessary for a missionary, are evidently the gift of Providence. The fortitude, energy and decision of character that so strongly marked Paul as an apostle, were evident in Saul, the persecuting Pharisee. Who can doubt that the extraordinary talents of the late Mrs. Judson were conferred on her in her constitution, for her labors in Burmah?
Indeed, when all Israel shall turn to the Lord, we shall have what is equal to the gift of tongues. As they hive in all nations, and, consequently, by one or other of them almost every language is spoken, when they are converted, they will be the heralds of salvation to all the nations in which they reside. Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, reigns on earth as well as in heaven, and he orders everything for the fulfilling of this great prediction.
The cultivation of the modern languages of Europe has been likewise directed by Providence for the advancement of the knowledge of his word. For many centuries after their formation, the languages of Europe were utterly barbarous; and even after this revival of letters, all knowledge was conveyed in Latin only. It was as much the language of literature and science as of religion. If, then, knowledge has descended to the modern languages, and if such languages have been perfected for translating, it is owing to the care of Providence in pro. viding a suitable vehicle to this word.
Of all the events in Providence designed to accomplish the prediction referred to, from the birth of Christianity to the present moment, the invention of the marinerís compass is the most wonderful. In the most marked manner this bears the impression of the Divine hand. When Jesus pledged himself that before the end of the world his gospel should be preached in all nations, the one half of the globe was not known, nor upon any principles with which men were acquainted, was there any possibility that the remainder could be discovered. At that time it would have been as reasonable to expect the discovery of the means to accomplish a voyage to the moon, as one to the countries on the other side of our globe. Hitherto there was no guide in the ocean but the sun and stars; and the most daring navigators durst not venture beyond the sight of land. The most distant voyages were slowly and dangerously performed by creeping along the coasts. How, then, was the gospel to reach all nations? By the discovery of that wonderful property of the magnet, which communicates to an iron rod the virtue of pointing to the poles of the earth; and by conferring on Flavio Gioia, a citizen of Amalsi, in the kingdom of Naples, who observed the phenomenon, the sagacity to perceive its advantage, and to invent the nautical needle. By means of this wonderful instrument, man is put in possession of the globe, and access to all its scattered islands is opened to him. He steers through the midst of the ocean, as if he had the sagacity of instinct like birds of passage, and finds his way in darkness through the trackless deep. Now, an invention that was absolutely necessary to give accomplishment to a Divine prediction must be from God. It is as truly divine as if the marinerís compass had been sent from heaven by the hand of an angel.
That this is the invention of a time that enjoyed not the use of the Bible, is by no means, as Dr. Doyle insinuates, to the credit of popery. God serves himself through the talents and even the very crimes of his enemies. It was not surely by his friends that Jesus was crucified, yet his crucifixion was the salvation of his people. The atheistical labors of David Hume had their use in the Divine government, as well as those of Martin Luther.
What a grand view does this give us of the scheme of salvation. Every event on earth is some way connected with it, and one plan may be traced in its operation throughout every age from the foundation of the world. The discovery of this property in the magnet was not only in operation for several centuries to give effect to the Divine prediction at the resuscitation of light, but the conferring of that property on the magnet had, in the very creation of matter, the intention of serving as a guide to the gospel to every island of the seas. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning. This key of the world was formed at the creation, but was not given to men till it was necessary to open it for the gospel. For what purpose was the magnet formed? Why did its wonderful property remain so long undiscovered? Why was it discovered at such an era of the world? Why was sagacity given to perceive its use, and invention to turn the discovery to its destined purpose? How miraculously did a thousand chances meet in one grand design in the year 1302, just in time to second the zeal of the navigators of the fifteenth century, to provide a theater for the gospel revival in the sixteenth
We are next naturally led to the discovery of the new world by Columbus, and to the discoveries of Captain Cook, with other navigators. Though the beginning of the fourteenth century put the key of the world into the hands of navigation, yet from various causes nearly half a century elapsed before it ventured to open any new seas. Even at the beginning of the fifteenth century, navigation had not advanced beyond the state to which it had attained before the downfall of the Roman Empire. But as soon as skill in the use of this instrument was obtained by practice among the Italians, Providence determined to direct it to its proper design; and a series of events occurred, which are well worthy of attention from those who wish to be acquainted with the was of the God of the Bible. The Portuguese were the people destined by Providence to take the lead in the new discoveries, and a slight circumstance was the cause of them all. John the Bastard having, by his abilities and courage, seated himself upon a throne to which he had no legitimate right, to find employment for the restless spirit of his subjects, planned an expedition against the Moors settled on the coasts of Barbary. During his preparations, a few ships were sent before to sail along the western shore of Africa, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, for the purpose of discovery. "From this inconsiderable attempt," says Dr. Robertson, "we may date the commencement of that spirit of discovery which opened the barriers that had so long shut out mankind from the knowledge of one half of the terrestrial globe."
Prince Henry of Portugal was evidently raised up by Providence to forward his plans of discovery. His zeal and application are not to be accounted for, at such a time, without a reference to the secret influence of the Divine hand. He met obstacles, but he was not to be disheartened by obstacles. The God who led Cyrus and Alexander, inspired him with resolution to overcome every difficulty. The ambition of the pope, the thirst of discovery, the desire of possessing the riches of India by a new passage, all concurred to favor his designs. John 11. inherited the zeal of his grand-uncle, prince Henry, with greater power. His ardor became so vehement, that the prosecution of this object occupied his thoughts by day, and bereaved him of sleep through the night. Surely this was the working of that Providence that banished sleep from the couch of Ahasuerus, to bring about his gracious purposes towards the house of Abraham.
During the same time, Columbus, by a peculiar Providence brought into Portugal, and enriched with all its nautical skill, was employed by Spain in a voyage of discovery; and in quest of India by steering west, in the year 1492, discovered the West India Islands. In 1498, he discovered the continent of America; and in the same year the Portuguese arrived at India by the passage of the Cape of Good Hope. "Thus," said Dr. Robertson, "during the course of the fifteenth century, mankind made greater progress in exploring the state of the habitable globe than in all the ages which had elapsed previous to that period." By such a train of evidently providential events, all the countries of North and South America, all the vast regions of the East Indies, now lie open, inviting the exertions of the friends of the Bible.
The rage of discovery continued to explore the globe, and Captain Cook, with other illustrious British seamen, have added largely to the territories that are destined to be conquered by the arms of Jesus. Many of the islands of the South Seas have already submitted, and vie with Britain herself in subjection to the gospel. The spirit of discovery still glows in the breasts both of navigators and travelers, and impels them to the most distant and dangerous undertakings. Why burns the soul of Captain Parry and his brave comrades amidst the ices of the polar circle? Who has implanted in modern travelers that restless desire of roaming over the world and of discovering its most barbarous tribes? Who supported the unconquerable soul of Mungo Park amidst the bereavements of society and all the dangers of a life among unknown barbarians? Who animates the hearts of Major Laing and Captain Franklin? It is the secret influence of that decree of Providence, that revealed purpose of Jesus, which is pledged for the universal spread of the gospel. It is this that begets and supports these ardent hopes of discovery, both by sea and land. The love of glory, and the desire of a deathless name, may alone excite the individual; but, in the wisdom of God, this effects the Divine purposes. This rage for discovery will never cool till every island and nook of land on the globe shall be visited that is the receptacle of a human soul; for it is the decree of Heaven, that this gospel shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end be.
In accompanying the navigators in their discoveries, it is delightful to observe how miraculously they are often preserved from destruction. This moment they are in apparent safety, the next moment they are in the very jaws of death. They dash through with safety within almost an inch of the rock. This is the more surprising as the crews in general were wicked and abandoned men; and even in the science and humanity that graced the superiors, we look in vain for that knowledge of Jesus that would eagerly desire to communicate the way of life to benighted heathens. The discoverers were as much without God as the discovered. Yet the God who preserved Cyrus and Alexander when they were doing his work, preserved the guilty mariners from shipwreck, when they were making a highway over the seas for the chariot of the gospel.
As we perceive the hand of Providence in pointing out the different countries of the world to the discovery of man from the beginning of the fifteenth century, in order to the spreading of the gospel, the same gradual preparation is traceable in the history of the world before the coming of Christ. The victories of Alexander the Great, and of the Romans, made known and united countries, not only formerly unconnected, but unknown. The greater part of the known world was subject to Rome, and the union among nations was never so entire, nor the intercourse so perfect, as within the bounds of this vast empire. The intention of all these mighty preparations was evidently to provide a theater and an audience for the apostles of Christ. More magnificent preparations are now going forward, and the various tribes of men under the whole heaven must ere long hear the glad tidings of salvation. Scientific and mercantile pursuits will not cease to encourage discovery by sea and land; and fame or curiosity will not cease to call forth missionaries in their service, whose discoveries will be given over to Christianity, and who will roam about the globe as long as there is a spirit on it inaccessible to the gospel of God our Saviour.
