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God's Presence in his Sanctuary.
2 CHRONICLES vi. 18.
But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?
ASSEMBLED in this house* to meet and worship God, now for the first time after its having been consecrated to his service, this question addresses itself to our minds with peculiar interest. "Will God in very deed dwell with men "on the earth?" It is a question as full of mystery as it is full of interest; one which involves considerations upon his character and attributes, to which, of ourselves, we are not equal; and which, without the light which his revelation has shed around us, we should in vain attempt to approach. Uninstructed reason has ever gone astray when God has been the object of its investigations; and the various divinities
* Preached in St. Thomas' Church the first Sunday after its consecration.
which popular superstition or philosophic pride has framed, sometimes representing God as a being who is wrapped up in his own happiness, inattentive to human cares, and indifferent to human concerns; sometimes as one who mingled in the turmoils, was affected by the passions, and shared in the feelings and pursuits, of men; now an evil nature, and now a nature inclined to goodness, whose influence was opposed and counteracted by an evil principle equally powerful and equally active with himself; and sometimes as one who, though nominally supreme, was subject to the determinations of a dark, inscrutable, and unchangeable fate; all these, and a thousand other fancies and speculations, show how far the high and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity is above our knowledge, and our scrutiny, and give weight and force to the question, "Who can, by searching, find out God?”
Still, "that he is, all nature cries aloud." To every external sense is addressed the proof of his existence; and upon our inmost soul is impressed the feeling of his omnipresence, and the dread and fear of his majesty. The sun which spreads: its light upon our path; the air breathing fragrance from the vegetable world, or made tuneful by the feathery tribes; the thunder of his power,. when it roareth in the heavens; the vast expanse of ocean, tossing its stormy billows, or in calmness reflecting back the wonders of the
sky; the deep and awful stillness of night, when the moon and all the planetary host glide on in solemn silence above our heads; the earth on which we tread, yeilding its grateful fruits for the use of man; the changing seasons, and the rolling year; man himself, chief of this lower creation, and fitted to contemplate and admire its wonders; all proclaim alike the necessity and the existence of a Great First Cause.
But if sensible that he is, we strive to conceive of him, to approach him, and to behold him; if conscious that in him we live, and move, and have our being, and assured that he is not far from every one of us, we seek to find him, and to hold converse with him; if we would come to his seat, and order our cause before him; how vain the attempt!
Behold, said one, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. And if fearful of his scrutiny, and anxious to avoid his inspection, we strive to conceal ourselves from his view, this is alike in vain. He knoweth the way that I take; he knoweth my downsitting and mine uprising; and understandeth my thoughts long before. He is about my path, and about my bed, and spieth out all my ways; for lo! there is not a word in my tongue, but thou, O Lord, knowest it alto
gether. Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit ; or whether shall I go then from thy presence? If I climb up into heaven, thou art there. If I go down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me. Hell is naked before him; and destruction hath no covering!
And when, in addition to these views of his omnipresence, we reflect upon his power and greatness, how vast are the proofs which present themselves to our minds! It is he who stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind. He looketh upon the earth, and it trembleth. He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. He hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm; and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Even the pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. "Who is like unto "thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like "unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises,
doing wonders?" Well, my brethren, does it become us to ask with solicitude, " But will God, "in very deed, dwell with men on the earth? "Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens "cannot contain him, how much less this house "that we have builded! Lord, what is man, that "thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man, "that thou visitest him?"
Just as these inquiries are, my brethren, there are not wanting considerations to avert despair and to inspire hope. Man, though born of the dust, and infinitely below the greatness of the Creator, was yet made in the image of God. The spark of life which animates his bosom was kindled by the breath of the Eternal. His origin is immediately from the hand of the Supreme. And immortality is his unalienable birth-right. This alone might give him a title to the regard of God. But consider, also, his great capacities. Look at his noble qualities and endowments. To what heights have not his soaring faculties aspired! What depths have they not penetrated! What recesses explored! In the whole visible creation, what objects are so remote that they have not been brought within the compass of his investigation! What so minute that they have not been submitted to his review!
To the farthest bound which his assisted eye can reach, have his thoughts gone forth; and then has he ascertained the laws, measured the