« PreviousContinue »
into everlasting punishment. Into those future habitations of the good and the bad, it is not ours to penetrate. All that we know is, that after the Judge hath pronounced the righteous to be the blessed of his Father,' they shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so they shall be ever with the Lord;" [1 Thess. iv. 17.] received into mansions where all the inhabitants shall be blest; but where we are taught there shall be different degrees of exaltation and felicity, according to the advancement which men had made in holiness and virtue ; one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, and one står díffering from another in glory.' [1 Cor. xv. 41.] On the misery prépared for the reprobate, it would be shocking to dwell, and in a high degree improper and presumptuous in us to descant on the degree and duration of those punishments, which infinite justice and wisdom may see cause to inflict on the incurably wicked. The whole great scheme of Providence being now completed, and its ways fully justified to all rational beings, well may universal acclamations of praise arise from all the heavenly hosts; Hallelujah to him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb of God, for ever and ever !
Great and marvellous are all thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all thy ways, thou King of Saints!' This earth, which had been so long the theatre of human actions and human glory, having now accomplished the purpose for which, as a temporary structure, it was erected, shall, at this consummation of things, finally disappear from the universe. • The heavens shall pass away with a great noise : the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up; and its place shall know it no more !' [2 Pet. iii. 10.]
• Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God and keep his commandments ; for this is the whole duty of mán;' the whole of his duty, his interest and his happiness. It is the road to a comfortable life, to a peaceful death, to a happy eternity. “For God,' addeth the Wise man, shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.' Let the prospect of this judgement so dwell on our minds as to produce that degree of seriousness, which, in this vain and changing world, becomes us as Christians, becomes us as men. If it be our care to preserve a good
conscience, and to do the things which are right, that judgement will not be to us an object of dismay. On the contrary, amidst the many discouragements which our virtuous endeavours meet with at present, it will be a comfort to think that ! verily there is a just God to judge the earth,' who shall in the end make all crooked things straight, and fully recompense
his servants for the hardships they may now suffer by persevering in the path of integrity. This is the season, not of reaping, but of sowing ; not of rest and enjoyment, but of labour and combat. You are now running the race; hereafter you shall receive the prize. You are now approving your fidelity, in the midst of trials; at the Last Day, you shall receive the crown of the faithful. • Be patient, therefore, establish your hearts : for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. The Judge is at hand; and his reward is with him.'
[DR. HUGH BLAIR.)
SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD. 2 Peter üi. 10.—But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works
that are therein, shall be burned up. Accustomed to behold the course of nature proceeding in regular order, we indulge meanwhile our pleasures and pursuits with fuil security; and such awful scenes as the convulsion of the elements, and the dissolution of the world, are foreign to our thoughts. Yet as it is certain that some generation of men must witness this great catastrophe, it is fit and proper that we should sometimes look forward to it.
Nor can any time be more appropriate to make this event the subject of meditation, than the season of Advent, in which our Church directs our thoughts to the final dissolution of the world: in the Gospel of the present Sabbath, our Saviour announces the presages of the approaching fatal day: • There shall besigns in the sun, and signs in the moon and stars; upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.' (Luke xxi. 25.] Realizing, then, this awful scene; imagining ourselves to be already spectators of it, let us,
1.-Contemplate the Supreme Being directing the dissolution, as he directed the original formation, of the world. He is the great agent in this wonderful transaction. It was by him foreseen : it entered into his plan from the moment of creation. This world was destined from the beginning to fulfil a certain period ; and then its duration was to terminate, Not that it is any pleasure to the Almighty to display his omnipotence in destroying the works which he has made ; but as for wise and good purposes the earth was formed, so for wise and good ends it is dissolved, when the time most proper for its termination is come. He who, in the counsels of his Providence, brings about so many revolutions among mankind; who changeth the times and the seasons ;' who raises up empires to rule in succession among the nations, and, at his pleasure, puts an end to their glory,-hath also fixed a term for the earth itself, the seat of all human greatness. He saw it meet, that after the probationary course was finished which the generations of men were to accomplish, their present habi. tation should be made to pass away. Of the seasonableness of the period when this change should take place, no being can judge, except the Lord of the universe. These are counsels, into which it is not ours to penetrate. But amidst this great revolution of nature, our comfort is, that it is a revolution brought about by Him, the measures of whose government are all founded in goodness.
