Imatges de pÓgina

and thus come back to the conclusion, that after all, the redemption of our species is but an ephemeral doing in the history of intelligent nature; that it leaves the Author of it room for all the accomplishments of a wise and equal administration; and not to mention, that even during the progress of it, it withdraws not a single thought or a single energy of his from other fields of creation; that there remains time enough to him for carrying round the visitations of as striking and as peculiar a tenderness, over the whole extent of his great and universal monarchy?

It might serve still further to incorporate the concerns of our planet with the general history of moral and intelligent beings, to state, not merely the knowledge which they take of us, and not merely the compassionate anxiety which they feel for us; but to state the importance derived to our world from its being the actual theatre of a keen and ambitious contest among the upper orders of creation. You know that how, for the possession of a very small and insulated territory, the mightiest empires of the world would have put forth all their resources; and on some field of mustering competition have monarchs met, and embarked for victory, all the pride of a country's talent, and all the flower and strength of a country's population. The solitary island, around which so many fleets are hovering, and on the shores of which so many armed men are descending, as to an arena of hostility, may well wonder at its own unlooked for estimation. But other principles are animating the battle, and the glory of nations is at stake; and a much higher result is in the contemplation of each party, than the gain of so humble an acquirement as the primary object of the war; and honour, dearer to many a bosom than existence, is now the interest on which so much blood and so much treasure is expended; and the stirring spirit of emulation has now got hold of the combatants; and thus, amid all the insignificancy, which attaches to the material origin of the contest, do both the eagerness and the extent of it, receive from the constitution of our nature, their most full and adequate explanation.

Now, if this be also the principle of higher natures, if, on the one hand God be jealous of his honour, and on the other, there be proud and exalted spirits, who scowl defiance at him and at his monarchy;-if, on the side of heaven, there be an angelic host rallying around the standard of loyalty, who flee with alacrity at the bidding of the Almighty, who are devoted to his glory, and feel a rejoicing interest in the evolution of his counsels; and if, on the side of hell, there be a sullen front of resistance, a hate and malice inextinguishable, an unequalled daring of revenge to baffle the wisdom of

the Eternal, and to arrest the hand, and to defeat the purposes of Omniptence';-then let the material prize of victory be insignificant as it may, it is the victory in itself, which upholds the impulse of this keen and stimulated rivalry. If, by the sagacity of one infernal mind, a single planet has been seduced from its allegiance, and been brought under the ascendency of him, who is called in Scripture, "the god of this world," and if the errand on which our Redeemer came, was to destroy the works of the devil-then let this planet have all the littleness which astronomy has assigned to it-call it what it is, one of the smaller islets which float on the ocean of vacancy; it has become the theatre of such a competition, as may have all the desires and all the energies of a divided universe embarked upon it. It involves in it other objects than the single recovery of our species. It decides higher questions. It stands linked with the supremacy of God, and will at length demonstrate the way in which he inflicts chastisement and overthrow upon all his enemies. I know not if our rebellious world be the only strong-hold which Satan is possessed of, or if it be but the single post of an extended warfare, that is now going on between the powers of light and of darkness. But be it the one or the other, the parties are in array, and the spirit of the contest is in full energy, and the honour of mighty combatants is at stake; and let us therefore cease to wonder that our humble residence has been made the theatre of so busy an operation, or that the ambition of loftier natures has here put forth all its desire and all its strenuousness.

This unfolds to us another of those high and extensive bearings, which the moral history of our globe may have on the system of God's universal administration. Were an enemy to touch the shore of this high-minded country, and to occupy so much as one of the humblest villages, and there to seduce the natives from their loyalty, and to sit down along with them in entrenched defiance to all the threats, and to all the preparations of an insulted empire-oh! how would the cry of wounded pride resound throughout all the ranks and varieties of our mighty population; and this very movement of indignancy would reach the king upon his throne; and circulate among those who stood in all the grandeur of chieftainship around him; and be heard to thrill in the eloquence of Parliament; and spread so resistless an appeal to a nation's honour, or a nation's patriotism, that the trumpet of war would summon to its call all the spirit and all the willing energies of our kingdom; and rather than sit down in patient endurance under the burning disgrace of such a violation, would the whole of its strength and resources be em

barked upon the contest; and never, never ment of earth, there are certain principles would we let down our exertions and our which cannot be compromised; and certain sacrifices, till either our deluded country-maxims of administration which must men were reclaimed, or till the whole of this offence were by one righteous act of vengeance, swept away altogether from the face of the territory it deformed.

ject for hemming our unfortunate species within the bound of an irrecoverable dilemma; and as surely as sin and holiness could not enter into fellowship, so surely did he think, that if man were seduced to disobedience, would the truth, and the justice, and the immutability of God, lay their insurmountable barriers on the path of his future acceptance.

never be departed from; and a certain character of majesty and of truth, on which the taint even of the slightest violation can never be permitted; and a certain authority The Bible is always most full and most which must be upheld by the immutability explanatory on those points of revelation in of all its sanctions, and the unerring fulfilwhich men are personally interested. But ment of all its wise and righteous proclait does at times offer a dim transparency, mations. All this was in the mind of the through which may be caught a partial archangel, and a gleam of malignant joy view of such designs and of such enter-shot athwart him as he conceived his proprises as are now afloat among the upper orders of intelligence. It tells us of a mighty struggle that is now going on for a moral ascendency over the hearts of this world's population. It tells us that our race were seduced from their allegiance to God, by the plotting sagacity of one who stands pre-eminent against him, among the hosts of a very wide and extended rebellion. It tells us of the Captain of Salvation, who undertook to spoil him of this triumph, and throughout the whole of that magnificent train of prophecy which points to him, does it describe the work he had to do as a conflict, in which strength was to be put forth, and painful suffering to be endured, and fury to be poured upon enemies, and principalities to be dethroned, and all those toils, and dangers, and difficulties to be borne, which strewed the path of perseverance that was to carry him to victory.

But it is a contest of skill, as well as of strength and of influence. There is the earnest competition of angelic faculties embarked on this struggle for ascendency. And while in the Bible there is recorded, (faintly and partially, we admit,) the deep and insidious policy that is practised on the one side; we are also told, that on the plan of our world's restoration, there are lavished all the riches of an unsearchable wisdom upon the other. It would appear, that for the accomplishment of his purpose, the great enemy of God and of man plied his every calculation; and brought all the devices of his deep and settled malignity to bear upon our species; and thought that could he involve us in sin, every attribute of the Divinity stood staked to the banishment of our race from beyond the limits of the empire of righteousness; and thus did he practise his invasions on the moral territory of the unfallen; and glorying in his success, did he fancy and feel that he had achieved a permanent separation between the God who sitteth in heaven, and one at least of the planetary mansions which he had reared.

It was only in that plan of recovery of which Jesus Christ was the author and the finisher, that the great adversary of our species met with a wisdom which overmatched him. It is true, that he reared, in the guilt to which he seduced us, a mighty obstacle in the way of this lofty undertaking. But when the grand expedient was announced, and the blood of that atonement, by which sinners are brought nigh, was willingly offered to be shed for us, and the eternal Son, to carry this mystery into accomplishment, assumed our nature-then was the prince of that mighty rebellion, in which the fate and the history of our world are so deeply implicated, in visible alarm for the safety of all his acquisitions:-nor can the record of this wondrous history carry forward its narrative, without furnishing some transient glimpses of a sublime and a superior warfare, in which, for the prize of a spiritual dominion over our species, we may dimly perceive the contest of loftiest talent, and all the designs of heaven in behalf of man, met at every point of their evolution, by the counterworkings of a rival strength and a rival sagacity.

We there read of a struggle which the Captain of our salvation had to sustain, when the lustre of the Godhead lay obscured, and the strength of its omnipotence was mysteriously weighed down under the infirmities of our nature-how Satan singled him out, and dared him to the combat of the wilderness-how all his wiles and all his influences were resisted-how he left our Saviour in all the triumphs of unsubdued loyalty-how the progress of this The errand of the Saviour was to restore mighty achievement is marked by the every this sinful world, and have its people re- character of a conflict-how many of the admitted within the circle of heaven's pure Gospel miracles were so many direct inand righteous family. But in the govern-fringements on the power and empire of ment of heaven, as well as in the govern- a great spiritual rebellion-how in one

ing us to explain, why on the salvation of our solitary species so much attention appears to have been concentred, and so much energy appears to have been expended.

