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7. What is man, that the great God, who filleth heaven and earth, “ the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity," should stoop so inconceivably low as to be mindful of him ? Would not reason suggest to us, that so diminutive a creature would be overlooked by him in the immensity of his works ? Especially when we consider,
II. Secondly, What is Man, with regard to his Duration ?
1. The days of Man, since the last reduction of human life, which seems to have taken place in the time of Moses, (and not improbably was revealed to the man of God, at the time that he made this declaration,) are threescore years and ten. This is the general standard which Ġod hath now appointed. “And if men be so strong, (perhaps one in a hundred,) that they come to fourscore years, yet then is their strength but labour and sorrow : so soon passeth it away, and we are gone !”
2. Now what a poor pittance of duration is this, compared to the life of Methuselah? «And Methuselah lived nine hundred and sixty and nine years.” But what are these nine hundred and sixtynine years to the duration of an angel, which began “ or ever the mountains were brought forth," or the foundations of the earth were laid? And what is the duration which has passed, since the creation of angels, to that which passed before they were created, to unbeginning eternity ? To that half of eternity (if one may so speak) which had then elapsed ? And what are threescore years and ten to this?
3. Indeed, what proportion can there possibly be, between any finite and infinite duration? What proportion is there between a thousand or ten thousand years, or ten thousand times ten thousand ages, and eternity? I know not that the inexpressible disproportion between any conceivable part of time and eternity, can be illustrated in a more striking manner, than it is in the well-known passage of St. Cyprian; “ Suppose there was a ball of sand as large as the globe of the earth, and suppose one grain of this were to be annihilated in a thousand years; yet that whole space of time wherein this ball would be annihilating, at the rate of one grain in a thousand years, would bear less, yea, unspeakably, infinitely less proportion to eternity, than a single grain of sand would bear to that whole mass." What then are the seventy years of human life, in comparison of eternity ? In what terms can the proportion between these be expressed ? It is nothing, yea, infinitely less than nothing !
4. If then we add to the littleness of man the inexpressible shortness of his duration, is it any wonder that a man of reflection should sometimes feel a kind of fear, lest the great, eternal, infinite Governor of the Universe, should disregard so diminutive a creature as man? A creature so every way inconsiderable, when compared either with immensity or eternity ? Did not both these reflections glance through, if not dwell upon the mind of the royal Psalmist? Thus, in contemplation of the former, he breaks out into the strong words of the text, “ When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, What is man, that thou shouldest be mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou shouldest
regard himn?" He is indeed, (to use St. Augustine's words, Aliqua portio creaturæ tuæ,) some portion of thy creation. But quantulu portio : How amazingly small a portion ! How utterly beneath thy notice! It seems to be in contemplation of the latter, that he cries out in the hundred and forty-fourth Psalm, “ Lord! what is man, that thou hast such respect unto him ; or the son of man that thou shouldest so regard him ? Man is like a thing of naught.” Why ? “ His time passeth away like a shadow.” In this, (although in a very few places, the new translation of the Psalms, that is bound up in our Bibles, is perhaps more proper than the old, that which we have in the Common Prayer Book. It runs thus, “ Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him ? or the son of man, that thou makest account of him ?" According to the former translation, David seems to be amazed that the eternal God, considering the littleness of man, should have so much respect unto him, and should so much regard him : But in the latter, he seems to wonder, seeing the life of man “passeth away like a shadow," that God should take any knowledge of him at all, or make any account of him.
5. And it is natural for us to make the same reflection, and to entertain the same fear. But how may we prevent this uneasy rellection, and effectually cure this fear? First, by considering what David does not appear to have taken at all into his account, namely, That the body is not the man : that man is not only a house of clay, but an immortal spirit; a spirit made in the image of God, an incorruptible picture of the God of glory: a spirit that is of infinitely more value than the whole earth! Of more value than the sun, moon, and stars, put together: yea, than the whole material creation. Consider, that the spirit of man is not only of a higher order, of a more excellent nature than any part of the visible world ; but also more durable, not liable either to dissolution or decay. We know all the things “ which are seen are temporal,” of a changing, transient nature : but “ the things which are not seen, (such as is the soul of man in particular,) are eternal.” “ They shall perish,” but the soul remaineth. They all shall “wax old as a garment ;" but when heaven and earth shall pass away, the soul shall not pass away. .
6. Consider, secondly, that declaration which the Father of spirits hath made to us by the Prophet Hosea, “ I am God, and not man: therefore my compassions fail not.” As if he had said, If I were only a man, or an angel, or any finite being, my knowledge might admit of bounds, and my mercy might be limited. But “my thoughts are not as your thoughts, and my mercy is not as your mercy. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts ;” and “my mercy," my compassion, my ways of showing it, “higher than your ways."
7. That no shadow of fear might remain, no possibility of doubting; to show what manner of regard the great eternal God bears to little, short-lived man, but especially to his immortal part, God gave his Son, “ his only Son, to the end that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." See how God loved the
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world! The Son of God, that was God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God: in glory equal with the Father, in majesty co-eternal, “ emptied himself, took upon him the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And all this he suffered not for himself, but for us men and for our salvation. “ He bore all our sins in his own body upon the tree,” that “ by his stripes we might be healed." After this demonstration of his love, is it possible to doubt any longer of God's tender regard for man, even though he was “dead in tres. passes and sins ?” Even when he saw us in our sins and in our blood, he said unto us, Live! Let us then fear no more. Let us doubt no more. He that “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall he not with him freely give us all things ?"
8. - Nay,” says the philosopher, “ If God so loved the world, did he not love a thousand other worlds, as well as he did this? It is now allowed, that there are thousands, if not millions of worlds, besides this in which we live.' And can any reasonable man believe, that the Creator of all these, many of which are probably as large, yea, far larger than ours, would show such astonishing greater regard to one than to all the rest ?" I answer, Suppose there were millions of worlds, yet God may see, in the abyss of bis infinite wis. dom, important reasons that do not appear to us, why he should show this mercy to ours, in preference to thousands or millions of other worlds.
9. I speak this even upon the common supposition of the plurality of worlds; a very favourite notion with all those who deny the Christian revelation : and for this reason: because it affords them a foundation for so plausible an objection to it. But the more I consider that supposition, the more I doubt of it. Insomuch that, if it were allowed by all the philosophers in Europe, still I could not allow it, without stronger proof than any I have met with yet.
10. “Nay, but is not the argument of the great Huygens, sufficient to put it beyond all doubt? When we view, says that able astronomer, the moon through a good telescope, we clearly discover • rivers and mountains on her spotted globe.' Now where rivers are, there are, doubtless, plants and vegetables of various kinds. And where vegetables are, there are undoubtedly animals; yea, rational ones, as on earth. It follows then that the moon has its inhabitants, and probably near akin to ours. But if our moon is inhabited, we may easily suppose, so are all the secondary planets ; and, in particular, all the satellites or moons of Jupiter and Saturn. And if the secondary planets are inhabited, why not the primary? Why should we doubt it of Jupiter and Saturn themselves, as well as Mars, Venus, and Mercury ?!"
11. But do not you know, that Mr. Huygens himself, before he died, doubted of this whole hypothesis ? For upon farther observation, he found reason to believe, that the moon has no atmosphere. He observed, that in a total eclipse of the sun, on the removal of the shade from any part of the earth, the sun immediately shines bright upon it; whereas if the moon had an atmosphere, the solar light, while it shone through that atmosphere, would appear dim and dusky. Thus, after an eclipse of the moon, first a dusky light appears on that part of it, from which the shadow of the earth removes, while that light passes through the atmosphere of the earth. Hence it appears, that the moon has no atmosphere. Consequently, it has no clouds, no rain, no springs, no rivers; and therefore no plants, or animals. But there is no proof or probability that the moon is inhabited, neither have we any proof, that the other planets are. Consequently, the foundation being removed, the whole fabric falls to the ground.
12. But you will say, “Suppose this argument fails, we may infer the same conclusion, the plurality of worlds, from the unbounded wisdom, and power, and goodness of the Creator. It was full as easy to bim, to create thousands or millions of worlds as one. Can any one then believe that he would exert all his power and wisdom in creating a single world ? What proportion is there between this speck of creation, and the Great God that filleth heaven and earth! While
"We know, the power of his Almighty hand
13. To this boasted proof, this argumentum palmarium of the learned infidels, I answer, Do you expect to find any proportion between finite and infinite ? Suppose God had created a thousand more worlds than there are grains of sand in the universe, what proportion would all these together bear to the infinite Creator? Still, in comparison of him, they would be, not a thousand times, but infinitely less than a mite compared to the universe. Have done then with this childish prattle, about the proportion of creatures to their Creator; and leave it to the all-wise God, to create what and when he pleases. For who, besides himself, “ hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor ?”
14. Suffice it then for us to know this plain and comfortable truth, That the Almighty Creator hath shown that regard to this poor little creature of a day, which he hath not shown even to the inhabitants of heaven, “who kept not their first estate.” He hath given us his Son, his only Son, both to live and to die for us! O let us live unto him, that we may die unto him, and live with him for ever!
ON ATTENDING THE CHURCH SERVICE.
6 The sin of the young men was very great.”—1 Samuel i. 17. ;
1. THE corruption, not only of the heathen world, but likewise of them that were called Christians, has been matter of sorrow and lamentation to pious men, almost from the time of the Apostles. And hence, as early as the second century, within a hundred years of St. John's removal from the earth, men who were afraid of being partakers of other men's sins, thought it their duty to separate from them, Hence, in every age, many have retired from the world, lest they should be stained with the pollutions of it. In the third century many carried this so far, as to run into deserts and turn hermits. But in the following age this took another turn. Instead of turning hermits, they turned monks. Religious houses now began to be built in every Christian country. And religious communities were established, both of men and women, who were entirely secluded from the rest of mankind, having no intercourse with their nearest relations, nor with any but such as were confined, generally for life, within the same walls.
2. This spirit of literally renouncing the world, by retiring into religious houses, did not so generally prevail after the Reformation. Nay, in Protestant countries, houses of this kind were totally suppressed. But still too many serious persons, (chiefly incited thereto by those that are commonly called mystic writers) were eager to seclude themselves from the world, and run into solitude ; supposing this to be the best, if not the only way, of escaping the pollution that is in the world.
3. One thing which powerfully inclined them to separate from the several churches, or religious societies, to which they had belonged, even from their infancy, was the belief, that no good was to be expected from the ministration of unholy men. “What,” said they, “can we think that a holy God will bless the ministry of wicked men? Can we imagine that they who are themselves strangers to the grace of God, will manifest that grace to others? Is it to be supposed that God ever did, or ever will work by the children of the Devil? And if this cannot be supposed, ought we not to “comc out from among them and be separate ?"
4. For more than twenty years, this never entered into the thoughts of those that were called Methodists. But as more and