Page images

as within itself; and remains alone with God. It is only as far off that the noise and disturbance of the world is heard, like the sound of a distant tumult.

By the perplexity of our worldly concerns, we may have been involved in trouble. By the death of our dearest friends, we may have been overwhelmed with sorrow. By the situation of public affairs, we may be alarmed with dangers that threaten our country. In all such situations is there any consolation equal to that which the devout man enjoys in drawing near to God? He looks up to a Father and a Friend, in whom he can place his trust in every time of need. He hears a voice issuing from the Divine sanctuary, which says, Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee. Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. Comforted by such words, his mind regains tranquillity. Resting on the hope that the God whom he serves will never forsake him, he can dismiss from his thoughts the fears, the troubles, and wickedness of men; and compose his spirit to dwell among celestial things. Looking up to that blessed world where he expects to find his repose, he beholds no objects but what he can contemplate with delight, as great, peaceful, and serene. There, he beholds none of the agitations and turmoils of men ; no tumults, nor factions, nor wars; no friends, who die and leave us; no ambitious men, who aspire to oppress; nor violent men, who attempt to destroy; nor fraudulent brethren, who, with a smiling countenance, cheat and deceive. In perfect contrast to the confusion of the earth, he beholds all things above, proceeding in the same perfect order with the heavenly bodies, which move in their orbs with smooth and steady course.

He sees the river of life flowing continually from before the throne of God; and diffusing among the blessed inhabitants fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.

From such devout contemplations and hopes arose that great delight which holy men of ancient times describe themselves to have felt in drawing near to God, and which they have expressed in language so vivid and glowing. Blessed, O Lord, is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee ?; that he may dwell in thy courts, and be satis with the goodness of thy house, and of thy holy place. O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee. Bea causc thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips ; when I

; remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Whom have I in Heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire, besides thee.* When such language as this expresses the native sentiments of our hearts, we join ourselves in some measure to the angelical choir above, and anticipate the employments of the blessed.

Some may perhaps imagine, that what has been said of the importance and the advantages of drawing near to God, approaches in some degree to mysticism and enthusiasm. I admit, that if religion were represented as consisting wholly of internal devout emotions, the representation of it would be imperfect and false. It is designed to be an active

* Psalm lxiii. 3-6-Ixv. 4. - lxxii. 25.

principle, regulating the conduct of life, and exerting itself in good works. But very ignorant he must be of human nature, who perceives not, that in order to produce such effects, it is of high importance to engage the affections and the heart on the side of virtue. It is not by reasonings addressed solely to the understanding, that men's characters are formed, or their general conduct actuated. If


wish to work any considerable effect on their life, you must bring over the affections and inclinations to your side. You must not only show them what is right and true, but make them feel what is desirable and good. If you attempt to make religion so very calm and rational, as to exclude from it all warmth of sentiment, all affectionate and devotional feelings, you will leave it in possession of small influence on conduct. My son, give me thy heart, is the voice of God; and the voice of reason is, that according as the heart is affected and disposed, such will be the general character and conduct.

The application of the whole subject to the Holy Sacrament, which we are now to celebrate, is natural and obvious. No more solemn opportunity can be afforded us of drawing near to God, than what we there enjoy. All that is encouraging and comforting in Christian faith is set before us, in this most effectual proof of God's mercy to mankind, giving up his Son to the death as a sacrifice for our sins. In celebrating the memorial of this great event, we are placed as under the immediate brightness of heavenly light, and under the warmest ray of Divine love. If there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship of the Spirit, any pleasing hope of eternal life and joy, it ought on such an occasion to be drawn forth and deeply felt. Let us endeavour to kindle, at the altar of the Lord, that sacred fire, which shall continue to diffuse its vivifying influence over our hearts, when we go abroad into the world, and mingle again in the ordinary concerns of life. We are now to draw near to God. Let us draw near to him as our Father, but with that reverence and humility which becomes us on approaching to a Father who is in Heaven. Let us draw near through that great Mediator, by whose merits and intercessions alone our services find acceptance at the Divine throne. No man cometh unto the Father but through him, and none who cometh unto God by him, will be cast out.



PSALM ci. 2.

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.

ISDOM, says Solomon, excelleth folly, as far as

light excelleth darkness.* In our present state, there is no situation in which we can, consistently with safety to ourselves, act thoughtlessly and at random. In whatever enterprise we engage, consideration and prudent thought are requisite to bring it to a good issue. On every occasion there is a right and a wrong in conduct; there is one line of action which is likely to terminate according as we wish; and another, which, for certain, will land us in disappointment. If, in the ordinary transactions of life, we cannot prosper without a due exercise of wisdom and prudence, a higher degree of it is certainly necessary in those momentous parts of conduct which regard our everlasting welfare.

It is indeed confessed, that in religious conduct, the fundamental and most important article is sincerity of heart, and goodness of intention. At the same time, let the intentions be ever so pure and

* Eccles. ii. 13.

« PreviousContinue »