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mode or circumstance of being; and therefore the dispensation of existence in various modes was wholly at the pleasure of the Creator; and none has the right petulantly to say to him, “Why am I thus ?" It was also wise; being necessary to variety, as variety is necessary to perfection.. We see, therefore, in this vast mass of created beings, unorganized matter without life; matter
; organized, as in vegetables, with life, but without sensation; and, in the inferior animals, with life, sense, and a portion of knowledge, but without reason. But in man, the scale rises unspeakably higher; - apd his endowments are extended beyond mere animal life and sensation, however delicate and varied, and beyond instinct, whatever that mysterious power may be, to a rational soul, to deep and various mental affections, and to immortality itself. Here, then, we see him magnified. Amidst all the beings which surround us in this visible universe, he alone is capable of surveying the whole with thought and reflection ; of tracing the Author of the whole work, and marking the display of his perfections; of yielding to him adoration and homage; of sanctifying the varied scene to moral uses; or of improving his capacity ;-and he alone is susceptible of the sentiment of religion. And as God has thus
magnified” him, he has also “set his heart upon him.” Man is the only visible creature in the heavens, and in the earth, which God, in the proper sense of the word, could love ; for no creature is capable of being loved but one which is also capable of reciprocal knowledge, regard, and intercourse. Other things might be approved and pronounced “very good ;" but man alone was loved. He was the only being, with whom the Maker of all could hold intercourse. Him, therefore, he admitted into fellowship; with him he conversed thought to thought, and made his presence vital and interiorly sensible to him
; delighting in him, and teaching him to delight in God. The same regards he has to us, though fallen; and, by methods we shall afterwards mention, still seeks man as his beloved son, invites him to his forgiving bosom, and makes the human heart his favoured and his chosen temple.
2. God has “magnified” man by the variety, and the superior nature, of the pleasures of which he has made him capable.
His are the pleasures of CONTEMPLATION. These the inferior animals have not. No subjects but such as are urged upon them by present necessity engage their thoughts. Their view of present things is also limited. The most splendid scenes of nature are thrown around them without arousing attention, or awakening taste, and the power of comparison. The past would seem to be a perfect blank to them; the future derives no light from the analogies which observation and experience furnish to man, and by which its gloom is somewhat broken. Moral subjects and moral actions, which furnish to us so inexhaustible a source of thought, are to them unknown; nor is it indicated by any of the phenomena which those that approach nearest to intellectual character exhibit, that the cause of any thing whatever is with them a matter of the least curiosity. All these are the subjects of human contemplation. As far as we can perceive, they are also inexhaustible; and the powers which we may apply to them are capable of unmeasurable enlargement. From this wondrous capacity arises a pleasure as copious as it is rich and invigorating, whenever the
choice of subjects is worthy, and our train of thinking well laid. The deep and continued abstractions of profound genius; the ardour and intensity of the poet; the patient labour of the inventor of useful or curious machines; the command which books and conversation exercise over intellectual men,prove the vigour of the pleasure which arises from well-directed mental exercises; and in all this the benevolence of God is affectingly manifested. He has “taught us to know ;" and has opened to us the felicity of knowing; a felicity to which the pleasures of sense, though they also are proofs of his benevolence, bear no comparison, either in loftiness or duration. In the one we have a pleasure in common with all animal natures; in the other we share the felicities of angels, and the blessedness of God himself.
