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John xi. 25.
(Preached at the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.]
W in the right hand of him that “ sat on the throne,” said the Prophet of the New Testament," I saw in the right hand of him that " sat on the throne, a book written within and on o the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw " a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, " Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose " the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in " earth, neither under the earth, was able to open " the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept “ much, because no man was found worthy to open, “ and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 66 And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not. “ Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root 6 of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and “ to loose the seven seals thereof."
• In this mysterious manner, the Apostle, who as. cended in the visions of God, and saw into past and future time, represents the restoration of mankind to life. When man had fallen from his state of inno. cence, and all flesh had corrupted their ways, Almighty God, with eyes that for ever overflow with love, looked down upon the earth. He beheld the world; not as he had beheld it at first, when the
morning stars sang together, when all the sons of God shouted for joy, and when he himself pronounced that all was fair and good ; that very world he now beheld involved in confusion and uproar; the original state of things marred; the order of nature destroyed ; the laws of Heaven overturned ; his once beautiful and happy creation defaced and laid in ruins. He beheld his rational offspring, whom he had adorned with his own image, whom he had appointed to immortality, fallen from their primitive innocence, debased with ignorance, depraved with guilt, subjected to vanity, and appointed to dissolution. Following the footsteps of sin, which had thus laid waste his works, he beheld death advancing with swift steps ; extending his dominion over the nations, and shaking his dart in triumph over a subjected world. He saw, he pitied, and he saved.
Although offended with the guilty race, he would not cast them off for ever. His time of visitation was a time of love. In mercy to mankind he devic sed a scheme for our restoration and recovery. But man was not now, as in innocence, in a condi. tion to treat with God by himself. Between finful dust and ashes, and infinite purity, there could be no communication. A Mediator, therefore, was requisite to make peace between heaven and earth, and where was such a Mediator to be found ?
Accordingly, at the declaration of the gracious purpose of God, for the future happiness of the world, when the book of life sealed with its seven seals was brought forth, a strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, “ Who is worthy to take the “ book, and to open the seals thereof ?” Who is
worthy to mediate between an offended God and guilty man ; to unfold the secret purpose of the Most High, and to give life to a world that is dead ? There was filence in heaven, and silence in heaven there might have been for ever ; but in that moment of mercy, the crisis of our fate, the Son of God interposed; “I am the resurrection and the “ life, by me shall the world live. I will forsake “ these mansions of glory, and dwell with men. “ They who now wander in darkness, I will bring “ to light, and life, and immortality ; they are now “ under sentence of death; that sentence shall be *“ executed on me, and I will purchase for them life “ everlalting; they have now gone astray into the “ paths of perdition, I will point out to them the way 66 that leads to the heavens.”
In this manner did Jesus Christ become the resurrection and the life. As the Prophet of the world, he gave us the assurance of life and immortality; as the Priest of the world, he purchased for us life and immortality; and as the King of the world, he set before us the path that leads to life and immortality.
In the first place, then, as the Prophet of the world, he gave us assurance of life and immortality.
Curiosity, or the desire of knowledge, is one of the earliest and one of the strongest emotions of the human soul. No sooner does the mind arrive at maturity, but it proceeds to examine the objects around it, and to extend its researches wider and wider over the whole circuit of creation. With peculiar .earnestness man turns his attention to his own nature, and becomes the object of his own contemplation. But here clouds and darkness surround him. Ho perceives himself a stranger in a wide world, where the plan of nature is very imperfectly known, where the system of things is involved in much obscurity, and where the Author of the universe is a God who hideth himself. Life appears to him as an interme. diate state, but he is ignorant of what was before it, and is as ignorant of what is to come after it. He observes symptoms of decay and marks of mortality on all the productions of nature, the human race not exempted from the general law He sees his friends and companions, one after anonier, perpetually disappearing ; he fees mankind; generation after generation, passing away ; passing to that awful abyss to' which every thing goes, and from which nothing returns. But whither do they go when they depart? Have they withdrawn into everlasting darkness? Or do they still act in another scene? We fee the body incorporate with its kindred elements, and return to the dust from whence it was taken. But what becomes of the soul ? Does it, too, cease to exist? Is the beam of heaven for ever extinguished ? Is the celestial fire which glowed in the heart for ever quenched ? Or beyond the horizon which terminates our present prospect, does a more beautiful and perfect scene present itself, where the tears shall be wiped from the eyes of the mourner, where the wicked shall cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest?
If we consult our affections, we shall be inclined to believe in a future state. Nature is loth to quit its hold. The heart still wishes to be kind to the friends whom once it loved. Imagination takes the hint and indulges us with the pleasing hope of one day meeting. again with the companions whom
we dropt in life. The perfections of the Deity fa. vour these wishes of nature. If God be infinitely wise and infinitely good, he would not have brought us into being only to see the light and to depart for ever. Would a wise builder have erected such a noble fabric to last but for a moment ? On the other hand, if we consult the analogy of nature, the hor. rors of annihilation surround us. All the works of nature leem only made to be destroyed. The leaf that falls from the tree revives no more. The animal that mingles with the earth never rises to life again. Appearances also make against us. The mind seems to depend much upon the body. The temper of the one arises from the state of the other. When the external senses decay, the faculties of the soul are impaired. When the blood ceases to flow, . the spirit evaporates, the last stroke of the pulse seems to put a final period to the whole man.
Between these fears and these wishes of nature, no conclusion can be drawn. After the maturest investigation, and deepest reasoning, all that we arrive at is uncertainty.. We see the traveller involved in the cloud of night, but we know not of any morning that awaits him. The ocean spreads before us vast and dark and awful, but we know not if it will waft us to any.shore. What a disconfolate situation is this to a serious inquiring mind? These thoughts would perplex us at all times, but if they affect us with anxiety in the gay and smiling scenes of life, how will they overwhelm us with horror, when our feet stumble on the dark mountains, and the shadows of the everlasting evening begin to close over our head ? In that hour of terror and dismay, how shall the