« VorigeDoorgaan »
self, independently of higher instruction, has invariably taught that there must be a Divine Guardian of the fates of men and of nations; and that, although our hearts may be broken with calamity, we ought ever to adore in silence the secret ways of his wisdom, and to place a filial trust in that goodness, which, even while it most deeply wounds, is yet imperceptibly administering to our behoof.
This it is, to believe in God; in our deepest afflictions, and most perplexed thoughts, to throw ourselves upon Him;-to lift our eyes from the dust of Earth, that blinds them, and to open them to the light of Heaven; however seemingly hopeless the prospect before us may be, yet to say,-O God, thou wilt conduct us through its horrors; we are in thy hand, and not at the disposal of any blind Fatality; in thee our Fathers trusted and were holpen, nor wilt thou forsake us in this our day of disaster!
If such is even the voice of nature, there is a voice of still greater energy, which speaks to us from the Gospel. The Father of nature, in that Gospel, comes nearer to his creatures. His throne is no longer hid in impenetrable dark
ness, but we see him bending down with a look of ineffable love from the clouds which surround it. He now calls to us as to his children, and tells us, that he is "our Father which is in Heaven." He assures us, that he does not willingly afflict the children of men; that there are purposes of infinite mercy in his severest chastisements; that although, before our clouded perceptions, only images of despair may be floating, yet to the eyes of higher Natures, all appears good, and wise, and merciful; and that, while we weep, in all the agony of our souls, over the ruins and wrecks of death, the sainted Spirits which spring from them, are now rejoicing in the consummation of paternal love. These are the lofty conceptions to which we are elevated by the Gospel. While every thing on earth seems to be merely the sport of Fortune,the happiness of nations, the glory of thrones, even the best charities of the heart, the eye which is purged by Faith, is enabled to catch gleams of light from a serener sky, and to behold, over all this scene of darkness and despair, the benevolence of Deity superintending, and the pure beams of heaven brightening the gloomy confines of the world, and images of
eternal love and beauty rising from the very bosom of ruin and destruction. Such is the consoling power of that faith in God, which the words of our Saviour, in the first place, suggest to us, for the removal of the sorrows and the sufferings of mortality. Yet this is not all; the God who made us, my brethren, is well acquainted with our weakness and darkness; and, blinded as we are, alike by the glare or by the gloom of the world, he knows that we are unable steadily to fix our eyes on Him, and that we are ever apt to lose the perception of his rule, even in the very moment that we find it.
II. Here, then, in a second view, the benevolence of "our Father which is in heaven" opens upon us in all the glory of its condescension. We dare not, indeed, attempt to raise our mortal vision to the brightness of his eternal throne,or to gaze on the assemblage of his angels and archangels, or to follow the ascent of those beauteous spirits, whose brows were deemed worthy to wear only immortal crowns ;-we may not, amidst the perplexities of nations, behold his arm propping their unhinged frame, or,
while our souls are sinking under that "great cry" of desolation, which has gone through the land, from Pharaoh who sitteth on his throne, to the captive that is in the dungeon, we may not at once be able to rouse them to the contemplation of the tender mercies of our unseen Father. We cannot go to Him, my brethren, but He comes to us: he comes to us in the person of the Son of his love; and the same voice of compassion, which said to us," Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God," now adds, in all the tenderness of persuasion, "believe also in me."
It is no longer, then, in the misgiving meditations of our own darkened minds that we are to seek for the consolations of religion. They now approach us, not in the shape of retired and. unassisted thought, but in the mingled language of divine pity and human friendship. They seek not, indeed, to explain to us the secret mysteries of God, or the unfathomable designs of his Providence; these must remain and go on and have their course, and our feeble reason can never presume to grasp them ;-but they utter the words of simple and affectionate wisdom, and, while they call to us with the authority of Heaven,
they yet speak to our hearts in the tone of earthly and brotherly sympathy.
And, who is it that brings them to us, my brethren? He who came from the Father to exalt and to sanctify our nature-who breathed upon the world, into which he descended, the purity of celestial regions-who, wherever he has gone among the dwellings of men, has touched the springs of moral life, and given them a renewed and finer action-has knit, in bonds of a more diffusive love, the hearts of human kind-has infused the simplicity of benevolence into Royal bosoms, and poured upon the spirit of Nations, the devotion of a patriot loyalty! He who, speaking alike to men of every rank and station, of their common Father and their equal duties, has levelled all the worst distinctions of society, and shown to every human being, the points in which he meets every other,—in his weakness, in his affections, in his sympathies! He it is, who, in all those afflictions of our nature, which the very charities of His religion only make us feel the more intensely, brings at the same time the words of divine consolation, and who now offers them to us, sinking as we are under that calamity of our