« AnteriorContinuar »
and thus come back to the conclusion, that the Eternal, and to arrest the hand, and to after all, the redemption of our species is defeat the purposes of Omniptence;- then but an ephemeral doing in the history of let the material prize of victory be insigintelligent nature; that it leaves the Author nificant as it may, it is the victory in itself, of it room for all the accomplishments of a which upholds the impulse of this keen wise and equal administration; and not to and stimulated rivalry. If, by the sagacity mention, that even during the progress of of one infernal mind, a single planet has it, it withdraws not a single thought or a been seduced from its allegiance, and been single energy of his from other fields of brought under the ascendency of him, who creation; that there remains time enough is called in Scripture, “the god of this to him for carrying round the visitations of world," and if the errand on which our as striking and as peculiar a tenderness, over Redeemer came, was to destroy the works the whole extent of his great and universal of the devil—then let this planet have all monarchy?
the littleness which astronomy has assigned It might serve still further to incorporate to it-call it what it is, one of the smaller the concerns of our planet with the general | islets which float on the ocean of vacancy; history of moral and intelligent beings, to it has become the theatre of such a compestate, not merely the knowledge which tition, as may have all the desires and all they take of us, and not merely the com- the energies of a divided universe embarked passionate anxiety which they feel for us; upon it. It involves in it other objects than but to state the importance derived to our the single recovery of our species. It decides world from its being the actual theatre of a higher questions. It stands linked with the keen and ambitious contest among the up- supremacy of God, and will at length demonper orders of creation. You know that strate the way in which he inflicts chastisehow, for the possession of a very small and ment and overthrow upon all his enemies. insulated territory, the mightiest empires I know not if our rebellious world be the of the world would have put forth all their only strong-hold which Satan is possessed resources; and on some field of mustering of, or if it be but the single post of an excompetition have monarchs met, and em-tended warfare, that is now going on bebarked for victory, all the pride of a coun-tween the powers of light and of darkness. try's talent, and all the flower and strength But be it the one or the other, the parties of a country's population. The solitary are in array, and the spirit of the contest is island, around which so many fleets are ho- in full energy, and the honour of mighty vering, and on the shores of which so many combatants is at stake; and let us therefore armed men are descending, as to an arena cease to wonder that our humble residence of hostility, may well wonder at its own has been made the theatre of so busy an unlooked for estimation. But other princi-operation, or that the ambition of loftier naples are animating the battle, and the glory tures has here put forth all its desire and of nations is at stake; and a much higher all its strenuousness. result is in the contemplation of each party, This unfolds to us another of those high than the gain of so humble an acquirement and extensive bearings, which the moral as the primary object of the war; and ho-history of our globe may have on the nour, dearer to many a bosom than exist-system of God's universal administration. ence, is now the interest on which so much Were an enemy to touch the shore of this blood and so much treasure is expended; high-minded country, and to occupy so and the stirring spirit of emulation has now much as one of the humblest villages, and got hold of the combatants; and thus, amid there to seduce the natives from their lorall the insignificancy, which attaches to the alty, and to sit down along with them in material origin of the contest, do both the entrenched defiance to all the threats, and eagerness and the extent of it, receive from to all the preparations of an insulted emthe constitution of our nature, their most pire-oh! how would the cry of wounded full and adequate explanation.
pride resound throughout all the ranks and Now, is this be also the principle of high-varieties of our mighty population; and er natures, if, on the one hand God be jea- this very movement of indignancy would lous of his honour, and on the other, there reach the king upon his throne; and circube proud and exalted spirits, who scowl de- late among those who stood in all the granfiance at him and at his monarchy;--is, on deur of chieftainship around him; and be the side of heaven, there be an angelic host heard to thrill in the eloquence of Parliarallying around the standard of loyalty, ment; and spread so resistless an appeal to who flee with alacrity at the bidding of the a nation's honour, or a nation's patriotism, Almighty, who are devoted to his glory, that the trumpet of war would summon to and feel a rejoicing interest in the evolution its call all the spirit and all the willing enof his counsels; and if, on the side of hell, ergies of our kingdom; and rather than sit there be a sullen front of resistance, a hate down in patient endurance under the burnand malice inextinguishable, an unequalled ing disgrace of such a violation, would the daring of revenge to baffle the wisdom of I whole of its strength and resources be embarked upon the contest; and never, never ment of earth, there are certain principles would we let down our exertions and our which cannot be compromised; and certain sacrifices, till either our deluded country- maxims of administration which must men were reclaimed, or till the whole of never be departed from; and a certain chathis offence were by one righteous act of racter of majesty and of truth, on which vengeance, swept away altogether from the the taint even of the slightest violation can face of the territory it deformed.
