« AnteriorContinuar »
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD,
DIVINE REVELATION AND GRACE.
SECTION 1. It is acknowledged by all denominations of Christians, that it is necessary they should believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. Many volumes have been written on this important subject, and it is probable much to the advantage of mankind; yet few authors have taken it up on such grounds as to establish it in any other way, than from the cloud of evidence which it is possible to bring forward from an external view of his extraordinary works in the creation. A material loss, however, seems to have been sustained by not proceeding somewhat further. It is true, the external view of the works of Omnipotence may show us the beauties of nature; the varieties of riches with which she is stored; the extraordinary mechanism of all animal creation; and in some degree account for the formation of their different classes, genera, and species; as also of plants, metallic substances, earths, &c. Nature, indeed, in its various forms may be explored by man; and, by the knowledge he acquires, be made subservient to his wants: he may also account for the variety of the changes in the elements; how the vapours rise into the atmosphere and form clouds, which produce rain; the vivid lightning, and thunder. The construction of his own body, and its various properties, may be known to him : he may also know how the blood circulates in the arteries and veins; and when this wonderful machine is diseased, he may endeavour to find out the cause, and to know, by a variety of symptoms, the necessary means of attempting to bring every thing into iis proper order. But with all this wonderful knowledge, so superior to any other animated being, he may be ignorant of himself; and without divine aid cannot account for the changes, the beauties and deformities of his own soul, nor for the happiness or misery that awaits it.
The mere knowledge and contemplation of the exterior works of Omnipotence is incapable of conveying to the understanding the relative situation in which it stands with respect to him
self. This can only be communicated by an emanation of the Divinity, so influencing the mind as to make the discovery of its total dependence upon him for all things, whether spiritual or temporal. This knowledge is not only desirable, and consistent with the divine harmony, but absolutely necessary, it being the foundation and ground-work of all true religion ; without it, inan is deprived of the most essential and exalted of all the benefits intended by his creation, viz. the internal and only true evidence of God, and of the necessity of a divine union with him.
Man, froin the miere force of his education and habits, may express his belief in a superintending Providence; they may lead him to suppose the world could not be created, nor the order therein maintained, but from a first cause : yet a heartfelt belief of this, and of the existence of God, cannot be really and effectually produced but by the influence of the Almighty, communicated immediately by himself. To this degree of perfection man through divine aid only can attain ; and for this purpose he was created; not altogether to judge of natural things, but to experience a divine union and communion, by which the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom are revealed, and that part in him which is imninortal becomes prepared for à state of bliss which saints and angels and just men made perfect are in the continual enjoyment of.
The internal eyidence of the Divine Being, when fully received, leads us to consider him as a Father, Protector, and Almighty Friend ; to worship, fear, and honour him as such ; not with a degrading fear, which would lead us to look on him as a tyrant, who insists on every proof of our allegiance through the dread of feeling the force and power of his avenging arm ; but as a tender parent, on whom all our love and affection is fixed. The fear that possesses the mind when it is brought into this con-nexion, is that which is produced by love alone,
from an anxiety lest we should offend him in whom all our love ought to be centred : it is a generous and grateful fear. Were this internal principle given way to, it could not but operate to make us continually watchful over every thought and action, lest we should lose those impressions by which the soul is drawn into a divine union with its Maker: it would naturally produce the language “ Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ;' because in this situation we are satisfied that every thing contrary to his will is out of the divine harmony, and cannot be useful either to ourselves or others.
When the mind of man is thus united to his Creator, every action will discover the power by which he is led; love to all mankind will show itself to be predominant, because he knows and feels that God is himself nothing but love. He will weigh every action in the unerring balance of truth; prejudice and party-spirit will be avoided with the utmost care, lest, being liurried on by blind passion, he should suffer anger, resentment, or revenge, to influence or distress him in his walking before the Lord. He will learn in this book of experience, that in his approaches to his Creator there needs not any man to teach him, because he is sensible he has to do with one who sees every action, knows every thought.
If we have not the immediate evidence of a Divine Being, and of his influence on the mind, we can hardly be said to be more than worshippers in the outward court. So that outward evidence only, though it may convey admiration and astonishment at the extraordinary wisdom and power of God, yet this proof of his existence can have but little effect in regulating our .actions, or leading us into consistency of con- .. duct.
Many persons rest on what they call the revelation of the Scriptures ; as if the knowledge of