The next thing I shall mention as contributing in the ways of Providence towards facilitating the progress of the gospel over the world, is commerce. The intimate union of the nations of Europe under the Roman yoke, was very favorable to the exertions of commerce, though that empire never partook of the commercial character itself. But the breaking up of the social bonds, through the irruption of the northern barbarians, split Europe into petty kingdoms, and totally extinguished commerce. The usual intercourse between neighboring countries was not only discontinued, but unsocial laws and customs shut up every kingdom, and almost every baronial territory, from foreign ingress. The shipwrecked mariner became the slave of the lord of the soil on which he was cast. To remove from one province to another was subject to many inconveniences, and often subjected to slavery. In such a state, it is evident that commerce must have been very limited, if it was not entirely extinct.
Now, in perceiving the hand of Providence in the revival of commerce, and its importance towards the spreading of the gospel, we must reflect for a moment on the way in which it lends its aid. We may see at once that it is not only serviceable, but, without a miracle, absolutely necessary. Even were all the islands of the sea, and every inhabited spot of earth discovered, we could not send them the gospel without commerce. All the revenues that could be afforded by the liberality of Christians would be utterly ineffectual, if the ships must be purchased and the seamen paid from the funds of missionary or Bible societies. Indeed, without commerce, although we had mountains of Bibles, and funds inexhaustible, there would not be practiced mariners to be found. Government is aware that commerce is essential to train a body of seamen to be ready in case of war, and that all other resources would be unavailing without this. In like manner, commerce is necessary to convey the Bible to the nations of the earth. By the wise providence of God, the millions of capital employed in commerce, have covered the sea with ships for every part under heaven; the missionary with his stores of Bibles is wafted to every clime, with little expense, or at no expense at all. Commerce encourages discovery, and keeps up an intercourse with the discovered countries, and the Bibles conveyed by it to the wretched inhabitants, will never sink one of its ships. Without commerce, Bible societies would be useless for distant countries, and of little use even with respect to those that are near. It is the intercourse of commerce that chiefly and expeditiously conveys the Scriptures through the internal parts of each country. Commerce is to the Bible what the post-office establishment is to newspapers; it carries them free of expense, though appointed for another purpose. It is evident, then, that every new line of road, every mail coach that starts through a new district, every canal cut through the interior, is destined by God to lend its aid in the cheap and expeditious conveying of his word. Every improvement in navigation, everything that promotes intercourse upon land, facilitates the spreading of the gospel, and must be looked upon as a part of a providential plan. Steam-ships and railroads are a part of the Divine apparatus to carry the ordnance of Heaven to the field of battle. If genius succeeds in carrying us fifty miles an hour by atmospheric pressure, it will contribute to the closer union, the more intimate intercourse, and the more perfect cultivation of the human family, and we shall accept it as a gift of Heaven for the advancement of the progress of his gospel.
But it is not merely the revival and present extent of commerce we are here to admire in a providential view. The country that possesses the commerce of the world is also wonderfully providential. Why does Great Britain ride mistress of the seas? Why does she engross the commerce of the world? Why does she sweep the ocean from one pole to another? Why can she block up her enemies in their harbors, and make them afraid to look out of their own doors? Because Great Britain is the land of Bibles, and carries them to every port. She has been chosen by Providence as the herald of salvation, and there is no fear that she will lose her commerce as long as she is faithful to her trust. But let all the countries under British sway be open for missionaries; and let British commerce carry the heralds of salvation to every port which she visits; let not worldly policy discountenance attempts to evangelize the heathen under fears of the danger of interfering with the religion of the people. Let full liberty of operation be given to the servants of the Lord, and let them be protected in doing his work; let not idolatry be patronized; let not her murders be tolerated under pretense of liberty of conscience.
