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wah. How happy therefore is an intellectual being, who, by prayer and meditation, by virtue and good works, opens this communication between God and his own soul! Though the whole creation frowns, and all nature looks black about him, he has his light and support within, that are able to cheer his mind, and bear him up in the midst of all those horrors which encompass him. He knows that his belper is at hand, and is always nearer to him than any thing can be, which is capable of annoying or terrifying hini. In the midst of calumny or contempt, he attends to that Being who whispers better things within his soul, and whom he looks upon as his defender, his glory, and the lifter-up of his head. In his deepest solitude and retirement, he knows that he is in company with the greatest of beings ; and perceives within himself, such real sensations of his presence, as are more delightful than any thing that can be met with in the conversation of his creatures. Even in the hour of death, hé considers the pains of bis dissolution to be only the breaking down of that partition, which stands betwixt his soul and the sight of that Being who is always present with him, and is about to manifest itself to hiin in fulness of joy. :
If we would be thus happy, and thus sensible of our Ma. ker's presence, from the secret effects of his mercy and goodness, we must keep such a watch over all our thoughts, that, in the language of the Scriptore, his soul. may have pleasure in us. We must take care not to grieve his holy spirit, and endeavour to make the meditations of our hearts always acceptable in his sight, that he may delight thus to reside and dwell in us. The light of nature could direct Sedeca to this doctrine, in a very remarkable passuge in one of his epistles : “ There is (says he) a holy spirit residing in us, who watches and observes both good and evil men, and will treat us after the same manner that we treat him." Bụt I shall conclude this discourse with those more emphatical words in divine revelation : "If a man love me, he will keep my words ; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.".
Our imperfect knowledge of a future state, suited to the con
dition of man. THE sceptic, who is dissatisfied with the obscurity which Divine Providence has wisely thrown over the future state, conceives that more information would be reasonable and salutary. He desires to have his view enlarged beyond the limits of this corporeal scene. Instead of resting upon evi dence which requires discussion, which must be supported by much reasoning, and which, after all, he alleges yields very imperfect information, he demands the everlasting man-. sions to be so displayed, as to place faith on a level with the evidence of sense. What noble and happy effects, he exclaims, would instantly follow, if man thus beheld his present and his future existence at once before him! He would thep become worthy of his rank in the creation. Instead of being the sport, as now, of degrading passions and childish attachments, he would act solely on the principles of immortality. His pursuit of virtue would be steady ; his life would be undisturbed and happy. Superior to the attacks of distress, and to the solicitations of pleasure, he would advance, by a regular progress, towards those divine rewards and honours which were continually present to his view.-Thus fancy, with as much ease and confidence as if it were a perfect judge of creation, erects a new world to itself, and exults with admiration of its own work. But let us pause, and suspend this admiration, till we coolly examine the consequences that would follow from this supposed reformation of the universe.
Consider the nature and circumstances of man. Introduced into the world in an indigent condition, he is supported at first by the care of others; and, as soon as he begins to act for himself, fipds labour and industry to be necessary for sustaining his life, and supplying his wants. Mutual de
fence and interest give rise to society; and society, when formed, requires distinctions of property, diversity of conditions, subordination of ranks, and a multiplicity of occupations, in order to advance the general good. The services of the poor, and the protection of the rich, become reciprocally necessary. The governors and the governed, must coopcrate for general safety. Various arts must be studied; some respecting the cultivation of the mind, others the care of the body; some to ward off the evils, and some to provide the conveniences of life. In a word, by the destination of his Creator, and the necessities of his nature, man commences, at once, an active, not merely a contemplative be. ing. Religion assumes him as such. It supposes him em. ployed in this world, as on a busy stage. It regulates, but does not abolish, the enterprises and cares of ordinary life. It addresses itself to the various ranks in society ; to the rich and the poor, to the magistrate and the subject. It re. bukes the slothful; directs the diligent how to labour; and requires every man to do his own business.
