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“ Theology;" many delightful instances of the goodness of God displayed in the glories of his creation in general, and exhibited in favour of the human species in particular: but I forbear to do so, rather recommending to the reader the entire perusal of these excellent books, as they well deserve it, from the interesting and entertaining knowledge they communicate, and from the pious endeavour which evidently prevailed in the minds of those who wrote them, to honour their Maker, to express the noble acts of the Lord, and to shew forth his praise in the best manner they were able*. . . . . . .
* I have likewise foreborne, in the peculiarities enumerated in the second proposition, respecting the doctrines and actions of our blessed Saviour, to introduce any of those inserted in the late Mr. Soame Jennings's excellent “ View of the Internal “ Evidence of the Christian Religion,” as this praetice makes one book the mere echo of another book; a practice of wbich: every reader has a just right to complain. .. .
OF all those subjects whose contemplation either does, or has, or ever will engage the attention of the human inind, the most delightful I apprehend to be that of God's goodness. It is mentioned by Mr. Maurice, in his Indian Antiquities, that the Brahmins consider an holy absorption of mind as the perfection of human happiness: nor is this by any means a chimerical idea; for when a rational being, in health and spirits, walking in his garden, contemplates the goodness of God towards him, and considers what he was, that he was originally only as the earth on which he treads, insensible, unconscious, inanimate matter; and contrasts that state with what he is, a being created in the image of God, only a little lower than the angels, and endued not merely with a corporal frame and a sensitive soul, but with a mind capable of appreciating, in a very sublime and lofty manner, the attributes of the Deity, and of considering him as a God of infinite wisdom, infinite power, and infinite goodness; and that he acts from a conjunction of these glorious attributes in all his decrees, and therefore they must necessarily be all right, just, and merciful, have ever been so, and
ever will be so: when he considers the great privilege he is allowed, whilst on earth, of walking with God, and the glorious state he is permitted to believe he shall hereafter enjoy, through the goodness of God and the merits of his Saviour ; when he thus reflects on the goodness of God in his creation and redemption, and, with all the powers of his mind, further investigates that goodness by a careful induction of its particulars in all its numerous and important ramifications and branches, the result of such contemplation is a combined feeling of the mind, at one and the same time affectionate, elegant, joyous, pure, holy, heavenly; it is that devout absorption before mentioned; and, whilst it lasts, it elevates human nature to its highest degree of perfection and happiness. But unfortunately it never does or can last long in this life; the frail nature of man will not permit it; but we should be thankful, greatly thankful, that we are ever permitted to soar so sublime a flight, adopt every means in our power to favour and encourage as frequent a repetition of it as possible, and with all our soul bless and praise our gracious Creator for the hope that he is pleased to give us, that, when what is sown in weakness is raised in power, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, we shall then be blessed with its enjoyment everlastingly, and without intermission.
Many persons deprive themselves of this highest felicity of which their souls are susceptible. They stop short at mere amusement, instead of proceeding on to the sublime and positive enjoyment just mentioned, and appear to consider such gratifications as arise from the possession of a large fortune, rank, equipages, and sensual pleasures, as the greatest portion of happiness that can be enjoyed in this life: whereas none of these, however they may affect with pleasure the sensitive soul, ever did or ever will vibrate the mind of man with much intenseness, or any great or permanent satisfaction. It is the consciousness of beneficent acts and intentions towards our fellow-creatures, of living a virtuous and pious life, of knowing and walking with God, which accomplishes true genuine happiness; because it is this consciousness only which draws out the powers and faculties of the human mind to its fullest dimensions, and expands it to its highest capacity and feeling of that sublime and native pleasure it was designed by its Maker to enjoy. Therefore, as we value our present or eternal welfare, we should set apart some time every day for the express purpose of contemplating the goodness of God towards the human species in general, and to ourselves in particular, by a regular, succinct induction of it in its several instances and particulars; a practice which will be found on trial to give proportionable pleasure and satisfaction to
the mind, that is, the highest and noblest it is capable of enjoying. For it should be considered, that the mind of man receives, or is capable of receiving, from contemplation and reflection, from conversation, and from the perusal of books, as many and as different and distinct vibrations and ideas, as the palate is capable of receiving sensations from a variety of tastes; and that the latter is not at all more sensible of a specific difference between the taste of the most common and the most delicious fruit, than the former is between the sublime degree of exquisite pleasure arising from the contemplation I have mentioned, and any worldly amusement whatever. Upon this principle, since happiness is allowed to be seated in the mind, if we are desirous that our mind should not be degraded by triíling thoughts and ideas, and are anxious that it should be occupied with such as are sublime, noble, and interesting, we have only to be careful to converse as much as we can with
persons of probity and piety, careful what books we read, (studying the best and highest) and careful of the subjects we select for our contemplation : for though it may be out of our power to indulge when we please our sensual taste, it is certainly entirely in our power to indulge our mental one, and to keep its highest and noblest faculties in constant exercise; by which the ratio of our happiness in this life will be increased to a