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the divine Essence, it is to make you conceive, that all which is in God, if I may so speak, is interested for our salvation, and to enkindle our efforts by the thought. If we say, that the Word was made flesh, and that the Son of God expired on the cross, it is to make you abhor sin by the idea of what it cost him to expiate it. If we say, that grace operates in the heart, and that in the work of our salvation, grace forms the design and the execution, it is with this inference, that we should "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." If we teach even the doctrines of God's decrees, it is "to make our calling sure," Phil. ii. 12; 1 Pet. i. 10.
IV. We have lastly said, that mysteries should render a religion doubtful, when we find a system, which on rejecting those mysteries, is exempt from greater difficulties than those we would attack. We make this remark as a compliment to unbelievers, and to the impure class of brilliant wits. When we have proved, reasoned, and demonstrated; when we have placed the arguments of religion in the clearest degree of evidence they can possibly attain: and when we would decide in favour of religion, they invariably insinuate, that "religion has its mysteries; that religion has its difficulties;" and they make these the apology of their unbelief.
I confess, this objection would have some colour, if there were any system, which on exempting us from the difficulties of religion, did not involve in still greater. And whenever they produce that system, we are ready to embrace it.
Associate all the difficulties of which we allow religion to be susceptible. Associate whatever is incomprehensible in the doctrine of the Trinity, and in the ineffable manner in which the three persons subsist, who are the object of our worship. Add thereto whatever is supernatural in the operations of the Holy Spirit, and in the mysterious methods he adopts to penetrate the heart. Neither forget the depths into which we are apparently cast by the doctrines of God's decrees, and make a complete code of the whole.
ficulties? Have rational men need to be convinced, that the mysteries of religion are infinitely more defensible than the mysteries of atheism.
Do you espouse the part of irreligion? Do you allow with Epicures, that there is a God; but that the sublimity of his Majesty obstructs his stooping to men, and the extension of his regards to our temples, and our altars? And is this the system which has no difficulties? How do you reply to the infinity of objections opposed to this system? How do you answer this argument, that God having not disdained to create mankind, it is inconceivable he should disdain to govern them? How do you reply to a second, the inconceivableness that a perfect being should form intelligences, and not prescribe their devotion to his glory? And what do you say to a third, that religion is completely formed, and fully proved in every man's conscience?
Do you take the part of denying a divine revelation? And is this the system which is exempt from difficulties? Can you really prove that our books were not composed by the authors to whom they are ascribed? Can you really prove that those men have not wrought miracles? Can you really prove that the Bible is not the book the most luminous, and the most sublime, that ever appeared on earth? Can you really prove, that fishermen, publicans, and tent-makers, and whatever was lowest among the mean populace of Judea; can you prove, that people of this description, have without divine assistance, spoken of the origin of the world; and of the perfections of God; of the nature of man, his constitution, and his duties, in a manner more grand, noble, and better supported than Plato, than Zeno, than Epicurus, and all the sublime geniuses, which render antiquity venerable, and which still fill the universe with their fame?
Do you espouse the cause of deism? Do you say with the Latitudinarian, that if there be a religion, it is not shut up in the narrow bounds which we prescribe? Do you maintain that all religions are indifferent? Do you give a false gloss to the apostle's words, that "in all nations he that feareth God is accepted of him?” Acts x. 35. And is this the system which is
To these difficulties which we avow, join all those we do not avow. Join all the pretexts you affect to find in the arguments which na-exempt from difficulties? How, superseding the ture affords of the being of a God, and the re-authority of the Bible, will you maintain this ality of a providence. Join thereto whatever principle? How will you maintain it against you shall find the most forcible against the au- the terrors God denounces against the base, thenticity of our sacred books, and what has "and the fearful," Rev. xxi. 8; against the inbeen thought the most plausible against the junction "to go out of Babylon; against the marks of Divine authority exhibited in those duty prescribed of confessing him in presence Scriptures. Join to these all the advantages of all men," Isa. xlviii. 20; Matt. x. 32; and presumed to be derived from the diversity of with regard to the fortitude he requires us to opinions existing in the Christian world, and in display on the rack, and when surrounded with all its sects which constantly attack one another. fire and fagots, and when called to brave them Make a new code of all these difficulties. for the sake of truth! How will you maintain Form a system of your own objections. Draw it against the care he has taken to teach you the conclusions from your own principles, and the truth without any mixture of lies? build an edifice of infidelity on the ruins of religion. But for what system can you decide which is not infinitely less supportable than religion?
Do you espouse that of atheism? Do you say, that the doctrine of the being of a God owes its origin to superstition and the fears of men? And is this the system which has no dif
Do you take the part of believing nothing? Do you conclude from these difficulties, that the best system is to have none at all. Obstinate Pyrrhonian, you are then resolved to doubt of all! And is this the system which is exempt from difficulties? When you shall be agreed with yourself; when you have conciliated your singular system with the convictions of your
mind, with the sentiments of your heart, and with the dictates of your conscience, then you shall see what we have to reply.
What then shall you do to find a light without darkness, and an evidence to your mind? Do you take the part of the libertine? Do you abandon to colleges the care of religion, and leaving the doctors to waste life deciding who is wrong, and who is right, are you determined as to yourself to rush head foremost into the world? Do you say with the profane, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?" Do you enjoy the present without pursuing uncertain rewards, and alarming your mind with fears of miseries which perhaps may never come? And is this the system destitute of mysteries? Is this the system preferred to what is said by our apostles, our evangelists, our doctors, our pastors, and by all the holy men God has raised up "for the perfecting of the saints, and for the work of the ministry?" But though the whole of your objections were founded; though the mysteries of the gospel were a thousand times more difficult to penetrate; though our knowledge were incomparably more circumscribed; and though religion should be infinitely less demonstrated than it is; should this be the part you ought to take? The sole probability of religion, should it not induce us, if not to believe it, yet at least, so to act, as if in fact we did believe it? And the mere alternative of an eternal happiness, or an eternal misery, should it not suffice to strict us within the limits of duty, and to regulate our life, in such sort, that if there be a hell, we may avoid its torments?
We conclude. Religion has its mysteries; we acknowledge it with pleasure. Religion has its difficulties; we avow it. Religion is shook (we grant this for the moment to unbelievers, though we detest it in our hearts,) religion is shook, and ready to fall by brilliant wits. But after all, the mysteries of the gospel are not of that cast which should render a religion doubt ful. But after all, Christianity all shook, all wavering, and ready to fall, as it may appear to the infidel, contains what is most certain, and the wisest part a rational man can take, is to adhere to it with an inviolable attachment.
We have elsewhere distinguished three faculties in the mind of man, or rather three classes of faculties which comprise whatever we know of this spirit; the faculty of thinking; the faculty of feeling; and the faculty of loving. Examine these three faculties, and you will be convinced that the mind of man is circumscribed within narrow bounds; they are so closely circumscribed, that while attentively contemplating a certain object, they cannot attend to any other.
You experience this daily with regard to the faculty of thinking. Some persons, I allow, extend attention much beyond common men; but in all it is extremely confined. This is so received an opinion, that we regard as prodigies of intellect, those who have the art of attending closely to two or three objects at once; or of dire-recting the attention, without a glance of the eye, on any game, apparently less invented to unbend than to exercise the mind. Meanwhile, this power is extremely limited in all men. If the mind can distinctly glance on two or three objects at once, the fourth or the fifth confounds it. Properly to study a subject, we must attend to that alone; be abstracted from all others, forgetful of what we do, and blind to what we see.
But how evident soever these arguments may be, and however strong this apology for the difficulties of religion may appear, there always remains a question on this subject, and indeed an important question, which we cannot omit resolving without leaving a chasm in this discourse. Why these mysteries? Why these shadows? And why this darkness? Does not the goodness of God engage to remove this stumbling-block, and to give us a religion radiant with truth, and destitute of any obscuring veil? There are various reasons, my brethren, which render certain doctrines of religion impenetrable to us.
it is not from their approbation that they derive their authority. Meanwhile, it is a felicity, we must confess, and an anticipation of the happy period when our faith shall be changed to sight, to find in sound reason the basis of all the grand truths religion reveals, and to convince ourselves by experience, that the more we know of man, the more we see that religion was made for man. Let us return to our first principle. The narrow limits of the human mind shall open one source of light on the subject we discuss; they shall convince us, that minds circumscribed, as ours, cannot before the time penetrate far into the adorable mysteries of faith.
The first argument of the weakness of our knowledge is derived from the limits of the human mind. It is requisite that you should favour me here with a little more of recollection than is usually bestowed on a sermon. It is not requisite to be a philosopher to become a Christian. The doctrines of our religion, and the precepts of our moral code, are sanctioned by the testimony of an infallible God: and not deriving their origin from the speculations of men,
The faculty of feeling is as circumscribed as that of thinking. One sensation absorbs or diminishes another. A wound received in the heat of battle; in the tumult, or in the sight of the general whose approbation we seek, is less acute than it would be on a different occasion. For the like reason the same pain we have borne during the day, is insupportable in the night. Violent anguish renders us insensible of a diminutive pain. Whatever diverts from a pleasing sensation diminishes the pleasure, and blunts enjoyment; and this is done by the reason already assigned; that while the faculty is attentive to one object, it is incapable of application to another.
It is the same with regard to the faculty of loving. It rarely happens that a man can indulge two or three leading passions at once: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." So is the assertion of Jesus Christ, who knew the human heart better than all the philosophers put together. The passion of avarice, for the most part, diminishes the passion of glory; and the passion of glory, diminishes that of avarice. It is the same with the other passions.
Besides, not only an object engrossing a faculty, obstructs its profound attention to any other object related to that faculty; but when a faculty is deeply engrossed by an object, all
others, if I may so speak, remain in solitude and slumber; the capacity of the soul being wholly absorbed. A man who concentrates himself in research, in the illustration of a difficulty, in the solution of a problem, in the contemplation of a combined truth; he loses for the moment, the faculty of feeling, and becomes insensible of sound, of noise, of light. A man, on the contrary, who freely abandons himself to a violent sensation, or whom God afflicts acutely, loses for the time, the faculty of thinking. Speak, reason, and examine; draw consequences, and all that is foreign to this point: he is no longer a thinking being; he is a feeling being, and wholly so. Thus the principle we establish is an indisputable axiom in the study of man, that the human mind is circumscribed, and inclosed in very narrow limits.
The relation of this principle to the subject we discuss, obtrudes itself on our regard. A slight reflection on the limits of the human mind will convince us, that men who make so slow a progress in abstruse science, can never fathom the deep mysteries of religion. And it is the more evident, as these limited faculties can never be wholly applied to the study of truth. There is no moment of life, in which they are not divided; there is no moment in which they are not engaged in the care of the body, in the recollection of some fugitive ideas, and on subjects which have no connexion with those to which we would direct our study.
A second reason of the limits of our knowledge arises from those very mysteries which excite obscurity, astonishment, and awe. What are those mysteries? Of what do they treat? They treat of what is the most elevated and sublime: they concern the essence of the Creator: they concern the attributes of the Supreme Being: they concern whatever has been thought the most immense in the mind of eternal wisdom: they concern the traces of that impetuous wind, "which blows where it listeth," and which moves in one moment to every part of the universe. And we, insignificant beings; we altogether obstructed, confounded, and absorbed, we affect an air of surprise because we cannot fathom the depths of those mysteries! It is not merely while on earth that we cannot comprehend those immensities; but we can never comprehend them in the other world; because God is always unlimited, always infinite, and always above the reach of circumscribed intelligences; and because we shall be always finite, always limited, always creatures circumscribed. Perfect knowledge belongs to God alone. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know?" Job xi. 7, 8. "Where wast thou when he laid the foundations of the earth? When he shut up the sea with doors? When he made the clouds the garments thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it. When he subjected it to his laws, and prescribed its barriers, and said, hitherto shalt thou come, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?" xxxviii. 4. 9-11. Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom, VOL. II.-46
and of the knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Rom. xi. 33-35. Let us adore a Being so immense; and let his incomprehensibility serve to give us the more exalted ideas of his grandeur; and seeing we can never know him to perfection, let us, at the least, form the noble desire of knowing him as far as it is allowable to finite intelligences. And as Manoah, who, after receiving the mysterious vision recorded Judges xiii. prayed the angel of the Lord, saying, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name;" and received the answer, "It is wonderful;" so should we say with this holy man, "I pray thee, tell me thy name," give me to know this "wonderful name." Let us say with Moses, "Lord, let me see thy glory," Exod. xxxiii. 18. And with the prophet, "Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may behold the marvels of thy law," Ps. cxix. 18.
The third cause of the obscurity of our knowledge is, that truths the most simple, and objects the least combined, have, however, certain depths and abysses beyond the reach of thought; because truths the most simple, and objects the least combined, have a certain tie with infinity, that they cannot be comprehended without comprehending this infinity. Nothing is more simple, nothing is less combined, in regard to me, than this proposition; there are certain exterior objects which actually strike my eyes, which excite certain emotions in my brain, and certain perceptions in my mind. Meanwhile, this proposition so simple, and so little combined, has certain depths and obscurities above my thought, because it is connected with other inquiries concerning this infinity, which I cannot comprehend. It is connected with this; cannot the perfect Being excite certain perceptions in my mind, and emotions in my brain without the aid of exterior objects? It is connected with another; will the goodness and truth of this perfect Being suffer certain perceptions to be excited in the mind, and emotions in the brain, by which we forcibly believe that certain exterior objects exist, when in fact, they do not exist? It is connected with divers other inquiries of like nature, which involve us in discussions, which absorb and confound our feeble genius. Thus, we are not only incapable of fathoming certain inquiries which regard infinity, but we are equally incapable of fully satisfying ourselves concerning those that are simple, because they are connected with the infinite. Prudence, therefore, requires that men should admit, as proved, the truths which have, in regard to them, the characters of demonstration. It is by these characters they should judge. But after all, there is none but the perfect Being, who can have perfect demonstration; at least, the perfect Being alone can fully perceive in the immensity of his knowledge, all the connexions which finite beings have with the infinite.
A fourth reason of the obscurity of our knowledge, is the grand end God proposed when he placed us upon the earth: this end is our sanctification. The questions on which religion leaves so much obscurity, do not devolve on simple principles, which may be comprehended in a moment. The acutest mathematician, he who can make a perfect demonstration of a given
number, cannot do it in a moment, if that number be complicated: and the tardy comprehension of him to whom a complicated problem is demonstrated, requires a still greater length of time. He must comprehend by a succession of ideas what cannot be proved by a single glance of the eye. A man, posted on an elevated tower, may see at once the whole of a considerable army in motion; but he at the base of this tower, can see them only as they present themselves in succession. God is exalted above all creatures; he sees the whole by a single regard. He has but, if I may so speak, to apply his mind, and all are seen at once. But we, poor abject creatures, we are placed in the humblest point of the universe. How then can we, during the period of fifty, or if you please, a hundred years of life, destined to active duties, how can we presume to make a combination of all the Creator's perfections and designs, though he himself should deign in so great a work to be our guide. Great men have said, that all possible plans were presented to the mind of God when he made the universe, and that, comparing them one with another, he chose the best. Let us make the supposition without adopting it; let us suppose that God, wishful to justify to our mind the plan he has adopted, should present to us all his plans; and comparison alone could ensure approbation; but does it imply a contradiction, that fifty, or a hundred years of life, engrossed by active duties, should suffice for so vast a design? Had God encumbered religion with the illustration of all abstruse doctrines, concerning which it observes a profound silence; and with the explication of all the mysteries it imperfectly reveals; had he explained to us the depths of his nature and essence; had he discovered to us the immense combination of his attributes; had he qualified us to trace the unsearchable ways of his Spirit in our heart; had he shown us the origin, the end, and arrangement of his counsels; had he wished to gratify the infinite inquiries of our curiosity, and to acquaint us with the object of his views during the absorbing revolutions prior to the birth of time, and with those which must follow it; had he thus multiplied to infinity speculative ideas, what time should we have had for practical duties? Dissipated by the cares of life, occupied with its wants, and sentenced to the toils it imposes, what time would have remained to succour the wretched, to visit the sick, and to comfort the distressed? Yea, and what is still more, to study and vanquish our own heart?-O how admirably is the way of God, in the restriction of our knowledge, worthy of his wisdom! He has taught us nothing but what has the most intimate connexion with our duties, that we might ever be attentive to them, and that there is nothing in religion which can possibly attract us from those duties.
5. The miseries inseparable from life, are the ultimate reason of the obscurity of our knowledge both in religion and in nature. To ask why God has involved religion in so much darkness, is asking why he has not given us a nature like those spirits which are not clothed with mortal flesh. We must class the obscurity of our knowledge with the other infirmities of
life, with our exile, our imprisonment, our sickness, our perfidy, our infidelity, with the loss of our relatives, of separation from our dearest friends. We must answer the objection drawn from the darkness which envelopes most of the objects of sense, as we do to those drawn from the complication of our calamities. It is, that this world is not the abode of our felicity. It is, that the awful wounds of sin are not yet wholly healed. It is, that our soul is still clothed with matter. We must lament the miseries of a life in which reason is enslaved, in which the sphere of our knowledge is so confined, and in which we feel ourselves obstructed at every step of our meditation and research. We have a soul greedy of wisdom and knowledge; a soul susceptible of an infinity of perceptions and ideas; a soul to which knowledge and intelligence are the nourishment and food: and this soul is localized in a world: but in what world? In a world, where we do but imperfectly know ourselves; in a world, where our sublimest knowledge, and profoundest researches resemble little children who divert themselves at play. The idea is not mine; it is suggested by St. Paul, in the words subsequent to our text. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child." The contrast is not unjust. Literally, all this knowledge, all these sermons, all this divinity, and all those commentaries, are but as the simple comparisons employed to make children understand exalted truths. They are but as the types, which God employed in the ancient law to instruct the Jews, while in a state of infancy. How imperfect were those types! What relation had a sheep to the Victim of the new covenant? What proportion had a priest to the Sovereign Pontiff of the church! Such is the state of man while here placed on the earth.
But a happier period must follow this of humiliation. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Charming thought, my brethren, of the change that death shall produce in us; it shall supersede the puerilities of infancy; it shall draw the curtain which conceals the objects of expectation. How ravished must the soul be when this curtain is uplifted! Instead of worshipping in these assemblies, it finds itself instantly elevated to the choirs of angels, "the ten thousand times ten thousand before the Lord." Instead of hearing the hymns we sing to his glory, it instantly hears the hallelujahs of celestial spirits, and the dread shouts of "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of thy glory." Instead of listening to this frail preacher, who endeavours to develop the imperfect notions he has imbibed in a confined understanding, it instantly hears the great head of the church, "who is the author, and finisher of our faith." Instead of perceiving some traces of God's perfections in the beauties of nature, it finds itself in the midst of his sublimest works; in the midst of" the heavenly Jerusalem, whose gates are of pearl, whose foundations are of precious stones, and whose walls are of jasper."--Do we then still fear death! And have we still need of comforters when we approach that
happy period? And have we still need to re- | when we were enabled to bid adieu, perhaps sume all our constancy, and all our fortitude an eternal adieu, to our country: what promptto support the idea of dying! And is it stilled us to exile was not the hope of finding more necessary to pluck us from the earth, and to engaging company, a happier climate and more tear us by force to the celestial abode, which perinanent establishments. Motives altogether shall consummate our felicity? Ah! how the of another kind animated our hearts. We had prophet Elisha, who saw his master ascend in seen the edifices reduced to the dust, which the chariot of fire, ploughing the air on his bril- we had been accustomed to make resound with liant throne, and crossing the vast expanse the praises of God: we had heard "the children which separates heaven from earth; how Elisha of Edom," with hatchets in their hand, shout regretted the absence of so worthy a master, against those sacred mansions, "down with whom he now saw no more, and whom he them; down with them, even to the ground."— must never see in life; how he cried in that May you, ye natives of these provinces, among moment, "My father, my father, the chariot whom it has pleased the Lord to lead us, ever of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." These be ignorant of the like calamities. May you emotions are strikingly congenial to the senti- indeed never know them, but by the experience ments of self-love, so dear to us. But Elijah of those to whom you have so amply afforded himself-Elijah, did he fear to soar in so sub- the means of subsistence. We could not surlime a course! Elijah already ascended to the vive the liberty of our conscience, we have middle regions of the air, in whose eyes the wandered to seek it, though it should be in earth appeared but as an atom retiring out of dens and deserts. Zeal gave animation to the sight; Elijah, whose head already reached to aged, whose limbs were benumbed with years. heaven; did Elijah regret the transition he was Fathers and mothers took their children in their about to complete! Did he regret the world, arms, who were too young to know the danger and its inhabitants!-O soul of man;-regene- from which they were plucked: each was conrate soul-daily called to break the fetters tent "with his soul for a prey," and required which unite thee to a mortal body, take thy nothing but the precious liberty he had lost. flight towards heaven. Ascend this fiery We have found it among you, our generous chariot, which God has sent to transport thee benefactors; you have received us as your breabove the earth where thou dwellest. See thren, as your children; and have admitted us the heavens which open for thy reception; ad- into your churches. We have communicated mire the beauties, and estimate the charms al- with you at the same table; and now you have ready realized by thy hope. Taste those in- permitted us, a handful of exiles, to build a effable delights. Anticipate the perfect felicity, church to that God whom we mutually adore. with which death is about to invest thee. Thou You wish also to partake with us in our gratineedest no more than this last moment of my tude, and to join your homages with those we ministry. Death himself is about to do all the have just rendered to him in this new edifice. rest, to dissipate all thy darkness, to justify religion, and to crown thy hopes.
CONSECRATION OF THE CHURCH
But alas! those of our fellow-countrymen, whose minds are still impressed with the recollection of those former churches, whose destruction occasioned them much grief, cannot taste a joy wholly pure. The ceremonies of this day will associate themselves, with those celebrated on laying the foundation-stone of the second temple. The priests officiated, indeed, in their pontifical robes; the Levites, sons of Asaph, caused their cymbals to resound afar; one choir admirably concerted its response to another; all the people raised a shout of joy, because the foundation of the Lord's house was laid. But the chiefs of the fathers, and the aged men, who had seen the superior glory of the former temple, wept aloud, and in such sort that one could not distinguish the voice of joy from the voice of weeping.
Come, notwithstanding, my dear brethren, and let us mutually praise the God, who, “in the midst of wrath remembers mercy," Hab. iii. 2. Let us gratefully meditate on this fresh accomplishment of the prophecy I have just read in your presence; "Though I have cast them far off among the heathen, and among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come." These are God's words to Ezekiel: to understand them, and with that view I attempt the discussion, we must trace the events to their source, and go back to the twenty-ninth
But how consoling soever the idea may be in our dispersion of that gracious Providence, which has never ceased to watch for our wel-year of king Josiah, to form correct ideas of fare, it is not the principal subject of our grati- the end of our prophet's ministry. It was in tude. God has corresponded more directly this year, that Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, with the object with which we were animated and Astyages, king of Media, being allied by
EZEK. ix. 16.
Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.
THE cause of our assembling to-day, my brethren, is one of the most evident marks of God's powerful protection, extended to a multitude of exiles whom these provinces have encircled with a protecting arm. It is a fact, that since we abandoned our native land, we have been loaded with divine favours. Some of us have lived in affluence; others in the enjoyments of mediocrity, often preferable to affluence; and all have seen this confidence crowned, which has enabled them to say, while living even without resource, "In the mountain of the Lord, it shall be seen; in the mountain of the Lord, he will there provide."