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says St. Paul, “is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” (1 Cor. xiv. 33 ;) and " he hath called us to peace.” (1 Cor. vii
. 15.) Man himself was also perfectly happy till the fatal hour, when, through the mysterious permission of the omnipotent Creator, the progress of his life was interrupted by the commission of a sin which, whether mystical or actual, introduced confusion into the newly-ordered world, entailing a curse not only on him and his posterity, but on the earth itself, and all that it contained : and from that hour to this, both in the physical and moral world, in the elements of all nature, animate and inanimate, a change from the established law, (which change constitutes the curse,) has everywhere occasioned misery to man, and marred the labour of his hands. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (Gen. iii. 17.) Sin,-and sin is but the aberration from the fixed principle of order, with all its train of mischief, destruction, sickness, and death, has since rioted throughout the length and breadth of God's dominion; and man, who was “made but little lower than the angels," either in rank or favour, was hurled from his high estate, and laid a grovelling outcast in the ruins of that world which he, at first, polluted by his disobedience and revolt.
But redemption has been offered, and made possible to be obtained : and this redemption, purchased by the necessary act upon the part of the Redeemer, has put man into a condition of acceptance, which acceptance is available only by a strict obedience to another rule of order working through a principle of active and consistent faith. And thus, in the new creation, or regeneration, of mankind, order is still the law of heaven: and by the effects of this order, sin will be destroyed.
Let us take, then, the condition of man as a created, and therefore dependant being, and as a redeemed, and therefore a constrained being; and we shall see that, in either case, his obligation is the same to fulfil the will of his Maker and Redeemer. I speak not now of the scheme of redemption, but of its influence, or what ought to be its influence, legitimately operating on the faculties of the human soul. Now to ascertain man's obligation, we must endeavour to comprehend what is God's right. The obligation of man to his Author, as the duty of a dependant being, is unchanged, save in its increased intensity, by the catastrophe of his fall, and the granted mercy of the offered deliverance. Man, as man, is still bound by the laws ordained for him at creation ; but as a redeemed man, and as an emancipated captive, the law loses not its power, but is increased in strength by all the considerations of that gratitude to God, in his new capacity of Saviour, which the perception of the mercy wrought for him will naturally produce. The dominion delegated to him at the first, remains; he is still the Lord of the creation, though he and the creation, through his fault, have lost a portion of primeval excellence ; tainted his character may be, and troubled may be the office which he bears, but tainted and troubled as he is, he bears in that suffering and pollution but the consequences of his own mistake and disobedience, since the first law of order is, that means be adapted to their ends; and it is in the nature of reason, and the rule of the Supreme Reason, that " whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. vi. 7.) The right of the Creator, therefore, still remains in all its force; and what that right is, may briefly be explained by the injunction of the sacred canon : “ Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. x. 31.) “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. iii. 17.) “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth : that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ; to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. (i Pet. iv. 11.) The dominion of man, therefore, over the inferior ranks of things and beings round him, is a responsible dominion ; and in the character of a steward, it is exercised, not man's by right or gift, but by permission and delegation : and as at the first, when innocent, his office was to dress and keep the garden of Eden, so now his office is to work in his vocation and calling, and whatsoever he doeth to remember that it is God's husbandry, who, at the harvest of the world will look to receive his own; whilst all the recompense that man receives is in the happiness that springs from his obedience,--a wise and merciful provision, which makes the real happiness of man so linked and bound to the eternal excellencies of God, that the possession of the one is evermore commensurate with the glory of the other. If man did but perceive this truth, and act upon it, happier would it be for them in time, and inexpressibly happier through all the countless centuries of eternity.
