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blight should fall on the spring-time of the spirit; and much have they to answer for who furnish a soul with its first impression of the Father in Heaven—who into the empty chambers of a trusting heart, to which their will is law and their words undoubted truth, pour the spirit light which is ever after either to gild life's troubled way, or to look on it with a cold never warms, or an angry glare which makes even penitence afraid, and fixes sin into desperate rebellion—whose own parental tenderness wins for them no ready and delighted faith when they tell their child of the tenderness of God, suggests to its love-taught spirit no bright and bounding thoughts, when, with a manner that holy affection has solemnized, they take it to their bosom, and look into its eyes, and speak to it of the Parent above—whose own piety is too unreal and abstracted and pent up, to reveal to infancy that they have any such belief as that heaven is around them ;-yes, they have much to answer for, to whom this ministry is committed, with whom the beautiful words of Jesus should be, not figuratively, but literally true, * I tell you that the ministering angels of these little ones do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven;' and we mean not, when we trace our inability to grasp God's providence to the child-like religion which pursues us to the grave, and from whose partial views so many never emerge until their souls float into that fulness of light which will be the visible effluence of his glory, to say any thing so cold and pedantic and unaffecting and thoroughly unchristian, as that childhood should be dispossessed of its vivid imagery of gladdening piety because it is inadequate, or to substitute a laboured correctness of thought for the radiant forms which to it are better awakeners of emotion—but we do mean, that when we become men, and put away our childish things, our religion should not depart along with them, because it has fallen into disproportion to our now maturer and manly thought; that at every stage of the advancing intellect must a new effort of it be put forth on the infinite themes of God and Providence; that by birth after birth, as our sphere of apprehension enlarges, must we be born again’and again into better views of religion, and as often as our comprehension of the Deity becomes too little glorious to command the homage and stimulate the energies of our capabilities of thought when at their mightiest pitch, too little attractive to feed our emotions with fresh beauty and truth, too little spiritual to gather our opening views of life and being within the embrace of his providence, and to show how every new experience as it comes forth was only veiled and hidden in the folds of his wondrous presence. In a word, as often as our actual view of God as an object for the intellect and the heart falls behind our energies of thought and our capacities of love, then must we summon our noblest powers
to their most glorious and their most glorifying work, feel that it is the best pledge of our immortality that our faculties are thus constantly outgrowing their intellectual furniture, sustain the toil of thought until a new vision of God rises on the soul, and then take our future stand on a higher step of Jehovah's throne, until a new expansion of the moral and spiritual nature calls for a new effort to land us nearer to Him whom ages after
of these successive advances shall still leave in light unapproachable,' and at the distance of an undiminished infinity.
There are many who think of religion as a thing too feeble, too limited in its field, too easily settled to expend much thought upon it, and they forget that they are speaking of their own notions of religion, and betraying their poverty—they forget that they are speaking of God, whose spirit is within them, whilst the arm of his providence is on the outskirts of creation; and that there is a thought to bury their intellect in its depths, to task imagination when it is most godlike, and to fill the heart of love with the Spiritual Father, in the closest intimacies of its most confiding recesses.
It will be perceived that when we have conceived of the divine spirituality, the advantage gained to faith is a clear vision of the universe lying in God's bosom. When I think of God as an omnipresent spirit, I do not comprehend him; but I do comprehend that Providence presents no difficulties to such a Being—that all objections, whether drawn from the vastness or the minuteness of his required agency, vanish away from that refined and enlarged thought—that whether it be the lily's growth, or the sparrow's fall, or the numbered hairs, or the mechanism of the heavens--all are alike easy, alike necessary to the Being we have supposed; and, on the occasional rising of perplexity or doubt--which to human feebleness will arise-we have only to stretch our thought to a renewed apprehension of his spiritual nature, and be satisfied once more that all things alike are embosomed in his ubiquity.
By Providence, then, we understand literally, and without exception, that every thing is of God's doing that whatever exists, exists at each moment in the exact condition which he thinks best—that whatever moves is acted on by his immediate power, obeys an impulse from his immediate presence—that every volition of every thinking being is produced by him, is the designed result of the moulding influences which his will has formed around it from the instant of its birth, and now contemplated by him who dwells in the consciousness of each mind as his own ordination. By Providence we understand that Chanoe is a word utterly unmeaning—that there is no such thing—that science disowns it—that philosophy has expelled it from the realms of causes and effects, and that piety, when thoroughly enlightened, will rejoice to resolve it into the will and operation of God, that He may be all in all. By Providence I understand that each event of each man's life was appointed from above—that not merely this signal blessing, or that signal judgment, came forth from the sanctuary of his concealment, to startle from their apathy the hearts of his children, but that through all the scenery of this varied being, through all the trials of this chequered lot, of which every coming hour baffles calculation, through every outward circumstance and every inward emotion, man goes Heaven-guidedthat the spring-breeze which flushes the cheek of health, or wiles away with its balmy caresses the languor of disease, or blows freshly on the fever of the burning brow, had its mission dated in heaven, and its physical effect and its moral influence assigned it—that the storm which men call pittiless, as it beats on the defenceless head, was issued from the same will, and with a moral purpose too—that of all the arrangements and opportunities which make up the incidents of our lives, not one was fortuitous—that, whether we mourn or rejoice, the causes of emotion were not accidental—that the train of circumstances which has landed us in our present state of external position or internal feeling, was laid by Him of whom we are told, that however a man's heart deviseth his way, the Lord directeth his steps; and that to say this is Providence, and that is notto recognize God's hand in one event, and see no necessity for his interference in another-is to forget that he is a spiritto let conscience, which ought ever to be looking for the signs of his presence, slip from the constancy of his influence, and to dispossess piety of half her kingdom. In a word, we understand by Providence, that physically, morally, intellectually, all matter and all mind is swayed by God; and whatever influence it feels, whatever form it assumes, are the consequences of all the causes and antecedents, which, carry them back as you will, through a longer or a shorter course of intermediate agency, you must refer at last to the great
First Cause, and fasten the last link of the chain of dependencies to the throne in heaven.
