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But it is not my design in this discourse to shew the strength of parental tenderness, to enforce the practice of it, or to urge upon children the necessity of filial obedience. Great as these objects are, I have an end in view even higher and more important than these. I would call forth the warmest filial feelings of you that are children in this assembly: I would excite all your gratitude, your confidence, your love, and, without any diminution of your regard to an earthly parent, direct you to transfer them to him who is indeed our Father, the best as he is the greatest object of affection. Oh that you knew and loved him as you honour and love that tender earthly parent who derives all his regard for you from the care and providence of your heavenly Father! I would excite in you, ye parents! all that love and tenderness (not difficult to be excited) which dwell in your bosoms towards your beloved children; and whilst your hearts glow with affection, and the most fervent desires for their welfare, I would say to you, Behold in those feelings the just emblem of that solicitude for the welfare of man, which dwells in the Divine breast. Yes, my brethren; we all have a Father whom we have not yet seen, but whose eyes have ever been upon us to protect and bless us; whose hand has held up our infant steps, and guarded and defended us from innumerable dangers; whose bounty has fed us and enriched us with every blessing which we have enjoyed, from the moment of our birth to the present hour: whose mercies surround us on every side, so that we can direct our eyes to no point but we behold them: we can look back to no period but we remember them; we cannot turn our view into futurity but we anticipate them. It is my desire to set before you this best and most gracious of Beings, in his mild, paternal character, that you may feel towards him the gratitude and love and confidence which you ought ever to entertain. And O! that God, who has given us so high and distinguishing a privilege above the lower orders of creatures, an understanding capable of knowing him and of reposing in perfect confidence under his benignant government; O! that he may help us in this our design, that we may all feel towards him the sentiments of veneration, love, and gratitude by which all bis creatures ought to be animated, and which are in fact continually felt by all those holy and perfect beings who dwell with him in glory!
My brethren, is not God your Father? Did not he create you? Did not he contrive for your use the eyes by which you behold with such delight the various objects around you. Did not he form with exquisite skill the ear by which sounds are conveyed to your minds, organs whose vicety of construction it exceeds the ingenuity of wan adequately to comprehend? Was it not his wisdom which fashioned your limbs, endued the will with power to use the muscles, caused the heart to beat, propelling the current of blood through all the infinite channels of its course, and endued the brain with vital energy? Has not his power and wisdom provided organs wonderfully calculated to digest the food, to form from it a thousand different liquids, necessary for the existence and comfort of the frame? Have you not derived from his care and bounty the rich endowments of the mind; the imagination able to penetrate through every space, to travel in an instant through every distance; to deck every object with the most brilliant colours; the memory to recal distant occurrences, and place them as present before the mind; the judgment to compare and separate; the will to choose and determine? Are any of these faculties which so distinguish and adorn man created by yourself? Are you indebted for them to the care and kindness of your earthly parents? Are they not all designed, contrived, provided, and given to you by bim who is the Source of all good? Is pot he then, in the proper, in the fullest sense of the word, your Father? Was it not be, who, having created you, committed you to the charge of your earthly parents, and disposed their minds to love you, to nurse your infancy with fondness, and to watch
with unceasing care over your welfare? Is it not, therefore, in a secondary sense only that we are to ascribe the term of Father to our earthly parent, while the primary and full meaning of the word belongs only to our Creator? Let us, my brethren, know our true state, let us understand our high dignity and noble birth. Let us remember, that in having God for our Father, we possess the highest honour and the noblest privilege which any created beings can enjoy.
But, secondly, there is another sepse in which the title of Father is justly claimed by God. He is the Father who hath bought us. When man, by his rebellion against his Maker, had forfeited the title of a son, it pleased God to provide an atonement for him. Through the sacrifice of our Redeemer, God offered to restore his offending children in the most ample manner, to the privileges which they had lost; and as the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to become, in a still higher sense than before, our Father also. He would be justly considered as acting towards us the part of a parent, and as deserving all our flial confidence and gratitude, who, after our temporal death, should bestow on us a second life, who should deliver us from ruin and decay, and place us in a new and happy state of existence. With what reason then ought we to call him our Father, who has, by the death of his Son, redeemed us from eternal death, and rendered us capable of enjoying eternal happiness and glory? In this sense, our blessed Lord has taught us to look up to God as our Father: "I ascend,” says he, "unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” And indeed the New Testament, in every page, exhibits to us this delightful view of our Creator. It continually teaches us to look to him as a reconciled Father in Jesus Christ. It speaks of the spirit of adoption sent into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father, teaching us, that is, to draw near to God with humble boldness, through Christ, as to a Father, and to repose in him all filial confidence.
When I have reflected upon the numerous and sig. nal proofs which God has given of his paternal feelings towards us, I have often been surprised that those whose gratitude to their earthly parents is unbounded, and whose confidence in them never fails, should shew so little affection to their heavenly Father, and rely so little on his love and mercy. The reasons of this inconsistency appear to me to be the following.
First, the undue attachment which we are apt to place on objects of sense. We see and converse with an earthly parent, but our bodily senses do not inform us of the presence of God. Yet the proofs of his presence are actually more strong and numerous than ihose which attest the existence of any material object; and all the blessings which we have ever enjoyed concur to prove, that it is as a father that he is present with us to protect us and to do us good.
Secondly, Through the weakness of the human understanding we continually entertain an undue estima'tion of second causes.
We do not feel the extent of our obligations to our heavenly Father, because many of the blessings which he bestows are communicated to us by some instrument appointed for that end. Now we should esteem it a strange degree of absurd reasoning, if a poor man, to whom we sent our bounty by an agent, were to express no gratitude to us, but much to the person whom we might employ. Yet we all reason too frequently in this manner with respect to the great Author of all good. What we obtain through the kindness of our parents, we attribute solely to them, not considering who has induced their minds to feel towards us that parental tenderness. cure through our own labour we ascribe to ourselves, not reflecting that it is in this way that God inclines and enables us to obtain the good he bestows upon us. Could we withdraw the veil which is interposed between us and the Divine Being, we should clearly see that there is not a blessing which we enjoy which has not been given to us by the provident
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and watchful beneficence of God, and that men have been only the instruments of his bounty. But there is in our hearts a reluctance to set God before us. We know enough of his majesty to shrink from his presence; enough of his holiness to be afraid of his inspection; enough of his justice to tremble at our guilt. We do not like therefore to retain him in our knowl. edge. He is a Being whom we consider as too great to be connected with us but as our Lawgiver and our Judge, and therefore we rather turn our attention from him. But Revelation is given to rectify this false estimate of the Divine character. It displays the goodness of God as well as his justice: it represents him as our Father, as well as our Judge: it beseeches us to lay aside our dread of him and our enmity towards him. Now then, “we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God; for he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
It is to this state of reconciliation with God to which, by the help of his Holy Spirit, I would wish to guide you. I would cause all his goodness to pass before you. I would proclaim to you his Name, as he himself proclaimed it to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” I would set before you such a display of the Divine goodness and love that your hearts should be drawn to bim by the cords of affection, and that from henceforth you might give up to bim your bodies and souls as a lively and reasonable sacrifice.
It will probably, however, be generally acknowledged, that the character of God is good and gracious.
This degree of acquaintance with his nature is easily attained. It is in the practical use of such knowledge that we are chiefly apt to fail. This is therefore the end to which I now shall direct your attention. I will suppose you