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which we speak of him, and of our connexion with him. We must not say that our communion with him is sympathy, or that our love of him is attachment. We may not, with propriety, say that he is “ dear" to us. Many, indeed, of those phrases, many of those modes of expression, in which we testify the strength and charm of our social affections, sink into awe and are hushed to silence before that Infinite and Awful Being. So at least does the subject of devotion appear to me; and I must confess that the familiarity of expression which is sometimes witnessed in prayer, is extremely irreverent and shocking.
But those difficulties which it is the tendency of ignorance and fanaticism to overlook, it is the tendency of immature reflection and philosophy to magnify. Reflection has gone just so far with some minds as to make it more difficult for them than it ought to be to approach their Maker. They regard his exaltation above them, as distance; his greatness, as separation from them. They look upon the very phrases “ love of God," « communion with God," as phrases of daring import, and doubtful propriety. They shrink back from the freedom of popular language, and this, perhaps, they rightly do; but they retreat too far they retreat to the opposite extreme of coldness and cold abstractions. They are sometimes almost afraid to address God as a Being; they worship some mighty abstraction; they are like those ancient philosophers who worshiped the light; they worship "an unknown God.” I do not know that anything but the teachings of Jesus could ever have cured this error; the error at once of ancient philosophy and modern refinement. He “ has brought us nigh to God.” He has taught us
that God is our Father. He has taught us to worship him with the profoundest reverence, indeed, but with boundless confidence and love. He has taught us, that God does regard us; that he does look down from the height of his infinite hearens—that he does look down upon us, and upon our world—not exclusively, as some religionists would teach, not as if there were no other world—but still that he does look down upon us, and our world, with paternal interest and kindness.
The mistake now stated is one which lies at the very threshold of devotion. But when we enter the temple of our worship, how many errors are there that darken its light and disfigure its beauty! The veil of the Jewish peculiarity is indeed rent in twain ; but theology has lifted up other, and many, and darkening veils before “ the holy of holies.” Our sins, too, have separated between us and God, and our iniquities have hidden his face from us. Unworthy, afraid, superstitious, erring, grovelling in the dust, how can we love God, purely, freely, joyfully! How, even, can we see the perfection of God as we ought! .
This, indeed, is the point upon which all difficulty presses. Men do not SEE the perfection of God. They do not identify that perfection with all that is glorious, beautiful, lovely, admirable, and enrapturing in nature, in character, in life, in existence. God's glory they conceive to be something so different from all other glory; God's goodness so different from all other goodliness and beauty, that they find no easy transition from one to the other. They mistake-and perhaps this is the most fatal part of the error--they mistake the very demand of God's goodness upon their love. They conceive of it as if there were something arbi
trary, and importunate, and selfish in the demand. Demand itself repels them, because they do not understand it. They think of the Supreme Being in this attitude, somewhat as they would of a man, if he stood before them, saying, “Love me, give me your heart, upon pain of my displeasure and of long-enduring Fenal miseries for your disobedience.” Divine goodness, thus regarded, does not, and cannot, steal into the heart, as the excellence of a human being does. And this, I say, is a mistake. Divine goodness, thus regarded, is mistaken-misapprehended altogether. There is not so much that is personal in God's claim for our hearts as there is in man's claim. It does not so much concern him, if I may speak so, that we should love him personally, as it concerns man that we should love him personally. He is not dependent on our love, as man is dependent upon it. The command which he lays upon us to love him, is but a part of the command to love all goodness. He equally commands us to love one another. Nay, he has graciously represented the want of love to one another as the evidence of want of love to him. He has thus, in a sense, identified these affections; and thus taught us, that an affection for excellence, whether in himself or in his creatures, is essentially the affection that he demands. The demand for our love, which the Infinite Being addresses to us, is infinitely generous. He requires us to love all goodness-to love it alike in himself and in others to love goodness for goodness' sake-to love it because it is just that we should love it, because it is right, because it is for our welfare, because, in one word, it is all our excellence and all our happiness. D isini..
I must not dwell longer upon these mistakes ; but, in leaving this topic, let me exhort every one to endeavour to correct them. With many this will require a frequent, an almost constant effort. The influence of early education or of later error; theology, superstition, and sin, have so overshadowed their path, that they must not expect to see the light without much faithful endeavour. Let them be entreated by ererything most precious to them, to make it. And thus let them make the endeavour. Let them see God in everything that they lawfully admire and love. If there be any goodliness and loveliness in the world; if there be anything dear and delightful in the excellence of good men; if heaven from its majestie heights, if earth from its lowly beauty, sends one sweet or one sublime thought into your mind—think, that this is a manifestation of the everbeautiful, ever-blessed perfection of God. Think, I say emphatically, and let not your mind sleep think for ever, that the whole universe of glory and beauty is one revelation of God: Think thus, I say,—thus faithfully and perseveringly; and you will find that no strength nor freedom of emotion in the world is like the freedom and strength of devotion; that no joy, no rapture on earth, is like the joy, the rapture of piety!
ON RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY.
EZEKIEL XXXVI. 26. And I will give you a heart of flesh.
My object in the present discourse is to offer some remarks upon the remedies for the want of religious insensibility, or upon the means and principles of its culture.
And in entering upon this subject, I would say, that much is to be done by a correction of those mistakes which have been already mentioned. Let then something, I would venture to say, of this vehement demand for feeling be abated. Let not the feelings of religion be subjected to perpetual importunity, any more than the feelings of friendship, or of family affection. Let not feeling be made to occupy a place in religion that does not belong to it, as if it were the only thing and every thing--thus drawing away attention from the principles that are necessary to give it permanency, from the soil that must nourish, and the basis that must support it. Let not religious feeling be appealed to in a way to impair its simplicity, disinterestedness, and purity.
In the next place, let the common mistakes about the nature and signs of religious sensibility be corrected. Let all excess and extravagance be checked as much as possible; and especially let those who would cultivate