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strain, to guard itself from every taint of sin, and to bear onward its undeviating course to the goal of perfection ? No! for no effort can be too great, too enduring, for that which concerns eternity ; no desire of obedience can be too strong towards Him who has given us life's countless, life's endless blessings. Lapses--and with every effort, with all our purity of desire-lapses there will be, even in the good man's course -moments of forgetfulness—transient relaxations of purpose ; for man, with his best intentions, is weak; but every such deviation should, if it be possible, ere the sun go down, be repented of. To cancel it is beyond our power. Each sin must leave its stain of deeper or of fainter shade on every human heart. Soul-stirring faith !- that every thought or deed of goodness—every embryo conception or act of sin, must stamp its ineffaceable character on the undying future !
And now, brethren beloved, what can I say unto you, but, in the words of my text, “Let all your ways be established”? Habit brooks no delay. Whilst you hesitate, it is secretly, but inevitably, shaping the mould in which your character is cast, inscribing your destiny for eternity. O then, ere it be too late, bring to your assistance this giant power, with its hundred arms to lift you above the turmoil of perpetual conflict, and to render your path in life serene-in virtue happy!
And you, brethren, who may be already habitually living in the light of heaven, let me exhort you to persevere. Keep still in view your lofty nature, your immortal destiny, and aspire to be worthy your exalted titles of “sons of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Think of the blissful associations which habit will cluster round you in your onward, upward path—of the images of purity and virtue with which you will be surrounded in the recollection of past temptations overcome, and noble acts of self-denial and benevolence achieved ! Think of the sweet peace with which you will meet life's closing scene, and of the rapture with which you may anticipate an endless re-union with the loved who are gone before you to that better home! Think of the blest companionship with the spirits of the just made perfect—of companionship with Jesus, the sinless, the exalted one-or, if you need a higher bliss to quicken you to undying effort, think of the Being of wisdom, power and love, surpassing human thought, your Father and your God, whose felt presence shall bless each moment of that life which shall be !
THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
BY REV. JOHN SHANNON.
PSALM cxlv. 9:
“The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
The existence of a God is almost universally admitted, but
character and perfections are grossly misunderstood. The heathens have represented their deities as subject to all the frailties, influenced by all the temptations, and actuated by all the passions, that beset mankind. The worship of the Roman Catholic Church probably has a tendency to impress the minds of her devotees with the belief that God is an austere and repulsive Being, since He is not usually approached directly in prayer, but is generally addressed through the mediation of Saints. It, at least, has the effect of leading the worshipper to attribute to the mediators those merciful and benevolent feelings which form the brightest traits in the character of God, and to cast the benignity of the Supreme Being into the shade when it can only be exercised through their intervention. It is lamentable, too, that many Calvinists attribute to our merciful Father a character almost too dark to be portrayed. I believe Unitarians consistently and unwaveringly maintain that God stands to us in the tender and endearing relation of Protector, Friend and Father; they hold that He loves with a kind and compassionate regard all his offspring; that He is in his very nature possessed of unbounded benevolence, ever desirous to promote the happiness of his creatures.
There is no attribute of the Supreme Being, the perfect understanding of which is better calculated to give us correct notions of his character, than that of goodness. It is therefore of importance that we study this subject accurately and seriously, guided by the light of Revelation,—believing that if we have formed correct ideas on this subject, we shall not be so likely to err in adopting opinions on other Christian doctrines.
When it is said that God is good, it is meant that He is possessed of an attribute the same in kind as that quality in his creatures which is denominated goodness, though infinitely higher in degree. When it is said that the Deity is infinitely good, it is meant that our limited capacities can set no bounds to its operations. It cannot mean that the attribute is so preeminently great and glorious, that our finite understanding can form no definite notions of it. If the infinity of God's attributes made them unintelligible to us, the Supreme Being would be possessed of a number of abstract qualities of which we had no distinct conception, and consequently He could never be an object of adoration. We know what benevolence means in relation to a creature ; and if we look abroad on the world and find results similar to those which experience tells us would emanate from goodness, we immediately conclude that the Great Original of all must possess this attribute, the same in kind as his creatures, though infinitely higher in degree. We may therefore rest safely in the position, that the goodness of God is similar to that quality among men which is denominated by the same name; and it may be defined to be that perfection of the Supreme Being whereby He delights to promote the happiness of his creatures, and to minister to their wants and enjoyments in proportion to the capacities which they possess.
The dness of God in the works of creation can be exhibited in conscious beings which are capable of pleasure and pain. It is in the conscious part of creation that we are to look for evidence of his goodness, and there the proof is abun
dant, nay overwhelming. Every portion of animated existence seems happy in the enjoyment of life. The birds that beat the air with their pinions, the fish that swim the watery deep, and the numerous and varied tribes of animals that inhabit the dry land, all seem pleased with the enjoyments that their several habits and propensities have fitted them to receive. Who can walk abroad on a beautiful morning, and hear the grove resounding to the melodious strains of the feathered tribes, and see the little lambs bounding in the ecstacy of enjoyment on the verdant plains, and all creation happy and refreshed after the repose of the night, without acknowledging that the Creator and Parent of all must be good? The wide and deep ocean is no less prolific of happiness. It is inhabited by countless numbers of living creatures whose senses and bodily constitution are beautifully adapted to the element in which they exist. Their wanton mazes through the waters, their sportive evolutions, would seem to prove that they are not only happy, but in raptures with existence. The propensities of animals vary, their bodily constitutions are different, their peculiar habits numerous and opposite, and yet they all seem happy. The domesticated animal, as well as the roamer of the solitary wastes,—the fly that dances in the sunbeam, as well as the unwieldy elephant,—the ephemeral insect whose existence is confined to a few hours, as well as the creature whose life is prolonged for a considerable number of years, all taste the sweets and enjoyments of existence.
Our astonishment at the amount of happiness that is diffused throughout creation will be increased when we consider what a variety of causes must be in steady and effectual operation in order to produce this pleasure among the numerous tribes of sentient beings. The sun's light must be moderate and animating, neither too dazzling nor too obscure ; his heat must be genial and refreshing, so that they may neither be frozen by cold nor scorched by his beams. Day and night must follow each other in regular succession, so as to allow