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The religious usages aud symbols of that day, whether employed in sustaining a true religion or embellishing a false one, have perished from the earth. The ark of the covenant and the cherubim of the mercy-seat have long ago given up their gold to other uses, and their dust to be as vulgar dust as any on which we tread. The implements of the Lord's house would have left no memory of their shape with mankind, but for the carvings upon Titus's triumphal arch, which is itself a ruin. As for the various figures of Egyptian device, it is among the most perplexing labors of learned research to discover what they meant. They appear on the linen rolls that swathe the dead, and in the chiseling that is yet sharp upon the vast monument of a desolated land. But their language is lost, their signs are of doubtful import. Still, however, the spirit of alienation from God and the spirit of His accepted service, remain the same that they did. The errors of other days will always find parallels, if not resemblances, in those of our own.
may be instruction even for ourselves in following Ezekiel into the chambers of imagery, and reflecting on what the ancients of Israel there did in the dark.
It has often occurred to me that the mind of man is a chamber, like that into which the prophet penetrated. There its busy occupant is employed, where no eye but the all sceing one watches him, and where the beams of the natural day are too gross to pass through. Its sides are covered round about with the images that he is most ready to invent, to contemplate, and I may say, to adore;with the forms of his secret thoughts, his inmost passions, his strongest fancies, the objects of his life’s great hope or dread. There he is always sacrificing to his good or his evil genius. There he has fixed before his eyes the ideas of whatever he finds deeply engaging to him, whatever he most timidly deprecates, or most ardently desires. Dig into the wall of the human breast, lay open
its recesses, examine what is drawn and graven on its hidden surfaces, and see how much you will disclose there like the prophet's vision, similitudes of "creeping things and abominable beasts;”?—see how much you will detect there of that old delusion, “The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the Earth.”
Let us look into three of these apartments of falsehood. The first is occupied by those, who live as if they thought that there was no just and merciful Providence ruling over them. The second by those, who live as if they feared there
The third by those, who live as if they hoped there was none.
1. The first is a crowded room. There arethe profane and impious, who take the holy name upon their lips, but only with irreverent levity or in the heat of still more irreverent passion; blaspheming that in their reckless hearts, which should never be thought of but with deep seriousness, nor uttered without
There are they, who never lift up their souls but to vanity, and whose very vows are vows of deceit. There are the mercenary and covetous, who think of nothing but their gains, and whose God is Mammon, “hat least erected spirit that fell.” There are the gluttons and intemperate, who think of nothing but what they shall eat, and when they shall drink, whose idol,--as an Apostle has told usis a baser one yet. There are the ambitious, but not in the way of noble minds; for either the objects to which they aspire, are mean in themselves, or at least they are content to obtain them by practices that are so, and at dishonorable cost; caring nothing for that praise which cometh from God only," but ready to give all for a few miserable distinctions or the applause of a multitude no better than themselves. There are the vindictive and malicious, brooding over feelings of hatred and plans of revenge, forgetting as if He did not exist; who said, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.” There are the licentious, in whose hearts the love of pleasure has quenched the love of God. Corrupters and corrupted, they please themselves, but in the grosser delights, while the satisfactions of innocence and the recompenses of duty, and the joy of elevated thoughts, and the peace of a divine spirit, are forfeited or despised. Look now at the imagery upon the wall, and say of what kind it is. I seem to behold the emblems of faith and righteousness reversed, defiled, broken; and the drinkingvessels of the temple as they were brought out at Babylon to brighten a godless revel;—there are heaps of silver;-the baubles of pomp and fashion;-instruments of cruelty on one side, and all the voluptuous shapes of a riotous fancy on the other. Figures as grotesque as the monsters of Egypt, and more wickedly alluring than the Syrian idols, engage the attention and homage of these infatuated men. And while they are thus bowing before those imaginations of the heart, that are only evil continually," we cannot but consider them among those who live as if they thought there was no just and merciful Providence ruling among men.
We shall not wrong them in supposing them to say, “The Lord seeth us not; He hath forsaken the earth.”
2. The next chamber belongs to those, who live as if they feared there was no such benignant Power, in whom they
might put their whole trust. They are the timid, the complaining, the discontented, the doubtful
, the unconfiding. These are failings, into which the faithful may be sometimes and for a little while betrayed, under the pressure of severe affliction, or among those conflicts and perplexities of the mind, from which even the steadiest and clearest may not be always exempted. But he cannot long lie subject to such fits of depression. He is recalled from them by a thousand gracious experiences of the divine mercy. He is ashamed of his momentary despondency and little faith," and regains the full tone of his thankfulness and reliance. But how many are there, who, either through an unsatisfied mind, or a repining and trembling spirit, habitually yield themselves up to gloomy influences, in the very sight of nature's bright face, under the very watch of God's merciful care, and surrounded on all sides by a profusion of unasked, unacknowledged, undeserved benefactions! They murmur at the good, because it is no better; and are discontented with the much that is assigned them, because it is no more. The immutable truth, that they will not exert their understandings to certify, nor open their affections to embrace, is to them no truth, and they are left without assurance. The blessings, that they will not study to appreciate or deserve, and which they refuse to turn their hearts to, even by the natural instinct that turns the leaves of a flower towards the sun, are to them no blessings, and they are left without enjoyment.
