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alledged) of providence with the general laws of nalure, it can have no existence ; for the expression, “laws of nature,” is but another name for the mode in which God is ever acting around us; they are but a part of his system of providence, or rather the method in which, to some extent, it operates.
With a brief glance at some of the practical bearings of the subject before us, we conclude. Avd,
1. If a constant and particular providence is exercised over the world, by the infinitely wise and benevolent God, then we should never be dissatisfied with any of his dealings. We are sometimes prone to complain of the hardships of our earthly lot, or to murinur against what seem to be, in reference to ourselves, “mysterious dispensations of providence." But if we inake a proper practical improvement of the doctrine before us, we shall rejoice that a God of infinite wisdom and goodness is on the throne, and that all things are ordered by him with the wisest coun sel, and for the best ultimate ends. Whatever be our condition, we shall recognize in its allotment, the hand of our heavenly Father; and if others are more favored than ourselves, we shall be satisfied that it is for the wisest and best reasons. Whatever be our station in lise, we shall feel, that it is for us the station of honor, and fitness, and duty, and that our estimation in God's sight, depends not upon the elevation of our sphere, but on the manner in which we fill it.
The same train of remark is equally applicable to the inequality of the dealings of providence, as manifest around us, against which we are sometimes disposed to murmur, as unjust or severe. We refer not to the theoretical objections of the infidel, which are easily answered, but rather to that want of entire practical confidence in God, in reference to the dark dispensations of his providence, which sometimes leads even christians to be dissatisfied with its allotments, as if they could have advised for the better. With regard to all such dispensations, every rising murmur should at once be hushed by the thought, that God is infinitely perfect; and that if many of his providential movements now appear unjust or unwise, it is merely because they are not seen in all their relations, and as they will be seen in ihe light of eternity. So far, then, from dishonoring the providence of Jehovah, by assuming to sit in judgment on its operations, we should ever cherish an implicit and child-like faith in the rectitude of all bis dealings, knowing ihat they are all conducted not only by infinite wisdom, but by infinite goodness. There is a Jewish tradition concerning Moses, wbich so beautifully illustrates the point before us, that it is worthy of being mentioned; for though a mere sable, it is not on that account the less instructive. That great prophet, says one of the Rabbins, was called by God to the top of a high mountain, where
he was permitted to to propose any questions that he pleased concerning the government of the universe. In the midst of one of his inquiries, he was commanded to look down upon the plain below, where was a clear spring of water. At this spring, a soldier had aliyhted a moment from his horse to drink. No sooner had he gone, than a little boy came to the same place, and finding a purse, that the soldier had dropped, took it up and went away. Soon after, there came an infirm old man, with hoary hairs, and weary with age and traveling, who, having quenched his thirst, sat down, for rest and refreshment, by the side of the spring. The soldier by this time had missed his purse, and returning, he demands it of the old man, who affirms that he had not seen il, and appeals to heaven to altest bis innocence and the truth of his assertions. The soldier, not believing his declarations, kills him on the spot! Moses falls on bis face, in horror and amazement, that such an event should be perınitted by God; when the divine voice thus prevents his ex postulation : “Be not surprised, Moses, that the Judge of all the earth should have suffered this to come to pass. To you there seems to be no reason why that child should be the occasion of the old man's blood being spilled; but know, that the same old man, years ago, was the murderer of that child's father!" In every dispensation of providence, there is some wise design; and in every one, the Judge of all the earth will do right. Again :
2. In the doctrine of a particular providence, the christian should find an unfailing source of consolation in all the aflictions and trials of life. This world is a world of sorrow and trial, in which all must expect their portion of calamity. Afflictions beset the whole length of our pathway through life, and the agonies of death hold their watch over its close. But though we are
born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward,” yet we are taught by the doctrine before us, that afflictions do not spring from the dust, —that troubles do not come from the ground, but that all things are ordered by one who loves us too well not to mingle trials with our joys. Without his permission, no power can harm, no ill can befail us; and every afflicting stroke is meant for our good,—to cultivate our graces, to mortify our passions, to elevate and purify our affections, and so to discipline our spirits, as to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of happiness and glory in the heavens. Let the atheist, who believes that chance dashed the fragments of chaos into a world, believe, if be can, that the same chance directs (or rather leaves at random,) every event. It is the consolation, the joy of the christian, to know, that God is the God of individuals, and of individual events, and that every thing which transpires is ordered by him ; that every dispensation, whether joyous or grievous, is sent with some definite purpose of
,-that even the evils of life are intended to instruct us in patience and virtue, and its very tribulations to be the ministers of our bighest joy.
3. This doctrine of a particular providence, should also teach us ever to be watchful of our conduct. The thought, that God is ever round about us, moving in every motion, and acting in every event, makes this world a serious world, and should lead us to walk through it with serious steps, with our hearts bent upon duty and our eyes fixed upon heaven. It should indeed increase our cheerfulness, and sweeten our enjoyments, to think, that our Father is beside us ; but it should also 6ll us with holy jealousy of ourselves, and with anxious watchfulness against every thing, whether in spirit or conduct, which may be displeasing to him. An ancient philosopher advised the magistrate, as a restraint to the wicked, to write at the corner of every street, “ God sees thee, O sinner!" But to us, who believe in
But to us, who believe in a particular providence, the inscription, “ God sees thee,” is not only in every street, but upon every object, above, around, within, and beneath us. If we would but open our hearts to its reception, every thing would proclaim to us the obvious presence of that God,
• Who gives its luster to the insect's wing,
And wheels his throne upon the rolling winds." We might see it in our own existence and enjoyment,-in the revolving year and the changing seasons. We might read it in the stars, the alphabet of heaven, in which he has stereotyped his own glory, and in the planets which are rolled by bis hand through trackless space. We might hear it in the thunder's voice, and see it gleaming in the lightning's flash. Every insect would sing to our ears of the hand that sustains it. Every breeze would murmur of his presence. Every leaf would whisper,“ God is here !” And if the imaginary presence of some great and good man could restrain impropriety, and prompt to nubleness of conduct on the
of a pugan, then surely the known presence of the heartsearching Gon, the greatest and best of all beings, should make us watchful of all our actions,-should check the first risings of folly and sin,-should give purity to our motives, and humility to our hearts, and holiness to our lives,-should lead us ever to live as under Jehovah's eye, in such a manner as to secure his approbation, both here and hereafter.
Art. II.-Is ChristiaNITY A PART OF THE Common-Law of
As christian spectators, we feel bound to notice the various attacks made upon religion, from whatever quarter they may come. It may not, however, be evident to every one, what connection the question at the head of this article has with religion, at least in this country. To such, it may be sufficient to say, that the common-law of England has been adopted in this country, with such modifications as our situation and circumstances require; in some states, by an express provision of their constitutions, and in others, by the uniform usage of the courts, with the approbation of their different legislatures. Now, inasmuch as the free exercise of all religions are guaranteed to the people of this country, it is claimed, (with how much truth we stop not to inquire,) by those who deny thai christianity is part of, or sanctioned, by the common-law, that all legislation, having for its object the punishment of offenses against the christian religion, is unconstitutional, and all adjudications of our courts of justice on this subject, “ legislative usurpation.” The attempt to disprove this maxim, is an effort on the part of those who deny or reject the gospel, indirectly to undermine the principles of religion and virtue, and to break down those barriers which have been erected by the gospel against irreligion and infidelity. It is possible, indeed, that some who deny the truth of the maxim, that christianity is sanctioned by the common-law, may not desire the effects which the course pursued by their coadjutors tends directly to produce.
At the head of those who, in this country, have denied the truth of the foregoing principle, we are sorry to be obliged to place the name of a writer and statesman of celebrity, Thomas Jefferson. We are the more sorry for this, because we aware of the extensive influence which the opinion of Mr. J. will exert upon his and our countrymen.
But we are unwilling that error should at any time go uncontroverted, and more especially when sanctioned by the authority of great names, and are fully called upon to expose every attack upon religion, though it be at the expense of those who make the charge.
We learn from Mr. Jefferson, that Major John Cartwright, an Englishman, bad written a work on the British Constitution, in which he undertook to prove," that christianity could not be part
* 1. Kent's Com. Am. Law. p. 472. 1. Swift's Dig. p. 9. Knowles vs. the State. 3. Day's Rep. 103. State vs. Danforth, 3. Comes, 112. Commonwealth vs. Knowlton, 2 Mass. Rep. 530. U. S. vs. Williams, 2.' Cranch. 182. Const. Mass. N. Y. N. J. and Maryland.
of the common-law, inasmuch as the common-law existed among the Anglo-Saxons, while they were pagans, before they had heard the name of Christ pronounced, or knew that such a character had ever existed ;” and Mr. J. pronounces this proof incontrovertible. He then proceeds 10 show in what manner the law was stolen in upon us, and claims to have proved, that all the books and cases in which this principle is recognized, rest ultimately for authority on a dictum of Ch. J. Prisot, made 34 Hen. 6. YearBook, fol. 38, (A. D. 1458,) and that the opinion of Prisot means no such thing. The mistake, or forgery, (as he terms it,) arose from a mistranslation of the words ancien scripture, by Finch, in his first book of the law, c. 3. 1613, who renders these words by holy scripture, in which he is followed by Wingate, in 1666, who sets down this mistranslation as a maxim of the law, (Wing. Mar. 3.) and cites Finch, as Sheppard, in 1675, copies the same and cités Finch and Wingate. Ch. J. Hall, a few years after, said, Rex vs. Taylor, 1. Vent. 293. s. c. 3. Rob. 307, that christianity is the parcel of the laws of England, and cites nobody. In 1728, the court in the case of the King vs. Woolston, 2. Strange, 834, would not suffer it to be debated, whether it was an offense at common-law to write against christianity. Wood, 409, gives the same principle, and cites 2. Strange, and Blackstone, in 1773. Com. 459, cites Ventris and Strange, as authority for the same assertion. In 1767, Lord Mansfield decided a similar principle, and quoted nobody. Thus, says Mr. J., we find this chain of authorities hanging link by link one upon another, and all ultimately upon one and the same hook, and that a inistranslation of the words, "ancien scripture,” used by Prisot, and adds, “I might defy the best-read lawyer to produce another scrip of authority for this judiciary forgery."* ' In a letter to the Hon. E. Everett, some time after, he holds the same language in reference to the same subject.t
The biographer of Mr. J., B. L. Rayner, quotes so much of the letter as relates to this subject, and says: “The part we quote contains the detection, through a long labyrinth of legal authorities, of a fundamental heresy, which, at an early period, through a palpable mistranslation of two words, crept into the commonlaw, and finally, by a series of cumulative adjudications, became firmly embodied in the text."I
The only answer that, so far as we are aware, has been made to this principle, so confidently insisted upon, is a very brief one, contain
* Letter to Major John Cartwright. Jefferson's works, 4 vols. 8vo. vol. 4, p. 239 and on.
+ Vol. 4, p. 408. # Life of Jefferson, 8vo. N. Y. 1832. p. 31.