His are the pleasures of DEVOTION. And can it be rationally denied that devotion is the source of even a still higher pleasure than knowledge ? Does it arise from awe and reverence of the Divine Majesty ? if a sense of our reconciliation to God accompany it, it is the awe of bending and silent seraphs, which gives depth and richness to the joys of the spirit, but is not inconsistent with them. Does it express itself in praise for mercies? it is gratitude directed to the highest Benefactor, and called into liveliest exercise by the magnificence of his mercies; and gratitude is a pleasurable emotion, and the more so as it is more intense. Thus it affected the mind of David, -" How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” Is the devotion private? then intercourse with God is the intercourse of friendship, rendered more tender and confiding by a filial confidence;-every burden is discharged, every wish freely expressed, and the soul's peace is fed and constantly guarded by a confidential correspondence. Does the devotional principle seek expression in the courts of the house of our God? new circumstances are added to deepen the impression, and enlarge the joy. With “a multitude” of consentaneous
" hearts we“ keep holiday;" with them we joy to acknowledge and proclaim the God we love before a forgetful world; we have a sense of delightful communion with the church on earth, wherever its members are found, and with the redeemed and angelic throngs in heaven. The calm Sabbath is at once "a day honourable and full of delights,” and a pleasing emblem of cessation from earthly cares, and of those exclusive, hallowed, and spiritual employments which are reserved for the spirits of just men made perfect.
His are the pleasures of SYMPATHY and BENEVOLENCE; and to man they are peculiar. No inferior nature, however near its apparent approach to him, is capable of them. It is a source of enjoyment, paradoxical as it may appear on a superficial view, to feel that we can weep with them that weep;" and thus ally ourselves to the common nature, and the common lot of man. Even our most painful sympathies for others prepare the heart to receive direct consolation itself, by the sensibility from which they flow, and which they call into exercise, and preserve susceptible.
The spring of benevolence is thus opened; the stream flows whenever its refreshment can be imparted; and from thence arises the satisfaction of doing good to the bodies and to the souls of men; the joy of instructing the ignorant, of recovering the lost, of guarding the feeble, of protecting the innocent, and of giving impulse to institutions of usefulness, and vigour to great plans for the benefit of nations, and the whole race of man itself.
His are the pleasures of HOPE. These, too, are not only his in a more high and excellent sense, but they are his exclusively. Nothing but man looks beyond the present, and the glow of hope was reserved to warm his bosom alone. How great is the exuberance of the divine goodness to us in this respect. Many of the blessings which God hath designed for us are known; and by anticipation they are tasted beforehand, and are thus many times enjoyed. If we are the objects of his favour, the future is ever brightening to the eye of meditation. Our steps shall be guided by an infallible counsel; our good and our evil shall be distributed with kind and wise parental regard; firmness supplied by him shall raise us above our trials, and victory crown our conflicts. Another world is enlightened by its own peculiar glories; and presents the glorified body, the spirit in immediate union with God, the absence of all evil, and the consummation of all the good enjoyed in this present life : and though there are objects of hope which are unknown, because “it doth not yet appear what we shall be,” yet this only heightens the emotion; the good towards which it reaches is unbounded, and ineffable ; it surpasses
; thought, and escapes the combining power of the imagination itself: it is unknown, because it transcends, not because it is unreal ; and this indefinite good embodies itself, in order that it may seized by hope, in some form of expression as indefinite as itself, but which suggests the loftiest, deepest, amplest thoughts of a myssterious glory and blessedness; it doth not appear what we shall
we shall be like him, FOR WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS.” These observations afford a sufficient answer to those who would degrade man; shame him out of his confidence in his Maker, by instituting a comparison between him and the vastness of inanimate nature; and thus endeavour to overwhelm him, by a sense of his individual insignificance. But extend the limits of the material universe as you may; make every star a sun, and
be, but i
every sun the centre of an expansive system of secondary luminaries, sweeping immeasurable spaces with their orbits; what is there in all this parade and pomp of amplification to lower, in the smallest possible degree, the sentiment of the text, and to weaken its delightful and reviving impression upon our minds ? This universe of material things cannot think; no sensation thrills through any part of it; it is totally unconscious of itself. The sun knows not his own splendour, nor the lightnings their force, nor the air its refreshing qualities. The earthly world has no communion with God, nor God with it. It yields to his hand without perception; it obeys without a principle of choice. It was not made for its own sake, but for the sake of that very being who can think, and feel, and adore ;-the sun to warm, the earth to sustain and feed, the air to refresh him; it has beauty for his eye, and music for his ear, and grandeur to elevate and fill his spirit
, and curious contrivances and phenomena of power and majesty, to lead his thoughts to the wondrous Artificer, and to prostrate his affections in his presence, under the weight of joy and awe. Let infidelity contemptuously display her planets, and their spacious sweeps; we show the being who enumerates the objects with which they are filled, marks their wondrous concatenation, and their series of secondary causes and effects, exults in their light, meditates in their darkness, measures their orbits, tracks them in their courses, connects them all with God their Maker, makes them subservient to morals, religion, devotion, hope, and confidence, and takes up, at every new discovery, the song of the morning stars ---the angelwitnesses of the birth of material nature, who sang together when the laying of the foundations of the earth presented a new and heretofore unconceived manifestation of the wisdom, power, and bounty of the Godhead. Which, we ask, is the greater,-the single being, whether man or angel, who sees, and knows, and admires, and is instructed by this dread magnificence of nature; or that nature itself, which knows neither that it is magnificent, nor that it exists at all? The argument is turned upon the objector, and the greatness of nature only proves the greatness of man.
And suppose this vast assemblage of worlds to be inhabited by beings as rational as ourselves, what does this avail to prove us "insects” and “reptiles,-" the rank which the ambition of infidelity would assign to man? It is asked, indeed, what are we among so many? The answer is, just what we should be if we existed alone,--the same rational, sentient, improveable, immortal beings, whom God has “magnified," and on whom " he has set his heart.” Numbers can have no tendency to lower the individual; nor many races of spiritual beings, to lower each separate race. Holiness is not less valuable to me, as the source of peace,
and hope, and confidence, because millions are holy; nor sin less destructive and painful, if millions have caught the infection. Is a father's love, or a mother's tenderness, diminished because the
family is numerous ? And yet some such monstrous supposition must be assumed before the conclusions of this heartless, godless, and hopeless philosophy could be established.
In the rank, then, and supereminence of man, we may justly say, that "the gentleness of God hath made him great ;” and his delight in him is such that he has made him deathless. Every material object changes; even animals which have a portion of mind, die; "the spirit of a beast goeth downward;" but the spirit
goeth upward” to him that made it, to rest in his bosom, and to abide in his presence. How great a proof is immortality that God “hath set his heart” upon us ! He would not lose us by the extinction of our being; and 10 that spirit which God hath made, and from which he will never withdraw the communion of his presence and love, the very words may be applied, which so strikingly characterize his own immortality, -" These shall perish; but thou remainest : and these all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."
3. The text receives its most striking illustration from the conduct of God to man considered as a sinner. If under this character we have still been loved; if still, notwithstanding ingratitude and rebellion, we are loved, then in a most emphatic sense, in a sense which we cannot adequately conceive or express, God hath set his heart” upon us.
We must not hide it from you, that all those capacities and endowments of a spiritual and immortal nature to which we have just adverted, may become the bane and curse of all, and have actually become a terrible inheritance to many. A rational nature is capable of evil, and, being liable to evil, is liable to punishment. We may speculate on the origin of evil, on moral liberty, necessity, and other similar subjects as we may ; but the awful fact remains the same,-we are thus liable. This seems to arise out of our freedom of choice, without which our nature must have been constituted essentially different, and, it would seem also, greatly inferior. No rational creature perishes but by his own fault; but he may perish. As to man the case is determined, the line has been passed; he has fallen, he is under wrath, every mouth is stopped, and the whole world is become guilty before God. Here, then, the doctrine of the text comes forth in all its tenderness. We have two facts before us;-the human race has become liable to the penalty of sin, to all the miseries which a great and an immortal nature can suffer; and yet because God baih “set his heart” upon him, the whole of ihis terrible punishment may be remitted, and a restoration to grace and felicity be attained. How is this? Mark the means of our reconciliation to God, and mark the result ; " and at each step let higher wonder rise.”
REFLECT UPON THE MEANS.