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in vain for us has the command been given to “ Search the Scriptures."*
When we remember that the whole human race, in one constantly flowing tide, are year by year drawing nearer towards a new state of existence which is inevitable, and will be eternal, well might enquiry into the nature of that existence be felt to be most deeply important, even wereit of remote ex. pectation; but when we are sensible, that ere another sun goes down, we ourselves may be among those summoned, and are therefore at all times on the threshold of eternity, how momentous does the interest become. Wisely, then, may we seek to obtain as near and correct a view, as is permitted, of that futurity so soon to be the present. Gratefully should we rejoice, if, step by step, we find the prospect before us increasing in beauty and majesty as we proceed, and full of comfort, of consolation and encouragement will it be, should we perceive the apprehension of death grow hourly more faint, and his certain approach become welcome rather than fearful, as the sublime hopes and promises of immortality and happiness in(crease in strength and earnestness.
# John v, 39.
Will it be said that such study is beyond man's understanding? Here is the answer, “It is the
privilege and distinguishing character of a “ rational being to be able to look forward into
futurity, and to consider his actions not only « with respect to the present advantage or disad“ vantage arising from them, but to view them in “ their consequences through all the parts of “ time, in which himself may possibly exist. If " therefore we value the privilege of being reason“ able creatures, the only way to preserve it is to “ make use of it; and by extending our views “ into all the scenes of futurity in which we our“selves must bear a part, to lay the foundation “ of solid and durable happiness."*
One word more. This is addressed to believers only! To the infidel I would briefly write, but in characters of living fire, if it were possible, “ Nay but, O Man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus ?"+ "Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, what makest thou ? Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!"I
+ Rom. ix, 20.
Is. xlv. 9.
Can everlasting truth be made untruth by thine unbelief? Does the light cease to be light because the blind man says “I see not ?" Thou preferest to be as the beasts that perish; the option is not given thee. It might please thee to forego the possibility of happiness so thou escape the possi. bility of punishment; but, the body only can die ; thy soul must live, whether thou wouldst have it so or not. Oh! choose then, for thou canst, while there is time, between lasting peace and endless anguish: the anguish of comprehending too late the mercy thou hast despised, the glorious state of being thou hast thrown from thee!
Now to ourselves. As christians we acknowledge our position on earth to be that of pilgrims, journeying, as the children of Israel journeyed, by a prolonged wandering, through the desert to their promised land. That this our mortal state is a necessary condition of immortality, even as the humble chrysalis, is that, of a creature full of life and beauty : that our present existence is one in which we are not to look for happiness, because this is not our abiding place, but for trial, rather, because only by trial can faith in God's promises be shewn. But we are assured of assistance in the hour of difficulty and danger : that we shall not be tried beyond our strength; and that everlasting happiness will be the reward of steadfast and cheerful obedience. We are made reasonable beings that we may duly understand all this; and have received from time to time all needful instruction from the prophets, from divine lips and example, and from the apostles. Knowing all these things, we profess to think of this world only as a preparation for a better, and to rejoice in the blessed hope before us.
And here a question arises :
You, under whose eye this enquiry falls, I ask you to pause, and with "wandering thoughts called home,” to put to yourself the question, “What is my precise and definite belief as to a future state of existence, and in what degree do I find present thoughts and actions influenced thereby ?” To your better self only would I wish the answer given.
Will it be denied by any, whose years have brought experience of their own thoughts, or those of others, that Christians there are, so called, who may be said to submit, to be resigned to, rather than to believe, and hope for eternal life? The proof being, that, if in their power, they would postpone the hour of death indefinitely, as they do the thoughts of it, and live on here, in sickness and sorrow, and under all the privations of age and infirmity, anything, rather than die !
If this be so, should it be so ? And wherefore is it so ? The answer must come from divine truth, "my people doth not consider."*
Surely not! Else, heartily in earnest in temporal engagements, pleasures of a day, or but the hour even, how is it that while acknowledging, as we do, anticipation to be often of more worth than reality, the most sublime anticipation of all, the reality of which cannot fall short of expectation, finds no room in our minds, and exercises no cheering influence in our hearts? Who has not some object in prospect to which distance lends its enchantment? The ladder of ambition to be climbed in public life; the marrying and giving in marriage; the meeting of long absent friends; the thousand pleasant dreams of social life, rarely realized, but full of glowing hope, and earnest feeling. To these, our earthly objects,
*Is. i, 3.