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soul-nor falling at his feet as dead—no exclamation, as of Isaiah,“ Woe is me, for I am of unclean lips !"-nor suit, “Send me;"—nor fervent ejaculation of welcome, as of Samuel “ Lord, 'speak, for thy servant heareth !” Truly they feel towards his word, much as to the word of an equal. No wonder it should fail of happy influence upon spirits which have, as it were, on purpose, disqualified themselves for its benefits, by removing from the regions of thought and feel. ing, which it accords with, into other regions, which it is of too severe dignity to affect, otherwise than with stern menace and direful foreboding! If they would have it bless them, and do them good, they must change their manner of approaching it; and endeavour to bring themselves into that prepared and collected and reverential frame which becomes an interview with the High and Holy One who inhabiteth the praises of eternity.
Having thus spoken without equivocation, and we hope without offence, to the contractedness and pre-occupation with which Christians and worldly men are apt to come to the perusal of the word of God, we shall now set forth the two master feelings under which we should address ourselves to the sacred occupation.
It is a good custom inherited from the hallowed days of Scottish piety, and in our cottages still preserved, though in our cities generally given up, to preface the morning and evening worship of the family with a short invocation of blessing from the Lord. This is in unison with the practice and recommendation of pious men, never to open the divine Word without a silent invocation of the divine Spirit. But no address to Heaven is of any virtue, save as it is the expression of certain pious sentiments with which the mind is full and overflowing. Of those sentiments which befit the mind that comes into conference with its Maker, the first and most prominent should be gratitude for his having ever condescended to hold commerce with such wretched and fallen creatures. Gratitude not only expressing itself in proper terms, but possessing the mind with an abiding and over-mastering mood, under which it shall sit impressed the whole duration of the interview. Such an emotion as cannot utter itself in language-though by language it indicate its presence-but keeps us in a devout and adoring frame, while the Lord is uttering his voice. Go, visit a desolate widow with consolation and help and fatherhood of her orphan children-do it again and again and your presence, the sound of your approaching footstep, the soft utterance of your voice, the very mention of your name shall come to dilate her heart with a fulness which defies her tongue to utter, but speaks by the tokens of a swimming eye, and clasped hands, and fervent ejaculations to Heaven upon your head! No less copious acknowledgment to God, the author of our well-being and the father of our better hopes, ought we to feel when his Word discloseth to us the excesses of his love. Though a veil be now cast over the Majesty which speaks, it is the voice of the Eternal which we hear, coming in soft cadences to win our favour, yet omnipotent as the voice of the thunder, and overpowering as the rushing of many waters. And though the veil of the future intervene between our hand and the promised goods, still are they from His lips, who speaks and it is done, who commands and all things, stand fast. With no less emotion therefore should this book be opened than if, like him in the Apocalypse, you saw the voice which spake; or like him in the trance, you were, into the third beavens translated, companying and communing with the realities of glory, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.
Far and foreign from such an opened and awakened bosom is that cold and formal hand which is generally laid upon the sacred volume ; that unfeeling and unimpressive tone with which its accents are pronounced ; and that listless and incurious ear into which its blessed sounds are received. How can you, thus unimpassioned, hold communion with themes in which every thing awful, vital, and endearing, do meet together! Why is not curiosity, curiosity ever hungry, on edge to know the doings and intentions of Jehovah King of kings? Why is not interest, interest ever awake, on tiptoe to hear the future destiny of itself? Why is not the heart that panteth over the world after love and friendship, overpowered with the full tide of the divine acts and expressions of love? Where is Nature gone when she is not moved with the tender mercy of Christ ? Methinks the affections of men are fallen into the yellow leaf. Of your poets which charm the world's ear, who is he that inditeth a song unto his God? Some will tune their harps to sensual pleasures, and by the enchantment of their genius well nigh commend their unholy themes to the imagination of saints. Others, to the high and noble sentiments of the heart, will sing of domestic joys and happy unions, casting around sorrow the radiancy of virtue, and bodying forth, in undying forms, the short-lived visions of joy ! Others have enrolled themselves the high
priests of mute Nature's charms, enchanting her echoes with iheir minstrelsy, and peopling her solitudes with the bright creatures of their fancy. But when, since the days of the blind master of English song, hath any poured forth a lay worthy of the Christian theme? Nor in philosophy, “the palace of the soul,” have men been more mindful of their Maker. The flowers of the garden and the herbs of the field have their unwearied devotees, crossing the ocean, way. faring in the desert, and making devout pilgrimages to every region of Nature, for offerings to their patron muse. The rocks, from their residences among the clouds to their deep rests in the dark bowels of the earth, have a most bold and venturous priesthood; who see in their rough and flinty faces a more delectable image to adore than in the revealed countenance of God. And the political welfare of the world is a very Moloch, who can at any time command his hecatomb of human victims. But the revealed sapience of God, to which the harp of David and the prophetic lyre of Isaiah were strung, the prudence of God which the wisest of men coveted after, preferring it to every gift which Heaven could confer-and the eternal Intelligence himself in human form, and the unction of the Holy One which abideth,--these the common heart of man hath forsaken, and refused to be charmed withal.
