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7. Let us then propose the case. Let us suppose we had now before us, one that was just passed into the world of spirits. Might not you address such a new born soul in some such manner as this? You have been an inhabitant of earth, forty, perhaps fifty or sixty years. But now God has uttered his voice, "Awake, thou that sleepest!" You awake; you arise; you have no more to do with these poor transient shadows. Arise, and shake thyself from the dust! See, all is real here! All is permanent; all eternal! Far more stable than the foundations of the earth; yea, than the pillars of that lower heaven. Now that your eyes are open, see how inexpressibly different are all the things that are now round about you! What a difference do you perceive in yourself? Where is your body? your house of clay? Where are your imbs? your hands, your feet, your head? There they lie, cold, insensible!
"No anger, hereafter, or shame
And passion is vanished away!"
What a change is in the immortal spirit! You see every thing around you: but how? Not with eyes of flesh and blood. You hear: but not by a stream of undulating air, striking on an extended membrane. You feel but in how wonderful a manner ! You have no nerves to convey the etherial fire to the common sensory: rather are you not now all eye, all ear, all feeling, all perception? How different, now you are thoroughly awake, are all the objects round about you? Where are the houses, and gardens, and fields, and cities, which you lately saw? Where are the rivers and seas, and everlasting hills? Was it then only in a dream that our poet discovered,
"Earth hath this variety from heaven,
Nay, I doubt all these vanished away like smoke, the moment you awoke out of the body.
8. How strange must not only the manner of existence appear, and the place wherein you are, if it may be called place; though who can define or describe the place of spirits, but the inhabitants of that unknown region? Whether they are of the number of those unhappy spirits that kept not their first estate, or of those holy ones that still "minister to the heirs of salvation?" How strange are the employments of those spirits, with which you are now surrounded! How bitter are they to the taste of those that are still dreaming upon earth! "I have no relish," said one of these, (a much applauded wit, who has lately left the body,) " for sitting upon a cloud all day long, and singing praise to God." We may easily believe him; and there is no danger of his being put to that trouble. Nevertheless, this is no trouble to them who cease not day and night, but continually sing, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!"
9. Suppose this to be the case with any of you, that are now present before God. It may be so to morrow: perhaps to night; perhaps this night your "soul may be required of you;" the dream of life may end, and you may wake into broad eternity! See, there lies the poor inanimate carcass, shortly to be sown in corruption and dishonour. But, where is the immortal, incorruptible spirit? There it stands, naked before the eyes of God! Meantime, what has become of all the affairs
which you have been eagerly engaged in, under the sun? What profit have you reaped of all your labour, and care? Does your moncy follow you ? No; you have left it behind you: the same thing to you as if it had vanished into air. Does your gay or rich apparel follow you? Your body is clothed with dust and rottenness. Your soul indeed is clothed with immortality. But, oh! What immortality? Is it an immortality of happiness and glory? or of shame and everlasting contempt ? Where is the honour, the pomp of the rich and the great? The applause that surrounded you? All are gone; all are vanished away, "like as a shadow that departeth." "The play is over," said Monsieur Moultray, when he saw the ball pierce the temples of his dying master.* And what cared the courtier for this? No more than if it had been the conclusion of a farce or dance. But while the buffoon slept on and took his rest, it was not so with the monarch. Though he was not terrified with any thing on earth; he would be at the very gates of hell. Vain valour! In the very article of death, he grasped the hilt of his sword! But where was he the next moment, when the sword dropped out of his hand, and, the soul out of his body? Then ended the splendid dream of royalty; of destroying cities, and of conquering kingdoms!
10. "How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!" What are the weapons that are so terrible among us, to the inhabitants of eternity? How are the wise, the learned, the poet, the critic fallen, and their glory vanished away! How is the beauty fallen, the late idol of a gazing crowd! In how complete a sense are the daughters of music brought low;" and all the instruments thereof forgotten! Are you not now convinced, that (according to the Hebrew proverb) "a living dog is better than a dead lion ?" For, the living know, yea, must know, unless they obstinately refuse, " that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing," that will avail for the ease of their pain, or to lessen their misery. Also " their hope and fear, and their desire," all are perished; all of them are fled: "they have not any portion in the things that are done under the sun!"
