Imatges de pÓgina
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diety. Jesus saw under the fig-tree a chosen disciple who had not yet known his Saviour, unconsciously made ready to choose him and confess him when he appeared. - Rabbi, thou art the Son of God.” All the discovery was on Nathanael's part; the Master had known his servant under the fig-tree-and long-how long before! “ Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee.”—“ According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” He sees the love that never saw itself, and accepts the unconscious service. 6 Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee?" He feels the hatred that knows not its own object: “Who art thou, Lord?” “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” He accepts the faith that doubts of its own existence minute as a grain of mustard-seed; and how he estimates the guilt of sins unconsciously committed, is apparent in the sacrifices appointed for them under the Mosaic dispensation.

It is not for Deity, then, that the manifestations and expression of devotions are required. It is not for himself God has appointed forms and places and symbolic signs, nor to himself he has adapted them. Mark here the pride and absurdity of human reasoning. We hear it said, “What does God care for forms and ceremonies? What can it signify to Him, who reads the heart, whether I pray in one place or another, or any where at all, if I live under a

sense of dependence upon Him? Is there any charm in the posture of the body, in the sprinkling of water, and muttering of words, and setting apart of days and sanctifying of places? Every man is before God what he is in his heart, in spite of creeds, and formularies, and institutions of religion; irrelevant all to the nature of the Eternal Spirit; and what have they to do with the spirit of a man?” We answer, no more than the paper on which our words are written, and the characters in which they are expressed, have to do with the thoughts and feelings they convey from the mind of him who writes, to the mind of him who reads. Religious ordinances are the medium of communication God has appointed between himself and us, suited, not to His nature, but to ours. In earthly language, by material images and with sensible signs, the Deity holds communion with his earth-born creatures, and chooses to receive communications back again. It was left for the intellect of fallen man to discover that they are superfluous, contemptible -to mock at the simple machinery of the forbidden fruit, by which the first movement of sin was to be detected: to cavil at the similitude of earthly passion ascribed to the mind of the impassible God, of joy, and grief, and anger, and repentance; above all, to pour out the full vial of his scorn, the very spleen of his indignant reason, against that great device, that mys

tery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh. Were we informed what was the necessity of submitting Deity to mortal sense, of working out redemption with material instruments amid sensible things, rather than in mental and spiritual abstractions, it might help us to discover why God had joined, and required us to join, the outward and visible sign of devotion with the inward and spiritual grace, alone essential, and alone acceptable to Him. Meantime it is enough for the submitted intellect to know, that He has so appointed--that He does so require—and that He accepts, not the ordidances, but our spiritual worship in them: or rather all in Christ-apart from whom the emotions of the heart and the adoration of the understanding, are of no more value than the flexions of the knee and the utterance of the lips.

From the beginning God has instituted sacramental signs; material emblems of spiritual things; memorials and witnesses between himself and man; pledges of promise, and tests of obligation. Hard by the tree of knowledge, which tested his obedience, stood the tree of life, its blessing and reward. The lusting eye, the profaning hand, transgressing instruments of the guilt-stirred spirit, should have been instruments of prevention; for there, within touch and sight, stood the pledge and emblem of the life they were to forfeit. Those senses through which the criminal desire was engen

dered, when the woman saw the tree that it was pleasant, should have been the safeguards of her innocence. Sense was not meant for a base handmaid to immortal mind; a defenceless inlet by which the soul's strong hold was to be betrayed and taken. That opening had its outworks—it had its own peculiar guard, and should have tended to the soul's defence. If the woman had looked upon the other tree, sense would have helped her to the memory of God, and all the bliss she was putting to the venture.

In the great moral dislocation of the fall, every faculty took its own course of wrong; one to its pride, the other to its sensualityagreed in nothing but to depart from God. Mind went to war with matter, judgment with feeling, intellect with sense; what was once combination, became contrariety, and man was left at variance with himself; a thing so shattered and broken, that no finite power can make its parts agree, or fit them once more to a whole. And thus it is, that while the pride of reason affects to despise all outward ordinances and visible demonstrations of piety, feeling is prone to cling to them too much; the one decries the help that sense affords, the other loses all spirituality in it. But God, the wise, the merciful, when he determined to recover and renew his fallen creature, had regard to each of his dispersed faculties, and suited his

ministration to them all. Those perverted senses through which the tide of corruption now flowed in with overwhelming force, sinking the soul in deeper and deeper night, were not given up by him, to be the exclusive ministers of evil; material instruments, seduced and seducing as they had become, were not so abandoned, that they should no longer have a voice to speak for God, or witness of his violated laws. Indeed when the divine image had departed, and the living soul, having put itself to death, proceeded to bury itself in the things of time and sense, man became so earthly, so animalized a creature, that the ministration of sensible things was found best adapted to his dulled intellect and blighted feelings. The work of redemption was begun in signs and shadows of the things to come: in typical sacrifices and ceremonial service; every truth was exhibited under some sensible image, and every promise ratified by some external pledge. “It shall come to pass,” says the Lord to Moses, after the most impressive exhibition of his will, with all the blessing and the curse attached, “ It shall come to pass when the Lord thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal.” We might have thought, that with all the supernatural evidences with which they were surrounded, the presence of God upon

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