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their ramifications, philosophy possesses no appropriate terms; nor could any appropriate term be rendered intelligible to minds deriving all their ideas from sensible objects. Recourse must therefore be had to a species of analogy; and the conduct of God towards his intellectual offspring, is ascribed to the same passions and affections by which men are actuated, in their conduct towards each other. Because we so frequently change our purposes, in consequence of our experiencing sorrow and contrition, for our past actions, thus is a change or diversity in the divine proceedings ascribed, by a bold metaphorical figure, to the repentance of the Deity, as if he was also mistaken or disappointed in his object. Because human beings are prone to feel the turbulent emotions of anger, at injuries received, or offences committed, which excite in them a desire to punish the offender, thus is the incessant disapprobation of the Supreme Ruler, of vice and impiety, forcibly expressed by his anger, wrath, indignation: and the tremendous effects of his displeasure are denoted, by the sinner's "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath." As we are excited by compassion and sympathy to pardon the crimes of the penitent, or to alleviate the distresses of our fellow creatures, similar emotions of commiseration and tenderness are ascribed to God,
in the diversified manifestations of his benevolence.
Again, it is not the sole object of language to state facts. It is also destined to give a powerful efficacy to these facts. It is frequently intended to excite in the human breast, cer tain feelings and emotions. For this purpose it uses imagery, by which, through the medium of fancy, distant objects, and even abstract truths, are rendered conspicuous and striking. It ventures to borrow resemblances from every quarter, in order to produce some particular impression upon the mind.
In times of simplicity, when knowledge is very limited, and ideas acquired by thought and reflection are comparatively few; when language is barren of accurate and appropriate terms ; when the mind is neither diverted nor distracted by a variety of subjects; when the feelings are warm, and the imagination vigorous; when abstract notions and minute investigations do not check the impulses of nature, by demanding precision, the mind naturally and inevitably bursts forth into metaphor; and every emotion
is made known by the boldest and most animated terms. It eagerly seeks to do justice to its feelings, by imagery borrowed from every surrounding object. In proportion as a people become less simple in their state and manners; in proportion as general knowledge increases, and ideas multiply, a calmer spirit of investi gation succeeds to the strong impulsive feelings of sense; precision takes place of animation, unequivocal terms are preferred to those which are more bold and indeterminate; the metaphorical style is consigned to poets and orators, whose professed object it is to please the fancy or move the affections; and the language which ceases to be popular, although it should not be misunderstood, begins to appear extravagant.
The Scriptures of the Old Testament were penned in times of the greatest simplicity. They were intended for the use of a people, whose ancestors had been slaves for several ages, who were just emerging from ignorance and barbarism, and whose ideas could never have been expanded, without the medium of sensible objects, and the bold imagery which they presented to the imagination. To such a people philosophical abstractions would have been uninteresting, had they not been unintelligible. Their lawgivers and prophets were compelled to use figu
rative and metaphorical expressions, in order to awaken the attention and influence the heart. To realize to their minds, in the most forcible manner, the presence, inspection, authority, approbation, and displacency of the Deity, they incessantly represented the great universal Spirit in a language which in its stricter applications, belonged to human beings alone. To impress a conviction of his universal knowledge, it is said that "the eyes of the Lord ran through the earth." Divine power is represented by the human instruments of agency. In issuing his commands, or in the manifestations of his designs, he is always represented as speaking; and to demonstrate the facility with which he can destroy the wicked, it is said, "by the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed." And, as we have already shewn, it is upon these principles that all those passions and affections are ascribed to God, which have the strongest influence upon the human heart. Although such expressions are not adapted to the divine nature, abstractedly considered, yet there are points of resemblance by which they are peculiarly adapted to the nature of man; and they are calculated to convey more impressive sentiments of awe, reverence, love, and gratitude towards the Supreme Ruler of the universe, than could be effectedl by any other mode.
The above epitome of Natural Religion, and its evidences from reason, manifest that the truest reason vindicates those sentiments of the Deity, which are the richest sources of happiness. They are sentiments which, to the pious mind, enhance the pleasures of every legitimate enjoyment, and afford the best consolation in every affliction: for they are the foundation of hope and confidence in the universal parent and governor of his intelligent offspring. They are also sentiments which afford the strongest inducements to the practice of virtue, by implanting a conviction that this is the only acceptable oblation that can be offered on the altar of obedience. They assure us, that the God whom we serve loves Virtue; he loves it as the most permanent source of happiness to the individuals who practise it, and also to the whole of his extensive family; and they assure us that he will love those who imitate the benignity of his character. Obedience to the commands of such a Being, elevates every personal and social virtue, however trifling in appearance, into an act of Piety. It consecrates and ennobles every branch of prudence; every instance of self-command; every resistance to the seductions of vice.