I testify, that there ascendeth not from earth, a Hosannah of her children to bear witness in the ear of the upper regions to the wonderful manifestations of her God! From a few scattered hamlets, in a small portion of her wide territory, a small voice ascendeth like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But to the service of our general Preserver there is no concourse, from Dan unto Beersheba, of our people ; the greater part of whom, after two thousand years of apostolic commission, know not the testimonies of our God; and the multitude of those who do, reject or despise them!
But, to return from this lamentation, which, may God hear, who doth not disregard the cries of his afflicted people! With the full sense of obligation to the Giver, combine a humble sense of your own incapacity to value and to use the gift of his Oracles. Having no taste whatever for the mean estimates which are made, and the coarse invectives that are vented against human nature, which though true in the main, are often in the manner so unfeeling and triumphant, as to reveal hot zeal, rather than tender
and deep sorrow, we will not give in to this popular strain. And yet it
is a truth, by experience revealed, that though there be in man most noble faculties, and a nature restless after the knowledge and truth of things—there are, towards God, and his revealed will, an indisposition and a regardlessness, which the most tender and enlightened consciences are the most ready to acknowledge. Of our emancipated youth who bound after the knowledge of the visible works of God, and the gratification of the various instincts of nature, how few betake themselves at all, how few absorb themselves with the study and obedience of the word of God! And when, by God's visitation, we address ourselves to the task, how slow is our progress and how imperfect our performance! It is most true that Nature is unwilling to the subject of the Scriptures. The soul is previously possessed with adverse interests; the world hath laid an embargo upon her faculties, and monopolized them to herself; old Habit hath perhaps added his almost incurable callousness; and the enemy of God and man is skilful to defend what he hath already won. So circumstanced, and every man is so circumstanced, we come to the audience of the word of God, and listen in worse tune than a wanton to a sermon, or a hardened knave to a judicial address. Our understanding is prepossessed with a thousand idols either of the world religious or irreligious—which corrupt the reading of the word into a straining of the text to their service ; and when it will not strain, cause it to be skimmed, and perhaps despised, or hated. Such a thing as a free and unlimited reception of all the parts of Scripture into the mind, is a thing most rare to be met with, and when met with, will be found the result of many a sore submission of Nature's opinions, as well as of Nature's likings.
But the Word, as hath been said, is not for the intellect alone, but for the heart, and for the will. Now if any one be so wedded to his own candour as to think he doth accept the divine truth unabated—surely no one will flatter himself into the belief that his heart is already attuned and enlarged for all divine affections, or his will in readiness for all divine commandments. The man who thus misdeems of himself, must, if his opinion were just, be like a sheet of fair paper, unblotted, unwritten on; whereas all men are already occupied, to very fulness, with other opinions, and attachments, and desires, than the Word reveals. We do not grow Christians by the same culture by which we grow men, otherwise-what need of divine revelation, and divine assistance? But being unacquainted from the womb with
God, and attached to what is seen and felt, through early and close' acquaintance, we are ignorant and detached from what is unseen and unfelt. The Word is a novelty to our nature, its truths fresh truths, it affections fresh affections, its obedience a new obedience, which have to master and put down the truths, affections, and obedience gathered from the apprehension of Nature, and the commerce of worldly life. Therefore, there needeth, in one that would be served from this storehouse of truth opened by heaven, a disrelish of his old acquisitions, and a preference of the new, a simple, child-like teachableness, an allowance of ignorance and error, with whatever else beseems an anxious learner.Coming to the word of God, we are like children brought into the conversations of experienced men; and we should humbly listen and reverently inquire : or we are like raw rustics introduced into high and polished life, and we should unlearn our coarseness, and copy the habits of the station :nay, we are like offenders caught, and for amendment committed to the bosom of honourable society, with the power of regaining our lost condition, and inheriting honour and trust-therefore we should walk softly and tenderly, covering our former reproach with modesty and humbleness, hasting to redeem our reputation by distinguished performances, against offence doubly guarded, doubly watchful for dangerous and extreme positions, to demonstrate our recovered goodness.
These two sentiments-devout veneration of God for his unspeakable gift, and deep distrust of our own capacity to estimate and use it aright-will generate in the mind a constant aspiration after the guidance and instruction of a Higher Power. The first sentiment of goodness remembered, emboldening us to draw near to Him who first drew near to us, and who with Christ will not refuse us any gift. The second sentiment, of weakness remembered, teaching us our need, and prompting us by every interest of religion and every feeling of helplessness to seek of him who hath said, “If any one lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not.” The soul which under these two master feelings cometh to read, shall not read without profit. Every new revelation, feeding his gratitude and nourishing his sense of former ignorance, will confirm the emotions he is under, and carry them onward to an unlimited dimension. Such a one will prosper in the way ; enlargement of the inner man will be his portion, and establishment in the truth his exceeding great reward; affec