« PreviousContinue »
bellion, for the length of life, and to stand begirt with grace and mercy, holding out proffers of forgiveness all the duration of time. But, no; it is too much that He should yield them a place in his heaven, whence he cast out Satan, a more knowing, powerful, proud, and graceful spirit, and would not endure him an instant, but cast him out, and all those rebellious though highminded intelligences, who since that time have usurped their several places upon the earth, and led astray those bands of followers, whom we do pity, but will neither encourage nor justify.!
ACTS XVII. 30, 31. GOD COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO
REPENT : BECAUSE HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY, IN THE WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
From the issues of Judgment to which we have at length arrived, we would shrink back utterly dismayed, were we not convinced that something must be said and done to present these subjects before the Court of human reason; else the blasphemers of this day, who make reason their stalking-horse, to come over the credulity of men, will utterly dislodge both the faith and the reverence of future things from the common breast, and a new plantation of religion among the common people will in a few years become necessary. For, with all the exertions making in this day for religion's sake, at home and abroad, accompanied with the demonstration of much success, I am satisfied that religion is retrograding in many quarters. The enemy is strengthening also, if Christ be strengthening. There is a mustering, as it were, of both hosts, a gathering to the conflict. The enemy hath written Reason on his recruiting standard ; and we would also write Reason upon the Christian standard, not only for the purpose of defeating his malicious aspersions, but for the justification of the truth, which we conceive to be this—That our religion doth not denounce the rational or intellectual man, but addeth thereto the spiritual man, and that the latter flourishes the more nobly under the fostering hand of the former.
And if there be one subject with which the scoffers have made themselves more merry than another, it is the subject of which we are now to treat. Their wickedness, not willing to interpret aright the emblems of Scripture, hath made itself jolly with the psalm-singing of heaven, and the brimstone of hell; their ignorance, not choosing to be. enlightened by the revelation of God, hath benighted itself with endless speculations upon the inconsistency of everlasting punishment with the goodness of the divinity; and they would rally against the argument of this discourse, not only. the wicked mirth, but also the misguided philanthrophy of mankind; so that in entering upon the subject, we have the task laid upon us not only of making intelligible, but of defending from much sophistry the issues of Judgment. Therefore we proceed upon the consideration of the unseen world, which shall be built up for the habitations of the righteous and the wicked, in a cool, reasonable spirit, invoking the help of God to guide our steps; and whosoever will accompany us, we pray to do the same, and not to resign hiinself to the guidance of our judgment, which is is hardly able to guide ourselves. c. Upon the nature of these two several estates it
is not easy to speak correctly; and a great deal of mischief has arisen from inconsiderate interpretations of the language of Scripture. Of how many light-witted men, unto this day, is the constant psalm-singing of heaven a theme of scorn; the fire and brimstone of hell, a theme of derision! And on the other hand, by how many zealous but injudicious ministers of the Gospel are they the themes of rhapsodies, which end in nothing but the tedium and disgust of those who hear them! Now these two, amongst many others, are but emblems or signs, to represent the nature of our feelings in these several states of being, implying no more the existence of instrumental music or of material fire, than the name New Jerusalem implies that the righteous are to dwell in a city, or the name pit and lake of fire imply that the wicked are to swim for ever in a dark, deep abyss of spiry flames. Glorious bodies are not restored to the righteous only to strike a harp, nor imperishable bodies to the wicked only to suffer and not die. To the righteous they are given to renew the connexion between spirit and matter, which is productive even in this fallen world of such exquisite delight; and in order to meet the nicer capacities of these new formed organs, a new world is created, fair as the sun, beautiful as the moon, fresh and verdant as the garden of Eden. And around this new habitation of the righteous is thrown a wall like the crystal wall of heaven within which nothing shall enter to hurt or to defile. There shall be no sickness nor sorrow of countenance,
and there shall be no more death. There shall be no more stormy passion, with its troublous calm of overspent rage, and its long wreck of ruin and havoc, which no time can repair. No wars, nor rumours of wars, and bloodshed shall never again spot the bosom of the ground; and rivalry shall no longer trouble friendship, nor jealousy, love; nor shall ambition divide states, which, be they commonwealths or royal sovereignties, will dwell in untroubled peace. The cares of life shall no longer agitate the bosom, and the reverses of life be for ever unknown. Hunger and thirst shall no longer be felt, and the heat of the sun shall not smite by day, nor the moon by night.
Yet will the happy creatures have enough to do, and to enjoy, though there be no misery to comfort, nor evil to stem, nor grief over whose departure to rejoice. Of how many cheap, exquisite joys are these five senses the inlets! and who is he that can look upon the beautiful scenes of the morning, lying in the freshness of the dew, and the joyful light of the risen sun, and not be happy? Cannot God create another world many times more fair ? and cast over it a mantle of light many times more lovely? and wash it with purer dew than ever dropped from the eyelids of the morning ? Can he not shut up Winter in his hoary caverns, or send him howling over another domain? Can he not form the crystal eye more full of sweet sensations, and fill the soul with a richer faculty of conversing with nature, than the most gifted poet did ever possess ? Think you the