« ForrigeFortsæt »
in the hearts of men. Mine ancient residence was the bosom of God; no residence will I have but the soul of an immortal ; and if you had entertained me, I should have possessed you of the peace which I had with God," when I was with him and was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity and mock when your fear cometh : when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they cry upon me but I will not answer, they shall seek me early but they shall not find me.”
From this cheap estimation and wanton neglect of God's counsel, and from the terror of this curse consequent thereon, we have resolved, in the strength of God, to do our endeavour to deliver this congregation of his intelligent and, worshipping people--an endeavour which we make with a full perception of the difficulties to be overcome on every side, within no less than without the sacred pale ; and upon which we enter with utmost diffidence of our powers, yet with the full purpose of straining them to the utmost, according to the measure with which it hath pleased God to endow our mind. And do thou, O Lord, from whom cometh the perception of truth, vouchsafe to thy servant an unction from thine own Spirit who searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God-and vouchsafe to thy people “the hearing ear and the understanding heart, that they may hear and understand, and their souls may live !"
Before the Almighty made his appearance upon Sinai, there were awful precursors sent to prepare his way; while he abode in sight there were solemn ceremonies and a strict ritual of attendance ; when he departed the whole camp set itself to conform unto his revealed will. Likewise, before the Saviour appeared, with his better law, there was a noble procession of seers and prophets, who descried and warned the world of his coming: when he came there were solemn announcements in the heavens and on the earth: he did not depart without due honours; and there followed, on his departure, a succession of changes and alterations, which are still in progress, and shall continue in progress till the world end. This may serve to teach us, that a revelation of the Almighty's will makes demand for these three things, on the part
of those to whom it is revealed. A DUE PREPARATION FOR RECEIVING IT. A DILIGENT ATTENTION TO IT WHILE
IT IS DISCLOSING.
A STRICT OBSERVANCE OF IT WHEN IT
In the whole book of the Lord's revelations, you shall search in vain for one which is devoid of these necessary parts. Witness the awe-struck Isaiah, while the Lord displayed before him the sublime pomp of his presence, and, not content with overpowering the frail sense of the prophet, despatched a seraph to do the ceremonial of touching his lips with hallowed fire, all before he uttered one word into his astonished ear. Witness the majestic apparition to St. John, in the Apocalypse, of all the emblematical glory of the Son of man, allowed to take silent effect upon the apostle's spirit, and prepare it for the revelation of things to come. These heard with all their absorbed faculties, and with all their powers addressed them to the bidding of the Lord. But, if this was in aught flinched from, witness in the persecution of the prophet Jonah the fearful issues which ensued. From the presence of the Lord he could not flee. Fain would he have escaped to the uttermost parts of the earth but in the mighty waters the terrors of the Lord fell on him; and, when ingulphed in the deep, and entombed in the monster of the deep, still the Lord's word was upon the obdurate prophet, who had no rest, not the rest of the grave, till he had fulfilled it to the very uttermost.
Now-judging that every time we open the pages of this holy book, we are to be favoured with no less than a communication from on high, in substance the same with those whereof we have detailed the three distinct and several parts -We conceive it due to the majesty of Him who speaks, that we, in like manner, discipline our spirits with a due preparation, and have them in a proper frame, before we listen to the voice. That, while it is disclosing to us the important message, we be wrapt in full attention. And that, when it hath disburdened itself into our opened and enlarged spirits, we proceed forthwith to the business of its fulfilment, whithersoever and to whatsoever it summon us forth. Upon each of these three duties, incumbent upon one who would not fore. go the benefit of a heavenly message, we shall discourse apart, addressing ourselves in this discourse to the first mentioned of the three,
THE PREPARATION FOR THE ANNOUNCEMENT.-- When God uttereth his voice, says the Psalmist, coals of fire are kindled; the hills melt down like wax, the earth quakes, and deep proclaims it unto hollow deep. This same voice, which the stubborn elements cannot withstand, the children of Israel having heard but once, prayed that it might not be spoken to them any more. These sensible images of the Creator have now vanished, and we are left alone, in the deep recesses of the meditative mind, to discern his comings forth. No trump of heaven now speaketh in the world's ear. No angelic conveyancer of Heaven's will taketh shape from the vacant air, and, having done his errand, retireth into his airy habitation. No human messenger putteth forth his miraculous hand to heal Nature's immedicable wounds, winning for his words a silent and astonished audience. Majesty and might no longer precede the oracles of Heaven. They lie silent and unobtrusive, wrapped up in their little compass-one volume, amongst many, innocently handed to and fro, having no distinction but that in which our mustered thoughts are enabled to invest them. The want of solemn preparation and circumstantial pomp, the imagination of the mind hath now to supply. The presence of the Deity, and the authority of his voice, our thoughtful spirits must discern. Conscience must supply the terrors that were wont to go before him ;
and the brightness of his coming, which the sense can no longer behold, the heart, ravished with his word, must feel.
