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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

III. Religion

16. A Sermon on the Creation of the World, 1780s

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1Hugh Blair (1718-1800) was a Scottish Presbyterian divine. He was appointed to the chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh in 1762. He was interested in the Celtic poetry of the Highlands and in 1763 he published a laudatory essay on Macpherson’s Ossian, A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal.

2His Sermons, collected in five volumes and published between 1777 and 1801, were very popular. In 1783 he retired from his professorship and published his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. Hugh Blair belonged to the Moderate party and believed that ministers should be selected according to the rules of patronage (also see introduction to chapter 3, p. 45).

3Hugh Blair, Sermons (1777-1801), vol. 2, Philadelphia: Hickmann and Hazzard, 1822, p. 72-74.

Extract of Sermon xlix, “On the Creation of the World”:

To this great Father of all existence and life, to Him who hath raised us up to behold the light of day, and to enjoy all the comforts which his world presents, let our hearts send forth a perpetual hymn of praise. Evening and morning let us celebrate Him, who maketh the morning and the evening to rejoice over our heads; who openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. Let us rejoice, that we are brought into a world, which is the production of infinite goodness, over which a supreme intelligence presides; and where nothing happens, that was not planned and arranged, from the beginning, in his decree. Convinced that he hateth not the works which he hath made, nor hath brought creatures into existence merely to suffer unnecessary pain, let us, even in the midst of sorrow, receive with calm submission whatever he is pleased to send; thankful for what he bestows; and satisfied, that without good reason he takes nothing away.

Such, in general, are the effects which meditation on the creation of the world ought to produce. It presents such an astonishing conjunction of power, wisdom, and goodness, as cannot be beheld without religious veneration. Accordingly, among all nations of the earth, it has given rise to religious belief and worship. The most ignorant and savage tribes, when they looked round on the earth and the heavens, could not avoid ascribing their origin to some invisible designing cause, and feeling a propensity to adore. They are, indeed, the awful appearances of the Creator’s power, by which, chiefly, they have been impressed, and which have introduced into their worship so many rites of dark superstition.

When the usual course of nature seemed to be interrupted, when loud thunder rolled above them in the clouds, or earthquakes shook the ground, the multitude fell on their knees, and, with trembling horror, brought forth the bloody sacrifice to appease the angry divinity. But it is not in those tremendous appearances of power merely, that a good and well-instructed man beholds the Creator of the world. In the constant and regular working of his hands, in the silent operations of his wisdom and goodness, ever going on throughout nature, he delights to contemplate and adore him.

This is one of the chief fruits to be derived from that more perfect knowledge of the Creator, which is imparted to us by the Christian revelation. Impressing our minds with a just sense of his attributes, as not wise and great only, but as gracious and merciful, let it lead us to view every object of a calm and undisturbed nature, with perpetual reference to its Author. We shall then behold all the scenes which the heavens and the earth present, with more refined feelings, and sublimer emotions, than they who regard them solely as objects of curiosity or amusement. Nature will appear animated and enlivened, by the presence of its Author. When the sun rises or sets in the heavens, when spring paints the earth, when summer shines in its glory, when autumn pours forth its fruits, or winter returns in its awful forms, we shall view the Creator manifesting himself in his works. We shall meet his presence in the fields. We shall feel his influence in the cheering beam. We shall hear his voice in the wind. We shall behold ourselves every where surrounded with the glory of that universal spirit, who fills, pervades and upholds all. We shall live in the world as in a great and august temple, where the presence of the divinity, who inhabits it, inspires devotion.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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