Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

if we examine the sentiments of those who deny the Trinity, we shall find them entirely built on this argument of resemblance, over-strained, and wrong applied. In one man there cannot be more persons than one; therefore in God there can only be one person. If a peasant should, in this manner conclude, that, because there is but one apartment in his cottage, there can therefore be no more in the palace of a prince, he would reason just as wisely as they.

There is nothing within us, or about us, that can help us to a perfect knowledge of God. What a notion had the children of Israel of the Divine Being, who, when Moses was conversing with him on mount Sinai, set up a golden calf to represent the Almighty God? Our libertines, in like manner, forsaking the Scriptural notion of him, form one from themselves, which they worship, as the Israelites did theirs, with sensuality and riot; "they sit down to eat and drink, and then to rise up to play.'

• To whom then shall we liken God, or what likeness shall we compare unto him ?' Is he like a plant, or a brute, or the sun, or the host of heaven? What proportion or resemblance can they bear to their Creator? Or is he like a man? "Shall we imagine, wickedly, that he is even such a one as ourselves?' It is true, the soul of man is formed in the image of the Divine mind, but bears no proportion to that which it resembles. Our likeness of God renders us capable of knowing him, so far as our duty and wants require ; while the infinite disproportion between him and us, places him above the curiosity and presumption of our inquiries.

Let us search the Scriptures, and there we shall find enough to dash our own presumption to the ground, to shew us that God is too great to be comprehended by us, to satisfy us that there is a Trinity of persons in his nature'; which we may believe, but can never account for. Our enquiry ought not to be, whether the Divine nature is capable of such a Trinity in unity; for this, to mere human reason, is impossible to be determined; but whether the Scriptures are the word of God, or not; and if we find they are, we ought surely to submit our faith to every thing in them, without staying to try it by our wretched rules of thinking.

As to that knowledge of himself which God hath been pleased to vouchsafe us, it is not, in respect to the Trinity,

or any thing else, as the libertines object, either speculative or physical, in any degree; it is purely practical. It was, that we might become good and happy men, that God revealed himself and his will to us. With this gracious intention, he passed the boundaries of nature; and, descending from the heights of heaven, drew back the dark curtain of natural ignorance, that hung between him and us, and shewed us so much of himself as our faculties could bear, and our moral wants required the knowledge of.

Shall we vainly think this visit was made to our curiosity; and instead of adoring and obeying, idly set ourselves to speculating and disputing about him? Yes, the world, which hath been too inquisitive from the beginning, and excessively conceited ever since, will needs convert God, who was proposed solely as an object of love and obedience, into a subject for impertinent and dangerous inquiries. Therefore it was, that our Saviour cried out, in the words of my text, “O righteous Father! the world hath not known thee.'

He that would know God rightly, let him open the word of God with an humble sense of his own natural ignorance, and his many spiritual wants; with a desire to be instructed, not a design to criticise; and he shall there learn, that God is one infinitely powerful, just, wise, and merciful Being; that, in this infinite Being, there are three Divine persons, to each of whom we lie under distinct and infinite obligations; that the first of these persons framed us out of the dust, and bestowed his own image on us ; that the second, after we had corrupted ourselves by sin, took our nature on him, and died to satisfy Divine justice for us, and establish a covenant of peace between God and us; and that the third, knowing we have enemies to contend with, who are too powerful for us, is ever near us, removing from us all unsurmountable impediments to the performance of such articles of the covenant as we are engaged to, on our part. He will likewise find in the holy Scriptures, that this great Being is present every where; that he is about us, and within us, and spieth out all our ways;' nay, and knows our thoughts long before ;' that he will one day call us before his throne, and there, with infinite knowledge and justice, distinguishing the whole race of mankind into two sorts, shall carry with him, to his glorious place of abode, those who resemble

him in truth and goodness; and shall send those with the author of evil, who resemble him in sin and deformity, to regions of darkness, and everlasting despair.

This is that sort of knowledge, which God hath taught us in his word ; which we could not have known, without revelation; which the world hath not known;' which the natural man receiveth not;' and 'to which not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble or mighty, are called ;' which, nevertheless, is absolutly necessary to the well-being of society, and the salvation of souls.

