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regard himself as plainly an object of divine wrath ; and, so far as he has hitherto lived, an acknowledged heir of perdition. The fear of God is a fountain of life. Irreverence to him is a well-spring of everlasting death. Let every irreverent man remember therefore, that, to such as he is, God is a consuming fire.
I have dwelt more minutely and extensively on this great subject of Religion, because of its inherent importance, and because it is, I think unhappily, a rare topic of discussion from the desk.
THE LAW OF GOD. THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT.
1 PETER V.5.-Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humil
ity; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
In the preceding discourse I considered, at some length, that exercise of love to God which is styled Reverence. I will now proceed to examine the kindred virtue of Humility, an attribute which seems to differ from Reverence not so much in its nature as in its object. God is the object of reverence; ourselves, of humility. The state of the mind in the exercise of these Christian graces seems to be the same. It is hardly possible that he, who is now employed in reverencing his Maker, when casting his eye towards himself, should fail of being deeply humbled by a view of his own circumstances and character.
Before I enter upon this examination, however, it will be proper to observe, that there are other modes in which love to God is exerted; and which, although not demanding a particular discussion here, are yet of high importance, and well deserve to be mentioned. They deserve to be mentioned because of their importance. The reasons why they do not claim a, particular discussion are, that more time would be demanded by it, than can well be spared from the examination of such subjects as require a more minute attention; and that they may be sufficiently understood from the observations made on the other exercises of piety.
Among these, the first place is naturally due to Admiration. By this I mean the train of emotions, excited in a good mind by the wonderful nature of the various works of God, and the amazing power, and skill, and goodness, which they unfold. God, saith Eliphaz, Job v. 9, doth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number. These things, we find good men, distinguished in the Scriptures for their piety, observing, and commemorating, with a transport of Admiration. Oh sing unto the Lord, says David, for he hath done marvellous things. I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. How great are his signs, says Nebuchadnezzar, speaking at least the language of a good man, how mighty are his wonders! What they felt, they called upon others to feel. Remember, says David, his marvellous works that he hath done ; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth. 1 Chron. xvi, 12. Declare his glory among
the heathen; his wonders among the people. Ps. xcvi. 3. Oh give thanks to the Lord of lords, who alone doeth great wonders; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Admiration is a combined exercise of the mind; and is formed of wonder and complacency. It is an exercise eminently delightful; and is every where presented with objects to awaken it. Both Creation and Providence are full of wonders, presented to us at every moment, and at every step. Every attribute of God is fitted to excite this emotion by the amazing degree in which it exists ; and by the degree also, in which it is very often displayed. Thus the Psalmist speaks of the marvellous loving-kindness of God; St. Peter, of his marvellous light. King Darius says, He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and earth, Thus David says, I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Thus one of the Names of Christ, whose Redemption is the most marvellous of all the works of God, is Wonderful.
It is to be observed that Religious Admiration is entirely distinguished from wonder in the ordinary sense, by its union with complacency, Ordinary wonder is delightful, but is totally destitute of moral excellence. Religious wonder is still more delightful; and may be excellent in any degree.
Secondly. Dependence is also an exercise of the same spirit.
That we are all dependent on God is known to every person, possessed of reason; and that we are absolutely dependent on him for every thing which we enjoy, or which we need. A Willingness to be thus dependent, a complacency in this state of things as appointed by God, accompanied with that humble frame of mind, necessarily attendant upon these affections, constitute what is called Religious Dependence, a state of mind, exactly suited to our condition, and eminently useful to our whole Christian character and life.
To these may be added Faith, Hope, and Joy, which have already been subjects of discussion; and to these, Submission, which will be made the theme of a future discourse.
The text contains a command, addressed to all those to whom St. Peter wrote, requiring that they should be clothed with humility; and enforces the precept by this combined reason, that God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. No precept of Revelation has been more disrelished by infidels than this. Hume attacks it in form, and considers the disposition enjoined as both vicious and contemptible. Still it is largely insisted on in the Scriptures, and is required of us unconditionally and indispensably. It is declared to precede all real honour, and thus to be necessary even to its existence. It is pronounced to have been an important attribute in the character of Christ himself. Learn of me, says the Saviour of mankind, for I am meek and lowly of heart. In the text itself it is plainly asserted to be an object of Divine favour in such a sense, that the grace or free love of God is com
municated to those who are humble, and denied to those who are not. In the Scriptural scheme, therefore, humility is invested with an importance which cannot be measured.