But I will not say that it is in the presence of all these goodly arrangements of creating, sustaining and crowning love, that it is in the eye of the beaming day, and with heaven and earth around them, that they thus give way to what is sad and discomposing, and grow in love with gloom, and deny that they have any cause for thankfulness, and refuse to believe, and refuse to be comforted. They rather resemble the men in Ezekiel's vision. They have gone below the glorious courts of the Lord's house. They have hidden themselves from the circuit and tabernacle of the sun. They have descended into the chamber of their imagery, the cell of their dark speculations and forebodings, and there they offer their smoky tribute to the stern angels of evil and dread, instead of enjoying the friendly company of an upper world, and invoking the great spirit of all power, beauty and blessedness. We may call out to them, “What do you there “in the dark? To what purpose that array of ill-omened shapes to stare upon you? They are but the workmanship of your own fantasies, and as unreal as if they were less unlovely.
Remember that the crocodile and the ibis, and even the inferior and the ugliest animals, that were turned into objects of homage on the banks of the Nile, had a use, and their images had a meaning to those who dwelt there; and more than that, the meaning was in most cases, if not in all, a benevolent one. Will you be less reasonable than they? Will you dwell among the forms that give you neither pleasant recollections, nor sacred hopes; that instruct you in nothing, and according to your own confession can bless you in nothing? Open this cell of yours to the cheerful visiting of the breath and the beams of heaven. Change those grim devices into others of a worthier cast. Acknowledge in the broad universe the goodness of its Creator. Acknowledge in the courses of outward events, a disposing hand. Unfold your hearts to sympathies, in everything around you, with what is generous and kind, and happy; and there will be enough of them pressing to come in. Complain of nothing but yourselves. Believe God with your heart, and do not seek to comprehend Him with your intellect. Be more ready to submit to His decrees than to bring them to the standard or the bar of your shallow judgment. Be thankful for small things, or you can never be truly thankful for anything; for it is the disposition, that makes the virtue and brings the blessing. Do not let an immortal truth be unsettled within you, by trifling objections; nor innumerable mercies to be cast into the shade by a single trouble. Do not fear that any duty resolutely done, that any suffering patiently endured, can pass unnoticed or uncompensated. Do not fear that the compassionate Lord seeth you not, that He hath forsaken the earth.
3. There is but one chamber more to be visited. It is the dreariest of all. It is reserved for those, who live as if they hoped that there was no witness in heaven, and no righteous record on high. Their state is the most awful we can conceive. Hitherto we have explored the bosoms only of the criminally worldly, and of the sullen and fearful, who murmur at the Lord's rebuke, and remain uncheered by His favours, and gather mistrust at His word. We are to descend now into deeper recesses, and encounter the depraved, the abandoned. No sight, I am persuaded, could be so full of salutary terror, as that of the heart of such, wholly laid open. They must reveal its strife and disorders, its shame, its remorse, its defiance possibly, but at the same time, its despair. A strong dread must dwell there, for they cannot possibly escape from the thought of a judge of the quick and dead. They can never feel so sure of their unbelief, in the very height of their
scoffing, as the believer does of the truth that he has confided in. I am not sure that any are so entirely hardened in their iniquity and their hopelessness, as to wish that there might be no Sovereign over this world, and no inheritance in another. But I am sure of this, that there are they, whose whole course of guilt would justify us in thinking that with them it might
For to what end should they desire the existence of a Ruler, against whose laws their whole conduct is rebellion? And to what end should they desire the reality of an inheritance, which they have done nothing to make an object of comforting anticipation; since into their portion of it they have sent forward a curse; and according to the same authority that has revealed it at all, it must be a portion of "tribulation and anguish?” What characters can we find traced
and the enclosure, in which the lost ones are compelled to remain? I can discern nothing but such a handwriting on the wall as dismayed the King of Babylon, a testimony of rejection, and prophecy of woe and death. “Thou art weighed, and art wanting:
My hearers, the reflections, to which we have now attended though presented in a figurative manner, contain instruction of the most real nature, and the most solemn importance, Every one's mind is a room, which his will and habits, his propensities, and deeds, his governing thoughts, his chosen fancies, his idolatrous passions, are filling up with their images and inscriptions. Let each one ask himself
, then, of what kind are his own. Let each one fear to make this sanctuary, --so far at least as perverse taste and the ingenuity of unhallowed dispositions can make it so—“the habitation of devils, and the hold of foul spirits, and the cage of unclean birds.” Rather let there be exhibited in it, and contemplated continually, the likenesses of all that is pure, and benevolent, and exalted; forms of moral loveliness; illustrations, and copies of everlasting truth.