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not there, and backward, but we cannot conceive “ him. The mountains drop and melt at his presence, “ and the waters of the great deep are troubled.” Before a power thus mysterious, indefinite, and sublime, the race of man, it is said, may well stand amazed and appalled. Instead of the offering of desire and love, the oblation laid upon his altar will be rather that which is tendered by duty with a timid and trembling hand; and the fervent sentiments of devout affection, if they exist for a moment, will be speedily lost in the more appropriate and solemn emotions of alarm and awe.
We do not deny that the contemplation of the Almighty, in the ineffable majesty and power of his nature, may and must excite very awful considerations in the mind of man, and impress solemnity upon the worship which he requires. But is this all we have to contemplate in God? Is there in the divine Being nothing but this fearful obscurity, this dread omnipotence, this undefined and undefinable perfection, from which the boldest fancy is to fall bacķ in astonishment or dismay? Is he not the Creator “ in whom we live, and move, and have our being?” Is he not the father who " maketh all things to con“spire for the good of those that love him? Who “ knows and pities the infirmities of his servants? “ Who delights to be termed the guide, the shep
herd, and the protector of his people?”—Whatever is amiable and good, we are formed by nature to admire and to love. We glow with generous ardour when we contemplate the virtuous and benevolent legislator, whose unbought wisdom has civilized and illuminated his country; or the heroic and disinterested patriot, whose valour has restored, or whose blood has ceniented, the public liberty. We repay with affection and gratitude the good will of those whose kindness has interposed to relieve our wants, or whose power has been exercised to redress our wrongs. Is He alone, the source of all excellence and of all good, to kindle no affectionate sensibility in the heart? Shall the universal Benefactor, whose mercies are spread over all his works, and who sent forth his Son to lighten the darkness and to expiate the sins of men, be less qualified to awaken our emotions, or less worthy of our admiration and our love? Or shall beauty, and goodness, and graciousness, call forth, on every other occasion, the sentiments of appropriate attachment and affection, and there only excite a cold and languid regard, where they are viewed in the power, the splendour, and the glory of their perfection? Is gratitude to glow with less ardour where the benefits conferred are, beyond all comparison, the greatest and the best? Or shall the frail and often ambiguous beneficence of mortal man swell the bosom with warm and tender emotions; and that beneficence which is unbounded, and invariable, and infinite, create and merit no zeal of attachment, no ardour of devotion, and no fervour of love?
But this zeal and this fervour, it seems, may produce evil effects; and they have, in fact, been frequently accused of exciting the fanaticism of the bigot and the fury of the persecutor, and of degenerating, as often, into those mystical raptures which abstract the enthusiast from the business and duties of life, and approach the Deity in language better adapted to the impurity of earthly passion, than to "the dignity and innocence of the devotion of love. Yet, surely, even admitting the objection, the accidental excesses of a holy sentiment afford no presumption against its intrinsic excellence. It is not the principle, but the perverse application, that is evil. The noblest qualities of our nature may be employed for to corrupt purposes, but they are not, therefore, to be decried or extinguished. And, if we be, indeed, to contemplate in the Deity all that may excite and vindicate the most ardent, and affectionate, and grateful emotions, would it not be preposterous and absurd to condemn the emotions, because it may be said that they have incidentally kindled the zeal of the inquisitor, or the extravagance of the monk!
The Gospel which excites the sentiment, guards us against the perversion. The love of God is indeed indispensable to the efficacy of the devotion of man. But it is not to be an abstract principle, soaring beyond the concerns of the world, and despising or neglecting the duties of human intercourse. It is to become the foundation of grateful and diligent obedience, and by grateful and diligent obedience to be proved. It is to ascend to the Almighty in adoration and prayer, and to bring back new and nobler motives to purity and virtue. If it be not of this spirit, it is less than nothing ; in proportion as it is of this spirit, it rises in the scale of Evangelical duty, and becomes acceptable and precious in the sight of heaven. “ He that hath my com“ mandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth
me. This is the love of God, that men keep his “ commandments. And whoso keepeth God's com“ mandments, in him is the love of God perfect." Such is the mysticism which is charged upon the devotion required by the Gospel ! Such are the persecution and extravagance which are to flow from it!
But the piety inculcated by Evangelical wisdom is not limited solely to the exercise of that love of God which is so amply justified by the unfailing and unbounded goodness of the Being to whom it soars. Supplication and sorrow may also approach the altar, and invoke the succour of heaven for the wants and weaknesses of man. God, who is invested with so many lovely and affecting attributes, is emphatically termed the hearer of prayer, whose ears are open to the cries of the righteous, and who regardeth the petitions of the needy and destitute. The divine perfections appear to be accommodated to human necessity, and the distressed condition of our being is afforded the promise and the means of aid. Is there want? It is invited to bend before the throne of mercy. Is there infirmity of mind ? It is encouraged to supplicate the illumination of -grace. Is there affliction ? It is permitted to enter into the sanctuary of divine compassion, and to repose its trust on Almighty goodness. The duty of prayer becomes a privilege, the privilege a blessing. We are to prostrate ourselves before the Sovereign of the world, but the command requires only that devotion which our necessities would dictate, and which, while it exercises our obedience and our trust, .connects us by the most holy ties with the Father, the protector, and the benefactor of man.
In this life much is there that is uncertain, much that is calamitous and dark. Disappointment, danger, and distress, lie on every side in wait for their victims. .If we look back, we shall be ready to admit that our most eager pursuits have often terminated in vanity, .and that our best pleasures have been as the phan.toms of a dream. If we look forward, we shall be Jost in a region of clouds and darknes, where conjecture may never close its wing in repose, and hope may erect its structure on nothing better than doubts and shadows. In such a state, is it. of trifling import that we are invited to approach the source of life and light, and to implore the aid of celestial mercy? Is the doctrine of little value, which directs us to a sure asylum in the wilderness of the world, and tenders. to our necessities the support and staff of the Shepherd of Israel? Can devotion be invested with a more gracious and salutary privilege, than that by which it is permitted to lay the infirmities of the creature before the compassion of the Creator? Or can we contemplate without emotions of gratitude, that sublime religion, which, while it enforces, with such solemnity of injunction, the duties of piety, connects those duties by an indissoluble bond with human happiness?
Under other religions, the Deity is to be propitiated by forms which have little to do with the frame and temper of the heart. But the humble disciple of the Gospel is to conciliate the divine favour by the oblations of the spirit. From him a holy aspiration is of more value in the sight of heaven than the most costly offerings; and the mite which he lays with grateful emotion upon the altar, is converted into a precious “ memorial “ before God”—“My son, give me thy heart. God ss is a spirit, and they that worship him, must “ worship him in spirit and in truth. And when “ thou prayest, be not as the hypocrites are, for .“ they love to pray at the corner of the streets, that
they may be seen of men; nor use vain repe“ titions, as the heathen do, for they think they “ shall be heard for their much speaking; but enter “ into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, “ pray to thy Father which is in heaven, and thy “ Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee