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for he hath upheld us ; the friendly, for in all our straits he hath befriended us; the loyal, for our safety is in his royal hand; and, which addeth the attachment to very self," for we are ourselves his workmanship!” To bind this tie, nothing will suffice but strong and stubborn necessity. Daty, in truth, is the very lowest conception of it-privilege is a higher-honour a higher, happiness and delight a higher still. But duty may be suspended by more pressing dutyprivilege may be foregone and honour forgot, and the sense of happiness grow dull; but this of listening to His voice who plants the sense of duty, bestows privilege, honour and happiness, and our every other faculty, is before all these, and is equalled by nothing but the stubbornest necessity. We should hear His voice as the sun and stars do in their courses, as the restful element of earth doth in its settled habitation. His voice is our law, which it is sacrilege, worse than rebellion, worse than parental rebellion, to disobey. He keeps the bands of our being together. His voice is the charter of our existence, which being disobeyed, we should run to annihilation, as our great father would have done, had not God in mercy given us a second chance, by erecting the platform of our being upon the new condition of probation, different from that of all known existences. Was it ever heard that the sun stopped in his path, but it was God that commanded ? Was it ever heard that the sea forgot her instability, and stood apart in walled steadfastness, but it was God that commanded? Or that fire forgot to consume, but at the voice of God? Even so man should seek his Maker's word, as he loveth his well-being, or, like the unfallen creatures of God, as he loveth his very being—and labour in his obedience, without knowing or wishing to know aught beyond.
Necessity, therefore, I say, strong and eternal necessity is that, which joins the link between the creature and the Creator, and makes man incumbent to the voice of God. To read the Word is no ordinary duty, but the mother of all duty, enlightening the eyes and'converting the soul, and creating that very conscience to which we would subject it. We take our meat not by duty—the body must go down to dust without it-therefore we persevere because we love to exist. So also the word of God is the bread of life, the root of all spiritual action, without which the soul will go down, if not to instant annihilation, to the wretched abyss of spiritual and eternal death. But while we insist that the Scriptures should be perused out of the sense, not of an incumbency, but of a strong necessity, as being the issued orders of Him who up
holdeth all things—we except against any idea of painfulness or force. We say necessity, to indicate the strength of the obligation, not its disagreeableness. But, in truth, there is no such feeling, but the very opposite, attached to every nenessity of the Lord's appointing. Light is pleasant to the eyes, though the necessary element of vision. Food is pleasant to the body, though the staple necessary of life. Air is refreshing to the frame, though the necessary element of the breathing spirit. What so refreshing as the necessary of water to all animated existence ? Sleep is the very balm of life to all creatures under the sun. Motion is from infancy to feeblest age the most recreating of things, save rest after motion. Every necessary instinct for preserving or continuing our existence, hath in it a pleasure, when indulged in moderation ; and the pain which attends excess is the sentinel in the way of danger, and, like the sentinel's voice, upon the brink of ruin should be considered as the pleasantest of all, though withdrawing us from the fondest pursuit. In like manner attendance on God's law, though necessary to the soul as wine and milk to the body, will be found equally refreshing : though necessary as light to the eyes, will be found equally cheerful: though necessary as rest to the weary limbs, will be found equally refreshing to our spiritual strength.
A duty, which is at all times a duty, is a necessity; and this listening to the voice of God can at no time be dispensed with, and therefore is a stark necessity. The life of the soul can at no time proceed, without the present sense and obedience of its Maker's government. His law must be present and keep concert with our most inward thoughts ; from which, as we can never dissolve connection, so ought we never to dissolve connection with the regulating voice of God, In all our rising emotions; in all our purposes conceiving ; in all our thoughtful debates, holden upon the propriety of things ; in all the secret councils of the bosom—the law of God should be consentaneous with the law of Nature, or rather should be umpire of the council, seeing Nature and Nature's laws have receded from the will of God, and become blinded to the best interests of our spiritual state. The world is apt to look only to the executive part of conductto the outward actions, which come forth from behind the curtains of deliberative thought ; and as these have stated seasons, and are not constantly recurring, it hath come to pass, that the Word of God is read and entertained, chiefly for the visible parts of life ; being used as a sort of elbow
monitor to guard our conduct from offence, rather than a universal law to impregnate all the sources of thought and action. My brethren, doth the hand ever forget its cunning, or the tongue its many forms of speech, or the soul its various states of feeling and passion ? Is there an interval, in the wakeful day, when the mind ceases to be in fluctuating motion, and is bound in rest like the frozen lake? I do not ask, is it always vexed like the troubled seam-but doth it ever rest from emotion, and remain steadfast like the solid land ? Doth not thought succeed thought, impression impression, recollection recollection, in a ceaseless and endless round? And, before this pleasant agitation of vital consciousness can compose itself to rest, the eye must be sealed to light, and the ear stopped to hearing, and the body become dead to feeling, and the powers of thought and action, done out, surrender themselves to repose. Nay, even then, under the death-like desertion of all her faculties, and the oppressive weight of sleep, the mind in her remoter chambers keeps up a fantastical disport of mimic life, as if loath for an instant to forego the pleasure she hath' in conscious being. Seeing, then, not even the sleep-locked avenues of sense, nor the worn-out powers of thought and action, nor slumber's soft embrace, can so lull the soul that she should for a while forget her cogitations, and join herself to dark oblivion ; seeing that she keeps up the livelong day a busy play of thought, feeling, and action, and during the night keeps vigils in her mysterious chambers, fighting with the powers of oblivion and inertness a battle for existence-how should she be able for any instant to do without the presence and operations of her Creator's laws—from which being at any instant exempted, she is a god unto herself, or the world is her god? From their authority to be detached, however brief a season, is for that season to be under foreign control, and rebellious to the Being of whom her faculties are holden, and by whom her powers of life are upheld.--His laws should be present in our inward parts, yea, hidden in our hearts, that we offend him not. They should be familiar as the very consciousness of life. Into the belief being received, they should pass into the memory, grow incorporate with the hidden sources of nature ; until the array of our purposes and actions learn to display itself under the banners of the Supreme ; until instinct, blind instinct himself, have his eye opened and purged by the light of Heaven, and come forth submissive to Heaven's voice!
