« PoprzedniaDalej »
do not see it; and likewise how much your actions are influenced by the suggestions of that soul, and that your whole happiness depends on your doing or not doing such things as are or are not agreeable to its suggestions: believe in the same manner that God exists, and observes what you say and do, though you do not see him. And he might have added, indeed Plato in his writings did add, that the sovereign good of man consists in that holy intercourse, of which this great Being graciously allows us to partake. And how little does that man understand the nature of genuine happiness, and how sadly does he despoil his soul of its richest jewel, who neglects to walk with his God, and to cultivate that awful and heavenly communion with him, which God thus condescendingly permits him to do! But the goodness of God is not only displayed in granting us the inestimable, the invaluable privilege of coming when we please into his presence, and by that means suspending our griefs and sorrows; but he has enriched this privilege, by annexing to it the angelic pleasure, when we do, of allowing us to consider him as our God, our portion, and his service as our exceeding great reward. It is a fine abserva
tion of Bishop Butler's, in one of his sermons, that, when God formed the human soul, no one can deny that he possessed the power of constituting any cause that he pleased as the efficient one, that should communicate to it the highest possible degree of pleasure and happiness it could be susceptible of; and if he pleased he could make our service of him that cause.
This he has done, even to evident demonstration and feeling; because, whilst by habit and possession the honours, riches, and pleasures of this world give rather an artificial than real and genuine satisfaction at any age, and in old age become utterly vapid and insipid, the soul at all ages enjoys that holy intercourse and communion with its God, which alone perfectly satisfies its sublime and heavenly nature; is indeed its natural exercise, its proper employ, its highest enjoyment. And I am convinced that I run no hazard in appealing to the bosoms of worthy and pious characters, who have lived long enough in this world to have made a trial of its utmost powers to communicate happiness, whether they have ever found their soul vibrated by any of its pleasures with the same sublime, intense, transporting feeling, as they have from the exercise of a masculine piety,
formed from the consideration and contemplation of the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God, as these are displayed in the glories of his creation, and in his gracious conduct to the human species in general, and to himself in particular. Indeed how can it be otherwise? What is it that gives us that exquisite pleasure we feel from the fine arts of poetry, statuary, painting, and music, but the degree of excellency and perfection that we think they possess, and the correspondent feeling of our minds affected and vibrated by that excellence? When we then contemplate pure and absolute excellency and perfection, is it any wonder that our soul should be vibrated with the highest possible degree of pleasure and happiness it can feel, or that it should experience the most exquisite delight in the expression of that love, joy, and admiration, which it feels in consequence of the contemplation of this pure and absolute perfection ; when even the poor paltry'efforts of human art vibrate our feelings in the pleasing and agreeable manner we know they do, and cause us to express the pleasure we feel at their relative excellence in terms even of transport and rapture ?
To the minds of such men as are in the
habit of considering the ways of God to man, nothing is more pleasing and satisfactory, or appears more indicative of the goodness of God, than the consideration of the system or economy of duty which God has appointed man to perform in this life ; whether he contemplates the nature of that duty, the facility with which it may be performed, or the noble result which will certainly and unquestionably attend its performance. In the fourth chapter of the Revelations it is asserted, “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to re“ ceive glory, and honour, and power; for “ thou hast created all things, and for thy
pleasure they are and were created.” Now it is deserving of very particular notice and observation, that, with respect to his intellectual creatures, God has condescended to make that which constitutes his own pleasure, equally to constitute theirs. For example, no one, I presume, will deny, but that, with reference to the human species, it is the pleasure of God that man should love, honour, and obey him; that he should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him: neither is it to be presumed, if a man performs, or endeavours to perform, this duty, which the Scriptures inform him to be the
whole duty God requires of him, but that by this means he takes the most solid and effective way possible to accomplish his true and genuine happiness, both temporal and eternal: it is impossible he can be of any other opinion, if he believes in the truth of Scripture, will consider the nature of virtue and piety, and how much the essential happiness of man is derived from the feelings of his mind and the testimony of his conscience. Can there then be a greater or more evident proof of the goodness of God given to man, than in thus making what he has constituted man's duty, to be equally and at the same time the immediate, the direct cause, if he will perform it, of producing both his temporal and eternal happiness? When we reflect on the nature of man, how often do we find, that, for a very pitiful reward, he expects and requires a long and painful service; often extremely laborious to the body, and as often extremely irksome to the mind! But when we consider the nature of God, how is the idea of his goodness imprinted on our souls, when, notwithstanding the disobedience of our first parents, which might have. justified a rigorous, severe, and painful duty, we find, that, for the accomplishment of our