For this solemn vocation of all her powers, to do her Maker honour and give him welcome, it is, at the very least, necessary that the soul stand absolved from every call. Every foreign influence or authority, arising out of the world, or the things of the world, should be burst when about to stand before the Fountain of all authority. Every argument, every invention, every opinion of man forgot, when about to approach to the Father and oracle of all intelligence. And as subjects, when their prince honours them with invitations, are held disengaged, though pre-occupied with a thousand appointments-so, upon an audience fixed and about to be holden with the King of kings, it well becomes the honoured mortal to break loose from all thraldom of men and things, and be arrayed in liberty of thought and action, to drink in the rivers of his pleasure, and to perform the commissions of his lips.
Now far otherwise it hath appeared to us, that Christians, as well as worldly men, come to this most august occupation of listening to the word of God, preoccupied and prepossessed, inclining to it a partial ear, a straitened understanding, and a disaffected will.
The Christian public are prone to preoccupy themselves with the admiration of those opinions by which they stand distinguished as a church or sect from other Christians ; and,
instead of being quite unfettered to receive the whole council of the divinity, they are prepared to welcome it, no farther than as it bears upon and stands with opinions which they already favour. Io this prejudgment the early use of catechisms mainly contributes, which, however serviceable in their place, have the disadvantage of presenting the truth in a form altogether different from what it occupies in the Word itself. In the one it is presented to the intellect chiefly, (and in our catechism to an intellect of a very subtle order ;) in the other it is presented more frequently to the heart, to the affections, to the imitation, to the fancy, and to all the faculties of the soul. In early youth, which is so applied to with those compilations, an association takes place between religion and intellect, and a divorcement of religion from the other powers of the inner man. This derangement, judging from observation and experience, it is exceeding difficult to put to rights in after life ; and so it comes to pass, that, in listening to the oracles of religion, the intellect is chiefly awake, and the better parts of the message—those which ad. dress the heart and its affections, those which dilate and enlarge our imaginations of the Godhead, and those which speak to the various sympathies of our nature-we are, by the injudicious use of these narrow epitomes, disqualified to receive.
In the train of these comes Controversy, with his rough voice and unmeek aspect, to disqualify the soul for a full and fair audience of its Maker's word. The points of the faith we have been called on to defend, or which are reputable with our party, assume in our esteem an importance disproportionate to their importance in the Word, which we come to relish chiefly when it goes to sustain them, and the Bible is hunted for arguments and texts of controversy, which are treasured up for future service. The solemn stillness which the soul should hold before his Maker, so favourable to me-, ditation and wrapt communion with the throne of God, is destroyed at every turn, by suggestion of what is orthodox and evangelical—where all is orthodox and evangelical ; the spirit of such readers becomes lean, being fed with abstract truths and formal propositions; their temper uncongenial, being ever disturbed with controversial suggestions, their prayers undevout recitals of their opinions; their discourse technical announcements of their faith. Intellect, cold intellect, hath the sway over heaven-ward devotion and holy fer
Man, contentious man, hath the attention which the unsearchable God should undivided have ; and the fine full
harmony of Heaven's melodious voice, which, heard apart, were sufficient to lap the soul in ecstasies unspeakable, is jarred and interfered with ; and the heavenly spell is broken by the recurring conceits, sophisms, and passions of men. Now truly, an utter degradation it is of the Godhead to have his word in league with that of any man, or any council of men. What matter to me whether the Pope, or any work of any mind be exalted to the equality of God ? If any helps are to be imposed for the understanding, or safe-guarding, or sustaining of the word, why not the help of statues and pictures for my devotion ? Therefore, while the warm fancies of the Southerns have given their idolatry to the ideal forms of noble art_let us Northerns beware we give not our, idolatry to the cold and coarse abstractions of human intellect.
For the pre-occupations of worldly minds they are not to be reckoned up, being manifold as their favourite passions and pursuits. One thing only can be said that before coming to the oracles of God, they are not pre-occupied with the expectation and fear of Him. No chord in their heart is in unison with things unseen; no moments are set apart for religious thought and meditation; no anticipations of the honoured interview ; no prayers of preparation, like that of Daniel, before Gabriel was sent to teach him ; no devoutness like that of Cornelius, before the celestial visitation; no fastings like that of Peter, before the revelation of the glory of the Gentiles! Now, to minds which are not attuned to holiness, the words of God find no entrance-striking heavy on the ear, seldom making way to the understanding-almost never to the heart. To spirits hot with conversation, perhaps heady with argument, uncomposed by solemn thought, but ruffled and in uproar from the concourse of worldly interests—the sacred page may be spread out, but its accents are drowned in the noise which hath not yet subsided within the breast. All the awe, and pathos, and awakened consciousness of a divine approach, impressed upon the ancients by the procession of solemnities—is to worldly men without a substitute. They have not solicited themselves to be in readiness. In a usual mood and a vulgar frame they come to God's word, as to other compositions-reading it without any active imaginations about Him who speaks ; feeling no awe of a sovereign Lord, nor care of a tender Father, nor devotion to a merciful Saviour. Nowise depressed themselves out of their wonted independence-nor humiliated before the King of kingsm-no prostrations of the