It must indeed be confessed that nothing is more unaccordant with the native disposition of mankind. Pride, the first sin of our common parents, has characterized all their posterity. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that Humility should be disesteemed and calumniated. If it were of the world, the world would undoubtedly love his own; but because it is not of the world, therefore the world hateth it.
Of this attribute of the human mind, as it is exhibited in the Scriptures, I observe,
1st. It involves, in its nature, a just sense of our character and condition.
We were born yesterday of the dust, and to-morrow return to the dust again. In our origin, and in our end, there is certainly little to awaken our pride. In both, we are closely allied to the beasts that perish; and may with the strictest propriety, say to corruption, Thou art our father; and to the worm, Thou art our mother and our sister. How strange is it that a being should be proud, who is going to the grave; who in a few days will lie down in the dust, to become a feast of worms, and to be changed into a mass of earth! Such however will speedily be the lot of the haughtiest monarch, the most renowned hero, and the proudest philosopher who now says in his heart, I will ascend up to heaven, I will be like the Most High.
During this little period, we are dependent creatures. Nothing is more coveted, nothing more eagerly sought, nothing boasted of with more complacency, by the children of pride, than Independence. But the boast is groundless; and the opinion, which gives birth to it, false. What hu'st thou, says St. Paul, which thou hast not received ? From God we derive life and breath, and all things. All of them are mere gifts of his bounty; and to the least of them we cannot make a single claim. To his sovereign pleasure, also, are we every moment indebted for their continuance. That which He gives, we gather. He opens his hand, and we are filled with good. He takes away our breath; we die and return to dust.
But we are not dependent on God only. To a vast extent we are necessarily indebted, for a great body of our enjoyments, to our fellow-men. We can have neither food nor raiment: we can neither walk nor ride; we can have neither sleep nor medicine; we can neither enjoy ourselves, nor be useful to others without the aid of multitudes of our fellow-men. Especially is the proud man thus dependent. Life to him is only a scene of suffering, unless he is continually regaled by the real or imagined respect of those around him. Homage is the food on which he lives;
and applause, the atmosphere in which alone he is able to breathe.
Among those on whom we are thus dependent sometimes for life itself, and always for its comforts, are to be regularly numbered the poor, whom we are so prone to despise; nay, the slaves whom we regard as having been created merely as instruments of our pleasure. To what a lowly condition is a haughty man thus reduced, and how different his actual situation from that which his conversation and demeanour would induce us to imagine!
Nor is our situation less precarious than it is dependent. The possessions, the comforts, the hopes, which we enjoy to-day, may all to-morrow vanish for ever. Our riches may make to them. selves wings as an eagle, and fly away towards heaven. Our health may be wrested from us by disease, and our comfort by pain. We may become decrepit, deaf, or blind. Our friends and families may bid us the last adieu, and retire to the world of spirits. Nay, ourselves and our pride may be buried together in the grave. What foundation does such a state of existence furnish on which to build our pride?
We are also ignorant. Much indeed is said of our learning and science. It would be well if more could be said, and said with truth concerning our wisdom. With all our boasts, how little do we know! How many objects are presented to us every day of which we know nothing except their existence! How many questions do even little children ask, which no philosopher is able to answer! How many subjects of investigation say to every inquirer, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further!"
Every thing which we know brings up to our view the many more which we cannot know; and thus daily forces upon us, if we will open our eyes, irresistible conviction of the narrowness of those limits by which our utmost researches are bounded, of the infantile nature of our actual attainments, of the smallness of those which are possible.
Among the subjects which display this ignorance in the strongest degree, those of a moral nature, those which immediately concern our duty and salvation, infinitely more important to us than any others, hold the primary place. What man is able to find out of himself concerning these, we know by what he has actually found out. Cast your eyes over this great globe, and over the past ages of time, and mark the nature of the religious systems invented by man. How childish, how senseless, how self-contradictory, have been the opinions; how infatuated, how sottish, the precepts by which they have professedly regulated the moral conduct of men; how debased, how full of turpitude, how fraught with frenzy, the religious services by which they have laboured to propitiate their Gods, and obtain a future happy existence; nay, what mere creatures of Bedlam were the Gods themselves, and their delirious worshippers!