The hand of Providence is wonderfully manifested in the alteration of the situation of India within the last few years. Not long since, the abominations of Juggernaut were an English establishment, and the troops of a country calling itself Christian, attended the procession of his horrid car. The taxes of the idol were levied by British officers, and the expenses of the ceremonies were defrayed by legal funds. The providence of Jesus has put an end to this shameful practice. England no longer sanctions the religious murders of India. People in this country who are accustomed to speak of a Christian government, do not generally know, and will find it difficult to believe, how hostile the rulers of India were to the evangelizing of India till a very late period. Yet no heathen despot could have guarded against the introduction of missionaries with a greater jealousy. A quotation from the diary of Mrs. Judson, the celebrated American missionary in the Burmese empire, will prove this in a manner that must create abhorrence not only among Christians, but in every friend of civil and religious liberty. She writes so late as the year 1812. "The East India Company," says she, "are violently opposed to missionaries, and have barely given liberty to their own countrymen to settle as preachers. We have nothing to expect from man, and everything from God. I think I never felt more confidence in God to protect and direct this mission than this morning. If he has anything for us to do here, he will doubtless open a door for our entrance; and if not, he will send us to some other place." Well, were the men of God allowed to sit down in British India, to endeavor to bring poor heathens to the knowledge of Christ? No such thing; the good Christian rulers of that place would not suffer them to rest in the land; they are ordered back to America. "After they had been here," says the narrative, "about ten days, Messrs. Judson and Newel were summoned to Calcutta, and an order of the government was read to them, requiring them immediately to leave the country, and return to America. The government of India at that time were resolutely opposed to missions: their motives we need not now discuss." The zealous missionaries tried every resource to effect their purpose but the rulers of India were inexorable; they would not allow any delay. "The government," says the narrative, "were offended by the stay of missionaries at Calcutta, supposing probably, that they intended to remain in Bengal." "They accordingly," says Mrs. Judson, "issued a most peremptory order for our being sent immediately on board one of the Honorable Companyís vessels bound to England. A petty officer accompanied Messrs. Hill and Judson to their place of residence, and requested them not to leave it without permission." Thus were these men of God, who had gone out from America to publish salvation to sinners in India, watched and hunted like felons by the British Christian government of Bengal, so lately as the year 1812. But the hand of providence is seen even in the attempt to shut out the gospel. The American missionaries were thus sent to the Burman empire, where the mission has succeeded, and is now going on with signal prosperity.
How soon the providential hand of Him who sits on the throne of David can open the door that has been shut and bolted against him, may be seen in the removing of the restrictions of missionary efforts in India. "The charter of the East India Company," says the narrative, "which was renewed in 1813, was so altered in its passage through Parliament, by the zealous exertions of Wilberforce, Smith, Thornton, Fuller, and other friends of Christ in Great Britain, as to secure toleration for missionary efforts. The British possessions in the East were constituted an Episcopal see, and placed under the superintendence of a bishop and three archdeacons. The Rev. Doctor Middleton was the first bishop, and was succeeded by Bishop Heber, who has since died. It is just to say, that a great change of feeling has taken place among the officers of government, and the European residents in India. The fears concerning the effects of missionary operations have subsided, and they are now disposed to favor and promote them." The present bishop, the Rev. Dr. Wilson, so well known as a zealous friend of the gospel and promoter of the religious societies of London, is not likely to be less useful than his predecessors in advancing the cause of Christ in the regions of the East.
In the midst of so many miracles of Providence, let us also take a glance at the reason why the Reformation succeeded in England, and was extinguished in France and other parts of the continent, at first more fully enlightened than it. Why does the light of Divine truth blaze in Britain, while scarcely any is to be seen in Spain and Portugal? Because England, by its insular situation, is a fit station for the mart of evangelical light. Because Britain is the first of commercial nations, and therefore able to disseminate its Bibles over the world. Were Britain involved in Spanish popery, and Spain as fully enlightened as Britain, the commerce of the world would be of no advantage to the fulfilling of our Lordís prediction. If the continent had commerce, it would not employ it to carry Bibles ; therefore God has committed to it that talent if it had the light without commerce, it could not carry Bibles ; therefore God has given the Reformation to England, while he has permitted the continent to lie under popish darkness, or to wanton in the false lights of infidelity and Neology.
