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atmosphere of man's understanding, and lead to calm contemplation, and the knowledge of God.
So, from the “ blindness” of his nature, man is not so likely to be impressed with the idea of his own insignificance, and the consciousness of the little he is able to know, until the vast, and may we not add, the awful prospect of the “ Ocean of Truth,” has been contemplated as it extends itself before him.
It is he who has gazed upon that expansewho has pored upon the “ volume of the creation” — who has wooed truth with his whole being :it is he who can understand the confessions of Solomon; who can see how all that we know is— that we know nothingwhy they who may be said to have attained the greatest knowledge have ever been the foremost to avow their ignorance; and how it is that, “ If any man think that he knoweth ANY. THING, he knoweth NOTHING yet as he ought to know.”
To conclude—and I entreat you to notice and endeavour to remember this:- If the wisest of men have ever acknowledged their ignorance : if modesty, humility, and love to all mankind, be the inseparable characteristics of the highest wisdom: how much ought we to labour to put on that spirit, without which, our world-sung doings profit us nothing !*"--we, who have nought wherewith to crest and plume ourselves ; nought to authorize our censures, or usher on our cruelties --but IGNORANCE-EXTREME !|
* “ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." i Cor. xiii. 1–3.
+ For if the wisest of men know comparatively nothing, they who possess less knowledge know comparatively less than nothing. See Appendix L.
1 Cor. xiii. 12.
“Now we see through a glass darkly."
1... By comparing the sources of human knowledge with the means we have of attaining knowledge, we form an idea sufficiently definite to draw the greatest practical inferences from it, relative to the proportion which human knowledge bears to the sources from whence it is derived.
Having, then, for the purpose of arriving at practical inferences, drawn such a comparison, let us consider what is the first conclusion we come to.
It is this :—that, entertaining a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, an all-wise, all-powerful, and benevolent God, the creator and preserver of all things, “the invisible things of whom, from the creation of the world, have been clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.” Entertaining a rational conviction on this fundamental point; observing, and being fully conscious at the same time of the depravity of human nature; and being persuaded of the reasonableness of seeking the remedy for that depravity from God; knowing also that “he that cometh to God must” not only “ believe that he is,” but must also entertain conviction that God will reward “ those who diligently seek him.” Having, by patient induction, arrived at these earliest conclusions in our religious reflections; and, on the ground of these conclusions, having resolved to seek after God* with all our hearts, and all our minds, all our souls, and all our strength. The following is a most important inference, which we draw from our reflections on the nature and the extent of human knowledge:
That, as we so hardly guess aright of things which are upon earth, and with so much labour find out THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE US; how little probability is there of our being able to “SEARCH OUT” the things that are in heaven!"of
* See Acts xvii. 27.
and reveals the terrestrial globe, but conceals the stars : hence men fall who seek to fly up to the secrets of the Deity by the waxen wings of the senses.
11... And, therefore, when the tidings reach us that God has provided a remedy for our moral corruption :
That there is a book, by Him caused to have been written, for the purpose of declaring to man the means prepared in the counsels of his Maker whereby man may be restored from his misery and depravity :—That the reception of this word of God is by God required, ere that word can be available towards man's salvation; i. e. that the belief of what God has declared, is by Him made a requisite qualification for man's experience of his peculiar mercy :- When we hear it pronounced that Almighty God pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel :
We are in possession of a most important induction, which we draw from former conclusions, viz. that we cannot reasonably expect that Almighty God, in a dispensation new to us, [as not having yet applied ourselves to the due contemplation of it,] should assume a new law in His providence: and remove every limit from our intellectual sight.
It appears that we could not, in reason, entertain this expectation.