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ring the little period before him? Such, I presume, generally, as the following observations describe.
1st. Worldly objects would then assume a totally new character. The pleasures of the world, particularly, would lose all their charms.
In our usual circumstances the pleasures of this world engross a large share of our attention. To almost all men they are of much importance; to multitudes they are the only important pleasures. To dress, to dance, to ride, to cat, to drink, to sport, to indulge themselves in gaming, lewdness, sloth, splendour, and gaiety; is all for which multitudes live, and all which they esteem worth pursuing. Mere grasshoppers, they sing and sport away the summer of life in gay and jovial amusement; and when the melancholy and fatal winter arrives, have provided no safe retreat, no means of comfort or subsistence. The unheeded, unexpected frost descends in a moment; and they perish forever.
But on the arrival of this awful message, how changed would be the feelings of him, to whom it was addressed! Could he be engaged by the idle ornaments of dress, who within a few days was to be wrapped in a winding sheet? Could he dance, who was walking to the grave? Could he pamper his body, who needed every moment to feed his famishing soul with "the bread of life?" Could he sport, who was speedily to give his final account "of all the deeds, done in the body," before" the Judge of the quick and the dead?" Could he game, who beheld the judgment set, and heard the dreadful sentence, "Take ye the unprofitable servant, and cast him into outer darkness, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," sounding in his ears? Could he be lewd, who, in full prospect, saw "the whore-mongers, and fornicators, of this world" all condemned to suffer, and actually suffering, the endless wrath of God, and the burnings of devouring fire?
Over all these objects would in his eye be cast a drear and funereal aspect, which would render them merely sources of pain and disgust. They would appear, not only as trifles lighter than air, about which a rational and immortal being cannot, without VOL. II.
gross impropriety and perversion, be seriously occupied ; but as snares, by which he would be entangled before he was aware; as enchantments, by which, if he yielded to them, he would be charmed, benumbed, and destroyed. With the thought of yielding to them he could not fail to associate the death of the soul, and the miseries of damnation. Of course, he would regard them only with astonishment and horror.
Nor would the Business of this world be much less changed to
To him, who, as he "brought nothing into this world, can carry nothing out of it," who was about to be laid in the solitary grave, who now found himself to be in real good, "poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked, and literally in want of all things;" it could certainly be no favourite employment to watch, and care, and toil, that he might lay up an additional heap of dust, however shining, and however coveted by others. Should he enlarge his breadth of land, so as to comprise an additional farm, or manor; he could not fail to remember how soon six feet of earth would be all which he could occupy.
Nor could he be engaged by the pursuits of ambition. The breath of popularity, could have no fragrance to him; the trumpet of faine, no melody; the splendour of office, no charms; the possession of power, no allurement; when he found himself the speedy victim of death, the prey of worms, and the feast of corruption. He might labour to provide; but it would be the means of supporting, and adorning his soul. He might be ambitious, but he would aim at "the honour, which cometh from GOD only." He might covet dominion; but it would be the dominion over his own lusts, temptations, and spiritual enemies. All his ardent pursuit of worldly good would be cold and icy; his pride would sink into the dust; his rivalry expire; and the stormy passions, which made his mind a troubled ocean, would have spent their force, and settle into a calm, sluggish and dead.
A stranger; alone; directing his course onward to the invisible world; he would find no interest in the bustle of this: and, regardless of the turmoil around him, or regarding it only with
amazement and terror, he would keep his own eye fixed steadily on the solemn scenes before him, and "turn not aside to the right hand, nor to the left."
2dly. Moral and Religious subjects would, also, in the eye of such a man be invested with a new character.
Among the things, which would peculiarly change their aspect in his view, the Scriptures would hold a prominent place. To men on a dying bed the Scriptures often assume a new character. Probably in the eye of most men, in this country, they appear to be the Word of God. Few at least discover any disposition to deny their divine origin. Still they regard them much as Epicurus regarded his gods; as objects, with which they have little or no concern; good enough indeed in themselves, but of very little consequence to them. Accordingly they are laid up on a shelf, or secreted in a book-case; and are brought out to view only on rare and peculiar occasions. When they are read, the solemn and alarming, the bright and glorious truths, which they contain, are read as idle tales; which are faintly believed, and scarcely regarded.
But in the eye of this candidate for eternity, the Scriptures would become, as to men on a dying bed, the real Word of GOD; containing his holy will concerning our duty and worship, and the news and the means of everlasting life. In them he could not fail to discern, that God spoke, and spoke to him. His voice would be invested with a majesty, awfulness, and authority, resembling that with which he spoke from Mount Sinai; and that, with which he will speak at the final day. Every thing, which is said in them, would be regarded as real, and certain; would be felt as addressed to himself; as describing his own case; as unfolding his own guilt, dangers and necessities; and as pointing out hope, relief, and safety, indispensable to him. Every doctrine would be acknowledged to enlighten; every ordinance to direct; and every precept to bind, with a sanction infinite. Every threatening, seen to convey the certain, future destiny of all those who came within its reach; would alarm, and arouse. Every promise, seen, with the like certainty, to assure to all, who
embraced it, peace, and light, and hope, the favour of God, and the inheritance of immortal life; would invite, encourage and strengthen. In a word, while searching the sacred volume he would seem to stand before the Shechinah; to present his enquiries in the holy place, and to hear from behind the cloud of glory the answer of JEHOVAH, concerning sin and holiness, life and death, judgment and eternity, heaven and hell.
Among the themes, which would most affect his soul in this interesting condition, his own guilt and ruin, as disclosed in the Scriptures, would hold an eminent place. There, as in a clear, undeceiving mirror, he would see himself a sinner, originally depraved; daily corrupted by the indulgence of passion and appetite, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," obedience to temptation, and the imitation of pernicious example; possessing a "heart, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" reproved, warned, allured, and entreated, day by day; yet day by day "hardening his neck," and thus deserving to "be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy." There he would discover, with a clearness next to intuitive, that in himself, his labours, his prayers, his efforts, considered by themselves, there was neither recovery, nor hope; that, however sedulously, or confidently, he "kindled the fire" of self-righteousness, "and compassed himself with its sparks;" and however comfortably he "walked in the light of" that fire, still "his portion" from the hand" of GOD" must be " to lie down in sorrow."
From this melancholy and benumbing prospect would he not instinctively turn his eye, to find relief from his distresses? On the same sacred page he would find a Saviour, portrayed by an Infinite hand, in colours of immortal beauty and splendour: a Saviour of his own lineage and kindred; "meek and lowly of heart; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; despised and rejected of men;" living in poverty, and persecution; and dying with disgrace and agony: yet a Saviour divinely wise, and great, and good: in the one character proving himself capable of condescending to his own lowly state, pitying his distresses, and expiating his guilt; in the other, of forgiving his sins,
renewing his soul, enabling him to triumph over death and the grave, and conferring on him endless life and glory. To this divine person, who died, that he might live, who rose again from the dead, that he might obtain the resurrection of life; who as cended to heaven, as the forerunner of all his followers "that he might prepare a place for them" in the "mansions" of his "Father's house;" would he not come, "labouring and heavy laden" to "find rest" for his soul? Would he not willingly "take" his "yoke upon him?" Would he not cheerfully assume his "burden"? Would he not think "the yoke easy?" Would he not find the "burden light?" Must not the tidings, that " a Saviour is born in the city of David," be now to him "tidings of great joy?" Must he not join with the Angels in ascribing "Glory to GoD in the highest, that peace" was proclaimed "on earth, and good will towards men?"
With what reverence, with what amazement, would he hear the Creator of the heavens, and the earth, proclaiming himself "the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious; long suffering; slow to anger; abundant in goodness, and truth; forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; and that will by no means clear the" impenitently "guilty!" How would he tremble with astonishment and delight, when he read, "Thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, 'I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also, that is of a contrite and humble spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever; neither will I be always wroth; lest the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.""
With what joy would he hear the Evangelical messenger proclaim, that "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; not imputing their trespasses unto them?" and another divinely commissioned herald following after him, and announcing the sum of infinite excellence, in the single and endearing word, "God is love?" Could he fail to give up himself to this God, as a penitent, returning child; and to choose him as his "father and everlasting friend."