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great office brings the largest revenue of glory to His name. It is the very essence, too, of the well-being of intelligent creatures that they should know the nature and character of God; for communion with Him is the life of the soul. "In Thy favor is life, and Thy loving kindness is better than life." Now, when we contemplate man in his condition as a ruined sinner, it is evident that the Gospel alone reveals to him those attributes of the divine nature which contemplate his case with an aspect of beneficence, and from the knowledge of which he derives alike his happiness and his ability to glorify God. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Man, as a sinner, needs light in his ignorance, relief in his misery, and salvation in his ruin. Shall he appeal to nature to furnish him information in regard to God's willingness to help him in these his moral exigencies?

It is cheerfully conceded that the noble frame of external nature, and the sublime lessons it imparts, conduct us to some acquaintance with the natural attributes of God. No one can behold the sun marching in flaming glory through the heavens, or look upon the moon walking in queenly grace through the nocturnal firmament, or scan the countless hosts of the stars as they hang like lamps of heaven in the air of night; no one can stand on the shore of the ocean and stretch his vision over its boundless expanse, or listen to the thunder of its mighty billows; no one can watch the ever-changing hues of beauty which flit across the everlasting mountains, or mark the gorgeous tints which adorn the forests, the plants, the flowers of the earth; no one can contemplate these glories of the fabric of nature, and fail to be impressed with the transcendent

majesty, the wondrous skill, and the matchless wisdom of the Divine Architect, to whom they evermore render the inarticulate but eloquent tribute of their praise.

"The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,

And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.'


And that is all they do proclaim. The over-arching heavens, the rolling seas, the eternal hills, the beautiful garniture of the earth-what utterance do they give forth, what trustworthy lesson do they furnish, in reference to the grace and the mercy of God, from which alone the slightest ray of hope shines on the benighted, wretched, undone heart of the dying sinner? Alas! the oracles of nature are dumb in response to the most pressing demands of the human soul. We ask them for knowledge as to the gracious willingness of God to pardon and accept the sinner, and they answer-not a word. The way to the solution of the tremendous difficulty lies not through nature. "There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lions passed by it." No laborious search, no human alchymy, can discover to us this secret of secrets. "The depth saith, it is not in me; and the sea saith, it is not with me. Destruction and death say, we have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof, and unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."

Let it be remembered, moreover, that the elements of nature are not unfrequently made the ministers of destruction to man. The sun, which is at one time the cause of life, is, at another, the occasion of death; the moon blights the eye of the sleeper with its silvery beam; the stars which guide the feet of the benighted wayfarer become obscured with clouds, and mock his wanderings; the ocean, which bears the commerce of man on its smooth bosom is lashed by tempests into wrath, and swallows up his hoarded treasures and the dearest objects of his love; the winds, which now breathe with the softness of the zephyr at summer eventide, anon rise into fury and sweep the earth with the besom of destruction; the ground, which brings forth fruit, is cursed with thorns and thistles; and the plants, which attract the eye by the delicate beauty of their structure, may conceal the deadly poison of the hemlock and the nightshade. If external nature afford us any definite hint in regard to a single moral perfection of God, that attribute would appear to be His retributive justice, which employs natural agencies to execute its sentences; and the inference would seem to be reasonable, that the God who can use the ministries of nature for the destruction of man, may not be willing to manifest the quality of mercy in the pardon and salvation of the sinner.

We may, however, be pointed to the moral nature of man, as that which reflects, to some extent at least, the moral perfections of God. I am not unwilling to admit that were it not for our moral constitution, we might be unable even to conceive of those moral attributes of God to which they may bear some distant resemblance. But the question is, whether from this source we can derive any satisfactory information in

reference to the mercy of God, from which alone the hope of a sinner can arise. Now, conscience condemning what is wrong, and the sense of justice sanctioning, sometimes against our strongest affections, the punishment of evil-doers, shadow forth the existence in the divine nature of the great principle of distributive justice; and as that principle in God must be infinitely perfect and uncompromising, our own moral nature would lead us to infer, on the supposition of guilt in a subject of the divine government, the hopeless estate of the offender. It has been contended, however, that the disposition on the part of a human parent to forgive the offence of his child, upon condition of repentance, would lead us to conclude that God would not be unwilling, under like circumstances, to pardon the returning sinner. I will not now advert to the impossibility of adequate repentance on the part of the sinner, though that might, without difficulty, be proved. Reflection will convince us that the pretended analogy, in the case which has been mentioned, is a deceptive one, and that the inference drawn from it is hasty and inconclusive. There is an infinite difference between the parties who are offended. In the one case we have a human being, pervaded by sin and encompassed with infirmity, who, it might be supposed, would be induced by the consciousness of his own frailty to extend indulgence to another; in the other case we have a Divine Being, characterized by spotless holiness and uncompromising justice, upholding the integrity of His own government and conserving the interests of the universe. The offence, too, in one instance, is immensely diverse from the offence in the other. But aside from these considerations, an extreme, though supposable case, will entirely subvert the analogy. It is not diffi

cult to conceive of the commission of certain aggravated crimes by the child against a human parent which would justly doom him to perpetual exclusion from parental regard, and forever preclude the hope of reconciliation. Such a case would furnish a fairer analogy by which to judge the relation of a sinner to a being of infinite holiness and justice. It deserves, further, to be seriously considered, whether the very first act of sin does not necessarily destroy the possibility of the existence of the parental and filial relation between God and the sinner, and leave the latter in the simple condition of a creature-a fallen and condemned creature until adopted into the family of God through the intervention of the principle of mediation in the person of Him who is the only begotten Son of God. If this view be correct, then the very ground of the analogy is swept away. On the whole, we are driven to the conclusion that nature imparts no definite information in regard to those attributes of God which contemplate the salvation of a sinner.

Shall we, then, appeal to Providence for light on this momentous subject? Here we are met at the very threshold by difficulties of so formidable a character that it is unnecessary to dwell, except very briefly, on this point. Even on the supposition that the principle of grace pervades and influences the scheme of Providence, it is, confessedly, a very difficult matter rightly to interpret the lessons it imparts. parts. There is an apparent inequality in the distribution of blessings and chastisements, so great as at times to confuse the judgment, and perplex the faith of the most pious and exemplary servants of God. Job, the venerable patriarch, of whom God Himself bore witness that he was perfect and upright, was, in one gigantic afflic

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