GE ESIS i. 31. And God saiv every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. In these words we have the review which the Almighty Creator took of his new made world, the reflection of the Eternal Mind upon the copies of its own wisdom and the products of its own power. The several component parts of this great work as they were successively produced, were each pronounced good ; but upon the finishing of the whole, the superlative style is adopted. It is pronounced very good, or perfect, without any blemish or defect which might bring into suspicion either the wisdom or the goodness of its Creator. To his omniscient eye it appeared, not only supremely beautiful, but * This sermon was delivered on Thanksgiving day, December 5, 1822 — ihe last time that the Author ever appeared in the pulpit. He was attacked the following night by the illness which in six days terminated his life.

406 THA KSGIVI G SERMO . perfectly conformable to the plan concerted in his eternal counsels, and completely adapted to answer his purpose in its formation. As we ourselves were not present, and mingled not in the circle of the sons of God who shouted for joy at the laying of its foundations, — it is only through faith in the writings of Moses that we un-

derstand " how the world was made." Looking through this glass, we see the formation of its several elements ; the light shining forth from the midst of primeval darkness ; the firmament expanded ; the stagnant abyss of chaotic waters collected into seas, lakes, and rivers ; the dry land appearing ; the mountains rising ; the plains extending ; the vallies sinking ; and the surface of all, clothed with the endless variety of vegetation. We also see the heavens garnished, and all their radiant luminaries lighted up, — the earth, the air, and the waters replenished with those numerous species of animals, which, according to the adaptation of their different natures, inhabit each their respective elements. When creation is thus far advanced, when the house is thus built and furnished, amply stored with whatever can be of use to such a tenant ; man, the only rational organ of the world, the head and representative of the other creatures, to whose dominion they are subjected, and who alone is responsible to the great Creator for his tribute of

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 407 praise from the whole — man, with a capacity to contemplate, acknowledge, and adore the infinite power, the unsearchable wisdom, and inexhaustible goodness so illustriously displayed in the new formed world — man is then produced in the image of his Maker, receives his benediction, and, by his express grant, is put in possession of all these his works, as their overseer and the steward of the great Proprietor. early six thousand years have elapsed since the date of this first lease to our great ancestor, and during the many revolving ages through this whole space, the world has been con-

tinued in the possession of his family. By how many successive generations of men from Adam to Moses, from Moses to David, from David to the times of the Messiah, and from the times of the Messiah down to this day, has the world been possessed, enjoyed, and, alas ! too often abused ! Its present possessors, however, receive it fresh and fair from the hands of its Maker, without any visible symptoms of impair or decay. Besides producing, nourishing, and sustaining through unbroken succession all the tribes of animals and all the swarms of insects which were at first created, it has been the seat of all those great nations and mighty empires, which, through every era of past duration, have been alternately rising and falling, flourishing and spreading themselves on the earth, and then dwindling away. On this great stage

408 THA KSGIVI G SERMO . have been exhibited all the vicissitudes in human affairs, those scenes, transactions, and events, recorded in ancient as well as in modern history — whatever wise men and philosophers have discovered, poets celebrated, orators recommended, statesmen counselled, or heroes achieved. Here they have all acted their respective parts. Here the righteous have sought for glory and immortality ; and here the wicked have treasured up wrath against the day of wrath. In this vast inn have lodged all those millions of travellers and pilgrims, whose exit hence, through every successive age, has increased the population of the realms of light and joy above, or the regions of darkness and sorrow below. But though the world be in itself so old, though it has passed through the hands of so many differ-

ent owners already — has been possessed by more than one hundred or two hundred generations of men in succession ; yet to us, its present tenants, it is as new, and its workmanship as bright, as it was to its first possessors. Still it bears, equally vivid as at its first formation, the impressions of divine power, wisdom, and goodness. It still exhibits the eternal power and godhead of its Maker, and witnesses his overflowing goodness to his creatures. On a day professedly set apart to thank and praise him for this his goodness, it undoubtedly becomes

