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this subject, what I intend at present, is, in the first place, to explain the nature of that approach which the devout make to God; and, in the second place; set before you the advantages which accompany such an approach
I am, in the first place, then, to explain the nature of that approach which the devout make to God.
This earth is not the native region of that spirit which is in man. It finds not objects here congenial with its nature; nor a sphere adequate to its faculties. It wants room to expand to its full dimensions ; to spread so wide, and stretch so far, and soar so high, as its immortal nature and unbounded capacity will admit. Descended from heaven, it aspires to heaven again. Created immortal, nothing that is mortal can satisfy its desires.
Made after the image of God, it tends to that God whose lineaments it still bears. When we approach to God, therefore, we find objects suited to our nature, and engage in the employment for which the soul was made. Here we are at home in our Father's house. Here, our spirits aspire to hold communion with the everlasting Spirit; and we tend to heaven with exceeding joy, as to our native country:
The sense of deity is a-kin to the perception of beauty, and the sensibility of taste. We are formed by the Author of our nature to feel certain movements of mind, at the sight of certain objects. Even inanimate things are not without their attractions. The flowers of the field have their beauty. Animal life rises in our regard. Rational excellence, and moral perfection, rank still higher in our esteem; and, when expressed in action, and appearing in life, awake emotions of the noblest kind, and beget a pleasure which is
supreme. Let any person of a right constituted mind, place before his view a character of high eminence for generosity, fidelity, fortitude ; let him see these virtues tried to the utmost, exerted in painful struggles, overcoming difficulties, and conquering in a glorious cause, and he will feel their effects in his
admiring mind : he will be actuated with respect and love to such illustrious virtues. We account that faculty of the mind which gives us a relish for these pleasures, a perfection in our nature, and a high one ; we look upon an insensibility to such enjoyments as a radical defect. Let us apply this principle to religion. Who can behold the vastness and magnificence of the works of God without emotion ; and infinite perfection without wonder and awe? Can our thoughts be fixed upon infinite goodness and everlasting love, without affection and without gratitude ? Can we behold Divinity in a form of flesh; the Son of God extended on the cross for the salvation of the world, and our hearts not burn within us with love to him wholoved us unto the death? Can we behold the veil drawn aside from the invisible world, the heavens opened over our head, and the treasures of eternity displayed to view, and after all continue cold and dead; cold to the beauty of the heavens, dead to the love of immortality? Where there is any sensibility at all, where there are any affections that become humanity, they will be excited to their most lively exercise by the presence of spiritual and divine things.
Under the influence of these objects, and the impression of Deity, the devout enter into their chamber and shut the door ; they turn aside their eyes from beholding vanity; they charge their passions to be silent, their minds to be still; and pour out their hearts to Him who made them, in all the fervency of prayer. Thus prepared to seek the Lord God of their fathers, they come to his temple to meet with bim there. They are seized with a religious awę in the presence of the sanctuary, and approach to the altar wondering and adoring, as Moses to the burning bush, and as the High Priest of old to the holy of holies. They look beyond the externals of a sacrament, and, under the symbols in the communion, they discern the mysteries of redeeming lovę. Notwithstanding the veil with which a greater than Moses covers himself on this holy mountain, they be
hold his beauty, and cannot bear the brightness of his countenance. When they sit down with him at his table, they are sensible of his presence: While their hands receive the sacred symbols, their eyes
behold the Lord of Glory. In the spirit of devotion, and on the wings of faith, they rise from earth to heaven; they pierce beyond the clouds, and enter within the veil. "The everlasting doors are thrown open; the King of Glory appears upon his throne ; Angels and Archangels cover themselves with their wings, and all the pillars of the firmament tremble.
But not to heaven is the Divinity confined. He fills the earth; he dwells with men. Look around you, and behold the marks of his presence, and the impression of his hand. In the gay and lovely scenes of nature, behold him in his beauty smiling on his works. In the grand and awful objects of creation, in the tempest, in the thunder, in the earthquake, behold him in the Majesty of Omnipotence: When, like the prophet who retired to the wilderness, you hear that voice which rends asunder the mountains, which breaks in pieces the rocks, and which shakes the pillars of the world, you hear behind it a still small voice, saying, “ It is 1, be not afraid.??.
