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horrors of vice: 3. A description of the vanity of the present world : 4. A description of the beauties of the world to come : 5. A description of the excellence of piety. This is the third part, and the conclusion of this discourse.
1. The destruction of the universe affords us a picture of the power of our Judge. How powerful, my brethren, is this Judge! Who can resist his will ? Rom. ix. 19. Once there was no sea, no earth, no firmament; one frightful night covered the whole face of the universe. He said, and all these beings appeared, Gen. i. 3. Now we behold a sea, an earth, and a firmament. He will say, and the sea shall be dry, the earth shall be consumed, the stars shall disappear, the firmament shall be found no more.
Such is the God whom the sinner attacks. A God, who taketh up the isles as a very little thing, Isa. xl. 15., A God, who removeth the mountains and overturneth them in his anger, who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. A God, who commandeth the sun and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars; who doth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without number, Job ix, 5, 6, 7, 10. This, sinner, is the God whom thou attackest. But doth the idea of a God so powerful never excite terror in thy rebellious soul ? Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? i Cor. x. 22. Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered ? Job. ix. 4. Can any resist my power? Who would set the thorns and briars against me in battle ? I would go through them, I would burn them together. O let them make peace with me, and they shall make peace with me, Isa. xxvii. 4, 5.
2. The conflagration of the universe affords us a picture of the horrors of vice. Behold how far
God carries his resentment against sin. It is not enough to condemn to eternal flames, and to confine in chains of darkness, those who have fled from his justice. It is not enough to pour out his wrath upon those who have committed the crime, he detests even the instruments of the crime; he designs that all things that have served sin shall bear the marks of his anger. If, under the law, a man had defiled himself with a beast, he must die with the brutal object of his passion, Lev. xx. 15, 16. Thus God, not content to punish the avaricious with unquenchable fire, will destroy even objects of avarice, and dissolve the gold and silver with which the miser committed idolatry. Not content to punish the ambitious, he will destroy even the instruments of ambition, and overturn those thrones and palaces which have caused it. Not content to punish the voluptuous, he will destroy even objects of voluptuousness, and consume the heavens, the earth, and the elements, which have afforded matter for concupiscence. Heavens, earth, elements, are ye guilty? But if ye be treated with so much rigor for having been the unconscious instruments of the crime, what must the condition of the criminal be.
3. In the burning of the universe, we find a representation of the vanity of the present world. What is this world which fascinates our eyes? It is a funeral pile that already begins to burn, and will soon be entirely consumed; it is a world which must end, and all that must end is far inferior to an immortal soul. The thought of death is already a powerful motive to us to place our affections on another world; for what is death? it is to every individual what, one day, the final ruin will be to the generality of mankind ; it is the destruction of the heavens, which pass away with a great noise ; it is the dissolution of the elements; it is the entire conflagration of the world, and of the works which are therein. Yet vanity hath invented refuges against this storm. The hope of an imaginary immortality hath been able to support some men against the fear of real death. The idea of existing, in the minds of those who exist after them, hath, in some sort, comforted them under the miserable thought of being no more. Hence pompous buildings, and stately edifices ; hence rich monuments, , and superb mausoleums; hence proud inscriptions, and vain-glorious titles, inscribed on marble and brass; behold the dissolution of all those bonds. The destruction of the world deprives us of our imaginary being, as death deprives us of our real existence.
You will not only be shortly stretched in your tombs, and cease to use the houses, and fields, and palaces which you inhabit; but these houses, these palaces, these fields will be consumed, and the memory of all that is fastened to the world will vanish with the world. Since then, this is the condition of all sensible things, since all these sénsible things must perish ; immortal man, infinite spirit, eternal soul, dost thou fasten thyself to vanity and instability ? Dost thou not seek for a good more suitable to thy nature and duration ? Seeing all these things must be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness?
4. The conflagration of the universe furnisheth a description of the world to come. You often hear us declaim on the nothingness of earthly things; we frequently diminish the worth of all that is great and glorious; we frequently cry with Solomon, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity : Vanity in pleasures, vanity in grandeurs, vanity in riches, vanity in sciences, vanity in all. But yet, my brethren, how substantial would this vanity be-how amiable would this nothingness appear, if by a happy assemblage of all that the world hath of the beautiful, we could acquire the reality of a life, of which it is easy to form to one's self the idea! Could I extract the choicest dignities and fortunes ; could I inhabit the most temperate clime, and the most pleasant country; could I choose the most benevolent hearts, and the wisest minds; could I take the most happy temper, and the most sublime
genius; could I cultivate the sciences, and make the fine arts flourish; could I collect and unite all that could please the passions, and banish all that could give pain. A life formed on this plan, how likely to please us! How is it that God, who hath resolved to render us one day happy, doth not allow uş to continue in this world, and content himself with uniting all these happy circumstances in our favor? It is good to be here : O that he would allow us here to build our tabernacles, Mat. xvii. 4. Ah! my brethren, a life formed on this plan might indeed answer the ideas of happiness which feeble and finite genuisses form : but such a plan cannot even approach the designs of an infinite God. A life formed on this plan, might indeed exhaust a terrestial love, but it could never reach the love of an infinite God. No, all the charms of this society, of this fortune, and of this life; no, all the softness of these climates, and of these countries; no, all the benevolence of these hearts, and all the friendship of these minds; no, all the happiness of this temper, and all the sublimity of this genius ; no, all the secrets of the sciences, and all the discoveries of the fine arts; all the attractions of these societies, and all the pleasures of the passions, have nothing, I do not say which exhausts the love of God in Jesus Christ, I do not say which answers, I venture to say which approaches it. To accom
plish this love there must be another world ; there must be new heavens, and a new earth; there must be objects far more grand.
Finally, the destruction of the universe displays the excellence of piety. O that I could represent the believer amidst fires, flames, winds, tempests, the confusion of all nature, content, peaceable, unalterable! O that I could represent the heavens passing away, the elements dissolving with fervent heat, the earth and the things which are in it burning up, and the believer, that man, that inconsiderable man, little by his nature, but great by the privileges with which piety endows him, without suspicion, rising fearless above all the catastrophes of the universe, and surviving its ruins! O that I could describe the believer, while all the tribes of the earth mourn and smite their breasts. Matt. xxiv. 30. while the wicked shall be as if they were giving up the ghost, Luke xxi. 26. while their despair exhales in these dreadful howlings, Mountains fall on us, hills cover us from the face of him who sits upon the throne, and from the face of the Lamb ! Rev. vi. 16. O that I could describe the believer assured, triumphant, founded on the rock of ages, hasting unto the coming of the day of God, as our Apostle expresseth it, 2 Pet. iii. 12, aiming with transports of joy which we cannot express, (O may we one day experience these transports !) aiming to approach the presence of Jesus Christ, as his tenderest friend and deliverer, literally proving the truth of this promise, when ihou passest through the waters they shall not overflow the?, when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt, Isa. xliii. 2. that I could represent him crying, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, Rev. xxii. 20. come, receive a creature once defiled with sin; sometimes even rebellious, yet always having, at