Billeder på siden

decorations, but seldom reaching the inward sanctuary where his voice is heard. Nature hath changed her song, or man hath lost his faculty of interpreting it ; for into his ear she uttereth many a strain in commendation of herself, hardly one in commendation of her God. Now natural knowledge, when thus divorced from the knowledge of Nature's God, satisfieth not the ethereal spirit, which must.join league with spirit in order to taste its proper delight. For what communion is there between the soul of man and the superficial beauty of the earth, which they call Taste, or the knowledge of matter's changes, which they call Science ?--a most unnatural match yielding no profitable fruit. When the soul

once finds a kindred soul, then beginneth her revelry of de· light. Unféigned friendship, chaste love, domestic affection,

pure devotion—who compares the intensity and delight of these conjunctions with the stale and heartless sympathy there is between a naturalist and his museum, or a scholar and his books ? The human soul groans in languor till she finds a fellow spirit, or a generous cause of human welfare to engage her affections.

Even such languor, such dissatisfaction finds the soul when, without a guide, she goes to seek God in his natural universe, groping about and unrested, hungering for larger insight, perplexed with difficulties, and finding no end in wandering mazes lost. How refreshing to such a spirit when the dark cloud God has retired within bursts, and in visible glory he displays himself to his benighted children, speaking to them in an intelligible voice, and revealing the mysteries of his nature. Then cometh rest, and with rest refreshment and enlargement of soul. There is no cause beyond to long after. Than God the mind can ascend no higher, and should be satisfied with his likeness. Here there is perfection without a blemish, which we range the world for in vain,-justice never perverted, which it hath been the glory of man to live under,-mercy, with all the tender affections which pacify and harmonize the life of man,-holiness, holding a spotless reign over the happy fields of heaven-all composed and peaceful within that same Being, who is clothed with the elemental powers, armed with the thunder, and served by the army of heaven and the voice of fate.

Do ye love to meditate nobleness of nature ?-Here it is infinitely noble. Do ye love to contemplate stupendous power put forth in soft acts of goodness ? --Behold it here, pouring the full river of pleasure through the universe. Here is the Father of all families, from the highest in the heaven

above to the lowest tribe upon the earth beneath, serving out justice and liberality to them all. What would you more to fill your mind with than the idea of God, which, while it fills, elevates, enlarges and refines. With what ardour men behold their favourites of the present or past ages, aiming generously to equal or excel them. What silent musings over their history, and estimation of their parts ! Now what hinders their riskēg higher to contemplate the revealed image of the invisible God. He is not seen; neither are the worthies of a former age. They are written of.-He is written of. The one is as lawful an object of thought and imitation as the other.

Nay, the closer to bring you into fellowship, he hath despatched from his highest sphere the image of himself to act the divine part among earthly scenes, and seeing we had fallen from his neighbourhood, and could not regain our lost estate, hath he sent forth his own son, made of a woman, made under the law, down to our sphere, to bind the link between heaven and earth, which seemed for ever to have been broken. He clothes himself in the raiment of flesh; he puts on like passions and affections, and presents himself to be beheld, talked with, and handled of the sons of men. He opens up the heart of God, and shows it wondrous tender to his fallen creatures. He opens up his own heart, and shows it devoted to death for their restoration. He stretches out his hand, and disease and death flee away. He opens his lips, and loving-kindness drops upon the most sinful of men. He opens a school of discipline for heaven, and none is hindered. Whosoever comes he cherishes with food, fetched from the storehouse of his creating word. The elements he stilleth over their heads and maketh a calm. He brings hope from beyond the dark grave, where she lay shrouded in mortality. Peace he conjures from the troubles of the most guilty breast. The mourner he anoints with the oil of joy. The mourner in sackcloth and ashes he clothes with the garment of praise. He comforts all that mourn. And what more can we say ?-but that, if the knowledge of death averted from your heads be joy, and the knowledge of offences forgiven be contentment, and the knowledge of God reconciled be peace, and of heaven offered be glory, and the fountain of wisdom streaming forth be light, and strength ministered be life to the soul,-then, verily, this peace, contentment, honour, and life is yours, Christian believers, through the revelation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God,

Thus to be brought into the secret counsels of the Almighty, by familiar teaching of one himself almighty, is an exaltation of human nature only surpassed by the perfect satisfaction which it yields to her various conditions. To know things as they are to be, and have no perplexities about the future-this is the resolution of a thousand doubts which were wont to afflict the speculation of man. To have that future filled with life and immortality, honour and glorythis is the conquest of all earthly trials and troubles. To know what is best to be done in every predicament from the mouth of God-this is safety. To know when we have done amiss where to find forgiveness—this is relief. To know in life's embarrassments where to look for sufficient help-this is assurance. In life's disappointments to know a haven to flee to, and in life's griefs a comforter to repose on ;-to have, in short, the faculties of our minds directed, and the ambiguities of our conduct cleared up, and our prayers listened to, and our wants supplied—this is unspeakable privilege, and the knowledge which unlocks is not only the eternal but the present life of man.

