Page images


Influence of a future State on Man as an accountable Creature;' applying to his Fears.

Sceptic! whoc'er thou art, who say'st the soul,
That divine particle which God's own breath,
Inspir'd into the mortal mass, shall rest
Annihilate-tell-why conscience acts

With tenfold force, when sickness, age or pain
Stands tott'ring on the precipice of death?



ITHOUT the solution of a future state, there are numberless events which would be totally inexplicable in this state of being. Amongst others are the pangs of conscience, A kind Providence excites in the mind of man these circumstances of horror and apprehension, that he may be checked in his career of wickedness, and, before it be too late, return to those paths which alone can make him happy. That expectation of a future world which sweetens the good


man's cup, dashes with gall the bowl of dissipation. In the midst of the banquet the man of pleasure perceives not the influence of any unseen cause; he endeavours to persuade himself that the divine particle which God's own breath inspired shall be equally dispersed with the atoms of his body, and find an eternal refuge with his sepulchral dust. But even of this persuasion he has no confidence. Reflection damps his pleasures, and brings him to some sense of those important truths, which tender parental care, or friendly instruction, had placed before his early youth. The vision of a venerable parent, or sage preceptor, may, in some interval of intemperate pleasure, reach his soul, and rescue him from destruction: or, perhaps, which is a melancholy alternative, he may still pursue his worn-out paths, till they leave him where the cup of intoxication, or the laughter of fatal friendship, can no longer serve him. Here those apprehensions which occasionally visited him, rally around his couch. As he suffered not the influence of a future state to excite hope within his breast, he is tormented

tormented at a moment when he can least bear its approach, with the appearance of fear. If there be no God, no future day of recompence, let the sceptic tell what should excite his fears? What can raise such tumults in the breast of the unrighteous while tottering on the precipice of death? ›

Happy is it for those, who from any motive recover the road of obedience! Happiest, no doubt, when they are accompanied by hope, as they then travel under a serene sky, have few impediments to obstruct their journey, and keep their eye fixed steadily on its pleasing termination. But even those may well rejoice who reach the same end, though by a different course. Mankind are directed by various motives; and though those motives may conduct them through a valley of tears, or over mountains of difficulty, yet if they finally rest in regions of tranquillity and heavenly enjoyment, the important end will be ob tained.

The love of God and the fear of punishment are the great leading motives of obedience. The former involves all the finer


feelings of our nature. It raises a generous ardour in our breast; it purifies every sentiment of our heart, and sends forth such earnest expectations, such fervent prayers to be more closely united to the almighty object of our affections, that every action of our lives is directed to complete the heavenly union. This is piety: this is happiness. The latter principle, though its object be the same, its progress is different. Fear operates on the human mind with much uneasiness. Even the good man often feels its force. But upon the conscience of the wicked it falls with tenfold weight. If it bring forth its proper. effect, the motive will not be condemned. "The fear of punishment and the dread "of the divine wrath, if it is not indeed "the highest and noblest principle of obe

[ocr errors]

dience, yet it is undoubtedly a very just " and reasonable motive to it; if it is not "indeed the most excellent pitch of virtue,"

[ocr errors]

yet it is at least a very proper beginning "of it; if it is not indeed a part of the "most exalted love of God; and love, "when it is become perfect, casteth out

[merged small][ocr errors]

"fear; yet it is at least very consistent "with its whole progress in this life, and a

necessary part of that regard towards "God, which is due to him from us as " our supreme governor

[ocr errors]

If hope then be not near, let fear supply its place. Try any motive, sinner! to restore thee to a sense of duty; and a God of mercy, through the intercession of a benevolent Redeemer, will accept thy endeavours.

If the sinner did but weigh the difference between time and eternity: if he did but recollect how he trembles before the face of man, when temporal punishment, the correction of an hour, is awarded to him; how serious would be his fears, when he stands before the judgment-seat of an eternal God! "Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they *** can do; but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear; fear him which after he "hath killed hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you fear him."


* Dr. S. Clarke's Serm, 1721


« PreviousContinue »