never be permitted ; and a certain authority The Bible is always most full and most which must be upheld by the immutability explanatory on those points of revelation in of all its sanctions, and the unerring fulfilwhich men are personally interested. But ment of all its wise and righteous proclait does at times offer a dim transparency, mations. All this was in the mind of the through which may be caught a partial archangel, and a gleam of malignant joy view of such designs and of such enter shot athwart him as he conceived his proprises as are now afloat among the upper ject for hemming our unfortunate species orders of intelligence. It tells us of a within the bound of an irrecoverable dimighty struggle that is now going on for a lemma; and as surely as sin and holiness moral ascendency over the hearts of this could not enter into fellowship, so surely World's population. It tells us that our did he think, that if man were seduced to race were seduced from their allegiance to disobedience, would the truth, and the jusGod, by the plotting sagacity of one who tice, and the immutability of God, lay their stands pre-eminent against him, among the insurmountable barriers on the path of his hosts of a very wide and extended rebellion. future acceptance. It tells us of the Captain of Salvation, who It was only in that plan of recovery of undertook to spoil him of this triumph, and which Jesus Christ was the author and the throughout the whole of that magnificent finisher, that the great adversary of our train of prophecy which points to him, does species met with a wisdom which overit describe the work he had to do as a con- matched him. It is true, that he reared, in flict, in which strength was to be put forth, the guilt to which he seduced us, a mighty and painful suffering to be endured, and obstacle in the way of this lofty undertaking. fury to be poured upon enemies, and prin- But when the grand expedient was ancipalities to be dethroned, and all those nounced, and the blood of that atonement, toils, and dangers, and difficulties to be by which sinners are brought nigh, was borne, which strewed the path of perse-willingly offered to be shed for us, and the verance that was to carry him to victory, eternal Son, to carry this mystery into ac
But it is a contest of skill, as well as of complishment, assumed our nature—then strength and of influence. There is the was the prince of that mighty rebellion, in earnest competition of angelic faculties em- which the fate and the history of our world barked on this struggle for ascendency. are so deeply implicated, in visible alarm And while in the Bible there is recorded, for the safety of all his acquisitions :-nor (faintly and partially, we admit,) the deep can the record of this wondrous history and insidious policy that is practised on carry forward its narrative, without furthe one side; we are also told, that on the nishing some transient glimpses of a subplan of our world's restoration, there are lime and a superior warfare, in which, for lavished all the riches of an unsearchable the prize of a spiritual dominion over our wisdom upon the other. It would appear, species, we may dimly perceive the conthat for the accomplishment of his purpose, test of loftiest talent, and all the designs the great enemy of God and of man plied of heaven in behalf of man, met at every his every calculation ; and brought all the point of their evolution, by the counterdevices of his deep and settled malignity to workings of a rival strength and a rival sabear upon our species; and thought that gacity. could he involve us in sin, every attribute We there read of a struggle which the of the Divinity stood staked to the banish-Captain of our salvation had to sustain, ment of our race from beyond the limits of when the lustre of the Godhead lay obscuthe empire of righteousness; and thus did red, and the strength of its omnipotence he practise his invasions on the moral ter- was mysteriously weighed down under the ritory of the unfallen; and glorying in his infirmities of our nature-how Satan singled success, did he fancy and feel that he had him out, and dared him to the combat of achieved a permanent separation between the wilderness-how all his wiles and all the God who sitteth in heaven, and one at his influences were resisted-how he left least of the planetary mansions which he our Saviour in all the triumphs of unsubhad reared.
