« AnteriorContinuar »
bler purposes, than the animals around us. does not appear consistent with God's wisdom and goodness, and with the economy every where ob. servable in his works, that he should make such beings for so low a sphere as the present world, and for so short a duration, as the present life. If our existence is to cease with the death of the body, why has the inspiration of the Almighty given us understanding ? If we are designed only to eat, drink and sleep, provide a successor, and then retire to eternal oblivion, of what use is forethought and reflection, moral discernment, and a sense of obligation ?
In the present state we find ourselves capable of progress and improvement; but we never rise to the perfection, to which, in a longer space, we might attain. And many of our mortal race are removed, before they have opportunity for any improvement at all. Must there not, then, be another state, in which we may reach the perfection, of which our nature is capable, but which is unattainable here ? Instinct in beasts is perfect at first. The young are as sagacious as the old in finding, or constructing their habitations, in seeking and distinguishing
their proper food, in retreating from dangers, in taking their prey, in evading or resisting an enemy, and in every thing, which belongs to their sphere of action. In man reason opens gradually, is improved by experience, and assisted by example and instruction, and under proper culture makes observable
progress. But before it can reach its end, its progress is arrested by death. Must we not, then, conclude, that there is another state, in which the soul may still push forward, and reach that degree of knowledge and virtue, for which the present life is too short?
There is in all men a desire of immortality; and this desire will doubtless be gratified.
This world is well adapted to our condition, as animals. Every passion and inclination which belongs to our animal nature, and is not a corruption or perversion of that nature, finds an object to gratify it. And shall we suppose, that the desire of immortality has no object ?- This would be to suppose, that the works of God are inconsistent and unharmonious. That the desire of immortality is wrought in us by the Creator is evident from its u., niversality. If it were the effect of education, it would not possess all men in all ages and countries, but would be confined to particular persons or places. This argument the Apostle considers, as conclusive. “ We know, that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house eternal in the heavens; for in this we groan earnestly, desiring to be cloathed upon with our house from heaven. Now he who hath wrought us to this selfsame thing is God,” This is evident, “ for the whole creation," or the whole human race, “ groaneth and travaileth together.” We
carry with us evidence, not only of immor. tality, but also of accountableness. Our reason, with little instruction, sees a difference between vir. tue and vice. The human mind, indeed, without assistance would make but small improvement in science of any kind, and less in morals, than in some other branches of knowledge. But whenev. er the difference between moral good and evil is stated, the mind immediately discerns and allows it.
There is in every man a principle of conscience, which, being in any degrce enlightened, feels its obligation to avoid the evil and embrace the good. Allowed wickedness is accompanied with remorse; the work of righteousness is peace.
Certainly, then, we are accountable beings, and, in a future state, shall receive according to our characters. How solemn is the thought, that we are under the eye of a holy God, that we are on probation for his favour, that we are responsible for our actions, that we must exist for ever in another state, and that our condition there will be accord. ing to the course which we have pursued here? Does our very make teach us these momentous truths ? Surely we may say, “We are fear fully made.”
The saine may be said, 4thly, In respect of our frailty.
Such is the tenderness of our frame, that in this rough and dangerous world, in which we live, we are always exposed to casualties and wounds, diseases and death. It may therefore, with much propriety be said, “We are fearfully made.” The Psalmist prays,
“O make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am. Surely every man, at his best state, is altogether vanity.” The scripture, to express the vanity and frailty of human life, compares it to a shadow, a flower, dust and wind. The life of man depends on the breath. “God breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul." " When his breath goeth forth, his thoughts perish, and he returneth to his dust.” How precarious is our life? It is the breath in our nostrils. It is a puff of air, a vapour which soon vanishes. It is a wind which passes by, and comes not again.
The lungs, which are the instruments of respiration, are a tender and delicate substance. It is a small passage, which conveys the air to the inter. nal parts, and remits it for a fresh supply. This operation must be constant. A short suspension would be death. Many external accidents and internal disorders may occur to obstruct the conveyance of air, or destroy the motion of the lungs.
if we consider only this feeble, but essential part of the animal frame, life must appear precarious. But every part of the body, as well as this, is liable to casualty and disease. In this curious and complicated machine are innumerable threads, vessels and springs, on which motion and activi. ty depend. And a wound or rupture in any of them may, under certain circumstances, be fatal. To casualties we are always exposed in our la. bours, journeys, diversions and employments. And the causes of disease may every where attend us. The air which we breathe, and the food, which we eat may be charged with death. Who then can at any time say, He is sure of another hour? We are often in such a critical situation, whether we discern it or not, that there is but a step between us and death.
Had we a clear discernment of the dangers, which attend us wherever we go, and of the weakness of the body in which we dwell, we should live in perpetual fear. It is happy for us, that ma. ny of our dangers are concealed from us ; other. wise, it is probable, we should often be deterred from the necessary occupations of life. But we sce enough to convince us, that we are fearfully made. This conviction should awaken our attention to the vast concerns of immortality.
If we are thus fearfully made, let us acknowledge the care of God's providence in our daily preservation. David, impressed with this thought, thús utters his grateful admiration of the mercies, which attended him. “ I will praise thee, O God, for marvellous are thy works. How precious are thy thoughts unto me! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee.”
How carefully should we examine ourselves, that we may know, what preparation is made for the change which is before us, and which may nearly await us? Beings accountable to God, deAgned for immortality, soon to be removed, and insecure of another day, should not live at uncertainties, should not pass thoughtless along, as if no eye beheld them, and no change were before them. David, in this view of himself, was led to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way ev. erlasting.”
How vain is the world? What find we here wor. thy of our supreme affection ? It is but little, which we need; and a little should content us. If we have much, we must soon leave it, and have no more a portion in it. Nor can we tell how soon the parting time will come. “ Our days on earth are a shadow, and there is no abiding.” Let us live as strangers ; indulge no anxiety about the things of this world, but direct our care to the interest of another.
Our experience of God's care in preserving us till this time, encourages us to trust his goodness still. It is happy that our time is in his hands. Let it be devoted to his service, and it will not be terminated too soon. He can preserve the frame, which he has made, tender as it is; and avert the đangers which surround it, numerous as they are. A life employed for his glory, whether it end sooner or later, will end happily. To the faithful Christian death will be gain.
In the view of human frailty, nothing can appear more reasonable than daily prayer. If our life depends on God's will, to his care let us commit ourselves, and in his hands leave all our concerns. Would a man, who believed this day to be his last, neglect to call upon God? Would he go forth into