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we contemplate the Deity, the most daring flight of imagination, the utmost comprehension of thought, instead of fathoming that mysterious and ineffable idea, are themselves lost in the survey of the unexhausted and inexhaustible riches that spread and multiply around them. To the dignity of such a subject, no created being can possibly do justice. He is first, and last, and midst; "that is, and that was, and that is to come." He formed all things by his word; he sustains and permeates the whole creation. Nothing is too vast for the controul of his dominion; nothing too little for the vigilance of his inspection. Let us endeavour to conceive whatever is supreme in power, comprehensive in wisdom, perfect in purity, and enchanting in goodness, and we shall present to ourselves, not indeed a living picture of the Deity (for how could we support its lustre!), but a faint and shaded image of him, such as our mortal vision may bear to contemplate. "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that thou regardest him!"
It is worthy of remark, and perhaps no mean argument of the truth of revelation, that, of all the varied systems of religion which have prevailed in the world, the Jewish and Christian is that which has alone presented the one supreme God, as the proper and direct object of worship, with any distinctness to the minds of its votaries. Paganism peopled every vale and mountain, every stream and forest, the air, the earth, and the ocean, with tutelary intelligences; but the great First Cause was unknown to the creeds of popular superstition, and was sought only in the schools of the philosophers. In the Indian mythology (which indeed was the same in its origin), a like peculiarity is observable. The Supreme Being is never presented to the vulgar eye. Some more thoughtful disciple of Vyasa, in the shades of Benares, may inquire into his nature, and adore him in secret; but the poor Hindoo is
content to pay his homage to Surya, or Ganga, or Mariataly, or some other of the numberless spiritual agents who preside over the objects of nature and classes of society, with limited powers and local jurisdictions. The like tendency of human nature to retire from the contemplation of a Being too great to be understood by the careless, and too excellent to be loved by the sinful, has been manifest during many periods of the popish superstition, and remains still visible in some dark corners of its dominions. The whole host of canonised saints and martyrs owe their idolatrous pre-eminence to the same principle which planted Minerva at Syracuse, Diana at Ephesus, and Jupiter in the Capitol. Their jurisdiction too, like the deities of old, extends only over a limited class of worshippers. Santa Rosalia is in high honour at Palermo; but Santa Maria would be justly jealous, if she claimed any authority at Trapani. The patron saint of Catania bas often arrested the fiery streams which burst from the sides of Etna, but she works no miracles at Syra
I cannot help observing, also, that those bolder geniuses, who of late years have rejected Christianity as a dispensation unworthy of the wisdom and equity of God, have by no means done credit to their own, more rational and simple, scheme of religion, by sublimer delineations of the character of the Almighty, or the expression of a profounder reverence towards him. Mr. Hume's language, in those parts of his Essays where he touches on the attributes of God, is very highly presumptuous; and his private correspondence was profane. Voltaire, a sincere Theist, in one of his lighter works, speaks of the moral government of the Deity in terms of the most insolent and offensive levity. And so little tendency had his speculations to produce an increased veneration towards the Author of all things, that neither his reproaches nor his authority were sufficient to prevent some of the most
I know which is the most sublime. and most consoling,
illustrious of his pupils from pushing his principles to the direct disavowal of a First Cause. Both Diderot and Condorcet were atheists. The former, in one of his letters, says; "Ce pauvre Voltaire radote un peu. Il avouait l'autre jour qu'il croyait à l'etre du Dieu." D'Alembert laboured pretty generally under the same imputation; but La Harpe says in his letters, that he had frequently heard him (D'Alembert) say, "que la probabilité etait pour le Theisme." La probabilité!-and is this all that a man possessed of so fine and profound a genius could discover of that August Being to whose bounty he owed the enjoy ment of all his distinguished facul
To waft us home the lesson of despair?
