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can you be so lost to thought, as to absent yourselves from the place where Christ hath promised to meet you, to be in the midst of you, to receive and enforce your petitions, with the Father, to feed you with the food of everlasting life? Or coming hither, how can you babble those petitions to God, as all do, who give not their minds to what they themselves are saying? Or how can you sink the psalms, the lessons, the sermons, the word of God, into so much idle babbling in regard to yourselves, who do not attend to them? what! are you come hither, impiously to turn, by a contemptuous inattention, all you say to God, and all God saith to you, into senseless sounds and empty gibberish ?
Can you call the word of God your rule of faith and practice, and not meditate thereon? Can you call yourself the creature of God, and not meditate on your Maker? Can you believe yourself to be redeemed from infinite misery, and entitled to endless glory, by the gospel and blood of Christ, and not meditate on both with all your understanding and heart? While Christ your head sweats blood, and agonizes anew, at a fresh crucifixion by your sins, can you his member be asleep, and feel no part of the pain, like a mortified limb, fit only to be cut off? Can you say, the Holy Ghost is your comforter, and his assistance absolutely necessary to your faith and reformation, if you do not by meditation open your mind to the light, and soften your heart to the warmth of his grace ?
Sorry I am to say it, my brethren, but I am not sure, that, even in the midst of this earnest endeavour to rouse you, your thoughts are not a wool-gathering among the brakes and brambles of a vain and perplexing world. How dared you to join with me in the prayer of David, that your meditations may be acceptable in the sight of God, your strength and your Redeemer, when, behold! you do not meditate at all, or but with half your attention? What are you about? What are you thinking of this instant? Christ is here, and here are your bodies too; but where are your souls? Are they wandering after your fleshly desires : Are they rambling after your worldly schemes or possessions ? Are they dancing attendance on your wild imaginations ? Awake; call in your thoughts; consider Christ is present. What! shall his minister so loudly call, and
call in vain on you to attend your God and Saviour? How shall I disperse the darkness from about your minds? How pierce the callus that benumbs your hearts ?
In the name of wonder! why is every call of worldly business, though ever so disagreeable, and every amusement, though ever so trifling, industriously sought for, as preservatives against all those necessary, all those sweet reflections, wherein our good God purposes to engage us on his works, his word, and our own souls?
As these are questions which reason can never answer, they turn to reproaches, which nothing but the madness of our passions will ever attempt to refute. Let us soberly consider them as such; and having, for a time, banished all thoughts of this world, and all sensual desires, from the mind, that the soul may neither be tempted from without, nor damped from within, let us accompany David in his devout approaches to God.
In the first place, let us begin with him to read the glory of the good, the wise, the powerful Maker in his works. For this purpose, high and great as it is, we stand in no need of philosophical refinements and researches, of glasses or mathematical instruments, those artificial aids for the eyes of a superannuated understanding and piety. In this magnificent volume of the creation we have suns, stars, and worlds, for characters, too large and legible to be misunderstood, at least by him who knows already, that all things owe their being to a first cause. If, convinced of this, he desires to conceive, as far as so bounded a mind is capable of it, the grandeur of that cause, which gave birth to all things, let him cast his eyes upward, and he will quickly perceive, in how exalted a style the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work.' Let him listen with the ears of his understanding, ånd he will hear, ' day nnto day, uttering speech, and night unto night, shewing knowledge,' in an universal language, at once understood by the souls, and felt in the hearts, of every truly rational creature; he will hear the voice of these great apostles ' going out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world,' and loudly proclaiming, as they go, the praises of that Almighty Being, who, through all ages, hath so guided all the heavenly bodies, although
inconceivably rapid in their motions, that they have never erred an hair's breadth from the line, nor a moment from the time, prescribed for their courses.
And, if he is one of those who hive sense enough to admire an object, not for its novelty, but its grandeur, how will the sun, great and illustrious, far above all other visible objects, raise his conceptions of the Divine Majesty and power that made it, when he sees it as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,' all clothed in robes, too dazzling to be steadily beheld, 'and rejoicing as a strong man to run' his amazing race from one end of heaven to the other,' darting his beams through an unmeasurable extent of space, and giving warmth, light, life, and, as the literal bridegroom of this nether world, fertility, to all he touches!
