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mercy, but specifies the conditions, on which mercy may be obtained. It attributes that whole system of measures, which have been adopted for human salvation, to the intervention and sufferings of that august personage, in whom dwelt the fulness of Deity.
From the facts, which have now been stated, it appears, that christians of ordinary abilities and information, have not only a more established belief in a future state, than uninspired philosophy could impart; but far more distinct, consistent, and rational views on the subject.
II. Our condition, as moral agents in a state of trial, is materially different from that of the heathen. All beyond the grave was to them peculiarly a land of darkness and shadows. All was obscure and fleeting. Nothing was well established, or well defined. If the soul were not extinguished by death, they knew nothing of its destiny;-whether it would pass into the bodies of various animals ;-how long these transitions might continue;-or whether the soul, as a distinct agent, would ever become stationary. Without discarding the whole system of pagan mythology, they could not be ascertained, even should there be a retribution, by what law its decisions would be regulated.
Upon us, on the contrary, so copious a flood of light hath burst from that world, which was otherwise concealed, as to leave all terrestrial objects scarcely distinguishable. If christianity be true, the present life is nothing, and that, which succeeds, is every thing. Whether we cast our eyes to the heavens above, or look on the earth beneath, nothing imperishable is presented to our view, but human beings. All the monuments of human art shall crumble to ruins,the earth itself shall wax old as a garment,-" all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as a leaf falleth off from the vine, and the falling fig from the fig tree." But the human soul is neither annihilated nor impaired by all the changes of the material universe. It will exist with all its powers of acting, of enjoying, and suffer
ing. It will forever advance in knowledge, glory, and mor: al excellence, or sink in darkness, pollution, and misery. That intellectual spark, which our Creator hath placed within us, will soon kindle into the clear and resplendent glow of the Seraph, or into those flames of hatred, malice, and rage, that will eternally torment the reprobate. With such a belief, and with such expectations, our responsibility must be inexpressibly great; and, in the day of final judgment, the impenitent believer in revealed religion, will have occasion to envy the milder doom of pagan sinners.
III. In the light of our subject, we perceive the importance of the pastoral office. It relates to the immortal interests of man. "We are unto God," saith the apostle, "a sweet savour of Christ, in them, that are saved, and in them, that perish. To the one we are the savour of life unto life, to the other, the savour of death unto death."
As God has appointed, that the preaching of the word should be the ordinary medium, through which the gift of eternal life shall be bestowed on men, my fathers and brethren will permit me to suggest, how deeply we are answerable, both for the truth of our doctrines, and the clearness, with which we deliver them. What can be more important, than to give a true and distinct answer to this inquiry, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" If the physician mistakes the disorder of his patient, or the remedies, which ought to be applied, no worse effect can result from his error, than the taking of a few years from human life. If the jurist gives bad counsel to his client, the latter is forced to abandon prematurely that property, of which death must unavoidably divest him. If the statesman discerns not the true interest of his country, the evils resulting may indeed be extensive, but admit a remedy from his more upright or discerning successors. But, if the spiritual guide knows not the way of salvation, or fails of rendering it plain to his audience, the error admits no remedy,-their loss is irretrieva ble; for the things, which are not seen are eternal." Nor does the subject less clearly teach us how well becoming
is seriousness to a christian minister. Men, who have in view a great object, cannot indulge habitual levity. This results from our natures. Such an object, by absorbing the attention, prevents smaller things from gaining access to the mind: or, if not, a comparison between them and that great object, to the contemplation of which the mind is accustomed, shows how unworthy the former are to engross human anxiety. It is asserted of that illustrious warrior and statesman, who is so justly the boast of our nation, that, during the more critical years of the revolutionary contest, he was seldom known to indulge in the least hilarity. The reason is obvious. He felt as a man, on whose shoulders rested the burden of a nation's cares. The christian minister has an object still more momentous. In his view are life and immortality; and this in relation not only to himself, but to his people. These considerations are rendered the more impressive by those instances of mortality, which so frequently occur. Every year the king of terrors makes new inroads on this Convention, and returns loaded with fresh spoils, to his abode of darkness and silence. Our fathers and brethren are not suffered to continue by reason of death. Several, whom we were accustomed to meet on occasions similar to the present, we shall behold no more, until "they, who are in their graves, shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth."
IV. If, at the dissolution of the body, immortal life is either gained or lost; how extremely important and difficult is the duty of the christian minister, when visiting the sick and the dying!
It is, indeed, of all hazards the most dreadful, to defer religion to a dying bed; and there is much reason to fear, that they who are then unjust, will be unjust still. But, though this is to be apprehended, it is not to be deemed a certainty. We know of no evidence, which proves, that the probation of man is closed, while reason and life remain. The sinner, whe truly repents, will obtain immortal life, whatever be the state of his health, when this repentance commences. The days
and hours of sickness have, therefore, an immense value. And there are no occasions, on which ministerial address, and prudence, and resolution, are more severely tried. To conceal from a sick person his real danger is indeed the most inconsistent and cruel tenderness; though the communication ought, doubtless, to be made with all possible caution. To a dying christian, why should we be unwil ling to give information, that his season of labour and conflict is nearly brought to a close? From a dying sinner, why should we dare to conceal a truth, the knowledge of which, by the power of divine grace, may contribute to his eternal salvation?
V. If so wide is the distinction between the religion of Christ and religion of nature, (as the latter has been understood both by ancient and modern pagans ;) and, if it has been found after a long and extensive experiment, that, without divine revelation, the doctrine of immortality and a retribution is never likely to be made known, it is a duty imperiously demanded of christians to communicate their religion, to the heathen. If talents and learning are well employed as doubtless they are, in collating manuscripts and versions, so that, if possible, no jot nor tittle, may be taken from the word of God, or added to it; how undeniably commendable are their labors, who at every personal hazard, preach among the gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ! If, to preserve, restore, or expunge a single sentence, agreeably to the best evidence, that may be obtained, is an object, deserving severe and long continued scrutiny; how vast, how noble is the object of communicating to millions, essentially ignorant and degraded by vice, not a few sentences only, but the whole volume of divine truth!
VI. Finally, if the soul is immortal, as christianity assures us, vast importance must be attached to every human ac tion. Every deed of christian charity-every act of munificence proceeding from the love of God, will be had in everlasting remembrance.
The occasion, on which we solicit y our charity is well
known. We speak in behalf of the fatherless, and of such as have no helper. We invite you to deeds, by which the widow's heart, too long accustomed to notes of grief, shall be made to sing for joy; deeds, which shall be recognized to your infinite advantage at the day of judgment. For, "when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him," he will graciously condescend to say to them, whose beneficence has proceeded from "the good treasure of a good heart, I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: I was naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. For, inasmuch, as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."