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we suppose that God would leave their minds under such distresses, if the present pleasure of virtue were its sole reward. On the supposition that there were nothing beyond death, the man who has lost all shame and remorse in the perpetration of the greatest crimes, has a much larger share of ease of mind than the man of virtue, who is often disquieted by the infirmities incident to humanity, and by the consciousness of falling short of the high standard to which he aspires.
These considerations lead us to believe that God will at some future period interpose for the vindication of the honour of his government; and that every act of self-denying virtue performed from a regard to his authority, and of wilful guilt committed in rebellion against him, shall receive its due award. They shew what are the verdicts of common sense concerning the equity of a judgment to come; and while they place this judgment in our view, entire confidence in the goodness and righteousness of God will readily suggest to our minds that there are the best reasons for the inequalities of the present state. It is not to be wondered at, as has been remarked, that God should not here pour down golden showers on the heads of the righteous, nor send fire from heaven, as angry men would have him, upon every provocation, to consume sinners. This life is not a time of reaping, but of sowing; not of judicial approbation, but of trial; not of triumph, but of combat; not of enjoyment, but of work; not of settlement, but of travail; in which no man should expect more of encouragement than is needful to support him in his way; should look to re
ceive wages before his task is done: to get the prize before he has gone through the race; or to enjoy rest before he is at his journey's end.
A reflection on the wisdom of God would lead us to the same conclusion respecting a future state to which we arrived by the consideration of his justice. We should find it utterly irreconcileable with infinite wisdom to suppose that the soul of man, after attaining, as it frequently happens, to no inconsiderable degree of cultivation, should, in the full maturity of faculties, capable of indefinite improvement, cease to exist. The fond desire, the longing after immortality, is, like the belief in the existence of the Divinity, universal, and ought to be regarded as the voice of the Deity concurring with the numerous attestations of the high destination of our race, and directing our views to that eternity of which he has constituted us the heirs. This desire, united to the faculties and endowments of man, viewed in connexion with the circumstances in which he is now placed, and the higher and the enduring state for which he seems designed, warrants the belief that there awaits him a future and an endless state of being.
This is the state to which the fears of the wicked, as well as the hopes of the righteous, refer; leading alike our thoughts forward to that final day in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and in which he will impartially and perfectly render to every man according to his works: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.
Such are the conclusions to which we are led by the light of nature. The conviction of an immortality, of a state in which the rudiments of a supreme system of moral government, observable in this life, will be perfected, is forced on our mind by reflecting on our own intellectual and moral constitution, on our capacities and endowments, as formed in the image of God, for his worship and his glory :-and it is forced on us also by all that we know of the attributes of God, viewed in connexion witlı the circumstances in which we are placed. But notwithstanding the strength of the evidence by which our belief in a future state is supported, how greatly are we indebted to that dayspring from on high which hath visited us, to give light to them that sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the ways of peace. Without this light, mankind had numerous intimations from reason and from nature of the reality of an eternal existence beyond the grave. The wisest and the best of the philosophers of Rome has told us that he believed the soul to have her native seat in heaven; and that it is with reluctance she is forced down from those celestial mansions into these lower regions where all is foreign to her divine nature. This opinion, as he tells us, he was led to embrace, not only as agreeable to the deductions of reason, but in just deference to the authority of the noblest and most distinguished philosophers. “I am further convinced,” says he, “ in my belief of the soul's immortality, by the discourse which Socrates, whom the oracle of Apollo
pronounced to be the wisest of men, held upon this subject, just before his death. In a word, when I consider the faculties with which the human mind is endowed, its amazing activity, its wonderful power in recollecting past events, and sagacity in discerning future; together with its numberless discoveries in the arts and sciences, I feel a conviction that this active, comprehensive principle, cannot possibly be of a mortal nature."
It was thus that men felt and reasoned who had no higher advantages than those which the light of nature afford; and these advantages were sufficient to teach them that this was but the infancy of their being, that they were designed for a more perfect and an endless existence, and that they should diligently employ the means and opportunities with which they were favoured in preparing themselves for its enjoyment. But revelation has poured a flood of light around us, in which we behold the character and perfections of God, the nature and designs of his moral government, the certainty, not only that the soul shall survive the dissolution of the body, and that it shall never cease to live, but that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust. A Divine Messenger from heaven, who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. He has given us information of the introduction and prevalence of sin, and has assigned this as the ground and the occasion of all the sufferings in the visible creation. He tells us, and his testimony accords with the course of our
observation and experience--that our world bears a new relation to its God—that of a rebellious province to its offended Sovereign, of a state, whose inhabitants are declared to be guilty before their righteous and Almighty Judge. All around us, indeed, seems fair and beautiful as before ; all the glories of earth and heavens are still significant, of the power, wisdom, and intelligence of their Divine Author ; but the word of the Great Revealer of the will of God to man, tells us, that the moment sin entered into the world, the endearing tie that connected man with all that is holy and good was violently broken, and that the lovely and splendid characters of beneficence with which we are surrounded, had their influence on him greatly diminished. It is from the same infallible source that we learn what are the means that God is employing for counteracting and destroying the power of sin ; for converting the effects of our apostacy into the means and instruments of our improvement; and for rendering all the evils which we can suffer subser. vient to the increased glory and happiness to be enjoyed in the new heavens and new earth, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither any more pain, the former things having passed away. One sentence from this great and glorious Being, who though invisible to us, is continually in us and around us, concerning the nature of our present state and future prospects, relieves us from the perplexities which are inseparable from the mere conjec. tures of reason, and reflects a light that chases away the comparative obscurity and darkness with which the moral government of the Lord and Ruler of all was