Page images
PDF
EPUB

and hope. About the existence of a future life, men were still in great doubt and uncertainty. It was not sufficiently clear and plain to have much influence on their conduct. The joys and sorrows of a world which was invisible, and distant, and uncertain, could never have weight sufficient to overbalance those pleasures and objects of sense which were seen, which were near at hand, and which, strongly, solicited their acceptance. Something, in short, was wanting to confirm the wishes and expectations of nature. This aid was received from the light of the gospel. Jesus has dispelled the doubts and fears of mankind: he has established the belief of a future life upon a foundation no less certain and stable than that of the rock of

ages whereon his religion itself is built: he has assured us, upon the authority of God, who cannot lie, that, though death may destroy our viler part, yet it dare not touch the image of God, that we are immortal, and that spirits formed by the breath of heaven cannot be extinguished.

We may add, that Jesus Christ has exemplified a future state, if the expression be allowable, has made it a matter almost of demonstra

tion, and has submitted it to the testimony of our senses, by his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven.

Before Jesus, the future world was an undiscovered country, for those whom Jesus had raised up from the dead during his life, not acting in the prophetick character, had no authority to reveal what they had seen or heard while separated from the body. But Jesus returned from the land of the grave, and revealed to men the and wonders of an unknown region. He sojourned upon earth, after having entered the mansions of death; and was translated into the invisible world before the very eyes of his disciples. Than this no evidence could be more certain, except, perhaps, that which St. Stephen received, who saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God.

Jesus Christ has farther improved and enlarged our knowledge of a future state, by discovering its true nature. If the heathens were uncertain about the reality of a future state, they were much more ignorant of the different situations of good and bad men in that state. Their

Their poets, indeed, had sung of the pains of Tartarus and the blessings of Elysium: but these were so absurd and extravagant that they were despised, even by the most foolish, and with the wise they brought the whole religion of which they were a part into discredit. But the rewards and punishments which Jesus hath revealed are highly rational, and excellently adapted to operate upon the hopes and fears of mankind. He has assured his followers, that, great is their reward in heaven. Into his Paradise, indeed, he admits not those sensual delights which have tended so much to recommend some other religions to the corrupt passions and desires of men. But, still he has set before them a prize well worth contending for; objects sufficiently great and interesting to animate their exertions, and keep up their courage amidst all the calamities, struggles, and dangers of this mortal life. He hath pointed out a state, which, under the continual influence of the divine presence, consists in the perfection of reason and virtue : he hath promised an inheritance which is undefiled, pure, innocent, and spiritual: he hath offered to his followers a crown of glory which fadeth not away: he hath assured them of being admitted into the heavenly society, which is an assembly of

[blocks in formation]

peace and harmony, where charity never fail, eth, where all is love and happiness for ever: in short, he hath informed us that for those who love him is laid up glory, honour and immortality, pleasures such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.-On the dark side of the picture, the gospel dwells not so long. In general, it represents the torments of the wicked by the images of those things which are most dreadful in this life: by the worm which dieth not, and the fire which is not quenched. It warns us to flee from the wrath to come; from that judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries; from that tribulation and anguish which shall come upon every son of man who doeth evil. How much, then, hath Jesus revealed to us concerning the existence and nature of the life after death. What advantages have we not in the practice of our duty! How much stronger motives to obedience have we than those who lived in the former times of ignorance !

But, there is still another truth regarding a future state, for the knowledge of which we are entirely indebted to Jesus Christ; viz. the resurrection of the body. In nature, nothing is perpetual. Every thing changes, decays, and advances by hasty steps to dissolution. But most things, which come under our observation, are again renewed, and, after a short period of dissolution, revive to a new life, under a new form. The herbs and flowers which wither at the approach of winter, again put forth their leaves and blossoms at the return of spring. By the side of the tree whose blasted trunk inspires melancholy reflections, we behold another plant springing from its roots and flourishing under its protection. To this the human race appear a striking exception. One generation goeth, and another cometh : Man, after having slept for a few years with the clods of the valley, can no more be distinguished from the common mass of matter; and, before Jesus, the world knew of no spring which would revive his ashes. But He hath assured us, that not only our souls, but our bodies also shall exist for ever in another life. He hath told us that the grave, that gulf of the human race wherein, as was formerly believed, the bodies of men were swallowed up in succession and lost for ever, shall, at his command, yield up those who have been intrusted to its charge. He

« PreviousContinue »