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But they are living monitors 10 teach us wisdoin by their folly and weakness!
XXIV. Of all subjects that can possibly engage human attention, there is nonę which can stand in the least degree of comparison with the knowledge of God. To contemplate him as the creator and preserver of all things, and the wise and gracious benefactor of innumerable myriads of sentient and rational beings, is certainly an employment ihe most exalted in iiself, and consequently the most worthy of the highest of his creatures.
It must indeed be acknowledged, that to conceive of the supreme Being, as he exists in his infinite perfections, is impossible ; to rise to a degree of comprehension adequate to any part or attribute of his glorious nature, is not to be expected. But if we attend to the evidences of his existence all around us, we are struck with incontestible proofs of hiş goodness as well as power; it to the language of holy writ, where his nature is spoken of in the most striking and emphatical inanner, we find ir pronounced to be love, and light, &c. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. God is love. Under these figures the serious inind has her abundant feast of contemplation.
xxy. From the most attentive consideration of the character of the Supreine Being, can it be possible for any serious man to think otherwise, than that it must be the perfection of a created nature to attain the highest possible resemblance of the divine attributes ? And secing we are privileged to make some sensible, though almost infinitely distant advances, towards his glorious nature of love, and the fruit of such sensible advances is peace, which nothing else can give a trụe taste of, how unwise are the children of this world in their continual choice of inferior pursuits!
XXVI. "The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet." Nah. i.
3. This prophet, though the book of his prophecy be short, and relaxing to one subject, viz. The judgment of God against the ciiy of Nineveh, seems to have been inspired with a large effusion of the divine spirit, and speaks with an authority and solemnity, which, as it claimed the serious attention of the people of his time, ought likewise to command the serious consideration of all people, at all times. And though many ages have passed away since the destruction of that city, and the particular deliverance of the Jews, there never can be an age in which the law of fear and reverence are not awful in themselves, and as they regard the infinite holiness of the Almighty:
In this age, therefore, it behoyes us to be deeply, thoughtful of God, by whoin we have been created, by whose power we live and move; and endeavour to have our minds raised into a suitable contemplation and reverence of him; that as we are passing away, like
he ages that have VOL. Iy.
gone before us, and we know not the ineasure of our days, we may live suitably to the frailty of our short and uncertain life, and in all our ways be found the true worshippers of hiin that is invisible ! He is indeed invisible to us, with respect to the nature of his being : but we are not without the inosi awful proofs and evidences of his adorable attributes !
The works of his creative and sustaining power are infinite, and none but the fool can say in his heart “ There is no God.” He is, beyond all controversy, in every place, and every visible thing testifies of his presence! Well might the royal Psalmist say, « The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy works. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth forth knowledge!" But though the great Creator of all things be every where, in every moment of time, there is an evidence of his treinendous presence, particularly solemn, in the movings and voices of the elements around us; in the winds of heaven, and the storms of the firinament: " The Lord hath his way in the wirldwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet!"
XXVII. In proportion as any church or body of men are removed in the terms of their association, and the principle of their union, from the obvious liberality of the doćirines and the simple examples of Jesus Christ, they are removed from Christian ground, and froin the genuine import of the name Christian !
XXVIII. Few distinctions or descriptions of men, I suppose none, will be found to believe that they are so removed; or, that they are not the society most in conformity to the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, and consequently most truly the church of Christ.
XXIX. Every church beimg partial to itself, and fully persuaded of its own superior purity of faith, if not of its own exclusive orthodoxy; it is not to be wondered at, that every church should have in it members weak enough, and zealous enough, to render it ridiculous to infidels and irreligious persons, by giving it the titles of the only true church; and the church and people of God! But the wise, to the utmost allowable degree, must learn to bear with the weak.
xxx. , A religious professor should be tender of hurting the feelings of any man in religious matters: he should not only wish to guard against 'so doing with respect to those in, but out of communion with himself. A liberal thinker and writer, however, will inore frequently be in danger ef offending his brother professors, than those of other communities and that for the reason above expressed.
