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The Divine Character analogous to our own.


which he has become acquainted in the study of other bodies, he can put no direct questions concerning them. Their discovery if made at all, must be either accidental or else the result of a process of investigation instituted with reference to some hitherto unexplained phenomenon in the production of which they have had part.

But, when we come to inquire concerning the attributes of the Supreme Being, our knowledge of other beings can afford us no assistance. "He is God; there is none else beside him." "Nec viget quidquam simile aut secundum." Here all analogy even fails. The eternal, self-existent and all-powerful Creator of the universe is separated by too wide a remove from the most highly endowed of his creatures to admit of any parity of reasoning between them. Experience therefore can render us no aid in directing or limiting our inquiries. Our guides must be sought from within.

In the first place we need look for no attributes in the divine character, no motives for the divine conduct, to which there is nothing correspondent in our own natures. For however possible it may be that the divine Being is endowed with such attributes and influenced by such motives, it is wholly impossible that we should discover them. All our conceptions of character are necessarily limited to the analogies of what we are conscious of in ourselves. It is only so far as we are created in the intellectual and moral likeness of God that we are able to comprehend his plans or enter into his purposes. Beyond this we can no more go than a man blind from his birth can form an idea of color, or one who has never heard, can acquire a notion of sound.

In the second place, it is not among all the active principles embodied in the human constitution, that we need look for the moral elements of the divine character. The desires, appetites and passions immediately connected with our corporeal natures, which grow out of them on the one hand and minister to them on the other, are from the nature of the case excluded. Nor should we expect to find in the divine mind all those higher principles of action which have their origin in our spiritual natures. It is only the noblest and most worthy of them that we naturally look for. Having become satisfied of the existence of a Supreme Ruler of the universe, we instinctively ascribe to him all moral excellence and deny all moral imperfection. As our notions of these vary with the culture of our faculties, so will our conceptions of his attributes. It is only when our faculties have been fully and harmoniously developed, that we are conducted in this way to true views of the divine character. In every inferior stage of culture, our views will necessarily partake to a greater or less extent of the imperfections and biases of our own natures. Hence the importance

of some means by which we may verify them. These suggestions of our moral understandings are sufficient to guide us in putting the question and to awaken expectations concerning the answer. Nay more, they carry with them a certain degree of weight and authority, so that we cannot with safety neglect them. They do not alone, however, furnish a secure basis for a system of Natural Theology.

Now aside from an appeal to the teachings of revelation, the only mode of testing the ideas which we are thus led to form of the moral attributes of the Creator, is to see whether they are in harmony with the ends obviously provided for, and more or less fully attained in his works. If we find that they are, more especially, if we find not only that these ends are secured in the case of ourselves, but that we are so made and placed in such circumstances, that whether we will or not we cannot avoid contributing by our agency to their attainment in others, then we conclude that they are the actual ends of the divine government, and that the anticipations of the reason and conscience were intended to be and in reality are, so far as these faculties have not been perverted, guides to a knowledge of the divine character.

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Such is the nature of the inquiry upon which we are about to enter, and such the mode in which we propose to conduct it. We shall take for granted in this inquiry that the universe is a true index of the attributes of the Creator, that it originated in his simple, unbiased will, and was formed for his sole pleasure. Indeed any other supposition than this would be clearly absurd. For previous to the first creative act there was no one by whom the divine will could have been influenced or for whose happiness it could have been exerted. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight," "for thy pleasure they are and were created," is the teaching of reason not less than of revelation. This however supposes other subordinate ends in the works of creation through the accomplishment of which they minister to the divine pleasure. It is in the character of these ends, that the moral attributes of the Supreme Being are manifested.

There is no attribute or quality of character which, guided by the dictates of our moral understanding, we more unhesitatingly ascribe to the Deity, than a benevolent regard for the welfare of his creatures. Indeed, independently of the desire to produce happiness, we can conceive of no adequate motive for the work of creation. Other principles of action may have coöperated with this, and may have determined, to a greater or less extent, the forms of its manifestation, but without benevolence as a leading attribute, the divine character would not only fail to command our highest respect and homage, but be absolutely unintelligible to us. The only being in the universe,


Liability to Suffering.


with no objects of his own to accomplish, beneficent purposes alone could have moved the omnipotent Creator to the displays of wisdom and power with which as far as the eye can see or the telescope reach, he has filled the mighty void of surrounding space.

To strengthen and confirm this intuitive apprehension of the divine goodness we have only to direct our observations to the part of the universe with which we are immediately connected. Our world is full of contrivances, or rather it is itself a vast assemblage of contrivances, adapted to the production of beneficent ends. There is not one of the innumerable forms of enjoyment, distributed among the different classes and orders of animals, which is not directly provided for in these contrivances, the actual and sole result of a greater or less number of them, nor is there one of these contrivances which is not either immediately or remotely tributary to the well-being of some portion of the animal creation. The kindly ministry of the elements, of the air, the earth and the water, of the cheering light, the genial warmth and the refreshing shower, of summer and winter, spring-time and autumn varying the rolling year with ever-grateful vicissitude — is understood and felt by all. But, beside these arrangements of external nature which affect in common the entire population of our globe, there is wrapped up in each animal an organism equally complex and still more wonderful, upon whose action the continued existence even of that animal is every moment dependent. And if we look into this organism we discover the most convincing proofs of the infinite goodness and condescension as well as the matchless skill and power of the Creator. In the structure of every living being, most of the parts are so obviously subservient to useful ends, that no one can doubt in regard to their beneficent character. The senses are, in all cases, evidently designed to afford pleasure to the animal, as well as to convey to him a knowledge of whatever is necessary to his preservation and wellbeing. The limbs are as clearly intended to minister to his happiness, by enabling him to satisfy his natural wants, and by furnishing him. with the means of pleasurable exertion. And if we examine the structure of the body, we find, in every instance, the form, disposition, and connection of the several parts so exactly adapted to the mode of life, that no anatomist has ever dreamed of an alteration, by way of improvement.

