Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

men.

layeth up the depth in store-houses. The Lord looketh from heaven : he beholdeth all the sons of

From the place of his habitation he looked upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike ; he considereth all their works, ver. 5—7, 13-15. From these speculative ideas of God, he derives the following rules of practice. Let all the earth fear the Lord : let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. Our soul waiteth for the Lord : he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him : because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in thee, ver. 8, 20–22. How delightful it is, my brethren, to speak of God, when one hath talents to speak of him in such a noble manner, and when one intends to promote the fear and the love of him, with an universal obedience to him, from all that is said ! How well it becomes such a man to praise God! The praise of the Lord is comely in the mouths of upright men.

II. Let us now apply the subject more immediately to the service of this day. To praise God is a phrase, which is sometimes taken, in a particular sense, for the exercise of a person, who, having received singular favors of God, delights in expressing his gratitude to him. This praise is comely in the mouth of an upright man for four

reasons,

First. Because he arrangeth them in their true order, highly estimating what deserves a high esteem, and most highly estimating what deserves the highest esteem.

Secondly. Because he employs all his benefits in the service of his benefactor.

Thirdly. Because, while he recounts his blessings, he divests himself of all merit, and ascribes

them only to the goodness of God from whom they proceed.

Fourthly. Because he imitates that goodness and love, which inclined God to bless him in such a

manner.

I will affix to each of these reflections a single word. Praise

, or if you will, gratitude, is comely for the upright, because it is wise, real, humble, and magnanimous : In these four respects, praise is comely for the upright. These are the sentiments, with which the holy sacrament, of which we have taken this morning, should inspire us. These are the most important reflections, with which we can close this discourse.

1. The gratitude of upright men is wise. The praise of the Lord becomes them well, because, while they bless God for all their mercies, they arrange them in their proper order ; they prize each according to its real worth, and that most of all which is of the greatest value. It is a very mortifying reflection, my brethren, that the more we study ourselves, the more clearly we perceive, that the love of the world, and of sensible things, is the chief springs of all our actions and sentiments. This disagreeable truth is proved, not only by the nature of our vices, but even by the genius of our virtues ; not only by the offences we commit against God, but by the very duties we perform in bis service.

A person so ungrateful, as not to discover any gratitude to God, when he bestows temporal blessings on him, can scarcely be found. We praise God, when he delivers us from any public calamity, or from any domestic adversity ; when he recovers us from dangerous illness; when he raiseth us up an unexpected friend, or a protector, who assists us ; when he sends us some prosperity, which renders

jects, fixeth his attention on the attributes of God, feels the force of those proofs which establish the truth of them, is delighted with them, to a certain degree, and is happy in publishing their praise. I mean, by a particular notion of praising God, the exercise of a man, who, having received some signal favor of God, loves to express his gratitude for it.

Each of these exercises of praise supposeth reflections, and sentiments. To praise God in the first sense, to reflect on his attributes, to converse, and to write about them, without having the heart affected, and without loving a Being, who is described as supremely amiable, is a lifeless praise, more fit for a worldly philosopher than for a rational christian. To praise God in the second sense, to be affected with the favors of God, without having any distinct notions of God, without knowing whether the descriptions of the perfections, that are attributed to him, be flights of fancy or real truths, is an exercise more fit for a bigot, who believes without knowing why, than for a spiritual man, zoho judgeth all things, 1 Cor. ii. 15. If we distinguish the part, which these two faculties, reflection, and sentiment, take in these two exercises of praise, we may observe that the first, I mean, the praise of God taken in a general sense, is the fruit of reflection, and the second of sentiment. The first is, if I may be allowed to speak so, the praise of the mind : the second is the praise of the heart.

It is difficult to determine which of these two notions prevails in the text, whether the psalmist use the word praise in the first, or in the second

If we judge by the whole subject of the psalm both are included. The praise of the heart is easily discovered. Whether the author of the psalm were Hezekiah, as many of the fathers

sense,

thought, who say, this prince composed it after the miraculous defeat of Sennacherib: or whether, which is most likely, David were the composer of it, after one of those preternatural deliverances, with which his life was so often signalized : what I call the praise of the heart, that is, a lively sense of some inestimable blessing, is clearly to be seen. On the other hand, it is still clearer, that the sacred author doth not celebrate only one particular object in the psalm. He gives a greater scope to his meditation, and compriseth in it all the works, and all the perfections of God.

Although the solemnity of this day calls us less to the praise of the mind, than to that of the heart; although we intend to make the latter the principal subject of this discourse; yet it is necessary to attend a little to the former.

I. The praise of the Lord, taking the word praise in the vague sense, that we have affixed to the term, is comely for the upright : and it is comely for none but for them.

Praise is comely for the upright. Nothing is more worthy of the attention of an intelligent being, particularly, nothing is more worthy of the imitation of a superior genius, than the wonderful perfections of the Creator. A man of superior genius is required, indeed, to use his talents to cultivate the sciences and the liberal arts: but after all, the mind of man, especially of that man to whom God hath given superior talents, which assimilate him to celestial intelligences, was not created to unravel a point in chronology, to learn the various sounds by which different nations signify their ideas, to measure a line, or to lose itself in an algebraic calculation ; the mind of such a man was not created to study the stars, to count their number, to measure their magnitude, to discover more

life more easy. In such cases as these, we render an homage to God, that cannot be refused without ingratitude.

But we are extremely blameable, when, while we feel the value of these blessings, we remain insensible of the worth of other blessings, which are infinitely more valuable, and which merit infinitely more gratitude. A blessing, that directly regards the soul, is more valuable than one which regards only the body. A blessing, that regards our eternal happiness, is of greater worth, than one which influenceth only the happiness of this life. Whence is it then, that, being so sensible of blessings of the first kind, we are so little affected with those of the last? How comes it to pass, that we are so full of gratitude, when God gives the state some signal victory ; when he prospers its trade; when he strengthens the bonds, that unite it to powerful and faithful allies; and so void of it, while he continues to grant it the greatest blessing that a society of rational creatures can enjoy, I mean a liberty to serve God according to the dictates of our own consciences? Whence is it, that we are so very thankful to God for preserving ourlives from the dangers that daily threaten them; and so little thankful for his miraculous patience with us, to which it is owing, that, after we have hardened our hearts against his voice one year, he invites us another year; after we have falsified our promises made on one solemnity, he calls us to another solemnity, and giveth us new opportunities of being more faithful to him ? Whence comes this difference? Follow it to its source. Does it not proceed from what we just now said ? Is not love of the world, and of sensible things, the grand spring of our actions and sentiments ? The world, the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »