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nature pave the way for prayer, repentance, faith, and all those duties, by means of which we may hope, through a Divine Mediator and Intercessor, to be reconciled to Heaven. Natural and revealed religion here appear in concord. We behold the original dictates of the human heart laying a foundation for the glad reception of the comfortable tidings of the Gospel.
I HAVE thus endeavoured to show in what manner, by regarding the work of the Lord, and considering the operation of his hands, wo may prevent the dangers arising from a thoughtless indulgence of pleasure; we may be furnished with an antidote to the poison which is too often mixed in that intoxicating cup. Human lite is full of troubles. We are all tempted to alleviate them as much as we can, by freely enjoying the pleasurable moments which Providence thinks fit to allow us. Enjoy them we may : But, it wo would enjoy them safely, and enjoy them long; let us tomper them with the fear of God. As soon as this is for
utton and obliterated, the sound of the harp and the viol is changed into the signal of death. The serpent comes forth from the man where it had lain in ambush, and gives a fatal sting. "lastno in moderation is the cordial, in excess it is the bane, of
ON THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN A FUTURE STATE.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness
of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.-PSALM xyi. 11.
THE Apostle Peter, in a discourse which he held to the Jews, applies this passage, in a mystical and prophetical sense, to the Messiah. * But, in its literal and primitive meaning, it expresses the exalted hopes by which the Psalmist David supported himself amidst the changes and revolutions, of which his life was full. By these hopes when iying before Saul, when driven from his throne, and persecuted by an unnatural son, he was enabled to preserve his virtue, and to maintain unshaken trust in God. In that early age of the world, those explicit discoveries of a state of immortality, which we enjoy, had not yet been given to mankind. But though the Sun of righteousness was not arisen, the dawn had appeared of that glorious day which he was to introduce. Even in those ancient times, holy men, as the Apostle writes to the Hebrews, saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them; and, confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, declared that they sought after a better country that is an heavenly.t Indeed, in every age, God permitted such hopes to afford support and consolation to those who served him. The full effect of them we behold in those triumphant expressions of the text, which are to be the subject of this discourse. They lead us to consider, first, The hope of the Psalmist in his present state; Thou wilt shew me the path of life. And secondly, the termination of his hope in that future state, where in the presence of God is fulness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
* Acts, ii, 25.-28
Heb. xi, 13-16
1. Thou wilt shew me the path of life. This plainly imports, that there are different paths, or courses of conduct, which may be pursued by men in this world ; a path which leads to life or happiness, and a path which issues in death or destruction. These opposite lines of conduct are determined by the choice which men make of virtue or of vice; and hence men are divided into two great classes, according as their inclinations lead them to good or evil: The path of life is often a rough and difficult path, followed only by a few. The opposite one is the broad way, in which the multitude walk; seemingly smooth, and strewed with flowers; but leading in the end to death and misery. The path of life conducts us up a steep ascent. The palace of virtue has, in all ages, been represented as placed on the summit of a hill; in the ascent of which labour is requisite, and difficulties are to be surmounted ; and where a conductor is needed, to direct our way, and to aid our steps. · Now, the hope which good men entertain is, that this path of life shall be shewn them by God; that, when their intentions are cipright, God will both instruct them concerning the road which leads to true happiness, and will assist them to pursue it successfully. Among nations where any suitable ideas of God or of virtue began to be formed, hopes of this nature also began to be entertained. It was consonant to the nature of man, to think that the Supreme Being was favourable to virtue. ACcordingly, in the writings of some of the ancient philosophers, we find various obscure traces of this belief, that there was a benign heavenly Spirit, who illuminated the minds of the virtuous, and assisted their endeavours to obtain wisdom and happiness. They even asserted, that no man became great or good, without some inspiration of Heaven.
