Page images


a plank, or the stroke of a wave. Despondency breaks our efforts; disease enervates our bodies ; and delirium destroys our

Pain excruciates, the asthma enfeebles, the consumption with a lingering death destroys, the man. Thus the world becomes literally a valley of tears.

A virtuous mind is also, in a sense unceasingly, wounded by the sins of others. The husband is not unfrequently obliged to behold his wife, the partner of his bosom, and the most intimate of all his connections, alienated from God and from religion ; a votary to show and amusement; wasting her life on trifles; and advancing to eternity without a hope. The wife is compelled to see her husband profane, false, faithless, a cheat, a gambler, a drunkard, and not unfrequently a duellist bathing his murderous hands in the blood of his friend. The child is compelled to behold the parent, who gave him birth, and to whom the only instinctive regard is reverence and love, deformed by vice, and degraded by infamy. The parent is often pierced with agony by the sight of a graceless child, debased by falsehood, undutifulness, unkindness, and impiety; the victim of seduction; a martyr to evil companions, and evil communications ; deaf to reproof and admonition, to conscience and to God; hopelessly descending in the broad and crooked road; and hastening, in spite of his prayers and tears, to the regions of endless sin and final perdition. The friend is agonized by violated faith, treacherous professions, broken vows, and black ingratitude. The Christian, yearning with benevolence over a world in ruins, is pierced with anguish to see around him a mere place of graves; an immense churchyard, filled with living corruption and moving death ; where spiritual life, the beginning of life eternal, is looked for, extensively, by his wearied, longing, lingering eye in vain ; where the Son of

1 God calls with infinite tenderness and concern, but no Lazarus comes forth; where Mercy wanders, and searches, and pries, to find in the endless train of walking corpses a remaining principle of life; but beholds throughout a great part of the habitable world nothing but despair, desolation and death. God to an immense extent is forgotten, as if the world had been made by another Creator, as if suns arose, rain descended, and seasons rolled around their circuit, under the control of another Ruler ; and as if man derived his life, his breath, and all his blessings, from some other Benefactor. To wealth, to pride, to pleasure, mankind continually say, “Deliver us; for ye are our Gods.” Christ is rejected, despised, and trampled under foot; as if some “other name" beside his were “given under heaven whereby men must be saved; as if some other lawgiver had prescribed the rules of human worship, and obedience; as if some other Saviour had disclosed the way to endless life; as if some other being had become a propitiation for the sins of men ; and as if some other Advocate before the throne of infinite justice were effectually pleading for the divine forbearance, and the final acceptance of sinners. Heaven is shunned, as if it were the final residence of sin and suffering; and hell sought with eagerness and perseverance, as if the river of life flowed from its desolate caverns, and the tree of life sprang from its parched soil. Who from the conduct of the great body of the human race, would imagine that they were creatures formed by Jehovah; preserved, sustained, and universally blessed, by the Infinite hand; endued with minds destined to the contemplation, love and enjoyment of eternal beauty, excellence, and glory; and to an everlasting progress in loveliness and virtue?

A mind really benevolent is unavoidably distressed by the sight of prevailing degeneracy; the decline of those, about whom it has entertained hopes; the deplorable choice made by man, of objects in which he hopes to find good; the sordid spirit, with which he pursues dross and dirt, as if they were to enrich his mind; his childish expectations of finding happiness in bubbles, and of gaining distinction from the possession of straws and feathers ; the debasement of his understanding, the prostitution of his energy, and the wanton, causeless sacrifice of his immortal well-being. A world in sin is to a being, truly rational, a forlorn and dreadful object; a lazar-house of disease and corruption; a dungeon of delirium and death.

5thly. A longer continuance of life would longer deprive good mon of a better life.

So long as good men continue in this world, they are subjected, in a greater or less degree, to all the evils necessarily incident to an imperfect nature, and an imperfect residence. Their wisest designs, firmest resolutions, and most vigorous efforts, will be at least partially blasted. Temptations will spring up where they are unforeseen; sins will creep in through avenues, where they were unexpected; and sorrow, their never failing companion, following hard behind them, will enter where they enter, and dwell where they reside. The best life presents to the retrospective eye a melancholy picture, on which it gazes with reprobation, and regret. As the mind advances in the progress of sanctification; its views of sin, and duty, become continually more clear, just, and scriptural. As the films are thus gradually removed from the mental eye; it discerns more and more perfectly the reality, the number, and the greatness, of its offences; and perceives the difference between what it is, and what it ought to be, continually, and increasingly to be greater than it originally mistrusted. Hence its estimate of its own character is less and less favourable, and more and more humiliating, and painful.

