Page images

blessings poor, is the improvement of his own mind. Man is glorious and happy, not by what he has, but by what he is. He can receive nothing better or nobler than the unfolding of his own spiritual nature. The highest existence in the universe is Mind; for God is mind; and the developement of that principle which assimilates us to God, must be our supreme good. The omnipotent Creator, we have reason to think, can bestow nothing greater than intelligence, love, rectitude, energy of will and of benevolent action; for these are the splendours of his own nature. We adore him for these. In imparting these, he imparts, as it were, himself. We are too apt to look abroad for good. But the only true good is within. In this outward universe, magnificent as it is in the bright day and the starry night-in the earth and the skies, we can discover nothing so vast as thought, so strong as the unconquerable purpose of duty, so sublime as the spirit of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice. A mind, which withstands all the powers of the outward universe, all the pains which fire, and sword, and storm can inflict, rather than swerve from uprightness, is nobler than the universe. Why will we not learn the glory of the soul? We are seeking a foreign good. But we all possess within us what is of more worth than the external creation. For this outward system is the product of Mind. All its harmony, beauty, and beneficent influences, are the fruits and manifestations of Thought and Love; and is it not nobler and happier, to be enriched with these energies, from which the universe springs, and to which it owes its magnificence, than to possess the universe itself? It is not what we have, but what we are, which constitutes our glory and felicity. The only true and durable riches belong to the mind. A soul, narrow and debased, may extend its possessions to the end of the earth, but is poor and wretched still. It is through inward health that we enjoy all outward things. Philosophers teach us, that the mind creates the beauty which it admires in nature; and we all know, that when abandoned to evil passions, it can blot out this beauty, and spread over the fairest scenes the gloom of a dungeon. We all know, that by vice it can turn the cup of social happiness into poison, and the most prosperous condition of life into a curse. From these views we learn, that the true friend and Saviour, is not he who acts for us abroad, but who acts within, who

sets the soul free, touches the springs of thought and affection, binds us to God, and by assimilating us to the Creator, brings us into harmony with the creation. Thus the end which we have ascribed to Christ, is the most glorious and beneficent which can be accomplished by any power on earth or in heaven.

That the highest purpose of Christianity is such as has now been affirmed, might easily be shown from a survey of all its doctrines and precepts. It might be shown, that every office with which Jesus Christ is invested, was intended to give him power over the human character; and that his great distinction consists in the grandeur and beneficence of his influence on the soul. But a discussion of this extent cannot be comprehended in a single discourse. Instead of a general survey of the subject, I shall take one feature of it, a primary and most important one, and shall attempt to show that the great aim of this, is to call forth the soul to a higher life-to a nobler exercise of its power and affections.

This leading feature of Christianity, is the knowledge which it gives of the character of God. Jesus Christ came to reveal the Father. In the prophecies concerning him in the Old Testament, no characteristic is so frequently named, as that he should spread the knowledge of the true God. Now I ask, what constitutes the importance of such a revelation? Why has the Creator sent his Son to make himself known? I answer, God is most worthy to be known, because he is the most quickening, purifying, and ennobling object for the mind; and his great purpose in revealing himself, is, that he may exalt and perfect human nature. God, as he is manifested by Christ, is another name for intellectual and moral excellence; and in the knowledge of him, our intellectual and moral powers find their element, nutriment, strength, expansion, and happiness. To know God, is to attain to the sublimest conception in the universe. To love God, is to bind ourselves to a being, who is fitted, as no other being is, to penetrate and move our whole hearts; in loving whom, we exalt ourselves-in loving whom, we love the great, the good, the beautiful, and the infinite; and under whose influence, the soul unfolds itself as a perennial plant under the cherishing sun. This constitutes the chief glory of religion. It ennobles the soul. In this its unrivalled dignity and happiness consist.

I fear that the world at large think religion a very different thing from what has now been set forth. Too many think it a depressing, rather than an elevating service that it breaks rather than ennobles the spirit—that it teaches us to cower before an almighty and irresistible being; and I must confess, that religion, as it has been generally taught, is any thing but an elevating principle. It has been used to scare the child, and appal the adult. Men have been virtually taught to glorify God by flattery, rather than by becoming excellent and glorious themselves, and thus doing honour to their Maker. Our dependence on God has been so taught, as to extinguish the consciousness of our free nature and moral power. Religion, in one or another form, has always been an engine for crushing the human soul. But such is not the religion of Christ. If it were, it would deserve no respect. We are not, we cannot be bound to prostrate ourselves before a deity, who makes us abject and base. That moral principle within us, which calls us to watch over and to perfect our own souls, is an inspiration which no teaching can supersede or abolish. But I cannot bear, even in way of argument, to speak of Christianity as giving views of God depressing and debasing to the human mind. Christ hath revealed to us God as The Father, and as a Father in the noblest sense of that word. He hath revealed him, as the author and lover of all souls, desiring to redeem all from sin, and to impress his likeness more and more resplendently on all; as proffering to all that best gift in the universe, his "holy spirit;" as having sent his beloved Son to train us up, and to introduce us to an "inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading in the heavens." Such is the God of Jesus Christ-a being not to break the spirit, but to breathe trust, courage, constancy, magnanimity; in a word, all the sentiments which form an elevated mind.

