Imatges de pÓgina
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foretaste of " the worm that never dieth." If he looks forward, what does he see? No joy, no peace! No gleam of hope from any point of heaven! Some years since, one who turned back as a dog to his vomit, was struck in his mid career of sin. A friend visiting him, prayed, "Lord, have mercy upon those who are just stepping out of the body, and know not which shall meet them at their entrance into the other world, an angel or a fiend!" The sick man shrieked out with a piercing cry, "A fiend! a fiend!" and died. Just such an end, unless he die like an ox, may any man expect who loses his own soul.

4. But in what situation is the spirit of a good man, at his entrance into eternity? See,

The convoy attends,
The ministering host of invisible friends:"

They receive the new born spirit, and conduct him safe into Abraham's bosom; into the delights of paradise; the garden of God, where the light of his countenance perpetually shines. It is but one of a thousand commendations of this anti-chamber of heaven, that “there the wicked cease from troubling; there the weary are at rest." For there they have numberless sources of happiness, which they could not have upon earth. There they meet with "the glorious dead of ancient days." They converse with Adam, first of men; with Noah, first of the new world; with Abraham, the friend of God; with Moses and the prophets; with the apostles of the Lamb; with the saints of all ages; and above all, they are with Christ.

5. How different, alas! is the case with him who loses his own soul ! The moment he steps into eternity, he meets with the devil and his angels. Sad convoy into the world of spirits! Sad earnest of what is to come! And either he is bound with chains of darkness, and reserved unto the judgment of the great day; or, at best, he wanders up and down, seeking rest, but finding none. Perhaps he may seek it, (like the unclean spirit cast out of the man,) in dry, dreary, desolate places; perhaps

"Where nature all in ruins lies,
And owns her sovereign, death:"

And little comfort can he find here! seeing every thing contributes to increase, not remove, the fearful expectation of fiery indignation, which will devour the ungodly.

Yet a little

6. For even this is to him but the beginning of sorrows. while, and he will see "the great. white throne coming down from heaven, and him that sitteth thereon, from whose face the heavens and the earth flee away, and there is found no place for them." And "the dead, small and great, stand before God, and are judged, every one according to his works." "Then shall the King say to them on his right hand," (God grant he may say so to you!) "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And the angels shall tune their harps and sing," Lift up your heads, oh ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, that the heirs of glory may come in." And then shall they "shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever."

7. How different will be the lot of him that loses his own soul! No joyful sentence will be pronounced on him, but one that will pierce him through with unutterable horror: (God forbid that ever it should be

pronounced on any of you that are here before God!) "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" And who can doubt, but those infernal spirits will immediately execute the sentence; will instantly drag those forsaken of God into their own place of torment! Into those

"Regions of sorrow, doleful shades; where peace
And rest can never dwell! Hope never comes,
That comes to all,"

all the children of men who are on this side eternity. But not to them: the gulf is now fixed, over which they cannot pass. From the moment wherein they are once plunged into the lake of fire, burning with òrimstone, their torments are not only without intermission, but likewise without end. For "they have no rest, day or night; but the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever!"

III. Upon ever so cursory a view of these things, would not any one be astonished, that a man, that a creature endued with reason, should voluntarily choose ;-I say choose; for God forces no man into inevitable damnation: he never yet

Consign'd one unborn soul to hell,

Or damn'd him from his mother's womb;"should choose thus to lose his own soul, though it were to gain the whole world! For what shall a man be profited thereby, upon the whole of the account?

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But a little to abate our astonishment at this, let us observe the suppositions which a man generally makes, before he can reconcile himself to this fatal choice.

1. He supposes, first, "That a life of religion is a life of misery." That religion is misery! How is it possible that any one should entertain so strange a thought? Do any of you imagine this? If you do, the reason is plain; you know not what religion is. "No! But I do, as well as you."-What is it then? " Why the doing no harm." Not so: many birds and beasts do no harm, yet they are not capable of religion. "Then it is going to church and sacrament." Indeed it is not. This may be an excellent help to religion; and every one who desires to save his soul, should attend them at all opportunities: yet it is possible you may attend them all your days, and still have no religion at all. Religion is a higher and deeper thing than any outward ordinance whatever.

