Page images

into such an unprovoked and useless contest ? Iş it wise to abandon our present pursuits and pleasures for so distant a good, and for one which demands so many sacrifices ? Why not enjoy life while it lasts ? Why sadden the few days we have to spend in this world with gloomy thoughts about the future? Why check, by the mournful restraints of Religion, the flow of delight with which we are surrounded, and which bears us so gently down the stream of life? When the storm arrives, of which we now see no prospect, we will prepare for it. When our bark launches upon that vast ocean of eternity which we believe to be far distant, we hope to be ready to encounter all its dangers. At present, we enjoy too much the cheerfulness of our sunshine, to suffer shadows of superstitious melancholy to be thrown across our path, The cup of delight which we drink is so pleasant, that we cannot permit Conscience to mingle in it her wormwood and gall.

Such, my hearers, is the language of the world when it is called upon to bear the yoke of Jesus Christ; to submit to those wholesome restraints which he imposes upon us, not only as the test of our fidelity, but as the truest sources of our real comfort in this life, and our happiness in the future. But this language of the world is false in its principles, and ruinous in its consequences. It is founded on erroneous views of what the world promises, and what the Gospel requires; and therefore it is false in its principles. If listened to, it will afford

no substantial benefit in this life, and it must lead to a dreadful result in the future; and therefore it is ruinous in its consequences.

I attempted, in some measure, while discoursing from the words of my text, the last Sabbath, to illustrate these truths, and to shew that, on two acknowledged principles of common sense, the yoke of Christ is indeed easy, when compared with that of the world. These principles are recognized and adopted, by every man of ordinary reflection, in the daily concerns of life ; and to depart from them would be considered as downright presumption and folly. They are the following: That no prudent man, who consults his own happiness, is ever so much engrossed with present objects as to be regardless of the future ; and that great sacrifices ought to be made for the attainment of any valuable distant good. In applying these principles, I endeavoured to prove, that the comparison between the Christian and the man of the world is altogether in favour of the former, although he should be called to endure the greatest privations and misfortunes of life, while the latter is in possession of all its earthly pleasures. For although the worldling may revel in delight, having his most sanguiné prospects realized, and his most unbounded wishes gratified; yet the constant conviction that the grave must put an end to all this gladness, and that there may be such an hereafter as the Gospel unfolds to us, in which an eterna!" distinction will be made between those

who receive Christ as their Saviour, and those who do not : I say, these saddening thoughts, which nothing but absolute stupidity can banish from the mind, will often intrude themselves, and spoil, as with the touch of death, the dearest delights of the man of this world. His enjoyments, too, even when he can lull all forebodings about the future, are not of the most noble kind They relate to the gratifications of sense, to the acquisition of wealth, to the possession of glory, to the pursuits of literature, to the pleasures of taste ; and sometimes, for I would not disguise the truth, to the alleviation of wretchedness, and the diffusion of knowledge and comfort among his fellow-men. But observe, my brethren, all these objects, in themselves considered, relate only to this life : they extend not beyond the grave. And is the immaterial, the immortal spirit, which animates these frail bodies of ourswhich is continually dissatisfied with the present, and always engaged about the future-which is ever following the beck of Hope toward some distant good ;-is it to find its most exalted happiness in any thing beneath the sun ? Is it to take a part in the fleeting concerns of this life, except as a mere pilgrim who is on his march to a better country ? Is it not to have its views enlarged, and its plans ennobled, and its affections elevated, and its hopes brightened, by connecting all that is here below with all that is beyond the skies ? Ought it not to be thus mindful of its eternal destiny, and to walk the rounds of life, as some heaven-descended mes

senger, for the sake of distributing the mercies of God to the bodies of men, and his grace to their souls ; but having its eye always fixed on its celestial home, remembering that there alone it can find pure and perpetual bliss ? This kind of happiness, so divine in its source and so ennobling in its effects, is a stranger to the breast of the mere man of this world ; for without revelation, and the aid of that grace which it reveals, he cannot shape his conduct aright with regard to the future world. I speak with boldness :-of futurity, the philosopher and the unbeliever know nothing definite: they can only guess at what it may be.

. Who is that infinite and incomprehensible Spirit, that occupies ail space—that exists through all eternity--that wields the sceptre of universal empire--that is too omniscient ever to be eluded, too pure ever to be reconciled to sin, and too powerful ever to be mocked with impunity ? How shall we, who are sinners, our own consciences bear testimony against us—it is in vain to resist the accusation); how shall we propitiate the favour of this holy Intelligence ? Shall we hope in his unbounded goodness ? Is his merey unlimited ? Will he never inflict pain upon the souls he has created ? He is almighty ; and will he communicate all the happiness in his power; and will it be safe, then, to trust to this his unmixed benevolence ? Ah! it may be unsafe to do this. It may be necessary, for the wise and holy purposes of the government of God, to make distinctions between the creatures he has

formed, to separate between the righteous and the wicked, and to inflict pain upon those who depart from the strictest requisitions of his laws. Perhaps this may be so. Perhaps that Being, who sees it necessary to impose suffering upon his creatures in this life, may also afflict them in the next. How is it compatible with the notions we long to entertain of that unbounded and unmixed goodness of his, on which we hope to rely for our eternal safety, that He, whose word could make it otherwise, permits the babe to languish, to suffer the most excruciating torture, to die in its mother's arms ? Why do we all endure so much pain and anxiety of body and mind ? And why must we all pass through the terrific agonies of the hour of dissolution ? God might have prevented all these evils : He has seen fit not to do it. It has been necessary, for the purposes of his government, to suffer pain to exist in the world. The fact is every day before our eyes. We may, therefore, be wretched in the future world; for it

may be necessary, for the poses of his government, that pain should exist there also.

On these momentous points, so interesting to every man who aspires to immortality, who learns by a little experience the vanity of the world, and who pants for some unknown good to satisfy the desires of his soul ; on these points, the unbeliever must be content to remain in entire ignorance. He may doubt, if he pleases, the truth of those doctrines which afford to the Christian so much confi

for the pur

« PreviousContinue »