« AnteriorContinuar »
philosopher, is in flames, it is not by a demonstration of philosophy that the one is awakened, and the other is left to perish in the ruin; and when both are awakened by the same call, it is not at the bidding of philosophy that the one hastens his escape, while the other lingers in the midst of destruction. They need only to be recovered to the use of senses which were alike suspended with both, that both may flee with equal promptitude from the besetting calamity. And the same of the coming wrath—the same of the consuming fire, that is now ready to burst on the head of the guilty, from the storehouse of treasured vengeance—the same of all the surrounding realities of God, and judgment, and etermity, which lie on every side of us. It is not philosophy which awakes him who has it, to a sense of these things. Neither is it the want of philosophy which keeps him who has it not, fast asleep among the vanities and day-dreams of a passing world. All the powers of philosophy, operating upon all the materials of philosophy, will never dissolve the infatuation of him who is not yet aroused either from the slumbers, or from the visions of carnality. To effect this, there must be either the bestowment of a new sense, or the restoration of an old sense, which has been extinguished. And be he learned or be he unlearned, such an
awakening as this will tell alike upon both.
The simple view of certain simple realities, to which the vast majority of the world are asleep, will put each of them into motion. And when his eyes are once opened by the force of such a demonstration, will he either flee from the coming wrath, or flee for refuge to the hope set before him in the Gosel, without the bidding or the voice of phiosophy to speed his way. - And that the vast majority of the world are, in truth, asleep to all those realities which constitute the great materials of religion, may be abundantly proved by experience—and we cannot proceed far in the details of such a proof, without leading many an individual hearer to carry the topic home to his own experience. r this purpose, let us just compare the kind of feeling and perception which we have about an event that may happen on this side of time, with the feeling and perception about an event, as nearly similar as possible, that will happen on the other side of time, and try how much it is that we are awake as to the former, and asleep as to the latter. Should we assuredly know, that in a few years we are to be translated into a splendid affluence, or sunk into the most abject and deplorable poverty, how keen would be our anticipation, whether of hope or of fear; and why? Because we are awake unto these things. We do assuredly know, that in a few years we pass that myo portal, which leads 8
to bliss, or pain, or annihilation-and these are certainties which we do not keenly anticipate, and just because we are asleep unto these things. Should we behold a neighbour on the same path of enterprise with ourselves, suddenly arrested by the hand of bankruptcy, and be further told to our conviction, that the same fatality is sure to encounter all who are treading that path, we would retrace, or move aside, or do our utmost to evade it—because all awake to the disgrace and wretchedness of bankruptcy. We every month behold such a neighbour o the hand of death—nor can we escape the conviction, that sooner or later, he will cast his unsailing weapon at ourselves; and yet no one practical movement follows the conviction, because we are asleep to a sense of the mighty ruin which awaits us from unsparing and universal mortality. Should the house in which you live, be entered with violence by the executioners of a tyrant's will, and a brother, or a child, be hurried away to a perpetual dungepn—if made to know, that it was because such a doom had been laid upon the whole family, and that sooner or later, its infliction was most surely in reserve for every successive member of it—would not you be looking out in constant terror, and live in constant insecurity, and prove how feelingly you were awake to a sense of the sufferings of an earthly imprisonment? But though death break in upon our dwelling, and lay a ruthless grasp on the dearest of its inmates, and leave the assurance behind him, that he will not cease his inroads on this devoted household, till he has swept it utterly away—all we know of the lonelin.ess of the churchyard, and all we read of the unseen horrors of that eternity to which the impenitent and the unbeliever are carried by the ministers of the wrath of God, fail to disturb us out of the habit of living here, as if here we were to live for ever; and that, just because while awake to all the reality which lieth on this side of