dued loyalty-how the progress of this The errand of the Saviour was to restore mighty achievement is marked by the every this sinful world, and have its people re- character of a conflict-how many of the admitted within the circle of heaven's pure Gospel miracles wcre so many direct in. and righteous family. But in the govern-fringements on the power and empire of ment of heaven, as well as in the govern-la great spiritual rebellion-how in one
precious season of gladness among the sewing us to explain, why on the salvation of which brightened the dark career of our our solitary species so much attention apSaviour's humiliation, he rejoiced in spirit, pears to have been concentred, and so much and gave as the cause of it to his disciples, energy appears to have been expended. that " he saw Satan fall like lightning from But it would appear from the records of heaven”-how the momentary advantages inspiration, that the contest is not yet ended; that were gotten over him, are ascribed that on the one hand the Spirit of God is to the agency of this infernal being, who employed in making for the truths of entered the heart of Judas, and tempted the Christianity, a way into the human heart, disciple to betray his Master and his Friend. with all the power of an effectual demonI know that I am treading on the confines stration ; that on the other there is a spirit of mystery. I cannot tell what the battle now abroad, which worketh in the children that he fought. I cannot compute the ter- of disobedience; that on the one hand, the ror or the strength of his enemies. I can- Holy Ghost is calling men out of darkness not say, for I have not been told, how it into the marvellous light of the Gospel; was that they stood in marshalled and and that on the other hand, he who is styled hideous array against him:-nor can I the god of this world, is blinding their measure how great the firm daring of his hearts, lest the light of the glorious gospel soul, when he tasted that cup in all its bit-of Christ should enter into them; that they terness, which he prayed might pass away who are under the dominion of the one, from him; when with the feeling that he are said to have overcome, because greater was forsaken by his God, he trod the wine- is he that is in them than he that is in the press alone; when he entered single-handed world; and that they who are under the upon that dreary period of agony, and in- dominion of the other, are said to be the sult, and death, in which from the garden children of the devil, and to be under his to the cross, he had to bear the burden of snare, and to be taken captive by him at a world's atonement. I cannot speak in his will. How these respective powers do my own language, but I can say in the lan-operate, is one question. The fact of their guage of the Bible, of the days and the nights operation, is another. We abstain from the of this great enterprise, that it was the sea-former. We attach ourselves to the latter, son of the travail of his soul; that it was and gather from it, that the prince of dark the hour and the power of darkness; that ness still walketh abroad among us; that the work of redemption was a work accom- he is still working his insidious policy, if panied by the effort, and the violence, and not with the vigorous inspiration of hope, the fury of a combat; by all the arduous at least with the frantic energies of despair; ness of a battle in its progress, and all the that while the overtures of reconciliation glories of a victory in its termination; and are made to circulate through the world, after he called out that it was finished, after he is plying all his devices to deafen and he was loosed from the prison-house of the to extinguish the impression of them; or, grave, after he had ascended up on high, in other words, while a process of invitation he is said to have made captivity captive : and of argument has emanated from heaand to have spoiled principalities and pow-ven, for reclaiming men to their loyaltyers; and to have seen his pleasure upon the process is resisted at all its points, by his enemies; and to have made a show of one who is putting forth his every expethem openly.
