« FöregåendeFortsätt »
world ; lo! this is the touchstone, by which we judge of good and evil !
An upright man judgeth in another manner: he will, indeed, bless God for all his benefits; but as he knows how to arrange them, so he knows how to prize each according to its worth, and how to apportion his esteem to the real value of them all.
According to such an estimation, what ought not our gratitude to God be to-day, my dear brethren! we may assure ourselves with the utmost truth, that had the Lord united in our houses to-day pleasures, grandeurs, and dignities ; had he promised each of us a life longer than that of a patriarch ; a family as happy as that of Job, after his misfortunes; glory as great as that of Solomon; he would have bestowed nothing equal to that blessing, which he gave us this morning. He forgave those sins, which, had they taken their natural course, would have occasioned endless remorse, and would have plunged us into everlasting misery and woe. A peace was shed abroad in our consciences, which gave us a foretaste of heaven. He excited hopes, that absorbed our souls in their grandeur. Let us say all in one word: he gave us his Son. He that spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? Rom. viii. 32.
2. The gratitude of upright men is real. The praise of the Lord becomes them, because, while they praise God, for his benefits, they live to the glory of their benefactor. Every gift of God furnisheth us with both a motive and a mean of obedience to him. It is an excess of ingratitude to make a contrary use of his gifts, and to turn the benefits that we receive, against the benefactor from whom we receive them. What gifts are they, by which God hath most distinguished us? Thee he hath distinguished by a penetrating genius, , which renders the bighest objects, the deepest mysteries, accessible to thee. Wo be to thee! if thou employ this gift to invent arguments against the truths of religion, and to find out sophisms that befriend infidelity.
An upright man devotes this gift to his benefactor; he avails himself of his genius, to discover the folly of sceptical sophisms, and to demonstrate the truth of religion. On thee he hath bestowed an astonishing memory. Wo be to thee ! if thou use it to retain the pernicious maxims of the world. An upright man dedicates this gift to his benefactor ; he employs his memory in retaining the excellent lessons of equity, charity, and patience, which the holy Spirit hath taught bim in the scriptures. To thee he hath given an authoritative elocution, to which every hearer is forced to bow. Wo be to thee! if thou apply this rare talent to seduce the minds, and to deprave the hearts of mankind. An upright man devotes this blessing to the service of his benefactor ; he useth his eloquence to free the minds of men from error, and their lives from vice. · Towards thee God hath exercised a patience, which seems contrary to his usual rules of conduct toward sinners, and by which he hath abounded toward thee in forbearance and long-suffering. Wo be to thee ! if thou turn this blessing into an opportunity of violating the commands of God; if thine obstinacy run parallel with bis patience, and if, because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, thy heart be fully set in thee to do evil, Eccles. viii. 11. An upright man devotes this blessing to his benefactor's service. From the patience of God he derives motives of repentance. How easily might this article be enlarged! how fruitful in instruction would it be on this solemnity! But we proceed.
3. Gratitude to God well becomes an upright 'man, because it is humble : because an upright man, by publishing the gifts of God's grace divests himself of himself, and attributes them wholly to the goodness of him from whom they came. Far from us be a profane mixture of the real grandeurs of the Creator with the fanciful grandeurs of creatures ! Far be those praises, in which he who offers them always finds, in his own excellence, the motives that induced the Lord to bestow his benefits on him!
Two reflections always exalt the gifts of God in the eyes of an upright man : a reflection on his meanness, and a reflection on his unworthiness : and it is with this comeliness of humility, if I may venture to call it so, that I wish to engage you to praise God for the blessings of this day.
1. Meditate on your meanness. Contrast yourselves with God, who gives himself to you to-day in such a tender manner. How soon is the capacity of man absorbed in the works and attributes of God ! Conceive, if thou be capable, the grandeur of a Being, who made the heavens by his word, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Think, if thou be capable of thinking, of the glory of a Being, who existed from all eternity, whose understanding is infinite, whose power is irresistible, whose will is above control. Behold him filling the whole universe with his presence. Behold him in the palace of his glory, inhabiting the praises of the blessed, Psal. xxii. 3. surrounded by thousand thousands, and by ten thousand times ten thousand angels, who excel in strength, and who delight to fly at the first signal of his will. Thou human soul! contemplate this object, and recover thy reason.
What art thou? What was thine origin? What is thine end? Thou diminutive atom! great only in thine own eyes ; behold thyself in thy true point of view. Dust! Ashes ! Putrefaction! glorious only at the tribunal of thine own pride ; divest thyself of the tawdry grandeur in which thou lovest to array thyself. Thou vapor ! Thou dream! Thou exhalation of the earth! evaporating in the air, and having no other consistence than what thine own imagination gives thee; behold thy vanity and nothingness. Yet this dream, this exhalation, this vapor, this dust and ashes and putrefactioiy, this diminutive creature, is an object of the eternal care and love of its God. For thee, contemptible creature! the Lord stretched out the heavens: for thee he laid the foundation of the earth: let us say more : For thee, contemptible creature ! God formed the plan of redemption. What could determine the great Jehovah to communicate himself, in such a tender and intimate manner, to so contemptible a creature as man? His goodness, his goodness alone.
Although a sense of our meanness should not terrify and confound us, yet it should exclude arrogance, and excite lowly sentiments : But what will our humility be, if we estimate the gifts of God's grace by an idea of our unworthiness? Let each recollect the mortifying history of his own life. Remember thou ! thy fiery youth, in which, forgetting all the principles that thy pious parents had taught thee, thou didst acknowledge no law but thine own passionate and capricious will. Remember, thou ! that period, in which thy heart being infatuated with one object, and wholly employed about it, thou didst make it thine idol, and didst sacrifice to it thine honor, thy duty, thy God. Recollect, thou ! the cruel use, that for many years, thou didst make of thy credit, thy riches, thy rank, when, being devoured with self-love, thou wast insensible to the voice of the widow and the orphan, and to a number of distressed people, who solicited relief. Remember, thou ! that fatal hour, the recollection of which ought to make thy head waters, and thine eyes a fountain of tears, Jer, ix. 1. that fatal hour, in which, God having put thee into the fiery trial of persecution, thou couldst not abide the proof. Like Peter, thou didst not know a disgraced Redeemer ; thou didst-cowardly abandon a persecuted church, and was just on the point of abjuring thy religion. Let each of us so consider himself as he seems in the eyes of a holy God. A criminal worthy of the most rigorous punishments ! Let each of us say to himself, Notwithstanding all this, it is I, guilty I; I, whose sins are more in number than the hairs on my head ; it is I, who have been admitted this morning into the house of God; it is I, who have been invited this morning to that mystical repast, which sovereign wisdom itself prepared ; It is I, who have been encouraged against the just fears, which the remembrance of my sins had excited, and have heard the voice of God, proclaiming in my conscience, Fear not thou worm Jacob, Isa. xli. 14. It is I, who have been abundantly satisfied with the fatness of the house of God, and have drunk of the river of his pleasures, Psal. xxxvi. 8. What inclines God to indulge me in this manner? Goodness only! O surpassing and inconceivable goodness! thou shalt for ever be the object of my meditation and gratitude ! How