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THE

SACRED HISTORY

OF

THE WORLD.

PART III.

LETTER I.

Recapitulation of the Objects of the former Letters.-Statement of the Subjects intended to be considered in the present Series, and of the manner in which they will be treated.

MY DEAR SON,

It is now my wish to resume our consideration of the Sacred History of the World, in order to conclude our correspondence upon it, by adding those further views and thoughts on the topics not yet contemplated which will complete my original design, and bring the Divine economy of human life before you, as fully as I may be able to delineate it.

It was the object of the preceding letters to draw such general outlines of the natural structure and composition of our earth; of its solar and planetary associations; and of its vegetable and animal systems of living beings, as would enable you to perceive, from their most important laws and phenomena, the system of their Creator in their formation. It was also attempted to present to you some views of that scheme and course of things which he had devised, and has assigned to be attached to this human race in their earthly life. Considerations were added on his peculiar construction of our twofold nature, and on the results which, in this stage of its being, he has effectuated in it. The first state of man; the change of his locality from a special Paradise into VOL. III.-B

our common earth; and the cause and nature of the diluvian commotion and desolations, which ended the first-created state of our terrestrial surface, as well as of its then existing population, were laid before you with their connected circumstances in some detail. The new order and constitution of material things which were afterward established, and which have ever since been upheld, and under which we are now subsisting, terminated our proposed review of what it was expedient for us to recollect as to our external world.

Our attention was then more particularly directed to the state and history of mankind after their renewal. Their early separation into distinct nations and distant settlements was noticed. A general sketch was drawn of the most celebrated countries of the ancient world, and of some of the most striking features of their habits and circumstances. Their transactions were not further described; but we proceeded to remark on some of those peculiar occurrences which had accompanied the formation and fortunes of the Jewish people -a race of men with whose nation, and ancient history, and writings the well-being of all human kind has been inseparably connected; and by whose future destinies it is still likely to be most essentially affected. All these topics were remarked upon with an intention of tracing from them such indications of the Divine system in the creation and government both of material nature and of our human frame and living world, as were ascertainable in them.

As it was not my intention to compose a detailed historiography of the ancient world, the sketches which were drawn of the nations that were noticed were confined to those general outlines which served to illustrate the main purpose of the work, and with these the former letters ended. It is to the topics which were mentioned in the preface to the second volume, as those which it would be desirable to review, that your present attention will be called. They are all subjects of the Divine administration of human affairs, and form important sections of the sacred history of our world; they relate to the scheme and provisions which have been made for the diffusion and perpetuation of the human race, and for their continual and sufficient support, and to the employment of human industry thence arising. They comprise the Divine plans for our social combinations and constitution; for our civil arrangements and political relations; and for our mutual inter

course both of amity and hostility. They will also lead us to trace the evolution and progress of our mental activities and improvements under the ordained system of our being, and the design and operation of this, with respect to our individual comfort, and for the general progression of human nature, as a favoured order of intellectual existence. Our task will be accomplished by an endeavour to glance, calmly and rationally, on those ulterior purposes of the Divine mind for which the system of our being has been so long upheld and carried on; and to the fulfilment of which mankind, in their various distributions, seem to be now advancing, with unequal step and in very diversified costume, but with an emulous acceleration in their most civilized societies which no prior age has been known to display.

These subjects will embrace all that it will be necessary to lay before you for the guidance of your forming mind in its endeavours to understand the Divine government of the world we are born to. But I do not wish you to overvalue what I may send you; I seek for truth; I desire to state nothing but what is such, and will not write a sentence which I do not believe to be right and proper. But neither you nor I must forget that I may err without intending it. What I send you will therefore still be, as before, only my individual impressions and deductions, grounded always, or meant to be so, on appropriate facts, and carefully reasoned from; but not possessing any other character, nor pretending to be to you or to any a deciding authority. They will be the phenomena of my personal conviction, and, as such, a series of intellectual conclusions, to be added to those which other minds have formed, and to be taken into your consideration with them when you are thinking upon this subject. It is in this way that moral truth enlarges its dominion in the human mind. New thoughts are suggested and published, which others deliberate upon and adopt, reject or modify, as seems to them most fitting. All lasting opinions and belief are but the continued acquiescence of the greater number of those who have considered them, and concur in believing them to be just.

