Page images

that "vantage ground" from which they may steadily and satisfactorily perceive the beauty and wisdom and beneficence of the plan amidst which their station has been assigned them.

Nor is it without reason, that when this is done, even in any considerable degree, the mystery is so far said to be solved-for it must ever be kept in mind—as we have formerly quoted from a philosopher well entitled to respect-"that so far as our experience has hitherto gone, every true advance in philosophy has at the same time been a step towards simplification. It is only when we are wandering and lost in the mazes of particulars, or entangled in fruitless attempts to work our way downwards in the thorny paths of applications, to which our reasoning powers are incompetent, that nature appears complicated: the moment we contemplate it as it is, and attain a position from which we can take a commanding view, though but of a small part of its plan, we never fail to recognize that sublime simplicity on which the mind rests satisfied that it has attained the truth."

4. Time-what is it.-This will probably strike many of our readers as the most difficult and problematical of all the questions we have yet tried to solve, as it is also a question to which different persons will be found to give different answers,

according to their peculiarities of mental constitution-or the habits of thought they have been accustomed to indulge.

Thus time, in the usual representations of the poets, is a stream the course of which is confined to things earthly and transitory-which bears on its bosom all the affairs-the works-the institutions and the generations of men—which never ceases to flow, whether at particular moments its course be observed, or its flight seem to be stayed —and which finally engulfs all that has lived in the boundless and stationary and ever-enduring ocean of eternity.

The moralist again, with not less beauty and effect, will assure you-as he has often done with great advantage-that time is a theatre on which events are constantly exhibiting, some of less and some of apparently greater moment-some relating to the grand affairs of communities and nationsand others limited to the more familiar combinations of life-in which exhibition, however, all the variety of associations and of individuals that exist upon the earth must have a place-so that it is impossible often to say whether the most instructive and affecting tragedies are displayed by vast multitudes of the species acting together-or by the home scenes that embrace the history of

families and of individuals--all of which exhibitions, however, in the infinite variety and number of their occurrence, have a moral character attached to them, accompanied by either happiness or misery at the present moment, and prophetic of either honour or degradation in future—and the results of the whole of which are to be displayed when the great drama of life shall be concluded, and when all "creatures shall receive according to their works."

And the metaphysician, or man of abstraction, will assure you that time is a condition-necessary to the very existence of events whose characteristic is, that they are evolved in succession-that whether therefore we can comprehend its nature or not, it is something without which no two events could follow each other, far less the entire order of occurrences have a place in life which make up, not only the history of our individual lives, but the grand progress of the Divine kingdom upon earth -that, therefore, without time, or the idea of time, all things would seem to us to be of simultaneous occurrence-but that still it is probably only a form which our understandings, in their peculiarity of structure and limitation of operation, give to the appearance of events-and that however necessary and self-existent and indestructible it may

seem to us, it may turn out to have been only a creation of our own minds themselves-and destined therefore to perish, when, either to us individually or to the entire species so constituted, their present peculiarity of intellectual constitution shall either have altogether ceased to exist, or shall have been succeeded by different and more perfect forms of thought.

Such have been the different answers given to this question, according as men have permitted their imaginations-their moral apprehensions— or their metaphysical propensities, to be the arbiters of this great inquiry-and all of them have evident truth, and the obvious appearances of things in their favour. But yet there is another and more direct and palpable answer-not altogether different, however, from the preceding, but only serving to render them more intelligible and better suited to our present purpose, as persons meditating on the wonderful changes that are constantly going on with respect to all things on earth—and which answer is, that time is nothing but the very events themselves in their successive occurrence--which are commonly apprehended to have only a place in this imcomprehensible existence-that time is therefore only an abstraction, of which we avail ourselves, conformably


with the peculiar structure of our minds, for the more facile management of our meditations when reflecting on the progress of those mysterious but never-ceasing changes by which we observe the entire order of the Divine dominions to be characterized-and that when, therefore, we speak of the flight of time-of its rapid movement-of its uncertainty-and of its irrevocable nature, we only mean, when we divest our minds of metaphor--of moral apprehension—and of abstraction and when, consequently, we reduce our thoughts to their most distinct and unencumbered form that nothing which we observe is destined for a permanent duration-that the changes or sucessive evolutions which objects undergo, are so evanescent as to leave nothing for any two moments in precisely the same condition -that in this constant progress and development, events are frequently coming forth which threaten to terminate, or which in fact conclude our observation of the still future changes that are destined to be exhibited-and that events once passed can never be recalled, and can only be traced by their influences on the order of occurrences that is yet to be evolved.

It is thus a vast succession and complication and never-ceasing flow of events which is opened up to

« PreviousContinue »