But it would appear from the records of inspiration, that the contest is not yet ended; that on the one hand the Spirit of God is employed in making for the truths of Christianity, a way into the human heart, with all the power of an effectual demonstration; that on the other there is a spirit now abroad, which worketh in the children of disobedience; that on the one hand, the Holy Ghost is calling men out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel; and that on the other hand, he who is styled the god of this world, is blinding their hearts, lest the light of the glorious gospel

precious season of gladness among the few which brightened the dark career of our Saviour's humiliation, he rejoiced in spirit, and gave as the cause of it to his disciples, that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven"-how the momentary advantages that were gotten over him, are ascribed to the agency of this infernal being, who entered the heart of Judas, and tempted the disciple to betray his Master and his Friend. I know that I am treading on the confines of mystery. I cannot tell what the battle that he fought. I cannot compute the terror or the strength of his enemies. I cannot say, for I have not been told, how it was that they stood in marshalled and hideous array against him:-nor can I measure how great the firm daring of his soul, when he tasted that cup in all its bit-of Christ should enter into them; that they terness, which he prayed might pass away who are under the dominion of the one, from him; when with the feeling that he are said to have overcome, because greater was forsaken by his God, he trod the wine- is he that is in them than he that is in the press alone; when he entered single-handed world; and that they who are under the upon that dreary period of agony, and in- dominion of the other, are said to be the sult, and death, in which from the garden children of the devil, and to be under his to the cross, he had to bear the burden of snare, and to be taken captive by him at a world's atonement. I cannot speak in his will. How these respective powers do my own language, but I can say in the lan- operate, is one question. The fact of their guage of the Bible, of the days and the nights operation, is another. We abstain from the of this great enterprise, that it was the sea- former. We attach ourselves to the latter, son of the travail of his soul; that it was and gather from it, that the prince of darkthe hour and the power of darkness; that ness still walketh abroad among us; that the work of redemption was a work accom- he is still working his insidious policy, if panied by the effort, and the violence, and not with the vigorous inspiration of hope, the fury of a combat; by all the arduous- at least with the frantic energies of despair; ness of a battle in its progress, and all the that while the overtures of reconciliation glories of a victory in its termination; and are made to circulate through the world, after he called out that it was finished, after he is plying all his devices to deafen and he was loosed from the prison-house of the to extinguish the impression of them; or, grave, after he had ascended up on high, in other words, while a process of invitation he is said to have made captivity captive and of argument has emanated from heaand to have spoiled principalities and pow-ven, for reclaiming men to their loyaltyers; and to have seen his pleasure upon the process is resisted at all its points, by his enemies; and to have made a show of one who is putting forth his every expethem openly. dient, and wielding a mysterious ascendency, to seduce and to enthral them.

I will not affect a wisdom above that which is written, by fancying such details To an infidel ear, all this carries the of this warfare as the Bible has not laid be- sound of something wild and visionary fore me. But surely it is no more than along with it; but though only known being wise up to that which is written, to through the medium of revelation, after it assert, that in achieving the redemption of is known, who can fail to recognize its harour world, a warfare had to be accomplish-mony with the great lineaments of human ed; that upon this subject there was among experience? Who has not felt the workthe higher provinces of creation, the keen ings of a rivalry within him, between the and the animated conflict of opposing in- power of conscience and the power of terests; that the result of it involved some- temptation? Who does not remember thing grander and more affecting, than even those seasons of retirement, when the calthe fate of this world's population; that it culations of eternity had gotten a momentdecided a question of rivalship between the ary command over the heart; and time, righteous and everlasting Monarch of uni- with all its interests and all its vexations, versal being, and the prince of a great and had dwindled into insignificancy before widely extended rebellion, of which I nei- them? And who does not remember, how ther know how vast is the magnitude, nor upon his actual engagement with the ob how important and diversified are the bear-jects of time, they resumed a control, as ings; and thus do we gather from this con- great and as omnipotent, as if all the imsideration, another distinct argument, help-portance of eternity adhered to them-how

