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"the whole time which elapsed between the fall of man and the consummation of the scheme of his recovery, was but the twinkling of a moment to the mighty roll of innumerable ages; that the whole of this interval bears as small a proportion to the whole of the Almighty's reign, as this solitary world does to the universe around it." There is, however, no portion of the subject which this writer has touched without adorning it; he has imparted new graces where he has conferred no additional securities; and where truth has profited but little from his reasons, the soul has caught an inspiration from his sounds.
Having thus shown the futility of those false standards borrowed from our own gross and fleshly infirmities, and so apt to be applied in derogation of the Divine infinitude and omnipotence, we are, in the fifth discourse, conducted to another view of the Majesty on high, in which, in the character of Father, a pitying Father, he suffers himself to be brought into some sort of comparison with the tenderer and better parts of human nature. That holy and perfect Being can endure no comparison with any thing of mortal and material substance, but there is a part of our nature, that part to which charity, if not in its scriptural plenitude, yet in certain measures, belongs, will supply some analogies to aid our conceptions of the tender mercies of Him who has descended from His radiant seat of glory, passing by all the hierarchies and thrones of His empire, passing by the great and possibly the guiltless orbs, that roll and shine in countless multitudes about his path, to visit and save this small receptacle of peccant beings from that utter ruin to which they had wilfully consigned themselves.
"It was nature, and the experience of every bosom will affirm itit was nature in the shepherd to leave the ninety and nine of his flock forgotten and alone in the wilderness, and betaking himself to the mountains, to give all his labour and all his concern to the pursuit of one solitary wanderer. It was nature; and we are told in the passage before us, that it is such a portion of nature as belongs not merely to men, but to angels; when the woman, with her mind in a state of listlessness as to the nine pieces of silver that were in secure custody, turned the whole force of her anxiety to the one piece which she had lost, and for which she had to light a candle, and to sweep the house, and to search diligently until she found it. It was nature in her to rejoice more over that piece, than over all the rest of them, and to tell it abroad among friends and neighbours, that they might rejoice with her-aye, and sadly effaced as humanity is, in all her original lineaments, this is a part of our nature, the very movements of which are experienced in heaven, "where there is more joy over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance." For any thing I know, the very planet that rolls in the immensity around me, may be a land of righteousness; and be a member
of the household of God; and have her secure dwelling-place within that ample limit, which embraces his great and universal family. But I know at least of one wanderer; and how woefully she has strayed from peace and from purity; and how in dreary alienation from him who made her, she has bewildered herself amongst those many devious tracks, which have carried her afar from the path of immortality; and how sadly tarnished all those beauties and felicities are, which promised, on that morning of her existence when God looked on her, and saw that all was very good-which promised so richly to bless and to adorn her; and how in the eye of the whole unfallen creation, she has renounced all this goodliness, and is fast departing away from them into guilt, and wretchedness, and shame. Oh! if there be any truth in this chapter, and any sweet or touching nature in the principle which runs throughout all its parables, let us cease to wonder, though they who surround the throne of love should be looking so intently towards usor though, in the way by which they have singled us out, all the other orbs of space should, for one short season, on the scale of eternity, appear to be forgotten-or though, for every step of her recovery, and for every individual who is rendered back again to the fold from which he was separated, another and another message of triumph should be made to circulate amongst the hosts of Paradise-or though, lost as we are, and sunk in depravity as we are, all the sympathies of heaven should now be awake on the enterprise of him who has travelled, in the greatness of his strength, to seek and to save us.” (P. 179 -182.)