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 409 us, my hearers, fixedly to contemplate the fair in^heritance which he has given us. " The heaven, even the heavens," says the Psalmist, " are the Lord's ; but the earth hath he given to the children of men." This earth then with all its contents and appendages, which in the text is pronounced " very good," is the donation which we have received from him. In the arrangement of our thoughts upon the subject, the medium by which it is presented to our view claims our first grateful notice. In Jhe beginning of the creation, light was the first production. " God said, Let there be light ; and there was light." The light which was thus the work of the first day, was afterward, on the fourth day of the creation, collected into that immense body of light and heat, which we call the sun. This glorious luminary in the heavens, so often mistaken by the heathen nations for God himself, was ordained to rule the day. By virtue of this decree the day-spring is made to know his place ; the sun, rising at his appointed hour, showeth himself "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it." His beams are thrown in a rich profusion over the whole face of the earth, and all objects susceptible of their influence, are cheered, and gilded, by their light and heat. How manifold, and unspeakably great, are the benefits 52

410 THA KSGIVI G SERMO . which they produce ! Without them, to what purpose would be the organs of sight in animals, and all those preparations in nature which depend upon the kind influences of the heavens ? This earth would be uninhabitable, — a cold , barren, opaque mass of matter, buried in everlasting darkness. Light is not only pleasant to the eye, but necessary to the life and subsistence of the whole animal and vegetative creation. It is not only necessary to the carrying on all the affairs of the world, but to the pleasure which we enjoy in the view and contemplation of all the innumerable objects around us. Of all our senses, vision is the greatest inlet of pleasure. Through this avenue an uninterrupted stream of delight pours in upon the thinking mind. How exquisite is our enjoyment when in the cheerful light of day we behold this ample creation, all its grand and entertaining objects, their beauty, splendour, and usefulness ! In the view of these created glories, the mind is naturally led to contemplate, and, in a measure, to enjoy the uncreated glories of their great Author. Thus vision, to which light is essential, originates pleasures of various kinds, sensitive, intellectual, and even spiritual. From this source indeed many of our most refined and sublime enjoyments are derived. As all the different parts of the creation are

reciprocally subservient to each other, and conspire in their respective natures and places to the general

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 411 beauty and usefulness of the whole ; these beneficial effects of light are greatly facilitated and increased by another equally important and necessary appendage of this earth. The whole globe is wrapped in, and surrounded by a fluid nearly as subtile and active as light itself, and perhaps more penetrating. Its formation immediately succeeded that of light, constituted the work performed on the second day of the creation, and, in the context, is called " firmament" or heaven. But as the literal meaning of this word in the original Hebrew is expansion, and as the noun is derived from a verb importing "to stretch forth, distend, or expand in every direction," — it obviously expresses the nature of the air or atmosphere, which, being peculiarly elastic, is of course expansive and compressible. It is certain that the whole space which we behold and commonly call " heaven," is nothing but air. Its diffusion is supposed to extend, in a degree, to the limits of the planetary system ; extremely fine and rare no doubt at remote distances, but more dense and gross in proportion to its proximity to the earth — so gross indeed, as to be capable of supporting all those clouds and vapours, which are the grand reservoirs from which the earth is continually watered, refreshed, and rendered fruitful. This firmament which God has spread over us as the pavement of his feet, forms the breath of our nostrils, swells the lungs, and is the grand instru-


ment of respiration and life to all the inhabitants of the earth. ay, it is scarcely less necessary to whatever composes the vegetative creation, to the life and growth of all trees, plants, and herbs. It is found that when any of these are deprived of the air, they soon lose their glory and verdure, become weak and sickly, and appear in a languishing and dying state. Besides furnishing breath and life to whatever lives, and growth to whatever grows, this useful element gives buoyancy and flight to all the feathered tribes ; and even to the various species of the finny race supplies the power of playing up and down, of ascending and descending at pleasure in the watery depths. The influence of the air is also blended with all those great and useful operations in nature by which the world is preserved in an habitable state. By reflecting and refracting the rays of light, the beams of the sun are more generally diffused and so tempered as to be easy and agreeable to the eye. By this means, too, the day is protracted after the sun is actually set at night, and is anticipated again in the morning while he is yet many degrees below the horizon. Thus is formed that agreeable space, recurring twice a day, called the twilight. or may we pass unnoticed the unspeakable usefulness of the air as a medium for the conveyance of sound. Without the former, the latter could not exist. Where then