dient, and wielding a mysterious ascendI will not affect a wisdom above that ency, to seduce and to enthral them. which is written, by fancying such details To an infidel ear, all this carries the of this warfare as the Bible has not laid be- sound of something wild and visionary fore me. But surely it is no more than along with it; but though only known being wise up to that which is written, to through the medium of revelation, after it assert, that in achieving the redemption of is known, who can fail to recognize its harour world, a warfare had to be accomplish- mony with the great lineaments of human ed; that upon this subject there was among experience? Who has not felt the workthe higher provinces of creation, the keen ings of a rivalry within him, between the and the animated conflict of opposing in-power of conscience and the power of terests; that the result of it involved some-| temptation ? Who does not remember thing grander and more affecting, than even those seasons of retirement, when the calthe fate of this world's population ; that it culations of eternity had gotten a momentdecided a question of rivalship between the ary command over the heart; and time, righteous and everlasting Monarch of uni- with all its interests and all its vexations, versal being, and the prince of a great and had dwindled into insignificancy before widely extended rebellion, of which I nei-them? And who does not remember, how ther know how vast is the magnitude, nor upon his actual engagement with the obhow important and diversified are the bear-jects of time, they resumed a control, as ings; and thus do we gather from this con- great and as omnipotent, as if all the imsideration, another distinct argument, help-1 portance of eternity adhered to them-how
they emitted from them such an impression the affections, that man, become the poor upon his feelings, as to fix and to fascinate Slave of its idolatries, and its charms, puts the the whole man into a subserviency to their authority of conscience, and the warnings of influence-how in spite of every lesson of the Word of God, and the offered instigations their worthlessness, brought home to him at of the Spirit of God, and all the lessons of every turn by the rapidity of the seasons, and calculation, and the wisdom even of his own the vicissitudes of life, and the ever-moving sound and sober experience, away from him. progress of his own earthly career, and the But this wondrous contest will come to a visible ravages of death among his acquaint-close. Some will return to their loyalty, ances around him, and the desolations of and others will keep by their rebellion; and, his family, and the constant breaking up in the day of the winding up of the drama of his system of friendships, and the affect of this world's history, there will be made ing spectacle of all that lives and is in mo-manisest to the myriads of the various ortion, withering and hastening to the grave; ders of creation, both the mercy and vindi-oh! how comes it that in the face of all cated majesty of the Eternal. Oh! on that this experience, the whole elevation of pur-day how vain will this presumption of the pose, conceived in the hour of his better Infidel astronomer appear, when the affairs understanding, should be dissipated and of men come to be examined in the preforgotten ? Whence the might, and whence sence of an innumerable company; and the mystery of that spell, which so binds beings of loftiest nature are seen to crowd and so infatuates us to the world? What around the judgment-seat; and the Saviour prompts us so to embark the whole strength shall appear in our sky, with a celestial of our eagerness and of our desires in pursuit retinue, who have come with him from afar of interests which we know a few little to witness all his doings, and to take a deep years will bring to utter annihilation? Who and solemn interest in all his dispensations; is it that imparts to them all the charm and and the destiny of our species, whom the all the colour of an unfailing durability ? Infidel would thus detach, in solitary inWho is it that throws such an air of stability significance, from the universe altogether, over these earthly tabernacles, as makes shall be found to merge and to mingle with them look to the fascinated eye of man like higher destinies--the good to spend their resting places for eternity? Who is it that eternity with angels—the bad to spend their so pictures out the objects of sense, and so eternity with angels—the former to be remagnifies the range of their future enjoy- admitted into the universal family of God's ment, and so dazzles the fond and deceived obedient worshippers--the latter to share imagination, that in looking onward through in the everlasting pain and ignominy of the our earthly career, it appears like the vista, defeated hosts of the rebellious-the people or the perspective of innumerable ages ? of this planet to be implicated, throughout He who is called the god of this world. He the whole train of their never-ending hiswho can dress the idleness of its waking tory, with the higher ranks, and the more dreams in the garb of reality. He who can extended tribes of intelligence; and thus it poar a seducing brilliancy over the pano- is that the special administration we now rama of its fleeting pleasures and its vain (live under, shall be seen to harmonize in its anticipations. He who can turn it into an bearings, and to accord in its magnificence, instrument of deceitfulness; and make it with all that extent of nature and of her terwield such an absolute ascendency over all /ritories, which modern science has unfolded.
DISCOURSE VII. On the slender Influence of mere Taste and Sensibility in Matters of Religion.
* And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one who hath a pleasant voice, and can play well
on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not."-Ezekiel xxxiii. 32.
You easily understand how a taste for the delights of enthusiasm, as they sit in music is one thing, and a real submission to crowded assemblage around the deep and the influence of religion is another ;-how solemn oratorio ;-aye, and whether it be the ear may be regaled by the melody of the humility of penitential feeling, or the sound, and the heart may utterly refuse the rapture of grateful acknowledgment, or the proper impression of the sense that is con- sublime of a contemplative piety, or the asveyed by it; how the sons and daughterspiration of pure and of holy purposes, which of the world may, with their every affection breathes throughout the words of the perdevoted to its perishable vanities, inhale all ! formance, and gives to it all the spirit and all the expression by which it is pervaded ;snow; and on the day of reckoning, this is it is a very possible thing, that the morat, the ground upon which your religion will and the rational, and the active man, may be judged then; and that award is to be have given no entrance into his bosom for passed upon you, which will fix and perany of these sentiments; and yet so over- petuate your destiny for ever. You have a powered may he be, by the charm of the taste for music. This no more implies the vocal conveyance through which they are hold and the ascendency of religion over addressed to him, that he may be made to you, than that you have a taste for beautiful feel with such an emotion, and to weep scenery, or a taste for painting, or even a with such a tenderness, and to kindle with taste for the sensualities of epicurism. But such a transport, and to glow with such an music may be made to express the glov elevation, as may one and all carry upon and the movement of devotional feeling; them the semblance of sacredness.
and it is saying nothing to say that the But might not this semblance deceive heart of him who listens with a raptured him? Have you never heard any tell, and ear, is through the whole time of the perwith complacency too, how powerfully his formance, in harmony with such a more devotion was awakened by an act of at-ment? Why, it is saying nothing to the tendance on the oratorio-how his heart, purpose. Music may lift the inspiring melted and subdued by the influence of note of patriotism; and the inspiration may harmony, did homage to all the religion of be felt; and it may thrill over the recesses which it was the vehicle--how he was so of the soul, to the mustering up of all its moved and overborne, that he had to shed energies; and it may sustain to the last cothe tears of contrition, and to be agitated by dence of the song, the firm nerve and purthe terrors of judgment, and to receive an pose of intrepidity; and all this may be awe upon his spirit of the greatness and the realized upon him, who in the day of battle, majesty of God-and that wrought up to and upon actual collision with the dangers the lofty pitch of eternity, he could look of it, turns out to be a coward. And music down upon the world, and by the glance may lull the feelings into unison with piety; of one commanding survey, pronounce and stir up the inner man to lofty determiupon the littleness and the vanity of all its nations; and so engage for a time his affecconcerns? Oh! it is very, very possible that tions, that, as if weaned from the dust, they all this might thrill upon the ears of the promise an immediate entrance on some man, and circulate a succession of solemn great and elevated career, which may carry and affecting images around his fancy-and him through his pilgrimage superior to all yet that essential principle of his nature, the sordid and grovelling enticements that upon which the practical influence of Chris- abound in it. But he turns him to the world, tianity turns, might have met with no reach- and all this glow abandons him; and the ing and no subduing efficacy whatever to words which he hath heard, he doeth them arouse it. He leaves the exhibition, as dead not; and in the hour of temptation he turas in trespasses and sins as he came to it. out to be a deserter from the law of alleConscience has not awakened upon him. giance; and the test I have now specified Repentance has not turned him. Faith has looks hard upon him, and discriminates not made any positive lodgement within him amid all the parading insignificance of him of her great and her constraining reali- his fine but fugitive emotions, to be the ties. He speeds him back to his business subject both of present guilt and of future and to his family, and there he plays off vengeance. the old man in all the entireness of his The faithful application of this test would uncrucified temper, and of his obstinate put to flight a host of other delusions. It worldliness, and of all those earthly and may be carried round among all those phe unsanctified affections, which are found to nomena of human character, where there is cleave to him with as great tenacity as ever. the exhibition of something associated with He is really and experimentally the very religion, but which is not religion itself. same man as before-and all those sensi- An exquisite relish for music is no test of bilities which seemed to bear upon them the influence of Christianity. Neither are so much of the air and unction of heaven, many other of the exquisite sensibilities of are found to go into dissipation, and be for our nature. When a kind mother closes gotten with the loveliness of the song. the eyes of her expiring babe, she is thrown
Amid all that illusion which such mo-into a flood of sensibility, and soothing to mentary visitations of seriousness and of her heart are the sympathy and the prayers sentiment throw around the character of of an attending minister. When a gathering man, let us never lose sight of the test, that neighbourhood assemble to the funeral of “by their fruits ye shall know them," It is an acquaintance, one pervading sense of not coming up to this test, that you hear regret and tenderness sits on the face of the and are delighted. It is that you hear and company; and the deep silence, broken only do. This is the ground upon which the by the solemn utterance of the man of reality of your religion is discriminated God, carries a kind of pleasing religiousness