It is impossible not to be struck at the vast superiority which the simplest among the faithful followers of Christ possesses, upon these subjects, over the great masters of modern wisdom. The utmost that D'Alembert could discover, or would consent to believe, was, that the presumption is in favour of the exist, ence of a Deity. The true his tian, however little enlightened by secular science, has learned not only to clothe the idea of God with every attribute of intellectual and moral greatness, but he even presumes without fear to draw down and appropriate, as it were, to himself, the blessed object of his homage; to believe, that He who fills the universe, with his majesty disdains not to visit the abode of the meanest of his servants, to watch over him with paternal affection and solicitude, to listen to all his prayers, to regard his humblest wishes, to be present to the most secret sorrows and anxieties of his bosom : "He is about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways." I will not say whether the creed of the disciple of Christ, or the disciple of Voltaire, be the most philosophical; but
God invites us to put our trust in him. And is he not trustworthy? The ordinary blessings of life are apt to escape our notice; but our heavenly Father undoubtedly in tended them as assurances of his unfailing providence. We can imagine, indeed, a state of existence, of such a nature, that the whole series of circumstances and events should appear to be the mechanical results of some one original impulse. Or we may suppose a world so constituted, that every thing should be manifestly directed by man, as the efficient agent; in which his activity and foresight would be the final causes of all visible things. Under such economies, it might perhaps be pardonable for us to think of the Deity (like the old Epicureans) as the spectator, rather than as the governor of the universe; to acknow, ledge his general authority, without much regarding his providence. But these are the dreams of fancy, not the realities of nature. The world in which we live is so constituted, that every thing seems to proclaim aloud the perpetual presence of the Almighty. The free-agency of man (that is, his real, and not merely necessary or nominal agency), though a matter of instinctive and indestructible belief to every one of us, is, in argument, far more difficult of proof than the constant and efficient providence of God. There is not a single phenomenon of thought or perception, respecting which, when correctly analysed, we are not compelled to confess, that we can render no account of it, except, that such is the will of our Creator. The history of all physical science is precisely the same. Gravitation, which has assisted us to explain so many of the celestial phenomena, is only a law or tendency, apparent in visible things, of which we can prove the existence, but have discovered nothing more. The chemical properties of bodies are merely appear ances, which we may perfectly un
derstand as facts, but which the most skilful examination can only enable us to resolve into other more general appearances; leaving us, with respect to causation, in the same obscurity. Every science has its ultimate principles, and every ultimate principle brings us at once to God. Nor are the lights of philosophy at all necessary for the discovery of this truth. Like the elements of light and heat, it impresses itself on the feelings of the simple, while it speaks to the understandings of the learned. It is the language of every thing within us and around us. The organization of our bodies is so wonderfully delicate, the ramifications of the vascular and nervous systems are so amazingly fine, and interwoven with such intricacy, that it is difficult to conceive how we could be kept alive for a single hour, without the preserving power of our Creator unceasingly exercised upon us. And what is the ordinary course of our conduct and experience, but one continued testimony to the watchful providence of God? We lie down upon our beds at the close of day, and consign ourselves, without the slightest solicitude, to a state of passive inefficiency for many hours, well assured that we shall awake on the ensuing morning with every function of life restored and refresh ed. We commit the seed to the earth, in full assurance that, after a few weeks, it will spring up in a new form, and that" our valleys will stand thick with corn." Day by day we are clothed and fed, though our hands have neither wrought in the loom nor wielded the sickle. It is idle to speak of this as effected by the mechanism of society; it is provided by the economy of God, who has formed us so wonderfully, and so regularly operates on the faculties and feelings he has given, that every one is secure of finding the supply of his wants in the knowledge and industry of his neighbour. It is difficult to conceive a spectacle more striking than that which is exhibited every day in a great nation; where
ten, or twenty, or thirty millions of beings, not one of whom can support life without a regular supply of food, retire calmly to rest at night, in a perfect confidence that they shall find a supply for their wants on the following day. Need I add to these general proofs of the superintending care and vigilance of God, those personal experiences, which all of us, I am persuaded, possess of his particular providence? These indeed are less fitted for argument than the public demonstrations of his agency; but I appeal to all who have watched the events of their lives with any diligence, whether they have not frequently been of a nature to produce upon their own minds a powerful and reasonable conviction, that the Almighty does not behold them with indifference; that he neither forgets their iniquities nor despises their sufferings; but mingles mercy with judgment, and vindicates his goodness in both.
If, then, we are persuaded (as surely we must be), that God is both infinite in excellence and highly deserving of our confidence, let us consider what it is to put our trust in him. The true nature of a thing may generally be best understood by contemplating its most perfect specimen. Trust in God was exhibited in its utmost possible perfection, when Christ hung upon the cross for man. He could have called down legions of angels, but he knew what was the will of his Father, and "he committed himself to him who judgeth righteously." His strength and spirits sank under his sufferings; the powers of darkness were triumphant; the shades of death gathered fast around him; his God had forsaken him; yet the last accent that faultered on his lips avowed his full conviction, that the arm of the Lord was not shortened, nor the empire of righteousness subverted. It is the peculiar character of a lively trust in God, that "against hope it believeth in hope." When all is cheerful around, and health and friends and fortune unite to shower their boun
ties on us, there is little danger of the faithfulness of your Maker; to falling into an anxious, desponding renounce the pleasure, to support temper. But health is not always the sullering, from a rational refirm, friends are not ever present, gard to his will; to "endure, as and fortune is exceedingly fickle. seeing him who is invisible?" Let Perhaps some little distress first it not be imagined that the seasons overtakes us; vexations and disap- in which this duty is to be exercispointments follow; a diminution of ed recur only at intervals; they are fortune succeeds; sorrows thicken daily and hourly. You are poor, fast upon us; the strong wall, that perhaps, and some sad child of afseemed to fence in our blessings so fliction comes to plead for your securely, is almost levelled; and ca- compassion: trust in God, and be lamities roll in, wave after wave, bountiful. You are engaged in till we are ready to perish. How is business, and others, less scrupulous it with us now? Can we still repose than you, are advancing before you: on the watchful providence of God, trust in God, and be just. You are and trust in his mercy. Let us re- so peculiarly situated, that a slight member, that these are the seasons prevarication or improper concealin which the character is to be ment would greatly favour your instrengthened, and the sincerity of terests, and enable you to prevent our professions established. Can we serious uneasiness to yourself or say that we love God, when the others: trust in God, and be sinflame of our affection is ready to cere. Whoever will honestly atexpire with the first gust of misfor- tend to all the various occasions in tune? Do we pretend that we put which he is called upon to testify our whole trust in him, and yet de- his confidence in God by acting in spair of his mercy, and almost deny contradiction to present appearances, his providence, though nothing in will assuredly discover that this the whole world is altered but our principle, though its utmost enercondition? It is alike the office of gies are developed only under the reason and of faith to correct the pressure of great calamities, commudelusions of our senses, to place nicates its influence to the minutest things before us in their true pro- concerns; insinuating itself insensi portions, and prevent our being de- bly, where the Christian character ceived by mere appearances. A is matured, into the whole system of firm trust in the wisdom and bene- life; and, like the element we breathe, ficence of God is at once the evi- imparting purity and vigour wherdence and exercise of both. ever it prevails, though itself, perhaps, unseen by those whom it refreshes.
