« ForrigeFortsæt »
No. 580. FRIDAY, AUGUST 13.
-Si verbo audacia detur,
Non metuam magni dixisse palatia coli. Ov. Met.
I considered in my two last letters that awful and tremendous subject, the Ubiquity or Omnipresence of the Divine Being. I have shown that he is equally present in all places throughout the whole extent of infinite space. This doctrine is so agreeable to reason, that we meet with it in the writings of the enlightened heathens, as I might show at large, were it not already done by other hands. But though the Deity be thus essentially present through all the immensity of space, there is one part of it in which he discovers himself in a most transcendent and visible glory. This is that place which is marked out in Scripture under the different appellations of Paradise,''The third Heaven,' 'The Throne of God,' and 'The Habitation of his Glory.' It is here where the glorified body of our Saviour resides, and where all the celestial hierarchies, and the innumerable hosts of angels, are represented as perpetually surrounding the seat of God, with Hallelujahs and hymns of praise. This is that presence of God, which some of the divines call his glorious, and others his majestic, presence. He is, indeed, as essentially present in all other places as in this, but it is here where he resides in a sensible magnificence, and in the midst of all those splendours which can affect the imagination of created beings.
"It is very remarkable that this opinion of God Almighty's presence in heaven, whether discovered by the light of nature, or by a general tradition from our first parents, prevails among all the nations of the world, whatsoever different notions they entertain of the Godhead. If you look into Homer, that is, the most ancient of the Greek writers, you see the Supreme powers seated in the heavens, and encompassed with inferior deities, among whom the Muses are represented as singing incessantly about his throne. Who does not here see the main strokes and outlines of this great truth we are speaking of? The same doctrine is shadowed out in many other heathen authors, though at the same time, like several other revealed truths, dashed and adulterated
with a mixture of fables and human inventions. But, to pass over the notions of the Greeks and Romans, those more enlightened parts of the Pagan world, we find there is scarce a people among the late discovered nations who are not trained up in an opinion, that heaven is the habitation of the Divinity whom they worship.
"As in Solomon's Temple there was the Sanctum Sanctorum, in which a visible Glory appeared among the figures of the Cherubims, and into which none but the high priest himself was permitted to enter, after having made an atonement for the sins of the people; so if we consider the whole creation as one great temple, there is in it this Holy of Holies, into which the High Priest of our salvation entered, and took his place among angels and archangels, after having made a propitiation for the sins of mankind,
"With how much skill must the throne of God be erected! With what glorious designs is that habitation beautified, which is contrived and built by Him who inspired Hyram with wisdom! How great must be the majesty of that place, where the whole art of creation has been employed, and where God has chosen to show himself in the most magnificent manner! What must be the architecture of infinite
power under the direction of infinite wisdom! A spirit cannot but be transported, after an ineffable manner, with the sight of those objects, which were made to affect him by that Being who knows the inward frame of a soul, and how to please and ravish it in all its most secret powers and faculties. It is to this majestic presence of God we may apply those beautiful expressions in holy writ: Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. The light of the sun, and all the glories of the world in which we live, are but as weak and sickly glimmerings, or rather darkness itself, in comparison of those splendours which encompass the throne of God.
"As the glory of this place is transcendent beyond imagination, so probably is the extent of it. There is light behind light, and glory within glory. How far that space may reach in which God thus appears in perfect majesty, we cannot possibly conceive. Though it is not infinite, it may be indefinite; and though not immeasurable in itself, it may be so with regard to any created eye or imagination. If he has made these lower regions of matter so inconceivably wide
and magnificent for the habitation of mortal and perishable beings, how great may we suppose the courts of his house to be, where he makes his residence in a more especial manner, and displays himself in the fulness of his glory, among an innumerable company of angels, and spirits of just men made perfect!
"This is certain, that our imaginations cannot be raised too high, when we think on a place where Omnipotence and Omniscience have so signally exerted themselves, because that' they are able to produce a scene infinitely more great and glorious than what we are able to imagine. It is not impossible but, at the consummation of all things, these outward apartments of nature, which are now suited to those beings who inhabit them, may be taken in and added to that glorious place of which I am here speaking; and by that means made a proper habitation for beings who are exempt from mortality, and cleared of their imperfections: for so the Scripture seems to intimate, when it speaks of new heavens and of a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
"I have only considered this glorious place with regard to the sight, and imagination, though it is highly probable that our other senses may here likewise enjoy their highest gratifications. There is nothing which more ravishes and transports the soul, than harmony; and we have great reason to believe, from the descriptions of this place in Holy Scripture, that this is one of the entertainments of it. And if the soul of man can be so wonderfully affected with those strains of music which human art is capable of producing, how much more will it be raised and elevated by those in which is exerted the whole power of harmony! The senses are faculties of the human soul, though they cannot be employed during this our vital union, without proper instruments in the body. Why, therefore, should we exclude the satisfaction of these faculties, which we find by experience are inlets of great pleasure to the soul, from among those entertainments which are to make up our happiness hereafter? why should we suppose that our hearing and seeing will not be gratified with those objects which are most agreeable to them, and
1 Because that is equivalent to by reason that, or, on this account that. This way of speaking is now out of use. We omit that, and say more concisely, though, with regard to the etymology of because [by cause], less properly because they are able, &c.
which they cannot meet with in these lower regions of nature; objects which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive? I knew a man in Christ (says St. Paul, speaking of himself) above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth ;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for man to utter.' By this is meant, that what he heard was so infinitely different from anything which he had heard in this world, that it was impossible to express it in such words as might convey a notion of it to his hearers.
"It is very natural for us to take delight in inquiries concerning any foreign country, where we are some time or other to make our abode; and as we all hope to be admitted into this glorious place, it is both a laudable and useful curiosity, to get what informations we can of it, whilst we make use of revelation for our guide. When these everlasting doors shall be opened to us, we may be sure that the pleasures and beauties of this place will infinitely transcend our present hopes and expectations, and that the glorious appearance of the throne of God will rise infinitely beyond whatever we are able to conceive of it. We might here entertain ourselves with many other speculations on this subject, from those several hints which we find of it in the Holy Scriptures; as whether there may not be different mansions and apartments of glory, to beings of different natures; whether, as they excel one another in perfection, they are not admitted nearer to the throne of the Almighty, and enjoy greater manifestations of his presence; whether there are not solemn times and occasions, when all the multitude of heaven celebrate the presence of their Maker in more extraordinary forms of praise and adoration; as Adam, though he had continued in a state of innocence, would, in the opinion of our divines, have kept holy the sabbath-day, in a more particular manner than any other of the seven. These, and the like speculations, we may very innocently indulge, so long as we make use of them to inspire us with a desire of becoming inhabitants of this delightful place.
"I have in this, and in two foregoing letters, treated on
the most serious subject that can employ the mind of man, the Omnipresence of the Deity; a subject which, if possible, should never depart from our meditations. We have considered the Divine Being, as he inhabits infinitude, as he dwells among his works, as he is present to the mind of man, and as he discovers himself in a more glorious manner among the regions of the blest. Such a consideration should be kept awake in us at all times, and in all places, and possess our minds with a perpetual awe and reverence. It should be interwoven with all our thoughts and perceptions, and become one with the consciousness of our own being. It is not to be reflected on in the coldness of philosophy,' but ought to sink us into the lowest prostration before Him, who is so astonishingly great, wonderful, and holy."
No. 582. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18.
--Tenet insanabile multos
THERE is a certain distemper, which is mentioned neither by Galen nor Hippocrates, nor to be met with in the London Dispensary. Juvenal, in the motto of my paper, terms it a cacoethes, which is a hard word for a disease, called, in plain English, the itch of writing. This cacoethes is as epidemical as the small-pox, there being very few who are not seized with it some time or other in their lives. There is, however, this difference in these two distempers; that the first, after having indisposed you for a time, never returns again; whereas this I am speaking of, when it is once got into the blood, seldom comes out of it. The British nation is very much afflicted with this malady, and though very many remedies have been applied to persons infected with it, few of them have ever proved successful. Some have been cauterized with satires and lampoons, but have received little or no benefit from them; others have had their heads fastened for an hour together between a cleft board, which is made use of as a cure for the disease, when it appears in its greatest malignity. There is, indeed, one kind of this malady 1 An apology for the popular manner in which he has treated this sublime and abstract subject.