« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
been easily and successfully transferred to other inquiries; it has eventually called off the philosopher from visionary researches to experimental science, and has taught the religionist to found his faith upon reason, and his hope upon the practice of solid virtue. But, unhappily for mankind, we are prone to forget the source of all our advantages in proportion to their magnitude and their utility ; and hence it happens that many among us, who abundantly enjoy those religious blessings which the providence of God has now made ordinary, become ungratefully indifferent, or obstinately incredulous, to those extraordinary measures by which the Gospel was introduced and propagated. Let not, however, such guilt, my brethren, be laid to your charge. If you look back to antiquity, you will find that as men, from their ignorance or their depravity, are less capable of attending to the internal beauty of religion, God has been pleased to call up their attention by the most striking external proofs of its truth. If you reflect seriously on the present state of the world, on our principles of speculation and of practice, on our rapid progress in philosophy, and our refinements in social life, you will not think miracles wantonly lavished, when the very improvements which now render a miraculous interposition unnecessary, are themselves the effects of a dispensation professedly and eminently miraculous.
THE HOUSE OF PRAYER.
MATTHEW xxi. 13.
And he said unto them, it is written, my house shall be called the
house of prayer.
The general, or, perhaps, as I ought rather to say, the almost universal consent of mankind has been frequently insisted upon by sagacious and pious religionists in their controversy with the subtle sceptic and the stubborn infidel; most assuredly that consent forms a decisive proof upon the adaptation of the human mind to admit and retain the belief of some divine agency. It constitutes in itself a moral probability of the highest order in favour of Theism, and in regard to the common apprehensions of our fellow-creatures, it supplies the place or facilitates the reception of those elaborate and abstruse reasonings by which the existence of a Deity has been successfully demonstrated. If we páss from the latent opinions of men to their visible actions, here also in their general practice we find many vestiges of general resemblance ; for the
* August 1816.
notion of a Being, by which all external objects are created and preserved, is nearly in all instances attended by the desire of His favour, by the dread of His disapprobation, and by the consciousness of our unalterable and immediate dependence upon His
This consciousness operates under various forms of hope, veneration, and gratitude ; and by that original structure of the mind, which induces us to express the inward suggestions of our souls in outward signs of gesture or words, we are naturally led to address ourselves to the Deity, sometimes in humble request, and sometimes in fervent thanksgiving. When the lightnings glare, when the thunder rolls, when elemental war rages through the vaulted sky, when the foundations of the great depths of the sea are thrown open by the fury of the tempest, and when the earth itself is shaken to its centre, man shrinks and shudders under a sense of his own utter weakness; he is roused by the very activity of natural causes to look out for some distinct and controling cause. He is overwhelmed with the conception of some invisible agent beyond himself, and above himself; he falls prostrate before that Being who sits enthroned in the heavens ; he raises the suppliant eye, and in accents faltering at one moment, and eager at the next, he
forth his prayer
for deliverance from visible and impending danger..
But not only in the dreadful convulsions of nature do we recognize a God: the fragrant flower, the verdant meadow, the waving harvest, the stately
forest, the refreshing gale, the sweet music of the groves on the arrival of the morning dawn, the soothing serenity which accompanies evening twilight, the sun resplendent in his meridian glory, the moon arrayed in her full-orbed lustre, and the firmament spangled with stars innumerable—all these objects impress us with a sense of beauty combined with utility, and of endless variety regulated by consummate order—they carry up the judgment, the imagination, the affections of the beholder to their Divine Author, and as they strike him one while with the awful majesty of omnipotence, and another with the milder character of benevolence, he cannot fail to exclaim, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works ; in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth, the heaven, and the universe are full of thy riches. But what is man, that thou so regardest him ? Made him thou hast little lower than the angels,” and yet thou “ crownest him with honour and worship ?” “ Praise the Lord therefore, O my soul, and all that is within me magnify his holy name." If such be the effect wrought upon us in our more abstract contemplation on the scenery of nature, what do we experience while we reflect on the relation of things to our own personal well-being? When the “latter and the former rains descend” in soft drops upon the earth, and the “vallies stand so thick with corn as to laugh and sing,” we perceive an agency far transcending all the contrivances of human wisdom, and all the exertions of human strength. Our hearts glow with gladness, and our voices are raised
in songs of praise. Such is the connection between our thoughts and our actions.
And if we trace the influence of religion among the barbarous or more enlightened nations of the earth, here too we shall discern the beneficial effects of that sympathy which pervades all the more arduous duties, and all the more precious interests of the social state. Whatsoever man feels and expresses when communing with his own heart, he feels more exquisitely, and expresses more energetically, in the presence of his fellow-creatures. Hence it is that even in the rudest forms of communities particular places soon began to be chosen, and when chosen to be reverenced, and when reverenced to be frequented, for the performance of religious rites. It might be a rude and rugged altarit might be a gloomy grove—it might be an obscure corner-it might be a barren hill—it might be a small and uncouth edifice, but it was a place of worship. Whether too, according to the popular faith of any nation, there be one deity or more; whether in the conception of such a being our minds be delighted by the view of his inexhaustible goodness, or alarmed by a sense of his irresistible power, we see the necessity of doing homage to these attributes, and we have a kind of instinctive feeling that our supplications will not be ineffectual, when they are expressed in reverential language, when they are accompanied by the united hearts and united voices of numbers, and when they are uttered in those places which are peculiarly dedicated to religion.