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· lifted up too far that awful veil which co- SERMON
vers futurity. The intention of the Spirit IX, of God was not to gratify the curiosity of the learned, by disclosing to them the fate of monarchies and nations, but to satisfy the serious concerning the general plan, and final issue, of the divine Government. Amidst those distresses which befel Christians during the first ages, the discoveries made in this book were peculiarly seasonable ; as they : shewed that there was an Aimighty Guardian, who watched with particular attention over the interests of the church which he had formed, who foresaw all the commotions which were to happen among the kingdoms of the earth, and would so overrule them as to promote in the end the cause of truth. This is the chief scope of those mystic visions with which the Apostle John was favoured; of seals opened in heaven ; of trumpets sounding; and vials poured forth. The kingdom of darkness was to maintain for a while a violent struggle against the kingdom of light. But at the conclusion, a voice was to be heard, as the voice of many waters and of mighty thunderings, saying, Allelujah, for the Lord God
SERMON Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdoms of this
world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and be shall reign for ever*. Such is the prospect with which the Divine Spirit at intervals enlightens, and with which hé finally términates, the many dark and direful scenes that are exhibited in this book. In closing the canon of scripture, he, with great propriety, leaves upon our mind deep impressions of the triumphs of righteousness, and of the blessedness of the redeemed, After this I beheld, and, lo! a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
These words present a beautiful description of the happiness of saints in heaven ; ' a subject on which it is, at all times, both comfortable and improving to meditate. On this day in particular, when we are to commemorate the dying love of our Saviour, we cannot be better employed than in contemplating what his love hath purchased; in order both to awaken our gratitude, and to confirm our attachment to him. The * Rev. xix. 6.-xi. 15. .
sacrament of the Supper is the oath of our SERMON fidelity. Let us dispose ourselves for cele- ** brating it, by taking a view of the rewards which await the faithful. I shall, for this end, in several observations from the words of the text, taken in connection with the context, endeavour to illustrate, in some imperfect degree, the prospect which is here afforded us of a state of future felicity; and then shall make practical improvement of the subject.
I. What the words of the text most obviously suggest is, that heaven is to be considered as a state of blessed society. A multitude, a numerous assembly, are here represented as sharing together the same felicity and honour. Without society, it is impossible for man to be happy. Place him in a region where he was surrounded with every pleasure; yet there, if he found himself a solitary individual, he would pine and languish. They are not merely our wants, and our mutual dependence, but our native instincts also, which impel us to associate together. The intercourse which we here maintain with our fellows, is a
SERMON source of our chief enjoyments. But, alas! 1x. how much are these allayed by a variety of
disagreeable circumstances that enter into all our connexions ! Sometimes we suffer from the distresses of those whom we love ; and sometimes from their vices or frailties. Where friendship is cordial, it is exposed to the wounds of painful sympathy, and to the anguish of violent separation. Where it is so cool as not to occasion sympathetic pains, it is never productive of much pleasure. The ordinary commerce of the world consists in a circulation of frivolous intercourse, in which the heart has no concern. It is generally insipid, and often soured by the slightest difference in humour, or opposition of interest. We fly to company, in order to be relieved from wearisome correspondence with ourselves; and the vexations which we meet with in society, drive us back again into solitude. Even among the virtuous, dissensions arise ; and disagreement in opinion too often produces alienation of heart. We form few connexions where somewhat does not occur to disappoint our hopes. The beginnings are often pleasing. We flatter ourselves with having
found those who will never give us any SERMON. disgust. But weaknesses are too soon discovered. Suspicions arise ; and love waxes cold. We are jealous of one another, and accustomed to live in disguise. A studied civility assumes the name, without the pleasure, of friendship; and secret animosity and envy are often concealed under the caresses of disseinbled affection.
Hence the 'pleasure of earthly society, like all our other pleasures, is extremely imperfect ; and can give us a very faint conception of the joy that must arise from the society of perfect spirits in a happier world. Here, it is with difficulty that we can select from the corrupted crowd a few with whom we wish to associate in strict union. There, are assembled all the wise, the holy, and the just, who ever existed in the universe of God; without any distress to trouble their mutual bliss, or any source of disagreement to interrupt their perpetual harmony. Artifice and concealment are unknown there. There, no competitors struggle, no factions contend; no rivals supplant each other. The voice of discord