the grave, we are asleep to the consideration both of the grave itself, and of all the reality which lies beyond it. Now, the question comes to be, how is this sleep dissipated? Not, we affirm, and all experience will go along with us, not by the power of natural argument—not by the demonstrations of human learning, for these are just as powerless with him who understands them, as with him who makes his want of learning the pretence for putting them away—not by putting the old materials of thought into a new arrangement--not by setting such things as the eye of Nature can see, or its ear can hear, or its heart can conceive, into a new light--not by working in the varied processes of combination, and abstraction, and reasoning, with such simple and elementary ideas as the mind of man can apprehend. The feelings and the suggestions of all our old senses put together, will not make out for us a practical impression of the matters of faith— and there must be a transition as great as that by which man awakens out of the sleep of nature, and so comes to see the realities of Nature which are around him—-there must be a something equivalent to the communication of a new sense, ere' a reality comes to be seen in those eternal things, where no reality was felt or seen, however * it may have been acknowledged beore. It is true, that along the course of our ordinary existence, we are awake to the concerns of our ordinary existence. But this is not a wakefulness which goes to disturb the profoundness of our insensibility, as to the concerns of a higher existence. We are in one sense awake, but in another most entirely, and, to all human appearance, most hopelessly and irrecoverably asleep. We are just in the same condition with a man who is dreaming, and so moves for the time in a pictured world of his own. He is not steeped in a more death-like indifference to the actual and the peopled world around him, than the man who is busy for the short and fleeting pilgrimage of his days upon earth, among its treacherous delusions, is shut in all his sensibilities, and all his thoughts, against the certainties of an immortal state. And the transition is not greater from the sleeping fancies of the night to the waking certainties of our daily business, than is the transition from the daydreams of a passing world, to those sub
stantial considerations, which wield a pre
siding authority over the conduct of him who walketh not by the sight of that which is around him, but by the faith of the unseen things that are above him, and before him. To be thus translated in the habit of our mind, is beyond the power of the most busy and intense of its natural exercises. It needs the power of a new and simple manifestation; and as surely as the dreamer on his bed behooves to be awakened, ere he be restored to a just sense of his earthly condition, and of his earthly circumstances, so surely must there be a distinct awakening made to pass on the dark, and torpid, and overborne faculties of us all, ere the matters of faith come to be clothed to our eye in the characters of certainty, and we be inade truly to apprehend the bearing in which we stand to the God who is now looking over us, to the eternity which is now ready to absorb us. This awakening calls for a peculiar and a preternatural application We say preternatural, for such is the obstimacy of this sleep of nature, that no power within the compass of nature can put an end to it. It withstands all the demonstrations of arithmetic. Time moves on without disturbing
it. The last messenger lifts many a note of preparation, but so deep is the lethargy of our text, that he is not heard. Every year do his approaching footsteps become more distinct and more audible; yet every year rivets the affections of the votary of sense more tenaciously than before, to the scene that is around him. One would think, that the fall of so many acquaintances on every side of him, might at length have reached an awakening conviction into his heart. One would think, that standing alone, and in mournful survey amid the wreck of former associations, the spell might have been already broken, which so fastens him to a perishable world. 0, why were the tears he shed over his children's grave, not followed up by the deliverance of his soul from this sore infatuation ? Why, as he hung over the dying bed of her with whom he had so oft taken counsel about the plans and the interests of life, did he not catch a glimpse of this world's vanity, and did not the light of truth break in upon his heart from the solemn and apprehended realities beyond it? But no. The enchantment, it would appear, is not so easily dissolved. The deep sleep which the Bible speaks of, is not so easily broken. The conscious infirmitics of age cannot do it. The frequent and touching specimens of mortality around us, cannot do it. The rude entrance of death into our own houses, and the breaking up of our own families, cannot do it. The melting of our old society away from us, and the constant succession of new faces, and new families, in their place, cannot do it. The tolling of the funeral bell, which has rung so many of our companions across the confines of eternity, and in a few little years, will perform the same office for us, cannot do it. It often happens, in the visions of
