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in religious acts, or virtuous deeds; in the conscientious discharge of the duties of life; in the exercise of due preparation for the conclusion of human things, and for appearing before the great Judge of the world! Let us now,
III. CONTEMPLATE the soul of man, as remaining unhurt in the midst of this general desolation, when the whole animal creation perishes, and the whole frame of nature falls into ruins. What a high idea does this present, of the dignity pertaining to the rational spirit! The world may fall back into chaos; but, superiour to matter and independent of all the changes of material things, the soul continues the
When the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, the soul of man, stamped for immortality, retains its state unimpaired ; and is capable of flourishing in undecaying youth and vigour. Very different indeed the condition of human spirits is to be, according as their different qualities have marked, and prepared them, for different future mansions. But for futurity they are all destined. Existence, still, is theirs. The capacity of permanent felicity they all possess ; and if they enjoy it not, it is owing to themselves.
Here, then, let us behold what is the true honour and excellence of man. It consists not in his body; which, beautiful or vigorous as it may now seem, is no other than a fabric of dust, quickly to return to dust again. It is not derived from any connection he can forin with earthly things; which, as we have seen, are all doomed to perish. It consists in that thinking part which is susceptible of intellectual improtement and moral worth, which was formed
after the image of God; which is capable of perpetual progress in drawing nearer to his nature; and shall partake of the divine eternity when time and the world shall be no more. This is all that is respectable in man. By this alone he is raised above perishable substances, and allied to those that are celestial and immortal. This part of our nature, then, let us cultivate with care; and, on its improvement, rest our self-estimation. If, on the contrary, suffering ourselves to be wholly immersed in matter, plunged in the dregs of sensuality, we behave as if we were only made for the body and its animal pleasures, how degenerate and base do we become ? Destined to survive this whole material system, sent forth to run the race of immortality and glory, shall we thus abuse our Maker's goodness, degrade our original honour, and sink ourselves into deserved misery? It remains that,
IV. We contemplate the dissolution of the world, as the introduction to a greater and nobler system, in the government of God. We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. * Temporal things are now to give place to things eternal. To this earthly habitation is to succeed the city of the living God. The earth had completed the purpose for which it was created. It had been employed as a theatre on which the human generations were successively to come forth, and to fulfil their term of trial. As long as the period of trial continued, much obscurity was of course to cover the counsels of Providence. It was
* 2 Peter, iii. 13.
appoinsed that all things should appear as coming alike to all; that the righteous should seem often neglected by Heaven, and the wicked be allowed externally to prosper, in order that virtue and piety might undergo a proper test; that it might be shown who were sincere adherents to conscience, and who were mere followers of fortune. The day which terminates the duration of the world, terminates all those seeming disorders. The time of trial is concluded. The final discrimination of characters is made. When the righteous go into everlasting happiness, and the wicked are dismissed into the regions of punishment, the whole mystery of human affairs is unravelled, and the conduct of Providence is justified to man.
Suited to a condition of trial was the state and form of the world which we now inhabit. not designed to be a mansion for innocent and happy spirits ; but a dwelling for creatures of fallen nature and of mixed characters. Hence, those mixtures of pleasure and pain, of disorder and beauty, with which it abounds. Hence, some regions of the earth, presenting gay and pleasing scenes ; others, exhibiting nothing but ruggedness and deformity; the face of nature sometimes brightened by a serene atmosphere and a splendid sun; sometimes disfigured by jarring elements, and overcast with troubled skies. But far unlike shall be the everlasting habitations of the just. Though how they are formed, or what objects they contain, is not given us now to conceive ; nor, in all probability, would our faculties be equal to the conception; the emblematical descriptions of them in Scripture are calculated to excite high ideas of magnificence and glory. This one particular we know with certainty, that therein dwelleth righteousness
that is, complete virtue and eternal order ; and wherever these are found, the most perfect. sources are opened of joy and bliss. This earth was never intended for more than the outer court, the porch, through which the righteous were to pass into the temple and sanctuary of the Divinity. When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be
The inference which follows from what has been said on this subject, cannot be so well expressed as in the words of the Apostle, in the verse immediately following the text, Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness ? Ought not the important discoveries which have been made to us of the designs of the Almighty, and of the destiny of man, to exalt our sentiments, and to purify our life from what is vicious or vain ? While we pursue the business and cares of our present station, and partake of the innocent pleasures which the world affords, let us maintain that dignity of character, which becomes immortal beings; let us act with that circumspection which becomes those who know they are soon to stand before the judgment-seat of the Son of God : in a word, let us study to be what we would wish to be found, if to us the day of the Lord should come.
I know it will occur, that the prospect of that day cannot be expected to have much influence on the present age. The events of which I have treated, must needs, it will be said, belong to some future race of men. Many prophecies yet remain to be
fulfilled. Many preparatory events must take place, before the world is ripe for final judgment. Whether this be the case or not, none of us with certainty know. But allow me to remind you, that to each of us an event is approaching, and not far distant, which shall prove of the same effect with the coming of the day of the Lord. The day of death is, to every individual, the same as the day of the dissolution of the world. The sun may continue to shine ; but to them who are laid in the grave, his light is finally extinguished. The world may remain active, busy, and noisy; but to them all is silence. The voice which gives the mandate, Return again to your dust, is the same with the sound of the last trumpet. Death fixes the doom of every one, finally and irrevocably. This surely is an event which none of us can remove in our thoughts to a remote age. To-morrow, to-day, the fatal mandate may be issued. Watch therefore ; be sober, be vigilant ; ye know not at what hour the Son of Man cometh.
HAVING now treated both of the creation and dis. solution of the world, I cannot conclude without calling your thoughts to the magnificent view which these events give us, of the kingdom and dominion of the Almighty. With reverence we contemplate his hand in the signal dispensations of Providence among men; deciding the fate of battles ; raising up, or overthrowing empires ; casting down the proud, and lifting the low from the dust. But what are such occurrences to the power and wisdom which He displays in the higher revolutions of the universe; by his word, forming or dissolving worlds; at his pleasure, transplanting his creatures from one world