and others will keep by their rebellion; and, in the day of the winding up of the drama of this world's history, there will be made manifest to the myriads of the various orders of creation, both the mercy and vindicated majesty of the Eternal. Oh! on that

they emitted from them such an impression | the affections, that man, become the poor upon his feelings, as to fix and to fascinate slave of its idolatries, and its charms, puts the the whole man into a subserviency to their authority of conscience, and the warnings of influence-how in spite of every lesson of the Word of God, and the offered instigations their worthlessness, brought home to him at of the Spirit of God, and all the lessons of every turn by the rapidity of the seasons, and calculation, and the wisdom even of his own the vicissitudes of life, and the ever-moving sound and sober experience, away from him. progress of his own earthly career, and the But this wondrous contest will come to a visible ravages of death among his acquaint-close. Some will return to their loyalty, ances around him, and the desolations of his family, and the constant breaking up of his system of friendships, and the affecting spectacle of all that lives and is in motion, withering and hastening to the grave; -oh! how comes it that in the face of all this experience, the whole elevation of pur-day how vain will this presumption of the pose, conceived in the hour of his better Infidel astronomer appear, when the affairs understanding, should be dissipated and of men come to be examined in the preforgotten? Whence the might, and whence sence of an innumerable company; and the mystery of that spell, which so binds beings of loftiest nature are seen to crowd and so infatuates us to the world? What around the judgment-seat; and the Saviour prompts us so to embark the whole strength shall appear in our sky, with a celestial of our eagerness and of our desires in pursuit retinue, who have come with him from afar of interests which we know a few little to witness all his doings, and to take a deep years will bring to utter annihilation? Who and solemn interest in all his dispensations; is it that imparts to them all the charm and and the destiny of our species, whom the all the colour of an unfailing durability? Infidel would thus detach, in solitary inWho is it that throws such an air of stability significance, from the universe altogether, over these earthly tabernacles, as makes shall be found to merge and to mingle with them look to the fascinated eye of man like higher destinies-the good to spend their resting places for eternity? Who is it that eternity with angels-the bad to spend their so pictures out the objects of sense, and so eternity with angels-the former to be remagnifies the range of their future enjoy- admitted into the universal family of God's ment, and so dazzles the fond and deceived obedient worshippers-the latter to share imagination, that in looking onward through in the everlasting pain and tgnominy of the our earthly career, it appears like the vista, defeated hosts of the rebellious-the people or the perspective of innumerable ages? of this planet to be implicated, throughout He who is called the god of this world. He the whole train of their never-ending hiswho can dress the idleness of its waking tory, with the higher ranks, and the more dreams in the garb of reality. He who can extended tribes of intelligence; and thus it pour a seducing brilliancy over the pano-is that the special administration we now rama of its fleeting pleasures and its vain anticipations. He who can turn it into an instrument of deceitfulness; and make it wield such an absolute ascendency over all

live under, shall be seen to harmonize in its bearings, and to accord in its magnificence, with all that extent of nature and of her territories, which modern science has unfolded.


On the slender Influence of mere Taste and Sensibility in Matters of Religion. "And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one who hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not."-Ezekiel xxxiii. 32.

You easily understand how a taste for the delights of enthusiasm, as they sit in music is one thing, and a real submission to the influence of religion is another;-how the ear may be regaled by the melody of sound, and the heart may utterly refuse the proper impression of the sense that is conveyed by it; how the sons and daughters of the world may, with their every affection devoted to its perishable vanities, inhale all

crowded assemblage around the deep and solemn oratorio;-aye, and whether it be the humility of penitential feeling, or the rapture of grateful acknowledgment, or the sublime of a contemplative piety, or the aspiration of pure and of holy purposes, which breathes throughout the words of the performance, and gives to it all the spirit and

all the expression by which it is pervaded; now; and on the day of reckoning, this is it is a very possible thing, that the moral, the ground upon which your religion will and the rational, and the active man, may be judged then; and that award is to be have given no entrance into his bosom for passed upon you, which will fix and perany of these sentiments; and yet so over-petuate your destiny for ever. You have a powered may he be by the charm of the vocal conveyance through which they are addressed to him, that he may be made to feel with such an emotion, and to weep with such a tenderness, and to kindle with such a transport, and to glow with such an elevation, as may one and all carry upon them the semblance of sacredness.

