Page images
PDF
EPUB

the noise of winds without, or of waves breaking at a distance on the shore ; and it is there that, reposing in the bosom of our God, who holds the helm in the storm, we find ourselves in safety, and that we enter into the sentiments and can adopt the language of the psalmist: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sens : It is then, when we escape from the bustle and tumult of the world, to converse with God, and with our own hearts in secret, that we feel as Jacob did, when he exclaimed, How dreadful, that is, how solemn, is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And it is when, with the patriarch Isaac, we meditate alone in the fields at eventide, or when we converse with a friend of similar sentiments, on subjects which the surrounding scenery of nature suggests, that emotions are felt, and associations formed, which are the sweetest cordials of humanity and the longest remembered.

The kingdoms of nature, of providence, and of grace, have each of them a world of wonders to' explore. Were we to confine our attention to the meanest insect, it would lead us to think with admiration on the wisdom and power manifested in its frame. Nor is it necessary to have a scientific

[ocr errors]

acquaintance with the objects of natural history, to derive from them lessons of moral instruction. The great scenery of nature is open to every eye, and is calculated to impress every mind with just conceptions of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the great Creator. And it is to be regretted, that many good men appear to pay less attention to this subject than piety demands, and the scriptures seem to require. We say and hear so much concerning the insufficiency of the works of creation to unfold the character of God, and the way of salvation, to the sinful posterity of Adam, that the generality of the readers of the Bible are apt, not very unnaturally, to consider the volume of nature as almost uninstructive in doctrinal truths, and in a great measure useless to guilty and fallen man. This, however, is a very great mistake. The works of creation alone, without the aid of the scriptures, would, indeed, be comparatively of little use: but when the scriptures are regarded as a comment on the works of God, we learn from his works many useful truths respecting his adorable perfections, as these are displayed in the formation and government of the world, and in his tender mercies which are placed over all his works, and exalted above his great name. But at the same time it must be acknowledged, that it is only in the work of redeeming mercy; it is only when we bend with the cherubim over the mystic ark, and contemplate the height and depth, the length and breadth, of the love of God in Christ Jesus, which passeth all understanding, that we reap the full benefit of religious retirement and meditation.

We feel delighted in contemplating the wonders of the material universe. The serenity of the heavens and the verdure of the earth; the vicissitudes of day and night, and the regular revolution of the seasons, proclaim the being and providence of God. The reflections suggested by a night scene are finely conceived and beautifully expressed in the second hymn. And in the scriptures we are taught, that the same God who created the world in wisdom, and upholds it by his power, redeemed it by his mercy, and spared not his own Son, that it might be spared. This is the subject into which the angels look. There is a peculiar emphasis in the language of the apostle, when he says, God manifest in the flesh, was seen of angels. He was seen of them with wonder and astonishment, when, laying aside his robes of majesty and light, he assumed the mean attire of human nature, was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. He was seen of them in every succeeding circumstance of poverty and contempt, of hatred and persecution, to which, during his abode upon earth, he cheerfully submitted. He was seen of them in his agony in the garden. They attended him to mount Calvary, and saw him nailed to the cross, and expiring between two malefactors. They saw him for a while the prisoner of death, and surrounded with all the gloomy horrors of the tomb. And when the pious women came to visit his sepulchre on the morning of the third day, one of the angels

said to them, He is not here, he is risen : come, see the place where the Lord lay.

These benevolent spirits now saw clearly the reason of the deep abasement and agonizing sufferings of the Lord of life and glory; and they attended him with songs of triumph, when he ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, to receive gifts for men, yea for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them. And the great Author and Finisher of our faith assures us, that their joy is renewed whenever any individual of the human race is made a partaker of his great salvation. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. They view with pleasure the first triumph of divine grace over the rebellious heart; they delight to see the divine image restored to the human soul, and to trace the Christian's gradual advancement in faith, in holiness, in purity; and when he is meet for being made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, and has finished his course and closed his eyes in death to open them again on the glories of that inheritance, and to behold his God and Saviour without an interposing cloud, these benevolent spirits, who had been his attendants and guardians in every step of his progress in his new and heavenly life, and had watched with tenderness around his dying bed, receive his spirit when it quits the earthly house of its tabernacle, and convey it to the mansion in its heavenly Father's house, which its Lord and Saviour has prepared for it.

Now, it is when the Christian is alone with his God, and is conversing with his own heart in secret, that these interesting truths are presented to his contemplation; not as objects of mere speculation, but of practical influence, and, through the grace of God, of transforming energy. It was the saying of a heathen philosopher, that he valued his existence chiefly that he might contemplate the starry heavens. These do indeed declare the glory of God; but the work of redemption excelleth in glory; a glory which, as we have seen, attracts the admiration of angels, notwithstanding the opportunities which they enjoy of surveying the various scenes which the universe presents, and of observing in each unnumbered traces of the divine perfections. And if we habituate our thoughts to contemplations that are akin to those of angels, we shall not value them the less because some men pay so low a compliment to their own understandings as to despise them. We know where it is said, The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. The philosopher who took so great delight in climbing the heavens, and walking among the stars, was unacquainted with the bright constellation of the divine perfections which the work of redemption exhibits, or he would no doubt have counted the glory of the visible heavens not worthy to be compared to the glory which the gospel re. veals; and would have said, with the apostle, of every human science and attainment, Yea, doubt

« PreviousContinue »