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PSALM VIII. 4.
WHAT IS MAN THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF HIM? AND THE SON OF MAN THAT THOU VISITEST HIM?
It is established by the question stated in the text, that God is mindful of man; otherwise, there would be no propriety in the question, "what is man that thou art mindful of him ?”
It is established by the question in the text, that God is mindful of man on account of what man is; otherwise it would be improper to ask the question, "What is man that thou art mindful of him ?"
It is established by the text, that, on account of the mindfulness of God towards man, he visits him. Though the question in the text is varied, it is but one question: "What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him ?" The design of the present discourse is, to answer this question.
God is mindful of man on account of what man is. In the first place, man is the creature of God. God is his Author :-his Maker ;-to God we owe our existence, and it is an unreasonable supposition that a God of infinite wisdom would make any thing without a design; and consistently with the design the Creator had in making the thing that he made, he must be mindful of it.
This idea may be communicated to your understanding in the simple simile of your own undertakings. You never make any thing without some purpose; and when you have made it, you regard it exactly in proportion as it answers the purpose for which you made it; and you will see upon a moment's reflection, that it is morally impossible that any intellectual being should make any thing for no purpose. Hence it is plain and evident, that God made his creature for a purpose; and in relation to all the dignity of that purpose, he must regard the creature which he has so made.
Thus we have given you one answer to our question, "What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him ?" He is the creature of God.
Secondly. Man is a moral, intellectual being, constituted with a capacity to improve in wisdom, in knowledge and in understanding. It will not be difficult for the hearer to perceive that this statement is a proper answer to our question; because a being which possesses the qualities which man possesses, having an intellectual capacity, capable of learning and being instructed, must be designed for that purpose; for the Creator could have no reason why he should give man a capacity to learn unless he designed him for improvement. Why does man possess a capacity for knowledge? why is he made susceptible of instruction, unless, that in these capacities he is to be improved? When you learn the capacity of the thing made, and what end it is calculated to answer, you learn, at the same time, what it is designed for, and what it was intended for by its maker. It is evident from the history of mankind, as well as from our own observation, that man is possessed of these qualifica
tions. He is capable of being instructed ;-he is capable of being taught; he is capable of being improved in the exercise of his understanding;-he is capable, my friends, of being brought to a knowledge of that God who made him.
Hence God is mindful of man as an intellectual, moral being. Having capacitated him for the reception of instruction, for a growth in wisdom, knowledge and understanding, it is reasonable that he should regard his creature as such, and improve him to the full extent of his powers. And that this is the law of intellectual nature, you will easily perceive by yourselves. As far as it comes within the compass of your power, you take delight and satisfaction in instructing those docile birds and animals which you find to be capable of any improvement. And you are not disposed to discontinue the means of such improvement so long as they may be employed with success. You may not think, while thus employed, what this inclination philosophically proves; but it is evidence to show, that it is the nature of intellect to strive to improve intellectual powers.
The infinite Jehovah, as a Being of boundless wisdom and knowledge, must take peculiar delight and unbounded satisfaction in improving the intellectual beings that he has made-in advancing them from one state of knowledge to another-from one degree of improvement to another; and, my friends, we learn from this another idea, valuable beyond estimation, namely, it is not reasonable that God will ever stop the improvement of his intellectual creature, so long as that being is capable of being improved. It is manifest, my hearers, that God will never cease to do this. He will never cease to love us; he will never cease to advance
us in knowledge. The great theme of the gospel of Jesus is designed for this purpose. In an address to the Father, recorded in the 17th chapter of the gospel of St. John, Jesus says to his Father, "Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
Hence the necessity of our being improved in knowledge: hence the propriety of the gospel dispensation for this purpose: hence the propriety of the idea, my friends, that the nature of our heavenly Father is to advance his offspring man, in the knowledge of himself.
A thought strikes your humble servant, which must not be passed over. There has been a doctrine long promulgated, that there is a time coming, when God will not allow the ignorant an opportunity to learn-when he will not allow his creature the means of education-when he will not allow his moral being an opportunity to advance in knowledge and wisdom. My friends, whether this idea is in the least accordant with the nature of God-with the nature of his goodness-with the nature of his wisdom, you can judge as well as I.
Thirdly. I have another answer to the question under consideration-" What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?" I have an answer now to give you, perfectly sufficient if I had named nothing else. The answers I have given you, I believe you will not say are unreasonable or inapplicable. They are perfectly reasonable. Independent of them, however, there is another answer-one which is in
perfect accordance with the others, and which of itself is entirely sufficient. What is that? It is that which we predicate of a number of passages in Scripture, particularly the testimony of St. Paul when at Athens. Before the court of Athens, he gave a decisive answer to the question now under consideration-he took advantage of the light and wisdom which God had given the Grecian poets, and said, "For in him we live, and move, and have our being as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring."
My friends, is man the offspring of God? Is man the child of God? It is answer enough, why God is mindful of man. For this I can appeal to your feelings, your senses, and your understanding. Where is the parent who is not mindful of his children? And how perfectly natural it is, that the parent should be mindful of his offspring! There is that relation between the parent and child, which constitutes the propriety of the mindfulness of the parent towards the child. This, my hearers, is perfectly in unison with the other answers I have given you, and adds largely to their importance. Man being considered an intellectual being, capable of mental improvement, the Almighty must take a delight in advancing his knowledge and wisdom as far as it is capable of being advanced-added to this, he is considered as the offspring and very child of God, which forms the answer to the question, why God is mindful of us.
I will indulge the objector, for a moment, in his opinion. It will strike him that we ought not to style man the offspring of God in his natural state -but he must become a regenerated being-he must be changed from his natural to a spiritual state, before he can be justly called the offspring of God