Oh! brethren, why stop we short, contenting ourselves with the troublesome parts of knowledge, but from this in which lieth its true delectation, turning ourselves away. How many of us are content to know only the arts of our livelihood, as if the hands were all the faculties of man, and his body all his consignment from God. Ah! what comes of love, and devotion, and ambition, and the other faculties of the inner man? and what with the hands can the soul lay up for eternity ? Faith must supply her with a busy hand, and the Scriptures with a field to labour on, which, being employed, she shall speedily treasure up a sufficiency for eternity.

Not less have the prime ministers and chosen favourites of knowledge departed from the fountain of intelligence. Becoming acquainted with some chamber of Nature's secrets, they think to find satisfaction there : and a satisfaction they do find-the vulgar satisfaction of being honoured, flattered and perhaps enriched. Equal satisfaction have the most ignorant who may happen to be born affluent or noble ; but wisdom's higher satisfaction, consisting in a soul enlightened, and delivered from prejudice and error, and contented with its sphere, it hath not been our lot to find amongst the wise of this world's generation. Their knowledge alters not their hearts, but opening new fields for gratifying temper, gives strength to the evil as often as to the good of their na

ture, making them more powerful either to good or ill; and hence, according to St. Paul, it puffeth up. But if, instead of resting in the blind adoration of Nature, which, being uninspired with soul, cannot benefit their soul with its communions, they would rise to Nature's God, and acknowledge him not only as powerful to create and move the universe, but as merciful to save, and condescending to visit his meanest creature, then would their travailing with knowledge bless them, and add no sorrow, but advance them into the fellowship of God's nature and blessedness.

Such are the benefits which accrue to us from the knowledge of the word of God, that nothing derived from any other kind of knowledge can compensate for its absence. Political knowledge carried to excess makes men proud, bitter, and contentious, Poetical knowledge carried to excess disposeth men to be contemptuous of the wise and prosaic ordinances of customary life. Practical knowledge of affairs makes men worldly and artful. Knowledge of the Scriptures is the only wisdom which shall elevate a man's conceptions, while it purifies his principles and sweetens his temper, and makes his conduct bountiful and kind to all around. No matter what be your condition, you shall find direction to dignify and adorn it, and make it large enough for the sanctification of your Spirit for heaven.

This reminds us of the second benefit to be derived from perusing the Scriptures : viz. The life of heavenly enterprise to which they move us. If a man would arise at all above the level of a mere slave, obedient to the habits and customs of the age and place he lives in, to have some say for himself in the regulation of his conduct-then, when he delivers himself from the slavery of custom and example, if he take not to the word of God for his guide, he shall feel himself distracted among the contending principles and desires of his nature. Interest drawing him one way, affection another, and passion hurrying him a third. He shall find how weak are his better perceptions—how weak reason is, how unwilling is will, how conscience expires among the uncertainties, and resolution among the difficulties of an upright course. Such will be, at least, the general experience of men who while they refuse human, lean not to divine authority, but conduct life by principles of their own choosing. Some there are blessed with such weak passions and strong reason as to steer without foreign help; but though such may be found to succeed, instead of being admired for their noble independence by the crowd who cling to ancient


and present customs, they will generally be stigmatized as self-conceited, or persecuted as innovators, so that disturbance from without, if not from within, shall invade every one who, shaking loose of religious or customary restraints, adventures for himself.

Yet such adventurers should all men become. What to us are the established rules of life, that they should blindly overrule us ? Must we be bound in thraldom, to fill, and do no more than fill the narrow bounds of the condition we are born into ? Is there nought noble, nought heroical, to be undertaken and atchieved? Must the budding desires of our youthful nature be held in check by the narrow prescriptions of an age and an authority we despise ; and the labour of a life end in nothing but contemptible drudgery, to keep our tabernacle in being ?--Adventurers above your sphere I would have you all to become ; brave designs, not antiquated customs, should move your life. A path heroi. cal you should trace out and follow to glory and immortality.

But if you resign the rudder of the world's opinions, and cease to be tame, then unruly shall you become, and more unhappy to yourselves, to the world more vexatious, if you 'adopt not the better rudder of God's own guidance. Human reason in its fallen state may do much to assist, but it is incompetent to guide and overmaster you. Better be slaves, like the world's generations to the soil, and work out the pitiful emolument of temporal and physical comfort they derive, than set their maxims at defiance, and run a wayward course of your own-ordinarily a course of ruin. Yet, in God's name ! set these worldly maxims at defiance, their paltry emoluments despise, array yourselves under the safe conduct of the word of God; it will lead you, it will guide you, it will raise you high above earthly objects, through a noble course of well-doing, to the holy place where the Most High abides.

There is a spell of custom, the scriptures call it a dead sleep, in which men are bound. They will not think, they will not feel for themselves; and, which is worse, they will not allow God to think and feel before them. Brethren, what comes of this slavery? the strong and immortal parts of your nature wax weak, the love of good degenerates, and the power of good altogether dies. To renovate your nature, to fill you with a divine nature, to make you, whatever your condition, the companions of God, and the members of Jesus Christ-objects of angel visits--the honoured minis

« ForrigeFortsæt »