The supremacy of God over all the works of his creation is perhaps the most prominent feature of the sacred writings, after the mystery of redemption—nay, altogether so ; for it was to redeem his own, that that astounding wonder was accomplished : in no instance is the dominion of God omitted to be stated and enforced, whensoever his authority is required to be asserted. And further, the supremacy of the Almighty over the material universe affords the holy bards and prophets of the elder time the subjects of their most majestic strains, coupling, oftentimes, therewith lessons of the deepest consideration for the reflecting mind. David, bursting forth into a sublime and lofty song of praise, exclaims—“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained ; what is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that thou visitest him ? (Ps. viii. 4, 5.) And well might David, and well may we, give utterance to so humbling, yet so exalting a thought! But, alas ! many men neglect its application because they do not feel its beauty, nor acknowledge the source whence such deductions flow. Every thing around us, and above us, and beneath us, speaks to our consciences with silent but expressive power; and we refuse the admonition, because we are deaf and blind to all beside ourselves. We behold the order and the harmony of all creation ; spring succeeding winter, autumn ripening for our use the germs of summer ; the earth and the sea bringing their tributes to our feet, and even the winds wasting at our behest the treasures of far distant climes, across the pathless waters of the fathomless abyss. The elements obey our bidding, and even the invisible vapours and the devouring flame are made to wear the yoke of subservience to the wants and the caprices of the human will. This we acknowledge, and this we boast of. And why?-hecause it flatters our vanity, and
elevates us on the pedestal of human pride. (Vide Habb. i. 16.) Yet would we weigh our capacities by the standard of our Maker, would we gauge creation by the measure of revelation, we should find in all the inventions of philosophical skill the same great principle at work ; and instead of being puffed up by the success of our research, we should be humbled at the thought of what remains to be discovered of the knowledge, the power, and the wisdom of Him “who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.” (Ps. civ. 3.)
Could we for a moment forsake our nature,—could we possibly be transported beyond ourselves,-could but a glimpse of that scene be given to us when, in the expressive language of the Book of Job, (xxxviii. 7,) "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy :" at the moment when the curtain of darkness was withdrawn from the firmament, and the sun looked forth from his unclouded height upon the green and glittering earth beneath his rays,we should then acquire, as it were, a new sense, a new perception of the glory and the greatness of " Him with whom we have to do,” (Heb. iv. 13,) and of the infinitely humble station that we hold in the ranks of his created agents : for agents we are, as much as the winds and waves, that, through the permission, and by the teaching of our common Maker, obey our will, as if they were our slaves.
Viewed in this way, the universe would wear a new and more enticing aspect, and be clothed with beauty far beyond our present idea ; nor would our own responsibility be otherwise, than made more clear to our perception. 4. Go to the stars, and ask why God was pleased to sprinkle worlds, and systems of worlds, like drops of glory, over the ocean of heaventhat measureless expanse, where light comes floating on its destined voyage from points so distant that it requires " thousands of years to travel from those myriads of suns, of which our own is but the dim and remote companion ?"* Was it for man, think you, that this exuberance, this prodigality of space and brilliancy, was given to the night, when, if we may trust the persons competent to teach us truth, there are worlds so distant, that “light flying at the rate of 200,000 miles per second would take upwards of three years to travel to the earth, and one of the nearest of the stars may therefore have been kindled or extinguished more than three years before we could have been aware of so mighty a fact ?"† Was it, I ask you, for the use of man, or for the glory of God, that thus he wrought his will upon nonentity, myriads upon myriads of ages, perhaps, ere Adam was created ?
Go to the earth also,—that earth which has been cursed by Adam's guilt, that earth on which we reign, too often independently of our authority,—that earth which we have made the scene of our violence, our pride, our injustice, our oft-repeated rebellions against the majesty of God; where we have ridiculed, or despised, or blasphemed the Saviour, whose blood was answered by the convulsions of the universe, -that earth from which we sprung, and with the dust of which
• Mrs. Somerville's Connexion of the Sciences, p. 65.
our bodies will, perchance, ere long, be mingled,--and from this earth so polluted, so disgraced, so shaken, and shattered, and riven, for the wickedness of man, you shall receive an answer which, interpreted by human or divine philosophy, shall strike dumb the vanity of "man that is a worm, and the son of man which is a worm.” (Job xxv. 6.) “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ?” saith the Lord; "declare if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it ? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened ? or hath laid the corner stone thereof?... Or who bath shut up the sea with doors when it brake forth, when I made the cloud the garment thereof ... and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed ?" (Job xxxvii. 4-6, 8-11.) “Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth ? declare if thon knowest it all.” (ver. 18.)
