« PrécédentContinuer »
If man is made superior to the beasts, he should conduct in a manner becoming his natural superiority. He should show himself a man, a rational being. He should exercise a government over himself, restrain his passions, regulate his appetite, keep his body in subjection, cultivate the powers of his mind, look forward to futurity, and act with a seri ous regard to his eternal existence. David says, "I will instruct and teach thee in the way, which thou shalt go. Be not as the horse or mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to thee." Reason is the dignity of man. Then only we maintain our dignity when we act as reasonable beings. If passion and appetite triumph over reason, we lose our superiority to the beast, and become as the horse or mule, which has no understanding.
2. We are fearfully made, as our frame demonstrates the power, wisdom and presence of God.
Such a wonderful composition, as man, could not be the effect of chance. It must be the work of an infinite, independent, allwise Creator. David says, "Marvellous are thy works, O God, and that my soul knoweth full well. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect, and in thy book were all my members written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth."
As the frame of our body proves God's agency, so the powers of our mind demonstrate his perfect knowledge. "He who formed the eye, shall not he see? He that planted the ear, shall not he hear? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? He knoweth the thoughts of men."
We, then, carry about with us clear evidence, that there is a God of all perfections; that this God
is present with us, around us and within us; tha he observes all our actions, discerns all our intentions, watches all our motions, and will bring into judg ment all our works. What a solemn, what a fearful thought! Shall we not tremble at the presence of such a Being? Shall we not tremble at the view of our own frame, which brings this Being to our minds? Well may we adopt the language of the Psalmist; "O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compássest my path and my lying down. Thou art acquainted with all my ways. There is not a word in my tongue, but thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me before and behind, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. Whither shall I go from thy presence, or flee from thy spirit? Thou possessest my reins. I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
What stupidity must it be, to live without the belief, and act without the fear of God, when we have in ourselves a continual demonstration of his existence, power, wisdom and providence? The heavens, the earth, the sea, all things around us declare the glory of God and show his handy work. And God demands, "Will ye not tremble at my presence? Ye have a revolting and rebellious heart." But we need not go out of ourselves. Shall we not tremble at his presence, when we see him around us, and feel him within us? He is not far from every one of us. Shall not his excellency make us afraid? Let us fear, love and obey him. This is our whole duty.
3. We are fearfully made, as the Creator has impressed upon us evident marks of our immortality and accountableness.
The distinguishing faculties of our minds demonstrate, that we were created for greater and no
bler purposes, than the animals around us. It does not appear consistent with God's wisdom and goodness, and with the economy every where ob. servable in his works, that he should make such beings for so low a sphere as the present world, and for so short a duration, as the present life. If our existence is to cease with the death of the body, why has the inspiration of the Almighty given us understanding? If we are designed only to eat, drink and sleep, provide a successor, and then retire to eternal oblivion, of what use is forethought and reflection, moral discernment, and a sense of obligation?
In the present state we find ourselves capable of progress and improvement; but we never rise to the perfection, to which, in a longer space, we might attain. And many of our mortal race are removed, before they have opportunity for any improvement at all. Must there not, then, be another state, in which we may reach the perfection, of which our nature is capable, but which is unattainable here? Instinct in beasts is perfect at first. The young are as sagacious as the old in finding, or constructing their habitations, in seeking and distinguishing their proper food, in retreating from dangers, in taking their prey, in evading or resisting an enemy, and in every thing, which belongs to their sphere of action. In man reason opens gradually, is improved by experience, and assisted by example and instruction, and under proper culture makes observable progress. But before it can reach its end, its progress is arrested by death. Must we not, then, conclude, that there is another state, in which the soul may still push forward, and reach that degree of knowledge and virtue, for which the present life is too short?
There is in all men a desire of immortality; and this desire will doubtless be gratified.
This world is well adapted to our condition, as animals. Every passion and inclination which belongs to our animal nature, and is not a corruption or perversion of that nature, finds an object to grat
ify it. And shall we suppose, And shall we suppose, that the desire of im
mortality has no object?-This would be to suppose, that the works of God are inconsistent and unharmonious. That the desire of immortality is wrought in us by the Creator is evident from its universality. If it were the effect of education, it would not possess all men in all ages and countries, but would be confined to particular persons or places. This argument the Apostle considers, as conclusive. "We know, that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house eternal in the heavens; for in this we groan earnestly, desiring to be cloathed upon with our house from heaven. Now he who hath wrought us to this selfsame thing is God," This is evident, "for the whole creation," or the whole human race, "groaneth and travaileth together."
We carry with us evidence, not only of immortality, but also of accountableness. Our reason, with little instruction, sees a difference between vir. tue and vice. The human mind, indeed, without assistance would make but small improvement in science of any kind, and less in morals, than in some other branches of knowledge. But whenever the difference between moral good and evil is stated, the mind immediately discerns and allows it.
There is in every man a principle of conscience, which, being in any degree enlightened, feels its obligation to avoid the evil and embrace the good. Allowed wickedness is accompanied with remorse; the work of righteousness is peace.
Certainly, then, we are accountable beings, and, in a future state, shall receive according to our
characters. How solemn is the thought, that we are under the eye of a holy God, that we are on probation for his favour, that we are responsible for our actions, that we must exist for ever in another state, and that our condition there will be according to the course which we have pursued here? Does our very make teach us these momentous truths? Surely we may say, "We are fearfully made."
The same may be said,
4thly, In respect of our frailty.
Such is the tenderness of our frame, that in this rough and dangerous world, in which we live, we are always exposed to casualties and wounds, diseases and death. It may therefore, with much propriety be said, "We are fearfully made."
The Psalmist prays, "O make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am. Surely every man, at his best state, is altogether vanity." The scripture, to express the vanity and frailty of human life, compares it to a shadow, a flower, dust and wind. The life of man depends on the breath. "God breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul." "When his breath goeth forth, his thoughts perish, and he returneth to his dust." How precarious is our life? It is the breath in our nostrils. It is a puff of air, a vapour which soon vanishes. It is a wind which passes by, and comes not again.
The lungs, which are the instruments of respira tion, are a tender and delicate substance. It is a small passage, which conveys the air to the internal parts, and remits it for a fresh supply. This operation must be constant. A short suspension would be death. Many external accidents and internal disorders may occur to obstruct the convey. ance of air, or destroy the motion of the lungs.