If any one who heareth me have the Word so believed, so treasured, so incorporated, the same is a perfect man, and needeth only to preserve himself so. But as there is no one or hardly any one so instated, I take the benefit of these arguments and illustrations, to press home upon you the reading of the Word in another style than you are wont.
And, First, That which I have sketched of the soul's necessities needeth something more than to rake the scriptures for a few opinions, which, by what authority I know not, they have exalted with the proud name of the doctrines : as if all scripture were not profitable for doctrine.—Masterful men, or the masterful current of opinion, hath ploughed with the word of God, and the fruit has been to inveigle the mind into the exclusive admiration of some few truths, which being planted in the belief, and sacrificed to in all religious expositions and discourses, have become popular idols, which frown heresy and excommunication upon all who dare stand for the unadulterated, uncurtailed testimony. Such shibboleths every age hath been trained to mouth ; and it is as much as one's religious character is worth, to think that the doctrinal shibboleths of the present day may not include the whole contents and capacity of the written Word. But, truly, there are higher fears than the fear even of the religious world; and greater loss than the loss of religious fame. Therefore, craving indulgence of you to hear us to an end, and asking the credit of good intention upon what already heard, we summon your whole unconstrained man to the engagement of reading the Word ;--not to authenticate a meagre outline of opinions elsewhere derived, but to prove and purify all the sentiments which bind the confederations of life; to prove and purify all the feelings which instigate the actions of life ; many to annihilate ; many to implant; all to regulate and reform ;-to bridle the tongue till its words come forth in unison with the word of God, and to people the whole soul with the population of new thoughts, which that Word reveals of God and man-of the present and the future. These doctrines, truly, should be like the mighty rivers which fertilize our island, whose waters, before escaping to the sea, have found their way to the roots of each several flower, and plant, and stately tree, and covered the face of the land with beauty and with fertility-spreading plenty for the enjoyment of man and beast. So ought these great doctrines of the grace of God in Christ, and the help of God in the Spirit, and fallen man's need of both—to carry health and vitality to the whole soul and surface of christian
life. But it hath appeared to us, that, most unlike such widespreading streams of fertility, they are often, as it were, confined within rocky channels of intolerance and disputation, where they hold noisy brawl with every impediment, draining off the natural juices of the soul ; and, instead of fruits and graces, leaving all behind naked, barren, and unpeopled! Which makes us lament,
In the Second place, That the catechetical books of any church should have come to play such a conspicuous part in the foreground of the Christian stage, and have not kept their proper inferiority, and served as handmaidens to the book of God. They are exhibitions not of the whole Bible, as is often thought, but of the abstract doctrines, and formal commandments of the Bible: and this not upon any superhuman testimony, but after the judgment of fallible mortals like ourselves. We are not discontented with them on that account, but, on the other hand, we are proud to possess such as our church doth acknowledge : but we are very discontented that they should have stepped from their proper place of discerning heresy, and preserving in the church a unity of faith : that from this useful office they should have come to usurp it as the great instrument of a religious education, and the great storehouse of religious knowledge, in our families, in our schools, and even in the ministry of our churches. Now they are not good instruments of education, being above the level of youth and the most of men, and addressing only the intellect, and that only with logical forms of truth, not with narrative, with example, with eloquence or with feeling. And as to their being storehouses of religious knowledge--they want the most essential staples of our religion ; for there is in them no authoritative voice of our God that we should fear them; no tender sympathetic voice of our Saviour, that we should tenderly affect them in return; no unction of the Holy One, that we should depend upon them for healing power. All we do is to believe them, and this not until we have carried an appeal to the word of God, which surely were as worthy a first appeal and a maiden faith. Moreover there is in them no feature of Christian imagery, to catch the conception; nor patterns of holy men, to awaken the imitation of excellence, and draw on the admiration of holiness; no joyful strains of hope and promised bliss, to rouse Nature's indolence ; nor eager remonstrances against the world's ways; nor stern denouncements, like the thunder of heaven upon the head of its transgressions ; nor pathetic bursts of sympathy over Nature's melancholy condi