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gratitude, that there is a higher, a better, a more lasting subject of praise, more suitable with his character as a sinner than any others; and these are the works of grace, and to these we would refer, when speaking of the works of the Lord which "are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure thereiu."
But we will take an enlarged view of the subject; and I invite you, my beloved brethren, to come and contemplate with me, upon the present occasion, the works of God in nature, in providence, and in grace. May the Eternal God bless our meditations, and as his creatures make us to delight in him and to search out his works as our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier.
First, search out the works of God IN NATURE. Here a wide field presents itself. The light which shines about our path, the emblem of the purity of Deity, must strike the mind of the wise. The mid-day sun is an image of God's uncreated glory. Nay, whether I gaze upon the heavens, and trace the revolution of the orbs which move there; whether I examine the insect which flits by me, or the blade of grass on which I tread, I perceive the works of Him who is mighty in operation, whose wisdom should be the unceasing theme of adoration and praise to us all. Yes, beloved, every thing above us, every thing around us, every thing beneath us, lives. Every clod of earth teems with animation; every drop of water swarms with animalcula, imperceptible, indeed, to the naked eye (and mercifully so), but plainly to be seen when the eye is assisted by art. Most probably myriads float in the air which we breathe, and are inhaled in the act of inspiration. Surely curiosity might induce us to seek out the works of God even if we had no other motive than mere inquisitiveness and curiosity. But we cannot examine these things as we ought without feelings of lively gratitude, that through the life-giving power of Jehovah every thing ministers either to the necessities or to the convenience of man.
But on this head there is a still more familiar manifestation of the works of God which we should meditate upon. I wish you to turn your reflections upon yourselves. Contemplate the human body; observe the union of its several parts, and their fitness for the particular purpose for which they are designed; mark the composition and appearance of the whole; what incomparable workmanship is perceptible in the whole frame. You discover bones marvellously united; fibres and nerves fine and delicate in the extreme; muscles possessing incredible strength; veins singularly disposed, through which the stream of life flows, complicated and branched into every part of the body; and the spirit, at an unknown moment, and in an unsearchable manner, superadded to give impulse to the whole system. In consequence of every wish of the mind this or that muscle is put in motion. But no one can define the union between matter and spirit; and Philosophy in vain attempts to lay her finger upon the spring which agitates the vibration of ten thousand invisible fibres. The whole mass of blood in the human frame is perpetually circulating through every channel, and returning to the heart, black and improper for the purposes of life, until it has undergone an instantaneous chemical change, which is effected in the lungs by the air, and it flows on to pursue its unwearied course in our body.
But mark, brethren, how near we are to eternity. If the air inhaled be unsuitable to perform this process, and unable to effect this change, death is the inevitable consequence; immediate death. Who amongst us, brethren,
that has the smallest pretensions to reason, will disown the hand that made him to be wonderful? Who, my brethren, who has been taught to know the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, will hesitate to join with the Psalmist and say, as in Psalm cxxxix. "For I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee."
But our search into the works of God must not rest here: if these things are marvellous in creation, they are still more wonderful IN PRESERVATION. "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein," as it respects his daily guidance and control in providence. Let us reflect on these works of providence. Here we behold his greatness in that he hath made the round world so fast that it cannot be moved out of its course without his sovereign will: here we behold his works even in the lily of the field. Who can be satisfied with the consideration that God, at an inconceivable distance from man, governs the revolutions of planets and worlds, but does not condescend to the immediate wants of private individuals? Who can view the great Creator as the God of a general providence, without knowing him as the God of a special and particular providence? Surely it is written for such in vain, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." Surely the character of Him who states himself to be the same yesterday, today, and for ever, is sadly changed towards the children of men, since the time when the Israelites were conducted through the wilderness; and the promise of the Messiah is in vain, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;" if we are not permitted to trace his works towards us individually.
How sadly do they mistake the works of God with man, who know him not as the God of their individual families, the God of their private interests. the God" unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." O yes, he is indeed to be pitied who cannot see the hand of an overruling providence in every sickness, in every trial, in every pain, in every judgment, and especially, I would say, in those afflictive dispensations whereby he deprives a family of a dear and near relative. O how miserable is that person who can follow a beloved object to the grave, but cannot say, in faith and submission, "Here is the finger of God." Brethren, much solid comfort is lost, and much is added to the weight of woe, by this unhappy ignorance of the sovereign Disposer of all the affairs of man. The apostles and primitive Christians acted far differently: read their writings with attention and prayer, and you will find, that the apostle James could thus admonish the despisers of God's providence: "Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain· whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It
is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." And you will find, that the apostle Paul does not even venture to move from place to place, without a most solemn reference to the guidance of the Lord of heaven and earth. We read in 1 Thessalonians, iii. 11: "Now God himself, and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you." He never parted with a friend without a similar application; and he tells his Philippian converts, that he trusts in the Lord to send Timotheus unto them. Thus, if to the unthinking and unenlightened mind, the works of God in providence are unknown, and, therefore, unimproved, to the soul taught of God, the consideration of all his providential guidances is most delightful. Brethren, I trust you know it, that it is a theme of unceasing gratification to the spiritual mind, to observe the work of God's providence in the minutest circumstance, to observe his hand guiding and controlling all our affairs; so that though often oppressed with fears, and oft-times disposed to be overwhelmed with anxieties for some particular object that to us may appear desirable, we have this restingplace, that Jehovah, our Creator, and Benefactor, and Friend, ruleth over all, even to the falling of a sparrow. O, may this consideration be unceasingly a consideration to you, my friends, to lead you to look from external circumstances, to the controlling of an infinite, an all-wise, and everlasting God, who says to our trials, as he says to the waves of the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further."
Again, "the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." We meditate upon that display of sovereign power, without which, every thing else is but vanity and vexation of spirit, I mean the works of God IN GRACE. We have considered his works in nature and in providence, but what, beloved, will it avail us, if, after returning our thanks to the Father of all mercies, in the words of our beautiful liturgy, " for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life," if there were no further subject for gratitude and thankfulness, if we were not in our hearts to add this," above all for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory?" The works of God may be matter of wonder, they may call forth admiration from the exquisite proofs of divine wisdom; but if his justice be not satisfied, if there be no grace in the heart, all other things will only tend to man's greater condemnation.
The works of God in grace, resemble his works in nature, and are frequently so used in the sacred Scriptures. Thus at creation, God said, "Let there be light," and there was light: and so in speaking of the new creation of the soul, the apostle uses a similar expression: "For God," says he, "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." That God of his own free will should create a world, and place the family of man upon it, as the sovereigns of all, is indeed an evidence that God is love; since he could only have as the end, the happiness of the creature, in connexion with his own glory. But that, upon man's rebellion against his Benefactor and Friend, he should not only reveal to him the plan of redemption, but should provide every thing needful for the completion of his purpose, as to suffer his own Son, allied to him, and equal with him, by an ineffable and inexplicable
union, to take upon him the nature of the rebel, and not to spare him, but to deliver him up for us all, is, indeed, such an act of unfathomable love, that if at all acquainted with it in heart and mind, we must, from day to day, consider this work of God, and consider it as a work planned by infinite wisdom, and executed by infinite love.
Brethren, without any disparagement to what we have already invited you to search into, we may paraphrase the language of Peter, and say, that though the heavens, which shew the handy work of God, should pass away with a great noise, though the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the works that are therein should be burnt up, yet we, through faith and patience inherit the promises; and we cannot be disappointed, for through grace, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. O, what a value does this stamp upon the soul of man, that all these things which now call forth our praises, and excite our wonderment, are destined for destruction; but that immortality is stamped upon every person present, and that we shall remain, when this earth which we tread upon, this air we breathe, this canopy of the heavens which we delight to contemplate, shall be no more.
Since, then, all things are yours if ye are Christ's, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come, let us call to mind that we have them as the subject matter of privilege; as the subject matter of improvement here, and as the subjects of praise throughout eternity. O that I might hope that the language of my text may be deeply impressed upon every heart. and that we may be willing from day to day, and from year to year, to study and to search out the works of God, in nature, in providence, and in grace!
But I must again urge it upon you to consider the works of God in grace, the marvellous works of God, because much of the delight to be derived from the other must be lost unless God is known as the God of grace, and his work of grace is begun in your heart. Your wonder, therefore, should begin with this consideration, that amongst the works of God there is provision made for the very chief of sinners. Is not this a great work of God: ought not this work to be "sought out of all them that have pleasure therein?" Consider, brethren, there is provision made for the very chief of sinners. Sins of the blackest die may be forgiven, and souls most desperately wicked be washed pure. Search into these works, and you will find examples for your hope that are cheering indeed. Search into the works of God as manifested in the penitent and broken-hearted Paul. Behold the works of God in the conversion of another king of Israel, the sanguinary Manasseh. Search the works of God towards the father of the faithful, who, from a state of gross idolatry became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, a monument for future generations of the exceeding riches of divine grace. Look to more modern monuments of the works of God. We can scarcely read a passage of the history of the life of Immanuel, without finding an instance of the power of God in his works of grace. The apostle, a Mary Magdalen, a Peter, a Samaritan woman, a thief upon the cross. Come, then, and reason with the God of all grace, and if your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, if they be red as crimson they shall be as wool. Forbear then from your iniquities, mark the offers of pardon, grace, and everlasting life. They are free and full and satisfactory: "without money, and without price." O mark this, brethren, and become yourself, this very hour, the theme of exciting joy to the angelic choir
that are so interested in the welfare of man, that as we read to you this morning in the Gospel, they wait for your acceptance of the heavenly kingdom, in order that they may make the realms of glory resound with their golden harps; "for there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."”
But if, my beloved brethren, you have already closed with the offer, and you know the works of God in grace, and are yourselves living monuments of its power, its excellency, its sovereignty, then you have, I doubt not, seen his marvellous acts in nature, and in providence, as the acts of your God and reconciled Father. You can remember the various modes that he was pleased to adopt in bringing you to the knowledge of himself; you can behold in some of the minutest circumstances of your past lives, that God was with you; that goodness and mercy have followed you all the days of your life; and you are willing to trust him for the remainder of your course.
What I would then say to you finally is this; cultivate as the improvement of this subject, such dispositions of mind as are suited with your high character. When contemplating the works of Jehovah, let his ways in nature produce humility as well as admiration. When bearing in mind his dispensations of providence towards you, let your former ignorance of what is good for you direct you to lie passive in his hand, knowing that resignation, submission, and patience, best befits creatures so near-sighted as we are: that if the Christian must become a little child before he can enter the kingdom of heaven, they are nearest in spirit to the kingdom of heaven, who continue most humbly dependent upon their gracious guide and mighty counsellor. And above all, my Christian brethren, let gratitude, accompanied with zeal, reign in your hearts, and learn, that whilst engaged in the highest pleasures which man can enjoy, you may persuade others to partake of your felicity; and by kindness and love un eigned, intreat your companions and friends to search out the works of the Lord which are great, assuring them of your own experience, that you find in the choice that there is from day to day an increase of pleasure. May God give us his grace, that we may search into his works more and more, until we come to the possession of those rivers of pleasure which are at God's right hand for evermore. Amen.