Here the contemplative soul, transported, but not detained, with the object before it, will naturally cry out, how great art thou, at whose creating word this prodigious mass of fire and light started into being, and from whose almighty hand it issued in all its strength and glory! Nay, what must be the power of that hand, which hath scattered the heavens, as it were, with a sand of suns, to distances inconceivable !
And if this material light which we behold with our fleshly eyes, is so very bright, what must that unapproachable light be, whereof thy own glorious garments are formed, to which this of the sun is but darkness! I see, I
see a ray of it, O sun of the soul! “in thy word,' in thy religion or law, which is perfect, converting the soul; in thy testimony, which is sure, making wise the simple; in thy statutes, which are right, rejoicing the heart; in thy commandments, which are pure, enlightening the eyes; in the fear of thee, which is clean, enduring for ever; in thy judgments, which are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey or the honey-comb.'
Thus will every good and sensible soul express itself, after having meditated on the works and word of God. But whereas in his word he reveals himself and his will to the understandings of men, in a much clearer manner than by his works, we ought to be doubly ' attentive thereunto,' so that our eyes may prevent the night-watches, to medi
tate therein.' This is the book which we ought to peruse with all the powers, which we ought to study with all the veneration, of the soul, for it is the book of God, and teaches us who God is, who we ourselves are, and how we may be happy; happy here, and happier still in a world infinitely more glorious than this which we behold with our mortal eyes. Herein may be read whatsoever it concerns us most to know, that we may be converted and live; which it concerns us most to consider, that we may adore the miracles of creating bounty, of redeeming mercy, of sanctifying grace; and love as we have been loved. This is 'a lamp unto our feet,' so apt otherwise to stumble or stray. This is a light unto our path, so rough in some places, and so narrow in all. When God speaks, who will not listen ? When he promises, who will not believe ? When he threatens, who will not tremble? When he commands, who will not obey? When he commands us to search the Scriptures,' that is, to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, who is he that will refuse to read them? or dare to read them, without submitting all his opinions and passions to them?
God did not create the world merely for our bodies, that we might, with the beasts, bask in the warmth of the sun, and wanton in the produce of the earth; no, he created it, that we having temperately enjoyed the comforts of life, might feast our understandings with the wonders of his works, and with love and adoration trace throughout this spacious field of observation that almighty hand which made, and that gracious hand which sustains, all things.
Neither did he publish his word, that we might, after a hasty reading, throw it aside, as we do by the books of men; but that we might make it the subject of our meditations by day and night; that we might digest its sacred and saving truths into our minds, as we do our daily food into our veins. We must never forget, that a dreadful judgment awaits 'the transgressors of God's law ;' nor, that in keeping it there is great reward.'
From a deep sense of the Divine Majesty, felt in the contemplation of his works, and from a thorough apprehension of his justice and holiness, raised in us by our meditations on the word, the law, or religion he hath revealed to us,
nothing can be more natural, than to turn our reflections on ourselves, on the review of our past lives, and on the present, perhaps, dangerous state of our souls, clearly discovered by comparing them with the principles both of faith and practice, contained in the word of God. Here each of us may find reason to say, as the psalmist did, 'I am fearfully and wonderfully made;" fearfully, as life and understanding may depend on a fibre, ten thousand times finer than a single hair, and even salvation on a thought; and wonderfully, as I am, in myself, a world, a living, a reasoning world, compared with which the great world I see around me affords but faint proofs of creating wisdom and power.
And here again, it will be as natural for the best of Christians, as it was for David, to cry out, who can understand his errors? Who knows himself so well, as to fathom the depths of sin in his corrupt nature ? O cleanse thou me, my God, from my secret faults,' from those faults which are lost to my own memory and conscience, and consequently to all particular sense of remorse. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins,' from the horrible sins of intentionally shutting my eyes against thy truths, of blasphemously denying thy being or providence, of impiously arraigning thy justice or mercy, of proudly defying thy judgments, or of wilfully rebelling against thy laws. If through my own extreme infirmity, or the violent assaults of the devil, I should ever, in any degree, approach the borders of so black a guilt, “O let it not acquire an habitual dominion over me; so shall I be upright, so shall I be innocent from the great transgression.?
From these reflections on the state of our souls, compared with the rule of our actions, we must, in the first place, consider, what we all very well know, that 'eternal life, glory, honour, and peace, are promised by the God of truth,' to them' who, by patience and continuance in welldoing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, and that indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, are threatened by the same God to all who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.'
In the next place, by an impartial examination of our own consciences we shall be able to judge, which of these