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CREATION THE PROTOTYPE OF REVELATION.
MY DEAR FRIEND, The task which your kind favour has imposed on me, is one to which I feel a painful incompetence; while, at the same time, I am anxious to comply with every request made by you. The claims of Christian friendship are irresistible, when there exists a possibility of complying with them; and to comply with such a request as your’s would be indeed delightful, were it not for this discouraging consciousness of inability to do justice to the subject. You must be aware that, to satisfy one's own mind, and to convey satisfaction to the mind of another, are two very different things.
You have requested me to state on paper those views of creation and redemption, as analogically illustrating each other, which you have sometimes heard me intimate in our familiar conversations. I mention philosophy and theology together, because their union is one important branch of those views. I consider them to be so interwoven by the author of nature and of revelation, that the subjects cannot be separated from each other, at least in our contemplation of them, without
material injury to both. God has united them in his word, and they ought not to be put asunder. Perhaps if all the texts were to be brought together, in which the works of nature are adduced in illustration of the works of grace,-natural as explanatory of spiritual things,-nut less than a moiety of the Scriptures would be comprehended in the collection.
And is there any thing, I would ask, in this union that should excite our surprise? Man, in his present state, as comprising in his person a material body and an immaterial spirit, and furnished with corporeal senses which are the inlets to all his perceptions, is incapable of receiving instruction in any other way than by the objects to which those senses are accommodated. He was created, however, to know, to love, and to serve, God his Creator; and from this knowledge, this love, and this service, his happiness was to arise. The contemplation of God was, in his state of innocence, a constant source of holy delight; and that delight was heaven on earth. But, in order to his enjoyment of this happiness, it was necessary that God should reveal HIMSELF. And how was this to be done to a nature constituted as that of man was, but by a speculum, if I may so speak, in which the nature and the attributes of God should be reflected by his works ? Verbal description could have furnished no ideas, without a reference to
visible things. Indeed, all verbal description, in the primitive language, is founded on the objects of sense; every word, in that language, being the sign of some such object. Its letters are not, like those of modern languages, combined merely to form arbitrary sounds; but every root has its prototype in nature, to which all its derivatives are allied in meaning.
Does not the Apostle of the Gentiles confirm this view, when, in his Epistle to the Romans, (chap. i. 20.) he asserts, that “ the invisible things “ of God, from the creation of the world, are
clearly seen, being understood by the things " that are made?" And does he not maintain that the display of the Godhead which creation affords is so clear, that the heathen who had lost sight of it were “ without excuse?” And is it merely the existence of a First Cause that is thus demonstrated? Such a demonstration would, of itself, have failed of accomplishing the objects of revelation, either in the state of innocence, or in the lapsed state of man. A bare revelation of his Being' would make kuown but little of his glory, and contribute nothing to the happiness of his rational creatures. Just, I conceive, is the pious sentiment of Bishop Horne, in his preface to his Commentary on the Psalms : “ The visible works of God are formed to lead us, under the direction of his word, to a knowledge of those which are invisible; they give us ideas, by analogy, of a
new creation, rising gradually, like the old one, out of darkness and deformity, until at length it arrives at the perfection of glory and beauty; so that, while we praise the Lord for all the wonders of his power, wisdom, and love, displayed in a system which is to wax old and perish, we may therein contemplate, as in a glass, those new heavens and that new earth, of whose duration there shall be no end.” With this agrecs the view of the same subject expressed by another learned prelate of our Church, Bishop Lowth, who observes in his prelections,* that, in the volume of revelation “ certain images, taken principally from nature, express certain other ideas, which are not otherwise obvious to the human understanding.” In confirmation of the doctrine, that our ideas are derived from the employment of our senses, let any man examine the images with which his mind is furnished; or, let him trace to its origin any scriptural notice of spiritual things; and he will assuredly find that they all have their prototypes in nature."
Is it not reasonable to expect that creation should be the ground-work of revelation?—that God, who created man to be happy in the knowledge and enjoyment of Himself, should so constitute his previous creation of the world, as to exhibit therein his own nature and perfections, so far as they could be thereby made known ? Is there any thing absurd in the supposition that He, to whom were “ known all his works from the beginning of the world,” and who provided redemption for man in his own counsels before he brought any thing into being, should have so arranged the process of creation, and the active and passive matter of which the world is composed, as to afford therein an illustration of the natural state of man, ever since the fall of our first parents, and of his own grace in our restoration to his image and likeness?
* Lecture xxxi. p. 1.
+ See Ellis's “ Knowledge of Divine things from Revelation, not from Reason or Nature; and his “Enquiry whence cometh Wisdom and Understanding to man" republished in the first volume of “ the Scholar Armed.” See also Willatts's “ Religion of nature proved to be a mere Idol," republished in the same volume.
If an analogy between the natural agents and their Divine Author be granted, it will more easily account for the origin of idolatry than any other hypothesis. The fallen mind of man being darkened by the introduction of sin, lost sight of the invisible and eternal Godhead, and ascribed to the creature which God had made an image of himself, that honour which belonged only to the Creator. It appears evident to me, that the worship of celestial influences preceded, by many ages, the demonolatry, which in after ages became a branch of pagan idolatry, and that the grosser pollutions of Greece and Rome were corruptions of a primitive, more simple and natural