11. Where indeed is the hope of those who were lately laying deep schemes, and saying, " To day, or to morrow we will go to such a city, and continue there a year, and traffic, and get gain?" How totally had they forgotten that wise admonition, "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow! For, what is your life? It is a vapour that appeareth awhile, and then vanisheth away!" Where is all your business? Where your worldly cares? Your troubles or engagements? All these things are fled away like smoke; and only your soul is left. And how is it qualified for the enjoyment of this new world? Has it a relish for the objects and enjoyments of the invisible world? Are your affections loosened from things below, and fixed on things above? Fixed on that place, where Jesus sitteth at the right hand of God? Then happy are ye: and when he whom ye love shall appear, "ye shall also appear with him in glory."
12. But how do you relish the company that surrounds you? Your old companions are gone : a great part of them probably separated from you never to return. Are your present companions angels of light? Ministering spirits, that but now whisper, "Sister spirit, come away We are sent to conduct thee over that gulf into Abraham's bosom.'
* Charles XII, king of Sweden, at the siege of Frederickshall
And what are those? Some of the souls of the righteous, whom thou didst formerly relieve with "the mammon of unrighteousness;" and who are now commissioned by your common Lord, to receive, to welcome you "into the everlasting habitations?" Then the angels of darkness will quickly discern they have no part in you. So they must either hover at a distance, or flee away in despair. Are some of these happy spirits that take acquaintance with you, the same that travelled with you below, and bore a part in your temptations? That together with you, fought the good fight of faith, and laid hold on eternal life? As you then wept together, you may rejoice together, you and your guardian angels perhaps, in order to increase your thankfulness for being "delivered from so great a death." They may give you a view of the realms below; those "Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell."
See on the other hand, the mansions which were "prepared for you, from the foundation of the world!" Oh what a difference between the dream that is past, and the real scene that is now present with thee! Look up! see!
"No need of the sun in that day,
Which never is follow'd by night!
Look down! What a prison is there!""Twixt upper, nether, and sur rounding fire!" And what inhabitants! What horrid fearful shapes, emblems of the rage against God and man; the envy, fury, despair, fixed within, causing them to gnash their teeth at him they so long despised! Meanwhile does it comfort them to see, across the great gulf, the righteous in Abraham's bosom? What a place is that! What a "house of God, eternal in the heavens!" Earth is only his footstool; yea,
"The spacious firmament on high,
Well then may we say to its inhabitants;
Dispersed through all the heavenly street;
And yet how inconsiderable is the glory of that house, compared to that of its great Inhabitant! In view of whom all the first-born sons of light, angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, full of light as they are full of love,
"Approach not, but with both wings veil their eyes."
13. How wonderful then, now the dream of life is over, now you are quite awake, do all these scenes appear! Even such a sight as never entered, or could enter, into your hearts to conceive! How are all those
that " awake up after his likeness, now satisfied with it!" They have
now a portion, real, solid, incorruptible, " that fadeth not away." Meantime, how exquisitely wretched are they, who (to wave all other considerations) have chosen for their portion those transitory shadows, which now are vanished, and have left them in an abyss of real misery, which must remain to all eternity!
14. Now, considering that every child of man who is yet upon earth, must sooner or later wake out of this dream, and enter real life; how
infinitely does it concern every one of us, to attend to this before our great change comes! Of what importance is it to be continually sensible of the condition wherein we stand! How advisable, by every possible means, to connect the ideas of time and eternity! So to associate them together, that the thought of one may never recur to your mind without the thought of the other! It is our highest wisdom to associate the ideas of the visible and invisible world; to connect temporal and spiritual, mortal and immortal being. Indeed, in our common dreams, we do not usually know we are asleep, whilst we are in the midst of our dream. As neither do we know it, while we are in the midst of the dream which we call life. But you may be conscious of it now. God grant you may, before you awake in a winding sheet of fire!
15. What an admirable idea for thus associating the ideas of time and eternity, of the visible and invisible world, is laid in the nature of religion! For what is religion? (I mean scriptural religion, for all other is the vainest of all dreams.) What is the very root of this religion? It is Immanuel, God with us! God in man! Heaven connected with earth! The unspeakable union of mortal with immortal. For "truly our fellowship (may all Christians say) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. God hath given unto us eternal life: and this life is in his Son." What follows? "He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
16. But how shall we retain a constant sense of this? I have often thought, in my waking hours, “Now, when I fall asleep, and see such and such things, I will remember, it was but a dream.” Yet I could not, while the dream lasted; and probably none else can. But it is otherwise with the dream of life; which we do remember to be such even while it lasts. And if we do forget it, (as we are indeed apt to do,) a friend may remind us of it. It is much to be wished, that such a friend were always near: one that would frequently sound in our ear, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead!" Soon you will awake into real life. You will stand a naked spirit, in the world of spirits, before the face of the great God! See that you now hold fast that "eternal life, which he hath given you in his Son."
17. How admirably does this life of God branch out into the whole of religion? I mean, scriptural religion. As soon as God reveals his Son in the heart of a sinner, he is enabled to say, "The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He then "rejoices in hope of the glory of God," even with joy unspeakable. And in consequence both of this faith and hope, the love of God is shed abroad in his heart; which, filling the soul with love to all mankind, "is the fulfilling of the law."
18. And how wonderfully do both faith and love connect God with man, and time with eternity! In consideration of this, we may boldly say,
"Vanish then this world of shadows:
Pass the former things away;
With the dawn of endless day!
Throw this universe aside:
SERMON CXXVI.-On Faith.
"Now faith is the evidence of things not seen," Heb. xi, 1.
1. MANY times have I thought, many times have I spoke, many times have I wrote upon these words; and yet there appears to be a depth in them, which I am in no wise able to fathom. Faith is, in one sense of the word, a divine conviction of God and of the things of God; in another, (nearly related to, yet not altogether the same,) it is a divine conviction of the invisible and eternal world. In this sense I would now consider,
2. I am now an immortal spirit, strangely connected with a little portion of earth: but this is only for a while. In a short time I am to quit this tenement of clay, and to remove into another state,
"Which the living know not,
And the dead cannot, or they may not tell!"
What kind of existence shall I then enter upon, when my spirit has launched out of the body? How shall I feel myself? Perceive my own being? How shall I discern the things that are round about me; either material or spiritual objects? When my eyes no longer transmit the rays of light, how will my naked spirit see? When the organs of hearing are mouldered into dust, in what manner shall I hear? When the brain is of no farther use, what means of thinking shall I have? When my whole body is dissolved into senseless earth, what means shall I have of gaining knowledge?
3. How strange, how incomprehensible are the means whereby I shall then take knowledge even of the material world? Will things appear then as they do now? Of the same size, shape, and colour? Or will they be altered in any, or all these respects? How will the sun, moon, and stars appear? The sublunary heavens? The planetary heavens? The region of the fixed stars? How, the fields of ether, which we may conceive to be millions of miles beyond them? Of all this we know nothing yet and indeed we need to know nothing.
4. What then can we know of those innumerable objects, which properly belong to the invisible world? Which mortal " eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into our hearts to conceive?" What a scene will then be opened, when the regions of hades are displayed without a covering! Our English translators seem to have been much at a loss for a word to render this. Indeed two hundred years ago it was tolerably expressed by the word hell, which then signified much the same with the word hades, namely, the invisible world. Accordingly, by Christ descending into hell, they meant, his body remained in the grave, his soul remained in hades, (which is the receptacle of separate spirits,) from death to the resurrection. Here we cannot doubt but the spirits of the righteous are inexpressibly happy. They are, as St. Paul expresses it, "with the Lord:" favoured with so intimate a communion with him, as "is far better" than whatever the chief of the apostles experienced while in this world. On the other hand, wc learn from our Lord's own account of Dives and Lazarus, that the rich man, from the moment he left the world, entered into a state of torAnd "there is a great gulf fixed" in hades, between the place