the night, that some fancied spectacle of
terror, or shriek of alarm, have frightened us out of our sleep, and our dream together. But the sleep of worldliness stands its ground against all this. We hear the moanings of many a death-bed—and we witness its looks of imploring anguish—and we watch the decay of life, as it glimmers on
wards to its final extinction—and we hear the last breath—and we pause in the solemn
stillness that follows it, till it is broken in upon by the bursting agony of the weeping
attendants——and in one day more, we revisit the chamber of him, who, in white and
shrouded stateliness, lies the effigy of what
he was—and we lift the border that is upon
the dead man's countenance, and there we
gaze on that brow so cold, and those eyes
so motionless—and, in two days more, we
follow him to his sepulchre, and mingled
with the earth, among which he is to be
laid, we behold the skulls and the skeletons
of those who have gone bésore him—and it
is the distinct understanding of nature, that
soon shall have every one of us to go through the same process of dying, and add our mouldering bodies to the mass of corruption that we have been contemplating. But mark the derangement of nature, and how soon again it falls to sleep among the delusions of a world, of the vanity of which it has recently got so striking a demonstration. Look onwards but one single day more, and you behold every trace of this loud and warning voice dissipated to nothing. The man seemed, as if he had been actually awakened; but it was only the start and the stupid glare of a moment, after which he has lain him down again among the visions and the slumbers of a soul that is spiritually dead. He has not lost all sensibility any more than the man that is in a midnight trance, who is busied with the imaginations of a dream. But he has gone back again to the sensibilities of a world which he is so speedily to abandon; and in these he has sunk all the sensibilities of that everlasting world, on the confines of which he was treading but yesterday. All is forgotten amid the bargains,
and the adventures, and the bustle, and the expectation of the scene that is immediately around him. Eternity is again shut out; and amid the dreaming illusions of a fleet. ing and fantastic day, does he cradle his infatuated soul into an utter unconcern about its coming torments, or its coming triumphs. Yes! my brethren, we have heard the man of serious religion denounced as a visionary. But if that be a vision which is a short-lived deceit—and that be a sober reality which survives the fluctuations both of time and of fancy--tell us if such a use of the term be not an utter misapplication; and whether, with all the justice, as well as with all the severity of truth, it may not be retorted upon the head of him, who, though prized for the sagacity of a firm, secular and much exercised understanding, and honoured in the market-place for his experience on the walks and ways of this world’s business, has not so much as entered upon the beginning of wisdom, but is toiling away all his skill and all his energy on the frivolities of an idiot's dream.
On the new Heavens and the new Earth.
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—2 Peter iii. 13.
THERE is a limit to the revelations of the Bible about futurity, and it were a mental or spiritual trespass to go beyond it. The reserve which it maintains in its informations, we also ought to maintain in our inquiries—satisfied to know little on every subject, where it has communicated little, and feeling our way into regions which are at present unseen, no further than the light of Scripture will carry us.
But while we attempt not to be “wise above that which is written,” we should attempt, and that most studiously, to be wise up to that which is written. The disclosures are very few and very partial, which are given to us of that bright and beautiful economy, which is to survive the ruins of our present one. But still there are such disclosures—and on the principle of the things that are revealed belonging unto us, we have a right to walk up and down, for the purpose of observation, over the whole actual extent of them.