The arguments, parallels, and illustrations in this discourse are extremely fine, and touching; and if the exquisiteness with which they are laboured be allowed, as we think they must be, to border upon excessive refinement, there is in them a stability of thought and compass of expression, which sustains them in their utmost extent; and although repetitions do certainly abound, in substance, they still occur under such various modifications of structure and embellishment as to secure a deeper assent of the heart and understanding. It appears, indeed, to be the habit of this writer to exhaust his subject before he relinquishes it. As long as in the permutations of language a power remains of shifting, expanding, or re-casting his leading idea, his mind remains engaged in its service. With Cicero's power of amplification he has found in the vastness of his theme, and in the play and pliancy of his less perfect, but more copious idiom, advantages from which Cicero and the ancients were shut out; and, perhaps, in sparkling vigour of expression, opulence and control of diction, and a profound feeling of his subject in all its capa bilities and aspects, scarcely any writer, ancient or modern, cau stand a comparison with the Author of these discourses.
There is still another view of our little planet in which Dr. Chalmers finds an argument for its importance, notwithstanding
its astronomical insignificance. And this is the subject of his sixth discourse. He considers that it may have been "the actual theatre of a keen and fiery contest among the upper orders of the creation."
"You know," says the preacher," that how for the possession of a very small and insulated territory, the mightiest empires of the world have put forth all their resources; and on some field of mustering competition, have monarchs met, and embarked for victory, all the pride of a country's talent, and all the flower and strength of a country's population. The solitary island around which so many fleets are hovering, and on the shores of which so many armed men are descending, as to an arena of hostility, may well wonder at its own unlooked for estimation. But other principles are animating the battle; and the glory of nations is at stake; and a much higher result is in the contemplation of each party, than the gain of so humble an acquirement as the primary object of the war; and honour, dearer to many a bosom than existence, is now the interest on which so much blood and so much treasure is expended; and the stirring spirit of emulation has now got hold of the combatants: and thus, amid all the insignificancy which attaches to the material origin of the contest, do both the eagerness and the extent of it receive from the constitution of our nature their most full and adequate explanation.
"Now, if this be also the principle of higher natures-if, on the one hand, God be jealous of his honour, and on the other, there be proud and exalted spirits, who scowl defiance at him and at his monarchyif, on the side of heaven, there be an angelic host rallying around the standard of loyalty, who flee with alacrity at the bidding of the Almighty, who are devoted to his glory, and feel a rejoicing interest in the evolution of his counsels; and if, on the side of hell, there be a sullen front of resistance, a hate and malice inextinguishable, an unquelled daring of revenge to baffle the wisdom of the Eternal, and to arrest the hand, and to defeat the purposes of Omnipotence-then let the material prize of victory be insignificant as it may, it is the victory in itself which upholds the impulse of this keen and stimulated rivalry. If, by the sagacity of one infernal mind, a single planet has been seduced from its allegiance, and been brought under the ascendency of him who is called in Scripture," the god of this world;" and if the errand on which our Redeemer came, was to destroy the works of the devil-then let this planet have all the littleness which astronomy has assigned to it-call it what it is, one of the smaller islets which float on the ocean of vacancy; it has become the theatre of such a competi tion, as may have all the desires and all the energies of a divided universe embarked upon it. It involves in it other objects than the single recovery of our species. It decides higher questions. It stands linked with the supremacy of God, and will at length demonstrate the way in which he inflicts chastisement and overthrow upon all his enemies. I know not if our rebellious world be the only strong-hold which Satan is possessed of; or if it be but the single post of an extended warfare, that is now going on between the powers of light and of
darkness. But be it the one or the other, the parties are in array, and the spirit of the contest is in full energy, and the honour of mighty combatants is at stake; and let us therefore cease to wonder that our kumble residence has been made the theatre of so busy an operation, or that the ambition of loftier natures has here put forth all its desire and all its strenuousness." (P. 198—201.)
