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ON THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD.
3 PETER iii. 10.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief iu the nights in 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 burnt tip.
HESE words present to us an awful view of the final catastrophe of the world. The dissolution of the material system is an article of our faith, often alluded to in the Old Testament, clearly predicted in the New. It is an article of faith so far from being incredible, that many appearances in nature lead to the belief of it. We see all terrestrial substances changing their form. Nothing that consists of matter, is formed for perpetual duration. Every thing around us, is impaired and consumed by time, waxes old by degrees, and tends to decay. There is reason, therefore, to believe, that a structure so complex as the world, must be liable to the same law; and shall, at some period, undergo the same fate.— Through many changes the earth has already passed; many shocks it has received, and still is often receiving. A great pqrtion of what is now dry land appears, from various tokens, to have been once covered with water. Continents bear the marks of having been violently rent, and torn asunder from one another. New islands have risen-from the bottom of the ocean; thrown up by the force of subterraneous fire. Formidable earthquakes have, in divers quarters, shaken the globe; and at this hour terrify with their alarms, many parts of it. Burning mountains have, for ages, been discharging torrents of flame; and from time to time renew their explosions, in various regions. All these circumstances show, that in the bowels of the earth, the instruments of its dissolution are formed. To our view, who behold only its surface, it may appear firm and unshaken; while its destruction is preparing in secret. The ground on which we tread is undermined. Combustible materials are stored. The train is laid. When the mine is to spring, none of us can foresee.
Accustomed to behold the course of nature proceeding in regular order, we indulge meanwhile our pleasures and pursuits with full 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. Such prospects may not, indeed, be alluring to the bulk of men. But they carry a grandeur and solemnity, which are congenial to some of the most dignified feelings in our nature; and tend to produce elevation of thought. Amidst the circle of levities and follies, of little pleasures and little cares, which fill up the ordinary round of life, it is necessary that we be occasionally excited to attend to what is serious and great. Such events as are now to be the subject of our meditation, awake the slumbering mind; check the licentiousness of idle thought; and bring home our recollection to what most concerns us, as men and Christians.
Let us think what astonishment would have filled our minds, and what devout emotions would have swelled our hearts, if we could have been spectators of the creation of the world; if we had seen the earth when it arose at first without form and void, and beheld its parts arranged by the divine word; if we had heard the voice of the Almighty, calling light to spring forth from the darkness that was on the face of the deep; if we had seen the sun arising, for the first time, in the east with majestic glory; and all nature instantly beginning to teem with life. This wonderful scene, it was impossible that any human eye could behold. It was a spectacle afforded only to angels, and superior spirits. But to a spectacle no less astonishing, the final dissolution ot the world, we know there shall be many human
witnesses. The race of men living in that Use age, shall see the presages of the approaching fatal day. There shall be signs in the sun, as the Scripture informs us, and signs in the moon, and stars; upon the earth, distress of nations, with -perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring*. They shall clearly perceive, that universal nature is tending to ruin. They shall feel the globe shake; shall behold their cities fall; and the final conflagration begin to kindle around them. Realising then this awful scene; imagining ourselves to be already spectators of it, let us,
L Contemplate the Supreme Being directing the dissolution, as he directed the original formation, of the world. He is the great agent in this wonderfuftransaction. It was by him foreseen. It was by him intended; it entered into his plan from the moment of creation. This world was destined from the beginning to fulfil a cer-« tain 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 rime most proper for its termination is come, He who, in the counsels ot his Providence, brings about so many revolutions among mankind; who changetb 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 habitation should be made to pass away. Of the seasanableness 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 shall have nothing to apprehend. . They may remain safe and quiet spectators of the threatening scene. 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 nature, 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 fiy, and be safe. Vol. ii. I i