taste for music. This no more implies the hold and the ascendency of religion over you, than that you have a taste for beautiful scenery, or a taste for painting, or even a taste for the sensualities of epicurism. But music may be made to express the glow and the movement of devotional feeling; and it is saying nothing to say that the But might not this semblance deceive heart of him who listens with a raptured him? Have you never heard any tell, and ear, is through the whole time of the perwith complacency too, how powerfully his formance, in harmony with such a movedevotion was awakened by an act of at- ment? Why, it is saying nothing to the tendance on the oratorio-how his heart, purpose. Music may lift the inspiring melted and subdued by the influence of note of patriotism; and the inspiration may harmony, did homage to all the religion of be felt; and it may thrill over the recesses which it was the vehicle-how he was so of the soul, to the mustering up of all its moved and overborne, that he had to shed energies; and it may sustain to the last cathe tears of contrition, and to be agitated by dence of the song, the firm nerve and purthe terrors of judgment, and to receive an pose of intrepidity; and all this may be awe upon his spirit of the greatness and the realized upon him, who in the day of battle, majesty of God-and that wrought up to and upon actual collision with the dangers the lofty pitch of eternity, he could look of it, turns out to be a coward. And music down upon the world, and by the glance may lull the feelings into unison with piety; of one commanding survey, pronounce and stir up the inner man to lofty determiupon the littleness and the vanity of all its nations; and so engage for a time his affecconcerns? Oh! it is very, very possible that tions, that, as if weaned from the dust, they all this might thrill upon the ears of the promise an immediate entrance on some man, and circulate a succession of solemn great and elevated career, which may carry and affecting images around his fancy-and him through his pilgrimage superior to all yet that essential principle of his nature, the sordid and grovelling enticements that upon which the practical influence of Chris-abound in it. But he turns him to the world, tianity turns, might have met with no reach- and all this glow abandons him; and the ing and no subduing efficacy whatever to words which he hath heard, he doeth them arouse it. He leaves the exhibition, as dead not; and in the hour of temptation he turns in trespasses and sins as he came to it. out to be a deserter from the law of alleConscience has not awakened upon him. giance; and the test I have now specified Repentance has not turned him. Faith has looks hard upon him, and discriminates not made any positive lodgement within him amid all the parading insignificance of him of her great and her constraining reali- his fine but fugitive emotions, to be the ties. He speeds him back to his business subject both of present guilt and of future and to his family, and there he plays off vengeance. the old man in all the entireness of his uncrucified temper, and of his obstinate worldliness, and of all those earthly and unsanctified affections, which are found to cleave to him with as great tenacity as ever. He is really and experimentally the very same man as before-and all those sensibilities which seemed to bear upon them so much of the air and unction of heaven, are found to go into dissipation, and be forgotten with the loveliness of the song.

Amid all that illusion which such momentary visitations of seriousness and of sentiment throw around the character of man, let us never lose sight of the test, that "by their fruits ye shall know them." It is not coming up to this test, that you hear and are delighted. It is that you hear and do. This is the ground upon which the reality of your religion is discriminated

The faithful application of this test would put to flight a host of other delusions. It may be carried round among all those phenomena of human character, where there is the exhibition of something associated with religion, but which is not religion itself. An exquisite relish for music is no test of the influence of Christianity. Neither are many other of the exquisite sensibilities of our nature. When a kind mother closes the eyes of her expiring babe, she is thrown into a flood of sensibility, and soothing to her heart are the sympathy and the prayers of an attending minister. When a gathering neighbourhood assemble to the funeral of an acquaintance, one pervading sense of regret and tenderness sits on the face of the company; and the deep silence, broken only by the solemn utterance of the man of God, carries a kind of pleasing religiousness

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