« PreviousContinue »
ing hard and slow, may comfort himself with this, that his torments will shortly come to an end.
But these can hope for no respite, nor period of their woes.
How would it stamp a bow in their cloud, to think there were an end! but in vain, should they shed an ocean of tears, and stretch out their suppliant hands. Death will flee from them, consigning them over to flat despair. Have pity upon them, O ye their friends. Will no affectionate relation shed a compassionate tear? Alas! the father will not pity his children, and the mother will have no compassion of the son of her womb, for they sing Hallelujah, when the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever.
Surely, "such are the dwellings of the wicked: and this is the place of him that knoweth not God." O my soul! envy not their momentary happiness, "come not into their secret, be not united unto their assembly." How much better is it for thee to strive to enter in at the strait gate, with these happy few that find it, than to go with the multitude in the broad way that leadeth unto destruction? Canst thou fly too fast from hell and damnation? Canst thou be too careful to avoid those paths, which, though strewed with roses, lead down to the chambers of death? Whether is it better thy flesh should murmur, or thy soul should perish? O that knowing these terrors of the Lord, our whole life might be one constant flight from the wrath that is to come! How miserable are they who will not be persuaded of the reality of everlasting torments, by all the threatenings of the word, when it is declared by the faithful and true witness, "If they will not believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one should arise from the dead."
THE DESTINIES OF MEN IN ETERNITY
PENAL sufferings, in a future state, are supposed by many to be sufficiently efficacious to purge the soul from the moral stains contracted in this life; and to make an atonement for the offences committed in time. This system is liable to many objections, and to several peculiar to itself: for, if there had not been sin, there had not been punishment. Penal sufferings, inflicted by Divine justice, are the desert of the crimes which require justice to inflict such punishments. If the sufferings inflicted by this Divine justice be supposed to be capable of annihilating the cause for which they are inflicted; if they annihilate the cause, they must be greater than that cause, and consequently unjust; because, in that case, the punishment would be greater than the offence. Such penal inflictions could not proceed from a righteous God.
But the ground of this system is absurd: we have no evidence from Scripture or reason, that there are any emanatory punishments in the eternal world.
The state of probation certainly extends only to the ultimate term of human life. We have no evidence, either from Scripture or reason, that it extends to another state. There is not only a deep silence on this, in the Divine records; but, there are the most positive declarations against it. In time and life, the great business relative to eternity is to be transacted. On passing the limits of time, we enter into eternity: this is the unchangeable state. In that awful and indescribable infinitude of incomprehensible duration, we read of but two places or states; Heaven and Hell; glory and misery; endless suffering, and end
less enjoyment. In these two places, or states, we read of but two descriptions of human beings: the saved and the lost; between whom there is that immeasurable gulf, over which neither can pass. In the one state we read of no sin, no imperfection, no curse: there, “all tears are for ever wiped away from off all faces; and the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." In the other, we read of nothing but "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth;"-of "the worm that dieth not; and of "the fire which is not quenched." Here, the effects and consequences of sin appear in all their colourings, and in all their consequences. Here, no dispensation of grace is published; no offers of mercy made; the unholy are unholy still; nor can the circumstances of their case afford any means by which their state can be meliorated; and we have already seen, that it is impossible that sufferings, whether penal or incidental, can destroy that cause, (sin,) by which they were produced.
Besides, could it be even supposed that moral purgation could be effected by penal sufferings, which is already proved to be absurd, we have no evidence of any such place as purgatory, in which this purgation can be effected: it is a mere fable, either collected from spurious, or apocryphal writings, canonized by superstition and ignorance; or it is the offspring of the deliriums of pious visionaries, early converts from heathenism, from which they imported this part of their creed: there is not one text of Scripture, legitimately interpreted, that gives the least countenance to a doctrine, as dangerous to the souls of men, as it has been gainful to its inventors: so that, if such purgation were possible, the place where it is to be effected cannot be proved to exist. Before, therefore, any dependance can be placed on
the doctrine raised on this supposition, the existence of the place must be proved; and the possibility of purgation in that place demonstrated. The opinion of our own church on this, and its kindred doctrines, should be heard with respect: "The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping, and adoration, as well of images as of reliques, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scriptures; but rather repugnant to the word of God."-Article xxii. Dr. A. Clarke.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING THE RISING GENERATION TO READ THE INSPIRED VOLUME.
THESE records present the sublimest and most glorious truths.-Here the attention is directed to the all-glorious and all-perfect Jehovah; a Being spiritual and undivided in his nature, and eternal in his existence, boundless in knowledge and almighty in power, infinite in wisdom and spotless in purity, perfect in justice and immutable in truth, unwearied in the exercise of his care and universal in the emanations of his love; a Being whose authority is supreme and whose majesty is inconceivable; the Creator, and Preserver, and Governor of the universe; who fills the immensity with his presence, and is intimately acquainted with every thought of every heart, with every word of every lip, and with every action performed by every agent, whether in heaven, or earth, or hell:-a Being carrying on a plan of providential government in the natural world, which, though it includes causes of disaster, and pain, and death, as consequences or correctives of moral evil, yet tends to the general communication of
happiness; on a scale of vastness, indeed, requiring the enlarged exercise of the mind in any tolerable measure to survey it, while to embrace the whole, requires the intelligence of God: and in the moral world carrying on a scheme equally vast,-admitting an immensity of moral evil, as a consequence of the liberty possessed and exercised by subordinate and degenerate agents, but, under his all-wise and holy superintendence, leading gradually onward to increased purity and peace, and ending in the consummate bliss of all those, who, by the belief of his truth, and obedience to his will, secure the enjoyment of his favour.-Here the man learns that the mind, which properly constitutes himself, though at present so intimately united with the body, as to form with it but one person, or being,
yet immaterial in its nature and eternal in its future existence, and is destined to share with celestial intelligences, a state of unspeakable and eternal joy, or to inhabit, with infernal spirits, a region of everlasting woe. Here he learns that a day is appointed in the inscrutable counsels of heaven, on which there shall be a public and final closing of this mortal seene; that then, the Judge shall descend in all his own and his Father's glory, and the holy angels with him, to vindicate, before assembled worlds, the wisdom and rectitude of the divine dispensations, and publicly to render to every man according to his works;-that then, at the sound of the archangel's trump, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and the living shall be changed, and all shall be arraigned at a tribunal from which there lies no appeal, and before a Judge whose knowledge cannot be deceived, and whose power cannot be resisted, to receive from him the sentence that raises the whole man to the unfading glories of Paradise, or dooms him to endless darkness and despair;-that then, this earth and its surrounding heavens, having