« PreviousContinue »
ate in a mind hurried, convulsed with guilt, and overwhelmed by despair? How will the self-ruined, friendless, hopeless, apostate feel, when he sees the time arrived; the trial finished; the sentence declared; and himself driven away to receive the terrible reward?
Of what value will the scriptures then seem to have been? Of what value the Sabbath; the Sanctuary; the privileges of prayer, self-examination, the conversation and example of good men, and all the means of salvation? How much to be prized that little life, on which eternity and its mighty interests were suspended? How wise will it then appear to have hated sin; to have shunned temptation; and to have resisted the fascinations of riches and honour, power and pleasure?
How soon will all these solemn things arrive? Even now they are at the door. A few days will bring them to every member of this assembly. How plainly ought they to be esteemed of the same inestimable importance to us, this day, which they will be seen to wear beyond the grave?
2dly. How interesting, how amazing, will all eternal things then appear?
Death, the Judgment, Hell and its sufferings, Heaven and its endless rewards, the awful anger of GOD, his glorious mercy and unchangeable love all these things will then become real, present; and will affect the imagination as deeply, as if they were now present; and reach the heart in spite of its stupidity and sin. They will terrify and oppress the soul with all the sufferings of perdition; or delight it with the possession of life begun, happiness realized, and glory already enjoyed. These will then be our all. The present world will then have retreated forever from our view. Time will have numbered all its hours; and emptied its glass of all its remaining sands. The vast world to which we are going, will have opened its boundless prospects; its everlasting enjoyments and sufferings. The day will then have dawned, to which no evening will ever arrive. The system of dispensations will then have commenced to which there can be no conclusion. What a prospect will this be! What a progress of be
ing! What a series of blessings! Or what a succession of woes! What will it then be to find GoD disclosing himself to us with smiles of approbation, and with favour which will brighten forever towards supreme and meridian glory?
What will it be on the contrary, to find the same GOD "a consuming fire," kindled for eternity, and destroying finally all the workers of iniquity? How terrible will it be to "awake" only "to shame and everlasting contempt;" to see all amiableness and honour, happiness and hope, retiring from our sight; to behold ourselves forever guilty, despised, and abhorred; to sink under a consciousness of our debased character; and, casting a despairing eye over the melancholy world of darkness, to discern nothing but "mourning, lamentation," and "woe," without mixture, and without end?
3dly. How strange is it, that the deaths of others do not compel us to lay to heart the end of all living?
Others have lived, as we now live; have sinned, just as we now sin; and, like us, have resolved to repent, and reform, and live forever. They still loved the pleasures of sin; and determined to enjoy them for a season; at the end of which they intended to begin their lives anew. But this season began, to last forever. No to-morrow of repentance followed their day of present sin. Ever near to the intentional penitent, it was ever one day before him, until it vanished in eternity. With it, the repentance, which it seemed to bear on its wings, vanished also; and vanished, to appear no more.
All these persons hold out to us an exact picture of ourselves, while travelling onward in the bewildered path of intentional repentance and reformation. They have now finished their connection with time, and sense; with the pleasures which they loved, and the sins which they "rolled as sweet morsels under their tongues." With these, they have also terminated their probation, and their enjoyment of the Means of Grace. Where are they now? What are now their views of the conduct, which they pursued in the present world? What, if they were permitted to return, would probably be their language to us?
"Poor, unhappy, deluded mortals;" would they not say? "mark our conduct; and consider our end. We, like you, were once probationers for endless life; were trained up in religion, and educated for everlasting joy. All the means and hopes, furnished by the Grace of God, were put into our hands. Like you, we were blessed with the word of God, and the news of salvation, by a crucified Redeemer! The Sabbath weekly dawned upon us with the smiles of love. The Sanctuary opened the doors of peace and praise, of prayer and faith, of repentance and holiness; and invited us to enter in, and be saved. We heard the calls of mercy; the voice of a pardoning GoD, a dying Saviour, a heavenly Comforter, reproving us for our sins, and charming us with divine wisdom to return and live. To return we always intended; but found no opportunity: and were ourselves never ready to begin this indispensable work. The pleasures of sense fascinated our hearts and we found nothing in repentance to engage our affections, or invite our efforts. The day fled; and with it fled every call, and every hope. The night came, to which no day of grace ever succeeded. Our end will be yours. Like us you live like us you will die and O like us you are preparing to die forever!"
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE FINAL TRIAL.-SERMON I.
ECCLESIASTES xii. 14.
For GOD shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
THIS verse is the conclusion of one of the most extraordinary books, which the world has ever seen. The writer, the subject, and the mode of discussion, are all of a remarkable character. The writer was the wisest of all men; the subject is the supreme good of man; and the mode of discussion is solemn, impressive, and happy, without a parallel.
No man was ever so fitted to examine this subject. It is hardly necessary, to observe that the question, In what consists the supreme good? has been almost endlessly discussed by a great variety of ingenious writers, of most ages and countries, distinguished for illumination. The question has been answered in a vast multitude of ways. Varro informs us, that, within his knowledge, philosophers had adopted concerning this subject no less than two hundred and eighty-eight different opinions. Among these, some placed it in quiet of mind; others in rest of the body; some in knowledge; others in wealth; some in reputation; others in what is appropriately called pleasure; and others, still, in a great variety of other objects. The most prominent of these opinions are examined in this book; and in the most satisfactory manner refuted. For this employment Solomon was not only fitted by his peculiar wisdom, his extensive acquaintance with the affairs of the present life, and his enlarged views of the doctrines and duties of religion, but by his own experience also: No man
ever had such an experimental acquaintance with the objects and pleasures of science, taste, sense, imagination, refinement, ambition, avarice, and religion, united. At the same time he was perfectly disposed and qualified to enjoy all these pleasures. It is truly said of him, nay he says of himself, that he "withheld not his heart from any joy." Thus, whether he speaks of the affairs of this world or that to come, the pleasures of sense or the enjoyments of religion, he speaks, as far as this can be done by an inhabitant of earth, from personal experience. His observations therefore have a weight, his opinions an authority, which cannot be claimed by those of any other man. They are the opinions of one, who had more power, than could be challenged at that time by any other inhabitant of the earth. His wisdom, fame, wealth, and all other sources of sensual enjoyment, have never been rivalled. Nor were his attainments in Religion small. We may well wonder indeed, that in these circumstances he should be religious at all. Yet we are informed by Nehemiah, that among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God."
After Solomon has gone through an extensive consideration of the various branches of this important subject, he gives us the result of all these investigations in form. "Let us hear," says he, "the conclusion of the whole matter;" or, in Hodgson's more exact translation, "Let us hear the substance of all that has been said. Fear GoD, and keep his commandments: for this is all that concerneth man." To this infinitely important declaration the text is subjoined, as a proof of its truth which cannot be questioned; and as a reason, to enforce its importance on the mind, which cannot be resisted, except by voluntary blindness and hardness of heart.
In this passage the word "Work" obviously denotes the overt conduct of man, his words, and actions. The phrase "secret thing" intends the thoughts, and affections of the heart. Works may with propriety indicate that, which is said, and done, before mankind; and secret things, that, which is done where others neither see, nor hear; whether in the heart, in darkness, or