But what they indistinctly conceived, and could not with confidence rely upon, the doctrine of Christianity hath clearly ex- . plained and fully confirmed; expressly and frequently teaching, that, not only by the external discoveries of revelation, but by the inward operations of his Spirit, he shews to the humble and virtuous the path of life. While, by his word, he instructs them in their duty, by the influence of his grace he assists them in the performance of it. In all revelation there is certainly no doctrine more comfortable than this. It is to good men a noble and pleasing thought, that they are pursuing a path which God has discovered and pointed out to them. For they know that every path, in which he is their conductor, must be honourable, must be safe, must bring them in the end to felicity. They follow that Shepherd of Israel, who always leads his flock into green pastures, and makes them lie down beside the still waters. At the same time, they know that. if there be truth in religion at all, on this principle they may securely rest, that the Divine Being will nex
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ver desert those who are endeavouring to follow out, as they can, the path which he has shewn them. He beholds them here in a state of great imbecility ; surrounded with much darkness; exposed to numberless dangers, from the temptations that assault them without, and the seduction of misguided and disorderly passions within. In this situation, can they ever suspect that the Father of mercies will leave his servants, alone and unbefriended, to struggle up the hill of virtue, without stretching forth a compassionate arm to aid their frailty, and to guide them through the bewildering paths of life? Where were then the God of love? Where, those infinite compassions of his nature, in which all his worshippers have been encouraged to trust?-No: He will send forth his light and his truth to bring them to his holy hill. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and his countenance beholdeth the upright. With him there is no oblique purpose, to turn him aside from favouring the cause of goodness. No undertaking to which he has given his countenance shall prove abortive. No promise that he has made shall be allowed to fail. Whom he loveth, he loveth to the end. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.
The meek will he guide in judgment, and them will he teach his way. His grace shall be sufficient for them, and his strength be made perfect in their weakness. They go from strength to strength; every one of them appeareth before God in Zion, Such are the hopes with which good men in the present life set forth on a course of piety and virtue. Thou wilt shew me the path of life. Let us now proceed,
II. To consider the termination of these hopes in a future state. In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. All happiness assuredly dwells with God. The fountain of life is justly said to be with him. That supreme and independent Being must necessarily possess within himself every principle of beatitude; and no cause from without can possibly affect his untroubled felicity. Among created dependant beings, happiness flows in scattered and feeble streams; streams that are often tinged with the blackness of misery. But from before the throne of God issues the river of life, full, unmixed, and pure; and the pleasures, which now in scanty portions we are permitted to taste, are all derived from that source. Whatever gladdens the hearts of men or angels, with any rea] and satisfactory joy, comes from Heaven. It is a portion of the pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty ; a ray issuing from the brightness of the everlasting life. It is manifest, therefore, that every approach to God must be an approach to felicity. The enjoyment of his immediate presence must be the
consummation of felicity; and it is to this presence the Psalmist here expresses his hope, that the path of life was to conduct him.
The whole of what is implied in arriving at the presence of the Divinity, we cannot expect to comprehend. Such expressions as these of Scripture, beholding the face of God ; being made glad with the light of his countenance, and satisfied with his likeness; seeing light in his light ; seeing no longer darkly as through a glass, but face to face ; seeing him as he is ; are expressions altogether mysterious, conveying sublime though obscure ideas of the most perfect happiness and highest exaltation of human nature. This we know, that the absence of God, the distance at which we are now placed from any communication with our Creator, is one great source of our infelicity. Faith exerts its endeavours, but often ineffectually, to raise our souls to him. He is a God that hideth himself, His ways seem intricate and perplexed. We frequently cannot reconcile them to the conceptions which we had formed of his nature; and with many a suspicion and doubt they perplex the enquiring mind. His works we survey with astonishment. We wonder and adore. But while we clearly trace the footsteps of their great Author, his presence we can never discern. We go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but we cannot perceive him ; on the left hand, where he worketh, hut we connot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that we cannot see him.* Hence, amidst the various sorrows and discouragements of the present state, that exclamation of Job's is often drawn forth from the pious heart, Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat it
Surrounded by such distressing obscurity, no hope more transporting can be opened to a good man, than that a period is to come when he shall be allowed to draw nearer to the Author of his existence, and to enjoy the sense of his presence. In order to convey some faint idea of that future bliss, by such an image as we can now employ, let the image be taken from the most glorious representative of the Supreme Being, with which we are acquainted in this world, the Sun in the heavens. As that resplendent luminary cheers and revives the universe, when, after the darkness of the tempestuous night, it comes forth in the morning with its brightest lustre, and inspires every heart with gladness; as ascending gradually through the heavens, it converts that whole vast extent, over which its beams are diffused, into a region of light; and thus changes entirely the state of objects by arraying all nature in beauty, and transforming it into the image of its own brightness :—Some such change as this, though in a degree infinitely superior, we may conceive the revelation of the Divine Presence to produce upon the human * Job, xxiii. 8, 9.
' Job, xxiii. .