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On the Laws of God.
PSALM cxix. 18.
Open thou mine eyes; that I may see the wondrous things of thy
IT is the intention of the royal Psalmist in this psalm, to set forth, by a rich variety of expression, the many excellent properties of the divine law. He declares that it is applicable to mankind in all conditions of human life that it is good to direct the erroneous, to stimulate the indolent, to alarm the wicked, and to encourage the virtuous. But however expressive his language may be, he nevertheless intimates that he cannot thoroughly comprehend, much less sufficiently declare, the wisdom of the Deity in his dealings with the children of men. Impressed with a proper sense of the weakness of the human understanding, and conscious of the native reluctancy of the heart of man, when impelled to the knowledge and to the practice of his duty; he calls upon God for divine illumination and spiritual aid: panting for more comprehensive views of truth, and for higher degrees of virtue, he
sends forth this humble and earnest petition-" Open "thou mine eyes; that I may see the wondrous things of thy law."
The more we investigate the works and ways of the Deity, the more sensible shall we be, that we cannot, by searching, find him out to perfection-that all things are constituted by the exactest weight and measure that one uniform, consistent power pervades and regulates the universe-that after all our utmost exertions, we shall know only in part; the whole scheme of infinite wisdom, in the formation and government of all things, extending far beyond the comprehension of any human, and therefore limited understanding. But although it may with propriety be said, that we now see through a glass darkly; by steadfast attention, aided and illuminated by divine grace, we may nevertheless have many extensive views of the power and wisdom of God; we may see many of the wondrous things of his law. I shall, therefore, in the following discourse, endeavour to awaken in your minds a proper sense of the extent of this law; of its duration; of the mischiefs which are occasioned by violating it; and of the happiness that results from a steady and uniform obedience.
God existed from eternity; and before the creating word was spoken, the whole scheme of creation was accurately adjusted; all its parts and mutual dependencies were perfectly understood; and the universe rose into existence exactly according to the pattern which had been pre-conceived in the mind of the great Creator. As it is said, that he made all things according to the counsel of his own will; as he created them by his power; so he preserves, by his wisdom, the
peace and harmony of all his works. He has given them a law which extends to the utmost limits of his creation a law which comprehends in its operation all creatures in heaven and in earth, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate-the very least being protected by its care, and the greatest not exempt from its power.
If we consider this law as it operates upon lifeless matter, we shall find it continually preserving the harmony of the universe. By this law, the planets, without the least deviation from their prescribed path, are shot so swiftly in their rounds; the moon has her appointed seasons; the earth flies with almost inconceivable velocity, and, though her motions are complicated, never wandering from the right way; but producing, from age to age, the regular return of the seasons, and the grateful succession of day and night. By this law, the elements incessantly perform their allotted tasks the fire is sent forth to warm and vivify all nature-the waters are carried round in perpetual circulation-the air is kept pure for the purposes of animal life-and the earth, without intermission, according to the original command of God, brings forth grass, and herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree yielding fruit, after his kind. All the glorious discoveries in natural philosophy, for which the present age is so distinguished, are but so many new explanations of the wonders of this divine law.
If we advance one step further, we find it operating in the same uniform manner upon the irrational animals. Though, in their different species almost innumerable, and though formed with a great variety of native dispositions, we perceive them all, without confusion
pursuing their real good. What is commonly called instinct, is nothing less than the law of their Creator, invariably directing them into the path which leads most immediately to the summit of that happiness which they are capable of enjoying.
When we ascend to man, we find him also, in a peculiar manner, subject to this divine law-the law that is imparted to him by the voice of reason, and by immediate revelation from heaven. But man is a being of a superior order; greatly distinguished from the other creatures. While they move as they are impelled, without choice, without any consciousness of the end towards which they are tending; to him it is given to know. Not driven by irresistible necessity, he may choose the evil or the good. The law by which he ought to regulate his conduct is properly divulged; the distinction between good and evil is sufficiently clear; the motives which are intended to influence his behaviour are suited to the nature of a free agent; from voluntary obedience arises his happiness, and from disobedience his misery; the very superiority of his nature renders him a proper object of punishment, as well as reward.
When we come, at last, to the summit of God's creation; to the angels who surround the throne of his glory; we are taught that they also are comprehended within the operation of the laws of God. They have clearer conceptions of the will, and of the glorious perfections of the Deity; their obedience is more cheerful and more complete; but it is the same law, more or less extended, which influences all rational creatures, whether in heaven or in earth. The example of the angels is therefore proposed to our imita
tion. We are directed to pray that the will of God may be done by us on earth, as it is done by them in heaven.
What exalted conceptions do such reflections lead us to entertain of the perfections of Almighty God! Sitting enthroned in the glory of his divine Majesty, in the centre of his stupendous works, his word goeth forth and runneth very swiftly to the utmost extremity of his creation. Wonderful is the extent of his law. "Her seat is the bosom of God, but her voice is the "harmony of the universe-all things in heaven and "earth do her homage-angels, and men, and crea"tures, of every condition admiring her, as the parent "of their peace and joy!"
In contemplating the law of God, the second thing that demands our attention, is the duration of it. And here it is necessary to make a very essential distinction. Some of the laws of the Deity, like most of the institutions of men, having been originally intended to serve only a temporary purpose, when that end is accomplished, are abrogated by the same authority that established them. Thus the religious ceremonies of the Jews were designed to be only shadows of good things to come; when, therefore, they had answered the intention of their appointment, they were abolished and done away for ever. Thus under the Christian dispensation, the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, where they can be regularly obtained, are of indispensable obligation. But when this state of trial terminates in one of complete enjoyment; wher the means of grace are succeeded by the acquisition of glory; then, this part of the Christian law will no lon