This knowledge represents God to us as our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter; as the most compassionate, the most amiable, the most excellent of all beings. Can we behold him, thus gracious and beautiful, and not love him more than the whole world, than life itself, and even being ? : This knowledge also displays him to us as an all-knowing witness, as an impartial judge, as an almighty king, who can reward with celestial kingdoms, and punish with infernal fires. Can we behold him in this awful light, and not fear him? : Or can we love and fear him, and yet disobey him? No ; the true knowledge of God is the only spring of all duty and virtue, and virtue the only road to true and real happiness.

As to any other sort, or higher degree, of knowledge concerning God, as it would be useless, so would it be impossible and unattainable. Our faculties are not calculated to extend much farther than our wants. If we look impartially and carefully into our nature, we shall find our knowledge so cramped behind us, by the weakness of our memory; cut so short in respect of what is to come, by want of foreknowledge; reduced to so scanty bounds all about us, by. the narrowness of our senses, and the shortness of our lives; and so broken, by the infirmity of human reason and judgment, that persons of the most improved capacities seem to direct themselves in the knowledge of even temporal things, through a general darkness, by a faint taper, that enlightens a few paces round them, and moving with them, leaves it dark at a very small distance, both before and behind them.

How unequal must faculties, so deficient in teaching us the nature of things we converse with every day, be, to the

knowledge of an infinite and almighty object, so far removed from our observation! Since so it hath pleased God to form us, we ought to know, and humbly acknowledge, our own infirmity; and, in the spirit of modesty and lowliness, approach the Divine Being, rather with awe, than curiosity; confessing our own weakness, not talking presumptuously of his perfection.

He knows God best, who feels the deepest impressions of his majesty and goodness on his heart; who praises his · works indeed aloud, but adores the author in silence and astonishment; whose notions of God are too great for utterance, too wonderful for words to represent; who dares not approach too near to pry into the nature of so awful and terrible a Being ; who dares not stand before him, but removes out of the way of him, who hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet;' who worships at a respectful distance from the fire that devours before him, and the tempest that is stirred up round about him.

To whom, in the unity of the Farther, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, and glory, and worship, for ever. Amen.

DISCOURSE XLV.

HE ONLY SAVES WHO WISELY GIVES AWAY.

Acts xx. 35.

It is more blessed to give, than to receive. If we consider, that the word blessed, in this saying of our Saviour, signifies the same as happy, we shall conclude the saying itself must appear a perfect paradox to the world. What, will the generality of mankind say, is he more happy who gives away his substance to others, than he who receives from them? How can this be true, if the necessaries and comforts of life are not reckoned in the number of evil things ? If they are good, surely it cannot be an happiness

to part with them, nor less than a means of happiness to receive them.

Thus reasons the understanding, prejudiced by a selfish and narrow heart, which ranks all, that avarice or luxury can grasp at, among the necessaries and comforts of life; because it cannot be happy, nor even easy, without a treasure to gaze at, or wanton in. What comes to the happiness arising from such a turn of mind, when extravagance, accidents, losses, law-suits, wars, or death, disperses all its riches ? The answer to this question will shew, that the happiness of a rational, not to say a religious creature, ought to be founded on somewhat else, than the possession of wealth. It is not self that says, receive and keep. Self only bids me consult my happiness. It is gross ignorance, and bad habits, that persuade me receiving or keeping can make me happy.

But can the giving away make a man happy? I answer, either wealth is no way concerned in our happiness, or, so far as it is, happiness must arise from a judicious manner of parting with it. He is worse than an idiot, who heaps up riches with no other view than to increase and keep them. The man who reasons at all on the subject, desires them only that he may use them. The question is, how they are to be used ? I say, they cannot be used at all, unless they are parted with. But some men part with them for one purpose, and some for another. Our Saviour, who knew best how they ought to be expended, extols the wisdom of giving them away. But the world cannot see wherein the happiness of such a disposal consists; and the truth is, our Saviour does not mean we should part with them for nothing, but only that we should traffick with them for better things than this world can exchange for them. It were better indeed for many a man to throw his riches into the than either to keep or abuse them as he does. But our master, who trusts us with any share of his treasures, proposes to us a wiser and more profitable application of them, than this, or even than laying them out on sensual pleasures, or worldly grandeur. This he expresses, by the blessedness or happi. ness of giving, as superior to that of receiving. The text acknowledges an happiness in the one, as well as in the other, but gives the preference to the first. Let us see what

sea,

« AnteriorContinuar »