Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

in this matter; yet we cannot help acknowledging, that a certain influence or energy* seems to discover itself here.

The basis of religion is faith ; just apprehensions or right notionst of God, according to Epictetus. St Ignatius says,

“ Faith is the beginning of life, and love the end of itf;" and the words of the apostle are, “ He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ;" so that the giving of a law to man, and the enforcing it with the motives of rewards and punishments, is not inconsistent with the filial disinterested obedience of a rational crea. ture, even in a state of innocence.

All true and lively faith begets love; and thus that heavenly light is the vehicle of heat: and as, by this means, true faith has a tendency to the practice of obedience, so all true obedience depends upon faith, and flows from it; but it also proceeds from love, because faith first produces love, and then works by it. All knowledge of mysteries is vain, and of no value ; unless it have an influence upon the affections, and thereby on the whole conduct of life. The luminaries of heaven are placed on high; but they are so placed, that they may shine, and perform their periods, for the benefit of this earth S.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

1. We must believe, that God is : this truth is written in capital letters on every page of the sacred books of scripture: for all things that are therein delivered by God, and concerning him, confirm this, and take it for a primary and undoubted principle. But these sacred books acknowledge another more universal evidence of this leading truth, and an evidence quite distinct from theirs, to which they refer all, even the most obstinate un. believers, and those that are entirely ignorant of this celestial doctrine, for full conviction *.

As it is quite plain, that the testimony of the written word will have little or no influence upon men, who have not received the least tincture of divine faith ; should any person, disputing with them, reason after this manner, there is a God, because this is asserted in the sacred scriptures, and their testimony must, by all means, be believed, because they are the word of God: an argument of this kind, to be sure, would have no other effect, but to expose the person that urged it to the ridicule of Atheists and unbelievers; because it evidently begs the question, and runs into a vicious circle. He, therefore, that would bring over such persons to the faith, must reason after a quite different manner. But let him, on the other hand, who once accepts these books, with the submission due to their real dignity, and divine authenticity, receive light and edification from them on every article of faith, and with regard to the whole system of religion in general: let him also, in congratulation to their exalted author, cry out, “ With thee, O Lord, is the fountain of life: and in thy light we shall see light*.” And let him that desires to be, not only a nominal proficient in theology, but a real lover of God, and also to be taught of himt, resolve within himself, above all things, to make this sacred volume his constant study, mixing his reading with frequent and fervent prayer; for if these are omitted, his labour will be altogether in vain, supposing him to be ever so well versed, not only in these books, but also to have all the advantages that can be had from the knowledge of languages, and the assistance of commentators and interpreters. Different men have different views in reading this book; as in the same field the ox looks for grass, the hound for a hare, and the stork for a lizard. Some, fond of critical remarks, pick up nothing but little stones and shells. Others run in pursuit of sublime mysteries, giving themselves but very little trouble about the precepts and instructions, that are clear and evident; and these plunge themselves into a pit, that has no bottom. But the genuine disciples of this true wisdom are those, who make it their daily employment to purify their hearts by the water of these fountains, and reduce their whole lives to a conformity with this heavenly doctrine. They desire not to know these things only, that they may have the reputation of knowledge, or to be distinguished in the world ? but that their souls may be healed, and their steps directed, so that they may be led, through the paths of righteousness, to the glorious felicity which is set before them.

* Rom. i. 20.

* Psal. xxvi. 9.

* Φιλόθεος και θεοδίδακτος.

The sum of all is, that our felicity lies solely and entirely in that blessed God, who is also the fountain and source of our being; that the only means of our union with him is true religion ; and this, again, consists in our entertaining just notions of God, worshipping him acceptably, and endeavour. ing a constant and unwearied obedience to all his commands, according to that most pure and perfect rule laid down in these divine books, which we profess to receive as such. Let us, therefore, have constantly fixed in our minds these words of the Psalmist, “ Blessed are the undefiled in the way, that walk in the way of the Lord. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O! that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes *."




Op all the maxims that are naturally written on the heart of man, there is none more certain or more universally known, than that God is; concerning which I have given a dissertation some time ago. But of all the secrets and hidden things of nature, which have been the subject of human study and inquiry, there is nothing, by a prodigious odds, so difficult or unsearchable, as to know WHAT HE IS. The saying of St Augustine, concerning time, is well known in the schools ; with how much greater truth might it be said of him, who is more ancient than time, “and who bid time flow from the beginning*? That he hath made darkness. his hidingplace, and amidst that darkness dwells in light inaccessiblet,” which, to our eyes, is to be sure more dark than darkness itself. O the divine darkness ! says a great mant; and another most acutely, “If you divide or cut asunder this darkness, who will shine forth ?” When, therefore, we are to speak of him, let us always call to remembrance the admoni. tion, which bids us “ speak with reverence and fearli.” For what can we say that is worthy of him, since man, when he speaks of God, is but a blind person describing light? Yet, blind as we are, there is one thing we may, with great truth, say of that glorious light, and let us frequently repeat it: O when will that blessed day shine forth, which shall deliver the soul from those thick integuments of flesh, that, like scales or the eye, obstruct its

* Psalm cxix. 1, 4, 5.

[ocr errors]

-Qui tempus ab ævo Ire jubet. BOETH. Cons. Phil. lib. iii. met. 9. * Psalm xvii. 11. fΩ το θλιον σκότος. . και αν το σκότος τέμνη τις αναρράπτεταν. , Η Λαλέι μεν εν φόβω.

« ZurückWeiter »