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 413 would be the melody of the creation, all the charms of music, or the pleasures of social converse ? o articulate language could be formed, the organs of speech in men would be to no purpose, the ears

of all animals would be useless. Profound and universal silence would reign throughout the world. Can we think of our senses of seeing, and hearing, and of the adaptation of light to the one, and of air to the other ; and not admire the contrivance, the wisdom, and goodness of Him who has thus made us and the air in which we breathe, hear, and speak ; and the light by which we see ourselves and all his other works around us ? The great usefulness of the air would soon be lost, were its whole mass, with all those vapours with which its lower regions are constantly loaded, perpetually at rest. A stagnant atmosphere would soon become putrid, unfit for respiration, and the bane rather than the life of the inhabitants of the world. Should we not then admire the provision made in the system of nature for guarding against this noxious state of the air, and for preserving its salubrity by continual ventilations by gales and tempests, by the explosion of electrical vapours, and the falling of rain, hail, and snow ? If these agitations of the air occasionally become boisterous and formidable, yet they are exceedingly useful in carrying off and dissipating poisonous exhalations, and in cooling and purifying the element which is the immediate instrument of life.

414 THA KSGIVI G SERMO , otwithstanding the apparent levity and expansive nature of the atmosphere, it feels the influence of that power which we call attraction or gravity, so far as is necessary for retaining it with a due degree of density in its place and station around the globe. This power, inexplicable in its cause, is inherent in all the elements of which the world is composed, and in the bodies of all those creatures

by which it is inhabited. It consists in the tendency which all material things have to a common centre. The centre of the earth is the point to which its whole mass, with all its appendages, tends. This tendency is what is called the weight of bodies. It is greater or less in proportion to their distance from the centre of attraction. The only cause which we can assign for gravity is the immediate power of God impressed as a law upon all the atoms of matter at their first creation, or unremittingly exerted in their continued preservation. The beneficial effects resulting from this law of gravity are not less obvious and striking than those of any other of the most useful laws of nature. It is the cement or chain which holds together the different parts of which the system of the world is composed ; and retains them in their respective places and stations, constantly equipoised within the bounds prescribed to them at their first formation. Through the invincible strength of this chain, no part of the earth is shattered, disjointed, fritter-

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 415 ed off, or dissipated in the circumambient space ; notwithstanding its perpetual movements, its daily rotation upon its own axis with a rapidity which carries its surface through the space of a thousand miles every hour, giving us the agreeable vicissitudes of day and night ; and its annual circumvolution round the sun, in which it travels over the immense spaces of the ecliptic, delighting us with all the variety of the seasons. Amidst the inconceivable as well as unremitting rapidity of these different motions, gravity preserves, undisturbed through the successive ages of the world, the unity, order, and harmony of all its parts. Besides these, its great and general uses, its particular and occa-

sional advantages to the inhabitants of the earth are more than can be numbered. From the brief survey already taken of some of the outworks and appendages of this lower creation in which there is nothing wanting, nothing redundant, nothing ill made or ill adjusted, — are we not, my brethren, overpowered and dazzled with the splendour of those evidences which it exhibits of the being and perfections of its Maker ? Are not those men lost alike to reason, and to all moral feelings, who are capable of remaining unconvinced by such evidence, and unimpressed by such marks of wisdom, and goodness ? We no sooner look at the out-buildings, the gardens, the avenues, and various accommodations

416 THA KSGIVI G SERMO . surrounding a stately palace, than we instantly imagine what must be the architecture, magnificence, and convenience of its interior apartments. In the fabrick of the world, the latter are in proportion to what has been already remarked on the excellence and perfection of the former. The magnitude of the structure strikes us with astonishment. How are our minds overwhelmed when we reflect on the power which at first formed, and continues to wield, and to manage, with more facility than we play with a little ivory ball, a body of so stupendous a bulk as this terraqueous globe ! The great and signal advantages of its spherical form, and of its situation with respect to the other planets in the solar system, securing to it a due proportion of light and heat, are also among the proofs of the perfect wisdom and goodness of its Creator. or is the display of these perfections less illustrious in

the admirable distribution of the earth's surface into waters and dry land ; — the former into vast oceans, and smaller seas, lakes, fountains, and rivers ; — the latter into continents and islands, moun-. tains and vales, spacious plains, and hilly countries. If to an ignorant or inconsiderate observer, some of these divisions seem like a chance-medley, the casual strokes from nature's unguided hand, or chasms with rude heaps of confusion — the effects of some great convulsion and mighty ruin ; yet upon a closer inspection and more extended survey,

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 417 wise and beneficent design may be every where traced over the face of the world, bespeaking the line and compass of the unerring Architect, proportioning and balancing the various parts of the whole. Thus the earth and the waters are so divided as to form an equipoise to each other on all sides of the globe. To the orthern, is opposed the Southern ocean ; to the Atlantic on the east, the Pacific on the west. The great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa in the Eastern hemisphere, are balanced by the long extended regions of orth and South America, in the Western half of the world. In the general distribution of the waters among and around these spacious tracts of dry land, provision is made for the continual and universal ascent of those vapours which afterwards fall in dew and rain upon the earth. The process of this operation is favoured by ridges of lofty mountains towering in each of the great divisions of the earth above the clouds, and serving as alembics for the collection and condensation of the vapours. In those mountains also are for the most part the springs and sources of those streams of running water which, in their progress towards the ocean,

become mighty rivers, winding in various channels through every continent, fertilizing the neighbouring banks, facilitating the commercial and social intercourse of human beings, and affording a pas53



sage for the inhabitants of the sea to come up in shoals to the doors of men. We have now taken a brief survey of some of the great component parts of this lower creation, and found in each of them striking illustrations of the assertion in the text, that every thing which God has made, is very good. In them we have traced displays of goodness, as well as of wisdom and power, in all respects worthy of the supreme and all-perfect Being, the great Father of all existence and life. With these manifestations of his glorious attributes before our eyes, must we not feel ourselves constrained, not only to acknowledge and adore him, but to love, reverence, and obey him ? Having contrived and finished, as an habitation for men, this earth, he did not cast it by as a neglected work. o, not even after they had proved themselves unworthy of it. He continued, and he still continues, to uphold and superintend both it and them. On this transitory abode the many generations of our forefathers have experienced his care,

and enjoyed his goodness. We ourselves, my hearers, are now, in our turn, called into existence. Our lot is fallen in a pleasant place, and we have a goodly heritage. In an age abounding with remarkable incidents and the most striking vicissitudes, we have found ourselves placed on an eminent and distinguished part of the great theatre, not

THA KSGIVI G SERMO . 419 only as the spectators of his works both of creation and providence, but as the receivers of all the variety of his bounty. From day to day he renews upon us the tokens of his goodness, causes the morning and evening to rejoice over our heads, and each returning season to present us its richest blessings. The year is again crowned with his goodness. If we have reason to discern the force of evidence, and hearts to feel the obligations of goodness, shall we not resolve to live henceforward in God's world as in an august temple, appropriated to his service and always inhabited by his presence ? Awed by his infinite majesty, will it not be our care, in our whole deportment, both towards him and towards one another, to render ourselves approved in his sight ? — that our future lives may be a perpetual hymn of praise, and that ourselves, soul and body, may become living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him, through Jesus Christ. Amen.



Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful