Page images
PDF
EPUB

we are assured, is an eternal gain. They continue in a state of temptation, of trial, of sorrow; while he has passed through the valley of the shadow of death, to the bosom of his Father and their Father, of his God and their God. They, indeed, now sorrow, because they shall behold his face no more; but when their corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and their mortal shall have put on immortality, if it be given them to enter, as we trust he has, into the rest prepared for the people of God, then shall they behold him again, clothed in the glorified form, and beaming love from the seraph countenance of the just man made perfect,

SERMON I.

JOB XI. 7, 8, 9. “Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty

unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea."

The text teaches us, that the Deity is a being altogether incomprehensible. The words imply, that we can no more discover the mode of the divine subsistence, and develope the nature of the divine perfections, than we can measure the vault of heaven, or explore the lowest abysses of the earth.

It is told of Simonides, a distinguished ancient poet and philosopher, that, when asked by Hiero, king of Syracuse, the question, “What is God ?” he desired to have a day for reflection, before he undertook to reply. On the following day, the query was repeated, and two days more were requested ; at the expiration of which, Simonides again doubled the time which he demanded for consideration. At length, Hiero, growing impatient, inquired why he acted in this manner. “ Because," answered the candid pagan," because the longer I examine the subject, the more obscure it becomes.

Many have supposed, that the necessity of an intelligent First Cause is so obvious, that, had Jehovah made no direct revelation of himself to man, we should yet have been able, by the exercise of the mental faculties with which he has endued us, to arrive at a knowledge of bis existence. In fact the possibility of learning something in respect to the being and attributes of God, independently of the disclosures contained in his word, has been assumed by not a few able writers, as an incontestable truth. Thus the eminently profound and discriminating Calvin commences the third chapter of the first book of his Institutes with this confident assertion, “ We lay it down as a position not to be controverted, that the mind of man even by natural instinct has some sense of a Deity." We may add, that the apostle Paul himself has been thought to favour the opinion of which we speak, when he says, “ The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” This passage has been understood as implying, that on the works of creation the great Architect has impressed the fact of his existence in lines so broad and conspicuous, that they cannot fail to attract the notice of every being who has eyes to see, and an intellect to consider and comprehend.

There are those, however, who, after a close and patient investigation of the subject, have been led to doubt, if not to deny, that man, without the assistance of revelation, would have known any thing respecting his Maker. They look upon the language of Paul just quoted, as too ambiguous to be relied on for the support of the opinion which they reject, while there are various considerations which incline them to a contrary supposition. We shall here offer one or two remarks on this point, but without taking upon us to decide it.

.

That the numberless indications of design and coutrivance which pervade the works of God, are an evidence of his existence, is certain. The argument with which we combat the Atheist, when we point him to the universe which he inhabits, and of which he is a part, and demand of him how a structure so stupendous and magnificent, and so admirably fitted to the accomplishment of wise and benevolent ends, should have originated without an intelligent agent,is unquestionably a sound one. On this point, let it be carefully observed, there is no difference of opinion. It is conceded on both sides, that, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work.” The question is not whether those who are already acquainted with a Deity, may discover in the fabric of nature numerous and striking tokens of bis being, but whether these tokens would be sufficient to arrest the attention, and force conviction on the minds of those who were entirely ignorant of the fact. Phenomena which appear singularly conclusive to persons whose belief in the divine existence has been previously established, might make no impression whatever, or, at best, only a feeble and transitory impression on individuals, who had never before heard or thought of a God. To discern the evidence which sustains a known truth, is a very different thing from the discovery of a truth that was wholly unknown. It is, at the present day, no very hard matter to demonstrate those physical laws which govern the revolutions of the solar and planetary orbs. And yet how many ages of the most profound ignorance had been slumbered away, before Newton, by the efforts of his splendid genius, ascertained and elucidated the simple but sublime principles, by which the harmony of the spheres is preserved!

The general, if not universal, belief of mankind in respect to the divine existence, has been confidently appealed to by many as evincing, that this great truth, which lies at the foundation of all religion, is discoverable by human reason. The assertion has been broadly made, that no nation or tribe of people entirely ignorant of a Deity, can be found at present on the globe, or has ever existed. How far this assertion might be successfully combatted, we shall not now inquire, though we cannot forbear observing, that Locke, in the first book of his Essay on the Understanding, has quoted some facts, which he considered as sufficiently proving the contrary, and that a later writer of our own country has recorded a very remarkable circumstance, which we shall here state in his own words: “I was well acquainted,” says he, “ with a negro, who was a man of superior natural powers, and made a profession of religion; who told me, that he was born in the island of Madagascar, and lived there till he was above thirty years old ; and in all that time he never had a thought of the being of a God, a creator, or governor of the world, or of a future state after death.” But let us concede, for the sake of argument, that some indistinct notions relative to a supreme Divinity, are, and have always been co-extensive with the diffusion of human nature.—We ask, is it by any means certain, that such notions are the pure result of investigation and reflection on the part of those who possess them? May they not be referred to that original revelation of himself with which we know that the Deity was pleased to favour our first parent? The idea of a God once

« PreviousContinue »