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“ wretched man!” who shall give you peace in life, “ who shall deliver you from the body of death ?” In the hurry of business, or the intoxication of pleasure, the sacred monitor, “ the Gospel of salvation,” may be slighted and forgotten; but in the still and sober hours of leisure, in calamity, in sickness, in the decay of age, and in the approach of dissolution, its longneglected warnings will find their way to the darkened chamber,—the dying couch. And, when you awake to the decision of the great day, its awful “doctrine,” its searching “reproof,” its paternal “ correction," its righteous “instruction,” shall rise up in witness against you! “He that receiveth not my words,”--though he, perhaps, receive them hypocritically, or carelessly, but not in honest simplicity of heart, to make them a standing principle of action,—“He that receiveth not my words,” to reformation of manners,“ hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
THE DIVINE NATURE UNSEARCHABLE.
JOB, CHAP. XL. VER. 4.
I will lay
“ Behold, I am vile ; what shall I answer thee?
mine hand upon my mouth.”
Towards the conclusion of this very ancient poetic drama,--for such, by eminent critics, it is conceived to be,—the Deity is brought forward as condescending to argue with Job, and to convince him of the utter incapacity of human agents to judge of the ways and works of the Divine Providence. The patriarch, humbled in the dust, replies, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” I am a thing of nought, a reptile, crawling for a season on the earth, out of which I was taken, and quickly returning to it again. Shall such a creature pretend to dispute and remonstrate with its Maker, fathom his counsels, or dive into his nature ? Surely, on themes so high,—on subjects, so infinitely beyond the compass of man's ability,-his proper part is to wait, in mute attention, and receive such instruction as God may be pleased to impart. “I will lay mine hand upon my mouth;” I will listen submissively, and learn in silence.
Fey men, perhaps, are sufficiently acquainted with themselves : they may have a general notion of their prevailing dispositions, their peculiar habits, and outline of character; but they seldom enter into those minutive, which mark the individual, and distinguish him from his associates. Nor are the bulk of mankind well acquainted with the human mind itself, as belonging to the species : they perceive not accurately the extent of its faculties, and what subjects are really within its grasp. Young men, when they first engage in the pursuit of knowledge, are apt to form very exalted notions of the power of intellect; but, as they advance, they find deficiencies in themselves, and difficulties in their way, of which they had no conception; and the more they learn, the more they discover beyond, still remaining to be learned. He who knows the most, is convinced, at last, that he knows but little ; and that, after all, man is, and must continue, on this side the grave, an ignorant, as well as a sinful being. True wisdom, I mean such wisdom as man can attain,—mortifies, instead of nourishing pride, and generates the deepest humility. It has a tendency to infuse, into the mind of the real philosopher, the gentleness and docility of a child; and being taught, by the experience of his own deficiency, “ not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,” he is ready to receive information from any other source whence it may possibly flow. Philosophy, then, so far from opposing, is the hand-maid of truth, and opens the door to religion. It shows the man how insignificant he is in himself, how incompetent to make great discoveries, and obtain a thorough insight into “ the things that are before him ;" he sees, therefore, clearly, that the things which are not before him, with which he has no direct intercourse, things, which come not under the notice of any sense, or any mental apprehension,-cannot be open to human research. Nay, of such things as he can know, much must be imparted from above. He is, therefore, in the first place, anxious to learn, whether any such communication has actually been made; and when such a communication, or pretended communication, is tendered to him, he will weigh its evidences fairly, candidly, and with all his powers. But even in this case,—even as to what is revealed from heaven,-he is sensible that there must be certain limitations : however copious the fountain which supplies the stream, the receptacle can hold no more than it is made to contain. The mind of man is so constituted by its great Maker, as to imbibe but a certain portion of knowledge : he is supplied with senses, which, by the notices they convey, furnish him with ideas; he sees forms, he hears sounds, he feels substances, he tastes flavours; and by comparing and combining what is thus brought home to the intellectual faculty, he is enabled to lay in a stock of knowledge, sufficient for all the purposes of human life. But here he must stop. The perception of earthly things will never carry him beyond the earth. If, then, a revelation be made to him from above, will it infuse new lights, of which before he had no perception ? Will it lay open to his mental view the abodes of the spiritual world, and make him acquainted with the nature, the occupations,