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To know the love of Christ; to have such a deep apprehension of his unspeakable kindness, as may produce in our hearts an adoring gratitude, and an unfeigned faith; this, according to St Paul's estimate, is the highest and happiest attainment in the sacred science of Christianity; Eph. iii. 19. What follows, is an attempt to assist the attentive mind in learning a line or two of that best and greatest lesson. introduces the most conspicuous parts of the visible system as so many prompters to our dull affections; each suggesting a hint adapted to the important occasion, and suited to its respective character.
Can there be a more powerful incentive to devout gratitude, than to consider the magnificent and delicate scenes of the universe with a particular reference to Christ as the Creator? Every object, viewed in this light, will surely administer incessant recruits to the languishing lamp of divine love. Every production in nature will strike a spark into the soul, and the whole creation concur to raise the smoking flax into a flame.
Can any thing impart a stronger joy to the-believer, or more effectually confirm his faith in the crucified Jesus, than to behold the heavens declaring his glory, and the firmament shewing his handywork? Surely, it must be matter of inexpressible consolation to the poor sinner, to observe the honours of his Redeemer written with sunbeams over all the face of the world.
We delight to read an account of our incarnate Jehovah, as he is revealed in the books of Moses and the prophets, as he is displayed in the writings of the evangelists and apostles. Let us also endeavour to see a sketch of his perfections, as they stand delineated in that stately volume, where every leaf is a spacious plain; every line, a flowing brook; every period, a lofty mountain.
Should any of my readers be unexercised in such speculations, I beg leave (in pursuance of my promise) to present them with a specimen; or to offer a clue, which may possibly lead their minds into this most improving and delightful train of thinking.
Should any be inclined to suspect the solidity of the following observations, or to condemn them as the voice of rant, and the lawless flight of fancy; I must entreat such persons to recollect, that the grand doctrine, the hinge on which they all turn, is warranted and established by the unanimous testimony of the inspired penmen, who frequently celebrate Immanuel, or Christ Jesus, as the great almighty cause of all; assuring us, that all things were created by him and for him; and that in him all things consist.†
On such a subject, what is wonderful is far from being extravagant. To be wonderful, is the inseparable characteristic of God and his works; especially of that most distinguished and glorious even of the divine works, Redemption! so glorious, that all the miracles in Egypt, and the marvellous acts in the field of Zoan; all that the Jewish annals have recorded or the human ear has heard; all dwindle into trivial events, are scarce worthy to be remembered (Isa. xliii. 18.) in comparison of this infinitely grand and infinitely gracious transaction. Kindled, therefore, into pleasing astonishment by such a survey, let me give full scope to my meditations, let me pour out my whole soul on the boundless subject; not much regarding the limits which cold criticism, or colder unbelief, might prescribe.
+ Col. i. 16, 17. See note, p. 133.
Oye angels! that surround the throne; ye princes of heaven!" that excel in strength," and are clothed with transcendent brightness: He who placed you in those stations of exalted honour, and dignified your nature with such illustrious endowments; he whom you all obey, and all adore; he took not on him the angelic form, but was made flesh, and found in fashion as a man! like us wretched mortals, he partook of weariness, of pain, and all our infirmities, sin only excepted; that we might one day be raised to your sublime abodes, be adopted into your blissful society, and join with your transported choir, in giving glory to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever; Rev. v. 13.
Ο O ye heavens! whose azure riches rise immensely high, and stretch immeasurably wide: Stupendous amphitheatre! amidst whose vast expansive circuit, orbs of the most dreadful grandeur are perpetually running their amazing races: Unfathomable depths of ether! where worlds unnumbered float, and to our limited sight worlds unnumbered are lost: He who adjusted your dimensions with his span, and formed the magnificent structure with his word; he was once wrapt in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger, that the benefits accruing to his people through his most meritorious humiliation, might have no other measure of their value than immensity-might run parallel in their duration with eternity.
