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and with an immediate regard to the favour of God—while virtue was thought to derive its best rules and best encouragements from religion, and therefore was to be practised more from a sense of duty and ultimate advantage than from custom, or from propriety, or from arbitrary institutions, or from respect to reputation in society, or from the mere speculative perception of its intrinsic beauty, or the mere experience of its tendency to promote our welfare only in this imperfect and transitory life-while, I say, these large, salutary, and most momentous principles were familiar to our memories and sacred to our feelings, the reformers, or, as I should rather call them, the corruptors of society, were sensible that their theories would excite suspicion rather than confidence, and contempt rather than admiration--that their real intentions would be detected under all the specious colours of their philosophical professions—that their sophistry and their rhetoric would be baffled by common sense, and their novelties rejected as bold and mischievous fallacies. They saw, as did the sacred writer, not only the clear congruity, but intimate union of the two positions contained in the close of my text. We must, therefore, acknowledge that they shewed their consistency and their dexterity, when they tried to put asunder what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had joined together, and meant after separation more easily to destroywhen they endeavoured to extinguish every hope of futurity-to undermine every ground of confidence in the Deity, as the rewarder of those who
seek him, and gradually to overthrow every popular persuasion, and every philosophical argument, that he even exists. Again and again I must entreat you to remember that, in the view of the writer from whom my text is taken, the being of a God, and his moral government, are treated, not only as related to each other, but as in reality dependant upon each other, and that to the right conception of that relation, and the rooted belief of that dependance, we are to look for such a disposition of the human heart, and such regulation of human agency, as shall be pleasing unto God. What, then, is thus generally and concisely asserted by the sacred writer, I shall continue my endeavours more particularly to unfold.
When you come to God, one part of your faith must be, that he is; and the other, that he is the rewarder of those who seek him. The second is obviously impossible without the first; but the first is possible, that is, involves no contradiction in the absence of the second. Here, then, from ideal possibility we must pass to intelligible fact.
Now, even in theory, the views we have of the Deity merely as a Creator soon become dim and confused, though our senses suggest to us irresistibly that this character belongs to him. We know that all substances, and all the properties by which they become discernible to us, owe their origin to his power. But as to the manner in which they were created, or in what other manner they might have been created, or what additions might have been made to their number and mutual rela
tions, and what changes might have been introduced in their respective uses, we are utterly ignorant. Agency and intelligence we do perceive must have numerous and even essential differences in the Creator and ourselves. The previous existence of materials is necessary to the works of men, but not to those of God. For inexplicable as may be, in many respects, the action of a Being whose primary plans have no instruments to aid, no archetype to guide the execution of them, we are compelled to admit the fact; nor can we escape from such admission, but by the absurdity of rejecting a first cause itself uncaused, and of supposing that the events we see is a chain where the first link can never be found, and where every cause is the effect of a preceding cause, exerted through an indefinite series.
Again, human agents cannot will, nor design without motives and ideas suggested to them by preistent objects ; but the Deity designed—he willedhe effected the existence of those very objects. In all human perceptions the mind is, in some sense of the word, passive, and forms its judgment upon materials presented to itself distinct from itself, and existing independently of itself; but we cannot suppose the Deity to receive impressions from the impulse of extraneous things, nor deny him the power of understanding before there was in existence any external thing to be understood. Very small, then, is the progress we can make in useful knowledge, very scanty must be our conceptions of the Deity, very languid would be our love of him, and our reverence towards him, if we only discerned that he
is, and that we have been formed by him. But the relation in which he stands to us, as the righteous governor of the world, is more open to our view, and more conducive to our improvement. For this relation is manifest from the constitution of things, as they lie within our ken, from the properties assigned to them, and the ends to which they are subservient; and here we contemplate God as a being who is always presiding over, and, as it were, acting upon, the natures which he has bestowed on his creatures ; and this, too, according to rules which he has himself prescribed for them; and when, among those natures and those rules, we discover vestiges of a moral government, then our views of his attributes and his operations become more large, more precise, more interesting, and gradually conduct our thoughts to him as the rewarder of virtue.
If from speculation we turn to practice, the importance of the proposition contained in my text will be yet more apparent. Were it only known to us that God is, we should be ignorant of his will; we should see no connection between that will and our own well-being ; we should be fearless of his displeasure; we should be indifferent to his favour; joyless in looking back upon the past, helpless for the present, hopeless and reckless of the future; sometimes in deep murmurs of complaint, and sometimes in a bolder tone of accusation, you might be tempted to say—why has God made me thus ? Omnipotence he may have; but it leaves the whole human race a prey to worms in the dreary and silent regions of the grave. He may have omniscience also; but
this attribute has ordained no ultimate difference between the presumptuous scoffer who, without any reflection, thinks in his heart, and without any misgivings proclaims with his lips, there is no God, and the humble inquirer who wished to discover, and, having discovered, would have gladly adored a Deity, holy, just, and merciful--none between the ruthless oppressor and the guiltless victim of his caprice or his rage--none between him who, seeing his brethren have need, shuts up the bowels of his compassion from them, and him who provided for the sick and needy, delivered the fatherless and bim that had no helper, and caused the widow's heart to sing for joy-none between the rich man, who is arrayed in purple, aud fares sumptuously every day, and the poor man, who finds no shelter for his wearied head from the pelting storm, and who, unpitied and unseen, closes his miserable existence under the pressure of a broken spirit, or the pangs of acute disease, or the lingering torments of thirst and hunger. Impossible then it is, that, perceiving only the single relation of a creature to a creator, and that creature unprotected here, and unaccountable hereafter, we should strive to please, or wish even to contemplate him; it is impossible we should ever approach him in the Christian spirit of supplication to him as our preserver, or of humility as our judge. Lost we should be to all the lovely and refreshing sentiments of that gratitude which, even when exercised towards man, not only recognizes with delight past services, but anticipates in imagination a future disposition to