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ous when or how we shall die? What properly concerns us, is, to wait our appointed time, until our change shall come, that we may die the death of the righteous.
O death! it is thine to“ tread out empire, and to « quench the stars.” The last enemy to be destroyed, thy wide dominion shall end with the frame of nature. He who tafted death for the human race hath fet bounds to thy fway. He is alive for evermore ; and hath the keys of hell and of death. He redeemeth from death, and ransometh from the power of the grave. “ death, I will be thy plagues : Ograve, I will be thy “ destruction. The sea, and death, and hell fhall de“ liver up the dead which are in them." The heav. ens, earth and elements shall be diffolved. New heav. ens and a new earth shall be created: And time shall be no longer.
ECCLESIASTES, xi. 9.
BUT KNOW THOU, THAT FOR ALL THESE THINGS GOD WILL BRING THEE INTO JUDGMENT.
HESE words, though alike applicable to all stages of life, are immediately addressed to the young. In a course of sermons to this class of my hearers, on various subjects, the last was on death. To remind and assure them of a judgment to come, an event equally certain as death, the text now read has been chosen for the subject of present contemplation.
The evidence from scripture of this folemn and weighty doctrine iş clear and incontrovertible. But we will attend, first, to some considerations which the light of nature suggests on the subject. First
, the sense of moral obligation and capacity for religion in man shews that he is accountable to a moral Governour and Judge. He can enquire, “Where is “ God my Maker, who teacheth us more than the “ beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the “ fowls of heaven ?” Why is man thus distinguished, but that he might glorify God, and pursue an happiness fitted to his elevated rank? He was, doubtless, defigned for enjoyments as much fuperior to those of sense as he excels the animal creatures in the scale of beings. He can survey the frame of nature, which declareth the wisdom, power and Godhead of its author-can survey his own frame. The spirit within him is the can
dle of the Lord, so that he discerneth between good and evil, revieweth the past, looketh forward to the future, and observeth the aspect which his temper and conduct have on his own state and that of others. He can cul. tivate divine and social affections. He feels that he is a probationer. The conscience within him fummoneth him to its bar; affuring him that he hath acted under the eye of a Being who loveth righteousness, and is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; who will judge the righteous and the wicked. Hence these opposite characters, on the review of themselves, have inward joy and hope, or grief and fear. No abstract view of the beauty of virtue or deformity of vice can yield the perfect peace which the virtuous man feels, or the perturba tion which agitates the vicious. They are conscious that they have to do with a Being to whom all things are naked and open-who will reward the good, and not fuffer the bad to go unpunished.
The heathen expected rewards and punishments in another world according to men's behaviour in this, as appears from the places of happiness and misery which they contrived for men after death. All their religious rites fhew the same thing. To enforce civil subjection, their legislators had recourse to the retribu. tions of another world. The man who faith, There is no God, at least fears there is one, who weighs his actions and principles.
Some maintain, that God is the only agent in the universe. Yet every intelligent creature feels that he himself is an agent, the author of his own volitions and actions; and therefore accountable for them. He is considered and treated by others as an agent, and views and treats other intelligent creatures as such. Conscience does not applaud or reproach us for our volitions and actions, considered merely or principally as they affect our outward state in this world : For when we obey its dictates, at the expence of worldly reproach and sufferings, we most approve our conduct upon reflection: We connect the approbation of conscience with that of God. How much soever men's worldly interest may be promoted by violating their conscience, its reproaches, whenever they reflect, shew their folly. They therefore believe that they must give account to God.
Secondly, The objects of God's love or hatred are not distinguished, uniformly, by the present distribution of his providence.
Retributions, doubtless, take place in this world in more instances, and fo an higher degree, than we perceive. In many cases we find that we had misjudged. The presumption is, that in á much greater number our judgment is wrong. We judge from what appears, and frequently froín detached parts of a character. It is easier, in some cases, to determine, from appearances, who are vicious than who are virtuous. All who
may seem to be virtuous are not fo. The character of the upright may also, from various caufes, lie under suspicion. Moreover, happiness or misery depends much more on the state of the mind than on outward circumstances. A little with virtue and inward peace is to be preferred to an abundance with vice and vexation of spirit. The circumstances which some may confider as eligible and enviable; others would neither desire nor enjoy. Let it be added, there are various instances wherein those, whose fins are open beforehand, are signally punished upon earth, and the eminently virtuous as signally rewarded.
These things notwithftanding, no certain and mani. feft difference is made between the righteous and the wicked. Some of the openly profligate and impious flourish in health and affluence, are in a manner exempt from outward crosses, and (so far as appears) from inward perturbation. Others, who are the excellent of the earth, live in poverty and neglect-are persecuted, it may be, for their firm and unblemished virtue: Or they are exercised with acute pains, of long