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is made known by the boldest and most animated terms. It eagerly seeks to do justice to its feelings, by imagery borrowed from every surrounding object. In proportion as a people become less simple in their state and manners; in proportion as general knowledge increases,
and ideas multiply, a calmer spirit of investi
gation succeeds to the strong impulsive feelings of sense; precision takes place of animation, unequivocal terms are preferred to those which are more bold and indeterminate; the metaphorical style is consigned to poets and orators, whose professed object it is to please the fancy or move the affections; and the language which ceases to be popular, although it should not be misunderstood, begins to appear extravagant. The Scriptures of the Old Testament were penned in times of the greatest simplicity. They were intended for the use of a people, whose ancestors had been slaves for several ages, who were just emerging from ignorance and barbarism, and whose ideas could never have been expanded, without the medium of sensible objects, and the bold imagery which they presented to the imagination. To such a people philosophical abstractions would have been uninteresting, had they not been unintelligible. Their law
givers and prophets were compelled to use figurative and metaphorical expressions, in order to awaken the attention and influence the heart. To realize to their minds, in the most forcible manner, the presence, inspection, authority, approbation, and displacency of the Deity, they incessantly represented the great universal Spirit in a language which in its stricter applications, belonged to human beings alone. To impress a conviction of his universal knowledge, it is said that “the eyes of the Lord ran through the earth.” Divine power is represented by the human instruments of agency. In issuing his commands, or in the manifestations of his designs, he is always represented as speaking; and to demonstrate the facility with which he can destroy the wicked, it is said, “by the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed.” And, as we have already shewn, it is upon these principles that all those passions and affections are ascribed to God, which have the strongest influence upon the human heart. Although such expressions are not adapted to the divine nature, abstractedly considered, yet there are points of resemblance by which they are peculiarly adapted to the nature of man ; and they are calculated to convey more impressive sentiments of awe, reverence, love, and gratitude towards the Supreme Ruler of the universe, than could be effected by any other mode.
The above epitome of Natural Religion, and its evidences from reason, manifest that the truest reason vindicates those sentiments of the Deity, which are the richest sources of happiness. They are sentiments which, to the pious mind, enhance the pleasures of every legitimate enjoyment, and afford the best con
solation in every affliction: for they are the
foundation of hope and confidence in the universal parent and governor of his intelligent offspring. They are also sentiments which afford the strongest inducements to the practice of virtue, by implanting a conviction that this is the only acceptable oblation that can be offered on the altar of obedience. They assure us, that the God whom we serve loves Virtue; he loves it
as the most permanent source of happiness to the
individuals who practise it, and also to the whole of his extensive family; and they assure us that he will love those who imitate the benignity of his character. Obedience to the commands of such a Being, elevates every personal and social virtue, however trifling in appearance, into an act of Piety. It consecrates and ennobles every branch of prudence; every instance of self-com
mand; every resistance to the seductions of vice.
The hopes inspired by such exalted sentiments, while they soften, fortify the heart; render patience and resignation pleasant duties; and they have enabled the pious even to rejoice in their sufferings. In contemplating the attributes of the power, wisdom, and goodness of Deity, as relative, we feel ourselves dignified, by the perception of the intimate connexion subsisting between God and his creatures. In consequence of which connexion, not only every motive of benevolence, but every plan of wisdom, every exertion of power, respects not himself but other existences: they diffuse blessings over all the creatures of God in his vast creation. We cannot form more exalted, or more just conceptions of the divine Felicity, than by the conviction that one essential and inexhaustible source of it, consists in the incessant communication of good; and that all the joys peculiar to benevolence, belong to him who inspired the principle of benevolence, in a supreme degree. The transcendant Attribute of the divinity is LovE.—Love, which delights in the contemplation, enjoyment, and communication of good ; which diversifies its operations according to the exigencies of its objects; forms every plan for their benefit, and rejoices in the success. Benevolence thus operative, has Complacency for its eternal associate. ---Complacency in all that is known, in all that is planned, in all that is executed. It is the peculiar and exclusive characteristic of this Divine attribute, that it can look down upon what we denominate Evil, with satisfaction; can view temporary sufferings, endured by probationary creatures, with approbation; can anticipate the good which result from these sufferings; foreseeing that the sufferer himself, will, at a future period, rejoice in the distresses which once tormented his soul " .*