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. Section VI.
REFLECTIONS ON THE OMNIPRESENCE OF THE DEITY,
. AND THE THOUGHTLESSNESS OF MAN.
· It is a cause for wonder and sorrow, to see millions of rational creatures growing into their permanent habits, under the conforming efficacy of every thing which they ought to resist, and receiving no part of those habits from impressions of the Supreme Object. They are content that a narrow scene of a diminutive world, with its atoms and evils, should usurp and deprave and finish their education for immortality, while the Infinite Spirit is here, whose transforming companionship would exalt them into his sons, and lead them into eternity in his likeness.
Oh why is it so possible that this greatest inhabi. tant of every place where men are living, should be the last whose society they seek, or of whose being constantly near them they feel the importance? Why is it impossible to be surrounded with the intelligent reality which exists wherever we are, with attributes that are infinite, and not feel respecting all other things which may be attempting to press on our minds and affect their character, as if they retained with difficulty their shadows of existence, and were continual. ly on the point of vanishing into nothing? Why is this stupendous Intelligence so retired and silent, while present, over all the scenes of the earth, and in all the paths and abodes of men ? Why does he keep his glory invisible behind the shades and visions of the material world ? Why does not this latent glory sometimes beam forth with such a manifestation as could never be forgotten, nor ever be remembered without an emotion of religious fear? And why, in contempt of all that he has displayed to exite either fear or love, is it still possible for a rational creature so to live, that it must finally come to an interview with
him in a character completed by the full assemblage of those acquisitions which have separately been disapproved by him through every stage of the accumulation.
Why is it possible for feeble creatures to maintain their little dependent beings fortified and invincible in sin, amidst the presence of divine purity? Why-does not the thought of such a being strike through the mind with such intense antipathy to evil as to blast with death every active principle that is beginning to pervert it, and render gradual additions of depravity, growing into the solidity of habit, as impossible as for perishable materials to be raised into structures amidst the fires of the last day? How is it possible to forget the solicitude which should accompany the conscious"Dess that such a being is continually darting upon us the beams of observant thought, (if we inay apply such a térm to omniscience,) that we are exposed to the piercing inspection, compared to which the concentrated attention of all the beings in the universe besides, would be but as the powerless gaze of an infant? Why is faith, that faculty of spiritual apprehension, so absent, or so incomparably more slow and reluctant to receive a just perception of the grandest of its objects, than the senses are adapted to receive the impressions of theirs ? While there is a spirit pervading the universe with an infinite energy of being, why have the few particles of dust which enclose our spirits the power to intercept all sensible communication with it, and to place them as in a vacuity where the sacred Essence had been precluded or extinguished?
If there is such a being as we mean by the term God, the ordinary intelligence of a serious mind will be quite enough to see that it must be a melancholy thing to pass through life, and quit it, just as if there were not. Through what defect or infatuation of mind then have you been able, during so many years spent in the presence of a God, to continue even to this hour as clear of all marks and traces of any divine influerra
you with me awful ent nec
ces having operated on you, as if the Deity were but a poetical fiction, or an idol in some temple of Asia ? Obviously, as the immediate cause, through want of thought concerning him.
And why did you not think of him? Did a most solemn thought of him never once penetrate your soul, while admitting the proposition that there is such a Being? If it never did, what is reason, what is mind, what is man? If it did once, how could its effects stop there? How could a deep thought, on so singular and momentuous a subject, fail to impose on the mind a permanent necessity of frequently recalling it : as some awful or magnificent spectacle will haunt you with a long recurrence of its image, even if the spectacle itself were seen no more?
Why did you not think of him? How could you estimate so meanly your mind with all its capacities, as to feel no regret that an endless series of trifles should seize, and occupy as their right, all your thoughts, and deny them both the liberty and the am. bition of going on to the greatest Object? How, while called to the contemplations which absorb the spirits of heaven, could you be so patient of the task of counting the flies of a summer's day.
Why did you not think of him? You knew your self to be in the hands of some Being from whose power you could not be withdrawn ; was it not an equal defect of curiosity and prudence, to indulge a careless confidence that sought no acquaintance with his nature and his dispositions, nor ever anxiously inquired what conduct should be observed toward him, and what expectations might be entertained from him? You would have been alarmed to have felt yourself in the power of a mysterious stranger of your own feeble species ; but let the stranger be omnipotent, and you cared no more.
Why did you not think of him? One would sup. pose that the thought of him must, to a serious mind, come second to almost every thought. The thought "of virtue would suggest the thought of both a law
giver and a rewarder ; the thought of crime of an avenger; the thought of sorrow of a consoler; the thought of an inscrutable mystery, of an intelligence that understands it; the thought of that ever-moving activity which prevails in the system of the universe, of a supreme agent; the thought of the human family, of a great father; the thought of all being, of a creator ; the thought of life, of a preserver; and the thought of death, of a solemn and uncontrollable disposer. By what dexterity therefore of irreligious caution, did you avoid precisely every track where the idea of him would have met you, or elude that idea if it came? And what must sound reason pronounce of a mind which in the train of millions of thoughts, has wandered to all things under the sun, to all the permanent objects or vanishing appearances in the creation, but never fixed its thoughts on the Supreme Reality; never approached, like Moses, " to see this great sight ?”
It would be interesting to record, or to hear, the history of a character which has received its form, and reached its maturity, under the strongest operations of religion. We do not know that there is a more benificent or a more direct mode of the divine agency in any part of the creation than that which " apprehends” a man, as apostolic language expres. ses it, amidst the unthinking crowd, and leads him into serious reflection, into elevated devotion, into progressive virtue, and finally into a noble life after death. When he has long been commanded by this influence, he will be happy to look back to its first op. · erations, whether they were mingled in early life al. ·most insensibly with his feelings, or came on him with mighty force' at some particular time, and in connexion with some assignable and memorable cir'cumstance, which was apparently the instrumental cause. · He will trace all the progress of this his bet. ter life, with grateful acknowledgment to the sacred power which has advanced him to a decisiveness of religious habit which seems to stamp eternity on his
character. In the great majority of things, habit is. a greater plague than ever afflicted Egypt: in religious character, it is a grand felicity. The devout man exults in the indications of his being fixed and irretrievable. He feels this confirmed habit as the grasp of the hand of God, which will never let him go. From this advanced state he looks with firmness and joy on futurity, and says, I carry the eternal mark upon me, that I belong to God; I am free of the universe ; and I am ready to go to any world to which he shall please to transmit me, certain that every where, in height or depth, he will acknowledge me for ever.
THE LIBERTY OF MAN AND THE FOREKNOWLEDGE
AND PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
The foreknowledge and providence of the Deity and that liberty which doth truly belong to man as a moral agent, are things perfectly consistent and naturally connected. The proof of our liberty is to every individual of the human race the very same, I am persuaded, with the proof of his existence. I feel that I exist, and I feel that I am free; and I may with reason turn a deaf ear upon every argu- , ment that can be alledged in either case to disprove my feelings. I feel that I have power to flee the danger that I dread-to pursue the good that I covet
to forego the most inviting pleasure, although it be actually within my grasp, if I apprehend that the present enjoyment may be the means of future mischief—to expose myself to present danger, to submit to present evils, in order to secure a future good
I feel that I have power to do the action I approve to abstain from another that my conscience would condemn ;-In a word, I feel that I act from