صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

impart to it a more exquisite perception, to quicken and sanctify its communications. Education does not plant it in the mind; it only attracts its latent powers to the light, and guards these from conveying an unmeaning or deceptive sound. It is this sense which enters largely into our comprehension of what is true and good in man's moral nature. In that nature there are beauties and deformities : vice is another name for the one, and virtue for the other. And although men have undoubtedly erred as they have attempted to draw the line of separation between them, it would be extremely absurd to base upon such a fact a denial of the existence of a moral sense in man. The error serves, indeed, to constitute the rule rather than to prove an absolute exception ; for amidst all the variety of opinion on moral subjects which mankind have ever held, there has been such a general agreement among them, as to shew not only that there is such a thing as virtue, but that they admire its worth and are conscious of its power. However ungenerous some men may be, generous deeds raise a verdict in their hearts as well as in the hearts of the more liberal-minded. A general admiration may we not say, universal ?—is excited by acts of self-denial, of heroism, of devotion to the cause of humanity. This admiration is suggested by the sense of moral beauty. It is not the result of a long train of mental discussion; it is not founded on precedent. As there is a perception in our minds of the beauty of the flower, so is there a perception of the beauty of a moral deed. It speaks to our feelings, and these feelings approve; and its silent appeal sometimes wins from us a more unbounded, voluntary and instant applause, than a thousand homilies can obtain. As we strive to be intimate, therefore, with the moral natures surrounding us, or obtain a deeper insight into our own, this sense lends its aid. It guides our judgment when we would pronounce what things are lovely and true and of good report; and it stimulates the pleasing sensibilities of the soul as the actions of the good and great, the glory of men, and the honoured of God, present

a

a

themselves to its view. Its ardour is stirred by the patriot's noble labours, by the philanthropist's enlarged self-denial, by the martyr's inflexible and glorious constancy of soul; whilst the simpler elements and exhibitions of decorum, grace and virtue, which frequently attract attention, give to it and enable it to impart a cordial joy and an expansive testimony on behalf of morality.

Hence we feel a double admiration of the human countenance when its physical attractions are heightened and dignified by the moral, when to the charms of form and colour are superadded those which derive their expression from the moral spirit within. When this countenance beams with affection, generosity and heroism,—when it is kindled with the living fires of a soul capable of all that is good and divine, and our gaze is concentrated in silent, rapt admiration upon it,-is there not a sense of beauty within, moving us to this unrestrained homage and this intense delight? How enlarged this sense becomes in us and how true to its use, may be gathered from the fact that no painter has ever delineated the Christ in such a manner as to do ample justice to the great Original. Our sense of moral beauty is too refined and accurate to be satisfied with the representation. We do not behold in the countenance the index of the mind. We do not behold the generosity which charmed into silence every desire for personal gratification—the exalted benevolence which was never wearied nor satisfied with doing good—the sacred piety whose loveliness glowed in life's every act, nor least in the scene which closed it—the angel spirit which animated and beautified an earthly form. We do not behold these, and we turn away in disappointment. Or say that our sense of moral beauty aids us in forming a conception of the Saviour more beautiful by far than the most gifted artist can realize to the outward eye. That sense must be true as well as real which bears us disappointed from the noblest art to the contemplation of the holiness and beauty of a moral being.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

This sense, I would further observe, engages us in contemplation upon the Divine character; and the more it has been formed to correctness and elevated by observation and reflection, so much the more does it extend this contemplation, and with justice, to the Supreme. His attributes are disclosed in a more perfect form to us, and those especially of which our minds are fitted for taking the largest inspiration, as his integrity, his love, his mercy, appear with immeasurable grace before us. Equally invisible, then, as God must ever be to our most intense perception, his invisibility does not stretch an impenetrable cloud between us. Our knowledge of Him causes us to feel that He is indeed near us, and near in his glory and majesty. Not in a bodily form, but in his adorable spirituality, of which we strive faintly to conceive; whilst the sympathy of a friend, inconceivably faithful and beneficent beyond all earthly friends, is gushing through our hearts, and a communication of reverence on the one hand, and of dignity which words can faintly describe on the other, is opened between us and Him whose radiant, ethereal splendour no eye can behold.

