Billeder på siden

Word divested of its truth but because we treat it not as the all-accomplished wisdom of God—the righteous setting works of men along side of it, or masters over it--the world altogether apostatizing from it unto folly. We come to meditate it, like armed men to consult of peacemour whole mind occupied with insurrectionary interests--we suffer no captivity of its truth. Faith, which should brood with expanded wings over the whole heavenly legend, imbibing its entire spirit-what hath it become ? a name to conjure up theories and hypotheses upon. Duty likewise hath fallen into a few formalities of abstaining from amusements, and keeping up severities—instead of denoting a soul girt with all its powers for its Maker's will. Religion also, a set of opinions and party distinctions separated from high endowments, and herding with cheap popular accomplishments—a mere serving-maid of every-day life ; instead of being the mistress of all earthly, and the preceptress of all heavenly, sentiments—and the very queen of all high gifts and graces and perfections in every walk of life!

To be delivered from this dwarfish exhibition of that plant which our heavenly Father hath planted, take up this holy book. Let your devotions gather warmth from the various exhibitions of the nature and attributes of God. Let the displays of his power overawe you, and the goings forth of his majesty still you into reverend observance. Let his uplifted voice awake the slumber of your spirits, and every faculty burn in adoration of that image of the invisible God which his word reveals. If Nature is reverend before Him, how much more the spirit of man for whom he rideth forth in his state! Let his Holiness, before which the pure seraph veils his face, and his Justice, before which the heavens are rebuked, humble our frail spirits in the dust, and awaken all their conscious guilt. Then let the richness of his mercy strike us dumb with amazement, and his offered grace revive our hopes anew; and let his Son, coming forth with the embraces of his love, fill our spirits with rapture. Let us hold him fast in sweet communion; exchange with him affection's kindest tokens; and be satisfied with the sufficiency of his grace; and let the strength of his Spirit be our refuge, his

all-sufficient strength our buckler and our trust! Then, stirred up through all her powers, and awakened from the deep sleep of Nature and oblivion of God, (which among visible things she partaketh,) our soul shall come forth from the communion of the Word full of divine energy and ardour, prepared to run upon this world's theatre thic

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

race of duty for the prize of life eternal. She shall erect herself beyond the measures and approbation of men, into the measures and approbation of God. She shall become like the saints of old, who, strengthened by such repasts of faith,“ subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens."


JOAN v. 39.



HITHERTO our way hath been easy though among the prejudices of men. In claiming for the Almighty's voice a due preparation and a full attendance of our faculties, we have been handling a question of religious formality rather than of religious conduct.-Conduct doubtless it is duly to wait upon the Lord, the conduct of the heart as well as of the outward man, but it is a conduct which may be assumed at little expense. It requires a sacrifice of convenience and of attention, which many should be content to render, if it would purchase them the favour of God: and many there be who give themselves with all diligence to the lessons already handled of making ready and giving ear to the di. vine Word, but stop short when summoned to the obedience of what they have heard. Then interest comes in to play its part, and custom, and the fear of change with all the aversions of Nature to the will of God. The divine word, in old times, commended itself to the fears of men, while the emblems of omnipotence overhung them. The rebellion of Korah soon ceased when the earth opened her mouth; and the people left murmuring when the fiery serpents made havoc of the camp; and though these emblems have ceased, the Scriptures have around them so much of hereditary reverence, and so much of intrinsic recommendation, that the pleadings which we have made, seem to us easy compared with that upon which we have now to enter. We have now to contest it with the most stubborn habits and the most pleasing desires of Nature. It is no longer a matter of words to be listened to, but of deeds to be performed. The law promulgated with such solemnity, and listened to with such devotion, has now to be obeyed. Then, brethren, lend us a favourable ear, and give to our words a generous welcome: the cause is difficult, the issues most momentous ; the instrument is weak, and your interests are at stake ; therefore may God who sustaineth the right not absent himself from the cause of his own holy law, but give efficacy to weakness, that his glory may the more abound.

There prevails universally against divine institutions not only a strong reluctance, but also a delusive prejudice that they are an invasion upon the liberty of man's estate. The question is conceived to be, whether we shall be at our own liberty or at the disposal of God—a question between freedom and compulsion. This prejudice we shall first expose, and bring the fair statement of the question before you. Then we shall account for the reluctance which we feel to the law of God when we enter to its obedience. Then set before you the fatal result of persisting against it; and close this oration by contesting it with your demurs and oppositions.

The portion of truth which one can for himself examine is so mere a scantling of what is needful for the service of his life, and has in it such instability when not under the helm of authority human or divine, that men have found it necessary to lay up and patronize a store of common truth, out of which each man may be furnished ready to hand when he comes to need it, without the trouble of discovering for himself. This common store consists of the customs established, the opinions popular, the laws instituted, the private duties expected, and the manners approved. These are a grand legacy transmitted from successive generations, the accumulated wealth of the wit and wisdom of our fathers—in which to become conversant we are for nearly a third of our life regarded as under age, wards of our parents, and incompetent in great matters to act for ourselves. If we set any of these traditions aside, following our own inventions or giving scope to our personal freedom, we are eyed with suspicion or punished as defaulters, and, in capital matters, banished from good society, from our native land, and from life itself. Thus it fares with human kind; they are knit generation to generation. Our fathers bind us, and we shall bind our children. No man is free. All men are constrained by an authority over which they have no control, and are in their turn controlling others who have yet to be.

Let no man, therefore, in the pride of his heart, revolt from the traditions of God as an imposition upon the freedom of his estate. If the wisdom of God take no hand in the ordination of our life, then the wisdom of our fathers will do it all. But for us we shall be the same governed and shackled creatures as before. We may change the place of

our residence for a country where God's traditions are unknown, and thereby change the degree or form of the bondage, but the necessity of it for peace and enjoyment will still remain. We may change our sphere in life to one where God's traditions are trampled under foot, and find a momentary release, but soon the habits of our new condition will become as peremptory as those of the old. In truth, there is no deliverance. Society is beforehand with us; and along with its beautified fields and happy inventions and manifold conditions of comfort, hands down to us as the price of these a thousand laws and restraints upon the freedom of our conduct.

Such being the hereditary bondage of all ages and of all nations, those are the happiest who have had the wisest and most virtuous ancestors, to derive to them only wholesome restraints upon the uncertainty of individual judgment and the waywardness of individual will ;-those being the most blessed of all who have been favoured with laws and institu. tions from the perfection of wisdom which is with Him who knows the bounds of man's capacity, and the limits within which his happiness and honour reside. For the wisest men being little acquainted with the secret workings of their own heart, whose mysterious organization is deep seated beyond our observation, are still less able to comprehend another's nature, so as to prescribe with infallible certainty for its government. The best they can do is to point out some palpable errors to be avoided, some gross delinquencies to be shunned, some common rights to be revered, some noble actions to be honoured, some base ones to be disgraced. They can buoy some few of the shoals and rocks of life, but the tides and currents which pervade it are beyond their management. They can construct ports and havens for us to touch at, but the manning and equipping and propelling the vessel is with God alone.—He who gave the soul her powers, and to all his works their properties, can alone sweetly accommodate them with ordinances. The best attempts of lawgivers are but bungling artifices for compassing coarse designs, aiming at the security of some visible and external good, and that attaining not without great waste of private liberty and happiness : whereas God being perfectly acquainted with our most inward principles, and with all the shortest and safest ways to happiness, can, with no more effort than is necessary, carry us through all the departments and degrees of excellence. He therefore is the only fit lawgiver; His statutes the only liberty; all other obedience being an acquiescence

« ForrigeFortsæt »