The malignant artifices of Satan, whereby the taint of moral evil was introduced into this devoted mansion of conquered souls, and the errand of the Saviour, by which "the wisdom of the great adversary of our species was overmatched," and acceptance with God for the transgressors effected, with a saving of the Divine justice, and of the stability and consistency of its decrees, are parts of the subject which Dr. Chalmers has managed with a reverence suited to the awful theme, but,with the liveliest emotions of Christian sensibility. There is something in this sharp conflict of grace with malignant and rebellious powers, in this angelic warfare for the spiritual dominion of man, in this victory gained by humiliation, in these trophies of triumphant sorrow, in this immortality of blessedness won by voluntary and vicarious agonies, and in the display of God's marvellous and minute condescension and love towards a little world bedded and almost buried in a dense infinitude of greater and more glorious orbs, each teeming, as it would seem, with life and intelligence, which so transcends our powers of comprehension, that every stretch of diction and imagery which helps our endeavours to feel the subject as it deserves, is a succour and relief to the labouring soul.
"I will not affect a wisdom above that which is written, by fancying such details of this warfare as the Bible has not laid before me. But surely it is no more than being wise up to that which is written, to assert, that in achieving the redemption of our world, a warfare had to be accomplished; that upon this subject there was among the higher provinces of creation, the keen and the animated conflict of opposing interests; that the result of it involved something grander and more affecting, than even the fate of this world's population; that it decided a question of rivalship between the righteous and everlasting Monarch of universal being, and the prince of a great and widely extended rebellion, of which I neither know how vast is the magnitude, nor how important and diversified are the bearings: and thus do we gather from this consideration, another distinct argument, helping us to explain, why on the salvation of our solitary species so much attention appears to have been concentred, and so much energy appears to have been expended." (P. 209, 210.)
"To an infidel ear, all this carries the sound of something wild and visionary along with it. But though only known through the medium of revelation; after it is known, who can fail to recognize its harmony with the great lineaments of human experience? Who has not felt the workings of a rivalry within him, between the power of conscience
and the power of temptation? Who does not remember those seasons of retirement, when the calculations of eternity had gotten a momentary command over the heart; and time, with all its interests and all its vexations, had dwindled into insignificancy before them? And who does not remember, how upon his actual engagement with the objects of time, they resumed a controul, as great and as omnipotent, as if all the importance of eternity adhered to them-how they emitted from them such an impression upon his feelings, as to fix and to fascinate the whole man into a subserviency to their influence-how in spite of every lesson of their worthlessness, brought home to him at every turn by the rapidity of the seasons, and the vicissitudes of life, and the evermoving progress of his own earthly career, and the visible ravages of death among his acquaintances around him, and the desolations of his family, and the constant breaking up of his system of friendships, and the affecting spectacle of all that lives and is in motion withering and hastening to the grave;;-oh! how comes it, that in the face of all this experience, the whole elevation of purpose, conceived in the hour of his better understanding, should be dissipated and forgotten? Whence the might, and whence the mystery of that spell, which so binds and so infatuates us to the world? What prompts us so to embark the whole strength of our eagerness and of our desires, in pursuit of interests which we know a few little years will bring to utter annihilation? Who is it that imparts to them all the charm and all the colour of an unfailing durability? Who is it that throws such an air of stability over these earthly tabernacles, as makes them look to the fascinated eye of man, like resting-places for eternity? Who is it that so pictures out the objects of sense, and so magnifies the range of their future enjoyment, and so dazzles the fond and deceiving imagination, that in looking onward through our earthly career, it appears like the vista, or the perspective, of innumerable ages? He who is called the god of this world.” (P. 211-213.)
The 7th discourse of Dr. Chalmers, which is "on the slender influence of mere taste in matters of religion," is of peculiar value and excellence; and although at first it seems to have no connection with the series in the consideration of which we have been hitherto employed, yet, on closer inspection, we see in the too natural consequences of an indulgence in the splendid visions of the six preceding sermons, a proper source of the corrective lessons, of which that on which we are entering consists. It consists of a developement of that interior character of the Christian religion, from which we learn how glorious a picture of the Divine attributes may be present to the thoughts; to what a pitch of temporary devotion the feelings may be transported by the power of sacred eloquence or song; to how sincere an admiration of holy things, to how lofty an elevation above earthly objects the soul may be raised by the inspiring influence of such descriptions as these pages contain, without the conscience being seriously touched, without any real movement of repent