2. What is religion then? It is easy to answer, if we consult the oracles of God. According to these, it lies in one single point: it is neither more nor less than love: it is love which "is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." Religion is the love of God and our neighbour; that is, every man under heaven. This love ruling the whole life, animating all our tempers and passions, directing all our thoughts, words, and actions, is "pure religion and undefiled."

3. Now will any one be so hardy as to say, that love is misery? Is it misery to love God? to give him my heart, who alone is worthy of it? Nay, it is the truest happiness; indeed, the only true happiness which is to be found under the sun. So does all experience prove the justness of that reflection which was made long ago, 66 Thou hast made us for thyself; and our heart cannot rest, until it resteth in thee." Or Coes any one imagine, the love of our neighbour is misery; even the loving

every man as our own soul? So far from it, that, next to the love of God, this affords the greatest happiness of which we are capable. Therefore,

"Let not the stoic boast his mind unmoved,
The brute philosopher, who ne'er has proved
The joy of loving, or of being loved."

4. So much every reasonable man must allow. But he may object, "There is more than this implied in religion. It implies not only the love of God and man; (against which I have no objection ;) but also a great deal of doing and suffering. And how can this be consistent with happiness?"

There is certainly some truth in this objection. Religion does im ply both doing and suffering. Let us then calmly consider, whether this impairs or heightens our happiness.

Religion implies, first, The doing many things. For the love of God will naturally lead us, at all opportunities, to converse with him we love to speak to him in public or private prayer; and to hear the words of his mouth, which" are dearer to us than thousands of gold and silver." It will incline us to lose no opportunity of receiving

"The dear memorials of our dying Lord:"

to continue instant in thanksgiving: at morning, evening, and noon day to praise him. But suppose we do all this, will it lessen our happiness? Just the reverse. It is plain all these fruits of love are means of increasing the love from which they spring; and of consequence they increase our happiness in the same proportion. Who then would not join in that wish;

"Rising to sing my Saviour's praise,
Thee may I publish all day long:
And let thy precious word of grace

Flow from my heart and fill my tongue;
Fill all my life with purest love,

And join me to thy church above!"

5. It must also be allowed that as the love of God naturally leads to works of piety, so the love of our neighbour naturally leads all that feel it, to works of mercy. It inclines us to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; to visit them that are sick or in prison; to be as eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; a husband to the widow, a father to the fatherless. But can you suppose, that the doing this will prevent or lessen your happiness? Yea, though you did so much, as to be like a guardian angel to all that are round about you? On the contrary, it is an infallible truth, that

"All worldly joys are less Than that one joy of doing kindnesses."

A man of pleasure was asked some years ago, "Captain, what was the greatest pleasure you ever had?" After a little pause he replied, "When we were upon our march in Ireland, in a very hot day, I called at a cabin on the road, and desired a little water. The woman brought me a cup of milk. I gave her a piece of silver; and the joy that poor creature expressed, gave me the greatest pleasure I ever had in my life." Now, if the doing good gave so much pleasure to one who acted merely from natural generosity, how much more must it give to one who does it on a nobler principle; the joint love of God and his neighbour? It

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remains, that the doing all which religion requires, will not lessen, but immensely increase our happiness.

6. "Perhaps this also may be allowed. But religion implies, according to the Christian account, not only doing, but suffering. And how can suffering be consistent with happiness?" Perfectly well. Many centuries ago, it was remarked by St. Chrysostom; "The Christian has his sorrows as well as his joys: but his sorrow is sweeter than joy.” He may accidentally suffer loss, poverty, pain: but in all these things he is more than conqueror. He can testify,

"Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,

While thou my God, art here."

He can say, “The Lord gave; the Lord taketh away: blessed be the name of the Lord!" He must suffer, more or less, reprcach: for "the servant is not above his master:" but so much the more does 66 the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon him." Yea, love itself will, on several occasions, be the source of suffering: the love of God will frequently produce

"The pleasing smart, The meltings of a broken heart."

