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It is the influence of a future state which generates this fear in the heart of man : for there is no man who believes, no man who but conjectures, that there may be such a state, who does not feel himself irresistibly impelled, at some moments, to act as if it were true.
How powerful is this principle in the hour of death! and happy is the prospect when fear produces repentance! But there are melancholy instances where fear appears with all its horrors, and yet where the voice of consolation will not be . heard. “ I cannot pray”-is a dreadful expression; and sincerely do I wish that I had never heard it upon a bed of sickness, upon a bed of death. I was once called upon to attend a person in the last stage of a disorder, merely the effects of an intemperate life. I found him sitting by the fireside in an elbow chair, attended by two friends and a bowl of punch. affected at the sight. When seated by him he enquired, in a. tone not. well according with that of a penitent, which was the easiest way of going to heaven? I answered him, that the easiest; and only way of
going to heaven, was by conforming to the precepts of the gospel; that our Saviour had proposed to us the measures of our obedience and of our acceptance with God; and urged such other arguments as the circumstances of his case seemed to require. I entered into conversation with him, and endeavoured to prevail upon him to acquaint me with the state of his mind, and his hopes of salvation. “When I think on these
subjects,” he said, “I am troubled with " wicked thoughts;” and mentioned lewd songs and scenes as being, at such moments, familiar to his mind. He particularly acquainted me, that he was often tempted of the devil. I was extremely shocked at this miserable account of himself; and explained to him briefly the nature of temptation, and shewed him, from the scriptures, that a man was then said to be tempted, when he was drawn away by his own lusts " and enticed.” The expression was applicable to his former irregularity of living. In pursuing the subject, I wished to make him as sensible of his situation as I could, and pointed out what was still in his power
to perform in the great business of salvation. He seemed to hear me with attention. I proposed prayer--after prayer I left him, intending to return the next evening, which was Sunday. When I stood by his bed-side the next day, he was extremely ill, appeared just upon the verge of eternity, yet—with horror I relate the sequel-he inforined me with faltering voice, and almost his departing words, that he did not wish for my assistance. My breast was filled with anguish on his account. I could not forbear expressing my sorrow to behold him in so desperate a situation. He was at last prevailed upon to join in prayer-I then left him, and the next night-he died.
Influence of a future State on Man as a
Member of Society.
But none are flush'd with brighter joy, or warin
YOUNG'S LAST DAY.
The influence of a future state, in directing the exertions of mankind to actions of great and disinterested benevolence, is so evident, that we cannot long mix with civilized society without observing it. In savage nature the wants of men are few, and those few confined to the acquisition of necessaries, or the gratification of the sensual appetites. Beyond the sphere of these personal enjoyments, their care extends not, their knowledge does not reach. If, like Pope's Indian, their untutored mind proceed one step further, and “see God in clouds,
“ or hear him in the wind,” still the chief object of his attention is himself; his future wants and pleasures kecp possession of his imagination; and if he expect behind the cloud-topt hill, a mode of existence differing from the present, his faithful dog, his companion and assistant in the chace, is introduced as a partaker of his humbler heaven:
But when a clearer revelation is presented to the christian, when “ life and immorta“lity are brought to light by the gospel,” what is then the prospect which we behold? Are we then circumscribed in our actions, narrow in our principles, confined in our benevolence ? Far, very far from it. We are impelled by a divine impulse, from one instance of public duty to another. The same good-will which we wish ourselves, we sincerely desire for our neighbour. As we become more acquainted with the impression of religion, the contagion spreads further. It flies from one en raptured breast to another. It communicates from the simple individual from whence it sprung, to the remotest region and the most distant period : or in the words of the poct,