What is made known of the details of immortality, is but small in the amount, nor are we furnished with the materials of any thing like a graphical or picturesque exhibition of its abodes of blessedness. But still
somewhat is made known, and which, too, may be addressed to a higher principle than curiosity, being like every other Scripture, “profitable both for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness.” In the text before us, there are two leading points of information, which we should like successively to remark upon. The first is, that in the new economy which is to be reared for the accommodation of the blessed, there will be materialism, not merely new heavens, but also a new earth. The second is, that, as distinguished from the present, which is an abode of rebellion, it will be an abode of righteousness. I. We know historically that earth, that a solid material earth, may form the dwelling of sinless creatures, in full converse and friendship with the Being who made them— that, instead of a place of exile for outcasts, it may have a broad avenue of communication with the spiritual world, for the descent of ethereal beings from on high—that, like the member of an extended family, it may share in the regard and attention of the other members, and along with them be gladdened by the presence of him who is the Father of them all. To inquire how this
can be, were to attempt a wisdom beyond Scripture: but to assert that this has been, and therefore may be, is to keep most strictl and modestly within the limits of the record. For, we there read, that God framed an apparatus of materialism, which, on his own surveying, he pronounced to be all very good, and the leading features of which may still be recognised among the things and the substances that are around us—and that he created man with the bodily organs and senses which we now wear—and placed him under the very canopy that is over our heads—and spread around him a scenery, perhaps lovelier in its tints, and more smiling and serene in the whole aspect of it, but certainly made up, in the main, of the same objects that still compose the prospect of our visible contemplations—and there, working with his hands in a garden, and with trees on every side of him, and even with animals sporting at his feet, was this inhabitant of earth, in the midst of all those earthly and familiar accompaniments, in full possession of the best immunities of a citizen of heaven—sharing in the delight of angels, and while he gazed on the very beauties which we ourselves gaze upon, rejoicing in them most as the tokens of a present and presiding Deity. It were venturing on the region of conjecture to affirm, whether, if Adam had not fallen, the earth that we now tread upon, would have been the everlasting abode of him and his posterity. But certain it is, that man, at the first, had for his place this world, and, at the same time, for his privilege, an unclouded feliowship with God, and, for his prospect, an immortality, which death was neither to intercept nor put an end to. He was terrestrial in respect of condition, and yet celestial in respect both of character and enjoyment. His eye looked outwardly on a landscape of earth, while his heart breathed upwardly in the love of heaven. And though he trode the solid platform of our world, and was compassed about with its horizon—still was he within the circle of God's favoured creation, and took his place among the freemen and the denizens of the great spiritual commonwealth. This may serve to rectify an imagination of which we think that all must be conscious—as if the grossness of materialism was only for those who had degenerated into the grossness of sin; and that, when a spiritualizing process had purged away all our corruption, then, by the stepping-stones of a death and a resurrection, we should be borne away to some ethereal region, where sense, and body, and all in the shape either of audible sound, or of tangible substance, were unknown. And hence that strangeness of impression which is felt by you, should the supposition be offered, that in the place of eternal blessedness there
will be ground to walk upon; or scenes of luxuriance to delight the corporeal senses; or the kindly intercourse of friends talking familiarly, and by articulate converse together; or, in short, any thing that has the least resemblance to a local territory, filled with various accommodations, and peopled over its whole extent by creatures formed like ourselves—having bodies such as we now wear, and faculties of perception, and thought, and mutual communication, such as we now exercise. The common imagination that we have of paradise on the other side of death, is, that of a lofty aerial region, where the inmates float in ether, or are mysteriously suspended upon nothing— where all the warm and sensible accompaniments which give such an expression of strength, and life, and colouring, to our present habitation, are attenuated into a sort of spiritual element, that is meagre, and imperceptible, and utterly uninviting to the eye of mortals here below—where every vestige of materialism is done away, and nothing left but certain unearthly scenes that have no power of allurement, and certain unearthly ecstacies, with which it is felt impossible to sympathize. The holders of this imagination forget all the while, that really there is no essential connection between materialism and sin—that the world which we now inhabit, had all the amplitude and solidity of its present materialism, before sin entered into it— that God so far, on that account, from looking slightly upon it, after it had received the last touch of his creating hand, reviewed the earth, and the waters, and the firmament, and all the green herbage, with the living creatures, and the man whom he had raised in dominion over them, and he saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was all very good. They forget that on the birth of materialism, when it stood out in the freshness of those glories which the great Architect of Nature had impressed upon it, that then the “morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” They forget the appeals that are made every where in the Bible to this material workmanship—and how, from the face of these visible heavens, and the garniture of this earth that we tread upon, the greatness and the goodness of God are reflected on the view of his worshippers. No, my brethren, the object of the administration we sit under, is to extirpate sin, but it, is not to sweep away materialism. By the convulsions of the last day, it may be shaken, and broken down from its present arrangements, and thrown into such fitful agitations, as that the whole of its existing frame-work shall fall so pieces, and by a heat so servent as to melt its most solid elements, may it be utterly dissolved. And thus may the earth again become without form, and
