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certainly, to attempt to unveil the majesty of the Supreme Being to our weak and mortal sight, is sinful. “ Canst thou, by searching, find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ? It is as high as heaven ; what canst thou do ? — deeper than hell; what canst thou know ?” hearts, indeed, will convince us that He is all-powerful and all-wise,--that He is every where and at all times present to observe our actions,—that He is just in all His ways,—and that His goodness and mercy are without end. And the holy Scriptures will lead us further than this ; for they will convince us that the Father, and the Word, and the Divine Spirit are united in the Godhead. But the method of this union who can discover ? Before man makes such useless enquiries, let him unravel the perplexities that relate to himself. Let him account, if he can, for the union of his own soul with his body,—for the growth of his limbs, and the stoppage of that growth, --for the production of his thoughts, and the work. ing of his passions,-in short, let him comprehend his own being, before he attempts to search into the infinity of God.
We may further observe, that when the mind wanders into such abstruse speculations, it is apt to grow fond of its own discoveries,—though, in fact, it has discovered nothing but what it will not see its own ignorance. The consequence is, that the man becomes dogmatical and imperious, and expects much deference froin the rest of the world. He
wishes to have his own fancies received as undoubted truths,—and is angry if they are disputed. Thus be loses all moderation,--and extinguishes the feelings of charity, without preserving the integrity of faith.
The points, of which we cannot be ignorant without being sinful, are our duty to God, and our duty to each other. With these we must be acquainted, if we would live as we ought, and if we are desirous to please God, or to receive any benefit from our Saviour's death. We are not immediately concerned to know more. Persons who have leisure to cultivate their faculties, may profitably and satisfactorily employ them in tracing the great Creator through his visible works. Here is field enough for all their genius and all their capacity. Such studies are pleasing and beneficial,---leading them, by an easy tendency, to methods of thinking which increase their reverence of God and their obedience to him. The paths of this knowledge are smooth and easy; while those of the false and delusive kind are intricate and perplexed. In these obscure enquiries, men are always on the brink of a precipice, always in danger, always tottering ;--sometimes standing on a barren rock, where no flower will grow, and where clouds thicken around their heads,--and looking disdainfully on the vale below, where fertility and beauty vie with each other, and the prospect, though more confined, is more serene, and every step is attended with security and peace.
But there are other mistakes besides that of soaring too high. Some men are apt, on the other hand, to refuse the mind its proper enlargement ; and, shutting themselves in the close corners of science, they imagine that they know and see into all things. This is the result of a narrow understanding, and of a gloomy imagination. One subject engrosses all their attention ; and that one is concluded to be the most important, and to contain every thing within itself. To think as they do in this, is, with them, the height of wisdom ; and to act upon it, is the sum of righteousness. Thus the way to heaven is marked out by fancy, rather than by understanding ; and, if this fancy can be worked up to any height, men will soon persuade themselves that they are wiser and better than the rest of the world. Some in ward feeling, and not the real temper and Christian disposition of the mind, will be taken as the pledge and earnest of salvation.
It is strange, that, when our duties are so plain, and so easily discoverable, that so many discordant opinions should arise, as to goodness itself;—and that such by-ways and bewildering tracks should be taken in pursuit of happiness, when the true road is open and clear to every one. But the fact is, that time and labour, and thought are often spent, not for the sake of finding out either virtue or happiness, but for the purpose of discovering, if possible, some new thing.
Can he be thought wiser than other men, who professes to know that, of which he cannot be certain, ---or who amuses himself with words without mean
ing, or to which he himself can fix no definite signification ? Can he be thought more righteous than others, who runs contrary to them in all his practice, and who acts in season and out of season, just as his fancy or his humour suggests? Do we not rather deem that man righteous, “ who doeth righteousness ?”—who can give a reason for his faith, and can submit his actions to a close and strict enquiry,assured that while men behold his conduct, his God and Judge discerns all his motives ?
For the confirmation of our faith and practice, we should observe that precept of St. Paul's, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity,”—and “ follow faith and charity, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." These things alone can advance the religion of Christ, and be serviceable to those who are called by his name. By the instructions that he has left us, let us endeavour to be wise,—and, suitably to his precepts, let us endeavour to be righteous. By other methods, we shall only “ destroy ourselves ;” and shall not be convinced of our errors, till it will be too late. Let us constantly implore the assistance of the Spirit of God, to guide us into his truth ; and let us set a proper value upon it, that we may be “ wise unto salvation.”
By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his
Tuis epistle to the Hebrews sets forth, in a satisfactory detail, that, by the one great oblation which our blessed Saviour had made in his own body for the remission of sins, all the rites and ceremonies of the Levitical law were abolished, because the use and the signification of them had now ceased. His perfect and sufficient atonement for the sins of the whole world superseded the necessity of all other sacrifices, so that the slaughter of bulls and goats, in the intention of offering them to appease the offended Majesty of God, would, in future, not only be not required, but would be superstitious. The sacrifices, therefore, that Christians are to make, are not of the