It therefore behoves a man who writes for the reformation of a partial or bigotted disposition, so common to churches, to attempt (not by using dogmatical assertions, which are the common aids of ignorance, and a bad cause but) by sober enquiry and argument, to induce an examination into the grounds and truth of things.
XXXI. Why should we wish for a long continuance in this world? Would we live for the sake of old age ?
What is that but to live for second child-hood, weariness, and pain; -to be burdensome to our friends, and of little use to society?
Would we live to get money for ourselves?
What is that but to live a life of constant anxiety and servility, to procure it;-to wear out our powers of enjoyment in the attaininent of our object; and to acquire a selfislıness, which inust counteract all eventual satisfaction? What is it but to procure the envy of the ignorant, the blame of the wise, the rivalship of the rich, and the trouble or the curses of the poor?
Would we live to grow rich for the sake of being generous ?
This may be a popular and a benevolent argument. But what better privilege do we desire by this than the lessening of the power of others to do that good, which it is altogether uncertain whether we should do better than they?
Would we live for the sake of seeing our friends haphy, and our nearest relatives frovided for ?
This likewise is a benevolent motive. But will our friends be less happy by being released from the trouble of our infirmities? Or, will our relatives be less under the protection of divine providence in our absence, than if, being present, we could watch them on our crutches? And most certainly we must be parted from them at last!
XXXII. The result seems to be, that we should endeavour to acquire more than a resignationma readiness, and a desire, to go out of this world just as soon as it shall please infinite wisdom to order. A period to at: uncertain life, is the fixed and immutable law of our Creator upon us -ever to be expeéted-ever to be waited for. And while it seems to be no part of the good of a wise man to be anxious about the possession of any outward thing, which he is not possessed of, and which may be more proper to the sphere of another, it seems to be the chiefest duty “ 10 do good and communicate," of those mental possessions, which a real Christian finds himself privileged to acquire; for such possessions are most properly his own, and the nature of them the most resembling the divine Being
Of these a man may impart, without diminishing his own stock of happiness: and from a free and loving cominunication of the best convictions and intellectual views of individuals, shall most probably Tesult the greatest social good of the whole. The consciousness of so doing is most likely to be attended with tranquility in time, and the most comfortable hopes with respect to eternity.
XXXIII. We have but little better evidence of the importance of inany things in religion, than the earnestness of the dispute in which people engage about them; and we know, reasoning from most obvious data, how uncertain an evidence that is : for if we begin with children, the plants of zealous men, we may frequently observe how unequal to the importance of the object is the fury of the contest about the possession of the smallest toy, or the pushing of two pins !
In more robust youth how much of the fire of the soul is thrown into a mere trial of bodily strength, even at the rique of bones and of life!
The same temark may be applied to some of the ridiculous amusements of the field !
In polite life-how important (merely through the unnecessary trouble of it) is made the point of etiquette !
In dress-how great a sacrifice of the understanding to the prevalence of fashion, which nobody attempts to know the standard, of the intrinsic
In eating and drinking--how much solicitude and expence, only to disorder and sicken the body, for a moment's gratification !
But such is the perverseness and unhappiness of poor human nature !
XXXIV. As one of our English writers found it in literature, so will it ever be found in morals and theology ; as no author is so poor but he can keep a critick," so no religious character is so obscure but he will generally be able to maintain, not merely a critick, but a greater or lesser tribe of criticks, upon his orthodoxy and his goodness; and a man must have far better fare than Jesus Christ and all the apostles who can pass through life without censure from this kind of censors !
But this reflection, as well as a multitude of others, may receive much alleviation of its pain, from considerations of the lapsed state, or the weakness of the human mind: not to mention, but just passingly in this place, that through that weakness, which even grace itself doth not annihilate, apostleship was not always exempt from apostolical rebuke. See Gal. ii. 11.
Sjocund spring with flow'rs bedecks the vale,
The meads with verdure, and the fields with coro,
Her fairest charms oft grace th' embow'ring shade,