Individual conviction, as it accumulates in such spontaneous coincidence, seems to be the foundation on which our established truths permanently rest. But this can never be forced. It must be freely given to be enduring; it is always personal and peculiar; and is the result, in every one, of thoughts,

feelings, inclinations, and circumstances, which do not exactly meet in any other. These variations make concurrence more difficult and uncertain-but what is true at last gradually obtains it-and the admitted fact or conclusion then becomes a .fixture in human knowledge.

To produce this individual conviction in favour of his own views and sentiments, every writer may justly aim; but, at the same time, be content with seeking to gain it by fair reasoning and correct statements, and never exact it, nor be dissatisfied or acrimonious towards those who may withhold it. Each of us claims the liberty of judging for himself, without blame, as to the ideas of others, and must, in common equity, concede to them the same right of deciding on what he may express. What we retain in our own bosom remains of course our secluded property; but the very act of uttering it to others conveys a right to all who hear to admit or question it as they may deem proper. We have no title to command their acquiescence in any human speculations, or to resent their doubt or disapprobation. With these sentiments the present letters will be written and submitted to you; never meant to be imperious-never claiming infallibility. If the language seem at times positive, do not mistake that as intended to be assuming or dictatorial. It is to be read as only expressing the strength of my individual conviction, and not as a presuming assertion that my conclusions must be right, nor as a reproach to any who may differ from me. It would be unprincipled in me to write them if I did not believe them to be just; but my belief is a law to no one else; and whatever phrases may be used, it will be always with the understanding that they leave every one to the fair exertion of his own natural right to dissent or agree, as his own judgment may determine, without any fetter or imputation whatever. I only ask you to receive my thoughts as not unwelcome visiters to read them fairly as well as freely; to examine and think on them without prepossession, and with so much deliberation as their important subjects may reasonably claim. Search and obtain elsewhere what further knowledge or other views you feel to be necessary for your final judgment upon them; listen to the remarks of those whose opinions you respect or whom you wish to consult, and then decide disinterestedly for yourself. By this course I shall not be a cause of leading you into error, and you will be taking the fittest human means to avoid it.

LETTER II.

That our World has been made and is conducted on an intelligent Plan, and for intelligent Purposes, which we have the Capacity to discover and understand.

MY DEAR SON,

Our correspondence has been founded on the great principle that our earth and all its systems of living beings have been the creation of an intelligent Creator.

By that degree of intelligence which human nature possesses and everywhere exercises, we know what intelligence is in any being, and how it acts; and we can understand and appreciate what we perceive it to perform.

In human workmanship, we see the operation of intelligent beings with our rate of intelligence; and what we do as such assists us to discern and judge of the agency and effect of greater intelligence elsewhere. In the world we inhabit, we behold the works of intellect in its most perfect nature. But amid all its grandeur and inexpressible superiority in the productions which surround us, it still displays itself with so many resemblances and analogies to the qualities and operations of the mind which it has conferred upon man, that the agency of the Divine intelligence is never beyond our perception, and will always be a rational subject of our study. The success of the human intellect, in tracing it in its sublime arrangements of our material system, warrants the hope that the moral economy of our world may be in time discerned and developed, in all its wisdom and beauty, if we accustom ourselves to meditate upon it, and persevere in the belief that it has been devised and established by the same intelligence which has framed and governs the laws and principles of the visible creation.

It is the nature of intelligence to devise before it makes, and to make according to its design. Hence, in our natural world, every part must have been put together according to the purposes of its producer's mind.

Its construction has been framed to execute these purposES

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