Our thoughts are consecrated to Him, and He is pleased to acknowledge our submissive reverence. Our hearts speak to Him even if our lips are silent. He patiently listens to our devout aspirations. And whilst He is pleased to behold in us the objects whom his providence supplies with all desirable good and his love blesses, our hearts are moved with the liveliest gratitude towards Him, and the faith which patiently waits the revelation of his will rules over our spirit.

Thus we pass through the beautiful gate of his temple to the Hallowed One whose presence glorifies it. His physical and moral works, and in the highest sense his own inconceivably glorious attributes, raise in our souls just and noble sentiments and feelings, and move us to obedience, gratitude and love. And if, in his benevolent and sacred regard for our highest welfare, He has added to the inspiration of the scenes and contemplations of which we have spoken his express reve

lations, we behold in this condescension a still more unequivocal demonstration, if this be possible, of his constant and high regard for our spiritual advancement and glory.

By confirming all that his works, rightly interpreted, proclaim of Himself,—by adding to the power and intelligence of that sense of beauty which He has implanted in our frame,by causing it to minister to our daily enjoyment, and by enabling it to penetrate and purify and ennoble our religious feelings and habits, the Almighty Creator has taught us to indulge the happy belief that we have a refuge in the bosom of his affection, and that we may rely with unbounded faith and confidence on the ordering of all human affairs, and the protection, guidance and final advancement of all human beings. The provision God has thus made for our earthly welfare and happiness, becomes to us a cause of delightful anticipation in the prospect of future periods of life, whether it close upon the present scene, which Christianity forbids us to believe, or open and expand upon another—an expectation as dear to our hearts as it is true to the sacred knowledge inspired by the Christ.

The worship, then, which, entering in at the Beautiful gate of the temple, we press forward to present to God, should consist with these views of his exalted purity, grace and love, and be dignified by the expansive conceptions of his works, both of nature and of grace, to which his Spirit has directed

This worship must ever resemble, indeed, the thoughts and feelings of which it is the expression. Be these low and inadequate, the worship they prompt will be poor and feeble. Be they of great sensibility and worthy the All-good, the worship which expresses them will be true, albeit inadequate, to his majesty. Let us then faithfully use the means vouchsafed for quickening our moral gifts and enlarging our spiritual strength, whilst we strive earnestly to consecrate to the sacred Giver the powers which his love communicates.

A feebleness will ere long come over these powers, and the time of their earthly use soon pass away. But look onward

us.

and upward. See the future as Christ himself has revealed it, ages receding from the most piercing sight in long succession, and an immortality resting upon each and all, the inheritance of the faithful children of God, the surpassing reward of their pious fidelity. What if no express revelation has taught us the minute characteristics of this immortality? Shall it not advance God's rational offspring to the full consummation of their being? Shall it not justify their noblest aspirations ? Shall it not bring them nearer to the rays of that serene glory which lights up God's throne, infuse into their worship of Him a purer and more blissful spirit, and open before their enlarged powers the grander scenes of his providence and the more beautiful displays of his creative energy? Be the occupations of the blest in heaven what they may, it must surely constitute a portion of their bliss and one of their chief dignities, to enter into the deep things of Him who rules there; if He permit, to learn more intimately how wisely his creation is arranged, how beautifully adorned, and what perfection distinguishes his moral government. Chastened, refined, purified, must our minds be, if encouraged but to a distant approach to such sacred intimacy, our sensibilities fully participating in this advance towards perfection; and what an intense love must be maintained in the soul by the admiration constantly renewed within it, to blend with that profound awe which even angels and seraphs must feel in the presence of the Highest !

To be advanced to this new communion with the Father of our spirits, is to be fully blest.

Wise and happy they to whom the Beautiful gate of his temple is known on earth! In the temple itself their worship shall hereafter be consecrated to Him.

a

« السابقةمتابعة »