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And the love of our neighbour will give rise to sympathizing sorrow it will lead us to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction; to be tenderly concerned for the distressed, and to "mix our pitying tears with those that weep." But may we not well say, These are tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heaven?" So far, then, are all these sufferings from either preventing or lessening our happiness, that they greatly contribute thereto, and indeed constitute no inconsiderable part of it. So that, upon the whole, there cannot be a more false supposi tion, than that a life of religion is a life of misery; seeing true religion, whether considered in its nature or its fruits, is true and solid happiness.

7. The man who chooses to gain the world by the loss of his soul, supposes, secondly, "That a life of wickedness is a life of happiness!" That wickedness is happiness! Even an old heathen poet could have taught him better. Even Juvenal discovered, nemo malus felix: no wicked man is happy. And how expressly does God himself declare, "There is no peace to the wicked:" no peace of mind: and without this, there can be no happiness.

But not to avail ourselves of authority, let us weigh the thing in the balance of reason. I ask, what can make a wicked man happy? You answer, he has gained the whole world. We allow it; and what does this imply? He has gained all that gratifies the senses: in particular all that can please the taste; all the delicacies of meat and drink. True; but can eating and drinking make a man happy? They never did yet; and certain it is, they never will. This is too coarse food for an immortal spirit. But suppose it did give him a poor kind of happiness, during those moments wherein he was swallowing; what will he do with the residue of his time? Will it not hang heavy upon his hands? Will he not groan under many a tedious hour, and think swift winged time flies too slow? If he is not fully employed, will he not frequently complain of lowness of spirits? An unmeaning expression; which the miserable physician usually no more understands, than his misera ble patient. We know there are such things as nervous disorders But we know, likewise, that what is commonly called nervous lowness

is a secret reproof from God; a kind of consciousness, that we are not in our place; that we are not as God would have us to be: we are unhinged from our proper centre.

S. To remove, or at least soothe this strange uneasiness, let him add the pleasures of imagination. Let him bedaub himself with silver and gold, and adorn himself with all the colours of the rainbow. Let him build splendid palaces, and furnish them in the most elegant as weli as costly manner. Let him lay out walks and gardens, beautified with all that nature and art can afford. And how long will these give him pleasure? Only as long as they are new. As soon as ever the novelty is gone, the pleasure is gone also. After he has surveyed them a few months, or years, they give him no more satisfaction. The man who is saving his soul, has the advantage of him in this very respect. For

he can say,

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9. "However, he has yet another resource: applause; glory. And will not this make him happy?" It will not: for he cannot be applauded by all men: no man ever was. Some will praise: perhaps many; but not all. It is certain some will blame: and he that is fond of applause, will feel more pain from the censure of one, than pleasure from the praise of many. So that whoever seeks happiness in applause, will infallibly be disappointed, and will find, upon the whole of the account, abundantly more pain than pleasure.

10. But to bring the matter to a short issue. Let us take an instance of one who had gained more of this world than probably any man now alive, unless he be a sovereign prince. But did all he had gained, make him happy? Answer for thyself! Then said Haman, yet "all this profiteth me nothing, while I see Mordecai sitting at the gate." Poor Haman! One unholy temper, whether pride, envy, jealousy, or revenge, gave him more pain, more vexation of spirit, than all the world could give pleasure. And so it must be in the nature of things; for all unholy tempers are unhappy tempers. Ambition, covetousness, vanity, inordinate affection, malice, revengefulness, carry their own punishment with them, and avenge themselves on the soul wherein they dwell. Indeed what are these, more especially when they are combined with an awakened conscience, but the dogs of hell, already gnawing the soul, forbidding happiness to approach! Did not even the heathens see this? What else means their fable of Tityus, chained to a rock, with a vulture continually tearing up his breast, and feeding upon his liver? Quid rides? Why do you smile? says the poet :

Mutato nomine, de te

Fabula narratur.

It is another name: but thou art the man! Lust, foolish desire, envy, malice, or anger, is now tearing thy breast: love of money, or of praise, hatred, or revenge, is now feeding on thy poor spirit. Such happiness is in vice! So vain is the supposition that a life of wickedness is a life of happiness!

11. But he makes a third supposition; "that he shall certainly live ferty, or fifty, or three score years." Do you depend upon this? on

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