But though Great Britain, from its insular situation, is naturally adapted to be the seat of commerce, we must not on that account consider its commercial greatness a matter of course. Let us look back for a moment on the history of commerce, and we will see that instead of being the foremost of the nations to embark in commerce, it was among the last. It was long before it availed itself of its peculiar advantages. The revival of commerce was owing to the Crusades, and by this circumstance it first found a seat among the Italian states. What a wonderful Providence is this! Commerce was necessary to fulfill the prediction of Jesus, and carry the gospel into all nations the God of Providence overruled these wild efforts of fanaticism, as the means of rekindling the spirit of commerce. Various circumstances in Providence led to the establishment of freedom in many commercial cities in Italy, Germany, and France. Towards the close of the twelfth century, the Hanseatic League was formed, the most powerful commercial confederacy known in History, including "eighty of the most considerable cities scattered through these extensive countries which stretch from the bottom of the Baltic to Cologne on the Rhine." From this period commerce continued to extend; but she sought a throne in many nations before she found one in Great Britain. The Italian states, the cities of the Hanseatic League, Portugal, Spain, all preceded Great Britain in commerce and discovery. The splitting of the kingdom into the Saxon heptarchy, the incursions of Danes and other northern pirates, the Norman conquest, the prosecution of the pretensions of the English kings to the throne of France, the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, successively retarded the progress of commerce in England.
That Providence might make the transference more visibly his own work, the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and the first influx of the riches of the East were given to Portugal, while the vast provinces of South America were lavished on Spain. In all the busy period of the sixteenth century, while commerce and discovery traveled with a quick pace, England had no name in either. Why did not things remain in this state? why has the wealth of India been transferred to Great Britain? Doubtless, that she may give the Bible to the hundred millions of idolaters that there own her sway. She has done something, and she is about to do more. If ever she loses India, it will be the forfeiture of her treachery to the God of Providence in withholding the Bible from her Indian subjects. The very same infidel and ignorant theories that are now employed to denounce the Reformation of Ireland as a crusade, were alleged to prohibit the interference of the missionary with the religion of the worshippers of Juggernaut. Politicians, secretly influenced by hostility to the gospel of God, and grounding on theory rather than on the knowledge of human nature, pretend to be frightened with every attempt to enlighten the world. It is dangerous, they tell us, to tamper with the religion of the people. But the experiment has been tried both in India and Ireland, and the speculations of theoretical politicians have been put to shame. The Providence of the Most High has given independence to South America, and she now lies open to an invasion of Bibles. The time is at hand when the rulers of the world must open their dominions to the word of God, or be displaced from their trust. Britain remember to what it is you owe your exalted rank among the nations of the earth! Who called Cyrus to Babylon, and gave him the scepter of the world for delivering the captive Jews? Fulfill, then, my country! Fulfill your honorable trust, and bid defiance to all nations. Give India, give Ireland the Bible; and frown on the threats of demagogues at home; disregard the combination of continental despots: the nation that fears Jehovah has nothing else to fear. England! If ever you lose India or Ireland, it will be by unfaithfulness to the God of the Bible.
To what is it owing that Great Britain is now in danger of losing Ireland? To her unfaithfulness in not evangelizing it. For many an age she has suffered this country to remain in ignorance, and still she hopes to retain it by soothing and assisting superstition. Let conscience be left free as air, but let not men be hired to uphold the empire of ignorance. Scriptural education was advancing, and had there been no interference on the part of government, in a short time, by the exertions of the London Hibernian Society, aided by the Christian zeal of England, Scotland, and Ireland, every part of the country would have had the benefit of a Bible education. No clerical power could have kept the people from the schools in which the Bible was read and committed to memory, had not the funds afforded by government made it possible to have education without the Bible. The great evil of the national system of education appears not to lie in injuring the Protestants by excluding the Bible-this they have in their houses; the injury is to the Roman Catholics, who, by this contrivance, are kept from the Bible. But though Jesus has by his providence suffered the door to be shut for a time, he can open it when he pleases. And at all events, the present education will prepare the way for reading the Scriptures when the Lordís time shall come to put them into the hands of the people. The rebel who learns the manual exercise in order to fight against his sovereign, will be enabled to do him the more service when he returns to his allegiance.
How lately have we heard the groans of the disciples of Jesus in Jamaica! Their houses of worship have been pulled down, their property has been pillaged, and themselves thrown into prison or murdered! Jamaica now lies open to the labors of the missionary, and many brethren have entered the field which is ripe to harvest. The cruel, the worse than pagan slavery of the West Indies is now abolished, and the gospel can be preached to the injured children of Ethiopia. It is the providential Lord of Heaven who sits on the throne of David that has removed the obstacles, and has opened the door.
