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BRIEF NOTES OF A SERMON BY A DISTINGUISHED
LIVING PREACHER AND AUTHOR.
RESULTS OF THE EXPLORING SPIRIT OF THE AGE.
DANIEL xii. 4.
MANY SHALL RUN TO AND FRO, AND KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE
One word of apology may perhaps be thought necessary for taking this passage for our use in the mere immediate literal sense of its terms.
But the idea which first and immediately occurs to the hearer's thoughts—the superficial meaning, if we may so express it, is, what we are willing, in the present instance, to seize upon, as leading to a few observations not altogether, we hope, devoid of instruction.
In several instances we have endeavoured to turn to a beneficial account, by religious reflections, circumstances in the economy of nature—in the condition of human life—and in the state and events of the world—we should think it might be well worth while to make the same attempt in respect to one very conspicuous circumstance in the habits of mankind in the present age.
The terms of the text may suggest what we are alluding to.
One of the most remarkable characteristics in these late times is—a moving, roving disposition of mankind—the still and stationary habits of our forefathers are broken up to a wonder
A very great proportion of human beings are seen actuated by a restless impulse to go hither and thither. Impatience of the sameness of life-business—friendship-curiosity—the spirit of enterprise--religious zeal-are carrying multitudes in all directions. And it is surprising to think how many of late years have gone far and wide over the face of the earth—to all the more accessible parts of the earth—and some that have been regarded as almost inaccessible. This, in the degree of it, is a striking novelty of our age.
FIRST BE A REMARK
OR TWO ON THE
The consequence has necessarily followed-viz., a very great increase of knowledge. Many have immediately in their own persons acquired this; but also it has been very widely diffused through the community.
We would briefly advert to several views or parts of the increased knowledge, and to the instruction which it may supply.
BUT THERE MIGHT SPIRIT ITSELF, OF
RUNNING TO AND FRO." We are not to regard it as wholly an improvement in the character of these our times,
How many do it from no motive of seeking wisdom or solid good of any kind ! many from the restlessness of an empty mind -with an abhorrence of all serious exercise for their own im. provement—to amuse and sport away as much of their short life as they can in the mere pleasure of variety-diverted from place to place--and from object to object--without so much as a thought of deriving instruction. And there are some that might actually seem to “
run to and fro," for the very purpose of attracting into themselves all the diversified vices and vanities any where to be found—a strong magnetism for the attraction of all congenial evil-they come back as if to show representatively, by example, in how many ways human beings can befool their reason and rid themselves of their consciences-often evince a more confirmed and avowed contempt of religion.
All this is a perfectly natural effect-for in traversing the scenes of the world, what should men collect, draw to themselves, but that which most suits their disposition ? And if the great majority of the rovers be, as we suspect they are, destitute of wisdom, sound principles, and all religion,-what will they naturally like and acquire, wherever they go ?
In this view of the case the modern habit is a great eviland the community in this land has been very sensibly affected by it—a fantastic frivolity-a laxity-a fashionableness of vicea latitudinarianism, and a profane levity with respect to religion.
BUT, TO TURN TO THE MORE FAVOURABLE VIEW OF THE SUBJECT.
There has resulted a vast increase of knowledge, which may be of immense value and instruction.
We might name, first, knowledge of the natural worldthe whole order of nature on this globe-all the conformations of the elements—the regions on almost all sides of the earththe climates—aspects, and infinitely diversified productions—and the adaptations—all the forms of visible sublimity and beauty, the mighty changes and catastrophes. These have been explored and contemplated by a great number of adventurous, inquisitive, and intelligent men--who have brought to us a rich variety of information-insomuch that Solomon's utmost knowledge of this was slender, compared with what is easily attainable by ordinary
Now, do we profess to be adorers of the glorious Creator? Think, then-what this ample knowledge may do for us—there are more scenes in which in thought to take our devout position, thence to look up to the Almighty. Stupendous phenomena to place ourselves near to (in mind) to realize to ourselves his majesty and power—an enlarging and boundless diversity and multiplicity,-in which to behold all his prolific and infinite in. vention-his amazing, and, as it were, lavish profusion and influence of contriving and creative energy-how every thing like limitation is thrown infinitely off. One and the same simple poner-absolute in each of all the stupendous diversity! And then the grand whole, pervaded and sustained with perfect facility!
