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tenor of those laws which, from age to age, regulate the conduct of mankind*.” Before such a Being we may
bend with reverence and with awe; but, if his majesty oppress our thoughts, his goodness, eternal and universal, kindles the emotions of
gratitude and of love. Before such a Being we may tremble and be afraid, but, while we lay our hearts at his footstool, we exclaim_“ Great and marvellous are all thy works, Lord God Almighty ! Just and true are all thy ways, thou King of saints ?”
In the Gospel we no where read of a principle of evil dividing the government of the world with the principle of good ; or of demons and genii interposing, with fantastic levity, or resistless might, in the affairs of men. We hear, on the contrary, but the sublime annunciation of a Providence, which embraces, with unchanging goodness, the welfare of the universe, and under which there is no distinction of favour, but to vice and virtue, and no respect of persons, but in proportion as they exercise their means of knowledge in the performance of their duty. The Gentile is equally recognized with the disciple of the Gospel, as the subject and child of God; and so little reason has the Christian to hope for exclusive favour and protection, that he himself, “if he fall away,” shall behold the virtuous heathen preferred before him t. Accordingly, the Gospel affords no sanction to the crime of the persecutor, and lends no authority to prostrate the
* Blair's Serm. Sermon iv. vol. 2. The sermon is eloquent, and every way worthy of its distinguished author.
† Matt. ch. viii. 2. Luke ch. xii. 28, &c.; and Whitby in locis.
infidel at the feet of the believer. Man may teach, or may persuade. The Almighty alone is to execute the vengeance ; and universal order, and, as far as shall be consistent with universal order, individual welfare, are to flow through all times, from the unfailing source of his justice, his wisdom, and his power.
And the Providence of God which is so exercised, is to become the stay and shelter of every man, the wicked excepted. The disciple of the Gospel, who has been instructed in the majesty of the universal, and the benignity of the particular, government of the Almighty, is no longer left to despond under the occurrences of life. Time and chance are to him but powerless and passing shadows; necessity and fate, impotent names.
The events of one world are, as he is taught, indissolubly connected, in their tendencies and results, with the allotments of another. Whatever be the decree, he is authorized to consider it as equally gracious in the means and in the end; and he is permitted to trust that, if evil descend upon him, it is designed to advance the dignity and excellence of his nature, to call forth his virtues to salutary exercise, to admonish and humiliate the wilfulness of his heart, and to promote, by trial and discipline, his final attainment of celestial blessedness. Probation, therefore, becomes, in his estimation, a messenger from heaven, wise as a teacher, and benignant, though severe, as a friend. He is no longer to consider himself as the grovelling and ill-fated sufferer of the earth, but as the pupil of God, destined, under the divine
government, to pass from the shadows and glooms of this transitory scene, to the glorious realities of an everlasting existence. With these conceptions, and this trust, his passions are chastened, his hopes exalted, his resignation sustained, his views enlightened and enlarged ; and, whatever be the vicissitudes of his life of trial, the cheering voice is heard within.-“ The Lord is king, be the people never so unquiet. The Lord is king, and the multitude of the isles
may be glad thereof!"
In other religions the Deity, however invested with perfect attributes and supreme beatitude, appears to exercise his powers with the levity and caprice of inferior beings. But, on the subject of the divine economy, the light of truth beams forth in the doctrines of evangelical wisdom, not with a fitful and occasional, but with a steady and unvarying lustre. Uniform and consistent is the whole plan. The majesty and glory of perfection which abide in the divinity, are displayed in correspondent design and operation. Is God omniscient? He is said to embrace, within the wide circle of his sovereignty, all existence and all times. Is he omnipotent? He is described as controuling and governing every thing from the mightiest to the least of beings. Is he illimitable in goodness? He diffuses, by the economy of his providence, boundless blessings over the universe. No whimsical fable intervenes to check the emotions which these just and magnificent descriptions excite; and the perfection is perpetually the same, whether it be described as abiding in the attribute, or ministring in the operation.
From the whole of this discussion the inference is important and obvious. The poet, the pontiff, and the philosopher, even in times the most favourable to the discovery of truth, appear to have discussed the subject of Providence, only to deceive the credulity, or corrupt the belief, of those whom they addressed. But that which, with all their erudition and talents, they were utterly unable to supply, has been accomplished by the unlettered and unpretending simplicity of Christ and of his disciples. The question, therefore, may be again asked from whence had these men the wisdom which so far transcended the powers of the most applauded sages of the earth, and which at once contributes to illuminate and exalt, and perfectly harmonizes with, the unperverted reason of man?
The Consolations afforded by Rcligion tests of its truth-Little
consolation to be derived from the temple of the Greek and Roman Polytheism-Piety and virtue uncertain of the dirine otection) -The humble individual unworthy to occupy the care of Providence, or, if favoured oy one god, erposed to the malignity of anotherNo certain confidence, no authenticated hope—All life an evil, suicide the remedy-The cold and comfortless doctrines of the schools — The sage of Zeno and Epicurus—Tusculan disputations -The theory and example of Cicero-Hopeless sorrow the refuta. tion of dogmatical philosophy.
and the revolutions to which the best and wisest of men are perpetually exposed, have been, in all times, the prolific theme of melancholy but natural complaint. He who, said the sage of old, has still to encounter the changes and chances of the world, can no more be pronounced fortunate or happy, than the wrestler can be entitled to the crown of victory, before he has endured and triumphed in the contest. However the confidence of man may anticipate days and years of undisturbed felicity, his vessel is still at sea, and still assailable by the waves and tempests. In these hazards all are concerned. The afflictions of disease, the loss of fortune, the ravages of the grave, are equally the lot of the righteous and of the guilty; and the harmony of the moral world seems