The amazing number of institutions for propagating the light of Divine truth within the last half century, compared with all that ever was attempted in any other period of the world, is such as to preclude all possibility of doubt that the God of Providence is putting his engines in motion to give accomplishment to the prediction of Jesus. It was at all times the duty of Christians to make such attempts. Why were they neglected for so many ages? Why are they thought of now? Why are Godís people of all denominations stirred up to seek the salvation of man? Why is this age distinguished for unparalleled efforts to rescue from darkness Jews and Papists, Mahometans and Pagans? Certainly because the Lordís time is come, when his house shall be built of all nations. Towards the close of the captivity of Judah, Daniel was stirred up to fast and pray for the deliverance of his people. And whenever the servants of God are generally excited to seek the accomplishment of his gracious promises, his providence declares that he is about to gratify their desire; hence, in rapid succession, missionary societies, Bible societies, education societies, in every part of the civilized world. Even in benighted Ireland, some parts of the desert are beginning to blossom as the rose; some spots of the wilderness are becoming fruitful fields. The spreading zeal for extending the blessings of the Reformation is peculiarly providential. Even the most zealous friends of the gospel formerly neglected the conversion of Roman Catholics as a hopeless task. What has kindled such a flame of apostolic zeal in the present times? Does not Providence declare by this, that the period of the tenure of the man of sin is nearly at its close, and that he must shortly surrender his usurped dominion?
By these institutions, the gradual extinction of party spirit is most pleasingly exemplified, and gives the most promising pledge of success. Formerly, whatever zeal there might be for the salvation of sinners, zeal for its own peculiarities was the prominent feature of every sect; now, zeal for the gospel is evidently paramount; and without sacrificing or compromising the smallest particle of religious principle, all sects of the friends of Jesus can combine in forwarding the cause of the Bible. Without respect to the interest of particular denominations, Christians unite their efforts for the salvation of sinners.
Nor ought we, in enumerating providential circumstances, to overlook the critical time of the pacification of Europe. How opportunely did this take place to open the Continent to the operations of the friends of the Bible! How many Bibles have since that been poured over the Continent, through the Bible Societies of this country! The Continental Society could not have existed without peace. Already it has achieved much good, and promises still more. If Providence gave peace to the Roman Empire to make way for the apostles, so has he given peace to Europe to enable England to spread the gospel over the Continent.
I cannot close this tract without just noticing, that Dr. Doyle says that we do not owe to the Bible, without note or commentary, the modern system of metaphysics. No observation could be more unfortunate. Many of the subtitles of popery had their origin in the Aristotelian philosophy, and are swept away by true science. To the providence of the God of the Bible, for the support of the truths of the Bible against the absurd figments of popery, I do believe we owe the soundest system of metaphysics ever submitted to the world. To the illustrious Dr. Reid of Glasgow College, in the last century, we owe the overturning of that philosophical theory which took away the evidence of the testimony of our senses. Before his time the senses were looked upon by philosophers, as well as by priests, as arrant knaves, not to be credited without a voucher. Dr. Reid ascertained their laws, examined their nature, observed their operations, and estimated their evidence, better than any philosopher that ever existed. He has established it as a first principle, that the testimony of the senses, in a sound and natural state, is the voice of Heaven; and has triumphantly answered all the objections that have been made to them, as fallacious. In doing this, he has laid a foundation for overturning transubstantiation-that disgrace of human understanding-that most absurd of all the absurdities of popery.
No lunatics have ever been so frantic as metaphysicians. They go like a pendulum, from side to side, to the utmost bounds of extravagance. When their folly ceases to amaze by its extravagance on the one side, they endeavor to effect their purpose by hastening to the opposite. This has brought the science into discredit. But as the faculties of man are the gift of God, whatever is known as self-evident truth, is to be considered as a Divine revelation, and ought, without scruple, to be employed against superstition and error, as far as its influence can extend. The speculations of many, under the name of metaphysics, are mere philosophical romances, that either take as self-evident truth that which is false, or deny first principles that are self-evident. Sober science may, without difficulty, discover the cheat on both sides, by appealing to the light that God has lodged in human understanding. All reasoning must rest on first principles that need no foreign proof.
I have now traced a chain of providential circumstances throughout a period of eighteen hundred years, all the links of which combine in the accomplishment of the prediction, Matt. 24:14; and I hope my Christian readers are all prepared to join with me in the conclusion, THAT THE GOD OF PROVIDENCE 1S THE GOD OF THE BIBLE!