Suppose, now, that veil to be withdrawn which conceals another world from our view. Let all obscurity vanish; let us no longer “see darkly, as through a glass ;" but let every man enjoy that intuitive perception of divine and eternal objects, which the sceptic was supposed to desire. The im. mediate effect of such a discovery would be, to annihilate in our eye all human objects, and to produce a total stagnation in the affairs of the world. Were the celestial glory exposed to our admiring view ; did the angelic harmony sound in our enraptured ears what earthly concerns could have the power of er,gaging our attention for a single moment? All the studies and pursuits, the arts and labours, which now employ the activity of man, which support the order, or promote the happiness of society, would lie ne. glected and alsandoned. Those desires and fears, those hopes and interests, by which we are at present stimulated, would cease to operate. Human life would present no objects sufficient to rouse the mind; to kindle the spirit of enterprise, or to urge the hand of industry. If the mere sense of duty engaged a good man to take some part in the business of the world, the task, when submitted to, would prove distasteful. Even the preservation of life would be slighted, if he were not bound to it by the authority of God. Impatient of his confinement within this tabernacle of dust, languishing for the happy day of his translation to those glorious regions which
were displayed to his sght; he would sojourn on earth as a melancholy exile. Whatever Providence has prepared for the entertainment of man, would be viewed with contempt. Whatever is now attractive in society, would appear insipid. In a word, he would be no longer a fit inhabitant of this. world, nor be qualified for those exertions which are allotted to him in his present sphere of being. But, all his faculties being sublimated above the measure of humanity, he would be in the condition of a being of superior order, who, obliged to reside among men, would regard their pursuits with scorn, as dreams, trifles, and puerile amusements of a day.
But to this reasoning it may perhaps be replied, that such consequences as I have now stated, supposing them to follow, deserve not much regard. -For what though the present arrangement of human affairs were entirely changed, by a clearer view, and a stronger impression of our future state ; would not such a change prove the highest blessing to man? Is not his attachment to worldly objects the great source both of his misery and his guilt ? Employed in perpetual contemplation of heavenly objects, and in preparation for the enjoyment of them, would he not become more virtuous, and of course more happy, than the nature of his present employments and attachments permits him to be ?--Allowing for a moment, the consequence to be such, this much is yielded, that upon the supposition which was made, man would not be the creature which he now is, nor human life the state which we now behold. How far the change would contribute to his welfare, comes to be considered. .
If there be any principle fully ascertained by religion, it is, that this life was intended for a state of trial and improvement to man. His preparation for a better world required a gradual purification, carried on by steps of progressive discipline. The situation, therefore, here assigned him, was such as to answer this design, by calling forth all his active powers, by giving full scope to his moral dispositions, and bringing to light his whole character. Hence it became proper, that difficulty and temptation should arise in the course of his duty. Ample rewards were promised to virtue ; but these rewards were left, as yet, in obscurity and distant prospect. The impressions of sense were so balanced against the discoveries of immortality, as to allow a conflict between faith and sense, between conscience and desire, between present pleasure and future good. In this conflict, the souls of good men are tried, improved, and strengthebed.
In this field, their honours are reaped. Here are formed the capital virtues of fortitude, temperance, and self-denial; moderation in prosperity, patience in adversity, submission to the will of God, and charity and forgiveness to men, amidst the various competitions of worldly interest,
Such is the plan of Divine wisdom for man's improvement. But put the case, that the plan devised by human wisdom were to take place, and that the rewards of the just were to be more fully displayed to view ; the exercise of all those graces which I have mentioned, would be entirely superseded. Their very names would be unknown. Every temptation being withdrawn, every worldly attachment being subdued by the overpowering discoveries of eternity, no trial of sina cerity, no discrimination of characters, would remain ;.no opportunity would be afforded for those active exertions, which are the means of purifying and perfecting the good. On the competition between time and eternity, depends the chief exercise of human virtue. The obscurity which at present hangs over eternal objects, preserves the competition. Remove that obscurity, and you remove human virtue from its place. You overthrow that whole system of discipline by which imperfect creatures are, in this life, gradually trained up for a more perfect state.
This, then, is the conclusion to which at last we arrive : that the full display which was demanded, of the heavenly glory, would be so far from improving the human soul, that it would abolish those virtues and duties, which are the great instruments of its improvement. It would be unsuitable to the character of man in every view, either as an active being, or a moral agent. It would disqualify him from taking part in the affairs of the world; for relishing the pleasures, or for discharging the duties of life : in a word, it would entirely defeat the purpose of his being placed on this earth. And the question, why the Almighty has been pleased to leave a spiritual world, and the future existence of man under so much obscurity, resolves in the end into this, why there should be such a creature as man in the universe of God ?-Such is the issue of the improvements proposed to be made on the plans of Providence. They add to the disGoveries of the superior wisdom of God, and of the presump tion and folly of man.