Thus, good men see the Creator in his works: they have the Lord always before them. They know where they can find him, and can come nigh to his seat. They go forward, and he is there, backward, and they perceive his footsteps; on the right hand his wonders are seen ; on the left his goodness is telt. They cannot go byt where he is. The Great Universe is the teinple of the Deity, built by his hand, consecrated by his presence, bright with his glory.
The second thing proposed, was, to set before you the advantages which accompany this solemn approach to God, which are the following : There is ho. nour in approaching to God, there is joy in approaching to God, there is consolation in approaching to God, there is preparation for heaven in approaching to God.
First, then, there is honour in approaching to God, The superiority of man to the animal world has been inferred from the structure and formation of his body, While the inferior animals, prone and grovelling, bend downwards to that earth which is their only element, man is formed with an erect figure, and with a countenance that looks to the heavens. His erect figure is given as the indication of an elevated mind, and the countenance that looks to the heavens is bestowed, in order to prepare us for the contemplation of what is great and glorious. With this formation of body, and with this tendency of mind, man feels that the earth is not his native region ; he looks abroad over the whole extent of nature ; he has an eye that glances from earth to heaven, and a mind which, unconfined by space or time, seizes on eternity. The eye that glances from earth to heaven, the mind which seizes on eternity, draw the line between the intellec, tual and animal world. The beast of the field, indeed, beholds the face of the heavens : the bird of the air is cheered with the splendour of the sun ; but man alone has the intellectual eye, which beholds in the heavens, the bandywork of Omnipotence, and which traces in the sun the glory of its Creator. To him, high-favoured of lis Maker, a scene opens, unseen by the eye of sense ; a new heaven and a new earth present themselves; the intellectual world discloses its rising wonders, and, seen by his own light, in the majesty of moral perfection, God appears. It was reserved to be the glory of man, that he alone, of all the inhabitants of this lower world, should be admitted into the presence of his Creator, and hold intercourse with the Author of his being.
Accordingly, in the happy days of the human race, when the age of innocence lasted, and the garden of Eden bloonied, there was an intercourse between heaven and earth, and God did dwell with man. Our first parents in l'aradise were sensible of his presence ; they heard his voice among the trees of the garden ; they held converse with him face to face, and found
that the chief honour of their nature consisted in drawing nigh to God. Nay, it is the happiness of higher natures, it is the glory of superior beings, of the principalities and powers in heaven, to dwell in the presence of their King, to worship at the throne of infi, nite perfection, and draw nearer and nearer to the fountain of all felicity. But this honour have all the saints. To thee, O Christian ! it is given to hold communion with the Creator, and to become the friend of the Almighty. Truly your fellowship is with the Father, ånd his Son Jesus Christ. If it be great and honourable to be near the person and round the throne of an earthly king, how truly glorious are they whom the King of heaven delighteth to honour! No wonder then, that though exalted to the highest dignity which the world can bestow, the king of Israel was ambitious of higher still ; “ One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I
dwell “ in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to
behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his “ temple.”
Secondly, there is joy in approaching to God. “1 will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding
The idea of a perfect being is the most joyfui subject of contemplation that can be presented to man. Moral qualities, even when they shine in a lesser degree, have a charm for the soul. The prospect of natural beauty is not more pleasant to the eye, than the contemplation of moral beauty to the mind. A great and good action, a striking instance of benevolence, of public spirit, of magnanimity, interests us strongly in belialf of the performer, and makes the heart glow with gratitude to him, although he be unknown. We take delight in placing before our eyes the illustrious characters that stand forth in history, wise legislators, unshaken patriots, public benefactors of mankind, or inodels of goodness in private life, whose virtues shone to the past, and shine to present times, whose lives were glorious to themselves, and beneficial to the world. If an imperfect copy