This sentiment, that the knowledge of God, as given by Christ, is important and glorious, because quickening and exalting to the human soul, needs to be taught plainly and forcibly. The main ground of the obligation of being religious, I fear, is not understood among the multitude of Christians. Ask them, why they must know and worship God?-and I fear, that were the heart to speak, the answer would be: Because he can do with us what he will, and, consequently, our first concern is to secure his favour. Religion is a calculation of interest-a means of

safety. God is worshipped too often on the same principle on which flattery and personal attentions are lavished on human superiors; and the worshipper cares not how abjectly he bows, if he may win to his side the power which he cannot resist. I look with deep sorrow on this common perversion of the highest principle of the soul. My friends, God is not to be worshipped, because he has much to give; for, on this principle, a despot, who should be munificent to his slaves, would merit homage. He is not to be adored for mere power; for power, when joined with selfishness and crime, ought to be withstood, and the greater the might of an evil agent, the holier and the loftier is the spirit which will not bend to him. True religion is the worship of a perfect being, who is the author of perfection to those who adore him. On this ground, and on no other, religion rests.

Why is it, my hearers, that God has discovered such solicitude, if I may use the word, to make himself known, and obtain our worship? Think you, that he calls us to adore him, from a love of homage or service? Has God man's passion for ruling-man's thirst for applause-man's desire to have his name shouted by crowds? Could the acclamations of the universe, though concentrated into one burst of praise, give our Creator a new or brighter consciousness of his own majesty and goodness? Oh! no. He has manifested himself to us, because, in the knowledge and adoration of his perfections, our own intellectual and moral perfection is found. What he desires, is, not our subjection, but our excellence. He has no love of praise. He calls us as truly to honour goodness in others as in himself, and only claims supreme honour, because he transcends all others, and because he communicates to the mind which receives him, a light, strength, purity, which no other being can confer. God has no love of empire. It could give him no pleasure to have his footstool worn by the knees of infinite hosts. It is to make us his children, in the highest sense of that word—to make us more and more the partakers of his own nature, not to multiply slaves, that he hath sent his Son to make himself known. God, indeed, is said to seek his own glory; but the glory of a creator must consist in the glory of his works; and we may be assured, that he cannot wish any recognition of himself, but that which will perfect his noblest, highest work, the immortal mind.

Do not, my friends, forget the great end for which Christ enjoins on us the worship of God. It is not, that we may ingratiate ourselves with an almighty agent, whose frown is destruction. It is, that we may hold communion with an intelligence and goodness, infinitely surpassing our own; that we may rise above imperfect and finite natures; that we may attach ourselves by love and reverence to the best Being in the universe; and that, through veneration and love, we may receive into our own minds the excellence, disinterestedness, wisdom, purity, and power, which we adore. This reception of the divine attributes, I desire especially to hold forth, as the most glorious end for which God reveals himself. To praise him, is not enough. That homage, which has no power to assimilate us to him, is of little or no worth. The truest admiration, is, that by which we receive other minds into our own. True praise is a sympathy with excellence, gaining strength by utterance. Such is the praise which God demands. Then only is the purpose of Christ's revelation of God accomplished, when, by reception of the doctrine of a Paternal Divinity, we are quickened to "follow him, as dear children," and are "filled with his fulness," and become "his temples," and "dwell in God, and have God dwelling in ourselves."

(To be Continued.)

To the Editor of the Christian Pioneer.

DEAR SIR, HAVING lately received a letter from our old friend William Lambie of Upper Canada, I thought some parts of it would be suitable for the Pioneer. If you are of the same opinion, they are much at your service. For my own part, I was gratified in learning, that Unitarianism had other advocates in Canada than our friend, and that it had been defended even in the Provincial Assembly. May we not hope soon to hear of the establishment of "The Canadian Unitarian Association" corresponding with the British and American? We are apt to associate with Canada, the idea of rudeness, inconvenience, ignorance, and solitude; this letter tends to correct this notion, and places them in a rapidly improving light. I doubt not but many will feel as I did on its perusal.

« PreviousContinue »