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ON CHRIST'S PERPETUAL PRESENCE WITH HIS DISCIPLES.
Matthew xxviii. part of 20th verse. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
A CERTAIN sense of spiritual presence seems to be natural to the mind of man. Independently of that suggestion of deliberate reason which, in accents that can scarcely be unheard, points out to us the hand of design in the architecture of the universe, and reminds us of our dependence on some superior power; when he looks abroad on the wonders of creation, man recognizes, as it were, intuitively a certain diffusive though invisible agency that pervades and vivifies all things, and gives to every part of nature a peculiar animation and glory of its own. Poets and philosophers of all ages, regarding the subject merely as a matter of speculation or of taste, have loved to expatiate on this universal instinct of the mind. They have spoken with eloquence of a secret consciousness of the soul, by which it knows and feels that it is in the presence of some congenial intelligence-transfused through every part of his created universe, and communicating the radiance of his own surpassing glory to the bright theatre of the world around us. They have spoken of spirits innumerable, though unseen, encompassing us on every side, and occupying farther than thought can reach, the expanse
of space. Of mysterious terrors far more appalling than the mere ordinary dread of death, which, amidst the outward convictions of nature, or the inward struggles of remorse, can terrify the soul of guilt with the thought of a supreme and omnipotent avenger. But they have not with equal correctness followed up this principle to its
It was implanted, doubtless, in man as the foundation of that natural faith, wbich, without the aid of revelation, could acknowledge not only the existence but the omnipresence also of deity. But the evidences it affords have been often misunderstood. The heathens, in their perplexity to explain those suggestions aright, took refuge in that intricate polytheism which peopled their woods and streams and fountains with guardian divinities, and personified in the form of gods even the passions of the human heart ; and sometimes, by a still more fatal misapprehension, identified the great spirit” and “soul of the world ” with the world itself, and degraded the dignity of the creator by confounding him with the works of his creation. While even in modern times, in ignorant and badly regulated minds, this instinct has been diverted from its proper use, and been made to sanction many of the wildest dreams of a disordered fancy in the absurdities of popular superstition.
Revealed religion does not, perhaps, in any case entirely overlook these, and such as these, the universal apprehensions of nature. The reason of man was given to prepare the way,
like John the Baptist, for the more full declaration of God's will. It could not indeed penetrate into the inmost sanctuary of his secret counsels, but it could wait at the portals, and clear the access, and point the way to the assembled multitude. And that general fulfilment of man's reasonable anticipations which is so eminently to be found in many parts of the Mosaic, and especially in the gospel scheme, was not wanting in the instance before us.
If nature knew her God in the great but mysterious spirit that animated the world, revelation pointed him out, defined his attributes, declared his will, pronounced his denunciations and his promises. If there were a kind of silent homage that went up from her remotest solitudes, from the whole face of creation, or from that still more dreary wilderness--the untaught and unenlightened heart of man, revelation gave that homage an audible voice, and taught it to resound in the mighty choruses of praise that re-echoed through the courts of the temple. And, in every sense of the words, we may truly assert that God's revealed word has completely fulfilled the expectations of nature on the subject of spiritual existence;- that it has done so in a manner equally removed from superstition on the one hand, and a cold materialism on the other; and that it has developed them, and carried them out into principles of a most practical and consolatory kind, by its doctrines of an omnipresent God, a particular providence, a sanctifying spirit, and a merciful Saviour, cheering, by his perpetual presence, the hearts of his faithful followers.