This unqualified statement cannot be made without suggesting a host of objections, even with those who are already convinced; the spectral forms of difficulties which exist no more may come back and haunt the very intellect which has laid them; but it need hardly be said, that if this statement is truth —that is, if it can be proved—then it must not bend to our difficulties, but our difficulties must bend to it; if it runs counter to some of our previous notions, then must those notions be re-examined, and if they cannot be adjusted into conformity with an established principle, the principle must chase them
away, as mere prejudices on which reason frowns; and though we do admit that moral sentiments, even where wrong, should be displaced with all possible tenderness, and that a wedge-like truth driven into the midst of error may appear to distort for awhile the whole mental frame, and even to dislocate some principles which, whether wisely so or not, are its present fountains of morality; yet, who would not gladly submit to such a process for the sake of the resulting good? who would not rather break up the foundations of his mind, and go deeper, than build upon the moral sands ? who would not regard it as a good exchange, to part with any fond opinion or time-hallowed error, in order to remodel his spiritual nature after the similitude of God's truth? Be it not said that this is unfeelingthat it is too coldly and severely intellectual to ask us to surrender up your soul to the force of a demonstration, however sentiment may writhe or prejudice rebel—it is not even unfeeling; it only calls on you for an exercise of your best feeling, even that which flows out to God, and loves to lean trustingly on his truth, And it matters not what sentiment may be displanted; even the affections are the gainers, not only ultimately—of which there can be no doubt-but immediately, if a new sentiment of reliance on Heaven and its guidance is the glorious substitute. When truth lacerates our feelings, let the wound be healed by fresh gushings of that happiest and best feeling which is rejoicing faith in God. If, then, we cannot perceive how human responsibility is reconcilable with the reference of every thing, without exception, to the absolute will of God, let not the presence of a difficulty stand in the way of the demonstration of a truth. To do so is an outrage against piety as well as against reason. True piety is to submit ourselves to truth as you would to God; true humility is a fearless trust in principles : receive the principle, if it can be proved, and then proceed without a murmur to adjust into harmony with it whatever it contravenes; and I know not what notion can be so dear to us that we would not be most anxious to part from, if it interfered with our belief that all things are of God. Leaving, then, all such difficulties for after consideration and adjustment, and putting them aside for the present, as if they did not exist, admit the conclusion, from which there is no possible escape--that if God is a spirit, and a spirit is essentially intelligence, activity and power—then the omnipresence of such a deity is the banishment of chance from every realm of being, by which we mean the banishment of every thing not permitted and willed by God; and the expulsion of chance is the establishment of Providence.
It is obvious enough to every mind, that from the material world, at least, all fortuity is excluded—that in every region of nature, solid, fluid, or vapour, there are in each certain fixed laws which all substances obey, and that therefore He who established those laws, or, to speak more correctly, He who acts immediately upon matter according to a fixed method—for laws are not operators, but modes of operation—sees nothing in the external, the physical creation, but the movements of his own will. If there is any department of nature which science has not subdued to her control, that is, penetrated the secret modes of God's agency there—no one dreams that that is a lawless realm, or that God does not govern it because man has not discovered the method of his government. Take whatever to human intelligence is most capricious, the mission of the winds, or the philosophy of the showers, and we ask not a verdict from piety, we ask it from science in her place of pride, and she will decree that whatever seems fortuitous is only man's ignorance, and that every step of advancing knowledge is a stride into the territory, where not chance—for that is a nonentity—but nought that is unforeseen can possibly occur. There is nothing finer in that fine field of thought, the harmonies of knowledge, than this contribution of philosophy to religion, in the overwhelming language of her inductions, in the subtilty and splendor of her demonstrations, in the meekness of her acknowledgment, that nothing breaks loose from established laws, that the universe observes the appointments and obeys the mandate of the omnipresent God. And if the world of matter is thus easily referred to Providence, is the world of mind less easily reducible to the same control ? Every thing in the moral world results from the wills of conscious beings. What determines those wills, what sways them this way or that? Is it natural constitution?' God made it. Is it the influence of external circumstance? God arranged it. Is it education? God doomed that we should be born in such a family, and committed to the mouldings of certain minds. God gave each soul its peculiar constitutionwhen placed in certain circumstances, he knew what would be the result-he knew that, and permitted it-to permit it was to will it, to decree it and thus is Chance banished from the mind; it is subject to lawsGod rules it; and that is Providence.
In the moral, then, as in the material world, the soul says alike, Whither shall I go from thy spirit-whither shall I flee from thy presence ?' And why should it wish to flee, or why should we wish to escape the conclusion that we are in God's hands? Whatever may be the actual condition of the world, is it not a happier and a safer thought that it is so according to his will, than against his will ?