« EdellinenJatka »
EXODUS, XX. 5.
"FOR I, THE LORD THY GOD, AM A JEALOUS GOD."
WHERE human affections are, in any passages of Scripture, ascribed to God, I am aware, that such ascriptions must be meant and understood, in a high and peculiar sense. But still, where God has been pleased to reveal himself, it is not for us, to refine away the plain terms of the revelation, by notions, which we ourselves may form, of the divine counsels, or the divine nature. We shall best, perhaps, receive the impressions, we are, in such instances, intended to receive, when, to the utmost of our power, we divest whatever quality God condescends to attribute to himself, of every imperfection or alloy; and then feel and act towards God, as one in whom that quality actually resides. If God, then, says that he is a jealous God; let us not be wise above what is written. Let us not grope in the depth of the incomprehensible mind, to find how this can be: but let us contemplate only what is most elevated and tender, in that temper of the soul; and then
remember, that the Being, on whom our highest interests depend, is, in that sense, a jealous God. God's jealousy appears in this, that he will not give his glory to another.
It is according to the order and constitution of things, that greatness should command and receive the homage of respect. And even where the distinction is merely human, those who wear it, feel that tribute to be their right, and resent the refusal of it, with high indignation. And, in truth, to earthly greatness this homage is, in general, most amply yielded; not, merely, with that manly and cheerful submission to the powers ordained of God, which the Scripture every where enjoins, but with a certain prostration and servility of soul, often felt most keenly by those, who keep the secret best from others-nay, who conceal it even from themselves. The brilliancy and splendour, the thousand nameless marks of conscious superiority, which wealth can purchase, and greatness throw around it, have an almost magical effect upon the natural mind. Many men boast of independence, merely because they are mortified, at their own exclusion from these envied prizes. Others rise up early, and late take rest; put genius, talents, time, and labour, all upon the stretch; satisfied with a life of toiling and clambering up the hill, if, peradventure, at
the close of evening, they may reach the shining eminence. Such is the general passion. Thus do all people, nations and languages, however disunited in other respects, fall down, and worship the golden image.
This moral apostasy from God, is easy to be accounted for. Admiration is a passion, originally implanted in the soul. Like every other appetite, it seeks, with restless anxiety, for its connatural food. But it can range only within the circle of its own experience, and select only amongst those materials, which are presented to its view. If our minds, then, are bounded by this present scene, its artificial lustre must intensely and powerfully engage them. Nothing can give to admiration its right direction; nothing can convert it, from a feverish distemper, into an ennobling principle of the soul, but that which can outshine the dazzling lights of time; namely, the sober dawn of eternity. Let faith once remove the veil; and the soul will recognise, at a glance, the real purposes, for which God had formed her with such lofty aspirings, and such high ambition. Like one who, amidst the lingering dregs and faded lamps, of some mingled scene of mirth and heaviness, draws aside the curtain, throws up the window, and lets in the pure breath and blessed light of nature: so faith opens another system to
the mind; the morning of an endless day begins; and God, the Sun of that new world, rises in perfect beauty. The soul then recoils, with horror, from the objects of its former worship. It wonders at its past delusions. It asks itself, how it could have refused this happy and familiar intercourse with the King of heaven, that it might crouch beneath the footstool, or touch the hem of the garment, of some perishing mortal. It sees that it had been placing idols in the temple of the living God. It understands the meaning of these words; "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God;" " and I will not give my glory to another."
No jealousy is so strong, as what arises from the consciousness of having highly benefited, and deeply loved, the object of that passion. But in applying this principle, to the relations in which God stands to us, no tongue of men or angels, could show forth all his praise, or recount those endless mercies, in the midst of which we live, and move, and have our being. Upon so vast a field, the mind is lost, and wanders through the boundless prospect, without the power of fixing its affections anywhere. If we would appreciate God's claims upon the heart, we must narrow the circle. We must view his perfections, not as they are in themselves, or in the wide spread of their general bearings upon us, but as the Scriptures
paint them; clothed in circumstances, facts, and instances, wrought into the texture of real life, and standing forth, as it were, embodied to the mind.
To bring the principle we are now considering into exhibition, let us contemplate our blessed Saviour, at that interesting moment which St. Luke describes, when he drew near to Jerusalem -when he beheld the city, and wept over it! What must have been, on this occasion, the associations of his infinite mind; the tide of recollections, which poured in upon his tender heart! It was he who had addressed himself to this people, in the language of my text, "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God." His name was in all their records, and he had been a party in all their interests. He was the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the friend of Abraham, the fear of Isaac, the angel that redeemed Jacob from all evil. It was he that brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. He had led them through the wilderness, as their directing star, by night, their sheltering cloud, and their defence, by day. "In all their affliction, he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old."