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THE STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH.
“ Then shall the Dust return to the Earth, as it
was; and the Spirit shall return unto God, who gave it." *
WERE these the only words in the Bible which assert the two-fold nature of man, proving that he consists of a perishable body, and of an imperishable soul, no rational person could disbelieve it. The body, derived from dust, is plainly declared, after dissolution, to “return" to the same element "out of which it was taken,” and become "as it was,” an exanimate mass of earth. But widely different is declared to be the case with respect to the soul or spiritual part
* Eccles. xii. 7.
of our nature. That is as plainly declared, on leaving its mortal partner, to "return to Him who gave it,”—to the gracious Being who first formed Man, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;" placing him, amidst the wonders of animated nature, a distinct creature, a being sui generis, gifted with intellectual powers of perception, fitted to discover, to admire, and to adore the perfections. of the Almighty Parent who made him.
With no less propriety therefore than sublimity, the visible creation has been considered a vast Temple, formed by the Great Creator for his own worship; the dignified creature, Man, being stationed within it as a Priest of Nature, ordained to offer the incense of praise and adoration for himself, and for the different orders of inferior beings ungifted with speech and reason.
Such a sacred use of creation every contemplative man will be disposed to make, if he only survey, with a devout mind, the pleasing variety of animals, of trees, of plants, and flowers, which are
scattered with a profusion, truly amazing, over the face of the earth. If he descend deeper to investigate its hidden properties, its 'secret treasures, this devout amazement will be increased; and if he lift his eyes to the heavens, there, with still added wonder, does he behold "the Glory of God” displayed in those stupendous orbs which “run their course rejoicing.” Not confined to his glowing bosom will be the devout astonishment which such objects inspire; but, breaking out in holy rapture, it will find utterance in terms like these:-"Marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! the heavens and the earth show forth thy praise!”
Nor with silent wonder is it possible to survey “the great and wide sea also, wherein are all things innumerable;” where go the ships, laden with the products of every cline, for the reciprocal comforts of man; and where, as upon the earth, may be discerned countless proofs of the existence of a God, mighty as he is beneficent. From the huge leviathan
of the deep, which, as a monarch, "is made to take his pastime therein,” to the smallest fish that skims its waters, wisdom and goodness are clearly manifested to be the distinguishing features of the Divine Mind. “These," says the Psalmist, and he says it of creatures belonging to every element--water, earth, and air—"these wait all upon Thee; and Thou givest them their meat in due season."
But, among the myriads of living creatures which people “this nether sphere,” in different gradations of existence, to man are the tender mercies of Jehovah most conspicuously vouchsafed. Endued with the peculiar faculties of reason and speech, and invested with dominion over the irrational parts of creation, he seems, in the Divine estimation, a being "little lower than the angels crowned with glory and honour.” Ennobled by a form erect and comely, he does not alone look on the multitude of objects beneath his feet, and before his eyes: he lifteth his face to the heavens,
and, with an energy of thought, which inspiration only can impart, penetrating into “the heaven of heavens,” he exclaims, with pious transport, “There is the palace of the Eternal, the city of the Great King, who maketh the clouds his chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind; whose way is in the sea, and his path in the mighty waters, though his footsteps are not known. He maketh darkness his secret place, his pavilion round about him; and there is the hiding of his power. The earth is his footstool: the heavens are his throne. Here is the temple of his praise for man: there is the court of his adoration for angels. Here I may fall down and worship him, till the earth shall receive me into its womb; for out of it was I taken, and naked shall I return thither. Dust I am, and to dust shall I return.”
And do all these sublime contemplations terminate thus? Are all the hopes, the wishes, the prospects of man of a creature so dignified, to be buried with him in the grave ? " There is hope of