But the duty of trusting in God is not limited to the seasons of distress. Then, indeed, it is the most severely tried; and in proportion to the severity of the trial it is invigorated. But the general uncertainty of human concerns requires an internal principle of strength that is equally extensive; the constant care and kindness of our Maker demand the return of an unceasing confidence. Trust in God will produce in every period, and under all the varied circumstances of life, a settled preference of spiritual things over those which are temporal. Suppose any conceivable temptation: the question always is, do you dare to rely upon
It is natural, for those whose hearts are deeply penetrated with a sense of the beneficence of their Maker, to inquire with some solicitude how they may offer to him an acceptable service; what are the actions, what the dispositions, which he will consider as more peculiarly consecrated to his glory. Certainly, among the many motives which recommend the duty of putting our trust in God, the consideration best fitted to affect a grateful and generous spirit is, that it is a homage peculiarly pleasing to his Creator. It may even be said, without presumption, that it is a tri
bute in some measure worthy of him. We have confidence in those we love. We have confidence in those whom we highly esteem and venerate. To trust in God, is to declare practically (and this is a very different matter from the mere profession), that we believe him to be such as he really is, all-powerful, of unfailing wisdom and faithfulness, abundant in mercy and loving kindness. This is an acknowledgment which in the nature of things must be acceptable. It is a service not of the lips, but of the heart. It is an avowal in the sight of the universe, that "this God is our God." It is a solemn and effective recognition of his authority, and of our entire resignation to it. What parent is not gratified to find, that in the midst of apparent severity or neglect his child has ever placed an entire reliance on his affection? Who does not feel his heart glow with gratitude towards those who have loved him in absence and silence, and with perhaps the appearances of alienation on his part? When Alexander gave into the hands of his friend and physician the paper which accused him of perfidy, and in the same instant swallowed the medicine which he was informed would be fatal, what words can do justice to the feelings of both? We are not presumptuous in thus transferring the ideas which are attached to the most intimate relations in this life to spiritual concerns; because, when God vouchsafed to assume the characters under which he has revealed himself to us in holy writ, he certainly intended not merely to instruct us in our duties towards him, but to animate and console us by the communication of his sentiments and dispositions towards us. And conformably to these views, we find, that of the many celebrated actions of holy men which have been handed down to us, none are marked with stronger testimonies of the approbation of God, than those which indicated a very lively confidence in him. Such was Abraham's de CHRIST. ORSERY. NO. 130.
parture from his native land, and that solemn act of faith by which he offered up his only begotten son. Such was the cheerful courage of Caleb and Joshua, when the body of the Israelites refused to march into the land of Canaan. Such was "the holy enthusiasm of young David," when he fought and slew the champion of the Philistines. Such was the pious humility of Hezekiah, when he committed to God the protection of his people against the overwhelming forces of the Assyrians. "Now these things were written for our example, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope."
It seems a sort of injustice to the subject, after urging the motives for putting our trust in God which have been last mentioned, to speak of the benefits which will result to ourselves. God, however, who knows his creatures and desires their happiness, has multiplied the inducements to his service, so that no reasonable or virtuous principle of action in the heart of man may be left unaddressed. Indeed, the rewards which he proposes to Christians, are of so spiritual a nature, that while, contemplated in one aspect, they appear fitted to operate upon that sense of interest and rational desire of happiness which belongs to every living creature, in another character they address the feelings of the heart in a language of the most persuasive eloquence. The blessings which Revelation offers are ever of a nature to bring us nearer to God, the source and consummation of them all. This great principle, which breathes through the whole of religion, is visible in that portion of it which we are now considering.
I know not, indeed, that any words can more beautifully describe the blessedness of trusting in God, than those of the twenty-third Psalm; "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He 4 N