It is called in the text, the day of the Lord;' a day peculiarly his, as known to him only; a day in which he shall appear with uncommon and tremendous majesty. But though it be the day of the terrors of the Lord, yet from these terrors his upright and faithful subjects have nothing to apprehend. They may remain safe and quiet spectators of the threatening
For it is not to be a scene of blind confusion; of universal ruin, brought about by undesigning chance. Over the shock of the elements, and the wreck of matter, Eternal Wisdom presides. According to its direction the conflagration advances, which is to consume the earth. Amidst every convulsion of the world, God shall continue to be as he was from the beginning,—the dwelling-place of his servants to all generations. The world may be lost to them ; but the Ruler of the world is ever the same, unchangeably good and just. This is the high tower' to which they can fly, and be safe. "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness ;' and, under every period of his government, his countenance beholdeth the upright.'
II.---Let us contemplate the dissolution of the world, as the end of all human glory. This earth has been the theatre of many a great spectacle, and many a high achievement. There the wise bave ruled, the mighty have fought, and conquerors have triumphed. Its surface has been covered with proud and stately cities. Its temples and palaces have raised their heads to the skies. Its kings and potentates, glorying in their magnificence, have erected pyramids, constructed towers, founded monuments, which they imagined were to defy all the assaults of time. Their inward thought was, that their houses were to continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations. Its philosophers have explored the secrets of nature, and flattered themselves that the fame of their discoveries was to be immortal. Alas! all this was to be no more than a transient show. Not only the fashion of the world,' but the world itself, passeth away.' The day cometh when all the glory of this world shall be remembered only as a dream when one awaketh.' The whole beautiful fabric is thrown down, never more to arise. As soon as the destroying Angel has sounded the last trumpet, the everlasting mountains fall; the foundations of the world are shaken; the beauties of nature, the decorations of art, the labours of industry, perish in one common flame. The globe itself shall either return into its ancient chaos, without form and void ;'or, like a star fallen from the heavens, shall be effaced from the universe, and its place shall know it no more.'
This day of the Lord, it is foretold in the text, 'will come as a thief in the night ;' that is, sudden and unexpected. Mankind, notwithstanding the presages given them, shall continue to the last in their wonted security. Our Saviour tells us, that in the days of Noah before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came, and took them away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.' (Matthew xxiv. 38, 39.] How many projects and designs shall that day suddenly confound! What
Jong-contrived schemes of pleasure shall it overthrow! What plans of cunning and ambition shall it utterly blast! How miserable they whom it shall overtake in the midst of dark conspiracies, of criminal deeds, or profligate pleasures ! In what strong colours is their dismay painted, when they are représented, in the book of Revelations, as calling to the hills and mountains to fall on them and cover them!'
Let us now, III.-Contemplate the soul of man, as remaining unhurt in the midst of this general desolation, when the whole animal creation perishes, and the whole frame of nature falls into ruins. What a high idea does this present, of the dignity pertaining to the rational spirit! The world may fall back into chaos ; but, superior to matter, and independent of all the changes of material things, the soul continues the same. When the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat,' the soul of man, stamped for immortality, retains its state unimpaired, and is capable of flourishing in undecaying youth and vigour. Very different, indeed, the condition of human spirits is to be, according as their different qualities have marked, and prepared them, for different future mansions. But for futurity they are all destined. Existence, still, is theirs. The capacity of permanent felicity they all possess ; and if they enjoy it not, it is owing to themselves.
Here, then, let us behold what is the true honour and excellence of man. It consists not in his body, which, beautiful or vigorous as it may now seem, is no other than a fabric of dust, quickly to return to dust again. It is not derived from any connexion he can form with earthly things, which, as we have seen, are all doomed to perish. It consists in that thinking part which is susceptible of intellectual improvement and moral worth, which was formed after the image of God, which is capable of perpetual progress in drawing nearer to his nature, and shall partake of the divine eternity, when time and the world shall be no more. This is all that is respectable in man. By this alone he is raised above perishable substances, and allied to those that are celestial and immortal. This part of our nature, then, let us cultivate with care, and, on its improvement, rest our self-estimation. If, on the contrary, suffering ourselves to be wholly immersed in matter, plunged in the dregs of sensuality, we behave as if we were made only for the body and its animal pleasures, how degenerate and base