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MEDITATING UPON RELIGION.
PSALM lxiii. 7.
Have I not remembered thee in my bed and thought upon thee when I was waking?
HE life of God in the soul of man, as
it is sometimes emphatically called, the Christian life, that is, or the progress of Christianity in the heart of any particular person, is marked, amongst other things, by religion gradually gaining possession of the thoughts. It has been said, that if we thought about religion as it deserved, we should never think about any thing else; nor with strictness, perhaps, can we deny the truth of this proposition. Religious concerns do so surpass and outweigh in value and importance all concerns beside,
that, did they occupy a place in our minds proportioned to that importance, they would in truth, exclude every other but themselves. I am not, therefore, one of those who wonder when I see a man engrossed with religion: the wonder with me is, that men care and think so little concerning it. With all the allowances which must be made for our employments, our activities, our anxieties about the interests and occurrences of the present life, it is still true, that our forgetfulness, and negligence, and indifference about religion, are much greater than can be excused, or can easily be accounted for by these causes. Few men are so busy, but that they contrive to find time for any gratification their heart is set upon, and thought for any subject in which they are interested: they want not leisure for these, though they want leisure for religion. Notwithstanding, therefore, singular cases, if indeed there be any cases, of being over-religious, over-intent upon spiritual affairs, the real and true complaint is all on the other side, that men think not about them enough, as they ought, as is reasonable, as it is their duty to do. That is the malady and
the mischief. The cast and turn of our infirm and fleshly nature lean all on that side. For, first, this nature is affected chiefly by what we see. Though the things which concern us most deeply be not seen; for this very reason, that they are not seen, they do not affect us as they ought. Though these things ought to be meditated upon, and must be acted upon, one way or other, long before we come actually to experience them, yet in fact we do not meditate upon them, we do not act with a view to them, till something gives us alarm, gives reason to believe that they are approaching fast upon us, that they are at hand, or shortly will be, that we shall indeed experience what they are.
The world of spirits, the world for which we are destined, is invisible to us. Hear St. Paul's account of this matter; "we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." "We walk by faith, not by sight; faith is the evidence of things not seen." Some great invisible agent there
must be in the universe:
which are seen were not made of things which do appear." Now if the great author of all things be himself invisible to our senses, and if our relation to him must necessarily form the greatest interest and concern of our existence, then it follows, that our greatest interest and concern are with those things which are now invisible. "We are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for; but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." The first infirmity, therefore, which religion has to conquer within us, is that which binds down our attention to the things which we see. The natural man is immersed in sense: nothing takes hold of his mind but what applies immediately to his sense; but this disposition will not do for religion: the religious character is founded in hope, as contradistinguished from experience, in perceiving by the mind what is not perceived by the eye: unless a man can do this, he cannot be religious: and with many it is a great difficulty. This power of hope, which, as
St. Paul observes of it, is that which places the invisible world before our view, is specifically described in Scripture, as amongst the gifts of the Spirit, the natural man standing indeed much in need of it, being altogether of an opposite tendency. Hear St. Paul's prayer for his Roman converts; "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." Again to the Galatians,
how does he describe the state of mind of a Christian? "we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."
Again another impediment to to the thought of religion is the faculty and the habit we have acquired of regarding its concerns as at a distance. A child is affected by nothing but what is present, and many thousands in this respect continue children all their lives. In a degree this weakness cleaves to us all; produces upon us the same effect under a different form; namely, in this way, when we find ourselves necessarily disturbed by near or approaching evil, we have the means of