When the good man casts his eyes around him, he finds little to relieve his wearied mind, and wanders over this world in search of brighter objects in vain. Is he imperfectly sanctified ? So are others. Is he a mourner in Zion ? Others find abundant cause for similar lamentation. Is the presence of God, are the blessings of the Spirit of Grace, withholden from him ? Does he search with an anxious and doubtful eye for supporting evidence of divine love to his soul ? Does the peace, which Christ gave his disciples, instead of being an inmate, become only a visitor, in his bosom? Does the joy, which no stranger meddles withal, descend, like scanty showers in a season of drought ? All, even the best, around him feel the same evils ; and are ready to unite with him in all his complaints.

[ocr errors]


But there is a world, where these evils are never found ; a world, to which his own path has been steadily pointed ; a world in which, a stranger here, he has long expected to find his final home. In that world he knows, that the presence of God is unclouded; his blessing never withholden ; his smile never withdrawn. There temptation and sin are shut out; and all the foundations of self-reproach, disturbance of mind, repentance, and sorrow, forever excluded. There God is loved, trusted, and obeyed, as his glorious excellence and perfect conduct, reasonably demand, with all the heart. There no friends pierce each others hearts with degeneracy ; no eye drops a tear over falling or backsliding virtue ; no bosom is torn with anxiety concerning its own future wanderings from the path of rectitude. “ The way of holiness" is there indeed “a high way;" and none are so unhappy, as to “err therein.” Towards that world the good man cannot fail often to turn his thoughts ; and to institute a comparison between the happy state of its inhabitants, and the imperfect, erring, suffering condition of those, who dwell below. In his pilgrimage through the scorching sands and houseless wilds of this Arabian waste, he cannot fail in the midst of his hunger and thirst, his weariness, his solitude and danger, to turn a longing wish towards the region, where “ there is enough and to spare,” of the bread of life, and where “fountains of living waters” flow forever.

A longer life is to him a longer exile from his Father's house, and the glorious blessings which it contains; from the Redeemer, who died for him ; from “the innumerable company of Angels,” to whom he is intimately allied ; and from the church of the first born," who are to be his brethren and friends forever.

Nor would a longer continuance of life be a blessing to impenitent sinners; to those, I mean, who at the end of the present age of man remain impenitent. He, who has lived seventy years in sin, has in almost every instance outlived the hopes of repentance. A convert at the age of threescore and ten may perhaps be found; but he is almost a prodigy. Every sinner in advanced age holds out to the eye of observation, not only the painful picture of long continued rebellion, and deep declension, but also the melancholy image of hopeless obduracy. He has so long walked in " the broad and crooked road,” that without a miracle he can scarcely find his way back to life.

But every child of Adam is to be "judged, and rewarded, according to the deeds done in the body.” To live, therefore, only to accumulate sin, and prepare for heavier condemnation, the only real consequence to the gray-haired impenitent of living beyond the established date of man, would to almost every human being be so far from being desirable, that it would be merely the means of increasing misery throughout eternity. Who would ask to have his life lengthened, with this dreadful prospect before him?

6thly. A long life would take away from mankind the chief Motives to Repentance and Reformation.

Were human life to be greatly extended; it is difficult to conceive of any motives, which could be successfully urged, to awaken in sinners a conviction of the necessity of repentance, the danger of delay, and the importance of speedily seeking God. In men, secure of a long protracted existence in this world, what avenue could be found for efficacious access to their hearts? They might be informed, perhaps, that holiness is beautiful and lovely in itself; and that the sanctified mind enjoys, of course, a glorious reward in the exercise of its own amiable affections, and finds sufficient delight, spontaneously arising from the consciousness of performing praiseworthy actions. But how could those know what was meant by the beauty and loveliness of virtue, who knew not what virtue itself was ? The very nature of this celestial attribute can be known only by experience. No state, no exercise, of the human heart can be so described, as to be efficaciously understood. We may, indeed, by contemplation conceive, or by description be informed, what is meant by sorrow or joy, by hope or fear, by love or hatred, loosely and generally; but the sensation in such a case can never be thoroughly understood, until it is felt. The practical nature of every thing, which is practical, is incapable of being learned, unVol. II.


« PreviousContinue »