void, but without one particle of its substance going into annihilation. Out of the ruins of this second chaos, may another heaven and another earth be made to arise; and a new materialism, with other aspects of magnificence and beauty, emerge from the wreck of this mighty transformation; and the world be peopled as before, with the varieties of material loveliness, and space be again lighted up into a firmament of material splendour. Were our place of everlasting blessedness so purely spiritual as it is commonly imagined, then the soul of man, after, at death, having quitted his body, would quit it conclusively. That mass of materialism with which it is associated upon earth, and which many regard as a load and an incumbrance, would have leave to putrefy in the grave without being revisited by supernatural power, or raised again out of the inanimate dust into which it had resolved. If the body be indeed a clog and a confinement to the spirit, instead of its commodious tenement, then would the spirit feel lightened by the departure it had made, and expatiate in all the buoyancy of its emancipated powers, over a scene of enlargement. And this is, doubtless, the prevailing imagination. But why, then, after having made its escape from such a thraldom, should it ever recur to the prison-house of its old materialism, if a prison-house it really be. Why should the disengaged spirit again be fastened to the drag of that grosser and heavier substance, which many think has only the effect of weighing down its activity, and infusing into the pure element of mind an ingredient which serves to cloud and to enfeeble it. In other words, what is the use of a day of resurrection, if the union which then, takes place is to deaden, or to reduce all those energies that are commonly ascribed to the living principle, in a state of separation? But, as a proof of some metaphysical delusion upon this subject, the product, perhaps, of a wrong though fashionable philosophy, it would appear, that to embody the spirit is not the stepping-stone to its degradation, but to its preferment. The last day will be a day of triumph to the righteous—because the day of the re-entrance of the spirit to its much-loved abode, where its faculties, so far from being shut up into captivity, will find their free and kindred developement in such material organs as are suited to them. The fact of the resurrection proves, that, with man at least, the state of a disembodied spirit, is a state of unnatural violence—and that the resurrection of his body is an essential step to the highest persection of which he is susceptible, And it is indeed an homage to that materialism, which many are for expunging from the
that ere the immaterial soul of man has reached the ultimate glory and blessedness which are designed for it, it must return and knock at that very grave where lie the mouldered remains of the body which it wore—and there inquisition must be made for the flesh, and the sinews, and the bones, which the power of corruption has perhaps for centuries before, assimilated to the earth that is around them—and there, the minute atoms must be re-assembled into a structure that bears upon it the form and the lineaments, and the general aspect of a man— and the soul passes into this material frame-work, which is hereafter to be its lodging-place for ever—and that, not as its prison, but as its pleasant and befitting habitation—not to trammelled, as some would have it, in a hold of materialism, but to be therein equipped for the services of eternity—to walk embodied among the bowers of our second paradise—to stand embodied in the presence of our God. There will, it is true, be a change of personal constitution between a good man before his death, and a good man after his resurrection—not, however, that he will be set free from his body, but that he will be set free from the corrupt principle that is in his body—not the materialism by which he is now surrounded will be done away, but that the taint of evil by which this materialism is now pervaded, will be done away. Could this be effected without dying, then death would be no longer an essential stepping-stone to paradise. But it would appear of the moral virus which has been transmitted downwards from Adam, and is now spread abroad over the whole human family—it would appear, that to get rid of this, the old fabric must be taken down, and reared anew ; and that, not of other materials, but of its own materials, only delivered of all impurity, as is by a refining process in the sepulchre. It is thus, that what is “sown in weakness, is raised in power”—and for this purpose, it is not necessary to get quit of materialism, but to get quit of sin, and to purge materialism of its malady. It is thus that the dead shall come forth incorruptible— and those, we are told, who are alive at this great catastrophe, shall suddenly and mysteriously be changed. While we are compassed about with these vile bodies, as the Apostle emphatically terms them, evil is present, and it is well, if through the working of the Spirit of grace, evil does not prevail. To keep this besetting enemy in check, is the task and the trial of our Christianity on earth—and it is the detaching of this poisonous ingredient which constitutes that for which the believer is represented as groaning earnestly, even the redemption of the body that he now wears, and which
future state of the universe altogether—
will then be transformed into the likeness