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There is, however, one feature in the constitution of animals, of which the design is not so obviously benevolent. We allude to the provision through which they are liable to suffer pain either from the influence of external causes or from the derangement of their own organisms. Pain is in itself an evil; and when we consider to how

great an extent it prevails in our world, how broadly it casts its dark shadow over the otherwise fair scenes of earthly felicity, how large a portion of its bitterness mingles in the cup of experience which life proffers to all, and of how many it is almost the only heritage, it would seem scarcely reconcilable with that pure and absolute benevolence which we instinctively ascribe to the Deity, and we are not surprised that the provision so clearly made for it in the constitution of animals should have been regarded as indicating the existence of other and sterner qualities in the Divine character. But, on examination, it will be found that this like all the other endowments of the animal structure, is subservient to wise and beneficent purposes — nay, that without it, the other endowments would have failed of accomplishing the object for which they were intended.

As there is reason to believe, that the susceptibility of which we are now speaking is most fully developed in man, and as it is in him that we are best acquainted with it, it will be sufficient to consider its nature and tendencies, as manifested in our own species. The thought which most readily presents itself when we contemplate our relations to the outward world, is, that we are surrounded on every side by agents capable of destroying our bodies. Heat may dissolve them; cold may congeal them; gravity in any of its countless forms may crush them; while chemical affinity, in ways equally numerous and equally certain may effect their demolition. To protect us against the dangers of a situation so exposed, the Creator has endowed the various parts of our bodies with a sensibility to these agents, so that in all cases we may be admonished of their presence and by removing ourselves from them avoid the injury they would otherwise do us. When the infant attracted by the flame of the candle attempts to grasp the beautiful object, the sensations awakened cause the withdrawal of his hand which is thus preserved from being consumed. Or when the boy, eagerly pursuing his wintry sports, is exposed to a degree of cold that threatens his safety, his chilled body and aching and benumbed limbs inform him of the danger and persuade a retreat to the genial warmth of the fireside. Or when the man in any of the occupations of mature life is required to put forth his strength, he is apprised by his sensations of the limits which he may not pass with impunity, and is thus preserved from serious or perhaps fatal injury.

The great design of the Creator, therefore, in giving us a constitution by which we are susceptible of pain through the instrumentality of our bodies, was to protect them from the various dangers to which from the conditions of our being, they would necessarily be exposed. Agreeably to this design, the sensibility as it manifests itself in the


Bodily Pains subserve Benevolent Ends.


different parts of our bodies, varies both in kind and degree, according to the nature and severity of the evil against which it affords protection. The skin is delicately alive to heat, cold and pressure. The importance of this endowment is strikingly illustrated in the condition of those persons, in whom the nerves ministering to it have become paralyzed. Such persons unless constantly watched over by others are liable to suffer without knowing it, from any of these causes. The parts which lie beneath the skin, being, for the most part, sufficiently protected by it, are nearly destitute of feeling; muscles may be cut, cartilages burned and bones subjected to every form of mechanical violence without causing any considerable pain. The stomach may be handled, and the heart even forcibly grasped, without occasioning the slightest sensation to the individual. The lungs, on the contrary, are endowed with an exquisite sensibility to the mere contact of any foreign substance, so that whatever by accident finds its way into them is immediately and convulsively expelled. The design is obvious. Were it not for this provision, the lungs would soon become filled with foreign matter, and would no longer be capable of performing their office. The eye throughout its whole interior, is entirely insensible to any form of mechanical violence. It is covered, however, in front, by a membrane possessed of so delicate a sensibility, that it is painfully affected by the presence of the smallest mote. The surface of the eye is thus guarded against injury, and its transparency preserved. And so generally, to whatever part of the body we direct our attention, we find it endowed with precisely the form and degree of sensibility, necessary to protect it against the kind of danger to which it is exposed. There is no where gratuitous sensibility, but everywhere just that amount of it which is required for the safety of the part and the good of the whole. The benevolence of the provision cannot therefore be questioned. It was necessary to the preservation of our existence. Without it our very creation would have proved a failure.1

The other class of pains, or those which arise from disease, are subservient to equally wise and benevolent ends. They not only acquaint us with the existence of the disease, but by indicating its nature and situation, they serve as guides to the proper remedies. When the danger is imminent they moreover compel us, by their severity, to submit to whatever confinement or privation may be necessary for its cure. They further inform us that some organic law has been vio

This, and one or two subsequent paragraphs are taken with but slight alterations from an article published some years since in the Christian Review. VOL. VII. No. 28.


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