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thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" After this just and forcible rebuke, follows a more rational and consistent method of fulfilling the will, and thereby promoting the honour, of God. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" a
So fallacious and so mischievous have been the views entertained, concerning the right method of promoting the glory of God, in those countries, which have not been illumined by the bright radiance of Gospel truth. But, we may ask, are those, upon whom that light has shone, prepared to state that they have never closed their eyes against it; and refused to be guided and comforted by its steady and cheering rays? Has no mistake at any time been apparent among Christians respecting the manner, in which the glory of God is best promoted, and His will most unequivocally obeyed? Alas! to the
disgrace of human nature, and the reproach of human reason, after all the direct instruction, which the pages of inspiration contain; after the indirect, but not less intelligible, lessons taught by the example of our Lord himself, Christians have, in almost every age since the day-spring of salvation arose, deviated into practices; avowedly for the purpose of promoting God's glory; almost as repugnant to the real spirit
a Micah vi. 6-8.
of their religion, as many of those, which were suggested by the polytheists of old time, and are held in honour by idolaters of the present age.
I need not remind you, how soon the exalted duties and holy observances of the Gospel were degraded into the solitude of the hermitage, and the severity of the cloister : nor will I attempt to explain, by what strange infatuation "the reasonable service" of evangelical obedience was transformed into privations most unnecessary, and inflictions most painful. "Pious people" (says the lively and liberal author of Remarks on Ecclesiastical History) "contrived a method of voluntary martyrdom; and inflicted upon themselves as many pains and penalties, as pagan cruelty had invented. They left parents, wives, children, friends, and families, and fortunes; they retired from the world; they allowed themselves no more food, raiment, and sleep, than would just keep body and soul together.-Several of them-as Theodorus and Symeon Stylites-when their mothers and sisters came to visit them, and earnestly begged admittance, would not be seen."" We learn also from Gregory Nazianzen, in his mistaken praise of the absurd austerities and mortifications of the monks at Nazianzum, that “some of them, thro' excess of zeal, killed themselves to be released from the wicked world." b
The perversion however of intellect; which inclined any one to suppose that, by inflicting privation or pain upon himself, he was offering an acceptable
Jortin, Vol. II. p. 162.
b Ib. p. 164.
tribute to his Maker; was trivial and harmless compared with notions, which assumed the revolting form of intolerance, and arrogated the power of controlling the opinions, and chastising the mistakes, of other men. The subject here, you see, becomes very important; for, in fact, all the religious persecutions in the world; all penalties and inflictions upon those, who differ from ourselves, however conscientiously; take their rise from an imperfect and erroneous notion of what really constitutes the glory of God, and the manner, in which we best can assist in its display and extension. The angels, at the birth of Christ, sang, that the glory of God was in unison with peace on earth, and good-will towards men. No! said the schoolmen; the glory of God consists in thinking of the Deity, as we think. No! said the inquisitors, the glory of God consists in worshipping Him in the mode we prescribe. No! said the Covenanters, the glory of God consists in exterminating those, whom we call His enemies. Mistaken men! who thus propose to honour the God and Father of the universe; the merciful God, and the gracious Father, of all His rational creatures! As if marks of benevolence were not so clearly seen in the works of creation, as to prove incontestably, that He, who called us into being, created us in order to our happiness ;--as if a tender and loving Father, for so He is represented in the Scriptures, and so He may be traced through His stupendous operations, could receive glory or take delight in aught, but what aided His own beneficent purposes, and combined individual comfort with the harmony of the whole!
Yes! instead of dwelling upon these grand generalities of benevolence; instead of perusing, with delight and with conviction, the plain declarations contained in our sacred records; too many Christians have, in almost every age, passed over the characteristics of kind design throughout nature; they have mistaken or forgotten the clear delineations of Divine mercy and goodness in the book of grace; and have had recourse to the narrow circle of their own prejudices, or misconstrued some less obvious expressions in Holy Writ, so as to adopt the most erroneous opinions, and finally sanction the most mischievous practices;—and this too, with the vain imagination, that they were thereby fulfilling a pious duty, and contributing their share of zeal in promoting the glory of God!
From the imperfection of human language, and from the less cultivated state of mind and manners in the early ages of the Jewish polity, expressions no doubt occur, which might occasion error, if they were not abundantly rectified in other and clearer parts of Scripture. God is said to be "jealous " and " angry;" that is, the laws, He has laid down for the government of His creatures, are not to be transgressed with impunity. And what law, I would ask, has He laid down with more distinctness; of what law has He more authoritatively enjoined the observance, than the law of shewing kindness and mercy; the law of doing to others, as we would they should do unto us? But the imputation of anger and jealousy, with other figurative expressions which relate to the Deity, no more define His nature, or explain the character
of His attributes; than terms, which imply the use of bodily members, and a form and motion like our own, can describe His inscrutable essence. How much more frequently, on the other hand, is He represented in Scripture under an aspect, really suitable to the best notions we can entertain of the Deity; as one, that" pardoneth iniquity and delighteth in mercy""; "the God of patience and consolation," and " of love;" "the merciful" and "righteous" and "faithful God;" God, who is rich in mercy""? These are the descriptions, upon which Christians ought to have dwelt; for they are intelligible, and convey correctly the ideas they are intended to convey; besides that they are continually occurring.—But; with the fatality, that accompanies human research and human practice too upon questions the most important; they have passed over what is clear, and stumbled upon what is obscure; they have set aside what is lovely and useful, and eagerly embraced what they have converted into deformity and mischief.
2. And now, having pointed out the various evils, which have resulted, under every dispensation, from a confusion of intellect about the honour of God, I shall turn your attention to that definition, which is contained in the text. So clear indeed is the declaration; so strongly marked the occasion, upon which it was issued; and so high the authority, from which it proceeded; that it might appear almost incredible, that the purport of it should ever have been overlooked or misunderstood by any person of sound un