Ye stars! that beam with inextinguishable brilliancy through the midnight sky; oceans of flame, and centres of worlds, though seemingly little points of light! He who shone with essential effulgence, innumerable ages before your twinkling tapers were kindled, and will shine with everlasting majesty and beauty when your places in the firmament shall be known no more; he was involved, for many years, in the deepest obscurity; lay concealed in the contemptible city Nazareth; lay disguised under the mean habit of a carpenter's son; that he might plant the heavens (Isa. li. 16.) as it were with new constellations, and array
these clods of earth, these houses of clay, with a radiancy far superior to yours-a radiancy which will adorn the very heaven of heavens, when you shall vanish away like smoke,* or expire as momentary sparks from the smitten steel.
Comets! that sometimes shoot into the illimitable tracts of ether, farther than the discernment of our eye is able to follow; sometimes return from the long, long excursion, and sweep our affrighted hemisphere with your enormous fiery train; that sometimes make near approaches to the sun, and burn almost in his immediate beams; sometimes retire to the remotest distance, and freeze for ages in the excessive rigours of winter: He who at his sovereign pleasure withdraws the blazing wonder, or leads forth the portentous stranger, to shake terror over guilty kingdoms; he was overwhelmed with the most shocking amazement, and plunged into the deepest anxiety; was chilled with apprehensions of fear, and scorched by the flames of avenging wrath; that I, and other depraved rebellious creatures, might not be eternally agitated with the extremes of jarring passions-opposite, yet on either side tormenting; far more tormenting to the soul, than the severest degrees of your heat and cold to the human sense.
Ye planets! that, winged with unimaginable speed, traverse the regions of the sky, sometimes climbing millions and millions of miles above, sometimes descending as far below, the great axle of your motions; ye that are so minutely faithful to the vicissitudes of day and night; so exactly punctual in bringing on the changes of your respective seasons: He who
* Alluding to a passage in Isaiab, which is, I think, grand and elevated beyond all comparison. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die like the feeble insect: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation shall not be abolished." Isa. li. 6. With the great Vitringa, I translate the words, not in like manner; but, like the feeble insect; which renders the period more complete, the sense more emphatical, and is more agreeable to the genius of the sacred original,
launched at first from his mighty arm; you tinually impels you with such wonderful rapidity, and guides you with such perfect regularity; who fixes "the habitation of his holiness and his glory" infinite heights above your scanty rounds; he once became a helpless infant, sojourned in our inferior world, fled from the persecutor's sword, and wandered as a vagabond in a foreign land; that he might lead our feet into the way of peace, that he might bring us aliens near to God, bring us exiles home to heaven.
Thou sun! inexhaustible source of light, and heat, and comfort; without whose presence an universal gloom would ensue, and horror insupportable; who, without the assistance of any other fire, sheddest day through a thousand realms; and, not confining thy munificence to realms only, extendest thy enlightening influences to surrounding worlds: prime cheerer of the animal, and great enlivener of the vegetable tribes; so beautiful in thyself, so beneficial in thy effects, that erring Heathens addressed thee with adorations, and mistook thee for thy Maker: He who filled thy orb with a profusion of lustre-lustre, in its direct emanations insufferably bright, but, rebated by reflection, delightfully mild; he before whom thy meridian splendours are but a shade, whose love transfused into the heart is infinitely more exhilarating than even thy sweet and clear shining after the rain; he divested himself of his all-transcending distinctions, and drew a veil over the effulgence of his divinity, that, by speaking to us face to face, aș a man speaketh unto his friend, he might dispel our intellectual darkness. "His visage was marred," (Isa. lii. 14.) and he became the scorn of men, the outcast of the people; that by this manifestation of his unutterably tender regard for our welfare, he might diffuse many a gleam of joy through our dejected minds; that, in another state of things, he might clothe even our fallen nature with the honours of that magnificent luminary, and give all the righteous to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.