This sphere of contemplation is enlarging by an increased knowledge. And it becomes a charge of guilt, if our religious and our adoring sentiments do not enlarge with it. It is a lamentable fact to remark, that
very men who have done the most to enlarge this knowledge, have appeared insensible themselves of this grand use of their admirable labours.
Shall we name as another thing gained through the peculiar spirit of this age FOR RUNNING TO AND FRO”—the greatly increased knowledge of the REMAINS AND MONUMENTS OF ANCIENT TIMES? We mean chiefly things relating to man. There have been discovered and explored works and monuments of races almost or quite unknown to history.
But a more solemn interest is connected with the local memorials of ages and nations, memorable in sacred history.
Of BABYLON, for example, respecting which it had become dubious whether there were any ascertainable remains-within very late years men of our own country have examined the site of that most stupendous scene of the magnificence of Nebuchad. nezzar, and of the sublime piety of Daniel—and of the interpositions and judgments of the ALMIGHTY—enormous masses of ruin and desolation-we might mention JUDEA, JERUSALEM, DEAD SEA, &c. &c.
But advert to EGYPT, a most memorably conspicuous scene -what thing, possible to be imagined, was less to have been expected than the discovery of the tomb, hidden far underneath a rocky mountain, of the son of Pharaoh Necho, with that elder monarch's own name and exploits pictured on its walls ? the mystical scenery and the most superb of the contents of that dark mansion, after remaining in profoundest night for thousands of
years, made familiar in our country; a confirmation incidentally afforded to the veracity of sacred history.
We need not particularize the many other discovered monuments of the world in various regions,
But then, the use of this “increased knowledge ?"
It may and should, for one thing, contribute to promote a disposition to thoughtfulness, reflection, solemnity. It may give us a more lively impression of reality, while we read the ancient Scriptures ; something more like being present to the remarkable transactions—events—divine judgments—may suggest thoughts of the extended duration of the divine government -the idea of our remote relationship, as descendants of the one great family-now so far off in time—thoughts of the fleeting condition on earth of the human generations-impressive reflections on the vanity of pride~in some instances, the fulfilment of prophecy,-add, that from being led so far back, toward the beginning of the world—the thought may go the more forcibly toward its close.
BUT THERE ARE MORE INTERESTING VIEWS OF THE INCREASED KNOWLEDGE GAINED BY THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE “RUNNING,” &c.
We have now a much more comprehensive information of the actual state and quality of the human race.
We may say that nearly all nations of the earth have been brought within our view—from the highest cultivation to the lowest barbarism -of all colours, physiognomies, languages, customs, religions. We thus behold an aggregate, wider, vaster, and more diversified than our ancestors did.
Now, this should magnify all our ideas of what relates to the power and
compass of the divine government on earth. Let another tribe and still another be discovered, deep toward the centre of a continent; or in a tract surrounded by a vast desert; or in a remote part of the ocean—that too, and that, is under the same dominion and Providence, every individual of these additional thousands and myriads—a marked, distinct object of the Supreme attention.
Our increased knowledge of the human race, acquired through the activity of so many going “to and fro," is an enlarged manifestation of several great facts in the condition of man. For instance, that man is every where the same.
Make out the amplest list of modifications and peculiarities (and it is almost endless), but still the self-same substance is there-truly “ of one blood” in a moral, as well as in a natural sense; true to their original and primary examples--in parallel circumstances, will act in the same manner.
The first impressions with respect to some remote strange tribe of them, as if they must be of a different race, soon vanishes : and true, universal man, comes palpably to view. Intelligent travellers, sojourning among such tribes, have often repeated the observation, how perfectly, how identically in principle the merest savages have acted; in their way, just the same things that are the study and the pride of courts and polished nations; all fit, therefore, for one and the same dispensation to be applied to their nature and interests, when it shall please Heaven to make its last best dispensation universal,
But another, still more conspicuous fact, and a dreadful one, is additionally illustrated and confirmed, by our increased know