This latter question may with greater propriety be demanded of us, my brethren, than of Job; for notwithstanding all that progress of discovery, and the great extent of knowledge we possess, there are yet portions of the earth that have not yet been trodden by the foot of man; and ages may, and must, I think, have passed away since the calling of the world into a visible existence, ere man was fashioned from its dust, to claim dominion over it. And wherefore, you may ask me, was the earth thus gorgeously apparelled, but that man might see his Maker's wisdom, and rejoice therein ? Still it is clear, that it was not alone for man's use, or man's delight, since there is many a tract, frequented by no human tribe, where all that is most lovely, all that is sublime, has from the creation to the present hour, expanded in the fulness of its beauty, with no human eye to see its manifold and graceful charms.
“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number : he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power." (Isa. xl. 26.) “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. iv. 11.)
But to what end did the supreme intelligence thus work, but that all nature might record His praise, who “spake, and it was done ; who commanded, and it stood fast.” (Ps. xxxii. 9.)
The sacred volume abounds with passages to this effect; as if to every thing there was a tongue to sing the praises of its Maker and Preserver, and utterance given even to inanimate creation to shout forth the triumphs of eternal power. “ Blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art Lord alone ; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the sea and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all ; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee."(Neh. ix. 5, 6.) "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.” (Ps.cxlv. 10.) “Praise ye him, sun and moon ; praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord : for he commanded, and they were created.” (Ps. cxlviii. 3—5.) “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth,
ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein ; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands.” (Isa. xlii. 10–12.)
The praise of God, then, is the end of all creation; and if glory is ascribed to him by the fulfilment of the destinies assigned to the dumb organs of his will; if order be the law of nature ; and if the keeping of this appointed order be the decree of the Creator ; then is man, in his peculiar and important station, doubly called upon to give utterance to the works of praise, remembering his two-fold nature as a mortal and immortal being, his dependance and his duty, why he was created, and how he was redeemed. Nor need we wonder, that both under the law, and before the law, men should be moved by the inherent principles of human nature to delight in thanksgiving to the Author of all good : for if God receives homage and adoration from the sun and moon, the earth and sea, the forest and the field, how much more is it incumbent on man, formed in his image, and endowed with faculties most consonant for praise, to "make His name to be glorious.” “While I live,” says David, "will I praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” (Ps. cxlvi. 2.)
“What have we that we did not receive ?"* asks the apostle, (1 Cor. iv. 7 ;) and “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,” says God, (Ps. 1. 23.) And how can we so fitly glorify God, as by employing in his praise the noblest gifts we have received ? This is indeed obedience to the established order of creation, and its consideration fitly leads us to one of the peculiar topics of this day's meditation,--the claim of psalmody to be considered an inherent part of divine worship.
The practice of all nations, ancient and modern, savage or civilized, agrees with this assertion, that it has been the custom of mankind, from the very earliest ages, to praise God with music and singing. And what more appropriate junction could there be, than the 'magic of sweet sounds,' and the measured language of the tongue, to celebrate the praises of Him who endued the lips of man with speech, and taught him by his skill to make the air he breathes melodious with its Maker's name.
Very early in the history of the world do we find traces of musical science ; for it is recorded that “ Jubal,” who was of the seventh generation from Adam, was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” (Gen. iv. 21.) And we find Laban angry with Jacob, because he went away privately : “Wherefore didst thou not tell me,” says he,
that I might have sent thee away with mirth and with song, with tabret and with harp.” (Gen, xxxi. 27.) The profane records attest, that it was customary to accompany the worship of the pagan deities, even from the earliest periods, with song and minstrelsy. And thus at the present day, where the light of Christianity has not shone, we still discover in the service of the heathen gods of wood and stone, that songs of triumph and rejoicing, as in the days of the image which Nebuchadnezzar set up, (Dan. iii. 5,) are amongst the most distinguished of the rites observed.
• Vide 1 Chron. xxix. 14.