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"While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and
summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.
THESE sublime and memorable words were uttered in the form of a gracious promise to those who had survived the great deluge ; and we may easily imagine what comfort this divine assurance must have afforded to Noah and his family. Consolatory, indeed, it must have been to them as, after the subsiding of the mighty waters, they beheld the awful desolation which prevailed on every side.
I am aware that various opinions are entertained by learned men respecting the nature of the deluge. Some endeavour to explain away the reality of the event, conceiving the narrative to be allegorical ; others doubt whether the deluge were universal in its extent; while not a few scientific minds have attributed it to the concussion of some of the heavenly bodies, or to an interruption of the laws of attraction and gravitation, which occasioned the oceans and lakes to break over their boundaries, and to submerge the face of the earth.
There is, however, much idle conjecture still mixed up with the extraordinary and interesting facts which are recorded in the sacred volume; and in the imaginations of persons who have narrow views of the being and providence of God, they have awakened many absurd and groundless alarms.
I fear that the discoveries of Geology, valuable as they are, have excited as much distressing apprehension in what is called the religious world, as the revival of the antiquated oriental system of the heavens by Copernicus, or as Galileo's discovery of black spots upon the disc of the sun. When the subject of the deluge was fairly started for discussion among geologists, the whole army of theological fanatics, enthusiasts and bigots, was drawn up in battle array against it; and it may be doubted whether the conflict which has for some time been carried on between Religion and Science, has not had an unfavourable effect on both.
However men may speculate on the nature of the deluge, it is certain that the most inconsiderable agency of a planet, or of a comet, which should merely disturb the motion of the earth and shift its poles, would pour an overwhelming flood upon the world.
It must not be forgotten that the scriptural account of the deluge is in accordance with the traditions of almost all nations. These traditions should be examined and be received with caution ; for it must be unwise entirely to discard them on the authority of an immature philosophy. Whatever was the cause of the deluge, it seems to have completed its work of devastation as it were in a moment of time, and to have swept away at once whole races of animals, the fossil remains of which are frequently discovered in various parts of the world, whilst the living races are altogether extinct.
With respect to those persons who deny the fact of the deluge, it is incumbent on them to explain why such a tradition has been recorded; why so clear an intimation of the event should have been given to Noah; and why, on that intimation, the ark was prepared and the family of Noah preserved.
I have glanced at these speculations respecting the deluge, in order to shew how far we are at present from anything like being able to find a satisfactory solution of the question, as to what were the causes of the event, and as to what were
its precise nature and extent. There is abundant reason for believing that, in its earlier history, the planet on which we live experienced great revolutions, independently of those regular changes through which it is still hourly passing. We can only indulge in conjectures as to the precise character of these revolutions ; but amidst all our ignorance, this we know, that the promise given in our text has not been broken from the first moment at which it was mercifully given to the present day : for still “the earth remaineth, and seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, have not ceased.” And now, when our heavenly Father is blessing us with this lovely season, and giving us the promise of abundance to supply the wants of the children of men, shall we not bring to his altar the tribute of our gratitude, and lift up our hearts and voices to Him in spontaneous hymns of praise ? Yes, we will breathe our thanks in the solemn stillness of our souls, and adore his mighty and hallowed name “in the congregation." Whatever opinions we may form of the being and attributes of God; however ungratefully we may act towards our Creator; though we may suffer ourselves, amidst the busy scenes of life, to forget our obligations to his rich and undeserved mercy, our perverseness affects not the wise, beneficent and impartial administration of the Most High. In every part of nature we behold his glory, and the regular succession of the seasons, with their varied productions, proclaims his incessant watchfulness over the creatures of his hand. Allow me to dwell for a moment on a few thoughts which are naturally suggested by this season of the year, when God is indeed visiting the earth and blessing it with profusion.
It must be evident to the reflecting mind that each of the seasons is alike necessary to the preservation and to the usefulness of the whole ; each has beauties which are all its own; each brings with it its peculiar pleasures, and each conveys to us important lessons of wisdom. It is by their regular succession that the greatest possible amount of life, fertility and joy can be produced. It is in consequence of this beautiful vicissitude that the several parts of the earth can be inhabited, cultivated and turned to profit. As the effect of this arrangement, it is enriched with all kinds of herbs and flowers and plants and fruits. Were the laws which retain the sun in his place and which govern the movements of the celestial bodies, suspended or interrupted in their operation only for one short moment, all that we behold on the fair face of nature would become a heap of ruins, and this glorious creation, which is “beauty to the eye and music to the ear," would be converted into one vast sepulchre. But such a catastrophe is not to occur, for the promise of our text still remains, and it will not be broken ; “while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and day and night, summer and winter, shall not cease.” Again, each season is connected with that which goes before it, and each season prepares the way for that which is to follow it. Like sisters, they take each other by the hand, lend each other
gifts and graces,” assist each other in their offices, and advance so imperceptibly in their onward course, that while we are enjoying the advantages of the one, we have time afforded us to prepare ourselves for the comforts or the inconveniences of another. As, moreover, the seasons follow each other with undeviating regularity, so is it likewise with the times of sowing and reaping, of blossom and fruit, of labour and rest, and so also is it with the energy and the languor or exhaustion of the
powers of nature. This very vicissitude, this succession of the seasons, enhances the value of each, increasing our sensibility to the respective benefits of each, enabling us doubly to enjoy each, to taste its unutterable pleasures, in expectation as well as in reality. In addition to all this, the charms of each season are such as never cloy, because they are ever varied, ever new. Each season has its peculiar beauties and its appropriate pleasures.
If the Spring presents us with a creation fresh, as it were, from the hands of “Him that made us ;" if it comes to us
adorned in youthful grace and vigour, where all around us and above us is alive and in motion ;-so the Summer displays the whole force of active, industrious nature, when she appears in the plenitude of her strength and perfection, and clothed in bright unclouded sunshine. Soon Autumn appears, laden with sheaves of ripened corn and with the golden fruits of the orchard. Surely if anything can speak to us with eloquence and persuasion—if anything can raise our thoughts to heaven —if anything can lead us to give utterance to our feelings of gratitude in prayer and praise to “Him who openeth his hand and filleth the earth with plenteousness,"—the present autumnal season must produce these effects. Although this season will soon pass away, and its radiance be exchanged for the darker and sterner aspect of Winter, yet that season,
much as it will differ from the present, will not be a cheerless desolation—it will invite us to its own pursuits and its own gratifications. It will draw us all nearer together in the social circle and around the domestic hearth ; while it will afford the husbandman leisure to recruit his wearied, exhausted strength. Winter is also the earth's season for rest, and she needs it as well as man.
Now, my brethren, let me ask you, Which of these seasons could you relinquish? Which could you spare without experiencing a loss that you would have reason to deplore ? Does not the constant return of each season point out its necessity, and does it not clearly prove the constant and merciful providence of God in appointing it? Gladly and gratefully let us hail the return of every season, and accept from the bounteous hand of Heaven the peculiar beauties and offerings of each. “Oh, let us praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men ; for his works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein !” “Let us exalt Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.” “He hath given meat to them that fear Him; He will ever be mindful of his covenant.” “For while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, cold